Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Food For Thought & Sat. Blog Showcase

The book I've chosen to read for Jain's

Food For Thought blog is

An Irish Christmas

by Melody Carlson.

Rating: *

Two of my favorite events in the blog
world fall on the

same Saturday this week!

I am joining Jain's

beautiful blog full of photos of luscious food,

elegant tablescapes and gorgeous outdoor views

Food For Thought

for the first time today

as well as participating

in the
Saturday Blog Showcase

co-hosted by Lori at

All that Splatters

and Ann at

Thibeault's Table

It is Lori's turn to host the Blog Showcase this week.
Try a new recipe each week that another blogger has shared.
Prepare the recipe during the week then link your post to Saturday Blog Showcase.

Include the recipe in the body of your post
(if it is not a copyright violation to do so)
and a link back to the recipe on the originating blog.

I chose to make fork crushed herb & roasted garlic mashed potatoes

from The Good Mood Food Blog.

Donal Skehan's photos & text are copyrighted

so I won't paste his recipe here.

Visit his blog where you'll

find it & many more

interesting recipes.

Food references were sparse in this book

but I felt compelled to use an Irish staple

from a wonderful Irishman's blog

since the book I read was titled

An Irish Christmas

by Melody Carlson.

My dear sweet friend, Bobbie, sent me this book. She knows how much I love anything to do with my Irish heritage. My mother's grandmother followed her true love over to America from County Cork during the potato famine. My mother was a true & proud Irish woman, through & through. How could she not be, with the maiden name of Peggy O'Neil?

The book arrived a few days after my husband was hospitalized with a heart attack in early December. Little did Bobbie know, it would help me pass the many hours sitting in waiting rooms while he underwent multiple tests to access the damage done to his heart. It helped me get through the quiet hours while he slept & healed, when I was afraid to leave his side. I'd curl up in the comfy chair in his hospital room & listen to him snore, while I read. I will never again complain about his snoring! I'm so grateful that it continues nightly.

This book is a story of love, deception & secret passions that centers around an American family in the 1960's. When the father passes away, it brings the son home from college. The father had expected the son to take over the family shoe business but the son has dreams of becoming a musician instead. In an effort to build bridges, the mother, Colleen, takes her son, Jamie to Ireland for a Christmas vacation. When they get there, she confesses that Jamie's dad, who died, was really not his biological father. Magically, Colleen's first true love (who is also a talented musician) meets up with Jamie, his son in Ireland & the rest is history.

I enjoyed reading this book however, the plot was very predictable & sometimes it was a struggle to get through the leisurely paced narrative. The storyline seemed less-than-compelling but perhaps it was because I was so distracted by the health issues of my husband at the time.

It is written in chapters alternating between the mother's and son's voices. The story was a fairly quick read but the writing was less than stellar. It was much like comfort food on a rainy day. Not particularly challenging but that was good in a way. I don't think I could have concentrated on a deep & complex story at the time.


Reading this book did bring back fond memories of our trip to Ireland. We loved every minute of it even with hubby driving on the left side of the road & shifting gears with his left hand! We golfed & ate our way from Dublin down to Ballybunion (an incredible golf course comparable to Pebble Beach!) & County Cork with all the breathtaking landscapes to see & delicious food to eat in between. We stayed in teeny-tiny medieval villages & actually slept in a castle one night! The Irish serve amazing fish dishes, have the best dairy in the world....especially CHEESE, as well as spuds, fresh fruits and vegetables galore. We were served potatoes at almost every meal....hubby even got a side dish of them brought to him when he ordered potato soup!

There are so many wonderful places around Ireland with lots of archeological treasures to experience.

Melody Carlson does a good job making Ireland real and the Irish characters come alive in the pages of her story. Just like many of Ireland’s beloved writers, who fueled their imaginations with the history, myths and traditions associated with the Irish people.

According to legend, Sir Walter Raleigh, British explorer and historian known for his expeditions to the Americas, first brought the potato to Ireland and planted them at his Irish estate at Myrtle Grove, Youghal, near Cork, Ireland. The photo above was taken in Cork.

He made a gift of the potato plant to Queen Elizabeth I. The local gentry were invited to a royal banquet featuring the potato in every course. (just like our visit!) Unfortunately, the cooks who were uneducated in the matter of potatoes, tossed out the lumpy-looking tubers and brought to the royal table a dish of boiled stems and leaves (which are supposedly poisonous). It promptly made everyone deathly ill. The potatoes were then banned from court.

