Sunday, March 31, 2019

Antique Dessert Plates - This Week's Find!

The cleaning out of my parents’ home continues, and this week’s cute find are these beautiful Italian dessert plates with matching server. I also found eight of these pink cups but, alas, no saucers to match.
These plates have a bit of history. They belonged to the mother of Shirley Fick, my mother’s long-time (since childhood) friend, who acted as maid of honor at her wedding.
You can see her in the picture below at far left. When her mother got up in years she passed them down to her daughter, who used them at every opportunity. Because Shirley had only one child, a son, she gave them to my mother knowing that they would get a lot of use, and eventually be passed down to me. And here they are, and here I am, as thrilled to have them as the original owner.
It’s going to take a special dessert for me to use these, but I guarantee I will be making one, and sharing the recipe with you.
Meanwhile, my mind is whirling thinking of all of the beautiful pink and green spring table settings that I will be able to create with these new, much loved items.
To see my previous find, click here.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Moroccan Nights Tablescape

I owe this inviting and exotic looking table to my mother. The centerpiece is all made up of what were once her things. The cleaning out of my parents’ home continues, and I continue to marvel at the wonderful things I have been bringing home. I have long been an admirer of her Moroccan lanterns, and wooden elephant bowl (that lid lifts up for storage), and was delighted to have these. I knew they would make a wonderful centerpiece on a table, and I wasn’t wrong.
 This is the type of table that strikes me would work very well on a warm summer night with balmy breezes coming in through the door. I will keep this in mind for the future, but for now I really am enjoying it this week.

Get the look:

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Meal Plan Monday #16 - International Week

This may come as a surprise to you, but I find making international dishes both quick and easy. This week, like most weeks, like most of your weeks I’m sure, I have a lot on my plate. I’m also in a spicy mood, so I want good food, with little expenditure of time. International food seemed the answer, so I am representing four different countries this week. Here is what I’m planning:

Tuesday – Sushi via GrubHub

Wednesday - Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup, crusty rolls

Thursday - Chinese Walnut Chicken over Thai noodles

Friday – Ordering in good old-fashioned American BBQ

Saturday - Indian Shrimp Curry, Turmeric rice, melon salad

Sunday – Quiche Lorraine

Have a DELICIOUS week!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Fiesta Veggie Rice

If you read last week’s meal plan, you'll know that I made my Taco Meatloaf (always a winner) and Fiesta Veggie Rice from Abrams new cookbook Pescan, A Feel Good Cookbook by Abbie Cornish and Jacqueline King Schiller, to serve as a side. It is not nearly as much work as the recipe would make it appear, and it is so yummy! Each recipe in this book includes a note on what the authors call a "feel good" ingredient. The feel good ingredient in this recipe is oregano. Oregano, according to the book, is closely related to mint, so it has many of the same health benefits. It is a common digestive aid, and the essential oils in oregano have antibacterial and antifungal properties. As with most herbs it is extremely rich in antioxidants. It also provides a wonderful depth of flavor to this delicious rice dish. I have enough left over to freeze for later, and plan on having it as a main dish at some future point.
Fiesta Veggie Rice
from Pescan, A Feel Good Cookbook

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, diced
1 cup
brown basmati rice, rinsed and drained well
½ (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 carrot, thinly sliced into coins
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1¾ cups
vegetable broth
¾ teaspoon kosher sea salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon
ground cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon
smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium heat until hot, about one minute, then add the onion. Sauté until soft and translucent, about two minutes. Add the rice and stir continuously until the grains smell nutty and appear translucent and lightly toasted on the tips, about three minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates, about three minutes more. Add the carrot and celery and stir.

Pour in the vegetable broth and add the salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and paprika. Stir to dissolve the spices. Add the bay leaf and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, or until the grains are tender and most of the water is absorbed. If there is excess water at 45 minutes, leave the lid off and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

While the rice cooks, placed the peas in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Stir once and allow the water to cool.* When the rice is done resting, drain the peas and fold them into the rice, fluffing rice with a fork as needed. Remove the bay leaf. Garnish with the cilantro and serve immediately, or cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or three months in the freezer.

