28 February 2012

Minestrone Soup with Tortellini

There is nothing better than soup for supper! With fresh bread alongside, it just can't be beat for the end of a busy day. And the kicker is ... when you make a big pot of soup, you can have leftovers for lunch for the next couple days ... mmm! Am I right? Huh? Huh?

26 February 2012

Tapas - Sunday Lunch

A Sunday luncheon party with friends makes for fun nibbling. Making a few tapas platters is the perfect way to let those who are hungry knosh and those who are dieting nibble. Enough said. There's a bit of the decadent and a bit of the conservative here - roasted potatoes with shallots, garlic, rosemary and alioli for dipping, salmon in a roasted red pepper sauce, a cool chicken salad with raisins and pignoli, a platter of black olives and Manchego served with a flatbread bedecked with artichokes, onions, pimientos, and bits of black olive, Spanish Rioja and beers ... and that Coconut Lane Cake for dessert with tea or coffee.

25 February 2012

Snap Shot Saturday - Up North

Silent Bob and I took a jaunt this past week Up North ... we drove up through the northern section of New Hampshire ... an area known as The Great North Woods. Towns like Dixville Notch, Colebrook, Stewartstown, Wentworth Location ... all of them isolated and quiet, dot the region. This shot was taken from the rest area along Rt 91 just before coming into New Hampshire from Vermont. The shot looks east toward the Franconia Range of the White Mountains ... Mounts Lafayette, Lincoln, and Liberty are the likely suspects  ... the clouds are spectacular ... yes?

Normally, there is a bustle of outdoor sportsmen at this time of year ... skiers, snowmobile enthusiasts, and winter hikers. This winter has been a bleak one for the North Woods folk, though. There has been very little snow and record warm temperatures.  Hence, the tourists are few and far between ... we had no trouble getting tables in the local diners, finding parking spots at the local sporting goods store or driving into the gas queue at the local pit stop. My heart goes out to the locals, as the economy is slow and it's showing around the towns.

So why, Snapshot Saturday? I found this neat photo share on Debbie's blog , The Friday Friends. Debbie is taking a photography course right now (lucky girl!). She has another blogging friend who hosts a Saturday photo share ... and I thought it would be fun to participate. I DO love taking snapshots!  What about you?

So check out everyone's Saturday Snapshot posts at Alyce's blog at home with books  !

24 February 2012

50 Woman Game-Changers - Edna Lewis

"Edna Lewis" - oil painting by Elayna Shakur

There is nothing like a beautiful cake and Edna Lewis's Famous Coconut Lane Cake is just that! This cake attests to the rich tradition of Southern cooking and Ms. Lewis's place in preserving it.

This is a cake that is rich with eggs, butter and sugar, coconut, pecans, and chopped raisins - three layers of confection worthy of gracing a table at a garden party with big jugs of iced tea served on the side. I made it to share with friends at a small weekend dinner party. Folks will certainly be 'wowed', don't you think?

23 February 2012

A New Look ...

After you've done a thing the same way for two years, look it over carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion. And after ten years, throw it away and start all over. ~Alfred Edward Perlman, New York Times, 3 July 1958

Perhaps it's 'cabin fever'. Perhaps it's the change of the season coming on. Perhaps it's internal restlessness. Perhaps it's just that I got sick of the color brown ... this winter has been inordinately brown. Between looking out the kitchen windows and looking at The Spice Garden's format, I've had my fill ... and so I have spent the afternoon playing with a new and streamlined look for The Spice Garden.

Right now, I'm feeling like one does when one gets a radically new haircut. My head feels lighter. My heart is a bit fluttery when I 'view the blog'. I'm not sure I like it, but feel like it needs time to settle. Like all things new and changed, it feels strange, but change is good and the process of change pulls up the roots, shakes off the dirt, and leaves room for new things to grow ... and that's what this little garden is all about.

I hope you can cope. I'm trying. Springtime's coming on and new things are growing. I'm holding on to that and waiting for crocus!

19 February 2012

Irish Coffee Blondies

Oh, how I wish I could take credit for this recipe ... but I can't. I can only take credit for changing up the sweet drizzle atop this 'killer blondie recipe' and changing up the coffee factor in the batter. Martha Stewart Living magazine gets the rest of the credit here. The March issue came in the mail earlier in the week and I zeroed right on on these babies!

17 February 2012

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

And now, for a little something different ... for me, that is. Quinoa.

16 February 2012

50 Woman Game-Changers - Delia Smith

I had never heard of Delia Smith until reading Gourmet Live's article on 50 Woman Game-Changers. It  just goes to show that we tend to pay attention to the media and TV shows on our particular continents and that cross-over is a rare and wonderful thing. Now, if Delia had a role in one of the BBC Masterpiece Theatre productions or in one of the Brit comedies or dramas that are becoming increasingly popular state-side, I might have had a chance.  Instead, she's big on cooking shows, in cookbook publishing, and in football (go figure!) - things that don't often make the cut on our US television cable systems. The Internet, however, is alive with information about her! I have added her official website to my list of  'favorites', so that I can get to know her recipes (boy, there are a lot of them!). I've been reading archives of her posts and making links to media articles written about her. She seems to be the Betty Crocker of modern day British society.

14 February 2012

Diane's Easy Microwave Fudge

Fudge is definitely NOT on my current diet, but it's Valentine's Day and my sweetheart loves a sweet treat. This is an easy and fast fudge to make ... not the traditional, but it sure does taste terrific. I am adding walnuts and dried cherries to my version because I was inspired by Mary Bergfeld's post the other day on One Perfect Bite. Cherries and nuts are two of our favorite snacks around here; add the fudge factor and I see no way that this fudge can go wrong! I'm even going to put the pieces in a sweet little package for my guy ...

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you find some treats or cards somewhere in your day!

12 February 2012

Ella Brennan Inspired ...

Sometimes you just have to go to a place where the food and the atmosphere pull you in, wrap around you, and make you settle back in total comfort - a place of happy people, happy food, and happy music.  Ella Brennan has played her game on that premise for many, many years! She has been a signature presence in the restaurant business for most of her life, starting young in her brother's New Orleans restaurant as a kitchen grunt and working her way up to menu development and front house management. When his restaurant ran into financial trouble, she took over and as they say, ''the rest is history". She has spent her years creating just the kinds of places of which I speak!
                                                                                                               photo by Steven Forster of the Times-Picayune

Okay, so that's the back story ... let's come forward. She is considered the grande dame of New Orleans haute creole/cajun, has worked with the likes of Prudhomme and Lagasse, has a chain of successful restaurants that the family runs, has stepped back because of age and family factors but still keeps a presence in the New Orleans Restaurant, Commander's Palace. Her awards are many, but when all is said and done, she is really just an excellent hostess with impeccable taste in food and style ... and a great business sense! What a lady!

10 February 2012

Mussels Stuffed with Union Square Café's Recipe

Heard my hard luck story on mussels? I had grand plans to post Melissa Hamilton's recipe for broiled mussels last Thursday, had all the ingredients except the freshest of mussels. Went to get them at the market and horrors! there were none to be had ... well, THAT post went by the boards! Yesterday, I was researching other shellfish recipes and found this delectable stuffing for littleneck clams, but I thought ... my! that would be terrific over the top of  mussels! Off to the market again and score! The freshest of mussels, a bit of white wine, orange zest and juice, vegetables and just a dusting of bread crumbs. Voila! A platter of mussels, a salad, and white wine for dinner!

09 February 2012

Chicken and Red Lentil Soup

Soup and crackers ... one of the simplest and most wonderful of comfort foods.

I am trying to be positive about my life right now, but boy, when changes come along that you really don't want to acknowledge, it's time for comfort food and a whack up side of the head. Well, I got my whack the other evening when I had the epiphany that I REALLY need to lose weight  ... for my health, for my comfort, for my self-image, for my husband and kids, for posterity, for every good reason in the world. Won't go into the gory details, but let's just say that I decided to finally do something about my situation.

So ... to keep myself honest, I'm divulging my big step. I joined Weight Watchers.

08 February 2012

The Most Beautiful Walk In the World

I walked the dog today ... it was grey and chilly and the trees were groaning and clacking together in the breeze and spooking Mimi as we made our way down our dirt road, across the state highway, up over the hill and into the village. Two big Newfoundlands bellowed at us, as they lumbered around in their yard. They made Mimi jump and jolted me out of my daydream about this book that I've been reading.

07 February 2012

Building a Better Pizza ...

 ... vegetables and lean meat under some cheese

I love thick snowy white crusted pizzas that are loaded with cheese and sausage and peppers and mushrooms, but ... my backside and midriff don't so much. Sooo ... I'm making a pizza with a higher fiber crust, some very lean chicken, broccoli florets, red pepper slices, a bit of onion slivers, a more reserved amount of part-skim mozzarella ... and some herbs and garlic.  I'm also cutting way back on the amount of olive oil that gets slathered, the dollops of basil pesto that would get dropped, and the salty black olive bits. I'll def miss those salty bits and all that herb-y slather, but ... this will still be a great pizza!

04 February 2012

Two Words ...

... pineapple Pisa ...

03 February 2012

Sicilian Tomato Sauce ... A Basic

Horrors! There were no fresh mussels at the market today, so I am faced with delaying my end of the week 50 Woman Game-Changers post ... there were some nice vine-ripened tomatoes, though. So ... I am making a couple tomato-based dishes in the next few days. A young friend has asked for a good Italian 'gravy' recipe. I guess I might just as well use this time to post for him, Jeff Smith's Fresh Tomato Sauce - Sicilian Style!

02 February 2012

Venison Sloppy Joes

If you went to public school, you KNOW the Sloppy Joe shuffle. My elementary school had Sloppy Joes on Mondays ... surely a way to use up any burger that had languished in the fridges over the weekend and the burger buns from Friday's hamburger and hotdog lunch ... it was also such an easy recipe that it got the lunch ladies back into their work week with minimal effort.  The Sloppy Joe lunch always had carrot and celery sticks alongside and some sort of canned fruit in those sad-looking plastic dishes behind the glass shelf shields. A carton of milk, napkin, straw, and there you have it ... public school lunch fare!