Saturday, February 26, 2011


The Cobb salad (Not to be confused with "The Big Salad"* the 88th episode (2nd episode; 6th season) of Seinfeld that originally aired on September 29, 1994.), invented in the 1930's at the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant is named for the restaurant's owner, Robert Howard Cobb.  A main-dish salad, its major components are chopped salad greens, tomato, crispy bacon, chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, chives, and Roquefort cheese.  Variations of the salad are served in restaurants worldwide (I personally add large-dice cucumber), but to me if there is no avocado, then it's not a Cobb Salad.  I think the Cobb Salad is one of the prettiest to serve.  One of the things I particularly like about it is the artistry involved in putting it together.  Here I've done it rather simply so you can see each ingredient, but in the past I've placed them in circles, swirls, and wedges.  We used Bamboo flatware to eat this one, which added to the fun!
All of the lettuce is from my AEROGARDEN. I used three varieties here: red leaf, romaine, and butter crunch.
It's week THREE! I had to move the Aerogarden from the guest room into my studio in order to be able to raise the light two notches to accommodate the lettuce's rapid growth this past week. (There will be a future blog post about this.)

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*Elaine must find a special mechanical pencil, the Rolamech 1000, for her boss, Mr. Pitt (Ian Abercrombie) and soon finds herself dealing with the romantic advances of the stationery store clerk (Jerry Levine). The clerk asks for her telephone number to call her when he receives the pencil but Elaine gives him Jerry's number instead. At Elaine's request, George purchases a "big salad" for her from Monk's. But his girlfriend Julie (Michelle Forbes) appears to take credit for the purchase when she hands Elaine the salad in Jerry's apartment. George is displeased over the fact that Elaine thanked Julie for buying the salad, and casually mentions to Elaine that he was responsible for the purchase. George's revelation eventually leads to a rift between him and Julie when the truth comes out, but she simply justifies her actions by saying, "George, all I did was hand someone a bag." Semi-humiliated, George vows never to buy Elaine lunch ever again. Jerry learns that his current girlfriend, Margaret (Marita Geraghty), formerly dated Newman, who ended the relationship. Jerry cannot comprehend why Newman dumped someone so clearly "out of his league" in terms of beauty, so he attempts to find any fault in his girlfriend. Kramer plays golf with an ex-Major League Baseball player, who washes his ball on the second shot (not on the green), breaking the rules and causing an altercation with Kramer.The man is later suspected in the murder of a dry cleaner, and Kramer helps the man to see his pet fish by driving in his white Ford Bronco in a low speed chase down the New Jersey Turnpike.  (from Wikipedia)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Creamy Ham Towers

I began to call this a "vintage" dish, but then thought that perhaps that made it sound as if it had been around for a while, gathering dust, like me.  No, actually this recipe comes from a vintage cookbook.  I'm told that vintage is anything that dates back to the seventies, which, I suppose, would make me a Classic {sigh}.  That thought alone pretty much makes me want to throw myself on the floor, but I digress...

Back in the day, young women used to have something called a Hope Chest (a term, according to Wikipedia, used primarily by Midwestern and Southern U.S. women).  It wasn't literally a chest (although it could be), but more a collection of household items gathered by women in the anticipation of marriage.  In High School my girlfriends and I had a ball collecting such things for our "Hope Chests" which really amounted to plastic storage boxes that we kept under our beds.  Any time we'd spot a special deal, we'd alert the other and as a consequence, pretty much ended up with boxes of the same things. We embroidered tea towels that I doubt any of us, to this day, have ever used, collected dishware, pots and pans, and cookbooks.  The '70s were a decade of lots of rewards for shopping, banking, buying gas, etc.  Upon opening up my first savings account, I got a two-slot toaster for free (into the Hope Chest).  For buying gas (at 35¢ a gallon) I managed to collect an entire set of NFL glassware (ditto), and each week I'd go to the grocery store, buy $5.00 worth of items to make myself eligible to purchase one in a series of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks for $1.99.  The toaster, glassware, and dishes are long gone, but I still have the cookbooks and use them to this day.  The recipes are simple, generally call for on-hand ingredients, and while not gourmet fare, are great comfort food.

