Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

During this time of year when it’s a bit cold out and I’m not truly able to garden, I feel like I need to do something that feels like I’m in the garden and getting my hands dirty. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to put together a succulent arrangement for dinner tonight. And, if I think it’s going to get truly cold, I can always bring it indoors until it gets a bit warmer.

So, I went to my local garden store and selected these succulents. I love the color and sometimes I think it’s nice just to use one variety.

I just planted them all in and then added gravel on top as a decorative element.


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My final cozy meal for the winter is Garbure. It originates from the south west part of France and it’s one of my standby favorites. Don’t let the plain, simple look fool you. This is one that once you’ve made it, you will always crave it.  It’s a very hearty thick soup that gives immense soul soothing flavor.  


1 cup dried white beans such as Great Northern, navy or cannelloni (7oz), picked over and rinsed

1 whole clove

1 medium onion, peeled and left whole

2 1/2 lb smoked ham hocks (or you can use shanks or pork belly)

3 qt water

6 fresh parsley sprigs

1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf

1 fresh thyme sprig

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes such as Yukon Gold (3 to 4 medium)

1 lb cabbage, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

12 (1/2 inch-thick) slices froma baguette

serves 4 to 6


First I soaked the beans in cold water and covered overnight for 8 hours. Then I drained the beans and placed in the fridge until I was ready to start cooking.

Bring ham hocks and 3 quarts of water to a boil in a wide 6 to 7 quart heavy pot, skimming off any froth, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 hour.  

*It’s optional but I do recommend adding a chicken or duck carcass to the simmering process.  It adds a wonderful flavor dimension. 

Add beans, onion (with clove stuck in it), parsley, bay leaf, thyme and garlic.  Continue simmering uncovered and stirring occasionally, until beans are almost tender, 50 to 60 minutes.

When beans are almost done, peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Add potatoes and cabbage to beans then more simmering (uncovered) until vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. 

Remove ham hocks. When ham hocks are cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones, then cut meat into bite-size pieces. Stir into soup with salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf and onion.

When it comes to the bread, I highly recommend spending the extra effort and grilling.  One of the keys to this recipe is good bread done right.  Generous amount of olive oil, heat up your grill or fire and get a nice crust.  Finish with a little more olive oil and sea salt.  You will thank me later.

To come home to this after a long day of work or school, when you’re cold and ready for warmth is truly one of the best things next to sliced bread. I hope you give it a try.

Confit isn’t readily available for everyone, but if you are lucky to have a good source I’m including a similar recipe where you can add in as the “icing on the cake”.  Click here

Happy Monday!


recipe from Gourmet Magazine

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I had such fun shopping for flowers and cheese today and decided not to play favorites and selected a cheese from each animal — goat, sheep and cow. My daughter, Ella, helped put together this fun board for tonight’s festivities.

The first one is a Herve Mons 1924 Bleu which is both sheep and cow. Then I got a cow’s milk cheese from Whey Creamery, and a goat cheese, Midnight Moon, from Cypress Grove.

Placed everything on a board with parchment paper

Ella added macadamia nuts and dried figs

We added a Manchego, along with Spanish olives and two different types of fun crackers. 


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I love tomatoes and I thought, with summer coming to a close, it was the perfect time to take advantage of some really gorgeous tomatoes.


from Mimi Thorisson’s, A Kitchen in France

Tart dough (see below)

All-purpose flour for rolling

A few sprigs of fresh basil

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/4 pounds (550g) tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 tablespoon honey

1 small ball buffalo mozzarella torn into small pieces

*Serves 4

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round about 1/4 inch thick. Press into the base and sides of a 10-inch tart pan and trim the edges. Prick the base with a fork. Put the pan in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F

Combine the basil, mustard, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and pinch of salt in blender. Puree until smooth.

Spread the tomato paste over the base of the tart shell and then pour the basil oil over it. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a circular pattern, in one layer, in the tart shell. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the honey and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the tomatoes.

Bake until the pastry is golden, about 35 minutes. Let the tart rest for 15 minutes.

Scatter the mozzarella and some basil over the tart before serving.

I went ahead and just bought the dough in the frozen section of my local supermarket but if you do have time, it’s easy enough just to make it from scratch. See recipe below.


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

9 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes and chilled

1 large egg

3 tablespoons cold water

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the butter and work it in with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Make a well in the center and add the egg and water. Mix until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least 1 hour, or overnight. Makes enough for one 10 inch tart shell.

Happy Sunday!

