Saturday, October 10

Pinot Tasting Party

Well, I’ve gone and done it again, I didn’t take photos. This time I even brought out the camera and set it up, ready to go, on the table. But I get so busy that I can’t be taking pictures. But I did get one of JJ opening and test-tasting the pinots before the guests arrived. The two white platters will hold Pork Tenderloin slices with that same Onion Garlic jam I put on the brie last week, and Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms. I guess I didn’t make enough food; everything got gobbled up.
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We had ten people (including ourselves). It was very hot outside (90°) so we had the AC on. It was a little crowded with ten people. I think that’s our max, plus that’s all the seats we have outside. After a while I opened the door and it was the same temperature outside as inside, so we all went outside where we could sit with a plate of appetizers and enjoy the balmy evening.

This picture was from a couple days before. October brings beautiful, colorful “cloudsets.”
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On the other side of the house, packing is happening. We are less than two weeks away from a Mediterranean cruise. Note to potential burglars: There is nothing to steal. Our TVs are ancient, we sold the gold jewelry years ago, and I’ll have the camera with me. You could steal the new laptop, it’s a piece of crap, I’ll put it in the front room so you can find it.

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I’m looking forward to this trip (as always). It’s a nice itinerary, but a port every day. No sea days to rest and play cards. Except Rome, we will not go into Rome. We’ve been there and instead we will enjoy a down day on the empty ship. We have been to these countries, but most of the ports are new to us.

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We are going with Tom & Deborah. I know I have a picture of them, but it must be on my phone. The new laptop refuses to shake hands with my phone. Anyway, they live in Carlsbad, which is where we stayed last spring while our house was being built, and we got to hanging out with them regularly. One night they invited us to their house for dinner and Deborah presented us with a cruise brochure and asked if we’d be interested. As I recall, it didn’t take very long to decide the answer. There were other friends going as well, but one by one they dropped out along the way.

So we have a lot to do; the next several days will be busy ones. Today we are going to meet my cousin for lunch at the beach. Funny—we live 6 miles from the coastline and we hardly ever GO there. Cousin Jim and his wife Sherree, who live in New Orleans, just drove the entire length of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. Jim turns 66 this year (I am 5 months older) and that is how they celebrated it. What a great idea!

Sunday, October 4

Dallas and a Dinner Party

We spent a week in Dallas visiting our new best friends we met on the South Pacific cruise this April. And, three days after we returned, we threw a dinner party for 8.

I was feeling the pressure.


The cool thing about the internet is that if you decide not to take your big, heavy camera, or its batteries are dead, you can “borrow” images from the internet for purposes of illustration. Which is what I did here. I still have not learned how to get images from my phone onto my laptop, however I can put images from the laptop onto my cell phone, which take up more space on that device than I want to dedicate to pictures, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to figure it out. Posting photos to Facebook is so much easier than blogging nowadays, but I’m steadfastly refusing to go that route. The images I do show here are spot-on to what it was.


We had glorious weather in Dallas. Our hosts, Bill & Sarah, took us to the JFK Museum in downtown Dallas. One recognizes the building immediately. 512ee6149ee0e.image

They have a terrific multimedia museum of events about the assassination of JFK. You can look out the window that Oswald did when he shot the President.

You can’t see it in this photo, but there is a big X on the street where the fatal shot was fired. Most of my readers lived through that awful time and the museum brought back sad memories, but it was heartwarming to see many younger people and soldiers in uniform.348s


Then we drove out to Bill & Sarah’s Lake house in East Texas. It’s two hours ENE of Dallas. This is where we spent most of our time, playing bridge in the afternoons and drinking wine in the evening. So relaxing.vfiles37705


When we got home we had exactly two and a half days to unpack, do laundry, shop and prep for a dinner party Saturday night. I had put the leaf in the table and set it before we went to Dallas.


I am a firm believer in doing everything in advance. By Saturday afternoon I was sitting with my feet up, reading The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure. An excellent read, I highly recommend it.


I made all the food Friday. All I had to do Saturday was get a pedicure, make the salad and arrange the flowers.


Here is my recipe for Make-Ahead Scalloped Potatoes for 8 to 10 people. These are crazy good and everybody loves them.

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  • 6 - 8 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 3/4 pint heavy cream (not half & half, not milk)
  • 1 can Campbell’s chicken broth (small red/white can)
  • Salt, white pepper to taste
  • Chives, parsley (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 – 1 stick butter
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Put the cream in a large saucepan and heat over low heat. Keep your eye on it and don’t let it boil over. Remove from heat.

Add the chicken broth, a little at a time, until the sauce is light and creamy. Add the salt, white pepper, and chives/parsley to taste.


Melt the butter. Use some of the butter to grease a large glass/ceramic baking dish. Yes you can use Pam but the butter gives it a crispy edge like in the above picture.

Peel and thinly slice the potatoes (I use a mandoline). Drop the potato slices in water as you work. Drain the potatoes in a colander.

Working in layers, arrange potato slices followed by a drizzle of melted butter. You could add cheddar or jack cheese between the layers if you want.

After the potatoes are in the baking dish, pour the cream/broth over top, until  the liquid comes up over the potatoes. If you need more liquid, you still have some cream left.

Heat the oven to 350°.


Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle Parmesan, and put it back in the oven uncovered for 10—15 minutes or until lightly browned.


To make ahead: Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let come to room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. When you’re ready, take the dish out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature for an hour or longer. Heat the oven to 350° and bake the potatoes until they are heated through, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle grated Parmesan over top and return to oven, uncovered, for about 10—15 minutes or until lightly browned.

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The other players were Chicken Dijon with Shallots and Grainy mustard,creamy-dijon-mustard-chicken-horiz-640-600x428

and Fabulous Spinach Salad. Maple syrup and balsamic vinegar dressing: Killer.IMG_7630

The hot appetizer was melted brie with Onion-Garlic Jam. Outstanding.
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What could be easier—two ingredients, cheese and jam.
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Oh, and we had these. Terra Chips. Have you ever had them? So unusual.
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I had planned to make an apple cobbler for dessert, but then we went to Costco and I saw this huge apple pie and it pulled me in like I was hypnotized. We served it warm with vanilla ice cream. This lit up my brain like a drug. Remember, I rarely eat this stuff. Outrageous! I swooned.

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On the gluten-free front, I am finding I can have a little bit of wheat products now and then without incident, like a couple crackers or, in this case, a bit of pie crust. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. It’s still best to avoid wheat altogether, but it’s easier to resist when you know it’s going to get you.


Now we are gearing up to go to Barcelona in a couple weeks. We are hosting a pinot party next week and I’ll try to remember to take photos.