Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pumpkins & Flowers & Gourds, Oh My!

We left the Warwick Valley Winery and headed we thought.  "Turn right," I exclaimed as I spotted big orange pumpkins in a field. September seemed early to buy pumpkins, but as the woman at the Scheuermann Farm said, "They've been picked, so whether you get them now or in October...what's the difference?" Made sense.
Steve and I and Pat and Jeff walked a short distance to get a closer look at the pumpkins still on the vines in a field of dark, rich black dirt. The Warwick area is known for this type of soil and the reason the farmers there have great success. The area is loaded with fruit orchards, pumpkin patches, corn fields and much more of God's bounty.  Undoubtedly, one of these pumpkins was used as the coach in the fairy tale, Cinderella. They were huge!
Our Autumn Bounty Graces Our Home!
 We received a lesson on the varieties of pumpkin- the Cinderella, miniature pumpkins called Jack B. Little, the common-Sugar pumpkin, the Knucklehead that is covered with "warts", and the pink Peanut pumpkin. Did you know that pumpkins come in just about any color? A blue variety can be found in eastern Europe and there's a red variety, called Rouge D'Etant . "Curcurbita" is the family of plants that the pumpkin belongs to. This species also includes squash, watermelon, and cucumbers. Pumpkins generally weigh 9–18 lbs. with the largest (of the species C. maxima) capable of reaching a weight of over 75 lbs.  The current world record holder is Christy Harp's 1,725-pound, Atlantic giant pumpkin, which won the Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers annual weigh-off in Oct 2009. (Wikipedia)
 And then there were the gourds! I never saw so many shapes, sizes and colors. 
How I love them in baskets and bowls during the Thanksgiving season. But they have many more uses than just looking decorative. How about resonating chambers on certain stringed instruments, and drums common to the Caribbean? It, also, makes sense they'd be used as drinking vessels. I love the name, Phatso 2, given to a common gourd in our area and the Cushow with its rounded bottom and long neck. So we filled the trunk of our car with pumpkins, gourds, fresh corn on the cob, jars of cherry and pumpkin butter and blackberry preserves. We thought we were headed home for the second time until we spotted a field of late summer flora.
We couldn't resist. The sign at the entrance read, 'Feel free to enjoy yourself in our "Slice of Heaven" by walking barefoot on our carpet of grass'...and we did. It was like walking on deep green velvet!, cool, thick and luxurious. And the flowers!! The colors were spectacular- purple, blue, pink, yellow, orange, and dusty white. There was a flower island with the American Flag flying proudly in the middle of it. I saluted it. And we were wowed by the giant sunflowers nodding their heads at our child-like enthusiasm. My most beloved photo of the day was of the graceful orange & black Monarch butterfly sunning amidst vivid purple blooms.

The late day sun dappled rays of light across the fields reminding us that all good things must come to an end. So we slipped our shoes back on and headed toward the car...again. could we leave without visiting the quaint, red barn gift shop? There were lovely hand made crafts, ceramic mugs, books, cards and...Christmas items. I made a bee-line for that table because right before me was something I'd been searching for for the longest time. It's the familiar statue of Santa, bare-headed in reverence, bowing before the Infant Jesus in the manger. I've seen many of them, but I wanted one that was special. And I found it..a Jim Shore piece carved out of wood and painted in brilliant colors. I gently cradled it in my hands and called out to my husband, " I found the Christmas gift you're giving me!"   He chuckled and replied,
" Merry Christmas, honey." I felt blessed. God is good, oh, and my husband, too.
It was time to head home after an idyllic day in the country kissed with a hint of autumn...and this time we did
Reminisce about the days of neighborhood candy shops and homemade sweets with this heartwarming pumpkin fudge. It's a taste of the past you can enjoy today and tomorrow.

2 cups sugar
½ cup pureed cooked pumpkin
½ cup evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ cup butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
¼ teaspoon cornstarch

1. Combine sugar, pumpkin, milk, cornstarch and spice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until it forms a soft ball when dropped in cold water (and flattens when picked up), or until reaches 236°F. Remove from heat.
2. Add the nuts, butter, and vanilla; beat until mixture is creamy.
3. Pour into a buttered plate or an 8X8 baking pan and allow to cool. Cut into small chunks and serve.

Find this and other great pumpkin recipes at 
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**Remember To Make Memories At The Table.

Friday, September 17, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

Many thanks to Mary at the Beautiful Gate for sending me this award! I am so proud to receive this lovely gift.  Now, I'm giving it to you!

Here are the rules for passing it on

1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.

3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they've been chosen.

I'd like to pass the award on to the following great blogs:

Patti & Meegan at
Frank at
Jason at
Kathy at
Michele at
Debbie at
Susan at
Claudia at
Peggy at
Fabio at
3 Chord Strum at
Catiena at thevintagehousewife/
Vicki at

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Bit Of Tuscany In The Hudson Valley

Labor Day Weekend 2010 and the "unofficial" end of summer. It had been the hottest summer on record, reports indicated that it was  above average temps even for Africa. There were 35 days in NY with 90 degrees or higher. The warm weather started in April and I'm not sure if we've seen the last of it. But Labor Day weekend was glorious....temps in high 70's, crystal blue skies, no humidity with a taste of autumn in the evening air. Though, my wardrobe was still shorts and sandals, it's apple and pear pickin' season upstate a bit at the Warwick Valley (NY) Winery. So, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Steve and I and Jeff and Pat Winter took a scenic drive pass Sterling Forest  Renaissance Festival, Mt. Peter Ski Slope, Farms, Horse Ranches and Corn Fields and with the help of a GPS, we arrived by Noon.
So I will begin with's a food blog after all, and  the Winery's Pane Cafe was the first stop on our agenda.You placed your order from a chalkboard menu, received a buzzer gadget, then settled at a wrought-iron table in an outside garden-dining area.
Five minutes later, 2 pulled pork sandwiches, a tomato and cucumber salad and a salad of spinach, beet, goat cheese with orange segments was ready to devour.  Served on paper plates with plastic cutlery it was our very own picnic in the country. Need I say...I didn't order either of those salads. The pork was tender, not too sweet & crowned with slaw. The salads...fresh, crisp and flavorful with rounds of toasted, seasoned French bread circling the plate.
We found the booth that sold a sturdy bag that held a 1/2 bushel of soon-to-be-picked-fruit for $20 and headed for the orchards. The uphill climb was worth every step as we came upon row after row of apple trees, 30 varieties in all.  Each row had a small plaque before it indicating the kind of apple and what it was best used for such as baking, eating, cider etc. There were Cortland with its white crisp flesh, the striped red Gala, the aromatic Macintosh with its beautiful ruby color, the high dessert quality Empire, and Thomas Jefferson's favorite- the spicy Spitzenberg known for its orangish tough skin and russet dots and faded stripes.
We tasted an apple from each row we were interested in, commenting as though we were Apple Oficionados. Some had a faint pear flavor possibly from their close proximity to the pear orchards, a spicy note, others were crisp to the bite, or softer and juicier. Not one tasted the same or had the same texture. 
On our way to the pear orchards, we waved to those atop of a hay wagon pulled by a tractor. The beautiful day and shared activities brought strangers together. So on to the Pear Orchard. One of the earliest written histories or records comes from Homer's reference to them as "Gifts from the Gods." The pears were in large crates...the reason....Apples ripe on the tree; Pears ripe off the tree. The types weren't as varied as the apples. There was the Bartlett, a light green to completely yellow pear that gives off a sweet aroma, the Bosc which is dark yellow with a cinnamon russetting of the skin. One bin was stamped Paula Ruby pear that had a red blush to the skin, so I grabbed a couple of those, too.  The bag was full, and I think I heard it groan.
It was time to quit, but not before a stop to the Winery. It was packed with people bellied up to the bar listening to the wine expert explain the various wines. We took her suggestions to heart and headed for the shelves. Steve chose a Pinot Gris with a delicate floral and honey note. I picked a Sour Cherry Cordial and an Apple Liqueur. Jeff & Pat selected the Black Dirt Red (the kind of dirt in Warwick, NY). It is a 100% Baco Noir, a French-American hybrid grape that has a cherry, plum & fig note.

The Tasting Room
It was a wonderful day. The best Labor Day weekend, I can remember...fantastic weather, the great outdoors, and time spent with my husband and good friends. We left the winery exhilarated, loaded with fruit and new knowledge of pears and apples and tired...but not too tired to stop just down the road at Scheuermann Farms where the pumpkin patch caught our eye. But, that's another post....see ya then.

Rustic Pear Tart
adapted from Straight from the Farm Blog by Jennie Love
5-6 ripe pears
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
juice of half a lemon
1 T. plus 1 t. cornstarch
1/2 package of prepared or homemade pie crust
1 T. butter
optional glaze
1 T. honey
1/4 t. boiling water

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or non stick foil
Peel and core pears. Cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and place in a medium mixing bowl. Toss pears with cinnamon, nutmeg,  lemon juice, and cornstarch. Let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the crust.
Roll out pie crust to 9 inches wide. Use a rolling pin to help transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Give the filling in the bowl a stir again to make sure the juices are coating all the pieces. Use a large spoon to heap pears onto the center of the pie crust, leaving at least a 2 inch border around the outside. Dot with butter.  Hold the juices in reserve in the bowl for the time being.
Carefully fold up sides of crust around the heap of pears, pinching any seams that form to make sure they are sealed. (forms a kind of pouch) The pears in the center will not be covered by crust. Pour reserved juices over the exposed pears, making sure it gets inside the crust.
Place tart in the hot oven to bake for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and pears are tender. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Combine the honey and boiling water to create a glaze. Use a brush to apply to both the hot crust and pears. Allow tart to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. To transfer tart to a serving plate, it’s best to let it cool completely so crust holds together.
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(serves 6) Serve with ice cream or whipped cream or squares of cheese!

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rainy With A Chance Of Fruit Cobbler

Beach House, RI

Beach House Patio, RI
The fact that my life revolves around food was never more apparent than on my visit to Sunny & Russ' beach house in Rhode Island. My husband and I spent 3 1/2 days with our good friends talking, laughing, cooking, eating, cooking and eating, oh and the ladies....drinking Chocolate Martinis.
We arrived just after 9 PM on Thursday, unpacked, then relaxed with coffee and chocolate chip cookies. We said our good-nights just after midnight, Sunny and I knowing that we needed to conserve our energy for the chat-fest ahead.
Lobster On A New England Roll
Friday began with cantaloupe, blueberry pancakes, bacon, orange juice, & coffee. It was a good, hearty breakfast to start our day. Sunny and I went to noon Mass at the college thanks for our blessings including the few days we would have together. We did some shopping which included Belmont-Market Place. The gourmet jars of sauces, jams, honey, herbs and spices delighted the foodie in me. The New England specialty that I brought back to the beach house was lobster meat...succulent and fresh and waiting to be stuffed into a New England roll.

Beach House Kitchen...Heartbeat of the Home
It was a hot, bright blue sky day and a cold Mike's Hard Lemonade went great with the lobster roll. The men went to Home Depot, of all places, while Sunny and I yakked the afternoon away, and before we knew was time to start supper. I made her famous corn pudding (see Sunny With A Chance of Corn Pudding), while she sliced tomatoes we bought at a local farm and added onion to the roasted potatoes. The BBQ spare ribs were already prepared and in the refrigerator--and all that was left was putting the baked beans in a dish. We ate this finger lickin' meal on a softly lit patio overlooking the beach. It was dark by the time we pushed away from the table and Sunny headed for the kitchen to pull the Blueberry & Peach Cobbler out of the oven. The cobbler was a huge hit. It was buttery and brown sugar sweet, with the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Sunny and I got a second wind and didn't turn in until 2 in the morning. 
Back Porch Overlooking the Ocean
So we started Saturday with old-fashioned bacon, eggs, and home fries with red/green peppers & onions. We mopped up the eggs with raisin studded scones. While the guys took Rhody, the Maltese, to the groomer, Sunny & I headed to a quaint village called Wickford. The village had a myriad of specialty stores, antique shops and eateries. We watched the clock because we had supper reservations at The Dunes Club at 6:30 PM...and the men hated being late. Dressy outfits, suits and ties is the dress code. H'orderves were served in an airy bar overlooking the ocean. An hour later, we sauntered over to the main dining could you go wrong with a choice of Filet Mignon or Panko Crusted Halibut? Everything was prepared to perfection. We no sooner finished our meal when the lights dimmed and a lovely cabaret singer took center stage. We completed the evening where we had started the bar for a final round of cheer.                           
Sunday the skies opened up and the rain was relentless with gale force winds beating on the window panes. That didn't stop us from attending Mass, then head for a local favorite, The Breakfast Nook. While everyone had the usual breakfast fare, I chose Lobster Benedict...Oh my, was that delicious, but decadent. I was in heaven. Back at the Beach House, the men relaxed, read the newspaper and watched sports on TV. Sunny and I sat side by side on the couch with our laptops, reading emails, sharing jokes and messages and downloading photographs. Outside, the waves crashed against the shoreline, the wind howled and surfers rode the huge swells. No words can describe the shades of gray and white and the wild beauty of the scene beyond our window.  It was actually the perfect Sunday and the perfect day for a manly man's supper...steaks, baked potatoes (sour cream, butter & chives), sweet corn on the cob, tomato salad and of course Chocolate Martinis for the ladies. Sunny isn't a big fan of beef, so she skipped the steak and made an Arugula and Tomato Pizza no red sauce, but ricotta and mozzarella. Yes, I had a slice...a small one and
Breakfast Casserole
 took a few home in a doggie bag. Although, we were exhausted doing nothing most of the day, Sunny had the good sense to suggest that we put together a breakfast casserole for the next day. We didn't want to spend our last morning together preparing a meal, so at midnight we dragged ourselves into her kitchen and set about the task. We dubbed the casserole, While You Sleep French Toast Casserole. It consisted of apples, cranberries, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, French bread, milk, eggs and vanilla. The casserole "marrys" overnight, the eggs seeping into the bread and the sugar/cinnamon into the apples. Deeeeelicious! Sunny sent us home with all kinds of goodies, telling me not to cook that night....just enjoy the leftovers. It was time to leave and I was as relaxed as if I'd been in a first class hotel on Paradise Island for a week. We said our farewell amidst hugs, kisses and last minute reminders of when we'd get together next. Steve and I stopped off at the local farm before we got on the highway buying homemade cherry jam, corn on the cob, blueberries and peaches. Yes, I'm going back on my eternal diet, but not before I bake my Best-Forever-Friend's mouth-watering, senses-reeling Fruit Cobbler. 
Blueberry & Peach Cobbler
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
¾ c sugar
2 t baking powder
½ c milk
2 c fresh peaches sliced
2 c blueberries
another ½ c sugar

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Melt butter a baking dish (approx. 11X7 inch)
Combine flour, ¾ c sugar, baking powder. Add milk and stir
Pour batter over butter (DO NOT stir). Smooth evenly in the pan
Combine peaches & blueberries with ½ c sugar
Put on top of batter. (DO NOT stir).
Bake at 350 for 45-55 min.
Serve with ice cream and/or whipped cream
Oh, and this is our Chocolate Martini!

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Remember To Make Memories At The Table
**Recipes for Arugula Pizza & While You Sleep Breakfast Casserole will be posted on, eventually