A Life Well Lived

A Life Well Lived eases the sorrow of sawing “goodbye”.  My mother has passed away and while our family will miss her, we are grateful that she had a long and happy life.

My Lovely Mother, We Will Miss You

My Lovely Mother, We Will Miss You

My mother, Juanita Hughes, passed away peacefully in her sleep this weekend. She was born in Kansas almost 95 years ago, and schooled in Oklahoma. She spent the majority of her life living in Texas after she and my father were married. She was a mother to my brother and I, I called her momma, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. I believe her happiest role in life was as the wife to my father, Larry Hughes.

My mother never seemed to question my father’s ideas over the years, even when he decided to retire in his forties, move to the country and become a rancher. While growing up a city girl, she and my father started a new life on a small ranch outside of Houston, Texas.

We lived in a small four room wooden house with slopping floors, one board thick walls and a “pot belly” stove for heat until a new home could be built for us. She led a quiet life on the ranch, being a “stay at home mom” until I was in high school, when she decided to go to work to help with our family’s finances.

Even though she did not enjoy cooking, she always made a home cooked meal for our family each day when returning home from work. My favorite was her terrific fried chicken with cream gravy, it was delicious. I remember her happily picking wild grapes that lined our road with my father and I to make homemade jelly.

While being a reserved person, my mother had a fun side. When we first moved to the ranch, I remember her wearing shorts and cowboy boots to go to the local grocery store, going for moonlight horseback rides with my family and friends, and attending the famous rodeo each year in Houston.

She had a life well lived…long, happy and healthy but missed my father terribly when he passed away. It will be hard to say my last “goodbye” to her but it will be made easier knowing that two people who loved each other so much are now united once more.

May you rest in peace mother, you will be missed by your family.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 260 Comments

A Change In Latitudes

Seeking an escape from the harsh winters of New England, my husband and I decided it was time for A Change In Latitudes and a new adventure in our lives somewhere it is warm. A more southerly place with a laid back lifestyle but still offering good restaurants and cultural events nearby.

Temperature Upon Waking This Week

Temperature Upon Waking This Week

When we sold our sweet little cottage on the lake in Naples, Maine, our intention was to spend summers at our home in New Hampshire tending our apple orchard and to find a second home to spend winters somewhere in Florida. As much as we enjoyed our years living in Key Largo and Miami, we felt south Florida had become too congested for the lifestyle we are looking forward to. With that in mind, we spent time this past summer visiting the towns of Naples, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Vero Beach.

We decided on Vero Beach with its small town feel, beautiful beaches and parks, cultural activities and of course the mild weather. On a visit three years ago, I wrote “This small oceanfront community has all the sophistication of the Hampton’s or Nantucket without the crowds. It is laid back enough that a pair of chinos, a polo shirt and boat shoes will get you into most restaurants”.

The White Sand And Turquoise Water At Vero Beach, Florida

The White Sand Beach And Turquoise Waters Of The Atlantic Ocean In Vero Beach, Florida

We originally thought we would buy an existing home but after looking at what was available, we decided that having a house remodeled while living more than a thousand miles away would be too daunting even for experienced renovators like ourselves.

Our other option was to find a new house that was for sale but nothing was quite right. We saw houses by a builder that we liked but they were located in the western suburbs of Vero Beach. The area was nice but we felt it was more appropriate for young couples wanting to raise a family. By chance, we found an available lot in a gated community just five minutes from the beach and downtown Vero Beach and decided to have a new house built by the builder we liked. Less than half the size of our home in New Hampshire but twice the size of the cottage in Maine, the “easy keeper” will be perfect for just the two of us…even the small yard will be maintained by the community association.

My husband and I have often said we would never live in Florida again but the past couple of winters have made us change our minds. This week, temperatures have been below zero and in the teens, our long driveway is covered in ice and snow covers the ground. We have recently decided to live full time in the home we are having built in Vero Beach and list our New Hampshire home for sale in the next couple of months.

While it will be hard to leave our beautiful home in New England and the friends we have made here over the years, we are looking forward to what lies ahead and feel it is the right thing to do at this time in our life. We will only be a couple of hours away from our children and grandchildren who all live in south Florida and that will be nice.

