Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Another Year..

It's almost the end of the year. I know. I know. I haven't shown my face much, but I have a good excuse. Sometimes I have to write for a living. Sometimes I have to write around editor schedules, which I finished just in time giving me an opportunity to do a little holiday cooking - - and even put a hint of holiday touches in the house. 

Chocolate Crinkles are easy, and especially work well if you make the cookie dough the night before. There are several recipes, but the one with vegetable oil and cocoa powder is the easiest.

Candy isn't just for kids. This white chocolate bark is topped with healthy goodness like "craisins" (dried cranberries), chopped salted pistachios, and slices of dried apricots. I can't take credit for this one, as it is a Barefoot Contessa favorite. She uses white chocolate and I took the easy way with premade easy-to-melt white candy bark.

The camera and I don't understand each other so these aren't the best snaps, but here are a few holiday touches around the bungalow. Yup, I hand carved two of the snowmen, and the little houses are known as Putz, a decor from the Occupied Japan era. These are just a few in my collection. 

In the mean time, I wish you a Merry Christmas, many Happy Holidays, and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Thank you my friends for reading me. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Where Did My Year Go?

Rabbit, Rabbit... 

It's the first of the month and I am wondering where my year went? In my mind I am still in August - and no, I am not ignoring my blog so that's why I am checking in. I'm still writing, I'm just not writing in my blog at the moment. However, I will as soon as I get a manuscript sent off this month according to the publisher's deadline. My second local history book will hopefully arrive on the shelves after 2018. Will keep you posted. 

In the mean time with the holidays coming up, it's time to invest in butter. Let this article from Savuer inspire you - and don't let French recipes intimidate you. Tackle them and let them know you are the boss of the kitchen. Channel your inner Julia Child! 

Here we go - grab the butter and a few bottles of red wine as here are 65 classic French recipes to add to your recipe file - which by the way, I recently read the Millennial youngsters don't even use recipe books any longer, and especially have no use for  little tin or wooden recipe file boxes. Say it ain't so! 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Version of Pissaladiere: A Funky French Pizza

So what is "pissaladiere?" 

It's a pizza-like dish that originated from Nice, located in the southern region of France. So yes, this is a French pizza. 

The dough is typically a bread dough thicker than the classic Italian Pizza Margherita, but there are really no rules. Why? Because it will be your pizza and you can choose whatever kind of crust you prefer.

What makes this "pissaladiere?" It's about the toppings. Now first off, you need to know that it gets its name from the Latin word piscis (fish), which became pissalat meaning "salted fish." Pissalat (or pissala) is a type of an anchovy paste,
 a condiment also originating from Nice. This condiment is made with anchovy puree and flavored with cloves, thyme, bay leaf and black pepper mixed with olive oil. Sometimes this French classic will even be covered with whole anchovies.

Wait! Come back! Don't let the anchovies turn you away! If you don't like anchovies, then don't use the anchovy paste or the whole bodied tiny fishies. Just concentrate on the rest of the toppings! 
The rest of the toppings? Caramelized onions, herbs, and black olives. Now do I have your attention? For me, this pizza is all about the caramelized onions. 

Where's the cheese, you ask? Pissaladiere doesn't have cheese. Typically, olive oil is the base instead of the Italian red sauce. However, add cheese if you want, but keep it somewhat old world traditional and thoughtful. Don't add mozzarella. That's too easy. Use Raclette, Comte, or even Fontina cheese - - semi-soft cheeses - - and don't smother the top of your pissaladiere with cheese. Add the cheese to your base. Let the onions, olives, and even the anchovies be your toppings.

Are you ready to start? Use your favorite pizza dough recipe, or buy a frozen pizza crust at the store. Okay, so if you want to do it quick and easy, use the Pillsbury pizza or even the crescent doughs. Another tip? Use a sheet of the Pepperidge Farms puff pastry. It will give you a nice light and airy crust, so the toppings will be the true star.  

There are no exact ingredients for this. Just get creative and enjoy the flavors of sauteed onions, herbs, olives, and even fishies... 

Ingredients (topping for one pissaladiere):

1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or dried Herbes de Provence
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 whole cloves garlic
12 French (Nicoise) pitted black olives, or even Kalmata pitted olives. Slice or leave whole.
12 to 18 anchovy fillets or brush anchovy paste lightly on the crust (optional).

