Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BACK TO WORK! We are attempting to get back to a solid work schedule although it is difficult to do in this week between Christmas and New Year's Day

With Christmas behind us and our family returned to their home, it is time to focus on painting once again.
It takes a day or two in front of a canvas to get involved with it once again.

In my studio there is a painting I began weeks ago, now with the orchid blooms waning it is time to get back to work.

Almost time to ring in a new year.

BEST WISHES to all for the New Year!

After that we must really get serious and get back to our easels!

Friday, December 24, 2010




Season's Greetings

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mushrooms from the kitchen.....not from the woods.

I first found a recipe for meringue mushrooms in a Bon Appetit magazine. The issue dates to November 1980 with a cover that features noted cooks and food writers, Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey. Looking back, this issue has played a part in the development for our love of cooking.

Every Christmas since 1980 these meringue mushrooms, along with a Buche de Noel have been part of our Christmas dinner.

Piping the meringue mushroom caps

Piping the meringue mushroom stems

After baking, sifting cocoa onto the mushroom caps

Dipping the top of stem into melted dark chocolate connect the stem to cap


This recipe has been adapted over thirty years from a variety of recipes beginning with the one from a 1980 Bon Appetit magazine article by pastry chef Albert Jorant.

2 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa (for dusting caps)
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, good quality, finely chopped for melting

Line two baking sheets with parchment, one for mushroom caps,one for stems.
Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
Beat egg whites , when soft peaks begin to form begin to add sugar slowly.
Continue beating until stiff peaks form and the meringue is still glossy.
Spoon meringue into a pastry bag with a large plain tip.
(I stand the pastry bag in a tall sturdy water glass while I fill it).
Pipe out the caps on one sheet and the stems on the other. Keep count so you end up with equal amounts of caps to stems.
Note: Have a small cup of water so that you can dip your finger in to gently smooth out the tops of caps if needed,and to tap the tops of stems to make a flattened surface. This will make it easier to attach the stems to caps.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until crisp, but not browned.
The stems make bake quicker then the stems.
Turn oven off, let the meringues remain in oven for another 10 minutes to be sure they are dry.
Remove from oven, cool on wire racks. Put the caps on separate cooling rack with a piece of parchment or waxed paper beneath it. With caps tops up, lightly sift cocoa over the almost cooled , still warm caps.
Cool completely. Over hot (not boiling)water, melt the chocolate. When melted dip flat end of stem into chocolate and attach it to the cap.
Note: I find resting them on their sides on a parchment covered baking sheet, propped up against the edge, helps keep them together as they cool.
Let chocolate cool completely.

Serve with a Buche de Noel
or in an attractive basket.
They really do fool the eye and taste devine!

This 1980 issue of Bon Appetite brought James a recipe for English Butter Toffee that he makes every Christmas. It brought us through our first turkey roasting success.
Cookbooks by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey were our earliest guides for cooking and enjoying food. This is not only about
cooking for holidays, but for James and I cook together every day. We have been on this food journey ever since!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Standing Rib Roast of Beef with Popovers, a Christmas tradition in our home.

Pictured, a roasted two rib roast of beef

(serves 6-8)

Rib roast is expensive but nothing says "holiday" quite like it. Ask your butcher to select the ribs from the small end because of it's succulent flavor and compact shape looks attractive. We are fortunate to still have fresh thyme in the garden and a pot of rosemary that we brought inside before the cold weather set in.
Remember, it's a feast for the eyes as well!

1 bone in standing rib roast of beef (3-4 ribs) trimmed & tied
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil

Prepare the roast: trim fat and meat from between bone ( frenched) and use trimmings for a beef stock. Tie the roast between the bones. A good butcher
may do this for you, but have trimmings saved.
Prepare the herb paste: Mince garlic and combine with salt. Add thyme and rosemary and mince until fine. Add dry mustard and pepper. Using the flat side of knife mash the ingredients into a paste. Put into small bowl, drizzle in olive oil to make a slurry. Rub slurry all over beef, then transfer beef to a roasting pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Cook the beef: Let beef stand at room temperature for one hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roast the beef for 20 minutes then reduce the oven temperature
to325 degrees. Roast the meat until the thermometer (inserted into center of beef) registers
110 degrees, about 1 1/2 hours (90 min.). Remove beef from oven and let stand loosely covered with foil for about 20 minutes for medium rare. Carve and enjoy!

Roy's Market, Peterborough, New Hampshire (USA)

Noel, our go - to butcher here in Peterborough.
More on Roy's market coming on a future blog.
Small local markets....the best places to shop!

