After School Apple Cakes

As fall aproaches, I like to pull out this recipe from my 2006 CT Post column for caramel apple cakes. I like making the small batch recipe but you can always double it for a bake sale.Apple cake column

It’s that time of year again when you’re shuttling a bunch of kids around  to all of those non-stop after school activities. In my day, that meant Mom would pick up a car pool of kids, pile them in the back of our station wagon then pick up two-dozen hot glazed donuts from Lucy Lynn Bakery and deliver her cargo to the Girl Scout meeting. These days, many schools are encouraging parents to steer clear of greasy, hydrogenated junk food as in-school treats, favoring fresh fruits, yogurt and healthy snacks. I applaud these efforts. However, when 3:00 PM hits so does hunger and sometimes a box of trail mix just won’t do the trick. When the natives are restless you want to keep them happy! You could drive them through MacDonalds or your could consider the retro concept of home made cupcakes. You control the ingredients and your kids learn to bake something new. In September, I look to the classic apple theme for inspiration. What could be a better back to school tradition than caramel apples on a stick? (The cinnamon candy kind always got stuck on everyone’s braces.) These easy to mix cupcakes are topped with melted caramels, garnished with chopped walnuts and have sticks in the center, just like old fashioned caramel apples.


1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup applesauce

1/4 cup sour cream

1 Tbs lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1, 14 oz bag of caramels, wrappers removed

2 Tbs milk

1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

12 popsicle sticks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda and salt in mixing bowl. In separate bowl blend together applesauce, sour cream, oil, lemon juice, egg and vanilla. Mix into dry ingredients. Pour batter into paper lined muffin tins and bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Melt caramels milk in a double boiler, stirring until smooth (start . Spread caramel on the tops of cupcakes.Apple cake column

Sprinkle chopped walnuts around the edge of cakes and insert a popsicle stick in the center of each.

Apple cake columnNote: you may have to bake a square 9” x 9” cake 30 to 35 minutes.


Handle With Corn

With Labor Day rapidly approaching it’s time for summer’s last hurrah. This year you wouldn’t know it with a 90°+ heatwave but that’s all the more reason to celebrate with warm weather favorites like corn on the cob. My favorite way to do this is to shuck the ears and leave the stems on giving your guests a handy handle.

corn on foil

herb butter

Next I cream together some softened, unsalted butter and add some seasoned salt and herb mixture. (Here I’ve used Bousari, but you can come up with your on combination of herbs and spices using whatever you have in your pantry). Wrap corn in squares of foil.

folding foil around ear

1 ear covered in foil

ready to bake

Now you can just cook these on the grill for about 25-30 minutes. Too much meat taking up grill space? These work just as well baking in the oven at 375° for have an hour for the roasted corn effect. These are hot when they are ready so let rest a few minutes before serving.

“Still Crazy After All These Years” — Crew Cut Coconuts


old coconuts

It’s been nine summers ago since I first came up with the idea of using coconut heads in my Connecticut Post kid’s column. This morning, I decided to check in on my now retired little friends and see how are were doing. Considering that they owe their personality to a hot glue gun, they’ve held up pretty well in a sweltering attic visited by squirrels!

Funny thing about the coconut heads, they’ve always seemed (to me) to have a sort of “Muppetesque” quality:


Hmmm…What do you think?

Well, maybe next summer I’ll sew up some bodies for them and turn them into puppets that sing “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts”. In the meantime, I’m going to start growing some grass toupees! You can read the how -tos in the transcript from the publication below:

8 August coconuts 2 copy 2

Top off Summer Vacation Making these Wacky Planters

Sometimes kids like to putter alongside parents when it comes to gardening or using tools in the workshop. With adult supervision, it provides an opportunity to learn new skills and develop hobbies that will carry into adulthood. I always used to watch dad with total fascination as he made something out of nothing with a few of his gadgets on the basement workbench.” I wanna hold the drill!” was OK— “I wanna hold the blow torch!” was NOT OK. This is one of those family bonding projects that requires some initial parental involvement but results in months of summer fun. Together you can transform coconuts into cartoon-like characters. Kids water and nurture the crop of grass that grows from their heads. Best of all it teaches maintenance and responsibility. Without weekly hair cuts with some kitchen shears, their “flat tops” will turn into Rapunzel’s long locks.

