Tag Archives: cooking my book

The Circle of Kindness

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The Circle of Kindness: An Irish Journey of the Heart is the third book in a series about the nurturing power of food and love, by Jana Kolpen & Mary Tiegreen, following Dancing with the Moon and The Secrets of Pistoulet.

The Circle of Kindness

The quirkiest and most delicious of this charming series, I found myself wanting to dine at The Inn Between, (open in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner), have tea with the Legendary Lady and play in her dish cabinet, and bake in the cozy kitchen of Merriweather Cottage!

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“In the enchanted Irish countryside of ancient forests, singing bridges, and babbling brooks stands a thatch-roofed pink cottage overlooking the sea. In all of Ireland there’s no place finer to have a cup of tea and witness the wonders of life that are offered to us every day.

I set off for a picnic for my

Irish Journey of the Heart

with The Novel Bakers. . .

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I picked a spot under the shelter of a

giant oak tree with an ancient face. . . 

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Mother Nature did not cooperate since it was rainy.

I felt as woeful about the weather as my ancient-faced tree looked :) and moved my picnic indoors~

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I packed my basket with a

specialty of The Inn Between. . .

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The Pie of the Wandering Shepherd~ for those who have a wondering nature and need to be reminded of home~

Shepherd Pies in miniature size, made in a muffin pan. It seemed fitting that they were made from circles of biscuit dough :)

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Mini Shepherd Pies~

recipe inspired by The Inn Between and

 courtesy of Aaron McCargo, Jr.

Total Time: 55 min

Prep 10 min

Cook 45 min

Yield: *12 mini pies

Level: Easy

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Ingredients

(My changes noted by * at the end)

Cooking spray

*1 can biscuits  *(12) recommended: Grands

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground beef

1/2 onion, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup beef stock

*1 cup frozen mixed vegetables 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

*1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder

*2 tablespoons granulated onion powder

2 cups shredded Cheddar

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Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Spray a 12-count muffin pan with cooking spray. Mold biscuits to the shape of each muffin cup. Par-bake biscuits for *6 to 8 minutes until light golden. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and brown. Stir in the onions, salt, pepper and garlic and allow to cook together for a couple of minutes.

Mix flour into the meat mixture and stir until a paste consistency is reached. Add beef stock to pan and stir in vegetables and herbs, the last few minutes, until combined.

Reheat mashed potatoes in a microwave for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in granulated *garlic and onion powder.

*Spoon equal amounts (approximately 2 tablespoons) of warm potatoes on the bottoms of each par-baked biscuit. Then top with equal amounts of beef mixture (approximately 2 tablespoons). Finally top with equal amounts of Cheddar.

Return to oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until cheese is melted and browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before popping individual pies out with a knife.

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*My changes: 

*I only found Grands in 8 count, so I bought 2 cans of biscuits, there was plenty of filling for 16 mini pies.

* I baked the biscuits 5 minutes, punched down the middle with the back of a spoon to create more a ‘well’ for the filling, and returned them to the oven for another 3-4 minutes.

*I used frozen peas & carrots.

*I omitted garlic & onion powder since potatoes were already seasoned.

*I put mashed potatoes on top of beef mixture instead of the bottom and then placed the cheese on top of the potatoes.

 Original recipe from Food Network, here.

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Fitzpatrick and The Bored and Colorless Sisters enjoy an afternoon of delicious food, sparkling champagne, wonderful stories, and laughter. . .

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And they toasted their good fortune

for having such a fine day.

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Salad of Summer Flowers,

assembled from the most beautiful baby salad greens.

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I topped the greens with a few nasturtium flowers, the last of the violas, raspberries, blueberries, and candied pecans.

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“The smallest kindness can make a big difference. It begins with compassion and listening with your heart.”

- Mademoiselle J.

 

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“The circle has no beginning and no end.

In our lives we may travel far from home,

but we will someday come back to where we began.”

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Thank you for your visit!

I’m happy to be joining The Novel Bakers~ a quiet lifeRattlebridge Farm and Once Upon a Plate

Also sharing at Tutorials Tips and TidbitsFoodie FridaySeasonal Sundays

Dancing with the Moon

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 Dancing with the Moon: A Story of Love at the Villa della Luna, continues with the adventures of Mademoiselle J that began in The Secrets of Pistoulet

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I first visited Villa della Luna through Pfaltzgraff’s collection of Dinnerware~ created from the art of Jana Kolpen and Mary Tiegreen in this magical & charming tale.

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In Dancing with the Moon, Mademoiselle J embarks on her journey to a seaside villa in Italy.

Magical recipes contribute wisdom for her journey, such as Transformational Moon CrescentsThe Risotto of Welcomes and Beginnings, and Pasta Vivante, for those who are afraid of the passion of life.

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 Under the New Moon and a time for new beginnings, I took the advice of Madame Sosostris, and set off on a path involving fables of food & love with The Novel Bakers. . .

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I was all set to travel through the pages to Italy

when I fell under the spell & fragrance of

gardenias that drifted my way. . .

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And got distracted

and took a different course. . .

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I decided to prepare a couple of

 Gardenia Love Baths

for the birds~

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Gardenias DWTM

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After my visit in the Salon de Thé with Madame Sosostris,  I became curious about exotic teas. . .Lord Butterworth’s Boxing Day Tea, Whirling Dervish, Tibetan Temptest. . .

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I decided to brew my own blend,

some Gardenia Tea. . .

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 “Prepare an infusion of aromatic tea laced with the fruits and flowers of summers past.”

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“Experience the swirling steam as you imagine yourself dancing back through time to a point of great clarity. Close your eyes and become a part of the faded scene. As you understand the past and its sacred essence, let the pathway to your future unfold.”

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 Gardenias were considered an edible flower and safe to brew for tea, so I gathered some gardenia blooms and petals to steep.

Like any edible flower, you only want to use blooms that have not been sprayed or chemically treated.

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The Tea of Yesterday~

To be served to those who are seeking clues from the past in order to understand the present.

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Gently wash your freshly picked blooms to remove any debris or insects. Add boiling water in a ratio of 2 to 1 (water to petals), cover and steep 5 – 15 minutes.

