Monday, August 31, 2009

Easy Meatballs with Mushroom Sauce





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I have long since stopped expecting an answer when I ask Ron what he would like for dinner - but to my surprise(!) tonight he suggested he would like some meatballs.

I had ground beef on hand, homemade bread crumbs, fresh parsley, dried sage and dried black and shitake mushrooms.  I combined the meat, fresh herbs, bread crumbs, anchovy paste, lemon and garlic; gently pan-fried the meatballs in olive oil and removed them to paper towels while I made a quick sauce.

To make a rich gravy, I soaked the dried mushrooms for a half-hour-until a dark, robust flavor and color developed in the warm water.  A half cup of the mushroom water was blended into 2 tablespoons of the reserved olive oil.  I whisked together 1/8 cup warm water with 2 tablespoons of Bisto (Beef) and added it to the mushroom water.  I eventually added the soaked mushrooms in the final stage of cooking.

A little red wine, a teaspoon of espresso powder, a pinch of salt and, finally, I added the cooked meatballs back to the sauce.  Everything simmered for ten minutes and was spooned on top of freshly cooked short grain rice.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pan-Fried Chicken With Risotto




Just a little hint of coolness in the air and I am transported to one of our favorite Tuscan villages, Terranouva.

We have traveled to Tuscany several times in early fall to catch a great airfare deal but it has become one of our favorite times to visit Italy.

There are all sorts of festivals, including Perugia's chocolate festival- positioned between ancient buildings, fabulous museums and, oh yeah. . .lots and lots of chocolate-the only other place I remember anyone ever shoving chocolate at me was in my dreams!

I didn't start the blog to ramble on about chocolate . . . I intended to share this ingenious Knorr product



from the IPER store-Porcini-flavored cubes. I found them last night tucked away in the back of one of my cupboards. I made a pan-fried version of the Pollo Al Mattone and served a delicious risotto with porcini and field greens. It was authentically Tuscan.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Stuck On You!



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Besides hoarding beautiful dishes and serveware, I might be a little bit "hoard-ish" of pretty paper. I have a chest of drawers that is filled with some of my favorite scraps.

Martha Stewart sent me a boxful of beautiful paper, rubber stamps and ink after a Lupus Fundraiser back in 1996. After reading an Atlanta Journal article where I was quoted as "wanting to be Martha" when I grew up, I was invited to host Martha at the luncheon and return her safely to Hartsfield Airport after the event wrapped up.

I used some of her beautiful papers to wrap gifts for my friend, Char, before she passed away. She loved beautiful packages!

These magnets that I made for my office represent a gift from Japan and wedding flowers from the pages of an annual wedding book.

The blue-checked paper was in a gift box from Tokyo,Japan. A lovely family stayed at our B&B for a week before the marriage of their daughter to a young Newnan man. They shared a few of their pre-nuptial traditions and guided me through the making of sweet red beans and their tradition of taking tea.

My gift box was filled with fabulous graphic papers and an instruction book on the art of origami. After ten years I thought it would be appropriate to turn it into something more lasting where I could enjoy it every day.

The pretty floral magnet is from the glossy pages of an annual wedding book and represents a set of four I made from the beautiful wedding bouquets presented in the book.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

SWEET Pepper Sauce, Batman!



Friend and fellow blogger, Susan Coggin, generously shared brightly-colored, garden-fresh peppers from Quail Hollow.  My bag was filled with dangerous-looking hot varieties laced with a few sweet peppers.

Alone in my LA-BOR-A-TORY I fired up my bunson burners!  Into the little beakers, I threw a little of this and a little of that!  (Mostly garlic, herbs and spices)

A sugary peach syrup from a previous blog was gently swirled into the smokey beaker and finally, the mixture thickened with the addition of two tablespoons of raspberry jam.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nancy Mills of The Spirited Woman

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Nancy Mills of The Spirited Woman - will conduct a one hour FREE teleseminar on Wednesday, September 2, 5pm (PST), 8pm (EST)

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Limoge Monograms

 

 

 


One of the many reasons I enjoy our old house, even though it continues to be too big for two people, is that I occasionally stumble upon old forgotten trinkets. Yesterday, I opened a cabinet under the staircase and enjoyed some of my beautiful keepsakes-artfully displayed for maximum enjoyment.

