Gardening, Cooking and Decorating on the Prairie of Kansas

Welcome to Linderhof, our 1920's home on the prairie, where there's usually something in the oven, flowers in the garden for tabletops and herbs in the garden for cooking. Where, when company comes, the teapot is always on and there are cookies and cakes to share in the larder.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Hundred Cupcakes

Last night I was asked by the President of the Rotary Club if I would do a dessert for their dinner tonight held at our Country Club. There is no pastry chef at the club and the head chef is not interested in pastry so . . . dessert would have been frozen something.

So, of course, I said yes, for I love any time spent in the kitchen. I pondered recipes -- a strawberry cake with strawberries both in it and in the frosting and decorated with a fan strawberry on top, a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, white Texas sheet cake decorated with fresh garden pansies, or carrot cake.

I decided on the last one and then decided to do cupcakes instead of 9 x 13 cakes.

So I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, peeling and grating carrots and mixing up bowls and bowls of carrot cake cupcake batter.

Once baked, I mixed up bowls and bowls of cream cheese icing.

For to me, carrot cake is just a delivery system for cream cheese frosting!

And you cannot serve a plain undecorated cupcake and so I shredded more carrots and sauteed them with maple syrup and butter until they were soft and sweet. After icing the cupcakes I put a big pinch on each of the cupcakes.
It looked like a small cupcake factory before we took them to the club. In fact, husband Jim had already taken TWO pans to the car before I could snap a picture!

The cupcakes received rave reviews and looked very pretty on the table. The recipe is one I've made before -- from one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. They're easy and the recipe makes a lot. The shredded carrots on top took them from mundane carrot cake cupcakes to superlative carrot cake cupcakes.


2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 extra-large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups grated carrots (less than 1 pound)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

For the frosting:
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar

For the decoration:
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded carrots
3 tablespoons real maple syrup

Melt butter, add carrots and maple syrup and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes until carrots are soft. Drain on paper towels. Use to garnish cupcakes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.

Line muffin pans with paper liners. Scoop the batter into 22 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cook for a further 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

For the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.

When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously.

For the decoration, melt butter in a skillet, add carrots and maple syrup. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until carrots are tender. Drain on paper towels and use to garnish top of cupcakes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Affair With a House

Shamelessly, I took the title from one of Bunny Williams books for I, too, have had an affair with a house -- this house, Linderhof. It's a brick four square with a wide screened in front porch, a portico from which to hang plants in the summer, roses growing up one side and ivy up the other.
The only structural change ever made in it's 88 years has been the breakfast room which we added on last fall. We did it with a sympathetic eye to the house and most of our visitors think it is our back porch which we have enclosed.

We took the 1985 kitchen which we inherited when we bought the house and made it a kitchen with 1920's flavor. Ours is it's third incarnation after the original 1920's kitchen. It was updated in 1948 and then again in 1985 and in 1995 we took the center panels out of the upper cabinets, added glass and painted ALL of the cabinets. This from a person who thinks it a sin to paint wood! But by doing that, the kitchen seemed part of the house rather than something tacked on.

A house is constantly changing and although the living room has been a dark green ever since we lived here, new furnishings have replaced old and by changing window treatments or upholstery, rooms have a different perspective.

I love this old house and she is a grand lady.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's Wisteria Time

We were gone for the weekend and when we got home yesterday, we found the Wisteria in full bloom. It's a 10 year old plant that climbs a post at the end of the garage and has grown along the arbor attached to the garage and it's almost reached the other end!!!

For about 10 days to 2 weeks at this time of year, the blooms are heavy on the vine and the scent is heavenly.

I love the way that wisteria "drips" from the roof of the garage.

The dream I had 10 years ago when I planted both the wisteria and the William Baffin rose of having the wisteria grow all the way to the rose and then we would have lavender and pink entertwined finally happened.

Blooms of perennial plants are all too short -- a couple of weeks at the most but they are like old friends coming back year and after for a visit.

We enjoy this annual visit of our wisteria and of course, think each year's blooms are prettier than the last.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Company Dinner

We love to have company for dinner. In my opinion six is ideal for everyone can participate in the same conversation -- with any more and you often have "two" tables -- the middle guests participating in both while each end has their own conversation.

