Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Poor Man's Silver: Mercury Glass

They provoke childhood memories. The mirrored-silver always captivated my youthful eyes. Today I still have a few of the beautiful old mercury glass ornaments that were popular over 50 years ago. 



Mercury glass was first discovered in Germany during the 19th-century. It was known as the "poor man's silver" in England, as it provided an inexpensive alternative to the silver that only furnished the houses of the wealthy. While the glass was named after the silvery fluid element, mercury glass contains no mercury. The original procedure using actual mercury was short lived due to the toxic nature, and the expense.

Today mercury glass has been replicated, and I have seen prices on the replicated pieces from the $1.00 votive candle holder to $500 vase. Of course, the original pieces of mercury glass fetch a much higher price. Mercury glass just doesn't come in the traditional silver, as mercury glass ornaments, vintage and new, come in a variety of colors including gold. 


My miraculous roses I picked this morning in 38 degree weather
How to tell the difference between vintage and reproductions?  Look for the "double wall."  Vintage mercury glass was originally blown with a double wall, and then "silvered" between the layers with a liquid "silvering" solution as used in mirrors. Although mercury was originally used to provide the reflective coating for mirrors, elemental mercury was never used to create tableware. Today? Not so much. Today mercury glass is often sprayed with a relatively safe silver nitrate finish. 

Can you tell that I love mercury glass, especially candle holders? I love how the flame in a piece of mercury glass seems just that much brighter and warmer. Mercury glass is elegant and many pieces are affordable. It's about the simple "trimmings" for an elegant life - Passementaries. 






Friday, November 25, 2016

Just a Touch of the Holiday: Romance Movies

This is my list of holiday movies. It's not the traditional that you think. My list of holiday movies are those with a bigger story line than the holidays, and even those movies where Christmas is the story, it's not the overall theme. Sure, my favorite holidays movies are also somewhat schmaltzy and often bitter-sweet, but isn't that just life -  it's foibles, faith, and good fortune of love and friendships?

These are the type of movies that you want to snuggle in with - and of course you will need a cozy fire, your favorite warm beverage, and frosted sugar cookies.  It's simple "trimmings," but brings us moments of a sweet escape. 

Sleepless in Seattle: A sweet romance that starts at Christmas and ends on Valentine's Day. 



You've Got Mail: If you loved Sleepless in Seattle, chances are you are going to love this movie that starts in September and continues through the holidays, until spring. 



Steel Magnolias: A bitter-sweet tale of family and close friends. It starts with a wedding, and brings us Christmas, Halloween, and ends with Easter. 



The Family Stone: The premise is Christmas, but the family dysfunction is quite endearing. 



The Holiday: It's Christmas through New Year's Eve with three stories about finding love, unrequited love, and love from long ago.



Love Actually: It follows the lives of eight couples dealing with love in loosely interrelated tales around the Christmas season.  



Serendipity: A couple meet during the Christmas season, and several years later they meet up again. Their meetings are quite "serendipitous." 



Once Around: It starts in the warm Caribbean with an odd couple, continues with family turmoil, and finally brings us through Christmas, the winter weather, and ends rather sweet with a few tears. 



What are some of your favorite "holiday" movies? 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Black Friday and Red Berries

After a busy day of preparing food, eating food, visiting with friends and family, putting food away and cleaning the kitchen on Thanksgiving; the last thing I want to do is make plans to get up early the next morning to wait in line at 5:00 in very cold temperatures, just to get into a department store and fight the crowds to buy mass-produced stuff made in China. 

Uh-uh, nope, no way, I ain't going to do it. I don't care if I can buy three toasters for $1.00 before 6:30 am, and the store is serving complimentary doughnuts and weak luke-warm coffee, I ain't going to get in line, let alone walk into those stores during that Friday. I will wait for a week or two and still find some values on items I really want, and save some dollars somewhere else. Besides, my motto is to let the small shop owner sleep in and open his/her regular hours on Black Friday and let's support them instead. 


Now that you know how I feel about Black Friday, onto the Red Berries: Here's another "recipe," like my The Infallible Brownie Mix, where I make no bones that I have "cheated." 

Picture this: you forgot to buy a bag of fresh cranberries. At first you decided just to scrap it, and then found out that Cousin Betty is joining you for Thanksgiving, and you remembered how much she loves cranberries - - and the fact that Betty is a vegetarian. You must give her something to eat. 


