Monday, December 5, 2011

Autumn Comfort Food

It's December 5th and the weather is swinging from high 20's in the morning to low 60's in the afternoon. Not quite winter, but very comfortable for late autumn. Tis the season for planned and impromptu parties and get togethers...and I like to have veggies, fruit and baking stuff on hand for making appys and desserts.

It's been a busy few days~~I hosted a party Thursday night, then went to two great parties and declined two others this weekend. I don't want to burn out in the first week of December!

I was in a soup mood this afternoon. I snipped the last of the sage from the garden, and after a quick look around I decided to make curried butternut squash and granny smith apple soup. The house smelled wonderful and I've got some yummy soup for a few meals, and some for the freezer.

Steam rising from cooking down the shallot and granny smith apples.

Add cubed butternut squash.

Add chicken broth, BTB RTS (bring to boil, return to simmer) until squash is fork tender.

Use an immersion blender (less mess than transferring to a blender.)

Blend til smooth, then if desired (and I do), add a little half & half, or heavy whipping cream.

Stir in some curry, to taste.

S&P to taste, and a little sage garnish. Ready for the fridge and the freezer.

What's this? A little detour to carb-town?! I made individual chocolate bread puddings in a mini muffin pan for a party last night and I might have put a few aside. It's a wonderful tiny bite~~warmed up in the microwave for 30 seconds and dusted with confectioner's sugar. I walked almost 10 miles this weekend, so I'm managing the pitfalls of the season...

Life is good. Level & Plumb!

Biltmore Inspirations

I hosted a 'home party' for Biltmore Inspirations last week. They are run in a similar way as Pampered Chef and Southern Home parties and various trunk shows for clothing and gifts. I'm not signing on in a formal way to be part of a team, or to be a consultant, I just wanted to gather some friends together for a fun night of nibbles, wine, and to shop for nice stuff--to give or to keep! It was all that, for about 20 of us, and it was a great way to kick off the holidays.

I initially saw Biltmore Inspirations and met consultant Lisa Edwards at the Southern Women's Show (a trade show) and the products caught my eye. When my sister and I were at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC this past September, there really wasn't anything as nice (as what I saw at the trade show) in the gift shop there. Turns out, the product line launched in July 2011 and is exclusively for home-based I hosted one!

The CEO of the Biltmore Company is a great grandson of the estate's orginal owners, George and Edith Vanderbilt. The patterns are taken from various textiles at the estate, and products include candles, trays, wine stoppers, decanters, cakestands, hurricanes, platters, coasters, baking dishes, soup tureens, accent bowls, aprons, napkins and towels, jams, toppings, sauces, syrups and easy to make quick breads. Check out the catalog via Lisa's page at

 My "Biltmore Inspirations consultant" Lisa provided me with a hostess kit that included quick breads, blue cheese dip and a pizza recipe using an onion topping. I had to buy just a few things on a short shopping list, and provide bevvies. Using their recipes, I made some ginger/lemon curd thumbprint cookies and cranberry cheesecake bites using 2 flavors of Biltmore quick breads. I also made pizza using grocery store naan bread, goat cheese and Biltmore onion spread. The 3 tiered tray is mine, and it's from Pottery Barn...

It's easy to make soft cookies and cheesecake bites using quickbreads--who knew?!
We quaffed mulled cider and some Biltmore Wine, which is bottled at the Estate's vineyard. It's really good.

Lisa displayed this ceramic piece wth candles in it, but it's also food safe. I made some meatballs to round out the sweet nibbles...and we actually had too much food.

Here's Mindy and Elaine "volunteering" to describe the Vineyard Ceramics bowl. Lisa gave out raffle tickets and we won doorprizes for answering trivia questions about Biltmore Estate.

Poring over the catalogs...and sampling the food.

Some food, some wine, and some laughs. Good clean fun.

As a hostess, I was given a set of two tea towels (they match my kitchen!), and based on the sales for the evening, I will get $100 in free merchandise + 50% off of 3 items ordered. That was unexpected! I didn't host the party with any "math" or outccome in mind, but am happy to be on the receiving end of these specials! Two guests are interested in hosting parties of their own..and so, the word spreads and Lisa's business is growing!

Looking forward to seeing the Spring 2012 catalog. Maybe I'll host another party...