Around 1 cup shredded semi-soft cheese, Raclette, Comte, or Fontina. 
1/8 cup or less of cornmeal for baking

For the topping, heat the olive oil in a very large saute pan and cook the onions, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic over low heat for 45 minutes, until the onions are sweet and soft but not almost black. Toss the onions from time to time. After 30 minutes, take out the garlic, chop it roughly, and add it back to the onions. If you want to really caramelize the onions, sprinkle just a hint of sugar to them while they are cooking - no more than half of a teaspoon. 

Or if you want to caramelize your onions the day or even a couple of days before, use your crock pot. See this recipe I posted last month for Crock Pot Onions. You can always add the thyme, garlic, and salt and pepper if you didn't add these things previous to the crock pot onion mixture. 
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Have your dough and or pre-made crust ready. Add a tablespoon or so of dried cornmeal on the baking sheet before you lay the crust in the pan. The light addition of cornmeal gives the crust a nice little crunch. Traditionally the shape is not round, but rectangle - the size of a regular baking sheet. 
Brush the base of the dough lightly with olive oil, and start building your version of pissaladiere. If you have chosen to use cheese, sprinkle on your chosen shredded cheese - - or not. Spoon the sauteed onion mixture on top of the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border all around. Artfully arrange, or sprinkle evenly on top of the dough the anchovies and olives. Sprinkle a touch more of thyme or Herbes de Provence on top of the onions and olives. Brush the edge of the dough with olive oil, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is crisp. Serve hot on a cutting board. Eat! Eat! Eat! 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Last week I had a craving for "pissaladiere." What is pissaladiere, you ask? In short, it's a pizza with origins from southern France topped with lots of caramelized onions (Stay tuned for recipe next week). 

The one drawback to sooth my craving is it's hot outside and the last thing I want to do is stand over a stove. I remembered hearing about caramelizing onions in a slow cooker, so instead of following a recipe, I experimented. Success! 

As many of my recipes are, this one is "fool-proof." Also, no matter if you have three onions or six onions, just adjust the butter (or olive oil) and spices accordingly. Or if you want to eliminate the fats, no need for any butter or oil. The onions will cook via their own juices.

Now you can have your own main ingredient to pissaladiere, French onion soup, an accompaniment for burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches, additions to quick soups, and toppings for side dishes.  


 3 - 6 White, yellow, sweets, or red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
     1 - 3 Tbsp butter (or olive oil or half butter/olive oil), depending how many onions
     Salt and pepper to taste
     1/2 Tbsp thyme (or Herbes de Provence)        
     Optional: 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, or 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, or chili flakes

Layer in the slow cooker an average of one sliced onion. Add salt and pepper to taste, as well as the thyme. Keep layering. If you are using brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, or chili flakes; spread out for each layer and sprinkle these items in as well. 

Add to each layer the butter and/or olive oil - - or if you are watching your fat intake, don't add. 

Cook on low for 8-10 hours or cook on high for 4-5 hours, stirring once or twice if desired, until the onions are a rich golden brown and caramelized. If the onions are really juicy at this point, set the lid an inch or so ajar and let the juice boil down. If they are not to the desired juice you prefer, leave the lid on to seal in the moisture of the onions. Continue cooking until the onions have reached the desired texture and thickness of the liquid. 

These delicious caramelized onions will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator, but why would you "keep" them? Eat them! 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cheese: Respecting the Wedge

Leave it to me...

Here I thought I was well read about the basics, and yes my mother really did teach me table etiquette and proper place settings. Hey  - - I even traveled a few miles in my life out of the continent and sat at some fine dining tables, but when it came time to "respecting the wedge," man did I screw up. 

Picture this. Me - a guest - sitting at a dining room table. My delightful hosts pass around the cheese plate after dinner. Now mind you, both of the hosts were born and raised in France. The cheese plate arrives to me first. As I slowly start to cut into a wedge, all of a sudden I hear from both of my hosts, "No! No! Stop! Respect the wedge!"

After it was all said and done, and long story short; I am now permanently and emotionally scarred by the "wedge."   

