Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bee-ing Green

i hope i don't sound like a braggart
when i say
i have knowledge of a lot of things
need a business plan?
i can set you on the right path
i can make you a good meal out of whatever you have in your pantry
toilet leaking?
not a problem
need a gift, dress, ride?
i'm your gal
but when it comes to beekeeping
i am completely green
a rube
bush league
(insert your best out of my league insult here)
and now
after two years of talking about it
dreaming about it
pestering about it
we are going for it
hubster and i have decided
that this year is the year

the year we start our hive
if you may remember
this summer past,
we stalked a local beekeeper
and have been doing some reconnaissance
and finally are ready
to have our own hive
so today
i ordered our bees
3 lbs of bees and a queen
of the finest bees money can buy
mite resistant
very prolific
and all ours
i will name each and every one of them
except for the queen
she will be
because i like the sound of
shirley and the boys
shirley and the boys are fighting
shirley and the boys are busy
shirley and the boys.....
yes...i know all about the workers
and they are female
but i use boys like the italians do
when the male and female are mixed together
it is proper to use the male plural
for simplicity
so there
my bees will know nothing about
and i'm okay with that

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Banoffee Pie

At the approach of our 30th year a few friends and I decided to take a vacation of a lifetime. We were all single and accomplished and wanted to really treat ourselves.  
We booked an African Safari and spent Christmas in the Serengeti
and yes
i do
miss the rains down in africa

this occasion was well before the advent of
digital cameras for home use
and most of my photos are on slides
which makes them impossible to post here
but believe me when I tell you
there are not words to describe
how it feels
to be killing distance 
(you not them)
from a wild beast
watching them
play and frolic
stalk their dinner
to enjoy a picnic lunch
beside a herd of elephant
taking an afternoon bath

life affirming moments
that i collect
like shiny marbles
in a jar

but what about banoffee?

on our journey we stayed in tents
luxury tents
tents as nice as some fancy hotels
and were attended to by locals
 our camp host
was this lovely
Australian couple
who would make these amazing meals for us
with precious sweet treats
and one evening we were served
Banoffee Pie
and it was crazy good
and now i make it
when i need something that will make everyone happy
and i don't want to fuss
trust me
this will knock you into tuesday

Banoffee Pie
(printable recipe)
graham cracker crust baked and cooled
dulce de leche (i make my own, but you can find it in specialty stores or mexican groceries)
mascarpone or double cream (in the states mascarpone is more readily found)--room temp
lightly sweetened whipped cream
Thinly slice your bananas---not chunks--and overlap them in the bottom of the graham cracker crust. Next, spread a layer of the mascarpone equal to the thickness of the banana not lay it on thick, otherwise that is all you will taste.  Top with a thin layer of dulce de leche, again, cover the layer, but don't put globs and globs.  Place another layer of thinly sliced bananas on top of the ddl, and then top with freshly whipped cream.  Sometimes, I make the whole pie without the whipped cream the day before, cover it and keep in the fridge. I then whip the cream, generously top the pie and serve.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ah shucks....a remembered joy

hubster was doing a bit of a mid-winter spruce up today
clearing the bookshelf
making room for the bundles of pages
we seem to collect throughout the year
when tackling the top shelf
he came across

do you know what geo-caching is?
it is a lot of fun
go check it out here
 when my husband and I first started dating
we found this activity
and really enjoyed it
since we lived in different cities
it became a great way
to explore the towns we loved
one day
on a family vacation in santa barbara
we went geocaching
to this beautiful and sacred spot
in the hills of montecito
a benadictine monastery

and while i was distracted
which i easily am
he planted that green box
for me to find
sweet right?
except it gets better
because I found the box
tucked away behind a rock
and when I opened it
this is what I found

do you know....
it took me a few minutes to even realize what it said
and then i looked up
and he was on bended knee
and i cried
and then i laughed
and then i cried again
and then i realized that there was a ring
tucked in there
and then i cried some more
i remember it like it was yesterday
and i wish that beautiful place still stood
 (sadly it was destroyed in the wildfire of 2008)
so i could revisit
and remember the joy
but i can't
the box has become the
treasure and the treasured memory
all in one
my hubster is pretty special
don't you think?
sorry there is not a recipe attached to this post
have some champagne
that's what we did

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Night Supper Club--Gumbo

i have this thing for spicy food
i just love it
and i sort of unapologetically make it
fragile palates beware
you cannot come up in here (pronounced hare)
and enjoy this gumbo

