Friday, January 24, 2014


I was asked by a follower about my menu for Valentine's Day dinner so I decided to go ahead and plan my tablescape and share my menu and recipes - this post is for you Marie. Since the nest has been empty for a long time around here I like to have special dinners on a small table for two.  One of the nice things about a small table like this is that it can be moved around easily.  In fall and winter I especially like moving the coffee table in the living room (to make room for the little table) and with a fire in the fireplace like to have the table nearby - not too close but close enough to enjoy the ambience. The table is actually very simple it started out life as one of those round accent tables and I had my husband cut a piece of plywood and sand the edges smoothly and it sits atop the round little table. He put a little bracket on the back so it is secure and stable.  When not in use it all comes easily apart for flat storage.

For many years I have always printed out a menu before any special dinner.  This serves several purposes, a list from which you may build your shopping list, reminder of what's for dinner and then nostalgia as I have kept these over the years and often times looking at them again brings you back to the event and also sometimes an ah-ha moment that you have not made a favorite dish for sometime.  The little red Betty Crocker cutting board turned around makes a great place to post your menu - $ Tree store always has them.

Green Salad w/Homemade Ranch
Not complicated here but a couple of notes.  I do change the dressing recipe on the Ranch Buttermilk package by using 1/2 mayo and 1/2 sour cream and of course buttermilk but then I add one seeded, and diced jalapeno pepper and let this meld in the fridge for at least 24 hours. As far as the salad goes, just make your personal preference salad.  I like to keep it simple with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, green onion and avocado diced.  Whatever you like in your salad.  Make sure your salad plate is chilled.

Individual Beef Wellington's w/mushroom duxelles
The classic recipe will have goose or duck liver and I forego this ingredient and just make the duxelles which is just a fancy name for a mixture of mushrooms, shallots, garlic etc. You could forego this ingredient too but then you would have steak wrapped in bread.
My favorite is from Cuisine at Home magazine, December 2003 edition & I think too long and too complicated so here is Pepperidge Farm's recipe.  Really, all  you are doing is preparing the meat to wrap with the puff pastry and adding the duexelles and baking, once you understand the process this is really easy. Photo is from Cuisine at Home magazine and shows the Wellington with sauce - I don't usually make one but a simple red wine reduction would work.  I like that puff pastry to be nice and crispy and the sauce will make it soggy - again, personal preference.

Individual Beef Wellingtons - Pepperidge Farm Recipe


  • 8 (about 6 ounces each) beef  filet mignons (1/2-inch thick)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1 pkg. (17.3 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (2 sheets), thawed according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Season the beef with black pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook for 10 minutes, turning the beef over once during cooking. Remove the beef to a plate. Cover the plate and refrigerate for 1 hour or until the beef is cold.
  3. Heat the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallots and garlic and season with black pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, stirring often. Remove the mushroom mixture from the skillet and let cool.
  4. Sprinkle the work surface with the flour. Unfold the pastry sheets on the floured surface. Roll the pastry sheets into 2 (14-inch) squares. Trim the edges to form 2 (13-inch) squares. Cut each square into 4 squares, making 8 squares in all.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon Gorgonzola in the center of each pastry square. Divide the mushroom mixture evenly among the pastry squares. Top each with 1 filet mignon. Fold 2 opposite pastry corners over the beef, overlapping slightly, and press to seal. Brush with the egg. Repeat with the remaining pastry corners.
  6. Place the pastry-wrapped beef seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate the pastry-wrapped beef and the remaining egg for 1 hour or overnight.
  7. Heat the oven to 425°F.  Brush the pastry-wrapped beef with the remaining egg. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the temperature of the beef is 117°F. Serve immediately.
  8. Recipe Note: Parchment paper keeps the pastry from sticking to the baking sheet and also makes for easier cleanup. If you don't have parchment paper, you can spray the baking sheet with cooking spray instead. However, cooking spray may cause the bottoms of the pastries to brown more quickly, so begin checking for doneness 5 minutes early.
Personal choice as to using the Gorgonzola cheese but I make this very simple and am providing this recipe as a guide because I will cut down any recipe for our dinner for two.  The puff pastry keeps wonderfully in the freezer and has many other uses. I like to use a leaf cookie cutter and cut out some puff pastry to put on the top of the Wellington as a decoration.  Cooks note about the cookie cutter for the leafs - this will ONLY work if the the dough is still almost frozen as this is NOT pie dough and is very sticky.  If your dough has thawed past this point just use a sharp knife and cut out leafs and score them with a knife.  No matter how you do this they will look nice, really they will.

Here is my favorite recipe for the duxelles:


  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms (morels are great, but button mushrooms work)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter; divided
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth, sherry, or white wine, I prefer vermouth


1. Finely chop mushrooms in a food processor.
2. Scrape mushrooms out into a clean, cotton towel. (Note: Do not use terry cloth, and choose an old towel as you will stain it.)
3. Twist towel around mushrooms and wring out as much liquid as you can over the sink.
4. Heat a large (10-inch) non-stick skillet over a burner set between medium and medium-high.
5. Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to melt and avoid burning.
6. Add mushrooms, shallots, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, and thyme.
7. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms appear dry and are beginning to brown; about 5 minutes.

Green Beans w/bacon & slivered almonds

I don't have a recipe I use for these so will just tell you how I make them.  You can either use canned or fresh green beans.  For fresh green beans wash your beans, snip the ends and parboil, set aside.  I like to use the real bacon bits from Costco, less messy, less fat but you still get the good bacon flavor.  Toast the slivered almonds, this may be done ahead of time.  In a frying pan put about a tsp of olive oil and add the bacon and cook to release the flavors, then add your parboiled green (you may need to add a little water at this time) beans and stir until done but still crisp, then add salt and pepper and the almonds and stir until all heated through and serve. Using canned beans do the same but don't drain the beans, do as above and then drain them just before serving. 

Individual Potatoes Gratin

These are really fun and you can make a bunch of them and freeze. So easy, so good.


Vegetable spray
2 large russet potatoes, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese, I prefer gruyere
2 green onions, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.
Individual Apple/Cranberry Crisp
  1. 8 medium  Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  2. 1/4 cup sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  4. 1 cup dried cranberries
  5. 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice - or white wine, my preference
  6. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 

Mix all the ingredients in a pan and cook until the apples are almost done.


1 cup flour

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
Mix all together using your hands, the butter should be soft but not too soft, the finished product should be crumbly.
Put the filling into individual containers and divide the topping between the containers & put into a hot oven and bake until the topping is turning golden brown.  Let cool and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I will also cut this recipe way down and only make the two servings.
Salad dressing, my recipe
Individual Wellingtons, Pepperidge Farm
Green Beans, my recipe
Individual Potatoes Gratin, Melissa d'Arabian, Food Network
Duxelles, my recipe
Individual crisp, my recipe
Tablecloth, Ebay seller
Salad Plates, Maxwell & Williams Sprinkle, Dillard's
Individual soup/dessert covered bowls, Maxwell Williams Sprinkle, Dillards
Red Plates, Waechtersbach
Chargers, Bed, Bath & Beyond
Flatware, Hampton Forge
Flutes, Ralph Lauren
Water, wine, Villeroy & Boch
Recipe Holder, $ Dollar Tree
Valentine Graphic, Graphic's Fairy
Fonts on recipe card, Century 725 & Arizona 

Bon appetit and thank you for stopping by.



  1. This sounds delicious and the setting looks outstanding! At a excellent restaurant this meal would cost $175, do you
    take reservations?

  2. No reservations but you could come and eat for free but then there would be the travel expense so the $175 would be more reasonable.