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Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Every summer we take a lake vacation with dear, wonderful friends from Louisiana.
The first year we borrowed a friends cabin, but as our families grew larger, we started renting houses around Beaver Lake. Once our kids were older and safe on a boat without our constant supervision, and after one unfortunate incident with bed bugs, we decided to try spending our week actually on the lake, and rented a house boat.
The last few years, we have met on an 80 foot boat on Lake Ouachita. It is a beautiful, clear lake, filled with islands, with very minimal build up around the shore. We move the boat to a new cove every day, and it is very peaceful. There is not much else to do but read, relax and be out on the water (we take our ski boat and our friends supply lake toys - a canoe, inflatable trampoline, inner tubes), and the Mamas go into town for a day of flea marketing and antique shopping.
We take turns cooking, and this year we decided to put together a cocktail party, and served these little bites.


14 ounces vodka
12 ounces fresh clementine juice
6 ounces fresh lime juice
6 ounces Aperol
4 ounces agave nectar
12 ounces chilled club soda

In a pitcher, combine the vodka, clementine and lime juices, Aperol and agave. Stir well.
Refrigerate until chilled, 1 hour. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Working in batches and adding fresh ice, shake well and strain into 8 ice-filled collins glasses.
Stir 1 1/2 ounces of club soda into each glass.

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine, July 2013‎


2 medium roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 to a 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados, halved, seeded, peeled and coarsely mashed
Tortilla chips for serving

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently stir in mashed avocados. Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe adapted from Cooks Secrets, August 2013‎


1 baguette, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices
5 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
1 pound lump crab meat
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped dill
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350F. Arrange baguette slices on a large baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, fold together crab, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, shallots, lemon zest and juice and dill.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon onto baguette slices.

Recipe adapted from Oprah Magazine, April 2013


1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound salmon fillet, skin removed and chopped
2 eggs
5 tablespoons drained capers
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 cups mixed greens

Combine mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon shallots, 1 teaspoon mustard, buttermilk and lemon juice in a bowl, set aside.
Combine salmon, eggs, 1/4 cup shallots, capers, breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon mustard, salt and pepper in another bowl, mix well. Shape into patties. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook salmon cakes until bottom is golden, about 6 minutes, flip and cook until golden, 5 minutes more. 
Divide salad among plates, top with salmon cakes and drizzle with dressing.

Recipe adapted from Self, April 2011


2 cups pumpernickel bread cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (10 ounce) package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 green onions, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 heads of endive, leaves separated

Cut the bread into small cubes. In a small skillet, toast the cubes with the olive oil over medium-low heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Let cool.
In a food processor, pulse the spinach, green onions, mayonnaise and sour cream until almost smooth, season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the spinach mixture onto the endive spears and top with the bread.

Recipe adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray‎

Monday, December 30, 2013


A party was planned in our yoga class, as an early Christmas gift to ourselves. We started with Mimosas, moved through our class, then gathered for cocktails and lunch -  salad and a fabulous egg dish our instructor had made.


1 ounce grapefruit juice
1 ounce tequila
1 ounce Aperol
Champagne to top

Shake the grapefruit juice, tequila and Aperol over ice. Strain into a flute and top with Champagne.

Recipe adapted from The Wall Street Journal, December 2012‎


2 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of watercress, stems discarded
1 bunch  arugula, stems discarded
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 apple, diced
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

In a bowl, whisk the vinegar with the shallot and mustard. Whisk in the walnut and olive oils and season with salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, toss the watercress and arugula with the dressing, celery, apple and walnuts. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, September 2009‎

Sunday, December 29, 2013


On a recent evening when friends came for dinner, we settled on an Indian theme.
We served the appetizers outside, then moved in to the dining room for a chicken curry and a goat curry, accompanied by naan bread, poppadoms and chutney.


1/4 ounce elderflower liqueur
3 drops rose water
1 ounce gin
rose champagne

In a champagne glass, add 1/4 ounce elderflower liqueur, 3 drops rose water, and a dash of bitters. Add 1 ounce chilled gin and top off with chilled rose champagne.