Don't be "bogged" down (get it, cranberry bogs ...) with making cranberry sauce at the last minute. Instead of rinsing fresh cranberries, cooking fresh cranberries over heat, adding sugar to the fresh cranberries, waiting for the fresh cranberries to pop, and for the sugar to melt - - or if you forgot to make cranberry relish at the last moment... 

Remember that can of cranberry sauce you have in the back of the cupboard? The expiration date says it expires November 26, 2016; so you still have a few good days before it "expires" (this is me rolling my eyes). Open it up! Open up a can or two of whole berry cranberry sauce (not the jellied sauce that poops out the shape of the can ...), add a few squeezes of orange juice and a few scrapes of orange zest to "freshen" it up. If you like nuts, sprinkle in some chopped pecans or walnuts. 

And wait - - there's more - - if there is an apple or a pear around, grate a half an apple or pear and add to the cranberries. Add a bit of ginger if you are using pear. 

Hey, get really crazy and creative by adding a tablespoon of a finely chopped fresh jalapeno pepper and a squeeze of lime juice. Any and all will freshen it up, so it won't taste so "canned." 

Now here comes the best part - - add a couple of teaspoons or more of Grand Marnier (orange-flavored brandy liqueur) or Calvados (apple brandy) - one or the other brandy - not both. You can leave the brandy uncooked, or warm the cranberry sauce with the brandy in it to cook out the alcohol. But no matter what you mix in the sauce, and if you really do not want anybody to suspect that you didn't make your cranberry sauce from scratch, just add more Grand Marnier and nobody will know the difference - - let alone care... 

Stay tuned for my blog this Friday to find out what I will be doing, while the rest of you are standing out in the cold waiting to be the first in line to buy a George Forman Toasted Tuna Sandwich Maker. It has to do with a large espresso, movies, and pajamas.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Turkey Tetrazzini

It's the weekend after a busy Thanksgiving, and you've had your fill of turkey sandwiches. Looking for something easy, yet different? Tetrazzini could be the answer. What is "Tetrazzini," you ask? 

Tetrazzini is an American dish created around the early 1900's.  The chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA named this dish after their long time resident, Italian opera star, Luisa Tetrazzini. The ingredients are easy to assemble as it is basically turkey in a cream sauce, with spaghetti, cheese, and mushrooms. The turkey can be exchanged for chicken, or even canned tuna. Many of us Baby Boomers may remember this creation from our mother's kitchen - it was considered rather "fancy." However, this recipe is not your mama's Turkey Tetrazzini, so put away that can of Cream of Mushroom soup. 

No Cream of Mushroom soup here. We're using the real thing! 
There is a bit of prep time, but once it is all gathered, the dish goes together really quick. Be aware, this casserole makes around 10-12 servings, so I found it perfect for freezing. Not only did I get three 5x7" casseroles for freezing, but the extra was dinner for the evening. 

The recipe asks for four cups of broth. I made my own with parts of the turkey that I usually do not serve, but store bought is fine. Chicken broth will also work if that is what's in your pantry. Note: the recipe asks for a cup of dry white wine. Any Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio/Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, or Semillion will do, just stay away from the sweet white wines - - and whatever dry white wine you choose, the open bottle won't go to waste. Serve and pour the remaining that evening with the Turkey Tetrazzini. The crisp dry white wine will balance out the creaminess and cheesiness of the casserole. This is a great example of "if the wine isn't fit to drink, then don't cook with it." Now, start cooking. 

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs Dry Spaghetti, broken in half
4 Tablespoons Butter (or 2 Tablespoons of Butter and 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil)
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 pound White Button Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup White Wine
1/3 cup Flour
4 cups (or more) Turkey (or Chicken) Broth
8 oz block of Cream Cheese, softened
3 cups Cooked Turkey, shredded or diced
1 cup Black Olives, sliced
1-1/2 cup Frozen Green Peas
4 slices Bacon, fried and chopped
1 cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese (or Asiago, Swiss or any white semi-soft will work)
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese (or Romano or mixture of both)

Salt and cracked ground pepper to taste

Optional: one small jar of pimentos (adds color, but also a classic in the old Tetrazinni recipes of the 1950-60's). Bread crumbs to top the casserole before baking. If you are freezing the casseroles, I would wait and add fresh bread crumbs before baking. 

