Cordially Yours :: Celebrating St. Germain's Elderflower Liqueur

I remember my first St. Germain. It was splashed into my glass of champagne. It was fresh and flowery and delightful. I assumed that this aromatic floral liqueur had been on the market for centuries. All good things from France are. I've had other "imitations" and they're syrupy sweet and can't even compare. I was quite shocked to learn that the idea behind St. Germain, the beautiful name and packaging, doesn't hail from France, but from here in the US. It was the creation of Robert J. Cooper, heir of of the Charles Jacquin et Cie throne, an old cordials and liqueur house based in Philadelphia. After a visit to the UK where he first experienced this most unique flavor, he set out to create his own. St. Germain was founded in 2007, and is manufactured in Dijon, France. It has since taken the US and the world by storm. Robert J. Cooper passed away on Monday at the age of 39. For more on Robert J. Cooper read the piece most recently published in The New York Times.

The weekend is right around the corner and spring is in the air. Do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle of this wonderful liqueur! 

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. The Frenchie Cocktail from A LIFE WELL LIVED.

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. The Frenchie Cocktail from A LIFE WELL LIVED.

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. St. Germain Margarita via FREUTCAKE

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. St. Germain Margarita via FREUTCAKE

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. French Pear Martini via FREUTCAKE

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. French Pear Martini via FREUTCAKE

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. La Rosette via BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. La Rosette via BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. The French Tart via NERDS WITH KNIVES.

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. The French Tart via NERDS WITH KNIVES.

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. St. Germain and Veuve... have you seen a more perfect pairing? Via BOULDER LOCAVORE

St. Germain Cocktails. Via The Entertaining House. St. Germain and Veuve... have you seen a more perfect pairing? Via BOULDER LOCAVORE

St. Germain Cocktails via The Entertaining House. Elderberry Smash via BAKES BREE.

St. Germain Cocktails via The Entertaining House. Elderberry Smash via BAKES BREE.

The St. Germain Cocktail via The Entertaining House. The French 75 via BUGGY DESIGNS

The St. Germain Cocktail via The Entertaining House. The French 75 via BUGGY DESIGNS

St. Germain Cocktails via The Entertaining House. Cucumber French Gimlet via OH SO BEAUTIFUL PAPER

St. Germain Cocktails via The Entertaining House. Cucumber French Gimlet via OH SO BEAUTIFUL PAPER

 

Cheers! 

 

 

 

 

Have a picnic! Celebrate National Picnic Day

Life's a Picnic! Image via What's Gabby Cooking

Life's a Picnic! Image via What's Gabby Cooking

I't National Picnic Day and I cannot think of a better day to have a picnic. It's Saturday, nearly May and buds of pale white, pinks and greens are magically appearing all over the place. Unfortunately, here on the East Coast in Southern New England it also happens to be raining - but I won't let a little matter like that dampen my mood, or the day. Picnics can be held anywhere. Of course they're lovely in the park or at the beach or even in your own back yard, but they're just as wonderful on covered porches or even inside. I happen to love a good indoor picnic - It's a much more casual and fun way to eat. I hope the below ideas will inspire you to have a picnic today! 

 

Picnic time! Image via The Frosted Petitcoat

Picnic time! Image via The Frosted Petitcoat

Picnics are great at all times of the day. Morning and evening are some of my favorite times especially at the beach when it is less crowded and when the sun isn't as strong.  For morning fresh fruit, breakfast sandwiches and coffee are the perfect way to enjoy the early morning sun, listen to the birds and the waves and feel the sun's warm rays on your cheeks. If it's not to windy bring the weekend paper, a magazine or a book to enjoy as well. 

In the evening I love nothing more than a nice bottle of wine, some bread, cheese and crudités. It can be as simple as that or more elaborate. You can pick up dinner (take out) and bring it to the beach. Or order pizza and have it delivered. Pizza and wine on the beach is wonderful. A nice salad and some good bread is another easy alternative. 

 

Celebrate National Picnic Day. Image via Tiny White Daisies

Celebrate National Picnic Day. Image via Tiny White Daisies

Not all picnics have to be seated on the ground. A beautiful sheet or tablecloth tossed over a table or picnic table can really set the mood. Add some flowers, such as above and lovely melamine plates, if you've got them in lieu of paper ones to make the affair more festive. 

 

Picnic Time. Image via Chic Deco 

Picnic Time. Image via Chic Deco 

Low picnic tables and oversized stuffed pillows work indoors and outdoors - at the beach, park, poolside and indoors - are a great alternative to sitting on the ground or at a high table. Instead of pillows beach chairs can be placed around these tables as well. 

 

Indoor picnics. Image Via A Pair of Pears

Indoor picnics. Image Via A Pair of Pears

Indoor, rainy day and cool weather picnics always pair perfectly with hot cocoa and s'mores. The small sterno containers can be found readily, and probably at your local grocery store. Soak some wooden skewers in water (just as precaution) and you're ready to make your tasty treats. Note: Sterno containers should not be directly on flammable materials such as picnic blankets.

 

Have an outdoor movie picnic. Image via Pretty Fluffy

Have an outdoor movie picnic. Image via Pretty Fluffy

I've always wanted to turn my back yard into a movie theater. Maybe this will be the summer. An outdoor picnic and a movie makes for a perfect evening activity. You can serve popcorn, candy and drinks or a nice, light supper. Prepared sandwiches or even pizza would be best so that you and your guests don't have to keep getting up and down. 

 

Picnics. Image unknown

Picnics. Image unknown

I've always loved the elegance and simplicity of a good cheese and charcuterie platter. Add some sliced bread, breadsticks, crackers, nuts, fruit, shrimp, olives and deviled eggs and you'll have a wonderful variety and more food than you'll ever need!

 

Indoor picnics. Image via Bloglovin'

Indoor picnics. Image via Bloglovin'

The beauty of an indoor picnic is that you've got all the amenities nearby and you need not worry about the weather! Perhaps indulge your guests in a game of Pictionary or Cards Against Humanity for some uproarious fun!

Below are some picnic food ideas.
Sandwiches are always appropriate and always fun.
Salads, from potato to Greek to Caesar are also a good choice. They're easy to make and transport. Just be sure, in the case of salads with lettuce, not to add the dressing until the last moment to prevent sogginess. With Panzanella salads, I would add the bread at the very last moment. And fruit salads are always a hit for those who like to end their meal on a healthy and sweet note.
But really, a picnic isn't a picnic without some baked goods... brownies, cookies, lemon bars... 
Mason jars are a great way to serve beverages, but if you're not picnicking at home, they may get heavy. You'll want to keep your load as light as possible. 
 

Have a Picnic! Image via Tumbler

Have a Picnic! Image via Tumbler

Picnic beverages. Image via Buzz Feed

Picnic beverages. Image via Buzz Feed

Picnic salads. Image via Joyful healthy Eats

Picnic salads. Image via Joyful healthy Eats

Picnic Salads. Image via Five Heart Home

Picnic Salads. Image via Five Heart Home

Picnic ideas. Image via Create and Barrel blog

Picnic ideas. Image via Create and Barrel blog

I hope this has inspired you to Celebrate National Picnic Day and have one of your own! For more ideas, click the link to read about 13 Sandwiches you must make this summer. 

National (Eat) Something on a Stick Day

Who would ever have imagined a National Something on a Stick Day. Truly, there is a day for everything! But in the spirit of this wacky day, why not celebrate? Why not celebrate tonight and make dinner more fun. Almost anything and everything can, in some form, be served on a stick. From veggies to pasta, it really all is possible. Surprise the family tonight with a little light hearted fun and have them all eat with sticks! Some fun ideas to inspire you are as follows:

Any meat, whether chicken, pork, veal or lamp can be cooked, served and eaten on a stick. Shish-kabobs consist of all sorts of proteins and chickens and are fun to eat. Kids especially love them. Our family adores a good Chicken Satay. For the recipe pictured above, visit Recipe Tin Eats.  

Colin Cowie is indeed imaginative and clever. I adore these little meatball bites he created for a wedding. As is meatballs aren't already fun enough to eat, these can be served to children as well as to adults at a sophisticated event. They're pure perfection! Don't eat red meat or meat? Substitute your favorite turkey or veggie burger recipe. Recipe via Colin Cowie Weddings

Another great and idea are antipasta kabobs. Also great for both winter and summer entertaining as they're easy to serve and eat, whether at the beach, poolside or casually in front of the fire. Inspired by Charm shares her ideas.

Bite sized sandwiches on a stick. You can't go wrong! Here we have mini BLTs on Sourdough courtesy of Return to Sunday Supper, but any sandwich will do. Some other favorites include: Pb&j, chicken salad, turkey or turkey club, ham and Swiss, ham and Brie, mini Cubans, mini sliders, mini grilled cheese ... really any kind you want!

How clever is this Iceberg wedge on a stick? Maybe, just maybe, this will entice those non veggie lovers? Hop on over to allrecipes for directions.

Shrimp and chorizo is one of my favorites. Stick a skewer in it and you've got a lovely hor d'oeuvre. Recipe via Babble.

Cool as a cuke. Cucumbers and smoked salmon are always a favorite. Easy to prepare, eat and serve, these delectable little treats perfectly fit any holiday party menu or garden party treat. Image via Baker by Nature.