Often we set the table without a tablecloth using chargers instead for we like the look of wood. For this dinner party, we used our blue and white Spode, yellow napkins and our big wine glasses.

Our oriental candleholders and three of our antique julep glasses held a yellow and white arrangement of garden flowers -- honeysuckle, coreopsis, and butter and eggs as well as the seed heads from the sorrel in the herb garden.

We started with martinis and appetizers in the breakfast room. Skewers of appetizers topped the martini glasses (husband's idea) -- roasted shrimp on each end, pickled garlic, two kinds of cheeses, cherry pepper, pickles, a cherry tomato.

Dinner was salmon cooked simply by searing and finishing in the oven and topped with a dill cucumber sauce when it was served, potato torta (three kinds of potatoes tossed with rosemary and olive oil and layered with Parmesan cheese and baked in a springform pan), and green beans with roasted red peppers.

Dessert was a strawberry tart.
It was easy to make and made a great presentation.
Although the recipe called for several fruits I chose to use all strawberries. I brought it to the table whole for it is an awesome looking tart.

The filling is a white chocolate and cream cheese mixture which went really well with the strawberries.

We were enjoying ourselves so much that we opened a precious bottle of Late Harvest Gurwerst to go with the tart and it was a perfect compliment to the strawberries and chocolate.

It's an easy tart and I will definitely make it again.



1 1/4 cups softened butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups flour

Creamy Filling:

1 2/3 c. white chocolate chips
1/4 c. heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened


sliced bananas, strawberies, blueberries, raspberries, sliced kiwi, sliced peaches and/or blackberries


1/4 cup sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. pineapple juic
1/2 t. lemon juice

Pastry: Beat the butter an dpowdered sugar together until blended. Add flour and beat until smooth. Press the pastry over the bottom and onto the sides of a 12 inch tart tin (I used a 10) Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 min. cool.


Combine white chocolate chips and cream and microwave for 2 min and stir. Add cream cheese and beat until well blended. Spoon the filling over the baked layer.


I used only strawberries


Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan and mix well. Stir in the pineapple juic ean dlmon juice. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Drizzle glaze over all the fruit to prevent browning. Chill, covered in the regirgerator.

NOTE: I melted orange marmalade (a cheaper version without a lot of orange peel) and thinned it with Grand Marnier for my glaze.

It received rave reviews!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A cozy spot int he sunroom

The sunroom is the room off of our bedroom. It has two walls of windows and so is a bright sunny space. It is a small room but it holds our computer, a television, two comfy leather chairs and it makes our master bedroom into a suite. As in all of our rooms, blue and white oriental porcelains are in the room as well as a favorite Waterford lamp and as in almost all of our rooms (except for the kitchen), a chandelier hangs from the ceiling. Since the mirror on top of the buffet is so high, we've tilted it so that it reflects the chandelier and the painted ceiling around the light fixture. We do have a stash of adult beverages in this room for in the winter, we often have a wee tot of cognac before bed. To keep us grounded, Caeser watches over all. A great bust -- a great estate sale find.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The roses of Linderhof

Roses have been at Linderhof since we first moved here 20 years ago. Before we moved in, we purchased two red Blaze roses -- one to climb up the trellis on the south side of the house while the other was planted in the back yard. They have grown and have thrived these 20 years.
And then 10 years later, we planted a pink William Baffin rose under our newly built arbor. It is alive in late May with masses of pink blossoms. It's very cold hardy and very vigorous and we decided that the rest of the arbor and fence needed these pink roses growing up and over and so last year we planted another.
When we bought this arbor 5 years later we bought two old fashioned climbers to clamber up and over. They are very fragrant roses and we especially like their pink blossoms against the white arbor with the green bench and blue bird bath.
This is a wee roses -- another old fashioned and I'm ashamed to say that I've forgotten it's name. It's a sweet rose that grows in a shady area and so has remained small. It's very fragrant, however, and when it blooms always brings a smile to my face.

Last year we succumbed to the Knock Out roses -- shrub roses that can withstand the heat of our summers and the cold of our winters and thrive. They're the red in our garden and we planted a whole row of them near the herb garden.

