Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Special New Year’s Eve Menu   My Arch always insisted we share Black Eyed Peas at the stroke of midnight...which was a new tradition for me. We had a big New Year's Eve party every year, usually with 30 to 40 of our closest friends. Arch and I would cook up a storm, making sure there were plenty of Black Eyed Peas for everyone.
The eating of the humble legume, to bring you good luck in the coming year, began in the south, and is now a common New Year's Eve and Day item on menus around the world. As with all regional cooking, there are variation....both in legends and cooking methods.
If you are planning to celebrate the New Year in the Southeast, it is most likely that you will be offered black-eyed peas in some form, either just after midnight or on New Year's Day. From grand gala gourmet dinners to small casual gatherings with friends and family, these flavorful legumes are traditionally, according to Southern folklore, the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead.

The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck is generally believed to date back to the Civil War. At first planted as food for livestock, and later a food staple for slaves in the South, the fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Sherman's troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby giving the humble, but nourishing, black-eyed pea an important role as a major food source for surviving Confederates.

Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved into a number of variations and embellishments of the luck and prosperity theme including:

Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.
Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.
For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.
Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.
Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year, unless of course, the recipient swallows the coin, which would be a rather unlucky way to start off the year.

During the week of Thanksgiving, I posted several menus and notes from my friends at Smithfield Foods. Today, I received this via their email weekly menu plans and recipes. If you love pork, ham and bacon, go to and sign up for their blog.

 Good Luck Soup
• 2 (10 ounce) packages Smithfield Country
Ham and End Slices (can substitute 2 cups
any leftover ham), roughly chopped
• 1 pound Black Eyed Peas, rinsed and soaked
over night
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 tablespoon ham base
• 5 dashes hot sauce
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• Vegetable stock (64 ounce) (can substitute
chicken stock)
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 pound collards, cut into thin ribbons
• pepper to taste
Steps: In a large stock pot add olive oil. Stir in onions,
garlic, ham base, hot sauce, thyme and oregano. Saute
until onions are translucent. Add drained black eyed
peas, vegetable stock, water and chopped ham. Simmer
until peas are tender. Approximately 40-50 minutes. Add
collards and simmer an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
Pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Don't forget the cornbread and lots of butter!

Happy New Year to all of you! You have made my 2010 very special. I have loved reading all of your emails. I was glad to be given the opportunity to help you find a particular recipe, or help you plan a special menu. Thank you so much for supporting my little blog! I plan to carry on during 2011, unless the government decides to carry through with it's threat to start taxing blogs. Hopefully it is just another rumor.
A New Year's message from Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery
Join us for a New Year's Eve Afternoon Cigar & Wine Event at Somerset Ridge!

To help usher in 2011, we are having a very special event on New Year's Eve afternoon from noon to 5. Master cigar roller Corey Frisbee will be in the tasting room rolling custom cigars for your New Year's pleasure!
You can select from a variety of premium tobaccos and cigar sizes while watching a master craftsman roll your own custom cigars.
What better way to bring in 2011 than enjoying your own custom cigar with a glass of Somerset Ridge Tawny or Ruby port?
We hope to see you for this special event. If you have friends & family in from out of town, bring them by!
Winery Hours: 11-5 Wed-Friday; 12-5 Sunday. CLOSED THIS SATURDAY, NEW YEAR'S DAY.

A message from Lidia  to share with you

Dear Friends,
With the New Year just around the corner and resolutions being drafted, and ready to be put into action, I too, want to approach this coming year with a significant, and close to the heart, resolve.
My resolution for 2011 will be a conscious effort to not waste food. This effort will be made not only by myself, but by our employees in our restaurants and retail shops. I will also take the opportunity to share this message in the media, and my teachings throughout the year.

The world produces 120% of the food it needs, and yet there are people still hungry. We are all concerned about being "green," but according to some of the latest statistics that I read, one third of the world's gas omissions are produced by wasted food. The actual waste of the food, coupled with all the energy, labor and materials used in producing this food, are all contributing to this serious problem.

The solution seems rather simple, and all of us have it in our power to make a difference! So let's start a movement as a nation, and rekindle an old saying "Waste Not Want Not", which has much relevance today, and for our future.

Commit with me in this movement by joining my Community Table. Share in the discussion of how you will make a commitment to not waste food in the coming year- what you will do to help! You can also write to me about how you will become a part of this mission at

Spread the word far and wide amongst friends and family- we all have the power to make a difference by not wasting food. It starts with us, in our own homes, and at our own tables.

