Friday, October 28, 2016

Happy Anniversary to Us From Uncommon Goods: Great Gifts, A Giveaway, and a Delicious Apple Crostata

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway. Vickie Keller Hemphill who entered on Savoury Table's Facebook page is my winner. Congratulations Vickie!

Mr. H and I have just celebrated a big anniversary. It is hard to believe that the young, handsome man that I married and agreed to grow old with is still just as good looking as the day I met him.  Good thing for him that I have stayed that fresh young girl that he met all those years ago too (well, almost). Yeah sure, we both that a few scuffs on us but who wouldn't after all these years?

For our last milestone anniversary we took a weekend trip to Austin to see family and just hang out. We had planned to have a fancy schmancy dinner date but landed up sitting under the neon sign of Torchy's tacos with my son, niece, and nephew drinking margaritas and eating tacos. I wouldn't have had it any other way. One of our best anniversaries ever.

We didn't do anything big this year either, but something nice did happen to us in the form of a gift from Uncommon Goods. In case you aren't aware of this sight, it features unique jewelry, designer decor, tabletop and handcrafted gifts that are created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people.

Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, Uncommon Goods makes it their mission to support and provide a platform for artists and designers. Half of their merchandise is made by hand and most of it is made here in the USA. This site is definitely my new go to for those hard to shop for friends and family on my Christmas list.

I was invited by Uncommon Goods to have a look through their sight, choose something on them and see what I thought before passing their information on to you. I have to say, it took me literally hours browsing through their beautiful Anniversary Gifts collection to finally settle on a beautiful personalized vase to commemorate our big day. I love the handmade character of this vase, its whimsical design is a charming addition to our tabletop, especially when filled with roses from my garden.

I, of course, enjoyed browsing through their beautiful Anniversary Collection for our vase. If you are looking ahead and shopping for something different for the holidays, visit their unique Christmas gift collection. Looking for just a little something? Click here, for their great selection of stocking stuffers.  They've even got a great selection of gifts under $50. I think you are really going to love their site.

Since I want to include you in our celebration, I've got a beautiful little gift to give to one of my readers compliments of Uncommon Goods. Valued at $32, I have a pair of recycled glass, stemless wine glasses that will go to one lucky winner who will be randomly chosen from the comments below. All you have to do to enter is visit one of the clickable links above and tell me the name of the one item you would like to receive (other than these glasses or my vase, of course).

Leave your answer in the comment section of this blog or at Savoury Table's Facebook page, and I will randomly choose a winner on Saturday, November 5th, 2016. Be sure that I have a way to contact you if you win. Unclaimed prizes will be awarded to someone else after 24 hours. Open to readers in the US only.

We hope to take a trip to a tropical location early next year, but until then it was a big steak dinner, a nice bottle of wine and a great dessert. Our starter and main course was up to someone else to prepare and clean up after, but the dessert was all up to me.

Since Mr. H is a huge apple pie lover, and I don't make them nearly enough for his liking, this anniversary I made him one of the best. Rustic and full of juicy apples, this apple crostata is not only easy to make but it is also delicious. This just may have to become an anniversary tradition.

Apple Crostata

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for garnish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
3 tablespoons ice cold vodka or water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 medium size apples (I used a combination of granny smith and honey crisp), peeled, cored and chopped into 1" cubes
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch allspice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter

Place flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Process until mixture looks like cornmeal.

With the processor turned on, slowly add the vodka or water until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl and forms a ball.

Remove dough from the bowl of the processor. Form into a disc shape, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Place apples, brown and granulated sugars, cinnamon, allspice, flour and lemon juice in a medium size bowl. Mix well to completely combine. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and place on a well floured surface. Roll dough out to a 11" circle. Carefully transfer dough to a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Mound apple mixture in the center of the dough leaving about 2 - 3" of dough around the edge. Pull dough up towards the apple mixture and pleat to secure. Repeat until all of the dough is formed around the apples.

Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Place into preheated oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until it is golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, sharp cheddar cheese or ice cold heavy cream poured over (an English favorite that I love) and enjoy.

Serves 6.

Uncommon Goods provided me with a product of my choosing from their website to review. All opinions provided here are my own. No monetary compensation was given in exchange for this post or my review.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What's Cooking In Our New Kitchen: Cottage Pie

It has been a long time since my last post and I am sorry about that, but at least I left you with a good one. That coconut lime sorbet is da bomb. No kidding.

For the past couple of years I haven't been publishing as frequently as I'd like due to our downsizing and remodeling. We moved from our big house in the suburban bubble that we lived in for about 13 years and settled into a more urban area. We found we no longer needed the high taxes, the fancy new schools and the three floors of dust. We wanted to simplify our lives by lightening our load and moving closer to everything.

As you might have heard me talk about in the past, our new/old house really needed everything done to it. Inside and out, pretty much everything needed attention. Even though we've done a lot to it, there was always one big, fat, ugly elephant in the room, the kitchen.

Our old kitchen was an absolute smelly wreck. Thank goodness it was pretty big for a 1962 kitchen or we probably would have passed on the whole thing. Well, we put it off for as long as we could and this summer (July 7th to be exact), work commenced.

The old kitchen served this house well for over 50 years, but it was time for a much needed update.

We decided long ago that most of the work on this place would be done by us, with our own hands. After doing lots of research, we decided on a DIY friendly Ikea kitchen. We designed our kitchen, chose our cabinets, hardware, flooring, and paint colors. Yeah boy, we were on our way, then we started the demo.

For anyone who hasn't demo-ed a kitchen, I'm here to tell you that this is the worse part of the whole thing. It is dusty, dirty and dangerous. At any moment you could break all of your fingernails, lose an eye or get a divorce. Thank goodness none of these things happened. We made it through.

Since we are doing it ourselves it has taken longer than it normally would have. It has now been three months and counting. There is trim work still going on, but I am cooking once again. I have to say that we love our Ikea kitchen more than we dreamed. It is sturdy and stylish, with every bell and whistle available because they were all so affordable. Best of all, it smells so goooooood.

Still lots to do, but it is once again a working kitchen. Next week will be tiling and hunting down that elusive perfect kitchen island. 

Now that things are getting back to normal I think it is time to start cooking and posting again. In the past three months we have had more grilled food and dinners out than I care to think about. I guess I could have posted about these, but by the time we cleaned up the construction zone and doctored our cuts and scrapes, I was just too tired to get out the camera.

Since comfort food has been missing around here for far too long, I'm putting it back on the menu tonight. With the leaves turning and a cool snap in the air, I've decided to treat my boys to a cottage pie. With a layer of cheesy potatoes topping a ground beef, vegetable and gravy layer, this casserole is the definition of comfort food.

Cottage Pie

Separated from its fraternal twin the shepherd's pie by the use of beef instead of lamb, cottage pie is a favorite fall supper at our house.  

2-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
6 cups chicken broth (or enough to cover potatoes for boiling)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3 ounces grated medium or sharp cheddar
1-1/2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef broth
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place potatoes in a large saucepan or small stock pot set over medium high heat, and cover with chicken broth. Bring to the boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender, approximately 30 minutes.

Drain potatoes, return to pan or large bowl, add the cream and white pepper. Mash or whip potatoes until they are smooth. Fold in cheese; set aside until ready to use.

Place ground beef into a deep skillet, set over medium heat. Brown the ground beef  then add the vegetables. Saute the beef and vegetables until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add the garlic and cook for one minute longer.

Sprinkle the flour over the top of the beef and vegetables. Stir all together until everything is coated with flour.

Slowly add the broth to the beef, and stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Stir in the thyme, Worcestershire and peas.

Transfer meat mixture to a deep baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Spoon potatoes on top of the beef. Drag the tines of a fork over the top to make it uneven so it will brown and crisp better.

Place the dish into the preheated oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until it is heated through and browned to your liking.

Remove from the oven and cool 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6