National Pi Day: My Aunt Jeanine’s Blue-Ribbon-Winning Pecan Pie


Pecan pie with caramel and chocolate smear
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Happy National Pi Day!

I can’t say that I completely understand pi.  I know it’s an infinite number and it holds the key to some of the magical, mathematical mysteries of our universe, but don’t ask me to explain it to our 11-year-old.

What I do know is pie!  The kind you eat with a fork and sometimes a la mode.

When the folks behind the book, Modernist Cuisine at Home invited me to celebrate National Pi Day with a post of my favorite pie, I knew exactly which one I would choose.


My favorite vintage transferware pie plate with a recipe for pecan pie.  Very close to my Aunt's but not quite. Photo credit:   Rebecca Penovich

My favorite vintage transferware pie plate with a recipe for pecan pie. Very close to my Aunt Jeanine’s but not quite.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


My mother’s sister, Aunt Jeanine, was a fabulous Midwestern baker of pies, cakes, bars, fudge and sweets and she loved to share them.  She and my mom would often compete (informally and with sisterly love) with each other to see who could best each other on the flakiest crust, the most crowd-pleasing taste combination, the fluffiest meringue, the most tender crumb.  Sometimes my mom won, sometimes Jeanine.  And they kept up the competition until my mother died in 2001.

Aunt Jeanine’s pecan pie always was a hit.  She even entered it in the pie contest sponsored by the local bank in her town in southern Illinois and took home the blue ribbon.  Believe it when I tell you that Midwestern ladies and gents are SERIOUS about their baking.

I treasure this splattered index card with Aunt Jeanine's recipe in her handwriting.  It continues on the back. Photo credit:  Rebecca Penovich

I treasure this splattered index card with Aunt Jeanine’s recipe in her handwriting. It continues on the back.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


Every Christmas after my mom died, my Aunt Jeanine (in her late 70s and into her 80s) would make my husband 2 (count ’em, 2!) homemade pecan pies at Christmastime because he was crazy about them and pecan pie was his absolute favorite.  He lavished her with praise and honest gratitude and she just loved that.

She would package the pies in small pizza boxes that she made a special trip to the pizza parlor to get (yes, she still called it the pizza parlor).  Then she would carefully wrap the pies in newspaper, place the pies in the boxes with more paper, wrap the boxes in brown paper and ship them across the country to us via the U.S. Post Office.

This was an incredible effort for an elderly lady!  It would be an incredible effort for anybody (god, how I hate packing and shipping at Christmas; let Amazon Prime take care of it.)


Wish I had pictures to show you, but no, we gobbled up those pies all those years.  We always brought one to share with friends at parties and kept the other greedily for ourselves.  All of our friends who got a slice would wax poetic over ‘Aunt Jeanine’s Pecan Pie’ – not too sweet, not too thick, lots of pecans, and a damn good flaky crust, homemade.

Aunt Jeanine passed away this January.  I wrote about the pies for her eulogy and I thanked her for all the love and work she put into them and how grateful we were to receive them as a present.  It was her way of showing us how much she loved us and we knew it.

The funniest thing about her handwritten recipe for pecan pie is on the flip side of the index card for the crust, she writes on the top, “I don’t use a recipe!  Hope this is it, ha!”

She gives me approximations and feel – no measures.  Typical!  Okay, she and my mom are having a laugh.

For those of you who are searching for the perfect flaky pie crust and its many permutations, Modernist Cuisine at Home and their e-publisher, Inkling, have tested and re-tested classic pie crusts and custard fillings.

Their master pie crust is modernist in that it calls for the eggs to be cooked sous vide, a technique usually relegated to the kitchens of professional chefs.

I’m likely to try it, because I am in search of more pie crust instruction (since mom and Aunt Jeanine have left me wanting.)  But I must say that Aunt Jeanine swore her flaky, not-too-sweet-crust was due to vegetable shortening (i.e. Crisco in the blue can) and a light touch of the hand with your fingers dipped in ice water.