Yes, we will be called “snowbirds” but it will be nice each winter to enjoy the warmth of the sun instead of looking out the window as snowdrifts cover a freshly plowed driveway and icicles form across the entire house. There will no longer be a need for a heavy duty pickup truck with a snowplow, a large tractor with a bucket, a garden tractor mounted with a snowblower and shovels to get rid of the many feet of snow that accumulates over the course of the harsh New England winters and that will be really nice.

The idea of being able to lock up our home and spend time traveling wherever we want any time of the year is something we are looking forward to. With the change in latitude, maybe there will be a change in attitude when anyone mentions winter to us in the future.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 223 Comments

Good Luck In The New Year

The wish Good Luck In The New Year will be spoken in many different languages by millions of people around the world as we ring in the New Year. Part of this annual celebration may include eating certain foods that people believe will bring them luck, good health, happiness and prosperity.

There are a variety of foods that are symbolic of coins or money such lentils, peas, beans, kale, collard greens, cabbage and sauerkraut. Fish is regarded as a symbol of moving forward and abundance since they swim in large groups. Pork is symbolic of progress as pigs push forward when eating and their fat represents wealth and prosperity. In many of the Spanish speaking countries, people eat 12 grapes at midnight, one for each month of the year, with a special wish for good luck.

I thought I would give you some ideas of what you might want to prepare for either New Year’s eve or day to try and bring yourself some “good luck in the New Year“. No matter whether you will be celebrating with just one special person or are planning a party for some of your friends, you will find the linked recipes to be easy to prepare and delicious.

If you want to follow the tradition of eating twelve grapes at midnight, you might want to serve Roasted Grapes With Warm Brie Crostini. It is a sweet and savory appetizer that takes mere minutes to put together. They are perfect finger food to enjoy with your glass of chilled Champagne as the clock strikes midnight and you make your special wish.

Roasted Grapes And Warm Brie Bruschetta

Roasted Grapes And Warm Brie Crostini

If you want to serve a main course of fish for abundance in the New Year, Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce is a wonderful dish. The light shrimp cream sauce compliments the delicate flavor and texture of the flounder without overwhelming it. Diced tomato and basil added at the last minute makes for a pretty presentation.

Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce

Sautéed Flounder Topped With A Shrimp Cream Sauce

If you are thinking of a pork dish as the main course for wealth and prosperity in the New Year, Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce and Chopped Walnuts will certainly be special enough for the celebration. Serve the pork with Polenta Cakes Fried In Brown Butter And Sage.

Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce

Pork Tenderloin With Gorgonzola Sauce

For a more casual affair you might consider a traditional German New Year’s meal of Smoked Pork Chops With Sauerkraut served with buttered mashed potatoes.

Pork Chops And Sauerkraut

Pork Chops And Sauerkraut

Or if you leaning more towards a Latin influenced meal, Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice is easy to prepare ahead of time for a large group of friends.

My Version Of Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice

My Version Of Cuban Pork With Black Beans And Rice

If you live in the southern part of the States and eat black-eyed peas for good luck, you might be making Hoppin’ John or Texas Caviar. I’ve got another suggestion, Black- eyed Pea Risotto for a little bit of an Italian influence.

Black-eyed Pea Risotto

Black-eyed Pea Risotto

If you would enjoy more exotic flavors to start the New Year, then you might like to try my vegetarian version of Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup. It is a deliciously spiced and fragrant soup you will love. You can add lamb Merguez sausages on the side for the meat eaters you might be serving.

Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup With Spicy Merguez Sausage

Harira, A Moroccan Chickpea And Lentil Soup With Spicy Merguez Sausage

I’ve shared some of my favorite dishes with you that incorporate food ingredients that many people believe will bring them luck, good health, happiness and prosperity. I hope you will get a chance to try some of them.

I will end with my own wish of “Good Luck In The New Year”, may 2015 be everything you hope it will be. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to spend time with me at Back Road Journalit is always a pleasure having you stop by for a visit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 153 Comments

Christmas Time Is Here Once More

How quickly time passes, Christmas Time Is Here Once More.

The trees are all trimmed, the stockings are hung, and the cakes and cookies are baked. Come in out of the cold and join me in our country kitchen for a cup of holiday cheer.

Come In From The Cold

Come In From The Cold

We can sit in front of the fire in the old hearth and reminisce about our favorite holiday experiences.

Our Cosy Keeping Room

Our Cosy Country Kitchen

Do you want to know my favorite Christmas moment? My husband put a beautiful ring in a small wooden box and stuffed it into my Christmas stocking along with small cooking utensils. I thought it was going to be a Champagne stopper…boy did I guess wrong. I’d love to know what is your most memorable holiday experience?

