Sunday, January 19, 2020

It's January! Let's purge!

Here it is, the month of January!  The wonderful decorations and tree of the holiday season  are put away and, all of a sudden, everything looks bare!
Every year, all the magazines and all the home decorating television shows concentrate on reorganizing, purging, getting rid of "stuff", making life simpler and, basically, "downsizing".
I, like many others, become all enthused and full of, "I am going to DO THIS!!!"
Then, the reality sets in.
(I just subscribed to the Hallmark Movies and Mystery channel so, there  is this show I really want to watch so I will start cleaning out that closet a bit later on.........)
I have been a fan of the  Marie Kondo book, method and even the Netflix program!  So,
one would think I have already streamlined all my belongings!  Right?
Wrong!  I just can't seem to talk to my clothes and discuss what "joy" they bring me.
(However, having said that.....I do properly fold my t-shirts so they sit up in the drawer.
My underwear is all "color" coded and coordinated.)
So!  I am not going to put myself through the 'Agony of Defeat' this year!
Instead, as I wash clothes I am going to put them away and check that drawer for what I may not
really need or perhaps what I have not worn for three or four years!
As I hang jeans, blouses, sweaters, whatever, in my closet, I will try the "turn around" method of
having the hanger turned around and, if you find next year that one hanger that is still facing inward,
lo and behold! you must now donate that item!
Seriously,  we all feel better when we are organized!
I will confess, when my purse is cleaned out and streamlined and my car does not have "storage" items in it, I feel a wonderful sense of freedom and "all is right with the world"!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Gracious Guests

What culture in this world does not promote graciousness?

The answer:  very, very few, if any.

Be careful what you admire!  In many countries, they will try to "gift" you that very item!

In most countries, when you accept an invitation to a private home, you take a gift to honor the
"graciousness" of them including you in their dinner.  This can be a gift of flowers, candy,
wine or, perhaps something your own country is known for.  This is received with great
honor, acknowledging your graciousness.

What has happened in the United States of America?

We are the "melting pot" of the world!!!  We have people from every country represented here!  Yet, how have these lovely customs been "forgotten"?
Or, "cast aside"?

I have been most fortunate.  Most of my friends and acquaintances are of the same mind and apparently also value this world-wide custom.

I, myself, always have a gift for any guest entering my home.  It may be a lovely, scented soap or
candle.  I just love doing this.....again, part of being gracious.  When my guests depart, they are given a "gift" from me,  representing my appreciation for their attendance.

I see the, mostly, young people of today......graciousness is just not a part of their lives.  They are
very "busy".  They do not countenance the ways of their elders.  ( in some respects, this is a good thing!....but in many, they are losing valued world-wide customs of all cultures)

This really sounds like I am criticizing the younger generation and, actually, I am not.  For, it is my generation who has failed!  We have failed to instill our beloved customs into the newer generations.
We have, perhaps, failed to take the time to re-inforce our customs.  We have head-strong youth and don't want to create waves so we remain silent or give in.

What a dis-service we are doing to the new generations!

It is truly time for all of us to step gracious, demand kindness to ALL, accept differences and learn from others about those differences.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table Cookbook

My dear chum gifted me with the Dorie Greenspan book, "Around my French Table" this
past holiday.
I am sure you are all familiar with Dorie:  a tiny, trim, energetic gal with a 1" haircut!
Since the BOB now has diabetes and has agreed to eat healthier with no snacking,  I thought this would be the perfect time to work my way through her book!
Many think French cooking is not healthy.....not always!  They have a wonderful way with meats,
natural juices, etc. and the vegetables are to die for!
So!  I am going to pull a "Julie & Julia"  this year!
I am going to go through Dorie's marvelous book and prepare the meals and document them
with you!
This will be great fun!  We can always learn something new, right!  And this will be a great

New Year's Eve Reflections

Since my husband was very sick with a cold this New Year's Eve, we did not join our dear
friends for any celebrations.

He went to bed early and I watched a bit of television and was amazed at the reports of the
crowds, actually millions!, who were gathering in Times Square to ring in the New Year.

I could not imagine standing in a line in the early hours of the morning to garner a place for
midnight that evening!  To be truthful, I find it a bit scary!

As I reflected on the past year, we had a few health issues but all manageable, I could not help
but count my many blessings and be so thankful for my Family.  We have such wonderful daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren!
They give us unimagineable joy and I just can't wait til we are with them!

Family traditions are so very important and become even more so as the years pass by.  My daughters hold traditions very dear and I see my grandchildren feeling the same.

For years and years, we all would gather at my Mother's for Christmas Eve.  We had such
wonderful times!  Over the years, it became apparent that it was getting too much for her
to put on the Christmas Eve celebration.  However, she would not give in and pass the
torch!  Finally, we used our moving to a new house to initiate Christmas Eve celebration
at our home. 

This past year my daughter did the honors and prepared the Seven Fishes Dinner for us.
Unfortunately, my husband was not able to attend since he had such a bad cold.  What
a celebration he missed!

My daughter and son-in-law outdid themselves!  The dinner was truly amazing!