The best way to explain my future with cheese is when you're sitting at a formal dinner party and you look through the corner of your eye to see what utensil your dining partners are reaching for first among the sea of knives, forks, and spoons at their place settings. 

Nowadays, when I see a new wedge of cheese in a social setting, I avoid it and watch everyone else cut into it - - first. If someone before me does not "respect the wedge," and I follow their "dissing" of the wedge, my defense is "Don't look at me. They started it."

To help you avoid the embarrassment of being a social pariah, just follow the incisions. Cheers to cheese.

Semi-Soft Wedge
Cut the wedge cross-wise, then cut vertically along the rind. 

Cheeses: Fontina, Gruyère, Gouda, Swiss

Soft Pyramid
Slice the cheese into wedges from the top center. 
Cheeses: Soft goat or cow cheeses from England or France often coated in vegetable ash.

Soft Wedge
Section the cheese into long, narrow wedges from the point outward 
Cheeses: Brie, 
double and triple-cream cheese
Slice across the log into coins. 
Cheeses: Usually goat, fresh or aged

Soft Wheel
Cut it into even wedges, from the center outward. 
Cheeses: Camembert, aged goat cheeses

Veined Wedge
Slice it into points from the bottom center of the thin edge. 
Cheeses: Blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton
Images from Martha Stewart Living

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wander and Ponder: A Quiet Week

After a few busy weeks and weekends in a row, it's rather nice to have several days of solitude. Through most of my adult life, "solitude" has been a rare thing for me - - and after almost forty years of working in occupations (funeral homes, domestic violence shelter, and law firms - civil and defense) where you see people at the worst point of their lives, it's a blessing to have the solitude. Now the only noise I  hear, and by choice, is two little yapping dogs and Pandora

Pandora: is a free, personalized internet radio that plays the style of your favorite music, starting with your favorite artist, song or composer. There are various "stations" to choose from, and you can stream it to your television, your computer, or if you own Echo; ask Alexa to play it for you.

My choice of music with my morning coffee is "Andrea Bocelli Radio." If you don't know this already, the basic app is free. The station isn't all Bocelli, but music that is similar in some ways such as: Josh Groban, Enya, various symphonies  - - easy background music that doesn't interfere with writing. 

Cravings: Can't explain it, but every so often I get a craving for various things. This week it's a cuppa Earl Grey tea, and preferably with a large warm Danish topped with a pat of melted butter. I think Earl Grey is the perfect tea to enjoy with sweet pastries.

Kitchen Tools: A few months ago I looked at my drawer full of kitchen tools and found it depressing, so I started a campaign to replace some of the old ones I've had since... well, a long time. Replaced a potato peeler, masher, pastry brush, tongs, wooden spoons, spatulas... and still replacing. I think the cheese grater is next. After all, a girl likes pretty new things. 

Pretty Things: Now for something pretty - - the detail of the stitches and beading makes me want to grab a needle and thread. 

If it's your choice, I hope your weekend is quiet for you to take the time to enjoy a few "pretty things."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Reading: Pretty Magazines

Finding leisurely time to curl up during a quiet afternoon or late evening with a favorite beverage is one of those events in life that is on the list of "nothing better than..."

If you are an avid reader like I am, sometimes you just want to read something interesting without getting involved in a book - - and sometimes you just, not only want to read, but look at pretty photos for inspiration. That is where a magazine is perfect. 

There was a time I use to subscribe to several country living and Victorian style type of magazines for decorating and recipe ideas - - eventually these magazines became thinner with less good content and more advertising. Hey, I get the advertising part of it. In my early years of adult-hood, I use to moonlight in the evening designing display ads for a small newspaper. Advertising helps keep a magazine afloat, and sometimes keeps the subscription prices down - - but there really needs to be a ratio between good content and photos versus advertising. 

Recently, I have noticed a couple of new magazines to hit the news stands in the last 10 months, so I did some research...

Who doesn't watch HGTV's popular show Fixer Upper  with Chip and Joanna Gaines? If you haven't heard about these two - - where have you been? They are everywhere! This popular couple has recently started their own quarterly magazine, among other things such as mercantile, mail order, bakery, bed and breakfast, and soon a diner.  

