Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summit Avenue

St. Paul's Summit Avenue is the longest stretch of Gilded-Age mansions in the country. It is known for having a number of historic houses, churches, synagogues, and schools. The street starts just west of downtown Saint Paul and continues four and a half miles west to the Mississippi River where Saint Paul meets Minneapolis. The avenue is noted for its well-preserved examples of more than 370 of the Gilded-Age mansions on a Victorian residential boulevard. More than a dozen different architectural styles still remain today.

On weekends the historical society gives walking tours on a section of Summit Avenue to discuss the history of early St. Paul and the architecture and historic preservation of the homes.
It was an informative tour of homes that I have driven by numerous times but really never gave these mansions my full attention. Note walking by is a whole lot different than driving by.

It was interesting to note that some of the issues facing Summit Avenue include the challenges of maintenance and preservation of the mansions and carriage houses, proposals to convert mansions into town homes, condos, apartments, bed and breakfast hotels and restaurants and college expansion.

The next group of pictures were an experiment. I wanted to try using black and white since the history of Summit Avenue dates back to the early 1850's. These mansions were starting to appear on the top of hill is the earliest days of the city. The one side of the avenue that sits high on the bluffs has sweeping vistas of the city landscapes.

The tour ended with the Cathedral of St. Paul where Summit Avenue begins. The building is majestic and mammoth in size as it sits high up on the bluffs overlooking downtown St. Paul.
After a 90 minute walking tour we were able to justify the calories for this shared decadent chocolate dessert at a local restaurant. 
I have made a similar recipe to this one in the photo. The recipe below comes from a Pillsbury Bake-Off book circa 80's. It is a fudge cake with creme anglaise and a raspberry sauce swirled in the cream mixture. The challenge for me were the swirls so I just put the raspberry sauce on  top of the cake when I served it. This decadent cake is so well worth the effort.
Hazelnut Au Chocolat
  • 7 squares semi-sweet chocolate cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup butter (I used half margarine and half butter)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs separated
  • 1 cup ground hazelnuts( can substitute walnuts or almonds)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 TB. sugar
  • 2 TB. Amaretto (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 250
  • Grease and dust with cocoa the bottom of a 9-1/2 spring form pan
  • In a saucepan over low heat melt chocolate and butter/margarine stirring constantly
  • Stir in sugar and mix till well dissolved
  • In small bowl beat 5 egg yolks at high speed 2-3 minutes
  • Blend a small amount of chocolate into yolks, then blend yolk mixture into chocolate cook slowly over low heat till slightly thickened 
  • Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, 2 TB. Amaretto and ground nuts-set aside
  • Beat 5 egg whites with 1/2 tsp. creme of tartar and gradually add in 2 TB. sugar
  • Beat until stiff peaks form
  • Fold egg whites into slightly cooled chocolate mixture and bake at 250 for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (the original recipe called for two hours) the recipe also states a standard toothpick is not necessarily a test of doneness for this recipe-look for edges pulling away from sides and slightly firm to the touch  
Do not over bake -when cake is cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve
Cook's notes:
The raspberry sauce can be made a day ahead, refrigerate but served at room temperature. Note the cake does not have flour as an ingredient 
Raspberry Sauce
  • 1-10 oz. frozen raspberries thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam
  • 1 TB. cherry flavored liqueur
  • 1 TB. cornstarch
  • In blender puree raspberries and strain to remove seeds 
  • Add this mixture to saucepan with jam 
  • Mix 1/3 cup cold water with cornstarch use a whisk (I did have some cherry juice to use instead of water) cook on low heat till thick
  • Stir in liqueur and refrigerate-serve at room temperature over the cake
Creme Anglaise
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • In a small bowl combine 2 egg yolks and1/3 cup sugar
  • Bring cream to boil
  • Blend a small amount of cream to yolk mixture, then add yolk mixture to cream and cook on low heat 8 minutes or until custard coats a wooden stirring spoon
  • Do not let mixture boil, cool to room temperature and refrigerate till ready to use 

cake cooked in spring form pan

In this photo I skipped adding creme anglaise underneath the dessert, added strawberries to the raspberry sauce and served it over the cake.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The World According to Bella

The Weigh-In
The weigh-in did not go well today. YIKES! the scale said 85. Mrs. S made Mr. C do 3 "do overs" but each time the scale said 85. By the third weigh-in Mr. C declared "Enough!"  He thinks I am just getting too heavy for him to pick me up and step on the scale. Besides his back was starting to ache doing the weigh-in 3 times.

Now I 'm 3 lbs more than the last weigh-in. My weight gain has baffled Mr. C and Mrs. S. They  have even cut back on my food lately. But in spite of that I've managed to pack on 10 extra pounds in the last few months. Mrs. S even went so far as to call me a bit tubby which really hurt my feelings. Mr.C is getting suspicious with my fishy breath smell. He thinks I've found a new food source like fish. 
So for the time being my exploring days have now come to a sudden halt at the lake. I am on a tether so they can keep a closer watch on me. But I am hoping after a  few days of whining and digging even a bigger hole in the yard they will change their minds. I happen to like my nesting hole. The dirt feels cool when the day is warm. 
You will be happy to know I'm still guarding Mrs. S's flowers and watching over the yard for any intruders. 
 Mrs. S thought she'd better share a healthy recipe after all this talk about weight gain.
Love, Bella
Tomato Cucumber Feta Pasta Salad
recipe adapted from
  • 2 cucumbers peeled-thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 2 cups of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 lb. penne
  •  1/3 tsp. dill 
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
Sweet and Tangy Vinaigrette Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/ 4 tsp. black pepper
  • Cook penne in simmering boiling water till al dente
  • Cut tomatoes in half and pat dry with a paper towel 
  • Use blender for dressing
  • Mix cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, spices and cooked penne
  • Use only enough dressing to coat cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Refrigerate till serving

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chicken Cantaloupe Salad

Chicken Cantaloupe Salad

These origami paper napkins were a splurge but so well worth it.  Plus a real conversation piece at the table.

The napkins come prefolded in an origami shape. You will impress your guests who think you spent a lot of time  folding each napkin :)

Chicken Cantaloupe-serves 4
  • 1 package chicken flavor rice mix (Rice-A-Roni) do not substitute or try to find another product similar to this one-follow the cooking directions on box
  •  4 cantaloupes –each cut in half
  •  4 cups cut up chicken (could buy a roasted chicken from deli)
  •  1 cup sliced almonds
  •  ½ tsp. curry powder
  • ¾ cup dried cherries
  • Miracle Whip (do not substitute)

  • Cook  the Rice-A Roni according to directions
  • Place rice mixture in a colander to drain

  • Cut each cantaloupe in half-place one half face down on cutting board-with a sharp paring knife cut a saw tooth edge going all around the cantaloupe-set aside the triangle shaped pieces-repeat this three times with other cantaloupe halves.
  • In a large bowl add chicken, curry, cherries if using them and cooked rice Note: you will only use 2-1/2  cups cooked rice so save rest of rice for another meal, Use a slotted spoon to drain the rice into chicken mixture
  • Add only enough Miracle Whip to moisten all ingredients (I started with a little under 1/3 cup)
  •  Cover and refrigerate till chilled
  •  Wrap 4 saw toothed cantaloupe pieces with plastic wrap till serving and refrigerate
  •  To serve divide chicken mixture among cantaloupe piece and sprinkle with almonds

Cook’s Note: My original recipe called for 1 TB. curry powder-curry is a strong spice so I would suggest starting with ½  tsp. and taste till you get the flavor strength you want.  You do not want the curry to overpower rest of ingredients but it is essential to the recipe. A few fresh raspberries could be used for garnish on top of the chicken mixture.
Book Review "the House Girl"by Tara Conklin
This book is categorized as historical fiction. And after reading it you certainly will have gained a better understanding of the class structure, inequalities and norm of cruelty during the 1800's for blacks. The book provides a lot of information on slavery and the Underground Railroad system. 
There are two parallel stories in this novel about one woman living in 2004 and another  woman  in 1852 and how their stories become intertwined by art. 
Lina Sparrow, the daughter of two artists, is a new law associate in a prestigious firm in New York. She is on the path to partnership when a wealthy and powerful client offers the law firm the chance to handle a class-action suit on behalf of the descendants of American slaves. Josephine Bell is a 17 year old black house girl on a Virginia Farm.  She is a companion to a white mistress Lu Anne. Josephine has a lot of privileges for a young black girl. She becomes a gifted artist who has been taught to read and write but really wants to be free.  Before she dies Lu Anne has  secret to share with Josephine that causes Josephine to make a hard choice.  
The two stories  merge when Lina' father suggests the possibility that acclaimed art work of Lu Anne Bell was really done by a slave. 
Each of the women in the story share important characteristics-big dreams, fierce determination and coming to terms with their lives. You will find it an engaging summer read.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

4th of July Party Ideas

It's not too early with 4th of July holiday only one week away to begin your planning. Here are some ideas to get you started. 