1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/3 cup mango chutney
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
5 cups diced cooked chicken
4 green onions, finely chopped
mini fillo tart shells

Heat oven to 350F. Bake almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan 5 to 7 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool 20 minutes.
Whisk together mayonnaise, greek yogurt, mango chutney, curry powder, salt and pepper. Add chicken, green onions and toasted almonds, and toss until well blended. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours.
Fill tart shells with chicken salad just before serving.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, February 2012 › Food › Recipes


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
3 tablespoons mango chutney, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 pound lump crabmeat
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chutney, cream cheese, mayonnaise and lime juice and cook, stirring, until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the green onions, cilantro and crab. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the dip is heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a shallow bowl, serve with bread and chips if desired.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, December 2009‎


1/4 cup cashews
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves
1 jalapeño, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup mango nectar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups cilantro leaves
1 cup mint leaves
1 jalapeño, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, combine the cashews, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, mustard seeds, garam masala, and turmeric and pulse until the ginger and garlic are finely chopped. Add the mango nectar and lemon juice and puree until smooth. Add the yogurt and 1 tablespoon of salt and pulse to blend. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Light a grill. Thread the shrimp on skewers. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with salt. Oil the grate and grill the shrimp over high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Serve the shrimp with the Cilantro and Yogurt Sauce.
In a blended, combine the cilantro, mint, jalapeño, garlic, cumin and lemon juice and puree to a paste. Add the yogurt and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Recipe adapted from


4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large head of cauliflower cut ito 1 1/4 inch florets
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 hot serrano peppers, finely chopped
4 potatoes, boiled, peeled, and diced
salt to taste

Heat oil in a tall sided saucepan, and stir fry cauliflower. Make sure it remains slightly crisp, but also browns in places. Remove cauliflower, add more oil to the saucepan, if necessary, and add cumin seeds, ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir fry mix about 30 seconds. Return cauliflower to saucepan, add serrano pepper and potatoes and stir until cauliflower and potatoes are evenly coated. Season to taste with salt.

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, April 2008‎


4 chicken breasts
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic (all peeled, 2 minced)
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 bay leaf
1 lime, sliced
3 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 apple, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup mango chutney

Place the chicken in a medium pot. Add the carrots, celery, 1 onion, whole peeled garlic, 1 tablespoon ginger, bay leaf, lime and cardamom pods, then cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, add a couple of pinches of salt and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Gently poach the chicken for about 35 to 40 minutes or until it is cooked through.
Strain the chicken, reserving the stock. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, chop into bite sized pieces.
Wipe out the stock pot and place back on heat. Add the olive oil and the butter. Add the chopped onion, remaining ginger, apple and curry powder. Once the onion and apple are just tender, sprinkle in the flour, stir then whisk in reserved stock until desired consistency is reached. Bring the mixture to a light simmer to thicken. Add in the chicken and the mango chutney.

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine, December 2012

Saturday, December 28, 2013


The last day the kids were in school this year, went by exceptionally quickly, and ended with me running late!! The kids had taken the gifts for their teachers that morning, so it was just a matter of me parking in front of the school and delivering the gifts for the ladies in the office, a few steps into the building. However, I became a bit flustered when a bus driver I had parked in front of started yelling at me, and followed me inside telling me I had to move, a gift bag broke, emptying its sticky contents  onto the steps and covering my fingers, keys and steering wheel in lavender honey.
My carefully planned afternoon was thrown off schedule, as after picking up the kids, I circled back around to the earlier scene of my shame, now emptied of all busses and other vehicles, and went to clean up my mess and check the gifts had arrived safely. I had promised the kids I would take them to Toys-R-Us for an end-of-year-treat, and then drove as fast as I was legally able, to a friends gathering for my own end-of-year-treat.
I made this smoked salmon spread to share and have included another of my favorite smoked salmon recipes - perfect for relaxing and celebrating with!


8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons cream
1/2 pound of smoked salmon, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream

Mix cream cheese and cream until smooth. Stir in salmon, lemon zest, pepper and sour cream. Chill.
Serve with crostini.


pumpernickel points
thin cut smoked salmon
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
one bunch of dill (can substitute dry dill)

Combine Dijon, dry mustard, agave nectar, vinegar, olive oil and chopped dill in a food processor to make mustard sauce.
Place a piece of smoked salmon on a pumpernickel point, spread with cream cheese. Top with mustard sauce and garnish with a sprinkle of dill.

