Friday, October 31, 2014

"Once Upon a Midnight Dreary"

It's Halloween and time for a spooky table. I think this is one of my most favorite of the year. It was a snap to put together, but, alas, the weather has been so dismal and dreary that the photographs really don't reflect how wonderful it really is.

This table was really made possible by a number of people. The inspiration for the centerpiece came as the result of my winning a contest at the Home is Where the Boat Is blog

I had a number of ideas for this, but when my skull vase filler arrived from Pottery Barn it seemed perfect for filling the cauldron.
 The brown plates and second plate from the bottom were birthday gifts this year. I used them last week. The brown plates are a rich chocolate color and I just can't get enough of them.
 The polka dot-edged plates should look familiar to anyone who reads this blog. I think I've used these a dozen times since I got them last Christmas. Talk about a great purchase! 
The top plates are a set from Williams-Sonoma that I've had for years and never tire of using them.
The napkins are the same ones that I used last week (I love this fold!) with skeletons lounging against them.
The skull mugs are a new purchase this year (on sale!) from Williams-Sonoma. I love these!
The tablecloth is a fabric yardage. I love fabric and never hesitate to buy it. People do tend to find this strange considering that I don't sew, but many times it finds its way to a tabletop. I just fold the edges under and tape them on the underside of the table with masking tape. I love how the various images in the fabric replicate those on the plates.



The pillow is yet another from Elliot-Heath Designs. I had to have this one, not only because I knew that it would go so well with this setting, but because Poe's death date is the same as my birthdate (October 7th), though a different year...by a long shot! 
The wine glasses provide a nice touch of blood red in an otherwise neutral table.
The ravens have gotten a lot of use this season and are certainly appropriate here.
The skull-stopped stack of books is a cookie jar.

Have a spooky Halloween everyone!

Salad Plates – 222 Fifth
Napkin, Luncheon Plates – Pier One
Flatware – Pottery Barn
Crows – Antique Farmhouse
Skull & Books Cookie Jar – World Market
Skull Mugs – Williams-Sonoma

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Payday Candy Corn Rice Krispies Treats

If you are anything like me, holidays catch you by surprise. Now we both know that they come the same time year after year, but even knowing this fact never seems to matter to me; I'm always operating a week or so behind. If you find yourself in a situation that is similar, and are in desperate need of a tasty treat for the trick-or-treaters who will be knocking on your door tomorrow night, I have a sweet solution: Payday Candy Corn Rice Krispies Treats. These come together in a flash, and don't tell me that you don't have candy corn stashed away.  The mere making of this is comforting, and will take you back to your youth and memories of the Rice Krispy treats of your mother's kitchen.  One taste of these, however, and you will find that these are not your momma's Rice Krispy treats, these are simply amazing.  A darned close clone of a Payday bar, these are dense, chewy, and sweet, with the perfect hint of peanut butter. Try not to eat them all yourself.

Payday Candy Corn Rice Krispies Treats*
From Dessert Mash-Ups by Dorothy Kern

Sometimes you come across some food combinations that totally blow your mind.  Candy corn, a seemingly boring and too-sweet Halloween treat, becomes a magical food when mixed with certain things. When you eat candy corn together with peanuts, the flavor becomes just like a Payday candy bar! By adding those flavors, along with some peanut butter, to Rice Krispies treats, you get a dessert that actually has the taste and texture of a Payday . . . it’s kind of amazing!

Yield 24 squares

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cool Time 1 to 2 hours

5 cups crispy rice cereal
1 cup peanuts
1 cup candy corn
14 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 cups mini marshmallows
12 cup creamy peanut butter

Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Place the cereal, peanuts, and candy corn in a large bowl. Set aside.

In another large microwave-safe bowl, place the butter, marshmallows, and peanut butter.

Microwave on high power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until everything is melted together. Remove from the microwave and pour the cereal mixture into the marshmallow mixture. Stir gently. Pour into the prepared pan. Press to fit. Be careful, the mixture will be hot and sticky. It helps to spray your hands with cooking spray, so the treats won’t stick to you.

Let sit at room temperature until cool. Cut into squares and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Tip! Try to use fresh candy corn. The older it is, the harder it is to cut.

*Recipe from Dessert Mash-Ups by Dorothy Kern, and courtesy of Ulysses Press.  For a review of this delightful volume, click here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dessert Mash-Ups, a Tasty Review

Are you a dessert fantasist?  Someone who, like me, imagines what it would be like to combine two favorite sweets like pumpkin pie and deep butter cake only to ponder the end resultDorothy Kern is a dessert fantasist too.  Unlike me, she turned her dessert wonderings into a delightful book, Dessert Mash-Ups, filled from cover-to-cover with 52 inspiring recipes for the most wondrous desserts imaginable.  Not only are her creations truly inspired and lots of fun, but they are delicious, too.  The Carrot Cake Coffee Cake is a favorite of mine, but then anything that manages to, essentially, grant permission to have cake for breakfast suits me.

Her baking interests began at her mother’s side, eventually resulting in the creation of her blog Crazy for Crust, that led to this clever book. Divided into categories such as, Breakfast but Better, Pie Surprise, and New Takes on Cheesecake (Oh, yeah!), you will find lots of inspiration here.

It's a slim volume, meaning that, yes, indeed, you do have room for it on your already over packed book shelves, with enthusiastic intros for each recipe along with mouthwatering pictures. You might consider trying the Cinnamon Roll Cookies, or the, brace yourself, Overnight Pumpkin Cheesecake French toast. Hello, breakfast!  And surely she had me in mind when she created the Sconuts, and (gulp) Lemon
Meringue Pie Fudge. Can you imagine? Pie in a portable, hide-it-in-your-purse, form. Genius! 
Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Desperate for a treat for Friday’s trick-or-treaters? Come back tomorrow where I'll be providing you with an easy, seasonal, and tasty recipe from the book that will pretty much turn the things you have in your pantry into a treat that nicely replicates a Payday bar!

I highly recommend this book for pretty much everybody. Those who are inexperienced will find a lot to make here, as many of the recipes are relatively easy. Those who like more of a challenge will be satisfied as well. And those who simply enjoy reading cookbooks will find this one similarly enjoyable. What more can one ask? 
Pumpkin Pie Magic Bars


Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Ulysses Press in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Table to "Crow" About

Do you know what’s great about birthdays (other than having them)?  The great thing about birthdays is having people who get you.  People who wander from your Amazon Wish List with reckless abandon, and come up with something on their own that they know will delight you.  My aunt and cousin did that for me this year.  They surprised me with these beautiful chocolate brown dinner plates, the gorgeous pumpkin tureens, and some beautiful fall salad plates (that you won’t get to see until November). 
I absolutely love this table.  Not just because it is so pretty and seasonal, but because it represents such thoughtfulness. 

It’s a simple table, really, combining both old and new, and made special by the standing fan napkin fold that provides a bit of ruffled softness.Enjoy the autumnal inspiration. 





Runner - Pottery Barn
Glasses – Uncommon Goods
Napkins, Dinner Plates, Pumpkin Tureens - Pier One
Salad Plates - Metlox Lotus
Flatware – Pottery Barn
Crows – Antique Farmhouse
Flowers – Michael’s
Tablecloth – Williams-Sonoma

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Texas Caviar

 Have you ever had a problem getting your kids to eat vegetables?  And, perhaps, you have this same problem with your spouse or significant other?  Maybe the problem is not their lack of love for vegetables, but in the presentation of same.  If you’re piling high the steamed broccoli and English peas next to a piece of meat and side of potatoes, why not kick things up a bit and serve them salsa instead?

This delicious Texas Caviar is full of goodness that your family will love.  How does this sound? Iron, protein, fiber, potassium (from the black-eyed peas), vitamin C and E (from the peppers), vitamins A and B6 (from the cherry tomatoes). That’s a whole lot of goodness in something they are sure to love, and you can pass this goodness off in the guise of snack food.  Genius!

It requires a bit of chopping, and needs to rest for a couple of hours for the flavors to meld, but it is well worth it to see those happy, appreciative faces.  I add it to salads for a little extra protein.  You can also cube avocado and add it just prior to serving.  It is easily adjustable to your own tastes, and very forgiving.

Texas Caviar
½ red onion, diced fine
½ green pepper, diced fine
½ red pepper, diced fine
2 scallions, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 can corn
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Juice of ½ lime
2-4 ounces low-fat Italian dressing (I used Wishbone)

Mix all ingredients together.  Cover and store in fridge for 2 (or more) hours before serving.  Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread. 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cider-Brined Pork Chops in Bourbon Sauce

 I am a big fan of the other white meat and particularly when that white meat is made more tender and flavorful through the process of brining.  This time of the year with an abundance of fresh cider readily available, it’s time for cider brining and delicious roasted pork chops. This recipe is going to take a bit of planning in that the chops are at their most juicy and tender if brined overnight.  Brine is easily made, but takes some time to cool, so allow for this. The next day you pretty much have it made when it’s time for dinner.  Pop a potato into the oven before you get started with the preparation, have some English peas ready to be warmed in a nearby pan, and begin making a delicious fall meal. 

Cider-Brined Pork Chops in Bourbon Sauce
Serves 4
4 1-inch-thick brined rib chops
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup Bourbon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

To make brine:

2 cups fresh apple cider

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

3 allspice berries

1 bay leaf

2 cups ice water

Bring cider, salt, allspice, and bay leaf to boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve salt. Remove from heat. Stir in ice water and allow to cool completely. Place chops in 9x9-inch glass baking dish. Top with brine. Cover; refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Remove chops from brine, rinse, and pat dry.  Season chops with pepper and dust lightly with flour.

Heat olive oil in a 12 oven safe sauté pan over medium high heat.  Brown chops, on both sides, turning after 3-4 minutes.  Cover pan with oven safe lid or foil, and place in preheated oven for 10 minutes to roast.  Remove chops to a warm platter.

Sauté garlic and shallot in drippings over medium-high heat until soft (1-2 minutes).  Deglaze pan with bourbon and broth.  Stir in sugar and vinegar.  Cook to reduce by half. 

Stir in cream and add pork chops back to the pan.  Cook for 2 minutes on each side until sauce has thickened to your liking and pork chops are done. 

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