FOR EACH PLANTER: one coconut marking pen cross cut saw vise knife drill with half inch bit whole, unshelled almond 3 Brazil nuts 1/2” to 3/4 “ hobby eyes glue gun potting soil rye grass seed. Mark off the upper third of the coconut with a pen. Drill a hole or two in the bottom of the coconut for drainage. Anchor the coconut in a vise and saw along the line. Allow cut coconuts to dry out for several days so that the white coconut meat begins to pull away from the hard outer shell. Cut cube-like scores into coconut meat and pry out of shell with a knife. Use glue gun to attach an almond in the center of each for a nose. Glue on a Brazil nut as a mouth underneath the nose and on each side of the “coconut head” as an ear. Glue on hobby eyes. Fill coconut with potting soil and moisten with water. Cover coconuts with a thick layer of grass seed and water daily, checking to be sure the soil is moist at all times. Keep in a sunny place and grass should begin to germinate in 3 to five days. Note: Grass seed may be started outside of the coconut heads in clear plastic , disposable drinking cups. Once the grass has begun to grow in can be transplanted. This has the educational advantage of watching the root system develop before your eyes.8 August coconuts 2 copy 2

How to Make a Three Cornered Hat Cake for the Fourth

3 corner hart annd red shoes

Guess who? That’s six year-old me visiting Colonial Williamsburg for the very first time. I will never forget that Independence Day when my parents drove us halfway across the country to give kids from Kansas City the experience of being in one of the original thirteen colonies. Now that I’ve become a Connecticut Yankee, being surrounded by remnants of the Revolutionary War doesn’t seem quite as exotic as it once did.  That’s not to say I feel jaded by the antiquity. I’ve grown to love this holiday more than any other and feel privileged to watch fireworks from my street which was once an 18th century gun battery. As I see the rockets launched from a barge on the Long Island Sound, I think of how they dug up cannonballs when they built this house. Little did I know that  summer when I became infatuated with my three cornered hat that I would someday live where all the action took place. HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!Williamsburg under Horse head

 Hat’s off to this Patriotic Dessert

(transcript from The Connecticut Post)

When I was in first grade, my parent’s decided that we should spend July 4th in the tradition of our founding fathers. Mom and Dad packed up our station wagon and drove off on a pilgrimage from Kansas City to Williamsburg and Jamestown, Va. After three days of “Are we there yet?” and many pit stops, we arrived in the magical land of three cornered hats. At least, that’s how I saw it… Oh there were lots of neat carriages, cannons and drums but I was most intrigued with the black, felt “tricorne” worn by everyone from the docents at Governor’s Palace to the proprietors of the gingerbread bakery. Once inside the souvenir “shoppe”, the salesperson in an eighteenth century costume tried to convince Mom to buy a lacy Martha Washington bonnet for me… No way!!! There wasn’t a single kid running around the streets of Williamsburg in one of those. Like all the other girls in the store, I picked out the hat with gold braid trimming the edge. It became inseparable from my head for the rest of the summer. I wore it in restaurants, at church– even to the swimming pool (much to the chagrin of my parents) Before the first day of school, my hat mysteriously disappeared. It was nowhere to be found in the house? For most people, fireworks are synonymous with July 4th. For me, I will always associate the the holiday with that wonderful trip to Williamsburg and my three cornered hat. It’s easy to make one out of chocolate brownie cake for a unique patriotic dessert. In keeping with the Yankee Doodle tradition of our state song, ad a feather for a colorful effect.

three corner hat cake column July copy


10.25 oz brownie mix

baking parchment chocolate covered donut


16 oz can of dark chocolate frosting

gold craft cord (a least 1 yard)

red , white and blue craft feathers

strawberries and blueberries for garnish whipped cream or whipped topping and pastry bag fitted with a rosette tip

Line a 9” cake pan with a circle of baking parchment. Prepare mix according to directions and spread into pan*. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes. Cool and chill in refrigerator (or stick in the freezer ) before cutting, Cut a triangular shape from the circle, saving the three sliced edges. Trim about another half inch of brownie off of each side of the triangular piece. Stand the curved brownie slices along the smooth edges of the triangular piece and secure with toothpicks. Since brownies are very pliable, you can pinch the edges together to form points at the corners. Place the donut in the center as the crown of the hat. Fill the center of the donut whole with a scrap of from the brownie trimmings. Frost the cake with chocolate frosting. Gently press gold craft cord around the edge of the hat against the frosting and trim at joining corner. If feathers are long, cut about 3” down from the tip and stick in the corner of one side of the hat. This cake can be presented on a platter decorated with fresh blueberries, strawberries and rosettes of whipped cream for a red white and blue finale.

*Note, if using a 1 lb 3.9 oz family size brownie mix, you can make two cakes by simply adding another donut and can of frosting.

Hey Kids — How to Give Dad the Same Tie you Gave him Last Year!


Father’s Day is almost upon us and I can remember how challenging it was to think of something to give my father that he didn’t already have— especially if I had already given it to him before! This idea comes from my Connecticut Post column archives. It puts all those old neckties to good use by recycling them into cedar stuffed snakes to hang in his closet . (I’ve provided the transcript below for easier reading.)


6 June:tiesnakes copy 3


I’ll never forget the Father’s Day when everyone gave Granddad a tie. We should have coordinated our gifts a little better but I guess no one in my family was using their imagination that year. Box after box, the disappointment grew on my grandfather’s face (even Dad got a can of English toffee). Finally, I handed Granddad my package. My careful attention to wrapping it with perfectly coordinated paper and ribbon could not disguise the tell tale long, flat box. He joked: “If I get one more tie, I’m going to have to hang someone with it!” Of course, Granddad wasn’t trying to be ungrateful but the message was received loud and clear. Around our house, ties became a taboo gift for Father’s Day. Whether or not the men in your family have the same attitude about receiving neckties, you probably have a surplus from years past. Why not recycle, putting them to work repelling moths? Wide or narrow ties work equally well for stuffing with the same cedar shavings used to line the hamster’s cage. Dads (even granddads) will enjoy seeing these silly snakes, draped around hangers, every morning they open the closet door.


2 old neckties (stain free)

scraps of red felt and felt to coordinate with ties

Bag of cedar shavings for hamster cages

4, 1/2 moveable plastic hobby eyes (sew on type)*

4 small black shoe buttons needle, thread and scissors

Cut two strips from red felt 3/4” wide and 6” long. Make “V” shaped notches at the end of each to resemble snake tongues. Cut diamond shaped pieces out of coordinating felt to cover large and small end openings of ties. Stitch tongues to the underside of large open ends. Slipstitch large diamonds over large ends and tongues. Slipstitch small diamonds over small ends. At both ends of a necktie, seams are left open about 6 “ from each end. Use the openings to stuff with cedar shavings. (Tip: It’s easier to push shavings down into ties by using the eraser end of a pencil. If ties are too narrow, open them up with a seam ripper, spoon shavings down the center and slipstich the seam back together.) Do not stuff ties so tight that they cannot bend. Slipstitch openings. Sew eyes and shoe buttons (for nostrils) on top side of large ends. *Note: If you can’t find sew on hobby eyes, substitute with the glue-on type and use thick craft glue.

Here you can see some neck tie snakes straight out of my second book : What Should I Bring? Great Gifts for Every Occaision. In this photo, they’ve been paired with a frog prince pillow. I’m not sure I’d suggest kids make one of those for dad, afterall he’s “King”…at least on his day!


“Summerpie” and The Livin’ is Easy

lemon pie slice on counter with rolling pin
It’s that time of year again. Last weekend kicked off the season for picnics and officially wearing white pants without fear of fashion police. On a three day holiday weekend like this past Memorial Day, I usually find myself baking for at least one barbecue, a pot luck and some other outdoor eating event. This year was no exception. So what’s my all time favorite summer dessert? Well, it’s not a cake or cupcakes as the hot sun can do a number on buttercream frosting. Humidity often makes cookies soggy. Chocolate desserts can melt and recrystalize with those dreaded streaks of grey known as “bloom”. In my experience, nothing beats baking any kind of pie from the very old, well respected “Chess” family tree.

There has long been a debate about the origin of the name. Many of these pies came from the South so some people think the name “chess pie” is a colloquialism of “Jes’ pie” (or just pie). Personally, I’ve never felt convinced of that theory. Other’s claim there may have been cheese in the original recipes. However, I have extensively researched old cookbooks and have found no evidence to support that either. The most probable explanation is that “chess pie” evolved from the name “chest pie” and with good reason. As pastry goes, these pies are practically indestructible!
They hold up well at room temperature (even in hot weather) which was why they were probably locked away in colonial tin pie chests. Transporting them is a cinch too– no smashed merigue in picnic baskets. These pies are so portable–just wrap and go as soon as they cool off from the oven.

So what exactly is in a chess pie? They are filled with a simple combination of ingredients with a surprisingly rich and complex result. Always heavy on the butter and sugar, the flavor is not one to be forgotten. My most favorite of all chess pies is the most basic. What I call Colonial Chess Pie.The secret ingredients are white vinegar and a dash of nutmeg. The combination creates a distintive and addictive custard filling.two baked chess pies

Familiar pies from the chess family include the timeless classic, pecan pie. Others are more forgotten by time like Transparent Pie or Jefferson Davis Pie. The first is simply a pecan pie sans pecans and the latter is a sugary mixture of dates and nuts. Even sweet potato and pumpkin pies are all part of the extended Chess family.

Today I’m sharing with you three of my favorite “summerpies”. The first is a Charleston Chess Pie that will really hit the spot if you are already a lover of lemon bars. The second is my humble favorite Colonial Chess Pie and the third is a fruity version of a pecan pie that I usually bake for Thanksgiving. I say “When in July, eat Louisiana Banana Pecan Pie“!


2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs yellow cornmeal
2 Tbs grated lemon peel
1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 eggs
1 unbaked 9-10” pie shell
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine sugar, cornstarch, cornmeal and lemon peel in a large mixing bowl. Blend in melted butter. Beat lemon juice with eggs and blend into sugar mixture. Pour into pie shell and bake on the bottom rack of oven for 40- 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 3 hours before cutting. Sift powdered sugar over each serving slice.
pie shell, lemons , graterwhisking lemon fillingpie shell:lemon filling to bakebaked pie


2 cups sugar
1 Tbs yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup half and half or evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs white vinegar
4 eggs
1 unbaked 9″ pie shell

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine sugar, cornmeal and melted butter. Beat half and half, vanilla extract, vinegar and eggs together and pour into sugar mixture, blending until smooth. Pour into pie shall and bake on the bottom rack of the oven until crust is golden brown, cool 3 hours before cutting.


1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup light corn syrup, or honey
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
2 Tbs banana liqueur or rum
1 large ripe but still firm banana, cubed
1 cup toasted pecans, lightly broken
9-10” unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in mixing bowl. Add eggs corn syrup, butter and banana liqueur or rum and blend until smooth. Line the unbaked pie shell with chopped banana and pecans. Pour filling over it and bake 40-50 minutes or until set and crust is golden brown. Cool 3 hours before slicing.

