Sunday, November 30, 2008


Before I got married my sister's mother-in-law hosted a Bridal Tea for me at the Windsor Court in New Orleans. The Windsor Court has one of the city's most beloved traditions of Afternoon Tea. Their attention to detail from the The "Wild Strawberry" patterned Wedgwood China to the string trio playing in background makes it a truly memorable experience. I know the idea of Afternoon Tea may seem stuffy or boring to some, but I wouldn't agree. I love the idea of a bunch of women sitting around chit chatting, sipping on delicious tea and nibbling on petite pastries. It is fun, it is girly, and it is something every woman should try at least once.

Giada De Laurentiis had a show this week on the Food Network that was centered around snacks you could serve if you hosted an Afternoon Tea. This particular recipe seemed very interesting and I couldn't wait to give it a try. It made me wish I had registered for a Silver Tea Service!

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola and Honey
Giada De Laurentiis

  • 36 slices (1/2-inch thick) baguette bread, about 1 loaf
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces Gorgonzola, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice baguette into 1/2 inch slices.

Arrange the sliced baguette on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil.

Bake until the bread is pale golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Arrange the cheese on the toasts and bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.

Drizzle the toasts with honey.

Place on a serving platter and serve immediately.

These snacks were delicious. The sweetness of the honey worked wonderfully to balance out the bite of the Italian Blue Cheese. And the crunch of the bruschetta was the perfect answer to the creamy cheese and the sticky honey. You don't have to host a tea to serve this appetizer. It is the perfect starter for any occasion (I served them as a snack during the Iron Bowl -definitely not an afternoon tea!)

Ironically, the day after I watched the Giada Tea Special, my own mother-in-law invited me to an Afternoon Tea over the Christmas holiday. So luckily I get the opportunity to partake in another amazing Afternoon Tea.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thumbs Up!

In the last comment my mom posted on my blog she mentioned Martha Stewart and it got me to thinking, "What is ol' Martha up to for the Holidays?" Her website always has the best holiday decorating ideas. So I wandered on over and found a feature on Christmas cookies. These precious thumbprints were one of the highlighted recipes. We have friends coming over for dinner tonight and they both have a very demanding sweet tooth. I knew this would be the perfect dessert with a tall glass of milk.

Chocolate Thumbprints
Martha Stewart Cookies


Makes 2 dozen

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1 stick butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium high.

Roll dough by teaspoonfuls into balls, and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press thumb into tops of cookies to make indentations. (I used a wine cork to save my finger from trauma and to have a more uniform indentation.)
Return to oven, and bake until light brown on the edges, 7 to 9 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Combine chocolate, 4 tablespoons butter, and corn syrup in a small heat-proof bowl.

Set over a pot of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted and smooth.

Allow to cool slightly. When cookies are cool, fill the thumbprints with the chocolate mixture.

These cookies were fun to make. Their petite size and popular flavor combination would make them the most amazing Christmas Cookie to package up and give a s a gift or bring to a holiday party. They don't require many ingredients so they aren't very costly to make. My mother in law told me that Hershey's is now making Sugar Free Chocolate Chips (she found them at Wal-Mart, but I haven't been able to find them yet in the supermarket), so you could even make these as a gift for people with special dietary needs.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Turkey Day Troubles - Installment #6

There are many downfalls to living 1000 miles away from your family like I do. And not surprisingly, the biggest downfall is the Holidays without them. Forrest and I have been lucky enough to travel home during some holidays, but we always stay in DC for Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving is a hard holiday to be away from home. I miss decorating the table at my parents' house, I miss waking up early and watching the Macy's Parade with the other early risers, I miss my niece and nephew's expressions as they sit down to their pint sized table we have set especially for them, I miss the annual Kris Kringle name pull after dinner, and I miss my Daddy's annual declaration of "You really outdid yourself this year, Momma!" But the one thing I miss most every Thanksgiving away from home is- my Momma. She is an amazing creature in the kitchen and Thanksgiving is one of her times to shine. She cooks every single dish we eat including the turkey and does it all without a single recipe. She doesn't get stressed, she doesn't appear flustered, and she always has it ready right on time. The menu remains the same each year, but the dishes are deliciously consistent. Every year you know what you are about to experience as you settle down to the table with your overflowing plate. I admire her composure and her ability to perform what she so aptly defined once as "mommering". Mommering is the ability in any situation to do something that seems superhuman. It is that admirable quality to swoop in during what seems to be some of the most hectic situations and gain immediate control. The ability to put the metaphoric band-aid on any problem. But you can only posses these powers if you are in fact a momma - and that I am not!

So as I prepped for my first big Thanksgiving dinner I am cooking alone, I called my mom several times in order for her to execute a little mommering. She guided me through prepping the turkey - telling me to calm down or I would have a stroke (I am not nearly as calm or composed as my dear mother). She helped me determine cooking times and schedules for my dishes and she listened as I revealed every single miniscule detail from my recipes to my supermarket excursions.

As I sit here on this Thanksgiving-Eve I can't help but feel a little saddened. Saddened by the fact that I will not wake up tomorrow and stumble into the kitchen to find my mother in her red striped apron, chopping away, listening to country music, and trying to convince my Daddy to join her for a glass of wine.