Gumbo Spice
(printable recipe)
(from Emeril's New Orleans Cooking)
2 Tbs  chili powder and paprika
1 Tbs ground coriander, garlic powder and salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, black pepper and dried leaf oregano
Mix together and keep in an airtight container. Use on anything that you want to spice up a bit...dare I say

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
(printable recipe)
3/4 cup  boneless skinless chicken breast--cut into pieces
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbs gumbo spice (recipe above)
¼ lb  andouille sausage--cut crosswise into pieces 
1 cup sliced okra
1 ½ Tbs olive oil
1/8 cup flour
½ medium   onion –chopped
1 ½ stalks   celery-chopped
½   green pepper--chopped
1 clove garlic--chopped
½ (14 oz can)  diced tomatoes, undrained
½ cup  Mr and Mrs T’s
¼ cup  sliced scallions
1 tsp    Worcestershire
3/8 tsp  thyme
3/8 tsp  salt
1/8 tsp  black pepper
1/8 tsp  white pepper
1/8 tsp  cayenne
1 ½-2 ½ dashes Tabasco sauce

Brown sausage in a little bit of olive oil.  Keeping the heat on medium, brown the chicken pieces, and remove from pan and add to sausage.  Sprinkle the chicken and sausage with the Gumbo Spice. Add oil to the will need about ¼ cup total
Add flour and stir constantly until it becomes medium brown in color.  When it is brown turn off the heat and quickly add the okra, onion, celery, garlic and bell pepper.  Allow the sizzling to stop.  Pour in stock.
Add tomatoes, Mr and Mrs T’s , green onions, bay leaves, worcetershire sauce, thyme, salt, cayenne, black and white peppers and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer.  Add back chicken and sausage and let cook for about 45 minutes to an hour.  The longer it cooks, the better.  Add hot sauce to please your taste
serve with or without rice

Monday, January 25, 2010

Beautifully Peared

yes, i know
that is not how you spell
but i am taking poetic license
because i can
i taught a cooking class
to eight very enthusiastic women
scared me a bit
because let's be honest
they were all very fit
and didn't quite look the part
of hearty eaters
which is always scary for a
caterer, chef or cooking instructor
i kept saying to myself
don't take it personally if they just glance at the food
and the plates remain completely full
over and over again
the good news is
they were very interested in the cooking of the food
the eating of the food
some even had seconds
they all ate dessert
and I know
because I forced it on them

we poached pears in wine
placed them on top of a very small scoop of vanilla ice cream
and then drizzled homemade chocolate sauce on top
come on
i won't apologize
there were 2 superfoods in there
red wine
bittersweet chocolate

paired beautifully
and absolutely delicious
i didn't take pictures
which meant i had to duplicate it all today
so i could show you
which means i cheated a bit
and used some wine poached pears I made this fall and canned
but they are poached in white wine
and not as beautiful as the ones last night
you can find that recipe here
for the class we used a combination of
moscato and petit syrah
with enough sugar to make it lightly sweet--not sticky sweet
2 cinnamon sticks, 1 star anise pod, a pinch of cardamom
and two strips of orange peel
it simmered away for about 45 minutes

the pears are delicious in this dessert
you can tuck them into some puff pastry and bake
and serve with a bit of cream
enjoy just how it is for an afternoon snack
perhaps you would rather
slice thinly and serve as part of a cheese platter
or maybe
add a little zip
to your luncheon plate

Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce
(printable recipe)
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate--chopped
(please use good chocolate...with a 57% or more cocoa content)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup + 2 Tbs granulated sugar
2 Tbs water or other liquid (you can use coffee or liqueur or poaching liquid)
3 Tbs corn syrup (if you are opposed to corn syrup or don't have it...omit is not won't affect the taste)
Place all ingredients together in a double boiler after the water has begun to boil  Don't let the mixture get too hot, it should just be warm enough to melt the chocolate and sugar.  I like to turn the heat off the pot once the water begins to boil, it will have enough residual heat to do the job.  Once chocolate is melted stir so the ingredients all mix nicely together and you are ready to serve.  This will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A is for Asparagus

i've joined a group
and we are learning the alphabet
on thursdays
its a remedial round-up
and each thursday i will be challenged to come up with a recipe
for the letter of the day

today was the first day
and the letter is A
and it took me some time to get with the program
so i am a bit late
but like epstein
i have a note
dear jenny
christy didn't meet the deadline
she lives in southern california
and building the arc took longer 
than anticipated
but although 
A is for Arc
thats not her topic
please excuse her tardiness
christy's mother
(if you are too old or too young to get the epstein reference, i am sorry that you missed out on that very important time in our cultural history)
today i made a lunch that started out light
until i guilded it
to an obscene caloric giant
which i am so very good at

