Monday, September 28, 2009


I am seriously addicted to reading. This month has been filled with more good books. Right now I am reading Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour written by Kate Fox, an anthropologist from England. It is a little too detailed at times but she has a good sense of humor as she gently pokes fun explaining "her people".

Diary of a Provincial Lady written by E.M. Delafield was delightful. Written in the 1930's by Edmee Elizabeth Monica Delafield, she writes a thinly-veiled autobiography about an upper-middle class woman and her family living in a small village in Devon, England. Good thing I was able to find it on Abe books since no library or bookstore carried it. I am looking forward to reading the sequels about her buying a flat in London, spending a holiday in Paris, traveling to America.

The Help was a clever story written about white ladies, their black maids and the horrible double-standards in the 1960's, Mississippi. This is the first novel written by Kathryn Stockett.

And I was completely entertained listening to two audio books this month, Unnatural Death, a Lord Peter Wimsey novel, and Thank You Jeeves, a slap-the-steering wheel comedy read joyfully by Jonathan Cecil.

Tonight, I will start reading Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor written by my friend Matt Latimer. Matt and I worked together for several years and he is one of the best writers I personally know. A former speechwriter for President Bush and Secretary Rumsfield, he writes effortlessly and has a wicked sense of humor. Matt has been making the rounds on all the news shows and has been doing a terrific job. And more importantly, I'm mentioned in his acknowledgements (page 282), which is very exciting.

So many books, so little time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

SUNDRIED TOMATO DIP - Barefoot Contessa

I've been making this dip for years and never get tired of it. The flavor has a slight kick and and it is so easy to make. I recently told my friend, Pam, she could choose which dip I made for a little get together I hosted and she chose the sundried tomato dip. I was secretly happy. Serve with plain water crackers so that nothing interferes with the yummy flavor.

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (8 tomatoes)
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
10 dashes, hot red pepper sauce (I add more)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)

Puree the tomatoes, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, red pepper sauce, salt and pepper in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the scallions and pulse twice. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

FROZEN KEY LIME PIE - Barefoot Contessa

Although this recipe is entitled "key lime" you actually make it with regular limes--thank heavens, since they are more plentiful and larger than those tiny key limes.

This pie is just what it should be: tart, cold, and creamy--one of my favorite taste combinations!


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 to 5 limes)
For the decoration:
1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Thin lime wedges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press into a 9-inch pyrex pie pan, making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes until firm and golden. Allow to cool completely.

For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze.

For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Freeze for several hours or overnight.

Note: If you have concerns about raw eggs, combine the yolks with 1/2 cup of the lime juice used in the recipe in a double boiler. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture reaches 140 degrees. Use in place of the raw egg yolks, remembering to add the remaining 1/4 cup of lime juice to the filling mixture along with the condensed milk and zest.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Looking for a good book to read? A group of friends and I got together to discuss favorite books we've read this year. It's a fun, smart, eclectic group of women who enjoy reading and don't really care about what's on the New York Times booklist or what Oprah recommends.

Have you ever thought of all the ways to discover a good book? Lists galore, newspaper reviews, blogsites, websites, but I think my favorite is a recommendation from a good friend.

There are lots to choose from so I know you will find one or two that interest you. Here is the list:

Atlas Shrugged - Rand
Ella Minnow Pea - Dunn
Katherine - Seton and Gregory
Good Masters and Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village - Schlitz
Old Friends and New Fancies - Brinton
A Prayer for Owen Meany - Irving
Peace Like a River - Enger
An Irish Country Village - Taylor
Milk Glass Moon - Trigiani
Sunday at Tiffany's - Patterson
Follow the River - Alexander
The Help - Stockett
The Shipping News - Prouex
Prayers for Sale - Dallas
The Secret History - Tartt

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Kingsolver
The Necklace - Jarvis
Lone Survivor - Lutrell
Left to Tell - Ilibagiza
The Invisible Wall - Bernstein
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table - Wizenberg
Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire - Von Tunzellman
Undaunted Courage - Ambrose
My Life in France - Child and Prud'homme
The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression - Shlaes
Choosing Civility: The 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct - Forni
1,000 Days in Venice - de Blasi
The Red Leather Diary - Koppel

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Zucchini Pasta Carbonara Recipe

It's nice to find a pasta recipe that looks lovely and doesn't use tomato sauce or cream. This recipe comes from Simply Recipes. I made it with yellow summer squash but adding zucchini or the little patty-pans would be great, too. And I loved using all that fresh basil from my garden.

