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Posts from — April 2019

Parmesan and Plums

Today is my sister’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Sloane! I love you and I’m looking forward to celebrating with you tonight!

2019 Easter Tablescape

Also, this is the last post of April. If you don’t already know, there is a contest that ends today. If you’re not playing along, it’s not too late, just go read the rules HERE. You may still leave comments through Thursday evening since the winner(s) will be drawn on Friday.

Back Patio Cocktail and Appetizer Cart

If you are playing, please double-check all the April posts to be certain you’ve left a comment on each one, there are a total of twelve posts this April. The winning name(s) will be drawn and notified on Friday, May 3, 2019. Helpful Hint: To easily look at each post this month, there is an April calendar in the top right corner of this page. The dates in blue are days with a post. You can click on each of those blue days and scroll down to the comments to check and see if your comment is there. This is the page layout for a computer. On a cell phone, you’ll need to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “View Full Site” to see the calendar in the upper right corner.

Bloody Mary Harmony Board

Since April is coming to an end, this is also the last post about Easter 2019. Here are photos of the Easter Harmony Board and Bloody Mary Board which I created, along with my table setting. Plus a simple recipe for the second salad I served for Easter. HERE is a link to the first salad.

Easter Harmony Board
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April 30, 2019   11 Comments

slow cooker beef

As I type this, it is 7:00 PM on Thursday, April 25, 2019, and it is 94 degrees outside. I am sitting outside because I have my AC on today and I can’t turn it back down until 8:00 PM. I’m back to living in a cave and it is dark as night inside. How is it possible that my last post was titled “The Definition of Spring” and now it’s nearly 100 degrees. Oh yeah, I live in Arizona, that’s how!

There is a slight breeze out here, so I decided to come out of the dark and deal with the heat. It’s not all that bad, honestly. I’d have to say that 100+ degrees is where my tolerance is kaput, the denial sets in and my non-acceptance is in full force. That’s when the real crabbiness and bitching seriously kick in. That could be as early as Friday, which, as you read this … is TODAY!

So, the way to live through the summer is to use a slow cooker. I have gotten mine out of the garage and it is ready for action.

For this recipe, which I made last week, I decided to use the frozen ginger cubes from Trader Joe’s. Super convenient and they worked great!

I bought 4 pounds of beef chuck roast at Costco with the knowledge that after I cut out a bunch of the fat, there would be about 3 pounds of meat remaining. I was right, of course.

I don’t say that to brag. As all of my friends and family know, my Superpower is Spatial Recognition. Give me a pan or a pot or a bowl full of stuff that needs to fit in a container to go in the refrigerator, I will give you THE PERFECT container. It’s a gift. Not a superpower useful in The Avengers sort of way, but a superpower nonetheless. Anyhow, keep that in mind when purchasing the beef, there will be waste, and there ain’t nobody who wants all that fat!

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April 26, 2019   16 Comments

the definition of spring

This salad screams “SPRING!” English peas, check. Sugar Snap Peas, got ’em. Asparagus, you betcha. Radishes, for sure. Mint, yup. The instructions for the recipe look long, but once you get the water boiling and the bowl of ice water set up, it comes together in a snap. Just be sure to blanch the asparagus last so that the water doesn’t take on the taste until the end.

I found the fresh English peas at Trader Joe’s. I don’t like frozen peas, but I loved these! I’m not sure how long they will be in stores, but get them while you can!

The end of the month is a week away so I want to take this opportunity to remind you about the April contest. To be eligible to win, you either need to leave a comment on every post in April beginning with the post from April 1st and continuing through the end of the month. And/Or you may also enter by following Harmony Boards on Instagram and getting 5 of your friends to follow. GO HERE for all the rules and details.

Several of you are playing along by leaving comments on these posts, thank you! But I have to let you know that a few of you need to go back and be sure you’ve posted on all the posts, right off the bat a couple of you missed commenting on the April 1 post, so if you’re playing, please double check before the end of the month. I want you all to be eligible to be in the drawing! If you haven’t started playing, it’s not too late, please join in.

Asparagus, Radish and Mixed Pea Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

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April 24, 2019   12 Comments

2019 Easter Cake

I made this cake for our Easter supper and served it alongside THIS Citrus Sorbet. Since baking is not my forte, of course, there is a mishap story to go along with it. I found the recipe is a real estate magazine that my mother-in-law sent me from Illinois. Thank you, Mom!

