Halloween Greetings ~ Tablescape Thursday

~ Hello and Welcome to Tablescape Thursday~

With grateful thanks to Susan @ Between Naps on the Porch for hosting Tablescape Thursday each week.

For the last Tablescape Thursday of October what else but a  Halloween theme would do?!
Living so far out in the country, and at the end of a long driveway, we don't have any "Trick or Treaters" so this tablescape has a decidedly adult theme with a bit of whimsy to entertain the "kid" in all of us.

If you are a Nell Hill's  fan the setting may look familiar ~ and rightly so, as the design for this tablescape is almost identical to one I saw a few years ago in one of Mary Carol Garrity's books:

Nell Hill's Entertaining in Style: Inspiring Parties and Seasonal Celebrations

I built the tablescape around the oil burning candelabra which I've had for nearly 10 years, from Victoria Trading Company. (I see it is still available online at the site, click link above.)

Usually the candelabra is displayed in my home on a vintage, chippy chest of drawers, re-purposed into storage for some of my table linens and serving pieces.

And as lovely as the light source is, it is also utilitarian ~ we usually lose power here (in the wooded forest) at least a couple of times per month.  

The loss of power might be considered an inconvenience but  I've come to embrace these blips as part of life in the country. :)
A chance to slow down and get back to life the way it used to be. I love that.

I combined old and new to complete the table setting, and if you follow my blog, you've probably seen some of the elements before.  That is one of the things I like about creating new tablescapes ~ using things I have, combined in different ways to create a new look.

As tall as it is, the candelabra needed a little more height to give more importance to this busy table.  Looking around the house I couldn't find just the right base to elevate it.

The solution?  I had to disassemble something to put elements of it into service here.  The platform beneath the candelabra is actually made from stacked wooden disks from a  4-tiered display stand (deconstructed) purchased from Martha Stewart on-line several years ago.

The black and white salad/dessert plates are from Nell Hill's about 6 years ago.  There are various bird patterns on each one, not exactly fitting with the Halloween theme, but it doesn't matter as they are covered by the ceramic pedestals.

Chocolate coins were always a favorite of mine as a child, given to us on special occasions.

The little orange beaded necklaces are from the Hallmark store.

Since we don't consume much refined sugar,  I just bought one little bag of Candy Corn ~ the contents didn't fill this small container so I poured some candy into the inverted dome, then arranged some wine corks in the center and poured more candy in, then placed the stemmed base on top and inverted it.  A simple method to make the dome appear full, without having to buy so much candy.

I've listed the sources for almost everything you see on the table at the end of the post.

Thanks for stopping by everyone~  Wishing you an early Happy Halloween!
~Reminder ~
It is not too late to enter the Give Away.
Click here for details.
Sources for todays tablescape
 (click description to link):
Black and White Checkered Tablecloth
Black Goblets:
Artland Midnight Black Goblet, Set of 4
Black Square Dinner Plates: 
Rosanna Dinner Party, Set Of Four Black Dinner Plates In Gift Box
Mahogany Solid-Color 100-Percent Cotton Hemstitch Napkin, 19-Inch by 19-Inch, Black, Set of 4
Black glass napkin rings
Black Glass Napkin Rings Set of 6

Flatware ~ Hand forged "Treble Clef" pattern
Gourmet Settings Treble Clef 20-Piece Flatware Set, Service for 4
 Teardrop Oil burning candelabra
Trick or Treat Pumpkin Baskets
Nicol Sayre , artist (From her collection a few years ago)
Orange placemats
TAG Round Woven Orange Placemat
Ceramic pedestals beneath the pumpkins
and salad/dessert plates: 
Nell Hill's some years ago 


Vegetable Filled Fresh Tomato Salad with Herb Vinagrette

Saying goodbye to the last of the tomatoes from the garden isn't easy.  Throughout most of the summer we've become spoiled, eating them fresh and warm plucked right off the vine, in sandwiches, salads, grilled, roasted, simply sliced, and have put up some to enjoy during winter. 

When their season has ended and there are just a handful of summers' bounty remaining we like to savor them fresh since it will be nearly a year until we have them sweet and juicy from the garden again.

This is one way I like to serve them at seasons' end. Simply hollowed out and filled with other vegetables which have been tossed with a flavorful vinaigrette, or any dressing you like.

Delicious on their own, or plated up with dressed tender lettuce leaves...

This time I served them as a side dish with shredded Chicken Tacos, and added a little hot sauce to the vinaigrette.  For the filling I tossed some corn, black beans, red and green peppers (mild or hot) and some diced onion-- but you can use almost any vegetable you like. 

If fresh corn isn't available, use frozen~ just thaw and rinse. I used canned black beans this time.  Small dice of sauteed zucchini, other squash or finely diced carrots, celery, radishes, rinsed frozen peas all work well.

My "House Vinaigrette" is one I've been using forever ~ it is the one I learned from Julia Child, years ago.

You can find the recipe for Julia's vinaigrette and the ingredient suggestions for the Vegetable Filled Tomatoes on my recipe blog:

 (Click HERE)

Give Away Reminder:

  It's not too late to enter for a chance to win The Barefoot Contessa's new cookbook.

Thank you for stopping by today.


Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts ~ Plus Give Away! October 2010 ~ Winner Chosen!

Any Barefoot Contessa fans here?

Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa)  new cookbook, "Barefoot Contessa ~ How Easy is That?" is due to be released one week from today (on Tuesday October 26th).  

I'm looking forward to receiving my copy from and I would love to give one lucky entrant a chance to win a  copy, delivered to the winner directly from

If you click here to go to amazon and scroll down, you can find a sample of two recipes (perfect for Fall) from the book:
 "Herb Roasted Turkey Breast" and "Easy Cranberry & Apple Cake".  And if you visit the Barefoot Contessa website you can find a few more preview recipes from the book.

This is one of them ~ Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts:

I think almost everyone is familiar with couscous, but if not ~ it is a very fine, tiny dried pasta (not a grain) which is ready in minutes.  Here's what it looks like before adding boiling water or stock:

This is quite similar to the Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts recipe which I have made for a long time, and it is soo easy.  Just saute some chopped onion in oil or butter over medium heat until the onion is tender and translucent but not browned.
Add stock, or water and salt to the cooked onions, bring to a boil, stir in the couscous. Immediately remove from heat and cover the pan. 

Allow to sit, off heat, for 5 to 10 minutes until stock is absorbed and couscous is tender. Fluff with a fork and stir in some toasted pine nuts and chopped fresh parsley; serve hot.

I usually add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to my couscous after cooking, and just because it is still basil season here,  I added some chopped fresh basil to the parsley this time, and sprinkled with a few shards of fresh Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

Very good and so easy to prepare.  It's great with grill or roasted meats, fish or chicken.

Details for the Give Away....

1.) The drawing is open to all of "Once Upon a Plate" Google friends followers (see side bar) world wide. Please join now if you're not a follower. :)

2.) To double your chances, be a follower on my facebook page. (See right column, first entry)

3.) State your status (follower, face book follower, or both in your comment)

Entries will be accepted until 9PM Pacific Time,  October 31st, 2010

Winner will be announced November 1st.

Good luck to all who enter!!

* * * * * *

If you would like a printable copy of the Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts recipe, you can find it on my recipe blog by clicking HERE

Thank you for stopping by! xo ~m.

P.S.  . . .

Not feeling so LUCKY?

You can learn more about the book, or pre-order it by clicking the image below. 


Comments Closed ~ Winner Chosen.  Thank you for participating everyone!


Warm Camembert-Stuffed Baby Red Potato Skins with Crispy Prosciutto

Recently the folks at Il de France Cheese Company sent a sample of their new 'Normandie' Camembert for me to try.

The cheese is crafted in the town if Pace, Normandy from pasteurized,  rBST-free  (bovine growth hormone) cow's milk.

It is delightful served simply--- on crackers or bread, but I wanted to make some sort of warm appetizer instead.  So I revamped my old recipe for stuffed baby red-skin potatoes; substituting the Camembert for the usual Cheddar-Jack combination, and replacing the crispy bacon with Italian Prosciutto (dry cured ham.)   

Unlike some recipes for stuffed potato skins, I never deep fry the skins before filling. Instead I place the potatoes on a shallow baking pan (lined with parchment for easy clean-up, if you like.) Drizzle a couple or three tablespoons of olive oil, generously sprinkle with coarse salt and roast them in a hot oven until just tender.

After the potatoes cool I cut each in half with a sharp knife then neatly scoop out some of the flesh from the center of the potato, (a melon ball tool works perfectly for this.)  To flavor the potato I like to sprinkle a little Piment d'Espelette*  in the cavity. Next top with chunks of the Camembert or Brie (or any cheese you prefer.)
*Hot Paprika or Cayenne Pepper may be substituted.

I place the halves into oven safe baking/serving dishes and put them under the element of a hot broiler until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and the potatoes are heated through.

Once removed from the oven I sprinkle with bits of pan-crisped prosciutto, and serve hot or warm. 

Best enjoyed with a favorite cold beverage. And I'm happy to report they received thumbs up at my house. ;)

If you make them I hope you like them, too.

Thank you for stopping by today and for any comments you would like to leave for me!


Postcards from Home ~ Harvest from the Garden

Today was a gorgeous, sunny fall day where I live.  Soon we're expecting our first overnight freezing temperatures so I picked most of what is left in the vegetable garden.  Almost all of the remaining tomatoes, zucchini, string beans, basil, and flat leaf parsley.

A couple of weeks ago we harvested some of the beets.

I know a lot of people don't like beets, but I adore them. They were one of my favorite vegetables as a child, and they remain so today.  I love to pick some of the beet greens throughout the season and saute them quickly in a little olive oil with some slivers of garlic.. they are very nutritious and are delicious steamed as well.

I feel fortunate that most every herb, except the most tender, survive year-round in my climate, ready for the picking.
But still, I like to cut big bunches and dry the stems in my dehydrator. Then I remove the crispy leaves...

And store them in big air-tight canning jars.
This is oregano,  I also dried some thyme, rosemary, lavender and parsley. The flavor of the dried herbs is more intense than when used fresh from the garden.

Once the leaves are removed, I make small bundles of the dried stems ~ they add a delightful flavor and scent to grilled chicken, meats, fish and vegetables. Just add them to the mesquite or charcoal (just to the side of the hot coals) after you've begun grilling.

We also planted successive plantings of several kinds of radishes a few weeks apart for continuous harvest.

These are French Breakfast radishes, quite mild.  In loamy, sandy soil  they will grow twice as long as mine do. 

You've probably surmised from the length of these radishes that (even with plenty of soil amendments) our soil is neither loamy nor sandy.  ;)

I love the purple ones, and the white ones the best.

The very tip of the iceberg when it came to our tomato crop.

As the season progresses and we become flooded with tomatoes, I generally lose interest in photographing them... this year was no different.
The preceding two shots were from the very first of the season... when we cannot wait for them to ripen!

We've been enjoying quite a few of these Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches on homemade whole grain bread throughout the summer and early fall.

And plenty of wild blackberries from the back of the property.  

This year we didn't get many nectarines from the tree, (due to the crazy weather) but the few that ripened were sweet and juicy. 

The plum harvest was also light, but they were sweeter than any I remember.

I neglected to get photos of  any of the grapes, but I did preserve some grape leaves for making Dolmas later.

Earlier this year I also put up some more Rose Petal Jam from our roses...

And did I mention eggs?

We have five different breeds so the eggs are a variety of colors.

From the fifteen chicks we raised this Spring we now get between 9 to 12 eggs PER DAY.
And that's not bad...

Considering that THREE of the fifteen chicks turned out to be ROOSTERS. 

Here is one of them. Please meet "Trouble",  he's the king of the roost and loves nothing more than to perch on the highest places.  (As seen here, about 7-feet up, on top of his pen.)   His other favorite place to roost is on top of the 9-foot high cross members of the bean supports.  Or taking a jaunt over to the house to come spy on me as I work in the kitchen.  He's quite the character.

My next group of Postcards from home will be all about the chickens... so you can see how they have grown since Easter.

I'm always a little sad to see the summer harvest come to an end because it means winter isn't far off...

But it will give the garden a rest, and give us time to make plans for next years vegetable garden.  :)

Thank you for coming by today, friends!


A Sampling of my food . . .


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