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Posts from — December 2014

Our Christmas dessert

apple cranberry crumble pie

I am in Chicago for my niece’s wedding, so there will be no long explanation or story attached, except to say that this pie was a Christmas hit.

pie slice missing

Apple-Cranberry Crumble Pie


  • 1  1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup plain, vanilla, or honey yogurt

5 apples

  • 2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (I used 4 Granny Smith and  1 Honey Crisp)
  • 1  1/4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  •  1  1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Vanilla ice cream


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December 30, 2014   4 Comments

Merry Christmas

Merry 2014

December 25, 2014   1 Comment

so many scarves

Soon after Christmas, we’ll be going to Chicago for a our niece’s wedding.

It’s cold in Chicago! I’m going to be wearing scarves, a lot!

I don’t wear scarves all that often in Sunny AZ, so this video is going to be my go-to guide!

This next video makes it even easier with, step-by-step directions…

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December 23, 2014   2 Comments

Christmas cookie time!

stamped cookies

I baked a couple of dozen cookies on Friday and the kids (OK, they are adults, but they are my kids!) and I decorated them on Sunday. A beloved and time-honored Christmas tradition.

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December 22, 2014   2 Comments

Cheryl’s annual ornament exchange

beatufiul Cheryl

My beautiful friend and neighbor, Cheryl, held her 15th annual ornament exchange luncheon last Saturday.


Cheryl is an amazing cook…


… and the consummate hostess.


My idea of the perfect hostess is summed up perfectly in this excerpt from Woman’s Day Magazine – February 1957

“Many people say entertaining is an art.  More truly, it is an attitude.  It has to begin in the heart.  The hostess who has learned to open her heart as freely as she opens her door has learned how to make people feel at home in her house.  This is the hostess who does not look at entertaining as a chore or a duty.  She welcomes every guest with anticipation, knowing that there is an opportunity to share her home, her family, and herself with people who will enjoy whatever she has to give.  And while she gives her best she is secure in the knowledge that her best is good enough because she has learned that entertaining is not pretending.  Here we are, her welcome seems to say.  This is our house, this is our food, this is our heart.  The most wonderful thing that can happen is that you enjoy it with us.  While you are here, all this is yours.”   

chocolate panna cotta

That is the perfect definition of Cheryl too.

The 13th annual party, in 2012, was the first one I was invited to. It was wonderful, I had the best time and I couldn’t wait to go back again the next year. Unfortunately, I booked a class that same day, so I was unable to attend in 2013.

The moment the invite for this year’s party arrived, I began to ponder what ornament I would bring. I was disappointed with my choice from that first year – I knew I needed to up my game.

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December 19, 2014   7 Comments

helpful hint and lots of hair

I was overdue for a haircut and color. Long overdue! Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my hair, and as you can see, I’ve got a lot of it to work with!

hair frizzers

People with straight hair don’t always understand why people with curly hair don’t EVER let a comb or brush touch their dry hair.

Curly wet hair may have a comb, brush or even fingers run through it.

Curly dry hair… NO!

lions mane

Here is why! It turns into a lion’s mane! The erased face belongs to me. The colorist/stylist has to comb out the hair to apply the color, so this is what happens.

Lovely! Nothing is as wonderful as looking in the mirror and seeing Roseanne Roseannadanna staring back at you!


After the color and cut, this is the more manageable and less scary effect. As you can see, I really needed that color. The summer’s highlights had grown out and the result was bad! Welcome winter and warmer color.

That’s it for the “hair” part of the post. The “helpful hint” part is next and was such a revelation that I just have to share.

I was talking to my stylist about how it is possible that she doesn’t get hair dye all over her clothes and what sort of dye she uses. She was telling me that back in school, she got dye on her all the time. But the school uniform was black, so thankfully it didn’t show. She said that the real problem was when bleach got on the black uniform. Then she shared with me that the way to fix that was to just dab on a bit of black hair dye to cover the bleach stain.

What? A stain to cover a stain. Brilliant!

bleach splatter

I told her how Connor has two pairs of black chef’s pants, that were not cheap, had accidentally been splashed and splattered with bleach.

bleach splash

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December 18, 2014   3 Comments

en Papillote

salmon en papillote

This is the salmon and spinach recipe that I was talking about in yesterday’s post. I’ve corrected two items from the original recipe – which I enjoyed at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The first change was the enormous amount of spinach the recipe called for. I’ve reduced it from 2-pounds to 8 ounces. If you make this dish you will be amazed to think that 2 pounds could have ever been used!

too small

The second major change was the shape and size of the parchment. The original recipe called for a 10-inch circle. I’ve made Fish en Papillote (in parchment) several times before, so I should have known better. The traditional shape is a heart, not a circle. Even if a circle is used, 10-inches is in no way large enough, as you can see from the photos above and below.

the good the bad

I’d already cut out the 16 parchment circles I needed for a cooking class, so I went ahead a struggled through by using them … along with about 60 paper clips to hold the parcels together!

