Surviving a blizzard Country House style

26 Jan
January 26, 2015

What happens when a crazy busy schedule meets “The Blizzard of 2015”? I feel it’s nature’s way of saying “time-out”! (Sadly, I need a blizzard to make me stop and just be.)

So, if we’re in the same boat and need to “just be”, don’t you think it’s a matter of style? Here’s my checklist:

I’m ready to re-boot my reserves for Wednesday, when I’ll need all my strength and endurance to help dig us out of Connecticut Country House!

Be safe and stay warm!

Love, Nora

Morning muffins

18 Jan
January 18, 2015

I realize that today is not Friday (or more specifically Foodie Friday), but I found a new Blueberry Muffin recipe that I’ve been wanting to try from an old Hay Day Cookbook I bought at a library book sale this past summer. So, the other morning I whipped up a batch of these blueberry muffins (or I should say these killer blueberry muffins!).

As I pulled them out of the oven, they were just so dramatic looking, like a cross between a muffin and a scone. I quickly grabbed my camera, documented them, and posted my favorite pic onto facebook. It wasn’t long until friends realized, that they too, were smitten with these beauties.

I’m all for satisfying a hankering now and again, so here’s the recipe to whip them up as soon as you can!

Oh, and by the way, they taste good too…

Hay Day’s Blueberry Muffins (Adapted from The Hay Day Cookbook, 1986)

1 egg, beaten

¾ cup milk

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 2/3 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup fresh blueberries, washed, stemmed, and tossed with flour to coat

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Combine egg, milk, and butter. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the egg mixture, stirring just until moistened. Gently fold in blueberries.
  • Fill paper cupped, or buttered, muffin pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are puffed and golden.

They will keep for a few days in an airtight container. After a few days, I freshen up a muffin in my microwave for 22 seconds on high. Beautifully moist and steaming hot!

Enjoy.

Love, Nora

 

Foodie Friday: A classic bouquet garni

16 Jan
January 16, 2015

Simply tie together snips of parsley, thyme, and bay for a classic French herbal combination…perfect for infusing soups and stews with rich flavor.

Bon appétit!

Love, Nora

Foodie friday:Butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce

09 Jan
January 9, 2015

There’s something just so visually satisfying about this dish, that every time I’m on Pinterest, I simply can’t resist pinning yet another Butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce pin!

So finally, I picked one…a great version…put our own twist on it, and loved how it turned out! A perfect meal for a freezing cold day.

Enjoy!

Love, Nora

Butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce

(Adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse)

9 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons chopped shallots

1 cup butternut squash puree *

salt & white pepper

½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

A pinch of nutmeg

6 large pasta sheets**

1 dozen or so fresh sage leaves

1 egg, beaten and reserved

* For butternut puree, split squash in half, scoop out seeds, place skin side down on oiled, aluminum foil covered cookie sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven 30-40 minutes until fork tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out flesh and pulse in a food processor until smooth.

Saute the shallots in a tablespoon of butter until softened, and add to the squash puree to  food processor. Season with salt and pepper, and add 3 tablespoons of cheese and the nutmeg. Pulse till mixed well and smooth. Remove mixture to separate bowl and let cool completely.

Lay a sheet of fresh pasta on a flat, clean surface (** When I don’t have time to make pasta, I buy it from a local pasta shop. The sheets are approximately 8” x 11”). Scoop heaping teaspoons of squash mixture at intervals on pasta sheet leaving adequate space around each one to press down in forming ravioli. In the spaces in between, use a brush and coat the pasta with egg wash.

Place a second pasta sheet on top, and using your fingers, carefully press around each squash mound to begin forming your ravioli. When the two are fairly well adhered, use a large knife to cut the pasta and make individual raviolis. Make sure to leave enough pasta around the edges to hold the ravioli together (you may use a fork, pressing fairly hard around the edges of each ravioli to ensure they will not open up during cooking. Repeat this process until all raviolis are complete.

In a large pan, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter. Add the sage to the butter and continue to cook until the butter starts to brown. Remove from heat.

