Sunday, May 31, 2015

Fish Tales and Provencal Shrimp, Walleye with Vegetables in Foil Packets

My husband's birthday gift from our daughter and her husband was a dream come true.  A morning out on the lake with a personal fishing guide.  One of my parting words was "Don't forget to bring dinner home." He kept his word.
Check out the size of this walleye catch. 
The bountiful catch provided me with more fish than I needed to try out a new recipe. 
Provencal Shrimp and Fish with Vegetables and Creamy Saffron Orzo
Cook's notes: 
Foil packet cooking is simple-wrap food in foil and throw it on the grill. And for a bonus there's virtually no clean up. This method relies on steam to cook. It is important the food is tightly wrapped in foil. Set the packets in a disposable foil pan. Vegetables and even added liquid like wine ensures there's plenty of moisture to go around.  
Be creative creating your foil packets. I used shrimp, walleye, tomatoes, broccoli, red onions and zucchini. The packet gets its French flair by using the spice herbes de Provence and lemon zest. 
Recipe adapted from and serves 4.
  • 3 TB. olive oil or lemon olive oil
  • 1 TB. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper or lemon pepper
  • minced zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 LB. shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on or frozen cooked shrimp, thawed 
  • 1 LB. fish fillets
  • 1 cup each quartered and sliced zucchini, yellow summer squash or broccoli, cherry tomatoes, halved and red onion, diced
  • In a bowl whisk together olive oil, garlic, salt, herbes de Provence, pepper and lemon zest.  
  • Add in shrimp, fish, onions and vegetables. Toss to coat. 
  • In a foil pan add two pieces of foil one lengthwise, one horizontal, place fish, shrimp and vegetable mixture on foil. 
  • Bring foil together and fold over sealing in the packet.
  • Preheat grill to a temperature of 400. Grill  packets until vegetables and fish are cooked through about 25 minutes. This method also works using a Weber Grill. 
Creamy Saffron Orzo
Cook's notes: Easy to prepare, this side dish is the perfect partner for shrimp, fish and summer vegetables.  It can be cooked the same time as fish/shrimp packets. A time saver is to buy a prepared package of  
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of saffron threads, crushed
  • 8 oz. dry orzo pasta
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • Preheat grill to 400 degrees.
  • Whisk together cream, chicken broth, wine, salt, garlic and saffron; stir in orzo and thyme.
  • Transfer orzo mixture to an 8 inch square foil pan. Cover tightly with heavy duty foil.
  • Grill orzo until al dente about 25 minutes. Discard thyme sprig Stir orzo before serving. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weekend Round-Up

New Saturday addition to Ever Ready-some of the week's best.
Iowagirleats created this snack idea using a Laughing Cow product for Memorial Day. 
Assembling looks easy.
For more snack ideas from Laughing Cow go to

Pete the Cat series is a favorite with the younger crowd. The word repetition and rhyming make the lines easy to mimic and sing. One of my favorite books in the series is "Pete The Cat I Love My White Shoes."
Here is a link to some fun color sheets for the books.

Roast Asparagus and Mushroom Chicken Spinach Salad with Bacon, Avocado and Goat Cheese

recipe from
A nice summery chicken spinach salad with roasted asparagus, mushrooms, bacon and goat cheese in a balsamic vinaigrette.
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered or sliced
  • 1 TB. olive oil, lemon or garlic olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 strips bacon
  • 8 oz.chicken breast, pounded thin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 large ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • Toss the asparagus and mushrooms in the oil, salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in a preheated 400 degrees. Roast until they start to caramelize, about 20 minutes, mixing half way through.
  • Meanwhile, cook the bacon and set aside on paper towels to drain before crumbling.
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, heat the grill (or a pan) to medium-high heat, brush with oil and cook the chicken until cooked through and golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side, before letting rest for 5 minutes and slicing.
  • Assemble the salad, toss in the dressing and enjoy!
  • Top with a fried egg.
  • Add julienned basil and/or lemon zest to brighten the salad up.
  • Cook the bacon and chicken ahead of time.
  • Remove the chicken and bacon, replace with sliced sundried tomatoes for a vegetarian version. 
A great read for your summer list. 
Kristin Hannah is a former lawyer turned writer and an award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including Winter Garden, Night Road, and the blockbuster Firefly Lane which sold over 1.2 million copies. 

