31 December 2013

New Year's Festive Apricot Streusel Crumble Cake

An early morning baking session yielded a softly sweet streusel-strewn coffee cake that was perfect for snacking with mid-morning (that would be SB) tea. Later in the day, it became a cozy dessert with a pot of hot tea.

Tomten's Christmas Adventures - Part Two

It was quiet in the kitchen at the grey cottage. Tomten felt a little lonely being away from his friends Gnome and Joseph. The only thing catching his eye this early in the morning was the flicker of the flames in the woodstove. Master had come early to start the fire, as the winter cold had crept into the cottage over night, making everything cold and stiff. He turned the lights on and quietly made his morning cereal, then he went to tend the other fire in the living room ... brr, it was chilly!

Why, even the kitty walked stiff-legged toward the fire ! Opey sat close to the stove door, whisking her tail back and forth and turning this way and that to the warmth. After a bit of preening, she hopped into the rocking chair and settled down for a morning snooze.

Tomten felt happy to sit in his special spot and watch Opey snooze. It gave him a happy feeling to have his Animals come to keep him company and he knew that once Opey came to the kitchen, the Lady of the House could not be far behind!

29 December 2013

Classic Lamb Tagine

After all the rich meals and constant onslaught of sweets, it seemed fitting to simplify our first post-Christmas dinner by doing an easy tagine simmer of  lean lamb, ginger, garlic, saffron, cinnamon and fruits with chopped onions. The new tagine got put to good use and two hours later, a drizzle of honey gave the juices a soft sweetness.

Over plain couscous, this was a nice change from all the traditional Christmas knosh ... we added a salad on the side for a cool crisp break from the warm saucy tagine. 

28 December 2013

New Years Eve

What are you doing New Years Eve?

Since the adolescent years, that question has cropped up every year in the time between Christmas and New Years Eve ... and it's always been a loaded question. When I was a teen, I dreaded New Years Eve. If one didn't have a special person to share the New Years kiss with, one was pitiful. During the college years, New Years Eve was a time of complete alcoholic excess and loud ranting bedlam. During the young family years, it was a time of packing up the kids and travelling to family parties. Now, in retirement we finally have a real choice, but still there's always the question. What are you doing New Years Eve?

Do I admit that the last thing I want to do is get all dressed up and go lollygagging around someone's fancied up house drinking too much champagne and chatting it up over music that's too loud? Do I lie and say I have special plans when asked ? The truth is I don't have special plans and I don't plan to get dressed up. I don't want to get bundled and walk around outside in the cold at some 'First Night' celebration. I don't want to make a huge meal and eat at ten o'clock at night, dallying at the table for a midnight toast. I don't want to walk the neighborhood in a progressive Open House that ends with fireworks shot off the neighbor's deck and champagne toasts echoing down over the back yard. I don't want to have a huge family get-together with way too much food and drink and a massive midnight clean-up. I don't want to remain glued to a television special or movie fest. I don't want anything contrived  or falsely jolly. 

Nope. I just want a quiet evening with my favorite person in the world. That's all. This year, I want to stand outside in the quiet of the early evening with my arm around SB. I plan to look up at the stars and enjoy a quiet moment. Then, I plan to come inside, make a pot of black tea, warm plates of Chinese pork dumplings, chicken wings, spicy wontons, and fried rice, set out some cool Asian pickle and enjoy dinner. As midnight draws near, I plan to uncork a nice bottle of chilled Prosecco and sip away while playing backgammon. And at midnight, I plan to be fast asleep ... bringing in the new year peacefully.

So ... what are YOU doing New Years Eve? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy yourself just the way you like. I hope you enter the New Year full of peace and in the New Year I hope you have enough of everything that makes you comfortable and happy. 