Add your raviolis to a pot of boiling salted water. Cook about 3 minutes, until pasta floats and/or is pale in color. Drain well.

Place several raviolis onto a plate and dress with sage butter sauce. Sprinkle with freshly grated Asiago cheese.

Best served hot. Mangia!

 

Window stopping

05 Jan
January 5, 2015

One of the best things I love about living in Connecticut, is that it’s right next door to New York. From our house, a drive into mid-town Manhattan takes about 90 minutes. And one of the things I love the most about the holidays in Connecticut is the frequency of jaunts into the city that are purely for pleasure.

Of all the sights and sounds of  New York City, the holiday season would not be complete without our annual stop at Bergdorf Goodman, showcasing my very favorite Fifth Avenue holiday windows. The creativity and execution of these windows is just so inspiring…just what I needed to kick-off a creative new year!

Hope you enjoy!

Love, Nora

A new year

01 Jan
January 1, 2015

“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” – Henry Miller

This is my resolution for the new year. What’s yours?

Wishing you a fabulous new point of view for 2015!

Love, Nora

O Christmas tree!

24 Dec
December 24, 2014

Each of our three trees this Christmas has a distinct personality. From the biggest tree in the keeping room/dining room, filled with heirloom ornaments and special little mementos over the years from family and friends, to the smaller parlor tree adorned ever so lightly with sweet little glass, gold, and silver ornaments that for the most part have a connection to the sea, and past vacations to the Cape. The smallest tree keeps our holiday spirits high in our hub (the kitchen) and is anchored into a large antique crock. It’s short and stout form is full of country and kitchen touches, that includes an assortment of edibles from cookies to delicate little lady’s and crab apples. Just makes you smile.

Merry Christmas dear friends! From all of us at Connecticut Country House, we wish you and yours a beautiful and blessed Christmas.

Love, Nora

 

O Christmas Tree (Nineteenth-century German carol)

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy leaves are so unchanging

Not only green when summer’s here,
But also when it’s cold and drear.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Thy leaves are so unchanging!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Such pleasure do you bring me!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Such pleasure do you bring me!

For every year this Christmas tree,
Brings to us such joy and glee.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Such pleasure do you bring me!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
You’ll ever be unchanging!
A symbol of goodwill and love
You’ll ever be unchanging

Each shining light
Each silver bell
No one alive spreads cheer so well

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
You’ll ever be unchanging

 

 

Foodie Friday: Soupe à l’oignon française

19 Dec
December 19, 2014

A.K.A. French onion soup. I love how it sounds in its mother language. But more than that, I absolutely LOVE the way it tastes! For years, when visiting Paris, for the majority of my lunches and dinners, other than my usual fromage plat (cheese plate), I would order (and happily slurp) soupe à l’oignon…with each bowl hoping to discover the city’s most amazing version that would meet my criteria for rich and comforting flavor.

Here at home, Murph has learned to make the most amazing version, taught to him by an amazing chef bud, and fellow native New Yorker, Chris Devine. This soup, rich in caramelized l’oignon, is so easy to make that Chef Chris talked Murph through the recipe over the phone! All I can say to that is - voilà!

Quite honestly, as we power through the hustle and bustle (maybe frenzy is a better word) of the holidays, as well as the cold and raw days, a bowl of this (phoned-In) French onion soup is so needed and deserved!

Merci Chef Chris! Now I can shop on!

Chris Devine’s French Onion Soup

(4 servings)

