ff-biscuit-basics

Food Friday: Biscuit Basics

Welcome to the bright and shiny 2017! We are almost two weeks into the new year, and I notice that I am still writing 2016. Sigh. Even so, I am trying to carry on with my very simple and basic resolutions. I am not giving up yet. I have realized that as the bullet train of time speeds from the station, I am unlikely to eliminate my many character flaws, but at least I can start now to hydrate and walk more every day. Let’s keep it simple, and basic, and reasonable.

2016 was good for walking, I averaged about 5 miles a day. (Not every day. I encourage Mr. Friday to pick up the dog patrol on the weekends.) Now I want to cover a little more ground every day, and maybe pick up the pace. Although I must whine that when Luke is sniffing every blessed blade of grass, it takes forever to cover even two miles.

So, smugly, Luke the wonder dog and I are drinking more water (less Diet Coke, for me; Luke has never cared for it, he smirks) and walking a little bit further on our daily rounds. We are also trying to learn some new kitchen skills: I’d like to successfully master and memorize a few essential recipes: biscuits, bread, spaghetti carbonara, last week’s macaroni and cheese, chocolate ganache. Luke has his essential role down pat – he is the designated observer. He starts off at the edge of the room, and magically inches his way closer, unnoticed, until he is practically handing me spatulas and potholders. I can always count on him to know exactly where I want to step next. His GPS skills are uncanny.

And Luke has his own opinions about food prep. He likes it best when meat is involved, because he has faith in the practical application of Newtonian law regarding the gravitational field: i.e. there is nothing that I can drop that he won’t eat. Friday nights are his favorite, because on Friday nights we make pizza. His pleasure is doubled with the arrival of both pepperoni and grated cheese tumbling off the cutting board, and at his feet, no less.

Luke is a patient dog. He’ll watch even when the pickings are slim. He isn’t too excited about my latest urge to become a practiced and intuitive baker of biscuits. (I want people to say admiringly, behind my back, of course, “She has such a deft hand at biscuits. Light and airy. Deelish!”)

Luke doesn’t appreciate the significance of baking a good biscuit – do we roll or drop? Do we knead? Buttermilk or self-rising flour? Flaky or crumbly? Squares or circles? Brush with butter or milk? Biscuick or scratch? Butter or lard? Luke does like the end result, though. Particularly if bacon or sausages are involved. Just give him a biscuit, damn it.

I tried this recipe last weekend, and for the first time I have baked biscuits with layers. Well, not counting those flaky Pillsbury biscuits in the can that we had been known to serve, on occasion, just once or twice, when we lived with the eating machine known as The Tall One. Now, with this basic biscuit recipe from the New York Times, I can home bake layered biscuits, that are rolled out, and that rise beautifully. I brushed the tops with some melted butter, and scattered a generous handful of Maldon salt over the tops, too. Crunchy. Yumsters. http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/5997-basic-biscuits

The Tall One likes this recipe for biscuits. He is a serious eater, so I would listen to him if I were you. It requires more scientific precision than I can muster on a Sunday morning, though. I prefer to think that eventually I will memorize the other recipe so I can whip up a batch of biscuits without needing to look at the recipe. Maybe in 2018.

Flaky Biscuits by Michael Ruhlman

9 ounces flour (a scant 2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces chilled butter, diced
6 ounces milk

Set a mixing bowl on a scale and pour out the flour. Add the baking powder (pressed through a strainer if it’s pebbly) and salt. Weigh out the butter. Rub and pinch the butter into the flour so that the butter is well distributed and in fragments and small chunks, the largest of which are not bigger than peas. Pour in 6 ounces of milk and combine just until a dough is formed (you will see distinct whole chunks of butter in the dough). Form into a 4-inch-by-6-inch rectangle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Unwrap the dough and dust it with flour. Roll out the dough to about three times its size on a floured counter, board, or plastic wrap, maintaining the rectangular shape. Fold it into thirds and roll it out again (it will be more resistant and springy now). Fold it in thirds again, press it down firmly, wrap it in the plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour or until thoroughly chilled. Repeat the procedure again. The dough is now ready to be rolled out to 1/2 inch thick and cut, or it can be folded in thirds, refrigerated, and rolled out again one more time for a total of six folds, or turns.

