Sunday, November 6, 2016

Autumn in the Neighborhood

"Come said the wind
to the leaves one day,
come o'er the meadows
and we will play.
Put on your dresses of
scarlet and gold,
for summer is gone and the days grow cold."
A Child's Song from the 1880s

Fall color seemed to be long in coming here.  When it finally arrived, there was an explosion of color that lasted for an all too short time.  Of course, I suppose that is what makes it so special

Taken from our hallway looking out of the front door.  This was five days ago.  Today, almost all of those leaves are on the ground.

A neighborhood beauty.  I love the way it seems to be sheltering the small evergreens beneath it's branches.

Happy Fall! 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Candied Citrus Peel

This is the time of year that I start saving orange and grapefruit peels to candy.  It goes into cookies and cakes.  There's always a tin filled to enjoy with tea.  Tied up in cellophane bags, it is perfect for small gifts to friends and some family members.  My boys would rather find a bag of coals in their stockings than candied fruit peel!!  I guess I didn't introduce them to the treat soon enough.

In case you are an aficionado, here's my tried and true recipe.

Candied Citrus Peel

3 large navel oranges, well scrubbed
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Carefully remove the peel from the oranges.  This is easier if you cut through the peel in four sections.

Cut the four sections of peel into eight sections and, with a sharp knife, cut away as much of the white pith as possible.

Cut the eight sections into pieces approximately 2 1/2 inches by 1/4 inches.  This is entirely up to you.  You may even dice them depending on how you'll use them.

Put into a pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and gently simmer for five minutes.  Drain and repeat the process once.  This gets rid of some of the bitterness.  I happen to like the bitterness and sometimes skip this step altogether. 

Place the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar.  When dissolved, bring to a boil and add the orange peel.  Simmer for approximately 45 minutes, uncovered,  or until the peel becomes translucent.    

Remove from heat, drain, and spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Allow to cool slightly before dredging in sugar to just coat.  Place back on the parchment and allow to dry at room temperature overnight.  Place in an airtight container.  This keeps for a very long time--months if you can refrain from eating them.

If you would like a real treat, dip the peels into melted chocolate to coat about an inch.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Wild Mushroom Soup

After an early fall of moderate temperatures and sunny days, we got a heavy rain earlier in the week and the temperature fell thirty degrees overnight.  While I like fall and winter (really, I do), I don't like jackets and coats--especially coats.  It was time to organize them into a more convenient space though.  But first, I made soup.  After hunting and gathering the dried wild mushrooms from Williams-Sonoma, the rest was easy.  Delicious!

So far the fall color is slow in coming.  The large maple out back has one small area of red showing.  The cooler temperatures should tease more color out soon.  

Wild Mushroom Soup

1/2 cup of wild rice
2 cups of boiling water
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Rinse the wild rice and drain.  Place the rice into a pan and add the two cups of boiling water and the salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook without stirring for 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  Keeping the pot covered, remove it from the heat and set aside to cool.

1/2 ounce of dried wild mushrooms
1 cup of boiling water
8 ounces of fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2.  Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour the boiling water over.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving the liquid.  Strain the liquid thorough a fine strainer and set aside.

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of heavy cream or half and half

3.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir in the onion and celery and saute, stirring from time to time, until they are soft, about 10 minutes.  Raise the heat to high and stir in the wine and cook until the wine reduces to about 1/4 of a cup.  This will take about 5 minutes.

4.  Add all of the mushrooms and saute over medium heat until they are softened, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5.  Raise the heat to high and add the stock and the reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes more.

6.  Add the wild rice and the cream or half and half and simmer for another five minutes.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Muses Came to Discuss "The Summer Before the War"

It was a dark and stormy least that was the weather forecast.  The intrepid Muses decided that would not stop them and over they came to discuss the book by Helen Simonson.   We had enjoyed "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" a few year's ago and weren't disappointed in this one.  The setting is the town of Rye in East Sussex.  It is 1914--the idyllic summer before the war.  Beatrice Nash arrives to teach Latin.  She finds colorful characters, resistance to a female teacher, love and much more.

Lisianthus and hydrangea from the patio garden.

Veggie chips to start.

Chicken salad with dried Montmorency cherries.

Fresh mozzarella and heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Plum tart made by The Baker.
Recipe here:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cucumber Soup

The calendar says two more weeks of summer.  Already the shadows grow longer.  The days are taking on a golden light.  I will be happy to welcome fall.  However, two weeks is plenty of time to enjoy this chilled cucumber soup.  And, if we're lucky, an "Indian Summer" would be a perfect time to serve it more than once.

I invited a few ladies for lunch this week and one, my friend Jane, offered to bring chilled cucumber soup.  Oh my, it was delicious!  I had just harvested the last of the nasturtiums the day before and had enough blossoms to add to each serving.  We've enjoyed their peppery addition to salads all summer.

Most of the blooming plants were taking a rest the day of the lunch so I asked The Baker to gather up some herbs for the table--parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme would be good.  He clipped them and brought them in to the vase that I'd put out.  Just before the ladies arrived, I took a look at the arrangement and found parsley, sage, rosemary and OREGANO!!  I guess he had forgotten the words
to Scarborough Fair.

NOTE:  The four of us ladies were a little surprised to find that our luncheon had been a four-hour affair!!

Cucumber Soup


1/2 medium red onion, small dice (1 cup)
1Tbsp Champaigne vinegar
2 lbs. European cucumber, peeled and seeded
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb. green grapes (1 1/2 cups)
1 c. plain organic yogurt (whole milk)
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh mint
6-8 mint leaves, bundled and thinly sliced for garnish


Bring small pot of water to a boil.

Drop in the onions for 20 seconds, drain and toss in small bowl with vinegar,
      set aside.

Finely dice 1/2 of the cucumber, season with pinch of salt and pepper and 
      set aside.

Coarsely chop remaining cucumber and place in blender; add grapes, yogurt, chopped mint, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper and puree until completely smooth - about 5 minutes. 

Transfer to large container, stir in diced cucumbers and onion and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in chilled bowls or wine glasses.

Garnish with sliced mint and if you're lucky enough to have them, a single edible nasturtium!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Chilled Soup for a Hot Day

We're having a heat wave!  Mid-summer has arrived with a vengeance.  If I didn't know better, I'd think we were back in Charleston where the summers were long, languid and drippy with humidity.  Even with air conditioning, I'm reluctant to heat the oven and roast anything.  While I'd rather have coq au vin, we're having cold soup.  Well, I'm having cold soup.  The Baker is not particularly fond of this recipe.  For me, it is a comfort having it in the refrigerator.

A friend served this at a luncheon on one of those hot Charleston afternoons.  A few of us asked her for the recipe.  She wasn't forthcoming and I'd forgotten about when I got an e-mail from her.  There was the recipe and the suggestion that I might like to share it on the blog.

Chilled Vegetable Soup from Anita 

1 46 ounce can of V-8 juice
8 oz of plain yogurt

Whisk until well blended and chill.
With Anita's blessing, I added a dash of Sriracha and the juice of a whole lime.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Blueberry Muffins

Some folks go by the vernal equinox or the autumnal equinox.  Me, I go by when asparagus is ready to be picked.  Ditto the blueberry.  Most especially the blueberry!  I have a file folder filled with recipes for the luscious purple blueberry.  They are the only fruit I pick (though not of late) and the only fruit I preserve.  Just in case you want the "preserve" recipe, here it is.  Pick, put in freezer bags (I do two cups to a bag) and freeze.  Use frozen.

The blueberry season is now for us.  The farmer's markets are featuring them in abundance.  Our first few purchases are usually just left on the counter to be eaten as is--out of hand, on oatmeal/cereal or in salads.

I always pull this recipe from the "blueberry file" for our breakfast treat.  It has been a mainstay for decades.  I no longer remember the source.  The only notation on it is "easy".  That it is!  Time it to come out of the oven when the coffee has perked and the newspaper has been delivered.

Make the neighbors happy by dropping off a few muffins for their breakfast treats as well.

Blueberry Muffins

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp melted butter,  slightly cooled
zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups of fresh blueberries/blackberries or raspberries
Sparkling white sugar (I use King Arthur's)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Use paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt until well mixed.  Stir in the melted butter.  Add the lemon zest, vanilla, beaten eggs and milk.  Mix by hand until well blended.  Fold in the berries.
2.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each to the top (not the usual 2/3).  Sprinkle the tops with the sparkling white sugar.
3.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick.