Beautiful, fanciful, playful tablescapes to share with you... and delectable dishes to inspire...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blueberry Morning

Blueberries are in season now and there are many grown in Texas.  Some from Kerrville the other day were the best blueberries I have ever tasted.  Perfectly sweet with a great skin... one could pop them into the mouth like candy.  This day I changed up my usual recipe for Blueberry Muffins and made the batter more cake like.  The result was moist and rich.  Served them up with tea on some old porcelain dishes from Japan, some monogrammed teaspoons and used old handkerchiefs as napkins.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Unique and Delicious

Here is a recipe for "fried" (baked) yam or sweet potato wedges.  Think they're not delicious?  Think again and give them a try.  

Here are the few ingredients you will need:  For every two people, a large yam or sweet potato. Some salt and pepper, a little oil and some paprika. 
Start by washing the yam/sweet potato.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Dry the potato with a paper towel and poke it with a fork about 4 times.  Place on a paper towel and microwave until tender or near tender (about 3-5 minutes, depending on your microwave and the size of the yam/sweet potato.)  While the potato is cooking in the microwave, into a large bowl place two teaspoons of oil (I recommend Extra Virgin Olive Oil), one-half teaspoon of good paprika, about one-fourth teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of  black pepper.  Mix together.  Remove carefully the hot potato from the microwave and allow it to rest on a cutting board for at least 5-10 minutes.  Using a sharp knife, cut the potato in half lengthwise.  Then cut it again in half through the middle.  Now, cut "fries" to your desired thickness.  Lightly toss all in the large bowl with the paprika mixture and gently shake and toss until all the potato wedges are coated.  Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with Pam or similar product, spreading them out so they do not touch.  Bake in the oven for about fifteen minutes, checking on them frequently toward the end.   If desired, you can turn the potato fries about half-way through the baking process but I never find it necessary.

Enjoy these unique and delicious fries.  Alert!  One potato may not be enough for two people - these fries are so good, you might need to use one potato for each person!  If necessary, add more salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Homemade Pizza for Memorial Day Weekend

For Memorial Day Weekend, I made my homemade pizza - a recipe that I have perfected over the years.

First, I start with homemade pizza dough, spread it out in a pan that has been coated with Crisco and then corn meal.  Then I sprinkle the dough with powdered garlic, along the edges, then Parmesan cheese all over and lastly, I use the Italian Seasonings grinder and lay down a nice layer of Italian Seasonings.
 Next, I add cooked and seasoned very lean ground turkey (99% fat-free) and on top of that, sliced big, beefy tomatoes.  I sprinkle basil and oregano over all, and add a little salt and pepper.  Then just a little crushed, dried parsley on top of all the tomatoes.
 Then a layer of onions and fresh, sliced mushrooms.
 Now a layer of chopped green pepper.
A layer of chopped or sliced black olives over all is the last ingredient before the cheese.  All is topped off with finely shredded mozzarella cheese.  Then popped into the oven at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.  Keep an eye on it for the last ten minutes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tasty Lunch At the Museum

 My two dear friends and I had a wonderful lunch at the museum in Phoenix.  Pictured at left, a bowl of spicy tortilla soup and a delicious chicken salad and sliced apple sandwich on cranberry and walnut bread.  Very yummy.  I had tried my hand at making cranberry walnut bread without much success.  Just doesn't taste the same.
Here is the dining room of the aptly named The Cafe.  ...Intimate and just perfect for a day out with friends.

More Photos of Our Culinary Delights in Mexico

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Tribute to "Anyone Can Bake"

"To one person it is given to take brushes and colors and so combine them that there is produced a work of art.  To another is given the ability to set down the melody lying in his imagination so that when it is played there comes forth music which is called a masterpiece.    Just as paints and oils and musical notes are all about us, there are, at every hand, wide varieties of food products which one may fashion into dishes which, too, are works of art."  And thus begins the Forward in one of my favorite cookbooks.

The cookbook, Anyone Can Bake, published in 1927, once belonged to my maternal grandmother.  At some point it got passed along to my mother and later to me.  It is a charming book, full of wonderful advice and great recipes, excellent photographs and even colored drawings of cakes and pies and biscuits and such.  It was compiled and published by the Educational Department of the Royal Baking Powder Company in New York. 