Pour through a strainer and sweeten with honey or sweetener of your choice. The flavor is light, and as you might guess, slightly floral :) and similar to Jasmine tea.

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Tea calls for a tea time treat~

Transformational Moon Crescents~ to be baked and served on the eve of a New Moon to those who are on a path of transformation, even if unknowingly.

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 Transformational Moon Crescents aka Pecan Crescents, recipe courtesy of Madame Sososotris and Southern Living.

Ingredients

1 cup pecan halves, toasted

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar for dusting

*Sesame Seeds for Transformational Moon Crescents

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Preparation

Pulse pecans in a food processor until they are coarse like sand.

Beat butter and 3/4 cup powdered sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Stir in vanilla and ground pecans. Gradually add flour, beating until a soft dough forms. Beat at low speed just until combined. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Divide dough into 5 portions; divide each portion into 12 pieces. Roll dough pieces into 2-inch logs, curving ends to form crescents. For Transformational Moon Crescents, roll dough into sesame seeds and then curve. Place on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes. Dust warm cookies without sesame seeds with powdered sugar. Cool completely on wire racks.

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Sesame moon crescents are done when golden and have imparted their power to open locked doors.

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In addition to recipes, Dancing with the Moon is a vivid tactile experience filled with interactive elements such as gatefold doors, concealed treasures, tarot cards, and passports.

More than a book, it is an open-hearted invitation to learn and to love.

“Gardenias are known to attract high spirits, induce peaceful vibrations and strengthen love potions.”

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Join The Novel Bakers on Friday and travel with

 Mademoiselle J to Ireland in The Circle of Kindness.

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Thank you for your visit!

I’m happy to be joining The Novel Bakers~ a quiet lifeRattlebridge Farm and Once Upon a Plate

Also sharing at Tutorials Tips and TidbitsFoodie FridaySeasonal Sundays

The Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper ****

by Sarah Addison Allen

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.”

I’m long overdue in sharing this book that I read back in April~

I always look forward to Sarah Addison Allen’s books~ I had pre-ordered it, anxious for its arrival. It was waiting for me like a nice, juicy peach ready for me to sink my teeth into, when I returned from vacation. I took these photos and cooked this book back when the azaleas were blooming, and although I had shelved this review, I didn’t shelve this book until after I read it cover-to-cover in two days. . . one day if I hadn’t had to unpack & bathe :-)

My intention was to take a little road trip to tie in to this review, and visit Transylvania County in Western North Carolina ~ the area that the town of Walls of Water is based on, and home to over 250 waterfalls. It became apparent that was not going to happen and though it’s still on my list to visit, it looks more like it will be the fall when the weather is not in the triple digits.

My other excuse is that I got waylaid by another book about peaches  . . .

The long-buried secrets and mysteries of The Peach Keeper continued to haunt me to return to it & Walls of Water ever since~  most recently by an article in Our State Magazine.

Full of North Carolina native, Sarah Addison Allen’s trademarks~ magic, small town charm, and FOOD~ The Peach Keeper is easy to devour in one sitting~  and is a great book to tuck in your beach bag or keep by your night stand.

In keeping with this book, I set a simple table where peaches are the stars. Peach blossom-inspired napkin rings from Pier 1, napkins from Stein Mart, Napoleon Bee flatware for the buzzing of the bees & a tablecloth from Kohl’s~

“A cool breeze floated eerily by, smelling of peaches.”

“If anyone had been paying attention to the signs, they would have realized that air turns white when things are about to change, that paper cuts mean there’s more to what’s written on the page than meets the eye, and that birds are always out to protect you from things you don’t see.”

“There was a slight hint of peaches in the air, but it didn’t scare her.”

Tucker Devlin:

“What I know, what I’m best at, is peaches. Peach juice swims in my veins. When I bleed, it’s sweet. Honeybees fly right to me.”

“He looked like the world was a ripe peach and he was ready to bite it.”

There was plenty to tempt my palate between these pages~ Oatmeal Cookies with Coffee Icing, Double Chocolate Espresso Brownies, Lemon-Chicken Salad, Lemon and Broccoli Mini-Quiches, Angel Food Cake, Honeymoon Pie. . .but it just seemed criminal not to use peaches in this edible review~

“Cups of lemon crème layered with hazelnut shortbread crumbles, pansies, lavender, and lemon verbena.”

I layered peaches, store-bought hazelnut shortbread cookies, lemon curd & whipped cream~ and garnished with edible violas for an individual, easy trifle~

“Lunch was then served, beautiful food garnished with edible roses and tasting of lavender and mint and lust. People closed their eyes with each bite, and the air turned sweet and cool. The quartet played ravishing melodies that were strange and exotic. There was a curious sense of longing in the air, and everyone felt it. People began to think of old loves and missed opportunities. Unlike most of these functions, no one wanted to leave. Lunch lingered for hours.”

“So it was with Claire Waverley, a beautiful, mysterious caterer who it was rumored could make your rivals jealous, your love life better, your senses stronger, all with the food she created. Her specialty was edible flowers, and once it got out that she had something no one else had, everyone wanted her.”

I highly recommend sipping on a Peach Bellini on a Saturday or Sunday morning as you read this book :-)

Paxton:

“ ‘Can you really make people feel differently with the food you cook, with the drinks you prepare?’ ”

 

A savory recipe for your peaches~ A Stacked Peach & Mozzarella Salad~

Grilled Peach-and-Mozzarella Salad, recipe courtesy Southern Living

Served with baby spinach and a cilantro-lime vinaigrette~ Delicious & definitely a Keeper recipe :-)

  “Just as they turned to walk back up the steps, the scent of peaches permeated the air for a moment, thick and cloying, before it faded into the night, crossing the moon in a wisp of smoke, then disappearing.”

“Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.”

 “North Carolina novelist Sarah Addison Allen brings the full flavor of her southern upbringing to bear on her fiction — a captivating blend of fairy tale magic, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility.”

Thank you for your visit, I’m happy to be joining :

Gone with a Handsomer Man

Gone with a Handsomer Man****.*

by Michael Lee West

 

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

Take one out-of-work pastry chef . . .