With the potato being such a pivotal ingredient in the culture of the Irish people, I made the recipe for fork crushed herb & roasted garlic mashed potatoes, only I cut it in half, since there were only two of us for dinner. Other than that, I made the recipe as written, adding a small pat of butter to the top just before serving.

Since I'm trying to serve hubby more heart healthy food, I also made baked cod to go with them, in honor of the magnificent fishing along Ireland's over 3000 miles of coastal waters.


I preheated the oven to 425°F.

I julienned a wee bit of asparagus, carrot, red & yellow peppers, red onion & garlic.

I added a few snips of parsley from my sunroom window pot.

Please notice my lovely white orchid blooming its pretty little head off between 2 pots of parsley in the dead of winter!

I topped each piece of fish with the veggies as well as some freshly cracked pepper & very little salt adding just a tiny bit of cheese. Setting both fillets, with their thin ends tucked beneath, (so they didn't over-cook) onto some parchment paper, I drizzled it all with fresh lemon juice & a little olive oil. Folded it up into a steaming packet & set it on a baking sheet. I cook fish for 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness.

I prefer to err on the shorter cooking time, taking into consideration carry-over cooking. Fish will continue to cook for a minute or two off heat, especially in one of these folded packets. This means that the fish will be absolutely perfect if you stop cooking at the verge of doneness. If you cook it to complete doneness then the carry-over cooking will leave you with slightly overdone fish.

Cooking fish until it flakes is also misleading. In order to flake, the fish needs to be dry & dry fish is overdone. Instead, use the tip of a small knife to peek at the interior of the fish at the 8 minute mark. It should gently resist flaking but show signs of firming. Raw fish has a translucent appearance that turns opaque during cooking. Most types of fish are considered done when they’re just opaque throughout.

White fish such as cod, monkfish and haddock, are excellent low-calorie sources of protein (a four-ounce serving of cod provides 52.1% of the daily need for protein for only 119 calories). But because cod is a cold, deep-water fish, it is also loaded with a variety of important nutrients, most notably omega-3 fatty acids.....good for your heart!!

Hubby is not entirely happy with the new changes in his diet.

I always give him two choices:

Take it or Leave it!

Thanks for visiting & allowing me to participate in both memes.
Have a nice weekend!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Buttercream Icing for Sat. Blog Showcase

Today is Ann's turn to host the Saturday Blog Showcase on her beautiful blog, Thibaults Table

The idea is to try a new recipe each week,
one that another blogger has shared on his or her blog.
Prepare the recipe any time during the week and
then link your post on Saturday to the Blog Showcase.

It doesn't matter what you make as long as the recipe came from another blog.
Please include the recipe in the body of your post
(only if its NOT a copyright violation)

and a link back to the recipe on the originating blog.

I used the Buttercream Icing recipe from Em at

The Repressed Pastry Chef

Last summer, I took the first in the
Wilton series of cake decorating classes.
They use a buttercream icing that doesn't have any butter in it!
Just Crisco....and its very sweet.

When I found Em's recipe for Buttercream Dream Icing
I wanted to see if I liked hers better
since it contains real butter.

Before I show you my cake, please indulge
me & allow me to share
photos of my Sweet Caroline & her breakfast.
She had a sleep-over with us so she could
be the first person to wish me
"Happy Birthday" in the morning.

We had OJ, hot tea, bacon &
Minnie Mouse pancakes
with PINK punked whipped cream hair & a
chocolate chip face!

Okay, back to the buttercream recipe.

1 stick salted butter – room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter – room temperature
1 cup solid veg. shortening
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar, 10x)
4-6 tablespoons very cold milk...added according to what you intend to use it for.

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer.

Add the clear vanilla extract and combine well.

Begin adding in the sugar in small amounts.

If you cover your mixer with a damp towel

you'll have less of a mess to clean up afterwards.

Mix well after each addition.

After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly,

begin adding the very cold milk… one tablespoon at a time,

combining very well after each addition (mixer on medium-high to high speed)

until you reach the desired consistency.

Now the Wilton recipe does it a little differently.
It calls for 1 tsp. of water or milk
to make "stiff" icing, which is used for flowers.

