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.

Happy Father’s Day Pizza Mattina

pizza mattina

pizza mattina

Some say my parents were the original recyclers. Nothing ever went to waste and when it came to food it meant preparing leftover spaghetti into a tasty frittata and vegetables into savory soups and stews. Much to my mother’s dismay my dad recycled day old Italian bread into bread crumbs sailing bits of hard bread all over the kitchen as the crusts pinged off the old box grater. He made a mean panzanella with that same old bread back in the day before this bread salad was ever cool and trendy.

Of all his delicious dishes, it is the memory of his homemade pizza that has me salivating. When the breadboard (handmade by his father) came out I knew we were all in for a treat. My dad, dusted with flour, gave the task of mashing the leftover baked potato to me. The “recycled” potato was the secret to making his yeasty dough bake up crisp and delicious on the outside and tender on the inside. I am among the few who know the secret of the potato. All were welcome to the table for pizza, but if you could not make it my dad would deliver.

My dad in Sicily

My dad in Sicily

My dad died at the ripe old age of 86. He was tired and ready to go. He had worked hard, lived the American dream and was proud of the business and family he had built. As an insulin dependant diabetic he pretty much defied the odds of living such a long and healthy life, but all along the way I felt like he was preparing me for the day he would eventually go. As I watched him push his insulin needle, yet, another time, through his clothing into his body I would scream in horror…..he would calmly respond, “What? You want me to live forever?” He was a character to say the least.

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my dad with young Will & Cait

I miss my dad, but I resolved my grief within a day of his death. My dad’s passing, unlike my son, was the natural order of things. My dad was done and ready to go. He went peacefully into the night and I was prepared for it. Just a completely different experience.

Happy Father’s Day to my biggest cheerleader. You continue to inspire me to “zig instead of zag”. Inspired by you and your name I remember how proud you were when a version of  this recipe won an award from King Arthur Flour.

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Sweet Pizza Mattina

2 cups King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat flour

1 cup King Arthur Flour Unbleached Flour

1 russett potato, roasted, peeled, grated

1- tablespoon sugar

1- teaspoon salt

1 (2 ¼ tsp.) packet instant dry yeast (quick-rise)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ¼ – cups lukewarm water

2 tablespoons butter

1 baking apple, peeled, cored, chopped

1/3- cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/3- cup orange marmalade

½ cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine flours, potato , sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a stand mixer. Mix and knead about 5 minutes or until a soft, smooth dough ball forms. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 ½ hours or place in refrigerator and let rise overnight. Just before the dough rising time is up heat oven to 425F. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add apples, cranberries and orange marmalade; cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly and apples are just tender.   Gently punch down dough. On a lightly buttered baking sheet, press down into a 9-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Use your fingers to gently dimple the dough all over. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch rim around the edge. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Slice into wedges. Serves 8.

 

 

Make Merry & Bright & Balanced

Boston Style Steak & Wine Wraps

Boston Style Steak & Wine Wraps

Time to put up the tree and holiday lights. This year I picked out the tree in literally 2 minutes because it was too darn cold and slippery to walk the farm. My one and only was quite grateful for my quick choice and chopped it down before I could change my mind. We missed having William to man the saw and grateful for Caitlin coming by to help decorate. Only those tiny white lights will do and I love how the tinsel sparkles in reflection.

In reflection there is nothing that lights up my life more than the smiles on my children’s faces during the holidays. Like my father I am always happiest when my children are around. In fact, I feel most in balance when I am sandwiched right between them. Like the sweet vanilla cream between those crispy chocolate cookies-perfectly balanced, centered, calm, merry and bright.

Christmas 2010 Merry and Bright

Christmas 2010 Merry and Bright

Now imagine for a moment how one feels when one of those bright lights is suddenly snuffed out. The entire strand dims and the sparkle disappears. Losing a child turns all is calm to all is upside down and inside out. It’s chaotic night instead of silent night. There is no rest ye merry gentlemen, but plenty of dismay.

Fatigue is not a friend of the grief-stricken. It disrupts the balance of our being and plays havoc with our coping skills. Lack of sleep, restless sleep and insomnia causes a tipping of the scale with one teetering on the edge. Do whatever it takes to get a good night’s sleep. Peaceful sleep is crucial for getting through each and every day. In the long run, it is essential to getting your sparkle and your balance back.

When it comes to recipes balancing your taste buds is crucial. The most delicious dishes have a balance of salty, sweet, bitter and sour in the ingredient list. There is also a 5th taste known as umami which has to do with the savoryness or meatyness of the dish. I also add the 6th sense which has to do with the love one puts into their food. Food from the heart is inspired and has a certain sparkle. With just one bite all is merry and bright with the world.

This is my grand prize winning dish from the Beringer Wine Great Steak Challenge. It’s perfect for the holidays as either a main dish or an appetizer. It’s perfectly balanced flavors are incredibly affordable and will add a certain sparkle to your festive buffet.

Boston Style Steak & Wine Wraps

1 cup Beringer’s Founders’ Estate Shiraz

1 cup beef broth

½ cup dried sweetened cranberries

2 tablespoons molasses

1 1/2 pounds flank steak, about ¾-inch thick

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

18 cup-shaped leaves of Boston lettuce

½ cup sliced green onions

¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Heat covered gas grill to high. In a medium skillet, bring wine, broth, cranberries and molasses to a boil. Boil sauce, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 22 minutes or until reduced and slightly syrupy; set aside. Meanwhile, season steak on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place steak on hot, lightly greased grill rack. Grill steak 2 to 3 minutes or until well browned. Turn, and grill other side for 2 to 3 minutes or until well browned. Reduce gas grill temperature to medium. Grill steak 7 to 9 minutes or until medium-rare (125 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Transfer steak to a cutting surface; let rest for 5 to10 minutes.  Thinly slice steak across the grain.  Arrange lettuce cups on a large platter. Fill lettuce cups with steak. Top steak with cranberry-wine sauce, a sprinkle of green onions and cheese. Serves 6 Serve with Beringer’s Founders’ Estate Shiraz.