Recipe adapted from Dwell Magazine, September 2012‎

Friday, December 27, 2013


It all started when I took my boys out for dinner.
The couple behind us ordered chocolate cake for dessert, but when we had finished our main course, it was time to go home, so there was no satisfying our sweet tooth at the restaurant. After my husband and I had been out for dinner, we came home to find our babysitter had made a special trip to the store to pick up a chocolate cake for the kids - apparently they had been asking, pleading and begging for chocolate cake!
I decided by that point, I wanted chocolate cake too - and this recipe sounded too good to pass up


1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
3/4 cup shortening
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
8 tablespoons butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter

Mix milk and vinegar in a bowl, let sit until slightly curdled, about 10 minutes.
Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 by 11 baking dish. Whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda in a bowl, make a well in the center. Bring shortening, cocoa powder, butter and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Cook, whisking constantly, until smooth, 5 to 7 minutes, let cool slightly. Whisk in milk mixture and eggs. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms. Pour batter into greased pan and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, let cool.
Whisk confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl. Simmer milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat utnil butter is melted, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in sugar mixture until smooth. Pour icing over cake, let set completely, about 30 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Saveur‎

Thursday, December 26, 2013


It seems almost every meal over this past month has been made up of appetizers - appetizers and cookies!!!
These Blue Cheese Shortbread Leaves are delicious, and can be cut into any shape to fit the occasion.


1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese
1/3 cup chutney of your choice
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

Blend the blue cheese and butter in a processor until creamy. Add flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper. Pocess until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add walnuts and process just until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate utnil firm, about an hour.
Heat oven to 325F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out dough between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4 inch thickness. Remove top sheet. Use a cookie cutter to cut out star shapes. Transfer stars to prepared baking sheets. Gather dough scraps and reroll, cut out additional stars.
Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer stars to rack and cool.
Using a rolling pin, flatten cream cheese between sheets of plastic wrap, roll into 10 by 8 inch rectangle. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap. Spread 1/3 cup chutney atop cream cheese rectangle, leaving a 1 inch plain border. Sprinkle chutney with 2 tablespoons of greeen onions. Using plastic as an aid, and starting at 1 long side, roll up cream cheese, jelly roll style, into log. Gently. Wrap roulade tightly with plastic, refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
Place roulade on a platter, surround with shortbread stars and top with black pepper, sliced green onions or extra chutney.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2002‎

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


During a recent play date, my daughter and her friend wanted to bake cookies. They thought these gingerbread cookies looked like fun, but unfortunately the dough had to sit in the refrigerator for an hour before baking. By the time they were ready to be rolled, the kids had lost interest, and it was up to me to cut the cookies.


1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
3 3/4 cups flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer at low speed, cream together the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs and molasses and mix until incorporated. Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until firm.
Heat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Allow dough to sit at room temperature until pliable, about 15 minutes. Take about 1/2 cup of dough at a time and roll it out on a floured surface until about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.
Bake for 10 minutes or until just brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Recipe adapted from The Great Cookie Book, 2010‎

Sunday, December 22, 2013


The teachers breakfast, held in the week before school is out for Christmas, is among my all time favorite events to organize. It seems like such a small way to give back and to honor all they do for our kids, as I spend the school year, and to be honest, probably most of the summer, in appreciation for, and sending silent prayers of thanks to, our teachers.
I love that so many of the parents are super excited to contribute, taking the time and making the effort to shop, prepare, bake and deliver their version of gratitude, which always results in a beautiful assortment of dishes, pastries, fruit and breads.
I made the Hot Curried Fruit Salad and the Blueberry Oatmeal Cheesecake Muffins this year, and provided the Orange Berry Coffee Cakes last year.


