Saturday, February 26, 2011

Okay, between my fall on Christmas day,  a dreadful cold that has left my ribcage screaming,  and our lousy, snowy bitterly cold weather, I have decided this was my “winter of discontent”. I usually don’t give into bad things without a fight, but for some reason, all of the above have truly gotten to me. But I am officially tired of sitting in my chair, feeling lousy, wishing for warm weather. I will beat this thing.....Thank God the weather forecast is looking good, my cold is on it’s way out, and other than a periodic twinge in the knee, the body is healing and ready to kick some butt. (Please, no jokes about me not tall enough to reach someone's butt)
Now, if gas prices would quit jumping up, I would start spending more time at the studio in Paola. It is a pain to have to consider what it is going to cost me to drive down and back, then compare that to what I “might” accomplish while there. With that “winter of discontent” attitude I’ve been living with, I haven’t found it absolutely necessary to go to the studio. However....
The Kansas City Artist Coalition events of last week have my creative side eager to paint again, and that is good. There are gallery show “possibilities” in my future….if I paint. So, starting this week, paint I will!

While I am on the subject of painting, the date has been set for the next Art in the Vines at Somerset Ridge Vineyard. I can’t believe “The Third Annual“ is approaching. June 11th is the date scheduled, stay tuned for updates.

There is another event in the works also. The Miami County Art and Artisans weekend is being planned for the weekend of June 4th and 5th. I am thinking the vineyard will be involved in some way. I will keep you posted.

Now for our favorite part of this blog....Eating and Cooking

Wine by Somerset Ridge, label by Kristin Goering
  I am about to make an Apple Riesling Sorbet for a French dinner to be held at Molly’s Table in Paola next Friday evening. The evening is a joint effort between Molly's and Somerset Ridge Vineyard.
 The Alsace region of France is a favorite of mine, so when choosing the recipe for dessert, I naturally turned to Alsace.. Dennis and Cindy recently released their new Riesling wine. It turns out they have a love of the Alsace also. My little ice cream makers will be busy this week! If you are interested in attending the dinner, email Donna Nagle, owner of Molly’s, at The last time I checked on reservations, there were 6 seats still available, but that was 4 or 5 days ago. If it is full, tell her to put you on the list for the next one!

One of my favorite French recipes is for French Country Pâté. You may not call it a “simple” recipe, but the simplicity of the pate is stunning. If I could, I would eat this 3, maybe even 4, times a day. Strange, but I think my 2 favorite things to eat are French…this pâté and my Alsatian Onion Tart. People are generally cold or hot when it comes to the French….but no one can say their food isn’t magnificent! Don’t let the recipe scare you, it is worth every moment, every ingredient.

This recipe is from Molly Wizenberg and the Photograph is by Misha Gravenor.
French Country Pâté
3/4 cup Cognac
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup minced onion
2 1/2 pounds ground pork
12 ounces bacon (8 to 10 slices), finely chopped, plus 14 bacon slices (for lining pan)
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup whipping cream
1  6-ounce piece ham steak, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
Coarse sea salt
Dijon mustard


Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 350°F. Boil Cognac until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 1 1/2 minutes. Cool.
Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent but not brown, about 8 minutes.
Combine ground pork and chopped bacon in large bowl. Using fork or fingertips, mix together until well blended. Add sautéed onion, garlic, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, thyme, allspice, and pepper to bowl with pork mixture and stir until incorporated. Add eggs, cream, and reduced Cognac. Stir until well blended.
Line 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with bacon slices, arranging 8 slices across width of pan and 3 slices on each short side of pan and overlapping pan on all sides. Using hands, lightly and evenly press half of meat mixture (about 3 1/4 cups) onto bottom of pan atop bacon slices. Arrange ham strips over in single layer. Top with remaining meat mixture.
Fold bacon slices over, covering pâté. Cover pan tightly with foil. Place pan in 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan and transfer to oven. Pour boiling water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of loaf pan. Bake pâté until a thermometer inserted through foil into center registers 155°F, about 2 hours 15 minutes.
Remove loaf pan from baking pan and transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Place heavy skillet or 2 to 3 heavy cans atop pâté to weigh down. Chill overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 days ahead.

Place loaf pan with pâté in larger pan of hot water for about 3 minutes. Invert pâté onto platter; discard fat from platter and wipe clean. Cut pâté crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Serve at room temperature with a sprinkling of salt, cornichons, Dijon, and a baguette.

Je l'aime!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Today was a day full of vinegar….Balsamic that is. In my quest to develop some new recipes for Jeanne Mackay of The Tasteful Olive, I have been scouring the cookbooks and cooking blogs to see what is already out there. No use developing something that has already been developed! After several hours of reading close to 50 recipes, I was starving. There is nothing like a quick little splash of aged balsamic to pep up your dish….and just reading about it made me want to splash it on everything I saw!

In my research, I ran across a web page called Steamy Kitchen. It is written by Jaden Hair, a food columnist, television chef, and recipe developer. Her program is The Steamy Kitchen and is shown on TLC, however, I’ve never seen it. What I did see was a recipe that looks pretty good to me. Jaden calls it Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans

I am sure most of you are familiar with a Cassoulet. I am just as sure that you have never cooked a cassoulet. Your traditional cassoulet takes hours to prepare; calls for ingredients that are not found in your typical kitchen….do you keep duck confit in your refrigerator?
Me neither.
The confit is prepared in a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt curing a piece of meat (generally goose, duck, or pork) and then poaching it in its own fat. The Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat (typically pork, sausages, goose, duck and sometimes mutton), pork skin and white haricot beans. See what I mean? We just don’t make much cassoulet in American kitchens!

Jaden’s recipe was accompanied by a photo of her finished dish….definitely looked good enough to eat!

This recipe is on my list of things to prepare this week. If anyone wants to prepare it and compare notes with me on Saturday, just drop me a line at to let me know what you think of it.

Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans
Serves 8
2½ pounds sweet Italian sausage links (Naturally, I recommend Jasper's brand)
3 pints cherry tomatoes
1 medium-large onion, cut into 1½-inch chunks
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (The Tasteful Olive's Herbs de Provence)

1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar (The Tasteful Olive's Balsamic, of course)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cans (about 16 ounces each) white beans, undrained

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix sausages, tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, thyme, bay leaves, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large heavy roasting pan. Set pan in oven and roast until sausages are brown and tomatoes have reduced to a thick sauce, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, stir in beans, and continue to cook until casserole has heated through, about 10 minutes longer. Serve.

If there’s time, sprinkle buttered bread crumbs over each plated portion for a nice touch. Heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Toss 2 cups fresh bread crumbs (made in the food processor from a good European-style loaf) with 2 tablespoons melted butter and a light sprinkling of salt. Add the crumbs to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Stored in the refrigerator and warmed on the stove top or in the microwave, this dish means instant dinner later in the week.

For comparison, here is an authentic Cassoulet. Yes, it might be better, but it is also a lot of work! You will notice that the authentic cassoulet does not have balsamic as an ingredient. The addition of balsamic to Jaden's cassoulet gives the dish a deep rich flavor with out all the many hours and ingredients necessary to prepare an authentic dish.

1 lb dried white beans (preferably Great Northern)
8 1/4 cups cold water
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups chopped onion (3/4 lb)
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic (6 large cloves)
1 (3-inch) piece celery, cut into thirds
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
3 whole cloves
3 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs plus 1/2 cup chopped leaves
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 (14-oz) can stewed tomatoes, puréed or finely chopped with juice
4 confit duck legs (1 3/4 lb total)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (if necessary)
1 lb cooked garlic pork sausage or smoked pork kielbasa, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices
2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a baguette)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Special equipment: an 8-inch square of cheesecloth; kitchen string; a 4 1/2- to 5-quart casserole dish (3 to 4 inches deep)

PreparationSoak and cook beans:
Cover beans with cold water by 2 inches in a large bowl and soak 8 to 12 hours. Drain in a colander.
Transfer beans to a 6- to 8-quart pot and bring to a boil with 8 cups cold water, broth, tomato paste, onion, and 2 tablespoons garlic. Put celery, thyme, bay leaf, cloves, parsley sprigs, and peppercorns in cheesecloth and tie into a bundle with string to make a bouquet garni. Add bouquet garni to beans, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until beans are almost tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir in tomatoes with juice and simmer until beans are just tender, about 15 minutes more.
Prepare duck and sausage while beans simmer:
Remove all skin and fat from duck legs and cut skin and fat into 1/2-inch pieces. Separate duck meat from bones, leaving it in large pieces, and transfer meat to a bowl. Add bones to bean pot.
Cook duck skin and fat with remaining 1/4 cup cold water in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until water is evaporated and fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until skin is crisp, 3 to 6 minutes more. Transfer cracklings with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, leaving fat in skillet. (You should have about 1/4 cup fat; if not, add olive oil.)
Brown sausage in batches in fat in skillet, then transfer to bowl with duck meat, reserving skillet.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Make bread crumb topping:
Add remaining tablespoon garlic to fat in skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Assemble casserole:
Remove bouquet garni and duck bones from beans and discard, then stir in kielbasa, duck meat, remaining teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Ladle cassoulet into casserole dish, distributing meat and beans evenly. (Meat and beans should be level with liquid; if they are submerged, ladle excess liquid back into pot and boil until reduced, then pour back into casserole dish.) Spread bread crumb topping evenly over cassoulet and bake, uncovered, in lower third of oven, until bubbling and crust is golden, about 1 hour.