Video Credit:  You Tube - What Are You Doing New Years Eve - Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

26 December 2013

Merry Christmas Mango Ginger Scones

Christmas morning ... Bloody Mary cocktails, vegetable strata , mango and ginger scones and cold clementines ... steaming hot coffee, homemade gingerbread cookies and chocolates, and Christmas stockings ... Ottolenghi signed 'To Susan - Yotam and Sami" ... Nigel Slater's Notes From the Larder and a new tagine ... international vanilla extracts and tea lotus blossoms ... bags of beans, rice, sea salt ... a very foodie Christmas all around!

19 December 2013

IHCC Pot Luck - Giada's Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce

Think juicy chicken thighs, a mountain of fresh mushrooms, ribbons of slivered onions, and that sauce. Holy smokes good ... that's what it was. This week, I took advantage of the I Heart Cooking Club's potluck challenge to go back into Giada De Laurentiis's archives and find this recipe. Giada suggests making this dish with chunks of white meat chicken breast, and of course, she would. The dish is a bit more sophisticated looking with boneless chicken breast, but I just pulled the skin off bone in chicken thighs and savored the darker, richer meat.  Giada also tells us to have this saucy dish over fettucine, but I opted for steamed rice instead ...

16 December 2013

Random Recipes and Baked Ziti Straight From the Jumbled Pantry ....

Sometimes one has to dig deep, snuffle around, shift things here and there to come up with all the necessary pieces of the puzzle called 'supper' .... welcome to my pantry cupboard. Well one of them, that is.

15 December 2013

Fruit Mince Tarts ... IHCC

A quiet Sunday morning with church services cancelled due to blustery snow and icy roads ... frost at the windows ... the Christmas tree all lit up ... and tins and plates to be filled for neighbors, near and far! This snowy Sunday has been a cozy Godsend, as these little tarts have been the result! Perhaps this afternoon I'll make the apricot jam thumbprints, chocolate rum balls, and Russian teacakes that are always a traditional favorite!

09 December 2013

Tomten's Christmas Adventures Part One ...

For much of the year, Tomten spent his time perched on the edge of a high shelf in the corner of his Lady's kitchen. He watched her come and go with the dogs and the cats, arrange lovely flowers into pretty little nosegays, and bake cookies that she put in the cookie jar that kept him company.  All the while, he kibbitzed with the other gentlemen who occupied his shelf.

07 December 2013

IHCC's 'Under Thirty Minutes' ... Linguine and Shrimp

With greens and flavours like these, this is bound to be a good plate of pasta! Add some shrimp and olive oil to make a zesty sauce and boil the pasta. Dinner's ready in less than thirty minutes!

06 December 2013

Butter for Breakfast with No Apologies !

I recently gifted myself this book about apples. Now, I suppose there are a kazillion books about apples out there in Biblioland, but this one struck me as really interesting, as most of the orchards and the places that the author writes about are within spitting distance of our little grey cottage. Amy Traverso writes a book ABOUT apples and then hits us with recipes that have apples, cider, cider vinegar, dried apples, apple juice as main ingredients or as complements to other mains. It's an awesome book with a lot of interesting tidbits about heritage apples, apple genetics and cultivation, stories about regional orchardists and the apples they grow, interviews with horticulturists, brewers, bakers, and backyard hobbyists. It was such a fun read for me that I passed it over to SB. He enjoyed it also ... which says something because SB doesn't usually give a hoot about cookbooks. Well, after SB had his way with the book, I grabbed it back and took second and third looks through it. The book rested on the floor by the bedside table for a few days, which is probably a bad place for a cookbook to be - visions of sugarplums and all that. However, it may explain the overwhelming urge this morning for these sticky apple biscuit buns...

05 December 2013

Braised Sirloin Tips and Mushrooms ... A Pub Food Rant!

