Thursday, December 31, 2020

So long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen

What a year!  

Let's celebrate the end with a heartfelt wish that next year we'll be together with our loved ones!

I prepared a late supper consisting of appetizers . . .

Shrimp cocktails . . .

Ham spread sandwiches on pretzel buns . . .

Deviled eggs with bacon and red pepper bruschetta . . .

Hummus with Naan Dippers . . .

Crab cakes . . .

The perfect spread to watch the weird show in Times Square without people . . . and to blog . . .

I didn't forget my grapes, two skewers holding twelve grapes each, our Cuban Tradition for New Year's Eve.

Wishing and praying for health, for ourselves and the entire world.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Amaryllis Progress Report

Amy continues to grow, but slowly, as our impatience mounts to discover what color her flower will be.  Now that Christmas is past, I'm hoping for an Epiphany bloom.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if it bloomed on Three Kings Day?

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Gingerbread Kind of Day

My husband's pancakes are legendary within our family.  Everyone loves them, and, when the kids are home one of the first things they ask for is Dad's pancakes.  When I walked by this bottle of maple syrup at Williams-Sonoma, it just fell into my basket!  Can you believe it?  Mr. Gingerbread Man must have heard about my husband's pancakes, too!

I had planned a cute breakfast for Christmas morning, and, although my son, John, was not able to come, I decided to proceed with it all.  I'm telling myself that this is a dry run, and I'll do it all over again next year.

Well, if we are going to bring Mr. Gingerbread to the table, he's going to need some gingerbread company, so these little Mug Toppers were "needed" to make Mr. Gingerbread feel welcome!  To tell you the truth, they proved a challenge.  They refused to stay straight in the mug!  So I called on my house engineer/tech/geek expert, my husband, Lee, who promptly straightened it with little wads of Scotch tape.  Ah!  The technical mind boggles!  Some friends have suggested chocolate next time.  I'll have to try that next year.  See?  Dry run.

With a few added gingerbread people, the breakfast table was set.  I used last night's red tablecloth.  Isn't it a fabulous red?

This was my husband's Gingerbread Man.  The guy that never notices details asked me why his man had four eyes.  I explained that two dots were for the eyes, and the other two for dimples.  He remains unconvinced.

Miss Peppermint had ruffles on her arms and legs.

The Gingerbread Salt and Pepper shakers insisted on being invited.  The lady held the pepper.  She's also a little "caliente," like me.

The Wedgwood Nantucket Basket Coffee Pot is no longer being produced.  I had been looking for one for a while, and put in a request at to notify me if one was ever found — and it was, and it's now mine!  Bwahaha!  Happiness!

I placed these absolutely delicious gingersnaps on the table to nibble on, as I got the rest of the breakfast ready.  The Villeroy & Boch Winter Bakery Delight Bowl depicts . . . you guessed it, gingerbread!  This Christmas porcelain collection is truly a delight, and I plan to add a few more pieces for next year.  Sigh!  A dish collector is never done!

I really felt very efficient this year, reusing the tablecloth, the rattan chargers and the salad plates from last night.  It was such fun to play with all these favorite pieces!  Breakfast table is set, now let's talk about the food.

I prepared a breakfast strata.  Here's the recipe:


1 pkg. frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted
8 eggs, beaten
1 pound bulk sausage, crumbled and cooked
¼ onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups of any cheddar, or combination of cheddar cheeses, divided
1 can evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter the casserole dish.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, but only 1 cup of the cheese.
  • Pour into the casserole dish.  Scatter the remaining cheese on top.
  • Bake at 350º F for 55 minutes or until edges are slightly brown.
It was delicious!  We cut the leftovers in individual servings, and saved them for upcoming breakfasts.

That was accompanied by a stack of hubby's pancakes, and some fresh berries — and real maple syrup drizzled on top.  The taste of real maple syrup is incomparable.  Aunt Jemima doesn't stand a chance in our house.

We had a sunny day, which had me moving things around on the table so I could get good pictures.  Actually, it was a nice problem to have at this time of year.