Their premiere issue, The Magnolia Journal arrived during the Fall of 2016. The magazine is printed on heavy quality paper with limited advertising. It is filled with beautiful photos, DIY, gardening, seasonal ideas, their personal stories, recipes, and more. It's a very worthy read. 

There's another popular television host who just published her own magazine - Ree Drummond, or you may know her on the Food Network as The Pioneer Woman.  She is also known for her blog, cookbooks, children's author, cookware brand, and just recently she opened up her own brick and mortar/online shop, The Mercantile.

So far, she has just offered a premiere summer issue of her magazine, The Pioneer Woman. The down side of it, the premiere issue was only offered at Walmart. There was no way I was going to go to Walmart in hopes of finding that magazine - - so I patiently waited. The wait paid off as I was able to buy it directly through her online shop (note: the magazine is currently sold out, but it appears it may be made available at a later time). 

The order directly from the Mercantile had a nice personal touch, as the magazine was wrapped in a toile patterned bag and enclosed was a thank you note on a Mercantile postcard. How is the magazine? It's your typical magazine with the slick cover and pages. Sure, there is the usual advertising, but so far I liked the content. Lots of atractive photos, recipes, and interesting articles about her personal and family life - - and some of the cool stuff she sells in her brick and mortar/online store. 

If the Pioneer Woman decides to print future issues of her magazine, will I buy it? Yeah, I think I just might - - at least subscribe the first year. Hopefully for now it will be just quarterly. I don't want to be committed to it every month - - but hey, that's been my mind-set lately. No commitment to subscriptions or television series. 

If you discover these magazines for yourself, let me know what you think; and have you located any new magazines? 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Wander & Ponder: Birthdays and Roses

Where have I been?

Goofing off? Yes and no.

The truth of the matter is I have been writing - a lot - just not writing on the blog. Instead I have been writing a few magazine articles, and working on a few books. Fiction and non-fiction. 

I didn't mean to ignore the month of June, it's just I got swept away with selling antiques and collectibles at one of the local vintage markets, Love of Junk. To participate in a vintage market, and to do it well, is a lot of work. First of all, you have to hunt and pick the items you want to sell. One must inventory and price the items. Packing the items to the market is a lot of work, and then you unpack and display your items hoping to sell a lot so you will have less to pack home. A word of caution: it can be addictive. I am addicted to buying and selling collectibles. 

Also, in the month of June I had a birthday. As it did on the day I was born, or so I have been told, it thundered like crazy that day. Other than the noisy thunder, it was a quiet birthday - - but I find a lovely bouquet of roses at my door stoop.

What is it about roses? I have over 15 rose bushes, and even when the roses eventually dry in the vase, I still find it difficult to toss them. In their dried state, they are still beautiful to me. Yeah, I know the photo below isn't the best, but there was something about it I liked. Don't you? 

So, that's about it. This is where I have been. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Wander and Ponder: Books, Burgers, and Memorial Day

There's been a few days I have neglected my Friday rants, but I have a good reason - - honest.

Books and Articles: During the last couple of weeks, my mornings and evenings have been spent writing - writing a lot of fiction. I am so use to writing professionally about "real stuff" like wine and history, I've discovered writing fiction is a whole different species. I am learning a lot. 

The good part of writing fiction, I am not spending as much time doing research, and instead creating stories and developing characters. It's really been a lot of fun and a pleasant change when I need to step away from research. I have procured a professional editor who is challenging me about the characters. Not only is the editor perusing the content for grammar, but reviews the story as the potential reader making sure we're not leaving any gaps in the mystery. 

If all goes accordingly to plan, not only will I have a new history book released by the end of the year, but a "cozy mystery" via Kindle, too!  The cozy will be the first of a series. Stay tuned... 

Burgers: There is something about sliders that intrigue me. Perhaps it's about their size. Much easier to eat than a regular burger and if serving a crowd, they are easy to prepare ahead of time. 

The family is getting together this Memorial Weekend for a BBQ giving me an opportunity to try this "pull-a-part" slider recipe from Slick Housewives.  It's so easy. The burger is cooked in the oven and who doesn't love those little Hawaiian Rolls? 

Memorial Day: is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally Memorial Day was May 30, and established back in 1868. In 1968 Congress passed and created Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. 

