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!!