I loved what the Modernist Cuisine at Home had to say about National Pi Day: pie and filling possibilities are as “endless as pi’s digits.”


There is an end to pecan pie, as evidenced by this empty plate. But Pi (3.14…) is forever.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


Cheers!  The world needs pie don’t you think?!

NOTE:   I just love pie and wanted to tell you this story about my Aunt Jeanine (1928-2013). Modernist Cuisine at Home publishers reached out to remind me it was National Pi Day and provided me with a link to their perfect pie crust test results.

Handy Dandy Resource: Kitchen Cheat Sheet

Hello friends!  I found this handy dandy resource on the internet courtesy of Everest Kitchens and it was so chockful of cooking information I had to share it with you.

  • Ever wonder how to convert a recipe from metric (hello BBC Food, I’m talking to you).
  • Wonder the best way to cook different kinds of meat or which part of the animal they come from?
  • How about how long can something be frozen safely?

This infographic has your answer.  And much more.  Keep a copy handy in your Joy of Cooking (or other kitchen reference book.)

Thank you Everest Kitchens!

This is the  printable. 



Until Next Time: Downton Abbey


Presentation at the Palace.  "Presented, photographed, done." Says Lady Grantham with relief. Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Presentation at the Palace. “Presented, photographed, done.” Says Lady Grantham with relief.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

It’s hard to believe that Season 4 is over.  PBS decided to start and end the season with 120-minute episodes which in effect made the season only 8 episodes long.

The finale offered us plenty of the eye candy that we love about Downton Abbey:

  • Gorgeous 1920s costumes, replete with feathers, furs, beading, elaborate embroidery, fanciful hats, gloves, beaded bags, diamond tiaras, diamond headbands

Lady Dudley-Ward is absolutely gorgeous and naughty (by not-so-secretly dating the Prince of Wales.)
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

  • New interiors and London locations, including our first look at the Grantham’s London town home
Sumptious interiors at Grantham House in London (actually Blynford..) Photo credit:  Vanity Fair

Sumptuous interiors at Grantham House in London (actual location: Basildon Park.)
Photo credit: Vanity Fair


The interiors for Grantham House were actually shot one hour outside of London at Basildon Park, a Georgian mansion surrounded by acres of parkland in Berkshire. The house was built from 1776-83 and was rescued by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. The house today is a re-creation and restoration of the 18th-century mansion.

Aunt Rosamund’s London town house interiors were shot at West Wycombe Park, a country house near the village of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, built between 1740 and 1800. It was conceived as a pleasure palace for the 18th-century Sir Francis Dashwood, 2nd Baronet.

West Wycombe Park

Many conversations take place in Aunt Rosamund’s London drawing room (actual location: West Wycombe Park)


Exteriors were shot in London and much care was taken by the production company to choose locations that didn’t show any signs of modernity (paved streets, advertisements, modern lighting etc.)  Read this excellent article from behind the scenes at the London locations “Downton Abbey: London is the Star of the Show” for some more scoop.

  •  And let’s not forget the pomp and circumstance!  The debutante ball at the palace, Lord Grantham in court uniform, the processional, the King and Queen, and all of Rose’s parties, dances, balls, and club outings.
Rose, whatever you do, don't trip! Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Darling, this is costing us a fortune.  You should be kind to marry very well.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Hello your Royal Highnesses.  Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Read more about the London debutante season in this great article by Dawn Aiello. Young aristocratic ladies were brought into London from their country estates and presented to society at court.  The season lasted for months and the girls were feted all about town with luncheons, dances, balls, parties, formal dinners, and approved cultural outings so they might meet marriageable young men.

Mrs. Patmore would have been tasked with keeping up a long stream of goodies for guest breakfasts, luncheons, teas, formal dinners, and the ‘at homes’ where the presiding lady of the house would entertain guests with late-night buffet suppers, music and dancing.