Through the years American families have also celebrated the lives of all of their deceased loved ones, whether they died serving in the military or not - - and even including civilians. That's okay, especially if it brings families together to celebrate the weekend with our loved ones and friends; besides remembering everyone we have lost. 

Have a safe Holiday weekend. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Favorite Spring Sandwich: Grilled Cheese and Asparagus

Who doesn't love grilled cheese sandwiches? If you don't, then I don't think we can be friends - - kidding! Of course we can still be friends if you are a hater of grilled cheese. After all, that just means all the more for me!

It's my favorite time of the year when our local farmer's market and several farm stands are selling these fresh picked spears. This is just your basic grilled cheese sandwich, but add leftover grilled, roasted, blanched, or microwaved-cooked asparagus. These spears of green goodness are best in a sandwich if there is still a nice crunch - not soggy or overcooked.

Okay, so you know the routine. Here is what you need. Bread, cheese, butter, and of course the asparagus. 

When it comes to what type of cheese, do what I do - rummage through your cheese drawer and choose whatever cheese you have on hand. Select those cheeses that are best for melting, like I used Muenster. I also added shreds of cheddar, as shredded cheese will melt faster and more consistent, than just a slice of cheddar. 

Preheat skillet over medium heat. Generously spread softened REAL butter on one side of both slices of bread.  I chose a Brioche bread - an eggy butter-rich bread with a light yellow color and a sweeter taste than plain white. No softened butter handy and you don't wait around for the butter to soften? No problem. Spread the slices with a thin spread of mayonnaise. Yes. Mayonnaise. Don't question it. Just read this. Bon Appetit magazine says so, and so do I. 

Place bread butter-side-down onto skillet bottom and add slices of cheese. When building the sandwich, alternate the ends of the asparagus so you won't just get bites of ends in one half of the sandwich. Top with more cheese. Add second slice of buttered bread and place butter-side up. Grill until lightly browned and flip over. Sometimes the aid of a toothpick helps to anchor the spears. Continue grilling until all the cheese is melted. 

Ooey, gooey, melty, and cooked to pure golden toasty bliss with a nice semi-crunch of asparagus

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wander and Ponder: Elegance, Jelly Jars, and Cozies

This is the week where I have been drawn to politics like a moth to a flame. I-must-stop-and start writing about pleasant things... 

The other day I wrote about "An Elegant Life."  I pointed out ideas to add a touch of elegance to your life. A reader gave me some good things to ponder about "elegance." She suggested that "elegance is more than a collection of objects, but a state of mind, confidence, and a sense of peace... and how you interact with the world around you."

She is correct. I had thought earlier around the same lines while I was writing the original post. I had thought about "elegance" being a gentle spirit and always acting in kindness, and mindful of others and our surroundings.  What stopped me from continuing that chain of thought is I am an imperfect person. I have a lot of work to do with my own "spirit," before I start suggesting to others to get their "spirit" in check. Giving myself a break, I do think the older I get, I think I improve. To sum it up, as I wrote in the article, I think "elegance" is a state of mind. Be aware. Be conscious. Treat your own self with kindness, and I think it becomes easier to treat others the same. Also, don't forget to reach into the china cabinet that never gets open and take that beautiful French crystal wine glass Aunt Bessie gave you from its perch and use that beautiful glass to drink your morning juice from instead of that old Ninja Turtle jelly jar. And speaking of jelly jars...

Jelly Jars: Am I the only one who saves the jelly jars from Bonne Maman fruit preserves and jellies? I even save the caps just in case I want to seal the contents such as: whole spices, bouquets of posies, refrigerator pickles, candle holders, string or button storage, hard candies, and even use them for picnics to store food or use as glasses. Also the perfect wine glass for that Italian themed spaghetti dinner party. 

If David Lebovitz, author of dessert cookbooks and Parisian life can save his jelly and mustard jars, then so can I. 

Cozy Mysteries: So I have been reading this genre of books, downloading numerous on my Kindle, and even dabbled a few words to write my own; but it wasn't until this week at a writer's support group did I learn that what I have been reading has a name. 

