Monthly Archives: October 2015

Knife Makers in France 2 comments

Thiers, France

October 22, 2015, posted by Michelle – Le Monsieur and I visited the small town of Thiers today. It’s an hour and a half drive west of Lyon, so it’s an easy day trip. Thiers has been the knife making capital of France since the 14th century. Knife shops are everywhere in the old city which also features centuries old half-timbered houses. I visited the knife museum there which included a knife making demonstration. Photos from top left: Hôtel du Pirou (15th century), hand painted knife catalog, knife collection in the museum, pictureseque knife shop, knives displayed in shop window, wooden fork and spoon displayed in the museum, Laguiole pocket knife.

Photos below: demonstration of the old grinding stone method of grinding the blade’s cutting edge. The grinders used to lay down on a plank which gave them extra strength and enabled them to work longer and faster. These men worked 12 hours a day like this! See that little stuffed dog? I can explain what he represents. The water from the grinding stone came directly from the Durolle river, so it was freezing cold. The men’s hands were constantly wet and cold plus water, as well as dust, would splash up in their faces. Dogs were trained to lie down on the worker’s backs and legs to keep them warmer – they were kind of like fuzzy hot water bottles. See it for yourself, I don’t make this stuff up. Continuing on with the photos, I was happy with my purchases: two cheese knives and a Laguiole pocket knife; a multicolored knife display; and Le Coin des Hasards half-timbered house spans the street and links two other buildings.

Thiers, France Knife Making City
Do you like to buy special hand made items? Will you go out of your way for artisanal goods? We’d like to hear from you. Click on the title of this post and the comment form will expand at the bottom of the page.

Pumpkin Season

October 19, 2015, posted by Michelle – Sharing a photo collage from this past weekend’s Pumpkin Festival in Lyon. There was a huge cornucopia display and all the gourds and pumpkins spilling out of it were so pretty. I don’t know who ended up winning the biggest pumpkin contest but the orange and white ones below both weighed over 400 pounds. Pumpkin Festival Collage

There’s a pumpkin exhibition every fall at a farm in Switzerland called Juckerfarm. I found some great photos online of some of the scenes made entirely out of pumpkins.  So, if you’d like to see a tiger jumping through a ring of fire, a rabbit coming out of a top hat, a knife thrower and his assistant, etc… have a look and get ready to be impressed…. PHOTOS from JUCKERFARM.  And proving that he’s still King, there was even an Elvis made of hundreds of pumpkins.

Are there any farm related fall events in your area? Have you been to any fairs yet? Have you set out pumpkins, mums, hay bales etc. in your yard? Let us know how you celebrate fall. Click on the title of this blog post and the comment form will open at the bottom of the page.

Spaghetti Squash Fritters 2 comments

October 18, 2015, posted by Michelle – I went to the grocery store today and bought a pretty, organic spaghetti squash (called courge spaghetti here). The previous few times I’ve cooked with one I’ve made a simple tomato sauce and served it like spaghetti. This time I was ready to try something different and went online looking for recipes. I came across a few different fritter recipes and came up with my own version that was really very nice. I served it with a garlic-cumin yogurt sauce and will definitely make this again.
Spaghetti Squash collage

Spaghetti Squash Fritters


1 spaghetti squash

1 small white onion, grated

1 small bunch of fresh chives, chopped

2 eggs

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 tsp cumin

1 clove garlic, minced

salt & pepper

olive oil


Preheat oven to 350°. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a spoon and discard. Rub a little olive oil on the insides of each half of the squash and place them, insides facing down, on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes. Let them cool. After it’s cool enough to handle, rake a fork across the flesh to remove it and place it all in a colander. Let the squash sit about 30 minutes to drain some of the excess water out. Transfer the squash to a mixing bowl and stir in the onion, chives, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper – mix well. Heat about three tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add spoonfuls of the squash mixture to the pan and pat down a little with a spatula to flatten them out a bit. Reduce the heat to medium high. Cook on each side about 5 minutes.

For the yogurt sauce – mix yogurt, cumin, garlic and a little salt together. Serve on the side.

Makes about 10 fritters.

Pumpkin Party

October 16, 2015, posted by Gina – Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a floral presentation at my home for Pi Phi alumnae. These ladies were a whole lot of fun and I enjoyed my time with them.

First things first, I had prepared a few hors d’oeuvres which I set out on my patio so we could all have a chance to visit. After a while, we went back inside and installed ourselves in the kitchen where we got down to the work at hand: pumpkin floral arrangements.

PicMonkey CollageThe ladies had the opportunity to compose their own floral designs after the presentation. They worked on a succulent pumpkin and I think they each did a great job. The best thing about this group is that they paid close attention to the presentation and asked questions. So when it came time to make their own pumpkins, they were well prepared and ready to unleash their creativity.

Thanks Pi Phi’s and I hope to see you again soon! Happy Fall.

Osso Buco with Gremolata 1 comment

October 14, 2015, posted by Michelle – This is so easy to make and absolutely delicious. Do not skip the gremolata, the bright citrus punch it gives is the very thing that takes this dish over the top. This is usually served with risotto or polenta.

Osso Buco 004

Osso Buco with Gremolata


3 whole veal shanks

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 14oz. can crushed tomatoes

1/2 tsp thyme

1 bay leaf

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 chicken bouillon

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

olive oil

Directions: Salt the veal shanks on both sides. Add a little olive oil to a large pot and brown the veal shanks on all sides. Remove and set aside. In the same pot, add a little more olive oil and sauté the onions and carrots for a few minutes. Next, stir in the chicken bouillon, flour and wine and let the liquid reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, half of the minced garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Finally, add the veal shanks back into the pot. Cover and simmer on low heat for 2 hours.

