That Dress Revisited Part 2

I’ve mentioned our dinner group that meets monthly. We’ve had some amazing dinners together, and the one we just had for Christmas is going to be one among the most amazing we’ve ever had.

Dressing Up

  We were told to dress up, and my hubby and I did dress up. I wore my beautiful new dress, and he wore his tux.  The little O Sew Easy scarf was the perfect accessory to my dress. Just enough to keep my arms and shoulders warm, but not too much. I also didn’t have to worry about it falling off. It can’t fall off.

As wonderful as it was to dress up, and as much as I love this dress. This post isn’t going to be about the dress. It’s going to be about an amazing dinner. The reason I got my beautiful dress. Let’s take a look at that dinner.

Our Menu

We were served a 12-course meal based on the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. It was incredible!

I’m not sure if it shows up very well, but the table runner is Twelve Days of Christmas themed too. Here were our place settings.

Here’s a photo of the whole table:It was beautiful and very welcoming.

Here’s a close-up of our menu so you can see what we had, but I will take you through each course.  It was really amazing!

Variations on a Theme

There were things I couldn’t have on the menu, so our host worked with me ahead of time so I could make things I could have – things that looked similar to what everyone else was having.

Let’s go through the menu.

1st Course

 Our first course was a Peartini to remind of us the partridge in a Pear tree.

2nd Course

For our 2nd course, we had a Poached quail egg in brie, with veal stock, chives and truffle oil, served with mouillettes. The quail egg was to remind us of the turtle doves. I don’t think turtle dove eggs are commonly found in any grocery store.

For mine, I used cashew cream in place of the brie, and Paleo almond bread for the mouillette.

3rd Course

Our third course was Coq au vin served in a tartlet. This is a more obvious connection to the French Hens in the song.

Mine was simply the Coq au vin without the tartlet.

   4th Course

Our fourth course came with a history lesson. What we commonly call Calling Birds are also called Collie Birds. Collie birds are a black bird. In order to represent these birds, our host used squid ink in a potato cake.

I had a slice of tomato, more cashew cream, and some dill.

5th Course

The five golden rings were represented by a golden ring of polenta, with chorizo sausage and shrimp.

Mine is cauliflower polenta and hot Italian sausage.

6th Course

The six geese a laying was represented by a quenelle (an egg-shaped) sorbet.

  7th Course

Our seventh course wasn’t swan. It was duck. Oven-roasted duck, with duck-fat potatoes on a bed of sautéed kale, drizzled with star-anise blueberry sauce.

8th Course

The eight maids a milking were represented by a cheese board. Everyone made up their own smaller cheese boards. There was even a cave-aged Gruyere there.

Mine was more cashew cream, pear slices, and Paleo almond bread.

   9th Course

The nine ladies dancing were represented in lady finger biscuits. This beautiful dessert was strawberry Charlotte Russe.

I had fresh strawberries with … more cashew cream. Cashew cream is very versatile.

The Last Three Courses

Courses 10, 11 and 12, were all represented here. Lords would commonly retire after dinner with a brandy or scotch. The pipers were chocolate covered marzipan sticks. Lastly, the Drummers were represented in assorted Keurig coffee pods.

It was an incredible dinner – delicious, creative, and memorable.

Happy creating!

Paleo Bread

I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I can’t have dairy or gluten. In fact, I don’t do well with grains either, so I gave those up this year too – all under my Dr’s guidance, just in case anyone is concerned.

There are a few foods I miss. I miss bread. And cheese. Oh, the smell of pizza… So, missing these foods, I do try to find alternatives.

A Hit

I’ve tried a few things and some have been good. Others just didn’t turn out how I wanted.

One hit was Cloud Bread.featured-img

I think I hadn’t had any bread for a few months when I first tried this, and my husband and I both loved it! In fact, our meal looked pretty much exactly like the photo above. We had BLTs for dinner, and it was great.

Is it actually bread-like? No. Not at all. However, it was light, and fluffy, and gave us something to put ingredients in-between.

A Miss

The next try was a miss – twice. Grain-free Blender Bread.

Blender Bread I really wanted this bread to work out. This recipe is from Danielle Walker, and I love her recipes. In fact, I have all her cookbooks. However, this one just didn’t work for me. There was even a correction to the recipe that’s in the cookbook, and I used the corrected recipe.

The first time I made it, it didn’t cook all the way through. So the second time, I baked it longer, but still it just wasn’t cooked all the way through. It’s not an inexpensive recipe to make, so sadly, two times is all I’m willing to try.

Another Hit 

This third Paleo bread recipe I tried worked wonderfully. In fact, I just made this yesterday.

 With only 5 ingredients, this Paleo Almond Butter Bread is a snap to prepare. Kid-approved, and perfect for breakfast, lunch or snacks. Love this stuff!

This Paleo Almond Butter Bread is a hit. My husband came home and saw what looked like a loaf of bread sitting on a cooling rack in the kitchen. He wanted to try it right away.

It looks like bread, and it’s really quite bread-like.

We broke out the olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, and each cut a slice of bread. After that, we cut a second slice each. Then my hubby didn’t wait for me, and cut himself a third slice.

Yes, this one is a hit. 

If you’re looking for some Paleo recipes, I’ve collected quite a few on my Pinterest page, including the ones in this post. All the photos except these last two are from the websites with the recipes.

Happy creating!

A Review of Craftsy’s Vietnamese Classics: Pho, Noodles & Beyond

It’s time for my monthly Craftsy class review. If you missed our first review of Design & Sew an A-Line Skirt, you can read it here.


Marsha and I agreed, with Christmas, holidays, and the New Year being such a busy season, we’d be a little easier on ourselves and review a cooking class this month.

A friend of mine had this class before I did and I heard so many great things about it from her, I had to buy it too. I was not disappointed. (Thanks, Naomi!)

 What is this great class? It’s Vietnamese Classics: Pho, Noodles & Beyond with Andrea Nguyen.


Great reviews.

This class has 35 reviews, which isn’t a lot, but… of those 35 reviews, only one review wasn’t a Five-Star review. That one was a Four-star.


There are so many reviews that say ‘Love this class’. I love it too. If you read my last review, I had a little trouble with my feelings towards the class. I have no trouble at all with this class! I not only bought this class, but also Andrea’s Favorite Asian Dumplings from ScratchI didn’t even think about it.

A personal comment.

Just a personal comment here. Andrea really has to be great because I can’t have gluten and I bought her dumpling class! I will share more on that when I review the class.

Class content.


There are a number of lessons in this class I was thrilled to try, starting with lesson One. I love Rice Paper Rolls, and Andrea shows how to make them, and make them so they present well too.


Aren’t these lovely? This is a screen shot from the class. Mine didn’t look that nice, but no one here was complaining about them. They were delicious!

Andrea shows us how to make these, with tips on displaying the shrimp and making the rolls look pretty and delicious. It’s little touches like this, that make this class great. As well, Andrea is so engaging.

Pho, Pho, and more Pho.

From the Rice Paper Rolls, Andrea takes us right into making Pho. In fact, she shows us Pho four ways. We start with a shortcut Chicken Pho, which I haven’t tried yet, but have heard it’s really good. Then right on to full traditional Chicken Pho, Beef Pho, and Grilled Pork Rice Noodle bowl.

Last month in our teaser posts, Marsha and I each made one of the Pho recipes. You can read Marsha’s recipe review here. You can read mine here.

For my recipe review, I made rice paper rolls and traditional Beef Pho. All I can say is my house smelled so good! And there were no leftovers. My family was delighted with the recipes I tried.


So, would I recommend this class? Yes! I have no hesitation in recommending this class. It’s really great. From the lessons, to the recipes, to how engaging Andrea is, in my opinion this class is one of the best classes Craftsy has to offer and I’d love to see more classes with Andrea!

For a frame of reference, I previewed almost every cooking class Craftsy offered in October 2015 when they had a monthly pass. There are a lot of good cooking classes, and really good recipes, but I can’t say all the instructors are as engaging as Andrea.

I’m going to head over to Marsha’s post now to read her review. Let me know if you have this class and have a favorite recipe too. Of if you don’t have this class, what is your favorite cooking class on Craftsy?

Happy creating!

Trying Some Recipes

Next month, my fellow Craftsy Review bloggers and I will be covering Vietnamese Classics: Pho, Noodles & Beyond. We thought in the time between now and then, we’d each review a recipe or two from the class.


This is really exciting for me as my favorite restaurant is a Vietnamese restaurant. I hope I can learn to make a few of my favorites.  Here are the recipes I tried, and Marsha and Naomi will be in the next couple of weeks. I’m making Goi Cuon or Rice Paper Rolls, and Pho Bo (Traditional Beef Pho). Yum! One of my standard orders at the restaurant is for Salad Rolls, so the Rice Paper Rolls are perfect for me.

First up was a shopping trip. Andrea gives you all the ingredients and supplies you’ll need to make these recipes. Oh darn. I had to go buy more fun kitchen supplies. I think kitchen utensils are the cooking equivalent of a sewing stash!

I needed a skimmer for making my broth. Unfortunately, I bought a skimmer that looks like this:


It didn’t do a thing. Then watching the video again, Andrea is using a skimmer that looks like this:


This is a fine mesh skimmer and it actually skims. I don’t have that exact one, but I do have a fine mesh skimmer that worked a lot better than the one I just bought.

Something I had to search for were the spices. I could not find them at my local grocery store. However, I did find them at a local Bistro. They have a whole wall of spices.


They had everything I needed.

As far as the recipes go, I’ve made Rice Paper Rolls before. I really love some of the tips for making them more presentable that Andrea shares. Edible is one thing, pretty and appetizing is taking it to a new level.

For both of the recipes I’m trying, I’m using screen shots from Andrea’s Craftsy class and then comparing them to my makes.

Here is one of Andrea’s Rice Paper Rolls:


And here are mine:

I had a little more trouble with my second roll (top in the photo) than my first one. This is definitely a skill one would need to practice. My husband had no complaints though. He enjoyed them and said the recipe is a keeper.

I can’t have seafood, so I left out the shrimp and added some seasoned chicken, but everything else that’s yummy is included. They were a wonderful lunch.

Next up is some yummy Pho. Again, I’ll start with Andrea’s beautiful Pho Bo. Hmm. Maybe I need new Pho bowls…


I decided I didn’t need new bowls. I’m using the bowls I have now.

Here is my Pho stock simmering away. My house smelled wonderful while it was simmering.

Pho Ba stock

I’ll skim it again when I’m straining it. There are too many flavorful goodies floating on the top too. I want them in there adding flavor.

Just before I show you the finished Pho Bo, I want to show you my assembled bowls. My son decided he wanted a small bowl, so he got a small one.

Here they are waiting for the broth to be added.

In this next photo the broth has been added to the small bowl. Can you see the difference in the color of the meat and how the hot broth cooks the meat? That was fun to see. It happens right away too.

Here’s the second bowl all ready. I’ll warn you right here; there’s no photo of all three bowls. Once that third bowl was ready, we were all ready to eat. In fact, my hubby started eating right at the counter! We had to call him over to the table to join us.

Check out Marsha’s post next week on Flying by the Seam of my Pants for her recipes makes from this same class.

 Happy creating!

Our Valentine’s Dinner

I know it’s a little late to be talking about Valentine’s Day or anything to do with the romantic holiday, but just last weekend we had an incredible dinner to celebrate that holiday of love, and I wanted to share about it.

To start off, my husband and I are part of a dinner group. Our group has been meeting for close to 10 years now. We have four couples including us, and we each take a turn hosting. Usually, the host will pick our dinner’s theme, and the remaining couples will all cook according to the chosen theme.

This month that wasn’t the case. This month, the couple hosting our dinner decided they wanted to show their appreciation to everyone else in the group, and they made the whole dinner. What a treat it was!

We weren’t told anything ahead of time. All we were told was to dress up. Who doesn’t like to get dressed up once in a while?

When we arrived, the house was lit with candles in the hall, the living room, and on the table. Just look at our table setting. It was spectacular!


Isn’t that lovely? Each plate had a rose napkin. That was also a lovely touch.


Now for a look at our menu. As well as telling us the delectable treat we had ahead of us, the title of each course (there were 8) gave us a fun starting place for discussion.


Our theme was A Taste of Passion. For our first course, titled The Wink, we had Deviled Quail Eggs with Caviar. Our discussion centered around how each couple met. Was it love at first sight? Was it mutual? We learned a few things about each other, that even after many, many years of friendship, we hadn’t known before.

quail egg

Oh, that was yummy! Our next course, The First Date, was Oysters Mignonette. We all enjoyed them and hearing about each other’s first dates.

L Oysters

What comes after the first date? The Adventure! For all of us, we’ve had 25+ years of adventure, so we had lots of stories to tell while we enjoyed Roasted Bone Marrow with Fig Marmalade. Bone marrow was a first for me, and I have to say, I loved it!

bone marrow

Oh, it was delectable! This course was a first for most of us. We followed this with The Romance. Stories continued as we enjoyed Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce and Sage. At this point, our hosts made me my own course as I can’t have gluten or dairy. I enjoyed Garlic and Onion Perogies with a mock brown butter sauce.

L ravioli

Here’s the ravioli. My phone camera rebelled and took a very blurry photo of my dinner.

Our next course was The Question, Lemon Sorbet with Pom Arils. This one was hard to get a photo of too, but not because of my camera this time. Everyone dug in so quickly we were all almost done before someone got a photo.

L sorbet

After The Question came The Commitment. We feasted on Braised Short Ribs with Russet Mash and Vegetables. Oh my!

L ribs

I have to point out something here. Do you see that little heart sitting atop the vegetables? It’s a jellied wine heart. What a beautiful adornment! Remember the challenge I mentioned with the sorbet? Well, that wasn’t the challenge we had at this point. The challenge we had now was we were all getting a little fuller, but I didn’t see anything left over.

One more little tidbit with this course, my wonderful hosts made the mash with Tofuti Sour Supreme and margarine so I could have it. No one noticed the alternatives at all. It was all delicious!

Our last course, The Hidden Pleasures, brought the discussion back around our table. Each person shared something they loved about their spouse, maybe something we didn’t all know already. All the while we enjoyed Chocolate Lava Cake with Raspberry Coulis and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Again, for this course, I couldn’t have what everyone else had. So I had some coconut ice cream and my carob ‘chocolates’.

L dessert

Carob Chocolates

     Our last course The Happily Ever After was Coffee/Tea, Port and Liqueurs.

Now if you’re not already amazed, as we were. We found out our hosts made each dish themselves. Nothing (except my substitutions) was bought prepared. They did everything. They made the ravioli from scratch, and the lava cakes, the ice cream, …

One of the guests said it was the most incredible meal he’d ever had, and he’d remember it for the rest of his life! It was truly amazing, and we felt very loved.

Happy (belated Valentine’s Day) and creating!

Favorite Summer Recipes

One of my favorite summer recipes is Bruschetta. My DH can make a meal out if it on its own even, and often does. I’ll get a phone call saying ‘I’m bring home tomatoes. What else do we need?’ and I know. He wants me to make Bruschetta.

Just the other day I bought the most beautiful dark red Roma tomatoes and I made a big jar of Bruschetta.


I thought I’d better get a photo while there was still something left in the jar!

And I thought I’d share my recipe with you. DH says it’s the best he’s ever had. I don’t know about that, but I do like it too.

Bruschetta Recipe

4 Roma tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fresh Basil, chopped

1 tsp Salt & Pepper

1/4 cup chopped onion

Pulse in a food processor. I don’t have an electric food processor, but a manual one. So, it’s at this stage I hand it over to DH and make him work for his dinner.

Another favorite recipe of mine, that I enjoy all year round is homemade ‘chocolate’. It’s not really chocolate. I use carob powder in mine.


Here are my ‘chocolates’ all ready to go in the fridge and firm up. Other than the chilling time, they only take minutes to make.

The original recipe comes from the unrefined kitchen.

Homemade Dark Chocolate Chips

2 tbsp. coconut oil

1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use 1/8 cup carob powder)

2 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. arrowroot

1/2 tsp vanilla

Over a double-boiler that is simmering, melt oil, honey, cocoa/carob and arrowroot. Cook for 2 minutes after it is melted. Remove from heat.

Add in vanilla. Stir.

Lift pan off double-boiler and make sure no water gets into your chocolate. Pour into a pan lined with parchment paper. I used a confectioner tray for mine.

Put in fridge for 2 hours or more. Cut into small pieces to enjoy!

You can read the original recipe here.

Happy creating and enjoy!