The cookbook even includes advice about setting an elegant table and menus to serve.  After 84 years, the cover has fallen off and the pages are crumbling at the edges, yet I still refer to it for certain recipes, turning the pages with great care.  Pages 6 and 7 illustrate how to set a table with variations for individual taste.  Imagine a cookbook today advising to set the table with a damask cloth, with at least a 12 inch overhang, and silverware to be set at exactly one inch from the edge of the table.

As a tribute to this charming cookbook, I have set a table to mimic those in the photographs.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Every Meal, Delicious

Salsa verde and sour cream... a frequent accompaniment to our lunch or dinner at our rented villa in Manzanillo, Mexico.
Every meal was a fiesta and new napkin folds greeted us daily on or near our plates.

Here is yet another place setting with a simple napkin fold, a new combination of place mat, dishes, glasses and flatware announcing that dinner soon would be served.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Old and Still Beautiful

 This handmade napkin with its beautiful hand work used to belong to my mother.  I always admired it, and she liked to use it at Thanksgiving.  I enjoy using the napkins any time.  There is also a very large matching table cloth with the same embroidered and appliqued motif at the corners that will fit a table large enough to seat twelve diners.  
 An overview of the tablesetting.  Here I have set the table for two using all things old.  The large platter and tureen were a gift from my late mother-in-law.
 Showcasing the unique beaded and metal napkin ring and the brown glass charger.
 This is one of the details in the tablecloth, another old linen that used to belong to my mother.  There is so much to see in this cloth, all worked by hand.
 The country wife's country husband.  His outfit has a European or even a South American feel.  Every stitch so expertly done. Even the little lopsided basket attests to the handmade aspect of the motif.
 A close-up of the detail in the old fruitcake tin.  This tin is a favorite and reminds me of a Master's still life.
 The detail of the gorgeous strawberry and butterfly tureen so evident in this close-up.  Imagine your favorite stew or soup inside and ready to be served.
 A detail of the matching platter, with it's tiny bugs and colorful butterflies.
 Such beautiful work and delightful, fanciful butterflies dance on the platter.
This photo shows more detail of the napkin ring.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cream of Asparagus Soup

I have worked for years on a recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup, something that would really wow the palate.

Here is my latest creation, step by step.

Depending on how many servings you want, one bunch of asparagus will make about 4 servings of soup.  A bunch contains about 15-18 stalks of asparagus.

Rinse the asparagus under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.  Stack the asparagus on the stem-end and lay flat on a cutting board.  Cut about a half inch off the bottom.

Snap the tough end off with your hands, just allowing it to snap wherever it naturally wants to break.  Most pieces will be about three and one-half inches.

Place the stalks into a pan with about 3 cups of cold water along with 2 chicken bouillon cubes and 1 beef bouillon cube.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for at least twenty minutes.

Cut the remaining asparagus stalks in half.

Set aside a few of the tip ends of the asparagus that you will use as garnish at the end of cooking.

Here are the tough ends of the asparagus coming to a boil, along with the bouillon cubes.

The chicken and beef stock is beginning to extract the asparagus flavor.

Add the middle stems and continue cooking until very, very tender.

Remove the tough ends of the asparagus and discard.  Add three tablespoons each of chopped onion, chopped celery and finely shredded carrots.  Then add the asparagus tops, cover with a lid, and continue cooking until very, very tender.  This takes some patience and some testing the stalk tenderness with a fork.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour one cup of low-fat milk into a microwave-safe cup or measuring cup and microwave for 45 seconds.

Add two tablespoons of flour to the hot milk and whisk all until smooth.  Add to the asparagus in the pan and stir in well.  The broth will thicken.  Add a small amount of water if the broth is too thick.

Using a zester, grate about a half teaspoon or slightly more of lemon zest into the mixture.  Stir in well.

Add two tablespoons of Sherry.  Stir into the soup mixture until well combined.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Pour about 10 ounces at a time of the soup mixture into an immersion blender cup and then use the immersion blender to puree the soup mixture.  Pour each batch into a microwave-safe bowl or return to pan to reheat until all of the soup has been pureed.

The soup can also be put into a blender to be pureed.

Then into the serving bowl!

Add a dollop of Greek yogurt to the center of the serving dish and swirl with a knife to make a design. Garnish with some blanched asparagus tips and some finely sliced green onion curls. 

Serve with fresh, homemade oatmeal bread and piped butter and a side dish of homemade coleslaw, garnished with an orange slice.

Bon Appetit!