Halloween Greetings !

Living out in the country, and down very long driveway we don't have Trick-or-Treaters, so I no longer carve pumpkins. I put this huge Bethany Lowe retro decoration, (paper pulp/paper mache) in the front window instead.

Even though it is a rural area, there is plenty of Halloween spirit ~ just around the bend the farmer's family puts out a colorful display every Autumn:

During a trip to town to take care of a few errands earlier this week ~ the signs and spirit of Fall could be seen everywhere.

Here are a few:

Leaves falling...
Colorful Fall Flag...

Tiny, tiny 'Mario' Crocs
(So cute!)

A view down a side street...

A little more flaming Fall color.

And I can't help but think of friends Jain , and Andrea when I see the neon signs for:

I hope everyone has had a
delightfully SPOOKY

2008 Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Macaroni and Cheese ~ (It's Martha Stewart's Version)

Am I the last one to try Martha Stewart's Macaroni & Cheese recipe? Rich and creamy, with no odd ingredients to get in the way of the delicious cheesy flavor.
I don't know why I waited so long!

Here it is ready for the bread crumb topping. In the sauce, and for the cheese finish I used a combination of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar cheese, imported Jarlsberg and Pecorino Romano.

I only made two changes; I used Panko crumbs tossed in melted butter for the topping, and added a teaspoon of dry mustard powder to the cheese sauce.

Piping hot, right out of the oven...







It looks rather plain.






and it IS











I'm not sure Martha would approve ~
but it was fun, and the Macaroni & Cheese recipe is excellent!

It's very rich, and best served with something rather light in calories, and flavor ~ I served steamed broccoli florets, along with vinaigrette dressed Angel Hair cabbage slaw.

Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 12
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces (I used 1 cup of large size Panko crumbs tossed in 2 Tablespoons of melted butter.)
5 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or
1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
(I used a combination of each)
I added 1 teaspoon of dry mustard powder when adding the other seasonings
1 pound elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 375° F, rack in center position.
Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.

Bring the water to a boil for the pasta:
Set a very large pot of water ,covered, over high heat.

In the meantime proceed with the recipe~
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, when melted, toss with bread in a medium size bowl. Set aside.
Melt butter in a medium size frying pan, when butter is melted add Panko crumbs and toss until crumbs are thoroughly coated. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat (or in Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave)
Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Slowly pour in the hot milk a bit at a time to avoid lumps. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.
When the large pot of water has come to a boil, salt it generously and stir in the macaroni and cook until al dente (or until almost done. Pour macaroni into a colander placed in the sink, rinse quickly under cold running water, and drain well.
Add the macaroni into the cheese sauce and mix gently but well until the sauce covers all of the macaroni evenly.

Transfer the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese, then with the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Time will vary a bit depending upon the size and depth of your baking vessel.
Allow the casserole to cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then serve.
Proclaimed delicious!

~Happy Halloween~
From My House,
to Yours!



Like many cooks and foodies, I collect cookbooks ~ something I've been doing for a long time. I read most of them as if they were novels.
I try to cook from every book I order, sometimes following the recipes exactly and other times just using the recipes (and photos) for inspiration to create a new dish.

I've been practicing a self-imposed cookbook buying moratorium for the past few weeks, but Tuesday my recent order from amazon arrived.

I love amazon! Point and click, place your order and within a day or two your order arrives at your doorstep, it's magical!

Usually at this time of year many new cookbooks are released, just in time for the holiday season ~ this year is no exception.

Here are three I've been most anticipating (you can click the text below each photo to read more about the book, or to order):

The cover just about says it all ~ would you look at that list of contributors?! The book is filled with original recipes by each contributor, along with all kinds of good instructions; the "hows and whys" of preparing certain foods, make-ahead tips, beverage suggestions, etc., a treasure trove of information.
The table of contents is well thought out; the recipes are indexed according to the order the courses would be served at meal; Appetizers, First Courses, Soups, Main Courses, and so on. I'm looking forward to reading through it, cover to cover.

Next is the much anticipated new release from Ina Garten:

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients

I've only had a few moments to glance through it, but if you are familiar with Ina's other books the format is very similar, big gorgeous photos to go along with every recipe (love that!), large print and easy to follow instructions make this a great book for cooks of all skill levels.

If you're an Ina Garten fan, of course you'll want this one for your collection, however there is nothing really "new" as far as recipes, simply twists on old favorites ~ hence the title "Back to Basics". Still, I value Ina's cookbooks for the excellent recipes, and the inspiration they provide.

And then there is Giada De Laurentiis's new one:

I've come to use many of Giada's recipes, they seldom disappoint. I appreciate her use of fresh foods, clean flavors, and simple straight forward recipes with a minimum of fuss or preparation time, and her focus on healthy cooking/eating.

Looking through it, this book appears to stay true to her cooking style and philosophy.

Of these three books, this is the one I'm going to be cooking from first! The photos are beautiful.

Here is a quick sampling of some of the recipes:

These two muffin recipes look very good~
Garlic and Sun-dried Tomatoes, and a simple Olive Oil muffin
Thick Pecorino Crackers
Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup
Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lemon, Basil, served with a salmon fillet on top of each portion
Lemon Risotto
Rib-Eye Steak with Black Olive Vinaigrette
Prosciutto Lamb Burgers
Chicken with Balsamic Barbecue Sauce
Pork Chops with Sweet Onion Marmellata
Roasted Halibut with Grapefruit Fennel Salsa
and desserts:
Strawberry and Mascarpone Granita
Chocolate Panna Cotta with Amaretto Whipped Cream
Orange and Chocolate Zeppole (the tiny doughnuts)
Almond,Pine Nut and Apricot Coffee Cake
Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate

I hope to be sharing some of the recipes I make from each of these books in the coming weeks, so I hope you'll be following along.

***I would love to know your top 5 favorite cookbooks, cookbook authors, and/or internet sources for recipes!

Care to share them?


Postcard ~ From the Garden

Can you see it?

You'll usually hear them before you see them. By following the knocking sounds that will direct you to the general direction of where they can be found; the bright red head makes them easier to spot.

My house is located on a heavily wooded property, mostly mature Douglas Firs, Madrones, Scrub Oaks, Birch, Sugar Pines, Ponderosa Pines, as well as several very old, huge Oak trees..

Of the old oaks, the huge, gnarly one pictured above definitely has the most 'character' of all the oaks on the property. Like the others it is home and food host to squirrels, birds, bees, other insects, lizards as well as various lichens and mossy growths.

There is evidence that it has survived strikes by lightning many years ago. That it (or at least 80 percent of it) leafs out faithfully each spring in spite of its condition, providing welcome shade all summer makes me love it all the more.

Families of Pileated Woodpeckers inhabit the property as well, raising their young and hunting for ants and such in the trunks of the old oaks and in the old fallen trees on the forest floor.

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest of woodpeckers; approximately the size of crows; about 16 to 19-inches long, with a wingspan of about 26 to 30 inches. They are quite a sight to see, swooping and gliding nimbly among the tight clusters of trees, in spite of their size. Their bright red heads standing out vibrantly against the usually subtle colors of the forest backdrop. They don't migrate, but stay in their territory all year long. It's not often they are right out in the open around here, as they are skiddish, usually hidden among other trees in the woods. I was happy to have the chance to snap these shots, many times the camera isn't close at hand.

See how long, and strong the beak is?
I've inserted an arrow in the photo so you can see where the beak actually ends.

No matter what is going on in the world, I always take pause when I catch a glimpse of them going about the business of survival and feel fortunate to share the space with them.

A Sampling of my food . . .


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