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Kitchen Tools: Dutch Oven

When it comes to slow cooking or low heat cooking in the oven, you just can’t beat the Dutch Oven.  If you are a fan of Country French cooking, you should consider getting one.

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I have made Beef Bourguignon in various types of cookware–covered casserole dish in the oven, crock pot, and stew pot on the range top–but nothing compares to using a Dutch Oven which allows braising and simmering of the bacon, beef, onions, carrots, etc. on top the range and then moved into the oven for the slow cooking process.

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There are a few things to consider before buying and using a Dutch Oven.  Dutch Ovens are heavy. You have to be confident that once it is full of hot food, that you will be able to move it about as is needed.

All exposed bits of iron on your Dutch Oven need to be oiled to keep it from rusting. I use a light vegetable oil for this task. If your Dutch Oven is enamel coated iron, the enamel coating can chip. If it chips the iron beneath can rust.  If your Dutch Oven is only partly enamel coated, same thing goes—all exposed bits of iron need to be oiled to keep from rusting.

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You have to give it time to transition from hot to cold and cold to hot. Fast changes in temperature can cause cracking or chipping of the enamel glaze.

It is because of the very thick, heavy walls of the pot that make it so good for slow cooking at a very consistent temperature. It is the kind of cooking that requires you to slow yourself down. The cooking cannot be rushed.

Once you have the Dutch Oven in the oven, you can use that cooking time–sometimes hours–to prepare the rest of the meal. Or you could have a nice cup of tea and relax.

A Dutch Oven isn’t as user friendly as a crock pot—and it is heavy; but, you won’t be disappointed with the results if you follow the recipes and treat your Dutch Oven with the care it requires.

 

 

Chopped Chicken Livers

I don’t use a recipe, I have been making it for so long. I do it by taste. I tend to make too much of each of the ingredients (except for the liver) So, I often boil all 12 eggs in a carton—what I don’t use in the chopped liver, will get eaten by someone in our family. I chop and saute a whole large onion even though I know I will not use it all in the chopped liver. The reason being, the size of ingredients often vary, so I add small amounts of ingredients at a time mix it up and taste and adjust from there.

1 ½ – 2 lbs of chicken livers

Boil 1 dozen eggs (may only use 4, 5 or 6 based on taste)

1 large sweet onion (may only use about half of the onion)

Few tablespoons of organic vegetable oil (safflower or other mild flavored oil—olive oil is too strong) used to saute the onion and moisturize the Chopped liver.

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Broil the chicken livers in the oven until quite dark so they will be done all the way through. Set aside to cool.

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Hard boil the eggs and set aside to cool.

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Saute the onion in the oil until the onion is translucent. Be sure not to set the heat to high—you do not want to brown the onions it can make them take on a bitter taste. When done, set aside to cool.

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Take all of the livers and place them in a wooden bowl for chopping.

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Resist the urge to use a blender, food processor or chopper—the chopping method does affect the flavor and it takes the right amount of oxidation to get the right liver taste.

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I use a wooden bowl and a single blade mezzaluna (a special curved blade with handled-sometimes there are multiple blades). Why the single blade? Well mostly, a matter of preference, because stuff can get stuck in between the blades of a multiple blade mezzaluna. I have had the same wooden bowl and mezzaluna for almost 40 years (I bought them during the first year we were married).

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Chop the livers until you get a coarse texture but not bigger than a pea. Then add 4 of the hardboiled eggs (if you have closer to 2 lbs of livers, start with 5 eggs) and chop those into the livers. Add about half of the sautéed onions straining out the oil (you may have to add more later if the chopped liver is too dry–keep in mind the oil will add more onion flavor).

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When you get the right taste and consistency by adding additional ingredients, salt and pepper to taste.  Some people like the chopped liver at room temperature and others like it chilled. I suggest trying it both ways to figure out your preference. Serve with toast points or a variety crackers.

Kitchen Mantel: Blue & White China

One of the really wonderful things about a kitchen hearth mantel is having a space to make a display.

 

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Our kitchen is a bit of a blank canvas. What do I mean by that?  Well, that the colors are neutral.  Neutral back grounds make it much easier to decorate with color.

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The kitchen can be changed just by displaying splashes of color on the mantel and the counter tops.

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In the case of the Blue and White China theme, it also allows me to bring in some of my personality. I love English Transfer ware and I collect many colors and variations. But, one of my favorites is the Blue and White.

