Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013

This photo of a beautiful swan was taken this morning at the partially frozen duck pond and tweaked in Instagram.  Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Napoleon is a uber lovable puppy I cared for last year for friends.  I fell head over heels for this big dog in a small body.  He is a mix of Lab, Corgi and Dachshund (I surmise).  Took a ton of photos of him trying to capture his personality, compact body, and ebony color.  What he captured was my heart. 

8X8 Oil on Gessobord


Friday, December 28, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes

Today I'm sharing another holiday favorite recipe, scalloped potatoes.  This recipe uses 7 1/2 lbs of potatoes, feeds a crowd, and is definitely worth the prep. The gratin can be prepared the day before, baked, and reheated the next day for the party.

The potatoes can be hand sliced, but using a mandoline is definitely the way to go.  The one I use is the "Dial-o-matic" (miracle food cutter) which was my Mother's and it's about 40 years old and is still razor sharp.  A mandoline is worth the investment because it creates paper thin slices of any vegetable in seconds.

My recipe uses cheddar cheese, but a gruyere would also work.  The secret to this recipe is to season every layer so every bite is flavorful. This potato gratin is perfect for a buffet, compliments any roasted meat, and serves 15 hearty appetites.  It can also be down sized to any amount by adjusting the milk and cooking time. My Williams Sonoma Pilivuyt Rectangular Roaster  was purchased specifically for family sized scalloped potatoes and lasagna and is used several times a year.  

Scalloped Potatoes - Serves 15

7 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes - peeled 
3 cups grated cheddar cheese - setting aside 1 cup for topping.
1 qt. whole milk
1/2 cup flour 
Salt & Pepper
1 stick cold butter - diced - then chilled (for easy handling)

Peel potatoes and slice paper thin by hand or on a mandoline.  Butter a large casserole dish.  Line dish with potatoes in an overlapping pattern.  Sprinkle flour, salt and pepper, cheese and dot with cold butter.  Repeat for a total of six layers seasoning each layer in the same way, leaving top layer unseasoned.  Pour 1 quart of milk over potatoes.  You should be able to see milk under the layers when you tilt the casserole.  Salt and pepper top layer, cover with remaining cheese and dot with butter.  Bake covered with foil in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour, remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes until bubbly and top is nicely browned. 

 I bring the casserole to room temperature, then refrigerate until the next day, then reheat for about 30-45 minutes in a 300 degree oven.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012


This painting of Cedar is a gift for my dear friend whose dog passed away last year.  If my dogs could have had a best friend, Scarlett I & II's best friend was Cedar.  She was a puppy with Scarlett I and Scarlett II's Aunt from the same breeder. We loved and cared for Cedar when Karen went on vacations, which was often during her 14 years.   Karen is getting a new golden puppy in the Spring, which I will also love and spoil like my own.  Yes, I did name both my dogs Scarlett.  5X7 Oil on Gessobord.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Baileys Irish Cream Cheese Cake

I have been making this New York style cheesecake recipe for 18 years, ever since I first read it in the July 1994 - Bon Appetit issue.  This cheesecake recipe is a winner because of its subtle Irish Cream favor and creamy texture.  The only change I made to the recipe was adding Baileys to the sour cream topping. You can never have too much Baileys.  I find a cheese cake the perfect holiday dessert and it feeds at least twelve people.  This recipe is one of my family's favorites.  Happy Holidays!

Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake with Mixed Berries 

12 Servings


1 cup of graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons butter, melted


3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

1/3 cup Baileys Original Irish Cream liqueur

4 large eggs


1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon Baileys Irish Cream

¼ cup sugar

1 pint basket strawberries

1 - ½ pint blue berries

For crust:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all crust ingredients in a small bowl.  Press crumb mixture onto bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with 2 ¾ inch high sides.  Bake until brown about 8 minutes.  Transfer to rack and cool.  Maintain oven temperature.  

Graham Cracker Crust

For filling:  With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract in large bowl until well blended.  Beat in sour cream and Irish cream.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until combined.  Pour filling over crust in pan.  Bake until edges are puffed and center no longer moves when pan is shaken, about 50 minutes.  Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool 10 minutes.  Maintain oven temperature.  

