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.