1 (14 ounce) can of peach slices
1 (14 ounce) can of sliced pears
1 (14 ounce) can of pineapple chunks
1 (14 ounce) can of cherries
3/4 cup maraschino cherries
3 to 4 bananas, peeled and cut into slices
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup melted butter

Heat oven to 350F.
Drain all fruit and place in a bowl. Mix together sugar, cornstarch and curry powder and add to fruit. Drizzle with butter and stir gently to combine. Pour into a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
Bake for 40 minutes.

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, November 2005‎


1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup buttermilk
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup blueberries

Heat oven to 350F.
Combine oats and buttermilk in a small bowl, let stand for 10 minutes.
Beat cream cheese, sugar and orange zest with a mixer, until blended, set aside. Mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
Add egg and butter to oat mixtrue, stir until well blended. Add to dry ingredients, stir until just moistened. Gently stir in berries.
Spoon half the batter evenly into muffin cups lined with paper liners. Top each with a tablespoon of cream cheese mixture, cover with remaining batter.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.

Recipe adapted from Food and Family magazine, Fall 2012‎


2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 recipe orange glaze (below)

Heat oven to 350F. Grease 15 muffin cups, or line with paper liners.
In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in ricotta, egg, orange peel, orange juice and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, just until combined. Fold in cranberries and ginger.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove, cool slightly. Spoon on glaze.

Combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon shredded orange peel.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, November 2012‎

Saturday, December 21, 2013


I made a decision to keep our family Christmas very simple this year. At first we thought we might leave for New Zealand either Christmas day or the day after - in our experience it is a great time to travel - and I didn't want to be rushing around Christmas morning, taking down and storing away more than what we had needed to put up. Although we decided to postpone the trip for a couple of months, it gave me a good excuse to leave most of our decorations up in the attic.
Secondly, I have attempted many times, using many different methods, to have the kids pick up what they play with - all still to no avail!! So I am reluctant to buy them even more toys that I will have to pick up, and probably throw out, sell in my Flea Market Booth, or hide in the attic, along with the unused Christmas ornaments. Therefore, the pile under the tree will be a little smaller this year.
Thirdly, I decided a few years back to host a minimal amount of events during the holiday season. I love to entertain, but when I am asked to go somewhere, I like to make an effort to, at the very least, put in an appearance, and it is difficult to attend any other events when you have invited people to your home. I do love to cook, but I lower my expectations during the holiday season, as there is so much else to focus on. My children were appalled this past week when they dined on Fast Food two nights in a row. I had to coach them to hang in there, this was not usual and next month we would return to home cooked meals.
There is nothing less time consuming to prepare, than fudge. This Cherry Almond variety is no exception, minimal cooking and construction required.


1 bag (12 ounces) white vanilla baking chips
1 container (1 pound) vanilla frosting
1/2 cup chopped red candied cherries
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt

Line a 9 inch square pan with foil, spray foil with cooking spray.
In a large microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips for 1 minute and 30 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted.
Stir frosting into melted chips. Fold in remaining ingredients. Pour and spread into pan. Refrigerate 20 minutes or until set.
Using foil, lift fudge out of pan, remove foil. Cut into 6 rows by 6 rows. Store tightly covered.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker, 2010‎

Friday, December 20, 2013


Friends hosted "cocktails for a cause", a fun and enjoyable reminder that this time of year is about a joyful time with wonderful people and giving what you are able to.
I love this warm and convivial evening. Everyone brings something for the family being sponsored, a cocktail, and if they remember, the recipe. The cocktails are placed around the room for people to sample, and are paired with delicious food, prepared by our talented hostess.


Boil 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the zest of 1 orange and 4 sprigs of sage. Steep for 45 minutes to an hour, and let cool.
In a large pitcher, combine 4 cups of cranberry juice, 1 cup of vodka, 1/4 cup Grand Marnier and the juice of the orange. Strain the sugar-sage mixture and add, stirring to mix.
Let chill and serve.

NOTE: If I was to make this again, I would cut down on the sugar and increase the vodka!

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart‎

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Although I realize Fruitcake is maligned the world over, it remains one of my favorite Christmas traditions, although not one recognized every year, nor celebrated by the rest of my family. I aspire to bake a moist, dense delicious cake, reminiscent of my Childhood treats - although to be honest, I was in College before I could fully appreciate the beauty of fruit in a cake.


