Monday, December 22, 2014

Handmade Holidays

          A few days ago my hubby and I decided to have a neighborhood dinner......a get-together after the main event just to relax and reflect. I have been baking for the past few weeks and before I put that mammoth mixer under the cabinet, I decided one more bowl full of goodness into the oven!
          Simona, from Briciole is hosting a handmade gift idea page and this is my contribution. Inside the wrapped packages, banana-nut bread. The recipe is one from Martha Stewarts "Baking Handbook" I received as a gift years ago. This recipe never fails, loaded with goodness and is the perfect sweet bread this time of year. On the back of the Merry, Merry cards I wrote our invitation to the dinner. The bread was baked early enough in the day so I could deliver these packages for my guests to enjoy with a cup of coffee or hot tea!

           "Happy Holidays" to my blogger friends and your family~I wish we lived closer so I could have delivered a treat to you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Scenes from our Simply French Tour ~ 2014

 As many of you already know, I own a boutique touring company that caters to women only. Not that I have anything against men, but occasionally gals just want to travel by themselves or with close friends. We are unique as we only take six guests on each trip. All one has to do is show up and the rest is taken care of..... It is a Four Star trip all the way! These are photos from the October trip to Paris and into the countryside, south of Paris ~

                                                           A walk down the Champs Elysees

                                             A lovely drive in the countryside~yes, flowers blooming in the fall!

                            Beautiful drives through the countryside and lots of history lessons!

                                                                 French garden touring

                                            Visiting as many Chateaux as we possible can!

                             You are looking at fresh celery.......huge stalks and luscious color!

                           This is one of the rooms where my guests stay ~simply enchanting!

                              We were able to do wine tastings and get into the vineyards for a first hand look!

 And then we did a little cooking~hoping to remember all the special techniques we were taught!

 Nothing as breathtaking as French floral arrangements!

We spent time at local markets, enjoying the crowds, the flowers, foods and the little critters! Ahhh!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday morning brunch ~ Brioche with eggs and mushrooms.

A delicious recipe adapted from La Cuisine Paris. Easy and fun to prepare! Serves four.

Whipped cream with juice of mushrooms and truffle salt.

Recipes as follows:
 You will need 1 loaf of brioche type bread, sliced thick, located in bakery section of grocery store. Also, 4 eggs, 2 cups of seasonal mushrooms, sliced, 1 clove of garlic chopped fine, 1 bunch of parsley chopped..... save some for decoration, 1/2 cup of whipping cream, 4 T. of butter, some truffle salt and pepper.

 Clean mushrooms and parsley. Chop garlic and 2 T. parsley.

Without adding butter, quickly saute mushrooms. Save any liquid from the pan and set aside.

 When mushrooms are almost cooked, now add 2 T. of butter, garlic, parsley and gently saute.

Whip the cream until foamy. Keep beating the cream and now add the truffle salt and pepper. Set aside.

Take 4 pieces of the brioche and with a cookie cutter, remove the center. Save this circle of bread.

Heat the remaining 2T. of butter in a frying pan: add brioche slices and now crack the eggs in the center and cook for 2 minutes on each side, flipping over gently with spatula.
 Place each egg filled brioche on a cookie sheet and put in a hot oven at 350  degrees for 2 minutes.
Serve immediately and top with whipped cream. Pour a little juice from mushrooms on top of whipped cream. Add brioche circle and parsley.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall Tuscan Beans with Spinach and Pesto

Adding spinach and simmering until liquid is reduced by half.


2 Tbsp. of olive oil, heated in large frying pan
3/4 cup of chopped onion
2 cloves, small, of minced garlic
2 cans of white Cannellini Beans, 15 oz. size - use the juice
1 jar of sliced mushrooms or use 10 oz. of fresh ones
3 large handfuls of spinach
6 oz. of prepared pesto, 1/4 cup of white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese for serving
1/2 cup of vegetable broth

Heat oil and add onions, cook until clear. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until softened. Add wine. Cook down until half of the liquid is reduced to a level which you prefer to eat. I don't like mine too runny.
Add the vegetable broth and the beans. After the beans are heated, add the pesto, stir well and add  spinach. It does not take very long to wilt the spinach. Season with the salt and pepper and top with grated cheese.

Recipe adapted from Wegmans

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Peas at their best

Fresh Cooked Peas

Blended with a dash of Creme Fraiche


3 T. unsalted butter
5 cups or around 2 lbs. of fresh peas or frozen~do not thaw before cooking
1 cup chopped sweet onion
3 cups of vegetable broth or more~depending how thick you want it
11/2 t. salt
1/2 t.pepper
Creme Fraiche for topping and maybe a few croutons

In a large saucepan, heat the butter and add the onion. Cook the onion until clear in color and tender. Add the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 5 minutes or until the peas are tender. Add the salt and pepper.
Cool for five minutes. Puree the mixture in small increments until all the mixture is used. Top with Creme Fraiche and maybe some croutons, if desired. Season to taste. Serve hot. Serves 6

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pear Clafouti~Summertime dessert.

Pear Clafouti

Seems this time of year I am forever looking for an easy, simple and delicious dessert and this one ranks right up there on the top of my list. Any type of fruit could be used. Most of the time this recipe is made with cherries, in season, which is the traditional French way. However, since I had two fresh pears waiting to be used, I could not think of a better way of putting them to use.

