Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Here is a really easy, yet very good, non-alcoholic party beverage.  I have had it many times and most recently served it at our cooking club holiday luncheon.

CIDER CITRUS SPARKLE PUNCH.  Makes 24 (4 oz.) servings.
*  2 quarts (8 cups) apple cider, chilled
*  6 oz. can lemonade concentrate, thawed
*  28 oz. bottle ginger ale, chilled
Ice cubes or mold.
     In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine cider and lemonade concentrate.  Add ginger ale and ice; stir to blend.  If desired, garnish with apple or lemon slices.

How easy is that?!?

P.S.  It is now December 26 and I've been going through some of my holiday cookbooks to put together a brunch menu and to find an appetizer recipe for New Years Eve.  In that process, I came across the recipe above for Cider Citrus Sparkle Punch and can now give you the source:  Pillsbury Classics No. 13, "Festive Holiday Recipes."   Thanks, Pillsbury, for a great recipe!!

Monday, December 17, 2012


One of the most fun lunches our cooking club has is the holiday lunch in December.  The theme is appetizers but we also included soup and  holiday cookies.  Sounds great, right?!

Here are some photos to get you hungry!

Hummus Dip & Pita Bread.

Filled Puff Pastry.

Spicy-Orange Chicken Cups.  Recipe below.

Mushroom & Goat Cheese in Phyllo Cups.

Leek Torte.

Baked olives.

Fruit & Mascarpone on puff pastry.

Hungry yet???

If you want the recipe for any of these appetizers, let me know.  I'm sure the cooking club members would be happy to accommodate your request.  Otherwise, here is the recipe for the Orange-Chicken Cups, shown above on the red plate.

SPICY ORANGE-CHICKEN CUPS.  Makes 16 appetizers.
Source.  Bake-off entry from Paula Naumann of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota.
*  1 teaspoon sesame oil
*  1/2 pound skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/4" pieces
*  4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
*  1/3 cup sweet orange marmalade
*  1 teaspoon soy sauce
*  1 teaspoon cooking sherry
*  1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
*  1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes [I used 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper.]
*  1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (8 rolls)
*  1 teaspoon sesame seeds
     In nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add chicken and onions; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Lower heat to medium-low; stir in marmalade, soy sauce, sherry, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.  Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened and chicken is no longer pink in center.  Remove from heat.
     Meanwhile, unroll dough into 4 rectangles.  Cut each rectangle into quarters by making another diagonal cut to the perforation to make a total of 16 triangles.
     Heat oven to 375º.  Lightly spray 16 mini-muffin cups with no-stick cooking spray.
     Press largest part of each dough triangle in bottom and up side of muffin cup, leaving triangle points extended over cup.  Fill each cup with about 1 tablespoon chicken mixture.  For each cup, slightly stretch points of triangles to make longer; twist points together and place on top of filling.  Spray shaped rolls lightly with cooking spray; sprinkle with sesame seeds.
     Bake 11 to 19 minutes or until golden brown.  Carefully remove from pan to serving plate.  Cool 5 minutes before serving.  Serve warm.

Friday, December 14, 2012


We all know that recipes get recycled in any number of ways - "Jane's Chocolate Chip Cookies" may actually be "Nestle's Chocolate Chip Cookies" and so on.  A number of years ago I clipped out a recipe for "Santa's Whiskers" from a local realtor's newsletter.  A few years after that I printed out a recipe on-line from Martha Stewart "Cookie of the Week:  Cranberry Noels".   A few days ago I was going through my holiday cookie recipes and realized that these two recipes are the same, with very minor revisions!  One used salted butter and no salt, while the other used unsalted butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  One cut down on the sugar from 1 cup to 1/2 cup.   The Martha Stewart recipe gives attribution to Kara Kuster in Chicago, who created the recipe and named it after her sister, Kim Noel.  We will never know who actually developed the recipe, or when.

Well, not to be outdone, I have combined these two recipes and am calling it "Sugar Cookies with Dried Fruit" (Okay, I'm not nearly as creative in naming things!!!).  This recipe is drawn from the other two recipes.   The cookies are very easy to make and a pretty holiday cookie.

