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...