I wish you all a very healthy and Happy New Year!    

Warmly, Lidia

May I add my warmest wishes for a Happy and Safe New Year!

Kay Tucker
 I took a tumble on Christmas Day….Somehow, it seems so unfair to be attacked by pork….after all, is there a more loyal pork lover in the world? I think not! But yet, a tiny little piece of ham fat on my hardwood kitchen floor did me in!

So, I’ve been stuck at home, in my chair with the heating pad on my knee and my massaging pillow on my right hip, and a bottle of Alieve by my side. I have watched every movie ever made, consumed way too much Coke Zero, read 2 books (which is good!) and taken a catnap almost hourly. I have reached BORED! And then some.
Last night I could not stand the idea of sitting another moment. I asked myself what would make me happy…it had to something I could do at home. It had to be something that did not require a lot of physical activity…..then the light came on! I was going to bake bread!
When my children were in grade school (many moons ago) I went through a phase where I baked bread once a week. I loved it! Big plump loaves of white bread; fragrant, sugary loaves of cinnamon bread; I even tried my grandmother’s salt rising bread recipe. A big hit was the cheese bread By the time school was out, the kitchen table would have 8 loaves of bread cooling on racks. Then the door would open, the kids would rush in and…..within 10 minutes, the count had dwindled to 6 loaves. After dinner there would be 4 or 5…after breakfast the next morning….zip, nada, niente, nichts. It was non-stop bread eating at our house.

With that decision made, my next move was to see what I had on hand in the kitchen. Then I had to choose a recipe. This was fun!

Finally at 7pm, I made my decision….

No-Knead Three-Cheese Semolina Bread (because of my fall, I chose no-knead because of not wanting to stand there for 10 minutes while kneading)

This is a King Arthur Flour recipe, as so many of my bread recipes are. If you are a baker, check out their web page,

2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup semolina
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor, optional (a King Arthur product…definitely worth ordering!)
2 tablespoons garlic oil or olive oil
1 cups lukewarm water (1 to 1 1/8)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup diced Provolone cheese, smoked or plain, mild or sharp
1 cup diced or coarsely crumbled Asiago cheese, mild or sharp

1 Combine everything but the three cheeses, and beat on medium speed of an electric mixer to make a soft, smooth dough. It may or may not clear the sides of the bowl; either way is just fine.

2. Add the three cheeses, and mix till well combined.

3. Put the soft dough in a lightly greased bowl or 8-cup measure, cover, and let rise for about 2 hours, till very puffy.

4. Lightly grease a 14" to 15" covered stoneware baker. Or lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment. Sprinkle semolina into the pan, or onto the baking sheet. I used a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough in half, shape each piece into a loaf and place both halves on the prepared baking sheet.

6. Tent lightly with greased plastic wrap (spray wrap with olive oil spray), and let rise for about an hour, till noticeably puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

7. Take the plastic off the bread. Mist top of bread with water, and use a sharp knife to make three diagonal slashes in each loaf.

8. Bake the bread for 40 minutes, till the bread is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers about 190°F to 200°F. If you're baking smaller loaves, check to see if they're done after 30 minutes.
Turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
But don’t forget ….there is nothing like a shamelessly thick slice of warm, fragrant bread, fresh from the oven and slathered with sweet creamery butter. That first bite is truly a religious experience!
My house smells heavenly! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Here we are at the end of 2010….Hard to believe, but it is true. As we were busy taking care of the moments, the year came and went.

I am not disappointed in the year 2010; it was actually good,  a year of learning for me. Most of the things I have learned are positive….most……...

But here I am, ready to tackle 2011.

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, probably because I never stick to it. I suppose that is because I set my goal too high, totally unreachable. Failure is hard to take. It is much easier to just forget the resolution.
What is a resolution and how did New Year’s Resolutions come about? The dictionary says that making New Year’s Resolutions is “setting goals for the New Year.” As to where or how they originated, we only know that resolutions were already recorded by the Babylonians as far back as four thousand years ago.

The New Year is a great time to look at the changes we would like to make in our lives and how to accomplish them. A resolution is like a promise to our selves to improve our lives and to make the New Year a better one for ourselves and others. …..

