Sunday Thoughts ~ January 19, 2020

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” ~ Proverbs 16:24

“They can be like the sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.” ~ Juan de la Cruz

 

Good Sunday morning, sweet souls.  I do hope you have enjoyed a lovely week.  As you know, on Sunday mornings I try to share something meaningful as well as beautiful.  For me, I often find beauty in words as well as images.  And, I try to keep the post short as I do know everyone’s time is precious.  Sunday’s can be busy days.

So, today I leave you with the lovely thoughts of Juan de la Cruz, about words.  Doesn’t it bring you joy to think something you may say to someone would touch their heart like sunshine on a field of sunflowers?  It certainly does me. 

“They can be like the sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.”  ~ Juan de la Cruz

 

Know, I so appreciate your visit.

And…

In the week ahead, may your heart be touched by the ‘sun.’

Wishing you and yours a beautiful day.

Amour,

Sandra

“I believe in you. Words that water flowers.” ~ Michael Faudet

 

Image:   via tumblr

 

At Table ~ With Frank Stitt

“One of the primary ways we connect with each other is by eating together.  Some of the connection happens simply by being in the same place at the same time and sharing the same food, but we also connect through specific actions, such as serving food to one another or making toasts:  “May I offer you some potatoes?”  “Here’s to your health and happiness.”  Much of our fundamental well-being comes from the basic reassurance that there is a place for us at the table.  We belong here.  Here we are served and we serve others.  Here we give and receive sustenance.  No small matter.” ~ Edward Espe Brown

Good morning, dear friends and welcome to the January post of ‘At Table.’  Today, I want to share a few recipes from Chef, Frank Stitt and what I know about this hard-working and successful man. (You will want to find your coffee and prop up your feet for this one.)  Stitt, co-owner of four winning restaurants and the author of two cookbooks, was mentioned in one of my early ‘At Table’ posts (September, 2019, visit here)

File:Frank Stitt.jpg

Frank Stitt, who is considered by many, as the Godfather of southern cuisine, was born in 1954 in Cullman Alabama.  His father was a surgeon and his mother was known as one of the best cooks in town.  Stitt developed early on, a taste for what he refers to as “the almost spiritual experience” of eating fresh, farm-raised foods.  This special taste came from the time he spent on his grandparent’s farm.  The farm was a place where Jersey cows and chickens roamed and large vegetable gardens, strawberry and asparagus patches provided abundant fresh goodness.   

After graduating from high school he spent a year in Europe and then began college at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.  After a couple of years, he transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, as a philosophy major. He developed an interest in cooking through the philosophical essays on food by authors such as Richard Olney.  And, while in Berkeley he worked part-time for Alice Waters at her landmark restaurant, Chez Panisse.  Food had now captured his thoughts and he made the decision to leave his studies for the kitchen. 

In 1977, just a few months before he was to graduate, Alice Waters gave him a letter of introduction to Richard Olney.  He flew to London to meet Olney and was hired as Olney’s assistant.  And, as the saying goes ~ “The rest is history.”  

Olney quickly recognized Stitt’s passion for good food and his interest in learning the French way of cooking.  Under the guidance of Olney, he mastered the art of traditional French style cooking.  During his time in France, Olney also introduced him to other notable chefs and food writers such as Julia Child, Jeremiah Tower, and Simone Beck.  But, Stitt’s interest in cooking and food did not stop here.  While continuing to work as Olney’s assistant, he met with many chefs, took on menial jobs at local farms, and worked harvesting grapes in a vineyard at Draguignan in the Côtes de Provence near St.-Tropez.  It was here in France, he began working on his ideas for marrying Southern foods with French cooking styles which would set in place the tone for his famous restaurant,  the Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama. 

 

 

“Those traditions that I learned about through my grandmother’s farm and being at my grandparents’ farm table… I think that those are the things that I feel, as a chef and a Southern chef, somewhat obligated to preserve, to talk about, and find out the best most wonderful salient things and to pass those on.” ~ Frank Stitt

Following his wonderful year working with Olney in the South of France, Stitt spent a few months living and studying Italian cooking in Florence.  After which, he was ready and anxious to return to the United States and open his own restaurant.  Clearly, he could have done so in any major city of the United States.  However, he made a decision which took many by surprise.  The lure of “Sweeet Home Alabama” was great and so, he returned to his roots, deciding upon lovely Birmingham as his destination.  In November 1982, the acclaimed Highlands Bar and Grill opened. The restaurant is recognized for blending traditional Southern recipes with French techniques.

