Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Epicurious Taste

Some of my favorite recipes have been found in the traditional Bon Appetite and Gourmet magazines. My mother had subscriptions to both while I was growing up. My favorite time to peruse the pages was during the holiday months. Sure enough, I still love that nostalgic time to flip the October, November, and December copies of each magazine.

In this modern day of our ever so fast Internet, we have access to Bon Appetite and Gourmet via the website Epicurious. They have a treasure trove of recipes, and you can find just about anything that you
could ever want. If you register with their site you may keep your own recipe box; adding your own recipes, as well, as adding recipes that you use from Epicurious. Just recently They have partnered with a wonderful company called Taste Book. By registering with Taste Book you can carry over your epicurious recipe box, and actually have those recipes printed out into a book that is bound with rings. You order the recipes by the page and add them in your own book as you go. If you want pictures in your taste book, you can just upload them from your own files.

This pie was made by a family member who introduced me to the Epicurious website years ago. We can always count on him to make wonderful pies at the holidays. This one from last year was so beautiful that I had to capture it on film. This was the "Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie" from the November 2007 edition of Gourmet magazine. It was extremely wonderful, and was gone in minutes! BON APPETITE!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Farm Stand Freshness

There is nothing quite like buying produce from your local farm stand. Where I live they are everywhere during the Summer and in the early Fall. Farm stands are where I pick out the freshest berries to make my jam, pears and peaches to make fruit cocktail, and apples to make applesauce and apple pie filling.

My favorite farm stand item, however, is the ever ripe, red, and sweet tomato! There is nothing better than a sun ripe tomato picked from the vine just that morning! With these tomatoes I make my chili sauce and stewed tomatoes. It is a guarantee when you open that bottle in the dead of Winter, a hint of Summer sunshine fills the air.

My very special place to buy my tomatoes is a "mom & pop" store in the local town. There are always boxes of tomatoes lining the walls on the outside, and even more that grace tables on the inside. At the end of August salt and pepper corn, and large ripe peaches surround the tomatoes.

This Summer a friend made a wonderful & unusual salad that she got from the New York Times. It not only looked beautiful, but the smell permeated every inch of the room. The smell was so intoxicating that I was not quite sure what it was. The lovely flavors consisted of fresh tomatoes, fresh peaches, red onion, and fresh rosemary. The dressing was a squeeze of lemon juice, salt & pepper for taste.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cupcakes ...The Finest of Foods

Who does not love cupcakes? The cupcake phenomenon fascinates me. Why only a few years ago nobody even thought about a cupcake as being such a gourmet treat. Now there are cupcake stores popping up in just about every town; each trying to put their own spin on the "original cupcake".

What makes me smile whenever I hear about a superb cupcake is the thought of my sweet mother baking her brains out every Christmas in the 1980's to put her "special" petite four cupcakes in a booth at the local upscale mall. People lined up every year knowing that she would be there with her miniature cupcakes, tarts, brownies, and pumpkin cake. My sister and I slaved along side her, decorating the small cakes with white royal icing tops, a small pale pink flower, and an even paler mint green leaf.

I had had not thought much about her cupcakes until one night three years ago I was visiting family in Virgina and someone said, "Lets go get a Le CupCake!" We drove for what seemed 20 minutes to a small coffee house in Falls Church, VA. There they were, and only four left! We got them home, and with on bite the memories flooded back to me. The royal incing, the pale colors, the wonderful soft cake. It was heavenly. I had to wait an entire year before I could go back to savor another.