Break spaghetti in half and cook according to package instructions, but important to cook just to al dente.  This will make a difference when freezing or baking in the oven. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

In a separate large pot, heat butter or butter and oil mixture over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until done, add salt, then saute for a few more minutes. While the mushrooms are hot, pour in the wine. Allow it to simmer with the mushrooms for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced to at least half. 

Gradually sprinkle in flour, then gently stir the mushrooms around for another minute. Slowly pour the broth in the mushroom mixture and continue stirring until the roux (flour and butter) thickens. The mixture doesn't have to be too thick. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cut the softened cream cheese into pieces and add to the same pot. Slowly stir to melt. There may be a few bits of the cream cheese lingering, but it will eventually melt. Add the turkey, olives, peas, chopped bacon, and cheeses. Stir to combine, and add salt and pepper to taste.  

Add the cooked spaghetti to the sauce mixture. Add more broth as needed. If the mixture seems a bit "soupy," not a problem. A little extra moisture will cook off in the oven. Add up to 2 more cups of broth as necessary. 

Pour the finished pasta and sauce mixture into a large baking pan, or casserole dish, or several meal size baking dishes. Freeze or bake immediately. Before baking, sprinkle the top with grated cheese and/or bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the top is golden brown.

Ready for the Freezer




Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thanksgiving Wine: No Rules

This week my email box is flooded with articles about the "Perfect Wine Pairing for Thanksgiving." As always, these articles suggest Pinot Noir.  I cannot help myself, but I need to jump in here as I think back to the "old days" when I wrote about wine

Pinot Noir is absolutely a great choice for pairing with the Thanksgiving turkey, and even with ham. I certainly have my favorite Pinot Noirs from Oregon, as well those from Burgundy. There is no denying the safe direction of Pinot Noir, but hold on here - - it's Thanksgiving! We grace our table with lots of food, and a variety - from Aunt Alice's Jello salad to Grandpa's favorite chestnut stuffing to the Duck Pâté En Croûte brought by jet-setter Cosette, Uncle Tony's new girlfriend. So, why are we limiting our table of abundance to one kind of wine?  
One of my favorite Pinot Noirs from Oregon
Bring it all to the table! No matter the wine, bring it to the table! Place several bottles on the table and plenty of varietals. Start the dinner with a toast using a favorite bubbly: from high-end priced Champagne or the more affordable French Cremants, Spanish Cavas, Italian Proseccos, and domestics. The crisp acidic bubbly pairs well with everything, including the southern-fried turkey, and even cuts the richness of the gravies and sauces. 
Spanish Cava; tasty and affordable bubbly. 
Bring out the dry crisp pretty pink French or French-inspired rosés! (It's my contribution to the Thanksgiving table) They also pair nicely with the turkey, and even ham (remember the Rosés for Easter ham). Also, bring out the Riesling and Gewurztraminer, dry and off-dry. They pair with the stuffing, the sweet potatoes, cranberries, bacon-laden Brussels sprout, and even Aunt Alice's famous Jello strawberry salad. 
Miraval Rose: soft flavors, yet dry and the bottle is a plus. 
While I am not a fan of sweet fruit "country" wines, I have to admit I've tasted cranberry wine, and it wasn't too bad. The acid from the cranberries rather equaled out the sweetness of the wine. This is a good example of a wine to bring to the table for Great-Grandma who is only use to drinking communion wine. It will stay in tradition of the Thanksgiving feast, and keep the sweet wine palates happy, too. Also consider a Lambrusco for those who desire a sweet wine. Lambrusco isn't too sweet or cloying, but the little bit of natural bubbles adds to the character of the wine. 
Lambrusco di Modena
Yes, even put a bottle of Chardonnay on the table for Cousin Buffy who still talks about the 1980's when she was a rock band groupie, and continues to wear lots of hairspray and very high shoulder pads.  Can't stand the thought of a bottle of Chard on the table? You wine snob, you.  Go Old World French with the Chardonnay, and place a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé or Chablis on the table. Also, don't be offended if Cousin Kit brings her box of White-Zinfandel. Just be prepared to drain the box into a pretty carafe or decanter and place it in front of her. 
 Chardonnay, but from France with a fancier name.
Now, about that big dark Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that stains the teeth and actually doesn't pair well with the delicate breast of turkey, but Grandpa Albert and Uncle Leonard really likes these big bold tannic monsters... Put it on the table. It's Grandpa Albert's and Uncle Leonard's Thanksgiving, too. At least place a bottle of Merlot or a red blend on the table for those red wine lovers. 
Chateau Ste Michelle: Always easy to find on the shelves
Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé! You might be caught up on Beaujolais Nouveau Day, which officially starts today. In France on the third Thursday in November (which "conveniently" just happens around the American Thanksgiving) wine lovers celebrate the first wine of the season - a Gamay that is harvested this year, and meant to drink very young - the same year. Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 a.m., however it is basically aging in the bottle by the time it reaches America, as we receive it the week of or a few days before the "official" release date. The wine isn't bad for what it is, and really pairs well with the turkey. Note, there are various labels of Beaujolais Nouveau. George Duboeuf is the most popular and easier to access, but not necessarily the "finest." My rule of thumb when it comes to indulging in this brilliant marketing scheme is to drink this wine through the holidays, and at the very least finish your stash by New Year's Day. 
Drouhin label (France & Oregon USA) always a good choice.
Wines for the Thanksgiving table do not have to be expensive, either. During this time of the year there are many good holiday buys. Also, you may discover that the imports are often a good value. Just remember when it comes to Thanksgiving wines, bring everything and all to the table. There are no rules. Thanksgiving is about enjoying the feast of abundance, and enjoying each other's company.  Cheers! 