I don’t think I will bother…There are things that I want to accomplish, actually I have a list. But I don’t need to make them resolutions. They are just things I want to do. Hell, at my age, making a Bucket List might be more reasonable!

So, here goes….
1. Return to Italy
2. Do a series of paintings worthy of a gallery show
3. Discover who was the first Estes to leave Lago de Como for Scotland
4. Bake a biscuit like Grandmother Ogg’s and a cherry pie like Grandmother Johnston’s
5. Go back to St Barth’s in the French West Indies
6. Learn more about Great Grandmother Ella Estes and Great Grandfather Napoleon Bonaparte Ogg
7. Visit the Louvre and study Impressionism
8. Write a cookbook for Somerset Ridge Vineyard

I suppose there are more things I should add, but these are the top. Maybe 2011 will be the year I accomplish at least one of the things on my list. I'm thinking I'd rather return to Italy more than I want to bake biscuits.

There are a few major changes in store for me, the first being new studio space in Paola. For Art’sake is closing its doors by the middle of January. I will be joining several other artists in David Gross’ Gaslight Gallery & Studio at 12 E. Peoria Suite 200. It is a wonderful space, but unfortunately, it is on the 2nd floor. The stairway is an outdoor stairway, so I am praying for a mild winter with no ice!
My painting has taken a big turn. I have returned to large abstracts, but nothing like the abstracts I used to do. I will post a photograph soon. I will be interested in hearing what you think. Making that kind of change is difficult; the uncertainty of it all can cause some uneasy moments. We painters want to be free to paint what and how we want, but we do need for everyone to like it!

Enjoy New Year's Eve!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Are you having a small intimate dinner for Christmas Eve? No big turkey or a side of beef in your oven this year? If so, I have a special menu for you. It is quick, simple and absolutely delicious. Team it with a simple salad of greens, red onion, blue cheese and a balsamic vinagrette. Add a rich dessert and ....
Merry Christmas!

Sirloin and Pierogies with a Port and Mustard Sauce
The port and mustard create a rich, sweet, and spicy sauce, which is a perfect match for the steak and the pierogies.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 3 ounces steak, 2 tablespoons sauce, and 2 pierogies)

1 package frozen traditional Pierogies (I use Pieroguys brand, produced here in Kansas City)
1 pound trimmed sirloin (about 1 inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray
1/2 cup Somerset Ridge Tawny Port
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/2 cup less-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Cook pierogies according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.
While they are cooking, sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Lightly coat steak with cooking spray. Add steak to a pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Transfer meat to a platter; keep warm.
Add port to pan, scraping to loosen browned bits. Stir in shallots and garlic; cook 45 seconds, stirring frequently. Add beef broth; bring to a boil. Cook 20 seconds; remove from heat. Add mustard and thyme, stirring with a whisk.
In a skillet with melted butter, brown the pierogies gently for several minutes.
Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. Serve steak and sauce with the pierogies.

Flourless Hazelnut and Dark Chocolate Torte

1 cup blanched hazelnuts
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cacao)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons butter
6 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and
line the bottom of the pan with parchment.
Finely grind the hazelnuts in a food processor until they reach a coarse, sandy consistency.
Either in the microwave or in a double boiler over hot water, melt the chocolate with the oil and butter, stirring together to form a homogenous mixture. Set aside in a warm place.
With a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks and set aside. Switch to the paddle attachment and, in a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugars, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add the chocolate and butter mixture, then the cocoa powder. Fold in the whipped egg whites until smooth.
Pour into a greased and parchment-lined 9-inch springform pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, just until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Wine suggestions: Somerset Ridge Ruby Red with main course; and with that special dessert, the rest of the bottle of Somerset Ridge Tawny Port, of course!

                                                       Don't forget to hang the Mistletoe!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Have you read The Hills Of Tuscany…a new life in an old land by Ferenc Máté? I am about half way through and I am in love with this tale of searching the hillsides of Italy. Máté and his wife, Candace, a painter, left New York and found themselves in Tuscany with 4 weeks to find their dream house and vineyard. As I said, I am still reading, but so far they have found everything but their house and vineyard, but Máté's descriptions of golden dales, scrumptious meals, rich wines, and friendly natives make for fun reading. And don’t miss their first experience of roasting chestnuts over an open fire!

I’ve also read Máté's A Vineyard in Tuscany and recommend it also….but then, if it is about Italy, wine, vineyards, food, etc. I am going to love it.

I went to a movie today….Burlesque, starring Christina Aguilera and Cher. I had a ball! The music was wonderful and Aguilera was incredible. I have to be honest with you, I had heard her name, but could not tell you what she looked like or what she sings. Now, I am most anxious to go pickup one of her cds.

If you haven’t seen the movie, go to and check out the soundtrack!

As for Cher….I was dreading seeing her, for fear she would be on stage, doing the old bump and grind routine, but fortunately, Cher played the part of an older, former burlesque star who now owns the theatre. She does two numbers that are very good….if only she hadn’t done something to her upper lip. It doesn’t move!
I think she had a Botox moment or two.

Okay, so much for my entertainment….

I’m having “the Girls” for lunch on Tuesday….haven’t decided on the menu yet, but I’m thinking about Panini, those wonderful Italian grilled sandwiches, along with a salad and dessert. In Italy, a panino (Italian pronunciation: [paˈniːno]) is customarily made from a small roll or loaf of bread, typically a ciabatta or a rosetta. The loaf is cut horizontally and filled with salami, ham, cheese, mortadella or other food, and sometimes served hot after having been pressed in a grill. A toasted panino, colloquially called "toast" by Italians, is made out of two vertical slices of pane in cassetta almost invariably filled with prosciutto and a few slices of cheese, grilled in a sandwich press. In Central Italy, there is a popular version of panino which is filled with porchetta, i.e. slices of roasted pork. It is traditionally served without any kind of sauce or topping

This recipe is perfect for right now….pears are so good.

TALEGGIO AND PEAR PANINI      Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

1 (1-pound) loaf ciabatta bread (or 8 slices country bread)
1/4 cup olive oil
8 ounces Taleggio cheese or brie, sliced
2 large pears, apples or peaches, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
2 tablespoons honey
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces arugula or spinach

Preheat the panini machine. Cut the ciabatta loaf into 4 equal pieces. Halve each piece horizontally to make 4 sandwiches. Brush the bread on both sides with olive oil and place the bottom-half of the bread slices in the panini machine in a single layer. Heat until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Continue with the remaining top slices of bread.

While the top slices of the bread are in the Panini machine, begin forming the sandwiches. Divide the cheese among the warm bread. Cover the cheese with slices of fruit. Drizzle the fruit with honey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with a handful of arugula. Place the warmed top half of the bread over the arugula and return the competed sandwich to the panini machine for 1 to 2 minutes more to finish melting the cheese. Remove from the panini machine. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

Of course, Panini with ham and cheese are pretty darned special. Make it with Prosciutto and one of the delicious Italian cheeses….and there you have a true Italian Panino.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I've been getting requests for an entire Christmas Eve dinner menu....I guess they must be looking for some new traditions. In my family, Christmas Eve is the big family get together. We have been through several menu changes in my lifetime....the best was Mom"s and Dad's turkey dinner with cornbread dressing. After we moved the celebration to my brother's and sister-in-laws house, we changed the menu to beef stew and biscuits....wonderful stuff!  That menu gradually changed to everyone bringing appetizers and desserts and Tom and Vicki prepared Lasagna....always a huge hit!
Now that Tom and Vicki are retired and travel more, they have decided to turn over the Christmas Eve festivities to the 3rd generation. This year we will be celebrating at Betsy's and Ben's. We are still working on the menu.
Anyway, my family is not the only one making changes. So, here is an idea for a new menu.
Hope you enjoy it.
Christmas Eve Short Rib Dinner 

Appetizer: Crab Stuffed Mushrooms....something warm and savory as your guests arrive!
1 cup cooked flaked crab

8 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Dashes Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 green onions, minced
1/8 teaspoon lemon pepper
24 large mushrooms
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Wash mushrooms well, remove stems, and set caps aside. Finely chop about 1/2 the mushroom stems. (Use the remainder in another recipe or freeze for later use.)

Mix cream cheese, crab, chopped stems, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, basil, garlic powder, onions, and lemon pepper. Fill mushroom caps with the crab mixture and place in a large, lightly greased baking dish. Top with the grated Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. (Recipe may be prepared to this point and refrigerated, covered, overnight.) Bake at 450ºF for 15-20 minutes and serve warm.