(makes 10-12)

Popovers add a festive note to a meal. there are three important things to remember when preparing popovers. The eggs and milk must be at room temperature, the prepared pan must be hot before pouring in the batter, and resist the temptation to open the oven door while they are baking!

1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter or rendered beef fat for preparing the popover pans.
(A muffin tin can be used as well and will produce a somewhat smaller popover.)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
1 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (for batter)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups whole milk (room temp)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Preparing batter and baking:
In a bowl mix sifted flour,salt, eggs ( beat eggs first in a small bowl, then add), and milk.
Cover bowl and allow batter to rest for 30-40 minutes.
Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter to batter. To prepare pan distribute beef fat or the additional melted butter, into each pan. Put prepared pans in oven for 2-3 minutes until hot. Remove pans from oven and pour batter into hot pans, filling each until they are a little more than half filled.
Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately!
Remember, resist the temptation to peek into the oven while they are baking!


Shop local and use the freshest and best ingredients that you can find.

If you can, use remaining herbs from your garden for all your cooking.

The current issue November/ December of
NH HOME Magazine features this recipe along with photos of our entire dinner.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A SUGAR-COATED DAY. The first snow of the winter brushed us overnight and left behind a magical winter landscape.

The Italian inspired garden looks as if it has had a powdered sugar sifted over it. Meanwhile, down the road tracks of a snowshoe hare were left behind in the fresh layer of snow.

The walkway to our front door with the lavender in flower sometime early last July.

The walkway this morning with a light blanket of snow.

Looking out the kitchen window I find , first one , then two and suddenly five robins dining on the tiny crabapples of the Sargent crabapple tree.
Our neighbor, naturalist Meade Cadot, tells James that see observed a Great Horned Owl on the roof of our house.
Is it an omen, or just a nature moment?

Meanwhile, inside the kitchen I am joined by friend, neighbor and author Sy Montgomery for our annual holiday cookie baking marathon.
This photo was carefully staged and taken only after all the flour, cocoa and sugars had been
successfully cleaned up!

The cookies!
Here is a small selection of the cookies we baked for this holiday season. Seems like we used walnuts and / or pecans in everything.

The 1924 Glenwood stove. This has the best oven for baking.....and warming the kitchen. The cookies are all boxed up.
Time for a cup of tea.


For information on books and tour schedule for Sy Montgomery go to:

For cookie recipes our thanks to:
Yankee Magazine, NH Home Magazine,
Thomas Keller (AdHoc), Martha Stewart ,and some old dog-eared file cards that came from my sister Sue for Swedish butter cookies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Trip to Walker's Green Trees.....Time to grab a saw and select a tree!

Each year around this time we make a pilgrimage to select and cut our Christmas tree at Walker's Green Trees in Madbury, New Hampshire (USA). Ian & Melissa Walker are the warm and charming owners of this tree farm, where the most beautiful evergreen trees are grown.

Ahhhhhhh! The perfect tree!
The tree caught our eyes immediately.
This is it! This tree comes home with us.

Here at Walker's the tree gets shaken.
They say to it is to remove leaves, or snow, but I think I have seen families of squirrels and raccoons fly out when the shaking begins!! (not really, of course!)
Chilly after being in the cold air cutting a tree? Find warmth, perhaps some mulled cider, ornaments and friendly faces inside the small out building covered in wreaths made here at the farm. This is a true family operation here at Walker's.It sets the tone that starts our holiday season!

A few years ago we helped Ian & Melissa plant tree seedlings at the farm.
Ian gave us 10 fraser fir saplings to bring home and plant in our field.This year,for the first time,we will have this tree grown in our field (pictured above) on our porch decorated with white lights and Swedish wheat ornaments.

The 8' tree from Walker's will be in our living room . It will be decorated with hand blown glass ornaments made by local artisans.
We have been collecting these ornaments for 30 years.

Check your newsstand or online:
Look for an article on Walker's Green Trees in the Nov./Dec. 2010 issue of
New Hampshire Home Magazine

Walker's Green Trees
124 Perkins Rd.
Madbury , New Hampshire
Open daily Nov.24 - Dec.24

You don't even need to bring a saw.....they will provide one!
Do bring a pair of gloves , maybe boots (depending on weather) and head out to find the perfect Christmas tree.
You will find it!

Friday, November 19, 2010


A tradition at our house is to have turkey pot pie the weekend following Thanksgiving.

This recipe can be made with left over turkey but, we prefer to roast a fresh turkey breast (from a local farm, or a good free range turkey ).

Recipe for Turkey Pot Pie

(Pastry dough recipe follows)

3 cups roasted turkey breast (more or less)
8 oz. button mushrooms
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms (or other)
3 carrots peeled and sliced into rounds
1 small onion diced
1 leek diced (white part only)
Butter and /or canola oil for sauteing
2 celery stalks peeled and sliced

4 tablespoons butter (for roux)
4 tablespoons flour ( for roux)
2 1/2 cups homemade turkey stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 sprigs fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 tablespoon lemon
salt & pepper to taste

Roast turkey breast. Let cool and tear/shred meat turkey into bit size pieces.
Saute mushrooms until golden, set aside on a plate. Saute onions & leeks until translucent. Add celery, saute. Par-boil carrots until just tender, drain.
Make a roux. Melt butter over medium- low heat until hot (do not burn!). Add flour and stir until flour is cooked or until flour looses its raw appearance and looks slightly golden. It will smell nutty. Gradually add hot (not boiling) stock, stirring constantly until smooth. Increase heat and slowly adding stock , while stirring, until sauce covers back of wooden spoon.
Add chopped or fresh herbs, salt & pepper and the cream. Let cook over low heat for about 10 min., until yummy.
Add cooked vegetables and shredded pieces of turkey.
Drizzle with a squeeze or two of lemon juice to brighten the flavor.
Important! Let this mixture cool for at least 20 minutes before filling the pastry shell.
Once the filling is added to the pastry lined pie dish, roll out dough for the cover and place onto the filled pie dish. With the tip of a knife make a few small slices (vents) for air in the top then brush the pastry with with beaten egg.
Put the pie dish on a baking sheet and put into a preheated 425 degree oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before serving.


(While waiting for the pot pie serve a salad of fresh green with a champagne vinegarette & good olive oil, top with some dried cranberries.)

Pastry Dough
2 cups all purpose flour
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 tablespoons cold Crisco
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons ice water
( 1 beaten egg for egg wash)

Mix ingredients by hand or with mixer. Ingredients should be cold.
Put flour in bowl, add salt. Cut butter into small cubes, add butter & crisco to flour.
Mix until butter is incorporated . Add ice water, mix until mixture comes together, being careful not to over mix. Make into a mound, taking about a third for the top dough and two-thirds for bottom dough. Wrap each piece into plastic wrap, forming a disk. Chill for 1 hour.
Remove larger disk of dough from refrigerator . Flour a clean surface, dust with flour and roll out dough for bottom crust. Carefully line a deep pie dish / baking dish with dough. Chill this for about 10 minutes. Remove remaining disk of dough from refrigerator , roll out. Fill the pastry lined baking dish with cooled turkey filling. Cover with dough for top. Crimp edges, slice air vents in top and brush with egg wash. Bake according to above directions.(425 degree oven for approximately 35-40 min. or until golden brown).

The finished pie on a Johnson Brother's Wild Turkey plate.
Buttery crust stands up perfectly to a silky & savory filling.
This holiday turkey pie tradition in mentioned in a feature article in the November/ December issue of NH HOME Magazine, "An Artistic Touch for Christmas." The article by editor Andi Axman with photos by John Hession, is about the holiday traditions at our NH Home.

Check the blog for more holiday recipes and traditions !!!!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

At Home for the holidays with artists James Aponovich and Elizabeth Johansson

On the Newsstands Now (at least here in New Hampshire/New England!)

The November/December issue of NH HOME Magazine is out! The cover and feature article are about the holidays at our home. The article was written by the editor, Andi Axman, the photos are by John Hession.

The story includes a recipe for Herbed Standing Rib Roast of Beef. Other recipes mentioned in the article will be featured here on the blog over the next several weeks, in words and pictures.

This issue also includes an article on the inspiring garden of Terry Reeves & David Baum, A Garden's Gift of Solace. Terry and David are some of our comrades-in-gardening, we were delighted to see this article joined with photos that walk you through their beautiful garden.

Check out the article TLC for Christmas Trees.
Walker's Green Trees is by far the best place to cut a Christmas tree. We head there (with our daughter & son-in-law),the weekend after Thanksgiving to select & cut our tree. It also is an opportunity to say hello to our friends Ian & Melissa and family.
It has become a holiday tradition.
If you are looking for a tree or wreath, the story on Ian & Melissa Walker will surely send you to Madbury !

Check out the NH HOME Magazine Calendar for all kinds of events and entertainment.

Check our blog for upcoming recipes!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

OCTOBER SUNRISE, A story told mostly in pictures.

The field across the road early this morning.

Through the oaks, rays of sun just reaching the allee .

