Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Perfect Appetizer For New Year's...Smoked Salmon Cake

This recipe from Martha Stewart combines traditional partners such as pumpernickel bread, smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumbers, in a beautifully presented cake "iced" with more cream cheese.  If you are asked to bring an appetizer and want to make a splash with little work make this!


Serves 8 to 10

3 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped, plus more for garnish

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

2 loaves pumpernickel bread, cut into 16 half-inch slices, with crusts

1 pound smoked salmon, thinly sliced

1 1/2 seedless cucumbers, thinly sliced into 1/8-inch slices, patted dry, plus more for decorating sides of cake

1/2 cup creme fraiche

2 1/2 ounces salmon roe

1 ounce black caviar

Lemon wedges, for garnish


1.In a small bowl, combine eight ounce cream cheese, red onion, capers, dill, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper, and stir until smooth. Lay four bread slices on a clean work surface; trim 1/4 inch from all sides of slices. Spread 1 tablespoon cream-cheese mixture on top of one slice, and layer with smoked salmon and cucumber (try not to overlap cucumber slices). Spread another thin layer of the cream-cheese mixture on top. Repeat with two more bread slices.

2.Neatly stack prepared slices, filling side up, squaring the sides with your hands; top with the fourth bread slice. Repeat with remaining bread and filling to create three more stacks in this way.

3.Transfer stacks to a serving platter with their long sides touching. In a small bowl, combine remaining 16 ounces cream cheese and creme fraiche until smooth. Using offset spatula, spread mixture evenly over assembled cake. Refrigerate, covered, two hours or overnight.

4.Before serving, arrange overlapping cucumber slices around base of cake; spoon salmon roe and caviar along the top, and sprinkle with dill. Garnish the platter with lemon wedges

Recipe Marthastewart.com:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

First White Christmas In 100 Years!

Yes, that is right. We are getting our first white Christmas since 1882.  Eat your heart out, Vermont!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Heartfelt Thanks And A Merry Christmas!

About nine months ago, I moved to this lake with my daughter and our two dogs, Lucy and Lilly.  Life has been, to say the least, quite different but very fullfilling.  I have strived to fill my days with my two blogs and a new life close to my children and grandchildren.  It has been challenging at times but lots of fun most of the time.

This blog, unlike Lindaraxa's Garden, has been a place to post about my new life, our dogs and all our adventures living in the country.  As most of you know, I am at heart a "city" girl and a "northener" but have lived in the country when I was very young and in the South when I was newly married so it hasn't been that tough to adapt.  As a matter of fact my son was born in Asheville, North Carolina.  Who would have thought he would marry a Southener and come down to live not too far from where he was born.

Life here is simpler and more down to earth than New York or Florida.  I have learned a lot this year and made wonderful friends both through this blog and on Twitter where Lucy and I  "hang out" with a group of Westies and their moms from all over the world.  @Snowywestie, @Westiesp @Macintoshwestie @Angusfala and @Missbusybiz are some of those friends and to them I say thank you for a lot of laughs and for being there when I have needed a break. None of my friends (or my kids!) can understand how a grown woman can have fun on Twitter but we do and the friendships I have made there are probably as solid as most of the ones I have made throughout my life.

To my fellow bloggers who follow and comment on this blog, I have left you a message on Lindaraxa's Garden.  To the rest of my readers, thank you for subscribing and commenting, it is most appreciated.

I look forward to another year full of fun, good recipes and lots of entertaining ideas.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Y'All... don't forget to feed the doggies!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Dinner At The Lake

For those of you who are spending Christmas at the lake or at one of your vacation homes lucky you!  I've put together and easy but appropriate menu to be enjoyed by many or just a few.  Let's face it, we want to enjoy our time away from the stress of our everyday lives, so why put an elaborate and complicated meal on the agenda. 