Serves 6.
*I found this step unnecessary. I thawed the peas while I was making this dish, and then stirred them in at the end, heating through. This worked just fine.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New Orleans-Style Gumbo

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Whether we realize it or not, a lot of what we do is dictated by others. Case in point, the late Mr. O-P did not care for Creole or Cajun dishes, ergo I never made them. Now that he is, sadly, gone, it does free me up to experiment with this cuisine. Considering the season, and considering my love for this type of food, I decided to make my first ever pot of gumbo. Before I embarked upon this journey, I read a lot about it, studied a lot of recipes, and used all of that knowledge to come up with this version. Personally, I thought it was wonderful, but the real taste test was taking it to a neighbor who loves this type of food and used to live in New Orleans. In a word, she said it was “fabulous,” and thus I can share it with you.

There are different schools of thought when it comes to rice. Some people add it to the gumbo, some people serve it on the side, and others consider such an addition blasphemous. You can do what you like. I found that adding rice makes for a very hearty meal with the need for little else. But, if you want the true taste of the gumbo, serve and enjoy it as it is. Either way, this recipe is a winner.
New Orleans-Style Gumbo
Adapted from

4 oz. bacon drippings
4 oz. all-purpose flour
1 c. coarsely chopped celery
4 large Melissa’s shallots, rough chopped
1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
3 qts. beef stock
1 T. granulated sugar
½ - 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
½  teaspoon Cajun seasoning
4 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 14.5-oz. can petite stewed tomatoes
1 6-oz. can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons file powder
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
2 10-oz. packages frozen cut okra, thawed
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 pound lump crabmeat
3 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons file powder

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Make a roux by placing the bacon drippings and flour into a 5 to 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven. Whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 80 minutes, whisking every 20 minutes.

Place the celery, onion, green bell pepper, and garlic into the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the vegetables are very finely chopped. Stir the vegetables into the finished roux, and mix in the sausage. Bring the mixture to a simmer on top of the stove over medium-low heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.

In a stockpot bring the beef stock to a boil. Once boiling, whisk in the roux mixture. Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the sugar, salt, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Simmer the soup over low heat for 1 hour; stir in 2 teaspoons of file gumbo powder at the 45-minute mark.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in a skillet, and cook the okra with vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes; remove okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo. Mix in crabmeat, shrimp, and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer until flavors have blended, 45 more minutes. Just before serving, stir in 2 more teaspoons of file gumbo powder.

If you prefer Jambalaya to Gumbo, try this easy Slow Cooker Jambalaya for a taste of New Orleans.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Flounder with Aronia Berries

Those of you who still observe having fish on Fridays during Lent (as well as those of you who love fish and a quick meal), will certainly appreciate this light, easy-to-prepare dish that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less. The sweetness of the berries, paired with the tartness of the lemon juice, and smoothness of the vermouth, makes for a uniquely delicious, company-worthy entree loaded with nutrition.
Flounder with Aronia Berries

2 (6 - 7 oz.) Flounder fillets
All-purpose flour for dredging fish
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Melissa's shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1/4 cup
Melissa's Aronia berries
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 250° F.

Soak Aronia berries in vermouth while preparing recipe.

Rinse fish and pat dry. Season both sides of fillets with salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour, shaking off excess.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until it begins to smoke, then sauté fillets, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, about four minutes total. Transfer with a slotted spatula to a platter and keep warm, uncovered, in the oven.

Add shallot to skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about two minutes. Add vermouth and berries, and simmer, scraping up any browned bits, about one minute. Continue to cook over low heat, swirling skillet, until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and add butter, swirling until incorporated. Add lemon juice, and season sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce with berries over fish and serve immediately.

