Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy 448th Birthday William Shakespeare!!!

Well, it is finally here.  Today is William Shakespeare’s 448th Birthday.  Each year I have a fun Elizabethan dinner party for my family to commemorate Shakespeare’s work and I wanted to share the menu, recipe’s, and a few pictures of this years  with you! 
We always have it outside so the party will have a more pastoral feel to it.  However, here in Arizona, Mother Nature decided to have our first 100°+ days this weekend and on Saturday, when we had the dinner, the temps reached 104°!  Did this deter us?  NO!  By the time we began at 6 pm it was actually quite a pleasant 94°.  I had everything pretty much set up in the morning and had been cooking most of Friday and finished up on Saturday morning so I was ready to party. 

Various activity stations

Anyway, the set up is always fun.  I have one display table with books and posters so the family can learn about Shakespeare and his career as a playwright.  Then I have several activities prepared for the kids to keep them occupied between the seven courses of the dinner. 

This year I added a large castle and a life size cutout of the birthday boy that they could have their picture taken with him if they chose to.  Some of these activities are; ink and quill pen to write their own poems, making a family or personal coat of arms, creating a sentence using Elizabethan words, putting on a puppet show, but the favorite activity is always the sword fighting. 

Grace performing a puppet show for our jester Charlie

James working on his award winning sentence "Methinks that vile wench doth envy thy bawdy codpiece"
Emma and Bella composing a sonnet
Preston, Harrison, and Charlie having a sword fight and Evelyn coming out of the castle.

For the meal, I love to dress up in my “wench” costume and serve it to my guests.  Here is the menu we had this year: 

Cheese curds, sliced apples and grapes

Shepherd’s Loaf

Mushy Pea soup

Boiled Artichokes in butter

Jello Aurantia

Onion Stuffed Cornish Games Hens


Smoked Turkey legs

Broiled Herbed Potatoes

Sticky Toffee Pudding with fresh cream

Ale (carbonated apple juice) or Whyte Grape Juice

The great thing about this menu is that, as I mentioned above, all of it can be prepped in advance. 
My "Sisters"  Kim, Ellen and Tammy

Cooper and Jackson crossing swords
Kim drinking a toast to the birthday boy!

My great assistant serving wench Bella

Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal but I really got raves about the Smoked Turkey legs which was a new recipe I found online by one of my favorite chefs, Bobby Flay.  Here is the recipe: 

Smoked Turkey Legs

Recipe courtesy Cheryl and Bill Jamison

Prep Time: 30 min

Inactive Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 4 hr 0 min

Serves:  6 servings  (I had 24 drum sticks so I 4 x’s the recipe)


  • 6 turkey legs
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Dry Rub, recipe follows
  • Mop, recipe follows
  • Your favorite BBQ Sauce, as needed, (recommended: North of the Border Chipotle BBQ Sauce)


Several hours before planning on barbecuing, loosen the skin on the turkey legs by running your fingers under it as far as possible without tearing the skin.

Combine the Worcestershire sauce and the oil. Coat your fingers with the mixture and rub really well into the turkey legs, getting as much as you can under the skin. Sprinkle the dry rub over the skin, liberally rubbing into the turkey legs and under the skin. Place the legs in plastic bags and refrigerate.

Prepare the smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature to 200 to 220 degrees F. Remove the turkey legs from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Re-warm the mop mixture over low heat.

Transfer the turkey legs to the smoker. Cook until the legs are very tender and the juices run clear, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Mop the legs at 45-minute intervals in a wood-burning pit, or as appropriate for your style of smoker. Serve the legs hot, to be eaten with your fingers, with a side of barbecue sauce.

Dry Rub:
1/4 cup chipotle seasoning, ( I used  ground chipotle pepper)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons mild dried ground red chili or paprika
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl.

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon BBQ Sauce, (recommended: North of the Border Chipotle Barbecue Sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Combine the mop ingredients in a small saucepan and warm the mixture over low heat.
*(to simplify, I just used a plain chipotle BQ sauce from the store, and it was wonderful!)

Sticky Toffee Pudding with butterscotch syrup and cream...YUM!!!!!
We had a great time together and my family, even though they are not huge Shakespeare fans like I am love to have this celebration each year and maybe it will convert some of them eventually! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Review of "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"...Ewan McGregor Can Fly Fish Too!

Is there anything Ewan McGregor can’t do?

Let me say up front and I am not ashamed to admit it but as an actor, I love Ewan McGregor.  I see pretty much everything he is in, unless it is rated “R” or has a sad ending, like Moulin Rouge!  So, you have to trust me that his new movie “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is worth going to, even if you don’t like him as much as I do.  It was the funniest movies I have seen in quite a while.  It is based on the novel of the same name, written by Paul Torday. 

It takes place in London; where Harriet (Emily Blunt), an investment professional, is assigned to help a sheikh from Yemen, find the help he needs to bring the hobby of salmon fishing to his country of Yemen.  
Sheikh Muhammed, played wonderfully by Amr Waked, has a desire to help is country and he sees this project as a way to do this.  He contacts his investment firm and they contact the top man in England, Dr. Alfred “Fred” Jones (McGregor), who is over all the fisheries in the country, and an expert salmon fisherman, to help with this project. 

At first, Fred treats this request as a joke, knowing it is impossible to do but when his boos gets a “request” from the Prime Ministers PR person; he is forced to agree to see if it is feasible.  The PM’s PR person, Patricia Maxwell, is played by the wonderful actress Kristin Scott Thomas. 

As much as I love McGregor, and Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas steals every scene she is in!  She is hilarious.  I have seen her in a few comedies but she is always the “straight” man without the lines but she has all the zingers in this movie. 

The story itself is great but the politics are the best part of this movie. 
As Dr. Jones is forced into investigating the possibilities of this really happening, his weak marriage crumbles more as his wife moves to Switzerland for a job opportunity so he puts his all into having this project work and as he does, he becomes more excited about the realization of the sheikh’s dream.
There is romance, comedy, suspense, and some tender moments that even brought tears to my eyes.  The scenery is also beautiful!  Besides being filmed in London, it was also filmed in Scotland, and Morocco (filled in for Yemen).  
It is a story of having faith in the impossible, and it delivers the entertainment 100%.  Try to find it in your area, and if not, get it in your favorite movie queue asap! 

How to Preserve Every Kind of Citrus Juice

As a follow up to my recent blog about bottling citrus, I wanted to also share the instructions for bottling citrus juice.  I did orange and grapefruit juices but the process is the same.  Again, there are the instructions for this in the Ball Blue Book for canning.  (You really need to have this book in your library! )

Bottling Grapefruit Juice

Wash grapefruit and drain.  Extract juice from fruit and strain.  Combine juice with sugar to taste if desired, (*I did not add any sugar to mine.  I like it a bit tart anyway.)  

Heat juice for 5 minutes or until it reaches the temperature of 190°.  DO NOT LET IT BOIL!  Meanwhile, warm up the jars in a warm oven or dishwasher. 

Ladle hot juice into warmed jars, leaving a ¼ inch head space.  Adjust 2 piece caps as usual onto the jars and process pints and quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. 
That is it!  Easy peasy!   Now you will have your “fresh squeezed” juice all summer long.  It has only been a month since I did mine and it tastes as fresh as the day I squeezed it and bottled it. 

Lemon Juice

The best way I have found for preserving lemons is to simply clean the fruit and pop them into a freezer zip lock bag and put them in the freezer.  You usually don’t need much lemon juice to use in recipes so it isn’t worth bottling it.  Then anytime I need lemon juice, I pull out 1-3 lemons a couple of hours ahead of time and let them thaw.  I get all the juice I need.  The only thing this doesn’t work for is if you need some lemon zest.  The thawed lemon peel is too mushy to get zest off of it. 

Anyway, I hope you will try your hand at bottling citrus, whether you grow it or purchase it when it is on sale and it will save you a lot of money!