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Tag Archives: Gifts

Graham Nut Clusters

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Otherwise known as Chex mix with Golden Grahams, but more about that later.

Don’t call out the National Guard.  I am back.  I had every intention of posting throughout my vacation, but I guess lounging around takes more out of me than I thought.

Last Saturday we drove the four-hour trek to Savannah.  And when I say we drove that means Jake.  I originally intended to split the drive-time with him, but after I spent all day Friday making snacks for the road that went out the window.

To me it’s just not a road trip without Chex mix.  Usually I will try to incorporate a theme.  For example, when we drove from PA to MA for Thanksgiving a few years ago I made pumpkin spice flavored.  I kind of forgot about a theme this time, but since this recipe is from Southern Living and it has pecans I like to think that it’s a southern theme for our vacation in the south.

We spent the weekend in Savannah.  If you haven’t been to the Historic District you should go.  I have been a few times, but this was a first for my husband, so we did a little less shopping and a little more historical sightseeing.  We also went to Paula Deen’s restaurant.  Frankly, I wish we hadn’t.  Sunday we went to Vic’s on the River, which I would do again, even though they neglected to mention that the shrimp and grits were spicy.

After a quick stop at Fort Pulaski — I stayed in the car — we headed off to Hilton Head.  I am a Disney Vacation Club member and proud of it, so we stayed there until Friday.   It was our first time in Hilton Head.  There’s not a lot to do there, which is a perfect excuse to go to the Heavenly Spa at the Westin.  I was there from 12 to 6 so they offered me a lunch menu.  I ordered a grilled salmon salad which consisted of tangled greens, red onion, walnuts, dry cranberries, and raspberry-walnut vinaigrette.  What I got was grilled salmon on spinach with tomatoes and edamame.  It’s okay.  The edamamae was a nice surprise.  I assume the dressing was raspberry-walnut.  Whatever it was made me want to lick the plate.  Don’t panic.   I managed to restrain.  Certainly we hit a few other great restaurants and went to a Lowcountry boil at the Disney Beach House that was all-you-can-eat — enuf said.  Anyway, I mention the spa meal because the menu was entitled Eat Well.

I didn’t really take the camera out in Savannah, but we will go back again some day and remedy that.  I’m turning into a really bad tourist.  I either take a ton of pictures but never do anything with them or I only take a handful.  This trip was the latter.

These were pretty much outside our front door but unfortunately we didn’t notice them until the last day.  Great place for reading and drinking wine at sunset.

The view from the backyard.

The view from the beach house.

Eat Well and Savor.





Apple and Mint Jelly

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The path to hell is paved with good intentions.  I’m not sure if that really applies to this situation.  I basically wanted to say that the jelly actually never happened.  I swear there’s some other phrase that refers to a science experiment gone wrong.

Wanna see what’s inside?

Once upon a time there was two pounds of apples just begging to become jelly and hang out on my buttered toast.  Then the Evil Queen, Annie Rigg, stepped in and ruined everything.  The Sugarplum Princess just needed a little guidance for my first foray into making jelly.  It all seemed simple enough.  The storybook in question is Gifts from the Kitchen and in it the EQ simply says cut up the apples, add water, cover the saucepan, and cook gently until the apple chunks are soft.  Seriously, EQ?  This princess has a life.  Could you at least let me know how long that’s going to take.  Just a little hint would be great.  Do I have time to paint my nails or maybe walk the dog?  Fortunately, the Prince of Pastry stepped in to save me.  I whipped out the new iPad and followed the yellow brick road right to who informed me that not only should I leave the lid askew, but this would take about 20 to 30 minutes.  I swear I let these go about 40 minutes.  And yes, I realize I just made DL a prince and the Wizard of Oz at the same time.

At that point I thought we had stumbled onto a happy ending.  Alas, there is always a twist.  EQ said that whatever you do, when you put the apples into the jellybag, do not push or prod the apples or the juice will be cloudy.  She at least gave a guideline that the extraction would take at least four hours.  The Prince said this too but said that overnight would work best.  I’m here to tell you, it didn’t make a bit of difference.  Also, I swear on the life of my made-up fairytale sidekick that I did not push or prod those apples.  Still, here’s what I was awarded with:

Being the firm believer in Happy Endings that I am, was going to attempt to make what would probably have been the world’s smallest batch of jelly.  That never happened either because I wound up working 9:00 to 7:30 with a bunch of attorneys that around 4:00 started to resemble the flying monkeys.

Actual Happy Ending:  Peaches and Cream mani/pedi at the Four Seasons Spa.

For reals, I am so tempted to abandon this book.  I love her ideas, but her direction is weak at best.  Obviously I don’t blame her for the amount of juice in the apples.  Maybe I will have to cast a sequel this fall.

Eat Well and Savor.

Nougat with Cherries and Toasted Marcona Almonds

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Well, this looks okay here, and it tastes pretty good, but I’m pretty sure I did a lot of things wrong.

I’m pretty close to giving up on Annie Rigg and her Gifts From the Kitchen.  There just isn’t enough guidance.  Especially if you’re like me and you haven’t made a lot of candy.  I was supposed to keep whisking until the mixture stiffens, thickens, and turns pale cream-colored.  I settled for two out of three.

This sat overnight.  At this point I still thought I was in good shape.  I should note that the recipe calls for natural colored candied cherries.  Apparently neon red isn’t the natural color, but that didn’t occur to me until I really looked at the picture.

Along with the cherries there are apricots, pistachios, and Marcona almonds.   An excellent combination, even though after I returned from my errands I discovered that it had turned into nougat soup.

As if I haven’t done enough complaining, there was a lot of cleanup involved too.

And on top of all that, my brand new spatula came apart.

Eat Well and Savor.

Coffee and Cardamom Toffee

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Here’s how it all began.

Obviously I should have cut my butter into smaller pieces, but it melted just the same.

I realized after that it’s impressive that I made it to this point.  Annie Rigg in Gifts from the Kitchen didn’t really give a lot of guidance.  I was shocked afterwards when I did a  little research and discovered all the possible pitfalls in toffee making.  I guess the Force was with me this morning.  This is the hardball stage.

I’m sure it’s no surprise that this was not easy to remove from the pan.  I guess that’s why there’s a hammer in the picture from the book.

I couldn’t find a neat little toffee hammer, so I used a meat tenderizer instead.

Here’s the version I kept for myself.

Since this is a gift from the kitchen I had to pass it on to Marnie.

Eat Well and Savor.

If Life Gives You Lemons

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Screw the lemonade, make Limoncello.   It’s pretty time-consuming, but mostly easy.  I did run into a few bumps in the road though.

Here’s the star of the show. 

Well, technically I guess the vodka is the main ingredient.  Annie Rigg in her book Gifts From the Kitchen says you’ll need a jar to keep it in for a week and then a bottle to decant it into.  I am here to tell you that if you have a 750 ml bottle of vodka and you think that a 33 ounce jar will work because the ingredients just call for lemons and sugar, then you should read the actual recipe that says the juice of the lemon is included too.  In case I’ve been unclear:  my jars overflowed, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

So you peel the lemons and then simmer them with some water and sugar, and eventually add the aforementioned juice.

I actually made a double batch, so when I made the discovery that my jars were too small I had to find something glass that would hold approximately two quarts of vodka and the extras.  All I had was this huge container with a spigot.  The lesson I learned here is make sure that said spigot is closed when you pour in the liquid.

So there my concoction sat for a week awaiting it’s new home in the pretty little bottle with the blue lids.  Next lesson learned:  the lids were plastic and plastic melts in the 350 degree oven when you’re sterilizing the bottle.  Good thing I had a spare cork.

The end result was worth the struggle.

So when I was searching for a shot glass that doesn’t have a big red O on it for OSU — which I never found and it’s a good thing because a shot glass is way too small — I came across my special ice cube.

It doesn’t take much to amuse me.

