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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Comfort Food. Redefined.

Comfort food comes in different and amazing varieties and generally we think of meatloaf (yum), mashed potatoes (definitely), apple pie (of course) when we think comfort food. But I’d like to add something new to this little compilation… Butternut Squash Risotto.

I walked into Architect’s house on Wednesday evening and I knew we were in for a treat. The smells enveloped me and I could not wait to sit down to enjoy this confluence of sensory bliss.

I had to look confluence up to make sure it meant what I wanted it to mean in that sentence.

It does.

We had Butternut Squash Risotto and Skillet Braised Fennel Bulbs for dinner on Wednesday evening. Before I share the delicious recipes, a word about fennel. Fennel is very flavorful little aromatic bulb popular in Mediterranean cooking. It is packed with Vitamin C, Potassium, and Iron and has been used in holistic medicine to treat intestinal ailments, eye problems, and hypertension. Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, authors of The New Basics Cookbook, say “the taste does wonders for soups, salads, stews and sauces and because it’s aromatic and crisp, fennel is perfect served with potatoes and grains.” Buy fennel with firm stalks and bulbs, avoiding those that are brown-bottomed. Use the feathery leaves on the stalks as a garnish.

Both recipes are from Martha Stewart’s “What to Have for Dinner” cookbook…a lovely and practical book that assists with fancy meal planning!

Butternut Squash Risotto
1 medium butternut squash (most markets sell the cubes now)
5-6 cups of chicken stock (Architect made her own)
2 tablespoons of butter (you will use 1 tablespoon at a time)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cups Arborio rice
½ cup of dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary
½ cup Parmesan cheese

Cut the squash into cubes and steam until tender. Heat the stock. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the olive oil and shallots and cook for 2 minutes, add the rice and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the wine, stirring until the wine is nearly absorbed. Stir in a cup of stock and the squash and simmer until liquid is absorbed. Continue stirring in stock, a ladleful at a time, until the rice is creamy and firm, about 20 minutes. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped rosemary. Stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan. Serve topped with a sprig of rosemary.

"Constant stirring give risotto its creamy texture." Martha Stewart

Skillet-Braised Fennel
4 medium fennel bulbs
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
¼ orange juice
1 cup of water
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley

Trim tops of the fennel bulbs and cut in half, lengthwise. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add sugar and stir until melted. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add fennel, cut side down and cook until well browned, about 5-10 minutes. Turn the bulbs over and add the orange juice, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and reduce to low. Cover pan and cook until fennel bulbs are soft and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes, adding a little water if necessary. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

We also had a delicious “kitchen sink” salad that included fennel served in the lovely traveling salad bowl and the most exquisite desserts from Le Pain Quotidien
in Center City Philadelphia. Foodie worked on a hat that will be paired with hand warmers …I continue to work on the vest (what else is new)!

Photograph of fennel from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Keep Calm and Carry Yarn

I have a new knitting bag. My sister sent me the link to this adorable’s from the website and it says “Keep Calm and Carry Yarn.” I LOVE this bag, with it’s witty spin on a classic graphic, ample room (15”x 18”) and sturdy straps, BUT I wish it had some pockets for gadgets.

Knitters have lots of tools and I keep mine in a not-so-fancy-but-functional zip lock bag.

In this bag there are knitting needles, circular needles, crochet hooks, measuring tape, thread cutter, scissors, stitch markers, cable stitch holders, yarn needles and...

... perhaps my favorite gadget of all, my row counter. Knitters use every single doohickey in their bags! What I may try to do is sew or felt something to attach on the outside of this great bag....a bag outside of the bag of sorts. Perhaps another piece of canvas. I’ll have to give this some thought.

Any suggestions?