Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Tartan Picnic

A Tartan Picnic

“Ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love
Will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”
                                                                    --Old Scottish song, "Loch Lomand"
My love for all things plaid began when I was a small girl, and my Mississippi grandmother told stories about our Scottish roots. “We’re members of Clan Kennedy,” my Mimi said. “Not to be confused with the Irish Kennedys, though we’ve got the luck of the Irish in our family tree.”
She was right about being lucky, because I married a plaid-loving fellow from Clan Maitland. My sweetheart, Will, needed special permission to wear the Maitland tartan.
Photo Credit:
 Every April 1st, we celebrate Tartan Day with a picnic, and the clipped lawn serves as a backdrop for our beloved wool blankets that we bought many years ago in Edinburgh.
I’ve said enough about plaid. The picnic is ready. Won’t you join us?
Fruit and Cheese
Scottish Scones and Highland Shortbread (recipe below)
A tartan picnic calls for savory and sweet dishes, such as tea sandwiches, Scottish pancakes, smoked salmon, scones and double cream; but our menu is lighter this year (because we're heavier!)
At our house, a picnic can be casual, formal, or smack in between. I think of my yard as an outdoor dining room, and I love to use crystal, porcelain, and cloth napkins.
  I always remember what my Mimi used to say:

"Don’t let a table or picnic be too uppity. 

Mix your china patterns. If things clash, it's a lucky sign."

I inherited Mimi's vintage tomato salt and pepper shakers. 
My semi-Scottish sweetheart contributed a knock-out rose.

Faux ants are always welcome to a picnic,
whether they're on the food screens or the tartan dinner plates.

Even the tulips are doing their best to be tartan-like.

Tartan (tärtn): Noun.
1. Wool fabric with a plaid pattern against a solid background;
2. a garment worn by Scottish clansmen;
3. a sure-fire, smile maker.

A tartan picnic wouldn't be the same without our much-loved picnic basket.

I'm not kidding. We are tartan crazy.

If I find a dish or bowl with plaid, chances are it's going home with me.

Highland Shortbread
Printable Recipe

What You Need:
         1 cup butter, softened
         ½ cup white granulated sugar
         2 cups cake flour
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar till fluffy. Add flour a few tablespoons at a time. Pat dough into a baking dish. Bake 25 minutes or until brown. Cool.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons cream
Organic pansies
Beat ingredients until smooth. Ice cooled shortbread squares. Garnish each square with an edible pansy.

Tips for Outdoor Dining

*Use a plastic tub or basket to organize tableware.

*Transport baskets/tubs in a child’s wagon.

*Make your picnic a special event--don’t be afraid to use china and crystal.

*Dish towels make inexpensive napkins.

*Serve easily transportable food. To prevent spoilage and melty-messes, avoid frozen concoctions.

Happy Tartan Day

from Mlee and Will at...

I'm happy to participate in On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

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A Lemony Afternoon: Two Recipes

I don't know.
Maybe it's my imagination, but it feels like summer has arrived. The light is warm and lemony, glazing the distant mountains like icing on a pound cake. The air is sticky-hot, and it carries the fragrant smell of charcoal and fresh cut grass. To cool off, we enjoyed drinks and appetizers on the lawn.

Romaine-Prosciutto Wraps

serves 4
8 oz prosciutto
18 thin romaine leaves
1 t stone ground mustard
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
lemon wedges
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons rice vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1/2 cup pancetta, fried and crumbled
1/2 bread crumbs
organic pansies
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make a lemon-garlic vinaigrette: whisk lemon juice, rice vinegar, oil, sugar, and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Fry and crumble pancetta and bacon. Set aside. Wash romaine leaves and pat dry. Salt and pepper each leaf, then drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic-lemon vinaigrette. Into each leaf, add bacon, pancetta, and bread crumbs. Wrap each leave with one strip of prosciutto. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, bacon-pancetta, and more bread crumbs. Garnish with lemon wedges, oregano, and organic pansies.
Place leaves on a baking pan. Bake 15 minutes. Drizzle the remainder of the vinaigrette over the wraps. Serve warm.
This appetizer is one of those weird things in the food world--
it looks odd and doesn't photography well, but it tastes ambrosial.
If you like grilled romaine and/or bacony-things, you'll love this recipe.