From Simply Recipes: This recipe uses thinly sliced prosciutto, which works well with the more delicate flavor of the summer squash. But you could also use pancetta (diced), bacon (thin strips), or even thinly sliced ham.


3/4 pound egg noodles
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 summer squash, yielding 4 cups chopped squash
Salt and pepper
4 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup basil leaves, sliced thin*
* To slice the basil leaves, chiffonade them by stacking basil leaves on top of each other, roll them up into a cigar shape, starting at one end and working your way down the "cigar" take thin slices from the end.
1 To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water (one tablespoon of salt for 2 quarts of water).

2 As the water for the pasta is heating, prep your vegetables and heat olive oil and butter on medium high in a large sauté pan. Working in batches, lay pieces of sliced prosciutto down in the pan. Fry gently on both sides until just lightly browned (no more than a minute, more likely 30 seconds each side, the prosciutto is very thin), remove from pan with tongs or a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Once cool, tear into bite-sized pieces. Reserve oil in the pan.

3 Add pasta to boiling salted water. The pasta should take about 10-12 minutes to cook until al dente (cooked but still a bit firm), which is just about the right amount of time you'll need to cook the vegetables. Cook with a rolling boil, uncovered.

4 While the pasta is cooking, add the onions, garlic, and summer squash to the sauté pan that you had used to cook the prosciutto. The heat should be medium high. Stir the vegetables so that they are all coated with oil from the pan, then spread them out in the pan, generously salt and pepper them. Cook until they are just lightly browned, stirring only occasionally. Remove from heat.

5 In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and mix in the grated Parmesan and lemon zest.

6 When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the squash and onions (or add the veggies to the pasta, depending on the size of your pans). Pour the egg, Parmesan, lemon zest mixture over the pasta mixture and quickly stir in with a wooden spoon. The heat from the pasta will sufficiently cook the eggs. Add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if it looks a little dry. Stir in the prosciutto and basil.
Garnish with more basil and grated Parmesan.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I don't normally buy London broil (or flank steak) but this was part of the grass-fed beef I purchased from Date Creek Ranch. (For some reason the meat in the photo looks rare and it wasn't).

What I can't figure out is how to make it less chewy. So if you have any good ideas, leave me a comment.

But this sauce is easy and good and you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry.

2 lbs. London broil (or flank steak), cut 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick
1/2 c. soy sauce
3 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
3 tbsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Score both sides of meat in a diamond pattern. Place in shallow glass dish. Marinade may be combined in food processor or with a whisk in a bowl. Pour marinade over meat. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. Broil or grill 5 minutes per side for rare, 7 minutes per side for medium and about 9 minutes per side for well done. Slice thinly across the grain of the meat. Boil remaining marinade for 1 minute and pass with the steak.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I know this is out of the blue, but a friend of mine pointed out that I had neglected to give some basic information about traveling around Paris. And since friends of mine just returned from France, Paris is on my mind again. And it's always fun for me to review a trip--so here is some basic information.

We flew into Charles de Gaulle airport and on the advice of travel guru, Rick Steves, we took a taxi (50 Euros) to our hotel. Given the fact that there are about two escalators in the entire city of Paris, I was happy to pay for a taxi and not schlep luggage up and down a myriad of stairs in and out of metro stations. On our return, also on the advice of Steves, we took Blue Van back to the airport--less expensive (35 Euros with tip) and very reliable.

