Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Bling: Decorating At Home 2012

I love the Christmas season.  I have some time on my hands and decided to do everything this year.  Outside. Inside.  All of it.  Here are some photos from the living room and foyer.  I opted for all new ornaments (6 from last year). All large. All very shiny.  Just something different than the hundreds of family ornaments I have. Change.  Not bad I think!

FrontGate Magnolia Garland on staircase.

Tree Detail

Tree Detail: LARGE ornaments



More detail!

Favorite: Gold glitter ball

Lit Up And Ready

7' Mirror behind sofa - Poinsettia in antique garden cloche

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks: Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving Day 2012

I love Thanksgiving.  Old standard recipes give way to new favorites.  This year I did a turkey brined using a recipe from Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman.  Her brine recipe was awesome and the green beans with tomatoes are now a new standard.  I can't believe that my perfectly browned, lovely turkey produced a really out of focus photo. My bad.

Orange peel, bay leaves, brown sugar, fresh rosemary and more made this an amazing brine.

Fresh 12# turkey took a snooze overnight in its delicious brine bath.

Brined, rinsed nd slathered in butter and citrus rosemary grey salt this bird was ready to rock.

Uncooked green onions and celery gave this dressing a fresher texture and taste.

Badly blurred, but beautifully browned bird.

Dressing after 2 hours at 300 degrees.  Crispy and delicious.

The wine du jour.

Green beans and tomatoes courtesy of The Pioneer Woman.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Savory: Sausage and Green Onion Quiche

Simple and rustically beautiful, this is the perfect answer to the age old question: “Do real men eat quiche?”   The answer is a resounding YES!  This hearty, delicious, rich, anytime egg and cheese dish is perfect for a late morning brunch or a main dish with a salad for dinner.  The basic quiche recipe can be used for any variety of things: broccoli and bacon or crab and green onion, whatever you like.  My best tip for variations is to be sure that when you use something that has a high water content that you sauté first to get rid of some of the water or the pie becomes soggy and grainy in the middle.  Mushrooms are especially waterlogged so I cook them until they are dry and brown – what a great concentration of flavor. Enjoy!


  • 1# bulk sausage (I love Hot Italian Sausage in this recipe)
  • 2 bunches small green onions (about 1 cup)
  • 6  Eggs
  • 8 oz. grated Swiss cheese (or your favorite. NOTE: creamy cheeses do now work well ie: blue or cream cheese and some cheddar varieties are too greasy)
  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  • 1 Cup half-and-half
  • 1 Tsp. Salt

Quiche Preparation Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.  Spray a 1.5” deep casserole with straight sides, or even a spring form pan.

2. Brown the bulk sausage (or whatever type) you use, breaking apart the chunks and making sure that it is completely done.  Drain in a strainer set over a bowl to remove excess grease.

3. Clean and chop the green onions. Chop to a ½”- 3/4” dice.  Sauté the green onions in the same un-cleaned pan where you browned the sausage.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and half-and-half.

5. Fold in the cheese, sausage and green onions, reserving a half cup of the cheese to top the pie.

6. Pour the mixture into the pan; top with the remaining cheese and bake 15 minutes at 425ºF.

7. Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF and bake for an additional 45 minutes.  Allow to sit for 15 - 20 minutes before cutting.  Store covered in the refrigerator.  Individual slices are great to freeze for quick meals.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

#boxofawesome: November's Bespoke Post Shipment

I've told you all before how much I enjoy my monthly "Box Of Awesome" from

This month is no exception.  Photos below from me, the description from the website.  If you like a little surprise each month, try it out!

On my kitchen island.

This month we're laying out the ultimate spread. These select small-batch producers help you host the holidays or quell that late-night crave.

Natural slate cheeseboard, complete with chalk!

Natural Slate Serving Board, 10"x14", Brooklyn Slate
Sourced from a family quarry in upstate New York, this hand-cut, rough-edged slate slab provides a distinctive, rustic surface for serving your favorite cheeses and charcuterie. Clue your friends into what's what using the included soapstone chalk.

EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar from Old Town Oil

Manzanillo Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 5 oz, Old Town Oil
Bread has met its match. Old Town Oil sources its products from the best vineyards. Manzanillo extra virgin olive oil balances classic olive flavors with a big finish.

Barrel-Aged 18-yr Style Balsamic Vinegar, 5 oz, Old Town Oil
The Reserve balsamic is barrel-aged with the texture of honey, the complexity of a great single malt, and an unreal sweet tanginess. It's good on salads, meats and even strawberries.


Smokra, 15 oz, Rick's Picks
Punch up your spread. Spanish smoked paprika gives this okra a deep, zesty flavor. Eat it with salami or on its own, but whatever you do, don't throw out the brine. It can be used as a marinade or to concoct a spicy cocktail.

Hand Made Salami

Casalingo Handcrafted Italian Salami, 5.5 oz Creminelli
Add some muscle to your meat. Salame Casalingo is this award-winning artisan shop's specialty. With subtle hints of salt and pepper, owner Cristiano Creminelli does not rely on heavy spices; it instead derives flavor from the heritage pork through his family's age-old curing process.

