September 12th, 2016
August 11th, 2016
We had the family here over the Labor Day Weekend. It was a marathon of good food, excellent wine, swimming, boating and games. There is a special vibe to a multi-generational get together. The grandparents, grown kids and the littles all contribute to the fun. And all day long someone was always hungry! The cookie container was emptied by the third day.
One morning David made this tomato gravy to go with our biscuits. Of course we all love sausage gravy with biscuits, but this tomato gravy is also a winner.
The recipe came from my friend Barbara who lives in Virginia. It has been in her family for years and relies on the home canned tomatoes that her family puts by every year. If you don’t have home canned tomatoes you can use whole canned tomatoes from the supermarket.
Everyone loved the combination. One of the Grands came back for seconds and thirds. David made the tomato gravy. I cheated and used frozen biscuits and fried up some sausage patties to go with everything.
As a hostess gift, I was given this fabulous D’artagnan Cassoulet Kit. We enjoyed the wonderful duck confit and sausage casserole one evening on the porch. It is beginning to cool down in the evenings so this was a perfect meal that was not too difficult to assemble.
This tomato gravy recipe is written in Barbara’s own words. David guessed on some of the amounts.
BARABARA’S TOMATO GRAVY
This is all adjusted to taste and subject to trial and error!
2 28 ounce can of tomatoes – I prefer the ones we can fresh from the garden but the whole peeled tomatoes work just fine. I would not buy the petite chopped tomatoes but coarsely chop the whole peeled ones.
Add salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of sugar ( D used 1 tablespoon ) to cut down on the acid. Naturally, I add butter to flavor the gravy. Adjust to your taste or diet. ( D used 1 tablespoon).
Cook the tomatoes down until about half the liquid is gone. Mix about a cup of milk and flour ( I cheat and use the wondra flour about 1 to 2 tablespoons) and pour into tomatoes.
Stir until desired consistency and pour over biscuits!
June 13th, 2016
To continue with the fig bounty, I made this almond and fig cake. I always keep some almond flour in the freezer for Financiers, those dainty French cakes in the shape of gold bars. I love almond flour and this cake has both the flour and almond extract. I went easy with the extract because I find it very strong.
The cake was moist and studded with the halved figs. It was perfect for an afternoon tea or with coffee for breakfast. You could sprinkle it with powdered sugar or top it with a dollop of whipped cream.
Now that all of my figs are gone, I am wishing for more. I have heard from a local acquaintance who has a fig tree in her yard. Hopefully she will share! Talking about you Donna.
FIG AND ALMOND CAKE (Adapted from The New York Times)
4 Tablespoons butter, melted, plus butter for greasing pan
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons Demerara sugar for sprinkling
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
12 to 14 rip figs
Heat oven to 375 degrees F/ Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan or pie pan; set aside. Put almond flour, 1/4 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and stir to combine.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, honey and almond and vanilla extracts. Add almond mixture and beat for a minute until batter is just mixed. Pour batter into pan.
Remove stem from each fig and cut in half. Arrange fig halves cut-side up over the batter. Sprinkle figs with Demerara sugar and bake for 30 minutes, until golden outside and dry at center when probed with a cake tester. Cool before serving.
June 7th, 2016
Our hearts are hurting right now with the senseless loss of life in Orlando, Florida. I try to keep my blog free of political comments so you will hear none of that from me, but the tragedy that took so many lives has nothing to do with politics. It is just a sad commentary on the hate that seems to permeate our otherwise great country. The hate needs to stop.
When the world seems too much to bear, baking cookies for your neighbors or making a breakfast cake to share can be a small token of friendship that can tell people that you care. Please do not lambast me for such a silly response to what has happened. I fully understand the complexity of our problems and the great loss. We are trying to deal with it by being actively involved in finding solutions. But no act of kindness is too small. Besides, baking is good for the soul.
This summer berry buckle is a fruit studded coffee cake. It is more fruit than cake, but the combination is a wonderful summer treat. Add whipped cream or ice cream and you have the perfect dessert to enjoy on the porch or deck. Or serve it for breakfast with juice and coffee. You may think that 4 1/2 cups of fruit is too much but it is not. I used a pint of washed and dried blueberries, 1/2 pint of washed and dried raspberries and 1/2 pint of washed and dried blackberries.
My nephew and his family live in Orlando and Paul’s daughter Katie made this sign to honor the fallen victims of the horrible tragedy. Katie has a big heart. It is not right that our young children should have to endure such horrors. We all need to unite, without animosity, to find a solution.
Bake this Summer Berry Buckle to share with friends. It is a small gesture of good will.
SUMMER BERRY BUCKLE ( The New York Times )
- ½ cup/114 grams (1 stick) butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
- ½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar, more for sprinkling
- ¼ cup/55 grams light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon/5 grams finely gratedlemon zest
- 1 teaspoon/5 milliliters vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups/156 grams all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 4 ½ cups summer berries (a mix of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or use any one kind)
- Cinnamon, for dusting (optional)
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, add butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then add lemon zest and vanilla and mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg and baking powder, and whisk to combine. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and mix until just combined.