This one is for Tinkerbell.  I think the ice cube came for a drink at WDW.

Eat Well and Savor.

Wholegrain Honey Mustard

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I’ve been thinking about this mustard all day.  Pathetic, I know.  

This was my first attempt at homemade mustard.  It was surprisingly easy.  Just soak the seeds in vinegar overnight and then mix with honey and grind them up the next day.   This simple recipe comes from Annie Rigg’s Gifts From the Kitchen.  

I was not expecting the seeds to expand to twice their size while soaking.  I was so fascinated and I felt like my science project had just gotten an A.  I suppose I should have seen it coming.  I couldn’t imagine why the recipe said it would make three jars when I only had two cups of seeds.  I’m sure there’s a scientific term for this that I would have learned if I had paid attention in class. 


Since this was a gift I had to dress it up for Marnie.

And now the moment I’ve been waiting for.  I’m sorry to say I wasn’t thrilled, but I haven’t lost hope.  The mustard had a wonderful aroma, but a big bite.  However, I came across another recipe that suggests you should let it sit for a week, so it’s a good thing I have five more pretzels.

In other news:  Marnie and I went to Cafe Intermezzo today for lunch.  I can’t say enough good things about that place.  There are at least 100 different drinks in the beverage menu.  Of course we had to do our part and try two each.  Also, I had the yummiest little crepe with brie, turkey, and strawberry coulis, and then I couldn’t resist sampling Marnie’s rosemary roasted potatoes.  I also have to give a special shout out to the decor here.  The tables are reminiscent of the cafes I visited in France and even the bathroom is adorable.  Let’s just say I actually had to pull a tassel to flush and I would love to have the copper ceiling tiles  in my kitchen.   I’m ashamed that we didn’t get dessert here, but I know we’ll be back.

Eat Well and Savor

Ugandan Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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That’s right.  You heard me.  I said Ugandan Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.   Who knew?  I’ll tell you who:  Jeni Britton Bauer. 

I was in Williams-Sonoma one day and I say her book:  Jenis Splendid Ice Creams At Home.  (I must derail momentarily and point out that it should be Jeni’s!)  Anyway,   of course it caught my eye in the store.  I flipped through it quickly and left it on the shelf.  That was an exercise of great restraint for me.  I already have a couple of ice cream books, so I resisted one more.   Well, fast-forward a few weeks and I read an article about Jeni and her stores in Columbus, Ohio, where I am from.  So I certainly had to support a hometown girl:  the perfect excuse to buy a new book.  Once I had it in my hot little hands I was even more happy.  I love a cookbook with stories and this one had that along with my new favorite obsession:  seasonal chapters.

So back to this vanilla bean.  It was Jeni’s recommendation to go Ugandan.  It was the softest and plumpest vanilla bean and it came in a container that is best described as a test tube.   Make no mistake, this is not cookies and cream, there was just that much bean.

This is the fourth time I’ve made some ice cream from this book, so I knew what I was in for with the basic directions.  However, the rolling boil for four minutes makes me a little tense.

As always, the end result is well worth it.  And I swear the fact that it’s in my cute little bowl from Anthropoligie makes it taste even better.


Of course I had to add the closeup for the star of the show.

Marnie and I met for lunch today, so as far as I was concerned, that was the perfect excuse to bake.  I’ve discovered that it’s a nice way to spend a Sunday morning, although last week I baked on Saturday. . . but it felt like Sunday, probably because I was baking.  Anyway, another new favorite — mostly because it’s seasonal, but also because there are recipes in it that I would never pick on my own — is Gifts from the Kitchen by Annie Rigg.  Today’s installment was Cheese Sables with an accent on the e to make it SAH-blay.  They are buttery and cheesy (cheddar and parmesan) with just a little cayenne.  Those are black sesame seeds on there.  It called for black onion seeds or kalonji, which I couldn’t find anywhere.  Turns out they are also known as nigella seeds.  I guess I’ll know better next time.

It made a lot more than this, but I sent Marnie packing, so to speak.

Eat Well and Savor