*The above suggested wines are some of my personal favorites, and in no way receiving any compensation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Power: Find Your Stone

We're told that "Diamonds are a girl's best friend," but sometimes those "best friends" can be a bit elusive. Many of us cannot walk into the jewelry store and buy a few karats whenever we want. Our budgets are more suited for carrots than karats.  So, what is the alternative when your heart is set on a pretty bauble? Semi-precious stones can be a girl's new best friend. 

What is the difference between "precious" and "semi-precious" stones? They are mostly a commercial term. Precious stones are typically diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires with a higher price tag. Everything else is semi-precious such as agate, amber, amethyst, jade, topaz, turquoise, and others. (See list from ELLE Magazine




There are many reasons to seek out the semi-precious stones. Not only are they pretty, easy to acquire,  and more affordable (Check online sources such as eBay and Etsy); but stones have been an integral part of human history. Through the centuries they have represented wealth and power, and even hold superstitions. 


There are some superstitions and metaphysical properties to these stones, and of course a very rich history of ancient civilizations using stones for healing such as the Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans; and Medicine Men and Midwives. Many of these practices have been handed down through our 21st Century and now are popular in holistic health.  The belief and attraction of these stones isn't much different than the commercially accepted "birth stones" that many of us wear. 




Speaking for myself, I have always been attracted to stones ever since I was a little girl. My father was a rock hound/lapidarist. It was his hobby. He had a workshop attached to our garage where he would often spend evenings after work, or a cold weekend afternoon shining and cutting rocks. Dad had several sizes of saws and tumblers. He sold some of his jewelry, but joyously gifted more than he sold. To this day, whether I am walking in the forest, desert, or beach; I still find myself focused on the ground seeking some kind of "treasure." Old habits from our days of family picnics and rock hounding adventures with Dad.    

My choice of power stone is amethyst. The legend behind it is: Peace, clairvoyance, emotional protection, and sobriety. I do not leave home without at least a bracelet of amethyst beads - and especially if I am out wine tasting - for that sobriety element. Not only do I wear amethysts, I keep many of the amethyst crystals on book shelves and tables because they are so pretty, yet natural. 

As Elle Magazine points out, "Think it's all crap? That's fine—but in the end, could it really hurt to surround yourself with more sparkly, pretty things?

So true. Whatever your spiritual or religious belief is, these stones are a gift from the earth. A gift that is made to enjoy, and a gift that will last forever. Remember, it's about the simple "trimmings" for an elegant life - Passementaries.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Baked Onion Cheese Dip and Cry Baby Football Players

This is one of those recipes that I refer to as a "spring board," as it is almost fail-proof, and you can add various ingredients to change it up.  I first made this recipe last year for Superbowl Sunday XLIX. Everything was going well for the Seattle Seahawks until the fourth quarter. To keep from wincing in pain and to stop day-dreaming that Tom Brady of the New England Patriots would fall, twist his ankle, cry and howl for his mommy until he was removed from the game... Well, to keep my thoughts from being that of a "mean girl," I started thinking about this recipe and how to change it up for future, but of course for more victorious games. 

