Vintage Suitcase Dog Bed

I don’t speak French, which is why it is slightly insane that I subscribe to French magazines. Aside from the few French words incorporated into the English language, I have not a clue if the prose is inspired or insipid. However, the photos
and creativity never fail to turn this punctual taskmaster into a daring daydreamer. A recent issue of Marie Claire Idees showed a small dog perched in a darling white-washed bed, fashioned from an old valise. At a romp through an overstuffed antique store I found this

With a bit of fabric, little ingenuity and sackful of patience (i am a horrible seamstress). We now have our own darling version.

the little girl in the bed is Dharma.


All too often I fill my canvas tote with fresh from farm produce. I bring it home, lovingly display it, and then succumb to the reality that father time ages it faster than we eat it. I find myself racing time. Such an event happened today with a good ol’ fashioned crisper raid.


olive oil
1 medium onion-thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic–chopped
1/4 cup red wine
1 red bell pepper-julienne
1 medium eggplant–cut into cubes
2 zucchini–cut into rounds
3 cups diced tomatoes–fresh or canned
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch red pepper flakes
about 1/2 tsp sea salt (more or less to taste)
1 generous Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

Heat a small stock pot over low flame. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook until they soften. Add in the eggplant and red pepper and give them a good toss. Cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the red wine and cook for about a minute more. Finally, add in the zucchini, diced tomatoes, basil, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes and salt. Give a good stir, cover and cook for about 25-30 minutes. Periodically give a good stir to the pot. Once the vegetables are soft, but not falling apart, remove from heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and fresh parsley. Taste for salt and add if necessary. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Lemon-Pecan Mascarpone Pound Cake

March 4th is national pound cake day. Don’t roll your eyes. It is legit. I read it on the internet. Before my great aunt passed, I borrowed her box of tattered and stained recipe cards and copied each one into a book of my own. My aunt rose baked a great pound cake. Several actually. All different. All delicious. For national pound cake day, I borrowed a recipe from her, with a few substitutions.

Lemon Pecan Mascarpone Pound Cake
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter–room temp
4 oz mascarpone cheese–room temp
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs–room temp
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup + 1 Tbs lemon juice
2 1/4 cups flour–sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup toasted pecans
Cream butter and mascarpone until very light. Gradually add sugar and beat thoroughly, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down sides in between additions. Beat for an additional 2-3 minutes after you add the last egg. Beat in vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt, until fully incorporated. The batter may look curdled, which is okay. Blend in the sifted dry ingredients (flour and baking powder) and mix until silky. Fold in pecans. Bake in a greased pan (10 cup capacity) at 325 for about 60 minutes. If you separate the batter into smaller pans, bake for considerably less time.
Once cool frost with icing made from powdered sugar mixed with lemon juice. Add enough lemon juice to make a drippy icing with good lemon flavor.

Salt Preserved Oranges

I hadn’t yet been to Morocco when I first became seduced by tagine; meat braised into submission in the company of dried fruit, toasted nuts, exotic spices, and preserved citrus. Preserved lemon can be plucked off the shelf of your favorite fancy grocery. However preserved oranges are less likely to procured at your local. I have found preserved oranges offer a slightly sweeter note that couples well with headier spices like cinnamon, anise, nutmeg, and cardamom. Preserved oranges are easy to make at home and use few ingredients. Within 10 minutes you will be transported to a far away land full of culinary possibility.

Preserved Oranges
smallish thin rind oranges
kosher salt
pink peppercorns
star anise
bay leaf
Thoroughly wash and scrub the oranges removing stems. Cut into fourths without allowing the knife to cut all the way through. Cut approximately 2/3rds through the fruit. Generously salt the flesh of the orange Using a sterilized jar with proper fitting lid begin to press the oranges into the jar. Pour additional salt in between the layers of oranges. Periodically drop in peppercorns using no more than 10 in your entire jar. Continue doing this until the jar is well packed and full. Squeeze orange juice to fill in the gaps. Slide in a bay leaf and star anise. Add a bit more salt, then seal. Turn upside down on the shelf of the fridge overnight. The next day, turn it back right side up. If you see a gap, fill it with oranges, salt and orange juice. Close it up and place back in the refrigerator. Let “steep” for 4 weeks. These will keep for about 6 months. Rinse before using. Use as you would preserved lemons.

Chocolate Malted Risotto

About last night. Mike and I returned from our stay at a farm watching lambs being born and bottle feeding those yet able to get their fill. We spent the days eating glorious fresh food; hoarding a small taste of what we hope our lives will be soon. Not the lamb part but a reason to be tethered to our home. As we rolled in to our lives in the city, I felt a yearning for something warm and satisfying and chocolatey. I hope it will comfort me in my passage from what will be to what is. This warm, creamy and malted risotto was like a warm woolly blanket for my heart.

Chocolate Malted Risotto
1 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup arborio rice
3 1/2 cups milk–warmed on the stove
pinch kosher salt
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate–cut into bits
1/4 cup + 2 Tbs malted milk powder
1 tsp vanilla
heavy cream for garnish
cocoa nibs for garnish
additional malted powder for garnish

Melt the butter over low heat in a sided pan large enough to hold the rice in a thin layer. Once the butter is melted, toss in the rice and stir to evenly coat the rice. Allow the rice to cook for just a couple of minutes before you begin to add the milk. Increase the heat to low-medium. Add 1/2 cup of milk at first and stir until the milk is almost completely absorbed. Now begin to add the milk, just until it covers the top layer of rice but not more than a cup at a time. Allow the rice to absorb the milk, but come in to stir quite frequently. When the milk has almost completely absorbed, add the next amount. After you have done the second addition, stir in the sugar and salt, then add the third addition. Cook until the rice is soft, but with just a little hint of a bite, you do not want it to be crunchy or chewy. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated. Serve warm with a bit of heavy cream and dusted with malted milk powder and cocoa nibs. Serves 4.

