Feasts- Elegant and Easy Salad Dressing

When you're thinking about eating well, nothing beats a great salad! Here is one of the easiest and best charts I've ever seen for creating healthy , fresh and delicious dressings!

How about walnut oil, balsamic vinegar and fig jam on a winter salad of greens, fresh pear and blue cheese? Or olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce , garlic and fresh ginger on a cleansing salad of fresh greens?
Your choices are virtually unlimited here!



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Midwinter Meals ~ A mushroom soup to warm your toes!

 

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I'm cooking up a storm tonight, but I wanted to get a jumpstart on the busy week ahead of me ! To that end , there's almost nothing I look forward to more on a snuggly winters eve than having a pot of soup ready to reheat in my refrigerator.

This is my favorite cream of mushroom soup which I make using a really lovely blend of frozen mushrooms from Trader Joes ( one bag), 1 sliced leek and about a cup of fresh herbs from my garden ( parsley , sage, rosemary and thyme!) , 5 cups of coconut milk, 2 cups of filtered water, 2 tablespoons of any no chicken chicken base and a truffled bouillon cube all blended until smooth in my Vitamix!

I let it simmer for about 20 minutes and added a 1/4 of a cup of sherry, a tablespoon of dried dill and topped it off with a fromage blanc and truffle oil swirl.

I'm going to serve it tomorrow night with a plate of fresh herbs, French radishes, slices of good bread, tomatoes and a beautifully runny Camembert that I brought back from San Francisco. Oh and maybe a glass of Chardonnay by my silly yet throughly enchanting faux fireplace...


Life is very very good indeed......


Passions, Fashions & Feasts for all Seasons ~ Candle Etiquette

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Photo Courtesy of Claire Burke Home Fragrance

I simply love the soft beauty of lit candles, (who doesn't!)  Brass candlesticks, sterling and pewter..I love them all and have a fairly large collection of them scattered around my home and on my dinner table ! We always ate by candlelight when I was growing up, indeed as far as my mother was concerned there was no other way. Dining by candlelight softens the mood, makes everything look even lovelier,  slows down the world and smooths over the ragged edges of the day. 

 I got into a really interesting conversation with a friend several years back. We were discussing the etiquette of candle wicks, specifically whether they should be blackened before the guests arrive or not. I mentioned my mothers rule that my friend had never heard of that was also the same rule that I learned at dancing school ;  that you never were supposed to have your guests see your home decorated with unburnt candles or your table set with candles that hadn't been already blackened.  My mother used to go around putting out new candles and then lighting them for a few minutes and then snuffing the wick. I remembered that when we'd give etiquette and entertaining talks people would ask her why this was so and that her answer had everything to do with being gracious and making others feel comfortable in her home and not wanting to give any indication of an ostentatious show of wealth. She also felt that unlit candles were very cold and just a bit too casual.

It's an old fashioned rule perhaps, and one that could be construed as silly maybe but I think that it's a good one just the same. Proper etiquette really has everything to do with making your guests feel comfortable. I think that the world's become a little too uncivilized these days and we could still benefit alot from applying these lessons from the past .  I was very happy to find this article from The Charleston South Carolina School of Protocol and Etiquette that detailed my mums rule of thumb. These days, anything that can make us all feel comfortable sitting down and breaking bread together in a civilized way is just fine with me because I tend to think that we've all gotten a bit too casual!

One more wee bit of candle etiquette ~ Traditionally, you were never supposed to light candles before sunset. I still do this, probably because it is so ingrained in me. That being said, I do love the look of them at anytime and have been known to light them myself during a particularly gray sort of day. If you feel so moved , do it. For me, candles are a bit like seasonal food. Something to be enjoyed in the proper time and place and who am I to say that a snowstorm isn't the proper time and place!

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Courtesy of Simon Pearce.com

 

From The Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette:

"Have you ever heard people say, “you should burn the wicks on new candles when you put them on display”…do you know why?

As we all know, there was a time when people did not have electricity and everyone used candles to light their homes. Then with the invention of the light bulb, the people that had money and could afford electric power to light their homes, no longer used candles.

It has been said however, in order not to embarrass those who could not afford electricity; it was considered a polite gesture to burn the wicks of the candles on display so it was not known who had electricity…..and who did not. 

Candle etiquette sheds a little light on the subject, by teaching us once again, the most important rule of etiquette…letting people save face and not embarrassing anyone."

 

My mother would definitely approve! 

 


Oh be still my beating heart.......

Lustworthy. Impractical. Perfect......Some things are worth smashing your piggy bank for....This antique Majolica cheese keeper is definitely one of them!

Antique Majolica Domed Cheese Keeper - $929.00

Domed cheese keeper that is a hard-to-find piece of antique majolica. Decorated with raised-relief vines and berries and a green leaf handle on the lid. No maker's mark. Dimensions Dome, 8.5"H x 8.25"Dia; underplate, 1.5"H x 10"Dia. A restored under rim chip on base.


Cookbooks that I love! ~ Buvette

There has never been a restaurant EVER that enchanted me like the first time that I set foot in Buvette. It's a beautiful little bistro in the West Village in New York and going there made me long for Paris. Buvette is noisy yet intimate, full of copper, laughter and zinc and the food is perfect. I ordered a martini ,well I tried to order my normal martini and was informed that they served a traditional martini and did I want it with Vodka or gin. I thought.."Fine. Its not the only martini I'll ever have". What I will say is that it's now the only martini that I eve want...it spoiled me for anything else. It was perfect...just the right amount of sweet vermouth and vodka in just the right cocktail glass...the old fashioned smaller curvier sort, with ice crystals from having been superbly shaken. It wasn't diluted at all....Heaven. The food was amazing as well..traditional French bistro food served up with little candles and just the right touch of pretentiousness...you know, the kind that is inclusive, not exclusive! Now you can buy the Buvette cookbook and have your own Parisian stay~cation. Do it, it's absolutely beautiful, full of pictures and stories and delightful recipes and, if you're planning a trip to the City of Lights anytime soon they've opened a new Paris location...Bon Voyage!

Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, Signed Copy - $30.00

From Jody Williams, the chef at New York's beloved Buvette restaurant, comes this new signed cookbook, Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. Cook through the dozens of French recipes, and add a little more Paris into your life. The book is simple and without frills, but every dish is carefully constructed to yield maximum flavor. She doesn't shy away from the complex -- she instructs on elaborate classics like Coq au Vin, and explains her views on a well-stocked bar, and homemade condiments. We especially love her rosemary potato chip recipe and boiled eggs with seasoned salt. Comes with a signed bookplate.


The Rare and Inspired Flavors of Chino Farms

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I've had the most wonderful morning. Because we're wintering in San Diego Jim and I get up at around 5:00 am because his first meetings start at 8:00 am eastern time. Sounds gruesome right? Absolutely not. What this means is that we're done by 2:00pm and because both of us work remotely on occasion meetings can be handled in the office known as the car! This morning we settled on the Starbucks in DelMar where we worked for more than a few hours. At lunch time I went to the Venissimo Cheese shop and bought us a few little bites of cheese to snack on. Brilliance struck at the same time for us..."let's go to Chinos Farm and get some strawberries and a bag of Valencia oranges! " I've become addicted to their Valencia oranges. Soft and globular, they are impossible to peel and delightful to eat. I've never seen flesh like this on an orange. They warned me "don't peel them!" but I tried anyhow and ended up covered in juice. What I've learned is to slice them in half like an orange and eat them with a spoon like a grapefruit. It's the only way....decadent and absolutely wonderful!

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If you don't know Chino Farms they were the little organic farm in Rancho Santa Fe that found themselves at the forefront of the Farm to Table movement in this country a couple of decades ago. Luminaries like Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck have imported the beautiful organic produce into their restaurants for well over two decades. It is literally the best produce that I've ever eaten. Everything is so special and everything is so fresh that you feel like it could have been picked an hour before. (which it probably was!)

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I love living in Southern California because I can buy this same gorgeous produce myself, any day of the week and I promise you ... You haven't lived until you've enjoyed one of their 4 varieties of strawberries ( two of them French!) straight from the patches, still warm and wonderful! A home chefs dream come true!

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Today, I bought two pints of two different varieties that I hadn't tried yet and by the time we'd driven the three miles back to town they were gone. These are strawberries the way that many of us remember them...soft, juicy and sweet with no bland or hard spots. Absolutely perfect. Today when I got there I found a wonderful plant that I'd never seen before called Ice Lettuce. I asked the young woman about it and she smiled and gave me a taste! It was remarkable, crunchy, lemony and salty with little nodules that burst on my tongue. Ice Lettuce is a salad plant that grows near the sea (I think that I got that right!) and it protects itself by keeping the salt and water close to the surface of its leaves, making it by nature a succulent, but also making it a perfect salad plant, one that would remind you a bit of the common purslane. Any salad made with it would not need salt in its dressing. A simple dressing of an herb infused oil with a bit of fruit juice and mustard to flavor it would be perfect! You can learn more about Tom Chino and his amazing farm here: www.chinofamilyfarm.com