Prepare topping.  Mix sour cream, ¼ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon Irish Cream in a bowl until smooth.  Press down edges of cheesecake to flatten.  Spoon topping over hot cheesecake and bake 10 minutes.  Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  

Combine strawberries, and blueberries in a bowl.  Season berries to taste with sugar.  Serve cheesecake with berries.  

Sour Cream Topping

Allow to cool on a rack, then refrigerate.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pasta Salad with Pesto Sauce

I'm posting this recipe today because it's the perfect side dish for a Holiday Buffet.  Pasta Salad with Pesto is one of my Aunt's recipes and a family favorite.  It has all the components of a perfect side dish: meat, cheese, pasta, and nuts and it's green.  Every year my Aunt and Uncle host a holiday party for about 35 family members.  I have been fortunate to grow up with a fabulous Aunt who has taught me to cook and entertain.  Need I say more.

Pasta Salad with Pesto Sauce

For Pesto Sauce
2 cup of fresh basil
1/2 cup of pine nuts or walnuts (use walnuts)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese - freshly grated
3 cloves garlic (more if cloves are small or to taste)
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp black pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste

Grind cheese in processor.  Add basil, garlic, nuts and process until fine.  Add oil through opening and process until smooth.  Add vinegar, process about 5 seconds.

l lb of pasta - Twists are best
3 cups of swiss cheese cut julianne (1/4 slices)
3 cups of boiled gam cut julianne (1/4 slices)
1/2 cup scallions - chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed to defrost

Cook pasta and drain.  Add scallions and toss.  Add pesto and toss.  Finally add ham, cheese and nuts and toss.  Save some nuts for garnish.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

This recipe makes a lot.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


This lovely lady was painted from a photograph taken on Block Island.  Since my initials are MOO (Margie O'Donnell O'Hara) I thought the name was appropriate.   Oil painting on 5X7 Gessobord.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Braised Lamb Shanks over Polenta

On the first cold December evening, I'm looking for comfort food.  For a dish to be called comfort food it must warm my complete soul.  Braised lamb shanks over polenta is just that meal.  Regardless of my Irish heritage, lamb has always been this carnivore's favorite meat choice.  It's richness and slight gaminess takes it above any other meats.  Braising it in the oven in my Lecruset with red wine and vegetables until the meat falls off the bone makes it the dish that can warm your soul on such a night.  This dish can be made the day before, which makes the perfect entertaining recipe.  Although I find not everyone loves lamb as much as me.  So here it is, my all time favorite comfort food recipe...Braised Lamb Shanks!

3 large lamb shanks (4 smaller shanks) - needs to fit in your dutch oven.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 carrot chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 cup butternut squash chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup of red wine
1 can of beef broth
1/2  cup crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bundle of fresh thyme tied
Salt & Pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat oil and brown lamb shanks over medium heat until brown (about 5 minutes). Remove meat and set aside. Add vegetables (accept garlic), salt and pepper vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and crushed pepper, saute for one minute. Add red wine, beef broth, tomato paste, and bundle of thyme.  Return meat and bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover and put in oven for 1 hour.  Remove lid and turn meat, cook for an additional 30 minutes without lid.

Polenta - Serves 4
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup of Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal
1/2 cup parmesean cheese grated
1 tablespoon butter
Salt & Pepper

Heat salted broth to a boil.  Vigorously wisk corn meal in small tablespoons amounts into broth until no lumps and polenta has a smooth consistency. Lower heat to low and change to a spatula to stir polenta every few minutes uncovered for 20-30 minutes until cooked.  Add butter and parmesean cheese and stir to combine.  Serve immediately.  Can be held in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water until dinner is ready.  Stir and serve.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Relaxing on the Beach


A floppy hat, a classic beach chair and reading a good book at the water's edge are the essential ingredients for a perfect vacation day.  This 9x12 oil on canvas was painted from a photo of my beautiful daughter relaxing on the beach.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mashed Potatoes - Make Ahead and Refrigerate

Mash Now, Eat Later - Makes 10 cups

The thought of peeling, cooking and cleaning up from mashed potatoes the day of a holiday is terrifying.   Therefore, my Thanksgiving dinner is all about doing as much as I can ahead of the big day. This recipe makes 12-16 servings and keeps in the refrigerator  for up to 10 days.  (Yes! 10 days!) 

As a working woman, I've learned that in order to plan a large dinner like this, organization and time management makes it all possible.  I make these mashed potatoes the Sunday before Thanksgiving, refrigerate them in baking dish, and bake them after I take the turkey out of the oven on Thanksgiving day.  The cream cheese and chives make this mashed potato version very flavorful and velvety smooth every time.  This Irish girl would not steer you wrong, you will love this mashed potato recipe!!!

5 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 - 8 oz package of cream cheese
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil in a large covered pot.   Add peeled and quartered potatoes and bring back to a boil, lower heat and cook for 20-25 minutes until tender.  Drain potatoes and return to the pot and mash the potatoes until smooth.  I prefer to use my KitchenAid mixer for this step.  Add cream cheese, butter, chives and salt & pepper and blend until incorporated.  Add the whipped potatoes to a buttered  2 qt. baking dish.  Let cool and then cover well with saran wrap and then tin foil. I then put a sticky note with cooking instructions on top and refrigerate.   On Thanksgiving day - remove from refrigerator early in the day and bring to room temperature. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes until heated through.  Put in a serving dish and give a good stir.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuscan Chicken, Kale & White Bean Stew

We were very fortunate to have survived Sandy's frightening wrath with only a couple of days without power (running on generator) and a few large tree branches down in the yard.  After a week of eating out or ordering take out and a snowy northeaster headed our way, I needed this dinner.

This stew was a welcoming meal for my family arriving home on our first snowy evening of the season. It started out as a soup, but when you need a knife, fork, and spoon to eat, it became a stew.  Don't be put off by the list of ingredients -- it's a one-pot dinner.  Braising the chicken thighs till the meat falls off the bone in a broth of vegetables with wine gives this dish over the top depth of favor.  Make sure you serve it with grated cheese and crusty bread.  For left-overs, I took the meat off the bone for an easy take-to-work lunch.

Tuscan Chicken, Kale & White Bean Stew 

Serves 4

8 chicken thighs, skin and fat removed.
2 links of hot turkey sausage
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/8 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1 sprig of rosemary
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
3 small carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 cup white wine ( I used Sauvignon Blanc)
2 cans chicken broth, low sodium
1 small can tomato sauce or one cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup canned white beans (rinsed)
2 cups of chopped kale
Grated parmesan Cheese

In a dutch oven, heat one tablespoon of olive oil and brown the links of turkey sausage over medium heat.  Remove sausage, slice, and set aside.  Salt & pepper the chicken thighs and add to dutch oven, brown on both sides.  Remove thighs, set aside and lower heat.  Add crushed pepper, onion, carrots and celery and sauté for a few minutes, then add the garlic.   Deglaze the pan with wine, add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, chicken thighs, and sausage.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and add sprig of rosemary to the top.  Simmer for 45 minutes uncovered.  Remove rosemary sprig and add in the kale and continue to cook for another 15 minutes.  Stir in white beans.  Serve in large soup bowls with grated cheese and crusty bread.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn Butternut Squash and Kale Rice Salad and Tuna Steaks

This autumn dinner is all about the side dish.  Not that the tuna steaks caught by the boys a few weeks ago weren't over the top, but the warm butternut squash and kale rice salad made it the autumn dinner we were looking for.  Since my daughter was in town and our Saturday consisted of our usual galavanting, I made the rice earlier in the day and prepped the kale.  When we got home I only needed to roast the vegetables and cook the tuna for a few minutes.  While we waited for the vegetables to roast, the house smelled of cinnamon and nutmeg, and we had time to  enjoy a glass a wine and an appetizer.  The perfect ending to a day of shopping.  This side dish makes enough for 6 people.  Leftovers  make a perfect lunch.  

1 cup of brown basmati rice
1/2 cup of black wild rice
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (can buy already peeled and cubed)
1 medium red onion, diced 1/4 inch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
salt & pepper
olive oil 1 tbs for squash and 1 teaspoon for kale
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
4 cups of kale, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon


Place 4 cups of chopped kale in a separate bowl and dress with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, juice of a 1/2 lemon and salt & pepper.  Can be prepared and refrigerated a couple hours ahead of time.  The dressing will wilt the kale slightly. 

Wild Rice and Brown Basmati 

Can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use.  

Soak 1/2 cup of wild rice in a cup of water for 15 minutes, drain and rinse.  Bring 1 cup of salted water to boil.  Add drained wild rice and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes.