Kabobs don't have to always be meat. Vegetables are a favorite of mine to grill up and "spear" and salmon is solid and fatty enough as a fish that it holds up well to cook this way as well. This is a great idea for those who try to observe a Meatless Monday.

Above I introduced the idea of the iceberg wedge on a stick, but Caesar salad works perfectly well for this too. 

For something a little bit sweeter with a hint of saltiness, watermelon and feta bites can be placed on toothpicks and served up with ease quite elegantly. Image via BuzzFeed

As though I need an excuse to eat sweets! A small slice of frozen key lime pie that has been dipped in chocolate and served on a popsicle stick makes for a pretty presentation! Idea via Desserts for Two. Yes, the pie does need to be frozen otherwise it will simply fall apart and make a mess all over the place. 

I hope this has given you some inspiration...  I say put a stick in it... it will taste better!

 

National Pi(e) Day :: 12 Sweet & Savory Recipes

Here's a day we can all sink our teeth into! National Pie Day! Sweet, Savory, Vegetarian, Healthy, Decadent... whatever your desire there's a pie for your palate! (Don't have time to bake one from scratch? Head on over to your local bakery... I won't tell, I promise!)

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Issy Crocker

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Issy Crocker

The Simple Veganista has a marvelous Mediterranean Pizza for those preferring something on the lighter, healthier side.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Simple Veganista

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Simple Veganista

The Merchant Baker shows us that a slab pie is every bit a pie despite its shape! This Cherry Apricot version would also be lovely packed up in my picnic basket this summer! 

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Merchant Baker

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Merchant Baker

I love the idea of this pie - Chicken, green chiles and potato. There's something rather new and yet familiar here... A chicken pot pie with a Mexican inspired twist perhaps? Hop on over to The Wicked Noodle for this inventive recipe.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Wicked Noodle

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Wicked Noodle

Hello Apple Pie! You will always be my Number One! There's something about the warm apples, the cinnamon and spices that calls to me. It's comfort. Pure comfort. Sometimes the unstructured informality of a galette is even better. Good Housekeeping has this recipe.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Good Housekeeping

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Good Housekeeping

Savory, Vegetarian Mushroom Spinach pie is a fun take on a traditional Spanakopita. The Pampered Hostess has the recipe for you.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Pampered Hostess

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Pampered Hostess

Though traditionally Tomato Pie is served in the summertime when tomatoes are in season, I actually prefer this when tomatoes are slightly less than perfect. I like my ripest, freshest tomatoes raw, right off the vine. Any other can be baked into a pie! Southern Boy Dishes shares this recipe.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Southern Boy Dishes

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Southern Boy Dishes

Meat pies. Don't scrunch up your nose. They're popular in the UK and in Australia. And for good reason. Hearty and flavorful they're perfect for a cool March night. Recipe Tin Eat shares these mouthwatering, mini savory treats.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Recipe Tin Eats

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Recipe Tin Eats

Beef pot pie. Our American version of the meat pie and the traditional Steak and Kidney Pie and a good alternative to chicken pot pie. And heartier too, for those days when you need such. Good Dinner Mom shares her recipe.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Good Dinner Mom

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Good Dinner Mom

Boeuf Bourguignon Pot Pie. I needn't say more, do I? This deliciousness can be found over at the Bon Appetit website. 

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Bon Appetit

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Bon Appetit

Chicken Pot Pie. Always a comfort food favorite. Lovely Little Kitchen shares her lovely little version.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Lovely Little Kitchen

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of Lovely Little Kitchen

White bean and thyme pot pies. Hearty. Rich. Healthy...er! I love beans. And I love anything made in a ramekin! Courtesy of the Minimalist Baker.

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Minimalist Baker

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of The Minimalist Baker

I love David Leibowitz. And I love pasta. And I happen to love pie. And so this Spaghetti Pie is a trifecta in my book!

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of David Liebowitz

Happy National Pie Day! Image property of David Liebowitz

National Margarita Day :: 10 Mouth Watering Margarita Recipes

Don't cry because it's Monday. Smile because it's National Margarita Day! 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. Spicy Cucumber Margarita

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. Spicy Cucumber Margarita

Yes indeed today, Monday February 22nd is National Margarita Day! The true history of the cocktail is unknown and there are several reputed accounts. No one can quite agree of the origins of the margarita, making its history a mysterious one. One version states that The Original Margarita was created by socialite, Margarita Sames, as she her favorite spirits Tequila & Cointreau for her guests to enjoy as she entertained them in her home. Another, and perhaps the earliest report, dates back to the 1930s when Iowa newspaper editor James Graham discovered a cocktail in Tijuana, Mexico which closely resembled the American drink, the Daisy. The Daisy was made with brandy as opposed to tequila.  A third version recounts a slow day in Orozco’s bar, Hussong’s Cantina, in Ensenada, Mexico. When the daughter of a German ambassador walked in Orozco was experimenting with new drink mixtures and he decided to serve her his most recent concoction. Her name was Margarita Henkel. And then there's the story of bartender “Danny” Herrera who created the drink in the Rancho La Gloria Hotel in Mexico for a Ziegfeld dancer. 

Today Tequila is as popular as ever with many varietals and artisanal versions on the market, each with a uniquely different quality. Today's tequila is often a very sophisticated cocktail.

Below you'll find a compilation of some of our favorite varieties from some of our favorite food bloggers. Sweet, salty or spicy, there's a tequila that will perfectly please your palate! 

One of my favorite places to stop by for a recipe, Gimme Some Oven, never fails to disappoint. Here's she offers up a version that delivers kick which seems to be garnering more and more attention. The cool cuke offers up the perfect the perfect antidote to the spicy jalapeno. A little bit sweet, a little bit salty, a little bit spicy, this version of the margarita has it all. (Top image)

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. Champagne Margarita

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. Champagne Margarita

For those preferring more bubble and a little less heat, hop on over to 40 Aprons, for this delicious and effervescent twist on an old favorite. And by all means, break out those champagne flutes or coupes if you wish! 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

Maybe you prefer you prefer to "put de lime in de coconut"  and so if that's the case you'll want to hop on over to Foodie Crush to  check out her version of The Best Coconut Margarita Recipe

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

A fresh twist on an old classic with one of my most absolute favorite fruits, the blood orange. Known for it's rich, deep, blood-like color, this tart orange is as refreshing as it is beautiful. Add it to your margarita with a touch of triple sec for a fabulous cocktail. Full recipe at With Salt and Wit.

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

And then there's always the classic. Some people believe that one shouldn't meddle with a good thing, Averie Cooks offers up a 3 ingredient version. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

So you've decided to whip up a batch of Margaritas but you've run out of limes and you really don't want to head back out to the store... Or you've got a serious craving for the puckery, sourness of a Lemon Drop. You'll find both here, at The Taylor House.

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

In the mood to shake things up a bit? A spicy grapefruit margarita might be a good way to try. Half Baked Harvest gives us recipes for making individual servings and big batches. She also tells us how to control spice levels for those who want just a kick to those who want a whole lotta heat! 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

Or maybe you love grapefruit but not the heat. Here's a recipe that replaces heat with fizz! Well Plated adds just a bit of seltzer to add enough fizz but not so much as to dilute the flavors. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

10 Mouthwatering Margarita Recipes. 

We tend to associate pomegranate with the Christmas holidays because, in part, of their bright red color. Their season typically runs from October through the end of February, so we're in luck, and can make the best of this fruit before their season ends. Their tartness lends itself perfectly for this cocktail! How Sweet it Is shares her recipe.

Are you a purist or do you prefer to mix things up a little?

Valentine's Day gifts for the Food and Drink Enthusiast

Valentine's Day gifts for the Food and Drink lover. Image property of Anne Taintor

Valentine's Day gifts for the Food and Drink lover. Image property of Anne Taintor

It's a day that has become synonymous with chocolate, flowers and cards. Cupid aims his arrow...  And hopefully it doesn't miss! It's a day of love and a day of romance. In the mid 1700's it was customary to give your love a small token and a handwritten letter. By the mid 1900's with the advancement of "modern" printing technology handwritten notes were to be replaced with pre-printed cards. We now refer to this day as a Hallmark holiday, restaurants are booked solid, so are babysitters. (My daughter is available is anyone's still in need!) We seem to have moved beyond the small trinket and the simple box of chocolates. It seems more about consumerism than love, these days. But in the spirit of supporting our economy I've decided to join in on the fun too. I've created my own list from small to high end items for those romantic food and drink enthusiasts out there.  Following are some fun, entertaining and luxurious items to delight your Valentine. Once gifted, they will keep giving back!

 

Valentines Day gifts for the home chef and bartender 

Valentines Day gifts for the home chef and bartender 

I fell in love with the SMEG family of products when I was first introduced to them at last year's Architectural Digest Home Design Show. This Italian brand is revered for its retro, streamlined appearance. Each piece is looks like a work of art - a throwback to a bygone era. (My grandmother had a an old Sunbeam in the 1960s with similar lines.) Give this beautiful gift to your Valentine and it very well could be the gift that keeps on giving! This stand mixer is available at West Elm and at SMEG USA in other beautiful retro colors. And do be sure to check out the other wonderful large and small appliances they have to offer!

Valentine's Day gifts for the home cook

Valentine's Day gifts for the home cook

Who doesn't like pizza? I can't think of one anyone! Now you can make your own gourmet pizza at home with Breville's Countertop Pizza Maker. I always thought Breville was an Italian company. (It sounds like it would be, doesn't it?) But it's Australian. I had no idea that Australian's knew how to make pizza, but apparently they do. My 15 year old son got this red pizza maker for Christmas. He loves to cook and he loves his gadgets making this a perfect gift! It may not be brick oven, but it comes awfully close! The machine boasts top and bottom heating elements which heats the stone to 660°F  allowing you to get the same slightly charred crust typical of brick oven pizza. The Pizza Maker has settings for thin and thick crusts and a viewing window allows you to monitor cooking progress without the need of opening the top lid - although ours did steam up some and we did want to check the bottom of the crust from time to time. We thoroughly enjoy our machine... the only drawback is that it only makes one at a time! The pizza maker is available at Williams-Sonoma.

Valentine's Day gifts for the home cook

Valentine's Day gifts for the home cook

A gift for the chocolate and cheese lover. Whats Valentine's Day without chocolate? This year, think outside the proverbial box of chocolates! Fondue machines are fun, easy to use and easy to clean. They're great at family dinners and when entertaining guests. This version by Sur La Table is now on sale and available for a steal! Hop on over to their website now!

Valentine's Day gifts for the food lover

Valentine's Day gifts for the food lover

I adore oysters - raw, grilled, fried... on their own, with a mignonette, cocktail sauce and horseradish, or a simple squeeze of lemon. I live on the East Coast, and oysters where oysters are available year round I never tire of them. Sur La Table offers their exclusive Cast Iron Oyster for perfectly grilled oysters, a smoky summer favorite, cooked on your grill or stovetop. Pan features 12 depressions perfect for holding oysters on the half-shell or fully shucked and can be preheated to speed cooking time. (When cooking shucked oysters, lightly oil depressions.) For their recipe click here.  

Valentine's Day gifts for the home chef

Valentine's Day gifts for the home chef

A monogrammed chef's coat with black piping. For the home cook who sometimes makes a mess... for the home cook who doesn't have much kitchen space... for the home cook who has most everything else. These coats (men's too) are available at WUE Shop.

Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer 

Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer 

I have this thing for napkins. I really haven't any explanation as to why. I like all sorts - elegant, chic, whimsical, checkered, striped, and those with fun designs. We're back to the oysters... again. Maybe I'm longing for summer... Maybe I just need an oyster fix! Whichever the reason I'm simply mad about these festive cocktail napkins from Katie Kime. To see these and other items in her collection, click here

Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer

Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer

I was first introduced to August Morgan a few years ago and immediately fell madly in love with their fun, whimsical, cheeky bright cocktail napkins. In the dead of winter I channel yet another summertime theme... But there are so many from which to choose. Founded by Kate Hersch, August Morgan started as an obsession with vintage needle point pillows. Kate's products are a marriage of of irreverence and with elegance, resulting in a delightful line of hand-embroidered linen cocktail napkins, perfect for any and every occasion. For more visit the August Morgan website. 

Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer

Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer

Cocktails and whimsy, what a perfect pairing! Created by Kim Seybert, these darling hand beaded coasters will are pure delight and add a festive mood to any space and occasion.  Kim's fresh perspective mixes a refined fashion sensibility and a love of rich color and texture. Those who love to entertain are drawn to Kim Seybert's designs; perfect for dinner on a yacht or stretched out on the grass with a favorite picnic basket. Kims products are available at Barney's New York, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and her website

 

Valentine's Day gifts for the food enthusiast

Valentine's Day gifts for the food enthusiast

Some food and cocktail lovers have a love for all things food related including books, and note cards. These wonderful whimsical cards may just revive the lost art of letter writing. How wonderful it is when something arrives in the mailbox that's not a bill or some sort of marketing gimmick. So, let's raise a glass to these pretty printed cocktail cards. The set of 8 cards and kraft envelopes features one of each cocktail: Bloody Mary, Hot Toddy, Margarita, Gin & Tonic, Dark & Stormy, Dirty Martini, Old Fashioned, and French 75. Available from Food52.

 

    Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer

    Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer

    Food52 brings also brings us these wonderful and whimsical copper and silver shot glasses. Long revered as the symbol for hospitality, your guests will truly feel welcome.  You'll win over your Valentine or your guests. They'll liven up any counter or bar cart with  a hit of razzle dazzle. To order visit their website. 

     

    The Vanderbilt Box is the ultimate luxury gift. The Italian-made rosewood veneer case opens to reveal three thoughtfully designed compartments and a drawer, including over a dozen accoutrements for crafting and serving your favorite cocktails. Finished with an individually numbered metal plaque, the slim box comes with refined bar accessories from Ralph Lauren Home, from a lead crystal ice bucket to a mixology book with a crocodile-embossed leather cover. Produced in a limited-edition series of 100, the Vanderbilt box is the ultimate luxury for entertaining whether you're in a penthouse suite or at a country estate. Available from Ralph Lauren Home.

    Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer

    Valentine's Day gifts for the consummate entertainer

    The handsome Huntley Bar Tools offer a sophisticated yet rustic look to complete your bar. Crafted by skilled artisans in Thailand, the set combines cast pewter handles with gleaming stainless steel heads and includes an ice scoop, jigger, cocktail knife and bottle opener and are patterned after majestic stag horns which perfectly suits someone entertaining at a weekend cabin in the mountains. This too is available at Ralph Lauren Home.

    Healthy Bites :: Singing the praises of the baked sweet potato fry

    Looking for a healthy snack? Consider the sweet potato! Baked sweet potato fries are delicious, satisfying and nutritious and while they may seem forbidden, they shouldn't be. I can't believe we don't make these more often! 

    Baked Sweet Potato Fries - The forbidden snack that's good for you!

    Baked Sweet Potato Fries - The forbidden snack that's good for you!

    We are always on the lookout for a good afternoon snack. While I prefer to steer the kids to yogurt, fruit and veggie they prefer items that aren't quite as nutritionally dense. They go after the salt and the carbs, and sometimes the sugars. Sometimes I can tempt them with crispy chick peas. The other day my daughter had a hankering for sweet potato fries so she grabbed a sweet potato, cut it up into thin slices, placed them on a cookie sheet with an olive oil spray and sea salt. The result was delicious and because they weren't fried or swimming in oil, they were incredibly healthy. These sure beat reaching into that bag of chips!

    The Nutritional benefits of the sweet potato

    The nutritional benefits of the sweet potato are many.  1 medium sized sweet potato, about 1 cup has Calories 114, is virtually fat-free and loaded with all sorts of vitamins and minerals. Although sweet it has a fairly low sugar count and is a good source of dietary fiber:

    Total Fat 0.1 g0%
    Saturated fat 0 g0%
    Polyunsaturated fat 0 g
    Monounsaturated fat 0 g
    Cholesterol 0 mg0%
    Sodium 73 mg3%
    Potassium 448 mg 12%
    Total Carbohydrate 27 g9%
    Dietary fiber 4 g 16%
    Sugar 6 g
    Protein 2.1 g4%
    Vitamin A 377%
    Vitamin C 5%
    Calcium 4%
    Iron 4%
    Vitamin D 0%
    Vitamin B-6 15%
    Vitamin B-120%
    Magnesium 8%

    Ingredients:

    (Makes 1 serving)
    1 medium sized sweet potato, washed, 
    1 can of olive oil spray
    Sea salt and pepper to taste

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 400
    Wash the sweet potato and cut into slices, thin or thick depending on your preference
    Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil
    Spray the slices generously with the olive oil spray
    Flip the slices over and gently absorb any excess oil so that both sides are cover.
    Sprinkle with salt
    Bake for 15 minutes and check for doneness. Fries should be lightly browned.
    Rotate fries and remove to oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until desired golden color is achieved. 
    Let cool about 5 minutes before serving.

    I was looking for a little snack early yesterday evening to tie me over until dinner... The sweet potato fries went quite well with my Super Tuscan!

      Baked Sweet Potato Fries - The forbidden snack that's good for you!

      Baked Sweet Potato Fries - The forbidden snack that's good for you!

      Sip on this :: Beneficial Honey Lemon & Ginger Tea

      Honey Lemon Ginger Tea - The Entertaining House

      Honey Lemon Ginger Tea - The Entertaining House

      I've been reading about the health benefits of drinking hot water with lemon for years. Truthfully it never had any appeal to me and still doesn't. I love my early morning coffee. It's become a ritual that is so important in how I start my day. I have a lovely espresso machine and every morning before the sun and the children are up I craft myself a cup of cappuccino. I drink it in the living room, in the dark with the news quietly humming in the background before the sky brightens. These are the most precious 20 minutes I have each day. I drink another cup or two in the morning - Caffeine, they say, when consumed before a workout increases your energy and maximizes your results.  But by midmorning I'm still wanting something warm and soothing to sip on, and often, when I'm home writing I'm wanting something throughout the day and while I drink my fair share of water, both flat and Pellegrino (which I prefer over other seltzers because the bubbles are softer and smaller) I sometimes need something else. 

      There's a tea that I adore and order every time I go to this one restaurant I adore in Greenwich, Connecticut called Meli-Melo Creperie. (In fact everything is fabulous there, from the salads, the soups, the sandwiches to the crepes) There's something soothing and calming about the tea and it doesn't weigh you down or cause you to be jittery all day long. While it's not tea per se, as it contains no tea (therefore no caffeine) it is soul warming and delicious and the perfect beverage to sip on during those long cold winter days. I've decided to have my hand at trying to create this divine drink at home and after a few tries I think I've come awfully close. This won't stop me from ordering the tea when I return, but I can now enjoy it in the comfort of my own home. I make a big batch and sip on it throughout the day.  Not only is this tea delicious to drink but it offers numerous the health benefits as well. Ginger is a natural anti-inflamatory. It also reduces muscle pain and soreness, lowers blood sugar, aids digestion and is high in antioxidants. Lemon is rich in vitamin C, B6, A, E, folate, calcium, and magnesium to name a few. It's an antioxidant and has healing properties. While honey has more calories than sugar, when consumed with warm water, it helps in digesting the fat stored in your body. Similarly, honey and lemon juice as well as honey and cinnamon help in reducing weight. For more read here. So isn't this all reason enough to give this a try?

      Beneficial Honey Lemon Ginger Tea - The Entertaining House

      Beneficial Honey Lemon Ginger Tea - The Entertaining House

      Ingredients

      6 cups of water
      1 3 - 4 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
      Juice of 2 large lemons, plus lemon slices for garnish if desired
      3 tablespoons of local honey (or more or less to taste)
      Mint leaves, for color and garnish, optional

      Directions

      Measure water using a large Pyrex or glass measuring cup and pour into a large pot, adding the lemon, ginger and honey. Bring water to a rolling boil for a few minutes and turn off heat. Let steep 20-30 minutes in the pot with the lid on to keep the liquid contained. The longer you steep, the stronger the flavors will be. Of course you can add more or less of any of the ingredients.  When ready, after 30 minutes or so you can transfer the warm liquid to a pitcher. When ready to drink using a sieve to filter out the pieces of ginger, pour desired amount into cup. Reheat on stove or in microwave until desired temperature is reached. Add lemon and or mint leaves for garnish. The tea will keep out on the counter for the day or in the fridge for 2 to 3 days - but you'll find you won't be able to keep it around that long. If the liquid becomes too strong simply dilute with water to achieve desired taste. 

      Serving suggestions

      Bring some in a thermos to enjoy all day at work.
      Pour over ice in a pretty glass. This is delicious cold as well!
      Pour into your water bottle bottle with ice and bring it with you wherever you go!
       

      Iced Honey Lemon Ginger Tea - The Entertaining House

      Iced Honey Lemon Ginger Tea - The Entertaining House

      Slow Cooker Chicken Orzo Soup

      image.jpg

      There's nothing as comforting on a cold winter's day as the aroma of homemade soup swirling around the warmth of the kitchen as the winds howl outside. Yesterday a winter storm held most of the eastern seaboard captive dumping massive amounts of snow from Virginia up through Massachusetts.  The weathermen declared this the "Sandy of Snowstorms" and we battened down our hatches, made sure we had plenty of firewood, batteries and candles. We were ready for the worst of them. There's something about cooking and baking when you're stuck indoors that's both therapeutic and soothing. I turned the crock pot on at 10:00 and set it to cook on high for 4 hours to make the chicken broth. When the broth was made I added some more vegetables and cooked for 4 more hours on high. When the soup was done I added some shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken I picked up the day before) and some orzo that I had cooked separately. The slow cooking process yielded a broth that was incredibly flavorful. The next day we reheated the soup and had it for dinner. 

      Cook time 8 hours
      Prep time 15 minutes

      Ingredients:

      1 onion, quartered
      3 cloves of garlic
      3 bay leaves
      3 carrots, peeled, cut in half
      3 stalks of celery, peeled and cut in half
      Sea salt to taste (1-2 tsp)
      2 cups mirepoix (celery, carrots, onions, red and green peppers diced)
      1/2 cup of finely chopped mushrooms
      1 1/2 cups of shredded chicken
      1 1/2 cups of cooked orzo
      Bones from Rotisserie chicken
      6 cups of water

      Directions:

      In the crockpot add the chicken bones, water, garlic, onion, carrots sticks, celery stalks, bay leaves and salt. Turn on High and cook for 4 hours. After 4 hours drain the broth from the bones and vegetables. Remove the carrots and cut into small pieces. Discard everything else.

      Return the broth and the carrots to the crockpot. Add the mirepoix, and mushrooms and cook on high for 4 more hours. Add more salt if desired.

      In a separate pan cook the orzo per instructions on the package. Drain, set aside. 

      Shred the chicken and add to the soup. 

      Let sit for about 30 minutes.

      If serving immediately pour soup into bowls and add desired amount of orzo to each bowl. 

      If not serving immediately place in containers and refrigerate.

      On night 2 or for leftovers: 

      To reheat add the soup to a pot and simmer on medium high for about 10 minutes and turn heat down to low and simmer. Add cooked pasta just prior to serving. (Pasta will absorb the broth if you leave it in too long. If this happens just add some extra pre-made broth to the mixture. 

      How to grind your own meat using a food processor

      How to grind your own meat without a meat grinder. The Entertaining House

      How to grind your own meat without a meat grinder. The Entertaining House

      Genius. Pure genius! A huge Jacques Pepin fan, I recently watched some clips of some of the older programs he taped on PBS, many of which were with the legendary Julia Child. I don't recall the recipe he was preparing but it called for ground chicken. He had, to one side, a KitchenAid fitted with the meat grinder attachment. To the other side was your standard Cuisinart food processor. The chef showed us how easy it was to grin meat using both machines and so I decided to give it a try myself. 

      I laid my chicken breasts out on the cutting board and trimmed them of all fat and then cut the chicken into large cubes as he suggested. I tossed half the cubed chicken into the bowl of the food processor and then gently began to pulse until all the meat had been ground. The process is very fast and be sure to keep your eye on the meat and pulse slowly. Once the meat has been ground transfer to pan, bowl or whichever cooking vessel you'll be using and repeat with each following batch of chicken. You won't believe just how easy this process is. And budget-friendly too! I'll certainly be doing this again. This can be done with all sorts of meats. 

      I transferred the chicken to a pan to brown with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and some taco seasonings and cooked it thoroughly. It then went into the crockpot where it would become chili... I'm thinking of making some chicken meatballs during the storm this weekend!

       

      How to grind your own meat without a meat grinder. The Entertaining House

      How to grind your own meat without a meat grinder. The Entertaining House

      How to grind your own meat without a meat grinder. The Entertaining HouseHow to grind your own meat without a meat grinder. The Entertaining House

      How to grind your own meat without a meat grinder. The Entertaining HouseHow to grind your own meat without a meat grinder. The Entertaining House

      Creating a "Clean" Kitchen to help you stick to your New Year's Resolutions

      Creating a "clean" kitchen. The Entertaining House. Image via DigsDigs

      Creating a "clean" kitchen. The Entertaining House. Image via DigsDigs


      We're more than halfway into the first month of the New Year. How are you doing with those goals and resolutions? Have you been undeterred? Focused? Strong-willed? Have you had a small set back or fallen off the wagon? When it comes to watching what we eat it can occupy much of our thought process and time. It can complicate food shopping and eating out. But it shouldn't have to. Moderation is key. If you slip don't punish yourself. The best place to start is in your kitchen. If your kitchen is "clean" and healthy you'll be less driven to temptation at home so if you do go out and splurge it won't be the end of the world. I am not a nutritionist nor a health fanatic. But I do have a few simple tips to share. If you think that red wine is medicinal and healthy you should read on! 

      A trimmed down kitchen will help you get a trimmed down you. Organization here is key but very simple. Many of us have a hard time saying no to temptation and while it would be easy to remove those tempting items altogether, this may not be feasible, especially if, like me, you have a house filled with children. I know what my weaknesses are - everything! I find that it's easier to avoid temptation when there are plenty of substitutes to be found. I make sure that ready to be eaten healthy foods on snacks on readily on hand. I have my fridge filled with a variety of brightly colored healthy treats that satisfy all my cravings. Variety is key here. I get bored easily and when I limit myself and my diet I am much more likely to veer off course.

      At the beginning of the month, wanting to undo my Christmastime food damage, I decided to put myself on a strict diet to help me lose the 10 pounds I'd been wanting to lose for the past few years. I had had luck in the past with The South Beach Diet losing all my baby weight after my 2nd and 3rd children were born. I decided to give it a go again. This is a strict no carb diet that was created for the diabetic and those with substantial amounts to lose and not really for people like myself. I went to the grocery store and bought the suggested menu items. The first couple of days were tough as I munched my way through nuts (I'm not a huge fan), chicken and cheese. Although vegetables are encouraged I found myself actually eating less than what was normal for me. The vegetables weren't satisfying my hunger. I'm active and try to work out at least 5 days a week doing cardio most of those days. The lean protein, cheese and nuts weren't sitting well. While I had lost the desire for the bad carbs that I normally turned to as snack choices, I found myself craving things like yogurt and fresh fruit as oranges, apples and berries are such a great part of my diet. So I decided to bag the diet and add back the fruit.I didn't lose anything in my deprived state and I didn't lose anything when I added the fruit back in, but I felt incredibly well. I had my energy back. In fact I had, perhaps, even more than I had had before I removed the "bad" carbs from my diet. I didn't miss the crackers, the chips or the sugary sweets. 

      Below I have some healthy tips and bits of advice to help curb the dangerous cravings. I do believe, however, that no one should ever completely deprive themselves, that moderation is key and that from time to time you should allow yourself something special. 

      Tips for a "Clean" Fridge (& what to keep in it)

      Creating a "clean" kitchen 

      Creating a "clean" kitchen 

      A "Clean" Fridge will carry you far.  The new year is the perfect time of year to go through your refrigerator with a fine tooth comb. Get rid of opened jars that haven't been used in months - salsas, pasta sauces, salad dressings. Comb through all your containers, glass and plastic, and check expiration dates. If possible consolidate partially started jars. Organize your condiments so that they're all together. Wipe down shelves and drawers. Once you've done that you can move on to Part 2 of a Clean Fridge.

      Have plenty of healthy options readily accessible for when hunger or cravings strike.

      Creating a healthy kitchen

      Creating a healthy kitchen

      Tips to keeping a "clean" kitchen

      Tips to keeping a "clean" kitchen

      How to create a "clean" kitchen

      How to create a "clean" kitchen

      • Have fresh fruit washed and ready to be eaten in your produce drawer. These can include, oranges, tangerines, blood oranges, grapefruits, apples and pears. Have plenty of fresh berries on hand as well but don't wash these ahead of time as this will shorten the life of the fruit. I like to grab a bowl, fill it with water, and wash out the berries I think I will eat over the course of the day. I drain them and then keep them in a bowl in the fridge. This sort of forces me to eat them either alone, or my favorite way, with yogurt.
         
      • Yogurt. My yogurt of choice is Dannon's Oikos Triple Zero. 
         
      • Ready to eat Veggies. I peel and cut peppers, carrots and celery so that if I need something crunchy I can just grab and go. My kids can too. In fact, I find that by having these pre-prepared they eat more vegetables. In order to prevent the carrots and celery from drying up you can keep them in jars of water. You can also toss them freshly washed (wet) in Ziplock bags. I keep pre-cut peppers this way too. I'm not a huge fan of raw broccoli or cauliflower, but will eat them cooked and chilled either sprinkled with salt and pepper or with hummus or salad dressing. In fact, I love asparagus this way too. They're so easy to cook and I designate several hours one day a week - usually on Sunday when I do my big grocery shopping - and prep some healthy snacks that the children and I can munch on during the week. 
         
      • Salad dressings and dips. We keep lots of low fat options of salad dressings too - ranch happens to be a favorite here. We always have at least 1 container of hummus on hand as well. Sabra is our favorite brand.
         
      • Pre-washed and dried lettuces. I have lettuce washed, dried and ready to go. With Romaine, after I've washed and dried it, I'll chop up the leaves and place them in a sealed plastic bag. This way if I want a salad, I just have to grab a handful or two of the leaves and go. I love the baby lettuces but my children don't as much. 
         
      • Hard boiled eggs. They're great to eat alone and tossed in salads.
         
      • Canned fish. I keep cans of high quality tuna packed in olive oil. The Italian brands are superior.
         
      • Edamame. In the produce aisle where I can find the herbs I help myself to containers of salted, shelled edamame beans. These make a great snack! 
         
      • Lean protein. Rotisserie chicken is almost always in my fridge. Turkey bacon often is too. 

         

      Tips for a "Clean" Pantry (& what to keep in it)

      Clean out the pantry, your cupboards (or Carb Closet as we call it!) the way you did the fridge. Toss out cans and jars of things you've not used or have expired. Take inventory of canned items, sauces, oils, vinegars and other items used regularly.

      • Quinoa and other healthy grains. Incorporate healthy grains like quinoa, farro, millet and buckwheat into your diet. Replace white rice with brown rice. I believe that pasta once in a while is a good thing. In fact, the glycemic index of pasta is much lower than bread. Pretzels are, apparently,  one of the worst choices if watching carbohydrates. 
         
      • Popcorn. Because sometimes you need a salty crunch! I keep kernels, Jiffy Pop and Smartfood on hand. For sweet cravings a carefully measured serving of Smartfood Kettle Corn totally hits the spot.
         
      • Dark Chocolate. For medicinal purposes of course ;) I keep dark chocolate or semi-sweet miniature chips on hand for an occasional treat. After several days of not eating foods with added sugar you find that you prefer things a bit less sweet. Dark chocolate is a perfect sweet choice here. Be sure to stick to the serving size. If necessary separate into batches. And keep them away from sight! I like to grab a small handful of miniature chocolate chips to enjoy occasionally or add a tablespoon or two to vanilla yogurt.
         
      • Cocoa Powder. This has the properties of dark chocolate and none of the calories. I love to add some to my yogurt or even stir some into a cup of coffee with a packet of Splenda and some lowfat milk for low calorie afternoon treat on a chilly day. 
         
      • Nut butters. I adore peanut butter and have to watch myself here. I especially love the nut butters you can "make" at Whole Foods. A spoonful or two before I hit the gym gives me just the right amount of energy if I happen to be working out at an odd hour.  I also love peanut butter swirled into my yogurt.
         
      • Broths and beans. When you shop fill your shelves with broths and beans. Beans are great additions to soups and chick peas are great additions to salads and sauteed with just a little bit of olive oil make a great snack. Jars of nuts, pistachios, almonds, and cashews are on hand for snacking as are popcorn kernels.
         

      A "clean" counter...

      I do keep a bottle of red wine on the counter. I do enjoy a glass at the end of the day. I keep my counter-tops clear for prep space - chopping veggies, cutting up apples or grapefruits and for prepping meals. During the winter months I keep my crock pot on the counter. It pretty much lives there. This time of year I use my crock pot a lot. I find that it's such an easy way to cook so many wonderfully delicious and low fat meals. In fact, it couldn't be easier - just toss in the ingredients and go. Because the cooking process is slower and longer, I find my dishes are much more flavorful. I adore making soup in the crockpot. (Recipes to follow) I also keep a bowl of fruit - I divide fruit between the fridge and counter. I think fruit bowls look pretty. I keep apples and clementines and bananas out so that my kids can readily reach for them. Tomatoes sit on the counter too - both cherry and Campari. If they start to turn I do toss them into the fridge or roast them in the oven with Italian spices, garlic powder and Parmesan. They're delicious that way. 

      "Clean" appliances... 

      Creating a "clean" kitchen

      Creating a "clean" kitchen

      How to keep a "clean" kitchen

      How to keep a "clean" kitchen

      A healthy diet begins in the kitchen

      A healthy diet begins in the kitchen

      • Food processor - Great for pureeing veggies and fruit for chilled soups like gazpacho. (Don't puree hot items!) Did you know you can grind your own chicken for tacos and chilis? You sure can and your food processor is a great way to do so!
      • Immersion blender - The only way to cream soups. Immerse into the hot crock pot and you have a creamy soup (without cream) in minutes. 
      • A really good vegetable peeler for peeling celery and carrots. 
      • Good, sharp knives for good food prep


       

      Baked Cinnamon Apple French Toast with Pecan Crumble Topping

      Baked Cinnamon Apple French Toast with Pecan Crumb Topping - The Entertaining House

      Baked Cinnamon Apple French Toast with Pecan Crumb Topping - The Entertaining House

      Need a breakfast for New Year's Day? Something that will feed a crowd?
      This is quite possibly the best French Toast you'll ever have!

      I was looking for a simple yet special breakfast to make on Christmas morning. Preparing breakfast the day or night before is all well and good but I'm usually taking care of last minute odds and ends and getting everything ready for Christmas Day. I didn't want cinnamon buns, coffee cake or croissants this year. I wanted something with a little more pizzaz. After all breakfast is my meal with the children who, come early afternoon, head off to spend the rest of the day with their father. As any divorced parent will tell you time, especially during the holidays, is precious. Perhaps more than those who are still married, we soak up every minute we have with them. Some of us share the day while others alternate years. No matter which, it's never enough. The moments we have with our children are precious and those we don't can get terribly lonely. On Christmas Day I have my children but for a few fleeting hours and of those hours I don't want my time spent in the kitchen. As I was perusing through some old cookbooks I happened upon a recipe for baked French toast that seemed more like a bread pudding. I made a few changes - less cream and butter and added some apples and raisins. Prep time took no longer than 15-20 minutes and the cooking time about 45 minutes. What resulted was a breakfast that was almost decadent and simply divine.

      This would be perfect for a crowd on New Year's Day. For a softer, more custard-like consistency bake for 45 minutes, for something more like bread pudding, bake for an hour. It's sweet enough to enjoy on its own, but hardcore French toast lovers may want to drizzle a little maple syrup over the top. 

      Ingredients for the French Toast: 

      • 1 loaf of 1-2 day old challah bread (Stale bread is best for this)
      • 8 whole eggs
      • 2 cups lowfat milk
      • 1/2 cup light cream
      • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
      • 2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
      • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cubed
      • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
      • 1 cup of raisins

       For the topping:

      • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
      • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
      • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
      • 3/4 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
      • 1/2 - 2/3 cup of chopped pecans
      Baked Cinnamon Apple French Toast with Pecan Crumb Topping - The Entertaining House

      Baked Cinnamon Apple French Toast with Pecan Crumb Topping - The Entertaining House

      Directions

      Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

      Grease 9 x 13-inch baking dish with butter or a non-stick spray.  Break off cubed sized pieces of challah and toss into a very large mixing bowl. 

      Peel and cut apples into bite sized pieces and toss into the bowl with the bread. Add the raisins and mix well. Distribute evenly into the baking dish. 

      In a medium sized bowl whisk together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Pour evenly over the bread. If need be use your hands and press down to make sure that each piece of bread is well covered. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. 

      While the bread is soaking in the custard mixture, mix together the flour, brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl. Add butter pieces and cut them into the dry mixture until mixture resembles fine pebbles. (I did this in the KitchenAid mixer)

      Bake for 45 - 1 hour. Shorter will result in a custard-like texture and longer will be more bread-pudding like.

      Let cool a few minutes before serving and spoon out onto plates. Maple syrup is optional here.

      Baked Cinnamon Apple French Toast with Pecan Crumb Topping - The Entertaining House

      Baked Cinnamon Apple French Toast with Pecan Crumb Topping - The Entertaining House

      Looks good, doesn't it?!!!!

      Chicken Tetrazzini :: Comfort food to warm the soul

      Chicken Tetrazzini. The Entertaining House

      Chicken Tetrazzini. The Entertaining House

      I grew up on casseroles, long before if was en vogue, my mother was a working mother. Her busy public relations career kept her away from the home during the day, wanting to relax in the evening and not have to rush around frantically to get dinner on the table she'd prepare many dishes ahead of time. The casserole was the perfect dish. There were many varieties of the casserole - usually they involved a protein, a carbohydrate such as pasta or potato and sometimes a veggie. From Shepherd's Pie, to Chicken Tetrazzini to Tuna Noodle. Mostly they involved a can of condensed soup. They were easy, for the most part fairly healthy and they were delicious. And they tend to yield leftovers. 

      The casserole is enjoying a newfound popularity in my own home. I most recently made a chicken tetrazzini sans Cream of Mushroom soup which is loaded with chemicals and sodium. Chicken stock (I used an organic boxed variety) and some flour as thickener combined with a few herbs, makes an even better and certainly healthier substitute. I love this made with fat egg noodles, but any pasta can be substituted. Most recipes call for some peas but I can't stand overcooked peas, and I make and serve peas on the side  If you want to save a step and don't have cooked chicken on hand, rotisserie chicken works perfectly here.I do not make mine ahead of time and freeze them. I like to make them early in the week and then serve the leftovers (in a new dish) at the end of the week so that the children don't feel like they're having leftovers. Though I must ask - what's wrong with leftovers? I love them! It's a damp and chilly day... Perfect weather for a warm and comforting casserole. 

      • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
      • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, (about 3 ounces)
      • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
      • 1 tbs butter
      • 1 cup chopped onion
      • 1 1/4 cups chopped mushrooms
      • 3/4 pound cooked chicken (or turkey), cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
      • 3 3/4 cups chicken stock
      • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
      • 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
      • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (We ran out and used dried tarragon which tasted great)
      • Ground pepper
      • 12 ounces curly egg noodles, cooked according to package directions

      DIRECTIONS

      1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup cheese, and 3 Season with salt; set aside.

      2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, toss 1 tablespoon butter with onion, mushrooms, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover; cook 3 minutes. Remove lid; cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl; add turkey or chicken. Set aside. In same pan, whisk stock, remaining butter, and flour. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Whisk until thick, 4 to 5 minutes. (It took us a bit longer to thicken) Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice, thyme or tarragon, and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Combine sauce, chicken or turkey, and noodles in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; top with breadcrumbs. Bake until golden and bubbling, 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

      Eggnog Poundcake (The best damned thing you'll bake this holiday!)

      Eggnog Poundcake. Image via The Entertaining House

      Eggnog Poundcake. Image via The Entertaining House

      This is a repost. I share this recipe every year. Every. single. year. Why? Because This is THE best damned pound cake I have ever had. HANDS DOWN. It is the best damned pound cake you will ever have! 

      Your mouth will thank me... your lips will sing... your tastebuds will do the tangoThis is a crowd pleaser.

      Want a raise? Make this for your boss.
      Want to get married? Make this for your boyfriend.
      This makes a lovely hostess gift, teacher gift, and it absolutely, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt must be served on your holiday dessert table. 
      There is nothing like it.

      Nothing.

      IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD.

      I promise you...
      REALLY.
      Leave this for Santa... You'll be sure to get some extra presents!
      It's like magic... pure magic...

      And, if you don't believe, this will make a believer out of you!

      ***

      Equipment
      Stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer and large bowl)
      12-cup Bundt pan or tube pan or two large loaf pans, 6 small loaf pans greased and floured

      Ingredients
      2 sticks unsalted butter
      3 cups (525 g) granulated sugar
      6 eggs
      3 cups (339 g) cake flour
      1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
      1 cup (240 ml) eggnog (I always use light eggnog)
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      2 teaspoon golden rum or rum extract (But you could add more!!)

      Decadent Eggnog Poundcake. Image via The Entertaining House

      Decadent Eggnog Poundcake. Image via The Entertaining House

      Preparation
      1. Preheat oven to 325° F/165° C.
      2. Cut butter into chunks and cream. Gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
      3. Stir together flour and nutmeg. Alternate flour and eggnog: one cup flour, 1/2 cup eggnog, one cup flour, the rest of the eggnog, and then the rest of the flour. Keep the mixer going slowly, scraping down the edges as necessary.
      4. Stir in the vanilla and the rum
      5. Pour into prepared pan(s) and place on the cookie sheet in the preheated oven. Bake for 90 minutes (in bundt pan, 50-60 minutes, loaf pan, 30 minutes cake pan.)
      6. Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
      7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve. Also good with a scoop of ice cream on the side.

      If using mini loaf pans check for doneness after 30 minutes, and then every 5 minutes or so, depending on how high you have filled them and whether you have used them (as I did) in conjunction with a regular sized loaf pan.
      Note: This year I forgot to buy some rum and we'd run out of nutmeg. We omitted the rum and used pumpkin pie spice as well... And we tried out a new bundt pan... We thought it was still AOK!

       

      The only thing you need to bake this holiday season! Eggnog Poundcake. Image via The Entertaining House

      The only thing you need to bake this holiday season! Eggnog Poundcake. Image via The Entertaining House

      Eggnog Poundcake. Image via The Entertaining House

      Eggnog Poundcake. Image via The Entertaining House

      Linguine Carbonara :: A decadent meal in a snap

      Linguine Carbonara - via The Entertaining House

      Linguine Carbonara - via The Entertaining House

      As a child, in the South of France, I had a favorite restaurant. The restaurant was Le Vesuvio and to my surprise and amazement it's still around today. I don't much remember much - it was small, to my recollection, and dimly lit. Located on the tony Croissette in Cannes, Le Vesuvio served up the most wonderful pizzas, but it was their Spaghetti Carbonara that forever stole my heart. It's not something we ate often. But it was one of those meals that was a feast for the senses, decadent and rich, it was as much fun to watch the waiters with their presentation as it was to eat. A large family style bowl would be brought to our table, and upon its arrival the waiter would crack an egg over the top and then promptly mix it in to the piping hot spaghetti thus cooking it on the spot. The presentation was fun if not slightly magical, and I wonder if that was the real reason I adored the dish so. I had not eaten this since my youth until I spied a recipe for it in the New York Times. I had always thought this to be a "forbidden" dish, heavy, rich and decadent like carbonara, and while it is indeed rich, it is a lot less calorie-laden than I expected it to be. And so I decided to give it a try. It was simple to make - In fact it couldn't have been any more simple, which makes it a perfect weeknight meal served with petite pois or a light, green salad.

      The recipe below is adapted from The New York Times.

      • Salt
      • 2 large eggs and 2 large yolks, room temperature
      • 1 ounce (about 1/3 packed cup) grated pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving
      • 1 ounce (about 1/3 packed cup) grated Parmesan
      •  Coarsely ground black pepper
      • 6 slices of bacon, already cooked, and crumbled into small pieces. (Traditional recipe calls for Pancetta.) 
      • 1 box of spaghetti or linguine

      PREPARATION

      1. Place a large pot of lightly salted water (no more than 1 tablespoon salt) over high heat, and bring to a boil. 
      2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and pecorino and Parmesan. Season with a pinch of salt and a generous amount black pepper.
      3. Set the water to boil. 
      4. Add pasta to the water and boil until a bit firmer than al dente, per directions on package.
      5. Meanwhile cook the bacon (The fastest and easiest is in the microwave, about 1 minute per slice. Arrange bacon on a plate with several paper towels underneath the bacon to soak up excess grease.)
      6. When pasta is done drain all but 2-3 tbs of the pasta water and return pasta to the hot pan. Stir in cheese mixture and crumbled bacon.

      Enjoy immediately!

      Dinner Party Inspiration :: Seafood Paella

      Paella Party 101 - The Entertaining House. Image via Half Baked Harvest

      Paella Party 101 - The Entertaining House. Image via Half Baked Harvest

      Paella is like a party in a pot. This seemingly sophisticated one pot meal traces its humble roots to the coastal town of Valencia, Spain in the 1800s. Paella, pronounced pie-aye-yah, is simply a dish consisting of yellow rice and assorted seafood, though the more central regions of the country used meats like sausages, and rabbit. During the 20th Century, this dish began to enjoy a worldwide popularity and as it left the region it became less simple as it started to incorporate a wide range of fish, seafood, meats and sausages. Although I've eaten and enjoyed paella throughout the year, I do love it so in the wintertime as the temperatures start to dip. It's a perfect meal to serve at a dinner party - It's an unexpected and welcome surprise.

      We used to have paella for Boxing Day - a British Holiday that immediately follows Christmas - when my parents came to visit. It was a tradition for many years. After I divorced we simplified the menu when we entertained them. I think it's time we started to enjoy it again!

      There really is no right or wrong way to make paella. There are many recipes with fairly simple cooking instructions that include a fluffy yellow rice - rice that has been infused with ribbons of saffron or, because saffron is so expensive, paprika. The base of the paella is referred to as a sofrito which is a blend of vegetables that have been sauteed in olive oil (similar to a holy trinity or mirepoix.)  Once the sofrito is made, you can add to it what you wish. Popular choices include lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken, rabbit and assorted sausages. You'll often see it cooked with peas, and artichokes that add a woodsy richness to it.  To make this dish a special paella pan is used. It is a fairly shallow dish with medium high sides and two handles and transfers from stove top to oven seamlessly. These pans vary in price and can be found anywhere from under $50 to over $200 dollars. I personally do not see the need to get a really expensive one. This basic version by Lodge should do just fine. 

      The recipe I'm sharing below is adapted from from *The Barcelona Cookbook: A Celebration of Food, Wine, and Life- a family favorite and we savor many of the recipes within its pages. 

      Paella Party 101 - The Entertaining House. Image via Yummly

      Paella Party 101 - The Entertaining House. Image via Yummly

      How to prepare your paella

      Serves 8 - 10

      For the Paella Spice:
      4 tsp ground cumin
      4 tsp sweet smoked paprika
      2 tsp ground turmeric
      2 tsp ground coriander
      1/2 tsp saffron threads

      For the Paella:
      3 red bell peppers cored and coarsely chopped
      3 green bell peppers cored and coarsely chopped
      2 Spanish onions, coarsely chopped
      5 tbs olive oil
      1/4 tbs chopped garlic
      1 tbs tomato paste
      1 cup dry white wine
      3/4 tsp saffron threads
      5 cups of fish, vegetable or chicken stock
      2 1/2 cups of sliced Spanish chorizo
      3 1/2 cups boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into chunks
      Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
      2 1/2 rice (we use brown)
      8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
      18 little neck clams, scrubbed
      20 Prince Edward Island or other high quality mussels, cleaned and scrubbed
      2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
      2 lobster tails and the meat from 4 claws
      Note the seafood choices are optional - for a party to keep prices in check you may want to skip the lobster altogether or perhaps add some more shrimp.

      1. To make the Paella spice place the paprika, cumin, turmeric, coriander and saffron in a spice grinder. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

      2. To make the paella. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the bell peppers and onions until they resemble chunky applesauce. 

      3. In a saucepan set over medium heat, heat the olive oil. When hot enough add 1 tbs of garlic for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Then add the pureed vegetables and paprika and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently as the mixture reaches the simmering point. 

      4. Add the tomato paste, white wine and 1/4 tsp of the saffron threads and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half and the vegetables are tender. Cover and keep the sofrito warm until needed. If not using right away, cover and place in fridge for up to 2 days.

      5. In a large saucepan bring the stock and remaining 1/2 tsp of the saffron threads to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the saffron has colored the stock.

      6. Preheat oven to 450F

      7. Heat the paella pan and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the chorizo and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the fat has been rendered and the sausage browned. 

      8. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and saute for 6-7 minutes, or until lightly browned.

      9. Add the rice, stir well and saute for 2-3 minutes Add the paella spice and stir well. Stir the sofrito into the pan and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat.

      10. Arrange the fish, clams, mussels, lobster, etc in the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer the paella into the over and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 15 more, or longer so that the liquid has evaporated and the rice is tender. 

      11. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the paella and serve.
       

      Paella Party 101 - The Entertaining House. Image via Yes, More Please

      Paella Party 101 - The Entertaining House. Image via Yes, More Please

      What to serve at your Paella party

      Because paella is a fairly rich dish it needs no fancy accoutrement. Serve it on its own and let guests help themselves 2nd and 3rd helpings! You may choose to serve a simple green salad on the side but you'll need nothing else. If you want to offer up little bites for guests to nibble on before dinner, you may do so, but urge them not to fill up before the main meal! Some appetizer type options are: 

      • Garlic Shrimp
      • Roasted Marinated Olives
      • Roasted, salted Marcona almonds with Rosemary
      • Figs
      • Assorted Spanish cheeses such as Cabrales, Manchego, Mahon, and Iberico with thinly sliced pieces of baguette or similar bread
      • Chickpea puree with grilled pita chips
      • Assorted slices of serrano ham, prosciutto or sausage
      • Roasted red peppers drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar
      • Gazpacho shooters

      Which beverages to serve with Paella

      Because the dish is Spanish, it's fun to stick with wines from the same country. Both red and white, as well as rose can be enjoyed with this meal. For those who like a little bubbly, there are several good Cavas to choose from.  For those seeking a lighter white, you may consider an Albarino - pronounced albahrinee-oh. For those who prefer a Pinot Noir, you may opt for a Rioja, pronounced rhee-oh-ha. If you prefer a bolder wine like a Super Tuscan you may choose a Tempranillo (pronounced temp-rah-nee-yo) which range from medium to full-bodies. Or you may opt for a Spanish Rose. You'll local vintner will be able to help you out and walk you through the process. 

      *The Barcelona Restaurants are scattered throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, the Washington DC area and Georgia. Click the link to order The Barcelona Cookbook: A Celebration of Food, Wine, and Life. If you have a hankering for paella but aren't up to making it at home, the restaurants do serve them. In fact, I'm headed to one tonight! 

      Dinner party inspiration for a cold winter's night :: The Raclette

      How to Have a Raclette Party - The Entertaining House

      How to Have a Raclette Party - The Entertaining House

      Raclette is two things. It is a type of cheese as well as a dish native to parts of Switzerland. Raclette is full fat alpine cheese melted and served with potatoes. It's smooth, creamy and rich and melts beautifully. It's also got a much mellower flavor than either Swiss or Jarlsburg, two other Swiss cheeses. 

      Raclette. Image via Elle a Table, France

      Raclette. Image via Elle a Table, France

      There are three ways Raclette is traditionally served. The first, a large round of alpine meadow raclette is cut in half and placed next to a wood burning fire. As the cheese's surface starts to melt, it gets scraped off with a racleur, or scraper, and the melted cheese ends up on a plate. This is the original and traditional Swiss version. There's also an electric heating device that melts the large piece of cheese in lieu of the fireplace. This is known as the restaurant raclette. (See image above) This is quite popular is Swiss restaurants.  Lastly there's a device that the Swiss refer to as the raclonette (though we in the states call a raclette) which is a relatively inexpensive electric table-top grill underneath which there are up to 8 individual, shallow pans, called coupelles.

      On top of the raclette grill you can add your meat and vegetables to cook, and into the coupelles you can place your cheese for melting, or your cheese along with some potato, a slice of bread or cured meat.  The idea behind the raclette dining style is that the food can be enjoyed in a very relaxed manner in a social setting. Raclette parties are such fun and dining can last for hours and should last for hours. They're the perfect cool weather social dining experience - perfect for the holidays and apres ski.

      Raclette machines range anywhere from $50 to $150. The model above is made by Swissmar and runs about $150 and is available from Amazon.

      How to have a Raclette Party:

      Invite some friends. Depending on the size of your raclette you can invite up to 7 people - or, you can purchase a 2nd machine for a larger party. You can tell them about the party ahead of time or not. Either way, most will never have had raclette and this will be a fun experience for them.

      You'll need food. And drink. Lots of drink.

      Have a lot of water on hand, flat and sparkly. Cheese is salty, you'll want your water. 
      Have wine and beer on hand. Both red and white varietals pair perfectly with the raclette.

      While I tend to drink more red than white during the winter months, according to Ile de France Cheese, a "light bodied, dry white wine with ample acidity is an ideal pair for sumptuous raclette. The crispness of the white wine will cut through the creaminess of the cheese, but the dry profile won’t overpower the raclette’s delicate flavors. Try a dry Chenin Blanc or a French white win with your raclette. A low profile red wine can make a splendid pair, depending on how hardy your chosen foods will be. For red wine lovers, a chilled Pinot Noir adds a hint of fruity flavor that’s a great fit with the cheese as well. French burgundy wine is a great."