Salad: Mesclun Salad with Roasted Pears and Walnuts
3 medium pear, halved and cored

9 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1cup broken walnuts
9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 shallot or green onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 clove garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
18 cups mesclun (assorted baby greens) or three 6-ounce packages ready-to-eat spring mix lettuces

 Place pear halves, cut side down, in an 8x8x2-inch baking pan. Add the 3 tablespoons vinegar and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and bake in a 350 degree F oven for 15 to 25 minutes or until tender (baking time depends on ripeness of pears). Remove from oven; set pan on wire rack and uncover; let pears cool in liquid. When cool, lift pears from liquid; discard liquid. Place pears on a cutting board. Slice pears lengthwise from bottom up to, but not through, stem end; set aside.

Meanwhile, place walnuts on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until light golden. Cool.
Stir together olive oil, the 1 tablespoon vinegar, shallot or green onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add greens; toss to coat. Arrange greens on two salad plates. Sprinkle with nuts. Fan a pear half atop each salad. Makes 6 servings.

Main Course....Christmas Eve Shortribs...It's a winner!
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup flour for dredging
6 pounds individual beef short ribs, 3" long, trimmed of excess fat
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, plus 4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bottle Somerset Ridge Vineyard Ruby Red wine
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/4 cup minced parsley for garnish
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups water, as needed
1 1/2 pounds small white boiling onions
1 pound baby carrots
1 pound button mushroom
1/4 cup Somerset Ridge Vineyard Ruby Port
2 tablespoons brandy

In a large heavy-bottomed ovenproof pot with a lid, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Place flour in pie tin and working in batches, roll the short ribs in the flour, tapping off the excess. Add ribs to the pot, in batces, being careful to not over-crowd the pan. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. As they are browned, move ribs to rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining fat in pot. Place pan over medium-low heat, and add the garlic, tomato paste and minced thyme and saute for 1 minute. Add the Ruby Red Wine and using a spatula, stir to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer. While wine is heating, make a bouquet garni by tying the sprigs of thyme and parsley and the bay leaf in a bundle with cheesecloth and string. Add bundle to the pot.
Return the browned ribs to the pot along with any accumulated juices from the baking sheet. Pour in the water, adding just enough to barely cover the ribs. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover with lid and transfer to the oven. Braise for 2 hours. After the first hour, remove from the oven and stir, then cover and return to oven for the 2nd hour.
After the 2 hours, add the onions and carrots, stirring to submerge them in liquid. Cook about 30 minutes, then add mushrooms. Return to oven for the last 15 to 20 minutes. You can now cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
To continue cooking for today, remove the pot from the oven and place on stovetop over medium-low heat. Skim off any fat from the surface and discard the bouquet garni. Add the Ruby Port and simmer for 5 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer the ribs to a warm platter. Spoon the sauce along with the vegetables and mushrooms, over the meat. Garnish with minced parsley and serve immediately with warm soft polenta. Serves 6

And a little something for you to snuggle those wonderful spareribs down into....

Parmesan Polenta
6 cups water

1 1/2 cups instant polenta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (1 oz)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Cook, whisking frequently, until thickened.

Stir in the Parmesan, butter, cream, salt and pepper.

Bacon Wrapped Green Beans....must have a veggie. Luckily, this one is wrapped in bacon and baked in brown sugar! It is Christmas Eve!

1 12 oz package bacon, strips cut in half,
1 (16 ounce) package frozen cut green beans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a casserole dish.

Set out the bacon, green beans and casserole dish in a little assembly line. Lay out a half strip of bacon. place a small bunch of green beans (6 or 7) onto the strip of bacon and roll up into a bundle. Place the bundle into the casserole dish, seam side down. Repeat with remaining bacon strips and green beans. You can pack these pretty tight in the pan, just know that if the bacon is touching another bundle they take some prying to get apart. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and salt and pepper.
Bake in the preheated oven until browned and heated through, about 20 minutes.

For Dessert....Ruby Red Chocolate Cake

Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup Somerset Ridge Vineyard Ruby Red Wine
1/3 cup whole milk
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter (10 2/3 tablespoons) at room temperature
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 box sugar-free black cherry gelatin (.3 ounce)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Somerset Ridge Vineyard Ruby Red Wine
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Prepare the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-cup  Bundt Pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
Melt chocolate in a small bowl placed over a small saucepan of simmering water. Let cool 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine wine and milk; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat for 2 minutes. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, gelatin, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Add to mixer bowl, along with the wine mixture, and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Using a plastic knife, carefully loosen cake from the pan; invert onto a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely.
Prepare the glaze: Combine the butter, wine, and confectioners' sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Set aside until ready to serve.
Dust cake lightly with confectioners' sugar. Slice cake and drizzle with glaze. Oh...and a little whipped cream never hurt anyone!

