Monday, November 28, 2016

Cooking for a Cause

I finally got it, and I only had to drive 1,250 miles to the nearest Cavender’s Boot City in Amarillo, Texas to get it. Lucky for me that drive also came with a much-needed vacation in New Mexico.

As the Spur Stirs - The Art of Bringing A Western Family, Friends and Food Together, by Jacqueline Cavender, is a beautiful cookbook featuring recipes from Cavender’s family, friends and friends of friends. 

Twenty years in the making, this cookbook was a labor of love for Cavender, an idea she dreamed about while spending time with her mother who was battling cancer.

This book is not only packed with delicious recipes for all occasions, it was created to help those affected by cancer or cystic fibrosis as proceeds from its sales are donated to the American Cancer Society and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

As the Spur Stirs is loaded with great ideas for entertaining. 

This Baked Pizza Dip is just one of many quick and fabulous appetizers in the book that’s perfect for holiday parties, the rest of football season, or a New Year’s Eve celebration.

Baked Pizza Dip
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
14-ounce can pizza sauce
4-6 green onions, chopped
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 small cans sliced black olives
Chopped pepperoni

Layer the cream cheese, pizza sauce, green onions, mozzarella cheese, olives, (I added fresh mushrooms) and pepperoni in a pie plate. 

Bake at 325 F for 25 minutes. Serve with slices of crusty bread.

P.S. the boots at Cavender’s are pretty fabulous too!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Get the Party Started - Holiday Hors d'oeuvres

The gathering season is upon us, and chances are you’ll be hosting a get-together or two over the holidays. The following hors d’oeuvres are substantial enough that your guests will feel satisfied but not overly full. Pair them with an assortment of cheeses and some colorful veggies and you’ll have a meal that’s just right. Happy hosting!

Sausage Polenta Rounds

Meatless Stuffed Mushrooms

Each time my Mom serves these hearty hors d’oeuvres, she is asked what type of meat is in them. Surprisingly none! 

Instead of discarding the mushroom stems, they are diced and mixed with spices to create a savory filling. Makes 6 appetizers.

Meatless Stuffed Mushrooms

6 large white mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup onion, diced
½ teaspoon minced garlic
Salt to taste
Italian bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese, shaved

Snap off the stems of the mushrooms. Set aside. With a teaspoon scoop out a bit of the mushroom cap to create a larger hole for the stuffing. Dice the stems and extra mushroom scooped from the cap.

In a frying pan, melt butter. Sauté onions until they begin to soften. Add garlic, salt and diced mushroom pieces and sauté until soft. Add bread crumbs and heat until mixture thickens. 

Fill each mushroom cap with stuffing. Top with Parmesan cheese shavings. Bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and cheese forms a crust.

Tangy Cranberry Meatballs

This recipe has been in my family for years.  I can remember my grandmother rolling hundreds of these scrumptious little meatballs for her parties. Just a warning – they go fast! Makes approximately 4 dozen meatballs.

Tangy Cranberry Meatballs

3 pounds lean ground beef
2 eggs
1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

12-ounce jar Heinz Chili Sauce
14 ounce can jellied cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Squeeze of a lemon

In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients. Roll into 1 inch balls. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain on paper towels.

In a saucepan, combine sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring to break up cranberry sauce. Add meatballs and simmer 30 minutes.

Sausage Polenta Rounds
I was excited to find pre-cooked polenta at a local grocer, it sped up the process considerably. Also, feel free to spice things up a bit by using sweet, mild or hot Italian sausage.

Sausage Polenta Rounds

¾ pound bulk Italian sausage
1 cup marinara sauce
24-ounce tube pre-cooked polenta
Olive oil for frying
Grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil for garnish

Heat oven to 350 F. In a frying pan, cook sausage until no longer pink. Stir in marinara sauce. Set aside.

Slice polenta into ½ inch thick rounds. With a spoon, gently scoop out a bit of polenta from the center of each round, creating a shallow well. In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and cook polenta rounds a few minutes per side, in batches of 5-6.

Transfer polenta rounds to a baking sheet. Fill wells with 1 tablespoon of sausage mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until polenta is slightly brown and cheese has melted. Garnish with basil leaves.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Wonderment and mystique abound at The Raven

For Kateryna VanHeisch the dream of opening her own home décor store was realized when she established The Raven back in 2002. The fine consignments shop, located at 1225 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, NM, specializes in antiques, vintage, and new home furnishings and accessories.  

A pair of saints and crystal chandeliers hang peacefully over a bed at The Raven.

Just one step into The Raven gives you a feeling that you’ve stepped into another time or a far-away land, appropriately so as VanHeisch travels the world to hunt for one-of-a-kind and rare treasures to add to her shop’s collection. 

Rustic lanterns cast a serene glow around the shop.

As my husband and I meandered through the store, we both agreed that we felt a certain spiritual aura around us as if each piece was begging us to ask for its story.


The statue is a copy of Michelangelo's Moses in cast iron.

When VanHeisch opened her first store, she only had about 1,000 square feet to work with. “It was very crowded,” she laughed. 

Her current location is 11,000 square feet and is layered from floor to ceiling with upholstery, light fixtures, rugs, wall hangings, candles, furniture and garden accoutrements including urns and statues.

A French field cross sits among urns and garden decor. 

Two years ago, VanHeisch rebranded her shop from Recollections, its original identity when she acquired it, to The Raven. “I wanted a name that was more unique and more me,” she said. 

A 19th century plaster Virgin Mary watches over the French corner in the shop.

The new name also reflects her love of animals which is evident inside the shop where an assortment of birds flutter about in a mammoth vintage metal bird cage. 

Outside the shop, neighborhood pigeons feast on seeds that VanHeisch scatters around for them. “I refer to them as my flock,” she said. “I’m also a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and the name evokes a sense of mystery to me.”

Kateryna VanHeisch (seated) and her team at The Raven from left: Rachel Stephens,
 India Hearne and Caroline Adams.  

It truly is the mystery that sets this shop apart from any other I’ve ever seen. 

For more photos and a glimpse into the magical world of The Raven,visit

A decommissioned candelabra from a church.