Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Père Noël Stenciled Pillow

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I have started decorating for Christmas and I almost forgot to put this pillow out.  I made it this past summer and it’s been sitting on the top shelf of my closet ever since and almost missed it’s début.    I made it from a stencil that I ordered from my favorite stencil source, Maison de Stencils.  I made a quick cover for an old pillow that I had out of some painter’s cloth.  You can check out one of my past posts called Stenciled French Pillow to see how I did it.   Then it was just a matter of stenciling the image on to the pillow cover.  I am really happy with it!

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And earlier today I found a great tree skirt at TJ Maxx for the snowflake tree I am working on in the sunroom.   You’ve got to love the dollar store for those giant snowflakes.  I am almost done with that tree.  I am working on three trees this year.   Yes, three and it’s about to kill me!   And it’s only because I am hosting part of the progressive dinner for the annual “Tour of Trees” party.  I have until December 9th to get them done.   Otherwise, I would have left half of the decorations boxes in the attic!  I’ll be back soon with more  Christmas tree photos as I get them done.  Have you started decorating yet???

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cranberry Pecan Orzo Salad with Chives

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This is my new winter salad.  It’s just the thing to make this time of year.  It’s easy, delicious and pretty to look at especially for the holidays.  The deep red cranberries and the green chives make it perfect to serve at a party this time of year and that’s exactly what I am planning to do.

We are hosting the dinner part of a 3 part holiday progressive dinner party.  The idea of the party is a great one.  Especially since may of us in our neighborhood are not from here and most do not have family around to share the holidays with.  I think the idea originally started so that we could all take turns stopping by each other’s house and see the Christmas decorations and Christmas trees.  The dinner is called the Tree Parade and everybody gets to host one part of the dinner every three years.  I can’t believe it’s our turn again

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We will start out at someone else’s house for appetizer’s and drinks.  Then proceed to our house for the main course.  Then we will finish the night up at a third house for desserts and after dinner drinks.   I have decided that for our part, I am going to serve lasagna, a couple of salads, and an assortment of breads and rolls. 

One of the salads I am going to serve is this Cranberry Pecan Orzo Salad with Chives.    I made a batch as a trial run and got the thumb’s up from everyone including my daughter who I will be send a large portion back with her when she heads back to finish up the semester at school. 

Here’s the recipe:

Cranberry Pecan Orzo Salad with Chives

1 16 oz. package of orzo pasta.

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 cup of dried cranberries, chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup of toasted pecans, chopped into small pieces

1 bunch of chives.

t tsp.Salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Prepare the orzo according to the directions on the package.  I added some salt to the water to help add some extra flavor.  While the orzo is cooking, chop up the dried cranberries and pecans.  I toasted my pecans in the oven at 350 on a foil lined cookie sheet for about 12 minutes for extra crunch and flavor.  Be careful not too burn them.

Drain your orzo pasta and move to a large mixing bowl.  Add the cranberries and pecans.  Add the olive oil and mix well.  Then add the Balsamic Vinegar and mix well.  Take your chives and with a pair of kitchen shears, snip the chives into small pieces and add to the salad.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. 

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And serve with,                         or without Feta cheese.  Delicious. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Simply Truffles, A new Cookbook by Patricia Wells and a Class Luncheon at Southern Seasons


I took another class at Southern Season’s in Chapel Hill the day after Thanksgiving.  Talk about a food filled weekend!    The lunch classes at Southern Seasons are great.  Not only do you get to watch the dishes being prepared, you get a copy of the recipes and best of all you get to enjoy eating them as your lunch.  This time I was excited to hear Patricia Wells talk about her new cookbook called Simply Truffles and have a wonderfully prepared lunch paired with two new wines to try.  Our lunch started with a Watercress, Endive and Beet Salad and was then followed up by a Creamy Polenta with Truffles and a Poached Egg.  So delicious!  It’s one of the recipes in Patricia Well’s new cookbook called Simply Truffles.  See the two generous slices of a black truffle sitting on top the poached egg?  Adding the black pepper was my idea.  :)  We finished with La Maison Du Chocolat’s Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse from Patricia’s book called The Paris Cookbook.  Rich and extremely chocolaty.

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Patricia’s new cookbook Simply Truffles is full of beautiful photos, delicious recipes, and interesting facts and wonderful stories about truffles. 