Linderhof is abloom with roses in mid to late May and bouquets are brought into the house daily for we so love roses. We harvest roses as well -- some get made into potpourri to give as Christmas gifts while others are used to make rose petal jam. A great jam to serve at afternoon tea or when the jar is topped with a square of rosy chintz and tied with a ribbon, makes a great hostess or Christmas gift.

Rose petal jam is easy to make and we make at least two batches each year.

Rose Petal Jam

1/2 pound pink or red edible rose petals
2 cups sugar, divided
4 1/2 cups water
juice of 2 lemons (approximately 1/2 cup)

Clip and discard bitter white bases from the rose petals; rinse petals thoroughly and drain. Place rose petals in a bowl and sprinkle enough sugar to coat each petal. Let set overnight.

In a saucepan over low heat, place remaining sugar, water and lemon juice; stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in rose petals and let simmer 20 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil; continue boiling for approximately 5 minutes until mixture thickens and a spoonful dropped onto a cold plate jells and holds it's shape. (approximately 221 on a candy thermometer).

After boiling, transfer the jam into hot sterlized jars. Fill them to within 1/4 inch of the top and wiping any spilled jam off the top, put the lid on top and tighten the ring around them. Cover, label and store in a cool cupboard.

Note: all roses that you intend to eat must be free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers for these flowers may have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Our afternoon haven

The front porch at Linderhof is and always has been screened. The house faces east and so the porch on warm spring and summer afternoons is cool and shady and if there is any breeze, it does waft through making the porch a haven in the afternoon. When my chores for the day are done, in spring and summer, I head with my glass of icy tea for the front porch -- to sit in one of the chairs and sip my tea.
It is the place, too, that some of the houseplants spend their summer -- a piece of old iron topped with glass (which always needs to be washed it seems) holds this summer a big nasturtium plant as well as a garden statue that is 34 years old. It is a gnome reading and was originally bought to go in the center of our first birdbath. That birdbath is long gone but the gnome has moved with us all these years. He now has that lovely concrete patina that only time can do.
The other end of the table hold two iron cloches -- under one a bird nest (a Christmas gift from dear friends) and under the other an old bird for we treasure birds at Linderhof.

Ferns fill in spaces for we love ferns and their graceful fronds.

The porch WAS the place we started our day in spring, summer, and fall until we built the "room with a view" -- the breakfast room.

But I can't neglect the porch -- my morning and afternoon haven for so many years and so spring and summer afternoons still find me here with my glass of icy tea.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Little Lettuces

We're not really food gardeners preferring to use our precious soil to raise flowers and herbs. But in late February we look out at the garden and realize how barren the pots are. The pots that hold geraniums and begonias in the summertime. So we buy packages of lettuce seed at the market and into these barren pots right over the soil that we pulled the geraniums out in November, we sprinkle these tiny seeds.

We're rewarded with pots of lettuces. Come late April or early May, we have our choice of fresh greens to pick for luncheon and dinner salads. I always feel so virtuous as long as we have these lettuces to add to our meals. For a few cents for seeds we're rewarded with many enjoyable salads.

By the time the lettuces bolt about mid June, annuals are on sale and so I fill the pots with their summer finery -- geraniums or begonias at half price.

I enjoy the May garden with the pansies in some of the planters, lettuces in others, the breakfast room geranium pots in the garden and the red salvia in the iron planters under the hummingbird feeders. The garden is starting to come alive.

Friday, May 16, 2008

We love to pamper our guests

We love to have company at Linderhof and pamper and spoil them. The guest room USED to be Daughter Sarah's room but when she left for college in 1994, it slowly transformed from a teenage girl's room to our guest room. Music posters and pictures that decorated the walls were taken down, her personal items and books on the shelves were boxed and taken to her college apartment. The walls were changed from her teal paint to a yellow rose paper and the room decorated accordingly.

Perhaps the biggest change we made was the painting on the ceiling. A huge (for it's almost six feed wide) medallion around the light fixture. Inspired by a wee picture I saw in a very old Victoria magazine. It makes the light fixture seem more important and gives interest to the plain white ceiling.
We love to dress the bed with duvet and pillows, fresh fluffy towels in a basket for our guests along with wee lavender soap and a bag of homemade bath salts.

And we pamper our guests at breakfast as well -- freshly brewed coffee and freshly baked muffins greet them when they come downstairs. It's strawberry time and what better way to use the glut of fresh strawberries than in company muffins.