You add 2 tsp. of water or milk to make
"medium" icing, used for piping borders.

You add 3 tsp. of water or milk to make
"thin" icing, which is used for covering the cake.

My piping bag with a #12 tip attached
for piping a dam of icing around the
edge of the first layer of
LEMON cake.

This is done to hold in the filling layer...
in this case, LEMON curd , my favorite!

If you place the top layer on upside down
you then have a nice flat surface
to work on.

Popping your layers into the freezer
for about 15 minutes prior to icing
it helps to reduce the crumbs.

Start by filling in the sides using an
angled spatula.

I should have placed pieces of
waxed paper under the edges of the cake
to keep the plate clean.
I forgot.

What can I say....I'm a year older now!

Next you pile on the top!

After smoothing it as much as possible
with the angled spatula
I use a high density foam roller
(new & used ONLY for icing!)
to get a smooth surface.

I learned this & lots of other helpful tips & recipes

I have arthritis developing in
my right hand, so working the pastry
bag is a bit difficult & uncomfortable for me.

My poor little roses look like they were
frost bitten by the Ohio snows!

I have a great deal of respect & admiration for the
people who can create beautiful
masterpieces in this art form.

I'm not one of them.

It tasted pretty good but Ms. Caroline informed me
"Nana, this LEMON stuff in the middle
doesn't go in cakes!"

She was right, too.

The tartness of the LEMON did not
taste good against the sweetness of the icing.

I do, however, prefer Em's recipe of
buttercream dream for flavor.

Please stop by Ann's place,
Thibaults Table
to see what everyone else is cooking up.

Thanks for visiting & have a nice weekend.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ham & Bean Soup for Sat. Blog Showcase

Dear blogging friends, it is such a difficult time of tragedy
with so many experiencing the
devastating earthquake in Haiti.

I am finding it difficult to blog about frivolous things,

with all the terrible suffering going on.
We are praying with every newscast!

We have had only one message from our friends
who were there doing missionary work.

I'm sure, since he's a cardiologist & she is an RN,
that they are staying to help in whatever way they can.

None the less, I wanted to participate in Lori & Ann's
Saturday Blog Showcase
so here is my entry into the event.

Today the Saturday Blog Showcase is being hosted
at Lori's beautiful site
All That Splatters.

She & Ann, from Thibault's Table
are taking turns hosting this fun event
where you make a recipe that
you've found on another person's blog,
giving them credit & a link to their site.

The idea is to try a new recipe each week,
one that another blogger has shared on his or her blog.

Prepare the recipe any time during the week and
then link your post on Saturday to the Blog Showcase.

I've made Cathy's delicious white bean with ham soup,
featured on her blog Wives with Knives.

Her recipe can be found by following the link above to her site,
She has copyright rules posted on her site,
so I will not place her recipe here.

I had frozen the leftover bone-in ham
from our Christmas feast,
so that was my start.
I followed her recipe as written &
after simmering the meat for several hours,
I removed it & the bones.

I then added the beans & other ingredients to cook
while the meat cooled enough to remove all the bits & pieces from the bone.
I used my hand held blender to puree the beans before
adding the ham back to the pot.
Some people around here profess to dislike beans....
what they can't see won't hurt them, right?

It was DELICIOUS & really hit the spot
on a cold, snowy Ohio day.

I must say, though, my addition of the croutons
to the top was NOT a good idea.
I was trying to make it look pretty for the picture.
They got soggy very quickly.
Won't do
that again!

I will be making this recipe again, though!

Thank you for stopping by....have a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Birthday Celebration with Mother's Pink Depression Glass

Please join me in silent prayer for the earthquake disaster victims in Haiti?

Our neighbors & dear friends Dr. Vince P & his RN wife, Lee
are there right now on a missionary trip.
They are 60 miles from the epicenter &
were not harmed but knowing them,
they will stay in Haiti to help in any way they can.
Please Lord, watch over them & keep them safe?

On a lighter note, Sunday, my family is coming over for brunch
to celebrate my birthday.
Its a BIGGIE but I'm not telling which one!
I decided to set the table using my Mother's pink depression glass.
I cherish these items beyond words!
I remember
her using them for cake & ice cream
every year for all 8 of her
children's birthday celebrations

I started out with Laura Ashley placemats
because of the pink roses on them.

I placed my Mikasa "Silk Flowers" china
beneath the Dogwood patterned plates
(also called Apple Blossom &/or Wild Rose)
made by the MacBeth Evans Glass Co. between 1929 & 1932.

The silverware, "Danish Princess" by
Holmes & Edwards, was introduced in 1938.
I am blessed to now have
service for 12 in this delicate pattern,
along with several of the serving pieces.

I don't know the name of the
pattern on the compotes.
It has a trellis look to it.

Can anyone help to identify it?

I have learned the compotes are the Normandy pattern,
sometimes called "Bouquet & Lattice".
It was made by the Federal Glass Co., 1933-1940.

I apologize for the blurry photo.
I just can't seem to take close-up shots very well.

I love the scalloped edges on these accessory pieces,
like the round bowl I used for the centerpiece
of fresh roses ($6.99 @Heinens) as well as the oval divided platters
on which I'm serving individual mini cheesecakes.

The open scalloped edges of the two platters &
the bowl used as a centerpiece are of the Old Colony pattern,
sometimes referred to as "Lace Edge" or "Open Lace".

These were made by the Hocking Glass Co. from 1935 to 1938.
These can range from $7 apiece for the divided platters
that I have to upwards of $695 for a frosted vase in this pattern!

A great source for information about Depression Glass
is the book titled Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass
by Cathy & Gene Florence.

I found this sugar skuttle on Ebay & sang
"Happy Birthday to ME!" as I purchased it.

I've been keeping cashew nuts in it instead of sugar
because I have these tiny little tongs that I
love to use for sugar cubes.

That shuttle makes it tooooo easy to just tip
out a handful of nuts every time you walk past!

I've made PINK lemonade to serve in my
beautiful La Rochere bee decanter &
glasses that I was so fortunate to win
from Libby's delightful blog

Twirl & Taste.

Thank you, Libby!
We've enjoyed red wine in them several times already
but this is my first tablescape to show them off.

The French bee on them was originally chosen during the coronation of
Napoleon to appear on his official coat of arms.
The La Rochere glass collection was inspired by an
official travel set belonging to Napoleon in which
the bee pattern was used & is today displayed in a Paris museum.

The salad bowl set, shown above, along with a
pair of matching candlesticks,
below, was a wedding gift to
my parents, 74 years ago.

You can tell its old glass by the color &
you can be sure I wash them VERY CAREFULLY!

Butterfly crackers by Pepperidge Farm
look SO cute resting in my Irish crystal cracker basket.

On this sofa table,
I have set up my Mikasa china
for coffee or tea service.

My mother ALWAYS served this
exact same kind of after dinner
mints in this candy dish, for every
Baptism, Birthday, First Holy Communion,
Confirmation & Graduation
so its tradition that I do the same.

I am going to place lemon slices to go with the
tea in this unusual shaped dish.

This photo allows you to
see up close the hemstitched linen napkins
inside the matching Mikasa napkin rings.

The obligatory chandelier shot.
I'm going to break my neck one of these
days, standing
tippy toe on my step stool to
capture these angles!

I wanted to share a neat trick with you
that I use to remove
the core of strawberries.

You use a firm straw, such as one from McDonald's
& position it directly opposite the green stem.

Push gently & the straw will cut
through the strawberry
taking the core & the green stem
out the opposite end.


Don't they look like little 's?

Beautifully hollowed out fruit to serve with
a drizzle of honey sweetened yogurt as a
starter course.

I'm pretty sure that the round flat spoon
that I'm using with the yogurt
is called a jam or jelly spoon
but it can do double duty here.

Now I must tell you, it is also tradition
that I have lemon meringue pie for every birthday.

I never wanted cake, even as a child.
I always requested that my Mother
make one of her delicious pies.

My sweet husband has even learned how
to make them for me,
although this year, I think
I'll give him a helping hand!

I confess I purchased this one little tart from Heinen's
grocery store because I loved the way they presented it.
I hope to duplicate individual ones
for each person on Sunday.

Doesn't it just make your mouth water????

One more peek at those gorgeous pink roses!

It's time for another Tablescape Thursday with our gracious hostess,
Susan of Between Naps on the Porch!

Be sure to stop by her beautiful blog to see other participants in the party!
Thank you, Susan for hosting this fun event each week.