“Teeny Templeton believes that her life is finally on track. She’s getting married, she’s baking her own wedding cake, and she’s leaving her troubled past behind. And then? She finds her fiancé playing naked badminton with a couple of gorgeous, skanky chicks.

Add a whole lot of trouble . . .

 

Needless to say, the wedding is off. Adding insult to injury, her fiancé slaps a restraining order on her. When he’s found dead a few days later, all fingers point to Teeny.

 

And stir like crazy!

Her only hope is through an old boyfriend-turned-lawyer, the guy who broke her heart a decade ago. But dredging up the past brings more than skeletons out of the closet, and Teeny doesn’t know who she can trust. With evidence mounting and the heat turning up, Teeny must also figure out where to live, how to support herself, how to clear her name, and how to protect her heart.”

We were fortunate to have been invited to visit Charleston this past weekend, which is a favorite destination for us. Beside the charm, architecture & history of the city, we visit for the FOOD!

 A Foodie’s paradise, we graze our way across the peninsula, hoping that the fact we’ve parked the car for the weekend, means we’re expending a few of the calories we’re consuming. I thought I’d include some Charleston photos, some new & some I’ve posted before, sprinkling in some of my favorite quotes from the book, as part this edible review since we just returned from the scene of the crime(s). . .

Following Teeny in Charleston and her culinary escapades, was the fictitious “I’m a Suspect Icing” on the “I Didn’t Kill My Boyfriend Cake” for me :-)

 I even ran into Teeny’s bulldog, Sir, on a previous trip, right across from a white mansion on South Battery~

 

You know you’re in for a treat from the first two sentences:

“All I ever wanted in life was true love, a set of copper cookware, and the perfect recipe for red velvet cake. The last thing I wanted was to end up on Charleston’s six o’clock news, accused of murder and a slew of other crimes.”

So the fun begins. . .

 Michael Lee West serves up Teeny’s troubles and tribulations like a Baptist Church covered-dish supper~ there are things you anticipate, but with lots more variety and MORE than a few surprises :-)

 

 There was as much tempt my palate in this book, as when we visit Charleston: Coconut Shrimp, BBQ ribs, Bacon-Deviled Eggs, Seven-Layer Salad, Chicken Fried Steak, Tomato Basil Tart, not to mention every type of pie imaginable, along with recipes included in the book for Lavender Shortbread, Teeny’s Vanilla Peach Pecan Coffee Cake, Espresso Steak Rub & Fried Green Tomato Salad with Cornbread Croutons.

 The MOST fun for me was reading excerpts from Teeny’s ‘Templeton Family Receipts & Whatnot':

 

“Whenever one of the sisters got peeved, she wrote a recipe—not a normal one, mind you, but one that helped her relax. Some people have punching bags, time-out rooms, or Prozac. The Templetons had a cookbook. Our recipes were fanciful, listing umpteen lethal ingredients. Not that we’d ever tried them on anyone. It was just a way of venting.”

 I took my cue from Teeny’s shopping cart to make a trifle:

“Food defines people just as clearly as their taste in clothing and their interior design. Miss Dora and I had discussed this a lot. Our cart overflowed with carby things: garlic French bread, potatoes, fresh corn, and a bakery sour cream cake that I planned to turn into a trifle. To our credit, we had a box of strawberries for the aforementioned trifle.”

A Bonaventure Georgia Peach Trifle, with a few strawberries from Teeny’s cart~ layers of pound cake, vanilla pudding & topped with whipped cream.

If you’d like a recipe you can find one for Georgia Peach Trifle, courtesy of Southern Living, here.

“That gave me an idea. I grabbed a peach. In a month, it would be ripe, but now it was hard and heavy.”

“I fired down two more peaches. One whizzed over Bing’s head but the other slammed into his nether region.”

 Since it’s not peach season, it came as no great surprise that my peaches were as hard & heavy as the ones Teeny fires as ammunition, so I used frozen peaches for my trifle instead :-)

 

“In my mind, peach trees meant love, shelter, and comfort. I’d grown up on a peach farm in Bonaventure, Georgia. Bing knew how I felt. The engagement was broken, but the tree should stay in one piece.”

 

“ ‘The whole process just tickles me,” I said. ‘I like matching food to people and filling up their empty spaces.’ ”

“As I drove toward the Battery, I felt the pull of the Spencer-Jackson.”

“The house was creeping up on me, seducing me with iron curlicues. . . ”

“. . .secret alleys. . .”

“. . .rose petals on cobbled walkways. . .”

 

 

“. . .and the tolling bells of St. Michael’s.”

“I loved the play of light on the stucco and how it changed from ice pink to peach to Pepto-Bismol.”

“This was Charleston, by god. The people might have lost the war but not their manners.”

 

“On this side of East Bay, the houses were fitted together like marzipan confections—cotton candy pink, blueberry, lime, saffron, watermelon ice.”

“When I got nervous, I had my own ways of calming down; I made up unusual recipes that weren’t necessarily edible but suited my mood.”

 

“I needed that book because it was full of make-believe evilness, penned by a whole slew of Templeton women trying to improve their moods with pounded peach seeds and foxglove.”

“I pulled the sheet over my head and tried to think of a soothing imaginary recipe. What I really needed was Smother Your Love gravy, poured over Forget Him pork chops, with a heaping side dish of He’s Better Off With Her pie.”

  I decided to make Teeny’s signature cocktail. . .if you’ve read the book, you’re probably expecting a Peach-Teeny/Tini~

 

 There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments for me, especially in this chapter of the book~

 

Teeny’s Splendid Mimosas~

Teeny’s cocktail of choice to serve for those with a Sucralose allergy

Rim a LARGE glass with pink sugar~ to distract with the lovely color & camouflage the sweet SPLENDA®  flavor

Mix Blood Orange juice :-) with as many SPLENDA® packets as you dare~

 

Hope & Pray Sucralose with take effect sooner rather than later. . .

Add plenty of Champagne~ don’t be skimpy~

Conceal evidence of empty little yellow packets,

 Serve and Hope for the Best!