Strawberry Muffins

2 1/4 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sliced strawberries

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat eggs, blend in oil, vanilla and milk. Add liquid to dry ingredients. Stir quickly just until moistened. Spoon into well greased 2 1/2 muffin tins. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack. Serve warm.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Spring Stew

On the prairie, we like our beef. But we like our beef BIG. Steaks, roasts, briskets. Big steaks, big roasts and big briskets. There are many farmers around our little town that raise cattle -- and that reads cattle not veal. Veal is a rarity on the prairie. It's hard to find and we do tend to get a bit excited when we find it, often buying up several packages to put in the freezer for there are many veal dishes that we do relish.

It was a busy day yesterday but when I poked around the freezer to find something for dinner I did find a package of veal stew meat and remembered a recipe in a favorite cookbook of mine, Country Weekend Entertaining by Anna Pump. It was easy to put together and baked while I did other chores. Even though it was a warm day and it was a stew, the light and fresh flavors made it the perfect dish for a spring evening with storms threatening. My quest for veal continues and this dish will be on our table in the spring whenever I find it.

Blanquette of Veal with Spring vegetables

6 T. butter
4 c. finely chopped onions
3 pounds stewing veal, cut from shoulder, cubed
1/2 c. flour
1 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 c chicken stock
1 1/4 c. finely chopped celery
1 bouquet garni
1 T. kosher salt
2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, peeled and left whole
12 spring onions with about 3 inches of green left on
3/4 pound asparagus cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 pound fresh spinach leaves
3 T. minced fresh parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 375

Using a large stovetop to oven saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion over medium heat for 5 min. Add the meat and, stirring a few times, let the mixture stew for 10 min. Do not let the veal brown. Add the flour and stir gently to combine. Add the wine, stock, celery, bouquet garni, salt and epper. Stir gently. Bring mixture to a boil Remove from the heat, coer tightly and bake for 1 hour. Add the baby carrots and spring onions an bake for another 30 min. Add the asparagus and spinach and bake for 15 min longer.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chives bring a smile to our face

The chives in the garden have started blooming -- they are loaded with their lavender flowers. So much so that now you can hardly see the green. Chives are a great garden plant -- they grow and grow and demand very little. Cutting now and again is good for the plants and they seem to grow back even more lushly after a good trim. The lavender flowers can be used too -- put into a jar of vinegar, it turns it into a lovely pink color with a light taste of onion -- great for salads. They also can be used whole as a garnish (and are edible) or you can pull them apart and put them into a salad of mixed baby greens to add a mild onion flavor to your salad.

Chives were the very first herb I ever grew -- in early married days, I gleefully carried a pot of chives home from the grocery store and it sat on my kitchen window sill. I used the clippings from the plant to sprinkle on baked potatoes, add to scrambled eggs and to make a wonderful herb butter.

I still make herb butter and chive is my favorite. It's easy, keeps in the fridge and chive butter is great melted over steaks, a pat on a baked potato, a tablespoon folded into scrambled eggs, and is great spread on a toasted baguette to go with cocktails.

Chive Butter

Bring one stick of butter to room temperature (I leave out overnight) Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of chopped fresh chives. Add a dash of lemon juice. Put into a custard cup and refrigerate. If desired, you can add a half of a garlic clove minced to the above.

Monday, May 12, 2008

He's Back

If you look closely at the red hummingbird feeder you will see a spec of orange. That is "he" -- our Baltimore Oriole who comes yearly for about 3 weeks to the gardens of Linderhof. This year he brought a "buddy" with him for yesterday morning there were two at the feeders. I've never seen a missus but surely there must be one somewhere.

They come because we have a tulip tree. The nectar from its flowers are a natural source of food. They're in the garden until the blooms fade and then they go elsewhere. I am hoping that perhaps because of the feeders that they will stay the summer and raise their young here. Perhaps they are already doing that. There is a nest somewhere and that is why you never see the missus -- she's on the nest.

With our little room with a big heart we can truly see the orioles this year. I find myself stealing a few minutes here or there to sit at the table and gaze into the garden. This weekend, it seems, I was always rewarded with an oriole sighting.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Farmer's Market Breakfast

Saturdays and Wednesdays find me up and dressed early for they are our Farmer's Market days.