A cold, slightly tipsy drink is mandatory on a sticky-hot day.

Harder-than-Hard, Incredibly Light Lemonade

serves 1

2 cups sparkling water
3 packets Splenda
crushed ice
2 jiggers vodka
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
lemon slices
Mix water, Splenda, vodka, and lemon juice. Add ice and lemon slices.
Garnish with an edible flower.

Here's a peek at tomorrow's post for Tartan Day.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Foodie Friday

Welcome to the March 30th Foodie Friday.

Interview with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Lori Wilde.
Mlee: Lori, you and I must have been separated at birth. We're registered nurses, novelists, bloggers, foodies, raise chickens, love dogs, and we live on farms. When we talk, our conversations often center around chickens and our canine companions. Can you tell us a little about your dogs and farm life?

Lori: Hi Michael Lee, thank you for inviting me.
I have two dogs. A mini Aussie named Sassy who is Miss Personality and a rescue dog, part aussie and part mystery, named Dakota, who is such a gentle soul. Sassy is a great chicken herder. Dakota, not so much. Dakota has to be put in the kennel when the chickens are out because she behaves more like the mystery side of her heritage instead of the herding dog. The minute Sassy was introduced to the chickens, she knew exactly what to do and started rounding them up as a two month old puppy. The trick was teaching her to leave them alone the rest of the time. Let's just say in the beginning there was a lot of "leave it!" going on. Now, she knows not to put them up until close to dusk or when I tell her to "round 'em" up.


Mlee:  How many books have you written?

Lori: I've written 64 books and just sold 5 more.

Mlee: Your latest novel, The Cowboy Takes a Bride, kicks off a new series that's located in the fictional town of Jubilee, Texas. What sort of place is Jubilee? What inspired you to write about it?

LoriJubilee is a fictionalized version of my hometown of Weatherford, which is the Cutting Horse Capital of the World and the Peach Capital of Texas. Almost everyone in Jubilee owns a pickup truck, usually a dually, for hauling horse trailers. People here live and breathe horses. There's a strong sense of community. People depend on each other to help them out with their ranches and animals. If you throw a rock in any directions you'll hit a cowboy.
Source: HarperCollins/Avon via author
 Mlee: . Tell us a little background about Joe's Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Lori: The story of Joe's tortilla soup started after my sister and I ate the most amazing chicken tortilla soup from The Mansions At Turtle Creek, (which is a chic-chic restaurant located in the part of Dallas now being satirized on the TV show GCB.) We spent months trying to guess what the ingredients were and we finally hit on this soup that comes pretty darn close to the real thing. Because of the peppers in it, it's a great soup to eat when you've got a cold. Warms you up from the inside out. Joe makes it for Mariah when she's got a cold and they're rained in together. Mariah is a terrible cook, but Joe knows his way around the kitchen. He can't always say how he feels,
so he shows his feeling through feeding those he loves.

I made this soup this week, and it was delicious. I'm not familiar with Tex-Mex cooking, and I sent Lori several photos from my iPhone. :-). I almost left out an important step--pureeing the onions and tomatoes. It's an optional step, but I wanted to experience the soup the way Joe and Mariah had experienced it in the book.
When you're sick with a cold, you don't want chunks of onions in your soup. So I rolled up my sleeves and dusted off my Cusinart.
It was worth it.

Joe's Chicken Tortilla Soup 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 corn tortillas, cut into long strips
8 garlic clove peeled
2 cups fresh onion puree
4 cups fresh tomato puree
1 small can green chilies (drained)
2 jalapenos chopped with seeds removed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
salt to taste
lime juice to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
Diced cooked chicken breast
1 avocado
cheddar cheese
tortilla chips

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pain over medium heat. Add tortillas and garlic; saute until tortillas are crisp and garlic is golden. Add onion puree and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to reduce by half. Add tomato puree, chilies, jalapenos, cumin, cilantro, coriander and chicken broth. Bring to boil Lower heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Skim fat from surface if needed. Process through blender or food processor for smooth consistency if desired. If too thick, add more broth. Season to taste with salt, lime juice and cayenne. Top soup with cooked chicken, avocado slices, cheddar cheese and tortilla chips. 

