Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Past

My great grandmother made all our stockings in my family.  It's something very special from Christmas past.  They all have their special spot at my mom's and dad's either on the mantel or staircase.  My sister Ashley has fun mixing things up each year when decorating, and we all enjoy how she makes it look.  I just spoke with my grandmother "Grandmama" over the phone last night - we laughed about times past and thought about the future.  She's 98, and we know statistically she doesn't have much time with us.  We discussed how we cherish the moments and times past.  I'm glad I have these special pieces like the stockings - the gifts of love - the stuff that's priceless.  I look forward to seeing my Grandmama soon, and having a nice cup of English tea together.  I'm cherishing the moments past and looking forward to the future as I say goodbye to this year and hello to the new one.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Veloute Sauce

Veloute meaning Velvety in French is another roux-based sauce but this time made with stock.  The roux is cooked until golden, then stock is added and the sauce is simmered until reduced.  Egg yolks or cream are stirred in to further enrich the veloute.  It is often served with chicken dishes.

Put the stock in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan and stir in the flour.  Cook over low heat for 2 – 3 minuets, or until golden.  Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the hot stock until combined.  Return the pan to the heat and bring to boil, beating constantly until the sauce thickens.  Simmer gently for at least 20 minutes, skimming the surface from time to time.  When the sauce is glossy, stir in the cream and warm through without letting it come to a boil.  Serve.

We have done this without the cream and added red pepper flakes and served over steak – very yum.

Basic Tips On Basic Food

I was asked for some basic tips on how to cook basic items and tips on how to pick the right produce in the store so I thought I'd share the information on my blog for whatever it's worth.  Just my thoughts.

Corn – boil water then put your corn on the cob that you’ve cleaned (shucked) in the boiling water – turn burner off and cover for 20 mins then they are ready to serve.  If you do sweet corn shuck the corn then cut it off the cob and put it in a wok pan – lets say you have five ears of corn then use 3/4 a cup to a cup of water and 2 tablespoons of butter.  Cook for about 25 mins. Covering and stirring often 5 min intervals – keep an eye on it.  

Green beans – put in a double “steamer” boiler after you cut/snip the ends off and after your water boils – turn burner off and cover will cook in about five minuets.  Add salt and butter or salt and olive oil and serve.  You can roast in the oven or do a coarse grain mustard on the stove top – just did this the other night - or do a seasame sauce - lots of options

Mashed potatoes – Boil water in a large pot with washed potatoes in it cut in quarters or as is if fingerling cook about 20 – 30 mins check them when your fork goes in easy and they look soft they are done – drain and mash or use your hand held mixer.  Put milk (about a 1/4 a cup) in and sour cream and butter to taste a couple big spoonfuls of sour cream and 2 tablespoons to half a stick of butter.  Add salt and pepper to taste and blue cheese/gorgonzola if you want or cheddar and bacon bits and chives – have fun with it – I leave peeling on just make sure to wash really well.

Baked potatoes –  wash, coat with butter or oil, salt if you like, can wrap in foil and cook for an hour 350.

Beans (any) - usually only do green beans.  The internet is a great resource though.

Gravy – haven’t made gravy – lots of sauces and roux variations though (see below) – Sauces book is a great reference

Tricks you know about buying produce - what to look for:

Oranges – I like them to be orange, firm, and heavy which means they are juicy

Apples – I like golden delicious and I like them to be firm and look golden and fresh in color

Avocados – soft to the touch is ripe - where it indents a little but goes back when you push ready to use right away.   You don’t want too soft or they may be brown like the ones on sale usually not so good.

Tomatoes – firm and vibrant color will be good for the week – for use right away get a little soft but too soft/mushy will be mealy

Pecans- my grandmother says look for the lighter colored ones as it's a sign they are fresh

Potatoes – usually these are fine – check the packages though b/c they could have stuff growing on them and be smelly and old.  Yukon gold or fingerling so yum!  My Nonnie says russet best for fries and I say red/new best for rosemary cut up in the oven with olive oil. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

All That Christmas Jazz

Christmas parties and the city - FUN!

Union League Club holiday party for Pomfret alumni...

 Rockefeller Center In The Snow...

 At my friend Katie's.....

Christmas Candies - YUM!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Snow Dusting and Grandpa's

Today we woke up to a light snow dusting - this was our view....

And as quickly as it came it was gone.

We spent the day at Grandpa Duffy's with family.  We watched old video's and I could see traits my Jim has from his grandfather John Duffy.  I've had the pleasure of getting to know this special, sweet, intelligent, loving man over the years and these last few months.  What a handsome man he is inside and out.  What a blessing loved ones our to our lives and how fast the wonderful moments go.  Grandpa Duffy won't be with us much longer.  We are thankful for all the good times, and hope all our love carries him during this time.  It's important to cherish those we love in the season
we have them for in the grand scheme life is like the snow gone as quickly as it appears.

We love you Grandpa.

Holiday Drinks

Red Carpet Cocktails By Gina:

  • 1 1/2 cups vodka, chilled
  • 1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice, chilled
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 bottle Champagne or other sparkling white wine
  • Chilled maraschino cherries, for garnish
Add 1 1/2 ounces of the vodka to each champagne flute. Top with 1 1/2 ounces of the pomegranate juice and 1 tablespoon of the lime juice. Add the Champagne or sparkling wine and a cherry to each flute for a sweet garnish.

Michael's Hot Holiday Options (listed below Mulled Red Wine):

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 handful juniper berries
  • 1 handful allspice berries
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • Magnum of zinfandel (or 2 standard bottles of zinfandel)
  • 1 cup sugar in the raw
  • Peel from 1/2 an orange
Combine cinnamon, juniper, allspice and nutmeg in a cheesecloth bag and drop in a saucepan with a quarter of the wine. Add the sugar and orange peel. Simmer to blend flavors, about 6 minutes. Once heated, add the remaining wine and return to a simmer. Remove spice bag and orange peel and serve.

If transporting in a thermos, heat thermos up with hot water to get it warm for 1 minute. Pour water out and fill with mulled wine.

Michael Chiarello is a chef that has a show on the food network and a restaurant in Napa Valley.  When we are in Napa his restaurant is one we like to visit.  A snow storm prevented me and my mom from making our scheduled trip this last time and when Chef Michael came to Jim and my dad's table he let him know he was sad I was not with him.   Chef Chiarello decided to send Jim home with a little something for me.  I'm looking forward to the next time Chef Michael can cook for me!  You should let him cook for you if ever in Napa! And be sure to check out his Napa Style.

Food Inc.

FOOD, Inc.

An important movie to watch.  It's the little steps by many that can make a difference.  Let's get hungry for change and make a difference together. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

NY Licensed

Today Jim and I drove to Albany, NY where he was interviewed and sworn into the NY Bar.  We crossed through a snow storm in the Berkshire Mountains.  It felt like winter and I enjoyed the views.  From Arkansas to DC to Florida to Connecticut to the Supreme Court to NY Jim is licensed.  I'm proud of him and all those who work hard to achieve something they aspire to attain.  May all those who took the oath today serve the public to the best of their ability.  I enjoyed all those I met and the new friends made.  Congratulations to all of them!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Good Housekeeping Tips For Your Kitchen

I enjoyed this clip this morning and not only is it giving us great tips, but it's one of my friends Aunt's that was giving the important information on steps to keeping your kitchen clean.

Children's Places and Things

The ultimate toy place for kids being the original FAO on 5th NYC - the scene in Big has become iconic.  Then there is the whole American Girl experience.  I love being near one of their locations and watching the girls and their moms go in and out with their excited faces and new dolls.  The fun things out for kids amaze me - their clothes are so cute and their stuff so neat.  What will they think of next.  Modern Twist has these kidz place mats I recently came across that are too cute!  Then there is always the monogramming and smocking, sewing stuff.

Ah, yes, the designer baby - love the Burberry look.  Little Suri models it well.  The Madame Alexander dolls are sweet.  Jacadi french selections are magnifique.  And of course their back packs, lunch bags, and lunch skinsBella Tunno has many celeb fans, and mom's must have their bags and strollers.  From designer bags to fun bags to expensive bags to the strollers of the stars to the blankies.  It's nice I get to jump into this kid/mom world with my friends.  What a world of wonder it is indeed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Keeping It Local

I try to shop local wherever I'm at - especially in this economy. Being the season of shopping and gift giving.  Here are a few things on my list of keeping it local when shopping in my hometown....

Phillip Long Jewlers -
located in the Duncan Firm building off of Shackleford. This family jewlery store that's been serving Arkansas for 65 years. They have a variety of pieces, stones, and can special order.

Roberson's - Pleasant Ridge Town Center -
Designs by Neely Phelan - sold local at:
Glow Limited & Box Turtle
Robinson Lane Jewlerys -

Glo Limited
Bella Boutique in the Heights
Cobblestone & Vine

Clothes - Women and Kids:
Tulips In The Heights
Companions -
Barbara Jean
B Barnett
Beyond Cotton


Clothes - Men:

Cupcakes on Kavanaugh

Terri Lynn's
Boulevard Bread 
Trio's - Chicken Milano

Cabbage Rose
Tipton Hurst


Comfort Food Time Of Year

Shepherd's Pie needs to be on the menu.  Simple, inexpensive, and delicious!


  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1.2 pounds ground beef/round
  • 1.2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce  
  • 1/2 cup beef stock or chicken stock
  • 1 small package of frozen baby peas (didn’t have those last week when we made this)
  • 1 small package of frozen corn
  • Cheesy Mashed Potatoes, recipe follows
Preheat oven at 400 degrees F.

Add butter and oil to a pasta pot on medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic until tender for about 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and whatever spices you’d like – add some heat if you’d like. Once the vegetables have softened and start to brown a little add the tomato paste and mix evenly. Add the ground beef and cook until beef is no longer pink about 10 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and beef stock. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook and simmer  for another 10 minutes. Mix in peas and corn. Place potato on top of ground beef mixture in your pasta pan or cast iron pot and spread out evenly, once the top surface has been covered, rake through with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. Place the dish into the preheated oven and cook until browned about 20 minutes. Spoon out the shepherd's pie.

 Mashed Potatoes

  • Mashed Potatoes
  • 4 pounds potatoes quartered
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 cup grated mature white Cheddar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fill a large saucepan  with cold water and a tablespoon of salt. Add potatoes to the water and bring to a boil . Let potatoes cook until soft about 20 minutes. Once the potatoes are at a desired density, drain the potatoes and place them back into the saucepan for mashing. Add butter and cream or sour cream and begin to mash potatoes into a semi smooth consistency. Once at desired texture add cheese  and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Favorite Things...

Holiday's are a time of reflecting on your favorite things.  One of my favorite foods is cheese dip aka chili con queso, and it's association with family, friends, and fun!  Back when I was a kid my sisters and friends loved making cheese dip together.  It was a must at every sleepover.  Those midnight batches were always the best and still done with my sisters on holidays or when we are all together.  Sometimes now I feel a little guilty for such indulging but not enough to keep me from it.  Those quick batches were basic and best and always served with a dr. pepper.  

1.) Take a small block of velvetta and cut in into cubes
2.) Pour into a sauce pan and mix it with a can of rotel (i can for every small block)
3.) Heat over the stove low heat stirring often or medium/high stirring constant.