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Watercress, Endive, and Beet Salad from the cookbook Salad As A Meal by Patricia Wells.

This salad was very good.  Unexpectedly so.  I really don’t eat a lot of beets although with color like that I am sure they must be loaded with antioxidants and be good for you.  The dressing was Creamy Lemon-Mustard Dressing and it was light and the lemon was subtle and not overwhelming.  I really liked it. 

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The white truffles are highly prized with a price tag to match.  The more affordable black truffles are what we were able to taste and they have an aromatic quality and of course are delicious. 

My favorite tip that Patricia gave when she was speaking was that she like to place her truffles in a glass jar with 6 fresh in the shell raw eggs and store them in the refrigerator for a few days.  The egg shells are porous and absorb the aroma of the truffles and flavors the eggs.  Then she prepares the eggs anyway she wants as a meal and has truffle flavored eggs.  Great idea for helping to justify the price of splurging on truffles!

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I had to take a photo of the container holding two golf ball sized white truffles.  Yes, that price tag does say $349.75.  Unbelievable!!  I knew truffles were expensive but I had no idea!  The black truffles however, are a lot less.

Someday, I hope to attend one of her week long classes in either Paris or Provence.  I love her books and truly enjoyed listening to her talk about truffles and her life in France.  Visit Patricia Well’s website and you can take a peek at her other books and get more information about here cooking schools.  Who would want to go to Paris and take a cooking class?!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving, Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms, and Roasting the Turkey at High Heat

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Another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  We feasted all day long and with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70’s, it could not have been more perfect.  Well, maybe if the Detroit Lions had won…but other than that…perfect!  My daughter insisted on making the Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms and who was I to argue?  It is such a pleasure to have her happily helping me in the kitchen these days. 

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These mushrooms are one of our favorite things to eat and people actually fight over the last one when I take them to a party.  They fit perfectly in the quiche plate and we used a new tool…a melon baller… this time to remove the mushroom stems and “hollow” out the mushrooms.  It worked perfectly.  We had nice and neat and perfectly shaped cavities to stuff the mushrooms. 

In case you missed it, here is the recipe for :

Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms

Boursin Stuffed Mushrooms Makes about 16 Preparation Time: 10

minutes Cooking Time: 25 minutes


1 package (10 oz.) mushrooms

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs

1 package (5.2 oz.) Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions:Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove and chop mushroom stems. In 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat and cook mushroom stems and onion, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until tender. In medium bowl, pour mushroom mixture over bread crumbs. Stir in Boursin, parsley, salt and pepper. Evenly spoon mushroom mixture into mushroom caps; arrange on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and golden. Sprinkle with cheese.

The Stuffing

Another pleasant discovery yesterday was the corn bread stuffing.  Yes, the Southerness is starting to soak it’s way into my bones!  It was by far much better than the stuffing I have have been making all these years.  And I used the Pepperidge Farms Cornbread stuffing mix.  Imagine how much better if next year I make my own corn bread.  :)


Now for  the turkey.  In the past I have been know to toss my turkey in a Reynolds Cooking bag and call it a day.  The bags work great and there is no way to mess us your turkey.  I was going for ease and convenience.  Well, this year I decided to make some changes.  Instead, I made a rub that I have used on my oven roasted chicken and it was delicious.  I roasted the turkey at high heat the entire time with a foil tent over it.  I roasted a 12 pound turkey at 400 degrees and that bird was done and gorgeously brown in 2 and 3/4 hours!  And it was Delicious!   And don’t get me started on how delicious the gravy was made with the drippings that was for the most part already seasoned with dry rub that was part of the drippings.  So good!  This will be my new turkey roasting method going forward.  Sorry, no photos…forgot to pull the camera out when it came out of the oven.  Take my word for it, she was beauty!

Here is a link to the roasting times if you want to give the High Roasting Heat Method a try. 

And lastly, here is the recipe for the rub that I used.  I rubbed the entire turkey with olive oil, cut up a lemon and inserted it into the cavity, and then I rubbed the entire turkey with this dry rub.  It gave it a beautiful color and delicious flavor.

Dry Rub

This was used on a 12 lb. turkey

Olive Oil

2 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. black pepper

2tsp dried oregano

2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp. paprika

1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

So, all in all it was a very nice Thanksgiving holiday.  I hope your’s was as well.  I know I don’t say it enough, but THANK YOU to all of you who stop by here to visit and for all the lovely comments.

Now, it’s time to wrap my head around the fact that Christmas is just a few weeks away.  I’m so not ready!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Remember These???

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Spotting these in the Vermont Country Store Catalog took me on a mini trip down memory lane. 

I ordered one of each.

I love buying my own stocking stuffers. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wine and Cheese Class at Southern Seasons


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I attended a wine and cheese tasting class last night at Southern Seasons in Chapel Hill with a friend.  We had a great time and got to taste wine and eat cheese while learning all about wine and cheese from the Alpine nations of France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany.   The tasting was given by The Brothers Kast who I found out have ties to Michigan.  Their father was one of the founders of American Spoon Foods in Traverse City!   

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Alexander Kast is the Cheesemonger at Southern Seasons and his brother Maximilian Kast is the Wine Director at The Fearrington House.   They were both so personable and interesting to listen too.  They both spent a lot of time travelling in the Alpine region when they were growing up and had first hand experience with some of the wines and cheeses we were tasting and with the people who made them.  I scribbled lots of notes on my class program to help me remember what I liked and why.

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The classroom at Southern Seasons is wonderful.  A long granite counter in the front of the classroom had overhead mirrors and large video screens.    Each seat had a plate of five different cheeses with  glasses of the five different wines that they were paired with.  My kind of dinner.   I enjoyed all five of the cheeses and most of the wines.  I volunteered to be the designated driver so I only indulged in a few sips here and there.  I will mention the wines but my focus here today is on the cheeses since I really didn’t participate fully in the wine tasting part of the class.

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We tasted five cheeses:

1.  Caciotta Paesanella, Valsassina, Italy.  This one reminded me a lot of Taleggio but with a slightly stronger taste.  It’s a washed rind cheese which  typically has a strong  aroma but actually the cheese tasted much milder than it smelled.  Very good.  This was paired with Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Rieslin Kabinett 2009, Saarburg, Germany (which was my personal favorite of the night.)

2.  Bodensee Butterkase, Amriswill, Switzerland.  I really liked this one.  I thought it was a nice snacking cheese.  It’s called a butter cheese for it’s milder, creamy, buttery flavor and mouth feel.  It is made by Daniel Studer and his sons and Alex Kast told us the story about meeting him and that the maker liked to call this one his “breakfast cheese”.  This was paired with Chateau d”Auvernier  2010 Neuchatel, Switzerland

3.  Marcel Petite Comte, Jura, France.  This one was my favorite cheese of the night and it was a very good one at $24.99 a pound.  It  had been awarded the green label which is the highest possible ranking for Comte based on a twenty point scale.  This one had aromas of hazelnuts, fried onions, and pasture,  The flavor was nutty, sweet and herbaceous.    The photo above shows where a plug of the cheese had been pulled as it was aging and being tested for taste.  This one was paired with Bornard Arbois “La Chamade”, Pupillin, France, 2007

4.  Spicherhalde Bergkase, Bavaria, Germany.  This one was also very nice.  It has been made by the Vogel family for the last three generations in Bavaria.  The cows graze at 4800 feet in the Allgau Alps.  It reminded me of the Comte we tried but had more onion and chive to it.  This one was paired with IBY Blaufrankish Classic 2009,  Mittleburgenland, Austria.  (For the record, my friend liked this wine the best and purchased a couple of bottles to take home.)

5.  Chiriboga Blue, Bavaria, Germany.  And finally we tasted this beauty.  It’s a very creamy (triple creme) blue with minimal bluing.  It was made by Arturo Chiriboga who surprisingly is from Equador in South America but lives and makes his wonderful cheese in Bavaria, Germany.  The mouth feel on this was was very rich, dense, and buttery.  This one was paired with Movia Sauvignon 2007, Brda, Slovenia.

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The class was fun and entertaining and it let me experience a variety of wine and cheeses that I would have never picked out on my own.  I love learning about new cheeses and wines and especially the stories behind the people who make them.  The Brothers Kast was a great class and I am looking forward to their next class which they think will be offered in the Spring.  Sign me up.