It's creamy, rich, fattening, and pure comfort, but something Tom Brady would never eat. You can even use a light cream cheese and mayonnaise. But why? Tom Brady still isn't going to eat it, no matter if you do use a light cream cheese and mayo. Again, if you are going to use a  light mayo, do not use mayo that has removed the eggs, oil, and all that's left is water and chemicals. Use light, but keep it the BEST. Go through your cheese drawer and use a mixture of the hard or semi-hard cheeses: Cheddar, Jack, Gouda, Swiss, Raclette, Parmesan, and even Mozzarella to name a few. Make it according to the recipe below, and give it a test drive. 



For the future, add other items that you enjoy, from: fried crispy bacon, chopped jalapenos or chilies, artichoke hearts, a cup of thawed frozen spinach (squeeze out the water really well), chopped green onions, sliced black olives, chopped pepperoni, or pre-cooked sausage. 

Ingredients: 

8 ounces cream cheese, let softened 
  • 1 cup mayonnaise 
  • 6 to 8 ounces grated cheese, hard or semi-hard
  • 1 medium to large Walla Walla Sweet Onion (or any sweet onion), diced 
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish (I used glass pie plate) with cooking spray. Set aside. 

In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients (except save about a 1/2 cup cheese to be sprinkled on top). Stir well to combine. Scoop finished mixture into prepared pie dish and spread evenly. Add the remaining 1/2 cup cheese (or more) on top of dip. Try to keep from dipping your fingers or crackers into the dip before it is baked. You can also make it the night before you are ready to bake. 

Bake for 45-50 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly. Let set and cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite sturdy chips, crackers, and vegetables.  

If you are fortunate to have any left, it keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and can be reheated in microwave. But why would you have any left? 


Photo from Pinterest

Just for You: The Sabbath

Sabbath - a day of religious observance and abstinence from work.

No, I am not going to get all religious on you. A few years ago on a flight, out of boredom, I started thumbing through the airline's lifestyle magazine. Typically they are glossy-filled magazines word-smithing adventures and shiny things that are not in this girl's budget. More fluff than substance. However, this edition was different. There was an actual article that made me take a second glance. It was about "Keeping the Sabbath," but not in a traditional or religious event - - unless of course, you wanted to. This article was about resting and rejuvenating the spirit and the body. 

The article intrigued me, and satisfied my conflict of being raised to hold the Sabbath on a Sunday, but after I lived in a Hasidic community for several weeks, Saturday was the day of holy rest. But again, this isn't about religion - unless you want it to be - - this is a day just for you. It can be any day you choose, according to the article, a Sabbath can always be on a Wednesday if that is the day that works for you. 

This Sabbath is the moment where you slow down and spend your day alone or with a loved one. It's a day where you do not leave the house other than to take a walk around the block for some fresh air. It's a day where you stuff your cell phone deep into the bottom of a closet and don't bring it out until the next day. The only electronics allowed is maybe a music device - and stay off of the internet. Okay, so maybe you can turn on the television later in the evening for a sweet and non-violent movie or some mindless sitcoms - - but stay off social media.  


So now what?  Sleep in, or stay in bed and read. Sit on the couch, be quiet, and sip on that cuppa coffee - slow. Do you want cold pizza and cake for breakfast? Then have cold pizza and cake. Are you thinking about fasting on your Sabbath with the very most a fruit and kale smoothie, and water? Then fast. I will admit, you may have to do some meal planning as far as going grocery shopping the day ahead of time for your Sabbath meals. If cooking is relaxing for you, then try that Julia Child recipe you have always wanted to tackle. Wonderful smells coming from your kitchen can sooth your soul. If you don't enjoy cooking, then plan your meals ahead of time, visit the neighborhood deli, and stock the pantry. On your Sabbath you don't get to drive. Why? Because you know -  - traffic makes you uptight. 

Your Sabbath is not the day to catch up on household chores. Do the following that you use to enjoy: Read a book or that stack of favorite magazines you subscribe to and never have the time to read.  Light several candles. Knit. Paint on canvas or sketch. Go through your family photos and create a scrapbook. Pick posies from your garden. Meditate. Nap. Make a list of goals. Slow down and keep it simple. If it isn't good for your soul, then don't do it. Reflect. Relax - - and don't forget to breath. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dont Be Hatin' on the Mayo: Delicious Mayonnaise Hacks

Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip™? That's an often asked question, but the truth of the matter there are very big differences between the two. The latter, Miracle Whip has sweeteners in it, and is not the traditional mayonnaise or even close to what Julia Child would accept. 

