Friday, November 29, 2013

The Festive Season

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

We are officially entering the festive season. Last night thoughts of Christmas started to fill my head.

My daughter made two recipes for our dinner that I thought would be perfect for the holiday.

This festive Autumn Margarita from Mario Batali could easily be served at a holiday party. It is made with tequila, apple cider, and lime juice. You serve it in a glass that has been dipped in lime juice and then coated with cinnamon sugar. Add a piece of apple and you have a very festive cocktail. Go here for the recipe.

And these miniature pumpkin doughnuts were delicious and awfully cute, don't you think? The good news is that they are baked, not fried. Christmas morning?
Go here for the recipe!

Coming up on Monday-- A Holiday Gift List for the Anglophile 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pecan pie, Thanksgiving, 2012

Last year we spent Thanksgiving with a dear friend who has a home in Sun Valley, Idaho. Although we made the turkey ourselves, most of the food for our Thanksgiving feast came from Cristina's Restaurant in Sun Valley. Cristina's is probably the most popular restaurant in Sun Valley; the food is fabulous! It was a joy not to be cooking. Instead we had the opportunity to hike, read, shop and explore this gorgeous part of the world. On Thanksgiving we sat down to a scrumptious meal, including all our favorite dishes. But the desserts were the stars. The pies from Christina's were not only delicious, but beautiful!

Pumpkin pie 

This year I am home for Thanksgiving and getting back into my old routine. The week before Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. I devote most of it to getting ready for the holiday, especially doing as much cooking as possible. The house has a holiday feeling -- all of my mixing bowls and pots and pans are out, wonderful aromas are starting to waft through the house, and delectable ingredients begin to take over the kitchen counters. The kitchen is officially moving into the holiday season.

 I am making most of my usual recipes this Thanksgiving, as well as incorporating some new ones. I like to try a few new recipes each year. The cooking begins on Monday and always includes the following:  

Cranberry Chutney
(recipe below)

  Pie Crust

Lovely sight! 

  Croutons for the Chestnut and Apple Stuffing

It feels so good to get this cooking done in the beginning of the week. There is comfort in these rituals. 

Over the next two days I make:

Turkey stock and two pies: Apple and Pumpkin 
I chop all the vegetables for the stuffing and clean and prepare all the vegetables for the side dishes

This year I am adding two new recipes:
Nigella Lawson's Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Parsley. I have made this before and it is delicious. It should be a great addition to our meal. Go here for the recipe.

 Make-Ahead Gravy from last week's New York Time's Food section. According to the recipe, you make most of the gravy ahead of time and at the last minute add the turkey drippings. If this works, it will be a huge time saver on Thanksgiving day! Go here for the recipe.

Looking through cookbooks and magazines for new recipes is part of the fun  

I would love to know: what are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes and what new recipes are you trying this year?

Wishing you a warm and delicious holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!



1 pound cranberries
1 cup chopped, cored, pared apples
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 - 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery

Simmer cranberries, apples, sugars, raisins, spices and 1 cup water uncovered in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until juice is released from berries. This takes about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, gently cook onion and celery in butter until tender.
Add onion mixture to cranberries and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, stirring frequently. This takes about 40 minutes. Add a little water as needed. Refrigerate, covered, up to 2 weeks.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Autumn and Victorian Novels

What is it about autumn and Victorian novels? They just seem to go together. Come cooler weather and  homey pleasures, I want to curl up with a long, sprawling novel. Maybe one by Dickens, Bronte, or Collins...I just want to sink into that world and follow the characters' adventures. A comfortable chair, a cup of tea at my side and a fire in the fireplace complete my cold weather fantasy. At that moment, all is right with the world.

I started to think about my favorite Victorian novels. Many people consider the novel to be the greatest literary genre of the nineteenth-century. That is when some of the greatest novelists were writing: Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy. They created some of the most famous stories and characters of all time. They wrote books that you can sink into and enter a fully formed world. Books in which you can understand what daily nineteenth-century life was like. They created memorable landscapes: Trollope's cathedral town of Barchester, Dickens London, Emily Bronte's Yorkshire moors, Thomas Hardy's Wessex. These are places that live on in our imaginations long after we finish the books. One of these writers, Wilkie Collins, is credited with having created the first detective novel: The Moonstone. Here are a few Victorian novels that I have enjoyed over the years:

The Moonstone and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Adam Bede by George Eliot
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Great Expectations and many others by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre and Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
 The Warden and Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

Which ones are your favorites?