Directions for Gremolata: Mix together the parsley, lemon zest and the other half of the minced garlic. Sprinkle over the osso buco just before serving.

Floral Demonstration at Farmer’s Table Cooking School

October 12, 2015, posted by Gina – Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting floral designs at the beautiful Farmer’s Table Cooking School in Livingston, Mississippi. Livingston was the original County Seat for the area but as times changed so did the County Seat. This area is dotted with beautiful fields filled with trees, a few cows and gentle, rolling hills. Even though you are just minutes from the city, you feel as though you’ve stepped back to a time when the pace was a bit slower.

The Cooking School is a very nice venue where Chef Matthew teaches classes on mastering culinary skills but the school also hosts other kinds events. So, I was thrilled to be invited to teach a floral design class.

Fern and Sedum in BasketSince it’s tailgate season, the first thing I showed was this very simple arrangement that’s super easy for a tailgate host or hostess to put together and a great way to dress up tailgate tables. I chose this oval basket as it is the perfect size for a table. I gathered plants in school colors and created a coordinating bow. Spanish moss covers the pots the plants are in and finishes off the basket. This took about 5 – 10 minutes to assemble and is really a great alternative to a fresh flower arrangement. Bonus: The handle on the basket makes it easy to carry to your tailgate area.

This round centerpiece  is one of the most practical arrangements to make. It sits low, allowing for conversation, and does not take up too much space ensuring you have plenty of room for food.


The pleasing mix of colors in this dough bowl arrangement can carry you through the season. Cover the bowl with some wood shred and then arrange coordinating colored spheres in the bowl. I added a touch of whimsy with an ornamental cabbage and an orange pomander ball.

I like to call this lean, vertical design the “welcome” arrangement because it looks so striking in an entry way. Use coordinating colors in centerpieces and arrangements throughout your home.


Coke Crate Mixed Garden

These Coca-Cola crates were so ubiquitous in my childhood that we would literally trip over them in the garage. You’d probably have to pay about $50 for one today. They are so much fun to use for arrangements on porches or patios. In this arrangement I placed in a few different objects creating a casual, retro vignette. You could also place a few bottles in this create and fill each one with a single stem.

Lush Fall Arrangment

I started assembling this pretty arrangement by creating a tape grid on the top of the vase. This enabled me to place stems right where I wanted while keeping them firmly in place. Lots of tall greenery and a bit of curly willow really set the stage for the colorful flowers.


Baby Boo

It’s all about the colors in this fall place setting. I used my Italian Spode as a backdrop to a simple tablescape. The pops of green from the napkin and orange from the pumpkin really make this inviting.

Bridget and Chef MatthewChef Matthew and Bridget from the cooking school were so much fun to work with and participants were treated to some great food, new recipes and floral design. This made for a very fun evening.

I look forward to presenting again at the cooking school. They have done a phenomenal job of creating an environment that seems to brings out the creativity in everyone.

What do you think about the arrangements? Would you be likely to try one of these yourself? Do you have any ideas for tailgate, dinner party or seasonal arrangements? Let us know! To leave a comment, click on the title of this blog post and the comment form will appear at the bottom of the page.

Salmon with Basil Mustard Cream Sauce

MoutardeOctober 8, 2015, posted by Michelle – Le Monsieur went to Dijon, located in the Burgundy region of France, on a one day business trip this week and I had planned on going with him but something came up at the last minute and I was not able to go. I have been through this beautiful region in east-central France but stopped only in the towns of Meursault and Beaune; Beaune is well worth a visit as it is the capital of Burgundy wines. The Burgundian towns of Dijon and Beaune lie within Côte d’Or county which is famous for two things: wine (pinot noir, chardonnay) and mustard. “Dijon mustard”,I discovered, can be made anywhere and means only that certain ingredients are used, so it doesn’t necessarily mean it comes from the town of Dijon or even from Burgundy. Le Monsieur took pity on me, having been stranded, as it were, in Lyon all day and appeared back at La Maison with almost every kind of mustard from the Fallot mustard company located in Beaune. Fallot is the only independent, family run mustard mill left in Burgundy.  They traditionally used mustard seeds grown in the region, then had to start importing seeds from Canada and the U.S. but have recently begun cultivating mustard seeds in Burgundy once again. And of course, they use white wine from the region. Since I am now the proud owner of 10 different flavors of mustard (Burgundy, saffron, truffle, blackcurrant, pinot noir, walnut, piment d’espelette, basil, tarragon and provençal) I thought I should pop one open and start trying out some new recipes. I found this recipe on the Fallot website, but I tweaked it a bit and was happy with the result. You can buy Fallot mustards online at French Selections, Le Village and Saveur du Jour.

Salmon with Basil Mustard Cream Sauce

4 salmon fillets

4 shallots, minced

1 tbsp Fallot Basil Mustard (Moutarde Basilic)

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tbsp dry white wine

Salt & Pepper

Mix the mustard and cream together. Salt and pepper the salmon and sauté the fillets in a sauté pan for about 6 minutes. Set aside. Add the shallots and white wine to the pan. As soon as the wine cooks down, add the mustard/cream mixture and stir for a couple of minutes on low heat. Serve immediately with a side of rice.

Salmon Basil Mustard