Feeling nostalgic yesterday (read: old and tired) I pulled out the cookbooks and ended up making a favorite dish called Creamy Ham Towers.  A friend joined us for dinner (and the Mizzou basketball game) and loved the meal, that also included broccoli, a side salad, and rice pudding for dessert. It made me smile to get such high praise for something so simple, but then any time you want high praise for cooking, invite a single man to dinner.

This recipe comes from the book called Make Ahead Meals, the page of which I'm sharing below.  Look to the right and you'll see a recipe for Oriental Beef Casserole, another make-ahead family favorite.  If the spatters are any indication, this book is well-used. I've not yet tried the Ham-Vegetable Strata.

Photo by Robert Redenbaugh

This is linked to Foodie Friday.

Modern women may want to add this gem to their cookbook collection.
Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 15th Edition (Better Homes & Gardens Plaid)

Monday, February 21, 2011


While not the first teacup in my ever-growing, continually-evolving collection, this one called "Torquay" is very near the first.  I spotted it, years ago, across the room at an upscale furniture store as part of a display; it was not for sale.  But there was something about the rich, deep blue hues, and the unusual pattern of sea life on both cup and saucer that drew me in.  One look at the name on the bottom and I knew I had to have it! Why? Torquay is a town in the county of Devon in England that I have had the great pleasure to visit. In the early 19th century the town began to develop into a fashionable seaside resort, and later became the crème de la crème of Victorian society as the town's fame spread, eventually earning it the nickname of the English Riveria.  It was also the home of Dame Agatha Christie, who lived the majority of her life there. The town contains an "Agatha Christie Mile" -- a walking tour with informational plaques and a bust of Christie, dedicated to her life and work.  Mystery lover that I am, I had to have this representation of one of my favorite mystery authors in my collection.  It took a bit of conversation with both sales lady and store manager, but I was finally able to secure it for the mere price of $8.00. I have loved it ever since.

Please join me for a cup of tea and a delicious shortbread cookie, embossed with Agatha's name.  Aren't these adorable?  I used a Brigitte-Keks Message on a Cookie Cutter Set to cut the out and emboss them and it was great fun and a real breeze.
Agatha's Shortbread
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together flour and salt, then slowly add to the creamed mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Turn out onto a surface lightly dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut using the cookie cutter of your choice. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 17 to 22 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
The souvenir city spoon was purchased in Oxford, the city where Agatha's life ended, so I thought it appropriate to include it as well.

Books - The Agatha Christie Collection
Tablecovering - Denim fabric from Hancock Fabrics
Cotswold Cottage - David Winter 1981
Teacup - "Torquay" Mottahedeh England
Brigitte-Keks Message on a Cookie Cutter Set - Amazon
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New England Clam Chowder

Most people probably think of soups, stews, and chowders during the fall and winter months.  For the most part, I do as well, but when spring and summer come (and it IS coming!), the one soup that I do tend to favor is New England Clam Chowder.  More than likely I associate it with these months because this is when we head East to visit friends and family, exploring New England at a leisurely pace, and stuffing ourselves with as much fresh seafood in all possible forms along the way.  I've yet to master the lobster roll or lobster pot pie, but I have mastered New England Clam Chowder, thanks to some help from a recipe that I found on  I've altered it to suit my tastes, and think it exceeds their version in both taste and texture.  If you love Clam Chowder the way that I do, I encourage you to give this recipe a try.  Delicious!

New England Clam Chowder

2 10-oz cans minced clams, juices reserved
2 cups bottled clam juice
4 bacon slices, minced
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Freshly ground black pepper
4 drops tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Oyster crackers

Drain the clam juice from the minced clams and combine with enough bottled juice to equal 3 cups of liquid. Cook the bacon slowly in a soup pot over medium heat until lightly crispy, about 8 minutes.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the clam juice, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, add more clam juice to adjust the consistency. Add the bay leaf and fresh thyme.  Add the potatoes and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the clams and cream in saucepan and simmer together until the clams are warmed through. When the potatoes are tender, add the clams and cream to the soup base. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the sherry. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Serve in bowls with the crackers on the side.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mocha-Chip Meringues

Amazingly easy and intensely good, this Martha Stewart recipe yields 48 light-as-air cookies that won't last so feel free to gobble them up with reckless abandon.