Speaking of Charles Dickens, there is a new film adaptation of Great Expectations starring Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch and Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham that is excellent. Have you seen it?

Holiday Grainger as Estella and Jeremy Irvine as Pip in the new film Great Expectations

If I could pick a dream location in which to do all this reading...

It would have to be the exquisite library at The Pitcher Inn in Warren, Vermont!
This cozy hotel is one of my favorite places to stay, especially at this time of the year.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Autumnal Beauty in Lake Como

 Lake Como

"This lake exceeds anything I have ever beheld in beauty."
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

After visiting Lake Como for the first time, I understood why the poets were inspired. Lake Como is a beautiful and romantic lake. And with the backdrop of the Alps, it is truly awe-inspiring. It has the kind of beauty and majesty that would inspire great art. In fact, the story of the writer Mary Shelley and her husband Percy Shelley gathering with their friends on a dark and stormy night on another lake (in Switzerland) in 1816 and creating the tale of Frankenstein was never far from my mind. I could imagine it happening in Lake Como, especially with scenic views such as the one above. (Go here to read more about the creation of this gothic horror story.) As I was soon to discover, Switzerland was only thirty minutes away.

I loved being at Lake Como in October. Because the weather was cool and the skies were often cloudy, the views of the lake were dramatic and magnificent. The cool weather and gray skies created the kind of atmosphere that made it easy to imagine the presence of the poets. And I loved wearing a sweater and jacket to go exploring each day. Bundling up at night and going to cozy restaurants for dinner overlooking the lake was the perfect ending to our days. Our favorite restaurant was Il Gatto Nero


There was fall color and inspiration everywhere. We took a boat trip around the lake and enjoyed the spectacular views. We would be stopping at Villa Carlotta and the picturesque village of Bellagio.

Gorgeous views along the way

Old and colorful buildings on the lake

Privately owned villas

Villa Carlotta

Villa Carlotta's spectacular gardens

The climb up affords beautiful views

On the way to Bellagio

The village of Bellagio

Narrow cobblestone streets took us to shops and restaurants

Shutters, awnings and window boxes add to the charm

The legendary Villa d'Este

 Villa d'Este

The following day we took a day trip to Lugano, Switzerland which was just thirty minutes away

Just a short drive and we arrived at Lake Lugano

The charming town of Lugano

The open-air market was filled with fall produce. Just gorgeous.

Look at those porcini mushrooms!


A giant squash

Lovely chestnuts

Chrysanthemums in fall colors completed the scene


 My trip to Italy contained so much beauty and inspiration. The gorgeous fall produce I saw in Italy and Switzerland was impressive. Since returning home I have been going to farmers markets and cooking with seasonal produce whenever I can. I made this Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Apples from Food and Wine magazine. Filled with fall vegetables and fruit, it is perfect for this time of year. And it is delicious and healthy.

Go here for the recipe. Enjoy!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fall Tabletop Inspiration

Some friends came over for dinner the other night and I had fun styling the table. I have been in the process of reorganizing my kitchen and have discovered all sorts of great seasonal decor. It turns out I have been collecting holiday tabletop items for years, but haven't been able to find most of them! Now that my kitchen is better organized, I can easily locate what I need.

I started with my new table runner from Italy

It had all the colors of fall

It was easy to add orange place mats and yellow napkins

I bought the amber colored votive holders for a party years ago. And the orange leaf candlesticks are from a trip to Paris to celebrate my sister's birthday.

 The pumpkin napkin rings were purchased at Williams-Sonoma on a fall visit to San Francisco several years ago

Red peonies and green hydrangeas pulled it all together

I loved setting the table with accessories collected over the years

The table was filled with memories

This new runner from Italy will definitely be making an appearance on Thanksgiving!
How do you like to set your Thanksgiving table?