Monday, January 12, 2015

Friday, November 21, 2014

Strawberry Cava Conserve with Toasted Almonds

Don't throw away those half-empty bottles of cava or champagne! Syrups and conserves recycle fruit leftovers into tasty, elegant pairings for cheese or a flavorful topping for yogurt and toast!

Earlier in the afternoon I made fresh strawberries into a syrup by cooking them with vanilla and sugar. The syrup was double-strained, saving the cooked strawberries for later use. The conserve recipe makes use of the cooked fruit that I previously cooked down to make my luscious syrup! I added 2 cups of Cava Brut to my cooked strawberries, one cup of sugar and a small 1/8 tsp. of salt. After cooking for ten minutes I grated a small tsp. of orange peel, 1/8 tsp. of candied ginger and one small tine off of a clove and a dash of vanilla. My ingredients cooked down on a very low flame until reduced by a third. Finally, I added toasted almond slivers and stirred my ingredients until well-blended. I spooned my cooked mixture into a sterilized jar and added two tbsp. of my freshly made syrup.

Monday, August 12, 2013


After all the squeezing and mixing we had one of the best tall rickeys EVER! My finished simple syrup was infused with lychee juice and fresh rambutan.

Easy Rambutan Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 lychee syrup
6 rambutans (peeled)

Bring syrup to a boil while stirring liquid. Cook for two minutes, turn off heat and cover. Cool and strain into a bottle with a pourer.

Rum Rickey Rambutan

1 1/2 oz dark rum
1/2 oz rambutan syrup
1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
sparkling water or soda

Fill a tall Collins glass with crushed ice. Add first three ingredients and shake well. Fill glass with soda or sparkling water and garnish with a speared half of rambutan and lime wedge.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rum Rickey Rambutans

Ron and I are craving a tropical rum drink, so I came up with a refreshing idea! A rum rickey with rambutan-infused simple syrup! Freshly-squeezed lime, an easy simple syrup infused with fresh rambutan and a spritz of sparkling mineral water!

Ooh! I think I smell the beach!
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Paris Cake in Newnan

Ok, I've been away for a short while! Tending to life . . .

Life has a way of stepping in and controlling the party.  My husband and I have been traveling back and forth to Louisiana for some time now-helping my parents a bit!  It has caused me to put some things on hold-but not everything. I've still in the kitchen trying and testing new ideas for Home At Last!

My latest fascination is with opera cakes and the picture I've shared is the inspiration behind my experimentation in the kitchen.  The cake shown has wonderful layers of crispy shell, dense cake, creme layers, meringue, hazelnut creme and chocolate! Heavenly!

I've experimented and come up with a few layers that are definitely yummy and able to hold up in the five or so layers.  Working on a meringue cake this week. I have a vision in my head and have to work it to the end! 
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fat Tuesday Fare

To celebrate Fat Tuesday at our house I cooked up some simple Louisiana fare! Oysters and shrimp. Simple, but, oh so good.  The oysters were consumed so quickly there was no time to snap a photo! 

I cleaned and deveined a pound of shrimp, tossed them in a flour, cornmeal and cornstarch mixture for tempting taste of Louisiana! and a successful close to another Mardi Gras season all around the state!
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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Moroccan-style Spice Blend

I've been studying and enjoying a Turkish cookbook that my mom received from a good friend back in 1954 when our family first arrived in Izmir, Turkey. 

Since starting this pleasurable pastime I've also savored a few of my favorite Middle Easter dishes!

A favorite Atlanta market offers one of the tastiest salad bars with plenty of savory toppings spiced with lots of cumin, coriander, paprika, and turmeric. My favorites toppings include curried chickpeas, Tabouleh, walnuts, Feta cheese, cous-cous, sprouted beans, hummus and olives! The exotic flavors linger in my memory for days!

I finally started gathering all the spice ingredients for a Moroccan blend that might serve me well with all my upcoming projects. Beef and Chicken Samosas and a Turkish recipe for Lamb and Chickpeas served over rice.

I stopped what I was doing a hour ago and toasted some of the required seeds and pods before blending with turmeric, ginger, paprika, black pepper and a few finger hots! What I've blended is aromatic, authentic and "calling my name"! 

My recipe for a Moroccan-style spice blend:

1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 clove
1 tbsp cardamon
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cinnamon
1tbsp dried mint leaves
1 tbsp ginger powder
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp red pepper
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp salt

After toasting for about five minutes I ground the ingredients into a powder and place in an airtight jar.
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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Malt Flour Cinnamon Buns

I mentioned in a previous post that I had worked steadily for two years to develop my own flaky dough that would serve me well at breakfast time at Casa Bella Bed and Breakfast! Lesson learned? Don't give up. I finally developed a dough that I think we'll be useful in a wide variety of recipes.

