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February 2009

January 2009

Coconut Macaroons


My daughter Anna discovered this recipe for coconut macaroons in Chez Panisse Desserts, by Lindsey Remolif Shere –– they recently did the honors when a friend asked me to bring a wheatless dessert to a birthday party.


Macadamia nuts give these bite size morsels  distinction, richness, and crunch.


Bamboo skewers, chopstick style, were a great help in keeping the coconut from burning during oven-toasting. I gave them a swishing every 2 minutes.


The macadamias are also toasted. The recipe calls for chopping them finely, but to me the cookies have a more interesting texture with bigger chunks.


Before baking and fresh from the oven. I didn't shape the dough into balls like the recipe instructs, maybe next time.

Mary Jo’s Coconut Macaroons

2 cups flaked unsweetened coconut
¾ cup macadamia nuts
2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
A pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar

Toast the coconut in a 325° oven until it is pale golden brown. Stir it often to keep it toasting evenly. This should take 5 to 10 minutes. Toast the macadamias also until they just begin to color, then cool and chop them fine by hand. Warm the egg whites slightly over hot water or swirl above a gas flame until barely warm. Beat them with the cream of tartar and salt until they hold stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar until they hold stiff peaks again. Fold in the nuts and coconut.

Butter and flour a baking sheet or cover it with parchment. Take teaspoonfuls of dough, press into 1-inch balls, and set them an inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for about 10 minutes or until they are lightly browned.


I was never a silver tray kinda gal, until I had a chic business partner who was raised on the East coast. Robineve bought me this pretty piece, and I love to use it.


Each time Anna made a treat from this cookbook, we couldn't believe our good fortune – Lemon Ice Cream, Raspberry Mousse, Walnut Drops – delicious!

Sweet Peas


I’ve wanted to share tips and photos from my sweet pea files for a long time. When I recently noticed that these red and white sweet peas (shown here with ‘Duet’ roses) are named ‘America’, I thought good timing – I’ll post this picture on President Barack Obama’s inauguration day – my little gardener’s salute to a new America.


Sweet peas are great companions to roses, both in the garden and in bouquets, and they’re easy to grow. Once they’ve reached climbing stage, I buy sweet pea netting and attach it to poles. The poles here are the green plastic variety found in garden stores. But I’m getting ahead of myself—the seeds come first!


Since I haven’t grown sweet peas for a few years, I had fun buying different varieties this past fall. How about ‘Orange Streamer’? I always soak the seeds over-night before planting to loosen the hard coating. It doesn’t look like many seeds in each packet, but they go a long way. (The ‘Royal White’ seed counter must have slipped in a few extras.)


If you want hundreds of seeds, save your own.


My soaking process was more earthy when it came to my private seed collection. I usually plant the seeds in the ground in October. This year I planted in November and they came up as quick as ever. Recent frosty mornings don’t faze the new plants.


One year, I planted the seeds in six-packs first. They tend to get leggy, if not planted soon enough.


Once they’ve really started growing, I pinch them back to encourage bushiness.


‘Lilac Ripple’ is one of my favorites. I once took a bouquet like this on the plane to Washington DC.


LR looks yummy here with ‘Iceberg’ roses.


LR in my husband  Leroy Parker’s wisteria vase.


The sweet pea cycle ends in our compost heap.

Centerpiece Rose Bouquet


Pink Gruss an Aachen in a detail from our centerpiece bouquet.

It’s the third day of New Year 2009 and here I am posting the how-tos from 2008’s Thanksgiving centerpiece. I didn’t make time for it last year, but now that the garden is barren, and I’m already longing for roses, why not luxuriate in these beauties.

On November 27, my garden offered sumptuous roses in many colors – red, magenta, peach, pale pink, yellow, deep burgundy. You might wonder how so many brilliant divas might harmonize together in one centerpiece.


Grouping the roses by color does the trick and avoids a spotty, jumbled look. Figure out where and what color to start with and then place the rest of the colors by whim and intuition. It also helps to have a stunning filler like these red-leafed grape leaves.


Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’
is one of my favorite plants. It doesn’t start out this dark – the first leaves are silvery olive. It grows on our front fence near red roses. Each of its many growth stages is a thrill.


Here's one side of the finished bouquet. The narrow copper container only measures  9" long x 3.5" wide x 4.5" high.

Notice how far the bouquet extends beyond the container’s boundaries. Since our dining table would be a long rectangle, I tried to make it overlap at each end as much as I could. The piece turned out to have two distinct personalities. Guests had fun choosing which roses they wanted to face. I sat on the pink side.


The peach-burgundy side has a totally different look.

Rose arranging, like good cooking, requires quality ingredients– nice container, great filler, and ample, fresh blooms. Some of the roses included: Redcoat, Pat Austin, Apricot Nectar, Yves Piaget, Pink Gruss an Aachen, and The Prince. One lemon, a few pomegranates, and Rugosa and Kathleen hips rounded out the mix.


The assembled materials ready for arranging.

Grouping colors and similar blooms works well with all kinds of flowers, not just roses. Large and loose bouquets also work with this method. The arranging process becomes more streamlined, with fewer decisions.