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Showing posts from March, 2011

Birthday by Mail

My darling niece and soon to be goddaughter, recently celebrated her 2nd birthday.  Since I live so far away and couldn't attend her party, I decided to make a special care package filled with all of her favorite things.  I made it a point to ask ahead of time what my niece was currently interested in, so that her uncle could get exactly what she wanted.  My inquisitive, adorable, smart and energetic niece is all about Curious George right now.  She loves to have books read to her and is so attentive when  you do, so I thought what better way to celebrate her special day?                                                  This is Audrey as Snow White. Absolutely adorable! This was her birthday by mail package.  In the box I tucked in several Curious George books, some PBS DVDs that she enjoys watching and an adorable Curious George monkey doll.  Baked to order and packaged in clear cellophane bags, were my  Oatmeal Cookies   and a batch of Cranberry Coins  that she simply loves. 

Cranberry Coin Cookies

I made these refrigerator cookies last Christmas for my extended family and my dear niece quickly became an aficionado of them.  The recipe  comes from a Martha Stewart Holiday 2010 publication and I've since made them several times.  Dried cranberries are among my favorite things because they are tart, tangy, chewy and so good.  Although this recipe doesn't call for it, I like to add 2 teaspoons of freshly grated orange zest.  Cranberries and orange complement each other wonderfully.  The nice thing about this type of cookie dough is that you can freeze it ahead of time and slice & bake it whenever the mood strikes you.  Here's the cookie dough all finished.   Even though I use a stand mixer, I still like to give my dough a final stir with a large spatula.  I want every slice to have a good amount of cranberries. The dough is divided among 2 pieces of plastic wrap. I pull the wrap over the dough and press firmly with the palms of my hands as I r

Oatmeal Cookies

There are so many versions of oatmeal cookies out there, that I usually have a hard time choosing a favorite.  A good oatmeal cookie has to have dried fruit (almost always raisins) and no nuts for me.  Chocolate chips in my oatmeal cookies?  I don't need them, but they're a nice touch.  This version has dried cranberries, dried apricots and some spicy candied ginger.  Whenever I make a batch to share with friends or family members, they always give me that puzzled look and ask me what's in them.  As soon as I say candied ginger, they pay attention.  Try making these and see if you can eat just one.  I'm not so sure you will.  The Ingredients 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant), coarsely ground 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped 4 tablespoons candied ginger, finely chopped 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

My Favorite Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is something I really love to eat and it's something I really love to make.  This recipe is one that I turn to quite often because my family loves it.  The bird always comes out juicy and succulent, never dry and tough.  One thing I strongly recommend is that you buy a free-range, organic chicken from a reputable butcher.  I'm lucky to have several sources, including my local Whole Foods, so I tend to make this dish several times a month.  The great thing about this recipe is that it can be customized to your family's liking.  Add some spices to give it some zip, tuck in some herbs underneath the skin or change the citrus to a lime or orange if you wish.  Let's begin!      The Ingredients Organic free-range chicken (3 1/2 to 4 lbs.) One large onion peeled and sliced into rounds 4 sprigs of Italian flat leaf parsley 1 lemon well washed 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (room temperature) salt and pepper Rinse the chicken under

Spring Birthday Tablesetting

We had a small birthday luncheon for my mother-in-law last weekend and I'd like to share with you some of the little things that made it special.  With the menu already in place, it was time to decide how to set our table.  The color green, in keeping with the arrival of spring, quickly became my theme.  Walking around the house, with all the snowdrops blooming and with many patches of moss in the woodland, I began to think of ways to arrange them.  I also wanted a bit of bright color, so I bought some daffodils from my local florist and began from there.  This is what I did. Moss was gently placed in soil-filled cafe au lait bowls.  Use a small bristle brush to remove any stray dirt and water your moss immediately.  You'll notice that the daffodils are sitting in tepid water awaiting their turn.  My snowdrops were perfect by themselves. The daffodils (they were less than $2/doz.) were measured with a ruler, so that they came up just over the rim of my little vase.  I look

Snowdrops & Crocuses

As I was walking the grounds the other day, I came across a swath of crocuses & snowdrops along our driveway.  I was so pleased that these harbingers of spring had decided to flower now.  Although it's still technically winter, seeing these flowers scattered among the maples, locusts, ash trees and lindens made me hunger for spring.  After such a brutal winter with so much snow, any type of color is always a welcoming sight.  Take a look.     The lavender-hued crocuses are blooming everywhere around our house.  This picture was taken on March 5th.   The crocuses vary in color from lavender to pale pink.  You can see that the leaves from last fall have not inhibited blooming.   Here in my hand is a pale mauve, single flower.  Simply beautiful!   Here is a closeup of a quartet showing their vivid yellow stamens.  These woodland varieties are spring-flowering, Series Verni, Crocus tommasinianus.     Just look at these snowdrops ( Galanthus ) with the

Storing Silverware

For the longest time I did not take the storage of my silverware seriously.  To be perfectly honest with you, I was keeping my flatware in boxes that were tucked away in a closet.  I came to realize that this was no way to care for my silver, because I simply wasn't enjoying it.  Nowadays, I like storing my silverware in drawers because it gives me access to them at a moment's notice.  When I decided to seriously tackle this problem, I was reminded of what Martha did at her former Westport, Connecticut home, Turkey Hill .  She had a large kitchen island with built-in drawers where the silverware was stored.  Although I don't have that in my kitchen, there were some drawers that were suited for this task.  These Shaker-style drawers were perfect. I pulled those boxes out from my closet and began organizing by pattern and type. I measured the interior of my drawer and cut some felt to line the bottom.  You can put pieces of velcro underneath the fabric so that your fel

Caring for Silver

As I was going through some of my silverware this week, I noticed that a few of my cream soup spoons had a bit of tarnish on them.  It's always a good idea to wash and buff the pieces in question just to make sure.  After doing so, you may not even need to polish them at all.  Realizing that these pieces weren't going to get any better, I decided to polish them gently and effectively.  I didn't need to use a cream or compound agent for these spoons.  Let me show you what I did.  The lip underneath this spoon shows some tarnish.  Although this isn't harmful in the least, it is a bit unsightly and not suitable for the table. These poor spoons were indeed ready to be taken care of.  If your silverware is forged from a single piece, you can employ this method. Place the silver in an aluminum pan (this is a square cake pan) and settle it at the bottom of your sink.  Don't overcrowd your pieces and don't overlap them. Note : the pan has to be aluminum for this to

Spring Robins

One of the first things I look forward to in the spring is the arrival of the robins (Turdus Migratorius).  These cheerful songbirds become less visible during the fall and winter because of their roosting.   Once the weather starts getting warmer, though, they branch out and begin appearing on people's lawns in search of food.  I happened to be looking out my window this morning, when I noticed a small flock of robins hopping & bopping around the house.  There is still some snow on the ground and the crocuses are not out yet, but the birds are hungry and out in full force.  Last year, we seemed to have had a large number of robins around the property & I certainly hope that this year will be the same.     Here's a cute little one on my lawn.   These two robins are sunning themselves on the glade behind our house.  You can see that we still have a lot of spring cleanup to do.   This one was pecking the ground in search of worms. Against the tru