Mlee: What are your top five favorite dishes?

Lori: Top five favorite dishes are:
Fried Chicken
Cheese enchiladas
Steamed pork dumplings
Fried catfish

But alas, I can't eat like that any more. These days my healthier choices:
Spaghetti squash with olive oil and parm cheese
Rosemary chicken with roasted veggies
Fish tacos
Mahi-mahi with mango salsa, grilled asparagus and quinoa
Greek salad dressed with lemon oil and apple balsam

Mlee: Let's play a word game. What is Lori Wild's "Me-ography"? What five words (nouns) define you?

Lori: I love Me-ography. I loved when Teeny plays me-ography in A TEENY BIT OF TROUBLE. My "Me-ography is:
Bluebonnets, books, olives, herding dogs and horned frogs.

Thank you for stopping by Foodie Friday today. If you are contributing a recipe to this week's linky party, locate the blue Inlinkz frog (below, left) and follow the instructions. You might notice a red "X" on your submission--only you can see the "X." It allows you to delete your link if you'd like to edit or change your photo. 
                                  The Foodie Friday Button:

If this is your first time to participate in Foodie Friday, or if you aren't sure how to add a permalink, a short tutorial is available. If you are linking a recipe to Foodie Friday, a FF button can be found on the sidebar. If you'd like to add it, simply copy-and-paste the code beneath the button (located on the right-hand sidebar).

Please Read:
I'm happy for you to "pin" my original photos to Pinterest. However, the photographs in Foodie Friday's thumbnails belong to the bloggers who posted them. To visit these blogs, click on the Foodie Friday inlinkz icons and read their policy on Pinterest. Please pin from the source blog, not the blog that's hosting a linky party. 

Happy Recipe Hunting!

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Purple Season: A Spring Tablescape

In the spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove;
In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
             -- Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892), Locksley Hall. Line 19.

 My mother's favorite color is purple.
As a twenty-something bride, she selected violet-sprigged china. Now, at eighty-four, she wears purple sweaters, shoes, and jewelry--even her reading glasses are pale purple.
I'll bet you can guess her most-loved flower.

She was thrilled when we drove up to Rattlebridge and were greeted by the Tennessee state flower,
the purple iris. I've always stayed indoors to write and cook; but I've inherited a garden, a real garden,
and I've got a lot to learn. In the past, we've had lawns and shrubs, but never a garden.
I'm looking forward to digging in the dirt and planting purple flowers and dreaming purple dreams.

My mother offered this advice:
The Gardener's Rule of thumb. "Weed'em and Reap.”

I was in a purple frame of mind when I set the table for lunch this weekend.

To have complete satisfaction from flowers you must have time to spend with them. There must be rapport. I talk to them and they talk to me.”
            -- The Late Princess Grace of Monaco

Me, I talk to dishes. Yep, I do.

That's why I'm thrilled to be dishing at Cuisine Kathleen's every Wednesday night for her new linky party, "Let's Dish!"

I have long dialogues with napkins and napkin rings.
I talk, and they listen.
Dishes are very, very good listeners.
If you break one, they're, like, "Oopsy-daisy, get the glue pot, girlie!"

I have a feeling that flowers are the same way--quiet and kind and forgiving.

I do not talk to food, but I mutter to myself when I cook. For this spring lunch, I made a tomato-cucumber salad with a garlic vinaigrette.
The printable recipe can be found HERE.

The dishes have itty purple and green flowers.

They're part of Pfaltzgraff's Circle of Kindness--the Dunwalsh collection.
It's based on the book Circle of Kindness,
written by Jana Kolpen and Mary Tiegreen.

After the table was set, we enjoyed the afternoon--birds chirped and the ewes called to their lambs.

I tried to capture the sounds with my iPhone camera. 
It's real faint--you might need to turn up the volume to hear the sheep.

 “It is only when you start to garden--probably after fifty--
that you realize something important happens every day.”
                                              -- Geoffrey B. Charlesworth

“I believe that gardens themselves are very healing.
To be surrounded by the exquisite beauty of nature is to experience a healing of the soul.”
                          -- Author unknown

I'm delighted to participate in Let's Dish at Cuisine Kathleen
and Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch.

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