Use 1 tablespoon of soft butter to grease a 9 or 10 x 11/2 inch round pan. I used a decorative dish  which worked very well.
Sprinkle the bottom and sides of the dish with sugar and set aside.

Preheat your  oven to 375.

Beat 3 large eggs, room temperature and add 1/3 cup of sugar and beat with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Now on a lower speed, add 6 T. of flour, 11/2 cups of heavy cream (whipping cream) 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let this mixture rest for 5 minutes.

Peel your two pears or you can add another if you like. Two will do the job nicely! Slice the pears and in a single layer, place in the bottom of the baking dish. I just fanned mine out a little for design. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is a golden brown. Make sure the custard is set before removing from oven. You may need to place a piece of tin foil on top of the mixture to complete the baking time and preventing it from getting too brown. Bake 35-40 minutes. Serve warm for best results!
This is so easy and delicious! Sprinkle with powdered sugar for effect!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Making Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

The biggest hurdle was just getting the fresh cows milk~ this included a one hour drive.... but very well worth it!

Carefully stirring and adding the rennet at the proper time~blew the first batch! At 10$ a gallon, that hurts! Must read and follow directions very carefully! I could absolutely kick myself for reading too fast!

Added some fresh basil and parsley from my herb patch.

Final touch was adding some delicious balsamic vinegar and olive oil from some of the friends we visit while on my Tuscan tour.....all I needed for dinner tonight! So worth the drive and effort! There are tons of recipes on line~this recipe is from a class I took last week in Tampa. They are all so similar......

Friday, April 04, 2014

Pecan Meringue Torte

A family recipe from the Mumford side of the family.We certainly have had some great cooks- actually from both sides!  My daughter and her husband are joining in the ranks as well!  This is one of my favorites!

You can add any type of fresh fruit that you prefer. I used strawberries as they are still in season here in Florida. Raspberries are fabulous in this recipe!

The recipe is so easy~                                                        

1 cup of sugar, 4 egg whites, 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon of almond extract, 1 cup of finely chopped pecans, 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 cup of fresh fruit and powdered sugar for dusting after it is filled and assembled.

Beat the egg whites until foamy and add the sugar slowly. Add the vinegar and the almond extract. Continue beating until egg whites are very stiff.
 Butter and flour 2 8 inch cake pans. ( I also lined wax paper on the bottom of my pans for easy removal.)

Fold in the pecans gently into the whipped eggs. Divide the egg mixture into 2 pans and smooth the filling out in the pans. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes. Let the meringues cool completely before removing from pans.

Whip the cream with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Fold in fruit and spread over the cooled meringue base. After adding whipped cream mixture, top with the remaining meringue. Press down firmly. Sprinkle with powered sugar. Cut in wedges and serve with some extra fruit on the side.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Bringing back the past

This is a photo I took seven years ago in the very early stages of my food blogging. This photo has always been one of my favorites, so simple and yet taking on the true form of the cabbage and its many uses along with hearty recipes. I took the picture outside on my patio, placing the cabbage on my grill cover. Imagine that! Instant back drop!

Today, however, I was inside my kitchen photographing as well as reading over a few recipes and came across a cabbage and mushroom stir-fry combination. It looked very easy and I liked the caloric count, practically nothing! No need to run to the grocery as I had the mushrooms and cabbage in the veggie bin. Mushrooms were ready to be used....and already sliced! I measured out two cups of mushrooms.

In this photo, I have coarsely chopped two cups of cabbage~not much effort here....

I used my large skillet and added three tablespoons of olive oil and a half teaspoon of chopped fresh garlic.The stir-fry process lasted about seven minutes. I like my veggies a bit crunchy, so it all depends on how tender you like yours as to how long you will need to cook the cabbage and mushrooms. Serve immediately while steaming hot!

There it is~it couldn't be easier ! Sometimes, less is more~very few ingredients for a delicious side, if you happen to like cabbage. Salt and pepper to taste. For a little zing, I sprinkled on some ground red pepper.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Loire Valley's Goat Cheese

I have been busy preparing a little cheese information for our next tour in France and thought I would introduce this truncated pyramid shape to my guests.
 Last week I was in Marky's, located in Miami and found one of my favorite goat cheese items for sale! This is produced by Fromagerie Jacquin, located in the Loire region. The family has been producing goat cheese for over sixty five years.  Two generations continue to keep this delicate tasting cheese in production with shipping connections all over the world. Fresh milk is collected thirty miles around the dairy from fifty local farms whose average herd is around one hundred and fifty goats. Remarkable passion and tradition, along with the highest level of quality control, keep the supplies coming to customers today, even in Florida!

The story begins, and there are several, about Napoleon Bonaparte having a dinner party one evening in the countryside with his interior minister, a man named Talleyrand. Napoleon comments on the tall pointed pyramid shape and mentioned to his friend it reminded him of his military campaign in Egypt  and this is what we see today. A more exciting version tells the story that Napoleon took out his sword and chopped off the tops of the cheese right there at dinner in a fit of rage. The sight of these little shapes brought back memories of his humiliation in battle. He was extremely angered at anything remotely connected with Egypt. Afterwards, cheese makers in France were required to create the shape as Napoleon demanded, no pointed tops! I tend to go with the latter~I think he was a sore loser.

Regardless about the origin of this story and how the cheese got the shape, these short pyramids have become a classic symbol, meaning chevre  and a delicious form of goat cheese.