Through the years, mayonnaise has received a bad rap, First, it got the blame for Aunt Harriet's potato salad you caught food poisoning from during the family picnic. If commercial mayo was used on your salad, it wasn't the fault of the mayo, but the actual potatoes. Bacteria loves potatoes and pasta. Commercial mayonnaise has plenty of acid (lemon juice and/or vinegar) which bacteria doesn't like.  

No doubt there are a few mayo haters out there, but I have to wonder if you made Julia's recipe from scratch, it could be a turning point for you. Making your own French-style mayonnaise is wonderful. I use to make it at least once a week with my handy blender. 

However, when using these hacks I am suggesting, use commercial mayonnaise - - use the BEST! Please don't use these so-called "healthy" mayo's that have removed the eggs, oils, and now are mostly water and chemicals. Again, use the BEST for the BEST results. 

Once upon a time, I discovered that mayonnaise was more than just a "lubricant" for sandwiches and salads. Picture this - me, a young housewife attending the annual Catholic Daughter's wine tasting event at our church. One of the appetizers served was this wonderful baked-melty-cheesy-olive-y concoction on slices of bite-size toasted baguettes. 

This savory little appetizer captivated me for awhile until one of the ladies shared the secret - about a cup of grated cheese (Cheddar and/or Jack), 2 tbsp (or more) chopped black olives, 1/2 tbsp (or more) of very fine grated onion, and about 3/4 cup (or more) of mayonnaise to bind until it is spreadable.  For some time now I do it according to eye. Lost the recipe somewhere, but no matter it works. Spread on toasted baguette slices, and bake around 350-400 degrees until bubbly. They rather taste like little mini pizzas. It's one of those appetizers that one usually has all of the ingredients around for last minute guests. 




Since then, I've seen a very similar recipe, Olive Cheese Bread, by Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman. All these years, I never knew that mayonnaise could bake and taste so delicious. 

Run out of softened butter to spread on soon-to-be grilled cheese sandwiches? Use mayonnaise. Bon Appetit says so, and so do I. Spread the mayonnaise as if you are spreading softened butter on the bread before grilling. It gives the bread a perfect toasted color, and adds just a little savory component. Mayo haters will never know. And speaking of pimento cheese, as per Bon Appetit... 

Pimento cheese spread (no, not the jar stuff and yes, my personal favorite recipe)  is a favorite southern condiment on little tea sandwiches or stuffed in celery. Cheese lovers who hate mayo, will love this - - sshhh, don't tell them.

Skip the butter and add mayonnaise onto the corn on the cob. Spread mayonnaise on the corn before grilling. It adds moisture and a toasted 
caramelized flavor. Unlike butter, it won't slide off. After the corn cooks, add more mayonnaise as it sticks well sprinkled with grated Parmesan or crumbled Cotija cheese. Fancy up the mayo ahead of time by adding some favorite spices, like curry or chili powder, or herbs like basil or cilantro. 

A friend's secret to moist baked salmon was stuffing a whole salmon (head and tail removed) with herbs, sliced tomato, lemon, and onion, then slathering the top of the skin with lots of mayonnaise. Wrapped tightly in foil, placed in a slow oven, and she walked away. A couple of hours later when done; the skin would peel off, the herbs and vegetables would be removed and tossed, and what would be left was flavorful and very moist salmon. Another trick that mayo haters will never be the wiser. 

Hot dips such as artichoke and spinach, corn, and even cheesy onion dips - and yes, I have made every dip recipe listed, and yes - - they all call for mayonnaise. However the cheesy onion dip I switched out the Vadalia for Walla Walla Sweet Onions - due to Walla Walla Sweets practically grow in my back yard. And last but not least, the recipe I posted, Savory Southern Tomato Pie was a big hit - literally with many hits! Yup, it had mayonnaise in it. 

PS -11/21/16: Since I posted the above, I came across a recipe by handsome executive chef, TV host, author, New York City and Beverley Hills restaurateur, Geoffrey Zakarian. Guess what special ingredient he uses in his Turkey Wet Rub Recipe?





Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Weekend in France: Movies

Picture this: It's the weekend, and the wet fog is rolling in.  You need an escape, but where can you go with limited funds before payday, and no time to find a dogsitter for the beloved pup? Put on your comfy clothes, claim your favorite spot on the couch, turn on the television, and go to France! 

