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Posts from — April 2020

photo recipe

Stay-Home Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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April 30, 2020   5 Comments

a virtual Disneyland vacation

You may have heard that Disneyland published a few of their most popular and sought after recipes while the parks are closed and we’re all staying home.

I was thrilled when I saw that my favorite Disney food item was included; the Dole Whip. When we go to Disneyland, I know the exact route to get to the Dole Whip stand and we make a beeline for it. The stand is right under the sign that leads into Adventureland; you go up Main Street, make your first left at the Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue and you are there.

Obviously, you can find the recipe for yourself but I had to taste test if for you. You’re welcome.

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April 29, 2020   1 Comment

homemade specialty salt

If you are like most people, you are finding yourself making more meals at home than ever before, maybe even up to three meals a day. Well, I have a wonderful herb salt you can make, store in the refrigerator and use on beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, and vegetables. Basically, it is wonderful on just about everything.

Fresh Italian Herb Salt

  • 7 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 3/4 cup Kosher Salt
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April 28, 2020   6 Comments

cocktail dispatches from Austin

Greetings from Les Petites Gourmettes’ Austin correspondent, Marissa, coming in today with super simple gin/Kombucha/Aperol quarantine cocktail recipe. Austin has been similar to, I think, most of other places as we all shelter in place and social distance. Luckily, Jeff and I can both work from home, so we work during the week and then take walks and bike rides around our neighborhood, do YouTube yoga videos, have Zoom dates with friends and family, watch movies, play games, drink cocktails, and cook.

I have been cooking a ton while we shelter in place, and trying lots of great new recipes, but I am still too embarrassed to share my final products, which are often yummy, but usually not pretty. Maybe someday! In the meantime, we’ll focus on the bar cart…

For this cocktail, I used this recipe, but halved it.

Kombucha-Aperol Quarantine Cocktail

  • 1 cup gin
  • 3/4 cup Aperol
  • 1/2 of a 16-ounce bottle chilled ginger kombucha
  • Club soda
  • 1 tangerine
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April 27, 2020   5 Comments

Happy 89th, Dad

My dad, Gene Otter, in front of the farmhouse he grew up in on 7th Avenue and Missouri in Phoenix, AZ in 1933, on his 2nd birthday. Look closely and you can see nothing but farmland, orchards and mountains behind him to the north.

My dad’s 89th birthday was last Saturday. Just as Easter was strange and different, so was this celebration. It was a far cry from the big Speakeasy Birthday Party we threw him for his 80th birthday. The photo below with Marissa and her Papa, is one of my favorites from that day. Happily, I was able to find a way to make this year special with surprise guests.

My sister-in-law, Teresa, and her four sons all live in Idaho and Washington state. They moved there in the early 90’s, several years after she and my brother divorced. I arranged for all of them, along with Marissa and Jeff in Austin, to Zoom with my dad. His first experience with Zoom, was only the week before, on Easter Sunday when I brought him his food and he was able to see Marissa and Jeff. He was so happy and touched that everyone came together for this birthday, even if only virtually.

Since we still aren’t able to gather, I set up a social distancing dinner on his front patio. Connor and I brought the large swivel/rocker chairs from the back patio to the front and then we used a tape measurer to be sure that those two chairs, along with the loveseat and couch from the front were all more than 6-feet from one another.

I brought everything else from home, including the dishes, plastic drinkware, flatware, napkins, serving pieces, water pitcher, individual “tablecloths,” which were actually oversized napkins, and the vintage TV trays you see below. I scored those at Sweet Salvage several years ago. They are really quite hideous, but oh so nostalgic.

While the Zoom call was going on, Dave was picking up the birthday dinner I’d preordered from Beckett’s Table. It was the homestyle type of food my dad loves; Salad with Seasonal Vegetables, Meatloaf with buttery Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli, Dinner Rolls with whipped butter and Carrot Cake for dessert. I’m only sorry I didn’t get any photos of it, I was too busy eating! Although I was able to snag a photo from the restaurant’s Facebook page. My presentation was not up to this level!