In the meantime, however, I researched my obsession on the Internet. I fell across the supreme cupcake blog, Cupcakes Take the Cake. It is the first blog I ever really read. From there I started seeking out various cupcake shops on trips that I took. I would tell myself I had to eat them in the name of research. Which were the best? Lulu's Cupcakes in Scottsdale, Arizona was pretty good. The box it came in was pink with cupcake holes for each cupcake. They wrapped it with a pink ribbon. I realized that the best cupcake may include the packaging.
So Cupcake in Salt Lake City, UT. was very good as well. I gave them a good rating not for packaging, but for taste, size, and the original artwork on their website. The Cupcakery in Las Vegas, NV. has been my most recent stop. The cupcakes were OK, but the icing is the intrigue here. It is fluffy and light, and some of them have edible sparkly glitter on them. They look fairy-like. The flavors are original too. Lemonberry, "Oh My Gosh, Ganache!", & Coconut Bliss. These pictures are from my Cupcakery adventure. I only ate a bite out of each! ; ) My next conquest is to visit the infamous Sprinkles in L.A., CA., and of course, Magnolia Bakery in New York City, NY! Until then, I am still dreaming of cupcakes!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Buying Bulbs

It is time to be thinking of what bulbs you are going to want to plant in your garden next Spring. This is by doubt one of my favorite things to do. I pour over the catalogues, and idle in the garden centers to look at the hundreds of beautiful bulb varieties. One of my favorite catalogues is Colorblends out of Connecticut. I ordered a crate full of bulbs last Fall. There were all different kinds of daffodils, and a mix of sherbet long stemmed tulips. When the crate arrived I was so surprised to realize that it was shipped from Holland! The newspaper it came packed in was in Dutch! The bulbs were a wonderful quality. Some were as big as my fist, and they were not diseased. Many times when you see bulbs on sale in bulk at a super center they can be diseased. This is bad if don't catch it, because it can effect the dirt and other plants around the diseased bulb.

You want to plant your bulbs when the GROUND is 57 degrees. Before I plant I take out the old summer plants, dig out any bulbs that are old from the year before. I have made a map of where what bulbs were planted where. I then take several weeks to reintroduce organic dirt and worm casings that I buy from the garden center. I overturn and rake the dirt everyday for a couple of weeks. I then let the dirt settle for a week before I start planting.
Once I do start planting, I make a map and design of where the bulbs should go according to the height of the bulb, and according to the time it might bloom; early, mid, or late Spring. I don't usually pay that much attention to colour schemes, but that would be nice to do as well. The extra planning will make a huge difference in how your garden looks when the bulbs start to shoot up. Once that is figured out I take little heed to the directions on the packaging as to how to plant the bulb. For instance, daffodils I have found, do just fine when placed next to each other in a dug out hole. Tulips need some room to expand and grow during the Winder, but keep in mind how it might look in the Spring when they come up. You don't want a large gap in between each flower. Lastly, just as an added colour boost. I always plant pansies around the bulbs. The pansies make your garden look pretty the rest of the fall, and they keep their color as they go dormant under the mounds of snow that may fall. When the snow has melted, it is nice to see a show of pansy colour before you bulbs shoot up. Have fun with your bulb hunting. Keep in mind their are wonderful rare varieties of tulips and daffodils out there. Your friends and neighbors will be delighted as much as you will be when the big show arrives!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Planting Peonies

Yes, it is just about that time of year when you plant peonies, or if you have existing plants you may divide them up to replant or share with a neighbor. This is a picture of my Sara Bernhardt that was taken last Spring. Where do you get peonies? A good source has been given many times by Martha Stewart. Klehm's Song Sparrow is a wonderful nursery in Wisconsin.You order bare root peonies in the Summer, and they ship them when it is time to plant according to your climate zone. Another good source, I am afraid and embarrassed to tell you, is Walmart. Yes, I know! I do sneak in there during bulb season. A couple of years ago I bought several for five dollars each. I just could not resist the price! They did nothing for two years. Not even a peak out of the ground. Then one year I did not get all of my leaves cleaned up in the Fall. They mulched all Winter. When I gently raked the wet leaves away in the Spring, there they were. Infant peonies! Only one shoot. I wondered if they would ever flower. They did -- one flower each. Many nurseries in the Spring will have peonies in large buckets already to go into the ground for the big flower show. They usually are extremely over price. If you have an adventure to choose exotic plants, and want to have sure luck, I would shop on-line at Khelm's Song Sparrow. If you have the time to nurture a cheap bare root that may never do anything, shop at a store like Walmart. If you are in a hurry for beauty in your Spring garden, spend the money and buy the plant that is ready to flower. No matter how you get peonies in your garden, you can rest assured that you will be amazed at the powerful beauty that will hopefully grace your home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Flowering Herbs