I recently found a heavy cast iron Dutch oven on Ebay that called my name ... it was well-used and came to me for a song ... what care do I have that it has dings and a bottom that is stained and a bit pitted ... I plan to add to the 'patina'! The key for me was having a heavy pot that would take the shift from stove top to oven and go right to the table. The key was also having a pot much like a La Creuset, but without the sticker shock. Digging around on the Ebay auctions brought me to this Danish Copco cast iron beauty. I can put a whole chicken or big pot roast and all the fixings in this baby and let things simmer away to a soft 'fall off the bone' finish or make a huge soup or stew. Once this pan gets hot, it radiates warmth for a good long time!

Today, the house is chilly and I have decided to bake and use this Dutch oven to make some classic pub food ...

04 December 2013

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup - A Healthy Virtual Supper Club Holiday Meal

This month, we'll all be eating rich foods and sharing a glass or two of bubbly with friends and family. Some of us will be eating more rich food and drinking more bubbly than usual, so in the off times, it's pretty important to knosh on some lower calorie and super healthy dishes. Picking and choosing light and nutritional dishes can offset some of the over indulgence that comes with the holiday party season and family feasts.

Hence, the Cooking Light Virtual Supper Club menu for December reflects several good choices for lighter fare. Take this soup for instance - 244 calories for a 1½ cup serving. Pair it with a salad and you have a nice lunch or light supper. Put it on a holiday dinner menu and it lightens the calorie load quite a bit. Plus, it's healthy and pretty much dairy free ... and phew, the colors!

02 December 2013

Taming the Leftovers ... Gingerbread and Cranberry Bites

I have been such a slouch of late, as far as The Spice Garden is concerned! I apologize to those of you who drop in regularly. It's not that I've been a complete couch potato. I haven't. I've been extremely distracted with prepping the house for Thanksgiving visitors, working with the little ones in my little church's Sunday school on Advent activities, sewing and prepping a Christmas box for German friends that must be sent very soon, reading some awesome books, visiting some family and friends, and baking for my church's fellowship hour and for that cookie jar/cookies post for the Typhoon relief bake sale. It seems that my energy just ran out when it came to writing and photographing for a Spice Garden post!

25 November 2013

White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cherries and Macadamia Nuts - Make A Bid!

I collect cookie jars and I bake cookies. There is usually a new batch made every weekend. It's one of the routines in my little grey cottage here in New Hampshire. As the seasons change, the cookie jars rotate their way from the collection shelf to the kitchen island and I fall in love all over again with my kitschy treasures.  I love each and every one that I've found over the years, but I am willing to hand one off to a friend or loved one, when it's just the right time.  And today ... November 25th is the right day. 

But first, a few words about this week's batch of cookies!

23 November 2013

Roasted Cauliflower, Sage, and Almond Risotto - IHCC

Do you ever fold the corner down on a page when you just have to remember where you left off ? I try really hard not to, but I'll admit that sometimes I will dog-ear a page ...

19 November 2013

On-Line Bake Sale for Typhoon Haiyan Relief Aid

Hi everyone! One of the best things about blogging is the ability to reach out to so many people on-line.
After this latest horrific cataclysm in Southeast Asia, I hoped that someone with tech savvy would organize a food blogger's response project ... and I was rewarded this AM when I looked in my email box to find a message from Tina Flores-De Guzman. Tina writes a blog down Texas way and concentrates on the foods of her Filipino heritage. She has been inspired to recruit as many bloggers as she can to bake for an on-line bake sale with all funds going to Sagip Kapamilya.

I am happy to help in any way, so I'm passing this information on to you. I'm hoping you'll consider doing your part by sharing this post, perhaps joining the bake sale bakers by registering at Tina's blog and preparing your best baked good that ships well, or going to the bake sale on November 25th and bidding on your favorite item!

Read Tina's post! It introduces the particulars of the bake sale and how you can register to participate. It's right here ... click the link ... Pinay in Texas

The power of the web network is an awesome thing and our use of it for projects like this makes it all the more powerful! Please share Tina's badge on your FB page and consider doing a promotional post on your blog too! OH ... and join us to help send aid to our neighbors in the Philippines!


