Friday, March 22, 2013



We have just returned from a wonderful week in Hawaii. My mother joined us this year which was a special treat.

Vivian has been so sweet and compliant lately, and she did really well on our trip. She loved feeding the fish in the koi ponds around our resort, and while it was never her idea to get in the water, she had fun kicking her feet and splashing Robert and me. We had one dramatic moment when Vivian fell into the pool fully dressed (and was quickly retrieved as I was standing right next to her). The incident did not faze Vivian one bit, but I had to grab every towel within reach and wrap her up quickly because she started pulling at her shirt and pants saying, "I can't swim in my clothes, I have to swim in my bathing suit." We have had countless talks on "we don't take off our clothes until we are in our room," but the concept clearly has yet to take root.

Here are a few pictures from Hawaii. I'm ready to go back!

Shortly after our arrival. Vivian seemed pretty happy to be there but wanted no part of wearing her lei

View from our room

Dots brought along her hammock

Robert and Vivi in the pool

Two Vivians relaxing by the pool

Vivian, Robert and me in the lazy river - Vivian is giggling because she thinks she is splashing Robert with her kicks

Vivian going down a slide with Robert

Robert reading a book on his iPad

The beach

Katie and Dots at Happy Hour

Our dessert one night at dinner. This was incredible! It's coconut ice cream inside a chocolate shell coated in toasted coconut. It was as delicious as it was beautiful and creative

Vivian feeding the fish

Vivian would always say, "The fish are so happy now." I bet those fish miss Vivian!

Teenage girls by the pool {sigh}. Dots didn't know I was taking her picture - I think she was hiding from the sun

Heading to Lahaina

Annual kids picture by the banyan tree

A happy Vivian

Strolling in Lahaina - this was a pretty quick trip as Vivian's new stroller is too big and clunky to maneuver very easily in the tiny shops. Plus Vivian's tolerance of/interest in shopping is even less than Robert's and his is pretty close to nil

Mama's Fish House - on the north shore of Maui

View from our table at Mama's Fish House. We ate lunch there one day

Robert doing his best to keep Vivian entertained until our food arrived. When Vivian's lunch of baked fish, fresh fruit and rice was set in front of her, she said, "I don't like my food!" and started to push her stroller away from the table. Robert distracted her and prevented a majorly unattractive scene in an otherwise lovely restaurant, and within about 30 seconds Vivian was devouring her lunch. (Notice that Vivian is wearing a different shirt than she had on just an hour or so before in Lahaina. I found a whale t-shirt for her in a shop. I asked Vivian if she liked it, and before I even realized what was happening, she had taken off her other shirt (which I took to mean "yes"). Thank goodness there was no one else in the store!

Sunset from the lanai off our room

As I was enjoying a delicious lobster salad sandwich one afternoon at the Four Seasons, this egret walking on the hedge right by our table availed himself of the off-menu fresh gecko

Vivian (wearing the whale shirt again) relaxing by the pool. She would tell me, "Make my chair a bed!" and often fell asleep

View from my chair as I worked a crossword puzzle

Dots and Robert in a kayak

Looking out over the pool and beach from our hotel's restaurant

Hawaiian sunset on our last night (photo credit to Dots)

Meanwhile, guess who thought Gulf Shores, Alabama with college friends sounded like more fun than Hawaii with the family!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Valentine Luncheon 2013, part IV: recipes.

Crab Salad
from my friend Cynthia
serves 6-8

1 container jumbo lump crab meat
2 scoops mayonnaise
1 scoop Dijon mustard
Chopped green onions
1 jar capers, drained
A couple of scoops of Kraft horseradish (red top in dairy section)
Lemon juice
Paul Prudhomme Seafood Magic (a bunch of shakes)
Salt (if you think it needs it)

Combine all ingredients. Serve on a bed of lettuce.

***These are obviously very rough measurements that can be adjusted to your taste! I used five containers of crab and quadrupled everything else to serve 32 people. This was REALLY good and oh, so easy.

Fragrant Carrot Soup with Cilantro Cream
from Peace Meals by the Junior League of Houston
Serves 10

5-7 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2½ teaspoons coarse salt, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
3 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 pounds carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup heavy whipping cream

Heat the broth in a saucepan over low. Heat the olive oil in a stockpot; add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté for 5 minutes then add the garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger and cayenne. Cook until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add a little of the warm broth if the mixture dries out. Add the carrots, sweet potatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups of the warm broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender. Allow to cool slightly. Purée soup with immersion blender (or in small batches in a blender). Add orange juice and additional broth to achieve desired consistency. Season again with remaining teaspoon of salt and additional cayenne if desired. In a small bowl stir together the cilantro and cream. Serve soup with a drizzle of the cilantro cream on top.

Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney
from The Gourmet Cookbook

***I serve this hors d'oeuvres every year because it is so delicious, it looks pretty and festive and it can be prepared ahead and chilled and then brought to room temperature and sliced the morning of the luncheon

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.)

Fig and Blue Cheese Savouries

1 cup all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
About 3 tablespoons fig preserves

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place the flour, butter, blue cheese, and a few grinds of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball.

3. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to pull it together. Then roll out to a 1/8-inch-thick circle with a floured rolling pin. Cut rounds out of the dough with a floured 1-inch round cutter and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Reroll the scraps (no more than once) and cut more rounds.

4. Using the back of a rounded 1/2-teaspoon measure or your knuckle, make an indentation in the center of each dough round. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of the fig preserves into each indentation, using your finger to push the preserves as best as possible into the indentation.

5. Bake the savouries until the preserves are bubbling and the pastry is light golden on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Cranberry Cups with Warm Butter Sauce
from Colorado Collage by the Junior League of Denver

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup evaporated milk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

Butter Sauce:
½ cup unsalted butter
1¾ cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 12-cup muffin tin.

In large bowl cream 3 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar until well blended. In a small bowl combine water and ½ cup evaporated milk. Sift together flour, salt and soda. Alternatively add milk mixture and flour mixture to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in cranberries (batter will be stiff).

Fill prepared muffin cups ¾ full. Bake 20-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool and remove from muffin tin. (May be prepared up to 1 day in advance. Cool thoroughly, cover and store at room temperature.)

In heavy saucepan combine ½ cup butter, 1¾ cups sugar, 1 cup evaporated milk and vanilla over medium-high heat. Heat to boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside. (Sauce may be prepared up to 3 weeks in advance. Cover and chill.)

Place pudding cups on individual serving plates and top with warmed Butter Sauce.

I have to put in another plug for my VERY favorite iPhone/iPad app, Paprika. I have been slowly importing or manually entering all of the recipes I use into Paprika. There is a free version of the app, but I bought the paid version so that it will keep my recipes synced between my iPhone, iPad and desktop. I typically enter the recipe on my desktop, use the grocery list on it from my iPhone when I'm at the store, and read the recipe on my iPad as I am cooking. Paprika also has a handy email link that I use to send recipes when someone asks for one. Having all of the recipes from this year's Valentine luncheon in Paprika made it an easy task for me to cut and paste them to share here.


I am not getting paid by Paprika to endorse their app, but I wish I were because I have told so many people about it!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Valentine Luncheon 2013, part III: lunch is served.

Crab Salad, Fragrant Carrot Soup with Cilantro Cream, French bread and heart-shaped pat of butter

Living Room guests Elizabeth, Barenda, Wendy, Ellen, Ann and Nelene

Den guests Laura, Page, Carrie, Margaret, Kim, Anne and Lori

Breakfast Room guests Heather, Carol, Melissa, Becky and Kathy

Dessert: Cranberry Pudding Cups with Butter Sauce (yum)

These fun friends stayed after lunch to visit: Elizabeth, Carrie, Susan, Laura, me, Anne, Kelly, Becky, Page

Elizabeth and Carrie with my sweet friend Donna who is usually on the other side of the camera

My terrific behind the scenes helpers Peter and Hossain

Stay tuned for recipes

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Valentine Luncheon 2013, part II: my friends.


Guests begin to arrive

Still in my Valentine apron with my friends Becky, Susanna and Barenda

Ann, Marty and Laura enjoy a glass of Kir Royale (champagne with Cassis liqueur)

My wonderful neighbors Melissa, Carrie, Anne and Nancy

Lori, Carol and Karey

Here I am with two of my favorite former neighbors, Page and Heather

and with Cooking Club friends Karey and Ellen

Kim, Becky, Kelly and Julie

My former roommates and longtime friends from SMU Elizabeth and Margaret

Offering Becky and Kim an hors d'oeuvres

I have a lot of great neighbors! These are Anne and Susan

Marty and Nelene

I am blessed with a lot of really wonderful friends!