“There is only one happiness in life: to love and be loved.” Georges Sand
This little Valentine’s welcome at the front entrance comes straight from the heart. A heart wreath flanked by planters decorated with dangling red hearts is a charming and sweet welcome for February. Continue reading
““Winter tightened its grip on Alaska. The vastness of the landscape dwindled down to the confines of their cabin. The sun rose at quarter past ten in the morning and set only fifteen minutes after the end of the school day. Less than six hours of light a day. Snow fell endlessly, blanketed everything. It piled up in drifts and spun its lace across windowpanes, leaving them nothing to see except themselves. In the few daylight hours, the sky stretched gray overhead; some days there was merely the memory of light rather than any real glow. Wind scoured the landscape, cried out as if in pain. The fireweed froze, turned into intricate ice sculptures that stuck up from the snow.” Kristen Hannah, The Great Alone
The Great Alone was the book. The setting was Alaska. January was the month. Our hostess Allyson had made us a delicious pot of warming chili soup. Before we could start discussing Kristen Hannah’s latest book, moans of pleasure erupted around the table. “This is so good!” “What’s in it?” “How did you make this?” Allyson told us it was the Deer Valley Inn’s Turkey Chili recipe from the famous hotel in Utah and was kind enough to share the recipe with us. Her version had chicken instead of turkey. I made mine with cooked turkey from a breast I roasted the day before. I also used turkey stock made with the carcass of the same breast. This chili is more like a chunky soup and is totally different than any chili I’ve ever made. It has no tomatoes, similar to a white chili. It has more meat and broth than beans in it. The broth is thickened with puréed corn which gives it richness and a hint of sweetness. Totally awesome and so welcomed on a bone-chilling day with a howling wind rattling the windows. Dig in to both the chili and Hannah’s sensational tale set in Alaska.
“Never discard anything without saying thank you and good-bye. …
Tidying is the act of confronting yourself. …
We can only transform our lives if we sincerely want to. …
Anxiety arises from not being able to see the whole picture. ..
Follow your intuition and all will be well. …
Tidying orders and relaxes the mind.” Marie Kondo
Long before Marie Kondo was a sensational tidying-up phenemonon, we have been steadily purging our home of the accumulating stuff of life. Where she has been most helpful to us has been in the editing of books. Books are one of my life’s greatest passions and I have a hard time giving them up. Armed with Marie’s promise of sparking joy by keeping only meaningful tomes, I have been donating piles and piles of books to the library, Goodwill and friends. I had however a secret cupboard of special cookbooks that didn’t get culled. A rebellious hold-out of sorts. I just couldn’t part with these books. One of them was Martha Stewart’s classic “Entertaining” book which I’ve had since 1989! Although I haven’t made anything from it in YEARS(Marie’s voice is nagging me!), it is the book from which I learned to cook. Many legendary dinner parties were inspired from its pages. It is what led many to dub me Martha Stewart back in the day. So in order for Prince Charming not to KonMari my cookbook stash, I justified its existence by finding a dessert recipe for a potluck in its well-worn, stained pages. This old-fashioned coconut cake won me over. I had never tried a boiled 7 minute frosting back in its popularity days. It was a fluffly, delicious concoction in a marshmallow-fluff sort-of consistency. The cake sparked joy to all who enjoyed it, including its baker and Prince Charming. Step away from the book stash, Marie. The cookbook is, for now, staying!
Doesn’t the cake look like a giant snowball on our January iced over patio table? The pretty branch is from our beloved witch hazel tree blooming in the winter garden.
Meyer lemons are in season and this cake is the perfect way to make them shine! The Meyer lemon is a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange. It is thinner and smoother skinned with a distinctive taste. In this cake, thinly-sliced Meyer lemon slices (use a mandoline) are arranged in a concentric pattern in a caramel base. The zest of 2 more Meyer lemons goes into the batter to add another layer of citrus flavor. The cake, inspired by a polenta cake from pastry chef Hannah Buoye of A16 Rockridge in Oakland, CA, is a dense, moist dessert as pretty as it is delicious. It has a really nice crumb and a bit of a crunch from the cornmeal. As the lemon slices bake, they absorb the butter and the brown sugar from the caramel base and turn into a marmalade-like consistency and taste. If you are a lemon lover, this cake is for you! The caramelized lemon slices will require a serrated knife to cut into. Let the cake cool 2 hours before taking it out of the pan.
“Cheers to the new year and another chance for us to get it right.” Oprah Winfrey
January is for many of us a time of healthier eating. This salad is a little different with seasonal oranges, cranberries and fennel in a terrifc vinaigrette made with orange juice and capers. It is rich with texture and layers of flavor. Dig in!