Faux Bois…

IMG_9968

Found these cute little, almost real looking, faux boxwood spheres at my local Christmas Tree Shop and decided they would be good filler on the patio till the annual fill in a little bit. Secured them to a wire stake, plunge the stake into some river rocks for stabilizing influence and voila, instant greenery!

It’s a bouncing baby bunny…

File this one under next Easter….

IMG_4857

It’s really just an excuse to drink sparkling pink wine….Add ice to a lovely large glass, add 4 oz of sparkling pink wine, a few gumdrops and about 4 oz of sparkling water. Top with a pink bunny marshmallow “PEEP” and let the bunny hop begin…

Just another Meatless Monday

IMG_5874

Ah, on the surface it looks just like your average ordinary quiche, but lurking beneath the eggs, and the spinach and the feta and onions is no ordinary crust! It’s super crust! Made with sweet potatoes, because as our dietician friends remind us every day, carbs will kill ya…

IMG_3146IMG_1025

Take your trusty knife and slice your sweet potato thinny, thin, thin. I could have used my mandoline, but sometimes you just want to make sure you have all your fingertips intact for the holiday… layer the slices in an outward spiral and make sure you spiral all the way out and up the edge of the pan. Bigger slices work best. Make sure to overlap, they will shrink as they cook.

IMG_2499

Lightly saute up some spinach

IMG_3791

Beat some eggs and whip in some cream, maybe about a 1/4 cup. Salt ( lightly) and pepper…to taste

IMG_3363

Layer the cooked spinach with sliced spring onions and crumbled feta cheese. Pour in the beaten eggs.

IMG_3599

Bake at 350° for about 35 minutes and then check every 5 minutes to make sure the quiche is cooked all the way through. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing!

 

Thumping Good Read

lilac cover

As you may or may not know “Thumping Good Read” is a moniker that I assign to books that I couldn’t put down.  This book was even better than a TGR because I learned some history in the story.  File this under the category of : ” I had no idea…”

CarolineFerriday-e1357758185878

Lilac Girls tells the true story of a New York socialite and sometime actress Caroline Ferriday. It’s also the story of women on both sides of the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck, built especially for women. The tortures and demons visited upon those women because of their religion, race, or nationality cannot even be imagined by those of us who live in our lives of first world problems. Many of the women, if they survived the first sorting, also were subjects of horrific medical experiments.

Lilac Girls tells the story of the “Rabbits” of Ravensbruck and one of the doctors who found herself committing the most heinous medical experiments. The women were called rabbits because of the “hopping” many of them had to use instead of walking after the experiments on their legs were complete.

Ravensbruck

Caroline hears their story and befriends many in the group, getting them access to medical and dental care, nutrition and much more.  Along with Caroline, working from the French Consulate in NYC and her family’s farm in Connecticut, we meet her mother who works just as tirelessly to aid the French and others during the Third Reich through whatever means possible…including hocking the silver. We meet the sisters, Kasia and Zuzanna, both Rabbits and camp survivors with different outlooks and experiences, and Herta, the surgeon, caught not he wrong side of medicine.

If it all sounds a little melodramatic, I can tell you that some parts are, particularly around Pierre, the ne’er do well boyfriend who comes right in the end. However, although I have rudimentary knowledge of the Holocaust , this book does a good job portraying the desolation and terror that comes with knowing your life is worth nothing to a madman….

It’s mothers and daughters, women and children, good against evil. Good wins this round.

Mocking the real thing

IMG_8169

Not many things are as boring to photograph as cauliflower, however, not many things are as good for you. And as many of you know, we here at Chez Miller have been known to substitute “choufleur” for evil carbs like rice and potatoes as often as possible. I manage to make a substitution about once a week with moderate to enthusiastic praise from the Hubs.

IMG_1584

Imagine my surprise however, when he enthusiastically approved the latest substitution of potatoes with cauliflower in his all time favorite summer dish….potato salad. Except, I guess, it’s really mock potato salad.

I cut the cauliflower up into small florets and cooked in boiling salted water till they were just going soft. If you cook too much, then you will get mush. So watch carefully.

Then, add whatever you add for your own potato salad recipe. Here at Chez Miller we add hard boiled eggs , diced up, with a little hot sauce, Cains mayonnaise, salt, pepper, dried dill, some chopped up gherkins and a little dijon mustard. On occasion, I have been known to add bacon, because, well…bacon.

Currently Crushing…

LAC-Product-Slider-12oz-Cans-1130X496

I feel like I’ve been kept away from the world’s greatest non alcoholic beverage club..HolyBubbles, Batman…this stuff is good! Notice the wide array of traditional and some not so traditional flavors. The usual seltzer flavors like lime, lemon etc. But how about that Apricot? And coconut! The Hubs reports that the coconut is excellent mixed with dark rum. Wow..Locally, I can find them at Target, but Amazon Pantry also stocks at a much higher price point I might add…Summer’s coming….