Heat 2 1/2 cups water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Add Brown Basmati rice and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cover and cook for 40-45 minutes.

Butternut Squash & Red Onion

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Peel and seed butternut squash.  Cut into 1/2 inch cubes.  Add squash and chopped red onion to  parchment paper lined, rimmed baking sheet.     Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, red pepper, agave nectar, and salt & pepper.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix with vegetables until coated with oil and spices.  Roast in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes until cook through and nicely browned.

Place brown basmati and wild rice in the bottom of a serving bowl.  Add roasted vegetables, dressed kale, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds.  Mix together and serve.  

Tuna Steaks

2 Yellow Fin Tuna Steaks (Sushi grade), cut 1 1/4 inches thick
Rub steaks with olive oil and salt & pepper both sides

Heat a cast iron fry pan until very hot.  Add tuna and cook for one minute and 30 seconds.  Turn over and cook for one more minute.  It should be seared on both sides and very rare in the middle.    

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Narragansett Inn's Outbuildings

Narragansett Inn Outbuildings

This painting is from a photograph I took on Block Island, RI this summer.  The Narragansett Inn sits on the shores of the Great Salt Pond with spectacular views of the marina.  Behind the Inn are several simple outbuildings that caught my eye on the way to the The Oar Restaurant for lunch. I experimented with a magenta underpainting, which I think was successful.  Oil on 5X7 Gessobord.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Fish Story - Swordfish in Tomato Sauce with Capers and Olives

My husband and son love to fish to put it mildly.  They left on a 30 hour overnight tuna and swordfish trip - fishing the Hudson Canyon 110 miles off the Jersey coast last weekend.  Most of the time they come home from such trips with fish stories, but this time I wasn't prepared for the group to catch 300 lbs. of tuna and swordfish.  After cleaning, my husband and son took home their share of 60 lbs. of Long Fin, Yellow Fin tuna and Swordfish that needed to be cut and packaged. I ran out and purchased a Food Sealer and neighbors and friends lined up at my door for fresh fish.  It was unbelievable.

 Tonight's recipe is for Swordfish with tomato sauce with olives and capers.  I grilled the swordfish until just cooked and served it in red sauce with capers and olives and served with Spaghetti Squash.  I guess you could call it the catch of the day.

Swordfish over Tomato Sauce with Capers and Olives

2 Swordfish steaks cut 3/4 inch
1 cup of basic tomato sauce (I used my own, but your favorite jarred sauce will do)
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup mixed olives, pitted and chopped
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon of olive oil

Heat tomato sauce in a saucepan, add  capers and olives and simmer over low heat.  Heat a grill pan until very hot.  Wash and dry steaks, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Grill over high heat 3 minutes on one side, turn over and shut off heat and grill 1-2 minutes until just done.  Pour sauce on to each plate and place swordfish steak on top.

I served with Spaghetti Squash.  Buy a medium spaghetti squash.  Cut in half and place cut size down on a sheet pan that is covered with parchment.  Cook for 1 hour at 375 degrees.  Remove seeds and scrape the squash with a fork to remove squash.  Salt and Pepper and add a little butter.  Great with sauce.  Serve 2.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Block Party New England Clam Chowder

Every year our neighborhood has a small informal block party in late September.    Some people in our town have block parties with all the bells and whistles, but what I love about ours is the simplicity.  We close off the street to traffic and everyone has a job to do and each family is charged $15 for hamburgers, hot dogs and paper products.  Each family must bring either an appetizer, salad or dessert, their beverage, and a chair.  This gives little stress to any one person. For dessert we light a fire pit in the street and children toast Smores.  What this get-together is all about is neighbors taking the time to actually sit for a few hours and get to know each better and catch up on our busy lives.

My annual contribution to this event has become a large pot of New England Clam Chowder.  I have a basic recipe that gets tweaked every year.  I use fresh chopped clams from my fish market and canned clam juice making this a manageable recipe.   Since I just came back from a long weekend on Cape Cod where I ordered clam chowder with every meal, I am excited to share this with you.

Block Party New England Clam Chowder 

Makes 5 quarts

1 1/2 pints of fresh chopped clams
2 1/2 cups of heavy cream
2 1/2 quarts clam juice
4 oz. salt pork, cubed 1/4 inch
4 cups of peeled Yukon gold potatoes cubed 1/4 inch
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
1 bunch of fresh thyme tied with a string
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt or to taste.  
2 tablespoons onion power
1 teaspoon ground celery seed 
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

In a large stock pot cook cubed salt pork until crispy.  Discard salt pork and add celery, onions and cook over medium low heat until soft (5 minutes).   Add 1/2 cup of flour and cook over low heat for 5 minutes stirring to coat vegetables.  Add 2 1/2 quarts of clam juice, salt, pepper, onion powder, ground celery seed and bunch of thyme.  Bring this highly seasoned broth to a boil stirring to combine.  Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes over low heat until potatoes are tender. Remove tied thyme.  Stir in 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream and 1 1/2 cups of fresh chopped clams.  Cook chowder over low heat for 5 minutes until warm.  Do not over cook chowder at this point.  Stir in fresh chopped parsley and serve with oyster crackers.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pulled Pork Tostado

Ok, not everyone has a container of homemade pulled pork in their freezer.  The last time I made pulled pork for a crowd, I made 18 lbs. of pork and put away a container for pulled pork nachos.   Tonight I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner and remembered the hidden container.  Since pulled pork nachos is is not an acceptable dinner, I created a pulled pork tostada.  All the ingredients were piled high on a toasted whole wheat flatbread beginning with arugula, a corn salsa with tomatoes from the garden, pulled pork (see link to recipe below), bbq sauce, more salsa, goat cheese and avocado slices.  Oh my, the husband was quite surprised.  Yes, this was a simple weeknight dinner that came together quickly because of my hidden container, but the tangy pulled pork, creaminess of the cheese and avocado, and brightness of the fresh salsa made this tostada a winner.  

Pulled Pork Tostada

2 cups of pulled pork
1 cup of arugula
1/4 cup goat cheese, broken into pieces
3 whole wheat flatbreads
1/2 sliced avocado
1 cup of tomatoes, I used a mixture of grape and chopped whole
1 fresh cob of corn, kernels cut from cob
Juice from 1/2 of lime
1 tsp. of olive oil
1 tablespoon of chopped red onion
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Make the salsa by chopping grape tomatoes into quarters and regular tomatoes into the same size pieces, add fresh corn kernels, red onion, lime juice, olive oil, S&P.  Set aside. Toast the flatbreads in a non-stick pan over medium heat until lightly browned on both sides.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, place the 3 toasted flatbreads on a sheet pan, divide the arugula, 1/2 the salsa, pulled pork, bbq sauce, remaining salsa, goat cheese between the three flatbreads.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and add the avocado slices to the top and serve.  The easiest way to eat this tostada is with a knife and fork.

Serves 2-3

Friday, August 24, 2012

NYC Meat Packing District

This photo was taken in NYC with my iPhone. I tweaked it with Instagram and love it's surreal feeling.  Enjoy your weekend.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chilled Avocado Cucumber Soup

When planning my garden this spring, I took into consideration my vacation in late July.  My friends and neighbors love it when everything peaks while I'm away, but by planting a little later I get to reap the bounty and also share with everyone.  The garden did very well this year with just the right amount of sun, rain and an extra 4 feet of fencing to keep the deer out.   Since Scarlett my Golden passed, she no longer protects the yard from deer and other salad seeking critters.

This recipe includes pickling cucumbers which are by far my favorite cucumber.  They are not just for pickling, their flavor, small seeds, and crispness make them perfect for salads and soups.  Today I used them in a chilled avocado cucumber soup.  This chilled soup was delicious and perfect for an August lunch. Do not forget the adds the perfect crunch to this soup.

Chilled Avocado Cucumber Soup

2 pickling cucumbers (or cucumber of your choice), peeled and cut into chunks, dice 1 tablespoon for garnish.
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks, a few thin slices for garnish
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup dill - chopped - save some for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped and seeded poblano pepper (or hot pepper of your choice) 
1 cup of greek yogurt 0%
1 cup ice water
2 tsp of salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper

In the food processor pulse cucumbers, avocado, lemon zest and juice, dill, and poblano pepper until blended.  Add yogurt, water and blend until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and blend again.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Garnish with finely chopped cucumber and dill, a small thin slice of avocado and a half of grape tomato sliced.