Ice cream sandwiches with a popsicle stick and sprinkles served in a cupcake liner

Fruit Kabobs

Pretzel sticks rolled in frosting and rolled again in sprinkles

Strawberry dipped in white chocolate and rolled in blue sprinkles

Watermelon pie shape slices on a stick

Great way to use mason jars that can be found at flea markets

Patriotic Waffle Cone-frozen yogurt with fresh fruit

Strawberry-Raspberry Sundae
recipe from eatingwell .com

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1 TB. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cups frozen yogurt
  • fresh blueberries 

  • Puree strawberries and raspberries with lemon juice and sugar in a blender
  • Serve over frozen yogurt and sprinkle blueberries on top

  • 1 roll red-colored fruit snack is used to create the stripes
  • blueberries
  • white frosting
Patriotic Cupcakes

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The World According to Bella

This was such a beautiful sentiment on the poster I enlarged to make it more readable. 
A Day of Surprises
Mrs. S and I were out shopping in the nearby town of Walker. I spied this before she did. I made a beeline for the door dragging Mrs. S along since I was on a leash. Unfortunately, I was not able to fit through the door no matter how hard I pushed, wiggled and twisted. Guess I should think about taking off those extra 7 pounds!!  Mrs. S thought it was quite funny. She said this was not really a house for a dog, but really a garden display.  
When we got a closer look we saw the roof on both sides had all sorts of succulent plants on it.
But I was disappointed! Since it was hot and sunny out, I thought inside Snoopy's house would be a great place to stay cool. 
After I was dragged all around the town looking at stuff that was sooooo boring we headed home. Mrs. S has friends staying with us. I really like them. Both of them brought me a bone. We have AC so I stayed inside and took my time with bone #1. I hope to get bone #2 tomorrow.
Love, Bella

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fashionably Dressed Salads

John Anthony Ciardi (June 24, 1916 – March 30, 1986) was an American poet, translator, and etymologist. While primarily known as a poet, he also translated Dante's Divine Comedy, wrote several volumes of children's poetry, pursued etymology, contributed to the Saturday Review as a columnist and long-time poetry editor, and directed the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont. 
In 1959, Ciardi published a book on how to read, write, and teach poetry "How Does a Poem Mean?" which has proven to be among one of the most used books of its kind in high school and in college. 
At the peak of his popularity in the early 1960s, Ciardi also had a network television program on CBS. Ciardi's impact on poetry is perhaps best measured through the younger poets whom he influenced as a teacher.
Ciardi rote volumes of poems for children and adults. "The River is a Piece of Sky" is from his first book of poems for children The Reason for the Pelican published in 1959.

The River Is a Piece of Sky
by John Ciardi

From the top of a bridge 
The river below
Is a piece of sky-

Until you throw
A penny in
Or a cockleshell
Or a pebble or two
Or a bicycle bell 
Or a cobblestone
Or a fat man's cane

And then you can see
It's a river again.  

The difference you'll see
When you drop a penny:
The river has splashes,
The sky hasn't any. 
Midwest Living April 2013 posted a yogurt recipe that I am filing under Go Greek. The dressing is creamy, low in fat and a healthy way to top a chicken or shrimp salad or even use as a drizzle over grilled or steamed asparagus. 

Buttermilk Pesto Dressing
Cook's note: Chill at least two hours
Makes 1 cup
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light mayo or light Miracle Whip
  • 4 tsp. prepared pesto
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Whisk together, cover and chill at least 2 hours-whisk before serving

This dressing works great as a side using cold cooked potatoes.

Strawberry Balsamic Dressing
Cook's notes: This recipe deserves consideration with its Vitamin C, creamy texture and sweet tangy taste. The dressing works nicely with a chicken breast served over mixed green, avocado slices and walnuts. Makes 1-3/4 cups
Midwest Living April 2013 
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries chopped(frozen strawberries thawed can also be used)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 TB. balsamic vinegar plus 1 tsp.
  • 1 TB. brown sugar
  •  1/4 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth
  • Store covered in refrigerator up to 3 days
  • Whisk before serving  
This salad was made with romaine, chopped pieces of chicken, green onion, sliced cucumbers and strawberries. The dressing was drizzled over the top.  It's a light refreshing salad for summer.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Literary Day

The town of Dorset, Minnesota is located six miles northeast of Park Rapids and six miles west of Nevis in northern Minnesota. Dorset is a century old town with a population of 22 depending on who you talk to. Perhaps you have heard of this town that boasts the youngest politician with its mayor, Robert Tufts. He is just four years old and assumed the office at the age of three after winning the draw. He became mayor when the town picked his name out of a hat and will hold that post for a year.  On August 4, 2013 a new mayor will be picked. Any residency or age candidate is accepted. The only requirement is filling in a vote sheet and attaching $1.00.