Asparagus with Poached Egg and Hollandaise
1 bunch steamed asparagus
1 recipe hollandaise sauce
1 poached egg
parmesan cheese
black pepper
Layer and serve

rainy day crafting {wreaths}

i have a compulsion
and it is making things
it could be food
it could be a craft
it could be trouble
i am sharing some of my rainy day projects 
during the holidays
made an adorable marshmallow and gumdrop wreath
which i shamelessly copied for a valentine wreath
substituting conversation hearts for the gumdrops
Marshmallow Wreath
Fabric Wreath
Embroidered Gift Bag
i used a piece of linen
from the remnants pile
i wanted it to look a bit
like it had been sitting in the bottom
of a civil war widow's hope chest
it is a gift
for a yet to be born
little wonder
named Ruby
it will hold baby essentials
and then it can be easily transformed
into a small pillow

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


am in LOVE with this soup
when I visit Italy
well north of Rome
i order this just about every day
even if
they dare to have it on a
spring or summer menu

you have to appreciate
thick hearty soup
to enjoy ribollita
it is not light
it is not delicate
it is me
as an allegory
in a soup

and here is the best part
day two
is better than
day one

2 cans cannellini beans--drained
1 large bunch cavelo nero, kale, swiss chard, or other dark leafy green--chopped
3 stems fresh italian parsley--chopped
3 garlic cloves--peeled and chopped
4-5 celery stalks-chopped
3 carrots--chopped
1 onion--chopped
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 loaf (approx) stale ciabatta or other hearty bread, crusts removed--sliced or torn
olive oil
chicken or vegetable broth
parmesan cheese
In a large stockpot, fry the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and parsley in about 3 Tbs olive oil on low for about 30 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, cavelo nero (or other leafy green), the beans and enough broth to cover. Simmer for an additional 50-60 minutes. 
The bread and broth are used to manage thickness of the soup.  I would start with 1/2 the bread and add more broth and let it sit on low heat for a bit, allowing the bread to break down.  Add more bread or broth to achieve the consistency you enjoy.  Season with salt and pepper.  When serving, top with some parmesan cheese and a glug or two of good olive oil.

Monday, January 18, 2010

cheese glorious cheese

The lovely people and when I say people, I mean I was contacted by one person and got a note from technically its people, at Sartori Foods sent me a package of cheese. A variety of ten to be exact.
They are wondering what I think
and I told them I would taste and play and let them know
so here I am
but first
a complete and total disclaimer
because it isn't like someone at Sartori Foods was cruising the internet and happened upon this blog and thought...I like her....let me send some cheese.
I have a connection
several actually
My MIL and her husband both retired from Sartori, my husband worked there when he was in high school, I have been at social events with the Sartori family. Okay FTC? You happy...full and total disclaimer.
that being said
Sartori Foods did not ask me to review, comment, discuss, endorse, in any shape or form, on my blog. I am doing it of my own accord
But they did give me free cheese.

and now we can get back to what this is all about.
I went to the farmer's market the other day and picked up a bunch of beets. I heart beets. I heart beets even though some stupid blood sugar or blood type diet tells me I shouldn't eat them.  Who am I to turn down loads of vitamin C and the earthy delights of such a beautiful orb?

Today for lunch, I shaved a beet
...hmmm that doesn't sound right.
I made beet ribbons with a vegetable peeler and made a nice little salad using Sartori Gorgonzola for a nice creamy and briny component.
The salad was perfect for a nice light meal, and I think would be delicious perched atop a pan roasted chicken paillard, or even a thinly sliced, medium-rare, cooked over an open flame---flank steak.
Oh yum!
add poached pears and some watercress to the salad making it a bit more rounded
and composed.

Beet Ribbons with Gorgonzola
(printable recipe)
1 large raw beet--scrubbed clean
4-5 walnut halves--sliced into delicate bits
red wine vinegar
olive oil
black pepper
2 or 3 chives--chopped
gorgonzola cheese
Using a vegetable peeler, make fine ribbons from the beet.  Add just a bit of vinegar and let sit while you finely slice the walnuts (the reason I do this is so they match the delicate-ness of the beet ribbons.  If you prefer a nice big crunch from the walnut, leave them as isn't critical to the recipe). Toss together the beets, the chives and then a bit of olive oil, just to make it glisten.  Add black pepper to taste and then pile the beet onto the serving plate or platter.  Top with walnuts and a generous slice of gorgonzola cheese. I do not add salt to this recipe as the gorgonzola is quite salty and carries enough brininess for the salad.