We started with a Lobster Bisque, followed by Crab Stuffed Mushrooms (which were to die for!).
Then came a warmed greens salad with Ginger Shrimp.  King Crab Legs came next and they
were so very large we could not eat them all.  She still had Linguine with Clam Sauce and
Salmon but we had to stop as we all were so full.

It was such a delightful evening and everything was just perfect!

So much so that I am hoping they want to entertain next Christmas Eve and this is the start of a new family tradition and I will be the first one there!!

Zuccotto, an Unbelievable Dessert!

Many years ago, in our pastry shop and for catering, we made Zuccotto, a domed dessert from Florence that got its name from its resemblance to a zucca, the Italian word for pumpkin.

This was a dessert I first obtained from an early Martha Stewart Living magazine.
The article was December 14-15, Episode 414, Cooking: Chocolate Zuccotto with Susan.

This dessert was such a success that we decided to use the filling for our Buche de Noels!
This made them not only very special, but very unique, in that we were the only ones using
this filling!!

I am doing prep for a dinner tomorrow night for very dear friends we were not able to see prior
to and over the recent Christmas holiday. 
Many years ago I served them the Buche de Noel with this wonderful filling and the one friend
declared that it was the best thing he ever ate.
So, I decided to put it on the menu for our dinner.  However, no Buche de Noel but rather the
original Zuccotto - the domed dessert.

This is a "process" dessert.  I made the cake one day and let it rest.  That evening I made the
filling and let that also rest.  (I don't believe in rush, rush!.......foods need to rest and blend and
marry and let their flavors really come forth).

The next day I assembled and then let that rest in the fridge overnight.

So, on the third day!!!!  We are finally ready to present our dessert!

I am so hoping that our dear friend is just as pleased as he was many years ago with this wonderful

P.S.  The dinner was delightful and our guests enjoyed the dessert very much!!!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Mexican Vanilla, ambrosia!

Many, many years ago a dear friend had occasion to travel to Mexico.  She brought back Mexican
Vanilla.  (I was not familiar at the time and this was quite a treat).  She explained that she had to go
to a "liquor store" to purchase this vanilla.

It was divine!

I had my catering business at the time and when I would prepare a dessert, I would pause and think,
"is this worthy of the fabulous Mexican vanilla?"

I actually stretched that vanilla for quite some time!

Fast forward many, many years and another dear friend gave me a bottle of Mexican vanilla that he
was gifted.  Since he no longer baked much he thought of me and that I would enjoy it. Right he was!

I must say though, this vanilla seemed so very different.  The smell was not as luxurious as what I
remembered and the taste did not send me over the moon. 

Shortly after that, another very dear friend traveled to Mexico and brought me back a bottle of the
legendary vanilla.  I was so very thrilled and quizzed her on the purchase.  She did not have to go to
a "liquor store" for this vanilla.   Again, it was lovely but not the aromatic sublime essence I had
experienced initially.

So, I am in a quandary.    Has the Mexican vanilla changed over the years?  Why is it no longer sold only in liquor stores?  Have they succumbed to the version in the States?

Guess I will have to schedule a trip to Mexico to research vanilla and discover for myself what is
the current status of vanilla!


It has been absolute ages and ages since I made a quiche!

Remember back in the day when quiche was quite the trend?

Then it took a downward note with the "real men don't eat quiche" movement!

I always enjoyed quiche and have no reason whatsoever to have stopped making it,
other than I just was eliminated from my repertoire.

So, today, I thought I would make a Spinach Quiche for our Sunday night supper.

Since it had been so long since I had made one, I went onto the internet for some
"refresher" recipes.

I never realized the vast  array of recipes!  Some have heavy cream, others just
milk and many have no liquid at all, save the eggs!

I settled on one that reminded me of the ones I used to make.  This is the recipe I obtained from
the internet with a few changes, from Once Upon a Chef:

1,  9-inch pie crust (bake blind til golden), I used a deep dish French tin with removeable bottom
1 T. butter, unsalted (I always end up adding a bit more butter!!)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
5 large eggs
1 +1/2-2 cup heavy cream
3/4 t. kosher salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1+ 1/2 - 2 cups grated Swiss Cheese, or Gruyere
2-10 oz. frozen chopped Spinach, defrosted and drained of all water

Preheat oven to 400*.  Prick pie crust and bake 10 to 15 minutes til golden.  Turn oven down to 350*.
Heat butter in skillet over medium heat and cook onions til soft, about 5 minutes.  Do not brown.  Set aside.
In medium bowl whisk eggs, heavy cream, salt and cayenne pepper.

Put onions in bottom of cooked pie crust.  Sprinkle the shredded Swiss (or Gruyere) over top.  Scatter
the spinach evenly over cheese. 

Pour the egg and cream mixture over the top of the spinach to distribute evenly.

Bake at 350* for 45 minutes, til custard is set and top is golden.  I take a dinner knife and insert
about one inch from center.  If it comes out clean, pull the quiche, it is done!  If there is custard
on the knife, let it bake a bit more.

This is a great-tasting quiche and, with a lovely salad, a delightful light meal!