Cut the dough into squares or, if you like, into rounds with a ring cutter or a glass. Bake at 350°F/177°C until done, 20 to 30 minutes.

ruhlman.com/2013/02/biscuit-recipe-and-ratio/

The Pioneer Woman has a great Buttermilk Biscuit recipe, with self-rising flour and homemade buttermilk, and lots of butter. You need to admire her excesses! Fabulous. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/self-rising-biscuits/

Luke and I are going out to cop another couple of miles to justify all that butter.

“Hope makes a good breakfast. Eat plenty of it.”
― Ian Fleming

Adkins Arboretum Offers 2017 Botanical Art Series

Adkins Arboretum has announced a series of botanical art programs taught by artists Lee D’Zmura and Kelly Sverduk. Ranging from drawing to painting to working with colored pencil, the series engages beginning to experienced artists in capturing the natural world. Programs include:

Botanical Art: Watercolor I
Fri., Jan. 20 and 27, Feb. 3 and 10, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Watercolor is the traditional medium used in creating botanical art. This program taught by Kelly Sverduk will focus on introducing basic watercolor techniques and color mixing using a limited palette. Class exercises and projects will provide participants with a fundamental understanding and mastery of those techniques.

Botanical Art: Watercolor II
Fri., March 3, 10, 17 and 24, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Kelly Sverduk will walk students through the process of completing a botanical painting using the techniques introduced in previous classes. Students will prepare a graphite study and then transform the drawing into a watercolor painting. Emphasis will be placed on composition, color mixing and watercolor.

Advanced Graphite
Fri., April 14, 21 and 28, 9:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Join Lee D’Zmura to improve your drawing skills. Working with your choice of subject, you’ll compete a botanical piece in pencil. Each class with include new techniques and individual critiques.

Advanced Painting Workshop: Paw Paw Flower
Fri., May 19 and 26, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Paint a branch and bloom from one of the Arboretum’s paw paw trees in this workshop taught by Kelly Sverduk. Instruction will focus on drawing, watercolor work and detail work of flower and leaves.

Butterflies and Insects Workshop
Fri., Sept. 8, 9:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
This program taught by Lee D’Zmura introduces the techniques used to document a preserved butterfly or insect specimen. Each participant will receive an insect, draft a detailed drawing of that insect and complete the colored pencil study on Mylar film.

Paw Paw Fruit Workshop
Fri., Sept. 29, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Discover and paint a native fruit found on the Arboretum grounds. Join Kelly Sverduk to create a small botanical watercolor painting of this interesting and little-known fruit.

Advanced Painting Workshop: Host Plant
Fri. and Sat, Oct. 6 and 7, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
This course taught by Kelly Sverduk will focus on the relationship between native pollinators and their host plants. Participants will create detailed drawings of their chosen subjects and then bring those drawings to life in watercolor.

D’Zmura is an award-winning botanical artist whose experience as a landscape architect enriches her watercolors. She received her certificate in botanical art from the Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration. Her work is in collections throughout the country. She maintains a studio in St. Michaels, where she draws inspiration from her neighbors’ gardens and from the Eastern Shore’s native wildflowers.

Sverduk specializes in watercolor and is passionate about making and teaching art. With a background in both art and natural sciences, she finds the field of botanical illustration to be a perfect combination of her interests. She holds a BA in studio art from Messiah College and a certificate in botanical art form the Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration. She lives with her family in Greenwood, Del.

Program fees vary, and advance registration is required. Register at adkinsarboretum.org or call 410.634.2847, ext. 0.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Ruth Rogers Clausen to Speak on “Successful Gardening in Deer Country”

ruth-rogersThe Talbot County Garden Club welcomes local author Ruth Rogers Clausen to speak at the Easton Library on January 24, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. Ruth will speak on “Successful Gardening in Deer Country”. The event is free and open to the public.

Local author Ruth Rogers Clausen, 50 Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants, will share how choosing plants carefully can help ward off the hungry deer in your garden. Although deer are known to be finicky eaters, a healthy adult buck or doe needs to consume 5-10 pounds of food (4,000-6,000 calories per day). Although this may not sound like a lot, think of how many tender new shoots, twigs and leaves it takes to satisfy a deer daily and since deer often browse in groups of 2-7, that’s a lot of ornamental garden plants and shrubs!  Nothing’s foolproof, but Ruth will share how choosing plants carefully can help ward off the hungry deer in your garden.