2 cups brown sugar
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground cloves
2 tablespoons allspice
2 tablespoons nutmeg
4 eggs
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts
1 1/2 cups dried mixed fruit
1 1/2 cups butter, melted
1 3/4 cups brandy

Heat oven to 225F.
Grease and flour a tube pan.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, soda, spices, eggs, lemon rind, vanilla, 1/2 cup brandy, fruit, nuts and melted butter. Mix thoroughly, and pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Wrap cooled cake in foil. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brandy over the cake every day for 2 weeks.

Recipe adapted from The Morning News, December 2005

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


We have a wonderful Thanksgiving Tradition, a beautiful legacy inherited from my husbands parents. They had time share properties, and would book multiple condos for the Thanksgiving week - one per family. It is perfect, as every one has their own space, and being somewhere neutral, means no individual has all the stress of hosting.
Although our group doesn't always go to Fairfield Bay, we have spent the last few years there. It is a retirement community that contains, among other things, a bowling alley, ice cream store, a golf course - and offers a schedule of the upcoming weeks activities on arrival - such as Open Pickleball Play and Ukranian Egg Decorating. The Ozark Folk Center and Blanchard Springs Caverns are close by, and we have found some gorgeous hiking areas. But part of the appeal of Fairfield Bay is the limited amount of activities  - we do a lot of relaxing, and the cousins love to play and make their own fun where ever they are.
I love our mealtime schedule, we fend for ourselves and any one who happens to be in reach, at breakfast and lunch, and each family takes an evening to cook. I am always so excited to see what everyone is going to prepare - and was especially curious to see what spread WE were going to lay out this year, as we accidentally left our ice chest, full of the dinner we had planned to serve, languishing in the garage at home. Thankfully our house sitters rescued it - and told us it was the best pork they had ever eaten. I did manage to find the ingredients for the appetizers - so we at least had Hot Chicken Dip and Crab Mornay.
We all cook and contribute to the Thanksgiving Day feast, and I love that, apart from a couple of dishes that have become staples over the years, our family is always open and willing to try new recipes. Each year brings a new method of cooking the turkey, different ways to prepare the stuffing and side dishes, and a changing array of desserts.
I must admit, I used to look at the beautifully set Thanksgiving tables in glossy magazines with longing and envy, but now I wouldn't have our Holiday any other way. Plain white condo crockery, paper napkins, the enormous amount of excitement and chaos with 18 people all trying to get a plate of food in a tiny kitchen, comfortable clothing and wonderful conversation - all adds to our particular, unique, wonderfully special day.


Heat oven to 350F. Place 2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened, and 1 (10 ounce) can of cream of chicken soup in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Stir in 1 (12.5 ounce) can of chicken breast in water, drained and flaked, 1/3 cup coarsely chopped jarred pickled sliced jalapeño peppers, and 1 tablespoon of pickled jalapeno pepper juice from a jar. Spoon into a lightly greased 8 inch baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is browned and bubbly.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, March 2013‎


1/2 cup butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups cream
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons sherry
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 pound crabmeat
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, add onions, and saute 3 minutes or until tender. Whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Add cream and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth and sauce begins to bubble. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese until smooth. Stir in sherry, salt and pepper. Gently fold in crabmeat and parsley.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, December 2013‎

Monday, December 16, 2013


I made these last year for a classroom craft project. It was a lot of fun - the kids assembled the ingredients and chose and tied the ribbons.


Snowman Soup kit - my cup got a bit squished from being carried in my bag!!
1 packet of hot chocolate mix
6 marshmallows
3 chocolate kisses

Assemble the items in a plastic baggie. Tie with a pretty ribbon. Place items in a mug or cup, slide the candy cane in and attach the poem.

Was told you've been real good this year.
Always glad to hear it!!
With freezing weather drawing near,
You'll need to warm the spirit!!

So here's a little Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water, sip it slow.
It's sure to do the trick!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


For a Sunday, it is an exceptionally busy day. Apart from the usual activities - Church and going out to eat afterwards - we had Christmas parties (complete with Santa, and not to be missed) and a book party for the fabulous Local Flavor cook book‎ which I, along with other people featured in the book, am cooking for.
These Banana Blueberry Muffins helped start the day off, and made me feel that I was focussing time and love on my family before the hectic progression of the day.