It seems very fitting to finish my Turkey Day Trouble Installments off by talking about my mother. She is, after all, the person who inspired this recurring series. I wanted to share a couple pictures of this precious turkey shaped butter I picked up today at the grocery. What does this bird butter have to do with my mother? Well nothing really, except for the fact that as I placed it in my basket I couldn't help but think how ridiculous she would have told me I was being for buying butter shaped like poultry that cost twice as much as a pound of regular butter. She is very practical (I guess that is a good counterpart to "calm and in control") and she would have laughed at my extravagance. But it was too cute to pass up!

I also included some pics of my table setting from my last Thanksgiving in New Orleans:

And my table setting for my Thanksgiving Dinner Tomorrow (a much smaller table, much more cramped):

Monday, November 24, 2008

Turkey Day Troubles - Installment #5

Forrest volunteered to deliver the Thanksgiving meals his office had donated to two needy families today. Everyone in his office contributed by donating gift cards, non-perishable food items, and Christmas gifts for the children in the families. He suggested that I bake a Thanksgiving treat so they had something homemade. I knew exactly what I wanted to make after seeing Paula Deen whip up these pretty goodies.

Pumpkin Bars
Paula Deen


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.

Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl

with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined.

Stir in the vanilla and mix again.

Spread on cooled pumpkin bars (I piped them for a cleaner presentation).

I didn't try these treats because I don't eat Pumpkin. But of course Forrest had to try them and he loved them. I also brought a couple leftover bars to work and everyone who tried them seemed to really enjoy them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Turkey Day Troubles - Installment #4

I figure that I have overdone the starch category in my Thanksgiving installments. It was time to round out the menu with some vegetables. I have been wanting to try parsnips for a very long time. This recipe is a perfect addition to any T-Day menu because of its simplicity. Not every dish needs to be time consuming in order to be delicious.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Thyme
Recipe Courtesy Danny Boome

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 pound parsnips
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut them in half lengthwise, larger ones can be quartered. Place them on a large rimmed baking sheet.

Drizzle the carrots and parsnips with the olive oil and honey.

Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs on top. Place them in the preheated oven.

After 10 minutes, give the veggies a toss and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft and slightly caramelized. Serve warm.

Parsnips not only look a lot like carrots, but they also taste like them. Although the flavor is VERY similar, parsnips have a stronger bite than carrots. I like the idea of adding them to the dish because they give the dish an interesting color combination.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thinking out of the Box

One of the earliest cooking experiences I can remember was that of making homemade pizza. When I was a very young girl, my neighbor's high school sold homemade pizza kits as a school fund raiser. Everything you needed to make the pizza came in one complete box: the sauce, the dough, the toppings and the cheese. We would buy these kits and on Friday nights we would all make homemade pizza as a family. It was so much fun and yummy as well. This meal reminded me of those Friday nights but with a twist.

Pizza Bites
Modified from RecipeZaar


2 cans refrigerated pizza dough (I used Pillsbury - which is found by the crescent rolls)
1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
4 oz thin sliced pepperoni
2 tsp Italian seasoning (combine oregano, basil, parsley, and garlic)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
pizza or marinara sauce


Prepare pizza dough and roughly chop pepperoni.

If you are going to bake some (or all!) right away preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 3 pie pans.

If using refrigerated pizza dough: roll one dough out into a large rectangle and cut into 24 pieces. Don't make them as rectangular as I did (see below). I should have made them more square, it would have made them easier to fold around the filling.

Repeat with 2nd pizza dough. If using homemade dough just pinch off walnut sized pieces as you go.
In each dough piece place a couple pieces of chopped pepperoni and a tablespoon of cheese. Seal dough around meat and cheese and place seam side down in pie pan.

Repeat, placing approximately 16 dough balls in each pie plate.

Once assembled, combine oil and spices and brush over the dough. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese
Now you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze or you can bake right away.

When ready to bake: bake at 400°F for 16-20 min. Serve with warm pizza or marinara sauce.

This dish was so much fun and very creative, not to mention delicious. It would be great to serve during a football game or as a snack during a board game night. I think this would be a great dish to serve kids and they could help in the preparation for added fun.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Turkey Day Troubles - Installment #3

Mashed Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. Every Thanksgiving dinner table must have them because they are essential for pairing with that amazing turkey gravy. Just keep your eye on the other dinner guests to make sure they don't start constructing Devil's Tower out of this creamy creation. That could be scary!

Mashed Potatoes
Recipe Courtesy Emeril Lagasse

  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 stick butter, cubed
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and white pepper

Peel potatoes.

Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes until fork tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and drain. Place the potatoes back in the pot and return to the heat. Stir the potatoes, constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes to dehydrate the potatoes.

Remove the potatoes from the heat. Add the butter.

Using a hand-held masher, mash the butter into the potatoes.

Add enough cream until desired smoothness is achieved.

Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

This is the best mashed potato recipe I have ever made. The step where you dehydrate the potatoes is very important. It ensures that you don't have runny potatoes. The white pepper gives an amazing kick and the cream smooths them out to perfection.