Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer's Bounty Dinner Party Menu

It's nearing the end of summer 
and while that makes me sad, 
the bounty of summer is at its peak.
Red, ripe tomatoes, watermelon, corn,
the flavors of the summer 
are grown in abundance in the Midwest.

Here's a menu for a 
Summer's Bounty Dinner Party,
thanks to some recipes from my friend, Nina.
Nina is one of those fabulous cooks
who always seem to be way ahead of the curve.  
She served this menu at a dinner party a few years ago,
before I had ever heard of using watermelon in a salad!
I make it now, every summer
with gorgeous red tomatoes and sweet watermelon.
It's the most delicious combination 
-wonderfully refreshing.
And the flank steak that accompanies it 
is terrific, too, with an unusual marinade
containing onions and marmalade!
I added Nina's  recipe for gougeres to the menu 
after having enjoyed them recently 
on our trip to Napa Valley.  
You can read about it here.

Another wonderful thing about this time of year 
is that my gardening friends have lots of fresh veggies to share.
The tomatoes, basil and zinnias are from my friend Anna's garden.
Thanks, Anna!

This menu makes a memorable meal. 
I made this dinner last night for a special family meal.
It's good enough for company
and friends you want to delight.
Thanks, Nina!

The Menu:
Tomato Watermelon Salad with Feta and Almonds
Fresh Corn on the Cob
Marinated Flank Steak 
Herbed Gougeres

The Recipes:

Tomato Watermelon Salad
with Feta and Sliced Almonds

8 cups seedless watermelon, cut into 1 1/4 inch chunks
3 lbs tomatoes (about 6 cups) cut into 1 1/4 inch chunks
1 tsp Fleur de Sel or coarse Kosher salt 
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
6 cups fresh Arugula
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Combine chopped melon and tomatoes in a large bowl.
Sprinkle with salt and toss to blend.
Let stand 15 minutes.
Add 4 Tbsp of the olive oil, vinegar and herbs to the melon mixture.
Season to taste with salt and pepper if desired.
Toss arugula in a medium bowl with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil.
Divide arugula among plates 
and top with melon mixture.
Sprinkle with Feta cheese and toasted almonds and serve.

Marinated Flank Steak

1 flank steak, lightly scored
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp finely chopped onion
3 Tbsp marmalade, chutney or apricot jam
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Several thin slices of onion

Mix marinade ingredients together and pour over meat.
Marinate at least 4 hours, turning several times.

Broil or grill 6 minutes on each side.  
Cut meat into thin slices, on a slant against the grain.
Pour any juice on the meat and serve.

Corn on the Cob
(My own personal, super gourmet recipe)

Shuck corn.
Place in large pot covered with salted water. 
Bring water to boil. 
Turn burner off, leaving corn in the pot on the burner
for about ten minutes.
Serve with lots of butter 
when everything else is ready!

Herbed Gougeres

2/3 cup water
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
fresh ground pepper
1 cup flour
5 eggs
2 Tbsp cold milk
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, rind removed and grated
2 green onions, minced
1 Tbsp fresh dillweed
Pinch of parsley

Position rack in center of oven.  
Preheat oven to 400*
Butter 2 baking sheets.
Combine water, 1/3 cup milk, butter,  1 tsp salt, nutmeg and pepper 
in a small saucepan and bring to boil over high heat,
making sure the butter is completely melted.
Remove from heat and immediately stir in flour 
using wooden spoon until all flour is absorbed 
and mixture leaves sides of pan.  
Return to medium heat for two minutes to cook flour.

Transfer to mixing bowl or food processor.
Beat in 4 eggs, one at a time until mixture is thick and smooth.
Add milk and mix thoroughly.
Blend in cheese, onion, dill and parsley.
Batter should hold shape on a spoon.
Lightly sprinkle buttered baking sheets with water, shaking off excess.
Spoon batter into pastry bag fitted with 3/4 tube.
Pipe 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" mounds on baking sheet, 
 drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the sheet, 
leaving about 1/2" between each one.
Combine remaining egg and 1/4 tsp salt and blend well.
Brush over tops of gougeres, being careful not to drip on baking sheet 
or rising will be impaired.  

Bake until well browned, about 20 - 25 minutes.  
Remove from sheets and cool on wire racks.
Note: When cool, these can be frozen in airtight bags.  
Reheat 10 minutes in 300 * oven.
(Do not preheat oven)

Mr. Grand grills the meat....

