Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Two Pesto Recipes and A Book Recommendation

Pesto Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes
Cook's notes: This is an easy appetizer where the filling can be made ahead as well as the prep for the tomatoes. Substitute a zip loc quart bag with a corner snipped for a pastry bag and pipe filling on the tomatoes. 
Recipe from Midwest Living 
  • 30 cherry tomatoes 
  • 1/2 medium avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut up
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons homemade or purchased basil pesto
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Snipped fresh basil 
  • Cut a thin slice from the top of each tomato. (If desired, cut a thin slice from bottoms of tomatoes so they stand upright.) With a small spoon or small lemon baller carefully hollow out the tomatoes. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Invert tomatoes on the towels. Let stand 30 minutes to drain.
  • Meanwhile, for filling, in a food processor bowl combine avocado, cream cheese, pesto, and lemon juice. Cover; process until smooth. Spoon filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or open star tip.
  • Place tomatoes, open sides up, on a serving platter. Pipe filling into the tomato cups. Serve immediately or cover loosely and refrigerate up to 4 hours before serving. Sprinkle with snipped basil before serving. Makes 25-30 appetizers.
Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Walnut Pesto

Cook's notes: Walnuts add an earthiness to the sauce and a heart healthy alternative to pine nuts.
Recipes serves 2 and was adapted from yvettesgourmetkitchen.wordpress.com
  • 2  cups whole wheat penne pasta (dry) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh walnut pieces
  • 2 cups chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or lemon olive oil

  • Place the garlic, salt, pepper, walnuts, basil, lemon juice and cheese in a food processor. Slowly pour the olive oil over the whole mixture. Cover and process for about 30 seconds. Remove cover and with a rubber spatula scrape the sides down. Cover and process for another 30 seconds.
  • Cook pasta according to directions, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and add 4 tablespoons of the pesto into the pasta. Mix well to incorporate the pesto. Serve with some additional grated Parmesan cheese and some basil.

Bon Appetit!
Paula McLain, author of the bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new historical fiction novel that transports readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. 
Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.
A book for your list! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Writing in the Garden and Pesto Appetizers

Just imagine yourself sitting in one of these chairs
beside this lush garden
and waterfall. It certainly was an inspiring setting for penning one's thoughts.  
This past weekend I had an opportunity to participate in a unique writing retreat  Day of Writing in the Garden at the home of Bev Abear, writer and artist,Brainerd, MN. The class was facilitated by Candace Simar, author and poet (on left) and her sister Angela Foster, author and poet (on right). 
The class included instruction on what a writer needs  to look for during the revision process. Participants were able to submit original work for critique.  
I heard one person comment " Angela's editing experience and Candy's experiences are invaluable. We are so privileged. "
Steamy hot weather did give the group an excuse to retreat inside to savor the AC (did not dampen our spirits) plus time was set aside to share work and network with other writers. 
 Participants also had the opportunity to purchase books by Candace Simar
  http://candacesimar.com/books/ plus her newest book "Shelterbelts"

"Farm Girls" co-authored by Candace Simar and Angela Foster 
"Growing Up Catholic" by Niomi Rohn Phillips.
What a wonderful way to spend the day talking about books, writing and sharing ideas with other writers.

Pesto Pinwheels
Cook's notes: These are easy, delicious, and look beautiful on an appetizer platter. They also can be made up a day ahead, which makes them a great choice for party preparations recipe from theyummylife.com/blog/2010/09/31
  • 2 TB. of pesto either homemade or store bought
  • 8 oz. package of cream cheese or Neufchtel cream cheese (Neufchatel is softer than regular cream cheese and has 1/3 less fat)
  • 1 jar of roasted red peppers or pimentos, drained and patted dry on a paper towel 
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 4-6 flour tortillas (I used both white and whole wheat)
  • Bring cream cheese to room temperature and mix it with the pesto. Stir until well combined. Spread the pesto mixture on each tortilla. Approx. 4 tablespoons of spread for a 7" tortilla--adjust according to the size of your tortillas. Cut roasted peppers into 1/4" wide strips and put them on top of the spread, approx. 1" apart, covering the entire tortilla. (Or, sprinkle chopped pimentos over the spread.) 
  • Sprinkle each tortilla with chopped walnuts (approx. 1/8 cup per 7" tortilla). Roll up each tortilla into a tube shape. Wrap each roll individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. To serve, cut each tortilla roll into 1 to 1-1/2 inch pieces. Place on serving plate cut side up.
  • These tortillas rolls can be made up a day ahead and refrigerated until it's time to cut them at serving time.