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I love a fig tree in the garden. Mine is a bit wild at the moment. I usually keep it nice and tidy but decided this season to just let it do what it wants. Even though this years figs aren’t extremely flavorful, I do love using the leafs for decor, especially for cheese boards.

Happy Saturday!

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2 pints vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

a dollop of butter

1 large onion peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 a head of celery, trimmed and finely chopped

2 cups risotto (Arborio) rice

2 wineglasses of dry white wine

5 tablespoons butter

4 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

6 small artichokes

zest and juice of 1 lemon

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked

Stage 1: Peel the artichokes back to their pale, light leaves, then halve them and remove the hairy chokes with a teaspoon. Immerse the artichokes in water with half the lemon juice with a heavy lid or heat -resistant dish placed on top of them to keep them immersed and stop them from discoloring.

Stage 2: Heat the stock. Put the olive oil and butter into a separate pan, add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without coloring. This is called a soffrito. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

Stage 3: Drop your prepared artichoke halves into the simmering stock.

Stage 4: The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring — it will smell amazing. Once the wine was cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly and the outside. Keep adding ladle full of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around *15 minutes. Taste the rice to check if it’s cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite.

Stage 6: Remove the artichokes from the stock pan and add to the risotto. Remove the risotto from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan, artichokes, toss with lemon zest and mint. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Salt if needed.

*Cook’s note: This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie’s Italy. This is one of my favorite cookbooks. I’ve been using it forever and everything I make from this book is excellent! This is a very simple recipe but it always takes me longer than 15 minutes to make. From start to finish, I would allow an hour. I made it last night and it took me a while but I’m a slow cook because I always like to enjoy conversation and a glass of wine while cooking.

Serves 6

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Happy Thursday! With tomatoes in season, one of my favorite ways to enjoy them is by making this simple yet extremely flavorful sandwich. This is my all-time favorite sandwich.




Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella

Fresh Pesto

Basil or Arugula


A baguette is perfect for this sandwich, but if it’s not easily available then any thick country bread would work.

Spread the pesto on both sides of baguette. Add the sliced tomatoes, salt the tomatoes. Stack the sliced buffalo mozzarella on top and add a little salt to the mozzarella. If you don’t have pesto then you can use a good olive oil.

One thing that I didn’t have on hand but would have been fantastic with this sandwich is fresh basil or arugula. Served with a fresh green salad and a small glass of chilled white wine and it’s the perfect lunch.

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 Usually, when times get stressful, I like to invite friends and family over and enjoy food and conversation. However, in light of recent events, this is now sadly, not possible. It’s difficult to know how to navigate through these uncertain times. How do we comfort our family, as well as ourselves? How do we try and make our lives as “normal” and enjoyable as possible? Besides work and daily chores, I’m finding comfort in gardening and spending a nice amount of time cooking. Yesterday, I decided to try out a recipe I’ve had forever but never attempted. In the end it turned out to be super easy and delicious — the perfect afternoon distraction.

The apples cooking in butter

Adding the batter to the apples


Active time: 15 min    Start to finish: 30 min

1/2 stick unsalted butter

*1 large sweet apple such as Gala or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-wide wedges

1/2 cup of whole milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

Confectioners sugar for dusting

Special equipment: a well-seasoned 10 to 11-inch heavy cast-iron skillet or other ovenproof skillet

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450F

Melt butter in skillet over moderate heat, then transfer 2 tablespoons to a blender. Add apple wedges to skillet and cook, turning over once, until beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

While apple is cooking, add milk, flour, eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt to butter in blender and blend until smooth.

Pour batter over apple and transfer skillet to oven. Bake until pancake is puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.

*Note: I used fuji apples because that’s what I had and it was perfect. So use whatever apple you can get your hands on, and if they aren’t super sweet then you can add a little more sugar if you’d like.

Recipe via Gourmet Magazine

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Happy Sunday! Today, I’m making homemade pesto because as the holidays get busier, it’s something I can grab from the fridge and easily put together. Add to your favorite pasta and you have a wonderful homemade meal in minutes. The recipe, so super simple, is below.

I also love using pesto with Caprese salad. Drizzle a little more olive oil on top for more moisture. Also, excellent on sandwiches.


3 cups (packed) basil leaves

4 gloves garlic

1/4c pine nuts

1/4c walnuts

1c parmesan cheese

1/2c olive oil + a little more


I just throw it all in a food processor and pulse until it reaches the consistency I like. This recipe serves four.


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