Today was the first Farmer's Market of the season and I was there bright and early as usual. With my basket and high hopes of strawberries, I perused the vendors only to find fresh spinach, scallions and lettuces.

The bread lady was there as well and a loaf of her whole wheat bread is always a Saturday treat.

But alas, no strawberries! It's been a cool spring and I am hoping that by next Saturday that local strawberries will find their way to Linderhof's kitchen. To eat whole with a sprinkle of sugar and a pour of cream, to be sliced and sugared to serve over shortcake and enough to make into strawberry jam -- in December it is May in a jar!

As is my custom on Saturdays, our breakfast is AFTER the Farmer's Market -- and it is always what I call Farmer's Market Frittata.

I mix the frittata, pour it into the red Le Creuset skillet that is used only for that purpose and have my first cup of coffee with the paper while I wait for the frittata to bake.

Today, our frittata had sausage (browned and cooled), cheddar and Jack cheese, scallions, and fresh spinach. It was delicious with a few market strawberries and mint and a couple of slices of Farmer's market whole wheat bread. Garnished with a few flowers from the garden chives. The base recipe is the same -- I just vary the vegetables and cheeses from week to week.

Farmer's Market Frittata

6 eggs, beaten
2 cups cheese
2 cups vegetables

Mix all together and pour into a 8 inch skillet sprayed with Pam. Bake at 350 for about as long as it takes to read a big city paper or until set. Serve warm.

I sometimes add 1/2 cup of browned and cooled sausage or chunks of ham to the above.

I sometimes saute the vegetables before adding to the mixture especially if I have squash or potatoes. I use what cheese I have in the fridge -- always a Cheddar and in addition, I'll add Parmesean or Monterey Jack or Swiss or Gruyere.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A peek into Linderhof's kitchen

Linderhof's kitchen is small -- it's footprint is only 10 by 10 and into the middle we've put an island topped with a 125 year old piece of marble.

But the kitchen is the heart of the home and Linderhof's kitchen definitely is.

It's a working kitchen -- not a "decorated" one, although there are pictures hanging on the doors and cabinets and what little wall space there is. Pictures that please me.

In the winter plants live on the windowsill above the sink. Bay and the scented geraniums. Their fragrance reminds me that soon spring will be around the corner and the herb garden will be lush again.

Pots and pans hang from the ceiling. Within easy reach for storage is at a premium in this tiny kitchen.

There is 3 feet of butcher's block next to the stove. The stove my pride and joy -- a 30 inch professional Thermador. It's a stainless steel monster and although I can't believe how much I paid for it, I'm never sorry that I did.

Out of this tiny kitchen, I like to think, comes great food. For us and for friends.

Last week when I had company for lunch, I made a strawberry cake. It's an old recipe often found at potlucks baked in a 9 x 13 pan. I made it my own by using fresh strawberries instead of frozen and by baking it in three layers and instead of frosting the entire cake, I frosted the top of each layer and let the icing drip down over the sides. The company pronounced the cake divine!


1 package white cake mix

1 package (3 ounces) strawberry-flavored gelatin powder

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup fresh strawberries, cut up



1/2 cup butter

1 pound confectioners' sugar

1/4 cup fresh strawberries, cut up

Combine cake mix and gelatin powder in a large bowl. Beat in oil, eggs, water, and strawberries. Pour into 3 8-inch round greased and floured cake pans. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and frost with strawberry icing.

For icing, beat the butter and confectioners' sugar together until smooth. Add strawberries. Spread between cake layers, then frost top. I added a bit of milk so the icing wasn’t so stiff. I let mine ooze down the sides but did not frost sides.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Our Fairy Garden

It's a wee garden for wee folk -- this fairy garden at Linderhof. Planted with herbs -- thyme, camomile and sweet marjoram. A few pansies are in the garden this spring for fairies do love flowers.

The cottage is a "Scotch" cottage made from hypertufa. It reminds Husband Jim and I of the miniature garden in Bourton-on-the-water in England. That garden, however, is not a garden for fairies but a replica of the town.

It's fun to tend this wee garden in the hopes that fairies will move into the wee house. I think, perhaps, that we've been successful for if you look closely, isn't there one hiding amongst the plants?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A small room with a big heart

A favorite room is our breakfast room. Added on last fall it is a small room for an addition -- only 8 by 14 but it seems larger for it has three walls of windows and so it seems that the walls extend into the garden.

It, too, is the only room that we have decorated in one fell swoop rather than slowly over time.

It is the room where my favorite gardening books reside on the shelves of the baker's rack.

It is the room where the orchids and ferns live year round.

It is the room where the jasmine and citrus live in the winter.

It is the room where we start the day (hence it's name "breakfast room")

With 3 walls of glass, a wall of brick, a floor of brick and a ceiling of beadboard, it reminds one of a porch that has been enclosed. That was our goal when constructing this addition to our 1920's house.

And as it was being constructed, we carefully thought of what we would put into it -- a baker's rack for the plants and books and a few decoratives, a table and chairs so that we could take meals there.

And one by one, the pieces came together -- the chairs from our own basement which Husband Jim painted black and I highlighted in gold, the baker's rack from an antique shop in our little town and the table from a favorite antique store in a bigger town, the chandelier an "already had" $5 garage sale purchase -- purchased for another purpose but perfect for our new room.

We really enjoy this, our smallest room, on a daily basis and although it is a small room it lives big!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Asparagus Tart

It is spring on the prairie and spring calls for spring foods. When the Lunch Bunch came for their monthly luncheon last week, it seemed appropriate that asparagus and strawberries should be on the menu.

An asparagus tart seemed so perfect for a spring luncheon but I wanted to do a twist on an old favorite. The twist -- baking it in my rectangular tart pan.

I lined the asparagus up like soldiers marching across the tart and then cut the tart in slices.

It made a great presentation and the tart had a wonderful flavor. As one guest said -- it tasted so fresh.

With it I served a salad of mixed baby greens from my garden pots with campari tomatoes dressed with a raspberry vinaigrette and for dessert, a strawberry cake. The old frozen strawberry cake receipt that has been around "forever" but updated by me with fresh strawberries, baked in 3 layer pans and the icing made a bit thinner and used only on the top so that it could ooze down the sides of the cake.

It was a great lunch as we celebrated spring with a bouquet of pansies on the table.

The tart is my adaptation of an onion tart in the Williams Sonoma French cookbook. It's an easy receipt and good with onions too!



1 1/3 c. flour
1/4 t. walt
1/2 cup very cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water


2 T. Dijon
3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cream
Fresh asparagus spears

Combine flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds to blend. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (5 - 10 seconds). With the motor running, slowly add the ice water and process just until the dough comes together and adheres when pinched. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and bring together into a rough mass. Press into a slightly flattened rectangular shape and roll out out into a rectlangle large enough to fit an rectangular tart pan with removable bottom. Ease dough into the pan and trim. Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate until firm (about 30 min).

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Line the dough with alum foil and fill with dried beans. Bake just until very light brown (20 to 25 min). Let cool completely on a wire rack and remove the weights and foil. Brush the shell with the mustard and sprinkle with 2 T of cheese. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 7 minutes. Let cool completely. Reudce the oven temp to 350.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, cream and cheese.
Pour into tart shell. Cut asparagus spears to fit in pan and line them up in a straight row. Bake until filling is set (30 to 35 min). Remove the sides of the pan and transfer to a serving plate.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sally's Iris

The gardens at Linderhof are filled with flowers. Most are "pass along plants" -- plants given to me by friends and relatives. Old fashioned flowers for they seem to suit Linderhof's age. Old fashioned flowers because they seem to grow well on my part of the prairie.

Iris always reminds me of my grandmother for her garden was always full of them -- mostly the old fashioned deep purple ones. She called them flags and they didn't bloom in her garden until around the end of May. They were always picked and taken to cemeteries on Memorial Day.

When I stopped by Sally's today to see a new plant, not only did I get a great cup of coffee which we sipped on her covered back porch while watching the birds and a dish of ice cream with strawberries but I also ended up with a grocery sack of iris -- pale purple ones -- so pale that they seem white.

None of the iris in Linderhof's gardens are that color and I put them in a special place. Where you can see them from the breakfast room. They won't bloom this year but they will bloom the next and those icy purple iris will always be a reminder of a day spent on a porch with a friend.