11 November 2013

Donna Hay's Pizza Pie - IHCC

 This week, the members of the I Heart Cooking Club are exploring Donna Hay's take on pies and tarts ... and since I've been making a lot of traditional pies of late, I thought I'd stretch the idea of pies a bit .... and go for a pizza pie with a combination of luxe toppers. I used Donna's dough recipe, which is not my traditional whole wheat and wheat germ enriched version, but a simple white crust.

10 November 2013

Soup and Bread --- Simple Sustenance

Today was a day for baking bread. There were off and on snow squalls ... didn't amount to anything other than making us feel like we brushed up against the edge of winter. The woodstove in the kitchen has kept the place cozy enough to coax the bread dough up up up to the top of the loaf pans. And while the bread baked, I puttered at a small painting project.

I also wanted to try out a recipe for a creamy coconut carrot soup that I'm thinking would make a nice start to our Thanksgiving feast.  This month's Bon Appetit magazine has what looks to be a winning take on carrot soup so I've made it up and am simmering it, as we speak.

07 November 2013

I Heart Cooking Club - Donna Hay In Season

This week, the I Heart Cooking Club is concentrating on ingredients that are 'in season' where ever we are in the world. Well, here in New England the potato crop is mounded up in cool storage for the winter. It's getting colder by the day and we are settling in for warm 'stick to your ribs' suppers. Potatoes will be getting full treatment in the weeks and months ahead.

               Last night, sweet potatoes got the royal treatment in a beautiful Italian supper.

One classic dish that makes its way into my kitchen at this time of year is risotto. With little cubes of sweet potato and some jazzy bits of pancetta and crispy sage leaves, Donna Hay has tempted me to make her version of this Italian classic. It fits beautifully with this week's theme, as my pantry drawer is filled with both sweet and white potatoes and I have a sage bush out the back door that must have its branches snipped before the hard frosts finally 'do it in' for the season.

06 November 2013

Virtual Supper Club's - Under 300 Calories Challenge

The holidays are, indeed, coming and all around the food blog world folks are pulling together the recipes that they want to highlight for holiday dinners, party buffets, and easy meals. This month's Virtual Supper Club members are trying to help busy cooks keep a grip on holiday dinner preparations, while not overextending the caloric load TOO much. The challenge was to form a menu with dishes that are below 300 calories per serving.

04 November 2013

Golden Onion Pie ... and a Story

This is a seriously yummy onion pie. It's not a quiche. It's a pie stuffed with the sweetest onions I could find ... those huge white onions that caramelize in the blink of an eye because of their super sugar content. Yes, there are a couple eggs in this pie, but there's also flour mixed with those eggs and that's very un-quiche-like. No, this is a pie reminiscent of some farm wife's bounty of onions and her wish to make an easy supper that  surprises her husband and satisfies her kids.

03 November 2013

Pumpkin Pie Spice Bread with Pecan and Brown Sugar Streusel - Twelve Loaves Share

Last year, I always looked forward to posting bread recipes to Heather's monthly BYOB - Bake Your Own Bread recipe share. It was such an awesome place to visit when you wanted to find good breads all in one spot, but then things changed. Heather handed the baton of BYOB to someone new and I lost contact with the bread baking ladies ... sigh.

The other day, however, I happened onto Heather's blog, Girlichef and found another of her stellar bread posts. Lo and behold! She was sharing the post with a recipe share called Twelve Loaves! Hurray! So, I have found another group of bread baking enthusiasts! Sharing and inspiration up ahead! I'm soo happy to have found this group!

31 October 2013

Almost Instant Gratification ... Pork Saltimbocca

For all the meat eaters in the crowd, I have THE simplest and most delicious dish ... pork saltimbocca  ... total minimalist fashion. Easy, easy, easy! Crack a bottle of nice red ... something from Montepulciano D'Abruzzo is nice. Make a nice plate of fresh greens and add slivers of purple onion, beautiful black olives, grated Asiago cheese, and a handful of nice herbed croutons. Fix this saltimbocca and enjoy ...

30 October 2013

Making Macaroon Sandwiches - IHCC

This week, it's all about the sandwiches here at the I Heart Cooking Club! Sandwiches, you say? Okay !

How about these little coconut sandwich cookies that make me sing that old chocolate bar advertisement jingle ... "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't ! Almond Joys have nuts, Mounds don't ... because sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't!"

28 October 2013

Turkey Sausage Chili and Herbed Cheese Bread

Getting outside early the other morning, I found the most beautiful frosty leaves on our lawn and in our gardens. The air was so crisp and as Sprout Sara and I drove off for our weekend foodie adventure, the mists were rising off the area lakes and ponds. If I hadn't been on a strict timetable to get us to Newmarket on time, I'd have stopped in several locations to try to capture the beauty with my camera, but alas, we drove on and just marveled at the sights - wispy streams of steamy fog rising off the water and the sunshine coming through the bright golds and deep browns of the beech and oak trees ...

27 October 2013

Cooking Adventure - Hearthside Cooking with Sandra Tarbox

Nestled to the side of a lovely new house on a small dead end road in southwestern Newmarket, New Hampshire is a large colonial kitchen with a beautiful open hearth and accompanying side beehive bake oven. The woman who shares this kitchen is a font of knowledge when it comes to the ways of colonial housewives. Her name is Sandra Tarbox and she is , not only a hearthside cooking instructor, but also an historical interpreter for area historical museums and restored residences maintained by local historical societies.

25 October 2013

New Cookbook - New Cake ! Random Recipe !

Well, it's official. My collection of cookbooks is out of control. I have become a cookbook junkie and everyone in my life knows about it. To boot, they're aiding and abetting my obsession! This past week a new friend popped through the back door with gifts for SB and I ... he got a map cover for his biking maps and I got Mollie Katzen's cookbook called Still Life With Menu Cookbook. The look of this book is so interesting; Mollie's original painted illustrations highlight each short collection of recipes that are themed to make an entire vegetarian meal from appetizer or soup to dessert. I like that. I often wish that every cookbook recipe would have a brief snippet about what other dishes go well with the recipe or how the recipe might be incorporated into a larger meal.

At any rate, I have already turned each page of this newest addition to the cookbook shelf and have slipped little markers into a few pages for dishes and desserts that will make it onto our dinner table or onto the party buffet table come holiday time.

23 October 2013

Moroccan Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes and Honey-Saffron Jam

The other evening, I walked into the kitchen with no idea of what I might make for dinner. There was a package of thawed skinless/boneless chicken thighs and a can of tomatoes on the counter. And there was a copy of Diana Henry's cook book called Crazy Water/Pickled Lemons on the cook island. What transpired over a glass of wine and some poking through the book turned to magic when I finally stirred myself to rattle the pots and pans.

20 October 2013

Willow Manor Ball 2013 .... A Frolic in the Woods

Each year at this time, Tess Kinkaid hosts her annual ball at Willow Manor. It's an evening of fun, frolic, and fantasy that all are welcome to enjoy. Being a make-believe sorceress held prisoner in a middle-aged frumpy body, I always take great pleasure in transforming myself for the evening. Join me on my magical fantasy tour for just a bit ... right click the music links and you can listen to the songs as you make your way to Willow Manor. It's just a ways through the woods ... just out this way ...

18 October 2013

Cranberry and Beer Braised Brisket

Here is a beef brisket that has been braised to the point of falling apart into a smooth candied pile of sweet onions ... melt in your mouth delicious with crusty crunchy bread slices, or mounds of whipped potatoes, or a soft and smoky polenta. However you prefer, it makes enough for three hearty eaters of two with a plan for lunch leftovers.

14 October 2013

Clean Plate Special - Beef and Mushroom Pies !

Pub food is the best! In my mind, it's easy to fix, can be put together fast and slapped down on the table in the time it takes to draw a pint and let the 'head' settle a bit.