When the table was cleared we witnessed a gingerbread spat!  These lovers quarreled and it was a duel at twenty paces between Mr. Salt and Ms. Pepper.  Nothing would dissuade them!  Each of them brought their seconds as witnesses.  Doctors stood by in case of casualties, and a bunch of gossips waited nearby to hear the outcome.  Limbs were lost, death ensued, and crumbs were scattered everywhere.  The lovers survived, as did the doctors.  The rest have all gone to their reward.

When breakfast was over, we lit a fire in the fireplace, and didn't budge from our chairs for the rest of the day.  I'm already planning for next year's breakfast.

Friday, December 25, 2020

An Interrupted Carol

There were no Christmas concerts this year.  No Christmas Afternoon Tea at the Drake Hotel with wondering carolers stopping by the table to wish us a Merry Christmas . . .

I wasn't enthused about setting a Christmas Eve table this year — my son wasn't able to fly in to be with us, and for the first time in our lives, my brother and I could not be together.  Out of an abundance of caution, my husband and I decided that it was best to cancel the celebrations, and spend it quietly at home, just the two of us.  Covid-19 has a lot to answer for!

At the last minute, I rallied, and remembered that old saying that my father quoted often:  "Al mal tiempo, buena cara" (“To bad times, a good face”) — the English aren't the only ones with a stiff upper lip.

I pulled out the red tablecloth that I had planned on using for Christmas Day breakfast, and a few other things and set a table that, while not particularly Christmasy, it hinted of it.

The plaid napkins matched the tablecloth perfectly, and I dug out the Dollar Tree black dinner plates that I've used herehere and here.

I decided to use my wedding crystal, Chartres by Atlantis.  After all these years, I'm still in love with these glasses, which reflect the pattern of a rose window at Chartres, when light shines through it.  

The table was set, so I turned my attention to what to put on the plates.  Unfortunately, food stubbornly refuses to simply appear on our plates, so I needed to head to the kitchen and whip up a few things.  Naturally, I thought of dessert first.

This is a tart recipe given to me by a dear friend, and I've wanted to try it for a while now.  It consists of layers of marzipan, vanilla custard, sliced pears, scattered cranberries, dotted with cubes of butter, and sprinkled with crushed Amaretti.  Then baked until the cranberries pop and the pears are tender.

My husband asked for the “Filet Dinner,” one of the standard meals in my repertoire, and that always starts with a Waldorf Salad, one of my favorite salads, actually — made with Romaine lettuce, Honeycrisp apple, Blue cheese crumbles, lightly toasted walnuts and and a dressing made with olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices.

Followed by Roasted Filet of Beef with Mushroom Sauce, Cauliflower Au Gratin, and Steamed Asparagus.  I must say, for someone that was only half trying it all turned out rather well.

My son had promised to bring us several bottles of his favorite wine from one of the wineries in Virginia for our Christmas Eve dinner, he's become quite the wine aficionado.  Alas! No John, no wine, so we picked this one up at Costco, which turned out to be a complete delight!  

Here's how the tart turned out — a very photogenic dessert!

Then we topped it, as if it really needed the extra calories, with some whipped cream.

The best part of our night was when we gathered on a Zoom call, and I got to see all these beloved faces.  Even David, my youngest, got up at 2:00 A.M. Abu Dhabi time to be on the call with us.  It was a total surprise and brought tears to my eyes.

Although a bit melancholic, I went to bed grateful and at peace.  We will make it up next year.  We will sing our carol in full, and we will sing it Allegro.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Mississippi Pot Roast

 Another Instant Pot wonder.  You have just simply got to try this!  So easy!  So good!


1 3-4 lb. boneless pot roast (if the roast is 4½ lbs. I won't tell)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, cold from the refrigerator (optional)
1 package au jus gravy mix
1 package dry ranch dressing mix
1 cup beef broth
4-6 (or more) Pepperoncini peppers
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place rack on the bottom of a 6-quart Instant Pot.  Place roast on top of the rack
  2. Sprinkle packets of au just and dry ranch dressing on top
  3. Place stick on butter on top
  4. Scatter Pepperoncini peppers on top
  5. Pour the broth around the sides of the meat so the seasoning mixes stay on top
  6. Seal pot, set to pressure cook for 55 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally
  7. Remove roast from the pot, and shred beef with two forks
  8. Strain the juices and serve on the side, or make your favorite gravy
  9. Serve over mashed potatoes, noodles, or in sandwiches
NOTES:  1) The traditional recipe calls for a stick of butter, but I've found that there's enough fat in the roast to have that great feel in the mouth.  I don't think you need it, but, of course, it does add a great buttery taste.  2) If you decide to make the gravy, try arrowroot as a thickener instead of corn starch or flour.  I've been using it lately and have found it to be more neutral tasting.

Please make this one!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Introducing Amy

This is Amy, our hopefully-soon-to-be-born amaryllis.  When I ordered it, I went back and forth so many times, I don't actually remember which color or variety I ended up getting, and the packing slip did not provide a clue.  Will it be pink, or red, or striped — and will it bloom for Christmas? 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Black Friday Tea

I'd rather have tea than go shopping on Black Friday.  This year, of course, with COVID-19 raging through our cities, it was even less appealing.  Besides, I'd been experimenting with a recipe or two...

I already had a head start with the pretty bouquet of flowers I had purchased and used for Thanksgiving dinner the day before.

Preparing a simple afternoon tea kept me busy most of the morning.  Oh, but I had fun!  My husband relaxed in front of the TV while I puttered in the kitchen.

The Clotted Cream:  Oh, my Lord!  There's no going back!  They say that converts are always the most rabid, well, please find me a church because I'm ready to go preach!  I made it in the Instant Pot the day before, and it took all day, as the cream has to be cooked on very low heat for a long period of time.  The whole project was interesting because I had never even tasted clotted cream.  I knew, however, that it was an essential part of a proper English tea and, since it's very difficult finding it in American markets, I had to learn how to make it myself.  Here's the link to the recipe:  Clotted Cream.

Once I made it, it was a true epiphany.  Now I understand what all the fuss is about!  It was creamy, slightly nutty, moist, but not wet, smooth, but thick.  I could have licked the entire bowl along with the pot, and the spoon, and my fingers . . . I tried to keep the moaning to a minimum as I cast weary glances to see if my husband was watching me.

The Scones:  A dear FB friend, who shall remain nameless so that she doesn't have to hire the Secret Service to keep herself safe, sent me a package with various scone mixes.  I followed the directions, but here's proof that there's no such thing as a foolproof baking recipe when entrusted to me.  The scones tasted delicious, but they turned out rather flat.  I always have a hard time working with such a sticky, wet dough.  Must try again.

The Curds:  This lovely not-so-secret-Santa also included two delicious curds, Cranberry Orange, and Lemon — and I know exactly how to use these.

Thanksgiving Sandwiches By Way of Havana.  There's a famous Cuban sandwich called the Elena Ruz, which consists of cream cheese, sliced turkey, and strawberry jam, made on medianoche bread, sort of a sweet brioche, then buttered and toasted on a press.  Elena Ruz was a Havana socialite who asked for this very sandwich so often, that it was finally added to the menu of her favorite café, El Carmelo, in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana (isn't interesting how many details we know about Elena and her sandwich?).  

Instead of strawberry jam, I used the Cranberry Orange Curd, and I didn't toast the bread.  I dare not call it my version of the Elena Ruz on pain of being cast out of my tribe, so for now, the sandwich remains nameless . . . perhaps you can suggest a good name for it?

Finally, scone, clotted cream and the lemon curd came together, and it was heavenly!

I pulled out my pedal pink placemats to match the carnations on the flower bouquet.  Is pink ever really wrong?  Asking for a friend.

Hopefully these pumpkin spice sugar cookies, which I picked up at Whole Foods, brought me back to the reality of the Fall season. 

The traditional three courses of an English Tea:  Sandwich, Scones and Dessert — check!  Plus a pretty table in which to enjoy it with my husband.

A much more delightful way to spend Black Friday.