Thursday, November 29, 2012

Plaid, The Quintessential Christmas Pattern

 Imagine my excitement when I finally got to put these little plaid lampshades on the living room sconces!
I purchased them from Joss and Main a few months ago.  They are the quintessential Christmas accessory!

 Even though I'm a plaid lover, I love it even more at Christmas.

 I've slowly been bringing plaid in to the living room.
Our house has always seemed like a Christmas house, so there isn't a whole lot to do, other than add tartan, greenery and seasonal plants.

 The tartan tole vase will eventually have paperwhites in them.
If I can find them!

For me, decorating takes most of the month!
I'm just getting started!

I'm joining Sherry at No Minimalist Here for Open House Thursday.
I'm joining Courtney for Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Well Preserved

 Our daughter and son-in-law have been busy making jams, jellies, salsa and pickles from our grapes and tomatoes.  
I decided to display the fruits of their labor on the open shelving in our Asti kitchen.

 There is something so satisfying seeing the jars on display, like a real farmhouse kitchen.

So with the addition of the jars, came the opportunity to restyle and generally clean up the shelves.
They were a mess from Thanksgiving and from lack of attention!

 This wooden cart, a recent find from OKL found a home in the wine country!

 The right corner of the kitchen....

 ....the left corner of the kitchen!

 Since I'm at it, might as well restyle the dining room table.
Nothing special, just an antique wine cask waiting for a bunch of olive branches.

 Nothing has changed on the hutch.
I just love these plates though and had to capture this vignette!

It really is time to restyle the hutch, don't you think?
But when something works, why change it?

It all started with a bunch of jars, aka "a can of worms!"
A big thanks to my daughter and son-in-law for all their hard work putting up our produce as well as their own.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Where The Vineyards Meet The Redwoods

I love the juxtaposition of the redwood and magnolia garland below my beloved painting of a grape harvest.
It illustrates the slogan of our little town up north:
"Where the vineyards meet the redwoods."

It's true.
Our community of Asti and neighboring town of Cloverdale are located at the very top of Sonoma County, in the Alexander Valley.
Another few miles north, and you're in Mendocino County with its redwoods.

Although we've never spent Christmas in Asti, where the vineyards meet the redwoods might be a nice change.  Especially since we won't all be together this year.
A wine country Christmas sounds so romantic, but I have to talk the relatives in to making the trek north.  We'll see....
Meanwhile, decking the halls as usual is about to commence!

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Small Business Saturday

 I avoided the crowds on Black Friday, choosing to stay home in my pajamas, cleaning and eating!
However, yesterday was a different story.

Small Business Saturday in the wine country means shopping vintage stores and perhaps finding handmade crafts that you just can't find in Target and Walmart!
Talk about great for our economy!

Gin' Gilli's Vintage Home in Geyserville was our first stop.
Newly reopened from down the street, their new location is packed with handmade and vintage finds.

 I spied a Johnson Brother's, Friendly Village dinner set and was quite tempted.
The price was slashed to $275 for twelve place settings, serving pieces and tea service!

Also tempting was this tartan thermos, perfect for the plaid lover in your life!  (hint, hint)

Remember Tom and Jerrys?  
I do.  My Grandma always made them at Christmas in a Tom and Jerry set just like this.
The kids got "virgin" T & Js as a special treat!

An adorable vintage looking Santa caught my eye...

 ...this is what I call "unplugged" shopping!

 In fact shopping here really put me in the mood for the holidays!
Christmas music, cookies and cider = no stress!

After Gin' Gilli's, we ventured down the street and met a local woman who was selling her handmade wreaths and garlands.
I bought one of each!

 I'll end up taking it home, but for now I couldn't resist seeing what it looked like on the mantel in Asti.
Prompting the question, "Wouldn't a wine country Christmas be fun?"

Just the whole idea of an old fashioned Christmas sounds fun to me.
Staying away from the lines and crowds and shopping local for gifts is all part of how I envision Christmas 2012 to be.  

Here's to an old fashioned Christmas!

Read more about Gin' Gilli's here.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012


The best part of Thanksgiving is the day after, don't you think?
Leftover turkey, leftover mash potatoes, leftover dressing.
Leftover flowers to be rearranged.
Hope your days after Thanksgiving are continuing to be filled with tasty leftovers and relaxation.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gourmet Club Recipes

Wow, I did not expect to get so many emails requesting the gourmet club recipes!
So, just in time for Thanksgiving, here they are!
Bon Appetit!

Pomegranate Martinis
2 cups good vodka, such as Grey Goose or Finlandia 1 cup Cointreau liqueur
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail, such as Ocean Spray
1/2 cup Pom Wonderful bottled pomegranate juice 
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
Thinly sliced limes, for garnish
Combine the vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, and lime juice in a large pitcher. Fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice, pour the cocktail mixture in, and shake for a full 30 seconds. Pour into martini glasses, garnish with a slice of lime, and serve immediately. 

Smokey Kale Chips 
(serves 8 cups)
Remove the center ribs and stems from 1 bunch kale
Tear the leaves into 3-4inch pieces
Toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp smoked paprika and ¼ tsp salt (optional)
Spread on 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray.
Do not overlap pieces of kale.
Bake at 275 degrees for 15 mins., then turn off oven and let sit in oven additional 10 mins. (varies greatly with ovens)

Fried Sage Leaves
1/2 cup vegetable oil
flour, for dusting
30 sage leaves (or more)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, to taste (mince or press the garlic into the lemon juice first to take the bite off)
place the vegetable oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat.
combine the mayo, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice into a dipping sauce. season with salt as necessary.
lightly dust the sage leaves with flour, shaking off any excess. drop into the hot oil and cook until crispy and bright green, ~30 seconds. remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
serve with the dipping sauce. you can experiment with other savory sauces as well, though the sage leaves are rather fragile, so you will need to be careful.

Brussel Sprouts with Chestnuts and Bacon (*or not!)
(serves 8-10)
12oz. canned or vacuum-packed shelled chestnuts, large pieces cut in half (or about 1lb.fresh, if available)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 and ½ lbs.brussel sprouts, ends trimmed, halved
*6 slices (8oz) thick-cut bacon, cut into ½” pieces
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
¾ tsp sea salt
½ tsp each pepper and nutmeg
2 tsp lemon juice
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
 Toss chestnuts in oil and put on a trimmed baking sheet.  Bake, turning often, til slightly toasted but not dry, 10-15 mins.
  Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.  
 Add brussel sprouts and cook til bright green and just tender, about 6mins. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  *Cook bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat, stirring often, til almost crisp. 
Drain bacon in a strainer, reserving fat in a bowl.
Wipe out pan and add 3 Tbsp. reserved bacon fat.(*use olive oil instead of fat)  
Add shallot and cook, stirring often, til softened and starting to brown, about 3 mins.  
Add drained brussel sprouts and cook, stirring often and adding more fat if needed,
 til browned and starting to crisp, about 6 minutes.
  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice, stirring to combine.
  Transfer to a serving bowl and top with reserved *bacon and chestnuts.

Quinoa, White Bean and Kale Stew
Herb Blend:
1/2 t. of fennel seeds, crushed
1 t. dried marjoram
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
Everything Else:
1 t. olive oil
2 C. thinly sliced leeks
1 t. salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut medium dice
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut medium dice
8 C. vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 lbs. of Yukon potatoes, cut into medium dice
1 C. dried quinoa
1 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
One bunch kale (about a pound), stems removed and torn into bite sized pieces

First, prepare the herb blend by stirring all its ingredients together in a. small bowl.
Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Saute the leeks and garlic in oil with the salt for about 3 minutes, or however long it takes you to prep your carrot and parsnip. Add the carrot and parsnip, along with the herb blend, turn up the heat to high, and saute for a few seconds.
Add the  broth, potatoes, and quinoa. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes, until the potatoes and quinoa are tender. Add the kale and beans, and cook, stirring frequently, until the kale is wilted. Cover and simmer over low heat for 5 more minutes. Taste for salt.
When you serve this stew you may want to add a little lemon juice or a splash of balsamic vinegar or hot sauce—whatever your thing is. Or you may not! 

Kale Salad 
Kale - one bunch stemmed and torn into bit size pieces 
organic broccoli slaw - whole foods - found in the packaged salad section 
1/4 chopped purple cabbage
1/2 red onion - sliced
2 red bell peppers chopped
equal parts pumpkin and sunflower seeds

In large serving bowl, add a tiny bit of olive oil on your hands and massage kale until it starts to soften and wilt, 1-2 minutes. You will be amazed at the difference. That tough cellulose structure breaks down...wilts, actually and those leaves that once seemed so coarse and fibrous turn silky. 

Dressing is made with equal parts olive oil and lemon juice apple cider vinegar. I also mixed an avocado up in the dressing and added a chopped one to the salad as well. Add salt, pepper and garlic power to taste.  Toss salad and let sit for 30 minutes.

Cornish Game Hens
Brine the hens in 3 parts soy, 1 part honey for an hour.
Save mixture to baste if desired during cooking time.
Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Season to taste with poultry seasoning or other herbs to your liking:  rosemary, thyme and sage. (Herbs de Provence)
Roast for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.
(Basically, just roast the poulettes like you would a whole chicken!)
For more ideas on how to cook these birds, Pinterest has tons of recipes here!

Butternut Squash Raviolis

1 small to medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Ravioli dough or 3/4 pound sheet pasta
Flour, for dusting board
4 tablespoons sweet butter and 1 teaspoon honey
8 fresh sage leaves
2 ounces Parmesan, for grating
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut squash in 1/2 and scrape out seeds. Spread 1 tablespoon molasses in the cavity. Season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a roasting pan. Cook in the oven until very soft, about 1 hour.
Let cool to room temperature and scoop out flesh into the work bowl of a food processor.
Puree squash until smooth, then spread on a baking sheet and return to the 375 degree oven to dry, about 10 minutes. The consistency will be like mashed potatoes. Scrape into a large mixing bowl.
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to brown. Immediately remove from heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon molasses and all the vinegar. Add to squash with mascarpone, Parmesan, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and mix well. The recipe can be made ahead to this point (makes 2 cups filling,) Cover well and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days.
To Fill the Raviolis:
Lay out a sheet of pasta dough on a lightly floured board. Cut into circles with a 3 1/2 inch pastry cutter. Put 1 tablespoon squash filling in the center of 1/2 the rounds using either a pastry bag or a small spoon. Leave a 1/2-inch border all around the filling. Moisten borders with water and top with remaining rounds of dough. Press all the air out and seal firmly by pressing all around with fingertips. Lay raviolis out to dry on a lightly floured board or baking sheet and lightly flour the tops. Repeat until you run out of dough and/or filling. To cook, boil in lightly salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Reserve 2 ounces of the cooking water.

For the Honey Sage Brown Butter: 
While raviolis are cooking, in a large saute pan, melt the butter with the sage and a pinch of salt until it foams and becomes light brown. Add honey. Reserve.
On medium heat toss the cooked raviolis in the sage butter then transfer to a serving platter or dishes. Add 2 ounces of the cooking water to the pan and swirl with any residual butter. Spoon the butter sauce over the raviolis, then finish with a generous grating of Parmesan.
The Cheese and Fruit Platter
A selection of both hard and soft artisan cheeses to your preference.
Fig jam, figs and candied walnuts.

I featured Humboldt Fog goat cheese (California), Big Ed's raw cow's milk semi-hard cheese from Saxon Homestead Creamery (Wisconsin), a raw cow's milk, semi-soft Morbier (France) and a sheep Manchego (Spain).
The fig jam is actually a compote that our son-in-law made.
Basically, he boiled the figs and lemon juice until it became thick and sealed them in Mason jars.  No recipe, sorry!

Pumpkin Spice Latte
Pumpkin spice mix can be bought at the store, however, you most likely have all you need to make it at home. For 2 tablespoons of pumpkin spice mix, combine 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.
              2 cups milk
                2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
               1-3 tablespoons sugar
                1 tablespoon vanilla extract
                1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice mix (see headnotes)
                1/2 cup strong hot coffee
                whipped cream

              Add milk, canned pumpkin and sugar to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until hot, but do not boil.
             Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, pumpkin spice mix and coffee.
Pour into two large mugs then garnish, if desired, with whipped cream and an extra pinch of pumpkin spice mix.

"Dining with one's friends and beloved family
 is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, 
one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal." 
~Julia Child 

Wishing you all a lovely Thanksgiving with friends and beloved family!

I'm joining Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday!

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