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!