Local Flavor cookbook against a George Dombek background


Heat oven to 375F.
Toss 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries with 2 tablespoons flour. Stir together 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk together 1 cup mashed banana, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into a lightly greased 12 cup muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, November 2012‎

Saturday, December 14, 2013


One of the things I loved the most about our snow days, was cooking. Especially for impromptu dinner guests. It was absolutely wonderful the couple of times we had friends stay for dinner - the spontaneity takes the pressure off of everything having to be perfect and it is a fun challenge to make a meal out what happens to be in the pantry and refrigerator.
I set out a cheese board with olives, goat cheese I had rolled in Herbs de Provence, that a friend thoughtfully brought back from France for me, my favorite sharp cheddar cheese, and some delicious, fun cranberry pumpkin seed crisps. I opened a bottle of wine, made a salad with beets I had roasted the night before, set the table, prepared the salmon and served the cranberry pie I had baked on a whim, for dessert.


4 to 6 beets, tops and ends removed, cut in half
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon grated zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
salad greens
1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Heat oven to 400F. Place beets in a shallow baking pan. Cover with foil. Roast 40 to 45 minutes or until tender. Uncover. Let cool 15 minutes. Remove skins and slice beets.
For dressing, combine olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, yogurt, shallots, and mint. Whisk to mix.
Divide salad greens among plates, arrange the beets and feta on top and drizzle with dressing.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, September 2013‎


2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
5 to 6 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 450F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the mayonnaise, mustard, tarragon, brown sugar, lemon zest and juice together, in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Place salmon, skin side down on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon mustard sauce on top of salmon, then spread to cover each piece completely. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast just until salmon is opaque in center, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve with remaining mustard sauce.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2008‎


1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons water
juice of half a lemon

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil, in a skillet over medium heat.
Arrange brussels sprouts in a single layer, drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove lid and sprinkle sprouts with water. Cover and cook 2 minutes more. Sprouts should be just tender when pierced with a fork, and beginning to caramelize. Remove cover and increase the heat slightly. When sprouts are well-caramelized, drizzle with lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, December 2011‎


2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter melted
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325F. Butter a 9 1/2 inch pie plate.
Pour the cranberries into the bottom of the pie plate and sprinkle evenly with the walnuts and 2 tablespoons of the sugar.
Mix the eggs with the melted butter, 3/4 cup sugar, the vanilla and the flour. Pour over the cranberry mixture.
Bake for 50 minutes at 325F.

Recipe adapted From One Good Deed, 2012
Erin McHugh

Friday, December 13, 2013


Along with snow days and kids out of school, came the sleep overs.
I love finding something fun and delicious to cook for the kids in the morning, and when I mentioned this recipe for Chocolate Gravy, everyone was super excited. My daughter remembered fondly they had served something similar at the summer camp she had attended. The kids smothered fresh baked biscuits in it, and also used it to top the pancakes I made.


1 cup sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons flour
4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
1 to 1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 stick butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix sugar, flour and cocoa together in a skillet or saucepan. Slowly add water while whisking. Next, add the milk while whisking. Heat on medium high until bubbly. Simmer for several minutes until mixture thickens to gravy. Stir continually. Add the butter and vanilla. Serve with biscuits.

Recipe adapted from Arkansas Living, November 2013‎

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I may be the only person in NWA, sad to see the snow days come to an end. This past week has felt like a lovely vacation from all of the usual December Christmas chaos!!
I have had more patience, with not having to, or trying to rush, do and be everywhere, it has been wonderful!! However I do worry a little that I didn't experience any cabin fever!! It did help that we have a good sized "cabin" and friends were by every day, and my husbands car managed well on the roads once he was able to get it out of the driveway, after the first couple of days.
All the same, I decided to plan a little celebration when the announcement came that school would resume - I need very little excuse to make an occasion of something. So my husband uncorked a bottle of wine, and I baked this pudding, knowing we were stocked with all the necessary ingredients, and we toasted, celebrated a return to some kind of regular routine, and ushered out the last snow day. For now.


Heat oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk 3/4 cup sugar and 2 large eggs until thick and yellow, mix in 1 tablespoon of apricot jam, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 teaspoon of vinegar and 1/3 cup milk. In a second bowl, mix 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour dry mixture into wet mixture, and stir until combined. Pour batter into a 7 by 11 inch baking dish. Bake until pudding has risen and top is evenly browned, 16 to 18 minutes.
While it bakes make the sauce: combine 1/2 cup sugar, 3/4 cup cream, 7 tablespoons of butter, 1/3 cup hot water and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in a saucepan over low heat, simmer, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
Let the baked pudding sit for a few minutes. Pour sauce evenly over the top, let stand for 15 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Glamour Magazine, October 2013‎

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I was deeply disappointed to miss cocktails at a friends house, due to a combination of my car not being drivable in the ice and snow, and having a sick child.
In an attempt to stop feeling sorry for myself, I mixed up my own cocktail, a poor substitute for the delicious sounding lavender cocktails she had prepared, but still delicious. I searched a long time to find a cocktail recipe, and almost gave up hope, until I unearthed The Boulevardier. It was interesting to note, while looking through magazines and my pile of recipes, that the older the magazine, the fewer, if any, cocktails were featured.


Combine 2 ounces of bourbon, 1 ounce of Campari and 1 ounce of sweet vermouth in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Stir until shaker is very cold, about 1 minute. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon slice.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2013‎


ice cubes
2 ounces rum
juice of half a lime
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon agave nectar
generous dash of angostura bitters

In a rocks glass filled with ice cubes, combine ingredients. Use a swizzle stick to blend.

Recipe adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray‎


In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 1/2 ounces sherry, 1 ounce sweet vermouth and 2 dashes of orange bitters. Add ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, October 2010‎


Combine 1/4 cup white grapefruit juice, 3 tablespoons vodka and 1 tablespoon elderflower liqueur in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes.
Cover with lid and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled, about 30 seconds.
Strain into a glass filled with ice cubes.
Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, March 2013‎



In a cocktail shaker, combine 1 ounce each of vodka, gin, grapefruit juice and sauvignon blanc. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of honey and 1 cup of ice. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine, November 2011

Monday, December 9, 2013


I have been in a snow induced stupor ever since the first flakes started falling on Thursday.
Making copious cups of hot chocolate, picking up wet clothes off the floor where my kids dump them after playing outside, peeling apart layers of soggy clothing and doing endless loads of laundry, and baking cookies
Thankfully we have had friends call by, parents dropping off their kids, and we have been able to get out and about a little, so we haven't felt too isolated, or developed cabin fever. However, I am extremely grateful to my neighbor who braved the hill between our homes, and ventured down the hill with a bottle of wine in a brown paper bag, and to my husband who has taken the kids sledding every day. Part of me thinks I should pull on a pair of waterproof boots and follow them, but the larger part of me relishes the quiet and peace that descends upon the house when they trudge down to the park with their bright, round plastic sleds, my oldest son swaggering a little in his fathers cowboy boots.


1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows)

In a bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking soda to combine thoroughly, set aside.
Heat oven to 375F.
In a mixer bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and sugar, beat until fluffy and well blended.
Beat in egg until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well.
Gradually add flour mixture until just blended. Stir in walnuts.
Drop by teaspoons slightly apart onto baking sheets. With a teaspoon, make a depression in the center of each cookie. Bake cookies for 5 minutes. Press depressions down again, then continue baking until cookies are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Fill centers with frosting.

1/4 cup butter
1 ounce chocolate
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine butter and chocolate in a saucepan, heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate melts. Blend in milk. Remove from heat, mix in confectioners sugar and vanilla until smooth.

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, November 2002‎


1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 to 3 cups self rising flour
2 cups chocolate chips
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350F.
Combine butter, sugars, eggs, extract and salt and beat until just combined. Add flour. Stir in chocolate chips.
Scoop dough onto cookie sheets, bake for 10 to 13 minutes, until puffy and light brown.

Recipe adapted from Relish Magazine, December 2012‎


1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried cherries

Heat oven to 375F. In a bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and cinnamon. In another bowl, cream butter and sugars until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, beat until smooth. Blend flour mixture into butter mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, walnuts and cherries. Drop tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, 9 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool on sheets 3 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from Self Magazine, December 2012‎

Sunday, December 8, 2013


There is something wonderfully comforting about roasting a chicken, and sitting down to share it with family, and whichever friends happen to be over. It is a very simple meal, that always fills me, and our family, with contentment and pleasure.


one 6 pound roasting chicken
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 rosemary sprigs
2 oranges, washed and halved
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup honey
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken stock

Heat the oven to 425F.
Set the chicken in a roasting pan and stuff the cavity with the garlic, rosemary and 2 of the orange halves. Juice the remaining 2 orange halves. Rub the olive oil over the chicken. Pour the wine and orange juice over the chicken, drizzle on the honey and season with salt and pepper.
Roast the chicken for 20 minutes. Add 1 cup of the broth to the pan, cover the pan with foil and reduce the oven temperature to 375F. Roast the chicken for 40 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of broth to the roasting pan. Cover and roast for 50 minutes longer, or until a thermometer inserted in an inner thigh registers 165F.
Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes. Strain the pan juices into a saucepan and skim the fat. Carve the chicken and serve with the pan juices.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, December 2009

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I made this delicious sweet potato and black bean chili for my Uncle, who was visiting from New Zealand last year.
I wanted to make him some of the dishes I had been introduced to in my time in the United States, and chili, in any form - chicken, turkey, beef, buffalo, is one of my favorite fall and winter comfort foods.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups chicken broth
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons orange zest
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cumin, then add the broth and sweet potatoes and stir well to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is heated through and slightly thickened, about 15 minutes more.
Stir in the orange zest and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve with toppings of your choice - jalapeños, cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese, green onions, or salsa.

Recipe adapted from Family Fun, April 2011


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped
4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound ground turkey
4 cups chicken broth
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white hominy, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons cornmeal

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high. Add onion, cook until softened, 8 minutes. Add garlic, chiles, rosemary, cumin, oregano and cayenne and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes, season with salt. Add turkey and cook, about 5 minutes. Add broth, beans and hominy, bring to a boil over high. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chili is thickened slightly, 25 minutes.
Stir in cornmeal and cook 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Magazine‎


1/2 pound ground beef or turkey
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
1 can great Northern beans, rinsed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin

Cook beef or turkey in a large saucepan on medium high heat, for 10 minutes or until it is no longer pink, stirring occasionally.
Add to a slow cooker with all remaining ingredients, stir. Cover with lid and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 5 to 6 hours.

Recipe adapted from Food and Family, Fall 2010‎

Thursday, December 5, 2013


We awoke to the message that the kids would be out of school, and there is just something about the kids being home due to inclement weather that makes me want to cook. But not just anything will do, it has to be hot, hearty fare to warm the soul as well as the stomach, and cookies!!
I made this Black Bean Soup for lunch, which my husband and I shared before he went back to work. I managed to get the kids and their friends that were over, to sit and eat, between putting on coats and gloves and trips out to the trampoline.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups chicken broth
cilantro, sliced avocado and plain Greek yogurt for serving

Heat oil in a medium pot, over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beans and broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer until beans are heated through and creamy, about 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.
Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper and rewarm. Divide soup among bowls and serve with cilantro, avocado and Greek yogurt.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart‎


In a deep pot over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in 2 chopped shallots and 1 cup of thinly sliced celery. Cook until onions are very soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon ground coriander and 1 head of chopped cauliflower. Add 1/2 cup water.
Increase heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for about 25 to 30 minutes. Add 2 cups of chicken broth, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree soup using an immersion blender, until smooth.
Spoon soup into bowls and garnish with creme fraiche.

Recipe adapted from The Wall Street Journal, September 2013‎


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon chopped thyme
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 cup alphabet pasta
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, for 8 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, water and bay leaf and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the pasta and simmer until tender, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the peas and chives. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, August 2007‎