“Teeny Templeton is small-statured and big-hearted, a heroine worthy of this novel, which is by turn acerbic and sweet, poignant and funny, with great sex, bad boyfriends, and Do Not Try This at Home recipes. However you slice it, Gone with a Handsomer Man is as addictive as red velvet cake. I hope it sells as many copies as that other novel set in the South that starts with ‘Gone with.’”   –Harley Jane Kozak, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Award-winning author of Dating Dead Men and A Date You Can’t Refuse

Enjoy a second helping of Teeny

and a Teeny Tasting, here.

Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

Marvelous Mondays, Metamorphosis Monday,

The Scoop,  Inspire Me Tuesday,

Wow Us Wednesdays,  Foodie Friday

Key West: A Tropical Lifestyle

Key West: A Tropical Lifestyle ****

by Leslie Linsley

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“In Key West: A Tropical Lifestyle, author Leslie Linsley presents the true character of this unique American place in twenty-two residences. Engaging anecdotes are drawn from interviews with homeowners, designers, and architects, and over two hundred lush, full-color photographs reveal the historic and contemporary interiors and gardens. Reflecting the style and personalities of their owners, these houses simultaneously respect and extend a distinctive legacy.”

“Architecture on Florida’s Key West reflects the diverse and colorful nature of those who have shaped this remote island’s character: grand classical homes of sea captains from new England, cobbled-together wooden dwellings of ships’ carpenters, humble but charming cottages of cigar makers from Cuba. Today’s equally varied population of artists, writers, and political figures contributes to that heritage by designing interiors and landscapes that complement the vibrant tropical location, quirky isolationist tradition, and relaxed atmosphere.”

I’ve had this book for several years so it was fun to revisit, especially after our recent getaway to Key West~ soaking in the sun, Caribbean flavor and charm of this southernmost point in the continental U.S. We spent a lot of time walking, admiring the architecture and tropical gardens, where I was easily entertained, fantasizing about owning and decorating a little shotgun or Conch house.  It’s easy for me to lose myself within these pages after our return. . .taking up residence “living large in a small house”. . .

Come along with me for a stroll~

Key West lies 150 miles south of Miami and 90 miles north of Cuba. This little spit of land,  four miles long by two miles wide, hosts weather that is consistently beautiful thanks to its subtropical climate, with temperatures of seventy-five to eighty degrees year round, and draws more than two million visitors a year~ one million of those arriving by cruise ship daily at Mallory Square.

Key West’s architecture is a charming mélange of styles~

Galvanized steel roofs, ventilating roof hatches, Bahamian top-hung shutters, wrap around verandahs, and houses built on piers –  are all devices to combat the heat and sun of the tropics.

“Throughout Old Town one sees, in striking juxtaposition elaborate Queen Anne-style houses built at the end of the nineteenth century, little Louisiana Creole cottages, ornate Victorians, and Key West Tropical houses, to which an unmistakable combination of decorative motifs is applied. Every street, boulevard, and lane is rich with architectural variations and contradictions.”

“The taste for Victorian architecture that swept the country during the latter part of the nineteenth century also was incorporated into the design of many houses in Key West. Corner brackets, balustrades, porch columns, and fretwork fences, among other ornamental details, were applied to the otherwise spare Conch-style houses.”

We enjoyed Stone Crab, in season, while we were there, but I resisted the urge, (just barely :-) to order some online shipped to me at home, so instead, we’re enjoyed a little taste of the island for Food for Thought~

Crab Cakes, a mini version, served as an appetizer~ recipe for a regular size version courtesy Southern Living here.

With Roasted Garlic and Lime Aïoli, courtesy Coastal Living here.

And of course to wash them down, a Mojito ~

“Over the years, what used to be a funky little out-of-the-way, stuck-in-time place, has evolved into a sophisticated island resort. The little Conch houses have been bought up, remodeled, and often resold. And although the gentrification of Key West is celebrated by some residents and opposed by others, the fact remains that people who have the means to go anywhere in the world keep coming back to this place, just as my husband and I have returned again and again.”

Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

The Essential Tea Companion

Victoria The Essential Tea Companion: Favorite Menus for Tea Parties and Celebrations ****.*

by Kim Waller and From the Editors of Victoria Magazine

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

 “Whether we’re enjoying a morning break, a quiet afternoon respite, or a soothing moment at day’s end, tea is a ready indulgence. And Victoria has the ideal accompaniment to this celestial beverage.”

Victoria The Essential Tea Companion collects the best of three classic Victoria books in a single completely redesigned and beautiful volume. It serves up history and lore, advice on brewing the perfect pot, notes on collectible china, and best of all, menus for eight themed parties, from a children’s tea to a bridal shower. Here are more than 100 recipes for sandwiches, scones, tarts, cakes, savories, breads, and biscuits, as well as flavored teas both hot and iced, and honeys, spreads, and jams. An authoritative appendix provides the elegant final touch.”

This book is a feast for the eyes & senses~ I could spend hours pouring over the pages. . .as it was, my camera was busy so this is a photo intensive post~

There are plenty of ideas & inspiration to be found, not the least of which is food for a tea or party… I was tempted by Stilton, Pear & Watercress Savory Toasts, Tomato & Goat Cheese Sandwiches, Rose Petal Scones~ which make me long to have organic roses growing in my garden, and a Honey Tart– pretty latticework with a honey-kissed cheese filling, just to name a few.

 I stumbled on these Victorian-style shoes designed as planters, that were the inspiration for hosting a “dress up” tea. They are sprouting flowers and offering up sweet treats, as well as flatware on the table~

Butterflies were essential for my tea~ they fluttered in and landed on cupcakes, and showed in the form of brooches, dressing up my napkins & embellishing my flatware.

I discovered Portmeirion Botanic Garden Flatware for a bargain price at HomeGoods. If you look closely you can see a butterfly stamped on the fork.

Little cups for little girls~

 My husband’s grandmother’s hats are embellished with a pin, in the same fashion as my Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and placed on chairs at the table~

The Charm of Chintz:

“Despite today’s climbing prices, this was once humble daily china, a blithe flower show that brightened ordinary English homes and was just as cheerful as the fabric it was derived from. Indeed, the story is told of chintzware’s originator, Leonard Grimwade, found of the Royal Winton potteries in Stoke-on-Trent, that he once stopped a lady in the street so he could copy the floral pattern of her pinafore.”

“In the heyday of chintzware—the 1920s to the 1960s—many potteries were turning out patterns with fetching names like ‘Julia,’ ‘Sunshine,’ ‘Hazel,’ and ‘Summertime,’ each a favorite of collectors today.”

Philly Strawberry Tea Sandwiches with a Twist, recipe courtesy The Hungry Housewife

Morning’s First Cup:

“Brew a cup; brew a day. Unhurriedly. The sunrise song of tea is lyrical, but with bracing undertones. ‘Of course you can,’ it murmurs encouragingly. The flavor holds a hint of far lands, yet is as familiar as the cat that comes to nuzzle your leg or sunlight on the windowsill. And as you lift your first cup of tea and feel its warmth the day’s challenges settle into perspective.”

Athens Mini Fillo Shells~lots of appetizer ideas & recipes to be found courtesy of Athens~ essential for quick & tasty bites. I filled some with lemon curd & berries for a sweet bite and some with chicken salad for something savory to sample.

“Tea is a daily companion that never fails us. It warms when we—or the world—feel cold, gives strength when we’re weary, and lends delicious grace notes to our gatherings. From the first cheery chortle of the kettle at dawn to the fragrance of an evening cup as the house quiets and we turn to our reading, tea can be counted on to smooth and save the day.”

Butterfly Cucumber-Basil Tea Sandwiches

 Mix 1 (8-ounce) package softened cream cheese, with 2 T mayonnaise to make the consistency of soft butter, and stir in 2 T snipped fresh chives.

Spread mix on both sides of thin white sandwich bread cut with a cookie cutter. Layer thinly sliced English (seedless) cucumber, top with a basil leaf to complement the sweetness of the cucumber.

Watch them fly off the table :-)

“What turns a drink of tea into an occasion? Often, the cup it is served in—no doubt one reason why so many tea lovers are just as devoted to lovely china as they are their orange pekoe or lapsang souchong. However, your tea set doesn’t need to be Wedgwood or blue willow to bring joy and beauty to teatime.”

“Collecting can start with the jog of a childhood memory—perhaps a swirl of rosebuds recalls some long-ago cup in which an adored grandmother offered you a bit of sweet, milky tea scenting with cinnamon.”

“Take care with the food, brew a bracing pot of tea, but most important, enjoy the warmth and joy possible only when good friends gather for a party.”

The Food for Thought gods were smiling on me as I was working on this review. I discovered to my delight, I had won one of several packages of treats from Pondside for an anniversary giveaway.

 Not only did Honora send me Tea, specifically Library Blend, along with a sweet box of Chocolates, but my “petit pacquet” flew over from Victoria, British Columbia.

(insert Twilight Zone music here :-)

Murchie’s is listed as a select source for tea & tea accessories in the back of the book and can be visited here.

So thank you Pondside for my Murchie’s Library Tea & Purdy’s Chocolate~ a perfect duo to accompany a good book, especially one about the ceremony & ritual of tea!

 Dishes~ G. Demartine & Cie

Assorted Napkins, Tea Cups & Tea Pots~ HomeGoods

Chintz Tea Set~ Royal Albert ~ HomeGoods

Portmeirion Botanic Garden Flatware~ HomeGoods

Leaf Demitasse Spoons~ Two’s Company~ Tuesday Morning

Shoes~ Stein Mart

“Explore the many joys of teatime with Victoria’s recipes for sublime teas and classic treats, charming party suggestions, and ideas for building an exquisite collection of cups, saucers, and teapots. It’s all served up with sumptuous photographs that pay homage to a gracious ritual.”

Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

Our Life in Gardens

Our Life in Gardens ****

by Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

 “Plants, like words in poetry, observe Eck and Winterrowd, are both beautiful in themselves and also for the associations they trail behind, the histories they have in the world and in one’s own life.”

Cofounders of the garden design firm North Hill, the authors, Eck and Winterrowd share the history of their Vermont garden, writing about “the plants they have lived with, nurtured and nourished, in a sort of inverse family memoir, where the parent remembers the children—the trouble-free, the troubling and the troubled.”

 Each chapter begins with a pen & ink drawing by Bobbi Angell, botanical illustrator and artist. Her work continues to win awards, including the prestigious Jill Smythies Award from The Linnean Society of London, The American Society of Botanical Artists’ Award for Excellence in the Service of Science, and Center for Plant Conservation’s Star Award.

My life in gardens is limited to the table~ I wish I had one to rival North Hill or my Portmeirion Botanic Garden~

*sigh*

Instead, I’m gardening vicariously with dishes . . . enjoying the buzzing of the bees and fluttering of butterflies among the flowers.

I can dream about flowers as I mentally traipse through the authors’ Vermont garden and enjoy their bits of wisdom as they share their passion. . .

 . . .and gather bits of knowledge, nostalgia & new plants to cultivate while enjoying essays that range alphabetically from ~

Agapanthus: “we fear you must resort to shoving and hauling, smashing and splintering, to a cold bedroom full of nasty, yellowing foliage, always anticipating the pure bliss that will come,”

to

 Xanthorrhoea Quadrangulata: “it is painful to say that plants are very scarce and that ours is not likely to produce any progeny we can share.”

“From a chance encounter, gardeners, like lovers, often form lifelong relationships of great intensity. You see a plant, your eyes widen, your pulse accelerates, and huskily you ask even complete strangers its name, importunately tugging at coat sleeves.”

 Much like what happens to me when I spy a new botanical image or design of Portmeirion at Home Goods or wherever I stumble on it :-)

Since its creation in 1972, over 70 botanical images have been added to this collection. To see this exuberant botanic garden with all the blooming motifs, look here.

 “Buried in every gardener’s memory are plants he has seen or read about and vows to grow, or wishes he could grow, if only he had the right conditions.”

“Dame’s Rocket can make its gentle way at the edges of woods or in partly shaded ditches, competing with weeds and making them glorious in mid-June, with three-foot-tall branched candelabra of little four-petaled flowers in beautiful shades of purple, pink, and white, blended together like the colors of an old, much-bleached housedress. The smell is that of fresh laundry, a rich, spicy, powders sweetness elusive to Chanel or any other parfumier.”

