Food Event Calendar

I’ve mentioned this previously in my post on Super Bowl planning, but wanted to elaborate further. You can go basically all year long planning for the next “food event.”

We’ll start at the beginning:
Winter – in general – root vegetables and even better, citrus!
Super Bowl – it’s sort of an appetizer version of Thanksgiving in early February.
Valentine’s Day – a stupid holiday created by Hallmark, but still another excuse to cook, usually sweet thing that make me slightly sick. Can you tell, I’m not a fan??
Mardi Gras – this is our regional thing, but I’m not one to turn down King Cake. Did you know that it was Mobile, AL thing before a NOLA thing? Shout out to the Moon Pie!Moonpie2-336x221
(Margarita Day is February 22nd – and this is important to me. Although, I must say, this is too early in the year. Margarita Day should be in August when we’re all hot and miserable – that’s when that particular drink makes lots of sense. And salt is required.)
St. Patrick’s Day – bring on the Guinness and whatever else you would like that might be remotely Irish. We all want to be Irish, even though I am Scottish.
Spring – in general – time for asparagus, fresh peas, you know – green stuff that’s good for you. Should be boring, but it isn’t.
Easter/Passover – again, peas, asparagus, eggs, and ham. I know I’m not a good mom since The Boy has never dyed eggs at home.
Mother’s Day – take someone out for a mimosa for brunch, You wouldn’t catch me dead at this experience because this is, yet another, another holiday created by the card industry. It also tends to screw up my birthday plans – ugh.
Memorial Day – it’s the beginning of summer – picnics, backyard grilling, and beer. An extra day off work. What more do you want?
Summer – in general – salads, lemonade, more grilling and if applicable end-of-year school parties.
4th of July – picnics, again, yet more grilling, finally some decent tomatoes and hot peppers, and the basil should be coming along nicely at this point
(Regional) Blue Angels’ Weekend – the above, but at the beach.
August – no one eats in August, it’s just too damn hot. And we are tired of salads and grilling.
Labor Day – the last hurrah of summer, grilling, really good tomatoes, and more peppers and basil.
Fall – in general – fall is strange in NW Florida. Advertisers try to make something out of fall, but really, it’s still just summer mostly.
Halloween – all kinds of sweets that make my teeth hurt to think about, and pumpkins and other assorted squash. But another excuse to make something different and it might just be cool enough to do some real work in the kitchen.
Thanksgiving – the food holiday to end all food holidays. A couple of weeks planning, and then you still make the same damn thing you always make. Sweet Potato Casserole anyone? It is excellent and that is true.
Christmas Eve – easy appetizers for Christmas Eve night. Last few years, this is fondue night – it really works for Christmas Eve – at least for me. One of our favorite things ever. Bread and Cheese – yep I’m there.
Christmas Day – depending on where we are, this can be a mini Thanksgiving or something totally different.
New Year’s Eve – Again, just an appetizer event – my favorite kind of meal.
New Year’s Day – Eggs Benedict for brunch and then left overs for lunch/dinner. And mimosas – you know – it’s the new year.
 and then we start all over again, if we’re very fortunate.

Fig Cocktail Crackers


Fig, Orange, Rosemary Cocktail Crackers

I have to admit, this recipe really intrigued me. I have a slightly totally weird obsession with making crackers – cheese crackers in particular. I have a binder of recipes that I’ve collected over the years and had a full out cheese cracker fit contest in 2012 pitting 6 of my favorite recipes against each other in a cracker challenge. So this was completely different. But not really.

  • 2/3 cup finely chopped black mission or golden dried figs
  • 1/2 dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs orange zest (1 orange)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted  pecans

Place chopped  figs and sherry in microwave safe bowl or measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute.  Let them cool and soak up the flavor while you prep everything else.

In a small bowl, rub the rosemary and zest into the sugar until sugar is moist and aromatic.

