Monday, December 26, 2011

Roasted Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes

I hope you all had a great Christmas. I had a houseful and I enjoyed every minute of it….preparing, eating, laughing and a bit of responsible debauchery too! Older daughter set a beautiful table with my newly acquired mismatched silver and equally mismatching goblets and chairs (which added an informal "chic" to our dinner) and a great centerpiece of winter greens I got at Home Depot two – yes two! – weeks ago for $9.99. I’ve had the polka dot runner for years, an acquisition from Pier 1, and the Spode knock-off plates are from Target. See, you don’t have to spend a fortune to look like you did!

As you’ve heard me say many times, there’s no such thing as too much garlic..for more than the flavor it adds to food. Garlic is rich in antioxidants and is known to prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and boost the immune system. During WWII, soldiers were given garlic to help prevent gangrene. So you see, not only is this spicy little bulb good, it’s also good for you!

Garlic’s flavor mellows as it’s cooked and I decided to roast some and add a couple of tablespoons to our Christmas mashed potatoes. The original recipe the the mashed potatoes from calls for boiling garlic cloves with the potatoes, but I thought that roasted garlic would add a more subtle flavor.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Cut the tops off of a garlic bulb and brush with a bit of olive oil.

Place each garlic bulb in a cupcake tin and bake for 35 minutes.

When done, peel the skin from each clove, place in a small bowl and mash into a paste.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes
8 medium red potatoes, quartered with skins on
2 tablespoons of roasted garlic
½ stick of butter (I used a Kerrygold Herbed Butter)
½ cup to 1 cup of fat-free milk, warmed
Salt & Pepper to taste
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place potatoes in a large pot; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until the potatoes are very tender. Drain well. Add the roasted garlic, butter, milk and salt and mash until potatoes are not whole; the mixture will be chunky this is not a smooth or creamy mashed potatoe! Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve.

These potatoes are so delicious. The herbed butter and the roasted garlic are just perfect together.

I am linking this post to Between Naps On The Porch Tablescape Thursday.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Be Merry!

Remember the letters I made in pottery class? Well here they are all glazed and hung. I saw the idea in a magazine (I can't remember which one or I would attribute credit!) and thought it was the cutest! A stick from my yard, a roll of twine, my clay letters and we have a homemade greeting! I think I'll add some mini white lights for a bright touch.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Ornament Exchange

I host a Holiday Party each year. It’s known as the Ornament Exchange and along with the spirits, food and the company of cherished friends, we play a “Yankee Swap” game with Christmas ornaments. The more “interesting” ornaments are swapped more frequently making this a game of cunning strategy. We have a blast each year and everyone walks away with an ornament (some more coveted than others). Here is mine…a shark in a hula skirt, donning a purse, sunglasses and a beaded necklace!

This year’s party was an eco-friendly soiree. I borrowed some suggestions from “A Few Steps,” an organization with a mission to promote leaner, cleaner energy in the communities surrounding Swarthmore, PA. Virtually nothing at the party was disposable. I used cloth banquet napkins (a 12-pack from Target for $9.99) lovely holiday dinner plates that I collected over the years and 36 silver forks in varying patterns that I bought from a little shop in Swarthmore called The Shoppe on Park…another good thing – support your local businesses!

So, I stress about the food every year and this year I turned to my Wednesday evening dinner mates for guidance…they counseled me to serve limited choices of meat. Next, I wanted some direction on serving portions (being Italian, I am always fearful that there won’t be enough food). So I turned to who explained that the rule of thumb is ½ lb. of uncooked meat per person, ¼ lb. of side dishes per person (2-3) dishes. Armed with this information, I planned the menu that included baked ziti, sausage and meatballs, pistachio chicken, fig glazed pork tenderloin and a family favorite, stuffing – from a recipe my dad clipped from a magazine many years ago. I also made the most adorable Santa hat cupcakes I saw on

I decided to make a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing. I used a mix – but it was very good mix from the Barefoot Contessa…it came complete with instructions to make the cream cheese icing. I sliced the stems off of small strawberries and placed them sliced-side down on top of the frosted cupcake. Next, I piped some “fur” around the brim of the hat and added a dollop of icing on top for a pom-pom. Santa would be so pleased!

We had a blast creating yet another memory!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Lawyer’s Cabinet

I see this cabinet in the Pottery Barn catalog and I love it -- everything about it – but at $1,499 it’s not in the budget.

Too bad.

Until one day I’m meandering around my office storage area and I see this poor old, scratched-up lawyer’s cabinet that I always loved and I get an idea. I ask if I can buy it for a nominal amount and into the back of the Subaru it goes.

I love my old Subaru.

Here is a photo….not very pretty – yet – but I see possibilities. It doesn’t have the window grilles like the inspiration piece, but I am not deterred…that’s a detail I know I can fix.

Read on.

So, I trot into Home Depot (because you know mine is the house Home Depot built) with the photo of the inspiration cabinet and mosey on over to the Martha Stewart paint section (we also know from previous posts that Martha is my idol) and I buy a quart of her eggshell finish (satin gloss) paint in BARN RED. I give this neglected jewel a good sanding, then a good wipe, and I begin the colorific transformation. Oh, I forgot….I also added a shelf.

This piece does not have the “grilles” you see in the lovely inspiration piece so with the painting almost done, I order custom grilles from Screen It Again.

This is an amazing site. You follow the ordering tutorial and in about two weeks, you got yourself some custom-ordered window grilles to gussy up any plain window. I painted them before adhering to the cabinet windows, which, by the way, was a snap because I ordered stick-on grilles!

After I stick the grilles on the cabinet glass, I am pee-my-pants pleased with how this cabinet turned out. Sorry, but I am.

My metaphoric substitution is not as tall as the inspiration piece and the doors open instead of slide. I replaced the dull metal pulls with fun “clock” knobs I found at Anthropologie for $8 a piece. The catalog description says that the inspiration cabinet is “finished by hand for exceptional depth of color.” There’s one feature both pieces share!

Entire cost of this project....about $60.

At some point, I will replace the solid panels on the bottom with some glass and custom grilles, but for now, I am quite content.

I am linking this post to Primitive & Proper Piece of Work Wednesday.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Bottle Bag

I’ve been wondering about this and finally, the Wine & Spirits stores in PA now offer an eco-friendly and oh-so-clever way to transport alcoholic purchases. It’s a reusable bag available at check out for .99 that holds six bottles of libations comfortably. It seemed so wasteful to me that the clerks had to put the bottle inside of a paper bag to put into another plastic bag. You could, of course, take one of the great boxes offered when you buy multiple bottles of your favorite spirit but then you risk being bushwhacked by impending movers who stockpile the corrugated treasures.

Between this little find and the Chairman’s Selection wines, it’s now a downright pleasure (ok, an overstatement) to visit the stores. explains that “The Chairman’s Selection™ program offers consumers select, highly rated wines and spirits at often the best prices in the United States. While the greatest numbers of selections
are from California, the program has grown to include wines from all over the world.” I have found some very reasonably priced, tasty gems using the Chairman’s Selection as my go-to guide. New and unique vintages arrive regularly and I usually add at least one of The Chairman’s Selection choices when I visit to buy multiple bottles of my favorite house red from Italy, Cantina Zaccagnini.

Visit Fine Wine & Good Spirits for wine promotions and suggestions, great party planning ideas, research resources and even live chat!

The liquor stores in PA were formerly known as State Stores because the PA Liquor Control Board manages the alcohol beverage industry in PA. So here’s my question… why not Commonwealth Stores since PA is indeed a Commonwealth? Can you name the other Commonwealths in the United States?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roasted Root Vegetables with Cranberries

I don't think I need to say too much more about these roasted root vegetables we had at Foodies. Onions, and squash, and sprouts...oh my!

One word. Delicious.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Irish Funeral

So, we had an Irish funeral for Architect's beagle, Louie. He was a sweet old boy and a very grateful pup; an adoptee from the SPCA. Like all good Irish funerals, we ate, sang, laughed, and drank Finnegan's Irish whiskey....we had a good time memorializing a good dog.

We all brought something to the gathering and Foodie brought a "mystery" chocolate cake. Foodie made us guess the secret ingredient and after several dud responses, including zucchini, I guessed "BEETS" which was, surprisingly, correct. It was delectable and I just had to have the recipe which I now happily share with my dear readers.

Chocolate-Beet Cake

8 ounces beets, unpeeled, rinsed and scrubbed free of dirt
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (70% cacao solids), chopped
1/4 cup hot espresso (or water)
7 ounces butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (the darkest you can find, natural or Dutch-process)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 cup superfine sugar

1. Butter an 8- or 8 1/2 inch (20 cm) spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Boil the beets in salted water with the lid askew until they’re very tender when you stick a knife in them about 45 minutes. Drain then rinse the beets with cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip off the peels, cut the beets into chunks, and grind them in a food processor until you get a coarse, yet cohesive, puree. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a cheese grater.)

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring as little as possible.

4. Once it’s nearly all melted, turn off the heat (but leave the bowl over the warm water), pour in the hot espresso and stir it once. Then add the butter. Press the butter pieces into the chocolate and allow them to soften without stirring.

5. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a separate bowl.

6. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter is melted. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, then stir the egg yolks together and briskly stir them into the melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the beets.

7. In a stand mixer, or by hand, whip the egg whites until stiff. Gradually fold the sugar into the whipped egg whites with a spatula, then fold them into the melted chocolate mixture, being careful not to overmix.

8. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder.

9. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and reduce the heat of the oven to 325ºF (160ºC), and bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until the sides are just set but the center is still is just a bit wobbly. Do not overbake.

Let cake cool completely, then remove it from the pan.

Spread with crème fraîche before serving.

The author says that this cake tastes better the next day and he is right....I had a piece the next evening and the flavors incorporated so beautifully. Perhaps one of the best treats I ever had!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The A&P Pasta Bowl

Sometimes you leave moms with more than a full belly and leftovers on Thanksgiving! My mom gave me this gorgeous pasta bowl that belonged to my beloved Italian Grandmom. I have fond recollections of countless ravioli and pasta dinners served in this bowl…how I miss those days! If my siblings and cousins remember this bowl, do chime in! It has a little crack in it but I don’t care….I’ll use it anyway and think of my Grandmom each time.

The stamp on the bottom says RRP & Co, Roseville, OH and my mom believes the bowl is over 60 years old. Sister found a vintage Roseville pasta bowl on ebay that is very similar to mine, The article Uncommon Clay: Ohio Art Pottery from the Paige Palmer Collection says "The secret of the company's success was its ability to produce hand decorated pieces along with commercial dinner wares and premiums for A&P Company."

My guess is that my Grandmom purchased this bowl at the A&P grocery store that used to be on Fairmount Avenue in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia. I remember walking to the A&P with my Grandmom and playing on the Eastern State Penitentiary wall.

My Grandmom....just like I remember her!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprout Gratin with Shallots and Rosemary

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! “There is nothing more honorable than a grateful heart” and even with life’s minor inconveniences and the occasional natural disaster, we all have much for which to be thankful.

I am heading to my Mom’s house today and my mission was to bring desserts and a side dish. The desserts were easy…I bought a Pumpkin Pie and ordered a Banana Cream Pie from the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, DE. So decadently good! BUT, not wanting the desserts to out-shine the side dish, I decided to make something different and special…Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprout Gratin with Shallots and Rosemary. I found this recipe on and the description touts “this rich, creamy side dish is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Brussels sprouts, pan roasted in brown butter until tender and nutty, are mixed with sweet, earthy Gruyère and topped with crisp breadcrumbs.” With a description like that, I felt downright inspired to try it.

Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprout Gratin with Shallots and Rosemary
1-1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed
2 large shallots, halved
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/4 cups heavy cream (I used ½ & ½ )
1-1/4 cups finely grated Gruyère (about ½ block)
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

Slice the Brussels sprouts in half

Thinly slice the shallots.

In a 12-inch oven-safe skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook the butter until it begins to brown and smell nutty. Set aside 1 Tablespoon of the browned butter in a medium bowl.

Add the Brussels sprouts, shallots, 2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the pan and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts and shallots begin to soften and brown in spots, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. I covered the pan so the Brussels spouts could cook a little more. Because I had to transport this dish, I transferred the mixture to a baking dish, but the directions say to bake it right in the oven-save pan.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, Gruyère, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Heat until the cheese is melted, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Do not boil. Add the sauce to the Brussels sprouts, carefully stirring to combine.

Add the panko, Parmigiano, rosemary, and a pinch of salt to the reserved butter and mix thoroughly. Spread the panko mixture on top of the sprout mixture.

Bake until the crumbs are browned and the Brussels sprouts are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)

We had dinner at Singers house on Wednesday and she made something I never had…a traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo). Singer adapted this version from a recipe in Slow Cooker Revolution by the editors of America's Test Kitchen. One of the spices featured in this soup is star anise.

Star anise is a beautiful spice and the origin of its name is quite obvious! With a licorice taste, it's the seed pod of an evergreen tree grown in southwestern China and Japan and it is often featured in slow-cooked and long simmered Asian dishes such as the Pho Bo soup we enjoyed. It is also the “star” of many Indian stews and curries. Add whole star anise in slow cooked or simmered dishes and, like bay leaves or cloves, discard before serving.

Star anise is typically sold Asian supermarkets and specialty stores, like Whole Markets. Store star anise in a sealed container in a cool dark place…it will retain its flavor for several months!

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)
Soup Base
4 cups Chicken Broth-- low sodium
4 cups Beef Broth - throw in a few meaty beef bones, par-boiled to remove any impurities.
1-2 lbs of beef flank, chuck or brisket (Singer used brisket -- season with salt and pepper)
1 4 inch piece of Ginger -- sliced lengthwise
1 onion -- peeled and sliced in half
4 smashed and peeled garlic cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise seed pods
1 stalk of lemongrass-- broken in half
4 cloves
1/4 Cup of fish sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar

Place sliced ginger, onion and garlic on a baking sheet and broil until charred slightly. This helps these flavors “bloom” when used in a slow cooker. Place the charred ingredients into a large slow cooker then add broth, and all other items. Cook on low for 9-11 hours or on high for 5-7 hours. Occasionally skim the surface and add water as needed.

When finished, remove beef first and reserve. Strain for a clear broth and discard all the other solids. Remove fat from surface (this is easy if you chill overnight and remove the fat the next day). Cooked beef may be shredded into soup later, but Singer decided to not put it into the soup base. Flank would probably work best for that purpose.

1 Package of thick rice noodles. Bring a large pot of water (about 4 quarts) to boil. Take the pot off the heat and add rice noodles for 10-15 minutes until noodles are pliable and somewhat soft. Drain, and rinse with cool water.

Soup Garnishes (for each guest to add to soup):
1 12 ounce Sirloin steak
1/2 lb of Bean sprouts
1-2 Jalapenos sliced thinly
1/2 cup of Basil leaves
1/2 cup of mint leaves
1/2 cup of cilantro
Two sliced scallions
2 Tablespoons of chopped peanuts
Wedges of lime
Chili (garlic) Sauce

Many traditional recipes call for raw sliced beef. Singer quickly sauteed the beef in a very hot frying pan, until cooked to medium rare.

To serve, place a serving of noodles in a bowl and top with several pieces of thinly-sliced beef. Ladle in some broth (the hot broth will cook the beef a bit more for guests who like it less rare).

All other items are placed on the table to be added to the individual bowls of soups as desired. The various garnishes add a depth of flavor, aroma and interest to this traditional and beautifully-presented, colorful soup.

We also had a salad of arugula, field and micro greens, oranges and almonds tossed with a sesame vinaigrette and maple-maple cupcakes for dessert. So good.

Foodie worked on hand warmers to go with a hat she made. These hand warmers are made from three different color yarns and when I looked at the underside, I did not see any hanging strands (not to be confused with hanging chads, but that's a different story).

Foodie explained a technique she learned for joining when working with wool yarns.
1. Separate the ends of each strand of the yarns you wish to bind.
2. Dampen each strand.
3. Place one dampened strand on top of the other, overlapping at least 1 1/2".
4. Rub the strands together between you hands, creating heat. This will "felt" and bind the strands together....magic.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Step Stool

Look at the charming little step stool I got at HomeGoods today! $19.99...I am so pleased!

HomeGoods may be my new favorite place to get stuff!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Bombe Chest

In my house, nothing matches, but everything goes. It’s an eclectic mix of style, complementary colors and patterns where (I am told) people feel immediately welcome and comfortable – perhaps the most important thing to me. Considering my non-traditional style, it would come as no surprise that I like painted and unusual furniture, like this ruler chair, and have it scattered about my house.

One day way back in 2008, I was having a (very) rare bad day. I was heading to the market when I saw a sign for the Rose Tree Media Arts Festival. Well, thought she, should I make a right to the market (definitely dull) or a left to the festival (possibly pleasant)?

I turned left.

I’m so glad I did.

Immediately upon entering, my spirits lifted and I was drawn to a crafter whose tent was filled with fun, painted furniture and other pieces. After a brief chat, I bought this lovely cabinet from her. Knowing it would not fit in Tallulah, my Mini Cooper, the artist agreed to deliver it. We began to talk about commissioned pieces and I told her about an unpainted Bombe Chest that I bought many years ago still sitting (unassembled) in my mother’s basement. We chatted forever about it and several weeks ago, older daughter and I assembled the chest and the artist picked the piece up to begin her transformation magic. She asked me a few questions about my preferences, took a few photos of my house and after a few weeks, she delivered the metamorphic work of art (literally).

I am euphoric.

It includes many of my favorite things…a bumble bee, polka-dots, checkerboards, red, swirls, stripes, a little mouse house, and a fitting quote about rebellion from my historic idol, Thomas Jefferson! The knobs that I bought from Anthropologie replaced the traditional, brass pulls that came with the piece and I think they provide the perfect accent!

I placed this painted treasure in a spot immediately as you walk in my front door so visitors cannot miss it. It’s whimsical, colorful and quite lovely....exactly what I wanted! Now I have my mind set on transforming a mass-produced Queen Anne desk and chair.

You can follow the artist and see some of her other creative and fun pieces at Funky Furniture on facebook.

Some other photos:

I have linked this post to Metamorphosis Monday!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Saw an inspiration piece in a holiday catalog.

These are letters I'm making in pottery class that I will glaze in a festive way this week. I found a font I liked in WORD then made the letters real big and cut them out to use as templates.

Stay tuned! It's going to be FAB!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vegetable Quiche

We had an impromptu gathering at my house on Wednesday evening because Singer was unable to join us. I made vegetable quiche.

I snooped around on the Internet for a few recipes but nothing blew my skirt up so I threw together a concoction of caramelized onions, sautéed garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, arugula, with a hint of hot and a suggestion of savory.

First, I lined a pie dish with a pre-made crust from Immaculate Baking Company, poked a few holes in the crust (so the bottom didn’t get soggy) and baked for 12 minutes at 400°. While the crust was baking, I caramelized a medium onion, then added 4 garlic cloves and continued cooking for about a minute or two. Next, I added 8 ounces of pre-sliced mushrooms and let those cook down then added 2 bags of arugula and a tomato, roughly diced. I sautéed until the arugula until wilted then added ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes an ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg. I removed the mixture from the heat to let it cool.

While waiting for the vegetable mixture to cool, I added 1½ cups of grated Comté cheese to four beaten eggs, ¼ cup of milk and salt and pepper to taste. Comté is a firm pressed cheese made from the raw milk of cows from the Jura Mountain region of France. The cheese, normally aged for 6-24 months, boasts many distinct flavors that contribute to its nutty and caramelized taste. Comté is great paired with dry white and light red wines, such as Beaujolais.

When the crust was finished pre-baking, I added the vegetables... ...

...then covered them evenly with the egg mixture.

I baked for 40 minutes at 350°. Let the quiche cool for 10 minutes before slicing, otherwise you will have a runny slice of quiche on your plate!

This quiche was delicious! Evenly baked and perfect served with a slightly spicy piece of cornbread, and a field green salad.