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My birthday dessert bar: pink velvet & chocolate cupcakes, cake pops & cake balls, chocolate covered oreos.

I turned 50 yesterday. I have no idea how time managed to pass so swiftly. I have distinct memories of my 10th birthday, sweet 16, 20th, 30th and 40th celebrations, so my memory is still intact. I even remember my father’s 50th birthday: I was working in his law office when a local radio personality showed up in clown face to deliver a signing birthday greeting…OK so singing telegrams might date me a bit.I am more fit and healthier than I have ever been in my life, don’t look anywhere close to 50, and act half my age. “Sarkiness” and living well may very well be the key to longevity. And naps, which I am ready for right now.

lovely appy platter of figs, parmesan, sausage

But not before thanking my wonderful sister in law Janel Milazzo (a professional caterer), and her son Curtis (very talented foodie), for an amazing job preparing the food for the open house we held to celebrate my big day with close friends.

Thanks to my loving husband, I married into a great family. I love to make desserts (I went nutty over pink and black chocolate goodies), and Janel and Curtis are amazing with party food and main course dishes.

100th anniversary of titanic: april 14th

Time does march on. We look so forward to upcoming events: our birthdays, holidays, summer vacations, graduating, getting married, having children, retiring. As they say, these things take time and it marches on whether we like it or not. We are defined by what we do with it, and how we learn from it.

Next month marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. On Downton Abbey, our story line is tied to the first class passengers, the artistocracy who the Crawleys knew and the relatives who perished.

Lest we forget those who lost their lives in this tragedy, you will likely see a number of tributes this month. I recently mentioned a great documentary produced in Canada (which can be streamed online) called Waking the Titanic, which followed a group of 14 third class passengers from North Mayo, Lahardane, a small village in Ireland. Steerage class passage took 2 years to save in hopes of creating a better live for themselves. Families of the survivors talk of how the experience shaped lives. Costa Concordia survivors should take note that Titanic survivors were only paid $25 in compensation.

Titanic drama will be Downton-on-Sea

Speaking of the passing of time, Downton Abbey S2 grads are still yeaning for new content while Season 3 is being shot. There is some hope beyond re-runs. According to a March 1st article in the UK Guardian, Julian Fellowes’ four-part mini-series looks at the intertwined fates of the different classes on board the doomed ocean liner feels just like Downton Abbey. Even better news, the show will not only be aired on ITV1 in the UK, but on ABC in the United States and other affiliates around the world.
While the writers resist the urge to cross over with Downton (i.e. do you know Patrick Crawley?), the script is rich with intertwining of characters that we are familar with from Downtown. Fond of drama, each episode focuses on a different set of characters: the ship sinks at the end of each episode, leaving us to wonder who survives…all is revealed in the final installment.

The latest released trailer for the Titanic mini-series coming in April

titanic Tribute dinners

If you have been following this blog you will know that I have been working my way through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd class menus. I have now heard of a few people who are planning to host their own event. If you haven’t already checked, I would love to hear how your plans are going.

If you haven’t given much thought about food and entertaining, perhaps you will be moved by this quote that opens the great book Last Dinner On the Titanic, written by Canadians Rick Archbold & Dana McCauley.

The pleasures of the table are common to all ages and ranks, to all countries and time: they not only harmonize with all the other pleasures, but remain to console us for their loss. Athelme de Brillat-Savarin

As a foodie I picked up this book primarily for the recipes and party hosting tips, but I am now spending more time reading the wonderful stories about the people, and life on board in all classes of service.

Plum Pudding with Sweet Sauce

Plum pudding is a 200 year old British tradition.

Still fresh from my own party, I picked plum pudding to showcase today, which has been served in Britain on special occasions for hundreds of years.  Lord D will take it any time he can get it.  A flaming version took center stage at Christmas dinner at Downton and would have been viewed as an extravagant dessert on Titanic.  It appears on the 2nd and steerage class passenger menus.


This recipe from Last Dinner On the Titanic

  • 1 cup chopped suet*
  • 1 1/2 cups slivered blanched almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups currants
  • 1 1/2 cups candied peel
  • 1/4 cup pitted, chopped prunes
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup rum or orange juice

Method

  1. In a large bowl stir together suet, almonds, raisins, currants, candied peel, prunes, flour, bread crumbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
  2. In another bowl beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in milk and rum. Using a large spoon, stir half of the fruit mixture into the egg mixture until well combined. Stire in remaining fruit mixture.
  3. Grease and flour a 6 cup (1.5 litre) pudding mold or metal bow. Spoon in pudding mixture, packing lightly. Cover with lid or seal with tin foil.
  4. Place mold in rack of steamer or rack in large pot. pour in enough boiling water to come two-thirds of thew ay up the sides of the mold. Cove and simmer on low heat, adding more boiling water as necessary, for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until tester inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Unmold pudding onto serving dish and serve with sweet sauce. Makes 12 to 15 servings.

*Suet is the hard fat which comes from around the kidneys of cows and sheep. If you want be true to the recipe, find a butcher which would be the most reliable source for suet as you might end up with suet used in bird feeders. Suet has a high melting point, so serves as a place-holder in puddings and crusts when the dough has begun to set, and long after other fats would have melted. As a result, the structure of the pudding is already defined by the time the suet melts, leaving thousands of tiny air holes that give the pudding a light and smooth texture. If you do wish to use a subsitute, go with solid vegetable shortening, but it won’t be the same.

Sweet Sauce

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 sherry or orange juice
  • 1 tbsp. grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Method

  1. In the top of a double boiler (or in a metal bowl on pot of simmering water) beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add egg, beating constantly.
  3. Stir in sherry and orange zest until smooth.
  4. Place over barely simmering water and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes or until thick enough to coat back of spoon. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Serve warm.
  5. Makes 1 1/2 cups sufficient for 12 servings of pudding.

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