I love the Christmas season and each year I put up several Christmas trees, actually six trees…one in each of our downstairs rooms. There is something about a tree decorated with twinkling lights, shiny balls and beautiful ribbons that is so very festive. I also like to gather holly, spruce, and pine branches and pine cones from our property to fill urns outside our front door and for small centerpieces that I place throughout our home to add to the joy of the season.

You might remember how I’ve decorated our home in the past. Each year, I try to make things a little different for the guests that attend our annual Christmas open house.

This year the tree in the kitchen is trimmed in burgundy, blue and gold. I know that the tree is perfectly decorated when I have a hard time finding room for another ornament.

This Year's Christmas Tree Is Trimmed In Burgundy, Blue And Gold

This Year’s Christmas Tree Is Trimmed In Burgundy, Blue And Gold

How quickly this year has passed. It is time to say once again “Merry Christmas To You” and to thank you for stopping by during this hectic season. I also wish to thank Greg West for letting me share the photographs he took for Country Woman magazine.

Wishing You A Merry Christmas

Wishing You A Merry Christmas

From our home to yours, I wish you all the best during this joyous season. No matter what holiday you celebrate, may it be filled with joy and happiness not only now but into the New Year.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 213 Comments

Celebrating Christmas In Germany And Austria

While Christmas at our beautiful home in New Hampshire is wonderful,  lately I been remembering Christmases past in Europe. My husband and I have found that there is no lovelier tradition than Celebrating Christmas In Germany and Austria…the Germanic regions of Europe where many of our own holiday traditions originated many hundreds of years ago and are still enjoyed there today.

I was too late in making plans to visit Europe this year but I thought I would share memories of our Christmas holidays spent in Germany and Austria. Bundling up for a sleigh ride, visiting the Christmas markets, listening to carols sung by a boy’s choir in a winter wonderland is like a dream come true.

Oh What Fun To Ride In An Open Sleigh Full Of Presents

Oh What Fun To Ride In An Open Sleigh Full Of Presents

The Christmas season starts on the Friday before Advent, which is four Sundays before Christmas Eve. Whether you visit the main square of a big city or one in a tiny village in either Germany or Austria during Advent, the town will probably have its own unique Christmas market known as a Christkindlmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt. Small markets in rural villages are held only on the weekends but in the large cities they customarily go throughout the entire week.

Usually our holiday trips begin in Munich, Germany. With lots of different Christmas markets throughout the city, Munich feels like the Bavarian version of a movie set from “White Christmas“. Christmas trees everywhere, people wrapped up in their winter coats and scarves, holiday music, food and mulled wine…you begin to wonder if Munich might have been the place where Christmas was invented.

Munich's Christkindlmarkt At The Marienplatz

Munich’s Christkindlmarkt At The Marienplatz

We always stay at the Vier Jahreszeiten Munich, a five minute walk from the former residence of the kings of Bavaria. The beautifully decorated lobby is a popular meeting place for locals and Müncheners refer to it as the living room of Munich. After a cold day wandering the cobbled streets admiring the Christmas sights and sounds, it is a nice place to warm up with a cappuccino or hot chocolate and watch as guests come through the doors loaded with shopping bags full of presents from the beautiful shops nearby.

Warming Up With A Cappuccino In The Vier Jahreszeiten Beautifully Decorated Lobby

Warming Up With A Cappuccino In The Vier Jahreszeiten’s Beautifully Decorated Lobby

From the hotel, a leisurely 10 minute walk takes you to the Christkindlmarkt held at the Marienplatz, Munich’s most famous square, in the old center of town. You know you have reached the market when you see a glittering 100 foot tree in front of the New Town Hall and its famous Glockenspiel. Large crowds mingle in front of hundreds of small wooden stands, many elaborately decorated with fir branches and lights, where wooden toys and hand carved nativity sets, beautiful glass ornaments, candles and holiday novelties are sold. The aroma of sizzling sausages under piles of sautéed onions will lead you to stands selling crispy potato pancakes, gingerbread, stollen, roasted candied almonds, chestnuts, and large pretzels.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge and see a slide show.

When the cold and snow has made your fingers and toes go numb, it is time to head to one of the stalls that sells hot glühwein, a heavily spiced and mulled red wine. Here you are likely to see men dressed in traditional loden coats adorned with horn buttons and hats decorated with boar bristles sipping hot glühwein with their wives and friends.