I love it when herbs flower. You do not think of them as a flower when you
buying them either fresh at a market or perhaps in a dry tin at the store. I think some of the most magnificent flowers actually come from herbs.

For instance, the purple frilly chive flower is not only beautiful, but if eaten has a strong bite to it. Some can even make your eyes tear up! The echinacea flower comes in many colours. My favorite is a velvety purple colour. Rosemary makes a beautiful blue little flower, while we all know how the purple flower of the grey lavender brings the essence of relaxation. Anyone can have an herb garden. I have had one on a patio three stories up, in containers on a porch, and also in a lush garden setting. Wherever the place may be, let those herbs bloom instead of snipping them all the time. After they flower they will seed. You may save the seeds in an envelope. If you have a nice garden just shake the plant, and let the seeds fall wherever they may. Enjoy this last bit of Summer and the beginning of a new Fall.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cookie Mania

I use to have my own catering business. When I was a thirteen I wanted to go to the American Culinary Institute in San Fransisco. I would scan my mother's Bon Appetite & Gourmet Magazines over and over again. I watched all of the cooking shows on the PBS channel, & cooked to the greats like Georges Pepin. I'd make Salzburger nockerln, Doblos torte, and Miniature French Tarts. Baking was my favorite. Unfortunately, I never made it to San Fransisco to cook, but I did inherit my mother's antique French tart pans, as well as her many tried and true recipes. We are very lucky in this day and age to have recipes available to us via the Internet & from the plethora of cookbooks by the many famous chef out there. Nothing, however can beat the old Bon Appetite & Gourmet magazines of the 70's & the 80's (I bought many of my favorites from ebay). And most of all, nothing is better than the old school Julia Child shows that aired on PBS. I hope as the holidays are in view that the bakers of the world do justice to the great cookies, cakes, & pies of the cooking world. Try something new, out of the ordinary, something that takes a little time and love. Don't just plop a blob of dough on a cookie sheet, or pour an artificial box cake in a pan. Feel the spirit of the season, and make the magic come alive with your inner gourmet.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Smell of Autum

Autum is just around the corner. Seeing the children getting new school supplies at the stores, and knowing that the summer vacations are just about over, makes me nostolgic of past Autums when the leaves turned golden and then into orange. The nights and mornings became crisp. Apples fell from in our yard from a neighbor's tree. Most of all, Autum reminds me that the last canning of the season is due. For me tomatoes and chili sauce rounds out my pantry. I think of making pies, picking pumpkins from the pumpkin patch, and looking forward to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and family memories.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Canning Pears

This is the time of year when I can pears. I started canning a few years ago when I was able to have access to fresh fruit that was picked locally just the day before. Pears are one of my favorite. It is a little time consuming, and a bit messy, but it is all worth it in the end. You know a perfect pear when there is a slight blush on one side of it. They bruise very easily, so handel them gently. After skinning the pear, I dip it in citrus water bath so they won't brown. I then cut it in half, and scoop out the middle with a melon baller. It is necessary, but tricky, to pack the fruit in the jars as tightly as you can without mushing the pear. Packing the fruit tightly helps the fruit to not float to the top during the processing time. The best book I have found for canning is the "Ball Complete Book of Home Canning."

