Sunday, October 31, 2021

Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook, Reviewed

If you are looking for a way to delight of that special trick-or -treater in your life this Halloween, but don’t want to do so with candy, have I got an idea for you! The newly released Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook is an absolute spooky delight! Containing “Bewitchingly Delicious Recipes for Fans of the Halloween Classic,” this book is an absolute delight!

It is divided into sections, each with a charming, movie-related name, such as: Life Giving Fall Favorites, Recipes for Salem Townsfolk, From the Witches’ Spellbook, Bewitching Brews and Beverages, and more.

There are many things to love about this book whether you’re a fan of the film or not. First of all, it is loaded with mouthwatering color photos. Second, all of the recipes are concisely written, require no hard-to-find ingredients, and are doable for cooks of all skill levels and ages. Third, each recipe begins with an informative paragraph that ties in to the movie in one way or other.

There are a wide variety of recipes contained in the book, many of which are attractively plated, giving you clever serving ideas. If you are a cookie lover like I am, you will not find this book lacking. From The Brown Butter Book Blondies to Gingerdead (sic) Men, to the Gingerbread Witches Cabin House, there are lots of wonderful ideas. 

For main dishes, I enjoyed the Mischief Night Pasta as well as the cottage pie takeoff, Baked Witch Casserole. Kids will enjoy Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and the author’s take on Chicken Pot Pie.


 Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of this book from Ulysses Press in exchange for an honest review..

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Friday, October 29, 2021


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If you are unfamiliar with Josephinas (also known as Howell’s Bread), you are missing out. These slices of French bread topped with a mixture of softened butter, freshly shredded Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, garlic, and canned green chilies, broiled until the bread is crisp and the cheese is melted are both delicious and versatile. They are also very easy to make, with the added bonus that the cheese mixture needs to be made ahead.


Slightly adapted from

 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 t. Melissa’s minced garlic

¼ c. Duke’s mayonnaise

1 4-oz. can diced mild green chilies, undrained

½ t. kosher salt

1 small French baguette

 In a medium bowl, beat together the first five ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

 Arrange a rack 3 to 4 inches from the preheated broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut baguette crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Arrange the slices on the baking sheets, spacing them at least 1/2-inch apart. Let the butter mixture sit at room temperature for a few minutes, then divide the mixture onto the bread slices (about a heaping tablespoon on each) and spread to the edges.

 Broil until the tops are browned in spots and the edges of the bread are crispy, 4 to 10 minutes. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Here's Looking at You Tablescape

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It’s not often that I do more than one tablescape for Halloween, but when I found a bag of these eyeballs in amongst the seasonal decorations, I decided to have a bit of fun with them.


A collector of fabric (even though I don’t sew), I am a big fan of J. Wecker Frisch. This fabulous fabric with skeleton hands is called (appropriately) “Hands Off.” I thought that it made a perfect backdrop for this fortuneteller theme table.

 Scalloped edge chargers from Pier One (that everybody seems to have) provide the base for the plaid plates (also from Pier One), and vibrant orange salad plates. Each one is topped with a dessert dish full of black excelsior and a big eyeball.

Witch mugs are from Pier One.

The centerpiece is anchored on either end with the antique crystal candle holders that I used in decorating last week’s table. I found high top Victorian shoes amongst my mother’s things, and added them for a witchy vibe.


The skull candle holder, pressed into use as a vase for freshly picked coleus from my garden is from Yankee Candle. If you have not checked out their holiday offerings, that’s a must. The fortuneteller’s booth (isn’t it adorable?), is also from them.

The phrenologist's head generally sets on my night table, but I pressed him into service here. The palmistry hand is a part of my living room decor, so I added it as well.

Join me for dinner. I’ll tell your fortune.


This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday



Tuesday, October 26, 2021


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Years ago my mother made these cookies and we all thought they were delicious. She only made them once, but they were memorable. She never bothered to make them again because she thought they were trouble, owing to the fact that she arduously drizzled her glaze from the tip of a spoon. Had she known about icing bottles, way back when, these cookies may have made an appearance far more often. When I stumbled across the recipe late last week, I had to make them to see if they really were as good as I had recalled. Yep. No doubt, these are yummy.