One more thing....I get requests for recipes all the time. If there is something you are looking for, send a request by clicking on comment section below. I'll get it and see what I can do. Hope I can help.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Nutcracker

Have you been watching Battle of the Nutcrackers on the Ovation network? They are showing 5 different ballet companies performing this traditional Christmas time ballet.  The music of the Nutcracker Ballet was composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same; The story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.
When Marius Petipa had the idea to choreograph the story into a ballet, it was actually based on a revision by Alexander Dumas, a well known French author. His version reflects more of what we have come to love as the Nutcracker Ballet.
The five companies performing on Ovation's competition are The Royal Opera Ballet of Great Britain, the Bolshoi ballet of Russia, the Berlin state Opera Ballet of Germany, Casse Noisette Circus of Monaco, and Maurice Bejart's Nutcracker from France. Tonight I've been watching the Bolshoi ballet, and it is wonderful, but honestly, so far my favorite is England's Royal Opera Ballet. It was so elegant! I have two more to watch before I vote. The winner will be announced on Christmas Eve.
If you have missed them, go to and click on the Nutcracker to find the schedule. The Nutcracker is perfect to have on while you are wrapping gifts or decorating cookies!
I must say, while watching the ballet, my mind has been on my friend and fellow painter, Audrey Benskin. Audrey has been painting ballerinas for the last several years and she just completed a very large oil on canvas of a group of ballerinas warming up for a performance of Swan Lake. It is one of my favorite paintings by Audrey. She really should do one of the Nutcracker!

How is your holiday baking coming along? Today I stayed home from the studio and baked Pumpkin Bread, and Sugar Cookies, then I made 2 batches of Caramel Corn. I have a party to go to tomorrow night! It is game night at the Davis house. We will party!

I am trying to arrange a brunch for my family....teenager's schedules, college finals, grade school basketball games and those things called jobs are slowing me down. When you are retired, you definitely have a more flexible schedule. Anyway, in thinking about a brunch menu, once again, baking becomes very important. I'm thinking Cheddar Scones would be pretty good on a winter morning with some crisp bacon, soft fluffy scrambled eggs and some wonderful flavored butters and homemade jams. I think Mimosas would be perfect for the adults; orange juice and hot chocolate for the young set.

Cheddar Scones
makes 12 to 14 scones

2 3/4 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
dash of salt
1 cup  grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 large egg
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sift the flour into a medium bowl. Stir in the baking powder, mustard powder and salt. Stir in the cheddar cheese.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and milk. Mix with the flour mixture and knead on floured board for 1 minute, until soft.
On a floured surface, pat out the dough to about a 1" thickness. With a round cutter, cut the scones, or with a knife, cut squares or triangle shapes. You should have 12 to 14 scones. Place them on a baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Do not open the oven while baking.
Serve warm with butter or I like both, of course!

1 serving

3 ounces freshly squeezed and chilled orange juice
5 ounces Champagne or sparkling wine

Pour the cold orange juice into a champagne flute. Fill the glass with the champagne.

I am remembering Sicily right now. Every morning for breakfast I had a flute of blood orange juice and Italian Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine). What a way to start the day! I was served a variety of cheeses including freshly made Ricotta with at least a dozen types of beautiful Italian pastries! Wow, I miss Sicily!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Cookies

I always, without fail, make lists of the cookies I want to bake at Christmas. I either loose the list, or get too busy with shopping, doing lunch, painting, or decorating the house, to get much baking done.
But my intentions are good!

I also blog about my favorite Christmas cookie every year, and today is the day.
I will never forget that moment when I took a bite of my first Cucidati!

Cucidati - Italian Fig Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 + 2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg (beaten)
1 teaspoons vanilla
 In a large mixing bowl combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar,
and baking powder. Cut in butter till pieces are the size of small peas.
Stir in the heavy cream  and egg till all is moistened.
Divide dough in half. Cover and chill about 2 hrs until easy to handle.
Prepare fig filling while dough is chilling.
1 8-ounce package (1 1/2 cup dried figs)
3/4 cup light raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 dried mixed fruits (I do not care for citron, so I use a mixture of  cherries and apples)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup warm orange juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the filling: In a food processor bowl or with the coarse blade of a food
Grinder, process or grind figs, raisins, and almonds till coarsely chopped.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the 1/4 cup sugar, warm orange juice, cinnamon and
pepper. Stir in the fruit mixture. Let filling stand till the dough is thoroughly
chilled. Roll each half of the dough into a 12-inch square. Cut each square into twelve
4x3-inch rectangles. Using a heaping tablespoon of filling for each rectangle,
Spread filling along one of the short sides of the rectangle. Roll up from that side
Place rolls, seam side down, on an ungreased cookie sheet. Curve each roll slightly.
Snip outer edge if curve three times. Bake in a 350 oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till done. Remove and cool.
Dip the top of each cookie into a simple powdered sugar glaze and then sprinkle with tiny colored candies. Set on waxed paper to dry.

In Italy, it is traditional to shape the cookies as birds and fish, glazing each with a shimmering coating of powdered sugar glaze and then sprinkling each with colorful candies. Each is a work of art!
As quickly as they are eaten, I have moved to the easier version!

Another favorite cookie is a Martha Stewart recipe
Rum Raisin Shortbread Cookies

1/2 cup dark rum
1 cup dried currants
2 sticks unsalted butter (16 tablespoons) room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Combine rum and currants; cover, and let stand at room temperature overnight. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons rum.
2. Beat butter, sugar, and orange zest with a mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and reserved rum, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, coconut, and salt, and beat for 3 minutes. Stir in currants by hand.
    3. Form dough into 2 logs, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in parchment, and refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
    4. Preheat oven to 325. Remove parchment. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and space about 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until pale golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

If you need a recipe for a refrigerator cookie, here it is. It can be waiting in your refrigerator, for you to slice and bake when ever you need a quick dessert or a sweet snack.

Lemon Refrigerator Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling
1. In a food processor, pulse flour, confectioners' sugar, salt, and lemon zest until combined. Add butter and process until sandy. Add egg yolks and lemon juice; pulse until dough comes together. Divide dough in half and form each into a 1 1/2-inch-wide log. Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, about 2 hours
(or up to 1 month).

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Spread granulated sugar on a piece of parchment; roll logs over sugar to coat. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange, 1 inch apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.
(To store, cover and keep at room temperature, up to 5 days.)

And, of course, last but not least,
My Mom'sSugar Cookies    

1 cup butter, not margarine
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
4 cups flour
additional sugar for top of cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
With electric mixer, beat the softened butter, oil,
sugar and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla.
Sift the flour with the soda, salt, cream of tartar and nutmeg,
then add gradually to the creamed mixture.
With a small 1 1/2" scoop, drop cookie dough into a plate of sugar.
With fingers, press dough into sugar, lift cookie, turn sugar side up
and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, to desired crispness.
Cool on waxed paper before storing in airtight container.
For the Christmas season, tint the sugar for the top of the
cookies with red and/or green food coloring,
or purchase colored sugars.

Thanks, Mom!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jefferson Cup

All of you who know me, those of you who have been reading my blog for some time, know about my connection to Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery. My daughter and son-in-law, Cindy and Dennis Reynolds, own the vineyard. I have been the chef for the vineyard since 1998. In fact, it was April 1, 1998 when Arch and I went out to what was then called "the farm" in Miami County, Kansas, and helped plant the first 300 vines on the hillside. Arch and I discussed this on the way out to the farm and on our return drive home. We were convinced Cindy and Dennis had lost their minds! After all, who ever heard of a vineyard in Kansas?!? Who in the world would drink Kansas wine?!? Were they nuts?
I have written about the success of the vineyard many times. I have described events, parties, harvest lunches. I have shared photos of many of these events. I have invited you to release parties when we introduce a new wine. I have invited you to Art in the Vines several times over the last 3 years. Well, friends, it is with the greatest pleasure that I share the following with you now.

Somerset Ridge Wins 2010 Jefferson Cup!


Somerset Ridge Oktoberfest Wins Coveted Jefferson Cup!
Many consider the Jefferson Cup Invitational wine competition to be the most prestigious in the United States. It is run by Doug Frost, one of only three people in the world to hold both Master of Wine and Master Sommelier credentials. The other judges constitute a who's who of wine professionals from around the U.S.
This is an invitation-only competition; you must be pre-selected to participate. This year, over 600 wines were invited. Out of those, only 20 wines were selected as the best-of-the-best in their category and awarded the Jefferson Cup.
Much to our delight, our Oktoberfest was awarded a Cup in the category of Non-Vinifera White Wine. And to add icing to the cake, all five of our other entered wines won medals as well! Traminette and Citron won Example of American Greatness gold medals, while Ruby Red, Chardonel and Ambrosia won Sliver Medals.

Even more extraordinary, however, is the fact that of the 20 Jefferson Cups awarded this year, four were from Eastern Kansas wineries! To put this into perspective, six cups were awarded to California (3,005 wineries), five cups to New York (246 wineries) and two to neighboring Missouri (98 wineries). Compared with Kansas' relatively fewer 25 wineries, we knocked it out of the park! Congratulations to the other Kansas Cup winners, Blue Jacket Crossing and Holy-Field!
This is truly a validation of our region as a world class wine producing area.
There is a reason why most of the wine produced in the U.S. prior to prohibition came from Missouri and Eastern Kansas: we grow great grapes here!

How do you like them apples! I mean grapes! And, as a chef and your friend, I should tell you, there is no better wine to have during the holidays. It goes beautifully with holiday foods!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day!

It seems like I have been gone for a month, when actually, I've been right here, just too busy to post a blog. My family had a wonderful holiday together; there were 36 of us! My mom hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in the private dining room at Lakeview Village. No cooking, no dishes, no sweat! I did cook on several occasions between the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the Saturday following. We had many occasions to dine together, at home and in restaurants. We did barbecue at Jack's Stack and Mexican at Panzon's....and at my house, we concentrated on country ham! If you remember back about 2 weeks ago, I received a wonderful package from Smithfield Foods, compliments of Larry Santure, Smithfield's expert on country meats.


Let me tell you about this is wonderful! I baked 2 big sheet pans of biscuits to tuck the thinly sliced country ham in. Some added a little mayo, some topped it off with honey, others with cheese and brother-in-law topped his off with more country ham!
The morning after Thanksgiving, we all gathered at  Betsy's and Ben's house for omlettes and paninis...that evening we, once again, all got together to eat! This time it was at Tom's and Vicki's. By this time we were stuffed to the gills!
But that didn't stop us from gathering at Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery, where we sat outdoors in the beautiful sunshine. We didn't eat, but we did enjoy the wine!
So, with the ham and the turkey I roasted with the Spanish smoked paprika rub, the Nanson's brunch and the Johnston's lasagna dinner, and of course, Mom's wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, we (over)ate well for 5 days!
One of the side dishes I served with the ham was a spinach salad from a Kansas City restaurant that has been gone for years. It was called Putch's and was located on the Country Club Plaza here in Kansas City. They served this salad everyday to the delight of their patrons. When I served it to my family, my daughter Cindy remembered it from her childhood. She was so happy to taste it again! I guess I forgot to prepare the salad for years! I doubt if I will let that much time go by before I serve it again. I hope you enjoy it.

Putsch's Spinach Salad
2  12 ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
¼ cup celery, chopped fine
¼ cup onion, chopped fine
1 cup grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped (reserve one for garnish)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp mayonnaise

Thaw 2  12 oz. boxes of spinach, and drain in colander. When thawed, squeeze out all moisture before using in salad. The spinach must be thoroughly dry.
Combine celery, onions, eggs and cheese. Mix with spinach, tossing lightly.
Combine salt, Tabasco, vinegar and mayo. Add to spinach mixture and fold lightly.
Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.
 Serve with horseradish on the side.

Another big hit over the holiday was the Caramel Corn. I know for a fact, I prepared it daily, usually 2 batches a day! It is the best caramel corn I have ever tasted and the easiest.
I would say it is an absolute must at Christmas!

Caramel Corn
8 cups popped corn, lightly salted
1/4 cup butter (do not substitute margarine)
6 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar (do not use golden brown)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a small saucepan, the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla, bring to a boil while stirring frequently.
Pour caramel mixture over popped corn in a large bowl. Toss and stir to evenly coat the corn.
Spread popped corn evenly in a large baking sheet with sides. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt if you wish.
Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool on waxed paper, store in air tight container.
Okay, Thanksgiving is you have your Christmas menu planned yet?

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
Oil Painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection


oil painting by Kay Tucker

Kansas Storm

Kansas Storm
oil painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection

Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Collage

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
48"x36" sculptural painting by Kay Tucker