Here are some of our Downton-inspired Corks & Cakes posts for your review:



And some heartier fare:

When you talk like that, I'm tempted to ring for Nanny and put you to bed with no supper. Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

“When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for Nanny and put you to bed with no supper.”
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


I’ve enjoyed chronicling the season and the era for you.  In fact, I might just keep up these Sunday Downton posts because there’s so much more to write about.

Let me ask you:  which character will you miss the most until next season?  (The Dowager Countess is everyone’s favorite, my guess!)

You can follow her on Twitter @theLady Grantham

Here’s a fun You Tube video:  Sh!t the Dowager Countess Says

What other Downton Abbey-related posts would you be interested in reading on Corks & Cake?

Happy birthday, Oreo!


Cookies and milk, anyone?
Photo credit:  Allison Beuker Photography


Today is Oreos 102nd birthday!

Now before you get all food-preachy on me, I know they are commercial cookies and have all kinds of  processed *stuff* in them, but my house likes Oreos and I buy them as a treat.

Plus, they are great with milk!  Milk is healthy!

Some fun facts about America’s favorite cookie:

  • Nabisco came up with the cookie on March 6, 1912, the same year the South Pole was discovered and the Titanic sank.
  • The first Oreo cookie looked very similar to the Oreo cookie of today, with only a slight difference in the design on the chocolate disks.
  • It would become the largest selling cookie of all time.
  • The origin of the name Oreo is unknown, but there are many theories, including derivations from the French word ‘Or’, meaning gold (as early packaging was gold), or the Greek word ‘Oreo’, meaning beautiful, nice or well done.
  • In January 2006, Nabisco replaced the trans fat in the Oreo cookie with non-hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Source:  Foodimentary

garnished cake 3


So go get some Oreos and some organic milk and have a cookie that a happy kid first enjoyed 102 years ago.

Or say Happy Birthday, Oreo by making someone you love this delicious Oreo Cookie Ice Cream Cake.




P.S.  No one compensated me for this post and all thoughts and opinions about Oreo cookies are my own.  We just like Oreos!


Artful drizzle. Photo by Rebecca Penovich.

Artful drizzle.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


Downton Abbey Season Finale: Debutante Ball

The Lord and Ladies Grantham Photo credit:  Marie Claire

The Lord and Ladies Grantham and The Levinsons from America
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Tonight’s Downton Abbey finale will be 2 hours long and we can expect Shirley Maclaine and Paul Giamatti to make a lively appearance in London for Rose’s debutante ball.

Rose, whatever you do, don't trip! Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Rose, whatever you do, don’t trip!
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

I’ve enjoyed blogging about this season and I will miss it. Perhaps I won’t stop as there are so many things to learn about the treasures of Highclere Castle where the series is filmed.

Those lush interiors!  The fabulous paintings!  The wallpaper!

For those of you who want to learn more about the ‘real Downton Abbey,’ the Countess of Carnavon has written two books about her predecessors at Highclere Castle.


And for those of you on the East Coast, the Winterthur Museum in Delaware will be hosting an exhibit, The Costumes of Downton, from March 1, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is the home of Henry du Pont and although I’ve never been I hear it is definitely worth the visit, especially in the spring and summer when the gardens are in full bloom.

'Costumes of Downton' showing at Wintertur Museum, Garden & Library in Delaware.

‘Costumes of Downton’ showing at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library in Delaware.

Enjoy tonight’s airing and watch out for future spoilers on the internet as Season 5 has begun filming in the U.K. with new cast announcements and tidbits filtering into the U.S. media.

Later this week I’ll post a wrap-up of the season with links to all the Downton-inspired recipes in one place for you all.  Because I’m nice like that (smile!).  Just call me Mrs. Hughes.


Romance and Intrigue are in the Air at the Abbey

Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

Lady Edith looking lovely. She really needs to catch a break.
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Can we talk about Lady Edith for a second?  Why can’t this girl catch a break?

As much as I disliked her in past seasons (because she always whined ‘Woe is me. No one likes me. Not even my own family.’) this season I feel she has had just about enough heartbreak.

And tell me, why do the Downton producers feel obliged to kill off a character every time a baby is born, i.e., Sybil, Matthew, possibly Michael Gregson.

Photo credit:  Carnival Films & Television

I don’t know if we are cut out to be single parents in the early 20th century.  Even with nannies, governesses, cooks and ladies maids.
Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

The Dowager Countess has figured out Edith’s secret and supports Aunt Rosamund’s plan to take her to Switzerland.  She seems supportive of her granddaughter, but how much is that is due to the desire to avoid scandal and save face?


Granny knows best?
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

She tells Edith that trying to hide the baby in the village and have it brought up by one of the estate’s tenant farmers is like ‘having the Sword of Damocles’ at your head.

I had to look this up:  “The sword of Damocles comes from Greek myth and is frequently used to allude to an imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power, a peril in which the onset of is restrained only by a delicate trigger or chance.”

Whew.  Sounds like a fabulous plot-line of an Austen or Bronte novel. Or a “Die Hard” movie.

In the midst of the secret baby drama (in which Edith not only does NOT show nor has any signs of morning sickness or fatigue), there is the Church Bazaar to plan and execute. 


And there are many more love triangles and duets playing out:  Molesley and Baxter are flirting; Lady Mary has a posse of suitors, all handsome; Daisy, Alfred and Ivy finally wind up their puppy love; and even Isobel (Mrs. Crawley) has found an admirer in Lady Mary’s godfather, Lord Merton.


Of course Lady Rose and Jack Ross are doomed.  I’m glad he figured that out before he let that silly girl drag him through a torrent of heartbreak before she dumped him.  I absolutely believe as Mary does, that teenage Rose does not know what love is and is looking for the best way to shock and stick it to her mother.  Still, Jack takes the high road and admits he loves her and wants her to have a happy life.

The season 4 finale airs February 23, 9pm ET on your local public television station.  They are already announcing new cast members for season 5 (which is currently in production in the U.K.)

Here’s a fun link to a slideshow from The Daily Meal, “Throw A Dinner Party Like Downton” for your viewing pleasure in the meantime.

That new-fangled electric mixer should make her life easier.

Instead of you making dinner like Downton, let me make it for you! Ha!  No, you had better order in so you have time to polish your silver and iron your napkins. Or not.  Okay, pizza and sweatpants it is, then.



Lord Grantham Makes the Crossing to America, and Comes Back

"Got to catch a ship to see a guy about a thing in America." Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

“Excuse me, I must catch a steamship to see a guy about a thing in America.”
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

Good lordy, we are 4 days away from the Downton Abbey season 4 finale! I am two episodes behind in posting but not because I was burdened with the village church bazaar.

We had two snow days here on the east coast (and please don’t mock us, Minnesota friends and relatives) and John and I attended the 2014 WAMMIES (Washington Area Musicians’ Association awards) on Sunday for which he was nominated in two categories (congrats JP!) I caught up with Downton later on demand.

Let’s get to it.

lord grantham answers phone

Hello? Did you send me a telegram?
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

Lord Grantham was called to America to help Cora’s brother out of some trouble involving a Senate committee investigation. He heads off and takes Thomas as his valet (because Bates needs to stay close to home for Anna)  and apparently, Lord Grantham NEEDS a valet because ‘Americans have separate outfits for everything.’ (Really, Lord Grantham?  That seems certainly British.)

They disappear for most of the episode.  I wish Julian Fellowes would have shown some of the first class travel on the ship because the 1920s were a heyday for luxury steam ships and ocean travel. Cunard-vintage-poster According to the On the Water exhibit of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Europe competed to create showpiece ships that could lay claim to being more spacious, more luxurious, swifter, and safer than anything that had sailed before.  With immigrant steerage compartments converted to middle class travel cabins, transatlantic travel was more accessible to the newly up-and-coming wealthy Americans, and they were attracted to travel to Europe with all the excitements and conveniences on board.

