Monday, November 30, 2009

Deck the Halls - Week 1

My home is still under 'Christmas construction' and we're not even close to being finished, so I thought I would share 2 photos from our trip to Bethlehem, PA in December of 2008.

One of the historic buildings in town had a simple yet elegant garland and wreath decoration. It was just charming in its simplicity. See the object over the door? It's a Moravian Star. In a post later this month, I hope to explain the Moravian-Bethlehem connection.
Below is a photo of one of the buildings in the downtown area. Oh how I wish I could tie my house in ribbon!
Now just to prove that we really are working, here are a few shots of my house. See those boxes? All of them contain our Christmas village houses and accessories, and that's only a few of them! There were dozens the living room...
on the couch...

and in the kitchen and the master bedroom.
I am happy to report that all of those boxes are now empty, and 95 houses and several sets of street lights have been unpacked, wired and placed in position. Now we really start to decorate!
Hopefully by next week, I'll have tons of pictures...
Please visit Susan at Thoughts from over the Rainbow. She's hosting Deck the Halls, and if you stop by to visit her you can see her wonderful decorations and the decorations of other participants.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Foodie Friday-Turkey Tired?

It's time to face the awful truth. As much as you might have anticipated Thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings, within the next 24 to 48 hours you will be sick of turkey. Another mouthful of dressing will put you over the edge, and the simmering carcass that you feel obliged to use for turkey soup will have lost it's appeal.

If you're feeling like I am, why not just dump that carcass??? (I finally 'fessed up last year and admitted that I don't even like turkey soup all that much!) Now may be a good time to think Italian and whip up a nice batch of broccoli rabe, laced with hot Italian sausage, garlic and sun dried tomatoes. Toss it with your favorite pasta, sprinkle with freshly grated pecorino-romano, enjoy, and be thankful all over again.
Please visit our Foodie Friday hostess, Michael Lee, to see who else may be suffering from turkey overload. Mr. Linky is up and running to help you on your way!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Foodie Friday - Scungilli Marinara

I'm starting to think about holiday cooking, and for some reason, Italian Christmas eve cooking popped into my head. It's a good bet that this all started last night when my husband produced a can of scungilli from the larder. About 30 minutes later, lovely slices of mollusk coated with a rich, garlicky marinara sauce were nestled on top of hot, freshly cooked pasta. Dinner was served.

Now I'm not Italian, and I'd never tasted this delicacy until I started dating my husband. I was introduced to it at my future mother-in-laws house, where it was a staple. I have to admit, it was love at first bite, and I immediately asked for the recipe, which turned out to be pretty simple. (BTW: My husband's not Italian either, but his mom adored Italian food, and they did live in a predominately Italian neighborhood on Long Island where fresh and canned scungilli were fairly easy to obtain.)

So what exactly is scungilli??? Simply put, it's a large mollusk with a spiral shell that's found along the Italian coast line. There is also a type that is harvested in the waters off the east coast of the U.S. Sometimes, scungilli is mistakenly called conch, but it's actually a large marine snail that belongs to the whelk family. It's a pretty fine distinction.

Traditionally served as part of an Italian Christmas eve meal, it can be tossed into marinara sauce or prepared as a seafood salad with onion, celery, and a simple dressing of oil, vinegar, lemon juice and seasonings. We love it both ways.

My recipe is pretty simple. Start with a good marinara sauce. Homemade is, of course, preferable. (Scungilli is currently running about $12 a can locally, so you want to show it some respect!) Season your marinara with hot pepper flakes to taste. Open and drain canned scungilli and rinse well with cold water. Get your marinara sauce as hot as possible and remove from heat. Immediately add the rinsed scungilli, and slap a lid on to let them heat through. This will keep them tender. (NB: My husband actually likes his portion chewy, so he simmers his portion!)

These are best served over friselle biscuits, which are peppery, hard, biscotti like breads. The friselle have to be dipped in hot water before you coat them with sauce. We haven't been able to find them locally yet, so we just stick to pasta.

So, if you'd like to get adventurous, give scungilli a try. You may just find you like them!

