Saturday, October 30, 2010

APPLE SKILLET CRISP - Cook's Illustrated

Doesn't warm apple crisp sound good right now? This is a super easy and delicious recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  All sorts of apples are in abundance right now and I used a mixture of Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious.  I served it with a choice of Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream.  My niece and I loved it with the yogurt, the rest of the family opted for the ice cream, of course.


3/4cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4cup pecans , chopped fine
3/4cup old-fashioned rolled oats (see note)
1/2cup (3 1/2 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1/4cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2teaspoon table salt
8tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , melted
3pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 7 medium), peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges (see note)
1/4cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1cup apple cider
2teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
2tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. 1. FOR THE TOPPING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour, pecans, oats, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl. Stir in butter until mixture is thoroughly moistened and crumbly. Set aside while preparing fruit filling.
  2. 2. FOR THE FILLING: Toss apples, granulated sugar, and cinnamon (if using) together in large bowl; set aside. Bring cider to simmer in 12-inch ovensafe skillet over medium heat; cook until reduced to ½ cup, about 5 minutes. Transfer reduced cider to bowl or liquid measuring cup; stir in lemon juice and set aside.
  3. 3. Heat butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add apple mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until apples begin to soften and become translucent, 12 to 14 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Remove pan from heat and gently stir in cider mixture until apples are coated.
  4. 4. Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit, breaking up any large chunks. Place skillet on baking sheet and bake until fruit is tender and topping is deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack until warm, at least 15 minutes, and serve.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Believe it or not I have never made granola.  This recipe comes from Molly Wizenberg, writer for Bon Appetit Magazine and it is crunchy, slightly sweet, and chewy.  Plus it is pretty.


  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup assorted dried fruit


  • Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 40 minutes. Place sheet on rack. Stir granola; cool. Mix in fruit. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight. Makes 5 cups.

    Nutritional Information

    1/4 cup contains the following:
    Calories (kcal) 148.5
    %Calories from Fat 41.7
    Fat (g) 6.9
    Saturated Fat (g) 1.2
    Cholesterol (mg) 0
    Carbohydrates (g) 20.8
    Dietary Fiber (g) 3.6
    Total Sugars (g) 9.6
    Net Carbs (g) 17.2
    Protein (g) 2.3 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

LACOCK ABBEY - Oxford Class Excursion

Happily, the excursion for our English Country House class was to Lacock Abbey, the gorgeous village, museum, abbey, and estate located less than two hours from Oxford.

After parking, we walked into the village, which looked like most English villages, a bit of charm tucked here and there.

Rounded the corner and this vegetable garden said, "Good morning!" It is always a good sign when someone takes the time to stake their tomatoes in such a neat and tidy manner.

Next I noticed the gorgeous embellishments on simple buildings. And aren't those lace curtains pretty?

Look at those looming clouds heavy with rain!  We lucked out and not even a sprinkle (although a bit of rain is always a treat for me). 

Now we are following the curve of the street and this village is becoming even prettier. Worn out walls, hanging pots of white flowers against the gray stone, a bay window every so often.

Now I feel as if I'm in a movie. Does this look familiar to you?  It should if you've seen Pride and Prejudice, Emma, or Cranford, which of course you have. And there was also a bit filming here for two or three of the Harry Potter films.

I'm always tempted to peak over (or sneak through) a gate such as this.  I'm intrigued by the curve of the gates, the pillars, the casement windows, and that small window at the top of the roof (wonder what room is tucked behind that paned glass?)

Vines, lace curtains, pots stuffed with flowers, leaded windows, darkened sky, a bit of rumble in the distance.  I'm ready to leap into this picture, how about you?

This picture was taken just because I loved the clock embedded in the door--and it works!

Now we have left the village and have arrived at the Abbey itself.   Lacock Abbey started as a cloister of the Augustinian nunnery founded in 1232.  And then the ever charming King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church leaving the monasteries and abbeys empty.  So, in 1540 this abbey was transformed into a country house adding rooms and such as owners came and went.

This Gothick arch signals the entrance to the grounds.

These architectural details have a feminine style that enhance the Abbey.  So often these English country houses are so over done that they appear weighed down.  This house has an uplifting look to it making it seem light and airy (remember, this is compared to other country houses, not your neighbor's house next door).

This is to the left of the above picture.There are three main styles at play at Lacock Abbey: medieval Gothic, Renaissance, and 18th-century Gothick.  That's what makes studying these grand houses great fun.

The front entrance.

William Henry Fox Talbot was one of the last famous owners of this estate.  He pioneered photography as art and in fact, Lacock Abbey is considered the birthplace of modern photography thanks to him.  My traveling partner and friend, Leslie, is a Talbot.  Truly, that is her maiden name, and her family is related to the Talbots. And her son, Michael, is studying photography, and her dad actually resembles Fox Talbot!  A coincidence?  I think not.

Those cut-out diamond shapes trimming the bottom of the oriel window are just right.  See, I did learn a few things by taking this class.

Matilda Talbot, the last of the Talbots to own Lacock Abbey, donated the abbey, village, and estate to the National Trust in 1944. A great number of family estates were donated to the National Trust during this time due to World War II. 

This is octagonal tower is called the Banqueting Tower where wines and sweetbreads would have been served.  And remember, don't confuse sweetbreads with yummy pastries.  Not even close.

A ribbed barrel ceiling in the Cloisters.  This is one of my favorite design styles.

Just another pretty Gothic leaded window.

If you look closely you will see "Miss Talbots" name front and center on this bell ringing device.  I envision my name on this contraption signaling to the servants my desire for tea and, "Oh, have you seen my book?  I've seemed to have misplaced it."