Just in case you are behind like I am, what is a "Cozy Mystery?" It is also referred to as "cozies." They are a sub-genre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. Typically the heroine of the crime fiction is not a detective nor any type of a law authoritative figure, but often an owner of a bakery, bed and breakfast, cupcake shop, antique shop, flower shop... any shop owned by a woman and especially in a small intimate community. Many cozies will also come in series. 

Why am I reading "cozies" of all things? They are fun, mindless, and quick. They are also affordable to download on Kindle, especially through book clubs like BookBub and Bargain Booksey. They are sweet forms of entertainment during a time when the news is depressing. It's a nice way to escape. 

Hope you escape somewhere this weekend, if only inside a book. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

An Elegant Life

The tag line to my blog is "The simple trimmings for an elegant life™... "

First of all, it is important to note I do not live an elegant life, especially if you are thinking as in the rich and famous. I have never lived an elegant life. I do tend to use the dictionary - a lot. I always have, and use words literally - - in this case it lists a variety of synonyms under the word "elegance" such as: stylish, graceful, tasteful, classic, smart, simple, clever... 

I like to keep in touch with the trends in home and personal decor, whether I use the trends or not. Mostly, I do not. I seem to stick with the old classics. In my personal dress, I go basics and spend my money on good shoes, purses, sweaters, and accessories. My basic wear of pants and shirts is often neutral and black. I rarely spend much on the basics, especially now that I work from home - - and often basics in black. Why black? I always have. When they make a darker color other than black, I will buy it. 

How to practice "elegance?" 
  • It's the difference between going out grocery shopping with a timeless leather handbag that you will have forever,  instead of a soiled trendy canvas bag with spilled coffee and baby poop on it. 
  • Knowing it is okay to wear a pair of basic black pants and tee from Target, but accessorizing with a fabulous pair of Tiffany or Gucci sunglasses.
  • Instead of a beat-up wooden coffee table in the living room, spray paint it a flat-black or do a quick sanding and brush it with an off-white chalk paint and "shabby-chic" it up a bit. 
  • Want a BMW or a Mercedes but can't afford one?  Buy a "well loved" one - - a classic. They cost less. Just drive it "in season." You and the car will be memorable. 
  • Can't afford diamonds, emeralds, and rubies? Get your Boho-chic on and enjoy the colors of semi-precious stones such as amethysts, rose-colored crystals, and marcasites. 
  • The beautiful old crystal and china that Aunt Polly gave you? Don't dust it. Don't keep it in storage. Use it. Use it for your morning cup of tea and toast. If you don't, many years later someone else will. So what if you break a piece here or there? If you don't, many years later someone else will. 
  • Lit candles in the evening can make a difference in a room - even around the bathtub. 
  • French soaps are very affordable and bring an "elegant" frame of mind instead of the old commercial deodorant soap. 
  • Cooking with butter and wine. Well, actually cooking from scratch can be "elegant" instead of ripping open a box and tossing it in the microwave. 
Elegance is a state of mind. It is often the little things in life that makes a difference. It doesn't have to cost a lot to have that state of mind. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Wander and Ponder: May, Lilacs, Cheese, and Flying

Happy May! 

I cannot explain it, but there is always something exciting about the first week of May. Perhaps it goes back to my childhood and how much I looked forward to the ritual of May Day. In grade school we would dance around the Maypole winding colorful streamers of crepe paper around the pole. 

Our teachers would encourage us to make paper doily cones or woven heart-shaped "baskets" out of colored construction paper to hold the bundle of flowers for a lucky recipient to find on their door. I would often "surprise" my mother with a knock on the front door, hang the flowers on the door knob, and then run away. Bless her. She would play along and when I would nonchalantly walk in the back door from school, she would act all surprised showing me what she found at the front door. 

Let's not let May Day be a forgotten tradition. 

An Ode to Lilacs: They are in bloom! I miss my old lilac trees I use to have growing at a former house. They bloomed in colors of white, a rare pink, and of course many shades of lavender and purple. I think I took those old trees for granted - that they would always be there for me that first week of May. The fragrance is one of the best smells on earth. 

Cheese: If you ever see a wedge or a round of White Stilton with Mango and Ginger, buy it. You won't be sorry. The sharp tang from the White Stilton, a protected designation of origin English cheese, and the sweetness of the fruit and spice is a pleasure on the tongue. It makes a fine cheese to enjoy after dinner and especially in the morning on a croissant. 