Addressing the staff at Highlands before the evening rush.“To understand the genius of the godfather of Southern cuisine, you need to spend a day in the kitchen with him.” ~ Charles Gaines

While Frank Stitt, is the co-owner and executive chef of Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega Restaurant, Bottega Cafe, and Chez Fon Fon, all in Birmingham, Alabama. He is also a mentor to other young chefs.  Stitt has a long list of accomplished chefs that have worked for him and now have their own restaurants. He considers this more important than any of his awards.  

And speaking of awards, included among Stitt’s many culinary awards are the most prestigious recognitions of the James Beard Foundation’s induction into “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage” and winner of “Best Chef in the Southeast.”   And, the Highlands Bar and Grill was selected as the winner of the “Outstanding Restaurant in America” award in 2018.  Stitt has also been extremely involved with locally grown farm products, which has made a huge impact on the area’s local food movement.

 

 

“We want this to be a respite for our guests…we want this to be a place of beauty and of rest and peace. So, if we can create a little happiness in someone’s day, that’s really what we strive for.” ~ Pardis Stitt

Before I close, I must tell you about someone else who is most important to Frank Stitt.  And that is his wife, Pardis.  Married since 1995, Pardis focuses her attention on the ‘front-of-house’ operations.  She is known for her charm and attention to detail, which many say is evident from the moment you walk into the restaurant.  One is immediately seduced by the warm and inviting atmosphere.  According to Frank Stitt, “Without her, the Highlands is not the Highlands.”  

Frank and Pardis Stitt

“This was a natural relationship for us. I mean this is not something~it’s not a contrived situation. It’s just, this is our life.” ~ Pardis Stitt

 

 

“Our food tells us where we came from and who we have become…”  ~ Bill Neal

Have I had the marvelous opportunity of visiting any of Frank and Pardis Stitt’s outstanding restaurants?  The answer is no, but I certainly hope to.  However, I know there are fellow bloggers who have enjoyed this lovely pleasure and one is Pam of  “Everyday Living”   Actually, Pam lives close enough to visit often ~ such a lucky girl.

 

 

And now,  finally what you have been waiting for ~ a few of Chef Stitt’s recipes.  Listed below are a few favorites.  I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Stitt’s book, Southern Table.

From Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Spicy Baked Oysters with Caramelized Onions
Serves 4

This is so simple, yet there is an almost magical explosion on the palate when briny oysters collide with sweet onions, salty pork and spicy hot chile. Cover the oysters with the caramelized onions and treat everything else with discretion, adjusting the amounts to suit your own taste. Less is more. More is dangerous.”

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, quartered and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rock salt for serving
24 oysters (such as Apalachicola, bluepoint, Pemaquid, Chesapeake or Malpeque) shucked and left in the bottom shells
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
Coarsely ground dried hot chile or cayenne pepper to taste
6 or 7 very thin slices pancetta, cut into 24 1-1/2-inch squares, or 6 slices bacon, preferably center-cut, cut into 4 pieces each
1 cup medium-coarse bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Make a bed of rock salt on a baking sheet and arrange the oysters on top. Top each with a little of the sautéed onion-just enough to cover. Place a teaspoon of butter and a good pinch of chile on each, then top with a square of pancetta (or bacon) and a scattering of bread crumbs to finish.

Bake until the pancetta is slightly crispy, the bread crumbs golden and the oysters heated through, 10 to 12 minutes.

 

 

Grilled Figs with Country Ham, Walnuts, and Lemon-Mint Cream – Serves four.