I seriously have a category in my giant, weighs a ton, three-ring-binder of a cookbook that is called "Quick, Easy, Chocolate." No kidding.  I like to get right to the heart of the matter.  When I want chocolate, I want it now!  And I don't want to have to dig for obscure ingredients, or fuss with utensils.  I want to be able to open one (maybe two) cabinet doors, get the job done, and be able to pop one into my mouth as soon as the coffee has finished brewing.  Okay these do take a little bit longer than that, but I used my time wisely -- while they were baking I made another cookie dough that will make an appearance here later in the week -- but they are well worth it.  Imagine a chocolate cloud and you pretty much get the idea as to what you can expect from this cookie.  Try them, you will not be disappointed.


3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder*
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until frothy. Beating constantly, add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time; beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, 6 to 8 minutes total (scrape down the bowl halfway through). Add espresso powder and cocoa; beat until well blended. With a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by level tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake until crisp, about 40 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool completely on sheets, about 20 minutes.

*I used Medaglia d'Oro and make it a habit to always keep a small jar on hand.

Thanks, Martha!
Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share (Martha Stewart Living Magazine)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Date Nut Spice Bread with Orange Cream Cheese

Ina Garten's Date Nut Spice Bread with Orange Cream cheese makes for a delicious breakfast or afternoon snack with a hot cup of tea.  This morning I had it for breakfast and marveled, once again, at just how delicious this loaf is.  I had it warm from the oven with the cream cheese melting, ever so slightly into the dense, date-studded, spicy deliciousness.  I always make twice the amount of orange cream cheese as the recipe calls for, using the rest to pipe decoratively into hollowed out strawberries for dessert.

Date Nut Spice Bread

2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)
1/3 cup orange liqueur 
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.

Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese, sugar, and orange zest on medium speed until just combined.

Slice the bread and serve with the orange cream cheese on the side for spreading.

This recipe can be found in:
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients
Buy it!

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chicken Emil

Tonight's selection from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch cookbook of reader requested recipes from area restaurants, MORE SPECIAL REQUESTS, was Chicken Emil from Rich and Charlie's Pasta House Restaurant. It was delicious. 

This wonderful restaurant-quality meal goes together quicker than you might think.  Clean the chicken and broccoli the night before, wrap well and keep refrigerated.  Measure out all of your ingredients before you start cooking.  (Having a great prep bowl set can be a great boon to any cook and they make life so much easier!)  The sauce can be made ahead as well.  I had this meal on the table in about 40 minutes.


3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) softened butter, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces each)
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned dry bread crumbs
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (about 3 ounces)
1 cup broccoli florets  (See note)
2 tablespoons chopped prosciutto (about 1 slice)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cup shredded provel cheese (8 ounces), divided*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt 1/4 cup butter; set aside.

In a bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup butter with flour, using the back of a fork or a pastry blender to mix until creamy.

Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Cut each piece of chicken in half.  Coat chicken with bread crumbs, pressing firmly.  Drizzle coated chicken with melted butter; grill or broil for about 5 minutes per side or until fully cooked.  Keep chicken warm while you make the sauce.

In a large ovenproof skillet, bring stock to a boil; whisk in better-flour mixture.  bring to a boil and cook, stirring until mixture thickens.  Reduce to a simmer.  Add mushrooms, broccoli, prosciutto, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and wine.  Simmer 5 minutes.

Place cooked chicken pieces in sauce; sprinkle cheese on top of each chicken piece, dividing evenly.  Place in oven and bake just until cheese melts, 3 o 4 minutes. 

Lift chicken onto plates; use a slotted spoon to ladle vegetables over cheese.  Pour sauce over all; serve immediately.

Note:  If using fresh broccoli, cut florets and steam or microwave just until crisp tender,  If using frozen broccoli spears or florets, thaw and drain well.

Tester's note:  The sauce may be started about 30 minutes ahead.  prepare as directed, but do not add mushrooms and broccoli.  Just before serving, add vegetables and simmer until hot, about 7 minutes.

Serves 4.

*Provel cheese is a St. Louis invention.  If you don't have access to it in your area (and unless you live here in the Mississippi Valley you probably don't), Provolone  makes an adequate substitute.

(More information on provel cheese can be found here.)