Please visit our Foodie Friday hostess, Michael Lee at Designs by Gollum. If you're not a seafood lover, I'm sure you'll find something else to whet your appetite.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Foodie Friday - Afternoon Tea at the Library

After much planning, and an aborted attempt last spring, our local library hosted its first afternoon tea this past Sunday, and I must say that it was exceptionally well received. Some red hat ladies told us that it was the best tea they've ever attended, even better than those given at a large local hotel! We're exhausted so we'll take the praise. I think we've earned it...

We've spent months collecting mismatched china, and teapots to set our tables. Small fresh flower arrangements graced each table, (I even got to use the pink birds that I wrote about last March!), and each guest received a beautifully decorated teapot cookie and one of the chocolate purse favors that I showed you in a post in October. A keepsake menu was also placed at each seat.
I didn't have my camera with me, because I knew that I wouldn't have time to snap pictures. Luckily, a friend who came to help serve brought hers and shared the following shots.
Here's the main room almost ready for guests... and one of our place settings. The place card you see is actually a bit of 'tea trivia.' Different facts and legends about tea were printed on cards and scattered about the tables. All of the tables were covered in lace, and there were embroidered linen and cutwork napkins.
We set up a dessert table and decorated it with an antique tea set filled with flowers. In this shot, desserts are still being brought out from the kitchen. Every square inch of this table was covered with goodies...
And then our guests arrived and began their mini feast by nibbling on scones with lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and raspberry jam. Next came the tea sandwiches...chicken salad en petits choux, Branson pickle, sharp cheddar and leaf lettuce on whole wheat fingers, cucumber bites with seasoned cream cheese and fresh dill, ham and pickle salad on rye flower rounds, and cream cheese and green olive on country white. Scones and sandwiches were plated and brought to table, as were steaming pots of Earl Grey. The dessert table was self serve, and available all afternoon.
Chances were sold on baskets, and drawings were held for door prizes. My friend's little one drew the chances...
and then she drew her own name for the coveted basket that held a tea set. She immediately ran to her mother repeating, "I didn't look Mommy, I really didn't." It was pretty funny.
And here's the happy winner and her mom. They really enjoyed a nice mother-daughter outing.
So the tea is over, and everyone is asking if we'll have one next year. Probably...but we need a larger committee, more help, more bakers, etc. Lots of women told us that they're going to bring all of their friends...What have we gotten ourselves into???

BTW: Since Monday night I've been drinking lots of tea and only tea. Pretty sure that this is the flu. The fact that I could stay awake long enough to publish this post just amazed me.

If you're able to stay awake, and wish to be tantalized by amazing food, please visit Designs by Gollum. Our hostess, Michael Lee, will have Mr. Linky ready to escort you around the blogosphere.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How to celebrate your birthday when it ends in a zero...

This is how you celebrate your birthday when it ends in a zero.
Have a tea. At your house. Make a lot of tea food. Invite the friends you really love. Buy a funky dress and a funky hat. Make your friends do the same. And laugh. Laugh a lot.

It was a really good birthday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Foodie Friday - A Heavenly Banana Cake

So I did get my very own copy of Heavenly Cakes, Rose Beranbaum's new book. I haven't signed up to be a Heavenly Baker because of too many on going projects, but I have dabbled a bit with a few of the recipes.

Last weekend, I made her Banana Refrigerator Cake with Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting. This cake is a bona fide winner. Who knew that a banana cake could be so light, so tasty, so spectacular???

For the first time ever, I used baking strips around the outside of the pans and I have to admit that I am thrilled with the results. The cake rose perfectly and the outside edges didn't over brown while the center finished baking. I'm a convert. I'll be using them from now on.

Next time I make this cake, I'll definitely use Rose's frosting variation that omits the white chocolate. Even though the frosting on this cake is pretty wonderful, my husband and I have agreed that we're just not white chocolate lovers. For those of you who are, go for it. You'll have a heavenly experience.

Please go visit our Foodie Friday hostess, Michael Lee, at Designs by Gollum. You'll finds tons of folks who have prepared a Foodie Friday post.

PS: Maybe next week I'll have some pictures from the benefit tea that we're doing this weekend at our local library. I started baking today and I'll be at it until tea time on Sunday afternoon, so please forgive me if I don't visit you all until after Sunday!