As for other Balsamic ideas, I will keep researching and then move to the kitchen to test.
For now, check out The Tasteful Olive’s webpage and blog for existing recipes, and then check periodically for additions.
I also encourage you to visit Jeanne’s store in person if you are in the Kansas City area. What a treat! It is located at 7945 Santa Fe Drive in historic Overland Park, Kansas. While you are there, go several doors north of Tasteful Olive and visit the helpful ladies at Penzey’s Spices. Trust me when I say the ideas, recipes and help you get from Jeanne and those from the Penzey’s crew will pep up your dinner!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What a great evening! Saturday evening was the annual
Kansas City Artist's Coalition Auction....
and once again, it was spectacular! Actually, the event started on Wednesday evening with a Champagne/Dessert party for all  of the artists who donated a piece of their work. What a nice (and delicious!) evening that was.

Saturday, we all returned to the Coalition's building in the City Market area, to watch our art being auctioned off before a crowd of 250 plus. And that crowd came to buy! My Studio partner, David Gross,  and I each gave a painting for the fund raiser event, and it is so fun to watch the action, until it is time for you to find out how your piece did! You can't help but have that terrible feeling...."Panic! What if no one wants my painting!" So,  I had made the decision to not go check on just let it go wherever, with whomever for however much. About 2/3rds of the way through the auction, a little voice whispered in my ear "I got your painting!" It was my dear sweet friend, Ada Koch, a wonderful painter and a terrific instructor. How nice it is to know my painting will be hanging in the home of my sweet friends, Ada and Kevin!

Lower piece a watercolor by David Gross

Where my painting was part of the silent auction, David's beautiful watercolor was part of the live auction. I had been watching people stand in front of the painting, studying it, discussing it for several hours. It was obvious there was a great deal of interest in this painting. Sure enough, there was a very active bidding war over David's painting! It brought in more than expected. Now, that was fun!
My apologies for so few photographs. When you are 4'11" tall, taking photos in a crowd is next to ipossible. Also, the spotlighting made picture taking a little tricky!

My thanks to all of the artists, board members, and volunteers for making it such a special evening!

Have you been wondering what I've been up to in the kitchen?
I've been having a grand old time, playing "mad chef", working on some great new recipes for
Jeanne Mackay of The Tasteful Olive.

Stay tuned....more to come!

Monday, February 14, 2011

I have come to the conclusion that Valentine’s Day is simply too hard to deal with. I can concentrate on my darling grandchildren, I can cook, I can buy a ton of chocolate, but when the actual day arrives, there will be a big hole, a dull ache. I will not have that darling man, with the grin from ear to ear, pull out a bouquet of flowers and a gift, obviously and hysterically wrapped by him. And the mushy cards! That man could find embarassingly soupy cards! I loved them.

Arch never missed a holiday, birthday, special date….he was one man who remembered all of them and planned ahead! I was always amazed when he would show up bedside with his gifts. I never did figure out where he hid the flowers; sometimes it was as early as 8am when they were presented to me along with that “Arch Tucker signature grin” and sparkling eyes!

He is my Valentine. How fortunate I was to have him for our 9 years together. How lucky I am to have him in my heart forever.
Happy Valentine's Day

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yep, I need to rant….again. It has been a while, so I’m not too embarrassed about it….I’ve waited almost a week, hoping to calm down a little before I write this......It’s not working….

A record number of people watched the Super Bowl, including me. It was the first one I’ve seen since Arch passed away. I’m telling you this, if Arch had watched the opening ceremony for that game, he would have bellowed so loudly, they could have heard him all the way to Timbuktu! Military men feel strongly about their country, their flag, their National Anthem….why         doesn’t every American?