You can make these simple hors d'oeuvres ahead to bring with you or simply get some smoked salmon just like I did for the menu on Lindaraxa's Garden.  For those so inclined, there is nothing like popovers to delight everyone at the table.  They can be made while the tenderloin is resting. The cake takes a little effort but not as much as you think. You can make the layers the day before and the frosting early that day; or switch to the Mocha Cake which is a cinch.

So have fun instead and enjoy yourself.  Don't forget to think about what this holiday is all about.  We have many blessings to be thankful for.

Christmas At The Lake

What's stress????

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beef Tenderloin With Shallot And Syrah Reduction

If you are coming up to the lake for Christmas chances are you are looking forward to a relaxed holiday.  Here's a perfect yet elegant main course. No fuss, no prep, no mess! 

Serves 8


1 beef tenderloin, 2 1/2 to 3 lb.

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp. minced fresh thyme

1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

2 Tbs. minced shallots

1 cup Syrah

2 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter


Preheat an oven to 450°F.

Rub the beef all over with the olive oil, then rub on the thyme, salt and pepper.

Place the roast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan just large enough to accommodate it. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 115° to 120°F for rare, about 20 minutes; 125° to 130°F for medium-rare, about 25 minutes; or 130° to 140°F for medium, about 30 minutes. Transfer the roast to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the rack from the roasting pan and place the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring them into the pan juices, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the wine a little at a time, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Continue to cook until the wine is reduced by nearly half, then stir in the butter. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm.

To serve, cut the beef into slices 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices on a warmed platter and drizzle with the sauce. Serve immediately. 

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Christmas Entertaining, by Georgeanne Brennan (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Spiced Pecans

Make some this weekend to serve at Christmas and New Years or give away as gifts!


4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. each ground white pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice (or 4 tsp. quatre épices)

4 cups pecan halves (about 12 oz.)

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup dark maple syrup (or 1/2 cup regular maple syrup


Up to two weeks ahead: Heat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, toss together the salt, cayenne, white pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Add the pecans and toss well. Drizzle the melted butter over the pecans and mix well. Turn out onto a rimmed baking sheet, scraping any spices and butter from the bowl and spreading the nuts into one layer. Bake until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally, about 9 min. Drizzle the maple syrup over the nuts, stir to combine, and bake about 10 min. longer, until the nuts turn glossy and slightly dark. Let the nuts cool in the pan for 30 min. and then scrape the nuts and any maple drippings into a bowl; break up any large clusters.

These can be stored in ziplock bags in the freezer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Caramel Italian Cream Cake

I don't like to serve cake for dessert after dinner but Christmas Eve is a different situation.

Although this seems long and complicated it's not.  Don't get put off by the time, most of it is cooking and cooling the cake. Brown sugar is the shortcut to quick caramel flavor in both the cake layers and the frosting.

Total: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Yield: Makes 12 servings


3 cups shaved coconut
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Quick Caramel Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place shaved coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan. Place pecans in a second shallow pan. Bake coconut and pecans at the same time 5 to 7 minutes or until coconut is toasted and pecans are lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

2. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add granulated and brown sugars, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add vanilla, beating until blended.

3. Combine flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in pecans and 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut.

4. Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form, and fold into batter. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

5. Bake at 350° for 23 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

6. Prepare Quick Caramel Frosting. Immediately spread frosting between layers and on top of cake. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting over sides of cake; press 3 cups toasted shaved coconut onto sides of cake.

Quick Caramel Frosting

Like the classic caramel frosting, this one hardens quickly, so cool the cake layers before you start to make it.

Total: 20 minutes
Yield: Makes 5 cups


1 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Bring first 3 ingredients to a rolling boil in a 3 1/2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly (about 7 minutes).

2. Stir in cream, and bring to a boil; remove from heat. Pour into bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer. Gradually beat in powdered sugar and vanilla at medium speed, using whisk attachment; beat 8 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Use immediately.

Test Kitchen Tip: Don't panic if you overbeat the frosting. Thin to a spreadable consistency by adding 1 to 2 tsp. hot water.