Small children walk hand in hand with their parents across the Marienplatz to see the large window displays at one of the department stores. Their eyes grow big and they start to giggle as they look at hundreds of toys and stuffed animals in animated holiday scenes.

Stuffed Animals In Animated Holiday Scenes

Stuffed Animals In Animated Holiday Scenes

Not far from Marienplatz is the famous food market, the Viktualienmarkt, an excellent place for foodies to visit. Besides cheeses, meats, exotic mushrooms, vegetables, fruits and honey, a variety of stalls sell freshly cooked Bavarian specialties such as the plump white veal sausages known as weisswurst that are served with sweet mustard along with Bavarian beers and local wines. Besides selling food, venders also sell Christmas trees, seasonal flower arrangements and straw ornaments.

Viktualienmarkt, Munich's Famous Outdoor Food Market

Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s Famous Outdoor Food Market

Knowing the foodie that I am, our Christmas trip to Munich wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Dallmayr, a luxury food store that dates back to the 17th century. After visiting the delicatessen with its cheeses from everywhere in Europe, meats, sea food, special teas from around the world, breads and seasonal pastries, we usually have lunch or at least pastry in the store’s very good restaurant upstairs.

We pass the famous Hofbräuhaus on the way back to our hotel. Open even on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the famous brewery should definitely be visited at least once. You might get lucky and see their beer wagon sitting outside just waiting to be pulled off by the Clydesdale team with their harnesses covered in jingle bells.

Hofbräuhaus Clydesdale Team With Harnesses Covered In Jingle Bells

Hofbräuhaus’ Clydesdale Horse Team With Harnesses Covered In Jingle Bells

Of course, Munich is more than just the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. On each trip, we try to visit at least one of the city’s museum which are some of Europe’s finest. A full day can be spent touring the historic Munich Residenz or the modern BMW museum, either of which are a wonderful place to visit when you can’t take the cold anymore.

For the next stop on our Christmas trip, we head to city of Salzburg. On most visits, we stay on the outskirts at one of the well known spa hotels and take day trips into the city. Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt, one of Europe’s oldest markets, is small compared to the ones in Munich. It has a lovely atmosphere with the huge medieval Hohensalzburg fortress perched high above the Cathedral of Salzburg. The square is decorated with garland and white lights hung from above and has stalls surrounding the large fountain covered in glass for the winter. The stalls sell some of the prettiest Christmas ornaments I’ve seen, wooden toys, hand knitted scarves and traditional clothing. Of course there is hot mulled wine to keep you warm along with sausages, roasted apples, chestnuts, candied almonds and spicy gingerbread.

Upon leaving the Salzburg area, we drive south to the Tyrol region and stay one day in Kitzbühel, known as one of the world’s best ski areas. While my husband and I don’t ski, we do enjoy the historic medieval center and its small Christmas market.  The town is especially pretty at night but it was snowing too hard to get photos of all the Christmas lights that makes it look like an old fashioned Christmas card when lit in the evening.

Shopping Street In Kitzbuhl

Shopping Street In Kitzbühel

We spend Christmas at one of our favorite hotels in the Tyrol, the Jagdhof Spa and Hotel, just twenty minutes outside of Innsbruck in Neustift. This area is stunning as it is surrounded by the spectacular peaks of the Stubai mountains. It feels like coming home when we walk into the beautifully decorated Tyrollean hotel and are greeted with a heartfelt hug from Christina Pfurtscheller, one member of the lovely family that owns and oversees this wonderful spa hotel.

Christmas Eve seems to be more important than Christmas day in Europe. During the day we stop by the parish church of Saint George, the second largest village church in the Tyrol region. From the outside it appears very plain but once inside you are surprised by its rococo design and magnificent frescos.

While Plain On the Outside, This Tyrollean Church Is Magnificent

While Plain On the Outside, The Tyrollean Church Of St. George Is Magnificent Inside

Back at the hotel, the evening starts with an outdoor gathering of all the families to hear the story of Christmas, then Santa arrives in a horse drawn sleigh to distribute packages to all the children. We then like to enjoy having a glass of Champagne in the bar before going into one of the lovely dining rooms.

After enjoying a gala multi course meal and perhaps an after dinner drink in the bar with newly met friends, we snuggle into our comfy feather bed for the night. The next morning, we awake to the sound of church bells announcing the arrival of Christmas.

Snow Covered Mountains

Snow Covered Mountains

Looking out the hotel window at the freshly fallen snow that covers everything in sight, you can’t help but admire the glory of nature and its winter wonderland. I dream of celebrating another white Christmas spent in Europe…perhaps next year.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 182 Comments

Veal Marsala

Veal Marsala, a meal many of us only consider having at an Italian restaurant, is easy to prepare at home. This tasty, one pan dish of tender veal topped with a light mushroom Marsala wine sauce and placed on top of buttered fettuccine is a quick and elegant dinner to serve when entertaining throughout the year.

Veal Marsala On A Bed Of Fettucini

Veal Marsala On A Bed Of Fettuccini

Since this recipe only requires a few ingredients, I try to use the best that I can find. For this special dinner, I cross the New Hampshire border and head down to a gourmet grocery store 25 miles away in Massachusetts. There I can find beautiful veal scaloppini, sliced thinly from the leg, veal demi glace and Marsala wine. Veal demi glace, if you can find it, is an ingredient that adds a depth of flavor to the sauce but beef stock can be used in its place. I suggest using a nice Marsala wine because if it isn’t good enough to drink, you don’t want to use it in this special dinner. My husband prefers a semi sweet Marsala wine for the sauce but dry, which I prefer, is what I used in this recipe. This fortified wine from Sicily will add a rich caramelized and savory flavor to the veal. If Marsala is hard to find where you live, you could substitute another fortified wine such as Madeira or sherry which would give you a similar but slightly different taste. A less expensive alternative to veal Marsala but equally delicious, would be chicken Marsala prepared the same way.

Veal Marsala

Serves two, adjust the recipe according

  • 4 thin slices of veal scallopini (about 3 oz. each), chicken may be substituted
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour for dusting (I use Wondra)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter plus an additional 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I used Baby Bella)
  • 3/4 c. Marsala wine
  • 7 oz. container of veal demi glace (I used D’Artgnan) or 1 c. beef stock
  • 1/8 tsp. truffle oil (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

If the scallopini are large, cut them in half. Pat the veal dry with paper towel, season each side with salt and pepper then dust lightly with flour, shaking off any excess. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp. oil over medium high heat. Add half of the veal and sauté briefly 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side just until it turns a light golden brown, being careful not to overcook. Remove the veal from the pan and set aside. Repeat with another Tbsp. butter, olive oil and the remaining veal. When cooked, remove from the pan and set aside with the other veal.

Using the same pan, add 1 Tbsp. of butter, the shallots and garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add an additional Tbsp. of butter, the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until the wine is reduced by half. Add the demi glace or beef broth, whichever you are using. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir the remaining Tbsp. of butter into the sauce, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the truffle oil, if using, and the chopped parsley. Return the veal to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Turn to coat and simmer the veal no more than a minute to heat through as the veal will dry out if even slightly overcooked.

****

I served the tender veal and its savory mushroom wine sauce over a bed of fettuccine that had been tossed with a simple mixture of olive oil, butter and finely chopped fresh parsley. If you do the same, have your pasta ready and kept warm before adding your veal to the sauce. A mixed green salad, some crusty bread and a good bottle of red wine make a great accompaniment to this delicious meal. Buon Appetito!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 191 Comments

Tart With Shortbread Crust…As Easy As Pie

With Thanksgiving just days ahead and Christmas next month, if a pumpkin, pecan or apple pie is one of the desserts you will be serving during the holidays, then your pie making is probably in full swing by now.

Apple Tart With Lattice Crust

Apple Tart With A Lattice Crust

On the other hand, does the thought of making a pie crust have you questioning the old saying, “easy as pie“. If you are one of those people who think a golden, flaky crust like the one pictured above is unobtainable, then you should try preparing a fruit tart with a shortbread crust that my husband enjoys making.

Caramelized Apple Tart With Shortbread Crust

Caramelized Apple Tart With Shortbread Crust

You don’t have to worry about the dough sticking to the rolling pin or to your counter. Actually, you can forget about having to roll the dough at all. There is also no worrying about if the dough will hold together or crack when you transfer it to the pan as this crust is simply pressed into a tart pan. The dough itself is sweeter, softer and less flaky than a dough you would roll. I would describe the dough as being a cross between a pie crust and a sugar cookie with its crumbly, light and tender texture. The dough is very similar to pâte sucrée which is the base for many of the sweet tarts made throughout the world. This quick and easy  shortbread crust will definitely make your holiday pie and tart baking much easier if you have had problems with rolling dough in the past.

