Saturday, July 9, 2011


A Salade Nicoise that I had while in France
I thought perhaps I should balance the naughty recipes I posted yesterday with one that exemplifies all that is best about cooking with "seasonality."  I talked about my Provencal or Nicoise salad both here and here, told you that it was one of those basic recipes that everyone should have in their arsenal, and showed you how easy it was to adapt, depending upon what you had found at the market or had in your larder, but then I somehow failed to give you a recipe!  Je suis desole'.

The one I based my recipe on.

So now, I present to you Salade Provencal a' la Hill Country Hippie:

(2 generous servings)
4 tsp. vinegar (red wine, white wine, champagne, etc.)
3/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove or shallot, minced
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 T. of good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper, then add the oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.

8 oz. fresh green beans, trimmed and halved
8 oz. small yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold (though red potatoes are ok too)
6 oz. tuna in oil, drained
6 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. pitted kalamata olives
1 1/2 T. capers, rinsed and drained
1 hard boiled egg, quartered, or some roasted red pepper, or feta, goat, or parmesan cheese (optionals)
1/4 c. finely chopped parsley

Cook beans in boiling, salted water, uncovered, until tender (5 or 6 minutes?).  Transfer to a small bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon, to stop cooking.  Drain and pat dry.  Add potatoes to boiling water.  Simmer, uncovered, until tender (15 or 20 min., depending on size of potatoes), then drain.  Halve the potatoes while still warm.  Flake the tuna with a fork and toss it with 1/2 T. of the dressing.  Combine potatoes, beans, tomatoes, olives, capers and parsley with the remaining dressing.  Season with salt and pepper.  You may serve it on a bed of lettuce if you wish, or as is, topped with the tuna and quartered egg, or anything else you like.  Bon appetit!
One of my "riffs".

Friday, July 8, 2011


Despite my notorious sweet tooth, I don't do much baking.  Actually, that's precisely why I don't.  I just don't need that much temptation sitting around my house.  It's kinda sad really.  My husband gave me a super-duper KitchenAid mixer a few years back, and this is about all it gets used for these days:

Once in a blue moon, though, if I'm having company or get invited to a potluck, I'll use that as an excuse to whip up a batch of my special brownies. No, not that kind of brownie!  I'm talking about the ones on that plate in the photo.  If you know me at all, you've probably had one of my Mexican Chocolate Streusel Brownies -- my favorite in recent years.  I posted the recipe here.  But I was getting a bit tired of those, so when I needed something to take to Pioneer Woman's potluck on the 4th, and to take to a family birthday bash this weekend, I decided to dig out these two golden oldies, from back in my days at Chez Vous Catering in Midland.   If I'm lucky, I just might manage to break a few when I'm taking them out of the pan, and will be forced to stick those in a little baggie in the freezer, to have with a cup of hot tea every once in a while. ;-)

from Nantucket Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase

1 c. unsalted butter
10 oz. white chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 1/4 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans
  • Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line an 11 x 9-inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving a little overhang around the edges of the pan.  Butter the foil.
  • Heat the butter and chocolate, stirring frequently, in a large saucepan over low heat, until melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat.
  • Using a wooden spoon, stir the sugar into the melted chocolate, then stir in the eggs and vanilla. (the mixture will look curdled)  Add the flour, salt, and chopped pecans.  Quickly stir just until mixed.  Pour the batter into the pan.
  • Bake the brownies until the top is lightly golden but the center is still somewhat soft when pressed lightly, 30 - 35 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature.
  • Refrigerate the brownies at least 3 hours.  Using the foil, lift the brownies from the pan.  Cut into 20 - 25 squares.

1 1/4 c. sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. soft butter or margarine
3/4 c. brown sugar (packed)
1 large egg
1/4 c. Kahlua
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1 T. Kahlua for tops of bars
Brown Butter Icing (see below)
24 walnut halves (optional)
  • Resift flour with baking powder and salt.
  • Cream butter, sugar and egg well.  Stir in 1/4 c. Kahlua, then flour mixture, blending well.
  • Fold in chocolate pieces and walnuts.  Turn into greased baking pan (7x11x1 1/2 inches), and spread level.  Bake at 350 F. for about 30 minutes, until top springs back when touched lightly in center.
  • Remove from oven and cool in pan 15 minutes, then brush top with remaining tablespoon of Kahlua.  When cold, spread with Brown Butter Icing.  Let stand until icing is set, then cut into 24 squares.  Top each square with a walnut half, if desired.

