30 March 2014

Victoria Sponge Cakes

My oldest daughter, Gina, has always been a bit England obsessed. Gina brought over a few of these magnificent Victoria Sponge Cakes recently and I'm slightly ashamed to say I didn't even think about sharing them. I also (with her generous permission) shared them at my cooking class and now we're all in love with chintz, Vitoria Sponge and a cuppa....

I made tiny ones for my future sister in law's bridal shower this weekend and can't help but sharing Gina's recipe via her blog. Enjoy!

Please visit Gina's blog for this recipe by following the link;

posted from Bloggeroid

24 March 2014

Spring Cocktails!

A few months ago, a friend asked me to host a Film Photography Festival of sorts at our market. It was an evening of art, photography and discussions about photography. I decided to create some fun vintage style cocktails that are wine based to get everyone in the spirit!

All of the wines I used are available through most independent retailers and are affordable to use as a mixer.


1 quart fresh strawberries, chopped into small pieces
2 bottles New Age White wine
16 ounces Club Soda or more to taste
1 batch Basil Peppercorn simple syrup(recipe below)

Have all ingredients very cold. Add together and stir slightly. Taste and adjust sweetness with Club Soda. Serve immediately as wine will lose it's fizz within a few hours.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
10 large fresh Basil leaves
20 Whole Peppercorns, any color

Place all in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes. Allow to cool and refrigerate up to 3 weeks.


1/4 ounce Crème de Cassis (Black Currant liqueur)
2 1/4 ounces Champagne

Pour Crème de Cassis into a Champagne flute or wine glass and top off with Champagne. Now for real....even the cheapest Champagne will be in the $40/bottle range. I used Cremant from Bourgogne which is about $15 and fabulous. You could also use any BRUT sparkling wine. The liqueur is quite sweet, so you ant the dryness of the sparkling to add depth and layers of flavor. If you're looking for just a "Kir", you could use any non-oaked dry white wine.


1/4 ounces Campari
1 1/4 ounces Pineau des Charantes white wine
2 ounces Champagne (see above notes on other sparkling options)

Pour Campari and Pineau des Charantes into a Champagne flute and top with Champagne. This has a beautiful salmon color to it and a refreshing hit of bitter orange. I love the layers of flavors as Pineau des Charantes is made with Cognac.

18 March 2014

Weekly Inspiration

Just a few of the most charming things I've seen, tasted, been inspired by....

Lemon Lavender French Meringue Cookies with Pinneau des Charantes wine after supper.

A macaron packaging gift set; make you own tiny macarons and package it with pink sketched parchment paper, striped boxes, clear lids, tags and bright pink ribbon. Cutest damn thing ever....I purchased it at World Market and am going to get busy on the macarons. Cross your fingers for me, those suckers are elusive for me.

My newest obsession of blush patent leather and matte black leather handles. This handbag has a tablet pouch, zippers all the way to the bottom for easy access and a great embossed logo. I love it because I'm forever carting around wine catalogs, big cameras, all sorts of electronic devices and little dog leashes! Along with a great handbag comes a great quote I ran across years ago "Handbags; less calories than chocolate, cheaper than therapy!"

And this beauty that realized no one in this house can stand one more minute of winter and decided to blossom after being relegated to the orchid "graveyard"....thank you.

Quick, Easy, Real Food; Shrimp Pasta Primivera with wine pairings

Whipped after work? This is an extra easy weeknight supper (about 30 minutes) that seems fairly fancy for a Wednesday and delivers in taste! I change up the vegetables depending on what I have in the fridge, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and even cubed butternut squash is fantastic! With such simple ingredients you really want to use the best ingredients that you can afford. Real Parmigianno-Reggiano is a must as is REAL heavy cream...you'll be happy, I promise! (In the photo I used red peppers, mushrooms and sundried tomatoes.) A sliced baguette and tiny side salad will round out this dish beautifully! Or throw together an antipasti plate of salame, castelveltrano olives and a few roasted almonds and nibble while you cook! I prefer Italian white wines with this dish; Gavi de Gavi and Grillo are 2 refreshing whites that are a bit different from the same old Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Gavi is heavier and Grillo is light and crispy, both are dry wines. If you're really feeling it, a Prosecco (dry, sparkling Italian white wine)would make this meal over the top!