I switched it up a bit. The original recipe was for a Tangerine and Chamomile Cake, using chamomile tea bags. I am not a fan of chamomile, so instead, I used my absolute favorite tea, Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea. If you love chamomile tea and want to switch it back to the original, use four chamomile tea bags instead of the two Bengal Spice that I use here.

My sweet girl, Bailey, in the foreground and my mischievous boy, Bombay, in the back

Here’s the mishap story. On the Saturday before Easter, I had several Harmony Boards to make and deliver. The first deliveries began at 2:30 and the last was at 5:00. I made all the boards and delivered the first batch. I came home and realized I had just enough time to put together the cake batter, get it in the pans and bake them. My timing was impeccable. The layers were finished baking 5 minutes before I needed to pack up and leave. I knew better than to leave them to cool on the kitchen counter because of these two cats.

I set up the cooling racks on top of my washing machine.

I set the cakes on top and Bombay was immediately interested. I went back to my bedroom to set the alarm. I closed the laundry room door and went out into the garage. That’s when I realized I’d left the car keys on the kitchen counter. I knew I had enough time to go back in and grab the keys before the alarm was fully set. I went in and had a brief moment of panic when I didn’t immediately see the keys. I found them and hurriedly went back out the garage door.

It wasn’t until I came back home that I saw that not only had I forgotten to close the laundry room door, but that one of the cats had tried to jump up on the washing machine and in the process, knocked down one of the racks. I didn’t look to see what damage was done until after I’d gone to the bedroom to disarm the alarm. I came back and saw the rack on the floor by their food dishes. Where was the cake? I looked behind the laundry door and there it was, out of the pan, upside down, while the pan was further back in the corner behind the door. The good news is that the cake was completely intact with the parchment still stuck to the bottom, not a crack or a crumb missing. The pan was as clean as a whistle, and that is a win in my baking history! I picked up the cake, sliced a clean layer off the top and used it.

I knew the cats or most likely “The Cat”, had not touched it after it fell. He was probably too startled from the crashing he’d caused. And I am certain it was “the he”, Bombay, and not “the she”, Bailey. I say this because Bailey was sleeping in her usual spot when I went looking for them, while Bombay was hiding in the front room, where he seldom, if ever, goes. But it is nearly impossible for me to be mad. I mean, look at that face! OK, enough about my cute cats. Recipe time.

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April 23, 2019   12 Comments

Our Lady of Paris

On Monday morning, while I was sitting in a waiting room as the oil in my car was getting changed, I received this text from my daughter, Marissa.

I quickly searched Notre Dame on Google and immediately saw images of the fire. As were millions of others around the world, I was devastated.

I got up and changed the channel on the waiting room TV from the game show it was on, to NBC. Tears did stream from my eyes while I listened to Lester Holt describe the scene playing out in from of me.

Before digital photography, we used to get our photos processed and kept them in photo albums. Seems like a novel idea now. The photos in this album are from 1997

Once the car was done, I came home and watched for hours more. When the announcement was made that the next 90 minutes would be crucial as to whether the two front towers would continue to stand, I could take no more. I went to Target to get a vaccination for shingles that my doctor had ordered. Then to Home Goods to wander aimlessly, finding nothing that brought me even an ounce of joy, leaving empty-handed. That tells you how devastated and depressed I was feeling.

This photo was taken on our first trip to France, in 1997 to celebrate David’s 40th birthday. This is the lead and wooden spire that fell in the fire. The copper statues were removed before the renovation began. It is believed the fire started in the attic under this spire.

The 90 minutes was almost up, so I headed home and was beyond relieved to hear that the towers were expected to stand. I watched a bit longer and once again could not bare watching that inferno blasting out of Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. (Notre Dame de Paris translates to Our Lady of Paris.)

This photo of the front two towers was taken in 2000 when I was in Paris on my way to work with Barb Fenzl at La Combe en Périgord, a cooking school in the southwest of France.
Another trip in 2005 to La Combe with Barb. I visit Notre Dame every time I go to Paris. It is the first place I go, always!