And dinner is ready to serve!


We kept the lights in our Serviceberry tree 
and they look so nice as the sun sets.

 Bon Appetit!

Linking to:
Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

100 Women Who Care

Imagine this
What if you could collect $10,000.00 
to donate to the Charity or Organization of your choice, 
in about an hour, 
without soliciting donations from your beleaugered local merchants, 
hosting bake sales, car washes or time consuming fundraisers?
It can be done!  It is being done!  
And it's as easy as can be.

Meet "100 Women Who Care", the brainchild of Karen Dunigan of Jackson, Michigan.  
She was tired of begging local merchants for donations, 
tired of bake sales and other time and labor intensive fundraisers.  
She began a new organization for the purpose of streamlining her fundraising efforts.
The concept is so simple, it's amazing. 

100 Women gather four times a year,
committed to making a $100.00 donation each time 
to a local, registered 501(c) 3 organization. 

Here's how it works:
As the members arrive at each meeting and sign in, 
they may also write the name of an organization they wish to help promote 
on a piece of paper which is then, literally thrown into a hat. 
Then a member is randomly chosen to draw the names of three organizations from the hat.  
Those three organizations are then each described 
by the members who submitted the names
in a 5 minute (maximum) presentation before the entire group. 
After hearing the three presentations, 
the members in attendance vote for the organization 
they would most like to make a donation to that evening.  
The votes are tallied
and the name of the winning organization is announced to the group.  
Members of the group then proceed to write a check, 
on the spot, directly to the organization that has been chosen.

No middle men.  
No administrative costs.  

Nothing but the sound of 100 checks being ripped out of check books 
and $10,000.00 being immediately donated to a worthy local Charity. 
Absolutely amazing.  
A windfall for these small organizations,
 many of whom struggle to keep their doors open for lack of funding.

Our Chapter, 100+ Women Who Care of DuPage County, IL
 was established in 2007 by Sally Wiarda, of Wheaton, IL,
a veteran volunteer who saw the brilliance of the concept
and put it all together to start a Chapter in DuPage County. 
Even the meeting space for our Chapter has been generously donated
by our local Holiday Inn
so there are no costs involved. 
We have been known to enjoy a glass of wine after a meeting there, 
purely to support the Holiday Inn, of course! ;^)
Since 2007, our Chapter has donated more than $250,000.00 (!)
to many worthy local organizations - check them out here. 

Here's a photo from "We Grow Dreams",
a wonderful local organization that we chose to support last year.
Their Mission is
To provide people with disabilities 
the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives 
and to train and work 
in a supportive, safe and caring environment 
while producing and providing products 
and services to the community.

 "We Grow Dreams"

We have more than 100 Women in our chapter.... 
there are no limits and anyone can join.
And the money stays in our community
helping local residents and organizations.

And at each meeting, we also hear a short presentation 
from a member of the organization that was chosen at the previous meeting.  
They tell us how our donations were used, 
how the money was helpful to them 
and they are always very, very grateful to have been selected.
It is a very rewarding part of the meeting
and it encourages us to continue to help other groups.

There are lots of Chapters now.  If you don't have one near you, you can start one!
Check out the 100+ Women website for help....
Share this idea with your favorite causes-
it can work anywhere.
Imagine the possibilities. 
Charities, schools, clubs, towns....
Of course, men can do this, too!
Call it 100 "People" Who Care...
Any organization where you can get a group of people together who care 
about a charity or a cause 
and maybe don't have the time or the energy to physically volunteer, 
but are happy to make a monetary donation.
I have run fundraisers.  
I know how much work they are, and I know how hard it is to get volunteers.  
But there are always people who are willing to help financially.  
This idea is for them! 
And I have to tell you, 
when I hear the sounds of those checks being ripped out of those checkbooks, 
I know this organization is for me, too. 

It's so simple, so pure and so rewarding.

I belong to the DuPage County Chapter of 100 Women Who Care.
Our next meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 14 at 7:00 PM 
at the Holiday Inn in Carol Stream, IL. 
(SW corner of Gary Avenue and North Avenue in Carol Stream)
I would love to see  you there-
Drinks for new members afterwards are on me!
Please pass this on to anyone you think might be interested!

Linking to
 Inspiration Friday At The Picket Fence

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Napa Delights

Lucky for us, Laura, the darling daughter of our good friends 
decided to get married in Napa, California!