Serves 2

If you prefer salmon, this easy recipe for Poached Wild Salmon with Peas and Morels makes a great meal!

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Meal Plan Monday - Cooking from the Books

As a part of Abrams Dinner Party, I am periodically sent books prior to publication in order to read and review. I received four last week, so this week, I’m cooking from the books! I will be preparing one recipe from each book to enjoy as my meal, or as an accompaniment. Stay tuned!
Monday - Cheeseburger Soup, Bonilla Vanilla Cake (from The Power of Sprinkles, a Cake Book, by Amiyah Kassem)

Tuesday - Breakfast for dinner : Ham and Cheese Omelet, Malt Loaf with Prunes and Black Tea (from
The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones)

Wednesday -
Taco Meatloaf, Fiesta Veggie Rice (from Pescan, a Feel Good Cookbook by Abbie Cornish and Jacqueline King Schiller), Pico de Gallo

Thursday - Dinner out

Friday - Sakara “Louie” (from
Eat Clean Play Dirty by Danielle Dubois and Whitney Tingle), fruit

Saturday - Crockpot Mongolian Beef, Coconut Rice

Sunday – Leftovers

This week I’ll be dining at this exotic looking table.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Dishes to Welcome Spring

I’ve always believed that there is good and bad in everything, and the good that I am finding in cleaning out dad’s house this week are these lovely dishes that my mother bought back in the ‘70s.
I still remember when my mom bought this cute snack set. I had forgotten all about it until I found it in one of the cabinets.
In a nearby drawer I found this set of darling napkin rings. I’m so glad to have both in my home. It will challenge me to work with an entirely new color scheme from what I'm used to. 

What would you serve in a set like this one?
Get the look.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Chocolate Chip Orange Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Rum Sauce

You'd probably be surprised at how many bread cubes for bread pudding you can get from a single loaf of challah. Trust me when I tell you, it’s a lot! After I made this version (and then a couple of servings of Pecan Pie French Toast), I still had enough bread left over to experiment with another variety. 
This one will take you to heaven! Between the marmalade, orange zest, and dark chocolate chips all within the bread pudding to the Cinnamon Rum Sauce drizzled over the top, this is, in so many ways, a winner! If you love bread pudding as much as I have come to do, you must try this one. I made mine in individual portions using these ramekins (that I absolutely adore and have found so many uses for, both sweet and savory), but you can make yours in a 9” x 9” pan (or 1½ -quart casserole) if you prefer.
Chocolate Chip Orange Bread Pudding
with Cinnamon Rum Sauce

1 1-lb. loaf challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
8 T. butter, melted
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 c. half and half
1 c. sugar
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
4 t. vanilla extract
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 1.5 quart casserole dish, or 6-8 individual ramekins. Spread marmalade onto the bottom of the prepared dish. (If using ramekins, place 1 tablespoon of marmalade in each dish, spreading to cover the bottoms.)

Place bread in large bowl; pour 8 tablespoons melted butter over bread and toss to coat. Add chocolate chips and zest, and toss to combine. Transfer mixture to casserole dish.

Whisk together half and half, sugar, eggs, yolks, vanilla, and salt in large bowl. Pour over bread cubes in dish. Let stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing bread cubes into custard. (At this point it can be covered and refrigerated overnight.) Bake bread pudding until puffed, brown, and set in center, about 1 hour for casserole, 40-45 minutes for ramekins.

Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve warm with Cinnamon-Rum Sauce.

Cinnamon Rum Sauce

1 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup dark rum
1 T. Vanilla extract

Melt unsalted butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add dark brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt, and whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling and smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in dark rum and vanilla extract. Serve warm.

(Cinnamon-Rum Sauce can be prepared 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated, and warmed just before serving. It is excellent over ice cream, apple pie, apple dumplings, you name it!)

If, like me, you enjoy chocolate in your bread pudding, you might want to check out this Double Chocolate Bread Pudding.

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