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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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

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!




Impromptu cookout (or last minute)

I play golf.  I play for fun and occasionally I play in a tournament.  Not often, but at least once a year.  I recently played in a two day tournament.  I wasn’t sure when I would be done but a friend invited my husband and me to come for a “porch night” – drinks and appetizers on their porch one beautiful summer night and then out to dinner after.  Unbeknownst to my friend or me, my husband decided to invite everyone to our house for dinner… and by so doing invited a few more to porch night as well. Needless to say when I walked off the golf course and heard this, I sort of panicked.  My house was in disarray (a nice way of saying a mess) and I had nothing prepared.

Typical of my husband, Don went and bought huge steaks and farm fresh corn on the cob.  I got home and took to broom and mop and at least made the kitchen presentable.  The extra friends that thought we were going out to eat after porchtime felt terrible that they had not brought something but that didn’t worry us.  After I collected myself, I sliced up some cukes and tomatoes fresh from the garden, boiled some water for the corn and marinaded thickly sliced zucchini, also from the garden, in oil and garlic.  Don seasoned the steaks and lighted the grill.

My friends kindly overlooked the mess that was outside of the somewhat cleaned up kitchen, we  set up a buffet and when the corn and steaks were done, we ate.  I had vanilla ice cream and strawberries at the read for dessert but we decided dessert wasn’t necessary.  Everything was loaded into the dishwasher and we retired to the patio to listen to music around the firepit. IMG_4321

High off the Hog

For the past two years to kick off the summer we have held at our home a pig roast for 150 of our nearest and dearest friends.  This year rain was threatening but we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.  Our three kids and their boy/friends/girlfriends arrived early to help set up. We set up five tents and a borrowed “carport” tent just in case the weather took a nasty turn.  I had rented five 6′ tables and fifty chairs.  We provided beverages and desserts, the rest was provided by the “caterer” Ray, my husband’s customer, and his wife put on a fabulous pig roast that is second to none.  Ray trailers his smoke/roaster from his truck and pulls in with the pig that has been cookin’ since the night before.  Image

Janet arrives with their staff in toe to set up the buffet.  Along with the pig, they provide they 30 racks of the meatiest ribs on the planet, BBQed beef brisket and hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids. We noticed that the kids opted for the ribs and pork, so next year, burgers and dos are out!.


The sides consist of potato salad, cole slaw and cornbread.

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 We provided beverages and many of the desserts were brought by the invited guests.  For entertainment we had a Corn Hole competition, Volleyball, and our neighborhood band provided music all afternoon and into the night.  After the band cleared out at midnight, Whoever was left sat around the pit fire into the wee hours of the morning.  A great time was had by all.



A Rustic Wedding

Well on October 26, 2013 we had a wedding.  The reception was held at a rustic locale – a local winery.  It was a brisk October day but the sun was out and that’s all we cared about.  The wedding was outside, the colors were “merlot”, how appropriate, and the flowers were typical fall colors.  The sunflower was the prominent flower.  The brides maids carried a sunflower with berries wrapped in burlap.

We decided to have different “antique-y”vessels for the centerpieces.  This was one of my favorites – a white toy pick up truck for the Sweetheart table.  Notice the tin cans trailing from the rear and the “Just Married” sign on the hood.

This bouquet was on the gift table.  The copper pail has been in the family for years – brought over from Sweden by my Grandmother.  We also use a copper kettle and my mother’s tarnished silver tea set.  Even the floral designers said it was one of their favorite weddings and fought over which container to use.  I had many of the guests take them homes I would be sure to get them back later.

Bakery themed bridal shower

Bridal Showers can be a lot of fun or they can be deadly.  The deadly description was what we were trying to avoid when my daughter and I were planning her sister’s bridal shower.  The bride loves to bake so her very clever sister thought that a baking theme would be appropriate.  She designed these invites (with help from pinterest) tied up with bakery twine and enclosed a recipe card to be returned at the shower.  From the invites we had our color scheme – pastels – yellow, pink, violet, and green. 

For favors, we continued with our bakery theme making vanilla using vodka and vanilla beans and letting it “steep” for 8-10 weeks.  We purchased brown 4 oz bottles, labeled them and tied them up with the bakers twine.  For the tables, we “painted” clear glass cake plates with a mixture of mod podge and food coloring and sprayed them with white glitter. Each were the one of the pastels of our theme and we made pies to act as centerpieces which would later be used for the dessert: yellow – lemon meringue; pink – strawberry rhubarb; green – key lime; purple – blueberry; white – apple.  Pastel sprinkles were sprinkled on the table cloth like confetti and completed the table design.

Because the bride did not want to open gifts a solution had to be found.  Our remedy was that as the guests arrived, their gifts were taken by the bridesmaids, unwrapped, labeled and displayed.  They then were escorted to the far end of the room where they were served mimosas and appetizers and asked to contribute an idea to the date night jar. Some were later read during the meal. The following poem explains the activity:

Many married couples don’t seem to date

Their social lives pause, then tend to stagnate

Their lives get busy, time travels on

They get old and lethargic and often withdrawn

But Tyler and Katie will be wedded soon

And their last date cannot be their honeymoon.

So think long and hard as to what you would do

If given the chance for a fun rendezvous.

Take pink, green or YELLOW and write a suggestion

That will answer their challenging date night question.





The meal was a simple buffet of assorted sandwiches, seasonal soup and salad and condiments.  Between the meal and coffee and dessert, a lips and mustache game was played where the guests were requested to guess who said what from a list of questions that were given to the bride and groom.  It didn’t require a lot of work and the guests learned more about the couple.  In the meantime, the pies were taken from the tables and cut and the guests were invited to sample them over coffee.  Leftovers were encouraged to be taken home. Since time was not taken for opening the gifts, concluding activities were to help the bride to write her vows,  to read some of the date night suggestions and perusing the gifts.The shower was only 2 hours long but was plenty of time to allow for visiting, catching up and visiting with the bride.  All in all, a successful and fun time.