Shrimp Pasta Primivera

1/2 pound angel hair pasta or spaghetti (Rustichella Whole Wheat Spaghetti is wonderful!)
2 generous handfuls fresh spinach
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced into ribbons
3 minced garlic cloves
3 whole sundried tomatoes
12 basil leaves, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Salt & pepper
½ lb. fresh raw shrimp, peeled deveined and tail removed

In a large sauté pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is hot, add the garlic and red peppers and sauté 1 minute. Add the spinach and sundried tomatoes and sauté another 2 minutes, stirring often. 3 Pour in the chicken or vegetable broth and turn the heat to high to bring it to a boil. Add the cream and toss in all the vegetables. Stir to combine. Turn the heat down until the cream-chicken broth mixture is just simmering, not boiling.

In a medium saucepan, bring fresh water to a boil and cook shrimp until just pink. Drain and set aside.

Add the parmigiano reggiano cheese and stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick, add some more chicken broth, cream or water. Add shrimp just to warm through.
Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

As soon as the pasta is done, transfer it with tongs into the sauce and stir to combine. Add the basil and adjust seasonings.

12 March 2014

Tartiflette-Fancy name, easy delicious dish

As a "cheesemonger", I have a deep desire to make all famous cheese dishes. The cheese just begs me to create menus that make them even more fabulous! Tartiflette is just that dish. Traditionally made with Reblochon cheese from the Savoie region of France with onion, potatoes and lardons, tartiflette is basically a gratin dish with flair. Since lardons are nearly impossible to find in America and Reblochon cheese can often be bland, unripe, pasteurized versions of their French counterparts, I changed up my recipe to fit available ingredients with the best flavors. Not as traditional but absolutely fabulous and the best taste is really what I'm after!

I've given a few choices for cheese and used each of them to make Tartiflette. When shopping at your cheese shop, choose the ripest one for this dish. You'll want to pinch the cheese slightly and it should feel like pinching the fat place in your hand between thumb and first finger. A tiny bit firm in the middle surrounded by a nice squishy-ness....there, isn't that technical?

I also used fresh bacon that was not smoked. I found it at the local meat market and it is a great substitute for lardons.

TARTIFLETTE a la Boulevard Market

2 lbs. potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
8 ounces lardons or bacon or unsmoked bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 shallots, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic
3 ounces dry white wine
7 ounces heavy cream
1 pound Reblochon, Tallegio or Pont l'eveque cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a saucepan, cover potatoes with water and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and remove skins, slice potatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices.
In a saute pan over medium heat, melt butter and cook shallots until soft but not browned. Remove from pan and set aside. In same pan, fry bacon and garlic until just browned. Add onions back in and de-glaze pan with wine for a couple minutes. Season with salt & pepper and add heavy cream. Remove from heat.
Remove rind from cheese and cut into slices about 1/3 inch thick.
In a casserole dish, layer potatoes and bacon mixture and cheese in 2 layers topping with cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbling and golden brown.

Amazing and needs very little served with it besides a simple salad dressed with vinaigrette!

09 March 2014

Kitchen Updates

Thinking of updating your kitchen and don't know where to begin or how you'll pay for it? Been there. Last Fall we took the plunge and I'll show you what we did!
We own a 1950's ranch home that we love, but I didn't love the custom cabinets as they had absolutely NO character. I poked around and got estimates to have them replaced and yikes. I was not going to replace all wood with particle board for $20,000.
I had both an image in my mind and a few magazine photos in my hand to begin the process and contacted a local custom trim maker who put me in touch with a cabinetry guy.

If you're in our area it's Larry Drouilliard @313.802.1219. We discussed several ideas and I also listened to his thoughts as to what might look great in my kitchen. Larry knew just what the kitchen needed to give it charm with a style that fit the space!
He custom fabricated the trim pieces and attached them to the cabinet/drawer fronts. He also custom made the wine rack to fit and the cabinet & wine rack for the microwave (more on that later). Before we purchased the house 20 years ago, someone had added a dishwasher and it looked like it. So Larry also added a "furniture" type leg to bring that more in tune with the rest of the kitchen. We purchased 2 inch crown molding and Larry custom made a trim piece to fit under the crown for more depth and interest.

