Sunday, March 27, 2011

Snapshots from Hawaii 2011, Part I.

First view of Hawaii from the window of the plane. We were flying to Maui on the day the tsunami hit, but we experienced no delays or any other problems because of it. Our pilot kept us updated throughout our flight

Robert showing the beach to Vivian. She was so good on the long plane flight

Soon after we arrived at the gate, Dorothy spotted her suitcase on top of the luggage cart. Always good to know our things made it!

Waiting on our bags. Dots seized the opportunity to catch up on the eight hours of texts she missed while flying. Vivian still being very good - hooray!

Right as we pulled up in the driveway of our hotel, though, Vivian decided she had had enough of traveling and behaving well and completely melted down. When I finally got her out of the car, she lay down in the middle of the valet queue and began to cry, "Take me home! I don't like this place! Please take me home." It was not a pretty scene. I imagine the hotel employees were wishing we would go home!

Robert finally coerced Vivian into her stroller and we walked around for a bit to calm her down.

Checking out the grounds. Vivian was doing better at this point, but I had a perpetual knot in my stomach wondering what in the world we had done bringing her all this way

Checking into our room. A banana made things much better

Obviously we didn't get an "aloha" picture with our leis as we arrived the hotel! Vivian never would put her lei on, but I did get her to hold it up for this shot

Ah! Once we were in our room, the view began to soothe me a bit

Dots enjoyed a fruity drink on our lanai while watching the sunset

Beautiful Hawaiian sunset

This is what Vivian thought of the sunset!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Sunset view from our room

We are in Hawaii for Spring Break this week. Our family been to this resort several times before, but this year is a little different because Will is not with us (he elected to go to Panama City Beach with some fraternity brothers instead; can you imagine?!) and Vivian accompanied us here for the first time.

I had fretted about our decision to bring Vivian because she typically has such a tough time with new places and transitions, but she has been great! We've had a couple of meltdowns and have not been able to go out to dinner at night, but overall, Robert and I have been thrilled with how well Vivian has behaved and surprised and delighted with how much she has enjoyed herself here. The first day we arrived, she pleadeded almost incessantly, "Please take me home. I want to go home. I want to go see Percy" but such requests have diminished markedly each day.


One funny Vivian story: Robert and I have bribed Vivian to get into the pool each day with the promise of an Oreo smoothie afterward. Earlier this week I was trying yet again to convince Vivian and reminded her, "Vivian, what do you get if you get in the water?" Without hesitation she replied, "Wet."

No hands! Vivian on the water slide with Robert

More stories and pictures after we get home. Aloha!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prayers requested.

Ellen, our friend Karen and me in my den, circa 1975

My childhood friend and neighbor Ellen was recently diagnosed with cancer. She has started a blog to chronicle her journey.

Ellen is an immensely creative and talented artist in addition to being witty, clever, a lot of fun and an overall great person. I would deeply appreciate your prayers for her.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Valentine Luncheon 2011: part IV: Recipes.

Hors d'Oeuvres

Pesto Bleu Cheese Tartlets
From Savor the Moment by The Junior League of Boca Raton

1 package frozen puff pastry
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces bleu cheese, softened
¼ cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup prepared pesto
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Thaw puff pastry for an hour. Unfold the pastry on a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and discard the top half of the squares.

Combine the cream cheese, bleu cheese and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and mix well. Spread about ¼ teaspoon of the mixture on each pastry square. Top each with pesto and sprinkle with walnuts and Parmesan cheese.

Broil for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve promptly.

(The cream cheese mixture as written makes WAY more than you need for this recipe. The second time I made it I cut everything down proportionally.)

Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney
from The Gourmet Cookbook

Pastry dough
1 cup heavy cream
1 whole large egg
2 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
5 oz. chilled white Stilton cheese, rind removed and cheese crumbled

Make tart shell:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 17- by 8-inch rectangle and fit into 13 x 4 x 1 tart pan with removable bottom. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then fold overhang inward and press against side of pan to reinforce edge. Lightly prick bottom and sides all over with a fork. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Line pastry shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in middle of oven 20 minutes, then carefully remove foil and weights and bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool shell in pan 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Make filling:

Whisk together cream, whole egg, yolks, salt, and pepper until combined.

Put tart shell (still in pan) on a baking sheet and scatter cheese evenly in shell. Slowly pour custard into shell and bake in middle of oven until golden around edge and custard is just set, 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool tart completely in pan on a rack. Cut tart into 32 rectangles and serve at room temperature, topped with chutney.

Cranberry Chutney:

2 large shallots (3 oz), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (12-oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries (not thawed)
⅔ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
½ teaspoon salt
generous pinch dried hot red pepper flakes

Cook shallots in oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, just until berries pop, 10 to 12 minutes, then cool.

(This makes more chutney than needed for the Stilton Tart. Leftover chutney keeps well for several weeks in refrigerator and is delicious on turkey sandwiches.)


Tea Room Rolls

From Compliments Of by the Women’s Exchange of Memphis
Makes 3-dozen+ rolls

2 envelopes dry yeast (I use Rapid-Rise)
⅓ cup warm water (slightly warmer than your body temperature – around 110°)
1 cup shortening, melted and cooled to 110°
⅔ cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
1⅓ cups warm water (110°)
5 cups all-purpose flour (I used a cup or two more to get the dough not to be too sticky)
melted butter

Dissolve yeast in ⅓ cup warm water. Combine shortening and sugar and mix well. Stir in yeast, eggs and salt. Mix in remaining water. Add the flour and stir until a soft dough form, adding more flour as needed.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat the surface. Let rise, loosely covered, for two hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough. Roll ¾” thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut into desired size. Arrange one-inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 325° for 25 minutes.

For heart-shaped rolls, pinch off a walnut-sized piece and roll between your palms to form a small ball. Tuck three dough balls into heart-shaped muffin tins and let rise as above. Baking time may be a little less; check often after 15 minutes.

(This recipe makes a LOT of rolls. It is easily cut in half.)

Tomato Soup with Basil and Vermouth
From Food for Thought by The Junior League of Birmingham

¼ cup butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 16-oz. cans whole tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chicken broth, divided
¾ cup whipping cream or milk
2 ounces vermouth

Sauté onion in butter for 7-8 minutes over medium heat. Chop tomatoes reserving juice and add juice and tomatoes to onion mixture. Stir in tomato paste, thyme, basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add 2 cups broth. Cover and simmer additional 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Purée in batches in blender or with immersion blender adding additional 1 cup of broth. Reheat stirring in cream and vermouth.

Makes 2 quarts

Mandarin Shrimp Pasta

Adapted from Colorado Collage by The Junior League of Denver
Serves 12

2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup Italian salad dressing, purchased or homemade, divided
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
6 green onions, chopped, including tops
24-ounces spaghetti noodles, cooked al dente and drained
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 10-ounce cans mandarin orange slices, drained
⅔ cup slivered almonds, toasted

Marinate the shrimp in ⅓ cups salad dressing in refrigerator for one hour. In small bowl combine peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, ginger, crushed red pepper and remaining ⅔ cup salad dressing. Whisk to blend.

In large skillet combine peanut oil and sesame oil over high heat. Add carrot, cook one minute, stirring frequently. Add shrimp, discarding marinade, and green onions. Cook, stirring constantly, until shrimp are opaque, about three minutes. Remove from heat.

In large bowl combine cooked pasta, peanut butter mixture, shrimp mixture and cilantro. Toss to blend, top with mandarin oranges and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve hot or cold.


Chocolate Budini with Caramel Sauce

From Compliments Of by the Women’s Exchange of Memphis
Serves 6

Caramel Sauce
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 6-8 minutes or until mixture turns an amber color (mine took much longer to caramelize – more like 15-20 minutes – watch it closely because it can go from amber to burned very quickly). Stir in cream and remove from heat. Mix in liqueur. Cool slightly before serving. If made in advance, refrigerate and microwave to warm slightly before serving.

Chocolate Budini and Assembly
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups unsalted butter, sliced
6 tablespoons sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1⁄8 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

coffee ice cream
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Combine chocolate, butter, 6 tablespoons sugar and the salt in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at half-power until melted. Cool slightly. Whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla. Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add 6 tablespoons sugar gradually, beating constantly until glossy stiff peaks form. Fold ¼ of the meringue mixture into the chocolate. Fold the chocolate mixture into the meringue until just combined.

Spoon the chocolate mixture evenly into six heatproof ramekins. You may prepare to this point up to two days in advance and store, loosely covered, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before baking. Bake at 375° on a rack in the lower third of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until puffed with crusty, deeply cracked tops. Top each serving with a scoop of coffee ice cream. Sprinkle with the almonds and drizzle with the sauce.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Valentine Luncheon 2011, part III: Lunch is served.

Dining room table viewed from my seat

Gathering my guests together before lunch, I returned thanks for the wonderful friends the Lord has blessed me with and asked God to bless our food and our time together. I also thanked my friends for their wonderful support - expressed in myriad ways - during Vivian's illness last summer

My sweet friend Page raised a toast. She recounted recently helping her parents move and declared that when she was their age, she hoped she'd still be coming to my Valentine luncheon!

My menu this year (recipes coming): Mandarin Shrimp Pasta, Tomato Soup with Basil and Vermouth, Heart-shaped yeast rolls

Dining room guests

Some friends in the living room

Friends in the breakfast room

Chocolate Budini with coffee ice cream and caramel sauce. This might have received the most raves of any dessert I've ever served! It was fabulous. The recipe came from
Compliments Of by the Women's Exchange of Memphis, a cookbook given to me by my dear blog friend Jan from Bessie Mary

This fun group stayed after everyone else left and sat and unwound with me in the living room

My least favorite part of the party: saying good-bye to my friends

Meanwhile, Miss Linda, DJ and Matt worked hard behind the scenes so that I could enjoy my own party

Clean dishes ready to return to the cabinet

A mix of my silverware (Gorham Fairfax) and my grandmother's (Stieff Corsage)

Dessert plates

And lest I give the impression that everything is perfectly lovely at my house for my Valentine luncheon, this is the attractive threshold that greeted my guests. There was a little bit of ice on my steps from some bad weather earlier in the week. The window washer who came the morning of my party offered to "de-ice" the steps for me with a pot of hot water. Well, the temperature was below freezing, so the hot water promptly froze and created a treacherous sheet of ice on both my steps and my walkway! Hence, old towels to the rescue {sigh}

Coming next... recipes