A backdrop of russet and orange broken by the vertical trunks of the oaks.

There was rain last night.
The water creates a halo along the branches of the chamaecyparis.

Main Street.
A trip into town for the NY Times.

Sheep grazing. They are hoping to have a feast of pumpkins delivered soon!

A beautiful, warm and atmospheric October morning here in New Hampshire.


All content on this blog is the exclusive copyright of
Elizabeth Johansson

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Canterbury Shaker Village: A tour and a new broom

Canterbury Shaker Village, Canterbury, New Hampshire, is a well preserved example of a Shaker Village. The Shaker community was established at Canterbury in 1792 and remained active for about 200 years. The word simplicity comes to mind when thinking about Shakers, but industrious, pious and inventive can also be used to define this community.
Communal work and dining were daily routine here. Shakers were practiced celibacy, but took in children to their community, and they cared for the poor. They were pacifists and believed in equality.

By 1848 there were 100 buildings at the village and the community had grown to 300.
The buildings have a simple understated beauty. The village is visually stunning. The proportions of the structures, window fenestration , paint colors, and quality of wood work all lend to the appeal of the buildings.

Print Shop and Broom Making Shop
The lower part of this building houses what was the Shaker print shop. The Shakers kept up with "technology" and for it's day, had the latest in print machinery. They printed items such as seed packets for their own enterprise, but also took in printing from the outside to generate income.
Upstairs is the Broom making shop. This was a real treat!
Everyday the village has volunteers at the various buildings re-creating Shaker craft or explaining the life-style of the community. The day we visited Jack was at the Broom Shop making a broom.

Here is Jack explaining the craft of making the broom. What is it that makes a Shaker broom unique, beyond is wonderful craftsmanship? The fuzzies. At the bottom of the broom, the tips of the broom corn are not trimmed. The tips have a fuzzy texture and that is why a Shaker broom really sweeps cleans, leaving not a trace of dirt behind!
Brooms are hung on wooden pegs that also made by the Shakers. We were told, " the broom should only touch the ground when in use!"

Broom Corn
Before we left the Broom Shop, Jack urged us to visit the garden to see where the broom corn used to create these brooms, is grown .
We found the broom corn . The garden also contains vegetables and a large variety of herbs, some that were unfamiliar to us.

A view of the garden to the garden barn and shed (1828). Here the herbs were dried and packaged for culinary and medicinal use. These herbal products were used in the village and also sold to the public. Seeds saved from the garden were also packaged in beautiful packets printed in the print shop and sold through a catalogue. The Shakers were industrious !
The garden supplied the community with food as well created income to support the village.

Up until 1870 the garden only served functional needs. It was just about this time that decorative gardens were first planted here. A new twist in Shaker gardening.........gardens for ornamentation!

On our way out of the village, a lone figure in a barn, sweeping.
On this visit to Canterbury Shaker Village we had family visiting. We thought this a good place to get a look at a piece of New Hampshire history.

Before we left the village we stopped at the Museum Shop.
Jack had just delivered the broom we watched him create. We bought the broom. Then we remembered that it must be hung when not in use. We bought a wooden peg board.
The broom hangs proudly on a peg in the mud room, like a piece of art. Yes, we do take down from the peg and sweep with if often.
It is the best broom we have ever owned!

Canterbury Shaker Village
288 Shaker Rd., Canterbury, NH

Upcoming events:

November 13, 2010
Shaker Thanksgiving
A benefit: Thanksgiving meal served in the historic Dwelling house.
(call for details and reservations)

November 26-28
Gift In Hand
a three day event , shop for handcrafted items, food & wreaths

For additional information schedules, tours, events and tickets go to the website.

Greenwood's Restaurant ( at Shaker Village)
open for lunch

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dreaming of Tuscany and Umbria: Remembering A Day Trip To A Few Of Our Favorite Places

A view from Montechiello (Tuscany)
The drive through the Tuscan landscape is enchanting. The destination is Monte Oliveto Maggiore, 36 km. south of Siena

The Cloister,Monte Oliveto Maggiore
For us, a visit to Tuscany is about art, food, drawing, cooking, gardens,wine and of course the lovely people. The drive to Monte Oliveto Maggiore, through the Crete Senesi is unbeliveable.
In May, the landscape is jewel green with hillsides defined with cypress trees and houses topped with terracotta tiled roofs. There are sheep, olive trees and vineyards. In Fall, the crete landscape becomes evident with an strange turned clay soil, that completely startles the first time you see it. It is amazing!
The Great Cloister at Monte Oliveto Maggiore holds a Renaissance masterpiece.