13 October 2013

Pound Cake - A True Baking Basic

Look in any baker's pantry and you will find the basics - flour, sugar, leavening agents, salt, milk, eggs, and butter ... anything else is incidental and serves to jazz up the basic baked goods that are main elements for family eating - breads, biscuits, muffins, cakes. These are the baked goods that most of us started out making when we stood on a chair next  to our mothers or grannies and watched and learned and licked the spoons.

We learned that a basic cake recipe could be made special by adding just a few flavours ... cinnamon and spices one time to make a spice cake, apples and raisins the next time to make a fruit laden coffee cake, citrus juice and fruit zest to make a light tangy teacake ... but always there was a basic recipe to start from.

11 October 2013

IHCC - Fast Pantry Supper

Disclaimer: This is not my pantry. My pantry is better stocked ...

09 October 2013

Virtual Supper Club - Arroz con Dulce and a Cool Havana Loco Cocktail

This is the prettiest dish of rice that I have ever seen. It is a dessert dish meant for a Cuban feast that the members of  The Virtual Supper Club are sharing this month. When I first came across the recipe, I was a bit turned off, as I have never cared for the conventional rice pudding served by my grandmother and mother. But life's for experimenting, so I set aside my prejudice and made this jazzed up version ... and I'm very glad I did !!

04 October 2013

Butternut Squash Muffins with Pecans

Cooking with leftovers today! These muffins are positively luscious ... sweet and moist and perfect with ice cold milk ... I played with Nigella's maple and pecan muffin recipe that comes from her Feast cookbook. The resulting muffins could pass as cupcakes if you iced them, but we're just dusting them with confectioner's sugar and having them with some butter slathered on.

02 October 2013

IHCC - Hello There, Donna Hay!

This week, the I Heart Cooking Club welcomes a new chef to the rolls! Hello there, Donna Hay! 
But first ...

This is a chai-spiced cheesecake. It will be served with a warm sauce of cooked apple bits, apple cider and allspice.  I got the apples when we went to Norway Hill Orchards in Hancock, New Hampshire this morning ... the trees were loaded and the picking was so easy. We picked Cortlands ... and knoshed a couple Macouns that were 'drops' from a neighboring row of trees.

29 September 2013

Channeling Nonna ... Ranting On Kitchen Creativity


So .... the dishes and background suck given the food colors ... get over it. Our grandparents had to! That's exactly what I said to myself, as I shot this gorgeous plate of food ... and the food is what it's all about ... right?

This post involves small chapters (or free association interludes) that unfold to the food on that plate...

28 September 2013

IHCC - Soba Noodles With Eggplant and Mango

Golly! I love noodles! I plan to wax eloquent on this dish, but first...

27 September 2013

Fruited Pork Loin Roll - Easy Entertaining

This is a simple and very tasty meat dish that I always have a hankering for when the autumn season rolls around ... it must be the colors of this dish - golds and browns plus the greens and oranges of accompanying fall vegetables. They have cued my brain to make this for dinner. Do you have certain dishes that you positively must make once the air crisps up and the trees start to turn? Or the first snow flies? Or the snowbanks melt and the breezes soften and springs seems eminent? Or summer's sun is blazing and the humidity is climbing? Seasonal favorites ... you gotta go with the urge because it's then that that certain dish tastes the best! Really! I truly believe this to be true!

25 September 2013

Puddings, Cakes, and Bakes ... A Random Recipe

This month's random recipe brings us to the back of the book, so to speak ... the sweets and baked goods that end a good meal or give us a little bit of sweetness alongside tea or coffee. So here we go ...

22 September 2013

Tessa Kiros and Pumpkin Crostone - IHCC

Each time, the potluck has come up, I've tried to choose a different chef to highlight and this month is no different. I have never cooked any of Tessa Kiros' recipes, so this weekend, I'm trying her recipe for Pumpkin Crostone from her cookbook called Limoncello and Linenwater.