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Evening in Paris

I love color in a table setting and this is one of my favorites.  This reminds me so much of springtime Paris, and in the middle of February I can't stop thinking about spring!
When my husband and I got married in May of 1995, this was the china that we registered for.  Is that fun, or what?  Truth be told, it was the second marriage for both of us, and along the way we had each acquired numerous sets of dishes both domestic and abroad.  So it wasn't easy finding something different, but that appealed to us both.  We registered at a gift shop in the city called Botanicals on the Park, each of us wandering around the shop with pad and pencil jotting down things that we liked.  These dishes were the one thing on both of our lists.  The glassware was on mine, and I won out with them as well.
The yellow ceramic flatware pops up in a lot of my tablesettings.  It is just so darn versatile, and such fun to use.
The French Tic-tac-toe set is a lot of fun.  It's quite a crowd pleaser as well.  Anytime I put it on the table, people can't keep their hands off of it.
The lucite salt and pepper shakers were a fun find and go perfectly with these dishes.
The little berry bowls are Fiestaware.
Table covering - Denim fabric from Fabric Warehouse
Dishes - Café Paris by Misono
Lucite S&P Shakers by Olde Thompson
Tic-Tac-Toe set - by Hen Feathers (gift)
Berry Bowls - Fiestaware from Macy's

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Peach Cobbler with Bourbon Cream and Candied Pecans

I'm having fun creating small dishes from a wonderful book called Small Batch Baking. 
With only  two of us at home, it's often difficult to use up a full-size dessert.  Well, truth be told, it's not difficult at all, but that's the problem.  It's just too easy to gobble up dessert when we should be munching on something less caloric and a bit more healthy.  So it was such a delight to stumble upon this wonderful book by Debby Maugans Nakos called Small Batch Baking.  It is full of all sorts of delicious recipes, scaled down for smaller families, that run the gamut from cookies and cakes to pies, cobblers, and puddings.  The great thing about this brilliant book is that the recipes make between 1 and 3 servings. So, a cookie recipe, for example, will make 6 cookies. They are quick and easy, and you're not left with dessert just begging to be consumed with your morning coffee.  

Once Valentine's Day is over all I can think about is spring: flowers, garden centers, vegetable plants, herbs, fruit tress, and all that awaits when it's time to harvest.  These thoughts sent me down to the freezer to "harvest" one of the bags of peaches that I prepared and put into the freezer last fall.  So, we had Peach Cobbler with Bourbon Cream and Candied Pecans for dessert tonight. It was delicious (seriously, the pecans alone made this recipe worth making).  It made three ample servings, so the one of us who proves to be less virtuous will undoubtedly finish it off tomorrow.


Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing baking dishes

3 ripe peaches, or 2 cups thawed frozen peaches
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of ground cinnamon

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons cold whipping (heavy) cream
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Bourbon Cream (recipe follows)
Candied Pecans (recipe follows)

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F.  Lightly grease the baking dishes (I used one au gratin dish) and set them aside.

If you are using fresh peaches, peel them and cut them in half.  Remove the pits and cut the pieces into 1/2-inch slices.  Place the peaches and lemon juice in a medium-size bowl, and toss to mix. (If using frozen peaches, omit the lemon juice.)  Add the brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon, and toss well to coat the peaches.  Spoon the peaches and juices into the prepared dish(es), dividing the filling evenly between them if using two.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium-size bowl and whisk to blend well.  Add the butter pieces and toss to coat the butter with the flour mixture.  Rub the mixture with your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly.  Add the cream and toss with a fork just until the dough is combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times to smooth it.  Form the dough into a disk and roll out, forming 1/2-inch-thick pieces the shape and size of the top(s) of your baking dish(es).  Place the dough pieces on top of the filling, ans sprinkle each one with 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.  Bake until the top is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the dishes from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Serve the cobbler warm, with the Bourbon Cream.  If you are using them, sprinkle each serving with Candied Pecans.

1/3 cup cold whipping (heavy) cream
1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon bourbon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place the cream, brown sugar, bourbon, and vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.  Serve immediately.  

Makes about 2/3 cup

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1-1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the pecans and corn syrup in a small bowl and stir to mix.  Add the sugar and toss to coat the pecans well.  Working quickly so the sugar does not dissolve, spread the pecans on the baking sheet and bake until they are golden, 10 minutes.  Remove the pecans from the oven.  The candied pecans can be made 1 day ahead; store them in an airtight container.

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