Ready for my close up, part 3: The result!

We had a pretty crazy week here at A Butler’s Manor, and thus it slipped my mind that this was the week when the segment “East End Bed & Bites” on the Fios1 show Restaurant Hunters: Long Island would go live. Then this afternoon I was checking in some repeat guests, a sweet couple from upIsland, who said “Hey! I turned on the TV yesterday and saw Chris!” — and I had to run off and find the finished product of the filming that took place a few weeks ago.

I truly didn’t expect that we would have much more than a mention, so am thrilled with the episode!
A Butler’s Manor on East End Bites

Ready for my close up: part 2

Update on the shoot for “Bed and Bites,” the episode of “Restaurant Hunters” on Fios 1 New York that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

presenter and camerawoman setting up in kitchen for TV segment on breakfasts
Thursday, April 14: Day Of.
The garden has had its full Spring clean up and the pool is even open. The sky is a bright cloudless blue, so the flowers in bloom look all the more wonderful. It should make great establishing shots, as they say in the biz.
In the kitchen, we’ve decided to feature our Zucchini/Cheddar Blintzes with Cherry Sauce, because a) they’re different, b) the dish is colorful and should look good on the plate, and c) it is really freakin’ yummy, so much so that I am glad there are almost never any leftovers when I make them.
Owner Kim and TV personality woman discussing recipe to be featured on TV segment
I agonized over how much to prepare in advance. While the segment is all about food, it isn’t a cooking show, per se. So I didn’t figure I needed to have all the pre-measured ingredients in little ramekins like on the Food Network that you hold up and say “Add two tablespoons of chopped garlic…”
On the other hand, grating a zucchini by hand doesn’t make for very scintillating TV.
(Okay, you ask, why not use a food processor? After all, the Barefoot Contessa does. Answer in general: The recipe calls for a cup each of the cheese and zucchini, not a quantity that generally requires my hauling out the Cuisinart. Answer specific to today: Because unlike Ina’s kitchen, we don’t have electrical outlets on our kitchen island, so using a machine would mean I turn into a wall to work. I’m telling you, this is the sort of stuff that I worry about.)
Just in case, though, I did have my blintz filling and my grated ingredients prepared and pre-measured. And it’s a good thing I did, because the Fios 1 team was really pressed for time. In only 2-1/2 hours, they had to set up, shoot bits of the whole house and garden, interview Chris about the origins of our name, do the cooking segment, eat, and tear down. Had I chosen to feature an entree that required baking (which is most of my repertoire), I’d have had to do the Martha-Stewart-voilà!-instant-food move of assembling the dish, putting it in the oven, then turning and taking an already-finished perfectly cooked version out of another oven.
Because the blintzes are filled, rolled and sauced just before serving, it’s a good choice for show and tell.  For the same reason, it’s something I tend to make off-season or midweek if we don’t have a full house.
Owner Chris with TV personality chatting in A Butler's Manor living room
I think it went well. Host Amanda Price and camera wizard Danielle raved over the cherry-sauced blintzes (when they finally got to eat them). But I admit to being nervous about being observed under the microscope, so to speak, while preparing the food. Especially under the tight time constraints. I’ve decided I’m NOT auditioning for a food show in my next life.
I’m not sure when the episode will air; watch this space for updates. But in the meantime, here’s the (simple!) recipe I prepared on camera, which can also be found in A Butler’s Manor: The Cookbook.. It is very yum, if I do say so myself.
photo of blintz breakfast with warm cherry sauce



4-5 servings; 2 blintzes each
1 cup baking
mix or pancake mix
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup grated
zucchini (about half a medium squash)
1 cup grated extra-sharp
cheddar cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. cream
cheese, softened
3 oz.  vanilla Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 cup cherry
preserves (I like Bonne Maman), warmed up
Combine filling ingredients until smooth; set aside.
In large
bowl, combine zucchini, cheese, pancake mix, milk, vanilla & egg with a
wire whisk; mix thoroughly. 
Drop batter by quarter-cupfuls (blintzes will be about 4”
diameter) onto a lightly-oiled preheated griddle. Turn over when blintzes began
to dry along edges. Cook approx 2 minutes longer, then transfer to a warm
plate. (Mix will make approx. 10 pancakes.)

a thick coat of cream cheese on each blintz and roll up. Top with warmed

Pumpkin Season (and EASY Pumpkin Cake Recipe)!

stack of pumpkins and gourds on brick porch

It’s mid October and we’re in full pumpkin season. The farms have Pick Your Own apples and pears, corn mazes and an abundant harvest of winter squashes, cabbage, kale, homemade jams and pies and so much more. We even have a new term, Pumpkin Traffic, which describes the stop-and-go that unsuspecting east-bound drivers passing through Water Mill encounter due to the wild popularity of Hank’s PumpkinTown, which is located directly across the street from Duckwalk Winery. (If you’re not packing children intent on visiting the wonderful playground at Hank’s, ask us for the secret detour around this traffic jam.)