Quick Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: Makes about 1 3/4 cups

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended; stir in vanilla.

Southern Living, December 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas At The Lake

Well, the house is finally decorated for Christmas this year and I am happy to say not a dollar was spent on new decorations.  Everything is from the garden or from Christmases past, except for the wreath and the Christmas tree that we always pick out at the Kinsley Family Farm. 

Yes, this year we are having a "new economy" Christmas and spending our dollars on presents for the children and for the family.  Nothing extravagant, just things that we know they will like and appreciate.

The mantle has been decorated with juniper branches from a tree in our yard and they actually look much better than the picture.  The wreath has fresh berries from the garden added to some fake ones I found on a box and a not so perfect bow that I made.  Definitely not my strong suit but I got tired of asking my daughter for help.  You know how that is.

I found beautiful tree ornaments at World Market, inexpensive too.  Check them out.  Homegoods has a big supply and Target, well I don't know what happened to them this year...not much excitement in their selection.  If you happen to find the gold and silver snowflakes that are hanging on my tree, grab them.  I saw them at Bergdorg Goodman in NYC for more than 3 times the price at Target.  We bought ours last year, and I think I saw them again when I checked a couple of weeks ago..  They look great on the tree.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ten Inexpensive Christmas Gifts From Your Kitchen

This is a reprint of a post I did last year on Lindaraxa's Garden.  I thought readers of this blog, who might have missed it, would enjoy it.

There is nothing more welcomed during the holidays than home cooked gifts.  If you have a signature cookie recipe or appetizer  make it to bring as a hostess gift or place under the tree for unexpected guest. If you really like the person, place a card with the recipe attached!  I try to concentrate on things that I know will be appreciated at a time when all of us have so much entertaining to do and so little time to do it. 

You will remember that this summer, when the strawberries were in season and on sale, I suggested you get started making jam so you would have a few gifts out of the way.  Well, if you didn't, there is still time this week!  Below, I have given you a choice of a few things that would be very welcomed at this time of the year.  There are cocktail recipes, bread to enjoy for breakfast on Christmas Day and even something simple like pasta sauce for the home you are visiting and the hostess who is going through all the trouble of entertaining you this year!  At least she wont have to make dinner one night.  If you want to go all the way, get a wicker basket and include a box of premium spaghetti, real Parmiggiano Reggiano a baguette and a nice Chianti.

 Beautiful containers can be purchased for a reasonable price at Marshalls, Target and other discount stores.  Going the extra mile will make anything extra special. Just think Martha Stewart in the wrapping department.

Most of the recipes are in this blog or the sister blog My Kitchen By The Lake.  There are a couple that have links to websites or blogs I like.

Here's a few suggestions:

Spiced Pecans - Wonderful with cocktails

Chicken Liver Mousse - Keeps for at least a week in refrigerator

Kentucky Beer Cheese - Great to have in the fridge

Fresh Strawberry Preserves -  Summer in December!

Candied Orange Rinds - Wonderful alone or with espresso.  Great directions on this site!

Tomato and Basil Sauce - Who wouldn't appreciate this!

Pumpkin Bread - Afternoon tea for the unexpected guest.  Freezes beautifully

Amaretti Cookies - Hard to find anywhere but NYC!

Goat Cheese Log - Leftovers make great addition to an omelette

Individual Pound Cakes - For breakfast, tea or dessert

Photo above:  Martha Stewart.com

Photo Carolyne Roehm

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Layered Roasted Red Pepper Spread

Although my Mom hardly ever cooks anymore, she still loves to cut out recipes from magazines.  Here's one she sent me, just in time for the holidays.

prep time 15 min
total time 1 hr 15 min
makes 1-1/2 cups spread or 12 servings


1/4 cup roasted red peppers
 5 pitted black olives, chopped
1 tub (12 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil
 1 clove garlic, peeled
 2 Tbsp. PLANTERS Sliced Almonds,
 toasted RITZ Crackers


CUT star shape from 1 pepper, using 1/2-inch cookie cutter; set aside. Chop pepper trimmings and remaining peppers; combine with olives.

USE pulsing action to blend cream cheese spread, basil and garlic in blender until smooth. Wash cream cheese tub; line with plastic wrap, with ends extending over side of tub.

SPOON 1/2 cup cream cheese mixture into tub; top with olive mixture and remaining cream cheese mixture. Press firmly into cup with back of spoon.

REFRIGERATE 1 hour. Unmold cheese spread onto plate; discard plastic wrap. Top cheese spread with nuts and pepper star. Serve with crackers.

Recipe & Photo Kraft Foods

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bourbon Apple Cake

I love quick desserts, especially cakes,  so when I am looking for a quick and easy one, I usually look to Mark Bittman, aka The Minimalist in The New York Times.  Trust me, if you can mix, you can make this wonderful cake!

Time: About 1 hour, plus one hour’s resting
Yield: About 12 servings.


2 sticks butter, softened, more for greasing pan

Flour (if using bundt pan)

2 medium apples (about 8 ounces), peeled, cored and quartered

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 cup bourbon, Calvados, Cognac or brandy.


 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch rectangular pan with butter, or butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan. Put apples in a blender or food processor and purée; remove and set aside.

2. In food processor, combine 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons) with 1 1/2 cups sugar and pulse until combined. With motor running, add eggs one at a time. Add apple purée and process until just combined.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add about a third of flour mixture to apple mixture in food processor. Then, with motor running, add about half of milk; add another third of flour, followed by rest of milk, then finally last of the flour. Process until batter just evens out.

4. Turn batter into prepared pan and bake until middle is set (your fingers should leave only a small indentation when you gently press cake), 45 to 50 minutes. When done, cool in pan for about 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup liquor in a small pot with remaining butter and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and liquid is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then pour over cake; let it sit for at least an hour before serving. (For bundt, let it sit for an hour, then unmold). Store at room temperature, covered with waxed paper, for up to 2 days.

Photo: Evan Sung

Friday, December 3, 2010

Shirred Eggs With Spinach And Crisp Bread Crumbs

Tired of bacon and eggs for Sunday's  breakfast?  Not only is this recipe healthier, it is easier and probably less fattening.

This dish can be prepared in four ramekins, each 2D3 to 1 cup, instead of in a baking dish. Divide the spinach among them and then break an egg into each. The cooking time will be about 10 minutes less.

Serves 4


For the crisp bread crumbs:

2 tsp. unsalted butter

3/4 cup fresh sourdough bread crumbs

1 large garlic clove, pressed (optional)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 1/2 lb. spinach, well rinsed and stemmed

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

4 extra-large or jumbo eggs


To make the crisp bread crumbs, in a small fry pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the bread crumbs and garlic, and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until crisp and golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. The bread crumbs may be stored in a small, airtight container at room temperature for up to 24 hours before using.

Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach, submerging it completely, and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Immediately drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water until the spinach is no longer warm. Gather into balls and squeeze very firmly to extract as much water as possible. Chop coarsely.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Generously butter an 8 1/2-inch round gratin or similar-size shallow baking dish.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until any excess moisture has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cream, the salt, a generous amount of pepper and the nutmeg. Cook until thick and dry, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the spinach to the prepared dish and smooth the top into a perfectly even surface. Using the back of a large tablespoon, form 4 evenly spaced, egg-shaped pockets, each 1 inch deep, in the top of the spinach. Break an egg into each depression.

Carefully transfer the dish to the oven and bake until the whites of the eggs are set and the yolks are still distinctly runny, 18 to 20 minutes. Scatter a few tablespoons of the bread crumbs over the top of the dish and serve directly onto individual plates, scooping up the base of spinach underneath each egg.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Breakfast, by Brigit L. Binns (Simon & Schuster, 2003).


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