Monday, November 28

Closing The Door On Fall

   Over the last few days I have mulled over and over in my mind different ideas from which to choose a topic for my next post. 
 Captain Lord Mansion Inn, Maine*
I do understand that the majority of people do not care about my opinion. I also understand that the majority of people do not care about my collection of ideas. So what am I left with? My ideas and opinions are the essence of everyday Treasures, more or less.   With that being said let me take a moment to reflect on the subject of Fall before December takes us by storm. Fall is my favorite time of year, for so many reasons. I love high school football games, new books, good friends and hay rides. I love pumpkins, marching bands, scarecrows, and Homecoming Mums. I love changing leaves, crisp days, cold nights and families gathered together for Thanksgiving. I love Fall because I met the man of my dreams in Mrs. Banks Freshman Biology college course 101 in the Fall of '84. Fall holds many wonderful memories for our family. I anticipate all of the holidays and celebrations that we acknowledge throughout the year. They bring together families with much love and laughter, many stories old and new and a fantastic meal filled with unforgettable family favorites! It is so fitting that towards the end of the year we find Fall. Harvest time. A special time we have set aside to step back, reflect and be truly Thankful for a year filled with blessings. Christmas will soon be upon us. Stop and take this opportunity to thank God once again for His infinite wisdom and grace.   I hope who ever is reading this has had a delightful Fall and an even more wonderful Thanksgiving with dear family and friends. Hold them close to your hearths and hearts as we close the door on Fall in preparation for the Christmas Season and Winter to come.
  *The Captain Lord Mansion Inn located in Kennebunkport, Maine holds many wonderful Fall memories for me and my honey! 4 Star Inn...You can't go wrong here.

Tuesday, November 22

Mom's Cornbread

We all fight over the corner pieces!
I grew up in a home where breakfast and dinner were served at the table. DAILY. No excuses. NO rushing. We were expected to sit and visit with the family. My Mother made GREAT dinners. They consisted of protein, two veggies, salad and a starch. We never knew what was coming our way with the exception of Sunday Lunch. Sunday Lunch...I can still smell my Mother's roast cooking. My sister and I woke up to that wonderful smell every Sunday morning. Our father was/is a Baptist minister, so Mom started the roast as soon as she woke up and it cooked while we were at church. She added potatoes, carrots and onions along with the roast into her Dutch Oven, set it on low and left it to cook. When we came in from church lunch was ready and waiting on us. The crowning touch to our meal was her cornbread. You CAN"T eat roast with out Mom's cornbread.
Adding buttermilk and egg to dry ingredients.
Mom's Cornbread tasted like no other cornbread we had ever eaten before OR since. She baked her cornbread in an old iron skillet. She has several iron skillets and one is reserved just for cornbread. It is seasoned so well that you don't even have to run a knife around it before flipping it out onto a plate. It comes out perfect every time. Mom's cornbread is the best, soft and light on the inside with a slight crunch to the crust. This is Mom's recipe. Try it, I promise it will soon become one of your families favorites.


MOM'S CORNBREAD
MAKES 1 PAN
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INGREDIENTS
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal - I use 3/4 cup white cornmeal & 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
Pouring hot oil into cornbread batter.
Pouring cornbread mixture into HOT skillet.
WHAT TO DO
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour oil in cast iron skillet and place in the oven to heat. 
  • Measure dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, stir together. Add 2 cups buttermilk and egg. Using a whisk stir until mixed. 
  • When your oven reaches 425 degrees, carefully, using several pot holders, remove skillet from the oven. Pour the hot oil into your cornbread batter. Set HOT skillet on a pot holder. Stir the oil into your cornbread batter and immediately pour cornbread batter into the skillet. It should "sizzle"...the sign of good cornbread. I love that sound! 
  • Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. 
  • Remove skillet from oven and flip out onto a plate. YUM!
Cornbread, hot out of the oven.
A whole new generation has come to love my mother's cornbread. Only it's not called Mom's Cornbread anymore. Now it's MeMe's Cornbread. I hope you will bake a pan for your family because I KNOW they will love it as much as we do!  Good Luck and Happy Baking!


ENJOY!
~THE DOMESTIC CURATOR~
RONDA


black, iron, skillet, cornbread, buttermilk, homemade, quick, easy, mom's,sizzle,

Sunday, November 20

Simmering Seasonal Spices & The New World!


Did you know as early as 80 BC the spice trade was ON. Bear with me, I love history. Spices were discovered by the Western World when the Silk Road was opened from East to West. Over the years as Eastern silk traders made their way to the Greek and Roman Empires they began packing spices among their silk wares, ebony and luxury textiles. After trying such spices as Cinnamon, Cassia, Cardamon, Ginger and Turmeric the Western World  was hooked on this new taste sensation. These unusual dried plants were so wonderful and sought after they became extremely rare and expensive commodities, surpassing even silk in value. Certain spices were so valued they became the main form of currency during this period of new discoveries. As the Greco-Roman world increased, trade from India flourished. The Indians traveled over land passing through Constantinople, spanning two continents and eventually making their way to Rome.


Fast forward to the early part of the Middle Ages. The rise of Islam and the Ottoman Empire almost certainly closed the door on trade between East and West. The Ottomans overtook Constantinople and demanded high taxes for anyone passing with such valuable goods. The taxes were so expensive this all but stopped trade with the West.

Then along came Colombus in 1492 when he sailed the ocean blue. He sailed West trying to find a quick route to the East and thereby bypassing the Ottoman tax. Well you know the rest of that story. Old Colombo was the first man to make a go of it but he most certainly was not the last. Eventually in 1497, Vasco da Gama was the first to make it all the way to India. This reopened the trade route between East and West and trading began to flourish once again. 

Today the spices that we use are so easily picked up at our local grocery store. No need to sacrifice 6 months of our lives cruising on a sailboat to India to pick up cinnamon. Also have you noticed how expensive most of them are - and for good reason. After you buy a  spice and open it up, care to guess how long the shelf life is? Six months! That's about it. Sad but true. I fudge and use mine a little longer but they never taste quite the same as when you first open them. 

But don't throw out your outdated spices, NO! This is my solution for old spices: I use them to make my own special Holiday Scentsy. I take the spices I know are old, mainly cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg go first and keep them in a cabinet close to my stove. At least twice a week I fill a small saucepan with water, then add fragrant odds and ends. I keep orange peel, sliced apple and cranberries in the freezer for such an occasion. A sprig off of the Christmas Tree or Rosemary bush is the BEST!* Sprinkle in a few of your favorite Holiday spices and bring it to a boil, turn it down to the lowest setting and let that sweet perfume fill your home. Whatever you like. Whatever you have. It just smells like what HOME should be during the Holidays. A stove top potpourri mix is an easy, and inexpensive way to make your home smell wonderful in just a few minutes.

Package a few of your favorite fragrant holiday spices and give them to friends as a special treat. They make great hostess gifts during the season of giving. 

*If you don't bring in a fresh tree for the Holidays your local nursery is usually FULL of branches from various trees. Remember they cut the bottom off of a tree so that it will be ready to soak up lots of water when you get it home. I have never been charged for these fragrant "left-overs". 

The question of the day is: Would there be a United States of America if not for men on the hunt for spices. Seriously, think about it.

spices, cinnamon, cloves, Christmas, holiday, scentsy, rosemary, simmering, gifts, inexpensive, treats, seasonal, 

Friday, November 11

THE ART OF MAKING PIE CRUSTS

Making pie crust for some can be intimidating. But with a little practice, it really only takes a little more effort than using a store bought crust. 
I learned to cook in the 20 plus years that I participated in the food competitions at the State Fair of Texas. Some of the other competitors gave me good advice on making pie dough, "If you want a flaky crust use Crisco". You know what...they were right! I'm sure Martha Stewart just fell off of her chair - and I'm not saying Martha is wrong - I'm just saying she hasn't come up against the fierce competition at the Texas State Fair, and I do mean FIERCE! It was the best cooking school a young wife and mother could ever hope to have. So here it is, all the way from my kitchen to yours, my recipe for a classic pie crust.


CLASSIC PIE DOUGH
MAKES 1 9-inch Pie Dough

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup Crisco
  • pinch of salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp. ice cold water

WHAT TO DO
  • Mix the flour, Crisco and salt in a large mixing bowl, until it forms into the size of large peas. I use my hands, it's SO much easier than a pastry cutter, quicker and less mess. 
  • Add the ice water, stir with a fork until it forms into a large ball. 
  • Cover your counter top with plastic wrap and dust lightly with flour. 
  • Pat your dough down into a flat round disc and place it on top of your plastic wrap. Dust the top lightly with flour and cover with an additional piece of plastic wrap. *I cover my counter and dough for two reasons. One being it prevents a huge mess and secondly, and more importantly, when rolling out your dough it keeps you from having to add excess flour causing your dough to be tough. 
  • With rolling pin in hand begin rolling from the center of your dough out. 
  • Turn dough, and again roll from the center out. 
  • Keep going until it is large enough for your pie plate. 
  • Take off the top piece of plastic wrap, turn your pie plate upside down placing it on top of your dough. Putting your hand under the bottom piece of plastic wrap, flip the pie plate and dough all at once and peel off your bottom piece of plastic wrap. If you need to trim the edges of your dough, do so now. 
  • Even out your edges by turning them under slightly and squeezing them together using the sides of your hands. 
  • Once you have a nice straight edge you can crimp the edge any style you like. I pinch mine together at an angle using my thumb and bent forefinger.  
  • Pop your pie plate in to the fridge and let it rest for about 20 minutes. 
  • If you are making pie crust ahead of time it will keep fine in the freezer up to 3 months or a few days in the fridge. I am a firm believer in making pie crust ahead of time, especially during the holidays.
  • When you are ready to use your pie dough, brush the edge of the crust with beaten egg white, fill and cook according to pie recipe. 

I do hope this is helpful and will be a time saver for you during the holidays. Don't give yourself a no before you give it a whirl. Try it and once you get used to making your own pie crust you will be amazed at how quickly you can turn them out. This recipe can easily be doubled for a two crust pie or if you are making more than one pie. GOOD LUCK!

FYI: You can always bake your pies ahead of time and freeze them as well.  How easy is that, pull them out of your freezer the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas!

ENJOY!
~THE DOMESTIC CURATOR~
RONDA

CLASSIC PIE DOUGH CRUST RECIPE


Wednesday, November 9

THANKSGIVING IS TWO WEEKS AWAY?

  As I stepped out onto the patio last night in my PJ's there was a definite chill in the air, a crispness that wasn't there before. Standing there under the starry sky calling for Ms. Bennet, our cat, I caught a whiff of woodsmoke and that sweet smell leaves create when they are starting to decay. Back in the house we go, Ms. Bennet and I, she goes her way...which is the garage...and I head to the bedroom. I knew the time had come for me to pull out our "winter" quilt realizing Fall had finally made it's way to North Texas!!
  Now I realize for most people this may not be an outstanding event
The velvet bench at the end of the bed is perfect for luggage.
but to us Texans that have survived the intense heat all summer it's like Christmas and our birthday all rolled into one! Yes, God has turned the air-conditioner on for us and we can once again enjoy the wide open spaces of Texas!

 A great guest bath, fully stocked.
   After savoring the moment for some time it came to me that Thanksgiving is in two short weeks and I'm on deck, I'm in charge this year. I must get busy and quick. People they are a comin' and I'm not prepared! Over the next week I will share with you my survival guide to Holidays and House Guests. First on my list is to clean. Now to be clear on this subject, I am just a tad OCD. I do like clean. I promise you though if you will start this week and clean from your ceiling fans down, the day before your guests arrive you will just have to go back and do just a slight once over. BELIEVE me this helps the hostess, that would be me in this case, to be less rattled. That taken care of let's focus on the Guest Bedroom and Bath. Just a few ideas that will help your house guests to feel more comfortable and leave your home with wonderful memories of time spent with you.

  • Make sure the guest bedroom and bath are sparkling. The day before they arrived put fresh sheets on the bed and lay towels out in the bathroom.
  • Fresh flowers are a nice touch on the night stand. No need to visit a florist, you can buy fresh flowers now at any supermarket. A nice touch to any room and believe me, they will remember this.
  • Make sure the room has a bedside lamp, an alarm clock and bottled water. Not everyone is going to like the water in your fair city. Current magazines and a book or two are also a good idea.
  • If this is a family member place old family photos in the guest room, or even a family album. This is one of my favorite things to do when we visit my parents, we usually all get a good laugh!
  • Leave extra room in the closet along with hangers. If you have a luggage rack put it out. If not an extra chair will do.
  • In the bathroom leave out a set of your fluffiest towels. If you have a white terry cloth robe you can leave it on the backside of the door. Also it's a good idea to pick up sample size items at the store. Things they may have forgotten to bring with them, a tooth brush, tooth paste, hand and face soap, ect....what ever you think they may need while staying in your home. Make sure they have extra toilet paper and kleenex.
A basket of essentials for your guest.
  While staying in your home make your guests feel comfortable. If they want to go shopping or to a movie, make sure you have a list of the closest movie theaters, specialty stores and malls. When we have guest I always try to have a little something extra special for breakfast. You can make any kind of quick bread a week ahead and freeze, pulling it out the night before to thaw. I also arrange cereals, fruits, boiled eggs, my quick bread and yogurt out on the counter in the kitchen. Make sure they know where to find the milk and juice and leave out glasses, plates, bowls, silverware and napkins. This will ensure that your guests will
 Blueberry-Lemon Muffins
feel that they can get up early if they prefer without having to wake you. 
  Hope this was helpful in some way and will ensure that you and your guest will enjoy the Holidays even more leaving you both with wonderful memories.

Tuesday, November 8

OLD FASHIONED BUTTERMILK PIE

This is the very first pie that I entered into the Texas State Fair Pie Contest. It won a blue ribbon and I was forever hooked! Since then this buttermilk pie has become a staple in our home. It is so stinking easy to make and requires only a few ingredients, making this THE PERFECT PIE! A cold slice will cure what ails you - guaranteed! 
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INGREDIENTS
  • 1 9-inch Pie Crust
  • 1 stick of Unsalted Butter, melted                 
  • 2 cups Sugar                                                   
  • 1/4 cup Flour                                                 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt                                            
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • Cinnamon

WHAT TO DO
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Mix together all dry ingredients except cinnamon. 
  • Add all wet ingredients and mix well well. 
  • Pour mixture into prepared pie shell. 
  • Sprinkle the top of pie with cinnamon and swirl with a spoon.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until set.
I know mine is perfectly done when the top is slightly cracked and golden brown! So YUMMY right out of the fridge!



ENJOY!
~THE DOMESTIC CURATOR~
RONDA

YOO-de-HOO FOR BUTTERMILK PIE!

BUTTERMILK, PIE, OLD-FASHIONED, FAMILY, PERFECT, BLUE, RIBBON, WINNER

Sunday, November 6

BLUE-RIBBON BROWNIES

WHAT A GREAT WAY TO START A WEEK! HOT FROM THE OVEN HOMEMADE BROWNIES... HOW COULD IT GET ANY BETTER? MAYBE WITH BLUE BELL!! DELISH!

For years I attempted to win a blue ribbon in the brownie cook-off at the State Fair of Texas. I made fancy brownies with icings, swirls, fillings, layered and all for 2nd, 3rd and sometimes no ribbon at all. One year, out of frustration, I decided to bake the brownies that I made weekly for my little family and they actually won the coveted State Fair of Texas Blue Ribbon. Who would have guessed! 

I have been baking these one-pot chocolate fudge brownies for almost twenty years. Twenty years of the kids, and my husband, licking the spatula and pot. These brownies have been eaten by many friends, family members and Friday night marching band students. They do not disappoint and you can not eat just one!

The moral of this little story is, 'Go with what ya know!"

BLUE-RIBBON BROWNIES
MAKES 48 2" BROWNIES
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INGREDIENTS
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 chopped pecans, optional
WHAT TO DO
  • Grease and flour a 13'x9' baking dish.  * I line my pan with non-stick foil instead. This helps to pull the whole sheet of brownies out at once. It makes cutting easy and the brownies are very uniform.
  • In a separate bowl add 1 and 1/2 cups of All-Purpose flour {spooning it VERY lightly into measuring cups and leveling off}, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Stir and set aside. 
  • Melt unsalted butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and add cocoa. Stir until dissolved. Add sugar to sauce pan; mix well.  Add 4 room temp eggs, one at a time, mix well.  Add 1 GOOD sized teaspoon of quality vanilla, mix well.
  • Add dry ingredients to saucepan and mix well. Add nuts if desired. Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool in pan or eat hot with ice cream!
  •  Cut brownies REALLY small, just big enough for a few bites.  Enjoy!


chocolate, blue-ribbon, brownies, fudge, moist, decadent, kid-approved, winning,

Saturday, November 5

Blogging?

Well my first attempt at blogging was crude at best! I will definitely be taking a class come January. To say that I am inept at anything with a cord is MILD. I can facebook, google recipes,  travel destinations and any new ideas for decorating, floral designs and parties. When a computer starts asking me to cut and paste, I get out my construction paper, scissors and glue. Okay enough said about my inabilities, I'll work on them. I will either succeed or end up with a crater in my stomach.

I have been thinking about a blog for sometime now. I have many friends requesting recipes. My recipes. Recipes that are tested and tried over years. By me. In my kitchen. If the family deems them wonderful they eventually make their way to the State Fair of Texas. If I should happen to win a ribbon with one of these recipes it becomes apart of my rolling recipe stock.
Easy Halloween decor and food. Double Chocolate Fudge Cake.
I will be sharing my recipes over time along with cooking tips, time savers and fun ways to incorporate these recipes into parties, holidays and gatherings whether big or small. I will also be sharing my views on decorating, travel and generally how I work to make The PORTER'S home and world a more beautiful and peaceful place.


HUGE inspiration for last years Halloween party.

It will for sure be slow going as I don't know what I am doing, but I'm willing to give it a try. If you have a question about a recipe you are looking for send me a note.  If I do not have it on hand I will do my best to find the answer.

Friday, November 4

Autumn Makes My Heart Sing

Slowly meandering down a woodland path in the stillness of a crisp  Fall morning, I notice the daily changes God makes to the land around us.

As the Autumn Sun warms the day, I listen to blankets of fallen leaves being stirred by unseen breezes. Looking up as the sound of geese soar over head, taking my thoughts away as they fly.

And as the Harvest Moon looks down over us, my honey and I snuggle up next to a blazing fire and enjoy the year's last beautiful smile.....

Autumn.