      But some may prefer beer. Ile de France also suggests a "refreshing light beer... Look for a brew that’s smooth and has limited taste profile that won’t fight the delicate flavors of the raclette. Most low hops, light bears work well, as will several high end beer types. The spicy fruity flavor undertones present in a saison style beer are delicious with raclette. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more robust, try a strong Belgian pale ale, which will have the same effect while packing a more full bodied profile and higher alcohol content. The best bet: Boulevard brewing company makes a saison farmhouse ale that has a crisp profile and fruity notes that provide a nice contrast to raclette. Blue Moon, a flavor-packed American Belgian beer is an excellent pair as well, as is HoeGaarden, a Belgian style wheat beet that has hints of fruity flavor."  

      Now onto the food. It is quite traditional to have small boiled potatoes on which to add the melted cheese.
      You may want to offer up slices of baguette, assorted vegetables such as slices of red, yellow and green peppers, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, squash and cherry tomatoes. Cornichons, tiny, really sour pickles are also a must for this Swiss meal. You can also offer up an assortment of cured meats, as well as uncooked, shrimp, chicken and steak to be cooked on top of the range. Additionally you'll need your raclette cheese! I like to serve up a nice refreshing salad with a simple vinaigrette as an accompaniment because this isn't exactly a light meal!

      As guests sit down walk them through the process, place your wedge of cheese into the little pan. It may take a few minutes to melt. Invite your guests to add their choices to the top of the grill, a few pieces at a time. As your food is ready to pull off, or cheese ready to scrape out, you can replace them as you eat. You can sit around the table for hours so long as the food and wine lasts. Want to add a little more fun? Try a game of Cards Against Humanity - which, warning, is an adult ONLY game! 

      You could use your raclette to make mini grilled cheese sandwiches and set up a sort of grilled cheese bar, as seen in the image below. 

      Image from With Love from Kat

      A raclette would make a lovely Christmas gift for yourself, a friend or family member. It would truly be a gift that would keep on giving.

      Oven Roasted Sugar Pumpkin Bisque

      Oven Roasted Sugar Pumpkin Bisque. The Entertaining House

      Oven Roasted Sugar Pumpkin Bisque. The Entertaining House

      A couple of weeks ago I went on a mini yoga retreat in Cape Cod at The Sea Crest Beach Hotel. I wrote about it here, here and here. While we were there at at the hotel we some some truly amazing meals. I write about and food and restaurants often. I'm not quick to call something good unless it's truly good. I'm not quick to say that something is excellent unless it truly is. I certainly would never say this is probably one of the best soups I have ever had unless I truly meant it. it was so good that I wrote asking, ok, begging, for the recipe. The recipe serves 4 but you might as well go ahead and double it. It's a crowd pleaser and a perfect addition to your fall menu, wether you're enjoying a quiet night at home with your family or hosting a small group of friends for a seasonal get together. This soup is creamy and rich, and although it's called a bisque, save for a sprinkling of goat cheese over the top it's dairy free and quite figure friendly!

      Oven Roasted Sugar Pumpkin Bisque
      Recipe courtesy Sea Crest Hotel
      Recipe yields 4 hearty portions
       
      Ingredients:
      3 pounds peeled, skinned and de-seeded sugar pumpkin flesh
      3 large shallots
      6 cloves garlic
      1 teaspoon chili flakes
      2 bunches fresh thyme
      4 fresh bay leaves
      1 bunch fresh sage
      4 teaspoons soft goat cheese
      3 teaspoons toasted pepitas( hulled pumpkin seeds)
      2 teaspoons pumpkin seed oil
      4 small pumpkins, top and seeds removed
      2 large carrots
      2 stalks celery
      1 each celery root
      2 large parsnips
      1 large Spanish onion
      Sea salt
      Olive oil
      Unsalted butter
      Cinnamon powder
      Fresh cracked black pepper
      ½ gallon chicken stock
       
      Begin by rubbing the inside of the 4 small pumpkins with soft butter and cinnamon, place in 350 degree oven and roast (with covers/tops of pumpkins) cook aprox. 20 minutes or until the pumpkins begin to get color and begin to soften, do not cook until completely cooked thru, these will be used for serving vessels and will need to have strong walls and bottom in order for the soup not to leak out. Reserve and keep warm for serving.
       
      In a large stock pot, begin sautéing the celery, celery root, onions, carrot, garlic in olive oil, when tender add the pumpkin meat , chili flakes and chicken stock( the thyme, sage and bay leave will need to be wrapped in cheese cloth or butchers twine to create a bouquet garni) add the bouquet garni and simmer the soup until all vegetables are fork tender, approximately  45 minutes, then remove the bouquet garni and purée the soup smooth, season with sea salt and cracked pepper, then ladle into roasted pumpkin bowls and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil and crumbled goat cheese, enjoy with a buttery chardonnay.

      Hurry up and make this... You'll thank me later!

       

      The Weekend Baker :: Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti

      image.jpg

      There was a bit of a baking throw-down happening at the house this weekend. As my son was baking his apple pie, recipe here, my daughter wanted to get in on the fun - or just try to outdo her brother. My older two get a little competitive in the kitchen. She opted to make biscotti, which I adore. Biscotti is a twice baked cookie. Most often, here in the States, they're dried out and nearly flavorless. A really good biscotti is dense and somewhat moist - not brittle as so many are accustomed to. This version, with the addition of the white chocolate chips, is rich and rather decadent. With the holidays approaching these make a lovely addition to the dessert selection, hostess or teacher gift.

      Recipe adapted from Epicurious.

      INGREDIENT

      • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
      • 1 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1 1/2 cups sugar
      • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
      • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
      • 1 egg white
      • 3/4 package of high quality chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli
      • 1 cup slivered almonds (optional)

      DIRECTION

      Preheat oven to 350°F.
      Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend.
      Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, 2 eggs and almond extract in large bowl until well blended.
      Mix in flour mixture, then fold in the dried cranberries, white chocolate chips and if desired, the almond slivers.

      Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, shape each piece into 2 1/2-inch-wide, 9 1/2-inch-long, 1-inch-high log.
      Transfer both logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush egg white glaze on top and sides of each log.
      Bake logs until golden brown (logs will spread), about 35 minutes.
      Cool completely on sheet on rack. Maintain oven temperature.
      Transfer logs to work surface. Discard parchment. Using serrated knife, cut logs on diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same sheet.
      Bake 10 minutes; turn biscotti over.
      Bake until just beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Transfer biscotti to rack.
       

      The WeekendBaker :: The Very Best Apple Pie

      The Very Best Apple Pie. The Entertaining House

      The Very Best Apple Pie. The Entertaining House

      There's nothing more American than apple pie. It symbolizes, to me, togetherness, family and autumn. This particular pie was baked by my 14 year old son who had been wanting to bake it for quite some time. We are a family that likes to bake, cook and eat together. We are a small family, my three children and me. We don't have much time together as the children divide their time between their father's home and my own. When want to do something together it must be planned. Spontaneity is not is not often found in our dictionary. A couple of weekends ago my son and I went apple picking. My daughter was home sick nursing a terrible cold and my youngest didn't want to come. Normally I am insistent that we enjoy our family outings together. This is time we have together that is not interfered by the internet and all the electronic devices that rob us of our togetherness. I could have postponed the apple-picking but my 14 year old desperately wanted to go - so that he could make his pie. And so my son and I took off a wonderful afternoon decorated by the most magnificent October foliage. Parents of several children know how hard it is to get that one on one time we crave so much, this is especially hard for single parents. And so, instead of being upset that the other two weren't with us, I saw the day as a wonderful gift and that's what it was. And, just the two of us, we strolled around the orchards and there were no siblings arguing, quarreling, whining. It was our afternoon. Just ours. And we thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end of the day we came home with over 14 pounds of assorted apples. That night he was too exhausted to bake and a busy Sunday came and passed us by. The following weekend the children were at their father's house and it wasn't until last weekend that my son could finally bake his pie. But by that point some of the apples had spoiled and most had been eaten. So we went out and bought some Granny Smiths - our favorites for pie anyhow! My son has made a lot of pies. This has been the best so far. 

      This recipe is a simple one and comes from Fannie Farmer - the cookbook I grew up with an, in my mind, the quintessential New England Cookbook. She suggested it be served with a slice of cheddar cheese or a spoonful of whipped cream. We're an a la mode family. Only the best vanilla will do!

      It should be noted that our pie crust was purchased. We are partial to Pilsbury. It can be found in the refrigerated section by the cookie dough, biscuits and such.

      Ingredients

      3/4 - 1 cup of sugar. (We used 3/4)
      1/2 tsp salt
      1 tsp cinnamon
      1/2 tsp nutmeg
      1 1/2 tsp flour
      6-8 large apples, peeled, and sliced
      2 tbs butter
      1 egg

      Directions

      Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
      Line a pie tin with half of the pastry dough. 
      Mix the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour in a large bowl.
      Core,  peel and slice the apples.
      Toss the apples into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Coat well.
      Pile them on to the lined pan and dot with the butter.
      Beat the egg to use as an egg wash
      Roll out the top crust and crimp the edges.
      Add egg wash to the top crust.  Make several cuts in the dough to allow air to vent.
      Bake 10 minutes.
      Lower heat to 350 and bake 30-40 more minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced and the dough is lightly browned.