Notes from Stitt: “Richard Olney was the inspiration for this dish. He loved figs more than any other fruit and was especially fond of their affinity with cured ham. The lightly charred and salty flavor of grilled prosciutto is in perfect contrast with the sweetness of the warm and tender fig. When making this simple recipe, use only the freshest ingredients: perfectly ripe figs, the finest prosciutto, and new-crop walnuts. The smoky ham combined with the just-beginning-to-warm, plump fig is one of the sexiest bites ever.”  
The Sauce:  Juice from 1 1/2 lemons, 1/2 cup heavy cream, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, a handful of mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish.
To prepare the sauce, finely chop the mint leaves and place in a mortar. Add the lemon juice and pound to a paste with the pestle (or mash into a paste with a wooden spoon in a small bowl.) Strain into a medium bowl, add the cream, salt, and pepper and stir to incorporate. (The acidity of the lemon juice will thicken the cream.)
The Figs

8 ripe Black Mission figs

16 walnut halves

16 very thin slices prosciutto*

4 fig leaves for serving (optional)

*Note: Do not be tempted to remove the flavorful fat from the prosciutto. The perfect slice of prosciutto has one edge with some of the white fat left intact.

Prepare a hot grill.

To prepare the figs. Halve the figs and place a walnut half on the cut side of each. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each fig half, only slightly overlapping the ends.

Grill the figs, add garnish and serve. Char the figs on the hot grill for about 30 to 45 seconds per side. The figs should be just warmed through and the prosciutto crisp in parts. Place the figs on small plates or a platter, atop the fig leaves if using, and serve with a bowl of the mint cream. Garnish with sprigs of mint on the side.

 

Corn Bread ~ From Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising yellow cornmeal (or substitute 2 cups regular cornmeal plus 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup buttermilk

Scant 1/2 cup rendered bacon fat, 7 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, or scant 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or a mixture)

1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Preheat an 8- to 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the hot oven.  Place the cornmeal and flour in a large bowl and stir in the milks a little at a time, mixing with a large wooden spoon. The batter will be quite loose.  Meanwhile, add the bacon fat to the preheated skillet, return it to the oven, and heat until the fat is very hot, about 5 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the oven. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the hot fat into the cornmeal mixture and stir to combine. Add the egg and stir to combine. Pour the cornmeal mixture into the hot skillet and immediately place it in the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and unmold. Serve hot.

 

*And, last but certainly not least, my most favorite.  There isn’t aren’t enough good things I can say about this recipe.  You absolutely must give it a try!

Frank Stitt’s Shrimp and Stone-Ground Fontina Grits

Ingredients
2 Tbls. butter
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup minced green onion
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
2 tsp. minced fresh chives
1 pound peeled and deveined medium  fresh shrimp
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, softened
Stone-Ground Fontinia Grits (recipe follows)
Garnish,  fresh dill, fresh thyme, chopped fresh chives, and sliced green onion
Preparation:
In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbls. butter over medium-high heat.  Add shallot, green onion, and red bell pepper;  cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Add tomatoes, thyme, and chives; cook, stirring constantly, for 22 minutes.  Add shrimp, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until shrimp begin to turn pink.  Remove pan from heat, and spoon mixture into a large bowl, cover and keep warm.  Add wine and lemon juice to skillet.  Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture is reduced by half.  Remove skillet from heat.  Whisk in butter, 1 Tbls. at a time, whisking until butter is melted after each addition.  Return shrimp mixture to skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until shrimp are pink and firm.  Divide shrimp mixture evenly among serving bowls.  Using a small knife, unmold grits on top of each serving.  Garnish with dill, thyme, chives, and green onion if desired.

5 cups chicken broth

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup stone-ground yellow grits – you definitely want stone-ground

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups shredded fontina cheese

In a medium Dutch oven, bring broth and salt to a boil.  Slowly add grits, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.  Add cream, and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 20 minutes or until grits are very thick.  Stir in cheese.  Spoon grits mixture evenly into buttered ramekins,  let stand 30 minutes or until set.

 

 

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed your visit ‘At Table,’ and will try some or all of Chef Stitt’s recipes. Although this post is rather long, please understand, there was much more I could have shared. Frank and Pardis Stitt are amazing people.  A post could be written just about Pardis, her many accomplishments, contributions to the community, and her Persian background. (She and her family immigrated to the United States before the Islamic Revolution of 1979.) But most of all, I could not in good conscience, have shared Frank Stitt’s recipes without telling you a little about him.

 

Know I thank you for your visit. 

And…

I wish you happy times in the kitchen and beautiful moments ~ ‘At Your Table.’

 

“Yes!” he said. “That’s what we’re all after ~ a place that makes people feel good, that gives them a respite from all the horrors of the world with the happiness and comfort of good food. That’s the Holy Grail.” ~ Frank Stitt

Bon Appétit,

Sandra

 

 

Images:  Highlands Bar and Grill.com, tumblr, and Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ Anonymous Gifts

“If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that~warm things, kind things, sweet things…”~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
     Good morning sweet souls.  My ‘Sunday Thoughts’ today are about the joys and blessings of anonymous giving.
     We all have learned many important lessons from our dear mothers, haven’t we?  The other day, when I was preparing a pot of soup, I began thinking of my mom and how she enjoyed making soup.  We always had soup in the winter and lots of it.  And, if mom knew of a neighbor or friend who was not feeling well, you can be sure they were about to receive ‘love in a jar’ ~ her soup.
    The soup, however, was not delivered in an ordinary manner.  Mom would ladle the soup into one of her quart canning jars, put a lid on it and attach a note.  On one side of the note, it told the type of soup and on the other side it read, “Feel better soon.”  It was my job to write the note, as mom’s handwriting was extremely recognizable.  Then, she would send me on my way to deliver her lovely concoction, always with the instructions, “Knock, run and don’t let them see you!” 
Mom's classic recipe makes a great gift and looks tasty in a quart jar wrapped with a flour-sack towel and seasonal ribbon. Wrap with a kitchen towel and ribbon, and tuck in a basket with a warm loaf of bread for a cozy, comforting food gift.
     Early on, in my “knock and run” missions, I asked mom why she didn’t sign the card and why she didn’t want anyone to see me.  Her answer, “It isn’t important for them to know the source of their jar of love, it is simply important they receive it, feel loved and get better.”  Receiving a ‘thank you’ was not important to mom.  My lesson ~ good deeds don’t always require recognition.  
“Loving service anonymously given may be unknown to man ~ but the gift and the giver are known to God.” ~ Thomas S. Manson

“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” ~ Mother Teresa

    Throughout the years, I went on many “knock and run” missions and delivered a wide assortment of goodies, and countless loads of blooms.  And, if the truth was known, I rather imagine many of the recipients knew the origin of their delivery.  It was fun to go on these missions and the goodness of my dear mom’s heart came back to us many times over.  But, isn’t that the way it always works?  God sends his “love letters to the world” by way of giving souls with huge hearts.  And, He rewards them abundantly.

♥

Dear friends, many thanks for your visit.  Know, I am wishing you and yours a day of peace and love.  

And…

May your week ahead be filled with everything good and wonderful.  

 

“Scatter Joy” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Amour,

Sandra

 

Note:  Images, tumblr and Pinterest

 

Sunday Thoughts ~Beauty, January 5, 2020

“Beauty is the shadow of God on the universe.” ~ Gabriela Mistral

Winter

Good morning, beautiful souls.  As this is my first post of the new year, I thought it might be good to share a little history of this blog, especially for those who may be new to Maison de Jardin.  Maison de Jardin (The Garden House) is actually the name of our home and is the name I chose for the blog. For those who have become treasured blogging friends and for my dear friends who know me personally, you know this blog stemmed (January 29, 2017 ~visit here,)  from my love of beauty and the desire to share my passion and hopefully inspire others.  Others, who may not have noticed all the beauty around them, or perhaps those who needed a gentle nudge to create beauty in and around their own homes.  Being aware of this, and recognizing the magnificence around us, makes such a difference in our daily lives.

tect0nic: “ Cold Winter day at the creek by Berndt Sjosten via 500px. ”

“There is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty.” ~ Joseph Addison

We feel differently, stress leaves, we breathe better, and our hearts are happier when we stand in awe for just a moment enjoying something beautiful. The ‘something beautiful’ can be a single bloom, a wonderful rainbow, sunrise or sunset, or a child messy from the strawberry patch.  If it touches your heart, most likely it is asking you to ‘pay attention.’

The same holds true when we read exquisite words of wonderfully talented souls.  I am always inspired, and a little overwhelmed, when I read something marvelous from someone who lived in another time and another world. It always increases my awareness to ‘pay attention.’   

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dear friends, thank you for your visit.  Know, I wish you and yours a beautiful and peaceful day.
And…
In the week ahead, may the angels guide you to the glorious beauty in your world.  