I cannot believe the current trend in music that allows vocalists to absolutely destroy our National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, with their ridiculous vocal gyrations. The song is beautiful, as it was written, but their “artistic liberties” have turned it into something unrecognizable.

Just a few short months ago, I was right here in this blog, telling you how beautiful and talented Christina Aguilera was in the movie Burlesque. The almost unattractive and “sort of” talented songstress that performed the anthem before the game last Sunday, was not that Christina Aguilera! What a major disaster! I truly looked at her and found it impossible to see even one little thing that made me think of that lovely young woman in the movie.

But  the worst thing was her forgetting the lyrics. Do you think she ever considered what the lyrics meant? Do you think she ever actually heard the words? How much do you think she was paid for that disaster? I bet she didn’t forget the amount she was charging!

When are we going to hear someone stand up at a sporting event and in a clear sincere manor, sing our beloved Star Spangled Banner as it was meant to be sung? When will Francis Scott Keyes hear his lyrics performed to a beautiful tune as opposed to a screaming roller-coaster disaster?

Yep….it is time for a change alright…THIS CHANGE! Bring back our NATIONAL ANTHEM!

Whew…I wish I felt better, but truthfully, I am afraid our spoiled rotten “stars” here in America, including movie and TV stars, singers, politians and sports figures, will continue to behave as they damn well please. Bad behavior is prevalent among them. When are we going to stand up and refuse to buy tickets, watch programs, buy CDs and DVDs featuring these “ bad boys” and “misguided girls”? Lindsay, Charlie, Kanye, Tiger, Mel, Paris….the list goes on and on. Thank goodness most of them don’t sing. There wouldn’t be a song worth listening to!.....and while I’m ranting….Who gives a DAMN about the REAL HOUSEWIVES of anywhere! Good Lord, give me patience! I’m living on the edge here!

One more rant and then I am through….just today another Congressman has had to resign because of bad behavior! Are they stupid?!?! What is wrong with these people? They are so sure we will continue to elect them.....Sadly, that is pretty much what we’ve taught them to believe.

Yep….I am ready for that change….soon, like now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Straight from Somerset Ridge!

In anticipation of temperatures in the 50s this weekend, they are making a Spring Citron Martini with 2 parts Somerset Ridge Citron, 1 part lemon sparkling water, a slice of lemon and a few home-grown raspberries for charm! What a great way to spend the evening!
 Cindy and Dennis are still celebrating!

Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery
wins prestigious 2010 Jefferson Cup Invitational award!

Traminette Oktoberfest by Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery wins a prestigious 2010 Jefferson Cup Invitational award. Of the more than six hundred US wines invited to participate in the annual competition, only twenty were recognized in 2010.

 Midwest wines are on a roll. In the center of the United States, a new type of crop is taking root: wine grapes. With the passing of the Kansas Farm Winery Act in 1985, the state better known for fields of corn and magical red slippers started down a path to rebuild the once world-famous Midwest grape growing and wine industry.
Before Prohibition, most of the wine produced in the US came from Missouri and eastern Kansas. Prohibition devastated the once-thriving industry but in the past 20 years, the region has been reasserting itself in quantity and quality. Now, Kansas is producing some of the most attractive wines in the country.

In only five years - since 2005 - the number of licensed wineries in Kansas has risen from 13 to 25. Says owner/winemaker Dennis Reynolds: "At Somerset Ridge, we have made it our mission to show the world what Midwestern soil is capable of."
Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery, just twenty miles south of the emerging cultural hub of Kansas City, has made one of the best white wines in the nation, as recognized in the 2010 Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition. The event took place on November 18-19 in Kansas City, Missouri. More than six hundred wines had been pre-selected as outstanding examples of viticulture and winemaking in America. In addition to winning a prestigious Jefferson Cup, Somerset Ridge also garnered gold and silver medals for five other wines.

Awarded with a Jefferson Cup in the category Best Non-Vinifera White for its Oktoberfest, Somerset Ridge has joined the ranks of the local wine revolution in the United States. Dennis Reynolds says: "This is a validation of our region's re-emergence as a world-class wine producing area. We are excited about what the Jefferson Cup recognition will bring for the growing Kansas - and Midwest - wine industry."

Alongside winners from California and New York's Finger Lakes region, there were two other Kansas wineries awarded (for a total of four cups) as well as two wineries from Missouri and one from Ohio. "The local food movement is very strong in the Kansas City area, providing an incubator for the local, sustainable wine industry," owner Cindy Reynolds says.