I eliminated a long skinny cabinet since it was of little use and installed some book shelves and a wine rack. We also eliminated cabinets above the kitchen window and the apron on the window to give me a space to display a little something (I'm in love with battery operated remote control candles :))and the apron was customized to match the cabinet trim.

I added Martha Stewart brand cabinet and drawer pulls in a brushed nickel and painted all of the cabinets in Benjamin Moore White Cloud....I think ;). I kept my backsplash and countertop. I also kept the same paint on the walls which is Porcini Mushroom. Since we are getting ready to remodel/update the attached dining room this summer I left the floor and wall trim to be replaced with that project.

Here are some befores and afters.....

We still have a bit of work under the microwave when we remodel dining room. We will bring outlet into cabinet so it's not visible and pick up a smaller microwave...I left the insides of the new cabinets maple instead of trying to paint them and it's a nice contrast to all of the white. I may also build in tiled countertops, but I'm not too motivated after this crazy winter weather in Michigan.

Here's also a few close-ups of small drawers and what-not. Hope this inspires you to update your existing cabinets instead of replacing! Feel free to message me with any questions or give Larry a call directly if you live in the area!

French Onion Soup

French Onion soup always evokes a mental picture of a Parisian bistro with vintage tile floors and a carafe of wine for me. As Spring has been so, so, so slow to arrive we thought a steaming bowl filled with gruyere cheese would be the perfect end to the chilly, snowy day. I personally prefer a few different techniques than you usually see in common recipes. Years ago, Fine Cooking magazine, had me cooking my onions with a layer of tin foil sitting on top of the onions and WOW, it created onion ribbons that just melt in your mouth, so try this if you'd like or just go ahead and caramelize in the pan over low heat. The other thing I really love is when you pour the broth and onions over the toasted baguette slices and then top with cheese and throw under the broiler. The bread itself is tender and filling and I'm not stuck having to add flour to thicken the broth. I prefer the little heartier bites of soup, but it's personal preference!


4 Tablespoons butter
2 large onions, sliced into ribbons
1 teaspoon sugar
5 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
10 slices of baguette
1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, grated

In a large pan over medium heat, melt butter and begin cooking onions. Cook on medium about 5 minutes then cut a piece of tin foil to pit the inside of the pan. Place tin foil directly on top of onions and turn heat to low. Continue cooking about 45 minutes.

Slice baguette into 1/3 inch thick slices and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven about 20 minutes, turning once. They should be deep golden brown on both sides.

Remove tin foil and add salt, pepper and sugar to onions. Cook about 5 minutes until golden browned. Add stock, bay leaf and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprig.

In a soup bowl, lay 2 slices of baguette and pour broth and onions over bread. Top wit a generous amount of gruyere cheese and place 6 inches under the broiler. Broil until cheese is melted and turning golden brown. Bon Apetit!

07 March 2014

Makeover is complete for Spring! Like? I found SO many free templates that didn't work technically/not my style/too many decisions and programming....blah, blah, blah. Hope you like the makeover and I'm looking forward to getting "back on the blogging horse" so to speak! But maybe a small glass of Cotes du Rhone for all the work! See you soon!

05 March 2014

Under Construction....

If you saw my instagram photo of a Starbucks Vanilla Macchiato tonight, well, it's gonna take a little more than one to finish up this blog makeover! Stay tuned....

01 March 2014

Cheddar Ale Soup

The winter that won't let go....honestly it's exhausting. At least we have fabulous soup to keep us going! I used a hearty English ale called "Hobgoblin", but feel free to use what you like according to your tastes!


2 leeks, sliced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken stock
12 ounces of beer
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound sharp cheddar (I used Welsh) grated

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and add leeks, carrots and celery. Stir occasionally until vegetables have browned and softened. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat, cook 1 minute until flour has browned slightly. Add all liquids and stirring until smooth. Reduce heat to simmer adding seasonings. Begin adding cheese by the handful and allowing to melt before adding the next. Cooking about 5 minutes. Do not allow to boil.

Serve immediately, fabulous garnished with a few bits of bacon!