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!