IMG_2262

My bestie, L, gave me these two paring knives for Christmas…she warned me that it would be the knife I reached for all the time. She was right, my 6″ French knife that fits my hand like it was designed for it, is feeling a little left out these days. It’s been on the “bench” aka the knife rack, since I’ve taken to using these beauties all the time for everything except butchering a hog or breaking up a squash ( haven’t done either of those things recently, but they seemed like a good comparison…) Some styles available on Amazon, but the main website is.here

IMG_9174

A pocket, a sprocket! I bought my HP Sprocket after seeing it on QVC. I tried to get it at the holidays, but it was sold out and I kinda wanted the EasyPay option. It’s a nifty little printer, no bigger than your phone, that prints gorgeous business card size photos that can then be a sticker! (That little bunny above is a sample print that I just ran!)

How fun! Oh, and did I mention, no ink to spill? A refill pack of 20 cards is $10. Fun for the whole family. Available on QVC and Amazon and probably bunches of other places like Best Buy etc!

I can’t believe I forgot the cheese!

IMG_2252

At just about this point, I was suppose to top each of these eggplant meatballs with some mozzarella cheese and brown them in the oven… whoops.

Still worth making again for a meatless Monday entree though…

IMG_9484

Slice eggplant the long way, salt heavily and place in a colander for an hour to soften and get some water out. I then put my slices between some paper towels and a heavy weight for a few minutes for an extra oomph…

IMG_7076IMG_5113

Brown the strips in a hot skillet with olive oil.

IMG_2130 2

Toast some fresh bread crumbs with Italian seasoning and olive oil.

IMG_3600

Pulse the charred eggplant with the bread crumbs and egg

IMG_1905IMG_9378IMG_2249

Form mixture into meatballs ( yield for me was 12) and brown in skillet in olive oil. I then added marinara sauce and simmered as I showed above, but then was supposed to finish with the cheese.

IMG_2250IMG_2253

To serve I sautéed spinach with garlic and made some brown rice. I also think you could add ground walnuts to the veggie meatballs to get you an extra hit of protein!

Presto! New Dough!

IMG_5148Laminated dough that is the base for croissants and pain chocolat can be pokey at best and tortuous at worst. Mix, knead, chill, fold, chill, roll, fold, chill….you get the picture. I found a recipe for a creme fraiche tarte by Naomi Pomeroy ( whose wedding chicken I still have to make.  So called because it’s so good she served it at her own wedding!) on the Panna App.It’s the second time it has appeared on my Facebook feed from Panna, so I figured the pastry universe was trying to tell me something.

IMG_8022

It was quick and easy for a dough, surprisingly so. And although not as buttery as a true Parisian bakery, for a short dough, it was terrific and perfect for the application. I made half the recipe.  Start with flour, baking powder and very cold butter cut into cubes. Pulse in the food processor with dough blade until cornmeal type consistency is achieved.

IMG_8981IMG_3236

Add four ounces of creme fraiche and pulse again until the dough just comes together. It will be kind of “shaggy” as they say.  Lightly flour a surface and drop the dough out onto it.  Work the dough very slightly until its smooth and elastic, about 4 or 5 turns kneading. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour.

IMG_7140

Roll and fold per the recipe until you get the requisite strips of pastry.  Leave uncovered and freeze for 15 minutes.

IMG_5148

Bake in a 425° oven for 20 minutes until brown and puffy. Remove from oven, prick with a fork and bake for 10 more minutes.

IMG_1395

Meanwhile, back at the cheese crib, slice your brie….

IMG_4980

If you’re using Naomi’s half dried tomatoes or my tomato confit ( recipe later this week) get them to room temperature.

IMG_5488

Add the tomatoes and cheese in the order you prefer. I did not pay attention here and put cheese on top of tomatoes. Like all art, I think it’s personal…

IMG_5612

Back in the oven to melt the cheese for about 5 minutes…

IMG_6614

I cut one strip into 4 pieces and served over simply dressed greens and grilled asparagus. I froze the second strip for later in the week.

Now here’s the thing that I’m excited by. Short time investment for dough, big yield for possibilities of toppings…I’m thinking mushrooms in a cream sauce, or maybe Italian cold cuts, shredded and dressed with capers and olive oil, or even lemon curd and fresh cream. I mean, you could use puff pastry from your grocers freezer but why? Be brave!

The Irish Mammy…


Today is Mothering Sunday in the U.K. And Ireland, so I am re-sharing this gem by Seamus Heaney, one of Ireland’s laureates…

When all the others were away at Mass 
By Seamus Heaney
In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984
When all the others were away at Mass

I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.

They broke the silence, let fall one by one

Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:

Cold comforts set between us, things to share

Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.

And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes

From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside

Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying

And some were responding and some crying

I remembered her head bent towards my head,

Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –

Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
(Voted as the favorite poem of Ireland of the last hundred years. )

Early Edition….Beach Bag Books

If you are heading someplace warm for April school vacation week, or if you have a long flight coming up , or if you just want to read something distracting and fun, I can honestly recommend both of these books.  Both were fun and easy, breezy reading, plot lines that are engaging, heroines that are a little off balance and both have fun twists at the end. Download to your device or borrow from the library. Totally enjoyable!