- Gently fold berries into the batter, then spread batter in pan and sprinkle lightly with more granulated sugar. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden and cake is cooked through.
- Allow cake to cool, then sprinkle with cinnamon, if using, and confectioners’ sugar.
April 27th, 2016
I have cobbled together a picture of a breakfast casserole that I served to company. My life has been rather cobbled together lately. From selling our Florida house, to pulling a u-haul back to North Carolina, to a major get together with friends, the one thing I did not need was to get sick. But sick I was. I developed a hacking cough, headache, fever and laryngitis. David dragged me to the Doctor last Wednesday. All I could croak out were the words “I can’t afford to be sick. I have 16 people coming tomorrow for 4 or 5 days.” I am so impressed with our Nurse Practitioner. She prescribed an antibiotic and words of wisdom. She said be sure your friends have clean sheets and towels, but forget about the rest of the house. No one will notice or care about a bit of dust or a less that neat house. So true. Everyone pitched in and we had a wonderful time.
The occasion that brought us all together was the annual Lake Lure Lakefront Home Owners Association annual dinner and meeting. David and I were in charge of the entertainment. We booked our good friends from Florida who have a doo wop group called Malt Shoppe Memories. They perform all over Florida and are also known in our area from previous visits.
The concert was held on the beach and a fun time was had by all.
The hotel even arranged to serve S’mores on the beach.
The party was held on Saturday night. On Sunday evening the group performed on the top of our boathouse and people were encouraged to come by boat to sit back and enjoy the concert. The acoustics on the water and between the mountains are something special.
It was great to have so much help in the kitchen. We did a pot luck on Sunday and everyone contributed wonderful dishes.
I made this casserole on Saturday afternoon when I was feeling better. I tucked it into the refrigerator and baked it on Sunday morning. It couldn’t be easier. What you see here are the leftovers. It is a special breakfast casserole because it uses croissants instead of bread (thus the buttery description) and because it comes from The New York Times. All of their recipes are first rate. I will be adding this to my permanent recipe file. The sausage, Gruyere cheese, sage and green onions just add to the goodness.
BUTTERY BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
- 1 pound croissants (about 5 to 7), split in half lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more for baking dish
- 1 bunch scallions (6 to 7), white and light green parts thinly sliced, greens reserved
- ¾ pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 8 large eggs
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces Gruyère, grated (2 cups)
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Heat oven to 500 degrees. Spread croissants on a large baking sheet and toast, cut side up, until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes (watch carefully to see that they do not burn). Let cool, then tear into large bite-size pieces.
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add sliced scallions and sausage meat; cook, breaking up meat with a fork, until mixture is well browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in sage, and remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, toss together croissants and sausage mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, 1 1/2 cups cheese, salt and pepper.
- Lightly oil a 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Turn croissant mixture into pan, spreading it out evenly over the bottom. Pour custard into pan, pressing croissants down gently to help absorb the liquid. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
- When you’re ready to bake the casserole, heat oven to 350 degrees. Scatter the remaining grated cheese over the top of the casserole. Transfer to oven and bake until casserole is golden brown and firm to the touch, 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallion tops before serving.
We have many visitors at the lake during the year. Because of that, I am always looking for recipes to serve to a crowd. Breakfast hash browns take time and when you are juggling eggs and bacon, it is just one more pan that has to be watched. I found this simple baked hash brown recipe on Pinterest. You can even prep it the night before.
We went for our first boat ride of the season last week. Spring on the lake is so beautiful.
The iconic view of Lake Lure is one of our favorites. We call this the “kissing alligators” view. The mountain to the right is obviously an alligator head. The mountain to the left is a little obscured, but definitely looks like an alligator head. Our cottage is next to the orange boathouse on the right.
I have several favorite houses on the lake. Surprisingly they all have a French Chateau look to them. I got in trouble a few years ago peeking into this house when it was under construction. There were “No Trespassing” signs posted, which I ignored. The owner was next door and was not happy with me. I tried to explain that I was a decorator and could not help myself; it fell on deaf ears.
This stucco house with French blue shutters is for sale if anyone is interested. Here is a link. By the way, I am happy to say that we have just sold our Florida house. We will be returning to Florida soon to arrange an estate sale.
Returning to the subject of these hash browns, I used frozen hash browns from Trader Joe’s. I like them because they have no artificial ingredients. Like I said before, you can prep them the night before in the pan and cover with plastic wrap for the morning. It couldn’t be easier, and they would look great on a serving platter.
BAKED PARMESAN HASH BROWNS ( Recipe from Delicious Table )
1 bag frozen hash brown potatoes
4-5 sliced green onions
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray. Press dry potatoes in a large mixing bowl with paper towels, this helps them crisp. You can also use a salad spinner to help dry the potatoes. Mix all ingredients in the bowl. Scoop into muffin tin and press with spatula or a spoon. Bake 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees until crispy.