The Perfect Green Sauce

I saw Mariel Hemingway on the food network being interviewed by Rachael Ray. In this episode, Mariel showed how she made this wonderful green sauce that she puts on everything; fish, chicken, or salads. Admittedly it did look suspicious. After all it was very GREEN. The ingredients were not unique, but not items that I would have ever thought to put together. I decided to buy her book, "Healthy Living from the Inside Out". The green sauce recipe is in the book, however the recipe in the book is not quite like what she did on the show. The variations from the show included an unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of stevia (an herb used for a sweetener). It is a wonderful recipe that you just kind of have to adjust to your own taste.

Green-Green Sauce & Dip
adapted from Mariel Hemingway's
"Healthy Living from the Inside Out"

1 bag baby spinach
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup "French's Mustard"
4 kalamata olives and a splash of juice from the bottle
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 pinch of stevia
water as needed

Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Use water as needed to get the desired consistency. Use on salads, fish, or meat.

Thanks Mariel Hemingway!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Days of Salad

In the summer I look forward to lots of green salads. My salads must always have heirloom tomatoes, avocados, English cutecumbers, micro greens, and goat cheese. Sometimes I use mache, endive, or baby spinach for the base of the salad. I recently discovered an orange vinegar at the store. It made a wonderful vinaigrette dressing for the salad.

Orange Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp orange vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

pinch curry powder

Whisk vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and curry powder together. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the vinegar mixture while whisking. Pour over your favorite salad!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Last summer I was able to go to the beautiful California seaside town of Carmel. It is hands down one of my favorite California towns. I promised myself that I would take an entire afternoon to walk up and down the streets to take pictures of the cottages. The gardens in these homes are usually beautiful. One of the many charms of Carmel is that there are not any house numbers. Each house is uniquely named. This gate artfully displayed the house name as "Le Chat". While in Carmel I had tea at the Tuck Box . They have a wonderful patio, and delicious buttered scones! On the side are a couple of jams that are made there, and a small bowl of whipped cream. Who could ask for anything more?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Strawberry Lemonade

Have you ever had a moment on a hot summer day when you craved lemonade? I don't mean the kind of lemonade that you get out of a machine or in the frozen isle of the grocery store. I am talking about fresh squeezed, juicy, & tart lemons. Well, that was me today. As the temperature climbed, I could not stand it any longer, & I went to the store in search of my lemons.

I grew up with three huge lemon trees. There was never any need to buy a lemon in the store. In fact, we made fun of people who had to buy the tiny lemons at the grocery. The lemons we grew were a special variety called "Ponderosa Lemons". They were the size of grapefruit. We made pitcher after pitcher of lemonade.

Today I thought I would do a little twist on my lemonade. I have had many times in restaurants strawberries, blueberries, cherries, or some sort of other fresh fruity concoction in my lemonade. I also once saw in a Martha Stewart wedding book with various flavors of lemonade served in large glass biscotti jars. It was quite stunning seeing the different colours of beverages in the icy containers. So, I got my Ball "Complete Book of Home Preserving" out. They have an excellent recipe for not only fresh concentrate, but one that you can bottle for future use.

The result? Wonderful!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Generations of Iris

This week my iris just started taking off. I planted them three years ago. Last year I only had a couple of flowers. This year they are full of blooms. The thing that I like about iris is that they last for years. My grandmother use to divide her iris, put them in a paper bag to dry out, and then pass them along to her family and friends. There was a particular variety that she inherited from her grandfather in Arkansas. The variety has been passed down through the generations since the late 1800's. I grew up with them in my yard, and my mother has passed a piece onto me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Spring Is Still In The Air

Even though it is the beginning of Summer on the West Coast, there is still a hint of Spring in the air. This year my tulips and daffodils had an extended stay. I was especially excited to see my bulbs pop up from the ground. I had purchased my bulbs from Holland. They were huge! I planted over 300 hundred bulbs in the garden. With pink, yellow, and orange daffodils, and sherbet french tulips, my garden has been a wonder everyday!