The Jefferson Cup Invitational has been organized by Doug Frost MW, MS, each year since 2000. Other judges include wine merchant and past chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers Wayne Belding MS; Laura dePasquale MS, vice president of fine wine at Palm Bay International; and Guy Stout CWE, MS, corporate director of beverage education at Glazer's. The annual selecting of both Vitis vinifera and non-vinifera wines for the Jefferson Cup aims to respect the diversity of American viticulture and Thomas Jefferson's own celebration of native varieties and hybrids.

About Somerset Ridge
Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery was started in 1998 by former corporate executives Cindy and Dennis Reynolds when they planted their first vineyards in Somerset, Kansas. Since then, plantings have grown to more than 8000 grape vines of 14 different varieties, both Vitis vinifera and American hybrids. Sustainable farming practices are key at Somerset Ridge. The winery makes both red and white wines, under 18 labels, and a limoncello.

This was taken from the Chamber of Commerce article, released today. The word just keeps spreading!

Here is a recipe I embellished from a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine back in 1996....some things are indeed timeless! It is so much better made with our Oktoberfest wine!

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons

1/4 cup Tasteful Olive's Tuscan Herb Olive Oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup Somerset Ridge Oktoberfest Wine
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)*
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)*
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
24 1/4-inch-thick baguette bread slices
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
For soup: Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, wine, all squash and herbs; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)

For croutons: Preheat broiler. Butter 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange bread, buttered side up, on baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle cheese, then thyme and sage over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with croutons and serve.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I just spent a lovely morning at one of my favorite shops….
The Tasteful Olive in Historic Overland Park, Kansas

Owner Jeanne Mackay and I met this morning to taste, talk, plot and plan. We discussed the culinary possibilities of her oils and vinegars. I took photographs and got to know Jeanne. 

Originally from Minnesota, Jeanne moved here to Johnson County with her husband and bought a farm. They raised their 6 children with fresh air, sunshine and good healthy foods from their own gardens. In the process, the Mackays discovered how healthy olive oil is.
The decision to open the shop came when several years ago, she discovered a delightful little shop in an historic part of Chicago. Located in a lovely little house, they sold olive oil and a few kitchen gadgets. For Jeanne, the seed was planted, and in March 2010, The Tasteful Olive opened. Historic old town Overland Park was a natural choice for Jeanne. Strangely enough, she opened The Tasteful Olive in the shop space once occupied by the bicycle shop where she bought her bike many years ago.

She and her husband immediately started the renovation of the space….removing the low dropped ceiling, revealing a wonderful space above for beams and better lighting. The green painted concrete floor was magically turned into an attractive hardwood floor. The white walls were painted lovely earth tones.

Next came the ingenious cabinetry. All designed and hand made by Jeanne’s husband, they are perfect; they display the Italian-made stainless steel fustis, the airtight containers with spigots, that hold the variety of oils and vinegars available at the shop. They also hold a supply of Jeanne’s signature bottles and provide a hidden place of disposing the tiny tasting cups. The overall appeal of the shop is wonderful and is greatly enhanced by the amazing cabinet work.

Now, let’s talk olive oil and vinegar. First of all, I recommend that you visit the web page for the Tasteful Olive. Go to Make sure you click on the recipe tab for Jeanne’s delicious ideas. Next, check out the blog tab for some interesting facts and thoughts. Actually, read it all! Don’t miss all of the health related material.
I came home today with an additional 4 bottles of olive oil and 2 of balsamic vinegars! I can hardly wait to try some of my recipes with these oils….I’m thinking I am one lucky lady! In my kitchen I have the following oils: Basil, Tuscan Herb Infused, Butter, Herbs de Provence, and Tunisian Blood Orange! I could spend the next month trying all of the recipes that are zooming about in my head. In addition, I am the proud owner of 3 Balsamic vinegars….all from Modena, where only true Balsamic comes from. I adore the 18 year old Balsamic, and now I get to play with the Peach White and the Honey Ginger!
Time will tell what heavenly concoctions are realized from this new connection Jeanne and I have. Watch both her web page and my blog. We will be posting soon!

In the meantime, try this Italian Polenta with Mushrooms. A great place to use The Tasteful Olive's Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil!
Italian Polenta with Mushrooms
For polenta

4 1/2 cups water
1 cup polenta or cornmeal (preferably organic)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For mushrooms
1 pound assorted fresh exotic mushrooms such as porcini, oyster, chanterelle, lobster
3 tablespoons Tasteful Olive's Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup water
3 Additional tablespoons Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (we used chives)
For serving
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil for drizzling

1. Make polenta: Bring water to a simmer in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan. Add polenta in a slow stream, whisking until incorporated. Simmer, stirring occasionally with a long-handled whisk or wooden spoon, until liquid is absorbed and polenta is thick and soft, about 30 minutes. (Remove from heat and stir in cream, cheese, salt, and pepper. Keep warm, covered.

2. Saute mushrooms while polenta simmers: If using porcini, halve if large, then slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. If using oysters, trim spongy base if necessary and slice caps into 1/2-inch-wide strips. If using chanterelles, leave small mushrooms whole, halve if medium, and quarter if large. If using lobsters, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
3. Heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden and any liquid they give off is evaporated, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Add water, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley and heat, swirling skillet, until liquid forms a sauce.
5. To serve: Top each serving of polenta with mushrooms. Serve immediately (polenta stiffens as it cools), sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano and an additional drizzle of the oil.
6. Note: Mushroom sauce can be made 1 hour ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature. Reheat before using.

Now, go visit Jeanne! Tell her I sent you......

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Have you ever seriously thought about molasses? I mean, what is molasses? You’ve heard of it, you probably have a bottle with Brer Rabbit on the label, shoved way back in the cabinet, but what is inside that bottle? We know we use it more often in the fall and winter; it is an ingredient in many of our Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes. What would gingerbread be without molasses? What in the world is this stuff called molasses?
Molasses is what’s left over after sugar cane has been crushed, its juices boiled down to a syrup, and sugar crystallized out. In the parlance of the eighteenth century, first molasses was what was left after the sugar had been crystallized out once. When this was re-boiled and more sugar crystallized out, the remaining syrup was second molasses. After a third time, the molasses was blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap is still the result of the final boiling, which is why it’s less sweet and more strongly flavored and has a higher concentration of nutrients (such as iron and calcium) than other molasses.
Cane molasses is a common ingredient in baking, often used in baked goods such as gingerbread. There are a number of substitutions that can be made for molasses. For a given volume of molasses, one of the following may be used (with varying degrees of success): an equal volume of honey, dark corn syrup, or maple syrup, or ¾ that volume firmly packed brown sugar

So, now we ask what is the difference between sulfured and unsulfured molasses….you were asking yourself that question, weren’t you? Well, let me tell you….

Sulfured molasses is made from young sugar cane. Sulfur dioxide, which acts as a preservative, is added during the sugar extraction process. Unsulfured molasses is made from mature sugar cane, which does not require such treatment. All grades of molasses may be sulfured or unsulfured. Got that? Okay, let’s move on.

My mom has spoken of sorghum molasses many times. She would talk about her mom, Grandmother Ogg, making biscuits 3 times a day and eating them warm from the oven, slathered with home churned butter and Granddad’s sorghum molasses. Now we are talking!

Grandmother’s biscuits with her butter were the closest thing to heaven that I can think of! As for Granddad’s sorghum molasses, all I know is according to Mom, he would go somewhere and return to the farm with a gallon bucket full of the rich dark syrup. So, I did a little more research.

I went to to find out all about sorghum. It seems it is more commonly called Sweet Sorghum, which is a syrup made from the juice of Sorghum Cane. In years past it was an important source of sweetener. It came into prominence during the 1850's in the United States. By 1888 total US production was 20,000,000 gallons. An 1896 encyclopedia listed the main states that produced sorghum were Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. It was something that many farms grew to some extent. Many just planted enough for their own use while others grew it as a cash crop. Most neighborhoods had at least one farmer that had a mill and evaporating pan. (That's where Granddad Ogg went!) The farmers in the area would bring their cane to them to be squeezed and cooked into syrup. With the decline of the family farm and the easy access to other sweeteners most of these operations have ceased to exist and only a few die-hards still produce this delicious syrup. Another tradition down the drain!

Here is a spice cookie recipe straight off of the farm using Sorghum Molasses

3/4 c. shortening
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. flour

Melt shortening and let cool. Add sugar, egg and molasses; beat well. Sift together dry ingredients. Add to first mixture. Chill and form into balls. They will flatten out as they cook. Bake 10-12 minutes at 325 degrees. I like to drizzle cooled cookies with a simple glaze made from powdered sugar and a little warm water….pretty good!