Ruth has been described by the author of the Womanswork blog as one of the most experienced horticulturalist she knows. Ruth grew up in Wales and studies horticulture at Studley College in England. She has made many notable contributions to her profession as an author, an editor of gardening magazines and a lecturer, advisor and judge for botanical gardens and flower shows across the country and around the world.  Ruth writes for the Womanswork blog and newsletter (www.womanswork.com) and now gardens here in Easton where she grows an eclectic range of plants.  Ruth has written many books, most recently Essential Perennials (co-authored with Thomas Christopher) and 50 Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants which will be available for purchase at the program.

About the Talbot County Garden Club

The Talbot County Garden Club was established in 1917 to enrich the natural beauty of the environment by sharing knowledge of gardening, fostering the art of flower arranging, maintaining civic projects, supporting projects that benefit Talbot County and encouraging the conservation of natural resources.  Noteworthy projects include maintaining the grounds of the Talbot Historical Society, Talbot Courthouse, Talbot Library, the Children’s Garden and Fountain Garden at Idlewild Park and numerous other gardens and activities.  There are currently a total of 101 active, associate and honorary members.

Food Friday: Extra Cheesy

Yes, I know we should all still be attempting to better ourselves and brighten the corners where we lurk, but we are about to get some snow, and I am switching into feral animal mode. I want to be warm and cosy, and not venture out into the cold. The last thing we need is a trip to the grocery store on slippery roads, when we could be curled up with our new Christmas books, or binge watching The Crown. We need lots of hot, gooey, creamy cheese.

Mr. Friday and I do not normally believe in kismet, because, for one thing, why haven’t we won the lottery by now? And we don’t venture far from home often, but after Christmas we took a little road trip to Raleigh, North Carolina. We probably should have been following in the footsteps of the great eater and food writer Calvin Trillin, tracking down some obscure, yet magical, backwoods barbecue, known only to the discerning and deserving. Instead we stumbled into one of Ashley Christensen’s restaurants, and were converted.

We had just read a recipe in The Wall Street Journal for the Macaroni au Gratin which Christensen prepares in her restaurant Poole’s Diner in Raleigh. Sadly, Poole’s Diner isn’t open at lunch, when we were hungrily roaming the downtown streets. We found Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, another of Christensen’s food emporia, and managed to grab a couple of stools at the crowded bar. We then devoured some fantastic fried chicken. Mr. Friday ate a quarter of a fried chicken, with a side of creamed collard greens, and I had a fried chicken biscuit, drizzled with honey and mustard, and topped with slices of pickled tomato. And since I was not driving, I managed to enjoy a rather tasty IPA. The bartender was charming. The hand lettering on the chalkboard menu was stylish. The crowd was neatly hip. The tattoos were multitudinous. And we fit in. Kismet.

Later this summer Food Friday will attempt one of the Poole’s Diner Cookbook’s fried chicken recipes. Right now we are concerned with winter comforts. We made the Macaroni au Gratin last weekend for a main dinner dish, and had the leftovers for a side dish Tuesday night. Yumsters, both times. And with a winter storm approaching, I am going to stock up.

I think the key to this dish is the cream. When I first learned how to cook macaroni and cheese in junior high school (when I wore an embarrassingly un-hip, rick-racked apron that I had sewn in Home Ec the previous year) we started macaroni and cheese off with a Bechamel sauce. Nonsense. Lumpy, flour-y, anything but indulgent creamy goodness. Go for the gusto – go for the cream. And be sure to use the best cheese you can find. I had to look up the Grana Padano called for in the recipe, and wound up using a nicely aged, hard Parmigiano-Reggiano. (I shudder now to think of all the chemical-laden boxes of Velveeta Mac & Cheese I served to the Tall One and the Pouting Princess every Monday night for their entire childhoods…)

Thrill factor: There are an enjoyable couple of moments when the macaroni au gratin is positioned briefly under the broiler. Fire! Melting cheese! Danger! Browning cheese! Sizzle! Hiss! Such is our level of enjoyment that you can see why we think it is practically a wizarding triumph for us to walk through the doors of a restaurant recently mentioned in The Wall Street Journal. I think after the snow this weekend we will have to get out more.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/ashley-christensens-recipe-for-macaroni-au-gratin-1482418450

We bought a copy of the Poole’s Diner Cookbook, and you should, too. It will keep you from going off the rails with nonsensical New Year’s resolutions.

It probably goes to show that kismet really isn’t about having any degree of cool, but being hungry in the right place and time. And if you find yourself in Raleigh, visit any of the Christensen restaurants, and I am sure you will fulfill your own personal destiny: Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s, Bridge Club, Chuck’s, Death & Taxes, Fox Liquor Bar, and Joule Coffee & Table.

Here are some other recipes from the New York Times for mac and cheese, but I think you should give the Christensen recipe a try. After all, they go through 10,000 pounds of cheese a year – they know what they are talking about. And she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2014.

http://gardenandgun.com/article/poole%E2%80%99s-diner-mac-and-cheese-recipe

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
-Neil Gaiman

Talbot County Garden Club’s ‘Putting on the Glitz’

The Talbot County Garden Club has started planning for its biennial spring symposium, scheduled for April 18, 2017.  The all day affair titled Putting on the Glitz features three guest speakers, lunch, vendor/suppliers and a chance to connect with gardeners around the region.

garden-clubPhoto: TCGC Symposium Planning Committee from left to right: Ann Ashby, Pat Lewers, Nancy Thompson, Kim Eckert, Dede Hoopes, Sue Carney, Nancy Hickey, Rita Osgood, Martha Horner, Maxine Millar, Pam Keeton,Mary Louise Maechling, Chloe Pitard (photo by Marsie Hawkinson) Not shown: Fran Bergere, Bobbie Brittingham, Rebecca Gaffney, Shirley Gooch, Christie Hamilton, Carol Harrison, Caroline Benson, Laura Carney, Lauren Little, Marsie Hawkinson, Anastasia Wrightson

Featured speakers this year are:

Bettie Bearden Pardee, lecturer, garden connoisseur, former magazine editor and television host/producer and author of “Living Newport”;

Paige R. Canfield, owner/designer of Sumner B. Designs presenting”Entertaining with Flowers”; and

Chris H. Olsen, nationally recognized Master Designer presenting “From Drab to Fab”.

All three speakers bring together the elements of style, design and entertaining into a full day affair Putting on the Glitz.

The planning committee is chaired by Kim Eckert.   Information related to ticket pricing and purchasing will be made available in early 2017.   Mark your calendars! 

About the Talbot County Garden Club

The Talbot County Garden Club was established in 1917 to enrich the natural beauty of the environment by sharing knowledge of gardening, fostering the art of flower arranging, maintaining civic projects, supporting projects that benefit Talbot County and encouraging the conservation of natural resources.  Noteworthy projects include maintaining the grounds of the Talbot Historical Society, Talbot Courthouse, Talbot Library, the fountain and childrens’ gardens at Idlewild Park and numerous other gardens and activities.  There are currently a total of 101 active, associate and honorary members.

Food Friday: Foolproof for the Holidays!

Are you ready for the weekend? Hanukkah, Christmas, parties, church, temple, relatives, nosy neighbors. They are all banding together to cause a seismic event that we haven’t seen for, oh, almost a year. Don’t take the easy route and guzzle the cheap white wine; I can assure you that you will regret that decision. Instead, plan ahead and arrive with armfuls of the simplest of treats. Just don’t tell anyone how easy they were to prepare. You are sworn to the Spy’s Test Kitchen’s Oath. Peace on earth, good food for all.

‘Tis the season! The famous test kitchens at Spy World Headquarters have been a veritable beehive of activity this week. There was a flash mob of publishers, editors and artists flinging flour, dropping cookie sheets, confusing baking soda with baking powder all in the name of research. We have been debating Christmas cookies and holiday treats of every variety – particularly those that we remember from childhood. We’ve gone through quite few glasses of milk testing these recipes, because we want to be sure you have only the very best to leave out for Santa this year. Don’t forget the carrots for the reindeer! Organic, please.

I am trying to simplify this year, as I say at the beginning of each Christmas season, and very shortly thereafter we are generally wading through my complications. My usual baking assistants have flown the coop, and editors and publishers are a mercurial lot. And writers? They just want to taste the results and protect their sources. After the initial taste testing, all of the support staff evaporated! I did not have any extra hands to set up an assembly line mixing dough, rolling the dough, cutting cookies, baking, cooling and decorating enough cookies for general distribution. The thought of doing it alone was just exhausting! So in the end, this year we will bake luscious bars, which are generally simple, satisfying and completely sinful. Even the cranky research chief will like these.

