Friday, April 25, 2014


No photos today, just one fabulous salad.  It is based on a recipe in Nick Stellino's Mediterranean Flavors.  I made it for our cooking club lunch yesterday and I was asked for the recipe.  So, here it is!

ROASTED PEAR SALAD.  Serves 4.  Wine Suggestion - Cabernet Sauvignon
*  1 tablespoon butter, melted
*  1 tablespoon honey
*  1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
*  4 firm pears, preferably Bosc, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
*  2 tablespoons dry sherry
*  2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (champagne vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar)
*  1 tablespoon light olive oil or vegetable oil
*  1/8 teaspoon black pepper
*  4-5 ounces arugula or baby salad greens (Loved the arugula!)
*  1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
*  1/3 cup of crumbled goat cheese (Gorgonzola and feta also work.)
*  1/3 cup prosciutto, cut into matchsticks
     Preheat the oven to 375º.   Toast pecans, stirring from time to time, for about 5 minutes.  Increase oven heat to 500ºF.  
     In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter, honey and cinnamon.  Add the pears and toss well.  When the oven is fully heated, spread the pear mixture on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing them once, halfway through.
     In the same bowl, combine the sherry, vinegar, oil and black pepper.  Add the roasted pears and stir to coat completely with the vinaigrette.  The recipe can be prepared to this point 1-2 days ahead of time.  Simply cover and refrigerate.  Remove from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before you plan to serve the salad.  For a warm salad, heat the pears in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
     The salad can be prepared while the pears are still warm or after they've cooled to room temperature.  To assemble, place a bed of the arugula on each serving plate and top with the pears.  Sprinkle with the pecans, cheese and prosciutto, drizzle with any of the remaining vinaigrette and serve.

It's lunchtime as I write this.  Hmmm... I wish I had leftovers.

Friday, April 11, 2014


The Minneapolis/St. Paul area has so much to offer and for all of you who think we have awful weather, now is the time to visit.  Spring has sprung and every day we see mother nature spreading her wings.  I love checking my garden every day to see how much the bulbs and other plantings have grown.  It is truly a delight!  

It is also time for the Como Conservatory Spring Flower Show.  Here is a little sampling of what is on display.

As beautiful as this is, the tulips bordering the center pond haven't opened yet.

The fragrance from the hyacinth was wonderful!

A variety of bonsai were on display in the outside courtyard.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


I'm a bit late for a St. Pat's Day staple, but Irish Soda Bread works well year round, and the beauty of it is that it is made with ingredients that are found in most kitchens, and it comes together very quickly.  Also, there is almost nothing better than home baked bread, fresh from the oven, slathered in butter!  

Irish Soda Bread is unique to Ireland.  It came into existence in the 1840's when bicarbonate of soda was first introduced to Ireland.  Bicarbonate of soda is used to leaven bread in lieu of yeast and kneading.  Using simple ingredients, even the poorest families could have bread at mealtimes.  Whole wheat or white flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk were the basic ingredients.   Irish immigrants who prospered in America began to add eggs, sugar, raisins and other ingredients.   The following recipe results in a delicious and quick Irish Soda Bread.

*  4 cups all-purpose flour
*  1 teaspoon baking soda
*  2 teaspoons baking powder
*  1 teaspoon salt
*  1/4 cup white sugar
*  2 eggs
*  1-1/4 cups buttermilk (See note below.)
*  1/4 cup vegetable/corn oil
*  1 cup raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Prepare baking sheet using silpat, parchment paper, or grease.  In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients (flour, soda, baking powder, salt and sugar).  In a small bowl, stir together the wet ingredients (eggs, buttermilk and oil).  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the buttermilk mixture; add the raisins if using; then stir all just until everything comes together.  Do not over-mix or the dough will become tough.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and with floured hands shape the dough into a ball.  Place it on the baking sheet, and cut a large cross in the top with a sharp knife.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.

The Irish were historically quite religious.  The cross cut in the top of the dough was made to ward off the devil and to protect the household.   I found that it resulted in a bread that was properly baked, inside and out. 

If you do not have buttermilk on hand, just add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk and allow it to stand for 10-15 minutes.  Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, simply microwave the mixture for about 30 seconds. 

The end result is a somewhat sweet, somewhat dense bread.  I haven't seen it sold locally, but who cares?!?  I can make it myself, and so can you!  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


For whatever reason, April 1 has been popular as "April Fools Day" since medieval times.  It is the day that people play practical jokes on each other.  In France and in French-speaking areas, the April 1 tradition has been depicted with a fish, and the day has been known as "April Fish" since that term was first coined by a French poet in 1508.  

This is a vintage postcard made in France.  It is a real photo that has been hand-painted.

The middle postcard was postmarked Williamsport, PA in 1907.  The lower postcard was mailed in France in 1905.


I just got back from visiting the Macy's annual flower show titled "The Secret Garden."  There was nothing very "secret" about this garden!  Not here in Minnesota!  Not after this winter (with a snow storm in the forecast)!  It seemed that the entire state was lined up to get in!  Actually, it wasn't clear why this was called "The Secret Garden."   Nevertheless, we so much appreciate Macy's and Bachman's putting on this annual flower show.  Please enjoy this post... away from the crowds!


Very tall "bride" with trailing gown of red flowers.


Notice the "80"?

This probably qualifies as a "secret" garden.