29 December 2010

Celebrations and Resolutions

As the new year approaches, I (like everyone else in this country) feel the desire to make a resolution.  Then I read my blog post from last new year's and reconsidered.  There are a couple items on that list that didn't get accomplished...hmmm.  Maybe the year wasn't as long as it used to be?  Maybe I've changed a bit and it's not quite as important as it seemed last year?   I was feeling guilty, angry at myself and then my friend, Aimee Weeber, posted this on her Facebook:

Sometimes we need to be reminded: "Today, you should celebrate what an unbelievable life you have had so far: the accomplishments, the many blessings, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make you stronger. Just as a gem cannot be polished without friction, nor can a life be perfected without trials. Take a time to acknowledge your life and to praise yourself." (anon)
This coming from one of the most creative, kind, hard-working woman I've ever met!  I forgot to mention she's also beautiful and FUN!  
Summer at Lake Michigan with the family

Our Jamie turns 16

Our puppy "Pierre"
Andy and Erika on FOX2 News
So today I will be doing just that!  John and I have had tremendous joys and blessings this year and trials that are best left in 2010.  I can keep last year's resolutions rolling into 2011 and celebrate what has been accomplished in 2010.  
I have planned our New Years Eve of looking back at 2010 and remembering the incredible year we experienced! 
Paris France 2010
Julia Tecumseh High School Graduation 2010
Lenawee Business Leadership Award; Tecumseh Trolley took us in high style!!!

26 December 2010

Cherry Tomato Jam

After the holiday food conundrum...we have so much food and nothing to eat!!!  All kidding aside, we needed a really delicious, quick, no fuss, grease laden meal at home.  Back in the summer, I was intrigued by the idea of cherry tomato jam and didn't have a chance to try my hand at it.  So tonight is the night.  I had 3/4 of a quart of less-than-stellar orange cherry tomatoes, fresh ground chuck, blue cheese and some time.


2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Put all ingredient in a small sauce pan and heat over medium high heatBoil briskly about 15 minutes until thick and tomatoes have cooked down by a third.

I topped my burger with the tomato jam, about 2 Tablespoons of St Agur blue cheese and a couple thin slices of red onion.....
I chose a really robust blue cheese to offset the sweetness of the jam.  If you shy away from blue cheese, this would also taste great with goat cheese.

I absolutely love Sweet Potato French Fries with a glob of mayo mixed with bottled chili sauce and a bit of garlic to dip!!!  This supper is just what I was thinking for tonight.  A taste of summer the day after Christmas.

25 December 2010

Savory & Sweet Shortbread

I was perusing some of my favorite blogs last week to see what fun others are cooking up this time of year.  One of the most interesting recipes I came across was from www.101cookbooks.com and was a Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread recipe that caught my eye.  So, I tried it out with just a few differences from the original recipe and WOW!  These are really fabulous shortbreads!  Here is Heidi Swanson's recipe from 101 Cookbooks and I used orange zest instead of lemon.

I used my Grandmother's "card club" cookie cutters, which totally crack up anyone of age 55 or older!  The "diamond" is my favorite and it seems to keep the shortbreads nice and sturdy, as well as quite uniform.  Plus these are the perfect size for 2 bite cookies!

Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread Recipe

2 cups white whole-wheat flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
scant teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (natural cane) sugar
zest of one lemon
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and loosely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Combine flour and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
In a separate large bowl or stand mixer cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and lemon zest and mix again, then add the flour mixture, nuts, and rosemary and mix until the dough goes just past the crumbly stage, and begins to really clump together (you don't want to over mix, but under mixing will make the dough seem a bit dry, which can make it difficult to handle). Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough just once or twice to bring it together, then divide it into a ball and flatten into a disk 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper of a Silpat mat. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into whatever shapes you desire, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Sometimes I chill the dough in the freezer for another 10 minutes, it seems to help the cookies hold their shape - but you don't have to. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are beginning to brown on the bottom. The baking time will vary depending on the size of the cookies, taking less time for smaller cookies.
Makes about 2 dozen small cookies.
Variation: use chopped raw or toasted walnuts and 1 tablespoon coarsely ground coffee in place of the lemon, pine nuts, and rosemary.

The only tip not noted in the recipe is to remove the cookies from the baking sheet after cooling about 10 minutes, otherwise they really stick tight!  I stored mine in a tin to keep them a bit crispy, the ziploc stored were a bit too soft for my liking!

Enjoy with you favorite cup of tea!


20 December 2010

Comfort and Joy...

I am always looking for bits of comfort and joy during the holidays.  It's so easy for me to be wrapped up in our shop, family stuff, Christmas preparations etc.  And of course, I have this insane idea that everything must be "perfect"!  Whatever perfect is?!?!  Here are some things that I've found "perfect" in this holiday season.

 I think these paperwhites are really perfect and lovely for the holidays!  After many days of 20 degree weather, snow and ice, they are magically fragrant and delicate!  

 Our boy "Otto" is perfect...he's had a hard time of it lately dealing with the new puppy, Pierre.  Maybe they can be friends under the Christmas tree?

 I think the "peanut blossom" recipe has to be about the most perfect cookie ever invented!  Chewy peanut butter cookie with a crispy sugar coating and a lovely drop of chocolate dead center.  

I'm happy to share the recipe, just comment! 


13 December 2010

Roasting Chestnuts...

Yesterday was the 1st storm of the season here in Michigan and a great time to decorate the tree and roast fresh chestnuts!  Family, food and twinkle lights...so awesome! 

I have developed a fondness for roasted chestnuts and they are so easy to make!  No open fire necessary, just a preheated 400 degree oven!  Lay them flat side down on a cutting board and score an X with a sharp knife.  Throw on a baking sheet and cook 25-30 minutes...THAT'S IT!!

Peel as soon as they come out of the oven (or as soon as they can safely be handled) and sprinkle with a bit of salt if desired.  So sweet and yummy! 

Any leftovers, I put into a small saucepan with a bit of milk and simmer until soft and mushy for Chestnut Soup with Marsala and Proscuitto crips (find recipe below).  All in all, a fantastic winter treat!  The Boulevard Market does the Minerva brand from France in a can, less fuss, but less charm too!  Enjoy!


1 diced carrot
½ medium onion, diced
1 diced stalk of celery
4 Tablespoons butter
2 cups cooked chestnuts (14 oz. can,drained)
1 cup Sweet Marsala Wine or Ruby Port
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 cups chicken stock or broth
½ cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Proscuitto Strips

In sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter and sauté carrots, onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add drained chestnuts and cook an additional 4 minutes, gently breaking Chestnuts up.  Add wine and vinegar, raise heat to high and reduce to half volume.  Add stock or broth and thyme, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat, discard thyme and add heavy cream.  Pour into blender (you may need to do 2 batches) and puree until smooth.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Return to heat if necessary.  Garnish with Proscuitto strips.

3-4 Ounces sliced Proscuitto
Using sharp scissors, cut slices of Proscuitto into ¼ inch strips.  Saute over high heat until crispy, drain on paper towel.

10 December 2010

Easy & Elegant Entertaining

I think we all are in need of easy and elegant dishes for entertaining this time of year!  My idea of easy is; no-fail-done-in-the-kitchen-in-30-minutes-tastes-incredible-minimal-dish-using-it-all-fits-in-the-dishwasher kind of meal!!  I am sharing the latest main course in our series of cooking classes! Cornish hens are a bit early 1980's yet they taste so great and are so darn easy to prepare!  I will warn you though, it's been so long since I've purchased them, I didn't realize they are no longer sold fresh...for real?  So, do purchase and plan a day ahead for defrosting! I love this stuffing recipe as well because we have a vegetarian in the household.  I add a bit of vegetable stock to the leftover stuffing and throw it into a hollowed out squash carcass for a great main dish for her as well!  If you are looking for gluten-free, just omit the bread cubes from stuffing!  This recipe was designed to make and serve 8 hens, so adjust accordingly to suit your needs! MAPLE GLAZED CORNISH HENS I small onion, grated 1 clove garlic, minced Salt & Pepper ½ cup red wine vinegar 1 cup pure maple syrup 6 Cornish Game Hens Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove giblet package from hen and rinse hen. Pat dry and loosely stuff with rice mixture, place in shallow roasting pan. Combine above ingredients and pour over hens evenly. Roast in oven about a hour basting occasionally (3 times) Check with food thermometer for doneness. RICE STUFFING FOR MAPLE GLAZED CORNISH HENS 4 cups cooked rice, any variety you choose (I chose black japonica and basmati) 6 Tablespoons Butter 1 head Savoy Cabbage 8 ounces button, shitake or porcini mushrooms 2 cloves garlic, minced Salt & Pepper to taste 3 cups crusty bread, cut in ½ inch cubes ½ cup water or stock 2 Tablespoons each, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, chopped finely In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt butter and add cabbage. Cook about 4 minutes until cabbage begins to soften, add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Continue cooking another 3 minutes. Add garlic, bread, herbs and rice. Stir until combined and pour ½ cup water over to moisten. Add more if rice mixture is too dry. Mixture should hold together when squeezed gently. Remove from heat and season to taste. Stuff birds loosely or serve as side dish immediately.

03 December 2010


We are going sweater shopping tomorrow so potty training isn't quite so painful for either of us!  Michigan winter is finally here!  New sweaters will put us in the right frame of mind!!  I am getting a Fair Isle, so I can scoop in style.  Pierre is getting a skull and crossbones sweater (John's request) so he is not mistaken for a girl-puppy!! 



Ahhh, not much evokes France as much as the simple madeleine, a pound cake like small cake, made in a special shell shaped pan.  I saw the sweetest mini madelein pan at the local crack dealer, oh excuse me, Williams Sonoma store.  Non-stick and just right for bite size treats.  The madelein pan was all I have dreamed of and more!!  I have a stash of dried cranberries and many oranges left from The Market's "Gifts from your Kitchen" class (candied orange peel) so I went about adapting a recipe and here is the results!

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
     and cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting or melted white chocolate for drizzling


Preheat an oven to 375°F. Using a pastry brush, heavily brush softened butter over each of the 20 molds in a mini madeleine pan, carefully buttering every ridge.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, granulated sugar and salt. Using a wire whisk or a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat vigorously until pale, thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Sprinkle the sifted flour over the egg mixture and stir or beat on low speed to incorporate.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the orange zest and half of the melted butter just until blended. Fold in the remaining melted butter and dried cranberries. 
Bake the madeleines until the tops spring back when lightly touched, 8 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and invert it over a wire rack, then rap it on the rack to release the madeleines. If any should stick, use your fingers to loosen the edges, being careful not to touch the hot pan, and invert and rap again.

Let the madeleines cool on the rack for 10 minutes. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the tops with confectioners sugar and serve. Makes 20.  If using a large madelein pan, just up the baking time about 4 minutes and I often flour the pan for easier removal.
I put my little bits on a gold charger and decorated it with fresh cedar and fresh cranberries and dusted the whole plate with confectioners sugar to look like snow.  It was a beautifully simple presentation and fabulous for a holiday gathering!
    Here is a bit closer view!!

27 November 2010

Getting Crafty

I have always loved the Boxwood.  I have a few of the traditional, bright green boxwood shrubs in protected areas of my landscaping, as they don't always perform well in Michigan winters.  I did not trim them much this summer in anticipation of a holiday wreath to decorate my front door.  Thanksgiving day brought us fairly mild temperatures so I donned John's coziest flannel shirt, leather work gloves and grabbed my trusty Felco pruners.  I trimmed all of the stray growth off and gathered a couple arm fulls of cuttings. 

I had stopped at the craft store earlier in the month to pick up some wire wreath frames.  I paid about $3 and also purchased green florist wire on a flat spool. 

It's so simple to put together your own wreath.
  1. Gather all greens using many different lengths.  You can use a variety of different greens, box 
  2. Gather up frame, wire cutters or scissors and florist wire.
  3. Take small, handful size bunches and hold next to wreath frame and using plenty of florist wire, wrap to secure.  
  4. When adding a new bunch, place about 3 inches behind ends of previous bunch.  This way the wire is covered up by the ends of the branches already secured.
  5. Look at your wreath hanging on the door. Trim off stray ends and add additional greens to fill any bare spots.
  6. Decorate with berries, bulbs, ribbon for desired look.  

Enjoy! The boxwood dries out really quickly in the house, but will last about 3 months outside in Michigan.

24 November 2010

Savory Squash Pie with Bacon Lattice Top

I am up early today to prepare a few dishes for the festivities and thought I would share a new recipe with you.  I cannot make this for Thanksgiving, as my family has had it about 4 times while I was fine tuning the recipe for my cooking class!  They have refused to eat it again this calendar year!  It all sounds a bit complicated, but goes together quite easily!  I saw a pie much like this in the Wall Street Journal, but I think mine tastes much better, a little less sweet!

We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!


1  9 inch pie pastry crust

1/3 cup Butter, soft
½ cup Sugar
2 Large Eggs
5 Oz. Evaporated Milk or Heavy Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 cups Mashed Squash (A blend of Acorn and Butternut is my favorite)

¼ pound Blue Cheese, crumbled (I used Bleu Affine)

8 slices Bacon
½ cup Brown Sugar
4 Teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place pie crust into pie dish and flute edges.
In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla, mix well.  Add milk or cream and squash, mix until combined then pour into pastry crust.  Bake 50-55 minutes until center is set.  Sprinkle with cheese and cool on a wire rack.

Increase oven temp to 425 degrees.  Foil line the bottom of a broiler pan for easy clean up.  Basketweave your 8 slices of bacon together on the grid portion of the broiler pan.  In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and brush evenly over the bacon slices.  Bake about 15 minutes with a piece of foil over the bacon, remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes.  Trim edges to fit your pie dish and place on top of squash.  Serve cold or at room temp!

22 November 2010

Organized Chaos

This weekend I picked up a couple of my favorite magazines' holiday issues.  I love the articles on foods (of course) and recipes and I am always eager to read the "I'm not going to go crazy again this year" holiday tips articles.  I am always disappointed...no magic solution yet.  

So, I am going to share a few of my tips with you.  John and I are swamped this time of year at the Market and we love it!  It is not a season for relaxing however and from years past experience, I have to be ridiculously organized, or we have cheese disasters and entertaining nightmares, mad family members and half cooked dishes to pass. 

  • BUY A SMALL NOTEBOOK ,see previous post on leather one :)
Create all of your master lists in this notebook.  I write which gift I will buy for each person.  I keep note of every event we are attending, the time, date and location, what I am bringing and WEARING.  I even list ingredients for recipes, so I can pick them up anytime I'm at the grocery.  The notebook is kept in my handbag.  If I change my mind on a gift, or run across something fab that my daughter might like, it gets noted and changed in the notebook.  I also keep a paperclip on the back cover to clip all receipts.  I also include advil, pepto bismol, neosporin and bandaids to the list...you are gonna need them!    
I purchase a couple festive outfits for the holidays every year.  Sometimes, I have something from last year I really liked, so I will update accessories only.  I purchase clothing that is comfortable, washable and I feel great in it!  I keep it laundered, pressed and ready to go.  This way, I do not have to make any choices when it's time to get ready and I feel like I look great!

I usually take a few minutes at Thanksgiving time to go through ALL of last years gift wrap, ribbon etc.  I put it all on the list.  I purchase all of my cards, small envelopes and wrap together.  I like when everything works inter-changably and I'm not scrambling for matching ribbon.  I also do lots of "gifts from my kitchen" so I take a moment to go through my collected bottles, jars and boxes and run them through the dishwasher, check for chips etc. Check your list for needed amounts :)  I do ask for boxes and bags when shopping, (anything to keep it easier) and keep paper shopping bags for schleping dishes to pass, small gifts and my slippers!

I wrap as gifts come into the house, and they get put under the tree or stashed in the closet.  Remember your list and check it off as you go, so you remember what you purchased!  I keep a box on my unheated porch for gifts from my kitchen to be stashed in.  

Limoncello, vanilla extract, caramels, spicy nuts and wine jellies were gifts last year, and they kept fine out there.  Easy to prepare and a long storage life made them great gifts!  While I love baked goods, they are too time consuming to prepare and give, and they go stale too quickly.  These choices gave the recipients a longer time to enjoy them as well.  They were easy to grab hostess gifts for unexpected friends and cost very little to make.

The sheer amount of "everything" this time of the year is often overwhelming.  Whatever you make, buy, wrap and do is "enough" with the right spirit.  If someone else has a problem with, it's exactly that..their problem!  I do not feel the need to do "more" any longer.  The gifts cost enough, the food is good and plentiful enough, the house is big enough and decorated enough, you did enough!  There will always be someone that does more.  I often think this is the part of the holidays that really bring us all down.  Just say "it's enough" and "I love you". 

We have really ignored the holiday-hell in the past couple of years in our household.  The girls usually choose larger gifts (unaffordable to college students and minimum wage employees) and then I choose stocking stuffers and small gifts that I think they will love/use/appreciate.  We make an effort to ignore the not-nice things that happen at the holidays due to stress, expectations and lots of together time and enjoy our family, home, food and each other.  (By  the way, wine never hurts the situation!)   

(I always keep this mantra in my mind...it's called a GIFT!!!  I appreciate the fact someone thought of me and shared a bit of themselves or pocketbook with me.  It's the holidays...)                   

21 November 2010

Small Luxuries

With the holidays approaching, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite gifts to give and receive.  I love to buy small luxury items for my daughters that have classic styling and I think they love receiving them (if not, I'm not opposed to re-gifting or hand-me-backs from them!!)I allow the girls to choose their larger gifts, but the FUN part of gift giving is the surprises!  I would much rather receive a gift that my family member chose on their own than a "list" of gifts I want.  

The other idea is that these gifts be affordable...while I'm not opposed to the "O" list, I refuse to spend $500 on a sweater.  I don't care how great/soft/flattering it is.  "Affordable" means different things to different people.  I will define it this way "I'm not going to be furious if it gets lost, damaged, found in daughter's car trunk next year or covered in cat hair!"   

Here is a list of my favorite affordable, luxury items that I love everyday. 

I apprciate this throw every time I touch it, take a cat nap or throw it over my shoulders to run to the mailbox.  It was a gift to "myself" for traveling and it's lovely.  $125  (The Hotel Collection, which looks like its no longer available, but I found tons with google)

I carry this in my bag for writing inspirational things, menus, quotes, websites etc.  It has lovely thick, ivory paper inside and a fun little leather tie that wraps around to keep it closed.  $15
(Valentina, I couldn't find my exact copy online, but here's a site I love for beautiful Italian goods; www.eyeitalia.com/

I can tailor my fragrance to my mood of the day!  Dabbing on pulse points versus a spray makes this collection feel very feminine and old world.  They all smell fabulous!  $20ish

Lovely filigreed rings, charms, pendants, funky pins and more!  I have a local jeweler that has a revolving selection of estate and vintage pieces that can be had for reasonable prices.  I purchased one daughter a signet ring with beautiful scroll work and engraved with her initials.  Rose gold pieces have a great patina that I love.  With the price of gold so high these pieces have become a bit pricier, but still affordable.  $50 and up 
(Hacker Jewelers  www.hackerjewelers.com)

A few years back, we made a choice to start purchasing artwork that we love and eventually replace all reproduction pieces in our house.  It has been really fun!  I didn't spend a lot of money, yet each piece represents a distinct place, time and person (artist) that brings great memories to the surface.  Gregg Perez is my friend and a local artist that produces beautiful pieces for sale at The Boulevard Market and other galleries in Michigan.  Gregg's artwork can be very reasonably priced and custom framed to fit your decor.
 I have a print from a Parisian artist in my kitchen that (I brought back from our trip that I LOVE) I framed simply.  It brings me joy everyday.  $70 euro+$15 to frame

 By the way, my friend Barb S. had the BEST idea for getting exactly the gift you love!  Apparently, her dog always gives the best gifts!  Happy gift giving!


18 November 2010


The Boulevard Market recently started a Culinary Book Club and the last book was a selection by MFK Fisher, "How to Cook a Wolf".  A small book, written in the 1930's, during food shortages, ration cards and blackouts with the basic premise of how to eat well in extremely tough times.  I loved the fact that "MFK" kept her sense of humor, sense of self and made the most unusual dishes and seemed to enjoy every minute of cooking and eating them!  The book, and the fact it's almost Thanksgiving, really got me thinking about abundance & gratitude.  MFK's approach to using every bit of  a steer or hog or chicken and more mirror my own upbringing on the farm.  My family NEVER threw food away, it went to the chickens(to this day!!!) or back in the fridge for leftovers.  Strange pieces like tongue etc. we eaten as well.  I believe that is where I got my love for pates, marrow bones and the like.  I am thankful that my mother and grandmothers were great cooks!!!

After reading this book, I am quite ashamed at the waste of food that goes on in my home.

I have also vowed to be more appreciative for the sheer abundance in my life.  The people, the land, the freedoms, the animals, the food and all of the other "things" but also intangibles like family values, memories, time and free will.  To think "thank you" instead of "I wish" to say "I appreciate" instead of "I want"...it's written in dozens of books and preached from many pulpits, yet I forget when I'm caught up in the daily tasks of life.  For me, it begins today...

(photo: Jamie Aylward's ceramic art project on display at Tecumseh High School..."Cheese, Please!") 

14 November 2010

My favorite cookies...

These molasses cookies are my absolute favorite cookies!  I make them all year long, but they bring back the best memories during autumn and winter.  Days of walking across the road for tea and cookies with my Grandmother (yes it's a Frances Prochaska recipe) and then when John and I married, Grandma would send me care packages of cookies to North Dakota.  These are chewy molasses cookies, chuck full of dates, raisins and nuts and not too sweet...I like to pretend they are nutritional with all those goodies!

Make these on a day you are feeling strong, as the dough is heavy and often my KitchAid mixer complains about the mixing!  Because I have a self control issue with these cookies, I can only make one pan full at a time, or bake them all and freeze the majority.  They freeze beautifully for about 6 weeks.  Feel free to substitute any dried fruit you may have on hand, I have succesfully added dried cranberries and dried figs.  Watch your baking time, as you want the cookies to be chewy.  


1 cup molasses, light or dark, your preference
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces pitted, chopped dates
4 ounces raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup melted vegetable shortening
1 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, blend all wet ingredients and sugars.  Add spices and other dry ingredients with fruit and nuts last.  Dough is heavy and you may have to mix in fruit and nuts with wooden spoon or hands.

Refrigerate dough AT LEAST 8 hours , but its best overnight.  Roll out dough to desired thickness, I usually choose about 3/8 of an inch.  Cut into desired shapes (I use a round, metal cookie cutter with a sharp edge to cut through fruit or nuts) place on baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.  I like to sprinkle the cookies with a bit of raw sugar for added sweetness and some sparkle!  The raw sugar also enhances the molasses-y flavors!  

Grab a cup of tea and watch the snowflakes swirl!   

08 November 2010

Wine for Thanksgiving

I've made my Thanksgiving menu with only one added dish from last year. If I change incrementally there is less eye rolling and sighs! I am all about traditions, but seriously, folks in my house don't accept Holiday changes EVER!

This Thanksgiving, we have our daughters here, Lewis, first daughter's boyfriend and John's folks for dinner. Then, my parents, brothers, sister and families are coming for dessert later. In between, I should have time to run the dishwasher, catch a snooze and take a walk.

The wine better be good, because I think I will be drinking a lot of it! I usually choose Pinot Noir and Beaujolais Noveau for reds. A favorite Italian Malvasia and a not too dry Chenin Blanc for whites. They are great classics and we like them (it's usually a crapshoot on the Noveau) and they please everyone. This year I am being selfish about the wine choices. I'm buying things I like. So, on the red circuit for dinner we are having Villa Rubini's Cabernet Franc and Schioppettino-YUM! Light bodied, full of flavor, not too fruity...perfect! I am also loving a Savoie white that is rich, sort of soft and dry.

Dessert will be interesting. I'm choosing Villa Rubini's Pignolo which made in an Amarone style, for a chocolate dessert (will post recipe later) and Merk's Verduzzo, which is quite sweet with a bit sweet/salty nut tart (recipe later) and I haven't decided on wine for pumpkin pie. Maybe a sparkling wine?

I think it's shaping up to be a great Thanksgiving day!! Family, food, great wine....what more could I ask for?
Dimitri from Villa Rubini visited The Market in October and brought not only great wine, but laughs and friendship! His wine lineup is available at The Market and while I yakked about the reds, his whites are phenomenal and would totally rock Thanksgiving dinner! Call me if you are wanting something special from Villa Rubini ( Ribolla Gialla Sparkler?) and we can order if it's not on the shelf!

05 November 2010

Sweet 16!

Where does time go and must it go there so quickly? I'm feeling nostalgic, watching our "baby" drive away with her music playing and purse slung over the car seat. My brain knows it's time and my heart is not yet ready to let go.

Jamie turned 16 last week and passed her driving test with flying colors yesterday! It was so fantastic to witness the feeling of exhilaration, the freedom, the total COOLNESS of having a drivers license! (I don't remember the panic on my parents faces, the worry they must have had, or the finality that they had to be feeling, either.)

It seemed easier to let our older daughters go, but now that they have gone, I want to hold tight to Jamie for just a little longer.

We had the family over for for her birthday....Pumpkin Pie was the requested "cake", my folks came after harvesting corn all day and we all enjoyed some cheese and goodies! The "sisters" made a point to stop in with a minimum of bickering between them (that was amazing) and a batch of Caramel Apple Dip was demolished in minutes!

I am learning the true meaning of the word "bittersweet"...

Here's the Caramel Apple Dip recipe if you've not had it before. It can be eaten with a spoon if you're out of apples...we won't tell.

8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
2/3 cup Brown Sugar
Drizzle of Caramel Syrup (we never put this on,as we think it's too sweet, but it looks great)
3 Honeycrisp or apples of your choice, cored and sliced

Beat the cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Mound in a shallow bowl or plate. Drizzle with caramel and arrange apple slices around. Enjoy!

03 November 2010

My morning on the news...

As the alarm rang at 4:30am, I had to repeat to myself "this is a great opportunity!" with a smile on my face! It truly was a great opportunity and my heartfelt thanks go to Andy at The Produce Station in Ann Arbor for inviting me to participate in the FOX2 News Kitchen segment on Monday! It was really early, I left the house at 5:55am, little coffee (no time for a rest stop) less sleep and a complex over my hair, shirt, earrings etc. Pretty much everything! We arrived in Southfield a bit early and could only find a Tim Hortons for coffee, and proceeded to burn our tongues.

When we got to the set, it was surreal! These were "places" I had seen on TV, yet resembled nothing I had ever seen before. Winding hallways of studios, props and wires. It was amazing! So Andy and I were shown to the "Kitchen" and got to work building the counter display (Andy did it all, I just followed his directions) and making it our space. It was a masterpiece of Michigan cheese and wine!

When the "talent" walked in to shoot the leads was about the time I realized this was real life and slightly freaked. The idea that everything was impromptu is what made me nervous.

It all seemed to go off without a hitch...the "talent" Lee and Cam, made it so simple and fun, that's why they are the "talent"!!! The video was beautiful with vibrant colors and Andy's display was beautiful! We came off looking relaxed and fun-loving...like we were real! It was all super cool and I can't wait to do it again!!! Check it out!


02 November 2010

Another season ends...

For years, my passion, 2nd only to food, has been gardening. I think I was born with a love of soil from my farming ancestors. Crops, flowers, trees, it doesn't matter to me. When John and I purchased our house and 2 1/2 acres of property, there were only a couple trees, peonies and lots of grass. We have worked together to create a lovely property with so many memories. John gave me a Magnolia tree for our 10th wedding anniversary and I gave him a pear and cherry tree for his birthday and fathers day, the list goes on. Even our girls have given, or been given trees and flowers as gifts. It truly lasts a lifetime and are memories that resurface each season.

It is always a bit bittersweet to clip the last roses of the season. This is my David Austin Rose by the name of Abraham Darby. It is an absolute treasure of a rose, fragrant, beautiful and blooms all summer right up to frost. The blooms are quite apricot with yellow as buds and new blossoms, as the bloom ages it turns into a lovely pink. Abraham Darby is a climber and mine regularly reaches 7 feet with modest pruning. If you are in the market for a more carefree rose, you should consider a David Austin. I do spray for pests and disease, but fairly little compared to a tea rose. I also give a couple scoops of compost and bone meal, as well as a good mulching in the fall. I have planted lambs ear and clematis nearby for a wonderfully romantic garden spot.

All winter I will plot and plan new garden places, a bare spot near the shed (hollyhocks?) a new type of grape, a better system for weed control...

31 October 2010

Happy Halloween!


It's been a chill Halloween day for us. John and I no longer have small children (and the cat holds a grudge if dressed up!) so we live vicariously through our trick or treaters and spent the day doing fall clean up! I am still on "pumpkin/squash status" meaning most everything baked or cooked in our house contains one or both! I have to leave very early tomorrow (at least in my book) and thought I would treat my driver to some breakfast! Since I need every moment to erase sleep creases and puffy eyes, it had to be something I could prepare in advance, be eaten out of hand and complement copious amounts of COFFEE!


2 cups flour
7 Tablespoons Sugar
3/4 teaspoons Freshly Ground Cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons Freshly Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoons Ground Cloves
1/2 cup Pumpkin Puree
6 Tablespoons Butter
4 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
1 Large Egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients and spices. Cut in butter until mixture resembles large crumbs.

In a small mixing bowl, beat egg, cream and pumpkin until smooth. Add all at once to dry ingredients and using a fork, incorporate wet into dry. Try not to over mix, as this adds to a tougher dough.

Flatten into an 8-10" round and cut into 8 equal triangles. Sprinkle each with raw sugar. Place on a parchment lined pan and bake 12 minutes until golden. Watch carefully to make sure dough is completely cooked.

I have successfully added dried cranberries to these and they turn out great! I like my scones a bit less sweet but if you like you can also make a simple glaze of 10X sugar and milk...maybe add some additional spices to your glaze!

Happy Halloween!

21 October 2010

We are in love with Cheese Straws

There is something about puff pastry that is irresistible. Buttery, flaky, light layers of dough that melts in your mouth instantly and comes frozen. I buy very little prepared foods in the grocery, but I have tried making my own puff pastry many times and too rarely get consistent results. Not to mention I have to start it about 4 days in advance of my recipe to account for chilling etc. So I purchase puff pastry with gladness in my heart, that someone thought to put it in a box and sell it! Cheese Straws are the 12 minute beauties that can come from puff pastry any day of the week. We love to eat them instead of bread and dip 'em in various sauces. So simple, so elegant (stand them upright in a clear glass cylinder vase) and so delicious. The sky is the limit on variations, I often wrap with proscuitto, bacon, chopped nuts and fresh herbs. Use whatever cheese you have on hand that melts well and I think the Microplane zester does the best job for grating my cheese really finely for these cheese straws. This week I had a cooking class at The Market and made Cheese Straws with homemade Black Olive Tapenade....yummy. I've made them several times, yet these were a bit of a rush job and I didn't roll out the puff pastry enough, so ugly and yet so tasty. (Note to baker...roll out the pastry at least 2 inches on each side.)

Feel free to get creative with your favorite cheeses and flavor combos, fresh herbs and spices. Enjoy!

2 sheets Puff Pastry sheets, defrosted at room temperature or overnight in the fridge
1 egg
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme, minced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Freshly ground Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry dough out to 10X12 inches, approx. 2 inches on each side.
Beat egg and water together.
Brush pastry with egg wash and sprinkle evenly with cheeses, herbs, seeds and pepper. Lightly press into dough by running rolling pin over flavorings.
Cut each piece into 1 inch slices. Twist each strip and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned and puffed. Be careful not to over bake. Cool and serve at room temperature.


1 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted
1 clove Garlic
1/4 cup Walnuts
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley

Pop everything into the food processor and pulse until a finely ground paste.

If you are using on puff pastry, you may need to bake straws an additional 2-3 minutes.

18 October 2010

Brie Soup for the Soul

The beautiful bout of Indian Summer here has kept me raking leaves, grilling and enjoying the season's last garden flowers. It saved me from the most hated task of changing the closets and bureaus over to winter!

I did however, have the most lovely weather for The Market's ,Soups and Sandwiches, cooking class. It was windy, drizzle-y and just plain nasty! Thanks Mother Nature! Fall soups aren't as tasty if the weather is beautiful and 80!

It's no surprise I had to throw in a cheese soup recipe but I wanted something a bit unusual. After scouring many recipes, I put together my own! I think it turned out great! It's quick, takes little prep, velvety and not too rich. Elegant enough for a dinner party, yet pleases your palate when you are wanting something more home-style.

A couple notes on the brie cheese; cooking with cheese is like cooking with wine...if you don't like the cheese, it won't taste any better in your cooked dish. Choose a brie that you love, the flavors will be enhanced by the other ingredients! You can purchase brie and it will last about 2 weeks in your fridge, after that, you may not be thrilled with the flavors depending on where you bought it. The bland stuff you get at the grocery will garner a bland soup. You do not have to remove every little bit of the rind, it won't melt and it will strain out at the end!

While I garnished with fresh basil, I can't help but think some pear slices, sauteed in butter, salt and peppered, would be lovely on top of this soup! Enjoy.


3/4 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Dry White Wine
2 Tablespoons Balsamic or Sherry Vinegar
4 cups heavy cream
12 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed cut in 1 inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
Sprig of fresh thyme
Sprig of fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Additional basil or thyme for garnish

In a saucepan over high heat, bring stock and vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup. Keeping on low heat, add rest of ingredients and cook and stir about 8 minutes until cheese is completely melted. Strain using a fine mesh sieve and serve immediately.

If you are interested in joining one of The Market's cooking classes, feel free to contact me via email erika@boulevardmar.com or call 517-423-6000. We have 5 Ingredient Appetizers, Holiday Feast, Gifts from your Kitchen and Easy & Elegant Entertaining coming up! We demo some techniques, talk about wine pairing, enjoy sampling every recipe and more!

05 October 2010

An evening of wine and glitz...

"Ohh...SHINY!" was my very first thought, a little shallow but straightforward! John and I had the pleasure of attending a Diadema wine tasting with US Wine Imports on Saturday night at The Chophouse in Ann Arbor. With bottle prices starting at $100 and ratings at 92-95 points, these are wines that I don't usually splurge on for myself!

Diadema screams Italian from the delicious juice to the extravagant bottle encrusted with Swarovski crystals! Diadema is from Tuscany and you can check out their website at www.diadema-wine.com for fun! We sampled their Champagne, which is actually made for them in Reims France and was the perfect start to the tasting. Brut style (dry) with just the right balance of fruity and toasty, the Diadema Champagne would be a lovely for any occasion. considering the cost, it won't run your more than say Dom Perignon and the bottle is an incredible keepsake of your special time!! I decided to skip the oysters served with the Champagne...oysters just aren't my thing!

The 2009 Bianco is a white blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc which absolutely blew me away with it's elegance! Because of it's Stainless aging, it's very clean with very subtle floral notes and hints of apple and peach. I loved the Scallops that were served with the Bianco, it was a delightful pairing!

The 2007 Rosso Supertuscan was rated 95 points by Wine Spectator for good reason, WOW! A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah made for a surprisingly elegant and full bodied red wine. A good amount of red berry fruit, but underlaying notes of coffee and maybe chocolate? The Rosso was full of tannins, and with such great structure, it left me wanting another sip!

Diadema owner Alberto, is offering a pretty sweet deal, he will create a personalized label for your wine bottles with a 12 bottle order! Wouldn't you be the most spectacular gift giver ever?! Not to mention, there is no wrapping required as all bottles are in a gift box. Viola! Christmas shopping is finished!

Diadema wines will be available at The Market by special order and you are able to buy by the bottle.

30 September 2010

Pumpkin Fondue

One of my all time favorite vegetables is pumpkin. Sweet or spicy, baked, sauteed or pureed, I anticipate many pie pumpkins each autumn. I'm always looking for something a little different to do and this Pumpkin Fondue happens to be a fantastic recipe to make for yourself or share. {The fact that it is filled with CHEESE is a bonus in my book!} I originally made the recipe out of Gourmet magazine, but have tweaked things a bit to be more to our liking.

I adore a one-dish wonder and this is it! It can be served as an appetizer or a side to your feast. The idea that the cooking vessel is the pumpkin itself is quite trendy if you see this month's cover of Food Network magazine (or maybe it was Rachel Ray?) and shouldn't intimidate you! I use an old fashioned enamel roasting pan with perfect results and shallow enough to get the sucker out and onto a serving platter! (I made the mistake of putting it into a higher edged casserole dish the first time and it was a challenge to lift it out of the baking dish.)

The recipe calls for Swiss cheeses, but if you're a cheddar person, feel free to substitute! I have also successfully added blue cheese to my Swiss blend and it was fab! Cheese dishes taste a little bit better when you use a blend of cheeses; Gruyere and Emmentaler, Cheddar and Asiago, Butterkase and Manchego...it gives the finished dish more dimension. Some cheeses tend to be on the drier side and need a complimentary cheese to give it some goo (technical cheese term!). Shredded cheese from the grocery works well on pizza, but is not up to snuff flavor-wise for this recipe. If you want to use a squash, feel free! I made this in a butterCUP squash, a squatty, ridiculously tough skinned, dark green squash and it was delicious! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Fondue

1 5lb-ish PIE pumpkin (do not use jack o lantern type pumpkin)
1 lb. Cheese- 1/2 lb. Gruyere and 1/2 lb. Emmentaler or read above
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups stock, vegetable, chicken or veal
a generous pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
10 1/4 inch thick baguette slices, toasted until dry and crispy
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
a pinch of Salt
Remainder of Baguette sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices for eating

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut top off pumpkin and clean out seeds. Sprinkle salt onto inside flesh of pumpkin.

Chop or grate cheeses and set aside. Bake baguette slices until crunchy and golden brown. Mix heavy cream, stock and nutmeg together.

Place pumpkin into shallow roasting dish and layer baguette slices, then cheese, then cream mixture into 2 layers inside pumpkin. You may have baguette left over.

Put pumpkin top back on. Rub exterior of pumpkin with olive oil. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and pumpkin is golden brown. Using 2 spatulas, remove from baking dish carefully and place on platter. Serve with additional baguette slices or as a side dish. You'll want to scoop up the roasted pumpkin flesh with all the cheese as you are serving or eating!