“ ‘Fife Yellow,’ ‘Cowichan Blue’, ‘Barnhaven Gold’, ‘Duckyls Red’, ‘Enchantress’, ‘Guinevere’, ‘Granny Graham’, ‘Broadwell Milkmaid’, ‘Sailor Boy’, ‘Prince Charming’, ‘Satchmo’, ‘Winter Dreams’, ‘Hurstwood Midnight’. . .

. . . even without a picture in a catalog, it is hard to resist ordering plants with such names, for as with roses, their beauty begins there. Add a picture, and the gardener is sunk, the plant budget spent, and the vegetables unordered.”

Annuals:  “Though they are often very beautiful themselves, their charm resides to a large degree precisely in their naïveté, their simple sense of ease and well-being, just in themselves, just in what they are. It is true that their colors are often bold and unsubtle, usually in the part of the color wheel called ‘hot,’ which includes the hardest yellows, crimsons, and reds—but they are beloved by children and to any adult they offer the same kind of lift to the heart that occurs when walking through FAO Schwarz at Christmastime.”

Hybrids: “Crossing species madly ending up with a diverse swarm rather like a barnyard of mixed bantam chickens.”

Seed: “There is something deeply touching about any flower that blooms so late, and we wonder how it has time to make seed. It seems forgetful of that necessity, and even therefore, faintly tragic, or at least melancholic.”

“Within the group of plants classed as biennial are some of the most treasured in gardens, not for their rarity, certainly, but for their homely, simple charm. Usually, they are considered ‘cottage flowers,’ and their ranks include hollyhocks, forget-me-nots, dame’s rocket, Sweet William, Saint Barbara’s weed, and foxgloves. Like all cottage flowers, they seem to carry resonances far beyond their individual beauty, suggesting fine June country mornings and casement windows flung open to the bright sun and the sound of bees at work. Somewhere near them there will always be an old, well-waxed table spread with good, fresh things, and the chance to linger in the garden, to work perhaps or just to sit and stare.”

“Early each spring, we wonder whether we would love snowdrops if they bloomed in June, rather than at the end of a long, cold winter. Certainly they are beautiful enough to love at any time of the year:  silken pearls in bud and winged when open to the warmth of an early spring day. They dangle on delicate, threadlike pedicels, dancing in the slightest breeze.”

“What makes lilacs treasured is not the years they can accumulate, however, but the beauty of their flowers, which come just as the last memory of winter and its ice and snow and barrenness are passing away in the May sun. They flower exuberantly then, hundreds of cobs of bloom appearing over gaunt, gray trunks. That conjunction is itself an emblem of the renewal of the year, but we wonder whether without the fragrance peculiar to lilacs they would matter so much.”

 I played with violas, sugaring them for Food for Thought to embellish cupcakes~

 Ideas and directions for crystallizing edible flowers, courtesy of Martha Stewart here

Dishes: Portmeirion Botanic Garden

 Napoleon Bee Flatware: Horchow

Napkins: Pier 1

Napkin Rings: Home Goods

Rattan Chargers: World Market

“For more than thirty years, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd have been gardening with extraordinary, indeed legendary, results. Part memoir, part omnium-gatherum of horticultural wisdom and practical advice, Our Life in Gardens is at once literate, learned, sensible, and, often, sheer luscious poetry. There are delights to be sampled on every page. From a cultivated life, they have brought forth, once again a cultivated book.” ~Phillip Gambone

“Any gardener may find its specific (and sometime technical) advice helpful, but walkers among gardens and those who dream of gardening will find special pleasure in plant lore and history and in the lucid descriptions that render them visible.”

Sadly, Wayne Winterrowd passed away last September~ his work with Joe lives on, not only in their books, but in their beautiful garden, North Hill.

Thanks for your visit & to my hostesses, I’m joining:

Remarkable Creatures

Remarkable Creatures ****.*

by Tracy Chevalier

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“From the moment she’s struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is different. Though poor and uneducated, she discovers on the windswept beaches of the English coast that she has a unique gift:  “the eye” to spot fossils no one else can see. When Mary uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious fathers on edge, the townspeople to gossip—and the scientific world alight. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is barred from the academic community; as a young woman with uncommon interest, she is suspected of sinful behavior. Nature is a threat, throwing bitter cold, storms, and landslips at her. And when she falls in love, it is with an impossible man.”

“Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster recently exiled from London, who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy. Ultimately, in the struggle to be recognized in the wider world, Mary and Elizabeth discover that friendship is their greatest ally.”

I learned about this book last year, when Jain shared her excellent review ~ I was intrigued and it has been on my very LONG list to read ever since. I downloaded the audio version from Audible to listen to in the car, when I read a review of the audio performance~ the narration and accents were excellent, which made the story highly enjoyable and even more compelling.

 “Charlotte Parry creates a gutsy but vulnerable Mary while Susan Lyons gives us a proper and ladylike Elizabeth. Together, they create an original and moving duet of unlikely friendship in this impeccable production.” ~B.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine    ~AudioFile Magazine

I find myself combing the aisles for treasures at Home Goods like a fossil hunter on a weekly basis, which I like to blame on the five mile proximity to my house. I admit I feel the same “little jolt” as Mary Anning  does, whenever I discover something there I can’t leave without :-)

My scouring led me to glass shell dishes on a recent visit, so instead of the windswept beaches off the English coast, I am lakeside with a tabletop shell strewn beach for this review.

“Lightning has struck me all my life.

 Just once it was real.”

“I feel an echo of the lightning each time I find a fossil, a little jolt that says, ‘Yes, Mary Anning, you are different from all the rocks on the beach.’ That is why I am a hunter:  to feel that bolt of lightning and that difference every day.”

“To me, looking for curies is like looking for a four-leaf clover:  It’s not how hard you look, but how something will appear different. My eyes will brush over a patch of clover, and I’ll see 3, 3. 3. 3. 4, 3, 3. The four leaves just pop out at me. Same with curies: I’ll wander here and there along the beach, letting my eyes drift over stones without thinking, and out will jump the straight lines of a bellie, or the stripy marks and curve of an ammo, or the grain of bone against the smooth flint. Its pattern stands out when everything else is a jumble.”

“As I stepped between two stones, I noticed and odd pebble decorated with a striped pattern. I bent over and picked it up—the first of thousands of times I would do so in my life. It was spiral-shaped with ridges at even intervals around the spine, and it looked like a snake curled in on itself, the tip of the tail in the center. Its regular patter was so pleasing to the eye that I felt I must keep it, thought I had no idea what it was. I only knew that it could not be a pebble.”

I felt another “little jolt” when I found this recipe for Fossil Cookies for Food for Thought, in a back issue of Martha Stewart Living, when I was going through it one last time before recycling it ~

 My Fossil Cookies are on served a beach of brown sugar in a watery blue bowl.

A recipe to satisfy hungry paleontologists can be found here :-)

I could not find the “food safe” plastic insects recommended linked in the recipe. I used creatures I found from Dollar Tree that I washed well & dusted with flour, before leaving their skeletal impressions in my cookie dough :-)

“It made me feel like I was peering through a window into a deep past where such creatures lurked.”

“My life led up to that moment, then led away again, like the tide making its highest mark on the beach and then retreating.”

“So we continued, arm in arm along the beach, talking until at last we had no more to say, like a storm that blows itself out, and our eyes dropped to the ground, where the curies were waiting for us to find them.”

“Remarkable Creatures is an inspiring novel of how one woman’s gift transcends class and social prejudice to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century. Above all, it is a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship.”

Recycled Glass Dishes, Square Chargers & Shell Dishes~ Home Goods

Napkins~ Pottery Barn

Napkin Rings~ Kohl’s

Beaded Placemats  & Goblets~ Target

Flatware~ World Market

Thanks for your visit & to my hostesses, I’m joining:

For more Food for Thought,  click on the book titles below to read more reviews by other

Thoughtful Readers:

Stealing Magnolias

  

Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard *****

by Debra Shriver

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“In this dreamy and seductive entrée into the magical city that is New Orleans, author Debra Shriver, a twelfth-generation Southerner, Francophile, passionate preservationist and jazz devotee creates a book that is part-love letter, part scrapbook, and gives readers a rare tour behind courtyard walls and private gates of this enigmatic city, which is often considered the Paris of America.”

“So whether it’s food, gardens, décor, decoration, architecture or design, this book engages the reader to experience every element of one of the world’s most romantic cities. Chapters highlight food and entertaining, decorating, gardens, landscapes, local traditions, interiors, and architecture. Readers will find themselves enthralled by exploring a unique and lavish compilation of original works by more than twenty photographers and artists who share her vision.”

What a delightful tour of the Crescent City through the pages of this book as well as a feast for the eyes & taste buds!

This book would make a perfect gift for the hostess-with-the-mostest, Francophile, or anyone who enjoys ‘lifestyle’ books. The sampling of culinary & cultural flavors to be experienced within these pages are sure to whet your appetite for a visit to New Orleans. It made me long to steal away for an extended weekend, since it’s been 15 years since we visited there.

With New Orleans evoking “a deep virtual sigh, that surrenders all weight of thought and behaviour”~ the chapter on Recipes & Rituals, tempted me to surrender my wallet, all reason, and hours of my time searching for sterling silver oyster forks, antique oyster plates, & vintage porcelain pots de crème cups :-) 

Entertaining with family heirlooms & the silver service is the norm, where these treasures are used in everyday ways, not just special occasions~ serving up crawfish in grandmother’s crystal finger bowl, or presenting deviled eggs on antique Limoges oyster plates.

 My Fitz & Floyd Classique D’Or (French in name only :)  set a foundation for a Mardi Gras-inspired table. . .

I’m still dreaming of pots de creme cups & oyster plates, as well as beautiful French-inspired ‘lapkins’~ a large napkin measuring 24 inches square that grace a seasoned host’s table. Typically monogrammed (the monogram serves as a metaphor below the Mason- Dixon line :) with initials that are embroidered on linens & embossed and on correspondence, in a similar fashion that the crown motif can be found stitched and  stamped throughout the city.

 I used two napkin rings, layering a gold fleur-de-lis ring on top of my banded Fitz & Floyd ring.

“Icons and symbols of New Orleans style are repeated, and none is more familiar than the ubiquitous fleur-de-lis. The French lily, which was initially embraced as a nod to the city’s royal European roots, is now a poignant, ever-present reminder of post-Katrina rebirth.”

Table Ingredients:

 Gold chargers – Hobby Lobby

  Fleur-de-lis Napkin Rings & Placemats –  Bed, Bath & Beyond

Flatware – Horchow, Goblets – Abigails

Feathered Masks – World Market

 

“As a Southerner, I know true hospitality when I see it, yet the Orleanais are the consummate convivial creatures. In a city known for forty food festivals a year, an exhaustive list of world-class restaurants and too many star chefs to count, Southern hospitality combines French table service, European flavors and Creole traditions. The result:  a population of charming, outgoing, epicureans.”

“Locals dine out so frequently that, in older establishments like Antoine’s and Galatoire’s, regular customers have both a house account and a personal waiter. In fact, New Orleans author Peter Feibleman wrote that  when he was a child, an uncle warned him, ‘You can’t let an unknown waiter serve you,’ explaining that it was ‘akin to eating on the floor.’ ”

“Drink in hand, the hosts will make proper introductions, followed by lively conversation, none of which will ask—or care—‘What do you do?’ The first question is always, ‘What do you drink?’ ”

 

 

“A friend calls New Orleans ‘Europe with heat.’ She means the lusty, leisurely, European lifestyle is recalibrated to an even slower, heat-driven and tropical pace. Searing temperatures are matched only by the more palpable spices of its cuisine— a hot peppery jambalaya, the African-inspired ingredients of a salty andouille gumbo, or a spicy, roux-soaked etoufee. Neighborhoods, accents and menus are an irresistible mix inspired by  France, Italy, a dose of Spain and the melding flavors of Africa, the Caribbean and the Deep South.”

“The old city is at once exotic and familiar, cool and hot, scrappy and elegant, friendly and even dangerous. Her contradictions draw you in, and then, one by one, dominate your senses. Sight, sound, scent and taste collide and conspire to captivate.”

With New Orleans a foodie’s paradise, there was plenty to tempt my palate between these pages for Food for Thought.

Pralines are named for the French Marechal du Plessis-Praslin, Duke of Choiseul- Praslin, whose recipe of sugar & pecans is now a classic New Orleans’ treat.

  Serve warm & fresh from the kitchen with a demitasse of chicory flavored coffee. You can also crumble them on top of vanilla ice cream for a quick & easy dessert.

 

I followed a quick & easy microwave recipe in the book, a similar recipe can be found here.

Another reason to fall in love with New Orleans~ Carbohydrates are never a sin :)

“Be prepared to plunge into an authentic cocktail hour. At every party, a full bar service, fully-bartended or self-serve, is always set up within easy reach of guest. Cocktails, having been created here, are such a part of New Orleans culture, that we know we’ll be served the real thing:  a Sazerac, an Old-Fashioned, a Sidecar or perhaps an orange-scented Ramos Gin Fizz. And, the French tradition of Champagne and Champagne aperitifs is alive an well.”

“New Orleans never strays far from its founding French fathers, no matter the meal or the month. Evenings in high-end restaurants often begin with the traditional Parisian prelude:  Champagne or a Champagne cocktail in tall, faceted French flutes sold throughout the city’s antique shops. It is said that the cocktail was invented here.”

Kumquats were a popular fruit with the early Creole people of New Orleans. I celebrated with a Creole Champagne Cocktail for Food for Thought.

Kumquats are seeded and mixed with Cointreau and sugar, heating the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Spoon one of the kumquat halves or several small pieces into the bottom of a Champagne flute with a little bit of the Cointreau. Top with your favorite chilled Champagne.

 

“Between these covers are the images that draw me, an outsider, back to the city time and time again. I am neither historian nor native daughter, yet I am bewitched. On these pages, I have compiled musings on the spell that New Orleans has cast upon me, the house my husband and I now call home, the foods we like to eat, the cocktails we often drink, the local music we listen to and play later to quell the homesickness when we are far away, the jazz clubs and dive haunts we return to, the footpaths of grand gardens and home we have visited, and the well-worn sidewalks of our neighborhood, the Vieux Carre.”

 

As a lagniappe, or something extra, Debra Shriver has offered a list of favorites including places to rest your head, shopping experiences, sensational sippers, best oyster dishes, and ending with a dozen reasons to return to New Orleans again & again.


Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

5 Ingredient Fix

5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes****.*

by Claire Robinson

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

Claire Robinson—host of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix—is here to help you get dinner on the table with minimal fuss and just a few great ingredients.”

“With everyone struggling to steamline and budget, Claire’s recipes make preparing delicious meals a snap. Showing you how to choose the right ingredients along with a little culinary know-how is her specialty. According to Claire, cooking doesn’t have to be complicated to be impressive:  Simplifying the process with fewer ingredients saves time, frustration, and, ultimately money.”

“From breakfast treats like Brioche French Toast with Strawberries and Cream, to fun starters like Mini Shrimp Cake Poppers, to comforting dinners like Buttermilk Pecan Chicken with Cheesy Penne, all of Claire’s recipes have no more than five ingredients. A quick trip to the supermarket and one bag of groceries later, and affordable, better-than-restaurant quality meals can be ready in minutes.”

 I loved the food styling & beautiful photos in this book and I found plenty of recipes to tempt my palate. . .

There are also simple to follow directions and suggestions for additional ingredients to toss in if you have them~ like a pinch of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, a sprinkling of sesame seeds. . .

 Since 5 is the magic number, I opted for 5 recipes to prepare, chosen with a conscious effort to eat a little healthier after the gluttony of the holidays. . .

That aside, I would be happy to indulge in a sugar fix with Millionaire’s Shortbread~ a crunchy rich shortbread with caramel & chocolate. . . Flourless Chocolate Lover’s Cake. . .Chocolate Pot de Creme with Cherry Whip. . .

Or  Carbo-Load with Polenta “Fries” with Roasted Tomato Sauce—chilled polenta cut into strips & fried in olive oil . . . Claire’s Carbonara. . .Rich Porcini Mushroom Risotto. . .and my personal kryptonite~ ANY type of potato~Walnut-Sage Potato Gratin—potatoes, cheese AND heavy cream. . .

*sigh*

  Toasted Fruity Israeli Couscous~ recipe available from Food Network

 Ready in 20 minutes and satisfying with the crunch from the pistaschios & sweetness of the apricots. I added some chicken & reheated the next day for a quick lunch.

 

“Each ingredient should truly stand out in a recipe, and with five or fewer ingredients, you’re really going to taste the food you’re cooking. My dishes are ones that are simple to shop for, easy to prepare, and fun to serve, and they promote healthy seasonal eating. By following my recipes you’ll wind up with lighter grocery bags, a heavier wallet, and uncluttered kitchen, and, most important, delicious meals to share with your family and friends.”

Fig & Blue Cheese Tart~

Frozen Puff Pastry, Carmelized Onions, Dried Figs, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Blue Cheese

Carmelized onions & figs are favorites at our house, plus blue cheese~

“After years of cooking, playing, experimenting, and learning, I’ve found that my magic number of ingredients is five or fewer.”

Grilled Romaine Spears with Citrus Vinaigrette~  Romaine, Orange, Shallot, Dijon Mustard, Lemon-infused Olive Oil

I cheated and used my panini press instead of grill pan for the Romaine~

“When your ingredients are good, there’s no need to mask and muddle the flavor with unnecessary add-ons. I always want to know what my food really tastes like.”

Mocha Meringue Bark, recipe available Food Network

My concession to a sweet treat for Valentine’s Day :-)

And a little sip (nip?) of Chocolate :-)

Espresso Martini~ Espresso, Vanilla Vodka, Dark Creme de Cocoa, Kahlua, garnished with whipped cream with some chocolate shavings

  Menu Ideas for Memorable Meals  are included in the back, with themes like ‘Skip the Sit-Down Cocktail Party’, ‘Casual Friday Night’, ‘The Lighter Side of the Holidays’, ‘Frosty Evening Gathering’  & ‘Bountiful Brunch’ to name a few~

Thanks for your visit, I’m joining:

 Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ this week’s letter is S~ for Simplifying, Streamlining & Serving Meals in a Snap

 Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday

StoneGable for On The Menu Monday~