Monday, April 28, 2008

Much Ado About...Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

--William Wordsworth

My crowd, my host of daffodils has not appeared this year. So far it consists of two blossoms.

This little daffodil greeted me a couple of weeks ago...

And this full-sized bi-color bloom welcomed me last week.

I'm not sure why my daffodils have disappeared--maybe the tulips and crocuses are crowding them too much. Maybe the chipmunks like them over the tulips. I've noticed some more burrows this year--but I was concerned about the tulips.

I'll have to wait until fall to dig up the bulbs and find out.

So... here are some memories of last year's blooms.

A duet of two-tone golden blooms...

A snowy white daffodil with just a hint of gold in contrast to the lemony tulips behind.

A lone lemony daffodil nestled among some expiring crocus...

Some bright and cheery miniature daffodils to warm Wordsworth's lonely cloud.

Some more little rays of sunshine sheltered under a growing tulip leaf.

Two blooms trumpeting the arrival of spring!

Spring has not only arrived, she's dressed for a celebration! bjh

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tea with Nana Update

Nana and I won't be having tea on Monday. She has a doctor's appointment that conflicts. So...we'll be rescheduling.

At any rate, tomorrow there will be another "Much Ado" post, and on Monday I will post the recipes for the tea. Then stay tuned for when Nana and I do have our tea party because I would love for you to join us! bjh

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tea with Nana

I believe my introduction to tea was the typical one for most Americans.

I can't remember the exact day I had my first cup of hot tea, but one experience sticks out in my mind. I was over at Nana's (my maternal grandmother) watching some television show. I remember sitting on a kitchen chair way too close to the television sipping Lipton tea out of my grandmother's Liberty Blue china teacup.

(Nana had originally acquired the Liberty Blue place settings through her bank, adding pieces until she had enough for several guests; she uses it everyday, three times a day. I never thought of her stuff as antiques, but now I see Liberty Blue ware in antique stores selling for at least $15 a dinner plate.)

From that point on, hot tea was always brewed from a teabag and drunk out of a teacup. Iced tea came one of two ways: brewed from Lipton decaf teabags with plenty of sugar and lemon (Nana's preference) or brewed from Celestial Seasoning's Red Zinger teabags with honey added for sweetness (my Auntie Joyce's favorite). Tea may have come from mass-produced teabags, but it was an integral part of our lives.

However, my introduction to home cooking was not so typical, I guess. I say that because a good number of women in my generation (I guess it's Generation X) don't make food like I do--from scratch. For example, their recipe for potato salad dressing comes from a product called "potato salad dressing" in the grocery condiment aisle. Mine is a variation of my Nana's mayonnaise dressing that I watched her make several times for all sorts of things--egg salad, chicken salad, potato salad, and cole slaw. It's a basic mixture of mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika that's finger-lickin good (I happen to really like mayonnaise). I tweak the seasonings a bit depending on the salad's composition--for coleslaw I add cider vinegar and some sugar; for chicken salad I add some lemon zest and fresh herbs; for egg salad it's mustard and dill weed.

And pies were ALWAYS homemade from crust to filling--NEVER store-bought. Now, I know some people struggle with pastry crusts, but in my family it's genetic--all the women in the family from my mom's side make REALLY GOOD pie crust. (In fact, Nana, my aunt, and my mom still follow the basic recipe of Nana Edwards--my great-grandmother: shortening, flour, salt, and water ; it's the one that's in the old Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. I make that one sometimes; I usually make one that has some sugar, an egg, and butter--I try to avoid hydrogenated stuff like shortening and margarine--and eat the real thing.)

Anyway, back to why I'm rambling on about my Nana's cooking: she taught me a lot about cooking by just watching her. How important it was to learn how to cook; how good made-from-scratch food tasted; how cooking could show people the depth of your love for them.

So, I'm making a date with Nana for tea. She's eaten my cooking many times over the last few years at family gatherings and such. But I'm going to have a tea party with my Nana--tea for two. I don't think she's ever experienced a tea party before. Maybe she's had looseleaf tea...but that would have been decades ago.

I'm bringing my Victorian teapot given to me by my Great-Aunt Dot (my dad's aunt) and my new teakettle to brew the tea. And we'll use Nana's Liberty Blue plates and teacups for the meal--just like we do every time I stop over for "just a snack."

What will we have? Well, some looseleaf tea, definitely made-from-scratch chicken salad, maybe some homemade tomato soup (or Campbell's--I'll see what Nana prefers), and absolutely some dessert because Nana has a sweet tooth.

Don't worry if you can't make it. I'll post the recipes and if you want, you can still have lunch with us around 1:00 on Monday. bjh

The-Sweet-and-Savory-of-Yummy: Part Deux

Cardamom Citrus Fruit Salad, originally uploaded by Elise Bauer.