It is the Mother church of France and it truly felt like our mother was being injured and possibly dying. I turned it off and instead, starting searching my computer and albums for happy photos of all the times I’ve been to the Cathedral over the years.

In May 2007, I took Marissa on a mother/daughter trip to Paris and London. It was the summer between her freshman and sophomore years at UA. Our first stop, Notre Dame, of course. This is Marissa’s first encounter with a gargoyle. I absolutely adore this photo!

If you’ve been there even once, you know those feelings. The feelings and knowledge that the beloved church that has stood for over 850 years and holds such majesty and humility is being so violently threatened. Of course Notre Dame holds great meaning to Catholics like me, to all Christians around the world, but it also houses art, poetry, literature and priceless antiquities of mankind. It is a true icon of civilization. And icon of what is best in our humanity.

Now it feels ironic that on that day Marissa and I visited the Cathedral, there was a fire under one of the bridges between Ile de la Cité (the island Notre Dame is built on) and the other side. May 2007

Notre Dame has survived the Crusades, the French Revolution, two world wars and so much more. It is the most visited structure in the most visited city in the entire world. Thirteen million visitors a year, approximately 30 thousand a day! It is a gothic masterpiece.

Statue of Joan de Arc
Photo Credit: Marissa Hopkins 2008

In 1909 Joan de Arc was beatified under in Cathedral Notre Dame by Pope Pius X. You feel all of that whether you are in its shadow or inside its sacred walls.

I’m certain that at least some of these brave firefighters (pompiers) were amongst the nearly 500 that fought the fire on Monday, April 15, 2019.
Photo: May 2007

There is so much to be in awe of. From the flying buttresses, the gorgeous rose windows, and the wonderful gargoyles. My family loves the gargoyles!

May 2007
Marissa returned to Paris in January 2008 for a semester abroad. She told me that she often went to the Cathedral when she felt homesick or just needed quiet time alone.
Photo Credit: Marissa Hopkins 2008

(I’m taking a break here to let you know that all of the above was written on Monday afternoon and evening. Knowing I would not post this until Wednesday, I tried to write in the past tense.  Everything below was written on Tuesday afternoon, after seeing and learning what had survived the fire.)

At the end of Marissa’s time abroad, we went to pick her up and enjoy a two-week family vacation in France and Italy. We arrived the day after Connor’s 17th birthday and immediately went to Notre Dame. It was Connor’s first trip to Europe.
May 2008
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April 17, 2019   11 Comments

Joanne Weir’s sorbet

This was the dessert for Joanne Weir’s classes at Les Gourmettes last week. Barb kindly gave me the batches that Joanne made in class.

I used my Simac ice cream maker to freeze. I’ll be serving it with a citrus cake I’m making for Easter.

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April 15, 2019   8 Comments

Au revoir Les Gourmettes

If you’ve read more than a few posts here in the past nearly 10 years, then you know all about Barbara Fenzl and Les Gourmettes Cooking School. Barb started the school 36 years ago and has been selling out classes ever since. I came on board 30 years ago, but it doesn’t seem that long ago at all.

Barb has decided to hang up her apron and close the school. I understand, when you know it’s time, then it’s time. That is exactly how I felt when I closed Les Petites Gourmettes Children’s Cooking School after 18 years.

The Red Book Magazine’s April 2019 issue has the most wonderful article all about Barb and Les Gourmettes. Karen Fernau, the former food editor for the Arizona Republic, wrote the loving and lovely article. You may view and read the full article (pages 48-54) HERE. (Use the – + feature at the bottom of the pages to zoom in and be able to read the print. Also, the photos in this post are screenshots I took from the online magazine.)

Below is the last paragraph from the feature.

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April 13, 2019   18 Comments

grilling cheese

*An update on my knee situation is at the bottom of the post. Many thanks for all of your emails, comments and texts of inquiry and concern. xoxo

As with anything new in life, there come new challenges, good or bad. The not too terrible challenge I have found with my new business, Harmony Boards, is having so much more cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables to keep track of and prevent from over-ripening or going completely south.

Such was the inspiration for this recipe. I stay on top of the meats and cheeses since they represent the largest expenses. When buying, I look at each “sell” or “use by” date and calculate how much I have on hand and do my best not to overbuy.

The fruits and veggies present issues all their own. We’ve all experienced the joy of buying lovely looking raspberries, blackberries and strawberries and the anguish of having them turn on you in a matter of days. Sometimes, literally the next day! I have become basically terrified of berries. With so much energy focused on them, I sometimes lose track of the other produce in my refrigerators. Such was the case last Sunday with two varieties of plums that got pushed to the bottom of the fruit drawer. They needed to be used now. Not tomorrow or the next day but TODAY! I had a family pack of pork chops in the freezer so grilled chops and plums were now on the menu.

While you might think I’d have no interest in purchasing a different cheese than what I use on Harmony Boards, you’d be wrong. I love Halloumi cheese and knew it would pair perfectly with the pork and plums.  Halloumi is a uniquely perfect cheese for grilling. It’s made with sheep’s milk on the Greek island of Cyprus. It has a high melting point so it can easily be fried or grilled. I went to my local grocery store in search of Halloumi but wound up with something else instead. I discovered a similar grilling cheese called Juusto. It is made in Wisconsin in the way that Juustoleipä, also known as bread cheese, has been made in Finland for more than 200 years.

Here is an article all about the cheeses from Bon Appétit to learn more.  I am also using the crushed Aleppo peppers on my finished dish. If you missed my mention of them previously, HERE is a link to that.

Oh, I almost forgot, I use Mama Mai’s S&P to season everything in this recipe. Honestly, most of the time, I use it to season everything, but I end up just writing “Salt and freshly ground black pepper” in my recipes. It is easier and universal to write that, but now you know the truth … I use Tram’s mama’s seasoning because I love it!

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April 10, 2019   13 Comments

Thyme for Palomas!

Most people don’t know that the Paloma, not the Margarita, is Mexico’s most beloved cocktail. 

A classic Paloma uses grapefruit juice and tequila. Since I had a bowl full of blood oranges from my tree that weren’t getting any better with age, if you know what I mean, I decided to use the blood orange juice in place of the grapefruit juice in the classic Paloma. I also infused fresh thyme in simple syrup and lemon juice I had leftover from this cocktail. Oh, and they don’t call them blood oranges for nothing. After I finished cutting and squeezing all my oranges, it looked like a bloody scene on my cutting board!

If you want to make this in the near future, Trader Joe’s has bags of blood oranges right now. When fresh blood oranges aren’t in season, TJ’s also sells Villa Italia Blood Orange Soda and Grapefruit Soda. Using these flavored sodas is a great shortcut in place of the fresh juice.

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April 8, 2019   10 Comments

Tomato Toast!!!

I made this quick and easy appetizer for Sunday dinner with my dad. I only toasted six slices of bread on the grill for our meal. Then I ate this for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next several days, using the toaster to toast the bread as needed. Now I miss it and want more. It really is that good!

The recipe calls for Aleppo pepper flakes. Aleppo chili pepper is from the Syrian town of Aleppo near the southern Turkish border. Aleppo pepper has a moderate heat with a mild and sweet undertone, a bit of fruitiness, and a hint of saltiness.

Aleppo is a wonderful substitute for the usual crushed red peppers. In fact, I nearly always use Aleppo pepper in place of regular crushed red chilies on pizza, in pasta and salads, on my morning eggs, really all day long. You can find Aleppo pepper online, at specialty stores and I’ve even found it locally at Safeway.

Roasted Tomato Toast

  • 2 – 3 pounds mixed tomatoes *
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon, washed and dried
  • Baguette, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives
  • Sea salt (I adore Maldon sea salt flakes)
  • Crushed Aleppo pepper

(* Mixed tomatoes are a mix of colors and type such as cherry, Roma, pear, beefsteak, etc)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.

Cut large tomatoes into cubes, slice larger cherry tomatoes in half and leave small cherry or pear tomatoes whole. Place tomatoes on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until smaller whole tomatoes burst. Remove from oven and set aside.

Use a microplane or small grater to remove the zest from the lemon over a small bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside. Cut the lemon in half and set aside.

While the tomatoes are roasting, in a small bowl, mix the garlic and mayonnaise together.  Squeeze in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate. Keep that lemon handy, you may want to add more juice later.

Either toast the baguette slices in a toaster or toaster oven or heat the grill and toast.

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April 5, 2019   16 Comments