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Blue and White China is a classic look that never goes out of style. It always looks fresh and clean–which I think is a wonderful look to bring into the kitchen.

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The pieces don’t all have to be antique or one particular style. The beauty of the blue and white color ties the collection together. Being too matched can make a collection look boring. You want a variety of shapes, styles and sizes.  This same concept can used on a mantel, table, bookcase, curio cabinet…the possibilities are endless!

Foyer Book/Display Case

One of the things I have always enjoyed is creating patriotic themed display cases for public libraries and schools (mostly using Children of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution themes).

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Especially when the children were little, we had many opportunities to do those displays.  Now that the little ones aren’t little anymore, the reasons to do them are pretty rare.

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So I decided to create a space in Spring Rose Cottage that we could explore creating and displaying books and things of interest based on a theme.

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The theme for July, August and September was “The Birth of Our Nation”.  Here are the Books that were highlighted:

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1776 book by  David  McCullough.

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Justice for All — Earl Warren and the Nation he made by Jim Newton

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The bottom row has many more books (especially children’s books) that help support the theme. There are also eye catching items that grab your interest.

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I can’t guarantee that the theme will always be Patriotic (because it won’t!), what I can guarantee is that any display we create will be filled with books and interesting visuals that will support a theme or idea that I hope will lead you to reading a really captivating book.

Happy Reading!!

 

Autumnal Equinox

Yesterday was the beginning of autumn, my favorite season.  Like most years, it really didn’t seem very fall like…at least on the surface.  But, there is no mistaking the clear pale blue color of the sky in September. The change in lighting gives the landscape a slightly cooler look than summer. A small change, but a definite change. Also noticeable was the heavy dew on my car that I hadn’t seen during the summer months. The changes are subtle but present even at the equinox.

For me, Autumn comes as a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of summer.  My creative juices tend to languish in the summer and reawaken as the mornings get cooler and the days get shorter. In early Fall, I begin to think about my favorite holidays Halloween, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. There is still time to perfect some unique meal or craft something special for celebrating or make plans to gather loved ones together.

Happy Autumn!! Wishing you all a wonderful Fall full of creativity and love!

 

Banana Walnut Bread

Have some really ripe bananas? Try Banana Nut Bread!

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That is the scenario that we faced this past weekend. What to do with 7 really ripe bananas. Well we didn’t turn them all into nut bread, but we did use some of them for that purpose.  We used a really simple recipe, but  it does take some planning ahead. The eggs and butter should be at room temperature—so they need to sit out of the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The walnuts taste a lot better if you roast them in the oven first—it releases the natural oils.

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Ingredients

1 ¼ cup of unbleached organic all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine salt

2 large eggs (at room temperature)

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted organic butter (at room temperature)

1 cup of sugar

3very ripe bananas peeled and mashed should be about a cup

½ cup toasted walnut pieces

Directions

Sift the flour, baking soda & salt into a bowl and set aside.

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Put the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl (or glass measuring cup) and whisk until blended and set aside.

Brush Butter or oil onto a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Pre-heat the oven for 350 degrees F.

I always sift dry ingredients just to make sure there are no lumps.

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Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (You can use a stand mixer or a hand held electric mixer)

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Slowly pour the egg mixture into the butter while using a mixer until it a smooth blend.

Add the bananas mixing until blended. (the mixture may look curdled, that is ok)

Using a rubber cake spatula, mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts and transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the pan cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

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Turn the bread out on a wire rack to completely cool.

After it is cool, wrap in plastic wrap. For the best flavor serve the next day.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 

Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

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This little adventure all started, because we had some over ripe bananas in the house. So we started brainstorming about how to use them (besides making smoothies–which we also did).

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Ingredients

4 eggs

2 cups of milk

1 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

4 cups cubed French Bread (we used stale oatmeal bread)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 bananas sliced (we quartered them length wise and then cubed them)

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Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan

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In a large mixing bowl, mix eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the bread, bananas and chocolate chips. Let stand for 5 minutes so the bread can soak up the liquid mixture.

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Pour into prepared loaf pan.

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Prepare a water bath for the loaf pan to sit in. Line a roasting pan with a damp kitchen towel. Place bread pan on the towel inside the roasting pan. Place roasting pan on oven rack. Fill roasting pan with water to reach halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Challenge yourself to use left over fruits and vegetables. You will save money while expressing your creativity.

Enjoy!

Simple Elegant Christmas Tablesetting

Dressing the dinner table for a holiday is easy if you take one element or seasonal item to create a theme that can be used throughout the design to tie eat place setting to the whole table. I decided to use a very simple but classic motif—the magnolia blossom and leaves. Magnolias are evergreen, so you can use real magnolias to decorate or silk flowers to make a centerpiece or table scape.

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I began the table with a covering of a deep red almost burgundy. Then I placed a golden charger plate at each of the places. The china that I used is a Lenox China pattern called Citation Gold. It is a classic cream china with a gold band and fluted rim on the plate.

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The flatware is Oneida Heirloom 18/10 Stainless pattern called Louisiana.

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The napkins are 100% cotton and have a beautifully simple magnolia blossom and green leaves embroidered on them. I like to check for after Christmas sales to pick up bargains. I found these napkins through the Colonial Williamsburg on-line store last year.

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The 2 inch wide napkin rings are made of wire with beads in dark red to gold. They are from Pier One, but I picked them up a few months ago at a local consignment store.

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I think the contrast between the dark table cloth and the lighter charger and china really makes for a striking table setting.  I chose not to place an arrangement or centerpiece on our Christmas table, because we wanted to place the food on the table. This allowed us the convenience of eating family style and the benefit of seeing the beautiful food for which we are so thankful.

 

Thanksgiving Guests

Thanksgiving is the most traveled holiday in the United States. The chances are pretty good that you will travel or someone else will travel to visit you. Sometimes that may be a day trip, but there will come a time when you have to provide a place to sleep for a guest.

This was the first guest room that we used at Spring Rose Cottage. This Red Bedroom is decorated with Red/pink/cranberry English Transferware.  Since we didn’t have a designated “guest room” at that time, the least used bedroom in the house was used to serve that purpose. Our primary concerns were how to make the most of the space and solutions that we used to help our guest have a pleasant stay.

 

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The most important thing of course is a bed.  The next  would be the bed linens, blanket or quilt (depending on season and indoor temperatures), and a pillow are pretty much the basics. The only thing I will say about that is if you can provide a variety of blankets and pillows that is a plus.

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A vintage Lane hope chest serves as a place to lay out a suit case. But in many guest rooms space is tight so try to provide some space either for suitcase or hanging space in the closet.

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It is very helpful to have a bedside table with a lamp, tissues, a waste basket nearby and a coaster for a cup. Ours is a small room and really only has room for one small bedside table and we put it to good use.

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This bedroom does not have an ensuite. So I have provided water bottles so the guest doesn’t have to leave the bedroom to find water.

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I like to have a desk and chair available that someone can sit and write a letter or journal or use a laptop or tablet to do work. I keep the top drawer clean of personal items except some envelopes, pens, pencils, stamps and stationary. There is a power strip next to the desk for charging phones, laptops, or other devices.

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Especially in cases of a bedroom without an attached bathroom, it is helpful to provide bath towels, washcloths, and various sundries in the room. I like to use red English transfer ware to hold the washcloths and sundries. The red English transfer ware on the desk ties the color theme together with the artwork and plates on the wall.

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Another really nice thing to have is a comfy chair or settee with a reading lamp next to it—and maybe a few books or magazines.  The important thing is to make your guests feel as comfortable and welcome as you can manage. We had this antique settee and it fit perfectly in this room and the color went beautifully with the Cranberry color English Transferware.

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Do your preparation ahead of time. When your guests arrive, you will be truly thankful for the opportunity to spend time together.

Quiche Lorraine

This is a lovely custardy quiche!

Ingredients

1 pie crust uncooked                                      2 cups cream
1 cup shredded Swiss Cheese                      ¾ teaspoon salt
8 slices of bacon                                            ¼ teaspoon white sugar
½ cup minced onion                                      1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 eggs beaten

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Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Place bacon in a large skillet, fry over medium heat until bacon is crisp. Add the onion and cook until onion is translucent not brown.

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Drain bacon and onion on paper towels, then chop bacon in large pieces. Sprinkle bacon, cheese and onion into pastry shell.

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In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, salt, sugar and cayenne pepper. Pour mixture into pastry shell.

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Bake 15 minutes in the Preheated oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake an additional 30-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean.

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Allow quiche to sit for 10 minutes before cutting the quiche into wedges. I like to serve quiche with a salad of field greens.