I wish I had taken this photo--it's beautiful! And makes me want to make my citrus salad recipe again so I can also take a beautiful photo of a delicious, refreshing salad for my readers and Gracious Hospitality guests.

My research at paid off again with this other recipe for my Christmas Tea. It was a light, refreshing counterpoint to the prior courses of rich Quiche Lorraine and Roasted Winter Squash Soup.

This salad garnered rave reviews from everyone at my Christmas Tea; it's the perfect dish to spirit away the winter blues. However, the combination of mint and citrus makes it light and refreshing enough to make year-round.

Where I branched off from the recipe was 1) I also segmented a pummelo in addition to the grapefruit and oranges (to be adventurous), and 2) I used the dried cranberries because that was what I had.

Just an update on the comfort food poll to the right--"dessert" is winning, with "macaroni and cheese" in second place by two. Looks like the soupnuts and meateaters will be the "also ran" unless they rally the troops!

Where was I? Oh, the recipe! Here goes!


2 white grapefruits
2 pink grapefruits

6 large navel oranges
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup sugar
Seeds from 1 pomegranate or 1/4 cup dried cranberries


Cut peel and white pith from grapefruits and oranges. Cut between membranes to release segments. Combine fruit in large shallow bowl. (Fruit can be segmented 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Place mint and sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, blend until mint is finely chopped, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Sprinkle mint sugar and pomegranate seeds over fruit; serve.

Like all the recipes I've recently posted--wonderful for the next day's breakfast! bjh

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The-Sweet-and-Savory-of-Yummy: SCONES!

Hazelnut scones!, originally uploaded by serosenkrantz.

Doesn't this scone look delicious? Mmm...

Unfortunately, it's not mine, or I would be enjoying it right now. SIGH.

For all of you scone lovers at Gracious Hospitality and beyond, here's a recipe for what I think is one of the best scones on earth. I found it at while looking for Christmas Tea recipes last fall. I made it for my tea, and everyone loved them.

One thing I did differently--per the advice of some of the recipe reviewers--was to cut out individual scone tops and bottoms with my biscuit cutter and then sandwich some raspberry jam between the rounds before baking. It worked quite well with this revision.

Also, you can substitute any kind of jam or nuts based on what you have on hand.

On to the recipe!

Oh, did you vote for your favorite comfort food in the poll to the right? Please do.

NOW--on to the scones!

Raspberry-Hazelnut Scones
Make and shape the dough one day ahead for convenience, then just transfer from fridge to oven 20 minutes before serving.
Servings: Makes 12.


2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled whipping cream

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons raspberry preserves


Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter and blend, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3/4 cup cream. Blend, using on/off turns, just until dough comes together. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup nuts. Gently knead with 4 or 5 turns to mix in nuts. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; shape each into ball. Press out each to 6-inch round (about 1/4 inch thick). Spread preserves over 2 rounds, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Place 1 plain dough round atop each preserve-covered round; seal edges. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in plastic and chill.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter large baking sheet. Place rounds on work surface. Brush each with 1 tablespoon remaining cream; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup nuts, dividing equally and pressing to adhere. Using large knife, cut each round into 6 wedges. Arrange wedges on prepared sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake scones until puffed and deep golden, about 16 minutes. Transfer to platter or napkin-lined basket. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy any time of day--even midnight! bjh

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Blog-a-Thon Fit for the Blue Jeans Hostess

La Tea Dah at Gracious Hospitality has been hosting a fantabulous blog-a-thon about the pleasures of afternoon tea. I've enjoyed reading the posts and blogs; please check it out if you have the time.

Anyway, back to the task at hand... I FINALLY have something to post in Gracious Hospitali-tea's Blog-a-thon! This week it is on foods served at an afternoon tea. I have some fantastic recipes from what I served at my Christmas Tea and some others that I plan to post. So be prepared for some double posting this week...I need to make up for the other blog-a-thon sections I couldn't participate in!

Stay tuned and bring your appetites--it's going to get delicious over here! bjh

P.S. Did you choose your favorite comfort food in the right column poll? Please do!

Homes Fit for Hospitality: Help for the Disorganized!

Bleeding hearts in a row, originally uploaded by Deb and Dave.

Getting your home in order is mandatory for inner peace and outer comfort--who wants to move the pile of laundry every night to sleep? Plus having CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) makes hospitality a bit difficult.

So here are some resources that I've found that are helping me on my quest for consistent home organization. I hope you find them useful as well!

  • First, if you haven't already subscribed to Cynthia Townley Ewer's blog, please check out! Cynthia is a "genetically" non-organized woman who has taught herself and thousands of others like her to BE ORGANIZED. The website features Cynthia's daily blog; several pages devoted to helping you clean house, cut clutter, and get organized; and links to downloadable forms in PDF format to help you manage your household.
  • Flylady has a wealth of knowledge at her website, including the cure for CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Check it out for some smiles, encouragement, and excellent tips!
  • Another helpful website is, which has tips on both residential and business organization. The site's host is "a personal and professional coach/consultant who has a passion for organization." Julie will humorously and gently guide you through the steps to organizing your home and business.

Please let me know if you have used any other resources--online or "old school"--that have helped you with organization.

Until next post, happy organizing! bjh

Monday, April 21, 2008

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

I love making fruit crisps and crumbles! They're small on effort but big on taste. The following recipe from www. was the inspiration for the dessert I made to serve up some culinary comfort.

Some of the changes I made were as follows:
  • I made it "family style" instead of individual servings.
  • I added more strawberries so the filling would fit into a 9"x13" glass baking dish.
  • I reduced the cardamom and added cinnamon instead of nutmeg in the fruit filling due to personal preference.
  • I also eliminated the orange zest and reduced the orange juice to just a splash as advised by some of the recipe's reviewers.
  • I had a "gift-mix-in-a-jar" of crisp topping that I used instead of the recipe; but to make a 9"x13" serving of the recipe, you would need to at least double the topping ingredients.

Finally, I always check the recipe's review section for additional ideas and modifications that other cooks made. Sometimes their version is better than the original!

What's YOUR favorite comfort food? Don't forget to vote on the poll in the right hand column!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisps with Cardamom and Nutmeg



1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Generous pinch of salt

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

5 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices fresh rhubarb (from about 2 pounds)
2 cups halved strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon (scant) ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Sweetened whipped cream


For topping:
Mix first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until moist clumps form.

For filling:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter six 1 1/4-cup custard cups. Combine all ingredients except whipped cream in large bowl; stir to blend. Let stand until juices form, about 15 minutes.

Divide rhubarb mixture among prepared custard cups. Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture in each. Bake until topping is golden brown and crisp and filling is bubbling thickly around edges, about 45 minutes. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream.

P.S. This also tastes wonderful the next day for breakfast! bjh

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Much Ado About…Teapots!

I always liked tea, but until this past winter, I had never brewed or drank loose-leaf tea. When I decided to host a Christmas Tea at my house for the women in my Sunday School class in December, I decided to research tea parties and find out how to have a proper tea.

Well, tea and I have had a wonderful relationship ever since! It has now become my preferred hot beverage (although I haven't sworn off coffee completely).

So naturally, I have an interest in adding to my teapot collection. Right now I have two teapots.

This is my everyday one. It holds about 3 cups of tea (that's 18 ounces--three 6 ounce cups).

And this is the one I received as an engagement gift from my great-aunt Dot. As far as I know, she never used this for tea. But my great-great-great Irish grandmother did, because the Irish are fanatical about their tea. And I used it for my Christmas Tea party.

But that's it for my current collection.

So, I decided to do some "research" (i.e. wishful window shopping) at one of my favorite antique shops, Antiques on the Farmington in Collinsville. The building was originally belonged to the Collins Company, who were known for "1,300 types of edge tools, including axes, adzes, machetes, hatchets, picks, knives, swords and bayonets." The old factory now houses the merchandise of several local antiques vendors.

Here are some of the many I saw. I'm only posting a few today, saving the rest for another time. But there were so many that I ran out of room on my memory card before I could snap pictures of them all! If you're interested in any of them (except my favorites, of course) check out their website.

This is the very first teapot you see as you peruse the vendors' booths on the first floor.

These next two ...

are handpainted Japanese "teapots for two."

This teapot has a Chinese dragon motif. It's bold, but not gaudy. And with the four teacups, it's a "mere" $145.00!

A tiny but sweet teapot

to go with an equally sweet children's tea set!
SighI didn't have one of these when I was a kid.

An elegant teapot from Nippon...

and a reproduction Dorchester teapot.

Now, this is one of my favorites: an English primrose teapot and tea service. If anyone feels so inclined, they do have a website for orderingjust a thought if you're feeling generous.

Now we move upstairs

A Franciscan Rose teapotperfect for my mother-in-law, who has inherited her mother's Franciscan Rose pattern.

An elegant teapot with a pinks motifflowers so named because their petals look like they've been clipped by pinking shears.

A "geisha" teapotone that reminds me of my aunt, who lived in Hawaii for eight years and visited Japan several times.

And finally, my next teapot purchase (I hope)

A cute strawberry teapot for two and accompanying sugar bowl and creamer! Perfect with my vintage strawberry collectionwhich will be a future "Much Ado" post.

Did I mention they have a website? Did I mention that I love teapots? bjh

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Has Anyone Seen the Blue Jeans Hostess?

I'm still aroundI had some important business to take care of this week and needed to take a break from posting.

However, the break will soon be over and I have loads of things to write about! First, an overdue "Much Ado" post will be ready for tomorrow. After that, I will be taking some inspiration from some "mentors" of hospitality and putting my own twist on their fantabulous ideas! And overall, I hope to bring a "patchwork quilt" mix of topicssome educational, some fun, some inspiring, some reflective piecesall to help us enjoy this journey together.

And yes, I said fantabulous. It may not be a BJH original, but it fits.

See you soon! bjh

P.S. There's a new poll over to the right--please vote on your favorite comfort food!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Keith's Killer Salad

I don't have a photo for this delicious salad, but you can check out the recipe and photo at Food Network. Some changes Keith made to the recipe were 1) he served the salad family style instead of in individual bowls and 2) he served the parmesan cheese on the side to be sprinkled to each heart's content. Here's Michael Chiarello's delectable recipe:

Shaved Salad with Prosciutto Bits

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Pinch gray salt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, optional

For the salad:
2 cups baby arugula
2 cups coarsely grated or thinly sliced fennel, about 2 small bulbs
Gray salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup Prosciutto Bits, recipe follows
2 cups coarsely grated green zucchini
2 cups coarsely grated or thinly sliced red cabbage
2 cups coarsely grated carrot

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and salt. The salt crystals should dissolve. Whisk in the mustard, oregano, and black pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to form a smooth emulsion. Crumble in the blue cheese, if using. Pour the vinaigrette into a serving bowl to be passed at the table with a spoon. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Set out 8 salad bowls, preferably clear glass so the guests can see the layers of vegetables. For each bowl, put down a layer of arugula and then a layer of fennel. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon Parmesan and 1 tablespoon Prosciutto Bits over the fennel. Next, put down a layer of zucchini and a layer of red cabbage. Once again, season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with Parmesan and Prosciutto Bits. Put down a layer of carrots over the top and finish with a small sprinkling of Parmesan and Prosciutto Bits.

Serve the salads at room temperature. Pass the vinaigrette at the table. Allow guests to dress their own salads and mix up the layers.

I can't wait to make this salad myself! bjh

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is my "go-to" recipe for baked macaroni and cheese. It is an Alton Brown recipe, and can be printed directly from the Food Network website.

A few comments: I didn't serve it in individual ramekins--this photo was taken before I reheated it Saturday morning for my breakfast. Also, I didn't add the bread crumbs to it this time--didn't have any in the house.

If you want another fantastic recipe, here is my mom's favorite: the Barefoot Contessa's Mac and Cheese.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Bon Appetit! bjh

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Serving Culinary "Comfort"

I love comfort food.

Now, I like trying new foods, making new items for dinner, eating at different ethnic restaurants. But there's something about comfort food that just makes someone relax. For me, making the food is even relaxing.

So when my husband invited another couple to come over on Friday night for dinner and a little DIY auto maintenance, I looked forward to the opportunity to serve some culinary "comfort."

Here's the menu:

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Sauteed Haricot Vert (i.e. French green beans)
Salad ala Keith (one of the guests)
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp ala Mode

Stay tuned for the recipes over the next few days. bjh

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Finding the Balance

Bill Dan Balancing Rocks . . ., originally uploaded by bebalance.

Isn't this photo amazing? These rocks are balancing in spite of their asymmetry.

Those who create these incredible sculptures say that to succeed in rock balancing, you must both find the natural curves and crevices in the rocks and determine the balance point of the rocks so that they will fit together and remain in balance.

Bill Dan, the creator of this sculpture and many others, has stated that the "meaning" of his sculptures is this:

"Some people try to make things too complicated. This is the opposite."

Finding balance can beuncomplicated?

Hmmm. Not easy, mind you. But not so complex that we can't manage to find it.

You may have noticed that this is my first post in several days. I myself am trying to find the balance between work, family, blog, Godeach "rock" having unique features and balance points.

So, readers, please understand and be patientI'm finding my balance. bjh

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Much Ado About . . . Crocuses: Part 2

I wasn't planning to have a second installment of this particular "Much Ado" post, but this morning I was greeted by a small but cheerful purple and gold army! Here are some of my photos from today's blooms. Check out my garden photo album in the right column for more blooms. bjh

Friday, April 4, 2008

Much Ado About . . . Crocuses

I would like to start a regular photo blog series entitled "Much Ado about . . ." Not only is Much Ado about Nothing one of my favorite plays and movies, but these posts will also give you a way to get to know me. My first "Much Ado" post will be about crocuses, the harbinger of spring.

These pictures are from my garden last spring--my crocuses are still a few days away from blooming this year.

Don't forget to vote for your favorite spring flower--check the poll to the right of this post! bjh