Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shepherd's Pie~Haunts of New England/Boston Visiting Me!

Absolutely, New England must have been giving me a haunt tonight as I was craving a taste of Shepherd's Pie and sent my poor hub off to shop for fresh lamb!

He came home and ground it for me giving this pie a fresh and yummy flavor that hit the spot while I watched the 2nd episode of "Once Upon A Time."

Recipe As Follows :

Ingredients~ The mashed potato topping:
2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. half and half or almost 1/4 c. milk
3 Tbsp. butter (or more if you dare!)  Often, I dare... :P
Salt to taste

The Pie Ingredients~
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to coat pan
1 3/4 to 2 lbs. combination of ground lamb and ground sirloin  ( I err on the side of more lamb)
1 carrot peeled and chopped into pea-sized pieces
1 onion chopped
Mediterranean seasoning spice ~ a shake
salt and Montreal Steakhouse Pepper  (I know, it's too specific...)

Create a roux:
3 Tbsp. butter
2 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1 C. beef broth (hot)
1/2 can Tomato soup (Campbell's)

1/2 C. or a couple of over-flowing handfuls of frozen peas
A handful of cheddar or Jarlsberg cheese if you like

Boil and mash potatoes including the ingredients above.
Set aside to keep warm. If they thicken too much in the waiting, add a little warm milk.

While potatoes cook; put EVOO in pan to med. high heat and brown meat combo.  Season accordingly.  Spoon away fats if they get too much.  Add chopped carrots and onion and keep browning mix.  Cook veggies w/meat another 5 mins. stirring frequently. 

In a second skillet make your roux from heating butter over medium heat until melted, then adding flour and mixing until you get a fairly thick, light brown "gravy."  Using a whisk, swirl in the broth and tomato soup.  Allow the roux to thicken as you whisk it about a minute and then pour it into the meat mixture and blend. You want the roux to be the consistency of a heavy cream. Toss in the frozen peas and blend.

Fill a lovely casserole with the meat mixture, spoon your hot mashed potatoes on top, covering the meat like a blanket.  Then broil until the potatoes are browned on top.  You can put cheese on the potatoes if you like.  My children loved it with  melted cheese, but I don't bother.

Time required:   Prep to Oven~ 20 mins.
Serves:             5-6  if you have bread and dessert
Beverage:         Good w/ Burgundy or
                         non-alcoholic Cranberry/Gingerale Fizz

What's haunting your dinner table right now???


Friday, October 21, 2011

"Classic Elite Quick Knits" ~Royal Empress Shawl knit w/ 30% silk & 70% merino yarn is Lucious!!

Published by:  Taunton Press
Pages: 213 with Pictures
Genre:  Home and Garden, Crafts

Sharing a historical perspective:

I have to share with you one of the side-bar interesting things about Classic Elite Yarns.  It's now owned, managed and staffed for the most part by women!  How refreshing, and how appropriate for a company whose focus is to put beautiful yarns into the hands of women who then create gorgeous fabrics, gifts and home goods from them.  

In addition to being focused on the distribution of yarn purchased from international and domestic mills, Elite writes and manages pattern designs; and, most interestingly, it's still housed in the historic, original mill site in Lowell, MA, beside the Merrimack River.  I've been there, and contrary to what the mind may imagine, this is a relatively small mill building considering, with a mixed history of manufacturing, toil and hardship.  I'm glad the Lowell mill has evolved to some good in the hands of women.

As an aside, a really memorable and gothic book about New England mills and a young woman working in them is: "The Madness of A Seduced Woman" by Susan Fromberg Schaefer. 

My Review of "Classic Elite Quick Knits":

More than all the excellent directions, pictures of models and patterns that grace the pages of this book, I want to talk about some of the yarns and items knitted.  If you're a knitter, the quality and timelessness of Classic Elite Yarns is already familiar to you.

This book is divided into sections having to do with small projects, but they are so beautifully detailed that nobody would imagine they have only taken a few hours to produce.  Using the most exotic of yarns, coupled with easy patterns that only look difficult, the results are amazingly quick knits worthy of bragging rights! 

Here are some of my favorites, though you'll have to get the book to see them and choose your own.

The "Royal Empress Shawl" knitted from Magnolia a yarn comprised of 70% merino and 30% silk in the color "Persian Orange." (A soft persimmon color, actually) is for me. This is a rather small shawl with  primary structure and design. It's classic and sophisticated. This was a difficult choice to make!

Capelets: Gorgeous patterns in such unbelievable yarns.  I'm a sucker for capelets as it is, so this book of so many easy to intermediate designs and supple yarn choices is killer. Couldn't we just make capelets all day for everyone we know? Seeing is believing where these are concerned.  Check out the blues!