Take a Chance: Whether it is a change of career, retirement, a new home, a smaller home, a new and bold paint color for your front door, or even the possibility of finding love. Go ahead. Pluck one. Pluck a chance. They are yours for the offering. Sometimes it's okay to fly through parts of your life by the seat of your pants. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Do Millennials Eat White Sauce?

Yes! Yes they do eat white sauce and sometimes even make it, but possibly they do not know they are eating "white sauce." It's just that it's not often referred to as "white sauce." Now days it is much cooler to refer to white sauce as "bechamel."

No, I am not picking on the Millennials, so save the cards and letters... as Oprah use to say. The facts are it was discovered that Millennials, or members of Generation Y, are less likely to strongly identify with the generational terms when compared to Generation X or to the Baby Boomers. 

For the most part Baby Boomers were of the "white sauce" era due to the convenient cookbooks such as the popular Betty Crocker’s 1956 Picture Cook Book. While Julia Child tried her best to sway our parents, and even the Baby Boomers with her two-volume French cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published in 1961 (Volume 1) and 1970 (Volume 2). It took Julia at least 30 good years to get us to pay attention that French cooking could be just as simple as most recipes in our American cookbooks. 

The basic recipe: 

  1. 2 tablespoons butter
  2. 2 tablespoons flour
  3. 1 1/4 cups milk, heated
  4. Salt
  5. Freshly ground pepper
  6. And sometimes a hint of nutmeg. 

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown — about 2 minutes. This step is basically making what is referred to as a "roux." (Often in Cajun cooking, the roux is cooked longer until it is the desired brown color)

Add the warm milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. You can also add more milk to thin the sauce, if needed. 

There you go! You have your basic bechamel which now can be used or other ingredients can be added to it - - such as cheese! 

In fact, speaking of white sauce and Betty Crocker, the 1950's housewife often made white sauce. My mother made white sauce to "enhance" the top of salmon patties. These little fish patties were made exactly the same as crab cakes, but with canned or leftover salmon. Like who had leftover salmon hanging around? Fresh salmon wasn't all that available at the time, especially if you lived in the middle of a farming town. My folks had many friends and co-workers who would visit Alaska for salmon fishing. They often brought back their catch canned at the local fish canneries. They would drop by a can or two. Sometimes peas were put into the sauce. And speaking of white sauce and peas, who remembers in the spring eating "new potatoes and peas in white sauce?"

My dad made white sauce for the beloved SOS in our household. SOS was a white sauce with chipped beef in it and served on a piece of toast or biscuit. Dad would shake his head at us kids with every bite we put into our mouths. He would always say, "If that is all you had to eat for days, you probably wouldn't enjoy it like you do now." Oh, and the meaning of SOS? "Shit on a Shingle" was the term used in the armed forces. 

One of the more "elegant" uses for white sauce was a favorite among my mother and her "young housewives" club luncheons - - Eggs ala Goldenrod over fresh asparagus. Think of it as a vegetarian version of Eggs Benedict, but with asparagus and bechamel sauce instead of hollandaise. Mom often cut the crust off of the toast to make it look "fancier." Eggs ala Goldenrod was the perfect way to use up those hard-boiled eggs during Easter brunch, especially if asparagus was in season. Frankly, I would crumble bacon on top. 

Giving bechamel (aka white sauce) a lot of thought, it is the tasty base for many popular and even international foods that we enjoy today. It's the base for gourmet mac and cheese, and if it isn't topped over croque monsieur or croque madame, then you would have ordinary ham and cheese sandwiches.  Bechamel is  the glue that holds potato and vegetable gratins together, and between the layers of Greek moussaka or Italian baked rigatoni. Chicken pot pie isn't a good pot pie without bechamel. It's the base of all good creamy or cheesy soups like broccoli, or even clam chowder. Chile con queso gets some added creaminess for dipping with the start of a good white sauce - - aka bechamel. 

It's also a regional thing when you consider good ol' biscuits and sausage gravy. That specialty gravy starts with a flour and butter roux. Would it be referred to as a white sauce since it originated in the south? Whether you refer to it as bechamel or white sauce, it is just as delicious. 

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