1 ½ c. flour
1 ½ t. baking powder
1 t. soda
1 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 c. butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 c.
quick cooking oats
1 c. sweetened flaked coconut
1 c. salted
Spanish peanuts
½ c. finely crushed cornflakes

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine flour, baking powder, and soda; set aside

In the work bowl of a stand mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add egg; beat well. Gradually add dry ingredients, blending well. Stir in oats, coconut, peanuts, and cornflakes. Using a
cookie scoop, drop by onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with bottom of glass dipped in additional cornflakes or sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. Drizzle with glaze in a spiral fashion.


Mix 2 tablespoons butter in a 2-cup measuring pitcher. Add 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1 tablespoon hot water, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until consistency of a glaze. If necessary, thin with a few drops of hot water.



Monday, October 25, 2021

Sauerkraut Chowder

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Buying a 32-ounce jar of sauerkraut seemed like such a good idea at the time. I love hotdogs smothered in sauerkraut, and I was prepared to spend many nights enjoying them while watching my favorite team battle it out in the playoffs. But when the baseball season ended more abruptly than I had anticipated, I ended up with more than I could handle. So, like you do, I did a Google search for recipes that employ the use of sauerkraut. When I stumbled across this one (heavily updated by me), I couldn’t believe it. I was almost appalled at the thought, but at the same time intrigued.

This chowder is excellent! Hearty, chunky, flavorful, with just the right amount of piquancy from the sauerkraut (the potatoes absorb enough of the flavor to avoid it being overtly sour), this is like Oktoberfest in a bowl. It’s the perfect meal for this ever-changing, colorful time of the year.

Sauerkraut Chowder

1 15-oz. can
cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium/large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
12 oz. Polish sausage, diced
1 32-oz. jar
sauerkraut, undrained
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, cubed

1 12-oz.can evaporated milk
32 oz. chicken, ham, or vegetable stock
1 T.
German mustard
½ t. dried dill
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

 Place ingredients, in order listed, into a 6-qt. slow cooker. Cook on low for 5-6 hours until the potatoes are tender.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Cheese, Sex, Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed, Reviewed

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If you are a cheese lover like I am, and I mean a SERIOUS cheese lover, brace yourself for some exciting news! Abrams Books is about to release the most fabulous, beautiful, informative, clever, unique book about cheese that I have ever seen. Cheese, Sex, Death: A Bible for the Cheese Obsessed by Erika Kubik is a winner from beginning to end. From the beautiful end pages featuring images of stained glass windows each depicting a different cheese, to the clever, biblical design, eye-catching fonts, and informative introduction, this is the only cheese book that you will ever need.

It is divided into two sections: The Old Testament of Cheesus (sic), and the New Testament of Cheesus. In the former you will find The Book of Creation, The Ten Commandments of Cheese, and The Book of Cheese Types. The Book of Creation begins with The Gospel of Cheesus. The latter section contains information on buying, storing, serving, tasting, pairing, plating, and recipes!

Brightly illustrated with a clever stained glass window theme throughout, there are also beautiful, mouthwatering pictures. The text is fascinating. You will learn about the beginning of cheese dating back to 6500 BC. A book on a subject such as cheese may not sound as interesting as it is, but let me tell you, I have been reading this book like a novel.

The Timeline of Cheesus is fascinating. Learning about the entire process of cheesemaking, the stages of ripening, the various colors, textures, milk types, all makes for delicious reading.

The section describing various cheeses including history, correct pronunciation, milk type, intensity, pairings, and more, will teach you everything that you need to know about cheese. Along the way, you will no doubt rethink the way you have both eaten and served cheese in the past, becoming more creative and daring.

The section on plating is both beautiful and inspiring. A wide variety of themes are offered including Whiskey Plate, Spring Cheaster Plate, Munchie Plate, and many more; the Cheesemas Plate is a thing of beauty.

Helpful information on cooking with cheeses including tips and tools precede the recipes, one appearing more delicious than the next. Each one gives you information on how to select the proper cheese, as well as pairings, and variations that you can make.

Honestly, I haven’t been as excited about a book in quite some time. This book is wonderful! If you enjoy cheese, or have a friend who does, this would make an excellent gift. For more information, or to buy a copy, click here.

Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of this book from Abrams books as a member of their 20 21–22 Abrams dinner party.

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Black Bird Tablescape

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For those of you familiar with classic cinema, the term “The Black Bird” is synonymous with the old Bogart film “The Maltese Falcon” based upon the Dashiell Hammett book of the same name. It was that film that inspired this table. Part mystery, part noir, with a good bit of October nights thrown in, it’s an atmospheric place to dine as the days get shorter.

The illuminated caged raven, situated on a pair of vintage books, was something I bought last year, put away, and forgot about it. I was determined to use it this year.

I paired it with two heavy metal crows, and black candles in antique crystal candle holders. 

Water hyacinth placemats hold tin chargers, square black plates, and lime green salad plates. The latter are topped with raven appetizer plates that I got a number of years ago from Pottery Barn. 

With my secondary color being lime green, I chose individual casserole dishes that can hold a serving of soup, vegetable casserole, or fresh fruit or salad.

Topaz stemware was inherited from my mother.

The wonderful wine glasses with ravens built into the stem are antiques purchased years ago.

The raven appears again in napkin rings corralling black and white checkered napkins.
I used black shredded paper to soften the centerpiece.

The white cappuccino cups I purchased years ago from Amazon. They are incredibly useful and versatile.

I hope you will join me for a memorable dinner.


This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Shaved Radish Toasts

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Earlier in the week I reviewed the Southern Living 2021 Christmas book. This recipe is from that book. It is a super simple crostini that is perfect for the holiday season. The creamy cheese is a perfect complement to the crunchy, peppery radish slices. The beauty of this appetizer is that it can be fully prepped ahead of time, assembled just prior to serving, and is the perfect pre-dinner snack because it is both light and satisfying at the same time.

Shaved Radish Toasts

24 (1/2 ” thick) diagonally cut baguette slices
¼ c. unsalted butter, melted

Buttermilk-Herb Cream Cheese (recipe follows)
Thinly sliced radishes*

Sea salt flakes
Black pepper
Freshly chopped chives

Preheat oven to 375° F. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake until slices are just beginning to brown at the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool to room temperature.

Spread 1½ t. Buttermilk-Herb Cream Cheese on each crostini.

Top with radishes, sea salt flakes, black pepper, and chopped chives.

*I used a
mandoline for this.

Buttermilk-Herb Cream Cheese

8 oz. chive and onion cream cheese, softened
6 T. whole buttermilk
2 t. lemon zest (from one lemon)
½ t. kosher salt
½ t. black pepper

Process cream cheese, buttermilk, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper in a food processor until smooth.


Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of Southern Living 2021 Christmas book from Abrams books as a member of their 20 21–22 Abrams dinner party.


Monday, October 18, 2021

Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Steaks

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I like barbecue, in fact, I love it. I also like anything grilled -- fruit, vegetables, even potatoes (parboiled first, of course). But while I like the idea of grilling, I don’t actually like doing it. As a consequence, I miss out on lots of delicious food. (Not that I don’t get, plenty, trust me.) That’s not to say that I haven’t done it, because two of my favorites are barbecued chicken thighs, as well as one of the best hamburgers that I’ve ever eaten. Largely, it just seems like so much trouble to me.

My grill is placed, diagonally, in one of the corners of my deck. It is surrounded -- and I am talking three pots deep -- by herbs, plants, and flowers. The thought of not only moving those out of the way, but trying to find someplace to go with them in the process, means that the only good time for me to grill would be mid-winter, and who wants to do that? That is why this recipe for oven barbecued pork steaks has become one of my instant faves! It is super simple to put together, requires little to no effort, and just lazes away slowly cooking in your oven, while you get on with things, enjoying the smoky aroma. My suspicion is that this would also work on ribs and thick pork chops. I may try an experimental burger over the weekend. If you like barbecue as much as I do, you will love this.

Oven-Baked BBQ Pork Steaks

 4 (1” thick) pork steaks


1 T. Montreal Steak Seasoning

T. Montreal Pub Burger Seasoning

1 T. Jerk Seasoning

 1 T. onion powder

1 T. garlic powder

1 T. sweet paprika

1 t. espresso powder

¼ c. dark brown sugar

1 c. BBQ Sauce (I use Traeger)

 Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pat pork steaks dry with a paper towel; set aside.

 Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl.

 Place a long sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil into the bottom of a straight-sided 9” x 13” pan (I like this one.), allowing 6” overhang on either side.

 Place pork steaks on top of the foil, and generously slather 1 T. of the dry rub on both sides of the pork, rubbing it into the meat. Wrap pork steaks completely with the foil.

Bake at 350°F for 1½ hours. Reduce heat to 275°F and bake for 1½ additional hours.

 Remove from oven, open foil, and slather on the barbecue sauce. Return to oven and continue to bake for ½ hour longer.