Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Andrew's Day (and Giveaway Winner!)

The national flag in Scotland flies high today to commemorate St. Andrew's Day.

Andrew was an apostle of Jesus, brother of Simon Peter. He was to become one of the first followers of Jesus, following St. John the Baptist's calling; in return, introducing his brother to Jesus (see John 1: 40-42).

He was martyred around 60 AD in Patras (Greece) on an X-shaped cross. Hence, St. Andrew's Cross - the Saltire - which is the national emblem of Scotland.

After Constantine removed St. Andrew's remains to Constantinople, a certain St. Regulus was said to have had a dream in which he was instructed to remove part of the remains to the 'end of the earth.' After sailing for a time, he eventually shipwrecked off the coast of Scotland and constructed a chapel there to house the relics. Replaced by St. Andrew's Cathedral in the 12th century, it became a popular medieval pilgrimage site. They have since been pillaged (during the Scottish Reformation), but there is a plaque commemorating their old resting place in the ruins of the cathedral.

An event which solidified St. Andrew's patronage to Scotland was due to his intercessory assistance during a heated battle with the English in 832 AD. In a desperate moment, the Scottish king prayed to St. Andrew for help. After seeing the cross in the clouds, the king vowed to make him patron of Scotland if they were victorious. The Scots won the battle.

St. Andrew is the patron of fisherman, singers, stiff necks, sore throats, gout, women wishing to become mothers, unmarried women, and, of course, Scotland.

The feast of St. Andrew marks the beginning of the Christmas season as it falls on or around the First Sunday of Advent (this year November 25th). The St. Andrew's Prayer is traditionally recited every day until Christmas, 15 times a day, to pray for certain graces and favors during the upcoming year.

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment
at which the Son of God was born
of a most pure Virgin Mary
in a stable at midnight
in Bethlehem in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, o my God,
to hear my prayers and grant my desires,
Through the same Christ, our Lord.
A traditional Scottish meal is a great way to commemorate this feast. Following from a lineage of royal Scot blood (the Stewarts), it is an imperative for me on this day. Here are some ideas:

And the moment you've all been waiting for....
The winner of the Godiva giveaway is lucky #2 - suburban prep! I will email you shortly for where to send your prize. Thank you to all those who participated and stay tuned for further giveaways....

Pumpkin Apple Upside Down Cake

Autumn is winding down. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees in the front yard. They'll be gone after the next storm blows through.

Too, my autumnal baking is coming to an end. The last of the pumpkin has disappeared and the apples are dwindling in the fruit basket.

It is bittersweet; I, too, look forward to the peppermint and gingerbread soon to make an appearance....

Pumpkin Apple Upside Down Cake

2 apples, cored and diced
1 T butter
1 T honey
juice of one lemon
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
7 T butter, melted
2/3 c. pumpkin
1/3 c. buttermilk
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 c. flour, all-purpose
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger (dry or fresh -- I used dry)
1/4 t. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour 9-in. round pan.

In a frying pan, melt 1 T butter over medium heat. Add apples and honey. Cook about 3-4 minutes, until just softened. Drizzle with lemon juice. Arrange apples at the bottom of the mold.

Beat eggs with sugar until light in color. Add melted butter; beat. Stir in buttermilk and pumpkin. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined. Carefully pour batter evenly over apples.

Bake 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely before flipping over and removing from pan. (This is important -- I did not do so this time around due to time constraints and the apples stuck and had to be remolded to the cake.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trapdoor Kitchen Wine Cellars

Wowzers. How awesome would this be in your kitchen?

Via {}

These spiral cellars provide cooling through an air circulation system and earthen insulation that requires no additional power. Originating in France (mais oui!), they are quite popular in Europe, particularly in the UK where they go for about $20,000 and up. There are various designs, some more conspicuous than others.

I know what to do with my winning lottery ticket. ;)

The Great Potato Debate

"Are potatoes a vegetable?" my roommate inquired of me as she poured her cereal into a latte bowl one morning.

"Well, of course not," I responded. "They're tubers," still trying to wake up with my morning cup of tea.

"Ah, ha! I knew it! N. and I were arguing over whether they were vegetables, and I told him they couldn't be because they grew in the ground. They're roots."

But, then again, I wasn't so sure that excluded them from being a vegetable.

As much as I wanted to vindicate her stance, what I desired more was the truth. A little research was necessary.

Turns out, spuds have never been included by the Department of Health in the 'five a day' category. They just plain ol' don't make the Food Pyramid at all due to their starchy quality. They usually replace bread, pasta, or rice in a meal, but can't hang with the grains since they don't fit the bill there either.

Despite their homelessness, they are healthy for you. A medium size potato with skin-on provides 27 mg of Vitamin C, 0.2 mg of Vitamin B (vital for your nervous system), and trace amounts of B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc. It also provides fiber and properties beneficial for the immune system and fighting cellular damage.

But, because they are the root of the potato plant, botanically, potatoes are classified as a vegetable. N. was correct there.

However, nutritionally, potatoes are not vegetables. And since we are simply potato consumers, not growers, roomie and I decided, naturally, we were the winners in this debate.


This is the last day to enter the giveaway! Don't miss out on this opportunity to win delicious Godiva coffee and an apron!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Turkey Day Feast

I apologize; I'm a bit distracted today with Cyber Monday shopping. Apparently, I thought I had uncovered something novel this year -- the craziness of Cyber Monday to follow the frenzy of Black Friday -- but my friend just informed me that she landed some great deals last year on this Monday of Mondays.

It's probably at least a decade old, and I'm just now stumbling upon it. It is a good thing my existence doesn't depend upon the lastest cyber trend or I wouldn't still be here to tell the tale.

Back to the grind after a lovely Turkey Day and long weekend.

~Hope yours was wonderful in every way.~

Table set for the feast

Cute Fall leaf candles

Mr. Squirrel, Napkin Holder

Pre-dinner gin & tonic


Turkey name cards

Cleanin' beans

Turkey carving

Dinner plate full of goodies

Cornmeal Apple Pie

Chocolate Angel Pie

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Red Lentil Lemon Soup

Still in recovery mode from Thursday? 

I know I am.

That's why I went on the healthier, lighter side today and made this tasty soup.

This is the soup that finally came to be after that mishap last week. You didn't think I would give up on it, did you?

It was worth the wait.

The flavor of this red lentil soup is unique. It uses a combination of turmeric, cumin, mustard seed, cilantro and lemon. Seemingly wacky combination, but not in the least bit odd together.

I love the flavor, especially topped with Greek yogurt. That ingredient is a must.

Takes about 20 to 30 minutes to prepare and is even better the second day so be sure to make plenty.

You'll find the recipe over at 101 Cookbooks.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Godiva Coffee and a Giveaway

Have you begun your Black Friday shopping yet??

Personally, I'm not a fan of Black Friday. Crowds of hundreds of people scrambling and shoving, up before the crack of dawn, in order to obtain that big screen LCD television for $1,000 rather than $2,000 is just not my cup of tea.

I'll enjoy some extra time in bed catching up on sleep. Mmmk?

Speaking of tea, I'm straying from my usual cup this morning and sipping on Godiva's most recent brilliant concoction -- Chocolate Truffle coffee. I graciously received this in a bag of goodies from Foodbuzz during the conference I attended a few weeks ago.

I almost feel guilty drinking it for breakfast. The chocolate notes are strong, but not sweet. Sweetened creamers are often too much even for my sweet tooth, but this gives you all the flavor without the hypoglycemic shock.

To help get you prepared for your holiday baking and drink-making, I am hosting a giveaway of a Godiva Coffee apron. Appropriately chocolate-colored (but probably not flavored...sorry), it has handy pockets at the bottom to place your whisk or cinnamon or any other little thing you need to store away for a moment to transport across the kitchen or free your hands.

Godiva has a couple of special holiday blends, including this pumpkin spice flavor, which I will also throw into the mix for you, along with a $2 off coupon to purchase your favorite flavor for that holiday shindig. They make tasty lattes and other speciality drinks which you can find recipes for here.

To enter the giveaway, simply post a comment with your favorite holiday coffee drink. Click the 'join this site' link on the right tab and I'll give you a second chance. I will pick a winner using the random number generator after the giveaway closes November 30th at 8:00 am PST.

Good luck and happy drinking!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Hope you stuff yourself with turkey, cranberries, potatoes, green beans, pie, and any other good thing that graces your table this Thanksgiving day!

But don't forget what this day is about. Give thanks.

Via {etsy}

~ I am thankful for life. That which my parents have given me, and each and every life I come in contact with daily. It is a beautiful thing that comes in all shapes and sizes. :) The new lives that have come into the world this year, and those that have finished their sojourn on earth.

~ I am thankful for my family. For the crazy eight, my parents and grandparents...and I love how it is growing with marriages! I'm gaining sisters (which I've never had before), not to mention my cute nephew and niece.....For our days of summer vacation, bonding over a beer, at the ocean, working out a puzzle. For our engaging conversations, getaway moments at the frozen yogurt shop, the internal rivalries, shouting over a football game.

~ I am thankful for my fiancĂ©. 72 days and counting.....!! I am in awe every day of the blessing God has given me, placing him in my life. For his sense of adventure, his indefatigable spirit, the way he makes me laugh, the way he laughs, his encouragement and appreciation of my interests, his orneriness, his constant support.... I love him and can't wait to be joined together with him for the rest of my life.

~ I am thankful for my friends. Their encouragement, guidance and support have filled the best (and worst) periods of my life. So many amazing memories. For games of hide-and-seek in the dark. For dance aerobic videos. For tea time. For our time spent rallying for LIFE. For hikes and walks. For blading and biking. For theological and philosophical discussion and solving the world's problems.

~ I am thankful for my faith. For the One who created me, who strengthens and sustains me. For times of prayer. For times of praise. For times of adoration. For forgiveness and mercy. For His Sacrifice. For the Eucharist.

~ I am thankful for the ability to run. It keeps me sane and in shape. For those who run with me keeping me accountable and energized for exercise. For half-marathons which create a great sense of accomplishment, and for those who get me through them. For Costco Hill.

~ I am thankful for music. For the ability to express myself through it. For my ability to dance to it in so many forms. For my voice, the piano, my violin. For my music students. For the opportunities it creates for fellowship with my brothers and friends.

~ I am thankful for the ability to travel. Discovery and exploration of new places is one of life's great gems. There are so many places I want to see, so many places I have seen. For the ability to stand in awe of God's creation and those man-made. For wide expanses of land. For Gothic cathedrals.  For the ability to photograph and create glimpses of what I experience.

~ I am thankful for food. Especially that shared with loved ones. For strawberries. For chocolate. For pastries. For spices. For warm soups. For cold ice cream. For healthy salads. For fried fish.
~ I am thankful for quiet moments. Those in which I can reflect on all that I am grateful for and give thanks.

Via {weheartit}

For whom and what are you thankful?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Reflection

I'm munching one of these tasty morsels - a sweet potato biscuit from Karen's -- as I wait for a friend to go for a jog along the bike trail. Seems a fitting warm-up before stuffing myself silly during the Thanksgiving feast.

The cafe is bustling with activity -- waitresses concentrating, serving, cleaning; folks dropping by to pick up their pecan pies, savory biscuits, or adorable cornucopia cookies; families pausing with anticipation for a bite to eat before hustling off for last minute grocery purchases.

On the covered outdoor patio, old friends are catching up on life -- a young woman shares with a gentleman across the way concerning relocation plans with her military husband, girlfriends feting a 40th birthday with carefully wrapped packages, Russian and American traditions and customs compared.


Food preparations often occur in a flurry of labor, striving for the perfect dishes.

Then, a period of enjoyment, relaxation, contemplation creating memories that last a lifetime with family and friends.

This is what I wish for you this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fire Roasted Chile Chevre

Many Americans are afraid of cheese with bold flavor.

Not this American.

I prefer my cheese to bite back. I like a cheese with some pizazz. A cheese with the ability to make your tastebuds dance.

One of my favorite types of cheese is chevre (or goat). Although its flavor is rather audacious, it pairs well with a variety of fruits and vegetables. A personal favorite is pineapple. I once purchased a small round rolled in tiny pieces at a cheese stall in a Parisian market, and made it my lunch alongside a rustic baguette from the local boulangerie. It is my top pick in a quiche, nestled among the asparagus spears.

As an added bonus, goat cheese is healthier for you than that made from cow's milk. It is lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat and easier on the human digestive tract.

At a food conference I attended a few weeks ago, I was introduced to this chevre cheese with fire roasted chiles by Redwood Hill Farm. I was so in love I nearly felt compelled to grab an entire container off the tasting table for later. Rather, I picked it from a miniature fridge beside the freshly baked bread (they just go together) at the market the following day and threw it into my basket. It was consumed quickly as dinner cooked. The only complaint we had was that the container was too small. We're thinking a Costco upgrade would be an excellent idea.

Perfect as a pre-Thanksgiving appetizer on crackers or bread.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mendocino Pumpkin Muffins

If you are not tired of all things pumpkin just yet, there is something more I would like to share with you. :)

My brother requests these muffins every year for his birthday (it's in June, mind you), and I'm always more than happy to oblige. They are adapted from a cookbook that has been on my mother's shelf for as long as I can remember.

The cookbook comes from a little restaurant called Cafe Beaujolais, which is nestled in the bohemian, coastal town of Mendocino, situated directly off Highway One in Northern California.

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds was filmed on location here. Although, I try not to think of that when I visit, or I become frightened by every bird that flies overhead.... ;)

Mendocino's Blair House is also famous. It featured as the residence of Jessica Fletcher, the fictional sleuth from the hit 80's show, Murder She Wrote.

My family almost moved here shortly after I was born. Oh, how I would have loved to live in one of those quaint houses on the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean!

We make frequent trips to the town when we stay in Fort Bragg (just 10 miles north). I love meandering the hiking trails along the bluff or browsing the myriad of galleries and shops. There are coffee shops aplenty, good for stopping in for a warm drink to ward off the chilly ocean breeze that blows through. A favorite stop is the Gallery Bookshop where there is guaranteed a purchase every time.

Pumpkin Muffins

2 c. brown sugar
1 c. canola oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 can (15 oz.) canned pumpkin (or 2 c. fresh)
3 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
2 t. salt
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. allspice
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
2/3 c. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Thoroughly mix together brown sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and cloves. Alternating with the water, add dry ingredients to wet in increments. (Batter should be creamy but not runny.)

Grease a muffin tin or fill with paper cups. Fill each cup about 2/3 full.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out dry.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Five Step Sandwich

Five steps to a perfect grilled ham and cheese sandwich --

1 ~ Cut cheese into even slices.
 2 ~ Prepare ingredients: cheese slices, pieces of ham, buttered bread.

3 ~ Arrange sandwich in pan over medium heat: butter side down bread, cheese, ham, and top with another slice of butter side down bread.

4 ~ Cover with lid. (This helps melt the cheese thoroughly.) Cook 3-5 minutes on each side.

5 ~ Enjoy! (Goes well with a cup of tomato soup.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pumpkin Parfaits

I'm a bit of a traditionalist. Pies and thanksgiving go together like salt and pepper. They just belong together. I just can't bring myself to make anything other than pie for our Thanksgiving feast.

So, I'm planning other little get-togethers frequently where I can make and enjoy other autumnal treats. There are just so many recipes making their way around the web right now, I can't let them pass me by completely.

My latest and greatest endeavor were these decadent pumpkin parfaits with heavenly layers of pumpkin mousse, freshly whipped cream, and gingersnap cookie bits. They were a perfect addition to a Fall supper with several of my lovely bridesmaids, which we quickly consumed while discussing shower plans and such.

They were very simple to make. Although, they should be made ahead of time (even a day in advance) so as to have time to set.

I won't judge if you decide to break tradition. :)

Find the recipe here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Mistake: Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

"I need red lentils for the soup. There are the red lentils. Oh, they're so vibrant! They almost look like they're glowing. Well, I've substituted the dark ones before. There probably isn't much of a difference in flavor....why are you so intimidated by the bright ones?!?"

This was what was going on in my cerebral cortex as I was scanning the bulk bins at the grocery store. Despite the whole debate going on in my head, guess what I didn't buy.


I bought green split peas.

And what's worse, is that I didn't realize this until after I had purchased the other ingredients for the lentil soup, was gathering everything to cook, rinsed off the peas, placed them in the water and was about to stick them on the stove to boil.

All of a sudden, I had a revelation.

"Those aren't lentils."

Wow, Laurel, wow.

I got a phone call.

"How's dinner coming along?"

"I'm not sure."


"There will have to be a Plan B because I failed to buy the main ingredient for the soup. I bought split peas."

"You can always make a substitution."

Great diversion, rescuing the floodgates from spillage.

Substitution it is.

The lentil soup recipe I was going to use is from the lovely Heidi Swanson over at 101 Cookbooks. I quickly researched a split pea recipe on her blog and stumbled upon this. Thankfully, everything I needed for that recipe was on hand as well. The lemon juice and zest really give it a wonderful zing that excites your tastebuds for something as simple as split pea soup. She has some of the best soup recipes, all vegetarian. Be sure to check them out as the rainy season descends upon us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Irish Through and Through

Who says St. Patrick's Day can be celebrated only on the 17th of March?

Irish car bombs, Irish whiskey, Bailey's Irish Cream, Guinness Stout. Irish Soda Bread, Colcannon, Corned Beef, Irish Stew. These things are too good to be enjoyed only once a year.
Here's to a long life and a happy one. A quick death and an easy one.
A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold beer -- and another one!

This quaint little pub in Auburn, California serves it up all year round. The food, drinks and atmosphere make you believe you are sipping a pint in Belfast. In addition to an impressive pub menu, including their famous sliders to munch while viewing the current football game on the big screens, they brew their own beer.

I wasn't in the mood for beer the other night, but when Stephen suggested Irish coffees, I couldn't -- no, wouldn't -- turn that down. Made with freshly brewed coffee, Jameson's Whiskey, Bailey's Irish Creme, and a large dollop of whipped cream atop, dyed green with a bit of Creme de Menthe, they sated an Irish soul and aided in a lively discussion on the nature of Truth.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Sweet Tooth

The past week or so I've been gathering recipe ideas for Thanksgiving. It is right around the corner. Like so many other holidays, it seems to sneak up on you. It must've been just last week that I was sunbathing on the back lawn, lemonade and magazine in hand...right?

At our Thanksgiving feast, my responsibility is filling the dessert table. I got drafted into this position when I was about 6 years old and brought home a ready-to-bake apple pie from my Brownie Girl Scout meeting in September. It was to be frozen with a do-not-open-until-Thanksgiving message attached.

A labor of love went into making those. Each apple had to be hand-cranked on an old-fashioned apple corer/peeler. It spun the apple into a delightful spiral. Ribbons of apples would collect on the cutting board, many of which ended up in my mouth. There was something rather pleasant about munching on the delicate slices; it didn't cut into your gums when biting into it, nor was it difficult to chew in such a thin state.

I would, then, carefully mix the flour, cinnamon and sugar (simplicity here) into the apples, taking my time to ensure each slice of apple was generously coated. This was not an easy task for one with short, weak arms. But with patience and perseverance, it could be accompished.

The true challenge was fitting every last piece of filling into my pie shell. The store-bought tins were shallow. I stacked my precarious mountain of apples, then flipped the lid onto the top. Hopefully, the crust was no longer frozen or it would crack into pieces.

I was very proud of my pie. I still am. As much as I like to create and try new recipes, that simple apple pie continues to be a staple on the dessert table every Thanksgiving.

The famous Thanksgiving squirrel (napkin holder)

With so many choices, it is difficult to decide what else will grace the dessert table this year:

Please share in the comments, links of recipes you think worth considering! :)