Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ushering in Spring

How quickly the month went as we ushered in spring. The Southwest region jump starts a new season with gorgeous blooms everywhere. A return trip to Tucson Botanical Gardens showed a whole new scene. What a difference six weeks makes. Step inside and enjoy an early spring. 

The butterflies exhibit was a scene of frenzied activity.
I had to be really quick to get these shots.

This meal was the perfect ending to a day enjoying an early spring.

Mango-Chutney Salad
Cook's notes:This is not your standard deli style chicken salad with mayo, celery, and sometimes, chopped up eggs. No, this one is the kind that you get when you go to lunch with the ladies at 'Tea Room Restaurants' all across the country. But it did get a huge stamp of approval from my husband.
Plain Greek Yogurt can be substituted for the mayonnaise. This recipe can be easily doubled. Use the ratio for dressing equal parts of mayonnaise and mango chutney. Curry spice is strong so I recommend starting out small with 1/2 tsp. taste then increase as needed.
The curry and chutney is what makes this salad really take center stage over traditional chicken salad.
Recipe adapted from and serves 4
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, diced or use a deli rotisserie chicken
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 3 TB. green onion,chopped
  • 3 TB. Miracle Whip or lite mayonnaise
  • 1/2-1 tsp. curry
  • 2 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 3 TB. mango chutney ( I tested with Major Grey's Chutney)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or slivered almonds-reserve 1/4 cup
  • 3/4 cup dried cran-raisins (plump up in a cup of boiling water and drain) or substitute 1 cup sliced red grapes 
  • 1/2 cup crisp apple, diced
  • glazed walnuts or almonds
  • optional: 1 small can of water chestnuts, drained and diced 
  • Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.
  • In a large bowl mix chutney, mayonnaise, green onions,curry powder and parsley flakes.
  • Add in diced chicken, 1/2 cup nuts, cran-raisins or grapes, apples, celery
  • Chill several hours. 
  • Serving options: on a bed of lettuce with rest of nuts as a garnish , or as a croissant filling or as an appetizer placed in mini-phyllo cups. 

Lemon-Rosemary Coffee Cake
Cook's notes: A perfect coffee cake for lunch, brunch or tea. Fresh or dried rosemary compliments the lemony flavor. Buttermilk makes it very moist. A 9 inch spring form pan was suggested for baking but I substituted using a 9 inch round cake pan.
recipe adapted from Southern Living February 2012.

  • 1 large lemon or 2 medium ones
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. apple pie spice or 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter cubed
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary or 1-1/2 tsp. dried rosemary 
  • 1/3 cup prepared lemon curd (found in aisle with jellies)
  • powdered sugar for garnish

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees-line bottom and sides of cake pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  • Zest lemons to equal 3 TB and squeeze lemons to equal 5 TB juice.
  • Reserve 1 TB. zest and 1 TB. lemon juice.
  • Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor and pulse 3-4 times until blended or use a mixer.
  • Add in small butter cubes and pulse 6-7 times until mixture resembles coarse crumbs or use a pastry cutter.
  • Add in baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon or apple pie spice and rosemary, beat on low until blended.
  • Add to flour/butter mixture buttermilk, egg, 4 TB. lemon juice and 1 TB. lemon zest, beat till smooth.
  • In a small bowl mix 1/3 cup lemon curd, 1 TB. lemon juice and 1 TB. lemon zest, whisk until well combined
  • Pour half batter in prepared cake pan or springform pan, spread evenly over batter the lemon curd mixture, add rest of batter on top and smooth out batter.
  • Zest a bit of lemon over the top of batter and bake for 35 minutes. 
  • Cool 30 minutes on a cooling rack then remove foil and continue cooling lemon cake on rack.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash and Beet Salad

 Maple Roasted Butternut Squash and Beets
This recipe could be titled: My Swan Recipe as time is limited for butternut squash. It's the perfect side for a savory meat dish.
Cook's notes:

Did you know that beets have the highest sugar content of all vegetables and are  a powerhouse of nutrients that may improve your health in the following ways?

Beets can
1. Lower Your Blood Pressure
2. Boost Your Stamina
3. Fight Inflammation
4. Anti-Cancer Properties
5. Rich in Valuable Nutrients and Fiber
6. Detoxification Support

Recipe adapted from and serves 4-6


  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 large red beets, peeled and chopped
  • 3 TB. grapeseed or olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp.ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 TB. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in chunks
  • For each serving optional items:
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Dried oregano or mixed fresh herbs e.g. parsley, mint, tarragon, chives
  • Toasted walnuts or pistachios
  • mixed greens
  • optional dried cranberries

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Peel and chop the butternut squash and the beets into ½” cubes.
  • Place them in a mixing bowl and add oil, salt, cinnamon, maple syrup and red onion chunks. Toss all the ingredients and make sure the veggies are all evenly coated.
  • Lay the vegetables out on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper in a single layer.
  • Roast vegetables for 40 minutes stirring once half-way through roasting. Cranberries can be added in the last 10 minutes of cooking time. 
  • Place oven on the broil setting for 3 to 5 minutes in order to crisp up the veggies.
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle with dried oregano or mixed herbs, orange zest, and additional salt if desired.
  • Serve with toasted walnuts or pistachios with mixed greens.
Spring Washes Over The Desert

Monday, March 28, 2016

An Eastery Kind of Trip

A trip to the Tohono Chul Botanical Gardens was the perfect choice for an Easter afternoon visit. It's spring and the wildflowers and cacti were blooming.
Tohono Chul (aka Tohono Chul Park) is a botanical garden, nature preserve and cultural museum located in Tucson. The words "tohono chul" translate as "desert corner" and are borrowed from the language of the Tohono O'odham, the indigenous people of southern Arizona. The mission of Tohono Chul is to enrich people's lives by connecting them with the wonders of nature, art and culture in the Sonoran Desert region and inspiring wise stewardship of the natural world. The majestic Santa Catalina Mountains form  a backdrop for the natural desert habitat. 

Step inside, take a stroll through the garden and walk the meandering trails. 

A playful looking saguaro. 
An extended arm to catch the rainwater-except there has been no measurable rainfall since January 4th. A recent report showed humidity level at 3%. Being from the Midwest it's hard to even fathom this fact. 
Peak blooming for Palo Verde.
A bird nearby stands guard over the gardens.
Tohono Chul is an oasis within an urban sprawl. A peak through the vegetation spotted a familiar sign. 

This sign sums it all.

What To Do With All Those Leftover Eggs??
Cook's notes: Guacamole Deviled Eggs are a twist on deviled eggs that are sure to be a crowd pleaser at your next gathering and/or St. Patrick's Day party.
I did some research on nutrition and found out that these deviled eggs are a high protein snack or appetizer. They are loaded with a good dose of healthy fats and perfect for any dietary restriction – low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian, weight watchers, paleo and more!
Guacamole Deviled Eggs
recipe adapted from

  • 6 eggs hard boiled, peeled and cut in half 
  • 1 large avocado, mashed
  • 1 TB. jalapeno. fined diced
  • 2 TB. red onion, finely diced
  • 2 TB.diced tomatoes
  • 1 TB. lime juice
  • 1 TB.cilantro
  • pinch chili powder or paprika for garnish 
  • Scoop yolks out of egg halves, mash them and mix with avocado, jalapeno, onion, tomato, lime juice and cilantro with salt, pepper and cayenne
  • Place a tablespoon of the mixture back into holes-refrigerate
Bacon Guacamole Deviled Eggs
Cook's notes: This was my take on the guacamole deviled egg recipe.

  • 6 eggs hard boiled, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup prepared Guacamole Dip(dairy section)
  • 2 TB. diced green onion
  • dash Tabasco
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 1 TB. cilantro 
  • garnish-pinch of paprika
  • option garnish 2 TB. diced bacon
  • Scoop yolks out of egg halves, mash them and mix with all ingredients except paprika
  • Place a tablespoon of the mixture back into the holes, sprinkle with paprika and refrigerate
need more ideas check out

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spring in a Dish

Spring Vegetable Egg Casserole
Cook's notes: Spring Vegetable Egg Casserole is the perfect way to highlight all of your favorite seasonal veggies. It’s a great make-ahead dish to serve a crowd when paired with zesty feta cheese and baked up into an easy casserole. Some suggested combinations include: asparagus, spring onions, tomatoes, spinach and peppers, broccoli and garlic, zucchini but the list of possibilities can easily go on and on. Chop veggies ahead for easier prep.
This casserole can be made in advance. Just cover and refrigerate the casserole for up to one day before baking. Remove the cover, let the casserole rest at room temperature while the oven is heating up and bake as directed.
Recipe serves 6-8 and adapted from