I always do fudge for the neighborhood, which I love it because it tastes deceptively dense and complicated, as if I had stood for hours over my warm Aga, with a fistful of exotic free-market cocoa beans, brandishing my trusty candy thermometer. I am sorry to disappoint, but this is the easiest recipe I know that requires more than peanut butter, a knife and a couple of slices of bread.

Foolproof Fudge
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (DO NOT USE EVAPORATED MILK!!!)
Dash of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Line 9” x 9” pan with parchment paper

Melt the chocolate chips with the sweetened condensed milk and salt in heavy
saucepan. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Spread evenly in the pan.
Walk away. You can chill it for a couple of hours – I do not suggest cutting it until it is
quite cool and firm. Last year I jazzed it up with some rum-infused vanilla, and
our true blue letter carrier, Ron, mentioned especially how much he had enjoyed
this year’s batch. So you can probably experiment a little bit with other liqueur
flavors.

Millionaire’s Shortbread
Our friends at food52 have a recipe for Millionaire’s Shortbread which sounds divine. Mr. Friday and the Tall One spent some time gamboling around the hiking trails of Scotland, and developed a predilection for genuine Scottish shortbread. Wait until they try some home-baked, with generous lashings of chocolate and caramel.

http://food52.com/recipes/6932_millionnaires_shortbread

Secret Family Recipe Brownies

My mother never used cake mixes; they offended her New England sensibilities. She would never have considered Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, although I can assure you, it is a very fine product; many a box has migrated through our kitchen. When I was growing up my mother baked brownies made from scratch, and they were equally delish. These were from my grandmother’s secret family recipe, written down on a faded and thumb-printed index card. It was a family treasure, kept in a little wooden box in the pantry. A secret family recipe? Ha! Like most family secrets this was life-altering in its cunning and simple deceit – our Secret Family Recipe was pretty much word for word the recipe on the back of the Baker’s Secret Chocolate box! Except that we left out the nuts.

Helen Foley’s Secret Family Brownie Recipe
4 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
Heat oven to 350°F.
Line a 9” x 9 pan with parchment paper.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudge-y crumbs. (Do not over bake.) Cool completely.
http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/bakers-one-bowl-brownies-54515.aspx

Happy Holidays!

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Food Friday: Bubbly Self Care

We are in the midst of the annual holiday frenzy. There was an ad in my print paper this morning advising potential advertisers that the newspaper office will be closing at 4:30 on Friday afternoon so all those wacky journalists could attend the company holiday party. At 4:30. Wowsers.

I don’t have high stakes holiday office parties like that. Before opening the Spy’s much lauded Test Kitchen, one of my office parties consisted of inviting a friend over to have a beer and watch Leslie Warren’s Cinderella on our new fangled VCR. This year I am going all out and practising a new buzz word – I am going to self care. This Friday I am going to kick back and pop open a bottle of bubbly and watch the original Upstairs, Downstairs for a couple of episodes. There is nothing that makes me feel like a grubby, indulgent, middle-class American faster than Upstairs, Downstairs.

Prosecco or Champagne? It’s a personal choice. I am hugely impressed by a stately bottle of Veuve Cliquot, and would probably serve it to Mr. Hudson, the butler from Upstairs, Downstairs, if he ever came to call. But I find a pretty orange label on a bottle of Mionetto just as appealing. Lady Marjorie, also from 165 Eaton Place, would never comment on the lower price point. She would be pleased just to loosen her corset stays and have a second glass. Relief is on its way! And then Lady Marjorie will tell me to relax, and to enjoy myself a little bit. “You never know when disaster will strike,” she confides. (Lady Marjorie went down on Titanic, so she has some experience with life changing moments.) Mr. Hudson would tell me to pull up my bootstraps.

The Christmas cookies will be baked next week. In the meantime, it is Friday night, and it has been a long week. It’s time to take care of ourselves for once. This is an unusual undertaking that could be shared with a couple of discreet elves. Instead pouring a glass of my usual cheap winter Malbec, I thought I should test some seasonal cocktail recipes to get into the holiday spirit. These are crowd pleasers, but they require a little planning.