Beat the Crowd and Serve Mom Breakfast in Bed

Queen for a dayIn so many households, Mother’s Day dinner requires little effort other than planning ahead and dialing a phone number. According to the restaurant industry, more people eat out on Mother’s Day Sunday than any other day of the year. My birthday often coincided– or should I say collided with Mom’s day which often made it seem even more frustrating to get a table at a popular family eatery. If we could get in, our favorite dishes were off the menu, replaced with a limited choice of entree’s. One thing for sure, no reservations are required to treat Mom to breakfast in bed. When it comes to kid’s in the kitchen, French toast is fairly forgiving. There’s not too much that can go wrong. If prepared the night before, it will come out custardy. If it’s a last minute thought, it will still be fine— After all, it’s the thought that counts with Mom! One feature to include is a bud vase of flowers with some “flower faces” of the kids (see below) in the arrangement.


8, thick slices (a little over an inch) of French bread or unsliced white bread
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbs sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbs orange juice concentrate
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 cup butter



Beat eggs well with milk, sugar, salt, orange juice concentrate and vanilla. Place bread in a 9” x 13” casserole dish and pour egg mixture over bread. Cover an refrigerate overnight. (Note: if you do this at the last minute, just slice bread a little thinner and turn slices several times while soaking in the egg batter until saturated.) Melt enough butter in a nonstick skillet to brown toast about four minutes on each side. This may need to be done in two batches. Serve toast warm with scoops of orange butter and maple marmalade syrup. If desired , sprinkle with candied pecans.

ORANGE BUTTER: Soften a 3 oz pkg of cream cheese and a 4 oz stick of butter. Beat together with 2 tsp of fresh grated orange peel until fluffy.

ORANGE MARMALADE SYRUP: Heat equal parts orange marmalade and maple syrup until melted, using a saucepan or microwave.

FLOWER FACES: Select photos of each child and cut out in a circle around their head. Paste in the center of flowers cut from craft foam, mounted on green pipe cleaners. Place in a bud vase and arrange on a breakfast tray with the French toast, fresh fruit and a copy of The Connecticut Post.

photo vase with text

When Easter Comes “Early”


You must wonder… “What is she talking about?” Easter is considered “early” when it’s the Sunday after St Patrick’s Day. This year it’s the first weekend in April, not exactly late just somewhere in between. Well this year I have a brother coming up from Washington DC and cousins from Florida and New York so in order to see everyone at the same time, we are having Easter dinner this year on a Saturday night. It’s amazing to me how just having one less weekend day to prepare makes it seem like crunch time for the cook. I always motivate myself by setting the table first. Something about getting all of that under control gives me a false sense of security that everything is under control. When you think about it, that actually translates into a very real sense of pre-party calm.

peep place setting I made a large nest of easter grass in the middle of the lavender dining room table runner and decorated with malted milk eggs, dyed hard cooked eggs and, of course, PEEPS. (I even have a big stuffed PEEP as a centerpiece). I also had a lot of pastel Mardi Gras beads in storage so I decided they blended well with the Easter theme.big peep

This year I started with my most time consuming dishes and prepared them Thursday night: The first is a creamed kale casserole with fire roasted artichoke hearts and a panko breadcrumb topping:kale topped with artichokespanko topped kale

This will turn a golden brown after baking in the oven for half an hour. Next I made my Yukon Gold baked potato casserole with a chive cheese sauce. First I sliced the potatoes in half and roasted them on an oiled baking sheet.Yukon Potatoes on foil

Then I made a bechemel sauce with a blend of cheddar and Swiss cheese and chives.making sauce I sliced the roasted potatoes, covered them in the cheese sauce and topped with more grated cheese. Just like the kale casserole, it will reach it’s full glory when baked to a golden brown.finished potato casserole ready to bake Right now both are wrapped up in the fridge waiting for Saturday night. Then comes the ham. It’s also waiting in the fridge to be baked by my friend and neighbor to free up my oven at the last minute. hammexican cokeThis year I saw a display for Mexican Coca Cola in a glass bottles so I decided we should try glazing it with Caco Cola the way my Aunt Liz from New Orleans used to do. And of course there’s the cherry sauce. I sometimes find it a little mundane so I spiked it up with pomegranate-blueberry vinegar and dried blueberries.cherry sauce Next I started cooking asparagus for a vinaigrette salad (sorry no photo of the finished dish yet-update to follow.asparagus in pot)                                                                                Finally there’s dessert. I haven’t even gotten started on that yet but it’s going to be an orange ginger cake. I guess you’ll have to check in for the finished dish updates after our early Easter dinner. Not sure I’ll get to it tonight. I’m already all “Peeped Out”.

Which brings me to my original intention for my Easter post. I make these really fun, kid-friendly, do-it-yourself Easter “Peeps” using coconut, lemon Jello and sweetened condensed milk. I was going to show you the step by step process but I think you’ll get the idea from this Connecticut Post column that I have written the transcript out for you since the print is kind of small :

Make Your Own “Peeps”   EASTER CHICKS

Easter Chicks column April


It’s Easter basket time again. Nestled with chocolate eggs and bunnies are those marshmallow chicks that have have become a nostalgic treat from one generation to the next. I looked up the company’s official website and learned that prior to 1954 it took 27 hours to produce a Peep by hand. Now, it only takes 6 minutes to produce a mechanized Peep. As a child, I was a fan of “petrified Peeps”. The process involved drying them on top of my dresser until they reached the perfect crunchy consistency (sometime in June). I used to think this was an acquired taste until I read that a preference for eating them stale was #6 on the company’s fun facts list. Now, if you think I’m about to tell you how to replicate marshmallow Peeps in your own kitchen, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, I’m sharing with you a very different type of chicken candy that I invented when I was about ten years old. Mom used to make a coconut concoction with strawberry gelatin and shaped it into strawberries. One day I said “Lets use lemon gelatin”. However, the yellow strawberries were not well received. I reshaped the strawberries into little chicks and suddenly they were a hit with my family and friends. These are a fun project to make with your kids. Modeling the candy is kind of like working with marzipan only a lot less expensive. Nest them in egg cartons lined with tinted green coconut and they make great gifts.


(Note: makes 2 dozen candies–enough to fill 2 egg cartons)

3-ounce package of lemon flavored gelatin

5 1/2 cups flaked coconut (about one 14-ounce bag)

14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk 1-2 drops yellow food coloring

Slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Semisweet chocolate minichips.

Combine gelatin, coconut, condensed milk and food coloring in mixing bowl Set aside 1/3 of mixture for heads. Mold remainder into 24 balls. Shape reserved mixture into 24 smaller balls fort heads. Press small balls firmly on top of larger balls. Insert two almonds into each head for “chirping” beaks and use chocolate minichips for eyes.blurry chicks with newspaper showing













Egg Carton Nests:

2 egg cartons (bottoms only)

2 cups shredded coconut

1 Tbs water mixed with two or three drops of green food coloring clear cellophane, ribbon.

Tint coconut green by shaking in a large jar or plastic zipper bag with colored water. Spred on a tray and allow to air dry. If desired, you can cut cartons into half-dozen sections. Line individual egg carton cups with green coconut and set each chick in the a cup as if it were in a tiny nest. If giving as gifts, wrap cartons in cellophane and tie at each end with ribbon.chicks with about alison boteler


The Doves of Downton Abbey Debut

Tonight’s the night! The 20th anniversary of Project Return’s Annual Birdhouse Auction. This popular event attracts whimsical and creative structures for indoor and outdoor use as well as bird themed art. It all goes to a great cause supporting girls in crisis. The auction is held at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Westport CT after a preview of the artwork is displayed for two weeks in the storefront windows of Westport CT. This will be the third year I’ve participated in the event.

20 years

Most people think of me as a cookbook author but there’s another side of me—The side that grew up drawing  from life as I saw it on Saturday morning cartoons.  Those were the days when cartoons were still created on cells before the age of computers. I particularly liked all of the detail in the really early Disney cartoons that my parents used to watch in movie theaters with feature films. It got to the point where I actually “dreamed in cartoon”. I loved my two dimensional world. It was a happy retreat for me where anything was possible. My imaginary friends weren’t invisible to my family, I’d drawn portraits of all their familiar faces.  Best of all was  I wanted to design my own hat or coat I’d just draw them and like magic they were right there before my eyes.

There was just one problem with my artwork then and now… I never really mastered the human form or face. My people always looked more like political cartoons (recognize Nixon, tailors Haldeman Erlichman and “Little Johnny Dean?).  As a teenager, I wrote a fractured fairy tale turning Watergate into The Emperor’s New Clothes !Watergate cartoons

So I decided to stick to what I know best whether it was  dressing  household pets  to prehistoric animals as paper dolls. Here I have some dapperly dressed dogs :dapper dogs sketchdapper dogs color

And some “Designosaurs”CelesteDaphne:

For the 2013 Project Return Birdhouse Auction, I decided my paper doll concept was for the birds and created the character Alfred Albatross who ended up in the window of Brooks Brothers:

alfred albatross

brooks brother's window


This year I got this inspiration to dress doves in the Edwardian and 1920’s attire from Downton Abby and put them into a coatrack frame. It was on display inside Brooks Brothers until tonight where it will be up for silent auction. sketcheson the red tableclothfull view with shirts

This will be the first year where credit card bids will be made by cell phone so the mantra is “CHARGE”— Both as much as you can!







Celtic Creamed Kale Sprouts and Corned Beef

Some people like to mix things up on Thanksgiving with pomegranate glazed turkey or hazelnut stuffing. I’m not saying I’m one of those but I do tend to deviate from the norm now and then on Saint Patrick’s Day. Many times I’ve substituted Brussels sprouts for boiled cabbage or I will make an “Irish Tiramisu” using Bailey’s for dessert. This was one of those years for me. I decided to serve my corned beef as a side dish. In this case, I only needed about 6 oz of slivered deli corned beef but you can make this dish even better the day after if you have your own boiled corned beef from the main event.

I’ll admit I was inspired by kale sprouts I’ve recently started seeking out at Whole Foods. They are a product of Belgium and come in a 150gm bag.

bagged kale

They are really quick to cook. I simply trim off some some of the brown leaves from the sprouts and arrange in a large shallow glass bowl. Fill with about 1 1/2″ of water. Sprinkle with sea salt and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stop microwave, redistribute them in the water, and cook 1 minute longer.

about to be steamed

Drain Sprouts well on a paper plate and allow to cool to room temp.

DRaining on paper plate

Roll sprouts in a paper towel to squeeze out excess moisture.

rolled in paper towels

Now for the cream sauce: heat 2 cups of milk with 2 tbs fresh snipped chives in the microwave for 2 minutes.

chives in milk

Make a roux by melting 1/4 cup butter and blending in 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp onion powder a few grinds of black pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Blend together with a wire whisk over medium heat until bubbly and smooth.

making a roux

Blend in heated milk and bring to a boil, stirring until thickened.bechemel thickens

Take about 6 ounces of deli sliced corned beef, roll up and slice into julienne strips. (If you are using home-cooked corned beef, just chop up leftover meat since the texture tends to break apart more when simmered on your stove.sliced corned beefshredding corned beef

Stir into chive cream sauce. Add drained kale sprouts.sauced corned beefFolded sprouts into sauce

Spread into a casserole and cover with buttered breadcrumbs.

Unbaked Crumb toppedBake at 350° for 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden and bubbling.Finale kale

This actually a great post- St Patrick’s Day dish just like a turkey casserole after Thanksgiving. There I go again comparing the two holidays. I can’t tell you how many times I say Happy Thanksgiving to people on St Patricks Day!