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup each red and yellow peppers, diced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot (or 1 cup of baby carrots), peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, cut on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup diced white button mushrooms
  • 4 ounces sugar snap peas, halved or 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets 
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved and patted dry on a paper towel 
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese, 1-1/2 cups white cheddar cheese, sharp yellow cheddar or combination of the cheddar cheeses  
  • 12 large eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 cup 2 % milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning or 2 tsp. herbes de Provence, divided 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers saute for 3 minutes. Add in garlic and cook 2 minutes more. 
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil with carrots, asparagus, snap peas, broccoli and stir to combine. Continue cooking for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies have softened and cooked through. Add the mushrooms, spinach if using and tomatoes. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. spice seasoning. Stir for another 3-4 minutes. Place veggies mixture on two paper towels to drain liquid. 
  • Transfer about half of the veggie mixture to the prepared baking dish, and spread the veggies out in an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with half of the feta cheese or 1 cup cheddar cheese. Repeat by adding the remaining veggies on top in an even layer, followed by remaining cheese.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, mustard, rest of seasoning and milk with a generous pinch of salt and pepper together until combined. Pour the egg mixture over the veggies.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the casserole comes out clean. Serve immediately.
  • If you would like to make this casserole in advance, just cover and refrigerate the casserole for up to 1 day before baking. Then remove the cover, let the casserole rest out at room temperature while the oven is heating up, then bake as directed.
Easter Brunch
Cook's notes: I had to substitute a cabbage leaf for serving the vegetable casserole but would have preferred a romaine leaf for more color. The M and M bar recipe was previously posted.
I used spring colored M and M's. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

And the Winner is...

The winners from the PEEPS Pioneer Press St. Paul, MN contest have been announced. Diorama makers participating in this annual springtime tradition were inspired by the usual array of current events, pop culture, politics, classic literature, music, movies and mythology.

For example, there were several dioramas that depicted local Black Lives Matter protests. One entry, titled “No Justice No Peeps,” strove to “shed light on the corruption and exploitation of the American Judicial System,” according to the artist’s statement. Another diorama commented on the current political debate about immigration, featuring candy versions of Donald Trump and Pope Francis. A video entry urged “Make America sweet again!” Seems many felt marshmallows were a good or even therapeutic way to vent about current events or document important parts in their life. 

#1 PEEPS Stardust (tribute to the late David Bowie 70's Era)
#2Charlie and the PEEPS Factory
#3 (tie) Cecil the Lion Gets PEEPS revenge 
#4 (tie) PEEPS Honoring Our Vets
#5 Honorable mention PEEPSover
You need to admire the ingenuity and creativity of this entry. More than 500 PEEPS were used to make this 5-by-5-foot Peeps quilt. They came out of a freezer containing a collection of 1,200 PEEPS, some at least 10 years old.
and I loved this People's Choice Award titled: Lake Minnepeepolis
 follow this link for more photos

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Lenten Friday Special

It’s Easter Weekend and right on cue, the dogwoods are blooming across the South. It’s a natural symbol of rebirth and renewal.There is a beautiful story about the Dogwood Tree being the wood used for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The story, generally told at Easter when the dogwoods flower, adds that Christ caused the flowers of the dogwood to be a reminder of the cross on which He died. He allegedly did this by giving the flower two long and two short petals, and to have what look like nail prints on the petals to remind us that Christ suffered on the cross with nails through His hands. The story is remarkable, but unfortunately the legend is not true. And there is no biblical basis to it but it's a nice poem and suitable for Good Friday reflections.
Flowering Blossoms Dogwood Tree

"In Jesus' time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
'Twas strong and firm, its branches interwoven.
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
"Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so.
Slender and twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown,
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember Me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be
A reminder to all of My agony."

My friend JoAnne was the inspiration for the blog on Legend of the Dogwood Tree.

Here are some recipes from Ever Ready Friday Lenten Specials
Lemon Dill Tilapia

Fish Tacos with Lime Cream

Maple Balsamic Glazed Swordfish Steaks

Provencal Shrimp and Walleye in Foil Packets
Cook's notes: Foil packets can be baked in oven if your grill is still buried under snow. Spray foil packets in the inside with cooking spray before adding shrimp, fish and vegetables. Bake 425 degrees for 15-17 minutes.

These pictures captured the beauty of flowering dogwoods in Tennessee on a trip back to Minnesota from Florida in March 2014.

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 ...