Her newest novel "The Nightingale" is an epic love story and family drama. It tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstances. Each of the sisters embark on their own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France.

The book is well written and quite an absorbing, page turner novel set during the French resistance in World War II. 

Reposting this cartoon for Facebook readers 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Nostalgic Desserts

Wikipedia...Comfort foods are traditionally eaten foods which often provide a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the person eating it, frequently with a high carbohydrate level and a simple preparation. The nostalgic element most comfort food has, may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture.
With that being said The Huffington Post published a list of The Best Top 25 Comfort Foods on 1-31-14. For complete Comfort Food List list see this blog posting

One of my mother's favorite comfort meals was chicken pot pie which came in #18 on the list.
1. Grilled Cheese
2.Mashed Potatoes
3. Mac and Cheese
4. Cheap unauthentic tacos
5. Pizza
6. Dumpling
7. Baked Ziti
8. Tomato Soup
9. Cheeseburger
10. Chocolate Pudding
In the sweets department one of our favorites desserts growing up and having no nutritional value but super yummy was chocolate ice box cake.  
We always thought it rather magical the way Mother could take a box of Nabisco chocolate wafers
a carton of 
and a glass loaf pan
 and VIOLA! 
This yummy dessert took only few ingredients and little time to make. 

Well I felt like this banana cake would be something my mother would have loved. It's simple, moist and straightforward. FYI the frosting is the best part.   

Banana Cake with Brown Sugar Icing (Penuche)  
Cook's notes: Note the plate. It once belonged to my mother-in-law and from the 1930's. A perfect plate for this cake. 
I used a food processor to mash bananas and then added in cinnamon. The cake/bars are moist and could also be served as a morning coffee/tea treat. Keep frosted cake refrigerated.
The batter can also be used as cupcakes. Bake for 18 minutes.
Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of all purpose white flour or 1 cup white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 1/3 cup softened butter
  • 1-1/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 beaten large eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 4 mashed bananas (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 TB. Saigon cinnamon or 1 tsp. regular cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt-set aside.
  • In a bowl cream butter, sugar and beaten eggs.
  • Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk, add to sugar mixture and combine with dry ingredients.
  • Add in lemon juice, cinnamon, mashed bananas and mix well. 
  • Stir in nuts and bake in a greased 13 x 9 pan for 30 minutes or until center comes clean using a toothpick.
  • Cool cake before frosting.
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 3 TB. butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (may need more)
  • dash salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts
  • In a saucepan melt butter on low heat, stir in brown sugar, milk, salt and vanilla.
  • Cook and stir on low heat till sugar dissolved and smooth about 1-2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar.
  • Use a hand mixer and beat frosting until smooth in the saucepan (may need some milk for right consistency). 
  • Garnish with chopped nuts and toasted coconut.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grilled Lime Chipolte Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

Chipolte Lime Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Recipe
Cook's notes: What's not to love about shrimp marinated in a citrus dressing and bacon added for a smoky flavor. If using Chipolte Olive Oil omit chipolte powder. These easy shrimp appetizers can be grilled on skewers 

or individually wrapped and secured with a toothpick. The secret to recipe's success is cooking bacon until almost crisp but still pliable and drained on a paper towel. That way there is not a lot of grease dripping. The ingredients can easily be doubled. 

I used this grill basket
but a tray like this would work 
Recipe from

  • 12 large, raw, peeled and deveined shrimp or cooked frozen shrimp thawed
  • 2 TB. olive oil, Persian Lime or Chipolte Olive Oil
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • Juice from one lime (about 2 TB.)
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder (or more to taste)
  • 6 strips bacon, cut in half (12 pieces)
  • Skewers (for grilling) or toothpicks
  • In a small bowl mix together the lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, and chipotle powder. Add the shrimp to the lime chipolte mixture; make sure each piece is well coated. Marinate 20 minutes.
  • Cook the bacon until almost crisp. Drain on a paper towel. Cut bacon pieces in half.
  • Prepare grill on high, direct heat (if grilling) or preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Working one at a time, wrap a half piece of bacon around one or two pieces of shrimp. If you are grilling, thread the shrimp onto long, wooden skewers (that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes beforehand) or secure each bacon piece onto the shrimp with toothpicks. Place the bacon-wrapped shrimp on a slotted baking pan (bottom tray lined with foil for easy cleaning) if using oven. if grilling use a basket or tray. Brush remaining lime chipolte mixture on the outside of the bacon-wrapped shrimp.

