Salad topped with Grilled Halloumi

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We recently discovered lovely halloumi cheese. It’s a salty, firm, Greek cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. The unique thing about halloumi is that it doesn’t melt when it’s heated, so it can be pan-seared or grilled for a delicious flavor. We pan seared some and then sliced it up and topped a salad with it. Yum! One word of warning, though: halloumi can be quite rubbery when it’s not very hot, so if you have it on a salad like this, eat the halloumi FIRST. It’s quite unappetizing when it cools down.

Dinner party table setting

My table, set for the dinner party that we had on Saturday. I was really proud of the way that it all turned out. The table looked beautiful; the food was great; the guests and conversation were wonderful.

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I was especially proud of the flower vases. They are candleholders that I bought a while back at Target. They are shaped like giant straight-sided wine glasses (similar to this) and are meant to hold a smallish pillar candle (3 inches high by 1.5 inches in diameter or so), but the bottom of one of the candleholders isn’t level, so the candle won’t sit straight and wax melts EVERYWHERE when the candles are lit. I was just about to recycle the candleholders or get rid of them (they weren’t expensive enough to be worth taking back to Target) when I was hit with a brainstorm – they would make great vases! I bought some light green/yellow mini hydrangeas and cut the stems really short (the leaves were perfect, because they look really similar to the tobacco leaf design of my dishes). They turned out beautifully!

Dinner was also perfect. For appetizers, I made some edamame with lapsang souchong salt and some gyoza dumplings and my special spicy-sweet dipping sauce. I served that with Basil Lime martinis.

The first course was Tre Wilcox’s Pan Seared Cod with Spicy Thai Lemongrass Broth, served with Tommasi Pinot Grigio.

The second course was these Chicken Lettuce Wraps (yummy and kid-friendly, which was good, because we had 10 adults and 5 kids over that night), served with a choice of either Mulderbosch Rosé (Cab. Sauv) or Monferrato Dolcetto (most people chose the red).

I made two versions of my French macaroons for dessert. I know that they don’t fit with the Asian theme of the meal, but they were yummy. I did, at least, make the Chai-Chocolate ones (and Cara Cara orange), so at least those have some marginal claim to being somewhat Asian.

I can’t believe that I forgot to take a single photo, especially since many of the guests live far away and we rarely get to see them, but I will definitely be making the cod again (I need to experiment a bit more with my searing technique until I get the fish exactly right, but the broth was SPOT ON). When I get the quantities perfected, I’ll post my version of Tre’s recipe. His recipe was made for a professional kitchen and I think the proportions got a little off when the quantity was cut down to size (A half pound of ginger? I don’t think so.).

“Granny Cookies”

Girl and Boy making what we call “Granny Cookies” with the kids. My grandmother spoils our family by making these treats for us periodically. They are really quick and simple to make and are really fun for the kids (another fun “back of the box” kind of thing). All you do is melt “candy coating”-type chocolate (you can use the regular or the “white chocolate” version) and dip into it the cookies, which are just peanut butter spread between 2 Ritz crackers. Girl doesn’t care for peanut butter, so my grandmother makes plain chocolate-dipped Ritz for her. Here is a photo of the kids helping her make them (in her new kitchen!).

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Cat Toilet-training update, Part 2

And here’s the BIGGEST news of what we’ve been up to lately….

Here’s Queenie (with Boy laughing in the background):

Here’s Ace (with Queenie making an appearance to watch after the automatic flusher kicks in):

and here’s Jack, who sometimes confuses the toilet with his water bowl…

For anyone just joining us, we use the Citikitty toilet training system and a Hands Free Sensor Flush automatic toilet flusher.

Me and Tre Wilcox!

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I got to meet Tre Wilcox, from Season 3 of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef”! He was in town doing a cooking class as a part of the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival. It was a great class! He made a beautiful baby watercress salad topped with lobster and champagne caviar sauce, beef two ways (Braised Short Ribs with Golden Beets and Grilled New York Strip Steak with Celery Root Puree) and the masterpiece was Pan Seared Black Cod Fillet served over vegetables in a spicy-sweet Asian broth. I actually made that recipe for a dinner party this Saturday and it was a HUGE hit. I will try to type up and post a modified recipe soon, but here are some photos:

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Cod with Spicy Thai Lemongrass Broth

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Baby Watercress Salad with Lobster and Champagne Caviar Sauce

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Beef, Two Ways

Lemonade Stand (Fresh Squeezed Lemonade and “Arnold Palmer” drinks)

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Girl and a buddy recently set up a lemonade stand one Saturday morning.

Our Lemonade Recipe:

1 and 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 quarts cold water

Stir all ingredients together and adjust sugar to taste (depending upon the sweetness of your lemons, you may need to add more). Serve over ice.

Variation:
Brew up a pitcher of iced tea, too, so that you can also sell “Arnold Palmers” (half lemonade/half iced tea).

Wine Cork Napkin Ring Ties

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Aren’t these cute? I made them!

Just drill a small hole into the corks (don’t go all the way through). Cut some lengths of cording and wrap some transparent tape around the ends to keep it from fraying. Put a bit of hot glue inside the holes of the corks and insert the cord ends. They can be any color you like, with the cord as long or short as you like. Some of you may see these under the Christmas tree, so act surprised!