Not only does the town have the youngest mayor, but it also calls itself "Restaurant Capital of the World" because it allegedly has more restaurants per capita than anywhere else. These restaurants are all located right down both sides of main street.

photo from 2012
This is one of Dorset's big events in August Taste of Dorset.
There is food, entertainment, games and socializing. This year's event is scheduled for August 4, 2013.

But what drew me to Dorset this year on June 22 was their annual Festival of Authors and Artists. Sister Wolf Books (photo below) presented a wonderful day of literary guests. This independent bookstore is a small gem located right on Main Street. The store is open May through October. Along with an amazing array of book selections they offer weekly book and poetry discussion groups.  This link below is to their summer and fall schedule.
All day a variety of Minnesota authors who have published locally and nationally did book signings and readings.
Among the impressive list of local authors featured were Kent Krueger with his recent books  "Ordinary Grace " and "Trickster's Point" and Lorna Landvik with her recent publication "Mayor of the Universe".

But what was most exciting was the opportunity for me to be a part of this literary event. I belong to a writer's group called BARDS OF A FEATHER. We recently self published a small book called Bards of a Feather Write Together. Each of the eight members made contributions to the book which were a variety of published and unpublished material that included  poems, works of fiction and memoirs. This was our first attempt at a printed collection. The writing group meets April -December. Our group values creativity and free artistic expression. We support the literary arts in our community.

One of the best parts of the day was having your own spot in the bookstore to sell our books. And some other good news was the bookstore kept some of our book to sell after the literary event.

This is one of our BARDS members book selling. 
It truly was exciting to be a part of all these esteemed writers and authors for a literary day spent in Dorset. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chicken Wild Salad

I recently reviewed the book"Aviator's Wife" by Melanie Benjamin. I was quite taken with the novel as well as the author's words in the epilogue.

And finally, I leave you with this;  As a historical novelist, the most gratifying thing I hear is that the reader was inspired, after reading my work of fiction, to research these remarkable people’s lives further. This is what historical fiction does best, I think; it leaves the reader with a desire to know more. I hope my novel accomplished this.

I thought the author successfully accomplished her mission in this book. This was one book that I thought much about the characters and all the drama that unfolded in their lives. Many late hours were spent researching the family for more information and the Lindbergh kidnapping. 
It's the birthday of poet and essayist Anne Morrow Lindbergh who was born in Englewood, New Jersey June 22, 1906. Her father was the ambassador to Mexico and a partner in J.P. Morgan Stanley Financial Firm. He was Charles's financial advisor. Anne's household growing up fostered achievement.
Charles and Anne were married in 1929. He taught Anne how to fly and in 1931 she got her private pilot's license. They went on together to explore and chart routes between continents flying over Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. The trip became the subject of Anne Lindbergh's first book, North to the Orient (1935). Both that book and her next book about flying, Listen! the Wind (1938), became best-sellers. She went on to write two novels, a book of poems, and a book of essays, Gift from the Sea(1955).
Anne received numerous awards and honors throughout her life for her contributions to literature and aviation.  
Anne lived till the age of 91. Due to a series of health setbacks Anne spent the last ten years of her life living with her youngest daughter Reeve.  
Reeve has written several books about the Lindbergh family and her mother's last years living with her family on a farm in Vermont.

Chicken Wild Rice Salad
Cook's notes: A versatile salad with options.  Turkey can be used instead of chicken. . Using deli rotisserie chicken is a time saver. If looking for a vegetarian dish add in more wild rice with cooked corkscrew pasta. Dried cranberries can be substituted for dried cherries or use red grapes. Substitute avocado slices for pea pods or sugar snap peas 
Following recipe serves 4-6 but can be increased easily for a larger crowd 
Basic Sauce: 
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip
  • 1 TB. sherry
  • 1/4 tsp. dried ginger
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
Salad Ingredients:
  • 3 cups cooked chicken
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1 small package dried cherries or cranberries
  • 2 cups pea pods or sugar snap peas
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds or walnuts 
  • 3/4 cup green onions
  • Cook wild rice day before and store in a plastic container or zip loc bag. Wild rice freezes well and can be used at another time for soups and side dishes.
  • Mix up basic sauce and blend well with a whisk
  • Chop chicken and green onions
  • Blanch pea pods(bring water to boil, add pea pods, boil 1 minute, drain and then add to ice water for 1 minute, pat dry)
  • In a large bowl add all ingredients except sauce-add in sauce till chicken mixture is moistened. If more sauce is needed follow basic recipe above and add in,
  • Chill at least 4 hours and serve over lettuce with tomato wedges 

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...