Another pretty window.

The Stable Court.

The South Gallery.  I took far more pictures of the exterior versus the interior due to the gorgeous architectural details.

So we say goodbye to Lacock Abbey and return to Oxford.

And now, it's tea time!  Leslie treated me to afternoon tea in the Drawing Room at The Randolph, the place for tea at Oxford.  It lived up to its hype.

At the table next to us was a friendly couple who ordered the same tea service that we had ordered.  They couldn't finish theirs saying they couldn't believe how much food it was and that they couldn't possibly eat it all. In fact they offered the remainder of theirs to us thinking we had just ordered tea.  Nope, we ordered the full-on service and of course, we finished ours.  We were just grateful they had left the dining room before they could see our nothing-but-the-crumbs on the three-tiered plates.

So, cheers to one of my favorite traveling partners, Leslie.  

And, cheers to you for indulging my trip excursions for the last gazillion posts!

Friday, October 15, 2010

POT ROAST - Pioneer Woman Cookbook

You know, I have a perfectly good Pot Roast recipe (which I've posted here).  But even when I'm perfectly satisfied I like to try something new with a tweaking of the ingredients. Are you like that? My friend, Jill, gave me The Pioneer Woman Cooks and she had a recipe with fresh Rosemary and Thyme which sounded just right.  Lots of flavor, no need for any sauce other than the rich liquid it is roasting in.  So, give it a try soon.  Pot Roast and Sundays go together rather well.

1 whole (4 To 5 Pounds) Chuck Roast
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 whole Onions
6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)
Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste

2 cups To 3 Cups Beef Stock
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste
3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste

Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (I left mine unpeeled). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.
Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.
If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.
With the burner still on high, add beef stock (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up.
When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.
Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Leslie had a plan to go to the neighborhood of author C.S. Lewis' final home located in Risinghurst, a small residential area in the suburb of Headington.  I tagged along and wanted to relive it with you. Hopefully you will feel as if you had been for a visit, too.

First, I would like to point out these little blue plaques that you find throughout England (most heavily seen in London).  The English Heritage handles this scheme (don't you love their use of the word scheme?).  The blue plaque "commemorates the link between notable figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked."

We took a bus out of Oxford toward Headington and hopped off at the "Kiln Lane" bus stop.

The weather was perfect, a slight breeze and no rain in sight.  We walked along this quiet residential street not knowing exactly what we would find.

 That's the first glimpse of his house (above). Can't you just picture yourself living on this street?

His house wraps around following the curve of a cul-de-sac.  The hedges neatly clipped and a tad too high for my taste (given that I had to stand on my tippy-toes to get a better look).

"The Kilns" is the name of Lewis' home. If you squint, you can make out the name on the plaque tucked away at the upper left side of the house.

Ta-da! It is just what I pictured. Look at the flowers beckoning you to follow the path to the front door (which we did not do).  The C.S Lewis Foundation (U.S. based) now owns the home and uses it for scholarly conferences.  Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe Leslie and I would have qualified? You know since we were attending Christ Church College at Oxford.  I mean, really, isn't that like a scholarly conference?  We should have at least tried.

Further down the road at the end of the Lewis property is the C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve dedicated to Lewis' friends, Henry and Dora Stephen.

We walked down the path and through the gate.  Now picture the scene below with snow scattered amongst the tree limbs. Wouldn't that lend itself to be a magical place?

This little pond may look stagnant, but it isn't.  So, happily the air was fresh and we could sit a spell.

Which is what we did right on this little bench, facing the pond.  As it happens,  C.S. Lewis and his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, would sit and talk about their middle-earth stories on this very bench.  Clearly, this is a charming place and we could sit here for hours but we need to push on.

Back down the street, across a few roads, and down a few paths, we find this little parish.  Holy Trinity Church is where C.S. and his brother, Warnie, attended church for over 30 years.  Joy, C.S.'s wife, would also join them.

This is a small entrance on the side of the church with the ever-present boot-scraper.

Look at these kneeling pads in this darling little church.  All hand-made by parishioners. They really brighten up the dark wood pews.

At times I am obsessed with doorways.  But look at the stone arch, so simple and the iron gate just right with that little flourish at the top.

This is what I envision when I think of an English country parish.

This is the marker of the grave for both C.S. and his brother, Warnie.

Now we are walking back to catch the bus to Oxford.  But first, a little something about the Headington Quarry which is how this village came to be.  The quarry dates back to the late 1300's supplying the local churches with stone. Then they hit pay dirt (literally) supplying all those Oxford colleges (including Christ Church College) with massive amounts of stone for building. Most of the quarry used at Oxford is golden yellow but a lot of the stone used in Headington is the white-gray limestone, as in the cottage below.

Can't help myself--love this little cottage so I had to snap a pic. The light gray stones, the crisp white windows, the vines climbing to the right, the peaked doorframe with the window above, and the pot of boxwood below, tells me this owner would be my friend. And if she knew I was standing over her gate taking pictures she would surely open the door and say, "Please, do come in and have a spot of tea and scones with me while I tell you about my little cottage."

And doesn't this path look inviting? The half-gates are positioned this way to keep out farm animals.  But no time to take a peak at what lies at the end.  We need to get back to College in time for dinner.

Cardinal Wolsey (the fellow in the middle) welcomes us back to Christ Church College.

Back at Oxford.  Wasn't that a perfect afternoon? Thank you for coming along.

Note:  For more information on C.S. Lewis sites in Oxford, please click on Leslie's blog here.