This final inspiration hit me after a leisurely stroll down the flour isle at a favorite Asian market. In a previous visit I made a mental note that the market stocked malt flour.  My "light bulb" moment came while munching on a small package of crispy chocolate chip cookies.  I read the list of ingredients and noticed malt flour! An ingredient also used in our delicious "malty" homemade waffles.

Finally, I made the decision to reduce the warm water used in the recipe by half and add buttermilk as a replacement liquid. I added cold buttermilk to hot water to create a warm liquid perfect for activating the yeast.

With the full recipe of my dough I was able to make 15 cinnamon rolls and a lightly-sweetened braided cinnamon loaf.

The cinnamon rolls were tender, wonderfully textured from the malt flour and stayed soft.  The bread was almost close to a flake pastry. Lightly crunchy, delicate layers and yummy!
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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Game Day Superbowl 2013 Nachos

My role on Superbowl Sunday is to ensure that the Superbowl kitchen runs smoothly and sends out timely dishes of proper Superbowl finger foods.

The ridiculous rise in cost for a bag of chicken wings caused a change-up in our 2013 menu and a new tradition of "Superbowl Nachos" was born.

This year I got busy early and put up my own "canned" jalepenos. I also take issue with many of the canned varieties of jalepenos at the grocery store. They, too, are expensive and packed in too much vinegar.

Everything synced up with my new love of canning. What began as a way to preserve fresh fruits that weren't being used up fast enough has turned into a fun hobby! We just opened my first pint of fresh jalepenos and sampled the first slice.

So, here's to a great Superbowl in New Orleans! and to my own Superbowl Nachos!
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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Watch Home At Last!

Click on the "Watch A Show" tab above this post and enjoy a trip to the Sweet Grass Artisan Cheese facility. Also, I'm showcasing the use of garden-fresh tomatoes I use in a favorite pasta with a silky, tangy goat cheese!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pecan Sticky Buns

My obsession with this recipe began over two long years ago. I wanted something "special" waiting for our early risers at Casa Bella and I wanted it homemade.

Inspired by a favorite donut shop in Louisiana, I set out to make my own "fritter-like" buns without the deep frying.

Today I feel close to my goal.

I baked the buns individually in a large muffin pan and and it seemed to add bit of tenderness that I was missing from previous attempts.

I also added a bit of the sugar and cinnamon mixture to each well along with a few pecan halves before adding the dough rolled with dark and light brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. I swapped buttermilk for the whole milk and was really pleased with the added flavor compared to a typical glaze. 

The results were really good. Now, just have to find someone to try them out on!
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Modern Trifle

My updated modern trifle using yogurt and whipped cream with homemade blueberries and salted almonds was a perfect beginning for 2013! Out with the old, in with the new!
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Makin' Bacon!

Salt and Sugar Cured Pork Belly
Light Smoke

Cane Syrup Glaze

Pan-fried Biscuit, Glazed Bacon, Fresh Tomato and Wasabi Mayo
Spying some freshly-sliced pork belly at the Asian market I frequent,  I knew I was destined to try my hand at curing, smoking and glazing my own bacon.. Happy with my first attempt, I'm already making notes to improve the next batch.

My first process was curing the pork belly with equal parts sugar and salt.  After three days of curing I soaked the thick slices in cool water; changing the salty water every ten minutes or so. The pork belly was then laid out on a wire rack to dry before placing it in a smoker with dry hickory chips for three hours. I was after a light smoking and opted not to soak the wood.

Finally, I placed the bacon in a pan and lightly fried the strips with a glaze of cane syrup. That was it.

The strips were stored in the fridge until today when I pan-fried the bacon and biscuits in the same pan.

YUM and well worth the time and effort!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Candied Fruit

An unexpected gift of three boxes of canning jars and lids led me to create candied oranges and limes to decorate the kitchen for the Candlelight Tour of Homes.

I simply sliced the oranges into even quarter-inch slices, boiled them in sugar water for ten minutes and then layered them in the jars with a generous cap of sugar and the syrup.  I continued to turn the jars for the even until the sugar melted and continued to preserve the fruit!
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas in Coweta County, GA

Our home was recently featured on the 2012 Piedmont Auxiliary Candlelight Tour of Homes and as in years past, the tour brought large crowds of happy tourists looking for inspiration for the Christmas season!

It was great to catch up with fans of Home At Last!, past guests of Casa Bella Bed and Breakfast, neighbors and friends!  The weather was perfect and allowed everyone to walk the districts or enjoy a quick drive to the other areas without too much effort! 

Our decorating theme, "Let It Snow" was simple but elegant. We hung large snowflakes from our 14-ft ceilings, suggesting a peaceful, snowy evening.  Through-out the main floor and stair banister the snowflake theme was repeated and even served as place mats under gilded mason jars filled with white roses.
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Easy Entertaining

I'm always looking for easy bake items to put out when guests arrive at Casa Bella Bed and Breakfast!  This recipe from a recent guest is about as easy as it gets. Two bowls, a hand mixer, a few everyday items and guests can grab and enjoy!

Ingredients include a boxed yellow cake mix and butter for a crumb layer and a light layer of egg whites, low-fat cream cheese and vanilla!
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sweet Taters!

I'm about ready to harvest my one lone sweet potato! I don't know about you but I love to know how my favorite foods are grown and what conditions are required to have good success. This was a sweet potato top that I was about to discard when I made the decision to plant it in about two inches of very dark soil in a raised garden bed recently struck by my neighbor's falling tree. 

My big plans are cut ultra-thin sweet potato chips, deep fry them and serve them up with a Maytag blue cheese and enjoy my sweet potato as a delicious appetizer. 

What's for dessert? Two watermelons grown from seeds!
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Newnan Lodging 770-755-6750

A guest of our Bed and Breakfast asked if I had a garden and I shared "my broken garden" story.  Although small,  we enjoyed a fair amount of goodies!
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vernon Kilns Honolulu By Don Blanding

In the mid-80's, Ron and I decided to accept a job offer in San Juan Capistrano, California! We had no money to speak of! About $700 by the time we arrived in California!

We arrived on the California coast with a packed 280Z; including our newest family member, Henrietta, a pretty white rescue from the Japonica Street SPCA in New Orleans!

We couldn't afford an apartment when we arrived due to the fact we ONLY had $700! We rented a motel room that allowed pets and Ron went to work.  Poor as church mice, we finally struck a deal with a landlord to repair a condo ravaged by too many parties and druggies. It turned out to be a lovely rental after we totally renovated and redecorated!

Our time spent in California was wonderful. I think we'd still be there now if not for my unreasonable fear of earthquakes! We loved the food culture, the weather and the friendly people!

We particularly loved the Rose Bowl Antique show every month and found the garage and yard sales to be filled with wonderful finds! I found a box of pretty blue dishes with a the artist's signature and decided to make an investment. Today, after thirty-five years of moving the dishes I'm letting go of my pretty Vernon Kilns dishes! The pattern was Honolulu and they were signed by Disney Artist Don Blanding! 

I'm selling my collection on Ebay! I hope you'll take a peek! Here's to a great adventure!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sapelo Clams

Traveling with Home At Last! is one of the joys of my life and last week's adventure on Sapelo Island didn't disappoint! 

I've been around seafood my whole life-fishing for alligator gar in the bayous of Louisiana, stringing rotten chicken necks in crab traps along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and fishing off the back of my dad's boat for any delicacy that might happen to swim by!

Sampling the seafood of the Georgia coast was an exciting prospect and I was eager to sample the local favorites including Sapelo Clams prepared in a Geechee recipe of Clams and Gravy!

Our new friend and featured cook, Cornelia Walker Bailey, shared her secrets for cleaning, chopping and cooking the clams in a simple, straightforward dish!  Cornelia shares that the fresh clams can easily be stored in the freezer for future use! Once brought to room temperature the clams open and can be cleaned and prepared in your favorite clam recipe! To learn more about Cornelia's life on Sapelo Island Click Here

For our dinner recipe we enjoyed the clams on top of Doc Bills buttery grits but Cornelia suggests trying this as a breakfast dish with freshly-baked biscuits!
Sapelo Clams
Cornelia Bailey and Doc Bill

Clams and Gravy

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Can I Get A Can-Can?

I've been up to my "elbows" with canning this week. Peaches, apples, cherries and figs! I love the whole process but it can be exhausting without an extra pair of hands. 

It's a good idea to make sure you really have use for all the extra food that will be placed in the pantry. For me, having specific dishes in mind that will use up the canned fruits and syrups gives me the motivation needed to complete this tiring task!

The volume of fruit needing to be canned demanded that I create conserves, syrups and preserves. Quality syrups and preserves can cost a small fortune and I welcomed the opportunity to
save a bunch with a few days effort!
Fig Preserves and Apple Conserve with Lavender
We have tried to develop menus with seasonal-dishes constructed of fruits that are abundant during each of the seasons. But the stomach wants what the stomach wants and some of our popular items require us to have blueberries, peaches, and figs out of season!

My own Indian Blood peaches are ripening on the tree and I've already made my first batch of Pretty In Pink Peach Syrup! I have an ungoing love affair with these pretty little peaches and simply boil them in their skins for an amazing syrup perfect for drinks! I'm working on a Pretty In Pink Peach Cocktail!