  • Grill uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or bake in the oven for 10-14 minutes, until shrimp is pink and the bacon is crisp. If using frozen cooked shrimp thawed the cooking time is reduced.
Grilled Lime Chipolte Bacon Wrapped Shrimp was served with 
Cucumber Potato Salad with Ranch Dressing 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Summer Salad Makeover

According to Webster...A makeover is changing one's appearance, often using cosmetics and hair styling. Makeovers can range from something as simple as a new haircut, new wardrobe or even the use of cosmetic surgery. Do some days you feel like you need a beauty makeover? 

Well today's blog posting is offering you a salad makeover! Monday May 25th I posted a recipe for Cucumber Potato Salad with Ranch Dressing. I lightened up the dish using low fat buttermilk and lite Miracle Whip and lite sour cream. It did not compromise the taste still retaining its great flavor. I did make the new edits to original recipe posted on Monday.
Cucumber Potato Salad with Ranch Dressing 
Cook's notes: Serves 6-8 and options include adding halved cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced radishes.
Recipe adapted from Cuisineathome June 2015
  • 1-1/2 lbs. red skinned baby potatoes, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup lite mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1/4 cup each low fat buttermilk and lite sour cream
  • 3 TB. fresh dill or 1 TB. dried dill 
  • 1 TB. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 TB. cider vinegar 
  • 1 TB. Dijon mustard 
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 1 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved and patted dry on a paper towel.
  • 3/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced  
  •  3/4 cup diced red onions or green onions
  • Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender, drain.
  • Hard boil 4 eggs. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool, then peel and quarter. Refrigerate eggs and potatoes in a large bowl. 
  • Whisk together mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, buttermilk, sour cream, dill, parsley flakes, garlic,vinegar, mustard and salt for dressing. Season with pepper.
  • Add diced cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes and onions to the bowl with potatoes and chopped eggs. Add dressing, toss to coat. There may be extra dressing. Save if needed when serving. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Refrigerate for several hours for flavors to meld.   
Check out this link to 36 Genius Kitchen Tips you may have not known about.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jumbo Shells Stuffed with Taco Filling and Innovative Kitchen Gadgets

Cook's notes: No need to wait for a Cinco de Mayo Day to enjoy these jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a taco filling of beef, corn, black beans, tomatoes and covered with low fat cheese and baked in salsa. It's sure to become a family favorite. These taco stuffed shells are great by themselves but can be served over lettuce with chopped tomatoes and avocado slices. 
Taco Stuffed Shells
Cook's notes: The filling is enough for 24-26 cooked jumbo pasta shells. Recipe adapted from 
  • 1-12 oz. box jumbo pasta shells
  • 1-LB. ground beef
  • 1 TB. oil
  • 1-1/2 cups sweet onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. dry taco seasoning mix
  • 1 cup canned Mexicorn, drained
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-14.5 oz can Diced Tomatoes Chili Ready 
  • 1 jar 16 oz. salsa (mild or hot)
  • 2-1/2 cups shredded low fat Mexican cheese 
  • Remove 26 shells from the box. Add to boiling water and cook al dente about 6 minutes. Stir a couple of times so shells don't stick together. Drain and lay single layer on paper towels.
  • Cook ground beef with onions in oil. Crumble meat, drain and wipe pan clean. Add meat back into pan. 
  • Sprinkle meat with taco seasoning. Add in canned chunky tomatoes, black beans, corn and 1-1/2 cups cheese. Cook about 5 minutes until cheese is melted. 
  • In a 13 x 9 pan spread 1/2 jar of salsa evenly in the pan. Arrange shells in the pan. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese over the shells and drizzle with rest of salsa. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees covered with foil for 15 minutes. Remove foil and cook 8 minutes more.
Check out this link to 50 useful kitchen gadgets you might not know even existed. 
Tabletop Oil Mister
Herb Mill
Julienne Peeler  Blade

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Menu Sides and The World According to Bella

Memorial Day Greetings 
Cook's Notes: Today also marks the unofficial start of summer despite a rainy start here in northern Minnesota. Last summer in honor of National Root Beer Float Day August 6th

I posted a recipe for root beer cake.