In a sanding mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter with the orange rosemary sugar at low speed until creamy.  Beat in the egg yolk until just combined, about 1 minute.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and beat until smooth. Add the salt and flour and nuts and beat until just incorporated.

Drain figs and pat try and sprinkle with a  little flour, mixing it around. Fold them into dough by hand.

Turn the cookie dough out onto a work surface and knead until it just comes together. Divide the dough in half and press each half into a disk. Roll out each disk between 2 sheets of wax or parchment paper to approx. 1/4 inch thick.  Slide the parchment covered disks onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour, until very firm or refrigerate for several hours up  to two days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and link baking sheet with parchment. Working with one piece of dough at a time, peel off the top sheet of parchment. Using a 1 1/2 inch round cookie  cutter, stamp out the  cookies as close together as possible. Arrange on baking sheet 1 inch apart.

Bake bite sized cookies for about 15 minutes, until they are lightly golden, shifting the baking sheet half way through cooking.  Let cool on baking sheet  for 3 minutes then transfer  to wire racks to cool completely. Baked cookies can be kept  in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Source: Beth Lee (  adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Apricot Tarragon Cocktail Cookies

Bench Notes: Well, this was very interesting. I liked the flavors together – fig, orange, rosemary, pecans. But I pretty much love rosemary in everything – but it can beat you over the head a little bit. So restraint is important. Went over very well at the office. My boss said, “do you always make strange things?” How do you answer a question like that? Then he said, “I don’t know what any of it is, but I like it.” I’m guessing that’s a compliment, of some sort – ish.

I did let the dough rest in the refrigerator for two days, covered in parchment and I was really worried that it would dry out, but it didn’t. Guessing that’s the olive oil.  I haven’t made a cracker with olive oil before and was concerned, but it was really good. Almost split that infinitive.

I will be thinking of other flavors that will work with this idea. Maybe add a bit of parmesan? Do love cheese.

Super Bowl Planning

Well, I’ve been thinking about the super bowl for about two weeks, but didn’t really get down to work on it till yesterday. It’s the first, in my opinion, food event of the year. I suppose that Twelfth Night is technically, but I can’t ever seem to manage that as it is usually the day I go back to that thing I call a job. Jobs get in the way of cooking. Enough said. For me New Year’s is part of the previous year of food planning – Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s (eve and day), so it doesn’t quite count – ergo – Super Bowl = 1st food event for 2015.SuperBowlXLIXLogo

The whole idea of “food events” isn’t new*. You can plan your year around them if you choose to do so. It does give me time to experiment and the super bowl, I have to admit is one of my favorites because it is, in our family, appetizers and finger foods (none of them “good” for you) and trying new things and a few standbys that always seem to please. We stay in for the evening and watch – wait for it – the commercials – woo hoo!! I just don’t ever have a dog in this fight – pretty much don’t care who wins. What I would like – though it rarely happens – is a good game, but we can all dream, I suppose. I do prefer Seattle this year, but that’s just because I can’t abide the Patsies.

* We shall expand on this food events calendar notion at a latter time, though not much latter or we will miss the next food event.

So here are my thoughts for this year:

Hawaiian Sliders – this is a take on the ubiquitous ham and swiss appetizer sandwiches. We had the original version (i.e. first version I had seen) at our pre-wedding party in 2002. I’ve read several recipes for this, but have decided that I’m just going to pull the best parts of what I’ve seen and make it work. I am making my own recipe based on what works for us. More on this after the game.

Sun-dried tomato Artichoke Buttons – I’ve been thinking of making this for ages, and I’m finally going to do it. I may eat them all myself (over days, of course), but I think it has potential. But I’m winging it again – no artichoke bottoms at my Publix. Still the flavors sound good, and I’ve made my own pesto as usual – super easy and really good. I’m sure it will work.

Hot Reuben Dip – will do a half recipe as I made it in 2011 for Christmas Eve and it was way to much for our small group.  But the flavors – really good. If you like a reuben, that is. Have thin rye bread to toast for it.

Thomas’ California French Bread – a recipe I’ve had so long (pre 1990’s) that I have no idea where it comes from, but I have googled it and nothing comes up. Is that strange or cool? I’m going for cool. Not sure who Thomas is, but in my opinion – he is a god.

And some sort of cheese cracker – still debating on that. I’m thinking Rosemary Cheddar crackers from a Foster’s Market recipe. I sure do miss the NC triangle. Foster’s Market. Southern Season, UNC-Chapel Hill. They have fall there – sigh. But they also have ice storms, sort of like winter hurricanes.

Any way, bring on the football, um, commercials. Or whatever.

Thing of the Month: Get it Right Spatula


Get it Right Spatula – in yellow (my favorite color)

I just lucked (is that a word?) into this.Thank you New York Times gift guide – That sounds silly, but in this case it’s true – and now that I’ve found these spatulas, I seem to see them everywhere, and understand why. I think I will be ordering several more (yes, today). This is a spatula that is silicon based and fits me perfectly.  I do love my America’s Test Kitchen recommended spatula, but to be honest, it’s a bit large for me – too long, though it does work well.

The company’s Get it Right (@GIR) mission is to revolutionize the spatula and I’m a huge fan of that. While I did not find them in their kickstarter phase, I am glad that people did because the comments were encouraging and I just went ahead and ordered my first spatula in December. It is amazing. I told the Man of the House, I may will just order one every month to replace the ones I have. The colors are lovely and varied. I ordered yellow first, because that is my favorite color. Lime green will be next, and then maybe something moody, like black. I love that they are heat proof to 464 degrees and heat resistant to 550 degrees. Not that I plan to do anything like that, but – okay – I’m a fan girl now.

I hope anyone who reads this will realize that $16 for a spatula, that is perfect, is something worth purchasing and there is no shipping fee is it’s over $10. How can you not do this? I am a total convert.

I suppose that some bloggers put a disclaimer at this point about who funded this post, but I don’t have to since… well. I love this spatula. I can’t wait to get my next one (woo hoo!). And you should too!



Fruit Cake Cookies


Fruit Cake Cookies

Fruit Cake Cookies

  • 1 egg white
  • 3/4 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup butter, soft
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 oz candied cherries
  • 4 oz candied pineapple
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 cup raisins
Beat egg white until fluffy and add lemon juice, butter, brown sugar, evaporated milk, egg yolk and 3/4 cup flour.
Cut up the candied cherries and pineapple with pecans into small pieces. Mix together with 1/8 cup of flour and add the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice. and raisins.
Mix all ingredients together. Drop by teaspoonfull onto foil covered cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees until light brown, about 12 minutes.
Source: Wanda L. Milford
Notes: This is the first year I’ve made this since my mom died and I don’t mean that to be morbid, even though it sounds like it. I just never asked for the recipe from my sister-in-law before. Again, another recipe she brought to our family. I had this idealized version of them, but they didn’t quite make it there.
I’m pretty sure that’s just me, but I do have some ideas about how to improve them. And a little thing in the back of my head that my mom said, but I didn’t understand – let the batter rest in the fridge  – overnight. But I will make these again, w/more nuts, less cherries, and more nuts, and more raisins – did I say that already, well. It’s true. Spices are really good, but may need to tone some of them down.

Trying Something New: Lemon Cream Scones


Lemon Cream Scones

I have never made scones, ever. And to be perfectly honest, I have never even eaten a scone – even after living in England. So this was a total shot in the dark. That said, I was worried about the temp and time in the recipe – it did not make sense to me. 400 degrees for 40 minutes. I get that it was a really wet, shaggy dough, and a bit of a mess but ….

To take an idea from K-9 search and rescue – Trust your dog – well, I need to … Trust my instincts.

Lemon Cream Scones

Makes 8

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 8 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp course salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream plus 3 Tbs heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tbs finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix at low speed until the mixture resembles wet sand.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup cream, 2 eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture, and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, and form into a flat disk, about 8 inches across and 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into 8 wedges and transfer to prepared baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining egg and 3 Tbs cream to make an egg wash. Brush scones with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. bake until the tops are golden brown and firm 40 to 50 minutes.

Source: Martha Stewart

Notes: Okay, I had problems with this recipe (as noted above). Just 30 minutes tops, unless you want the bottom to burn. Needs more lemon; I’m thinking a lemon & confectioners’ sugar glaze – that would work. At least for me. I would also use raw sugar for the top – a little more crunchy. That would be good.

Guess scones go thorough the baking powder. I need to learn the science behind that, but sometimes it’s just more fun not to.

With the scones I baked 30 minutes. They were lovely. Lightly brown, crunchy outside, but light inside.  I could get used to that for breakfast.

Next in scones: Brown Sugar Pecan Scones. I already have the dry measured out in a zip top bag for when I’m in the mood to go another round. This time the recipe seems a bit more reasonable concerning time and temp. And I will also consult my Baking Illustrated cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen to see what they do.

It’s hard, sometimes, when you’ve never made a particular thing before to trust yourself, but this is a lesson learned. I have good instincts in cooking and baking, so I need to trust myself more.


Fusilli with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan Cream


Pasta with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan Cream

This is a recipe that calls for things that I have on hand – my favorite kind of recipe. After making it, it is also very easy and quick to make, perfect for the weeknight when you want to make something creamy and homey, but without a lot of fuss. I guess that’s the basis of the kind of cooking I like to do on the weeknights, now, weekends – that’s another story entirely. But for a Wednesday night this was very very good. If you don’t have fusilli on hand, which I didn’t, use any pasta that will hold the sauce better, such as rotini or a ridged pasta like mezzo penne.

Fusilli with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan Cream


  •  2 1/2 cups canned, drained artichoke hearts (two 14-ounce cans), rinsed and cut into halves or quarters
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 pound fusilli
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives, scallion tops, or parsley
  • 1 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the cream, salt, pepper, and artichoke hearts. Cook until just heated through, about 3 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the fusilli until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the cream sauce, Parmesan, and chives.

Source: Food & Wine

21 Jan 2015

Bench Notes: I used two cans of baby artichoke hearts and halved them after rinsing very well and dried them on paper towels. Also used mezze penne because didn’t have enough fusilli, it worked okay, but will use fusilli next time. Used half and half and heavy cream which means it took a little longer to get the sauce to thicken, but it was a lovely cream sauce when it was finished. Added a little lemon zest to serve. Might add a little lemon juice next time and extra black pepper.

This was quick and easy and very tasty. Can’t wait to try it left over for lunch.

Parmesan Shortbread – Nigella


Parmesan Shortbread

Parmesan Shortbread
Commentary: I just can’t help it. I love the way Nigella Lawson writes her recipes, “as uniform as possible without stressing over it…” That’s my idea of how to make things. It’s food. It should just be fun to do – if not, why are you bothering with it. I know it’s a cliche, but just keep it simple, really. Do love the use of the word cling film (is it a single word or not?).

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan
  • 7 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg yolk

Mix all the ingredients together – using bowl and spoon, electric mixer or food processor as wished – until a golden dough begins to form a clump.

Turn it out onto a surface and knead for about 30 seconds until smooth, then divide into two.

Take the first half and, using your hands, roll it into a cylinder, as uniform as possible without stressing over it, about 3cm / 1¼ inches in diameter. Make sure the ends are flat, too, so that the cylinder resembles a roll of coins. Now roll this up in a piece of clingfilm, twisting the clingfilm at the ends, like a Christmas cracker, and put the roll in the fridge, then proceed in the same way with the remaining half of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF while the wrapped cylinders of dough rest in the fridge for about 45 minutes, by which time you should be able to cut them into thick slices easily: aim for about

1 cm / ½ inch thick.

Arrange on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and put in the oven for 15–20 minutes, when they should be just beginning to turn a pale gold at the edges.

source: Nigella

Notes: I think this recipe needed a little salt, perhaps just before the go in the oven – a little Maldon wouldn’t be misplaced. I’m a bit of a cheese cracker nut and did a total nerdy “cracker challenge” in 2012 and discovered that I like some nuts in my cheese crackers, so I put a bit of pecan on these. I think it made them a bit “prettier” or something like that. When I do them again, some cayenne will be involved.

That said, they went over very well as I made them. And they looked pretty damn good.

Mushroom Pate


Mushroom Watercress Pate, toast and lime

For many years, I was a vegetarian. I enjoyed it and I still enjoy making recipes that don’t include meat.

Now, that does not mean I’m forsaking bacon or steak at this point, but I dig some veggie pasta (as long as there is cheese and cream included – I’m not crazy) or a veggie (guess I need to learn how to spell vegetable at some point – woo hoo! I did it correctly – for once, maybe) appetizer. One of my favorite appetizers, vegetarian or not, is mushroom watercress pate. It’s kind of stupidly simple, but here it is. I found the original recipe out of a vegetarian cookbook that my older sister gave me for Christmas because, I’m sure, she couldn’t think of anything else for me at that point. You know that age.

Here ’tis

  • olive oil
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced – button or crimini
  • small yellow onion or bunch of scallions, chopped
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • large bunch or bag of watercress, rinsed and end of stems removed
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 8 oz cream cheese, soft(ish)
  • limes
  • toast or hearty crackers

Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in pan, and when shimmering, add mushrooms. Cook until they have released their juices and add onions/scallions. When all is soft, turn up heat a bit and add balsamic vinegar and deglaze the pan. Add watercress and mix to wilt.

In the food processor, add cream cheese in large pieces and then include the mixture from the pan. Add salt and pepper. Mix in food processor until smooth. Place in ceramic ramekin and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

To serve, toast bread (or use sturdy cracker) and top with pate and a squeeze of lime juice (this is totally necessary and not to be skipped).


Mushroom Watercress Pate

The Boy grew up eating this and makes sandwiches out of it. It’s a great idea and works so well. The bitterness in the watercress is what makes it – well, that and the balsamic vinegar (which was NOT in the original recipe – yay me).

It’s not pretty. I totally get that, but just try it once – really just once and you’ll be hooked. That, I know, for sure.



Sweet Tomato Chutney

 Sweet Tomato Chutney
  • 1 whole head garlic, peeled & chopped


    Sweet Tomato Chutney w/Cream Cheese and Crackers

  • One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger (1 inch by 1 inch), peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups red wine vinegar
  • 2 pounds fresh skinned tomatoes (or 1 pound and 12 ounces canned whole tomatoes)
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
  • 2 Tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons blanched slivered almonds

Put the garlic, ginger and 1/2 cup of vinegar in the food processor and process until smooth. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, place the tomatoes (and juice from the can if using canned tomatoes) and the rest of the vinegar, sugar, salt, cayenne. Bring to a boil. Add the puree from the food processor and simmer uncovered for about 2 to 3 hours until it thickens and a film clings to a spoon when dipped. Stir occasionally at first and more frequently later as it thickens. You may need to lower the heat as the liquid diminishes. Add almonds and raisins. Simmer, stirring another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool. It should be as thick as honey. Bottle in clean containers, and refrigerate. Must be kept in the refrigerator. Good indefinitely. Makes about 2 cups.


Sweet Tomato Chutney

This is great served with cream cheese and crackers.

Source: Llewellyn Lodge, Lexington, Virginia

This is truly one of my favorite things to make any time of year. I serve it with cream cheese, as above, but also serve it with sharp cheddar cheese. I don’t tend to use the almonds with mine, but I expect they would be a nice touch.