French 75s

“Hits with remarkable precision.”
Harry Craddock, The Savoy Cocktail Book

2 ounces gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1 spoonful extra fine sugar
Champagne

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar in a cocktail shaker filled with cracked ice until chilled and well-mixed and then pour into tall glass containing cracked ice and fill up the glass with Champagne. This clever cocktail was said to have been devised during WWI, the kick from the alcohol combo being described as powerful as the French 75mm howitzer gun.

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”
–Winston Churchill

Champagne Cocktail

In a Champagne glass add a teaspoon of sugar and enough Angostura bitters to melt the sugar. Add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier or cognac and mix in with the sugar, bitters mix. Add a “fine” quality Champagne and stir. Float a slice of thin orange on top. This is what Ilsa and Victor Laszlo sipped in Casablanca.

“A cause may be inconvenient, but it’s magnificent. It’s like Champagne or high heels, and one must be prepared to suffer for it.”
-Arnold Bennett

As always, our festive friends at Food52 have some delightful ideas for nibbles to help soak up some of the bubbly we are sure to be drinking on Christmas. http://www.food52.com/blog/2807

On a recent trip to food-forward-thinking-Charleston, friends ordered Aperol and Prosecco cocktails, because they are oh, so trendy. I did not realize that this is the most popular cocktail in Italy. And now it can be one of yours, too!

Aperol and Prosecco

3 parts chilled, dry Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 splash soda
Serve with on the rocks in wine glass or rocks glass
Garnish with a slice of orange (this makes it practically health food!)

http://www.eater.com/2014/10/21/7020183/the-story-of-the-aperol-spritz-a-classic-italian-cocktail

This is very pretty, and so seasonal: pomegranate mimosas. Yumsters. http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a46968/pomegranate-mimosas-recipe/

And the best of both worlds: a Black Velvet! Champagne and Guinness.This drink is simply equal parts stout and sparkling wine, and to be honest, there are some who will never understand its appeal. But to fans, this is a perfect special-occasion drink, particularly suited to mornings and late afternoons. I had my first on a chilly night in London. Divine.

Black Velvet

4 ounces (1/2 cup) chilled Champagne or Prosecco
4 ounces (1/2 cup) chilled Guinness Extra Stout
Pour the Champagne into a tall glass. We first had ours served in heavy pewter tankards, but at home we eschew the delicate flutes for a sturdy rocks glass. This is not an effete drink. It is robust, and fills your hand with determination. Be sure to pour the Guinness on top. (This is important: Guinness is heavier. If you pour the sparkling wine second, it won’t combine evenly, and will need to be stirred. I shudder at the thought!)

Enjoy yourself this weekend. Loosen the corset strings. And let the games begin, again, on Monday.

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

The Talbot County Garden Club Spreads Holiday Cheer throughout Easton

On December 6th, 2016, members of The Talbot County Garden Club and their guests joined together at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department to make wreaths and garland for locations around Easton. This has been a holiday tradition of the Talbot County Garden Club for over 30 years.

wreath-2

Members of the Talbot County Garden Club designing arrangements for Meals on Wheels (Photo Credit Patricia Reynolds)

In addition to the wreaths, the club members and their guests joined together to design holiday inspired table arrangements for Meals on Wheels. The Meals on Wheels project has blossomed over the years, to now 85 festive arrangements to brighten the holidays for their recipients.   This has become a very important addition to the wreath making activity and all the members look forward to contributing to the effort.

The wreaths and garland are located around town the Talbot County Courthouse, Easton Utilities, Talbot Bank, The Talbot County Free Library and the Easton Volunteer Fire Department.

About the Talbot County Garden Club

The Talbot County Garden Club was established in 1917 to enrich the natural beauty of the environment by sharing knowledge of gardening, fostering the art of flower arranging, maintaining civic projects, supporting projects that benefit Talbot County and encouraging the conservation of natural resources.  Noteworthy projects include maintaining the grounds of the Talbot Historical Society, Talbot Courthouse, Talbot Library, the Children’s Garden and Fountain Garden at Idlewild Park and numerous other gardens and activities.  There are currently a total of 101 active, associate and honorary members.

Food Friday: Office Party Strategies

The holiday office party can be an ordeal. Or it can be a balm to your relationships with people you spend too many hours a day. Don’t you want to be the fun one? Don’t you want to sail home at the end of the day with your empty platter, smug and satisfied that your dish was Hoovered up by all and sundry, and not left to languish like the kale salad, or the tofu meatballs made with grape jelly? And it is much better to be the one who made a creative effort to please, instead of the loser who stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for donut holes because you forgot the day of the potluck. Shame. Shame. Shame.

You need to stratgize. The Seven Layer Dip is a party standard. And though it is a party staple, it gets ugly. Fast. And then there it’s boring presentation, everything glooped into a big bowl, which might work at a family barbecue, but is never going to survive the onslaught of the hungry guys from IT. Presentation, at least for the first few minutes, is an important consideration.

Consider the individual cup o’Seven Layer Dip. Petite. Colorful. So appealing! I would also suggest using either an assembly line (it’s time to rope those children into helping you!) or put each layer of ingredient in a piping bag, and make each cup beautiful. Remember, you want to be the cool kid. It will be worth it. Honest. VP Sherri will surely recognize your doggedness, now. And your creativity. And your joie de vivre!

Strategy A:here is your basic boring unimaginative, uninspired, might-as-well-just-buy-it-ready-made-from-the-grocery-store version. http://www.mccormick.com/recipes/appetizer/7-layer-fiesta-dip

Strategy B: and this is the magically delicious and oh-so-cute version: http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/2011/12/individual-seven-layer-dips.html If you have any germaphobes in your office (and don’t we all?) this is the way to go. No double-dipping. No excessive food handling by others! And the tiny cups are adorable. Be sure to have some extra chips on hand, because you know people will want to keep coming back to your marvelous party dish.

Strategy C: The same little serving cups can be used for all sorts of tastiness. Chex Mix! Brownies! Stuffed tomatoes! Parmesan spinach balls! White bean dip! Bite-sized Caprese appetizers!

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/pws_chex_party_mix/
I did this version of the Pioneer Woman’s Chex Mix for Thanksgiving. Using the fresh garlic and the hot sauce gave it a nice kick, which we really needed to sustain us as we set about preparing the enormous (and labor-intensive) Thanksgiving feast. You might think about the possibility that people will want to squirrel away a little stash to get them through that long, draggy, low-energy part of the afternoon.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/cherry-tomatoes-stuffed-with-chicken-apple-salad-recipe.html

http://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/entertaining/easy-party-food-ideas-that-won-t-break-the-bank-pictures

http://www.marthastewart.com/274717/easiest-party-foods#165899

http://ourbestbites.com/2013/07/bite-sized-caprese-appetizers/

Here are links to find the little cups:
basic: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Diamond-Multi-Purpose-Mini-Cups-With-Lids-2-oz-50ct/17056809
fancier: https://www.amazon.com/Appetizer-Catering-Supplies-Disposable-Shooters/dp/B01EQDTRFK/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&qid=1481226164&sr=8-18-spons&keywords=mini+plastic+serving+cups&psc=1
Little red Solo cups – probably not work appropriate: https://www.amazon.com/ALAZCO-Glasses-2-Ounce-Holiday-Tailgate/dp/B0152KLRU4/ref=sr_1_26?ie=UTF8&qid=1481226263&sr=8-26&keywords=mini+plastic+serving+cups

“Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused— in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened— by the recurrence of Christmas.”
― Charles Dickens

Toasting Julia Child’s Brownies in St. Michaels December 1

Pamela Heyne will give a slide talk Dec. 1 at 5:30 at the Saint Michaels Library. The talk will revolve around her new book, In Julia’s Kitchen, Practical and Convivial Kitchen Design Inspired by Julia Child. Books will be available for purchase after the talk (and sold by the News Center). Since Julia Child emphasized the joy of sharing the wonderful food she prepared, Pamela feels we need to replicate some of that fun with wine and Julia Child’s recipe brownies.

Pamela, the only architect who ever interviewed Julia, will show how meaningful Julia Child’s ideas are today, from the standpoint of design as well as physical health and emotional well being. Some recent local designs are in the book, such as the Cottingham Farm kitchen and gallery.

Last month Pamela had a launch of the book in the Boston area at the Harvard Book Store and other venues. She writes a column for the Talbot Spy, “Design for You,” and has a studio in Saint Michaels, Heyne Design.