Interior of grand salon in the Cunard steamship line.

Interior of grand salon in the Cunard steamship line.

Carson informs the staff that his Lordship and Thomas have booked passage on the S.S. Cameronia which was an actual steamliner in operation from 1920 to 1957.

The S.S. Cameronia Photo credit:

The S.S. Cameronia

The Cameronia was part of the Anchor Line Steamship Company which was eventually taken over by the esteemed Cunard line. Cunard-vintage-poster white-star-line-southampton-cherbourg-new-york In 1907 Cunard launched the first of their Express Liners, the Lusitania and the Mauretania, ships that become bywords for speed, luxury and elegance in transatlantic travel. The ships were “Grand Hotels” at sea, and had high tech amenities like electric lifts, telephones, and daily newspapers printed at sea (the news received by wireless). They also had extravagant restaurants and catering operations.


Actual menu from the Lusitania in 1908.

Here is a very good resource if you are interested in learning more about luxury steamship travel and the foods served: The New York Public Library’s project: Maury and the Menu:  A Brief History of the Cunard Steamship Company

For example, First Class passengers on the Mauretania could expect to dine on:

Little Neck Clams

Chicken Okra

Petit Filet de Boeuf ala Parisienne

Timbales a la Richelieu

Roast Quail on Toast a la Monglas

Neopolitan Ice Cream



More on historic restaurant menus at What’s On the Menu–transcription project by the New York Public Library.

Meanwhile, back at the Abbey, Mary was proving herself to Charles Blake by helping him to save the pigs and ruining her shoes in the process.


Good lord. My shoes! But at least the pigs are safe!
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE

And whatever Lord Grantham was having in the first class dining room on the S.S. Cameronia, nothing could have tasted better to Charles Blake than the scrambled eggs Lady Mary whipped up in the servants kitchen.

Photo credit:?

Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

scrambled eggs

Photo credit: Style Canvas

Speaking of perfect scrambled eggs, nothing is harder to cook than something simple. Master these soft, pillowy curds of scrambled egg and butter and you will always have a breakfast  (or late dinner after the theatre) fit for the finest gourmet. One of my favorite bloggers writes brilliantly about Ouefs Bruilles (scrambled eggs) which we knew growing up as ‘hotel eggs’ or eggs scrambled  low and slow in a double boiler with cream or sometimes, cream cheese.

St. Valentine’s Day – Sparkling Wines That Will Delight You


Happy Valentine’s Day from Corks & Cake!
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I’ve done some research for you, dear Corks & Cakers, just for you.

Yes, tasting sparkling wines from around the globe.  Some one has to do it, no?

Here we have 5 sparklers to recommend for Valentine’s Day (or any day) that will delight you without causing you pain and regret in your pocketbook. (Not that I ever regret Vieuve Clicquot, mind you.)

These wines from Germany, Spain, France, Washington, and California are delicious and not expensive.  They are not too sweet or sour (like some inexpensive wines are) and will easily match with your Valentine’s day treats, whether they be salty or sweet.

Sparkling Wines

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

NV Schloss Biebrich Sekt, Germany

A remarkably drinkable wine at a STEAL for $3.99-5.99 depending on your Trader Joe’s location. Bright and floral, modest apple aroma, warm pear flavors.
Great to drink by itself or to buy by the case and have a mimosa or bellini party for a crowd.  
I recently saw a brunch idea in a magazine where the hostess set out crystal pitchers of assorted fresh juices on a tray:  orange, blood orange, cranberry, peach, pomegranate and guests could mix their own custom mimosa.  Fun!
Vintage valentines

Vintage valentines are awesome.

Michelle Brut from Chateau St. Michelle


From the winery’s tasting notes: This sparkling has delicate flavors of apples and citrus and lively acidity. Try it with spicy fries, artichoke or cheese dips, calamari, salty snacks.
Yum!  Sparkling wine does go well with salty snacks and I like to pair a good bottle with humble and easy crunchies like popcorn, potato chips, salted peanuts, or (my fave combination), Fritos!  Try it.