I'm looking forward to cooler weather so that I can make the climb into our 1200 sf of attic space. It's hung with old pictures and strewn with boxes of goodies. Bolts of fabric casually piled in a corner remind me of my decorating days in Atlanta-so long ago!

Since I rarely go to the attic it doesn't feel like my space-which makes for a fun afternoon rediscovering box contents and poking through the bolts of pretty fabric.

I enjoy the cabinet under the stairs so much that when it's time to wash the contents I take pictures of the arrangement so that each beautiful piece goes back into its rightful place. Over the next few months I'll share the contents of my cabinet and travel stories attached to each piece.


This beautiful set of Limoge china is a dessert set with a gold monogrammed "F" on the plates. I was drawn to the set for two reasons-my maiden name is Foster and the delicate handpainted violets are one of my favorite flowers. There are five dessert plates, 6 cups and saucers, a dessert tray and a sugar with no lid. It is made of sheer porcelain-so much so that when you hold it up to the light-you can see light through each piece.

With the delicate nature of these pieces it has been a miracle that the set has survived intact for seventeen years. I have used it on Home At Last! through out the years and feature it on my website in one of my headers. The pretty little cake with wild violet sits on one of the saucers.
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Friday, August 21, 2009

" A Place In The Sun" TV Britian's Channel 4



I received an email about TV show, "A Place In The Sun" and a companion venue, OverSeas Buying Exhibition at the NEC-Birmingham. The exhibition will showcase properties for sale through-out Europe, as well as answer questions about living abroad!

Unfortunatly I can't attend but it definitely sparked some favorite travel memories. I blogged a little about our Birmingham, England trip earlier this spring after stumbling upon on a beautiful costume bracelet scored at the Rag Market held on weekends in Birmingham.

I relunctantly sampled my first kidney pie, loved English bacon and particularly enjoyed the local pubs including Mad O'Rourkes, famous for its "Desperate Dan Cow Pies", complete with horns!

There were so many wonderful surprises in Birmingham, famous for it's "metal" bands of the 80's - including Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.

Totally unfamiliar with Birmingham, the sight of colorful handpainted canal boats drifting along the 174 miles of canals . . more than Venice, Italy, came as a pleasant shock.

Victoria Square, the beautiful pedestrian town centre offered surprises on every corner. I visited my first Cadbury Store, enjoyed tea at Victoria Tea Room, and shopped some of the beautiful antique stores. One in particular caught my eye and demanded a visit. The owner was an American-originally from Maine, I believe. She was friendly and eager to discuss the U.S.! It was a pleasant visit and soon we were introduced to her husband, Ian, a pony-tailed, well-dressed Englishman.

Our conversation was lively as we all swapped travel stories. I eventually asked Ian about his profession . . .and he very properly replied, I'm with Judas Priest! Ian Hill of Judas Priest. It proves one thing. . .the co-founder and bass player of "British Steel" fame occasionally steps out of his leather and looks good!

Judas Priest has reunited for a world tour and is currently headed for the U.S. If you grew up on Mtv like I did and are looking to revisit your metal days check out their world tour schedule at JudasPriest.com
 



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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mainstreet Newnan Oktoberfest Boutique Tasting

 
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For a complete list of fall events visit MainstreetNewnan.com/calendar.php

Mystery Peaches

 
 

It's hard to believe that these pinky-red beauties are peaches. Back in March I shot beautiful images of the spectacular blooms that laced my pretty little tree! And for the first time since planting the tree I had a treeload of small peaches.

I am having a difficult time identifying the variety and if anyone recognizes the 2 1/2 - 3 inch peach I would appreciate some help!

It could not be a more perfect peach for my taste! Sweet, somewhat firm cling peaches. The flesh is a brilliant pinky-red with a distinct raspberry peach taste! I mean, come on! Perfect on a delicate angel food cake, next year I will take the production much more seriously, ensuring that not one small peach ever hits the ground!

If you remember from my earlier blog, I remembered the name as a King peach-at least part of the name. I remember because my great-grandfather on my mother's side was a King, from Serepta, Louisiana.

The gentleman who plucked my small tree from the wild assured me this was a proper pickling pear! I don't know if I would spare a few of these delicious beauties for vinegar-they are much too spectacular!
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Senoia Road Kill Hot Sauce

 

I love sampling local foodstuffs and around our area we find alot of BBQ Sauces, jellies, bread and butter pickles and occasionally some really great cheeses. Sweet Grass Dairy is one of my favorite artisan cheesemakers and is located in right here in Georgia.

I don't see many hot sauces but I have run across a few great ones. Being a Louisiana girl I'm pretty settled on Louisiana Hot Sauce-perfect for my crispy soft shell crab po-boys and consequently I don't tend to look much further.

One surprise was a few bottles of Chef Boy Hidy Hot Sauce. I met Gary Waters at a party at the Botantical Gardens in Atlanta, years ago. A passionate foodie like myself, "Chef" introduced me to his hot sauce on an episode of Home At Last! Pleasantly hot with a well-rounded taste, I have used and enjoyed every drop of flavorful sauce.


The Senoia Road Kill Hot Sauce is another new one. I found it in a shopping bag after a trip to a friend's antique shop in Senoia. Carriage House Antiques and Custom Framing is an ecletic mix of antiques, collectibles, gifts and foodstuffs. Nancy carries the SanRiver Raspberry and Pecan Preserves that my whole family enjoys with our bries and other soft cheeses.

Senoia is one of those pleasant small towns in Georgia that continues to develop in some really remarkable ways. RiverWood Studios President, Scott Tigchelaar, has shared his vision of a new Senoia that draws from it's gentle past. Roll your mouse over the links to learn more about Senoia and RiverWood Studios.

Converting worn out buildings into beautiful storefronts perfect for markets, shops and restaurants, Senoia attracts visitors and locals from nearby Peachtree City as well as Coweta County and beyond.

What's your favorite hot sauce?

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tahini-Panini

 
 

I don't use enough Tahina in a year to pay for a large jar . . .only to watch it turn rancid.

So I create a more relaxed Italian version of a Chick Pea spread that delivers amazing flavor, a rich, smooth texture and loads of vitamins and fiber.

For two cans of Italian chickpeas, I strain the off the liquid, add three to four tablespoons of my homemade garlic oil, add four or five cloves of fresh garlic, 2 tbsp of white sesame seeds, 1 - 2 tsp of sesame oil and a tsp of fresh lemon juice. I use a pinch of kosher salt to round it all out.

I love this milder version. It's so tasty served on top of my fire-roasted bread or as in this picture with my homemade cracker bread.I've topped it with fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes tossed in a little fig balsamic vinegar!

A small grating of pecorino cheese on top! And my husband tells me I have given him new reasons to come home at night!

Hey, whatever it takes!
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Favorite Aprons

 
 
 

I was inspired today by an artist friend's blog about her apron-making talent. She designed a pretty retro-style apron and suddenly I was up running for one of my new acquisitions.

I started "my collection" the first year of Home At Last! I still have all my old aprons and have many favorites including . . . a very small delicate apron that belonged to my grandmother.

One of my newest favorites is the one featured in these photos, from Harrod's Department Store. It's laminated and easy to clean. Perfect for baking and BBQ-ing! I picked this up in London after sailing across the Atlanta on the Queen Mary en route to Tuscany! Talk about a relaxing vacation. . .

Six luxurious days aboard a very elegant ship bound for the other side of the big pond. Sigh . . .how I miss our early evenings in the Queen's lounge, sipping cosmos on a buttery leather chesterfield sofa . . .mesmerized by the large, dark gray-green waves lapping up against our ship.

Sunny afternoons were enjoyed at the bow of the ship in one of our favorite spots-the ship's library. I enjoyed every English decorating magazine I could lay my hands on, checked emails, and read a thriller from a favorite author.

Late evenings we developed an extravagant habit with room service. Asking for two simple bowls of ice-cream, each night our attendants added more flavors, more embellishments and bigger grins. I wondered if there were bets placed back in the kitchen . . ."let's see if they can eat this?"
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Monday, August 10, 2009

European Vacations

 

As many of you may have noticed I'm not cooking very much these days. (We aren't eating too well, either.)

Renovations of our wonderful old house keep us busy-when we aren't producing or editing for television.

Nearing the end of our stewardship of this fabulous house, we are in the final renovations . . .updating bathrooms-adding much needed storage and general re-decoration.

One of the hidden pleasures of all this hard work is stumbling upon keepsakes from our travels abroad. This hand-painted champagne flute is a perfect example of a great summer vacation spent along the Rhine River in Germany. After discovering UNTours on Oprah we rented a roomy apartment in Baccarach, Germany.

I think we rented our apartment for two weeks-giving us plenty of time to explore, relax and enjoy local history. We attended a summer festival along the Rhine in Bopart, sipped local wines at a 400-year old winery in nearby Cologne and drifted quietly along the Rhine River-experiencing the mystery of the Lorelei; a sheer rock reputed to have claimed the lives of young sailors. . . lured by the song of a beautiful young maiden.

My flute was scored in Rudesheim-a tourist destination that typically we would avoid. Friendly Germans suggested we should experience it once and I was glad we did. Narrow streets, beer gartens, nutcrackers and outdoor restaurants-reminded me of class tours we enjoyed as military brats back in the 60's.

Up and down the Rhine River we floated with our teachers on field trips!

Even as a child I was aware the food was fabulous. The museums have provided me with a lifetime of memories and the pristine villages have drifted in and out of pleasant dreams for over forty years!
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Crackerville

 
 
 

As the weekend comes to a close, my cracker-making experiment has left me with a couple of observations.

1. I didn't need fancy tools to make delicious crackers.

2. I'm a really messy cook!

3. Practice makes perfect.

Today's cracker making was easier than yesterday. I even developed a few of my own little tricks along the way.
I found hand rolling with a wooden rolling pin to be just as easy as the pasta maker and more fun! I prefer the
irregular shapes over the rectangles.

I also found the pin was useful when I wanted to press the cheese and spice mixture into the dough. My only thought with that . . .make sure you keep the rolling pin well-floured.

I tried my own bread recipe for the dough, today. The Armenian recipe called for as much whole wheat as white. I chose my recipe because it has five flours including white whole wheat and semolina. We agreed it had a lot more flavor.

I also am able to split the recipe for bread or pizza dough. I even had time to mix up (2)5 cup bags of pre-mixed
flours so that the next time we want fresh bread, I just have to pour my flour into the bread machine and add the
wet ingredients.
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

I'm Sorry. . .Our Kitchen's Closed

 

The Estruscan Chicken is delicious! Moist, well cooked and tender. I drizzled the cooked chicken with extra virgin olive oil and served it with lemon wedges.

A simple side of snap beans and goat cheese was the perfect choice! A glass of sparkling Pelligrino water and I could imagine myself sitting in my hillside villa in Tuscany.

After dinner I played with the cracker bread and enjoyed great results. Since it was my first time, I developed my own methods as the process went on. What I found . . .the paper thin is more effort but definitely worth it. I used the 4 - 6 setting on my pasta maker and passed through each setting once. I also started out cutting rectangles but as I tired I tried other shapes-The more rustic it was the better I liked it. I thought the crackers were attractive standing on end-like in my picture. They would be great served at a wine tasting.

The taste and texture are delicate and delicious. I developed two toppings. The plain parmesan cheese and then a second with hot chile salt and the parmesan. Both very good!

I think I will continue with the recipe but adjust the flours the same as with my bread. I find I like five flours for a very authentic tasting Italian bread.
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