*  1 cup salted butter
*  1 teaspoon rum extract (if unavailable, use vanilla extract)
*  1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
*  3/4 cup flaked coconut
*  1/2 cup sugar
*  2 tablespoons milk
*  2-1/2 cups sifted flour
*  3/4 cup finely chopped mixed dried fruit (red & green candied cherries/cranberried/choice)

Cream butter and sugar in mixer bowl; blend in milk and rum extract .  Stir in flour, dried fruit and pecans.  Form into 2 logs, each 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long.  Roll in coconut, pressing lightly to coat the outside of the logs.  Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill for several hours, until firm.

Heat oven to 375º.  Using a sharp knife, cut logs into 1/4 inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until edges are golden.  Cool slightly on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling.


Monday, December 3, 2012


A couple months ago I harvested our bluebell grapes and made grape juice.  Too busy to do anything with the juice at the time, I froze it - until now.  Time to make grape sorbet!   Begin by thawing the grape juice.

*  3 cups homemade grape juice
*  1/4 cup superfine sugar
*  2 tablespoons lemon juice
*  2 tablespoons orange cointreau or other orange liquor
Add grape juice, sugar and lemon juice to a bowl and mix well to incorporate the sugar.  Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and run for about 1/2 hour or until mixture thickens.  Add cointreau* and continue to mix until the cointreau is well incorporated into the sorbet.  Put all into a storage container and place in your freezer.

Next time you're over, ask me for a taste!

*    Alcohol inhibits the freezing process.  To add alcohol to a recipe, do so in the last minutes of freezing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


First of all, I hope that you all had a happy Thanksgiving.  It's too bad that Thanksgiving isn't a tradition around the world since the two main themes - FOOD and BEING THANKFUL - are universal, or could be, or should be!!

Second, here is a tip for making your Thanksgiving meal easier.  Make the gravy ahead of time!   This is the recipe that I make and it always turns out great.  It can be made ahead of time and frozen; and it can be made as "vegetarian" by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth.  For greater richness, add the juices from your cooked turkey.

MUSHROOM THYME GRAVY.  Makes about 4 cups/Serves about 8.
*  2 tablespoons butter
*  1 small onion, chopped
*  1 tablespoon minced garlic
*  8 oz fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
*  2 oz dried shitake/porcini mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced
*  2 (14-1/2 oz each) cans of chicken broth (as needed)
*  1/3 cup flour
*  1-1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
     Rehydrate dried mushrooms by covering them with boiling water and letting them rest for a half hour or so until they are tender.  Remove and slice the mushrooms, but save the mushroom broth to use here.
     Over medium heat melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until tender.  Add the garlic and mushrooms (and dried thyme, if using) and cook an additional 5 minutes or until tender.
     Put flour in a large jar and add mushroom and chicken broth to nearly fill the jar.  Cover the jar and shake vigorously until the flour has fully mixed into the broth.  Raise heat under the mushrooms and, while stirring, slowly pour the flour mixture and some of the remaining broth into the mushrooms, along with the fresh thyme.  Cook, stirring frequently, until gravy reaches desired consistency.  If the gravy is too thick, add additional broth or juices from the turkey; if the gravy is too thin, continue boiling the gravy.  This could take a while if too much broth has been added.

I hope you will give this a try and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I have no idea why I continue to clip cookie recipes - particularly ones that duplicate what I already have and love.  For example, a number of years ago I decided to make all of the recipes I had at the time for Snickerdoodles, then decide which recipe I loved, and finally throw out all of the rest.  Hmmm... not so easy; but  I managed to narrow it down to three!  Each recipe was delicious, but in different ways.

My cooking club bake sale was yesterday and I decided to bring snickerdoodles.  In going through my recipes I found seven recipes for snickerdoodles!  It seems I have continued clipping out recipes for them, even though I already had three great recipes.  So, did I make one of my old recipes?  No...  curiosity got the best of me.  Here's the recipe I made.

SNICKERDOODLES.  Makes 4-1/2 dozen.
1 cup softened butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
     Preheat oven to 375º.  Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating well.  Add eggs, milk, and vanilla, beating well.
     Combine flour, baking powder, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.
     Combine 3 tablespoons sugar and 1-1/2 tablespoons cinnamon in a small bowl.  Roll dough into 1-1/4-inch balls, and roll in sugar mixture.  Place on ungreased baking sheets, and flatten slightly.
     Bake at 375º for 11 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks, and cool completely.


Unbaked and Baked.


Right out of the oven I didn't especially like the cookies.  After cooling, though, and especially on the following day (today), the flavor of the cookies improved.  I can also report that the cookies promptly sold at the bake sale last night.

Now the question:  Do I save this recipe to add to my others?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


This was a great year for our apples.  In the Spring we had a late frost that killed off many of the buds on the trees, leaving far fewer than usual.  That resulted in fewer, but bigger, apples.  I've made the usual applesauce and a variety of apple desserts, but this recipe for a fruity, crusty and gooey cake was the best of the season.  Sorry that I have no pictures... The cake was gone in a flash!

1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
1-1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups flour
6 cups peeled and chopped apples
Sauce Mixture:
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream (for whipped cream topping)
     Preheat the oven to 325º.  Grease a 9"x13" pan.
     In a frying pan over low-medium heat, toast the pecans until they begin to color and become fragrant, about 7 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
     In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the shortening and granulated sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.  Sift together the baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour, and beat into the sugar mixture.
     Fold in the chopped apples and the nuts.  The mixture will be stiff.
     In a medium saucepan, stir together the brown sugar and the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Add the butter, vanilla and water, stir, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Boil gently for 3 minutes, stirring often.
     Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan.  Pour the hot sauce evenly over the batter.  Do not stir.  Bake 1 hour.
     Make whipped cream to use as topping.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


It was my turn to "host" our cooking club so I pulled out my Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and selected a menu of recipes.  Here was the menu:

*  Algo Bouido (Garlic Soup)
*  Bouchees Parmentier au Fromage (Potato Cheese Sticks)
*  Celery Root Remoulade
*  Gratin Aux Fruits de Mer (Gratin of Seafood)
*  Epinards A La Basquaise (Gratin of Spinach and Potatoes)
*  Carottes Glacees (Glazed Carrots)
*  Clafouti (Fruit Flan)

On Thursday, everyone arrived for our lunch with their dish.

 Garlic Soup with Potato Cheese Sticks.

Celery Root Remoulade.

 Glazed Carrots.

 Gratin of Spinach and Potatoes.

 Gratin of Seafood.

Apple Clafouti.

As we know, Julia Child spent years perfecting her recipes for American cooks.  Despite her best efforts, some of us found it necessary to tweak the recipes to achieve a better outcome.    All in all, this was a delicious meal!  Thank you, Julia!

If you want any of the recipes, please send an email request to me at:   www.foodie-bee@mail.com

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence" by Amy Sedaris - a Book Review

Having read a number of books by David Sedaris, I was interested in this book by his sister, Amy.  It particularly appealed to me because the focus of the book is on entertaining, which I love to do.  If you enjoy David Sedaris' books, you will also enjoy this book;  it is wildly entertaining, outrageous, vulgar, clever, and has references to drugs and alcohol, just like David's books.  Midway through the book, I paused and asked myself whether I should continue reading the book since there were few things regarding entertaining that I didn't already know, and I have more than enough recipes to last my lifetime.  The answer was - because I really enjoyed her writing!  So, if you think you will have problems with the humor, don't bother with this book.  In addition, buying this book as a gift could be tricky since this type of humor may not be appreciated by the recipient.

Otherwise, the book is absolutely chock full of information, tips, suggestions, recipes, and all aspects of entertaining.  There is everything from guest etiquette, to mottoes for living, to gift ideas (hilarious!), to dealing with unexpected guests, to party themes with related recipes, to selecting music for the party, to decorations.

Included are over 100 recipes which span the spectrum:  from easy things like popcorn, hot tea, baked potatoes, and southern fried chicken, to more involved recipes like pastitsio, fennel and arugula salad, and cinnamon sour cream coffee cake.

The craft ideas are mostly kitchy:  tissue ghosts, paperclip necklaces, pantyhose plant hangers, paper aprons and the like.

Despite the humorous tone of the book, the etiquette suggestions are excellent and more people really need to be aware of them - things like how to introduce guests to each other, the importance of the RSVP, how to say goodbye when the party is over, and so on.

In summary, the book is a fast and entertaining read, and a good source of recipes for entertaining.  Used copies are available at Amazon.com for just a few dollars.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Does this look good?  It's herring in sour cream with fried potatoes and a mixed vegetable salad.

Today it seems that most people in Germany speak English.  That was not the case when I first visited Germany.  At the time, menus were also not in English and I had an interesting time deciding which foods to order.  It resulted in me eating quite a few things that I wasn't expecting.  I remember one meal in particular.  It was a large plate of warm herring in sour cream sauce, with boiled potatoes and a side vegetable.  Fortunately, I really love herring and was thrilled to have it served in that manner.  In the U.S. herring is mostly found in small jars and the cold herring is served as an appetizer.  Not in Germany though!

On our recent visit to Germany I was looking forward to again having herring as a main dish.  I was not disappointed!  I don't know where to order fresh herring in the U.S. but here is a recipe for the appetizer herring we're used to.  The benefit of this recipe is that you have more control over the flavor than if you simply purchased herring in sour cream.

HERING IN SAURER SAHNE (Herring in Sour Cream).  Serves 4.
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 medium sweet onion, cut into thin rings
2 (5 oz.) jars herring in wine sauce, drained
Combine sour cream, vinegar and sugar; blend well.  Add onion.  Arrange herring on serving dishes.  Spoon sour cream mixture over herring.
Garnish with sliced apple (see photo above).

Monday, October 8, 2012


I never thought that potatoes would be so ubiquitous in Germany.  Just about every meal we ate out came with potatoes, mostly fried, but also mashed or made into gnocchi.  It would not surprise me if there were as many recipes for German potato salad as there are families in Germany.  Not to be outdone, below is the recipe for German Potato Salad that our family has used.  It is really, really good!!

3 slices of bacon, diced
3 tablespoons of onion
1 rounded tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup water
2+ cups boiled potatoes, diced or sliced
Fry bacon and onion until light brown.  Add flour and mix well.  Add sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper and water. When well blended, add potatoes.  Heat thoroughly.  May be served hot or cold but I prefer hot or room temp.

Friday, October 5, 2012


We are just back from Germany and over the next few posts I'll be sharing photos and recipes.  Being away has left me with a very long to-do list, though, so for today I'll keep my post short.  Desserts of Germany - Enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Today we brought in our first grape harvest of the season.  Four years ago we planted a Bluebell grapevine and it's been a good producer.  Bluebell is a table grape and, unfortunately, it has seeds, making for more work.  Last year I used our entire harvest to make grape sorbet.  Delicious!!!  This year we have a lot more to harvest so the first thing I made, today, was grape juice.   Here's the process.

*  Pick the ripe grapes off the stems,  and put them in a large pot.  Mash them with a potato masher.  This was my first problem  - I don't have a potato masher.  Not a big problem though,  I simply put the grapes into my old vintage ricer, crushed the grapes, then dumped the crushed grapes into the pot.

*  The next step is to cook the grapes.  Put the pot on the stove, cover the pot, and bring the heat up to a simmer.  Simmer for ten (10) minutes.

*  Next, the mixture needs to get strained.  This was my second problem.  I planned to use cheesecloth over my pasta strainer, until I looked for my cheesecloth and realized that I had used it up.  So, I got out my large sieve with a fine mesh  and slowly strained the mixture into a bowl.  When that was done, I put it all into a large jar to refrigerate it for use.

The juice is delicious and sweet without adding any sugar.  It is organic and healthy.  This would also be a good base to make sorbet.  That will be my job for the next grape harvest.

P.S.  After posting this I bought a potato masher and made another batch of the grape juice.  The potato masher is the way to go!

Saturday, September 1, 2012


There are so many websites dealing with health and medical issues but one, in particular, stands out - MayoClinic.com.  I subscribe to their free on-line newsletter called "Housecall" which covers a wide variety of interesting topics.  There is also a "symptom checker" that can quickly lead to excellent information on particular maladies.  The newsletter also offers healthy recipes including the following recipe for an agua fresca.


Dietitian's tip:Aguas frescas are popular fresh-fruit drinks in Mexico. Although water is a standard ingredient, this undiluted version is a thirst-quenching refresher whether accompanying spicy foods or sipped in the sun.


    • 2 1/2 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed and diced (about 7 cups)
    • 1 cup fruit-sweetened cranberry juice (sometimes called cranberry nectar)
    • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
    • 1 lime, cut into 6 slices


Place the melon in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Pass the puree through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl to eliminate the pulp and clarify the juice. Pour the juice into a large pitcher. Add the cranberry and lime juices and stir to combine. Refrigerate until very cold. Pour into tall chilled glasses and garnish each with a fresh lime slice.

Nutritional analysis per serving

Calories94Sodium5 mg
Total fat0 gTotal carbohydrate23 g
Saturated fat0 gDietary fiber0 g
Monounsaturated fat0 gProtein1 g
Cholesterol0 mg

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


There is so much information available today on food production and my decision to read about it in book form wasn't easy.  One can become depressed, angered, feel powerless, and all sorts of other emotions that are unpleasant when reading about what has been happening in the food sector.  In deciding to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver I was influenced by the fact that the technical information would be couched in a casual narrative of this family's year of eating "local" and growing their own food.

Kingsolver presents a plethora of information on all aspects of the food industry.  Here are a few passages from the book:
*  Modern U.S. consumers now get to taste less than 1 percent of the vegetable varieties that were grown here a century ago.
*  Six companies - Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Mitsui, Aventis, and Dow - now control 98 percent of the world's seed sales.
*  An estimated 67 million birds die each year from pesticide exposure on U.S. farms.

Kingsolver's family took a vow to eat only foods grown and produced locally which meant that they needed to radically change their diets. No more bananas, salmon and many other foods that they were used to.  In addition to their other life tasks (work, school, etc.) they now also needed to plant, tend and harvest their food.   They needed to cook their meals rather than to eat at restaurants.  They needed to prepare their produce for long-term storage.  Their trials and rewards are all recorded.

Daughter, Camille, assumes a key role in the book, adding sidebars of her own, and tackling such topics as whether potatoes are good for us (due to high nutritional value) or bad for us (due to their high glycemic index, their ability to make us gain weight, and their contribution to type II diabetes).  She points out that eating potato skins isn't always safe since conventional potatoes are among the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables.  Since this family grows their own, their potatoes are safe.  Camille includes seasonal recipes for potato salad.  Recipes from the book can also be found at www.animalvegetablemiracle.com.

Camille, a vegetarian, experienced difficulties with her friends over her food preferences.  Apparently, they felt that she was becoming too vociferous in her views.  After careful consideration, Camille decides that it is best to be less judgmental of others, to present her views as less of a mandate and more of a "choice" based on full knowledge.

Despite the heaviness of the topic, Kingsolver manages to present the material in a charming, readable manner, occasionally incorporating wit.  One small example - she includes a New York saying:  "A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat."

Two thumbs up for this book.

By the way, you may already be familiar with Barbara Kingsolver.  She has written twelve books of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction including the novels "The Poisonwood Bible" and "The Bean Trees."

Monday, August 20, 2012


Mondays can be trying with work and all, so I thought you may enjoy a little cartoon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Perhaps the most celebrated chef of our time is Julia Child who passed away August 13, 2004, two days shy of her 92nd birthday.  Had she lived, today she would be celebrating her 100th birthday.  Read a short bio of Julia at:  http://www.biography.com/people/julia-child-9246767
See also a fun PBS video at:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2267156929

In her honor, today I am posting a recipe for Clafoutis, a French fruit flan.  The recipe comes from her preeminent book:

Quoting from the book:  "The clafouti which is traditional in the Limousin during the cherry season is peasant cooking for family meals, and about as simple a dessert to make as you can imagine:  a pancake batter poured over fruit in a fireproof dish, then baked in the oven.  It looks like a tart, and is usually eaten warm."

CLAFOUTI.  Serves 6 to 8.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Place the following ingredients in your blender jar in the order in which they are listed.  Cover and blend at top speed for 1 minute.
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour

Pour a 1/4 inch layer of batter in a 7-8 cup lightly buttered baking dish or pie plate about 1-1/2 inches deep. Set over a moderate heat for a minute or two until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish.  Remove from heat.

On top of the batter spread:
3 cups pitted black cherries [Other fruits can be substituted.]
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Pour on the rest of the batter and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.  Place in middle position of preheated oven and bake for an hour.  The clafouti is done when it has puffed and browned, and a needle or knife plunged into its center comes out clean.  Sprinkle top of clafouti with powdered sugar just before bringing it to the table.  (The clafouti need not be served hot, but should still be warm.  It will sink down slightly as it cools.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I just received an email from a foodie friend in Alaska.  She sent two recipes that sound so good, I'm posting them without even trying them.  Here's the challenge for you.  Test out the recipes and leave a comment for the rest of us.  If you made changes, let us know!

1/2 pint concentrated apple juice
1 watermelon quarter, diced
1/2 cup of ice, optional (Note:  Crush ice before blending as large chunks may harm blades.)
Blend all ingredients together until smooth.  Very refreshing on a hot summer day!

WATERMELON MIMOSA.  Makes 2 to 3 cocktails.
1 cup watermelon juice (pureed, strained)
1/2 cup light champagne (preferably not Brut, but rather Asti or similar)
Divide watermelon juice among 2 to 3 champagne flutes.  Fill with champagne and Enjoy!
Thanks Debra!  Just in time for watermelon harvest!

Friday, July 13, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: "Take Big Bites" by Linda Ellerbee

Linda Ellerbee is a journalist first, then a producer and author.  As such, she sees the world with her eyes wide open – from the big picture beauty of Santorini Island from her bedroom window, to the focused caviar bites on Malcolm Forbes’ yacht.  The title of the book says it all “Take Big Bites – Adventures Around the World and Across the Table.”  She is at once charming, irreverent, funny and completely engaging. 

Weaved throughout the book are very real tales of her childhood in 1950’s Texas, her hippy days in the ‘60’s, her long-lasting childhood friendships, her divorces and then, finally, successful marriage, her parenting experiences, her experience with breast cancer, and the challenges of travel.  She takes us from her home town in Texas to Italy, Turkey, Paris, Bolivia, France, and the list goes on. 

An almost minor thread throughout the book is the food she ate.  She shares the recipes, all of which sound delicious and appear very easy to make.  The major thread throughout the book is the message in the life she has led, and that is to “take big bites,” to live life completely, and to never hold back.  That focus makes this a very, very readable book!

I won’t tell the story behind this recipe… It’s a good one! 

SUPER FRESH COLD CREAM-OF-TOMATO WATERMELON SOUP.  Makes 2 quarts, more or less.  “Follow the recipe below or buy the tomato soup at a good takeaway market.  For homemade soup, I use canned tomatoes.  So shoot me.  Everything else is fresh”  L. Ellberbee.
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes (preferably Italian) and their liquid
1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
4 large shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth (if using canned broth, don’t add salt until the very end; you may not need any)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and cayenne to taste
1 quart chopped, seeded watermelon
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 lime
Fresh mint, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 450º.  Spread the tomatoes on a nonstick cookie sheet, reserving their liquid.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar.  Bake 30 minutes.  Peel off the tomatoes and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Heat the butter in a saucepan on low.  Add the shallots and tomato paste.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened.  Add the flour and whisk until everything is combined.  Whisk in the chicken stock, the juice from the tomato cans, and the roasted tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender.  Add salt and cayenne to taste.
  3. Stir in the cream.  Let it sit until it’s room temperature and then put in the refrigerator to chill.
  4. When the soup is chilled (overnight works best), put it in the blender, in batches, with the seeded watermelon chunks.
  5. Serve the soup cold.  Thin the sour cream with lime juice and water until it is the consistency of heavy cream and then drizzle it in ribbons over the top of the soup.  Scatter chopped mint over the whole bowl.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


We have a number of beautiful public gardens in the Twin Cities and the Bakken Museum & Gardens is among them.  Centrally located on the west shore of Lake Calhoun, at the corner of West Calhoun Parkway and 36th Street in Minneapolis, the focus of the museum is on electricity.  While interesting, I was more interested in the mansion itself and the gardens.

The museum is housed in a beautiful English Tudor, European Gothic Revival mansion that was built between 1928 and 1930.  The museum is surrounded by gardens, however, there are four distinct gardens.  The Healthy Heart Organic Garden is a seasonal organic vegetable garden.  The Florence Bakken Medicinal Garden is comprised of plants that were or are used for medicinal purposes.

A wetland area is the setting for the Dakota Native Plants Garden.  Finally, the Green Energy Art Garden is an interactive "sculpture" garden with an educational focus.  This was a photo I took from a large kaleidoscope.

On hot days like today you may want to consider calling a friend and visiting the Bakken Museum and Gardens.  Truly lovely!

For more information go to:  http://www.thebakken.org

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Happy 4th of July!  Today we celebrate our country's gaining of independence from Great Britain in 1776, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  It is a good day for celebrating with family and friends, and for watching fireworks!  We will be going to our friends, the Andersons', for their annual 4th of July party.  Every year they grill a big turkey and we all bring potluck.  I'm bringing Mary Steenburgen's Corn Spoon Pudding from her recipe in "Potluck at Midnight Farm - celebrating food, family, and friends on Martha's Vineyard."  I already had a piece; and it is delicious.  As you can tell from the recipe, this could not be easier to make!

"This is a recipe I grew up with in Arkansas.  It is an absolutely guaranteed smash hit.  I've made it for all kinds of people who take one bite and instantly want the recipe.  It's a little embarrassing to hand it over, since it reads:  Open a box of this and a can of that.  But trust me, it's the best cornbread you'll ever have."  Mary Steenburgen
1 (8.5 oz) box corn muffin mix
1 (7.5 oz) can whole kernel corn
1 (7.5 oz) can creamed corn
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Swiss Cheese (I substituted pepper jack cheese.)
2 tablespoons chopped chive (This wasn't in Mary's recipe but I added it.)
     Heat the oven to 350º.  Combine all of the ingredients except the cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Pour into a lightly greased 9x13" baking dish.  Bake for 35 minutes.
     Sprinkle grated cheese on top and bake 10 minutes more.  You will know it's done when a toothpick comes out clean.  Serve warm.
NOTE:   In my oven, the dish was done after 35 minutes so I simply sprinkled the cheese on top, it melted, and I ate a piece.  Delicious!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


There are many things that I love about shopping at Costco including the many organic foods, the high quality fresh produce and the tasting samples, to name a few of the things.  The thing that I have the most problem with is the portion sizes.  It is challenging for a family of only two to use the fresh produce in a timely manner.  A person has to be proactive and creative!  For example, a large bunch of asparagus can be roasted one day, and the next day a soup can be made out of the remainder which can be frozen for later use.

As you can see in the picture below, I had to find something to do with the very ripe left-over bananas that we bought at Costco.  Banana bread was the logical option.  This recipe is my favorite banana bread recipe as it makes two large loaves (one for freezing), and I can add whatever I have on hand or whatever I choose.  I only had a couple maraschino cherries so I added chopped dried cherries as well.  I had semisweet chocolate chips but I decided to also use bittersweet chips because I like them.  If you make this recipe, feel free to substitute whatever you'd like for the nuts, cherries and chocolate chips.  You will love this recipe!

BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP FRUIT BREAD.  Makes 2 large loaves or 4 smaller loaves.
1 c. butter, at room temperature
2 c. granulated sugar
4 eggs, beaten
6 ripe bananas, mashed
4 c. all-purpose or unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. chocolate chips
10 oz. maraschino cherries, rinsed, drained, dried and halved

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add beaten eggs and bananas.  Sift flour and soda together; stir into butter mixture.  Fold nuts, chips and cherries into batter.  Divide batter into two greased 9- by 5-inch loaf pans or four 7-1/2 by 3-3/4 by 2-1/4-inch loaf pans.

Bake at 350ºF until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and bread starts to pull away from sides of pan; about 65 minutes for the larger loaves and about 50-55 minutes for the smaller loaves.  Rest in pans for a few minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

Then enjoy with your favorite cup of tea or coffee.

Did I mention that this is a very easy recipe?  It is!

Monday, May 21, 2012


Once again it is time to harvest rhubarb and I have quite a bit to use!  Yesterday my niece came over and we baked Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake.  The recipe is from The Joy of Rhubarb by Theresa Millang.  I'm not going to recommend the book as I've made a number of its recipes and have found that most of them require modifications.  That is true for this recipe as well.  I found the cake to be too sweet.  Thus, if you decide to make the cake, you will want to reduce the sugar.  That said, here it is one day after we baked the cake and it was gone by 8: a.m. this morning!

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake.  Serves 8.
2/3 cup boiling water
1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups fresh rhubarb, diced
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup corn oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour mixed in a bowl with:
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350º.  Pour boiling water over oatmeal in a bowl; cover and let stand 20 minutes.
Stir melted butter and granulated sugar in an 8-inch square baking pan.  Sprinkle with rhubarb.
In a large bowl, beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, corn oil, vanilla and egg.  Add oat mixture; beat well.  Add flour mixture; beat just to combine.  Carefully pour mixture over rhubarb.  Bake about 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes.  Run a knife along sides of pan to loosen cake.  Carefully invert cake onto a cake plate.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.  Refrigerate leftovers.