Mr. Grand and I happily made the journey to California last weekend, both for the wedding 
and to spend some quality time in Napa.   
We have been to wine country several times before, 
but always for day trips, always in a rush 
and always leaving us wishing we could stay longer.  
The wedding was fabulous and our experience was delightful all around.  
Still wish we could have stayed longer!  
Maybe next time!

 We arrived at the Silverado Resort in Napa at sunset.

 Starving, we headed straight to the terrace for drinks and dinner 
and watched the golden light fade as the sun set.

I love this time of day, after the sun sets,
but before it becomes dark, in the gloaming, as it is called.

Full moon rising behind the mountains- how enchanting.  
That describes the entire weekend....

The next day we headed over to the Cakebread Vineyard
where we tasted lots of wonderful wine
and learned a few things about aromas, flavors, glass shapes and sizes.

Then on to dinner at Press in St. Helena
a warm, modern restaurant that has well deserved raves on Trip Advisor.

The gruyere gougeres were DIVINE.
Must make these soon.

Beet salad with melon, arugula, pistachios, goat cheese and pickled eggs.  

Entrees...  Delicious meat, broccoli rabe and potatoes.
And a wonderful bottle of Sleeper, a local red wine. 

An outdoor fireplace that's actually really comfortable.

Interesting variation on the drum shade trend.  Love them.

Second day- on to Frog's Leap Vineyard, our absolute and sentimental favorite.
We had our first glasses of Frog's Leap wine way back
when this vineyard was just beginning to produce it's wonderful wines.
We were smitten by it at a little restaurant called Ravenous in Sonoma 
where we asked for a local wine recommendation.

This was our favorite tour and still our favorite wine.
The vineyard is thoughtful, stylish and completely organic. 
They do not even irrigate their vines.
The tour was terrific, the tastings were perfect and we would highly recommend Frog's Leap.

 Sunflowers in the garden at Frog's leap.

 Tastings on the porch, views of the valley.  
Soft breezes, La dolce far niente-
The sweetness of doing nothing...

Frog's Leap grapes.  

Dinner at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone was another highlight.
Perfect weather, sunset seating, fanatastic food.

A peek inside...

Wine flights to start with, enjoyed as the sun set.

Interesting, sophisticated and creative foods. 
Earnest culinary students serving, cooking and learning.
The appetizer - Delicious cheeses, grape and strawberry chutneys, 
and especially good, honey with little bits of crystallized basil- what a discovery! 

Flowers everywhere, I can't pass them up without taking pictures. 
Dahlias are one of my favorite flowers, so intricate and and always glowing.

 Although this hibiscus gives the dahlias a run for the money...

 And these roadside zinnias were an absolute delight...  They went on and on and on.

Third day, Wedding day, lunch at Tra Vigne, recommended by friends.
More fabulous Napa food and wine.

Great food and excellent service.
I had the most delicious wood fired flatbread pizza- 
with figs and gorgonzola and arugula and balsamic vinegar.  
And of course, a nice glass of wine.

Gorgeous setting, lovely courtyard, lots of flowers and great Napa style.
Thanks for the tip, Dempseys!

 Finally, on to the Wedding....
This is not really my story to tell, but I can't resist sharing some photos of this fabulous day...

 Check out this vintage card catalog used to hold seating cards... and flowers.  
Whimsical and wonderful.

The bride's nephew manned the lemonade stand.  Look at that little face. 
Nice lemonade stand, too...

 The setting for the reception, in a courtyard, in the woods, on the golf course.

Just married!
Mr. and Mrs. Laura and Radley Meyers.

You might remember these two from this post about Laura and shower gift tags...

Could they be any more gorgeous?  Seriously?

 A few tender moments...
Dancing with Dad.

 Mom and Dad and Bride and Groom.
Happy Day.


Lots of celebration
and some serious jubilation!

A sparkling finale for the Bride and Groom.
Love the second little dress
and even more,
her sweet wonder and delight.

What a send-off!
Cheers to the happy couple!

Thanks for traveling with me!

Laura's Wedding Planners:

Linking to:
Tuesdays Treasures at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style
Tabletop Tuesdays at A Stroll Through Life
Uncommonly Yours Link Party at Uncommon
Tutorials and Tips Link Party at Home Stories A to Z
Thursdays Are Your Days at 52 Mantels
Open House Party at No Minimalist Here
Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch
Fridays Unfolded at Stuff and Nonsense  
Inspiration Friday At The Picket Fence
Vintage Inspiration at Common Ground

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