View from Will’s Bench & Holiday Gifts

cranberry apple relish

cranberry apple relish

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but before we head into the dead of winter lets take one last look at autumn. The view from Will’s Bench in the fall is glorious. It is the best time of year to visit New England.

Will's Bench Middlebury, CT

Will’s Bench Middlebury, CT

Who doesn’t like rainbows and a pine forest? I can’t help but think of my boy when I see the sun shining down on the water in such a colorful way. He’s out there, casting a line just happy to be. I can almost see him. There is a scent of pine still on his sweatshirt.

the rainbow shot

the rainbow shot

And to the one who always leaves flowers I wish you peace and hope always, but especially during this holiday season. Thank you.

peace and hope

peace and hope

Whew! I feel much better now that I have put the fall season behind us…and you have to believe that I really do actually enjoy the Christmas season. I miss William terribly, but I have to rejoice in the thought that I had his bright light in my life for 23 years. How lucky am I to have loved such a son. And to have so many in my life who continue to love and honor him, too. William is the gift that keeps on giving.

can't have an empty jar

can’t have an empty jar

Do you love a homemade gift as much as I do? Nothing better than a gift from someone’s heart. Homemade means someone has given you their precious time. It can’t be bought. It’s priceless. So, this recipe for cranberry-apple relish was born because I was feeling guilty about simply opening up a jar or can of cranberry sauce and tossing it on the table at Thanksgiving. Pressed for time I just didn’t think anyone would care about cranberry sauce, but the thought of not doing something homemade for such a special event got the best of me. Thankfully, I got it done. The jar was practically licked clean by my guests and my darling daughter announced it was the best cranberry sauce she had ever eaten and could I make more. So I did and so should you.

honey to your taste

honey to your taste

Cranberry-Apple Relish

  • Servings: 2 1/2 cups
  • Print

1-cup water

½ cup sugar

1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries

1 Meyer lemon or medium-size orange, grated zest and juice

1 large honey crisp apple, peeled, grated

½ cup honey

pinch of Alaskan alder smoked salt or finishing salt of your choice

½ cup toasted chopped pecans, optional

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine water, sugar, cranberries, lemon (or orange) zest and juice, apple and half the honey; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring mixture occasionally, pressing cranberries with the back of your spoon against the side of the pan insuring all have popped. Taste and add additional honey to your desired sweetness. (I use the whole half-cup if using the Meyer lemon instead of an orange). Simmer until the mixture is thickened. Cool. Stir in salt and pecans, if desired.

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For a nice gift pour into sterilized jars while still hot. Seal and wrap with a decorative ribbon.

Winner-Winner Not Chicken

photo compliments of Martha White

photo compliments of Martha White

Winners all around today. First, big congratulations to “Krista” who is the winner of the fabulous Penzey’s KIND assortment of spices. Krista—please send me your home address, so I can send your prize ASAP. And thanks to everyone who participated. You are all kind winners in my book.

Penzy's Kind Box of Spices

Penzey’s Kind Box of Spices

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be a contestant in the Martha White Cornbread Festival Cook Off down in South Pittsburg, TN. Even luckier I won a prize for my entry. Do give this festive cornbread a try at your next holiday brunch. I promise it will fly off the table. Yes, it is that good and I have a whole bunch of judges that agree.

the garlic cream drizzle is to die for

the garlic cream drizzle is to deliciously decadent

Sweet Yellow Cornbread, Sausage & Tomato Pie with a Garlic Cream Drizzle

½ pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup diced sweet onion

1-tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, divided

2 pkg. (7 oz each) Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional shards for garnish

½ cup milk

½ cup sour cream

3 eggs, lightly beaten

8 fresh basil leaves

Garlic Cream Drizzle (recipe follows)

Heat oven 375F. Brown sausage in a 10-inch Lodge cast iron skillet over medium heat breaking the meat into crumbles with a wooden spoon. Transfer sausage to a paper towel lined plate. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan along with the tomatoes, onions, sugar and ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring, occasionally, for 8 minutes or until tomatoes and onions begins to caramelize. Spread tomato-onion mixture evenly over bottom of pan. Spoon sausage evenly over top. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine cornbread mix, grated parmesan, remaining ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, milk, sour cream, eggs and remaining ¼ cup olive oil; stir until smooth. Pour over hot mixture in skillet. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before inverting onto serving plate. (If any tomatoes or onions stick to bottom of pan simply replace them over cornbread). Top with thin shards of Parmesan cheese. Slice basil into thin slivers; sprinkle on top. Serve with Garlic Cream Drizzle.

Garlic Cream Drizzle

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Martha White corn meal

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 fresh basil leaves

¼ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

In microwave safe 1 cup measure combine heavy cream, corn meal, garlic and basil. Heat on HIGH in microwave for 45 to 60 seconds or until mixture boils. Cool. Discard garlic cloves and basil leaves. In small bowl, whisk sour cream, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; add to cream mixture to make a drizzle consistency.

I am second from the left

I am second from the left

Summer View: Will’s Bench &Grilling Tips

Grilled Steak

juicy grilled steak

Will’s Bench at Lake Elise in Middlebury, CT  is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by. Peaceful and filled with wildlife, the area is perfect for bird watching or fishing for large mouth bass. Dogs sniff the banks and often dive in for a cool swim. I especially love sitting on the bench on a summer morning having coffee with old friends. The kind of friends that are tried and true, have been around through thick and thin and after all these years are still willing to sit in silence and shed a few a tears or laughs recalling the antics of our kids. The morning mist rises off the clear water flecked with lily pads as the warmth of the sun breaks through.

BFF's Bev & Carol

BFF’s Bev & Carol

Friends like Bev and Carol are priceless. Every griever needs at least one Bev or one Carol in their life, but preferably both. They are the kind of selfless people who know how to step outside themselves for the good of another. It comes natural to them. Their simple presence creates a safe and comforting atmosphere that invites the sharing of feelings and healing. So much healing has taken place on this now weathered wooden bench on the edge of a lake–even on the day that bird pooped on my hand.

summer view from the bench

summer view from the bench

Another summer view

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IMG_0211Let me know if you ever get to Lake Elise, but until then let’s get grilling. We all love a good steak, so it being summer let’s share a few grilling tips plus a delicious recipe that also includes grilled watermelon. That’s right-grilled watermelon.

  1. Take the chill off your steak by removing it from the fridge 30 minutes before grill time. It will cook more evenly.
  2. Pat the steak dry with paper towels to avoid steaming the meat.
  3. Crank your grill up to HIGH. Lightly grease the grate.
  4. For gorgeous grill marks and delicious caramelized flavor follow the 10-2 rule of grilling (see recipe for explanation).
  5. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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Grilled Steakhouse Rib-Eye & Watermelon Wedge

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup blue cheese dressing

4 (1-inch thick) ribeye steaks

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small, seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into thick wedges

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese

2 green onions, thinly sliced on bias

8 fresh mint or basil leaves, thinly sliced plus additional sprigs for garnish

Heat grill to high. In small saucepan, over high heat, combine, wine, honey and Worcestershire sauce. Bring sauce mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency; set aside. Season steaks on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place steaks on hot, lightly greased grill rack pointing one edge towards 10:00. Grill 2 to 3 minutes creating well-browned grill marks. Rotate steak so that same edge now points toward 2:00. Grill 2 minutes. Now repeat process on other side of steak. Reduce heat to medium. Grill steaks, 3 to 4 minutes more or until medium-rare (125 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Transfer steaks to plate; cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, season watermelon with salt and pepper; place on lightly greased grill rack for 2 minutes per side or until charred grill marks begin to form. Arrange steaks and watermelon on serving plates. Drizzle dressing over watermelon. Drizzle wine sauce over steaks. Sprinkle with green onions, herbs and blue cheese. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs.

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule