Friday, 30 November 2012

Easy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

My husband is traveling on business this week and when he is away my dinner plans usually consist of light fare. My favorite is soup and I don't get to have it for dinner often because he doesn't consider it filling enough to be dinner - not enough food he says! I think this soup is plenty hardy with the addition of the grilled cheese croutons. It's basically a grilled cheese sandwich (using Gruyere cheese...uh yum!) but cut up into crouton sized pieces and garnished atop the soup.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Pistachio Crusted Lamb Rack........Yum!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending Chef de Cuisine Joe Worrell's cooking class at Constantino's, one of our club house restaurant kitchen's, in our community of Desert Mountain. I couldn't resist putting this in today, as it is just over the top, exploding with the flavors of the season!

As the afternoon progressed the kitchen  was filled with the incredible aroma of garlic, lemons and juicy lamb. We definitely achieved a good two thumbs up from Chef Joe Worrell, for perfectly executed Rack of Lamb.

Hailing from Canterbury, lamb is one of those dishes that we make to feed the hoards when celebrating a special occasion.  It is a simple dish to make for entertaining – lamb rack cooks quickly and the meat is tender and succulent.  This crunchy, salty pistachio crumb really complements the sweetness of the meat.

This dish is so easy to make and the results are so tasty! We served it with cauliflower puree (guide follows) and roasted carrots and turnips.  There are many options – another great side is roasted cherry tomatoes: simply wash sweet cherry tomatoes and throw into the roasting dish with the lamb.  The tomatoes will cook in the fat from the lamb and their intense sweetness makes a nice contrast to the salty pistachio crumb.  You could also par-boil some floury potatoes and throw them in too – they will crisp up and make a whole meal in one dish.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Next up! Cornwall Gingerbread cookies!

    ​Now that the turkey is done, the relatives have made themselves scarce, and the cranberry sauce stains have been addressed, it's time to kick this holiday season business into high gear!

    I was privy to far too much delicious food this past week, so, despite my sub conscience screaming, never eat again............the holiday kick off would not be complete without making a batch of these cute little Gingerbread Men! They are fragrant with ginger, both crystallized and ground, ground cloves and cinnamon. The Lyle's Golden syrup is a key ingredient, very English, sources and story follows. Our Granddaughter, Emma, was visiting for a few days, so, I couldn't resist making these delicious cookies with her. 

    If you like your gingerbread men on the softer side, cook a little less time. If you don't want to hassel with cutting and rolling, just roll them into balls and press with a sugar coated glass, these will be super soft and yummy! there are a few ways to decorate your cookies, you can press raisins or currents into the dough before cooking or you can decorate with frosting, as Emma and I did. You can also use these Gingerbread men as tree decorations of gift tags, just pierce a hole into the cookie before cooking with a skewer or small cocktail straw, add pretty ribbon after they are cooked and decorated.

    Cornwall Gingerbread cookie

    3/4 c. butter
    1 c. sugar
    1/4 c. Lyle's Golden syrup (sources listed below)
    1 egg
    2 c. flour (+1/2cup, if you are rolling out and cutting shapes)
    1 tsp. salt
    2 tsp soda
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. ground cloves
    1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1/4 tsp. lemon extract
    1/4 c. chopped crystallized ginger (grind in a small food processor if you have one)

    Preheat oven to 350 F.

    Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add Lyle's syrup, then beat in egg.

    Combine flour with soda, salt and spices. Beat dry ingredients into butter mixture. Fold in crystallized ginger.

    Form into balls, roll in sugar, and place on a silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. and press with a sugar coated glass bottom. For rolled cookies, refrigerate for 20 minutes, then roll out and cut into desired shapes.

    Bake for 10-12 minutes.  
    Lyle's Golden syrup

    Where to find it~ A English boutique store, Amazon, Metropolitan Market

    About Lyle's ~

      Abram Lyle, a successful Scottish businessman set about constructing a sugar refinery on the banks of the river Thames with his three sons. The company became known as Abram Lyle & Sons. And so began the story of one of the world’s oldest and best loved brands. From working in the sugar business, Lyle noticed that the sugar cane refining process produces a treacly sort of syrup, which could be further refined. The result was a delicious preserve and sweetener for cooking. He started selling small quantities of “Goldie” from wooden casks to his employees and local customers. Word spread quickly that the syrup was delicious and soon Lyle was selling a tonne a week! He replaced the wooden casks with “Lyle's Golden Syrup” dispensers, and they soon began to appear on the shelves of grocery stores all over London. It was only a matter of months before the tin, as we know it today, started to be used.

    How They Do It

    Lyle's Golden Syrup hasn't changed in 127 years and is still made the same way it was all those years ago. The secret to Lyle's is the perfect blend of sugar molecules, which are continually refined throughout the process. This ensures that the highest quality standards are met for consumers to enjoy the sweet glistening syrup that they know and love.For those of you who are scientifically minded… the sucrose molecule splits in half to give glucose and fructose sugars. This inverted syrup is blended back with the original syrup to give a partially inverted syrup. The secret of Lyle's Golden Syrup is the final blend of sucrose, glucose and fructose, which allows the syrup to be so thick and velvety without crystallizing. 

    A gift for neighbors or a hostess gift!


    A Holiday party idea!

    Holiday Party time!

     Every holiday season, it's the same old yarn: office parties, last-minute shopping, and another boring sweater from your Aunt Peggy. If you're ready for a new pattern --  host a "Ugly Christmas Sweater Party" -- this is really fun idea! The Ugly Sweater Party with prizes puts a casual spin on a stressful time of year and the ugliest sweaters yule ever see. Look around or goggle ugly holiday sweater, you'll  find one ugly enough for first prize!!

    Oh My Goodness My Guiness

    Have a terrific Cyber Monday!



    Friday, 23 November 2012

    Left overs! For breakfast?

    I just can't get enough turkey when Fall comes along!! I start off by buying turkey breast in September, trying different preparations, move on to thighs for casseroles or curry.  For my family, it doesn't end with Thanksgiving. Turkey for us, is the gift, that just keeps on giving!

    What's your leftovers style? The obligatory turkey-stuffing-etc. sandwich? Throw an egg on those brussel sprouts? Repurpose the mashed potatoes into a family doughnut recipe? Or if you're craving spicy, ever tried a mouth-numbing Szechuan-style turkey dish? I dug up some leftovers recipes, so you can make the best of the gift that keeps on giving.

    Wednesday, 21 November 2012

    Field greens, pear and gorgonzola salad! Our family favorite!

    Thanksgiving is upon us and some of you may be panicking about everything that has to get done. I know, I’ve been there. I am notorious for making too many dishes and driving myself crazy trying to figure out how to get them all done. Thank goodness this year, my amazing daughter-in-law and son are hosting Thanksgiving and my equally amazing daughter and son-in-law are hosting Christmas day! I handed the Holiday baton over last year at a Thanksgiving celebration at our home in Scottsdale. Wee Bear and I didn't know what their reaction would be, but, they thrilled us with an overwhelming, "YES"! I told them I would assist and be there in every way, from setting the tables to menu planning, serving drinks, cooking, baking and clean up. But... they have embraced it, and are really having fun!! It has been a smooth transition, no drama, happiness and laughter abound! And no, we didn't stuff the turkey with Prozak!!

    A few last minute tips to remember. These days there are a lot more people with dietary restrictions and it is likely you will have to accommodate some at your holiday dinner. Make sure you ask all of your guests ahead of time. If you are unable to fulfill their needs, ask them to bring something that they can eat. If you have vegetarians coming, make sure you offer them something other than just the side dishes. I like to stuff a acorn squash with truffle risotto (October 31, 2012 blog) or something similar so that they feel just as special as everyone else at the table.

     When you are figuring out the seating arrangements, make sure you place quiet people next to those who are great conversationalists. If you have a couple of joke tellers in the crowd, place them at opposite ends of the table or room. In our family, Wee Bear is the best conversationalist, I used to say, "he could carry on a conversation with a telephone pole"! If you have especially shy people coming, make sure you tell the people on either side of them some of their favorite topics or hobbies so they can keep the conversation going throughout dinner. If you have people who are not comfortable with each other, do not put them next to each other.....could be awkward for them.

    If you are going to serve the meal family-style with dishes being passed at the table, keep your centerpiece and table decorations to a minimum. You don’t want your guests to have to peer around a towering flower arrangement, or juggle dishes to find room on the table. Go out into the yard and pick up some fallen leaves and acorns and scatter them around the table. Add a few votive candles (helps reduce the danger of fire), some beautiful plates, glasses and napkins, and you have the makings of a stunning holiday table. Amy's table is set and I had the pleasure of seeing it early, (actually I was offering to buy the flowers) it has the most stunning deer horn candelabras, napkins and rings ...needs nothing in addition. They are ROCK STARS! And TT has created a time line for preparations, he is in charge of turkey brining to cooking, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

    Another fun idea for the table is to create fun place cards that double as take home gifts. Small potted plants with the names written on the side, a bag of homemade candies or baked goods, or even bags of caramel corn labeled are all fun, inexpensive, and thoughtful ways to say thank you to your guests for joining in the holiday celebration.

    At the end of the day, I think people are just happy and thankful to have fun with each other and eat together. (and the wine helps, no doubt!)

    Here is a family favorite salad, it is gorgeous and heavenly!

    Monday, 19 November 2012

    Spice Roulade with Custard sauce!

     By request!

    I had a dinner party about a week ago at my home. Wee Bear and I invited three couples to a six course dinner starting with the savory Jalapeno crackers, Thyme Roasted Marcona almonds and Veggie shooters. Once seated, I served Pumpkin Soup with popcorn garnish.Following much crying for seconds, I served the Field greens, pear and gorgonzola salad, that I would have blogged about today, but, a request came in from Rae in Toronto, for  "Spice Roulade with Apple filling" and a creamy "custard sauce". Rae wants to served this yummy cake for Thanksgiving. I like to honor requests as quickly as possible, which is usually three weeks out, but, Thanksgiving is two blogs away!! So here goes Rae!!

    Friday, 16 November 2012

    Maple Pecan Pie plus a Holiday Cookie Decorating Class!

    Well, the holidays are upon us and now that Halloween is over it is now all about turkey and all the fixings -that includes pies! Probably one of my favorite part of the Thanksgiving line-up of food is dessert. TT and I are hosting the dinner this year and are busily getting the house in order and making sure we have all the ingredients to pull it all together. Last night we completed our grocery shopping list and now we just wait for the butcher to call us about picking up the 20lb bird we ordered! It's going to be a feast!

    The tables have been set and I am doing what I can to prep whatever possible to make things easier come Thursday. Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen right up until the turkey is about to be carved!?. I've come to realize that making things or prepping ingredients in advance surely makes your holiday run a whole lot smoother. I am less stressed and can enjoy the company of family and friends. So, with that said, I have made one of three pies I am serving on Thanksgiving. You can make this pie (along with pumpkin pie) a week in advance and once baked, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. The day of, take it out and let it come to room temperature. 

    Wednesday, 14 November 2012

    Pumpkin Soup with a surprise garnish!

    We love pumpkins this time of year, particularly when they're roasted and whipped into a creamy, cold-weather soup. So thankfully there are many variations on this classic Fall meal that have shown up on several of the blogs lately. Try pumpkin and coconut milk (a classic), but also chipotle chocolate pumpkin soup, or a spicy southwest version. All it takes is a few new ingredients and you'll be tasting pumpkin in a whole new way. 

    My pumpkin soup is tried and true, is simple clean with fresh flavors that will please even your Mother in law!! The popcorn garnish, well, it is just a little surprise!!

    Monday, 12 November 2012

    Let's make art! Gourd Art!!

    A few weeks ago I took a class to make "Gourd Art". Oh... was it fun! I wanted to share my experience with you. Jane Bogg's taught the class, "About her" is below. She is fun and wants to help you become a "Gourd Artist" outside of class. She is excited and interested in you really learning the art, which make for a wonderful experience for her students. She also sell her art from her studio, contact information is below.

    Friday, 9 November 2012

    Nibble, nibble Jalapeno crackers!

    Gearing up for Thanksgiving!  

    Wednesday, 7 November 2012

    Peter Peter Pumpkin eater! Ravioli to die for!!

     With all of the pumpkin dessert recipes that have been televised and blogged about, I thought it was about time I feature a recipe that uses this incredible squash in a savory application. This ravioli has been  a favorite of mine - warm with the scent of toasted pecans, the mingling flavors of rosemary and sage; the perfect balance of flavors, all complimenting one another, in harmony. Sweet and savory hand-in-hand. I look forward to Fall every year when, it feels so good to make this delicious dish.

    Monday, 5 November 2012

    Miss Muffet sat on her Tuffet!

    These two adorable cousins are our Grandchildren! Emma who is almost 6 months in this picture and Julia who turned 1, sitting on her tuffet!!

    A tuffet, pouffe or hassock is a piece of furniture used as a footstool or low seat. It is distinguished from a stool by being completely covered in cloth so that no legs are visible. It is essentially a large hard cushion that may have an internal wooden frame to give it more rigidity. Wooden feet may be added to the base to give it stability, at which point it becomes a stool or a footstool. If the piece is larger, with storage space inside it, then it is generally known as an ottoman.
    A couple of years ago I took a "Tuffet" class with my friend Fawn, from Myra at Northwest Quiltworks in Bellevue,Wa. We had so much fun and started making  the cutest little footstools/child's tuffet. I thought, what a perfect gift for a child! They just love to sit and have their Mom, Dad, Grandpa or Grandma read them a story. Story time was big in my children's lives, they still remember that special time. And now, I am making these tuffet's for my Grandchildren, on their first Birthday, so that they can have their own special seat for story time. Wee Bear buys three story books to complete our traditional 1st Birthday gift to our grandchildren. To date of January 2017 I have made 10 tuffets for my grandchildren and a few others as gifts. I have one more to make the end of 2017, for grand child number 11.

    Friday, 2 November 2012

    Pumpkin Bread

    I recently bought a new fall inspired loaf pan at Williams Sonoma and decided to bake a pumpkin bread using it. It came out beautifully and the bread stayed moist for an entire week. Great with coffee in the morning! I was a little skeptical that the batter would stick in the grooves of the pattern, but a good spray of non-stick cooking spray turned the bread out perfectly. Next time I think I would give the finished bread a dusting of powdered sugar -I think that would look pretty over the pumpkin design.