The hats and mittens are made in designs I haven't seen so beautifully
worked in 40 years of experience. The colors of these hats and mittens are keenly selected for contemporary use. The most attractive of all to me is a pair of fingerless mittens that harken back to the historic ones in the Old Sturbridge Village Shop in MA. Obviously, this design was one worn in historic New England for many reasons.

From blankets and bags the stand-outs to me were the "Irresistible Blanket" for babies cabled in pink Posh a cashmere and silk blend yarn.  I want one for every single one of my grandchildren!  And, the absolutely fabuloso "Sunshine Bag" in 5 colors featured on the cover of this book. Wonder if it would be gorgeous felted!?

In conclusion, I found this book exceptionally good.  It's one I would love to have for my knitting library. Wish I could give you some visuals have to go to your nearest book shop and see them yourself!  

5 stars


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tattered Cover Book Store's ~ Joe E. Recommends "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" by Jennifer Reese

Title:  Make the Bread, Buy the Butter:  What You Should and Shouldn't Make from Scratch-Over 120 Recipes for Homemade Foods
Published by:  Free Press
Pages:  304

A Note From The Dame :

Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, CO, is one of the USA's best loved shops not only for cookbooks and craft books, but also for all literature.  One of their healthy staff there, Joe E., has recommended this book to everyone.

Here's Joe:

A Snippet From His Recommendation :

"There are a few things Jennifer Reese does in this book that make it particularly indispensable: before each recipe, she tells her story of why she wanted to tackle it. I mean, who has really thought of making their own pop tarts? Once she's done that, generally with the voice of a friend sitting in your kitchen over coffee, she then tells you whether you should make it or buy it, breaks down the cost difference between the homemade and the store bought, and lists whether this project is going to be easy or difficult (often one of the funniest parts of the recipe...) Her recipes are easy-to-follow, and often include diagrams and pictures to get through the more difficult parts.
I would highly recommend this book if you are thinking about embarking on the adventure that is backyard chicken raising. Here, Reese offers a humane and very funny look at what that project brought to her family. I would recommend this book if you, like me, spend a lot of time thinking about what goes into your body and wondering where did so many of these so-called "conveniences" come from, and are they really worth it? I've suspected making my own bread is the way to go for a long time, but in this book, Jennifer Reese cements it for me. Her recipes are tried-and-true, her reasoning makes sense to me, and her personality makes it believable. Buy this book, give it to a friend, make these recipes and watch your world get a little better...."

Please visit Tattered Covers on your next book browsing trip.  It's phenomenal!

And, say "hello" to Joe E. from The Bookish Dame when you stop by!

Thank you for reading my blog.  Please leave any suggestions you have for good cookbooks or craft books you've read lately!


New Orleans ~"Big, Easy Style:Creating Rooms You Love To Live In" by Bryan Batt

Published by:  Crown
Release Date:  October 4, 2011
Pre-release Price:  Available
Pages:  208 including photos

Overview :  (Taken from book)

An enchanting space that’s truly unique calls for a sense of humor, whimsy, and an open mind.
From a charmed New Orleans childhood to a successful acting career on Broadway and the award-winning TV show Mad Men to the opening of his popular Big Easy home furnishings boutique, Hazelnut, Bryan Batt has always turned to home design as a creative outlet.

To him, the best rooms are unexpected yet refined and, above all, evoke emotion. He doesn’t think twice about hanging over sized decorations from a Mardi Gras float in an elegant dining room or bringing home vintage etchings of sconces when he was actually shopping for real ones. He believes that a vibrant orange wall can be a neutral backdrop for an antique writing desk and earthy accessories, and that an artist’s whimsical bird’s nest sculpture hung in a lavender entryway couldn’t serve as a better welcome into a cozy abode. New Orleans has taught Bryan so much about how to pull together a space that’s fearless and colorful with plenty of panache. With the city as his muse—its strong roots in history, its celebration of tradition, and, of course, the wild festivities of Mardi Gras—he believes that designing a fabulous, livable home that truly reflects a dweller’s passions need not be intimidating.

Big, Easy Style showcases rooms that make Bryan smile, with pages of rich photography featuring the work of many designers—and plenty of Crescent City interiors—framed by his own entertaining maxims on color, pattern, collecting, living areas, intimate spaces, and more. Explore rooms he’s personally designed and others that inspire him; from an old-world kitchen imported straight from the heart of France to a luxurious Art Deco media room, these homes are enticing and unique, and through their surprising details, completely inviting. 

Decorating your home to reflect your personality and taste takes practice and patience and can be a daunting undertaking, but Bryan proposes that we not worry about making mistakes, that any decision we make is better than no decision at all. With Big, Easy Style, learn how to put aside your hesitation and surrender to the wild side of home design for a big statement that’s easy to achieve.

Let's Meet Bryan!

BRYAN BATT (actor, designer, civic activist, and author) is most recently known for his two-time Screen Actors Guild Award winning performance as “Salvatore Romano” in AMC’s critically acclaimed dramatic series MAD MEN, which has been lauded with awards including Emmys, Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild as well as the Peabody awards.

Bryan is also a designer. He and Tom Cianfichi, his partner of 22 years, are the nationally recognized creative forces behind HAZELNUT, a fine gift and home accessories shop in his home town of New Orleans. HAZELNUT has been featured in the NEW YORK TIMES, HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, IN STYLE, FOOD AND WINE, TOWN AND COUNTRY and many more publications.

His debut book, a memoir, or as he calls it, a momoir, “SHE AIN’T HEAVY, SHE’S MY MOTHER,” celebrates his Steel Magnolia / Auntie Mame of a mom and depicts growing up in wildly colorful  New Orleans in the 1970’s. The book has received wonderful notices… “I Loved, Loved, Loved This Book” – Whoopi Goldberg …and was on Janet Maslin’s NY Times top 10 summer read list.

As a Broadway veteran, Bryan’s leading and principal roles include: 2005 revival of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, SUESSICAL THE MUSICAL, SUNSET BLVD, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, STARLIGHT EXPRESS, and CATS. Off Broadway: FORBIDDEN BROADWAY (Drama Desk Nomination). Theatrically, Bryan is most proud of originating the role of DARIUS in the N.Y. and L.A (Drama Logue Award) productions, as well as the film adaptation, of Paul Rudnick’s ground breaking comedy JEFFREY.

A civic activist, Bryan champions many causes including Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS, Habitat For Humanity, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Human Rights Campaign (Equality and Visibility Awards), the SPCA, The Preservation Resource Center, The Point Foundation, N.O. AIDS Task Force, and Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré.

His next book is a design book for Clarkson Potter entitled “BIG, EASY STYLE” and will be released October 4th.

Bryan (left, back section of picture!) 

The Dame's Review :

"The Big Easy..." is a beautifully written book in addition to being a book with gorgeous photographs of homes in lush details and sophisticated tastes.  Bryan Batt displays his Renaissance man characteristics not only in acting, it seems, but in writing, decorating and presenting himself as an entertaining man-about-town in New Orleans.  This is a book of many surprises, one that you'll be pleased to reference, and have available for friends and family.

I love 1800's period homes.  Having been an interior designer myself, and having owned a few houses in that time period, I know the joys and the challenges they can present.  Mr. Batt has shown them off and led us through those with panache!  It's a real joy to see and read his excitement over the smallest of details that makes a house a home and a room spectacular.

In terms of learning to decorate for oneself, Bryan gives so many practical examples and easy lessons covering such things as:

~  attention to lighting
~  importance and use of paint, which paint co. he uses, and
    some color choices specifically
~  sophisticated small things that enhance
~  how to use a splash of strong color for taste and drama
~  bars that set a mood and sparkle
~  art to bring a home to life

It was particularly heartening to read how much support Bryan gives to clients and readers of his book in the very common area of decorating fright.  Here, I quote him:
"..never make a decision based on fear; one can never be truly stylish without taking a risk or two." 

Regarding our color education and use in our own home design, he urges us to keep our eyes open in nightclubs for colors, in art galleries, museums, books, and when we travel.  In "Big Easy..."  he also shows the gorgeous home of one of his school friend's, a local New Orleans artist, who employs her own artwork and crafts to fill her house with personality and punch. 

 I loved when he wrote:
"...think of this (your powder room, specifically,) as a perfect chance to express yourself and get your ya-yas out!"

So funny, and so true!   He suggests an antique gold enamel paint, a piece of art inspiration, a theme that can set the tone such as; "The Last Emperor" or "The Secret Garden."  I once had a powder room designed around the small mistress eye paintings that were done for noblemen during the Renaissance to carry with them in secret.  These beautiful eyes, peeking out of knot holes of alabaster, exotic woods, agate and the like gave me a jewelled palette from which to decorate that little room for guests.  It was such fun and I called it my "Little Jewelry Box."

With his homebase of New Orleans, his apparently fabulous decorating shop (it has to be spectacular!) called "Hazelnut," with a nod to his beloved mom; and, including the cultural mix of Mardi Gras...Bryan Batt has shared with us his whole heart and gifts in this special book.

It's visually a treat, it's a happy read, it's helpful and it's a reference for interior decorating.  I would recommend it for everyone who loves their home, who wants to gift a loved one or newlywed, or friend; and a decorating professional looking to build her/his reference library.

5 stars


*Oh, and one more thing;  I would love to share with you Bryan's delicious recipe for "Tequila Mockingbird II"  his signature drink for parties, but you'll have to get his book to find out for yourself.  Yum--mie!  I've enjoyed mine while reading "Big, Easy Style:  Creating Rooms You Love to Live In"   Hope you get a chance to enjoy!   Cheers, New Orleans style!