I prefer the stove to the microwave for this recipe.  One of my aunts always adds milk and I love her touch to this dish.  Another aunt would mix in a can of cream of mushroom soup that would cream things up.  My grandfather, oh, his is by far all of us kids favorite.  He'd even send some to me in my lunch at school for me to share.  Megan, Ashley, and I have tried to re-create we do our best but there is something about his touch.  He takes the basic and adds about 1tbs: cilantro, 1 tsp.: cumin, 1/2 tsp.: garlic salt, and chili powder he does it to taste and it's just the right amount.  And there are several recipes up his sleeve for each of us grandkids and all our taste preferences. 

Cabot has a couple of great recipes I'd like to try (how I love Cabot cheese):
Chili Con Queso
Monterey Jack Chili Con Queso

There are several variations you can do with similar results it's hard to mess this dish up.

Here is one I've thought I'd should try......
Saute half a purple onion and 1 garlic clove with a tbs. of butter on med/low heat for a minute
Whisk in 2 tbs. of flour for a minute
Whisk in 1/2 cup of milk for a minute
Mix in 1/2 block of shredded cheddar and 1/2 block of velvetta or all cheddar or all velvetta or 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 montery jack
1 can of rotel or fresh tomatoes
1 jalapeno (optional)
2 tbs cilantro and more for serving

Serve with chips and a Dr. Pepper of course!

Oh and one more I saw on Cooking Channel, a French take on Cheese Dip....



  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced in half
  • 1 pound Abondance cheese, rind remove, cut into small cubes
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Few drops Madeira wine
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh baguette, for serving, optional
  • Assorted charcuterie, for serving, optional


Special equipment: 4 small ramekinsPreheat the broiler to low heat.
Rub the inside of each ramekin with garlic, and then fill the ramekins halfway with the cheese. Add 1 tablespoon of the white wine and a drop of Madeira to each ramekin. Sprinkle with pepper. Place the ramekins on the top shelf of the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and the tops are golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve with a fresh baguette and some charcuterie, if desired.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Movies

Movies To Enjoy During The Holidays:
White Christmas
The Holiday
Miracle on 34th street (classic version)
The Family Man
Bridget Jones
Little Women (both classic and new versions)
Love Actually
Christmas in CT (classic version)
Holiday Inn
Just Friends
Meet Me In St. Louis
Bed Of Roses
Marley and Me
Family Stone
Dan In Real Life 
Lady And The Tramp

Turkey Sliders

Turkey Burgers
2 pounds ground turkey 

1/2 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup minced green onion (white and green parts)
1 or 2 serrano chiles, to taste, minced (or thai chili peppers)
2 egg whites, whisked (can use 1)
1 1/2 tablespoons Emeril's Southwest Essence spice blend (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
12 mini burger buns or small soft dinner rolls, warmed
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
12 small lettuce leaves
12 slices tomato
1 cup red onions, thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
Mayonnaise (optional)
Mustard (optional)
Ketchup (optional)

Preheat a grill to medium-high.

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey with the minced red onion, green onion, chile, egg whites, Southwest Essence, cumin, and Worcestershire. Mix gently but thoroughly. Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions, and using your hands, shape them into 12 small burgers, each about 3 1/2 inches wide.  (secret hint: submerge the formed/shaped uncooked sliders into ice water for 10 mins. to hold shape and keep them from sticking on the grill.)

Place the burgers on the grill and cook until the turkey is just done and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 165°F, about 3 minutes per side.

Serve the burgers on the mini buns, topped with the cheese, lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion, and avocado. Garnish with mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup to your liking. 

Yield: 12 sliders, 6 servings

Recipe from "Emeril at the Grill" 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Basil Mustard Pasta


  1. 1 pound penne or medium shells
  2. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 8 hot Italian sausages, meat removed from casings and crumbled (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  4. 3/4 cup dry white wine
  5. 3/4 cup heavy cream
  6. 3 tablespoons grainy mustard
  7. Pinch of crushed red pepper
  8. 1 cup thinly sliced basil


  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sausage meat and brown over moderately high heat, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, mustard and crushed red pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the pasta and basil and toss to coat. Serve at once.  From Food and Wine.