Bourbon Brittle, Buffalo Trace
Smoky and sweet - a different take on traditional peanut brittle. The oldest continuously operating Bourbon distillery in America, Buffalo Trace produced during Prohibition in order to make whiskey for "medicinal purposes."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Holiday Baking: Texas Style Chocolate Chocolate Pecan Cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies. I also like to refresh old standard recipes.  This is one of my favorite recipes - results in dark, spicy, sweet, chewy, brownie-like cookies.  The combination of sweet, chocolate, nuts and a little "spice" courtesy of the chipotle powder is unbeatable.  Not enough to be "hot", just enough to be "interesting".  Key to the success of this recipe this is the refrigeration, baking times and exact measurements.  Don't vary and these will turn out great. 

Here are the ingredients you need to make it happen:
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (enhances the chocolate flavor and you will never know it's here)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder (don't use more or it gets "hot" instead of interesting)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (again, just a "flavor layer" and not a major player)
  • 5 tablespoons good cocoa powder (please do not use cheap cocoa - it makes a difference)
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup chopped, tasted pecans (toasting the pecans lets the essential oils release and improves the flavor radically IMHO)


Sift the flour, salt, cinnamon, chipotle, espresso, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda together into a large bowl.

Sifting is key to insure even distribution of dry ingredients.

 Toast the pecans.  I used the toaster oven. You can also do it on the stovetop or in the oven. Be careful they don't burn or get too dark - they get bitter.  If they do, discard and go again.  I also substitute walnuts or any other favorite nut here. Once cooled, chop them and reserve for later. The nuts, whatever variety you choose, are the only thing that I use more of than the receipe calls for because I love them.  I used 1 1/2 cups chopped.

Toast these for much better flavor!

 Next, I beat the butter and sugars with the paddle attachment on my Kitchenaid stand mixer  on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minute.

Be sure to let this soften or you won't get perfect incorporation.
I use light brown sugar because I think it has a better flavor for cookies.

Add ONE EGG at a time and incorporate completely before adding the next.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans - I do this on the lowest setting on the Kitchenaid ( you can also do it my hand if you are REALLY strong).

Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. I prepare my half sheet pans using Silpat liners.  I think they are indispensable, but you can also just use parchment paper.

The original recipe this was adapted from called for "Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart".  I use a 50+ year old ice cream scoop and leave them in the little domed shape. They bake out nicely and I have pretty uniform cookies; it makes me happy!

Bake until the cookies are firm and dry around the edges; they will still be soft in the middle, about 12 minutes. Resist the urge to bake "for a couple of more minutes" - if you do, the bottom gets too stiff and dark and the texture just isn't as good.  Trust me. Been there, done that. These are a little like brownies in cookie form.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Spicy Love: "Cowboy Candy" Sweet Jalapeno Pickles

3# of fresh jalapenos make the "candy"

I love spicy food. I love sweet food.  The perfect marriage of the two, in my humble opinion, is "Cowboy Candy" or sweet pickled jalapenos.  The original recipe called for cayenne pepper, but I substituted the subtle smoky flavor of Chipotle instead; and I added mustard seeds.  I like it.  I am new to canning and preserving and an enjoying the journey very much!

 "Cowboy Candy" Sweet and Spicy Jalapeno Pickles


The Yield: I got seven half-pint jars and five 4oz jars of pickles plus one half-pint of additional jalapeno syrup.  Hoard the syrup as it is delicious on grilled meats and as a glaze during cooking.

  • 3 pounds fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 6 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 3 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground Chipotle pepper
The first thing I do is sterilize my jars and lids... it's easy and just part of the "process" I am learning, and it is very important in order to preserve the peppers. Bacteria is not your friend in this case, so be sure you carefully sterilize your implements.

I usually have no problem handling peppers.  But I had a VERY TINY little scratch on my finger and these bad boys set me on fire; so you might want to wear gloves.   Remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers by slicing off of the stem-end along with the stem.  Discard the stems. Slice the peppers into 1/8-1/4 inch slices.  Set aside.

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large, stainless steel pot.

Add the cider vinegar to the dry ingredients and bring to a boil.  Simmer for FIVE minutes.

Add the jalapenos and simmer for FOUR MINUTES.  Longer and they get overdone and too soft. Less and the peppers do not give up enough of their juices.

The setup: no cumbersome cookbook: this was all done online!

Fill the jars leaving 1/4" headspace for expansion during the water bath preservation process.

I strain the remaining syrup and return it to the pot. It needs a hard boil for SIX MINUTES.  Once done, ladle the hot syrup into the jars (remember: HEADSPACE. Don't fill too full!)  Use a stainless skewer or cooking chopstick and poke a few times in each jar to release any trapped air.

One of the bonuses of the whole process is the extra syrup.  It is spicy sweet and subtly hot. Use it to brush on chicken or chops or shrimp and grill.  It's wonderful.  Process this just as you do the pickles.

Water Processing the pickles.

Wipe the rims with a damp cloth and place the sterilized lids on the top. Add the rings and finger tighten them.  Place in the canning pot, cover with hot water with 2" water over the top.  Bring the water to a boil and process for 10 minutes for half pint jars, 15 minutes for pint sized jars.

Carefully remove the jars to a cooling rack and wait for it.. wait for it..... PING!  As they cool, the tops "SNAP!" and you can hear them.  This tells you they are sealed.  Let them cool for a full 24 hours before you remove the rings, wipe off excess water, replace the rings and label the spoils.  

Let these mellow for a week or two before you chow down (if you can wait that long!)  They get better in my opinion after you open them and then store in the fridge. The spicy, sweet hot and cold are awesome.  They are delicious on a sandwich, or some goat cheese on a flatbread with a crisp white wine.  Delicious.