About Johanne Lamarche

I am French Canadian by birth, a periodontist by profession, and a creative soul by nature. I live in Berwyn, Pa with my husband, 3 teenaged sons and one cat where I love to cook, garden, paint and entertain. This blog will share some of my passions for creating a beautiful life at home.

Squash! 16 Delicious Recipes

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To say I like squash would be an understatement.  I love it and cook it any chance I get.  Butternut, acorn, kuri, I love them all.  There are so many ways to enjoy squash and this post will tempt you to try it stuffed, roasted in wedges, in stews, in pasta, in couscous, in cake, in a quiche, in a fall panzanella salad and even as a mini tureen for soup!  The first recipe is new and inspired by Julie at Hostess at Heart. It is a maple-bacon stuffed acorn squash,  oven roasted to golden perfection.  The maple syrup glazing on the cut surface transforms into a wonderful caramelized texture.  The salty-sweet combination is a winner.  Totally simple but irresistible as a main or as a side dish.  The rest of the recipes are from the archives.  Just click on the highlighted titles to be taken to the recipes.

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Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Orange-Tahini Sauce

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Years ago Gourmet Magazine had a recipe for a sesame-crusted salmon appetizer with an orange-miso dipping sauce that was my go to party appetizer.  This recipe was inspired by that dish but as a main course and making the sauce with tahini and pomegranate molasses instead of miso.  It was a colorful and delicious change from the usual salmon.  You can substitute honey for the pomegranate molasses.  I added some saffron to the sauce for an additional layer of Middle-Eastern flavor but that is totally optional.

Sesame-Crusted Salmon with Orange-Tahini Sauce

  • 1 salmon fillet, about 2 pounds
  • 4 tablespoons of black or white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil(use a citrus infused one if you have it)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons of orange muscat champagne vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses or honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon of saffron threads (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  1. Heat your BBQ grill to high.  Place the salmon skin side down, on a presoaked cedar plank.  Rub the salmon with the olive oil.  Give it a few grinds of the pepper and sea salt mill. Sprinkle evenly with the sesame seeds.  Place on the hot grill and cook about 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness of fillet, lid closed. The salmon is done when it easily flakes with a fork. No need to flip fish over while cooking. Discard plank after use.
  2. To make the sauce:  whisk together the tahini, orange juice, vinegar, salt, molasses and saffron if using.  Set aside. Can be made a day in advance and brought to room temperature.
  3. When the salmon is done, sprinkle with the pomegranate arils and serve with the sauce on the side.

Thanksgiving Table Décor Ideas

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“Gratitute unlocks the fullness of life.”  Melody Beattie

Thanksgiving tables are fun to set with all the rich colors of fall and the theme of abundance.  Every year my tables vary with how many people I am hosting.  In this post, I’ll share several ideas for setting your holiday table.

This year I’ve played around with white and gold as a color theme, simply elegant.  Off-white woven placemats were set on a bare table with an off-white and gold runner, repurposed from Christmas.  A beautiful pashmina scarf or a length of fabric you love can stand in as a runner.  I came up with 2 variations of this basic table setting.  In both, I tied a gold organza ribbon around off-white napkins embroidered with gold Fleur-de-Lys.  The Fleur-de-Lys are a nod to my family’s French ancestry.  I added a gold leaf ornaments with a tiny gold acorn on each.  The ornaments can be given to the guests as a favor.   A gold charger was layered with a white dinner plate and topped with a glass amber salad plate.  Amber glassware adds another layer of gold.

In the second version, the plates are left bare.

One centerpiece is a modern, non perishable vignette, which can be set out well in advance of the big day.  In a small gold and white ceramic vase, I placed a sheaf of wheat and surrounded it with some small gilded berries and moss.  I set the vase on a mirrored tray and elevated it on top of a beaded gratitude journal.  A brass spiky sphere adds more gold color and interest.  The gold and mother-of-pearl opera glasses are a nod to the German ancentry in our family, having belonged to a great-great grandmother on my husband’s side.  The flatware is my Godmother’s silver.  I really loved weaving family history in this table setting.  Think of your own family history and compose a meaningful centerpiece reflecting your ancestry.

The centerpiece is flanked by 2 gold hurricanes with bead detailing and several white votive candles. I quite liked this simple centerpiece.

The other version featured a more traditional arrangement with fall flowers in a white soup tureen. I created it with supermarket flowers, some dried seed pods, flowers and foliage from the garden,  as well as feather clusters.

In this version, I left the guilded pears on the amber salad plates.

In this version, I removed the gilded pears from the plates and tucked them into the centerpiece.

The white and gold theme is an easy canvas to decorate around.  My favorite was the one with the modern wheat arrangement and the unadorned salad plates.

From the archives, I’ve compiled inspiring Thanksgiving/fall table ideas from years past.  Click on the highlighted title to be taken to the post to read more about each table setting.

