Table Settings

I find it interesting that not many people know how to set a table.  My parents entertained a lot and by helping my mother I learned the proper placement of silverware and plates.  I also realized I was a lousy teacher for my own children because they either are unaware of the correct way to set a table of they don’t really care.  I am not talking about where to place the fish fork or knife, (I am not an etiquette expert)  but just a normal everyday place setting. 20190428_143229.jpg

So, looking at the picture above the salad plate goes to the left, whether it is up higher like this or directly beside, it doesn’t matter.  I don’t have the smaller bread plates with this set of china, my mother’s “Sunnyvale” by Castleton (I love this pattern) but if I did the salad plate would be on the dinner plate and the bread and butter plate would go to the left.  I don’t have butter knives with my sterling set but if I did it would go on the bread and butter plate.  The forks go on the left – work from outside in – the first small fork would be used first for the salad.  The larger fork in the middle would be for dinner, the small inside fork would be for dinner. On the right is the knife and then the spoon. If you are serving soup and have a soup spoon that would be laid above the plate horizontally. Water and wine goblets would go on the right as well.  The napkin can be placed on the left with or without a napkin ring or laid on the plate.

Lastly, a fun way to present your napkin (in this case, only paper would work) is the following.  My mother and whoever showed her used this a lot and taught us how to do it.  I like it because it is different and reminds me of a bird with its wings in flight.

First: Fold the napkin in half, diagonally. Second: Fold in half again. Third: fold one side about 1/2″ from the fold.

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Fourth: Turn it over and do the same to the other side. Fifth and last step: If I look at the inside folded napkin I see a center fold.  Slide this fold into the space between the second and third tine of the fork and the two “wings” in the space between the 1st and 2nd tine and the 3rd and 4th tine.  Try it!


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Yummy Burrata

I am in love with Cara Cara oranges.  Its pulp is sweet, seedless not quite the color of a blood orange but darker pulp than a naval orange.  I cut off the rind and cut the segments and scattered them on top of some baby butter lettuce.  I then took a ball of burrata and tore it into pieces and distributed the pieces as well. I sprinkled pomegranate seeds, thin slices of red onion and chunks of deliciously ripe avocado. I found a simple dressing on line:  2tbls of olive oil, 3 tbls of Red wine vinegar, and 2 tsp honey. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the salad and serve. It not only looks beautiful but tastes delicious.20180207_173905


Another easy but delicious appetizer uses burrata as well. I purchase bruschetta from Whole Foods (but if you are in Florida, Publix makes a great one, too) and pesto. In a small serving dish pour the bruschetta on one side and the pesto on the other.  Place a fresh burrata ball on top in the middle. Take a small baguette and slice 1/4″ slices. Brush with olive oil and place under the broiler until toasted. Do the same to the other side if desired.   Spoon  the bruschetta-pesto -burrata mixture onto the toast and Enjoy!! I score the ball for easier dipping)  I make this all the time but keep forgetting to take a picture so one will be coming soon!

Easy Morita Chile Salsa

20170309_172702My husband and I were on our way home from a destination wedding in San Miguel, Mexico last fall when he struck up a conversation with a young American woman sitting next to him who currently lives in Mexico City.  She shared with us her favorite and authentic salsa recipe using her favorite chile.

I found Morita Mexican Whole Dried Chiles on Amazon and ordered them.  They are a beautiful red chile with a wonderful smoky flavor.  Her recipe is simple but delicious and only requires 3 ingredients.

In a dry cast iron pan over med-high heat, roast 2-3 dried chiles and 2-3 cloves of whole garlic. Stir to allow these ingredients to brown and soften. In the pictures below I also roasted some sliced shallot or onion although this wasn’t in her recipe.  Remove place in the bowl of a small processor. Take one washed, large, whole tomato and place it in the hot pan.  Roast until the tomato skin begins to brown, peel and soften.    Although her recipe calls for the tomato to remain whole, mine was store bought so I quartered it, I thought this would release the tomato’s juices. Use a wooden spoon to roll it around the hot pan to roast all sides.  Remove from the pan and add to the processor.

For a milder salsa, use 1 or 2 more tomatoes.  The chiles are very hot but if you like the heat, roast and add more. Salt to taste. I suggest, when possible use farm fresh tomatoes as they are sweeter and juicier and make the best salsa. Supermarket tomatoes  will work when garden fresh aren’t available. Serve with chips.



Shrimp Cocktail

Many people shy away from cooking shrimp for shrimp cocktail because they are afraid of overcooking the shrimp and ruining them.  It really isn’t that scary or difficult.

Boil water in a large pot.  Throw in a bag of frozen extra jumbo shrimp.  When the water returns to a boil, IMMEDIATELY dump the shrimp into a strainer, quickly refill the pot with cold water and pour the shrimp into the cold water, add ice.  This stops the shrimp from cooking and consequently, overcooking.

Strain and peel shrimp, dry with paper towels, if necessary.

Easy cocktail sauce

Bottled cocktail sauce is usually awful.  Mix ketchup and horseradish to taste.  If you are really adventurous and like hot horseradish, consider making your own.  Just buy a horseradish root from your local supermarket.  I cut off a portion of the root and store the remainder in the refrigerator.  Peel the root and cut into smaller pieces.  Finely chop in a food processor.  Add a 1/4-1/2 tsp salt and 1 -2 tbls white vinegar through the top of the processor.  Be careful taking the lid off (I have often done this outside since the fumes from the horseradish can clean out your sinuses!)  Store in fridge for 2-3  weeks.20161123_125701

Indian Pudding

Every Thanksgiving I make one of my husband’s favorite desserts – Indian Pudding. Although the name may not be politically correct I would not be surprised if our Native American friends were the first to make this delicious Thanksgiving dessert.

Indian Pudding

4 cups milk

1/3 cup corn meal

3/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup butter

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ginger

3 tbls sugar

(one well beaten egg)

Preheat oven to 300.  Boil in the top of a double boiler the milk.  Stir in the corn meal ( I put the cornmeal in a small strainer and  I “shake” it into the milk as I stir. This eliminates lumps.  Cook over boiling water for 15 minutes. Stir in the molasses and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, salt, ginger and sugar. Add the beaten egg if desired, it is optional. Pour into well-greased baking dish. Bake for  1 1/2 hours. Spoon into bowls and serve with ice cream.

How to make the Perfect Apple Pie

My mother was a wonderful pie maker. She taught my sister and me well.  My husband brags about my apple pie.  The secret to a delicious pie is not really a secret – it starts with a delicious crust.  My mother gave me two very important tips for making a perfect crust: No. 1 was to keep it cold.   From the crumbly start to the water that is added to it, to the surface it was rolled on, keeping it cold was imperative.  No. 2 was DO NOT overwork the dough. She would tell us it wasn’t play dough or bread dough, so the less you handle it the better.  To make things easier, too, she made her crust in bulk and kept it in the refrigerator until she needed it. Her pie crust in bulk recipe is as follows and I always have it handy.

6 cups of flour

2 cups crisco

1 tsp salt

I like the flakiness of this pie crust and it could be because of the crisco.  Butter can be substituted, of course, but why mess with success.  Cut the crisco into the flour and salt until it is crumbly, using a pastry blender or fork. Store it in a zip lock bag and refrigerate until ready to use.  It keeps this way for months.

For a single crust measure out 1 1/2 cups of the mixture, 2 cups for double.  I sometimes go a little over and I will tell you why later. Add 5 to 7 tablespoons of ice cold water to the mixture and mix together with a fork until it forms a ball. (1)

Lightly flour the rolling pin and begin rolling from the center out.  DO NOT lean into the rolling pin onto the crust, trying to push it out.  With a small amount of pressure the rolling pin will not stretch the dough and keep it a uniform thickness.(2)

Carefully pick up the edge of the crust that is farthest away from you and fold in half.(3) Lift from the folded edge and place on your pie plate and carefully unfold to cover the plate. (4) Lightly press the crust into the plate and trim the edge to about a 1/2″ overhang.(5) Put excess to the side.

In the meantime, peel, cut, core and slice 6-7 apples.  I prefer Granny smith but it is personal preference.  Add 1/2-3/4 cup sugar and 2 tbls. flour and 1 tbls. cinnamon and add to apples. Pile the cut apples into the pie shell and dot with butter.(6)

Roll out the top crust as before.  I usually do not use the trimmed left over crust from the bottom because I don’t want to overwork or handle the dough too much.  That is why, as I said before, I use more than the 2 cups of mixture. Follow the same procedure as steps 1-5. Use water to seal the top and bottom crust together and fold under.  Use your thumb and index finger or a fork to form a decorative finish around the pie perimeter. (7)

Pierce the top with a knife and sprinkle with sugar.  Use foil around the pie edge or a crust protector to keep the edge from getting too brown during baking.(8)  Bake in a 350 oven for fifty minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10-15.Cool a bit before serving.

The extra dough can be saved, if there is enough, for a single pie crust. just wrap and store in the refrigerator.  I roll it out flat, sprinkle cinnamon sugar on it, then roll it up,cut it and bake it .  My kids, all grown now, still love them!

If making a single crust, many people suggest lining the crust with foil and then use navy beans or any kind of dried beans to weigh the crust down.  I often forego the foil and it turns out fine.  Good Luck!




St. Patrick’s Day

It has been quite a while since I last posted… It is not because we have not been entertaining but I try to post different scenarios and recipes.  The holidays were hectic with family matters to contend with.

Here we are in Florida and we are still entertaining.  It’s St Patty’s Day down here Naples.  We attended the annual Naple’s St Patrick’s Day parade which was loaded with representatives from my home state of Massachusetts so it got us in the mood for Green.


First you need a big pot.  We had to buy one since we didn’t have one in Florida.  There are two varieties of corn beef  – the cut is basically the same, a beef brisket that has been “corned” whatever that means.  They come  gray and red.  We prefer the gray but both taste great. We brought the gray down from Massachusetts and bought the red at our local Publix.  Fill the pot with water. Add plenty of garlic, pepper, a few bayleaves and the corned beef. Sometimes the cornbeef comes with a seasoning package, use if you like.  I think it makes it more salty. Bring the water to boil then bring the heat down to a simmer.  Simmer the meat for 20 mins/pound. We’re cooking seven pounds so we are starting the simmer at 2:30pm and plan to take the meat out and wrap in foil at 5:30pm.  DON’T THROW OUT THE WATER!!!  Cut up the turnip, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and onions.  Add them to the simmering corn beef water.  Simmer until veggies are tender.  Check often since cabbage takes longer to cook than potatoes, for example. Remove veggies with a slotted spoon and separate into bowls or platter.  We usually arrange all the veggies on a large platter with the meat but since I don’t have a large platter, I will separate the different vegetables into bowls. Keep them warm while you slice the meat.  Sometimes we have put the meat back into the water to rewarm.  When you do go to slice,  slice thinly and on the bias.  Have  white vinegar and mustard to serve with the meat.