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut Reserve

$10.99, Trader Joe’s
Made in France from the same varietals used to make Champagne and produced in the champenoise methode. For the quality and the price, Crémant is hard to beat. Elegant and flavorful, pear, apple, bubbles easy to drink and light on the tongue.

Biutiful, Cava Brut Nature

Lively acidity and flavors of toast, apple, pear, and citrus.  Try it with goat cheese-stuffed dates or dates wrapped in bacon and broiled.
I love tulips more than roses for Valentine's Day. Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

I love tulips more than roses for Valentine’s Day.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvée



The most expensive of the bunch, but priced well under French champagne, Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvée is an award-winning wine from California that can hold its own against the French. “Festive and vibrant with bright aromas of fresh cherry and lemon, raspberry, pear and crisp mineral. Drink now”.

91 Points, Wine Spectator: Domaine Carneros, 2006 Brut Vintage Cuvée – November 2009

Best U.S. Sparkling Wine – Food & Wine Magazine, October 2009

This is the wine I would savor as an apéritif with an elegant smoked trout or smoked salmon paté on a cracker.

Cheers and happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy  Valentine's Day! Photo credit:  Allison Beuker Photography

Red velvet cupcakes with buttercream frosting would be a perfect treat for your Valentine.
Photo credit: Allison Beuker Photography



Strawberry ‘Carpaccio’ with Ginger Creme Anglaise & Balsamic Syrup

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

This dessert looks so fancy yet it is very simple.  I loved the combination of ginger cream with the strawberries and the pop of balsamic syrup.  In fact, I loved the ginger cream so much I ate it with a spoon like crème brûlée.

You could even serve this at breakfast (with or without the balsamic syrup).  Simply provide the crème anglaise in a little pitcher and let your guests pour it over their sliced berries.


Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


  • 8-10 fresh whole strawberries (to serve 2 guests)
  • drizzle of balsamic syrup (I used Isola Imports ‘Classic Cream with aceto balsamico Di Modena’)
  • 1 batch of crème anglaise (recipe follows) (you will have extra leftover, eat it with a spoon out of the fridge!)
You can buy this in grocery stores or you can make your own by reducing balsamic vinegar.  Be sure to use the highest quality balsamic vinegar from Italy that you can afford.  It makes a difference!

You can buy this syrup in grocery stores or you can make your own by reducing balsamic vinegar. Be sure to use the highest quality balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy that you can afford.  It makes a difference!

I took the time to hull the strawberries very carefully in a ‘V’ pattern because I wanted the slices to look like hearts.
After hulling the tops, I sliced each strawberry in half lengthwise.  With my sharpest knife I sliced each half into thin slices and laid them flat on a serving plate as you would carpaccio.
Not all your slices will turn out perfectly.  But that’s okay!  I saved my ugly slices and hunks and put them in a bowl and drizzled them with the ginger cream as a cook’s treat.
In fact, you don’t need to be persnickety about slicing at all – I was going for a Valentine’s day effect for the picture.


This recipe is from Gourmet January 1998 via
  • a 4-inch piece peeled fresh gingerroot (or 1 teaspoon fresh ginger paste)
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  • Cut gingerroot into 4 pieces and smash with flat side of a knife.
  • In a small heavy saucepan bring half-and-half and gingerroot just to a simmer over moderately low heat, about 10 minutes (do not let boil). [NOTE: Or use 1 teaspoon of refrigerated ginger paste from a tube and add that to the half-and-half.)
  • While mixture is heating, in a bowl whisk together yolks and sugar until smooth.
  • (If you’ve used gingerroot pieces, fish them out and discard when half-and-half is warm and infused.  If you’ve used ginger paste you can leave that in as it will melt into sauce.)
  • Add hot half-and-half mixture to the egg yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly, then transfer custard back to pan.
  • Cook custard over very low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon about 5 minutes until it thickens slightly (do not let boil).
  • Pour custard through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and cool. (Crème anglaise may be made 3 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring crème anglaise to room temperature before serving.)
Creme anglaise on plate

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the ginger creme anglaise on a dessert plate (the amount will depend on the size of your plate.

Then carefully arrange the strawberry slices in a circular pattern until the entire plate is covered.

Drizzle the balsamic syrup lightly across the strawberries in a decorative pattern (a little syrup goes a long way.)

Enjoy with your Valentine!


Photo credit:  Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich


Here’s a quick video tutorial from Epicurious to show you how to make a créme anglaise without curdling the eggs.  It’s important to not overcook the cream and to temper the eggs before adding them back to the cream.  Once you have the hang of it, you are set to make all kinds of custard desserts.

Jazz at Downton Abbey: Mrs. Patmore Gets Jiggy With It

Photo credit:  ITV for MASTERPIECE

“Shall we dance?”
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Last week, Rose hired a jazz band for Lord Grantham’s surprise party, and unlike the house party where the kitchen staff were invited upstairs to hear the opera singer perform, this time they have to stay and listen at the bottom of the pantry stairs.

Nevertheless, one of my favorite lines of the night came from my favorite character, Mrs. Patmore.

Mrs. P:  “They sound good from down here.”

Carson: “If you like that sort of thing.”

Mrs. P: “It makes you want to jig about though, doesn’t it?”

Carson: (horrified) “Certainly not!”

Good on ya, Mrs. Patmore.  We are glad you didn't keel over. Photo credit?

“I might just loosen my corset and get down with this music!”
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Clueless as Lady Rose is (really, she had no clue that 6 more mouths to feed,  6 more bedrooms to have ready, and 6 more fireplaces to light in said bedrooms, would be an imposition for Mrs. Hughes and her housekeeping staff), she’s keeping the Abbey jumping with her modern ways and tastes! 


“Six American minstrels to feed and house in addition to Lord Grantham’s party guests? No problem, your Ladyship. I am Mrs. Hughes, after all.”
Photo credit: ITV for MASTERPIECE


Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, and Ivy would be able to keep up their part to feed the extra downstairs guests by making this Vegetable Barley Soup with Ham (using the leftover ham bone from a previous meal) and stretching it with homemade bread and butter.

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

Mrs. Patmore is very resourceful so we know she must also have some homemade apple sauce “put by.”

Add some farmstead cheddar from the village and maybe some treacle sponge cake leftover from the birthday festivities, and those American musicians would have eaten very well after their gig!

Vegetable Barley Soup with Ham


  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup sliced leeks (white parts only)
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 1/2 T. chopped garlic
  • 1 smoked ham bone (about 1 pound, chop some leftover meat from the bone and reserve to add to the soup)
  • 6  cups chicken stock (I used homemade, watch the salt if your ham is salty)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup frozen corn (defrost by letting it sit out on counter while you prepare soup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped ham from the bone
  • 1/3 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • chopped parsley, for garnish


  • Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot. Add the onion, leeks, shallot, celery, carrots and cook over medium low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until softened.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more, stirring frequently.  (Don’t let the garlic brown, turn down the heat if you must.)
  • Add the stock and the ham bone.
  • Add the bay leaf.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer, and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Add the 14.5 can of diced tomatoes and their juices.
  • Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, then fish out the ham bone.
  • Stir in the pearl barley, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the 1/2 cup of chopped ham, the Worcestershire and black pepper.
  • Cook 10 minutes more and add the corn (defrosted if frozen.)
  • Taste to see if barley is soft, and add salt as needed.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Tune in to your local PBS station February 9, 2014, for Downton Abbey’s next episode! Only 3 more left in season 4!


A hearty winter soup to eat by the fire. Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich

A hearty winter soup to eat by the fire.
Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich