The Best Laid Plans – Our Non-Trip to Castle Hill and a Seared Steak with Mushroom Basil Cream Sauce

Steak cut up alongside buttered sweet potatoes

So last night was the much-anticipated Castle Hill Illuminated trip. We’d reserved it a few weeks ago, and learned that the “special night” is actually Solstice, but everyone knows that, so tickets were sold out long ago.  This is a special light, music and narration event at Castle Hill, the estate we saw in the distance back in November when we visited Crane Beach.

Castle Hill as seen from Crane Beach. I definitely used the telephoto lens on this one

Weather’s gonna weather

Obviously, no one can predict the weather. We bought the tickets and kept our fingers crossed. How could we resist? Campfires spread out across the grounds, hot cocoa, and coffee, and time by the ocean at night. It sounded like a winter adventure not to be missed. But alas, even though the snows and rains of the week promised to clear a few hours ahead of our reserved time, and the temps had risen to the 40s, we got a last minute email letting us know; the lawns were too wet from the melting snow and rain to allow people to walk on the grass. So, our evening got cancelled. Bummer. Although we understand the need to keep the property in good condition even in winter.

snow vista
We’d imagined our view of the ocean to be like this. Photo by Kelsey Johnson on

You can’t keep a campfire yearning down

What to do? We’d already received one delay notice because the COVID-19 restrictions reduced the number of people allowed at each showing. And they told us, there were no further available tickets after last night. Bummer again Until I remembered that we’d decided against doing the Frozen Fruitlands Nighttime firepits next weekend because we were going to Castle Hill. A quick check online and we discovered the nighttime events were all booked now. BUT they had daytime events. So we’re booked for a weekend in February, lunchtime, snow hiking (or maybe snowshoeing) and an hour by a firepit to warm up before heading home. Fingers crossed the weather will cooperate because February is a ways off.

a burning fire pit
A warm fire on a cold day in February will be welcome!

Sometimes it pays to take a chance

Did I tell you? Beth gave me a tagine for Christmas. Most women, as she pointed out, would not be happy receiving cookware as a gift. In fact, when I was younger my mother used to talk about ads she’d seen on TV and in papers that recommended giving your wife a new dishwasher or a vacuum cleaner for Christmas and how she’d love that (NOT!). Witness2Fashion has located some great examples of that advertising. My mother was NOT one to celebrate a clean house, or cooking. The thought makes me laugh, since I DO remember giving both of my parents a microwave as an anniversary gift, but that’s a whole other story.

Two glasses of champagne encircled with gold ribbon,
Picture a microwave sitting next to these two glasses! Photo by VisionPic .net on

In this year’s case though, Beth took a chance, and I was THRILLED. I’d been looking at tagines ever since a friend posted an amazing recipe online that she’d successfully made in her new tagine. Tada! There sat my cast iron tagine, with it’s bold 70s avocado enamel on the top, just waiting to be seasoned and put to good use.

My tagine sitting on the stove
The perfect Christmas surprise!

New Year’s Eve Dinner Extraordinaire!

A lot of discussion happened around the first dish to be made in that newest acquisition. We quickly decided – lamb! I’ll write about that in another post. But yesterday, when our plans for a beach side campfire and light show suddenly disappeared, or I should say transitioned into me going out to buy new hiking boots, I realized we had steak in the fridge. And we had a few leftover items I had no plans for. So once boots had been tried and purchased, we were up for a rather decadent dinner before we start our New Year’s Intention of eating healthier and losing some of the COVID 19!

Can’t wait to try these new boots out! Did you know your feet get bigger as you age?

Seared Steak with Mushroom Basil Cream Sauce


  • Steak – I used a “butcher’s special” discounted cut of London Broil (butcher’s special is meat that is nearing its sell by date), but whatever you choose
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 3 TB butter
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 ½ TB basil paste
  • 1 ½ cups sliced/chopped mushrooms
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 TB fat-free half and half
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet (I used the bottom of my tagine) on medium-high heat to smoking
  • While the pan is heating, salt and pepper your steak on both sides
  • Turn on the fans in the house, or get ready to flap towels at your smoke alarms
  • Add the butter and allow it to melt pretty completely (this takes seconds in a hot pan).
  • Add in the minced garlic and stir, then quickly but carefully lay the steak in the pan. Press the steak into the pan to make sure it’s making full contact. If you’re doing more than one steak, you’ll need to do one at a time.
London Broil in the cast iron pan with brown butter surrounding
A bit tougher cut, but it still came out great
  • Allow to cook for about 3 minutes, then use tongs to flip to the other side. While it’s cooking on this side, spoon some of the butter over the steak (but carefully tipping the pan to allow the juices and butter to collect)
  • Once the steak has reached the appropriate level of doneness (it usually takes 3 minutes per side for me) set on a separate plate to rest and create your sauce.
  • Lower heat a bit under the pan and add in the mushrooms, stirring.
  • Once the mushrooms have started to soften, add the basil butter and stir occasionally as they cook.
  • When the mushrooms have browned up nicely, add half and half, stirring to keep things moving.
  • Once well blended, stir in the parsley and cook until soft.
  • Serve the steak with the sauce poured over the top.
Steak cut up alongside buttered sweet potatoes
I like mine medium-rare, how about you?

We served microwaved sweet potatoes along side and it was amazing! But this kind of sauce is great with any side including potatoes, rice, or egg noodles. Plus a healthy vegetable of course!

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