While my husband often makes double crust and lattice top pies with apples or pears from our orchard, a pear tart with a shortbread crust is one of my favorites. I can give you his exact recipe for the crust because baking requires some precision. Unfortunately, he doesn’t usually measure when it comes to the filling, instead letting his creative side rule. Each time he makes one, it looks and tastes a little different but it is always delicious.

Pear And Ginger Tart With Shortbread Crust

Pear And Ginger Tart With Shortbread Crust

Sweet Shortbread Crust

This recipe makes enough dough for a single crust that will fit an 11 inch tart pan, adjust the recipe accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. confectioner sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold butter (3/4 c.) cubed
  • a pinch of salt

Combine the flour, confectioner sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and mix until combined. Add in the butter and using your hands, work the cubes into the flour and sugar until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Continue working the mixture between your fingers until it clumps together and forms a soft dough. Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to rest and firm up.

Lightly spray an 11-inch tart pan (with a removable bottom) with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and take a little bit of the dough at a time and using your fingertips, pat it into the bottom of the tart pan and evenly up the sides about an 1/8 inch thick. Let the dough extend about a 1/4 inch over the rim, trimming if necessary, to make it even. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will help keep the crust from shrinking once it is in the oven. After 15 minutes, remove from the freezer and prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork. Bake the crust in a preheated 375 degree oven  for 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Add your favorite fruit filling and bake for about 30 minutes or until the juices start to bubble. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack before cutting.

****

When my husband was a young boy, he used to like to sit on a stool at the edge of the kitchen counter and watch his grandmother cook. He constantly reminisces about all the wonderful food she made without having to check a cookbook for exact amounts or temperatures…it was just part of her daily cooking routine. By watching his grandmother, he developed an appreciation of good food and enjoys cooking as much as I do. I would share more of his dishes but I just can’t get him to measure. Instead, when he prepares a dish he goes by instinct much as his grandmother did.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 182 Comments

Behind The Scenes…Country Woman Magazine

Being Behind The Scenes of a photo shoot doesn’t happen every day but when it does, it is very interesting. You might remember my post, Fashion Alert last year where I had come across a fashion photo shoot in Kitzbühel, Austria. Little did I know then that a month later I would be part of another shoot but this time in my own kitchen.

Behind The Scenes Of A Photo Shoot

Behind The Scenes Of A Photo Shoot

While still in Austria on holiday last year, I received an email from the editor of Country Woman magazine. She wrote that while surfing the web one day, she had come across my blog and a post about my kitchen. She thought the magazine’s readers would enjoy seeing the kitchen in our 1730’s home. She wanted to know if I would be interested in writing a story for their 2014 Christmas issue. Be still my heart!

While the story wouldn’t be published until more than a year later, the magazine wanted to see if they could plan a photo shoot before my annual Christmas party. It would be extremely exciting to have our home featured in a national magazine but I seriously wondered if everything could be accomplished in a month’s time.

After much debate and encouragement from my husband, I decided to accept the exciting challenge and sent a story to the magazine. They were happy with what I had written and the art director found a photographer, Greg West, who happened to live in Dover, New Hampshire, less than an hour away from our home. Greg is well known for his architectural and interior photos and has been featured in magazines such as Accent Home & Garden and New England Food and Wine.

Pondering The Shot

Pondering The Shot

Unlike the photo shoot in Austria with lots of assists, Greg came alone. I pointed out items in the kitchen that I had written about and Greg then spent the entire day taking photos. My husband and I stood out of the way and watched Greg as he maneuvered his camera and lights.

Photos Taken And Emailed To The Art Director For Approval

Photos Taken And Emailed To The Magazine’s Art Director For Approval

It is easy to see why a magazine’s photos are so good when you see the equipment that a professional photographer uses and how it is used. After Greg took each shot, he would email the photo to the magazine’s art director. Some photos were accepted on the spot, others needed to be tweaked. Little details like the placement of pinecones, the reflection of light on the stainless steel stove, the distance a drawer was opened would be changed just a smidgen and the photo retaken.

The Refrigerator And Freezer Doors Open To Show How They Were Camouflaged

Cabinetry Hides The Modern Refrigerator/Freezer Until The Doors And Drawers Are Open

During the shoot, I asked Greg if he would mind if I took a few photos of him and what he was photographing as he worked and he kindly agreed. My modest photos in no way compare to Greg’s professional shots. The last photo of the day was of myself, taken just as it was starting to turn dark. My husband and I helped Greg load up his equipment and waved goodbye as Greg munched on one of my Christmas cookies.

Christmas Issue Of Country Woman

Christmas Issue Of Country Woman

Even though I was paid for my story last December, I haven’t mentioned this experience in my blog until now as I didn’t want to “count my chickens before they hatched”. What if I got an email from the magazine saying they were sorry but they had reconsidered doing the story? Of course, that was not the case and this week I was pleasantly surprised when I received a copy of the December/January issue of Country Woman magazine and there it was…five pages featuring my story and Greg’s wonderful photos of our kitchen decorated for Christmas.

Christmas Past & Present…How Exciting To See My Story Featured In The Christmas Issue Of Country Woman Magazine

Christmas Past & Present…How Exciting To See My Story Featured In The Christmas Issue Of Country Woman Magazine

For those of you that won’t been able to find copies of Country Woman in your part of the world, I’m pleased that you can read the article on the Country Woman website if you are interested. It has additional photos that Greg took that weren’t able to be put in the magazine story. In December, I’ll share some of the wonderful photos that Greg took and show you the book he sent to me as a remembrance of this experience. “Thank you” Greg.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed that I would be behind the scenes of another photo shoot let alone one in my own home. The experience of being featured in a national magazine is a dream come true. I’ll never look at a home magazine again without thinking of all that it takes to put each edition of a magazine together…lots of time, energy and talented people are involved in the process before it can be published. I want to give a big “thank you” to Country Woman magazine for the chance to contribute to their magazine with the story about the restoration of our 1730’s home in keeping with its historic nature. I hope the magazine’s readers as well as my own will enjoy the story.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 268 Comments

Beans And Sausages, Two Ways

When my daily routine leaves little time for preparing dinner, I often raid my pantry and freezer for ingredients to create a quick and easy weeknight meal. Recently, I’ve prepared Beans And Sausages, Two Ways…both using canned beans and fully cooked sausages which make dinner a cinch. Each one dish meal is easy, satisfying and delicious. I believe either dish would be very welcomed by those sitting around your own kitchen table.

Cannellini Beans With Brown Butter Fried Sage And Chicken Sausage

Cannellini Beans With Sage, Brown Butter And Chicken Sausage

The first dish is creamy cannellini beans cooked with lots of fresh herbs, then topped with roasted garlic chicken sausages, browned butter and fried sage leaves for a very flavorful Tuscan inspired meal. You will also find similar dishes on French and British tables.

Cannellini Beans With Sage, Brown Butter And Sausage

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 6 large sage leaves, cut in half
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 (3 oz. each) sausages, I used fully cooked roasted garlic and herb chicken sausages
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. each of chopped fresh parsley, sage and thyme
  • 1 tsp. of chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 cans (15 oz.) cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed or 4 c. cooked white beans of your choice
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly grated Locatelli Romano cheese (optional)

Melt butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat, add sage leaves and cook stirring occasionally until butter is brown (do not burn) and leaves are crisp. Place the sage leaves on a paper towel and reserve the brown butter.

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat and brown the sausages on all sides. Remove the sausages and keep warm until ready to serve.

Add the onions to the same pot and cook until soft, then add the garlic, chopped parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and cook for a minute. Add the chicken broth and simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Add the beans, season with salt, pepper and red pepper, if using. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes. Mash a few of the beans with the side of a spoon and continue to cook until the beans are very soft and the mixture is a little creamy.

To serve, cut the sausages part way through and put pieces of the fried sage leaves in the cut. Place beans in individual serving bowls, drizzle with the reserved brown butter and top with a sausage. If you wish, serve grated cheese with the beans for additional flavor.

****

Andouille Sausage With Red Beans

Andouille Sausage With Red Beans And Rice

The second dish is prepared with small red beans and mildly spicy, smoked Andouille pork sausage. This is a Cajun dish inspired by the New Orleans classic red beans and rice often eaten for lunch on Mondays in this and other Louisiana cities. Andouille sausage is also featured in Cajun and Creole dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya.

