Thursday, March 19, 2009

Welcome Spring

Tomorrow is finally the first day of spring! You may not be able to tell from the temperatures-(in the mid 40’s), but there are signs if you look closely. Winter coats are gone, colors are brighter, and moods are lighter. The garden shops & farmer’s markets are full of spring bulbs and pansies. There is the faintest blush of green on the mountains. The birds are singing with a joyous enthusiasm. The cats are ready to jump through the window after them! Bunnies are appearing everywhere. All the churches are starting their chocolate egg sales. Welcome spring-she has finally made her debut!

Can the bunny be far behind?

Happy spring!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Wine And Cheese Party

A Wine & Cheese Tasting

he invitations have gone out, “Do join us this weekend to taste a bit of the grape”. We have some favorites from the cellar & some samplings that we have brought back from our travels. The big glass apothecary jar that serves as the table centerpiece is filled to the rim with wine corks. I have collected them for a long while. Some are marked with dates of special occasions, others friends have “donated” to the collection. The table is set with some select offerings, a bottle of red...a bottle of white…hmm, where did I hear that before? A little jazz is playing-the lights are low-candles flicker on the table. It is still cool enough to have a fire going. Brass branches of ivy surround the centerpiece and corks are scattered willy-nilly across the table. The napkins are imprinted with assorted wine labels. The glasses are covered with grapes & vines-(they are actually vintage candy dishes minus the lids-a flea market find). Fromage choices for the evening include a nice smoked round of Gouda, herbed Vermont cheddar, a mild provolone & a pot of Boursin. A nice crusty baguette & fresh fruit accompany the cheese. A perfect first course. Friends arrive bearing offerings for the table.

For our next course we’ll have a salad of spring greens tossed with a light red wine vinaigrette followed by Salmon stuffed with Crab and topped with an apricot/ginger glaze, roasted new potatoes, & asparagus finished with a brown butter. For dessert-chocolate dipped strawberries & a fruit sorbet .Do bring your jammies & stay the weekend!

Details: The plates feature varieties of pears & are by Rosanna & from my favorite thrift shop. The wine glasses-former candy dishes are from a flea market-(I collected them one-by-one never knowing they were supposed to have lids). The metal sculpture ivy came from the Salvation Army. The English bread board came from “across the pond” via eBay. That vibrant blue pottery basket another thrift find-(I sort-of collect them). The napkins & wine-bottle-shaped cheese board were a gift from bro & sis in-law. Those heavy bronze candlesticks are French-an eBay treasure.
Can you guess just how many corks are in the jar? Email me your guess & I will send the one who guesses correctly-or closest a package of my White Pizza Cheese Spread to make for your next gathering. This is a great little party game too!
I'll reveal the winner on next week's Tablescape Thursday!

To your health! à vo·tre san·té
Did you bring your jammies?
*Note-This menu is deceptively easy though it sounds quite complicated. Most grocery stores including the “Big Box” stores like Sam’s & Costco stock a similar Stuffed Salmon. My favorite is from Costco-they use imitation crab instead of the real thing so hubby can have it too! I first add 1 Tablespoon olive oil and ½ tablespoon Red Pepper Oil to my pan & swirl to coat. I add the salmon turning once to coat. I dash on ½ teaspoon-(dried) dill, 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice Powder-(*Again available at most grocery stores & even Dollar General!), a pinch of dried tarragon, & ½ teaspoon granulated garlic. I bake it at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. I take it out of the oven and top it with about 1 tablespoon per slice of fish, Apricot Ginger Glaze-(*I buy it at Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill in Lancaster county, but I’m sure you can find similar varieties at the grocers). I turn the oven to broil & pop them back in till the glaze is bubbly & the crab just the slight bit crispy.

For the Roast Potatoes, I like to use baby redskins. I coat a baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the potatoes in the pan and stir to coat. Season potatoes with your favorite seasoned salt or multi-purpose seasoning, stirring to coat. *(I make my own seasonings & use The Perfect Season, but McCormick’s or Mrs. Dash will work too!) If you have some fresh rosemary, strip the leaves leaving just a “tassel” at the top. Run a skewer through your potatoes then “thread” onto the rosemary skewer. Roast or grill until tender.

I love to dip strawberries in chocolate! I use whatever candy I have on hand, usually Wilbur Buds in dark chocolate from the Wilbur Chocolate Factory in Lititz. Line a baking sheet or tray with wax paper. I melt the chocolate in the microwave on 30 power and watch till it is just about melted. I take it out and stir it to melt any lumps. I let the chocolate cool slightly, and then carefully dip each berry, letting excess chocolate dip back into the dish. Place on wax paper-lined tray to cool. If you like melt another chocolate-(you can buy candy-making chocolate at many craft stores) and drizzle over dark-chocolate dipped berries. My favorite is pink! You could also sprinkle the dipped berries with colored jimmies. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
The presentation has a longer prep time than the actual meal.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Outdoor Wednesday-A taste of Spring

My favorite greenhouse opens the end of the month. I can't wait! Last year this wagon was filled to over-flowing with baskets of petunias.
This fabulous allium is an early spring bloomer.
This is the fish pond as it looks now. The iris are
about eight inches tall. Fish are lovin' the sunshine!

By late May or early June we are in full bloom!

I am partial to those tropical-looking coral begonias.

Another Outdoor Wednesday has rolled around. Spring is taking her time, but the weather is finally turning fair. Temperatures are expected in the 60’s today. I noticed tiny little green buds clinging to the ornamental cherry today. The water irises are popping above water. The fish lazed in the sunshine rippling across the surface of the pond.

Still nothing to get too excited about. This first phase of spring is all about clean-up. The amount of twigs and branches cluttering the garden is phenomenal. The bulbs are pushing up in spite of it so we rake it away to give them room to grow. The larger limbs we cut up and save for outdoor fires later. Can’t wait to roast some marshmallows.

So I leave you with scenes from gardens past-while spring is yet preparing for her grand entrance!
Happy outdoor Wednesday!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Today everyone is just a little bit Irish. Somewhere in my family tree a few shamrocks have taken root. I am making Shepard's Pie for dinner tonight. Everyone has their own recipe, each a little bit different. All enjoyable!

Shepard’s Pie

1 Tablespoon Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 pounds ground beef
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1 can green beans, drained-14-1/2 oz.
1 teaspoon pickle relish
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Dash mustard-(dry)
Pinch thyme
Fresh ground pepper
¾ teaspoon seasoned salt
2 dash granulated garlic
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained 14-1/2 oz.
1 cut carrots, cut into ½ inch diagonals-(cooked till fork tender)

3 medium potatoes, cooked until tender
1 egg, beaten
½ cup skim milk
½ Tablespoon butter or margarine
Teaspoon chives
1-1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar

Heat oil in large skillet and sauté onion until golden. Add beef and seasonings and cook until meat has browned. Stir in green beans and tomatoes. Simmer five minutes, and then add carrots.

In separate bowl, mash potatoes with egg, butter, and milk.

Turn out meat mixture into large casserole or Dutch oven. Layer with one cup cheese and spread mashed potatoes over top. Sprinkle with chives.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes to one half hour. Serve with brown ale sauce if desired.