Thanksgiving Table with Golds and Reds

Thanksgiving Table of Abundance

Alfresco Fall Table

Candlelight Apple Centerpiece

You can read a step by step tutorial on creating a Thanksgiving flower centerpiece here.

If you’d like to try your hand at designing a Beidermeier-style centerpiece on a cake platter with fall flowers, visit this post.  They are so much fun to do and get a lot of oohs and aahs!

I hope I’ve inspired you to create a lovely Thanksgiving table of your own.  Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

           “Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true  measure of our Thanksgiving.”

W. T. Purkiser

Fall Stuffed Cornish Game Hens

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Although Cornish game hens seem made for company, they are a favorite weeknight dinner for our family.  They practically cook themselves and fill the house with tantalizing aroma. Thanksgiving has come and gone in Canada and is still a month away in the US, but these little hens had all the flavors of Thanksgiving packed into each one.  Stuffed with a whole grain rice mix studded with pecans, cranberries, orange and pomegranate, they were simply delicious!  I used a Uncle Ben’s Ready Whole Grain Medley with quinoa, brown rice and garlic, straight out of the package, uncooked.  This type of rice is precooked. Any combination of rice/grains can be substituted but it should be almost fully cooked before stuffing.  Served with a side of butternut squash, it was sublime!

Fall Stuffed Cornish Game Hens

  • 4 Cornish Game Hens, patted dry inside and out with paper towels
  • salt and pepper
  • Poultry seasoning mix(I used a Montreal chicken spice mix)
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 8.5-once package of Uncle Ben’s Ready Whole Grain Medley with quinoa, garlic and brown rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup of red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup of pecans, chopped
  • Arils from half of a pomegranate(about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 orange, peeled, seeds removed and diced in chunks(I used a tangerine)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Salt and pepper the inside cavity of the hens.
  3. Combine the grain medley with the cranberries, red onion, pecans, orange and pomegranate arils.  Fill each bird cavity with the stuffing.  Tie each bird with kitchen twine or a skewer to prevent the stuffing from falling out during roasting. Dab the butter between each wing and breast and a bit more above the stuffing where the legs are trussed.
  4. Place the hens evenly spaced on a shallow baking sheet. Sprinkle each bird with some of the poultry seasoning.
  5. Bake at 450 F for 45 minutes.
  6. Serve with a side of fall vegetables such a butternut squash and/or brussel sprouts.

There’s a lot of optimism in changing scenery, in seeing what’s down the road.” Conor Oberst. Photo credit MZ

Upside Down Honey Walnut Pear Cake

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“And all at once summer collapsed into fall.” Oscar Wilde

The dynamic combination of in-season pears with honey, warming spices, yogurt and walnuts come together in this simple but elegant cake.  Instead of the usual brown sugar on the bottom of the pan, a honey-orange-vanilla syrup is poured over the pears before adding the batter.   Flavor-packed in every delectable bite, it is sure to become a fall favorite.  Serve with a dollop of  yogurt if you’re being good, or ice cream or whipped cream if not!

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Sheet Pan Bay Leaf-Orange Chicken and Sweet Potatoes

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When I read The New York Times’ recipe for Bay Leaf Chicken I was intrigued.  Most recipes calling for bay leaf only use 1.  This was meant to use up a lot of fresh bay leaves from the garden in a marinade for chicken thighs.  I wanted to try the recipe in spite of not growing bay leaves in my garden and I easily substituted dried bay leaves.   The marinade is absolutely fantastic.  It is more of a thick wet-rub with bay leaf, Worchestershire sauce, orange zest and the warming spices  of cumin and  coriander.  The original recipe asked for mustard seeds which I did not have so I substituted some grainy mustard and added some cumin seeds. The chicken thighs can marinade for as little as an hour or up to overnight.  Mine marinaded about 4 hours.  I modified the recipe completely from this point on.  I roasted the chicken in a sheet pan alongside sweet potatoes and shallots.  This dish smelled absolutely divine while cooking.  Instead of a parsley salad, I made a wilted spinach salad to accompany the chicken.  To serve, I spread a layer of baby spinach on a serving platter. I placed the hot chicken and sweet potatoes/shallots over the spinach to wilt it.  I drizzled the whole dish with a simple mustard vinaigrette then added the orange chunks and toasted sunflower seeds.  Sublime! So colorful and pretty, too.   Continue reading

French Almond-Pear Cake

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“It is, in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption.”
Edward Bunyard, ‘The Anatomy of Dessert’

More pear than cake, this cake is just bursting with fruit. Choose pears that are ripe yet still firm.  The pears do not need to be peeled, so this cake is super quick to make.   French in style, there is only enough batter to hold the fruit together. As far as cakes go, it is pretty guilt-free.  The almonds on top give it another layer of almond flavor and make it gorgeous to serve. Oh là là, délicieux!

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