 Place 2 T. butter in saucepan over low heat.  Heat until butter is lightly browned.  Remove from heat and add 1 T. Kahlua, 2 tsp. milk or light cream, and 1 1/3 c. sifted powdered sugar.  Beat smooth.  May add another teaspoon of milk if needed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


My BFF Paula was here this weekend, and she says I still haven't written enough about French food.  Could that be possible?  Paula really doesn't like to fly much anymore, and is not likely to be going there in person, so I guess she was hoping to experience it all through my eyes and taste buds.  It got me to thinkin', about what kind of impression Paris restaurants and food would have on someone who was seeing it through virgin eyes.  The first word that popped into my head was discombobulation.  Good word, non?  I'd been there twice before, and I still found it terribly confusing!

For instance, what's the difference between a bistro and a brasserie?  Why does a tea house look more like a coffee shop, while the coffee shops look more like bars?  Most importantly, is an entree a main course, or an appetizer?  I did a bit of research when I got home and came across this great article over at that explained everything!  Guess it would have been more beneficial if I had done that pre-trip rather than post, but, oh well.

Do you know someone who came back from Paris and told you how terribly rude or arrogant the waiters were?  If so, there's a good chance they went over there, demanding, that everything be done exactly the way it is done back home.  The French serve bread at every meal, but they do not bring butter unless you request it.  Does that give us the right to throw a hissy fit?  No, it does not.  We saw a lot of people doing just that, and I kept asking myself "Why do they even travel?  Why not just stay home, if you want everything to be done the way it is done there?"  Or maybe they thought it would be funny to snap their fingers in the air and yell "Garcon!"  Well it's not.  I mean, how would you respond if someone snapped their fingers at you and hollered "Girl!" or "Boy!"  I think I'd get kinda pissy!

Anyhoo, back to all the different kinds of eateries in France.  Here is a brief summary of what you are likely to find:

Bar a' Vin (Wine Bar) - the place to go for wine by the glass and assorted snacks

Salon de The' - these usually open mid-morning and close by early evening.  They are often connected to a patisserie (pastry shop), and some serve light lunches as well.  A great place to go for afternoon tea or coffee and dessert.

Cafe - these serve drinks and food all day from a limited menu of things like sandwiches, salads, steak, and the ubiquitous moules et frites (mussels and fries).  Parisians treat cafes as an extension of their living rooms.  It's where they go to meet friends, read the newspaper, write in their journals, or just hang out and people watch.  I love cafes!  I guess that's why I went to Onion Creek Cafe several times per week when we lived in Houston, and why I go to Mima's so often now.  They are the extra room I have added on to my house.

Brasseries - these are the ones that confused me most.  I assumed that the word brasserie had something to do with cooking meat (like braise, or rotisserie), but what it actually means is brewery, though they have evolved beyond that now.  Most are large, cheerful places that serve everything from tea and croissants to alcohol and late night snacks.  They open early, close late, and are the place to go for an inexpensive meal just about any time of the day.  Remember the place next to our hotel in Marseilles, where the waiter took a shine to us and gave us a bottle of wine?  That was a brasserie.

Restaurants - the fancy schmancy places, reservations only.

Bistros - the typical bistro offers simple, hearty food, along with wine, in a cozy, convivial atmosphere.  I think our little Leaning Pear, here in Wimberley, would be considered a bistro. This is where Parisians dine most often, but they are small and have limited seating, so it wouldn't hurt to call ahead and book a table.  Bistro food is home cooking, developed as a way of using up foods -- such as using fresh veggies and leftover meat to make a hearty stew -- but it may also be as simple as a baguette and pate' with a glass of wine.  I love bistro food, and without even realizing it, that is what I have been learning to cook since we moved here to the Hill Country.  We will talk about it more sometime soon, and I will share a few recipes with you.  And, if I am lucky, perhaps you will share a few with me?

