Yesterday I hosted the Westport Young Woman's League monthly Gourmet Lunch with Kathie and Michelle. When trying to come up with a theme that wasn't the same old meal, we chose a Downton Abbey theme. After a bit of research, we settled on some of the suggestions from the Washington Post.
We had Pimm's cups; Trader Joe's carbonated lemonade, and some yummy desserts.
The desserts were delicious. Michelle made her famous Sticky Toffee Pudding
And she also made a beautiful Eton Mess.
But the best part came from our characters who showed up for the meal.
Kathie, Michelle and I dressed up as: Mrs. Patmore, Mrs. Hughes (love the keys at her waist!) and Carson.
Lady Grantham (aka Alyson) arrived and accepted a Pimms Cup from Carson.
It was great fun. If you're looking for a fun themed meal with friends - I highly recommed a Downton Abbey dining experience. We had a ball!
I have so many root vegetables from my farm share and I'm beginning to have more carrots than I know what to do with. So I decided to day would be a good day to make homemade carrot juice - without a juicer. After a quick google search I found THIS recipe.
Blend with a small amount of water if necessary.
Add some hot water and let steep for 15-30 minutes.
Strain the pulp.
Add the juice of two freshly squeezed oranges.
Add a pinch of ginger; some more water (if you like your carrot juice more diluted) and some ice. No sugar necessary. Carrots are already naturally high in sugars - so it's a very sweet and refreshing beverage.
It's time to bake holiday cookies. I love the way the house smells when there is so much baking. Mmmm.
I prepared the peanut cookie dough earlier this week and refrigerated it. We have guests coming for dinner, so I popped a few batches in the oven and am ready for a holiday treat.
Click on this link for my Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies recipe
There will be more baking over the weekend. What are your favorite holiday cookies?
We have a funny holiday tradition. Everybody gets to select two items for the holiday meal. We let the boys start (since it's usually dessert and cookies and more sugar) and then BF and I round out the menu with things that resemble actual food. This year's menu included:
This weekend was our Troop's famed Do Nothing Campout. There is nothing scheduled on this campout. It's a time when the boys literally "do nothing." In reality this means that the chefs for each patrol get a chance to shine and try their hands at some great cooking. We generally get a cabin with a stove for this campout - so they can really stretch their cooking skills.
The younger Scouts had homemade chicken dumpling soup, chocolate dipped Peppermint Joe-Joe's; and burritos.
Homemade Chicken Dumpling Soup for lunch. One chef said "This is the best campout ever" - won't his Mom and Dad be thrilled to hear how much he loves to cook?
All-in-one burrito for dinner. The younger Scouts did a fantastic job.
The older Scouts planned a more sophisticated menu: London broil with roast potatoes, mushrooms and salad for dinner. Mmmmmm.
For dessert they made homemade Chocolate Mousse (yes, we brought the Kitchen-Aid mixer on a campout!). Wait! Are those finger swipes in the chocolate mousse? Boys!!!!
It was a huge hit. It was challenging to get the boys to understand just how rich chocolate mousse is. Most of them took double helpings, one even took a quadruple helping and wouldn't be told otherwise. Guess who didn't feel so good later?
But the best part about chocolate mousse is what I've told the boys for years.
Me: "If you can learn to make chocolate mousse, you can date any girl you want."
Scout: "Ms. Jackson, Is that true?"
Me: "She'll go out on a first date, just out of curiosity to see if you can really make chocolate mousse from scratch. The second date is entirely up to you."
So now the older Scouts are set for the dating life. Oh, and the chocolate mousse was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
A few weeks ago, I took the kids up to our favorite apple picking orchard - Beardsley Cider Mill and Apple Orchard - hurrying to get there before the orchards closed at 5:00 p.m.
When we got there, we discovered that I hadn't read the website closely enough. The store is open daily until 5:30, but the apple orchards are only open on the weekends.
So we had a good laugh, and spent our time in the store drinking fresh hot cider, buying apple cider doughnuts, apple pies and more.
Since we came to pick apples, we each chose a peck of apples from the store's display bushels filled with apples the owners had previously picked.
Soon all the apples were cooked. The house smelled heavenly.
A bushel of cooked apples was passed little by little through the Foley food mill.
And four pots of applesauce were set to boil for hours and hours (actually days). I cook them over medium heat stirring every five minutes - so this is a slow laborious process.
Then I added the rest of the ingredients from the recipe and the spices that turn the applesauce into apple butter: cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Now the house really smelled delicious.
Now each pot was a golden brown. It was just a matter of cooking down the spiced applesauce until it was thick and rich.
Finally, after a few days of cooking and stirring and stirring and cooking, the apple butter was complete. I cleaned and sterilized the Mason jars, filled each one with apple butter, and sealed them tight in boiling water according to the canning instructions. I had such a bounty that this year I'll have more than enough apple butter to last the season.
The best part of all? Primogeniture actually tried and liked apple butter for the very first time. Secundogeniture and I have been fans for a long time. Now we've brought one more into the fold. Life is good. We love to eat it on fresh baked bread, English muffins, heck, just about anything!
The weather is starting to turn. There is a chill in the air. It makes me grab a fleece (I know, you just said to yourself, fleece? Major Knitter grabs a fleece -- not a sweater? Sadly, it's true). This is my favorite time of year. I'm sure it has something to do with my birthday being in October. At any rate, fall is my favorite season of the year. It always has been. I know it's officially fall when I start buying apples by the peck, wearing fleeces, and looking for new soup recipes. Here are three soups from this week's Troop ladies luncheon:
Lasagna Soup - recipe courtesy of Estella. This soup is to-die for!
Here's a vegetarian French Lentil soup. Yum. Perfect for fall.
Finally, a Potato and Leek soup. Unfortunately, I was short a leek, so this soup was a little lackluster. I should have run out to the store... instead, I announced that it was lacking in zest and called it the Potato Leek lacking Leek Soup. The recipe is amazing (when followed, which I did not since I was short a leek!). It's a classic and favorite of mine.
It was a wonderful fall luncheon. I used BF's grandmother's dishes that she gifted us earlier this year. I thought a girly-girl lunch was the perfect opportunity to use them. To top it off, I baked my Grandma Grace's sugar cookies for dessert. I was channelling grandmothers this meal. It was a great to have some girl time and enjoy some new recipes. If you like soup, I highly recommend giving these three a try.
I love summer vegetables. The farm share gets picked up every Thursday afternoon and I start trying to decide how I can possibly cook, serve and eat all those amazing vegetables.
I started with a bunch of lovely tomatoes.
I washed them and cut a cross in the end of each tomato
Then I put them all in a large pot of boiling water for about 5-10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, I carefully removed the tomatoes from the pot of boiling water and placed them in a sink with ice cold water.
The tomatoes peeled in 4 easy sections!
I quartered the tomatoes and placed them in a large pot and cooked them over medium heat until they made a thick, rich tomato sauce, turning down the heat as necessary. At this point I seriously considered canning my own fresh stewed tomatoes for use all winter long, but lacking a pressure cooker canner, I opted for an extra large batch of ratatouille.
I had all the perfect vegetables from the farm - eggplant, squash, zucchini, peppers, basil, onions, and garlic.
I sauteed the onion, garlic and two peppers in olive oil with freshly ground salt and pepper before adding them to the tomato sauce with a bit of vegetable broth for extra flavoring. Then I chopped an eggplant and two zucchinis and summer squash; sauteed them in the frying pan until slightly brown and added them as well. I let the whole mixture simmer on low for about 20 minutes before serving.
Delicious ratatouille. It tastes just like summer in a bowl. Enjoy!