Use the ATM at the airport for getting Euro's. It is the least expensive way to buy currency. No need to arrive with Euro's at the airport. There is an ATM near the exit doors leading to the taxi stands. You will get the best exchange rate by using ATMs. And I always notify my bank when I am leaving the country so that I don't have any problems using my debit card.

We stayed at the Hotel Relais Bosquet in the darling Rue Cler neighborhood. Loved this hotel and loved this location. It was as if we were returning to our little home in a cozy little neighborhood every night. Of course there are a plethora of great little hotels in perfect little neighborhoods but this was just right for us.

For traveling around Paris we purchased a 7-day Metro card (22 Euros) and got our money's worth out of it. You just need to do the math to make sure it's worth the money (one ticket is 1.60 Euro). If you do this, be sure to bring a copy of a passport-size photo of yourself because you will need it for the card. You can just make a black and white copy of the photo, cut it out and tape it onto the card. I'm not kidding, it is that easy. You can also buy 1, 3, and 5 day Metro cards.

We either walked everywhere or took the Metro (probably why I didn't gain an ounce even though pain au chocolat was eaten daily). Taxis are not easy to get, only found at specific taxi stands and they are expensive.

It is always helpful to have a cheat sheet when you are dealing with a different currency. I print off one from here and then laminate it on a small card that fits in my wallet. It comes in handy when you are trying to figure out purchase prices. Unless you want to pretend (as I sometimes do) that foreign currency isn't real money.

Rick Steves is the travel guide I use most--I like his traveling philosophy (but not his politics which we won't go into here). So I always take one of his books and usually one other book such as Eye Witness, Frommers, or Fodors.

To avoid jet lag going to Europe, I sleep on the flight (after removing my make-up, slathering moisturizer on my face, and brushing my teeth--pretty much mimicking my bedtime routine to fool myself into thinking I'm going to sleep) and then once I arrive I get as much time outdoors as possible and don't go to bed until around 10:00 pm when I take two Tylenol PM, sleep, and wake-up ready to explore.

Still haven't figured out how to beat jet lag on the return home.

Happy traveling!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Don't you love before and after photos? I do and I have a few to share with you.

This past July my favorite stationery shop, M & Co. Papery, closed its doors. The darling and talented Marlene Dunn had been the proprietress of one of the few bright spots in downtown Mesa for ten years.

I stopped by a few times during the month of July picking-up discounted items including stationery, a chair for my library, and this beauty (see below). I badly needed lateral filing space and more shelves for books for my home office. And then one day I walked in to her shop (again) and saw this in the back. This is what Marlene used for her daily office needs. I bought it immediately.

I knew I wanted to lighten it up for my home so I called Martha Forzano of Forzano and Son she sent her guys to pick it up and together we figured out the perfect sage green glaze.

This is one of those great moments when what I envisioned is exactly what I got. I love this piece! Martha even had one more shelf made for me and you can't tell the difference between the original and the extra piece. It is a lovely solid and functional piece. It even has lights inside the top of the bookcase and they all work. And I love that this was well-used for a worthwhile business.

The books aren't yet artfully arranged but all of these books (and a few more) have been in piles scattered around the house. It is nice to see them in some order.

So then as I was waiting to talk to Martha (who has the best design sense) I spied this little table stacked up on two other tables. I immediately loved it and bought it. Martha had designed it herself and lucky me, it hadn't sold yet.

Picturing this in my family room, I opted for a black glaze with a little rubbing. Martha agreed and once more I was thrilled with the result.

Below is the table placed and ready for action. The pics on the table are of my cute Mom and the smaller picture is my Dad eating an ice cream cone walking along the Rhine River.

The next before and after story is about my front door. It badly needed a freshen up and although I have a design idea for a new door it will have to wait. Isn't paint a great invention?

I love this color (Bon Nuit by Frazee in Low Sheen).

This color works great both inside and outside. Believe me, I wasn't up to the challenge of selecting two different colors.

It looks great, doesn't it?

The next project for the front entrance is to replace the glass block with some type of beveled glass. But for now, I'm happy.