I was intrigued with the ingredients in the recipe. In addition the directions seemed a bit different than the usual cake baking steps. My adventurous cooking spirit spurred me on to take the plunge. Oh, my, this cake is moist and will satisfy anyone who has a chocolate craving. The cake sort of soaks the flavors the longer it sits. After the cake cools wrap in plastic wrap and the root beer flavors will intensify. Root beer brings out the depth and richness of the chocolate while imparting its own unique flavors.  So with that being said I knew I had to try Root Beer Baked Beans the perfect side for a grilled meal.  
The addition of root beer gives a bit of sweetness to the baked beans and bacon adds some smokiness. One of the best parts of making this recipe is using a slow cooker which frees up your day for other things.  The recipe can also be baked in an oven.  
Recipe adapted from Serves 8-10
Cooking tip: Pour the root beer slowly as it foams up quickly.  
  • 6- 8 pieces of bacon
  • 1-1/2 cups diced sweet onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-28 oz. can baked beans, drained
  • 1-15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-15 oz. can cannellini, kidney or chili bean, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce e.g. Sweet Vidalia Onion
  • 1/3 cup each molasses, pure maple syrup and brown sugar 
  • 2 TB. each Dijon mustard or Spicy Brown Dijon mustard, ketshup, Worcestershire sauce and cider vinegar
  • 1-12 oz. can or bottle root beer (not diet) 
  • Fry bacon, set aside and reserve 1 TB. bacon drippings.
  • Saute onions and garlic in reserved bacon drippings, set aside on a paper towel.
  • In a 4-6 qt. crock pot, add in all ingredients. Stir to combine. Cook on low until sauce is slightly thickened about 4 hours.  Serve using a slotted spoon.
  • If baking bean dish in oven preheat to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 2-3 qt. baking dish. Add in all ingredients and mix well. Bake uncovered 45 minutes or until sauce is thickened. 
 Cucumber Potato Salad with Ranch Dressing
Cook's notes: Serves 6-8 and options include adding halved cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced radishes.
Recipe adapted from Cuisineathome June 2015
  • 1-1/2 lbs. red skinned baby potatoes, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup lite mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1/4 cup each low fat buttermilk and lite sour cream
  • 3 TB. fresh dill or 1 TB, dried dill 
  • 1 TB. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 TB. cider vinegar 
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 TB. Dijon mustard
  • pepper
  • 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved and patted dry on a paper towel.
  • 3/4 cup radishes, thinly sliced  
  •  3/4 cup diced red onions or scallions,diced
  • Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender but not mushy, drain.
  • Hard boil 4 eggs. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool, then peel and quarter. Refrigerate eggs and potatoes in a large bowl. 
  • Whisk together mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, buttermilk, sour cream, dill, parsley flakes, garlic,vinegar, mustard and salt for dressing. Season with pepper.
  • Add diced cucumbers, tomatoes,radishes and scallions to the bowl with potatoes and chopped eggs. Add dressing and toss to coat. There may be extra dressing. Save if needed when serving. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Refrigerate for several hours for flavors to meld.   
The World According to Bella
I am back with new developments. So far I've gotten 4 pieces of mail this past week. Each envelope was filled with my favorite treat Beggin Strips-Bacon Flavored. 

 and today Mrs. S cheered me up (I can't go out it's raining) with WWN news. My story Catching Up on Spring at the Lake was published. Check it out.
Love, Bella

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Meet Max Oliver, Author and Poet

Author, writer and long-time Texan, Max Oliver grew up in a North Texas area the Comanche called “Eagle Flats.” Growing up Oliver was influenced by the life and beliefs of the early Comanche tribes.  Oliver felt compelled to research the daily habits of the Numuu (the People) and use that knowledge to create his signature line of Comanche-Inspired Books and Poetry.

Oliver says that there is always an inner part of him that loves the ways of the People. He is an avid reader of any work about the Native Americans. His writing is influenced by many conversations with, books about, and first-hand accounts of those who have lived on the land before they were forced onto reservations by the European newcomers.