So What About The Cheese?
The gorgonzola is salty...but not offensively so.  As a matter of taste, I prefer my cheese to have impact on my palate.  It is also quite creamy, and I love that when I sliced a wedge for my salad it stayed intact. While it is my first instinct to not let food items stand alone...i immediately look for pairing opportunities...this gorgonzola can stand quite nicely by itself. As well, it would be scrumptious with a nice fig jam, some apple slices or a nice glass of port.

all bottled up

in italy
 this october past
i shared a meal with a truffle hunter
and his family
in their home
and after we ate
a treat was served
 limoncello cream
which they made by hand
and i have been wanted to make my own
 as fortune would have it
i had a batch of limoncello steeping in my cupboard
just waiting for inspiration

Limoncello Cream
(printable recipe)
4 cups of lemon peel steeped in vodka or Everclear (after removing the lemon peel)
which is step 1 of my limoncello recipe you can find here
please will need the lemon peels to steep for the specified time
4 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Place milk, sugar and water in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Repeat the boiling process 3 more times.The repeated boiling minimizes the chances of the milk curdling when adding the limoncello. Remove from the heat and let cool a bit (maybe 5 minutes). Stir in the limoncello. Pour in sterilized bottles through a sieve using a funnel.  Let sit for a few days before drinking (a week is best).  
This tastes best cold, and I suggest storing in the fridge or freezer. 

I packaged these up to give as favors for a baby shower
cute, right?
the packaging possibilities are endless
which are just the way i like my possibilities

Sunday, January 17, 2010

cherry bomb

i have started an experiment
i am calling it cherry bomb
because it has cherries
and may not come to anything
but i hope it does
because I am already dreaming of
delicious elixirs
sweet possiblities
with this simple cocoction
i will put this in a cool dark place
for 4 weeks
finger's crossed!

Cherry Bomb
fill a jar with clean ripe cherries
drop in 3 or 4 cardamom pods
fill with everclear
cover and place in a cool dark place

Saturday, January 16, 2010

the end of the white whipped road

i've been having fun with whipped egg whites this week

and now
i present you with my final meringue entry
for the time being
it is THE BEST
dinner party dessert
because all components can be prepared in advance
and composed at the final moment
to oohs and ahhs
that make you feel like
the finest 
french pastry chef
for the record
we have the aussies to thank
for this crunchy-creamy-pillowy confection
not the french
so maybe you might tell your friends
to tuck in
rather than
bon appetite

1 recipe meringue piped into individual nests
1 recipe pastry cream or vanilla pudding
1 recipe fresh whipped cream
fruit of choice
For the Cherry Pavlova
pastry cream
6 large egg yolks
5 Tbs cornstarch
2 1/2 cups milk ( i used 2%)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbs unsalted butter
2 cups pitted fresh cherries
1/4 cup sugar
juice of 1 large lime
1 Tbs cherry herring liqueur (optional)
for pastry cream:  Whisk the egg yolks and the cornstarch in a bowl. set aside.  In a saucepan, simmer milk, sugar and salt.  Once it is simmering, temper the eggs with the hot milk.  Return to the saucepan and whisk continuously until the custard begins to thicken.  Once you see large bubbles coming up through the middle of the pot, remove from heat. Pour into a clean bowl (use a sieve if you feel you have overcooked), and stir in butter and vanilla.  Place clingfilm over top and refrigerate until ready to use.  
for the fruit:  Place cherries, sugar, lime and liqueur into a small saucepot.  Place over low heat and allow to simmer until a nice syrup forms and cherries are softened.  Allow to cool until ready to use.
Whip cream with a bit of confectioner's sugar and vanilla to taste.  
When ready to put together, take a bit of the whipped cream and whisk it into the custard to soften it up a bit, it will give it a nice creamy consistency.This is also a great filling for cream puffs.