First you will need to stock the cupboards with the essentials. Popcorn and bubbly, and if the pocket book allows - go Champagne. If the pocket book doesn't allow then go for a bottle of Cremant (a bubbly from France), or Spanish Cavas are also wonderful and affordable bubbles. 

Now get to poppin' that corn. Uh-uh-uh... what are you doing? Don't put that popcorn in that cheap ol' plastic bowl. Pull out that expensive crystal bowl that's collecting dust and use it! If you don't use it, someone else will. Don't let it get sold at your estate sale for someone else to enjoy - - and possibly break. It's for you to enjoy. 



Do the voo-doo that you typically do on your popcorn - just be sure to be authentic - use real butter or "truffle" oil, and not the fake stuff made out of chemicals. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese, and your favorite herbs. And speaking of  "pop" - - it's time to pop the bubbly. 

Now what movie to watch? There are many movies with French, and especially Paris themes, so the French weekend theme is endless. My personal recommendations give you a variety: from the sweet and childlike, some history, revolutions to love, and even a little bit of fantasy. They are all guaranteed to take you away... 

A Good Year (2006) A British investment broker inherits his uncle's chateau and vineyard in Provence, where he spent much of his childhood. The movie is  based on the 2004 novel by one of my favorite writers,  Peter Mayle (See: Introduce Yourself to Peter Mayle)

A Little Chaos (2014) The year is 1682, and somewhat of a "historical" fiction. The French King of Kings, Louis XIV is putting the finishing touches on his gardens of Versailles, his royal chateau outside Paris. He makes an unusual decision and hires a woman to create the lavish gardens. If you are a fan of actor Alan Rickman, as much as I am, this is a tribute to his directing and acting (King Louis), as it was one of the last films he did before he died.


A Little Chaos
Amelie (2010) A quirky yet rather naive young waitress, with a rich imagination, gets her kicks by doing acts of kindness for others. The movie is shot in over 80 Parisian locations

Chocolat (2000) Might I recommend you have a lot of chocolate on hand while watching this movie - - you're going to need it. It's a sweet story about a young mother who arrives at the fictional, and rather repressed little French village, and opens a chocolate shop during Lent.  And speaking of candy, Johnny Depp provides the eye candy. 


Chocolat
GiGi (1958)  This movie brings me fond memories as I watched it one Sunday afternoon with my mother at a very grand old theater. I didn't necessarily understand the theme of the movie, but I loved the music ("The Night They Invented Champagne"). It's about a turn-of-the-century Parisian "tomboy" acting young woman who falls for her guardian while being groomed as a "courtesan" - in another words a prostitute with a rather wealthy and courtly clientele.  

Jefferson in Paris (1995)  This historical and somewhat fictional film is a glimpse of life during the pre-revolutionary period in France. It shows the absurdities of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who were simply out of touch with ordinary people, and why the people demanded change. In the mean time, our Ambassador to France, American Founding Father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and third United States President Thomas Jefferson was a first hand witness. 

Julie and Julia (2009) the story of Julia Child and blogger, Julie Powell. Fearlessness, the love of cooking, and butter rules in their individual memoirs; and their lives intertwined though separated by time and space.  Most of the movie is set in New York, however there are many adventures about Julia in France. 


Julie and Julia
Marie Antoinette (2006) The retelling of France's iconic but ill-fated queen as she matures from a teenage bride to a young woman and eventual queen of France. The movie is opulent from the backdrops to the costumes, but I don't have to tell you how it ended. Guillotine! Guillotine! 

Midnight in Paris (2011) When a Hollywood screenwriter vacations in Paris with his fiancee’s  family, he finds himself traveling back in time to the 1920's at the stroke of midnight, where he meets some of the greatest artists of that decade. What writer wouldn't want to have a drink with Hemingway? If you enjoy Woody Allen's writing and directing, sans his acting, you will particularly like this movie. 


Midnight in Paris
The Triplets of Belleville (2003) It's an animated musical that tells the story of a grandmother on a mission to rescue her cyclist grandson who is kidnapped during the Tour de France. The "famous" singing Belleville sister-act gets involved and eventually saves the day. It's quite charming, and even the toughest of film critics applauded this adventure. 


Whether you are alone or enjoy your "visit" to France with friends, this event is what I would refer to as the simple "trimmings" for an elegant life - Passementaries






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