rack of cut firewood contrasted with beach chairs on wooden porchAnyway, with a little sadness, but also a sense of anticipation for sweaters, scarves, and boots (!), the rack on the back deck that during the summer held beach chairs got filled today with wood for the fireplace. The days are still lovely, with clear blue skies, no humidity, and a tighter range of temps between high and low (today, for example, the high was 62 degrees F, the low 54). Still, I expect the fireplace will inaugurate Late Fall at the Manor this weekend, with blazing logs crackling a cheery welcome to guests returning from their days in the cooler air.

Fall gives me the opportunity to cook with all things associated with autumn, like fresh apples and pears from the farms, cranberries, pumpkin and lots of cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg and ginger…Something I consider the epitome of autumn is a recipe I adapted after finding it first on the Weight Watchers website and since have seen all over Pinterest. I made it this week and four guests asked for the recipe. It’s so unbelievably easy, and it’s worth a share:


pumpkin spice cake with apple cider glaze

1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Spice Cake
1 can (14 oz) Libby’s Pumpkin

Yep, that’s it, just those two ingredients. Don’t add anything the cake box tells you to. Mix together, by hand or using a mixer until it comes together into a stiff batter. Spread into a greased 7″x 11″ x 2″ Pyrex pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven. Cool in the pan 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile make the glaze. (Ah, I cheated! I added a couple more ingredients!): Whisk together:

1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or approx. 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, plus a dash each of ground nutmeg. ground ginger, ground mace, ground cloves, and allspice)
3 tablespoons apple juice or apple cider

Invert slightly cooled cake unto a serving platter. Pour glaze all over the top. Cut into 24 pieces.

This is major-league yummy! (And for the Weight Watchers among us, it’s 4 PP per piece. Worth it.)

Get your scarf and boots on, and come visit a corn maze followed by a wine tasting, while you watch the vineyards harvesting their bounty for coming years. I wish you a slice of Pumpkin Cake before a roaring fire!

Quote of the day: I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion.—Henry David Thoreau

Recipe: Rhubarb Walnut Bread

Ah, the dog days of summer.

Someone asked me the other day how many recipes I had. Huh. I know I have over 50 featured in A Butler’s Manor: The Cookbook (available here at A Butler’s Manor, or I’ll happily sign and mail you one), but I also have a 4″-thick binder of recipes solely for breakfast that I am continually adding to. (What an addiction!! And don’t even get me started about my “Recipes to Try” board on Pinterest!)
Following the conversation, I flipped through the binder and was amused to note that just a little under half of the recipes are for baked goods.  Ha! Can you tell where my heart is? Bread + sweet = yum yum yum.
My baked goods, as those of you who have visited us know, fall into a couple of catagories–muffins, breads, scones, or coffee cakes. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating the quantities required each day for each type.
Except for one.
Last year, at the Water Mill Community Club’s annual dinner dance, I met a woman called Anita and we got to talking about A Butler’s Manor, what I generally made for breakfast on any given day, and how I endeavored to use whatever I could out of the vegetable garden Chris plants every year. We discovered we had a joint love of baking. She said, “If you have rhubarb, I have the best recipe for you.”
Oh yeah, we have rhubarb. Which I delight in bringing, in the form of a strawberry rhubarb crumble, to any dinner party we’re asked to during the summer. But for breakfast?
The following day she sailed into the kitchen at 9:30 AM while I was serving out breakfast and dropped off a recipe. “You’ll LOVE this,” she predicted.
Okay, I thought, I’ll bite. I made it that day.
Oh boy, was she ever right. I make a number of types of bread and they all go down well, but when I make Anita’s Rhubarb Walnut Bread, I go through 50% more than any other baked good I offer.


1-1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup salad oil
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk, OR 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. white vinegar added to it
2-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups sliced rhubarb, cut fine
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Mix all ingredients in order given. Pour into two greased 9×5″ or 8×4″ loaf pans. Blend:
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
Sprinkle topping over rhubarb mixture. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove to a wire rack, cool, remove from pans and cool completely.
Freezes well; stays moist when wrapped in wax paper and foil. Yields 2 loaves.
Watch this disappear faster than you can explain to folks what rhubarb is.
Did you know? 
* Rhubarb comes in both green and red versions.
* The stalk, which resembles celery, is edible, but the large leaf is poisonous to humans.
* Rhubarb is one of only two vegetables that are perennial–i.e., they come back year after year. (Jeopardy! answer: The other is asparagus.)
Quote of the Day:
 Image result for quotes about rhubarb

Recipe: Hawaiian French Toast

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention.

For ten years (!), I’ve been trying to improve upon a version of French Toast I first tasted while staying at Howard House Bed and Breakfast in New Bern, NC. The owner, Kim Wynn, served a French toast dish with pineapples which I devoured and begged the recipe for. As always, regional variation in groceries mean that some things just can’t be duplicated, and for starters, we can’t get “Texas Toast” in our supermarkets. I’ve been experimenting on and off with various iterations of the dish ever since.
When you’re a five-room bed and breakfast and you are putting together menus to feed ten or twelve guests per day without additional help in the kitchen, you do all you can to make sure that the entree can feed all of the guests without anyone feeling “cheated.” Yes, we always have cereals and yogurts on hand (and if I do say so myself, I make a nice yogurt parfait with a sprinkle of vanilla granola), but it’s a little personal victory for me when I can prepare a recipe taking into account dietary restrictions that accommodates everyone in one try.
Last week, we had dairy-free guests who were staying four days, and I really didn’t want them to feel like pariahs with a daily parade of “special” meals. Our “sweet” days are generally the more challenging, for the two most common dietary restrictions are gluten and lactose intolerance. (Translation, no wheat for the former, no milk or cow’s milk cheese for the latter.) On the dairy-free side, most recipes are workable with soy and almond milks, though because they are thinner, sometimes there’s a slight texture difference. Coconut milk is also dairy-free, but unlike soy and almond, it adds a distinctive flavor to the meal.
Flipping through my binder of recipes, I came across Kim Wynn’s recipe for her pineapple french toast, and something clicked. Pineapple…coconut…. rum…marachino cherries on little umbrellas…piña colada!
Actually, piña coladas originated in Puerto Rico, but when I think of pineapple, I think of Hawaii. And…King’s Hawaiian Bread, a soft, slightly sweet loaf I can find easily in California, but until recently (that regional variation again), not here in the Hamptons.
And coconut milk. Yummy, lactose-free coconut milk. Used purposefully for the taste as well as to accommodate the lactose intolerance.
Voilá! The result is reminiscent of a pineapple upside-down cake (though I left out the marachino cherry in the middle of the pineapple ring).
350 oven
8 servings
12 King’s
Hawaiian bread dinner rolls, roughly torn
1 13.5 oz can  light or regular coconut
5 eggs     
1/2 tsp EACH cinnamon and nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
stick butter
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. dark
brown sugar
1 15 oz. can
crushed pineapple in syrup, well drained, or ½ fresh 
pineapple, coarsely chopped in food processor
1 15 oz. can
pineapple rings, well drained
Dash  rum (optional)
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted in microwave (here’s how to do this)
3 Tbsp. crystalized ginger
The night before:
a 9” x 13” baking dish. Tear rolls roughly in half and scatter evenly in bottom
of pan. Mix milk, eggs, spices and vanilla in bowl. Pour over bread in pan.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next
pan from fridge and let come to room temp (approx. 30 minutes). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
butter in skillet, add 3/4 cup brown sugar, crushed pineapple and a dash of salt.
Cook until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Add rum (optional) and cook an
additional minute. Pour over bread mixture. Arrange pineapple rings on top. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar, toasted coconut and crystallized ginger over top.
Bake 35 minutes until lightly browned. Cut and garnish with a sliced
Taste of the Islands! 

I should have added the paper umbrella.

RECIPE: Gruyere & Prosciutto Strata

Creativity was not a word in my mother’s kitchen. Though she made meals nearly every night when I was growing up, my mother did not like to cook. She herself had been raised on a bland Norwegian-based Midwestern diet which, when incorporated into my father’s meat-and-potatoes mentality, meant that seasonings and color — especially any form of fresh vegetable! — were seriously missing from the dinner table in our house. Her eight menus rotated with predictable regularity (Monday, meatloaf; Tuesday, Swiss steak) through our dinner hours. If I never have any of them again the rest of my life, that’s just fine with me.

Some kids, like Chris, for example, react to indifferent food by learning to create something more palatable. But while I made whatever meals it took to pass my Girl Scout cooking merit badge, and later, Home Ec, I had no interest in becoming the next Galloping Gourmet. What I did like to do was bake. Cakes, cookies, desserts. Anything sweet. I knew I’d be hard-pressed to ruin a cookie recipe so thoroughly I wouldn’t eat the results anyway.
Such a background comes as a surprise to many guests who assume I grew up loving to cook, that my flair for the creative, in cooking and in presentation, must be a lifelong skill. Or even better, that I’ve attended culinary school. Ha! What I am is a foodie who is learning continuously how ingredients play off one another, and who has found that cooking and baking offer opportunities for another form of creativity. And creativity in all forms makes my heart sing.
Which is why I am so very gratified when someone visiting A Butler’s Manor asks for one of my recipes. Wow, me?!?
This is adapted from a recipe I originally found at Williams-Sonoma, and is fairly new to my repertoire –which, for the record, is continually being added to and adapted when necessary. Never let it be said that if it’s Tuesday, it must be Banana French Toast!


350 oven

10 servings
1-2                    large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and chopped
2          tsp.       olive oil           
1                      bag seasoned croutons
15                     eggs (or two cartons Egg Beaters)
2          cups     milk
4          cups     grated Gruyere cheese
4          oz.        prosciutto, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350.  Coat a 15” x 10” Pyrex dish with olive oil cooking spray. Toss croutons with olive oil and scatter in prepared pan. 
Whisk together flour, milk, butter, salt and eggs and pour over croutons in prepared pan. Let soak for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, steam leeks for about three minutes; drain. Sprinkle cheese and leeks over egg and bread mixture and stir in. Sprinkle chopped prosciutto on top.
Bake until casserole is set and light golden brown, 35-40 minutes.
Bon appétit!
Quote of the Day: I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. —Julia Child

RECIPE: Blueberry & Pecan Breakfast Bread Pudding

I commented recently on Facebook how a recipe I’d been working on had been a big hit for breakfast, and since have been asked to share the recipe.  When next I make it, I’ll take a photo and add it to this blog post. (Although I’m thinking about trying my next batch of it with the apples, as they’re in season!)


Spray a 16″ x 10-1/2″ (4.5 liter) baking dish with non-stick spray. Add:
1 loaf (approx. 24″ long) French baguette, cut into 3/4″ slices, then into roughly 3/4″ cubes

Whisk together:
8 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. each ground cinnamon and nutmeg

Pour over the bread and press the bread into the egg mixture.

Stir together the topping:
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp. light corn syrup (I used instead a blueberry maple syrup)
1 cup coarsely-chopped pecans

Cover both with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove both casserole and topping from refrigerator and uncover. Bake the bread casserole 35-45 minutes, or until set, but not brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle over the top:
1 cup fresh or frozen (no need to defrost) blueberries

Drop rounded spoonfuls of the topping roughly 1-1/2″ apart evenly over the casserole. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Cut and serve. Pass with (optional!) maple or blueberry-maple syrup.


RECIPE: Asparagus & Swiss Cheese Omelette

In the three months between the time that we bought the property that would become A Butler’s Manor and our official opening in late April, 2002, I was eager to develop a variety of breakfast entrees to introduce to our guests. To that end, I would scour through cookbooks and online sources, try recipes, tweak them if necessary, until eventually I developed my own repertoire of breakfast recipes.

Problem was, Chris comes from the school that states Thou Shalt Not Serve Thy Guest Something You Haven’t Perfected First…he was very nervous about my trying things for the first time on guests. Ergo, I practiced on us. For three months, every dinner I made was actually a breakfast until he started saying, “Oh no, not French Toast for dinner AGAIN!”

Now, I love breakfast, and could eat it any time of the day or night. (Thank goodness for diners and coffee shops.) Anyway, the upshot of this episode was that a) We opened for business with a good stable of recipes to start off, b) Chris has learned to trust my cooking (our guests have always been appreciative), and c) if I even mention that I’ve got a good breakfast recipe I want to try out at dinnertime, I instantly have an offer for a dinner date out. 🙂

Chris had to have one of those periodic preventative medical procedures this AM that meant he couldn’t have any dinner last night, so — whoo hoo! — last night, I made myself breakfast for dinner. We’ve been cutting fresh asparagus and chives from the garden, and so those became the featured ingredients in my omelette. I didn’t think to take a picture of it, but here’s what I made:


2 eggs*

1/8 tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tsp canola oil

2 Tbsp. shredded Swiss cheese*

2 stalks asparagus, cut diagonally into 1″ pieces and blanched in the microwave (about 40 seconds on high)

a small handful of frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives or scallions

Beat the eggs with the salt and pepper until frothy. Heat the oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add peppers and cook just until softened, perhaps two minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add eggs, swirling to coat pan, and cook, lifting sides to allow uncooked egg to run underneath until underside is set, about 1 minute.

Sprinkle the asparagus peppers, peas, and half of the cheese over one half of the omelette; fold the unfilled half over to enclose filling. Sprinkle with remainder of cheese. Cook until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Slide onto a plate, sprinkle with chives, and enjoy!

* BONUS: I’ve adapted this from the new Weight Watcher’s Momentum Cookbook — replace eggs with 1/2 cup Egg Beaters, and use a low-fat version of the cheese, and this very filling meal is only 3 points!

Chris may not agree with his fellow countryman here in Southampton, but Somerset Maugham and I are definitely on the same page:
Quote of the Day: If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts. — W. Somerset Maugham

Kim Allen