2 extra jumbo Spanish onions

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons sweet butter

½ pound Gruyere (or similar dense and hearty Swiss cheese), grated

1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 32 oz. can of beef stock

4 slices of a baguette, toasted on both sides

Salt and pepper to taste

Oven-proof bowls/crocks

  • Preheat a soup pot (preferably non-stick) on low heat.
  • Peel and quarter onions, then using a large and very sharp knife, slice the onions as thin as you are able.
  • Add oil and butter to soup pot, turn heat up to medium, and add all the onions.
  • Keeping the temperature at medium, allow onions to caramelize to a deep, rich brown, stirring only enough to avoid the onions from burning (you may have to adjust the heat on the stove during this process).
  • When the onion are approaching completion, turn the broiler on in the oven, then add the can of beef broth and the Worcestershire sauce, and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes, then adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  • Place a baguette slice in each of the four ovenproof soup bowls, then ladle broth and onions into the bowls, dividing evenly.
  • Cover each bowl with grated Swiss cheese, dividing evenly.
  • Place soup bowls on a heavy-duty cookie sheet, and place under the broiler.
  • Broil cheese to a bubbly light brown, only a couple of minutes. Be sure to use oven mitts to place bubbling bowls of soup carefully onto plates.

Bon appétit!

Love, Nora and Murph 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowflakes for Newtown

14 Dec
December 14, 2014

This week two years ago, I specifically baked a big batch of gingerbread cookies for the undecorated Christmas tree we had just set up (only the little white lights made it up). I liked the idea of making each cookie unique, so I cut them into various snowflake forms and sizes, and decorated them so no two would be alike (as in the real thing).

The following day, the unthinkable happened. The tragic mass shooting at our Sandy Hook Elementary School turned our beautiful peaceful community into a nightmare. I will always remember exactly where I was when I heard the news unfold, and the shock that turned into profound sadness and numbness. Proceeding with the holidays was virtually impossible; there was no holiday spirit to be had.

So it was the week before Christmas, and there stood our beautiful, yet naked Christmas tree in the middle of our hub, with boxes of ornaments stacked high, unopened and untouched. The tray of 2-dozen or so iced gingerbread snowflakes still sitting on the old farmhouse table, in the same spot I had left them over a week ago. Something nudged me to find some string and start hanging them on the tree. And slowly I did – with great care, placing each one onto the end of a branch or into a nook that showed them off beautifully.

When all the snowflakes were hung, I plugged in the tree, and stood back. The simple beauty of the snowflake cookies and the twinkling white lights was just so perfect. This pretty little tree stayed this way until a day or so before Christmas when as a family, together we added only the most precious and beloved family heirloom ornaments…a reminder of what Christmas was really all about.

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday: Major John Gile Holiday Rum Cake

05 Dec
December 5, 2014
This most delicious cake is the work of my dear friend, Dana, who along with her cake recipe is featured in my newest issue of  Nora Murphy Country HouseChristmas in New Hampshire. Since, I’m such a fan of this recipe (and Dana!), I’m so hoping you’ll try it…I have a feeling you’re going to love it!

Major John Gile Holiday Rum Cake

Cake Ingredients

1-¾ cups all-purpose flour
1-½ cups granulated white sugar
1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
½ cup crushed walnuts
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons + 1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup dark rum
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 orange (sliced and baked in the oven for decoration on the top of the cake)

Rum Syrup
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup water
¾ cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup of rum. You can also use whiskey. We used local rum from Flag Hill Winery, to have a local spirit in the cake.

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and flour a Bundt pan, and sprinkle crushed walnuts into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In the base of a mixer, cream the 1 ½ cups granulated sugar and the ½ cup butter. Add the 3 tablespoons oil, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and kosher salt combining until evenly distributed. (Mixture will look like fine crumbs.) Stir in the pudding mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, rum, vanilla extract, and remaining vegetable oil. Add to the dry mixture and mix until well incorporated. The batter will be smooth, thin, and will pour easily.

Pour into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a rack. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes.

While the cake cools, prepare the rum syrup.
In a large saucepan with high sides, combine the butter, water, granulated sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the butter completely melts and the sugar dissolves. Let reduce slightly, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum (it will bubble).

Wash and dry the Bundt pan. Place baked orange slices on top of cooled cake and invert the cake back into the pan. Pour the hot rum syrup glaze all over the cake and let soak for 8 hours (overnight). In morning, invert the cake back onto a serving platter.

To store: Keep covered for 1 week at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Love, Nora

 (P.S. – For more of Dana’s personal and heirloom holiday recipes please go to: