Thursday, May 21, 2015

Foodie Friday and Everything Else--Pre-Memorial Day 2015


I'm so happy you've joined us at Foodie Friday and Everything Else. Are you ready for the weekend?
When I was a small girl, Memorial Day was a big event. The men hauled out the smoker and a charcoal grill, and the women would hang out in the kitchen. Everyone had a chore--someone was in charge of beverages; another gathered store-bought buns (and made cornbread, too). It took a village to orchestrate side dishes and desserts. The older kids helped the younger ones set the table, and Lord help you if the knives were turned the wrong way.
Meanwhile, the long driveway would fill up with cars and trucks, as relatives and friends arrived.  After dinner, we would drive to the cemetery and set out flowers and small flags. 

When I got older, I quickly learned that holiday cooking was a juggling act. I wasn't skilled at coordinating appetizers, an entree, side dishes, salad, bread, beverages, and dessert. Even with potlucks, the kitchen duty didn't end--I needed to find room in the fridge for guests' dishes to keep everything--and everyone--safe.
I still struggle with holiday cooking. Over the years, I've tested various dishes that promised to feed the multitudes. Some did, some didn't. Others aren't worth sharing (like the time I made a layered Napoleon pastry, and it came apart and skidded sideways onto the refrigerator shelf--when I opened the door, it flew out and hit my dress with a splat).
But some dishes are keepers.

Here are some fabulous keepers from last week's party:
From The Painted Apron ,we have a festive party ideas and recipes.

I think May is my favorite month, the beginning of summer, the Kentucky Derby, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, the end of school, Memorial day~ so many things to celebrate!!



***

Don't miss Berry Caprese Bruschetta by Home Is Where the Boat Is.

Berry Caprese Bruschetta is a perfect summer appetizer with berries in season. . . Perfectly Patriotic too with the red, white & blue from the strawberries, mozzarella and blueberries!

-- from Home Is Where the Boat Is



***


Lamberts Lately made a delicious Strawberry Pretzel Dip.

Everybody loves the strawberry pretzel salad dessert that's been so popular on Pinterest lately, but why not make it an easier-to-prepare dip?

--from Lamberts Lately


***


You'll love this fab DIY idea by Meatloaf and Melodrama--summer picnic Mason jars.

We do a ton of grilling once warm weather hits, and meals are always casual. I usually serve the food on our kitchen island or on the patio, if it happens to be cool enough. I needed something to keep the utensils in, so I made these fruit-inspired summer mason jars that are perfect to use at picnics, cookouts and just about anywhere else. 

--from Meatloaf and Melodrama


***



The Charm of Home made a gorgeous Buttermilk Strawberry Bundt Cake.

It is strawberry season and I had to bake a cake and use the strawberry blossoms before they are all gone.All parts of the strawberry plant are edible even the blossoms.  This cake had red dye in the original recipe but I took that out.  It doesn't really need any red dye to make it taste good.  




Food and memories come together beautifully in Sweet Nothings' Chocolate Cake.
I don't know what it is about memories...special little memories like a CHOCOLATE CAKE with PECANS ON TOP, that seem to stay with us all our lives. Those memories sure are a comfort...
Many times, when things aren't going smoothly in our life, it's these little memories that leap forward, straight out of our heart and make things much easier...PURE COMFORT, I think. 



***

Nothing is finer than a Strawberry Galette by Make Mine Lemon.

Finally, it’s strawberry season. I don’t think it is a coincidence that peak season for strawberries and Mothers’ Day coincides. I always think strawberries are Mother Nature’s gift to Mothers. I try to indulge as best I can when the season comes around.


***

Oregon Transplant made Chocolate Strawberry Popsicles--they look so cool and delicious--and she has a question for all of you food bloggers. Pop on over to Oregon Transplant for more popsicle recipes and share your blogging stories.

Ok, foodbloggers. Has this situation ever happened to anyone else?
You think of a quick little project that might make a good post. Say something simple, like popsicles. After you've dreamed up the concept, you then guesstimate that the project will take 10 minutes to complete. Then, smack in the middle of said "quick" project, everything goes south.



***

Homemade Interest made the cutest Red-White-and-Blue Cupcakes in a jar.

I love food in a jar! These Red, White, and Blue Cupcakes in a Jar are perfect for Memorial day or 4th of July cookouts.

--from Homemade Interest


***

Calling all tea fanciers--and chocolate lovers: Butteryum shows us how to bake button cookies. They are so cute!

Ok, how adorable are these button cookies?  Everybody loves chocolate sandwich cookies filled with creamy chocolate ganache.  They're good any time, but I think they're especially nice served with afternoon tea.

--from Butteryum

***
The Foodie Friday and Everything Else Link Party 

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Ready to put on your party shoes? Let's go!



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Favorite Memorial Day Ideas



When I was a small girl, Memorial Day was a big event. The men hauled out the smoker and a charcoal grill, and the women would hang out in the kitchen. Everyone had a chore--someone was in charge of beverages; another gathered store-bought buns (and made cornbread, too). It took a village to orchestrate side dishes and desserts. The older kids helped the younger ones set the table, and Lord help you if the knives were turned the wrong way.

Meanwhile, the long driveway would fill up with cars and trucks. 


 After dinner, we would drive to the cemetery and set out flowers and small flags. 

When I got older, I quickly learned that holiday cooking required unique skills. It's a juggling act, isn't it? You've got to coordinate appetizers, an entree, side dishes, salad, bread, beverages, and dessert. If you're hosting a pot luck, your kitchen duty doesn't end--you must make room in the fridge for your guests' dishes--and while you're at it, clean the counters for cakes and pies. If you've invited a crowd, you'll need Styrofoam ice chests, too.

I still struggle with holiday cooking. Over the years, I've tested various dishes that promised to feed the multitudes. Some did, some didn't. Others aren't worth sharing (like the time I made a layered Napoleon pastry, and it came apart and skidded sideways onto the refrigerator shelf--when I opened the door, it flew out and hit my dress with a splat).
But some dishes are keepers.

Minty Watermelon Lemonade
Printable Recipe
                                                                                                Serves 4 to 6

Basic Sugar Syrup:
2 c. water
2 c. granulated sugar
mint leaves

Place water and sugar in a saucepan. Stir. Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Reduce liquid until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Add mint leaves. Cover the pan and remove from heat. Remove mint before serving. Store in a clear Mason jar and refrigerate. Use in watermelon lemonade, lemonade, or iced tea.

Watermelon Lemonade:
2 cups water
1 seedless watermelon
juice of 1 lemon
2 or more ounces sugar syrup

Cut 1/2 watermelon into cubes and freeze. Put remaining watermelon in a blender and puree (or use an immersion hand blender). Strain the mixture and discard seeds and pulp. Mix puree with water, lemon juice, and sugar syrup (to taste). Serve over watermelon "ice" cubes and crushed ice. Garnish with mint.
***

A super easy tart is always welcome at my holiday table.
Festive Berry Tart

                           Printable Recipe                             
1 box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, defrosted
1 box each of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries
Jell-O vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 8 oz carton mascarpone
1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like mascarpone)
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg (for egg wash)
few drops of fresh lemon juice
few tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting
fresh mint
Preheat oven according to instructions on the puff pastry box. (I put my oven on 380).
Roll out each square of puff pastry dough. Place first square on a greased baking pan. Place second sheet on top of the first. Beat the egg. Brush pastry edges with the egg wash.
Bake 15 minutes or until pastry is brown. Remove from oven and cool.
The pastry will be unbelievably poofy, but it will deflate later on. Trust.
Meanwhile, make the pudding according to instructions on the box. Chill.
Mix the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and cream. I used a wire whisk.
Spread the mascarpone mixture onto the top layer of the cooled pastry, deflating the poofiness somewhat. Spread the pudding over the mascarpone. Arrange berries on top of the pudding and sprinkle the whole thing with powdered sugar. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with sweet-smelling mint.
Serves: 8 (if they have normal appetites). Otherwise, it's half for you and half for me.

***

A blueberry tart can be made ahead, and it's super easy.


Sugared Mint Leaves (garnish)
1 egg white, whisked
granulated white sugar
Demerara Sugar (optional)
mint leaves
baking rack
Dip a small paintbrush (or, if you dare, a clean finger) into the egg white
and paint mint leaves (one at a time). Think happy thoughts. Let your inner child emerge.
Sprinkle sugars over the leaf and place leaf on a drying rack. The sugar will dissolve. Do not despair. Be patient. Apply more sugar until the desired coating is achieved.

***

A small celebration can feel huge (yet cozy) just by eating outdoors.



Grilled Vegetables
Slice zucchini, eggplant, and red bell peppers.
Toss with extra virgin olive oil, then season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Grill until tender. Garnish with Italian parsley.


***
Side dishes have always baffled me. When I try to plan a menu, I can't seem to get beyond generic choices--roasted asparagus, green beans, baked beans, mashed potatoes. Now, there's nothing wrong with those items, unless you follow in my footsteps and create all green side dishes. Or three different potato dishes. I am fond of hand pies, mainly because they can be made ahead, giving me time to concentrate on colorful sides. 
Hand pies are portable, versatile, and will please a crowd. They're super easy. I've had excellent results with store-bought, refrigerated pie dough sheets (in the dairy case). To create the pies, I used a little gadget (below, look for the red, plastic device). Place a circle of dough into the bowl of the gadget, add your filling (sweet or savory), and close the gadget. Bam--there's your unbaked pie. Use leftover dough to make designs on top of the pies (I bought nature/floral-inspired cookie presses at Williams Sonoma). Brush the pies with egg wash and bake. 

If you don't want to be stuck in the kitchen all day, a slow-cooker is the answer.
Crockpot BBQ Sliders

1 Boston butt or pork roast of your choice (4-6 servings)
4 slices bacon, uncooked
1 cup chopped red onions
1 cup chopped bell peppers (red, orange, green)
paprika, salt & pepper, chili powder
1 beef bouillon cube plus 1 c. warm water or 1 c. beef broth
2 to 4 T red wine or red wine vinegar
Slider buns
1 bag of slaw mix
mayonnaise
white wine vinegar
sugar; salt and pepper

First, make the slaw. Place slaw mix in a bowl and add mayonnaise and vinegar. I don't have a recipe for this, sorry. Add a little mayo at a time. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar. You can add poppy seeds if you like. Mix well. Cover bowl and refrigerate. 
...
Prepare the roast. In large skillet, fry bacon and set aside (save grease). Rinse roast and pat dry. Season with paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper (I season heavily, covering every inch of the roast).
Into the skillet, add 1 T butter and 1 T oil (or bacon grease).
Sear roast on all sides. Remove from skillet and place in Crockpot.
De-glaze skillet with a few tablespoons red wine (or red wine vinegar), stirring the bottom of the pan continuously. Add chopped vegetables and sautee until tender and clear. Add vegetables to Crockpot. Add bouillon/water mixture or beef broth. Cover the pot. Cook on high for 6 hours or until roast is done. 
Remove roast from Crockpot. Using two forks, shred the meat. Add your favorite barbecue sauce. Place BBQ in slider buns, add sauce, if desired, and top with slaw.

***

Frozen puff pastry dough is the perfect vehicle for an easy, totally decadent dessert.

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Tarts

1 package puff pastry shells (frozen)
Godiva Dark Chocolate Sea Salt  (squares--on the grocery's candy aisle)
Drizzled chocolate (Smucker's Special Recipe Dark Chocolate Sauce)
Star cookie cutter
raspberries
whipped cream

Before baking puff pastry shells, press a small star cookie cutter into the top (and center) of each shell. Bake the pastry according to directions.  Remove from oven. When pastries are cool,
pop out star centers and set aside. Cut Godiva chocolate into pieces and place into shells.
Bake about 3 to 5 minutes or until chocolate has melted.
Remove from oven and cool.
Add whipped cream. Drizzle with chocolate sauce or melted chocolate. I'm fond of store-bought
chocolate sauce for a quick topping. I zapped the jar in the microwave for 20 seconds, then used a fork to add tiny squiggles over the cream and pastry.
Place "star" pastry cut-out on top of the whipped cream.
Dab a little whipped cream on the bottom of a raspberry and place on top of star.
You can add shaved chocolate, if desired, or raspberry jam.
The variations are endless, and all are easy!

Each bite is layered with the crunch of pastry and bittersweet chocolate, with a whisper of sea salt.

***

My mother used to say that a party menu isn't complete without non-food, personal touches--you know, centerpieces and pretty dishes or paper plates. Mama wanted her guests to feel pampered and loved in every way; she would go into her yard and cut flowers and weeds, just anything she could find, and put them on the table.
One year, a kind soul gave us a dozen melons. I used one as an impromptu vase.


Red, white, and blue dishes are so festive--and "poppers" make cute, little surpises for guests.



Outdoor spaces can be set up like little rooms. An old table makes a great dessert or fruit "bar."



Mother likes to mix red and white polka dotted dishes with white pottery. This combo works for Valentine's Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and Christmas. When I was little, we would shop at Sweet Georgia Brown's, a junk store that was crammed with all kinds of goodies. That was way back in the 60s. Mama found Limoges and Haviland for pennies. She also found cute, little (and big) serving pieces. Her greatest joy was to "shop" for friends and family. She knew which friend loved blue, which aunt collected dog figurines, and which niece needed a few extra Lenox "Autumn Harvest" plates to finish her set.

Mother always said that the best way to be happy is to forget yourself and make someone else happy--while dog figurines were nice, food was the best way to put smiles on our faces. 

To this day, a lemon meringue pie makes me clap my hands. But I'm also fond of pound cakes and any kind of BBQ. 
What's your go-to, happy holiday food?


