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:

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!