Fill the meringue nest with the custard.  Top with the fruit and then place a generous dollop of cream on top.  

cherry pavlova
kiwi pavlova 
made with a dessert sauce of kiwi, pineapple juice and some sugar
bittersweet chocolate pavlova
there is a bit of chocolate ganache tucked under the custard 
and a bit more chocolate shaved on top

Thursday, January 14, 2010

whipped again

nothing shows that you are

better than
meringue hearts
easy  to make
but not easily forgotten
whip some up 
will be ever so pleased
(for the meringue recipe click here)

this is how i plan to deliver 
to my 
please don't freak out. 
this is very old, from england
in the victorian style of taxidermy

and while a bit
reminds me of
my childhood collection
beatrix potter books and figurines

which have found a new home
in my memories

here is a pic of how I managed to make all my hearts uniform
I used a heart cookie cutter, and traced onto a piece of kitchen parchment. I then turned it to the reverse, and spread (although you can pipe) the meringue to the reaches of my outline
I then sprinkled with colored sugar in the colors of february

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

whipped heaven

i found myself wanting to play with meringue today
which might seem silly 
because it was raining 
"they" say you shouldn't  make meringue when it is raining 
i think "they" are wrong
 i couldn't shake the slideshow in my head
 of fluffy, sugary-white meringue
it billowed in my mind
and melted like spring snow on my tongue  

I just love it

and you can probably expect quite a few posts about it  these next few days

especially since valentine's day is rearing its
darling little head
upon our days

cupid's wings
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
Make sure the beater and bowl are extremely clean and free of any oil or fats.  Beat whites on low until foamy. Add salt and then kick up the speed to medium. Add cream of tartar.  Begin to slowly add the sugar "raining" it into the egg whites.  Continue to beat until soft peaks form, then add vanilla.  Beat to stiff and firm peaks.
If you over-beat, you will see moisture starting to "weep" from the whites.  If this happens, start over!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Night Supper Club--Potato Leek Soup and Chicken Cutlets

Tonight we are eating simply
I am taking leftovers and re-purposing them
very green, i think
on saturday I made braised leeks
truffle roasted potatoes
tortellini en brodo
and today
i took these components (not the tortellini, but the broth)
and tipped them into a stock pot
and simmered away
then blended it all together
to make potato leek soup
added some pepper
and served

Chicken Cutlets
(printable recipe)
chicken breasts
bread crumbs
parmesan cheese
olive oil
Butterfly your chicken breast and then pound until very thin. You can buy them already as scallopini, but you pay a premium. I find it much easier to slice if the breast is slightly frozen...but if that is too time consuming for you, make sure the breast is dry so it doesn't slip and slide while you have a sharp knife in your hand.   Crack eggs in a shallow dish and scramble with a fork.  Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper and a bit of milk.  Let's say 2 eggs to about a tablespoon of milk.  In another shallow dish, pour in bread crumbs with grated parmesan cheese.  The ratio is about 2/3 bread crumbs and 1/3 cheese.  Dip the chicken breast into the egg, then into the bread crumbs.  Pan fry in a large skillet using olive oil. Don't let the chicken swim in the oil, but put enough to ensure the chicken doesn't stick.  You will have to add more olive oil as you go.

The best part about these cutlets is that they are delicious hot, cold or room temperature.  They also freeze really well. I keep a stash in my freezer for last minute dinners. I will add tomato sauce and cheese for chicken parmesan, or a bit of lemon juice, white wine, and capers for a quick piccata.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

appetizer angst

it is no secret that i absolutely love ina garten
i have blogged about my obsession before
and told anyone who will listen
how i wish to be her friend
and have contemplated taking up bridge just to increase my chances
for a dinner invitation

while i have never actually owned one of her cookbooks
made any of her recipes
i am in awe of her style
particularly her entertaining style
i could never only serve a hearty salad and crusty bread for dinner
with a dessert of chocolate bark
i'm not the sort
but i envy it in her
and every time i have guests for dinner
i try and imitate her unapologetic rule
only making 2 items for dinner and then buying the extras
but i never get there
i'm just not the sort
last evening we had guests for dinner
2 couples we have come to know over the years and have become good friends with
and i made a dinner of homemade pasta, chicken saltimboca, 4 veg and dessert
I thought maybe I shouldn't serve appetizers
Ina wouldn't
she would serve nuts or something
so that is where i stood
until about five o'clock
when i began to panic
i couldn't give it up
i had to have some sort of nibble for my guests
and i wanted it to be really simple
to go with my very french aperitif
i turned to what i had on hand
and made this a simple yet absolutely delicious
start to our evening
Walnut Stuffed Figs
dried figs
toasted walnuts
mascarpone cheese
finely diced bits of well-cooked bacon
stem and split the figs, stuff with toasted walnuts, top with a small dot of mascarpone, and then sprinkle the bits of bacon on top.  These are also lovely with a bit of blue cheese in place of the mascarpone.


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