Monday, December 28, 2015

My latest obsession: Cheddar-Fennel Seed Coins

I think I've found my "go-to" recipe for an appetizer, and I've made it my own! OK, I found the original on Pinterest, but after making it a number of times, I've added something and subtracted something else, and now it is uniquely mine! I also have perfected the rolling out and slicing of the coins, and no one can make them as small and petite as I can! Plus, I don't think I'll ever get tired of the taste! So what if I eat the most of them every time I serve them now? Isn't that THE POINT?? Ha!

Look at these lovely little golden coins of cheesiness -- the picture is making my mouth water! So, without further ado, the recipe:

·      1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

·      1 tablespoon grainy mustard (I use German-style)

·      1 tablespoon fennel seeds

·      1 teaspoon Cancale N. 11 (Fleur de Sel, orange, fennel seed) (or kosher salt)

·      ½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2½ cups) (I use white cheddar)

·      1 cup self rising flour


Using an electric mixer at low speed, mix the butter with mustard, fennel seeds and salt. (Since I don’t have an electric mixer, I do this by hand. Makes for easier clean-up!) Add cheddar and continue to mix. Slowly mix in flour. Transfer to sheet of wax paper and form a log, about ½ to 1½ inches in diameter. Wrap and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice into ¼-inch slices and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.

Makes about four dozen

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The best "un-birthday" party ever!

When my sister and I were growing up, my mother borrowed a concept from Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland to make sure we each had a reason to celebrate the other's birthday: the "un-birthday". It was genius. It meant that on my sister's special day, while she was blowing out her candles and opening several birthday gifts, I had one "unbirthday gift" to open (and view versa). It's a concept I use to this day to explain any gift I give without the standard reason ("it's your un-birthday! Here -- happy un-birthday!" I'll say as my friend stammers ". . .  but w-w-why. . .?")  

Un-birthday parties are the best, because everyone is being celebrated, not just one person. And by that token, I want to make sure as many people as possible know about "The Mad Hatter", which in my mind is the best "un-birthday" party ever!  It will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25 from 10-noon at the Woodruff Arts Center.  There will be all sorts of arts-and-crafts activities that will delight the kids, but in my opinion, the MOST fun is the hat making. This is an activity that is brought back by demand, and it is hard to tell who enjoys it the most: the kids, their grown-ups, or the volunteers! I love watching as some kids tear through all the materials trying to make a hat as fast as possible, while others deliberate very slowly and thoughtfully on their choices of embellishments. No matter the choice or process, ALL the hats show the diversity of creative thinking, and are just plan FUN!

"I can wear a hat or take it off, but either way it's a conversation piece."
-Hedda Hopper
Pictured here is one of the hats I made last year for one of the volunteers to wear: rolled up brown paper bag decorated with tissue paper, ribbon, pipe cleaners, buttons and a cut out of the March Hare. I challenge you to come see if you can top this topper!

I've been volunteering for "The Mad Hatter" ever since I became involved with Young Audiences, a nonprofit organization hell-bent on making sure our kids (especially those with the least support, resources, and access) get exposed to the arts, artists and arts education. This has become increasingly important as the recession has forced schools and school systems to cut art and music teachers from their budgets. I could give you all sorts of statistics about how important exposure to the arts is for the future success of kids, but you can get that in a multitude of other places, if you haven't already heard it. What I would rather do is to convince you to grab a kid you know (your own, your grandchild, a friend's kids), buy tickets (only $12 Advance) and come HAVE A GREAT TIME watching the kids HAVE A BLAST! (All the proceeds go to help Young Audiences ensure that they can continue to provide arts programs to Georgia's school children.) So basically this is one of those "do good while having fun" things. A "two-fer!" (Which sounds like a word Lewis Carroll would have invented: "two-fer!")
Don't have a kid to bring? Well, then go to the web site  (link attached) and sign up to volunteer like I do. Or buy tickets to donate to kids who can't afford it; better yet, be a sponsor! You can also purchase raffle tickets to some really great prizes (I won't tell you which is  my favorite because I've been trying to win it for 3 years and don't want the competition!)

So join me* at this great un-birthday party and make a hat to bring art into our classrooms.
*I HOPE to be there; more about why I may not be in my next post.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Taste of Cortona #5: A taste of two pastas!

Penne with fresh tomato sauce shares a plate with fettuccine al funghi 
You gotta love the Italians: if one pasta with a fabulous sauce is good, then two of 'em must be better! I always love watching people new to "The Cortona Experience" as they realize the heaping pile of pasta they have just been served is going to be followed by a second one  of a different shape and sauce -- they just can't quite believe it. This happens often at special dinners at Tonino's -- and I'm glad it does! There are never enough days for me in my limited trips here to try every combination I fancy, so I always do my best to join the "clean plate club".  Not only is my tongue quite happy with the experience, but it is a lot of fun to try to decide which I like better ("I think definitely this fresh tomato sauce . . . no -- wait, this fresh fettuccine with the subtle hint of mushrooms . . . how DO they make it so creamy without tasting too heavy? . . . Hmmm, maybe I like the simplicity of the tomato sauce against the al dente of the penne. . .") My mind argues with itself as my taste buds dance with delight.

And this is JUST the second course!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Taste of Cortona, Installment #4: Abundant , Ambrosial Blood Oranges!

Blood oranges on display outside a Cortona store
Blood oranges are as beautiful as they are delicious. I never saw or tasted one until I was well into adulthood, and "my first time" I was as entranced by their ruby-to-orange-back-to-ruby color as I was by their sweet tartness.  Here in Georgia they can be hard to find, but in Italy they are abundant.  I love strolling down Via Nazionale in Cortona and seeing the display of fresh fruits and vegetables lining the old stone walls; I especially love how the sunlight reflects off of the vivid hues of a box of blood oranges. I can't resist: I purchase one to take back to my room, where later I cut it open and sink my teeth into its juicy  flesh. I love that this a pleasure but not a guilty one. I love to lick the crimson droplets off of my lips. I love how this fruit is as much a feast for the eyes as for my tongue. It's as if I have bitten into the Italian sun and swallowed some of its unique warmth and purity.

The fruit is so red that my white shirt is tracked with scarlet stains -- a typically "Del" sort of souvenir of my Cortona visit!

I will attempt a painting of this photograph soon -- I look forward to capturing the vivid color in pure pigment. I know that as I am pushing and stroking the pigment onto the paper my  mouth will water as my mind recalls this bright taste of Cortona.