Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mystery blocks of the month

Somehow, I never got around to piecing last month's block and this month's arrived in the mail yesterday. Mike has been at the PTC all day today, so I have been piecing and playing Scrabble on Facebook. These are last month's fabrics...


And this is last month's block...


This month's fabrics...

This month's block...


Here are all of the blocks so far. It will be interesting to see what sort of finishing they have in mind for this gaudy assortment.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's dinner

I decided to make Beef Wellington for our Valentine's Day dinner last night. I have two recipes I have used before. The first, which I made several times back in the 70s is in The French Chef Cookbook. It involves a whole beef tenderloin and making pastry from scratch which you prebake into a shell...very complicated. More recently I have used the recipe from The New Basics. It uses individual filets and frozen puff pastry. Last night I took the best of both recipes and combined them.

This is the part from the French Chef. You make duxelles by chopping mushrooms very finely and squeezing the liquid out of them through a towel.

Then you cook them with butter and shallots.

You then add dry Madeira, cook until that evaporates and incorporate some pate.

The Madeira sauce is also from the French Chef. You take the reserved mushroom liquid and cook it with beef broth and bit of tomato paste. When it has been reduced you add some cornstarch dissolved in Madeira.

The rest of the recipe is from the New Basics. You rub individual beef filets with Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and dried thyme.

You then sear them in melted butter. At one point I was actually using four of the five burners on my cooktop.

I somehow missed taking a picture of topping the filets with the duxelles. You just spread it thickly over the top and sides.

This is the part I really like. Cover the filets with a circle of puff pastry, brush with beaten egg and decorate. Then bake at 425º for 15 minutes.

I'm not sure where we got this lovely bottle of Côtes du Rhône, but it was a nice accompaniment.

As was the asparagus with hollandaise. The Madeira sauce was served on the side.

I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter for the puff pastry decoration.

And for dessert there was chocolate crème brûlée,

with raspberries, Mike's favorite.

I don't cook like this often, but when I do I remember how much I enjoy it. I spent a good portion of the day planning and prepping, but there was very little to do at the last minute, so I was able to relax and enjoy our dinner. Give me that over a restaurant any time...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

I recently came across this vintage Valentine card. I'm not sure when it's from, some time in the early 50s. Note on the little girl's bracelet a small metal rivet.

It lets the ice cream cone rotate away from the little girl's face.

I love vintage Valentine cards, but this one is very special to is signed on the back by my father, who passed away last April.

I love you, too, Daddy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Back in the blogosphere

I have just returned from dropping my daughter and son-in-law off at the airport, the last of our kids to leave after our wonderful family vacation, a week-long cruise out of Galveston to the western Caribbean. I had been wanting to take a family vacation forever...seems like the last one we had was when the kids were in high school. My original plan was to do this when our younger son graduated from college in 2006, but then he didn't really graduate till 2007, and that was the year our daughter got married. Then there was the issue of where to go and what to do. Somehow I got the idea of a cruise. The appealing part of this was the simplicity of it all. We could drive to Galveston, get on a ship and just relax for a cooking or cleaning or getting on each others' nerves because everyone would have their own cabin and time away from each other. The ground rules were that they all had to get themselves to Houston and pay their own bar bills on the ship! It was well received by all, especially those who were happy to get out of Minnesota in February.

Our itinerary was Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Montego Bay. Unfortunately, the weather was less than cooperative. It was mostly sunny, but also windy, which affected our shore excursions. We went snorkeling in Cozumel, but the sea was very choppy and definitely NOT the best conditions for snorkeling. The wind followed us to Grand Cayman and our "Stingray City" excursion was canceled. And it was so bad in Jamaica that the ship didn't even dock. But we didn't plan the trip to go on the excursions, we planned to spend time with our kids...which we got to do, and had a fabulous time! We all had dinner together every night, hung out by the pool, played board games and enjoyed every minute. It was wonderful to have our whole family together for a week, but now I miss them more than ever.

Update: I have uploaded pictures to my Flickr account here.