As for Grandmother Ogg’s biscuits, how many times have I blogged about my darling Grandmother Ogg, the Ogg Family Farm and Biscuits? did you know you can scan down my blog and on the right side, just under the logo for Molly's Table, there is a Search box. Type in Ogg Family Farm, click onSearch, then scroll back up to top of blog... and there it is, a list of all the blogs where the farm is mentioned. Scroll down to the blog for Mar 10, 2009, and there it is...biscuits by Minnie Florence Ogg. Gee, it might have been easier to just type in the recipe, I want you to know how to search my blog!

Looking for a great new muffin recipe? Actually, this is a very old muffin recipe. It comes from my studio mate's mother and grandmother.

David Gross' Gingerbread Muffins      

1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup mild molasses (use Brer Rabbit Mild)
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raisins 

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Blend in the molasses.

Sift the flour and dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately. Dredge raisins and pecans in a little flour, stir into batter. Turn into a clean bowl with cover. Store in refrigerator until ready to bake.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put batter into greased muffin tin, or use paper liners, filling about 2/3 full.
Bake for 20 minutes, cool until just barely warm before glazing with a simple glaze of powdered sugar and warm milk. Actually, taking one right out of the oven, splitting it open and adding a pat of butter is heavenly!

So, now you know all about molasses....almost. I won't bore you with the details, you can Google for those!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I receive the Cooking Channels Newsletter and when it arrived a short time ago, I was so excited! In big letters it said BIG GAME! Wow, I thought….Deer, Bear, Elk! Yeah! I want to cook big game! Needless to say, I was very disappointed to find out the Big Game they were referring to was the Super Bowl! Sometimes my mind doesn’t work like a normal person’s! Okay, most of the time……..
Maybe it is the weather, I’m bored….therefore I think about cooking! I would much rather cook an elk than make a bowl of ho-hum dip!

I did bake a pound cake this morning. I have been meaning to test the recipe for some time, finally got around to it. I am thinking this will be the perfect cake to serve with fresh peaches and Somerset Ridge Tawny Port Dessert Sauce. So now, I have the cake, the wonderful sauce….I just need to wait for fresh peach season….months from now….damn, poor planning. I’m thinking I might use candied pecans or hazelnuts with some sea salt and use them in place of the peaches. It will work!

Here is the recipe for the sauce…enjoy!

Somerset Ridge Tawny Port Dessert Sauce
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup whole milk
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 to 3 tablespoons Somerset Ridge Tawny Port
In a large saucepan, combine the 2 milks, brown sugar, and butter. Cook while stirring over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce is warm.
In a small dish, combine the cornstarch and Port. Stir to remove any lumps. Add to sauce in saucepan, stirring until it begins to boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, remove from heat. Serve hot.

Kay’s Salty,Spicy Candied Pecans
2 1/2 cups raw pecans
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 Pinch cayenne pepper
Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir the pecans with the egg white.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt. Pour over the nuts and stir until evenly coated.
Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
Slide parchment paper (with nuts still on it) off of the baking sheet and onto a wire rack (or the counter) to cool. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt before they cool.
Break nuts up into a bowl to serve or store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Now to be completely honest, I just sat down with a piece of the pound cake, completely unadorned and a cup of hot tea….my oh my, I am a happy girl! So, you want the cake recipe, right? Okay, here it is

Somerset Ridge Vineyard Pound Cake

cake baking in the oven
 1 pound butter (4 sticks)
1 pound sugar (2 cups)
9 large eggs
1 pound all-purpose flour (4 cups)
dash salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large lemon, juice only

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10" tube or Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with electric mixer, and then gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat until well creamed and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add the flour and salt, beating constantly. Add the extract and lemon juice and continue beating until well blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, gently tapping bottom of pan to distribute batter evenly in pan.,
Bake about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center, comes out clean. Wait 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan, place it on a serving plate.
Hint….instead of serving with the sauce, you can poke holes in the still slightly warm cake and drizzle part of the Tawny Port Dessert Sauce into the cake. Pretty darned good!
Confession: I cut cake recipe by half and baked in a 9”x5” loaf pan. I figure no one needs to eat an entire cake by themselves. I baked it for 60 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Now what can I cook….wish I had that elk….

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pork and Food Trends

Chef Jasper and me, Pig 101, 2009
Boy, I look a lot older now!
You say the word “Pork” and Chef Jasper Mirabile and I start figuring out new ways to use the whole pig. We held our Snout to Tail dinner 2 years in a row. Last year we featured our cured Guanciale, an air dried pork jowl with hand blended spices and herbs.

(Search my blog for “An evening at Jasper’s….Pig 102 Feb 27, 2010, for the full story.)

We held Pig 101 in 2009, Pig 102 in 2010….I’m thinking the suggestion of our holding a dinner to award a Master’s degree in Snout to Tail to those that have attended previous dinners, just might be a great idea.

Jasper emailed me last night asking if I was ready to start making more Guanciale. Well…YES! Maybe we can put on our chef’s hats and create a Master’s dinner….time will tell! In the meantime you can expect some pork recipes in my blog….surprise, surprise!

The Food Channel recently released their findings in the search for the top 10 food trends for 2011. Here they are, from just for you:

If you’re like many, you may start to increase your food canning or preserving in 2011, according to the Food Channel’s Top 10 food trends for the New Year.. “As we head into 2011, we see people beginning to cherish simplicity” says the report.

Just as a good writer understands that writing fewer words is harder than a lot of words, removing things from our lives is harder than adding to them. And, yet, we see that the 2011 Food Trends are about embracing what may be a little more difficult, because it has proven its value.
The trend to local foods will continue, according to the report. We value things that are, if not exactly close to us, are at least close to the little guy. The new food simplicity is about putting value on the independent grower. In 2011, the consumer is all about buying from a business that is dedicated to creating a quality product, dedicated to doing the right thing, regardless of the size of the business or the number of products they produce.

Here are the Top Ten food trends for 2011:

1. Food preservation has a rejuvenation. They used to call it “putting up,” as in putting up tomatoes or corn for the winter ahead. Maybe your grandmother still refers to it that way. What it means of course is canning, pickling, and preserving—and more and more folks will be getting into it for a number of reasons.

2. A gender role reversal is bubbling up in the kitchen. The slumping economy has hit men harder than women, with job losses in traditionally male fields such as finance and construction. Women, on the other hand, are employed in fields that are expected to flourish in the years ahead.

3. Support a local grower . . . anywhere. Politicians say that all politics is local. It's becoming more and more evident that the same is true for food. This trend understands that mindset—that it’s all about eating local, but that local goes beyond a geographical definition.

4. Sometimes we don't want to know the nutrition numbers. Politicians on the local, state and federal government level are stepping up efforts to legislate healthier eating. These well-meaning efforts have led to calorie counts on restaurant menus, bans on trans fats, and a war on sodium. Let’s face it. Some things we just don’t want to know.

5. Discount eats make the new smart phone apps delicious. Just as the adorable antics of cats have become the unexpected stars of the Internet, food has become the dominant attraction of smart phones. It seems like there’s a new mobile food app popping up every time you start to feel hungry.

6. Getting closer to the customer. As anyone who works for a big corporation knows, the bigger your brand, the larger a target you may become. In today’s world, a corporate mindset might be bad for business.

7. Rediscovering the butcher, baker and cheese maker. We see American food shoppers going about their marketing a bit more like our European counterparts in the coming year. People will be returning to the neighborhood butcher shop to pick up fresh meats and grabbing their specialty breads and pastries at the corner bakery.

8. Living up to their pledge, chefs join the cafeteria crews. This will be the year we finally get really serious about feeding our children healthier, better quality foods.

9. Eating your way out of your comfort zone. This trend is about consciously trying new things that stretch our food vocabulary and experience.

10. Looking for foods that keep us young, strong and active. It’s no secret that Americans are reaching retirement age in record numbers, now that the Baby Boomers are starting to hit their mid-sixties. And, as they have since they first began to walk, boomers will influence nearly everything in 2011, including foods.

There you have it…..and now here is a bacon recipe….

Chocolate Chip-Bacon-Pecan Cookies

. Little bits of crisp, fatty bacon melt into the sweet, soft, chocolate-studded cookie dough, making these cookies chewy, rich and addictive.
Makes about 18 thin-and-chewy cookies

5 strips bacon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, turning several times, until browned and done, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Chop finely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla extract, and beat until just blended. Add the dry ingredients; beat until just incorporated and the flour is dissolved. Stir in the chocolate chips, pecans and bacon.
Drop one large tablespoon cookie dough 2 to 3 inches apart (as they will spread) on baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until firm and golden brown around the edges, and still slightly soft in the center. Transfer to a rack and cool for 15 minutes.
Can be stored on countertop for one to two days, and then refrigerated in an airtight container.

Don’t knock it until you try one! You will be amazed!

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