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April 24, 2020   6 Comments

Use what you’ve got

Before I begin with a new recipe, I have to confess, I did not make any headway on the master closet yesterday. The reason is that I spent 4 hours online at defensive driving school after a photo radar ticket came in the mail. I hate photo radar!

I admit that I speed, going the speed limit is against my very nature but I am usually hyper-alert to photo radar traps. The worst part about it is that on the day I was flashed, I was on my way home from doing good deeds, delivering face masks and food to others. As they say, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Anyhow, I’ll try to get after that closet today.

I don’t know if any of you ran into the same issue with your Easter meal as I did. For weeks we were asked to only buy enough groceries for the week ahead, which I abide by. Then the week before Easter we were asked to avoid going to grocery stores altogether, if at all possible. Since Easter brunch only consisted of Connor, Dave, and myself, I decided that I could make that possible.

I knew that I had cooked chicken and caramelized onions in the freezer, about a cup of milk and eggs in the refrigerator, tomatoes on the counter, herbs in the garden, potatoes in the pantry and, of course, plenty of cheese. I could make a tart! The only thing I was missing was butter to make a homemade crust. I generally have puff pastry in the freezer, but I’d used that a couple of weeks ago and had not remembered to replace it. No butter, no puff pastry, no crust … hmm, I could use the potatoes as a crust. I gave that a try but would advise against it. A fair amount of the egg filling ran out of the tart pans, so I’m writing the recipe using a puff pastry crust and layering in the potatoes with the other fillings.

Note #1: I also did not have heavy cream, so I boiled down my 1 cup of 2% milk reducing it to 1/2 cup. Not as rich and creamy, but it worked. You should use cream, as the recipe calls for.

Note #2: I also used 3 rectangular tart pans instead of a round, only because I was taking food to my dad and I knew that squares would be easier to cut and easier for him to reheat instead of wedges.

Our Easter tart was still delicious, and if you make this recipe, yours will be prettier with the puff pastry setting off the scalloped edges of the tart pan.

Quarantine Easter Tart with Caramelized Onions, Thyme, Potatoes and Chicken

Caramelized Onions

  • 2 pounds sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chicken broth and/or white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Tart

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • Olive oil
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped, divided
  • 7-ounce package Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar (or another white cheddar of your choice), grated and divided
  • 8 ounces brie, rind removed and cut or torn into small pieces
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Garnish

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Mixed fresh herbs (such as dill, parsley, sage, and basil. Stir clear of rosemary and cilantro)

Caramelized Onions: Place an extra-large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, turn the heat to medium-low and add the sliced onions, separating them into individual rings as they are added to the skillet. Once the onions are wilted down and are soft and translucent, add the garlic, dried thyme, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly cook until the onions are a medium caramel color, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Do not try to rush, it takes time and patience to get perfectly caramelized onions. Stir often, and as needed, as the onions stick to the bottom of the pan, add 1 tablespoon of chicken broth or white wine at a time. This will bring up the brown bits at the bottom and prevent the onions from burning. After cooking for about 40 minutes, add the balsamic vinegar and cook for the remaining 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Tart: Soak potato slices in a large bowl of cold water 15 minutes. Drain well; pat dry.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the puff pastry to fit a 12-inch round removable base tart tin, prick all over with a fork. Place in the freezer while you cook the potatoes.

Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to reach a depth of about 1/4-inch; when the oil is hot, add potato in one layer, working in batches, pan-fry just until the potato slices are softened but not brown, about 3 minutes per batch.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer potato slices to paper towels, in a single layer and immediately sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Remember, your tart will have a puff pastry crust under these potatoes.

Remove tart pan from the freezer, cover the puff pastry with a layer of potatoes. Top with half of the caramelized onions; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the fresh thyme leaves. Next, add half of the chicken. Sprinkle on half of the grated cheddar.

Layer again with the potatoes, onion and chicken. Dot with the brie pieces and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, the remaining 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves and cream, and pour over the filling.

Sprinkle on the remaining cheddar. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the filling is set and the pastry is golden. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from tart pan and cutting.

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April 23, 2020   1 Comment

more projects

Thank you, Cheryl and Sloane, for your comments on the last post sharing what you’re doing to keep busy. Please send me a text with photos, I’d love to see and share your projects! In the meantime, I’ll continue telling you all about mine.

I was going to share how I not only cleaned out the refrigerator/freezer in the garage but also the two indoor refrigerators. And then I looked back a found that I have not shared with you that in early January, I purchased a new commercial refrigerator for Harmony Boards. Once I’d made the purchase, I needed to have it delivered. The store wanted $250 for delivery! Um, no!

So I came home, cleaned out and measured the space and called Cody Howard to see if he had time to pick it up for me. Of course, he said yes. (This was 10 days before his accident in Canada) Cody hooked up his work trailer and retrieved it. Connor came over to help us get it in the house. It was a tight fit all the way around; it barely fit down the hall and through the doorway into the office, and the top cleared the ceiling fan by less than an inch.

We prevailed and I could not be happier to have it.

It holds custom boards for grazing tables. And it holds up to 10 Harmony Board boxes ready for delivery on busy days. The kitchen refrigerator could only hold two of these boxes.

Which explains why I have so many huge ice chests in the garage and blue-ice packs in the garage freezer. I still need those for summer and large deliveries. But at least I don’t need to use them any longer on a daily basis to hold boards as I am creating them in the morning for afternoon deliveries.

The next project – polishing silver. Hate it but it has to be done.

I bought this egg cup set at Piccadilly Market at St James’s Church in London in 2007 when I took Marissa to Europe for the first time. I used the tarnished egg cups on their own to hold flowers for my Easter table. (the red arrow pointing to where one of the cups sits, shows how tarnished the set is)

I decided to polish the entire set before I put it away. One thing always leads to another and I ended up polishing all day long.

After all the effort, I treated myself to a fancy breakfast the next day. We all need to treat ourselves and use the nice stuff during this time. Really all the time!

Next up, actual home maintenance projects. Even though the entire exterior of my house was painted two years ago, it is already peeling in areas. I spoke to my friend, Jennifer, who lives in Illinois and owns Luxe Cabinet Finishes and she told me that the house wasn’t primed properly. Not by the most recent painter I had used, but by the one or ones before that. Great, that means it’s up to me to fix it. First, I peeled and then sanded off all the peeling paint.

Then I painted on the primer. This is the backside of the house, facing east.

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April 22, 2020   2 Comments

keeping busy

I would LOVE to know what you all are doing to keep busy while staying at home. On March 13, four days before I closed my business and ten days before our Arizona governor mandated a shutdown, I posted this on my personal Facebook page:

Now, when I said I’d wear face-masks all day, I didn’t mean or even imagine the ones we are now wearing when out in public. I meant the moisturizing type. I wasn’t as smart as it might seem when I predicted a run on face-masks. But I have been doing all those other things, including returning to this blog, obviously.

First on my “to-do list” – I took my time and spent 3 days cleaning out my garage.

The photo above is the before and the photo below is the after. You may not see a big difference, but trust me, the difference is huge!

When I pull my car in, I can actually get out on the driver’s side without tripping and squeezing around ladders, ice chests, storage bins and a bike.

I spent another day cleaning out the garage refrigerator/freezer. It was nearly impossible to take a before photo since things would fall out when the doors were opened. I brought bags and boxes of chocolates, baking candies and a dozen different variety of flours to my niece, Raina, the baking goddess. Now the bottom draw of the refrigerator holds plenty of flours, cornmeal and the like. The drawer above that holds chocolates, the next shelf has more flours and nuts and the remaining shelves hold additional baking items, water, sparkling water and beer. As for the freezer -you’ll find the usual items like meats and soups plus a whole bunch of Harmony Boards ice packs and loaves of bread that are used as props for grazing tables. The point is, it’s cleaned and organized, so YAY!

The next cleaning adventure was the Harmony Boards shed. Oh my! This should have been the first project because …. oh my! Above is before. Below is after.

The ability to open the door and actually walk in and be able to walk around the center island – well it makes me ecstatic. I am so grateful to have gotten this done before the temperatures rise.

Once my outside projects were done, it was time to focus on the inside. These cubbies hold wine and spirits. You’ll have to trust me when I say that I don’t have a problem. Anyhow, this area didn’t need to be organized much, but it desperately needed to be cleaned. It is a dust collector if there ever was one.

All of the bottles came out and were wiped down. The cubbies were wiped out and these great magnetic lights from Costco were put in before the bottles were replaced.

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April 21, 2020   5 Comments

Easter 2020 tablescape

It’s been a week since Easter and I realized that the only Easter thing I’ve posted since then has been the cocktail. Priorities!

It was a strange gathering in strange times. A few days prior, my dad decided he was not comfortable coming and that he’d rather stay home. He is alone, so this made me especially sad. My dad does not have internet, own a computer and barely knows how to use his smartphone. Last year, his cellular carrier forced him to get rid of his flip phone and get a smartphone. He uses it strictly as a phone. He does not text, open a web browser, use the camera, etc. and does not want to learn how.

So early in the day, Connor and I took him plates of our Easter meal and I brought along my computer.

I set the laptop on boxes in his garage so that we would not need to go into his house. I used the hotspot on my phone to connect the laptop to WiFi and we were able to use Zoom so that he could see and talk to Marissa and Jeff in Austin. He was thrilled.

For our Easter meal, I set up three place settings using the 6-foot social distancing requirement. Connor was at one end of my 7-foot outdoor table and Dave was at the opposite end.

I had myself set up on a tray that was 6-feet from each of them since sitting in at the center area of the table would have positioned us too close together.

The guys were required to enter through the back gate into my backyard and were not permitted to go inside the house. We had a FaceTime call with Dave’s mom, brother, nieces and nephew in Illinois. Then another Zoom call with Marissa and Jeff where we played games with the Jackbox.TV app.

I made a small Easter Harmony Board for the guys to share at the main table, the half with the yellow and green grass for Dave and the half with the pink and purple grass for Connor. Everyone had their own serving utensils, wine bottle, pitcher for the signature cocktail, etc. so that nothing was shared or touched by anyone else.

Which means that I had a little Harmony Board of my own. All for me!

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April 20, 2020   8 Comments

Blursday the fortyteenth of Maprilay

Under normal circumstances, the title of this post would make no sense whatsoever. But these are not normal times so it makes perfect sense.

While I was looking through my photos to post my next recipe, I went down the rabbit hole of screenshots I’ve taken in the month since I shuttered my business and began staying home. I’m sure your cell phone camera reveals much of the same.

Some are hilarious, some are serious and others are thought-provoking.

There are so many moments in life that I reminisce about my children and when they were young. When I was a young mom and how beautifully hectic and crazy it all was. But I have to admit, I could not be more grateful that this crisis did not occur 15 years ago when I had kids at home. There are advantages to being an empty nester!

I am happy to report that I have not been in the “fear zone.” Probably because I live alone, otherwise, I may have been there every now and again. Currently, I go between the “learning zone” and the “growth zone” and places in between.

LOVE THIS because it is dangerously close to the truth. No, I love it because it is the truth!

As I type this, my name is Tomato Soup Sabercat. What is yours?

This HAS been my Quarantine Routine once or twice, although the hours are more like 5 am – 8 pm. Bedtime comes early around here!

Too many of these apply. I have Bingo several times over! You’ll see my completed Bingo card at the end of the post.

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April 16, 2020   1 Comment