Saturday, July 31, 2010

Travel Excitement

We are just three days away from the start of our summer vacation in Europe!  While it is always a challenge for me to pack for a trip, packing for two WITH travel weight restrictions is truly stretching my brain to make sure that we have what we need and want and still have room to bring home "stuff"!!

First stop Baltimore, MD, where we catch our flight to London ... a few days in London then we take the Eurostar under the English Channel to Brussels for a day (and night) of eating chocolate and buying beautiful lace!!  And that is just the beginning of our adventure.

But before any of that can happen, we've got a house to ready for the sitter, and the furry-faced kids to get all set up ... and a million other things (like getting my fingers and toes ready for travel!) that need to get done.  So, it's early morning yet, but I'm already on the move!  Wishing you all a great day!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Celebrating Cheesecake Day

July 30 is National Cheesecake Day, and the good folks at The Cheesecake Factory released their newest bit of yumm -- The Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake!!  Just the name had me salivating so I came up with an excuse to travel to Virginia Beach for a sampling of this goodness!!  Oh my!!  Chocolate (really, really wonderful chocolate) cake layered with peanut butter cheesecake and a layer of caramel ... the top has a layer of caramel, a sprinkling of peanuts, a layer of chocolate ganache and finally a bit of peanut butter mousse!!  Oh my!!  Since I can only eat about two bites of it at a time, this slice is destined to carry me through the weekend.

It's worth a trip to your closest Cheesecake Factory!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cheese Varieties

Who knew that there was a day of the year devoted just to varieties of cheese??  With this new stomach of mine, cheese is one of my best friends -- and it's a good thing I love cheese!

Do you have a favorite?  Are you a died in the wool cheese-aholic or more pedestrian with cheddar, American and cream cheese being your favorites?

Ever tried goat cheese? yummmmm !!!  Saute chicken breasts in butter and olive oil ... add a little chicken broth, some sundried tomatoes and a little package if goat cheese and serve this up to your next company!!

With the exceptionally hot weather this summer I'm practically living on garden tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, feta cheese and olive oil salads -- don't forget to sprinkle Mediterranean oregano and kosher salt on top! And there is always the French favorite: slices of rich warm beefsteak tomatoes layered on a platter with slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella and sprinkled with basil leaves fresh from the garden.  Does anything say summer better than that??!!

Love Fontina?  Know the difference in Dutch Fontina and Italian Fontina?

For your next occasion, try using the cheese selector to find something different! n Today, head for your local cheese market and go on an international cheese tour!

P.S.  I found a new salad favorite while lunching with my Aunt today -- fresh peaches, fresh strawberries, baby greens (love the organic Italian baby greens from the grocer's!), toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese with a raspberry vinaigrette  dressing!  I had to stop to get some Gorgonzola at the market on my way home!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Penuche Fudge Day!!

When it's 100 degrees plus, I rarely think about making or even eating FUDGE!  For me, fudge seems to be a cooler weather goodie, but when I saw the food holiday for today my sweet tooth went into overdrive!!  Now I NEED some penuche!!  Never had it you say?  Somewhere in my childhood memories I can hear my grandmother talking about this sweet buttery, butterscotchy, maply goodness and when I had my first taste I was hooked!  I even made penuche frosting for a maple cake one year for competition in the Champlain Valley Exposition and came away with a big blue ribbon!!

So here's a couple of recipes to start you on your penuche discovery tour!


2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (I use dark brown but light brown works)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp. salt
2 1/2 Tablespoons. butter
3/4 c. chopped nut meats (optional, but both pecans and walnuts work well)
1 tsp. vanilla
In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, milk, and salt; stir well. Over medium heat, bring to boil.  Continue to boil until mixture reaches 244 degrees on a candy thermometer (firm ball stage), stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and place pan immediately into sink with cold water in bottom, just enough for pan to sit in 2-3 inches. This will stop the cooking. Without stirring, add butter and vanilla. When you can comfortably put finger into mixture, stir mixture until it starts to thicken and add nut meats. Spread in 8 inch buttered pan and let set until firm. (If you line your pan with parchment paper hanging over the edge, then butter the parchment, you can lift the whole pan of fudge out for cutting -- and a pizza wheel works great for that!!)


1/2 cup butter (use butter if you can)
1 cup brown sugar, packed (I like dark brown, but light brown works too)
1/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, more or less

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add the brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium  and continue to boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Gradually add sifted confectioners' sugar. Beat until thick enough to spread. If too thick, add a little hot water.Enough frosting for a two layer cake :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

What a Whirlwind!

Jenny and Sophie have been here for about a week and a half now and it's been sooooo much fun and almost non-stop!!  Beginning with our finger and toe decorating, to shopping for clothes, and then a craft store blitz (we love supporting our local shops!) ... then of course we have to have beach time and sewing time (we are making the CUTEST wallhanging!!)

We spent hours wandering around Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and getting on scary rides (I rode one of the roller coasters and it was the first time in 46 YEARS that I got on one of those durn things!)  Now I can go another 46 years without riding one!!  I'll scan the photo later but you can see the progression from the abandon and fearlessness of youth to the stark terror of age lol!!!  But it was great with the kids!

Today we're off to a water park -- another first for me!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blueberry Turnovers

July is Culinary Arts Month and also a month saluting the noble blueberry so I'm going to combine the two and bring you some blueberry dishes all month long!  Today is also National Apple Turnover Day (in the middle of blueberry month??) so I give you Blueberry Turnovers. 

You will need a package of frozen puff pastry dough which contains two sheets.  Now, you can use canned blueberry pie filling or you can make your own easy peasy -- actually why not run down to your local "pick-your-own" place and fill a bucket or two.  yuuuummmmm  'Tis the season for fresh blueberries.

To make your own turnover filling you need two cups of fresh blueberries.  Take 1/2 cup and in a small pan mix it with 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken it, and 2 teaspoons of grated lemon peel.  Mash up the berries really well to get as much juice out of them as you can. Over low heat bring the mixture to a boil for about two minutes until it thickens.  Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of blueberries.  Cool to room temp.

Unfold your pastry sheets and roll them into 12" x 12" squares and divide into 4 pieces each.  I'm going to cut mine into smaller squares because I'm making these for some little people with smaller hands .  Place 1 - 3 tablespoons berry mixture in the center of each square (depending on the size you are making) and fold in half diagonally to make triangles.  Press the edges closed -- using a fork makes a nice decorated edge.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.

Mix one egg with 2 tablespoons milk and brush the tops of the pastry ... this will give them a nice golden color!  If desired, sprinkle decorating sugar on the top or you can glaze them with confectioner's sugar and milk after they bake.

Pop them in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes until puffed and golden.