I don’t mean to make it sound as though the recipes from Ballymaloe were bad. There were 14 recipes from that wonderful day of cooking and this is the only one I’ve had to correct or modify.

The thing I like best about this recipe is the fact that the parcels are steamed – not baked. Fish en Papillote is traditionally baked, I love this extra-moist alternate way of cooking so much, that I think I’ll steam instead of bake from here on out.

This is the very definition of healthy and delicious!

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December 17, 2014   No Comments

Mini Spinach Flower Tarts

I brought these pretty and tasty little morsels to a family Christmas party on Saturday night. I made a double batch so that I’d have them in my freezer for the rest of the holiday season, ready to pull out on a moments notice.

spinach flower tart

They were made of necessity, not only the need to bring something to a party but also the urgency to use over 2 pounds of fresh spinach that I reluctantly had in my refrigerator.

Later in the week, I’ll share a Salmon and Spinach recipe that called for 2 pounds of fresh spinach. The recipe was from my day at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland and I was sharing it with the students in my cooking class at Les Gourmettes Cooking School here in Phoenix.

2 plus pounds

Anyhow, I was doubling the Salmon recipe to feed sixteen – so according to the recipe, I’d need 4 pounds of spinach. That’s A LOT of spinach. While shopping for the class at Costco, I realized that would have been 4 boxes of Costco baby spinach. I had not realized that each box was 1 pound until I looked, so I cut back and only bought 3 boxes. Well, I didn’t cut back enough! In the end, I did not even use 1 full box of spinach (1 pound) to make the double recipe for the cooking class.

That’s way too much leftover spinach, so this recipe was born out of the wish to not waste food.  If you would rather substitute frozen chopped spinach for the recipe, rest assured, that is perfectly fine. A 10-oz package of frozen spinach is almost the same as 1 pound of fresh spinach, once the spinach is cooked.

If you want to be extra smart, like me, make a double batch and freeze it for your later entertaining needs.

to freeze

To Freeze: Place the unbaked filled muffin tins in the freezer for at least 3 hours. Once frozen solid, use the tip of a paring knife to pop each mini tart out and place it in a freezer quality zip-lock bag. Write on the bag, not only what they are, but also the date and baking directions (Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.)

frozen adn baked

I did a test to see if it was best to bake the frozen tarts in or out of the muffin tins. The good news – is you may bake them on a baking sheet, no need to dig out the muffin tins again. In the photo above – the top two were baked on a sheet pan and the bottom two were placed back in the mini muffin tin and baked. Fantastic, they hold their shape!

One more thing…

rolled not folded

Did you know that Trader Joe’s carries puff pastry during the holiday season? Yes, they do and it’s better than the Pepperidge Farm brand that you buy at the grocery store.

PF vs TJ

It actually has real butter in it… unlike that other brand (which is still pretty good stuff) that uses only shortening. Additionally, the TJ’s puff pastry sheets are rolled, whereas the PF sheets are folded in thirds. The rolled sheets are MUCH easier to work with.

I buy not only what I’ll use in December and January but at least another 8 packages to have for the rest of the year. Super Smart!

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December 16, 2014   3 Comments

Friday Funny, not

Last week, I posted this Friday Funny.

Google search

Beneath it, I wrote, “Seriously! If Google could make that a reality, I’d get at least 8 hours added back into my life each and every week!”

I wasn’t kidding! Let me tell you a little story to illustrate how my life typically goes:


One thing, you may or may not know about me is that I LOVE my car! It’s a 2002 Acura MDX. I know, it’s nearly 13 years old! But I love it all the same. I’ve never been one of those people who needs a new car every other year, I don’t subscribe to that sort of “disposable” lifestyle.

My friends and I call my MDX the Magic Car.

It is magic because it can haul and hold any and everything we ever want it to haul or hold.

When I go to Sweet Salvage with Peggy, Anne, Sheila, or Kim – even though they all have newer cars, we always take my car. Because we know, without a shadow of a doubt, that if we find something big to buy – it WILL fit in my car.

Sure, little things are falling apart on it, but it still drives like a dream, it gives me no headaches or heartache. It is simply The Best Car Ever!


One might ask, “Linda, your car is 12 years old, if it’s such a great ride, why not trade it in and get another Acura MDX?

That sounds like a good plan, trouble is, the newer MDX models do not have the same cargo space as mine. They’ve made them smaller and that is a problem! So I hold on to it. I love it, I want it to last forever!

All that being said, yesterday I was thinking that my treasured MDX had its last ride…. all because I lost the keys. Not just one set of keys, but two sets of keys in the span of about 15 hours!

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December 12, 2014   11 Comments

holiday lights

A few images from around the house…


The staircase…


The Santa at the top of the stairs.

entry barrel

The wine barrel in the entry…

barrel of candels

View from above.

kitchen lights

The Santa chefs …

cookie cutter lights

The lights are cookie cutters. How cute is that?

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December 10, 2014   4 Comments