Andouille Sausage With Red Beans And Rice

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 oz. Andouille sausage, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 or 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 c. ham stock (chicken broth may be substituted)
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans small red beans, rinsed or 4 c. cooked red beans of your choice
  • several sprigs each of fresh thyme and parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Tabasco, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp.  more or less, Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. more or less, smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked rice for serving with the beans
  • chopped fresh parsley or sliced green onion for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a pot, add sausage and brown. Add the celery, onion and bell pepper and cook until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute then add the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the ham stock and beans, stir well. Add the next 6 ingredients, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until the beans are very soft. For a creamy consistency, mash some of the beans with the side of a spoon. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Remove the bay leaf, thyme and parsley sprigs before serving.

To serve, mound some rice into individual serving bowls, cover with a generous helping of the beans and garnish with chopped parsley or sliced green onions. Serve with addition tabasco at the table for those who want a spicier dish.

****

Variations of either recipe can be made to suit your preferences or the ingredients you happen to have on hand. If you have time, you can make both of these dishes using dried beans that you have soaked and slowly cooked until tender. In that case, use about two cups of cooked beans for each can of beans called for in the recipes.

Whether you cook beans from scratch or use canned ones for convenience, beans are a nutritious, tasty and inexpensive ingredient on which to base a meal. It is no wonder that beans are a staple for people all around the world who rely upon them to provide a meal for their families that is healthy and satisfying.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 265 Comments

How To Have A Barn Or Yard Sale

It is the season for barn and yard sales in New England. Instead of outdoor barbecues or trips to the beach, fall is the time of the year when people like to take a ride along the back country roads. Savvy New Englanders know this and we spend days going through our basement, closets and garage looking for stuff we want to get rid of. We wait for the perfect day or weekend when the “leaf peepers” will be out enjoying the fall color and we Have A Barn Sale. 

The Beautiful Fall Colors Of New England

The Beautiful Fall Colors Of New England

Like all of you, I have accumulated lots of things over the years that I don’t use anymore. If you are like me and need to declutter your life, think about having a barn or yard sale. You may not make a lot of money but you will make space in your home by selling things you no longer use to people who will enjoy them.

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, check with your town to see if you need a permit or if there are any rules in your community regarding having a sale. I have a long driveway with plenty of parking but if you have limited space, talk with your neighbors to let them know what you are planning. They might ask if they could join you with a table of their own things.

Plan your sale well in advance, trying to avoid any days when an event will be held that would keep people away. It’s great if you can coordinate your sale with a “town wide yard sale” in your area. I did that and I found that Saturday was a lot busier than Sunday.

I asked buyers what brought them to my sale and most said it was the signs. I made mine using 15 by 19 inch white corrugated plastic and vinyl lettering that were easy to read from a distance. It rained during my sale but the weather didn’t harm any of my signs. If I had used paper, they would have buckled and been impossible to read. Remember to take down the signs at the end of your sale or you will have disappointed buyers after you close.

Think of advertising in the newspaper, on Facebook and on internet sites like craigslist. With craigslist, you can add 24 photos which will give people an idea of what you are selling. You can start a month in advance…updating the ads every two days. If you have any unique items, be sure to provide as much information about them as possible.

Before selling items that may have some real value, check on sites such as eBay and etsy to see if you have a real treasure. If so, you might want to try placing them in an antique shop on consignment.

When it comes to pricing, remember an item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, not what you originally purchased it for. Put price tags on everything and include a description when you think it might be helpful. If you enjoy haggling or expect everyone will be offering you less than what you want, price things accordingly.

I decided to sell everything in whole dollar amounts and nothing under a dollar as I didn’t want to have to deal with coins. To make change, I started out with five $10’s, six $5’s, and twenty $l’s that I kept in my pocket. I kept my cellphone in another pocket to use as a calculator or if needed in an emergency.

It is important to have everything ready the day before your sale as you may have early buyers waiting for you to open on the morning of the sale. I believe organizing the items in pretty displays makes it easier to sell them for your asking price. I had many shoppers say how neat and clean everything was…that it was like shopping in a little store. They also mentioned they loved being in our historic barn with its lingering aromas of hay and apples while they looked for a few bargains. What they found were some great deals on furniture, collectables, housewares, and seasonal decorations.

Having a barn sale is a lot of hard work but just know that you will be decluttering your life and meeting a lot of nice people in the process. Items you no longer want will be irresistible to someone else and they will happily give them a new home. What doesn’t sell can be boxed up and given to charity. It is like a fairytale where “they all lived happily ever after”.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 181 Comments