Now I must run, for I have a date!  My daughter and I are meeting up in Austin, to see Midnight in Paris (another thing I should have done pre-trip rather than post). A' bientot!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


At last!  A few "Before & After" photos of our recent bathroom reno for you:
This cabinet freed up knitting/sewing/craft space in our linen closet, and allows us to finally start using our laundry hamper for dirty clothes instead of storage!

Cedar planks on our closet floors, to discourage the plethora of pests we country denizens tend to find there.
After -- and in case you can't tell from these photos, we ended up choosing the very soft grey-green for our wall color.
All that's left to do now is find just the right cabinet pulls and handles, to replace the old black enamel and shiny silver ones.  Was it worth the money and hassle?  Absolutely!  It puts a smile on my face every time I go in there.  The black & white was very classic and classy, but this one is me.  I knew this for certain when I realized I didn't even need to go shopping for artwork and accessories.  All I had to do was walk around the house and pull a few things from the other rooms!

Many, many thanks to our wonderful contractor Shane Hibler at Briggs Construction in San Marcos (who also oversaw our dining room add-on a few years back), and most especially to our very talented designer/daughter Alexis, who made all the decision-making so much easier! Much more professional looking photos are going up over on her website (just click the Lane Design Studio button over in my side bar to the right) and I will be doing a blog post there soon about the remodeling process in general.  Oh yeah, and thanks for putting up with my little obsession for the past month!

Monday, July 4, 2011


A great parade-viewing spot under a big shade tree.
Glitter Girls lead the parade.
A post-parade-party given by the hostess with the mostest.
She's got Seasonality!
Those with young'uns head for the pool.
Dig those crazy sunglasses.
You were absolutely right Debbie.  You really needed that red cake stand!


Our parade perch two or three years ago.
The first part of summer usually just whizzes past, doesn't it?  It always surprises me when July 4th rolls around, and the stores start pulling down all their swimsuit, pool toy and patio furniture displays, to replace them with school supplies and dorm room decor.  As a kid it made me sad, but not anymore.  Now it's a relief -- only two and half months of sweltering left to survive!  If only this last half moved as quickly as the first.

Well, guess I'd better go get dressed, if we're going to sneak into town early and find a shady spot to park the truck in, from which we can later enjoy the parade.  We finally got smart, and realized it might be better not to always sit facing into the sun.  The good news is, it's only supposed to get up to 99 degrees today.  The bad news?  There's not a cloud in the sky!

Last year's perch.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Anybody remember that big tree-like plant I had in the Cantina Garden last year, with the burgundy star-shaped leaves and day-glo coral pom-pom thingies on it?  Well it's dead.  Dead, dead, dead.  It did not like all those dips into the 20's this winter.
Castor Bean
But wait!  What is this?  Could it be?  Why yes, it is!  It seems many of those pom poms dried up then fell into the flower bed, and since I was too lazy to keep them all picked up, I got me some babies!  At first there was just one, so I kept it for myself, but a few weeks later, another popped up, so I gave it to Fiber Woman for her birthday.  The other Muses were jealous.  But guess what?  I've got more babies!  Better get your sweet selves over here girls!

This marigold sprang up from left behind seeds as well.  Dontcha just love free plants?

This colorful fellow here is a new one I tried this spring, which I think is related to that old standby, Purple Heart.  It's tag called it a "groundcover", which spreads by rhizomes.  Well, I bought one, one gallon pot of it, and divided it into four plants.  None of them seems to have grown much, and only this one has sent up a little pup, so it's gonna take a heck of a long time to cover any ground.  Still, are those colors just the bees knees, or what?

Last but not least is this hussie, the centerpiece from the pot I showed you yesterday.  I hate to have to say this, but I fear that girl just might be a floozie!  Why, she's only been here since spring, and she's already had two new babies in her own bed,  and one in the bed next door.  I've got my eye on you girl.  I don't care how gorgeous you are, if you dare to strut your stuff outside that fence, you're history!