How I Celebrate

Today is my birthday. Kind of a big one, but not a milestone. If I live a nice long healthy life; today is the day I hit mid-life. Not too long ago, I heard someone say mid-life is not for a crisis but for readjustment. I like the idea. Look back
see what worked well, what didn’t, and maneuver the next half of my life applying what I’ve learned. This year in celebration Mike and I slipped away. We are spending a few days on a sheep farm. Lambing is in full swing. Today the bleat of new babies is the only song I wish to hear.

The Newly Born

Mike and his new BFF

Winter Harvest Salad

These past few days Mike has been ill with the flu, Which means, I get to eat what I like. And I like butternut squash and arugula.

Winter Harvest Salad
roasted butternut squash–roasted with olive oil and sea salt
cooked puy lentils (i buy mine at trader joes)
goat cheese
roasted and salted almonds–chopped

Yogurt Date Dressing
2 pitted dates soaked in boiling water-just to cover
2 Tbs plain non-fat greek yogurt
1 Tbs cider vinegar
splash balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbs olive oil
4 roasted garlic cloves
(i roast a head of garlic along with the butternut squash)
1 tsp or more of lemon juice
For the Dressing
Place all ingredients, including water from dates, in a blender and whirl until smooth. You may need more or less olive oil…depending on your specific taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use to dress salad.

Spa Party Cupcakes

My niece Julia turns 12 this month. She asked if I would make cupcakes with lots of fondant apparently, she loves it, in a spa-sleepover theme. She chose blue and pink as her colors.
I made the fondant toppers the day before baking the cupcakes, and let them sit at room temperature overnight. So the “trinkets” would stand out nicely, I made a circular piece to use as a base. Coupled with the mounds of frosting, these were truly fit for a girl’s night in.

<strong<*note, i used duff goldman black fondant and it worked well–i liked the texture a lot. it is important to warm it in the microwave a bit before working with it. i didn’t use dg white, as it is “buttercream” flavored, not the flavor my niece loves. for the white and colored pieces i used satin ice brand tinted with gel food color.
I am not compensated for endorsing or mentioning either brand.


After dinner Mike leaned in real tight and whispered; “you make a great lasagna.” This is delicious, but lasagna it is not.
adapted from mario batali
fresh pasta sheets–boiled and shocked in ice water
For Filling
olive oil
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 generous Tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 egg–lightly beaten
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Glug enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of skillet. Add pork and beef and cook until no longer pink. Drain off excess fat. Stir in flour. Add milk and Parmesan cheese. Cook on low for about 10-15 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat. Let cool a bit, then add egg, nutmeg salt and pepper. Let cool completely while you boil pasta.

For Tomato Sauce
use your favorite recipe or even a bottle sauce…you need only a little for this recipe
For Besciamella
3 Tbs unsalted butter
3 Tbs flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for just a minute or two. do not brown. Whisk in milk and bring to a simmer. As it begins to thicken, add the Parmesan, nutmeg and salt. The sauce is to be thickened, but not gooey. It is a sauce.

To assemble
Place a bit of tomato sauce in the bottom of an oven safe dish. Use a very generous tablespoon of meat for each cannelloni. Place meat in the center of the pasta sheet and spread evenly. Roll the pasta into a tube, leaving the ends open. Place in the prepared dish. Repeat with remaining meat and pasta. Once completed, cover in beciamella, swirl in a bit more tomato sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 until heated through and the beciamella begins to bubble.

Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Cookies

I‘m that person. The one that is rarely late. The one that calls restaurants to say I’m running behind schedule. I’m that person leisurely sauntering through the airport, who doesn’t huff and puff when someone has 7 layers of clothes to remove
along with lace up knee high boots, at security. Because I am neurotic, I always have time to spare. I missed a plane once. It was in the 90s, and because of an accident on a country road. Traffic was stopped dead, no fighting it. It was 3 days before my sister’s wedding, I was maid of honor, and I hadn’t had my dress fitting. Consequently, it took me more than a day of travel. Which led to a last minute dress fitting; resulting in a poorly made dress. When my dance partner accidentally stepped on the bottom of my dress, most of it (the dress) ended up lying in a heap on the dance floor. There I stood, in my very classy maroon stockings, 3 inch heels and crop top.
I am now neurotic about airline travel. 2 hours before flight time I like to be sitting at the gate: not at the check in or security, but at.the.gate.
Which brings me to today’s recipe. Recently, while enjoying the sights and sounds of Milwaukee International Airport, for hours on end, I purchased a peanut butter oatmeal cookie as big as my head. Mike and I both thought it was genius: peanut butter and oatmeal. Sadly, genius it was not. Great idea. poor execution. I knew I could make something that tastes better. And i did.

Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Cookies
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
Mix the salt,baking soda, flour, graham cracker crumbs and oatmeal in a large bowl. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together the butter, dark brown sugar and granulated sugar, until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla..and beat until fully incorporated. Beat in the peanut butter and beat for 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients all at once and stir until fully mixed. Form into balls and flatten with the tines of a fork. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. These are delicious right out of the cookie jar, but also wonderful with a scoop of peanut butter chocolate ice cream sandwiched between.

1 16 17 18 19 20