Oliver has written many Comanche-inspired books including The Saga of a Comanche Warrior series which includes five books; Little Boy (2012), No More (2012), Tomo Pui (Sky Eyes)(2012), Red Nose and Chief Red Nose (2009). He has also used this knowledge to create a multicultural children’s book called Little Dancer Learns (2014)

“I was born upon the prairie where the wind blew free 
and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. 
I was born where there were no enclosures 
and where everything drew a free breath. 
I want to die there, not within walls.” 
― Chief Ten Bears of Comanche Nation (1792-1873)
"Cries of the Heart, a poetry book written by Max Oliver reflects a lifetime of wisdom and personal experiences written from his heart and soul. His poems are written in a straight forward manner on everyday issues that matter the most to him: God, scriptures, love, family, laughter, aging, death, judgement and eternity. 

The book's title evolved from a poem Oliver had written in 2005 which speaks about joy and suffering. Oliver has learned we all have situations in life to deal with many not easy, but it is the manner in which we deal with them that forms our own character.  

Max's poems are easy to read. He dispenses with rhyme but favors free verse which gives a poetic flow to his words. Readers will connect with Oliver's personal experiences through his writing. Max's poems have a way of having the reader pause reflect and think more about life and its purpose. 

After a life threatening health crisis in 1984, Max became a prolific poem writer. He can thank his dog Bear for being the inspiration. Bear's presence and devotion throughout Max's recovery process is what sustained and saved him. The first poem he ever wrote Old Man and The Pup was a tribute to his dog Bear (full name Comanche that means Walk Like A Bear) This is an action shot of Bear leaping into the water over a plastic decoy duck.  
Oliver has always had a close relation to dogs and has included this poem in "Cries of the Heart". (poem reprinted with permission from the author)
Old Dogs and Men 
by Max Oliver

They doze in the autumn sun
The old dog and his friend
The man rocks gently to and fro 
The dog lies on the floor
They soak the sun for their tired bones 
The man thinks of times bygone
Not sure if the dog thinks of the same
But a stifled bark implies a dream
"Bear , you remember when-"
The dog stirs at his name
"Bear , I know you do"
Awake, he raises his head
To hear what command his master gives 
None comes he closes his eyes
A cat walks closely by
Sensing the enemy's ails
The dog sees and wags his tail   
It's as if age brings a truce
Age-old hostilities reduced
"Bear, remember when you caught that 'coon
He almost drowned you, but you won
And the time you found those wild hogs
You'd never seen such things."  
Adventure brings strange things
"Or when the rattler struck your leg
And it swelled up like an ostrich egg 
Those were the times, yes, siree
When we both could hear and see
And hunt the hills all day long
Never tiring of nature's song
Walked better then with no aches
And loved each minute at the lakes
We should have done more in the countryside 
Didn't consider age with us abide"
The dog looks up as if he knows
Looks longingly at his master's words
The memories flood the old man's mind
Of times they spent in the field
"I guess those days will come no more
Hell, if they did one thing is sure
We'll be here in the sun
When the hunt is begun"  

Check out Max Oliver's website to learn more about his other books, enjoy his blog posts and upcoming events at and also this link 

Check out this link to one of Max's blog postings on thanking a veteran-appropriate for Memorial Day
The Veteran
by Max Oliver

As the old man rises
A glassy stare clouds his eyes
The drums roll
The audience stands
Most cover their hearts
With their hand
Alone in the balcony 
This old soldier's
Hand snaps to his brow
His back is straight
Trembling leg slightly bow
Once felt it never leaves
The pride of his country
Respect for those who gave
Their all, so we could live
This life of security and ease
The old soldier proudly stands
Tears come at the sound of the band
His back seems straighter now
His legs at attention lock
His lips move in unison
With all who sing and love this country, too
His voice raspy to those who hear
His proud refrain to words so dear
His eyes seems to see his comrades
In dress of those on parade
He sings with his heart
So many times across the years
He's slow to sit
Because he can't forget
The pain of wounds
And worse those lost
Our freedom found
But better still 
He'd do it again
If it be God's will. 

(reprinted with permission from the author) 

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 ...