Pesto Crostini
This easy, delicious appetizer can be prepared in a matter of minutes. Recipe from 
the yummylife.com

  • 1-2 baguettes, sliced
  • 1 cup pesto (purchase prepared pesto or homemade)
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (Parmesan may be substituted)
  • Place baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast under oven broiler until lightly browned; flip them over and toast the other side. 
  • Spread the tops with pesto, then sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Return to oven and broil until cheese has melted.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Basil Plant

Basil is one of the great culinary herbs. Many Italian recipes contain basil. It has been grown for many thousands of years all over the tropical zones.
Basil was first mentioned in English writing in the mid-seventeenth century and in American literature about 100 years later. Basil is considered sacred in the Hindu cultures, believed by many to be a favorite of their gods. In some cultures basil is a sign of love and devotion between young couples.

Cook's notes: Rain and warm weather has provided just the right conditions for my basil plants to grow. This pesto recipe was quite easy to put together. Any extra can be refrigerated in a screw type jar up to one week. 
This week's postings will feature recipes using pesto. 
Homemade Pesto
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or lemon olive oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Blend the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Pour oil in slowly while still mixing (or a little at a time, then mix, then more oil, then mix again, etc). Scrape down the sides, then add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Taste and add more salt/pepper if desired.
  • Make ahead/storing: Store leftover pesto in a jar, tightly seal, and refrigerate for up to a week. Freeze the pesto for up to 2-3 months. You can freeze it in greased ice cube trays and thaw small portions at a time.
Cooking Tips::
  • Instead of basil, try other greens like spinach or arugula.
  • Instead of pine nuts, I love using walnuts. You can also try pecans, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free pesto, try edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.
  • Other tasty pesto variations: try adding your favorite herbs like cilantro, mint, or parsley. Add your favorite spices like cayenne, ground ginger, or paprika. Or add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
Pesto Zucchini and Corn Quinoa Salad
A light healthy zucchini and corn quinoa salad in a bright lemon-y basil pesto dressing that makes good use of summer produce. It can be served as a side or a main dish.
It serves 4 and recipe adapted from closetcooking.com.
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1- 3/4 cups chicken broth 
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup sweet onions diced
  • 2 cups zucchini ,diced
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • optional 1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes, patted dry on a paper towel 
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3-4 TB basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 TB. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Bring the water and quinoa to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the quinoa is tender and has absorbed the water, about 15 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered.
  • Meanwhile, prep the zucchini and corn, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add the zucchini, garlic, onions and corn. Saute until tender, about 12 minutes, before removing from heat. Place veggie mixture on a paper towel lined plate to cool slightly.
  • In a bowl add sauteed vegetables, tomatoes, drained chickpeas, quinoa and toasted pine nuts. Mix in lemon juice and pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chill one hour before serving. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Sock Fairy Adventures

Story synopsis so far...
Will is searching through the clothes in the dryer for his lost soccer sock. He really wants to find the mate as his soccer socks are a lucky pair. He once scored a winning goal wearing them. As Will leans into the dryer he is sucked in and tossed about. When Will stops spinning he tumbles out into a new place called Sockland.
This new magical place has mismatched socks everywhere hanging on tree branches. Three fairies fly by Will. He knows they are fairies from seeing their pictures in his storybooks. He runs down the road hoping to catch up to them but trips and falls over a large rock on the road. His leg hurts but he manages to catch up just as the fairies disappear through the door into the Sock Bank.
Unexpectedly Will’s size changes to very small when he rubs fairy dust over his hands. He is able to make it inside the Sock Bank behind a fairy just as the door closes. Will watches sock fairies unload their bags of mismatched socks in the bank hoping to find mates for their socks getting a gold coin in return. When Will spies his missing sock he grabs it but is caught by the sock security guards. When the guards lose their grip on Will a sock fairy named Melinda is able to rescue him. They fly out the opened Sock Bank door around the corner and out of sight.
Will and Melinda spy a poster advertising a sock hop at the Avalon Theater. All Will needs to do is wear his lucky socks, bring his dancing partner Melinda to the Avalon and dance till dawn to win the bag of coins. Lucky for Will wearing his matched pair of socks he and Melinda are able to win the sock hop contest. But unlucky for Will the sock security police spy him in the crowd. Melinda uses her magic powers and they fly out the door away from the theater. Melinda gives Will the bag of coins and tells him to get on the Sockland Express but be sure to get off at stop #3. The driver, Rocky Socky, is a sock monkey who wants Will to pay for the ride on the Sockland Express.

Will enjoys the magical ride of the Sockland Express when suddenly the bus makes an emergency landing at the Sock Mart. A clearance sale sign excites the passengers. 

July 24th Sock Fairy Adventures  Stop #3 Trouble at The Sock Mart
uproar- noisy disturbance 
The crowd pushed through the door. The shelves and tables were filled with all kinds of sock accessories. Next to the table were several large bins of mismatched socks. Sock fairies flew past Will and the other Sockland Express passengers. The sock fairies did not need shopping carts as they carried their own bags. Each one was knitted from very fine spider web threads. The sock fairies were dressed just like the fairies at the Sock Bank wearing clothes 
made from mismatched socks. 
Will saw sweaters, leg warmers, 
fingerless gloves, 
and even sock monkey slippers.
All of sudden loud screams were heard all over the store. “Stop! Stop! That’s what I picked.”
Two Sockland Express passengers were both yanking and pulling on the same sock monkey sweater set. 
A crowd of shoppers stopped to look at the uproar when two Sock Mart Security rushed to the sweater table. By now both shoppers were shouting and angry. 
“It’s mine!”
"No, its mine!”
Will saw his big chance to get to the bin of Mismatched Socks before the other shoppers. He started stuffing his shopping cart with mismatched socks. He was quite excited at the bargain price advertised two for the price of one.
“Can’t you read the sign young man?” yelled the Sock Mart manager.
“Sorry, sir I did not see the part Limit 10 socks per customer. I’ll put the other ones back, ” said Will feeling his face getting red.
Will headed to the checkout lane with his 10 mismatched socks. He took out of his pocket a little sock used to store his gold coins. 
 Will could still hear the voices of two shoppers who had been arguing over the sock sweater set as the Sock Mart Security were taking them outside to the Sockland Express. Rocky Socky honked his horn. He wanted to stay on schedule for stop #4.
As Will boarded the bus he was quite surprised to see Melinda waving at him. He found a seat next to hers.
“I didn't see you inside,” said Will to Melinda. “Look at all the mismatched socks I bought today. I’m sure I can find some matching ones at the sock bank. Then I can get more gold coins.”
“Will, if you go back to the Sock Bank you'll get caught by the Sock Security. I'm not sure what will happen to you then but I do have an idea.”
Melinda leaned over and whispered something to Will just as the bus picked up speed passing by marshes and meadows lifting off the ground and sailing over the tree tops.

Stop #4 A Visit to Melinda’s House July 31

© Copyright 2015 EVER READY All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Seasonal Plate for Week of July 20th

The Earth has music for those who listen.
A Slice of Summer The sweet and spicy combo of Blueberry- Chipotle Sauce is the perfect accent for meaty chops. Serve these chops over a bed of Cinnamon-Spiked Mashed Sweet Potatoes with a side of Summer Vegetable Gratin and Peach Watermelon Salsa or a watermelon slice. To save time make the blueberry chipotle sauce a day ahead and later warm on a low heat. The sauce can easily be doubled. Pair the meal with Chardonnay, Chablis or a Shiraz.

Pork Chops with Blueberry-Chipotle Sauce
Recipe adapted from tideandthyme and serves 4.
4 thick pork chops
  • Grill pork chops to internal temperature of 135 degrees and then remove from grill and cover with foil. Let them rest for 5 minutes. The internal temp should reach 145 degrees during this time. 
  • For each serving place about ¾ cup of sweet potatoes on a plate, top with a chop and immediately drizzle with warmed blueberry chipotle sauce. 
Blueberry-Chipotle Sauce
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 TB. red wine vinegar
  • 3 TB. light brown sugar
  • 2 TB. blueberry preserves
  • 1 TB. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, drained. chopped and patted dry on a paper towel
  • Prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 
  • Once blueberries begin to soften and burst, reduce heat to low and let sauce simmer until it’s reduced by almost half.
Cinnamon-Spiked Mashed Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2-3 TB. butter
  • 1 TB. brown sugar
  • 2-3 TB. half and half
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½-1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Add the quartered sweet potatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Boil over medium-high heat until potatoes are tender – about 15 minutes. Drain, and place back in the pot. 
  • Add the butter, brown sugar, half and half, and cinnamon. Mash until smooth or use a hand mixer to combine. Season with salt. May need to add more half and half to get the desired consistency. 
  • Cover and set aside.
Summer Vegetable Gratin
Adapted slightly from Food Network and Iowagirleats.com. Other vegetables can be substituted in the dish e.g., butternut squash or eggplant.
  • 2 TB. extra virgin olive oil or lemon olive oil, plus more for drizzling 
  • 4 shallots or 2 cups sweet onions chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 5-6 Roma tomatoes or 4-5 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced 3/4” thick
  • 2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3/4 -1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 2.1 qt. baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots or onions, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add fresh basil, thyme and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine. 
  • Slice tomatoes and pat dry on a paper towel. Evenly spread shallot/onion garlic mixture in bottom of prepared baking dish. Combine sliced zucchini and yellow squash in a large bowl, drizzle lightly with extra olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 
  • Layer the vegetables including the tomatoes in slightly slanted rows on top of the shallot/onion mixture starting at one end of the dish. Mix Parmesan cheese and seasoned breadcrumbs. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of vegetables and bake for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 
Peach Watermelon Salsa
Cook's notes: This no-cook salsa is also great served with fish or chicken. Makes 4 servings. Recipe adapted from McCormick.com
  • 2 cups peeled and diced peaches
  • 2 cups chopped and seeded watermelon
  • 6 TB. orange juice
  • 1-2 TB. chopped fresh basil
  • 3 TB. finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves 
  • 2 TB. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
  • For the salsa, mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate 30 minutes to blend flavors. 
  • Drain juices before serving.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wild Rice Restaurant, Bayfield, WI

By the Water
In  the Woods
On Lake Superior
This Bayfield restaurant is a gem in the woods with upscale dining, attentive service and one of the best Wild Rice Soups to be had. The menu has diverse offerings using fresh and local produce. The decor was a cross between modernism, woodsy situated among the trees and whimsical. Several eclectic art pieces were scattered about. Take for instance these gals posted near the front door who appear ready for a night on the town.

This gal was dressed "to  the nines" and loaded down with reading material just in case her dining partner does not show up. She was hanging out in the bathroom as well as this woman who gave me quite a scare. She was standing right inside the bathroom door and seemed like she was hoping for a tip on her platter.   
Wonder who or what was hanging out in the men's room??
But then it was the Wild Rice Soup that was the draw for us. 
Cook's notes: Check out the restaurant website as they have other posted recipes.
http://www.wildricerestaurant.com/ The recipe makes 2-1/2-3 quarts. The smoked bacon and diced green apple enhance the soup's flavor. Wild rice can be made ahead as a time saver. FYI: If you like soup with a smoother texture I would suggest puree ingredients in a blender, then add back to pan and add bacon and wild rice as last step. 
  • 4 strips finely diced smoked bacon
  • 2 TB. butter
  • 2 cups sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced   
  • 2 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2-1/2 quarts chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 3 TB. cornstarch blended with 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1-1/2 TB. butter
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 oz. dry sherry or brandy
  • 4 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1 diced apple, (1/4 inch pieces) sauteed in butter for a few minutes just until soft 
  • Fry bacon until crisp and set aside. Clean grease from pan with a paper towel. 
  • Add butter and saute celery, carrot, onions, garlic and apple pieces until soft, stirring occasionally. 
  • Add wine and cook for about 5 minutes and add chicken stock. Bring to boil and add cornstarch mixture stirring constantly until well incorporated. 
  • Stir in lemon, salt, cayenne pepper, cream and sherry or brandy. 
  • Turn heat to low add cooked bacon and wild rice. Simmer uncovered 25 minutes.  

Bon Appetit!

One of my most memorable moments in the Bayfield area was visiting with my former neighbors from the Twin Cities and catching up on life's news. They have built a lovely home overlooking Lake Superior with sweeping scenic views. If only there had been more time to sit on their patio to enjoy the lake view.