Amour,

Sandra

Beauty hath strange power. “ ~ John Milton

 

Images: via tumblr

Sunday Thoughts ~ December 29, 2019

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ~ Fred Rogers

Good morning, beautiful souls.  I do hope you had a wonderful Christmas, made memories to cherish, and ate way too much.  Most of all, I hope it was peaceful.  Christmas was a little smaller at our home this year, but it was wonderful, full of sparkle and spice, and ever so peaceful.

This time of year always finds me thinking of the New Year and wondering what it will bring.  Perhaps, it finds you thinking along those lines as well.  My prayers for the New Year are many, but my top two are ~ peace and a kinder world.  And as we go about our daily rounds, we must never underestimate the power of the ripple effect from our kindness.  Because, we never know how far the ripple may travel, who or what it may inspire, nor the profound impact it can have.  So, I will leave you today, sending love and the words of Zero Dean.  He expresses my sentiments perfectly.

May the new year bring you an abundance of amazing opportunities, beautiful moments, and joyful experiences.  May your positive actions and attitude inspire others.  May you be brave enough to take on and overcome rewarding challenges.  May you find yourself in high spirits and excellent health.  May you love with all your heart and find peace in even the most turbulent of times.  May the love you give always find its way back to you multiplied.  And may you forever be filled with the hope and strength necessary to make your dreams a reality. ” ~ Zero Dean 

 

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier’ … ~ Alfred Tennyson

 

Dear friends, thank you so much for your visit and know how grateful I am for each of you. 

Wishing you and yours a Healthy and Happy New Year!

Amour,

Sandra

 

 

Notes:  Images, via tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday ~”Christmas is Forever”~ December 22, 2019

“Christmas is forever, not for just one day. For loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away.” ~ Norman Wesley Brooks
*

Good morning, beautiful souls.  Ready or not, Christmas is here. These are the few days I most enjoy during the season, other than Christmas Day.  There is a calm that seems to take over our home.  It is during this time, I count my many blessings and enjoy the beauty and perfect peace of the season.  

“Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.” ~ Ruth Carter Stapleton

Christmas is a time to share our blessings with others.  My dear mom instilled in me, “Always always to think of others and to share what I had, however small or large it may be.” It is true, isn’t it?  When we give love to others, especially those less fortunate, we celebrate Christmas.  

“The heart benevolent and kind, the most resembles God.” ~ Robert Burns

“Long before silver bells jingled, Christmas lights twinkled, and horse-drawn sleighs went dashing through the snow, God reached down from heaven with the best gift of all. Love, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Hope, nestled in a manger.” ~ Liz Curtis HiggS See notes at the end of this post for information and source on this painting.

Perhaps, hope is one of the most beautiful and wonderful gifts of Christmas.  The hope for a kinder and better world.  The hope for peace.  The hope for cures to dreadful diseases and the list goes on.  But mostly, I hold great hope in the words of Frederick Buechner. 

“What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us.”

Dear friends, as always, thank you so much for your visit.  Know, I am wishing you and yours a most beautiful Christmas.

And…

In the New Year, may we all “keep the wild hope of Christmas alive.”

  

Joyeux Noël,

Sandra

Notes:  images via tumblr and Pinterest

The image of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus is titled:  Sleep in Heavenly Peace, it is by Mark Missman.

It is from Pinterest

 

 

At Table ~ December, 18, 2019

“Laughter is brightest where food is best.” ~ Irish Proverb

*

Merry Christmas, dear friends.  And, welcome to December’s ‘At Table.’  Today I am sending a few recipes I have used over and over throughout the years.   Perfect for a lovely dinner shared with a few close friends or a romantic dinner for two. I promise you, warm hearts and big smiles from anyone seated ‘At Your Table.’  So, let’s begin.

“There is no such thing as good cuisine if it is not prepared out of friendship.” ~ Paul Bocuse

The first recipe is courtesy of Julia Child.  Now, while I do not claim in any way to be a master chef, I did something different to this recipe and I would urge you to go with my version.  I use chicken broth instead of water.  It adds so much flavor.  This soup is a lovely beginning to the meal.

Cream of Leek and Potato Soup

3 cups sliced leeks, white and tender green parts (about 3 nice size leeks)

3 cups peeled and roughly chopped baking potatoes, like russets

6 cups water

11/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream 

salt and pepper to taste

fresh chives for garnish

Directions:  In a large heavy saucepan, bring the leeks, potatoes, water, and a little salt to the boil over high heat. Cover partially, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Puree with a handheld immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor or regular blender.  Taste for seasonings.  This can now cool.

Whisk in the cream and reheat before serving. Top each serving with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh chives.

 

Virginia Crab Imperial  

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

dash of white pepper

2 pounds of backfin crabmeat (yes, you read the amount correctly)

4 Tbls. chopped pimento

2 1/4 cups mayonnaise

1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350.  Beat the eggs with mustard and pepper.  Add crabmeat, pimento and 2 cups of mayonnaise.  Spoon mixture into a 2-quart casserole and spread 1/4 cup mayonnaise over the top.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly brown and bubbly.  Serves 8 – However, after tasting everyone will want a second helping.  

There is a note on this recipe that reads, “Guests may well prefer this to dessert!”  This recipe is from the Virginia Hospitality Cookbook and was published in 1975.  I have made it so many times, I no longer need the recipe.  At the end of the meal, the casserole dish is always empty.

 

Spinach Mushroom Salad

1 1/2 lbs. fresh spinach

1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms ( I use baby portabellas)

1/2 cup salad oil

 3 Tbls. white wine vinegar  

1 Tbls. grated onion (I do finely chopped onion)

 2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

Fresh ground pepper

4 slices bacon ~ cooked and crumbled

Directions:  Remove stems from spinach.  Wash and drain.  Tear into bite-size pieces.  Rinse mushrooms in cold water, drain and slice them.  Combine salad oil, vinegar, onion, mustard, salt, sugar, and pepper in a jar.  Shake well.  Combine spinach mushrooms and dressing in serving salad bowl.  Toss until well coated.  Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.  Note:  This recipe is from the Virginian Pilot and Ledger Star ~ Norfolk, VA (early 1970’s.)

If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” ~ Julia Child

Finally, dessert.  As it is the holiday season, I am sending you something dreadfully sinful for dessert, but I do believe you will thank me.  I can already hear the ooh’s and aah’s.  I watched Ina Garten make this recipe several years ago and I made it shortly after watching her show.  It is wonderful, to say the least.  And, a perfect holiday cake.

Sticky Toffee Date Cake

2 teaspoons baking soda

8 ounces butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 1/4 tablespoons baking powder

 Sauce 

1/2 pound butter (at room temperature)  Note:  I take this out of the refrigerator the night before baking.

1 cup brown sugar (8 ounces)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for serving

 

Directions:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch-round cake pans or 20 muffin tins (I use baking spray with flour).

Place the dates in a large saucepan with 3 1/2 cups of cold water. Bring to boil, stirring a little to break up the dates. Then leave to simmer for 1 minute before removing from the heat. Stir in the baking soda (which will cause the mixture to bubble up).

Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, occasionally scraping down mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract and then the flour and salt and mix briefly to give a lumpy dough.

Next, add the warm date mixture in two batches. Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between mixing. The dough will now be quite watery but don’t worry! Finally, add the baking powder (this will bubble up also).

Pour the batter evenly into the two pans or muffin tins. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes for cake pans and about 20 minutes for muffin tins. Test if they are cooked with a small knife or toothpick, it should come out clean when cakes are done.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, combine the butter, brown sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer gently for a minute or two until thickened and well blended.

When the cakes are done, poke little holes all over with a toothpick, this will enable the sauce to be absorbed more easily. Pour the caramel sauce over cakes while both are still warm and leave to soak for about 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out upside-down onto serving plates (the bottom is the most sticky bit!).

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  And, if luck is with you there will be one remaining cake to enjoy.

Note:  I have never made this cake in muffin pans.  

“We cook to preserve the recipes of our grandmothers.” ~ Anthony Bourdain

image

Dear friends, I hope you have enjoyed being ‘At Table’ today and perhaps you will try some or all of the recipes.  As you can tell, they are not complicated but are delicious.
Enjoy your homes and those you treasure.  And, take time to enjoy the twinkle and sparkle of the season.

Bon Appétit,

Sandra

 

Images:  via tumblr

 

Thoughts, For A Sunday in December.