Along the walls of the cloister the story of the life of St. Benedetto ( St Benedict),which unfolds in frescos painted by Antonio Bazzi ( 'Sodoma') and Luca Signorelli. This a truly wonderful example of a Renaissance fresco cycle. Not only are there these masterfully painted frescos, but they are surrounded by decoratively painted columns and panels.
A visit here should include the upstairs library and the abbey if they are open.
On our walk past the tower to the abbey, I could smell food grilling and immediately made reservations for lunch at the restaurant on the grounds, La Torre. After filling our eyes and souls with the frescos we dined on the best bean soup we had ever had. After the soup came the grilled guinea fowl and chicken that caught my attention earlier, along with zucchini flowers Dolci (dessert) was a young and lucious local pecorino. On return visits we have also had terrific house made pastas.

Lovely Pienza, here Pope Pius II had a palazzo designed that was sensitive to the landscape. The loggia overlooks a Renaissance courtyard garden and the view continues out across the Val'd'Orcia. Next to the Palazzo Piccolomini lies what many say is the perfect Renaissance piazza. The piazza was designed over a period of time from 1459-1462 by Rossolino, a student of the great architect Leon Battista Alberti.
Spend some time here sketching to really see what is going on with the architecture and scale.
Pienza has a subtle aroma of pecorino cheese! The shops selling this local favorite line the streets. The pecorino's are heavenly, from the youngest that are soft and mild to to the aged bold flavored ones. We hear spring time when the sheep are feeding on new grass is the best time to taste pecorino cheese, especially the young, fresh variety.

The Garden at Villa Le Mura

Just outside the walls of Panicale, which in not in Tuscany, but Umbria, is Villa LeMura.
A grand villa that made me think of Henry James, with it's parlors and library.
After a full day, a spectacular day, it was perfect to sit on the terrace just off our room, with a glass of wine and enjoy the remainder of the day. I remember the filled the Umbrian sky.

Nice to think back on and plan for the future!
For today I am dreaming of Italy.

Abbazia Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Tuscany Italy
South of Siena, near Asciano

Osteria La Torre ( at Monte Oliveto Maggiore)

Villa Le Mura, Panicale, Italy (Umbria)

More recommendations:
Bar Gallo, Panicale(Umbria)
Ristorante Masolino, Panicale (Umbria)
Trattoria Latte di Luna, Pienza (Tuscany)
Osteria La Porta, Montechiello (Tuscany)


The Palazzo Piccolomini, Pienza
A worthwhile tour is open to the public.

All content in this blog are the exclusive copyright of Elizabeth Johansson and may not be reproduced without written permission.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Join a conversation between painter James Aponovich and curator Kurt Sundstrom as they discuss three masterworks from the collection of the Currier Museum of Art. Hear the historian vs. artist and how each view a work of art.
This conversation will be centered on works that are part of the current exhibition, The Secret Life of Art: Mysteries of the Museum Revealed.

James Aponovich & Kurt Sundstrom
Currier Museum of Art
Monadnock Region Outreach Group

Friday, October 8, 5:30-7:30
Peterborough Historical Society
Peterborough, NH

For information about this event call (603) 669-6144

For more information on exhibitions & events at the Currier Museum of Art:

Image shown: Madonna & Child, Circle of Perugino , 1505 (collection of the Currier Museum)

Monday, October 4, 2010

AUTHORS ON THE ROAD: Howard Mansfield & Sy Montgomery

Authors ( and friends) Sy Montgomery and Howard Mansfield are on the road with their new books.

Howard's book Turn and Jump examines how time and place fell apart. "This is a book about time and place, they were once inseparable."
Mansfield writes,"Before Thomas Edison, light and fire were thought to be one and the same. Turns out they were separate things all together."

Sy's newest book Birdology, is a story of birds told as only she can tell it.
Adventures with a pack of hens, a peck of pigeons, cantankerous crows, fierce falcons,
hip hop parrots, baby hummingbirds,
and one murderously big living dinosaurs!


Howard and Sy bring their stories to life.
Their appearances are informative, and entertaining. When they visit a library or bookstore in your town you must attend!
They have just returned from Portland Maine and Portsmouth NH, where they were well received!
Next stop is Wilton, NH, then on to Concord NH.

October 5 at 7:00pm: Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library, Wilton, NH

October 7 at 7:00 pm: Gibson's Book Store, Concord,NH
a joint reading and signing.

For more information on the authors, their books, and a complete schedule of the authors upcoming events go to authorwire.

Hope you enjoy the books!