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Monday, May 18, 2015

Great Scots

 "Great Scots!" That's what I said when I opened a cabinet, and old snapshots drifted to the floor. The images took me back to 2005, when we spent two blissful weeks in Scotland. Armed with nothing more than sweaters, disposable cameras, and a map, we took off for the wild blue highlands.



The trip hadn't been spur-of-the-moment. The year before, we'd booked the same tour, but when we checked in at the airport, the ticket agent turned Bandwith away--apparently his passport would have expired the day before our return, and he wasn't allowed to leave the country. We were disappointed, but in those days, we were unsinkable. Plan B was put into action. We drove home, removed the wool sweaters from our suitcases and added summery things, then drove straight to the Biltmore Mansion. On our way home, we stopped in Gatlinburg. Our travel agent was able to get a full refund, and we booked our Scottish tour for the very next summer.
 Previously, we'd been on guided tours to the UK, but they had only included quick glimpses of Scotland--a night in Edinburgh, a day in Glasgow, and a trip to the woolen mill. But this time, we hoped to move at a leisurely pace. Before we departed the US, the news was filled with dire warnings about air travel and terrorism, and indeed, an Air Marshall was on our flight. (Whenever a passenger went to the WC, the Marshall would wait till they left, then he'd hop up and check the WC. Once, as he returned to his seat, his jacket flipped up, and I saw his firearm. So that's when I figured it out.) In any event, my little family arrived safely, then we immediately took off on an adventure.

 We walked though gardens that were straight out of a fairy tale. 


In Scotland, even the bridges are magical. 

Bandy enjoyed St. Andrews.


At Loch Ness, we didn't see Nessie (not that we expected to).


At one point, we flew up to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. Located about 9 miles from the northern coast of Scotland, this windswept archipelago has a completely different vibe. It's colder and grayer, a place where tartans are a necessity, not a decoration. From our hotel room, we watched ferries plow through the cold, gray water, bringing a surprising number of tourists and commuters. After supper (the food was Americanized--baked chicken, green beans, rolls, salad--and chocolate pie), we put on our jackets and walked up a steep hill, past tea shops, row houses, and a community garden. 

The next morning, we explored Maeshowe, a beehive-shaped Neolithic passage grave, where light shines against the wall during the Winter Solstice, then we drove out to a mini-Stonehenge. (All of those photos are tucked away...somewhere.) That evening, dense fog rolled in. We'd planned to take a naturalist tour of Shetland, but all flights were cancelled. We were stranded at the airport, along with dozens of oil riggers from the North Sea. 

Hours later, the fog cleared, but we'd missed our flight to Shetland. We boarded the last plane to Aberdeen. Our hotel was old, packed with stranded riggers, the parking lot littered with broken ale bottles, but the food had never tasted so good--steak and eggs and crisps.

A few days later, we stopped by a wee church near Balmoral. 

Those two weeks seemed to stretch out, as if time had slowed. We were always on the go, always starting another adventure, yet we were never tired. Each day was filled with wonder, peace, and happiness.



We traipsed around without rhyme or reason. Did we get lost? Oh, yes. And it was wonderful. When we found ourselves in the Highlands, we stayed a spell.




We drove to Glasgow and toured the area. We couldn't resist a cruise down Loch Lomond. 

Stirling Castle was our next stop.



The next day we hired a car and drove north to Glencoe, Fort William, and the Isle of Skye. Along the way, we roamed around ruins and castles. I loved how the gardens plunged into the sea, rimmed by lilac-colored hills.






Days later, we drove east and toured Glamis Castle--supposedly the most haunted place in Scotland, but Bandwidth wasn't impressed. :=)




At East Lothian, we listened to bagpipes.



In Edinburgh, we attended the Military Tattoo. The audience was filled with tourists from all over the globe, and when the announcer introduced the U.S, we were booed. It was quite a shock! 



We looked up my husband's Scottish roots and discovered he was related to Clan Maitland. (Those photos must be in another cabinet!). His forebear was William Maitland, secretary to Mary Queen of Scots. It was a beautiful day to visit the old manse



We saw Highland cattle everywhere.

It's always wise to stand away from these beasties when taking photos--those horns have a wide sweep! 

The land and weather work in tandem to create romance and magic. Each moment is ever-changing, and you don't want to miss a second, especially when mist engulfs a hilltop ruin.

When our two weeks ended, we weren't quite ready to leave.



Ah, Scotland, we still miss ye.

You'll take the high road and I'll take the low road,

And I'll be in Scotland before you.

Where me and my true love will never meet again,

On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.


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