“The moon on the breast of the new~fallen snow, Gave a lustre of midday to objects below, When what to my wondering eyes did appear . . .” ~ Clement Clark Moore, A Visit from St. Nicholas

❤ Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder,  Blitzen and, of course, ‘RUDOLPH.’ ❤

 

Dear friends, these December days are passing, once again, all too quickly.  Know I appreciate your visit and I wish you and yours a day of joy.  Filled with everyone and everything which makes your heart happy.  And, when you take a break from the rush, I would like you to remember my thought for you… 

“May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve.” ~ unknown

 

Joyeux Noël, 

Sandra

 

 

Images:  via tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

 

“December’s Warm Embrace.”

“Between bustle and breaths, between twinkling and flurry, December’s warm embrace.” ~ Unknown

Good morning, dear friends.  Isn’t the month of December just like a great big hug?  For me, I’ll answer ~ yes it is.  People smile, snowflakes fall on our cheeks, everything on the earth sparkles, and no matter where you live or what language you speak, you feel the warmth of this lovely time of year.  In a world which all too often seems totally upside down, ‘Love’ is the spirit of this most beautiful season on our earth.  

So, find your coffee or tea and come along with me.  Take a break from the rush and let’s enjoy the ‘warm embrace’ of December.

*

“Snow was falling, so much like stars filling the dark trees that one could easily imagine its reason for being was nothing more than prettiness.” ~ Mary Oliver

“The flake of snow grew larger and larger; and at last it was like a young lady, dressed in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like stars.” ~ Hans Christian Anderson, The Snow Queen

“…iced air warmly whispers past seasons and present spirits.” ~ Unknown

 

“Tender memories wake and say forget-me-not on Christmas Day.” ~ Unknown

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.” ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Memories are made when gathered around the table.  If you are fortunate, perhaps you are setting your table with your grandmother’s transferware.  Those, who are no longer with us have been such a special part of our journey. And memories of them, and the things they loved are a genuine warm embrace.

*

Ah, those memories of  being “nestled all snug in our beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in our heads.”

“Waiting behind the door of our hearts for something wonderful to happen…” ~ Robert Fulghum

sweetoothgirl: “ Glazed Lemon Sour Cream Cookies ”

 

Merry🌲Christmas - http://weheartit.com/

“There was a mood of magic and frenzy to the room.  Crystalline swirls of sugar and flour still lingered in the air like kite tails.  And then there was the smell ~ the smell of hope, the kind of smell that brought people home” ~ Sarah Addison Allen

Dear friends, thank you so much for your visit.  Wherever you may be, I hope this day finds you wrapped in December’s warmth and looking forward to the lovely days ahead.

And…

thelordismylightandmysalvation: “♥ ”

“I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

 

Amour,

Sandra

 

 

 

Images:  via tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Thoughts ~ “Take Joy”

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, ViennaSaint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

Good morning sweet souls.  Isn’t the magnificent Saint Stephen’s Cathedral simply glowing with joy?  I am certain this Cathedral has given comfort, peace, and joy to countless people throughout the years.  Certainly, the reverence one would feel in this beautiful church would be a gift of joy.

And speaking of joy, I want you to know the joy your visit brings.  I appreciate you and your comments more than you can imagine.

As this is the greatest season of ‘Joy,’ today, I would like to share the words of Fra Giovanni Giocondo, written on Christmas Eve 1513 to the Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi.  I found this many years ago in a book written by Harry Davis.  The book, “Forever Christmas,” is about Christmas at the home of someone I have long admired, Tasha Tudor.  In the book, Davis states, “The words of Giocondo contain a philosophy that has guided her life.”  I hope you, too,  will find the writing as meaningful, reassuring, and lovely as I did.

 

“Take Joy” by Fra Giovanni Giocondo

I salute you! There is nothing I can give you
which you have not;
but there is much, that while I cannot give,
you can take.
No heaven can come to us
unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future
which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.

The gloom of the world
is but a shadow,
behind it, yet, within our reach,
is joy.
Take Joy.

And so, at this Christmas time,
I greet you,
with the prayer that for you,
now and forever, the day breaks
and the shadows flee away.

 

 

Wishing you and yours beautiful December days.

And may you “now and forever,”

“Take Joy.”

Joyeux Noël,

Sandra

 

 

Notes:  Fra Giovanni Giocondo was a Franciscan friar, architect, archaeologist, and scholar.  He was born c. 1433, Verona, Republic of Venice and died July 1, 1515, Rome.

Tasha Tudor, 1915~2008, was an author and illustrator of many children’s books.  She was also an avid gardener and authority on 18th century home skills. 

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