Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Seasonal Kitchen-What's Fresh Now

Cook's notes: There's nothing better than the flavor and sweetness of fresh tomatoes picked from the garden. This bowl was one of many bowls I filled with a bumper crop of tomatoes. A simple savory tomato basil tart is an ode to the fleeting season of tomatoes for fresh and flavorful ingredients. Tomatoes are definitely the star in this recipe.
Tomato and Basil Tart with Goat Cheese
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 1- 4 oz. package of soft herb goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 medium tomatoes, sliced in about 1/4 inch slices 0r 1/2 pint assorted Heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 TB. fresh basil chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Cut the tomatoes into 1/4 “ slices and place on paper towels to drain for about 15-20 minutes. Salt and cover with paper towels as well.
  • On a lightly floured sheet of wax paper roll out 1 sheet of thawed store bought frozen puff pastry to about a 14-by-12-inch rectangle. Transfer pastry to baking sheet.
  • Brush edges lightly with water; fold them in to form a 1/2-inch border, then press with a fork to seal all around. Prick pastry all over with fork.
  • Carefully spread goat cheese over pastry. 
  • Add sliced tomatoes and sprinkle tart including crust with Parmesan cheese. 
  • Bake until crust is deep golden and cheeses are melted, 18-20 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.

Book Blurb 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Holiday Weekend Brunch

Brunch Menu:
  • Wild Rice Ham Tart
  • Fruit Salsa
  • Focaccia Bread
Wild Rice Ham Tart
Cook's notes: Recipe previously posted

Fruit Salsa
Cook's notes:
The fruit can be prepared the night before, lightly covered and refrigerated.  Add the dressing one hour before serving and chill. Drain the salsa and place in a serving bowl. 
Fruit Salsa Ingredients:
  • 3 cups peaches. diced
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 cup fresh corn
  •  red onion slices
  • 1/2 cup each sweet yellow and red peppers 
Dressing Ingredients:
  • Dash red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
  • 1 TB. brown sugar
  • 1 TB fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
In a blender add orange juice. cilantro, brown sugar, lime juice, cumin and red pepper flakes. Pulse a few times to blend. 
Place chopped fruits in a bowl and pour dressing over the fruits.  Cover and chill one hour. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chicken Fajitas and On High Alert

Chicken Fajitas
Cook's notes: It's not even Thursday and I am firing up the grill on a hot muggy night. This meal is perfect to keep the heat outside rather than indoors.   The meal was served with fresh ears of corn. The recipe was adapted from

  • 1 pound chicken breasts about 3 large pieces
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 lime (~2 tablespoons of juice and zest)
  • 1/2 TB. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin (toasted and ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped in slices
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 TB. cilantro,chopped
  • 8 flour or corn tortillas
  • Marinate the chicken in the oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper in the fridge for 30 minutes to a few hours. Drain and grill the chicken over medium-high heat until cooked, about 20 minutes.
  • On a sheet of foil add onions and peppers and tent the foil. Grill with chicken last 5 minutes of cooking time. 
  • Remove from heat and mix in the cilantro.
  • Assemble fajitas with favorite fillings like salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, etc.
Grilling Corn in the Husks
Submerge the husks in water for 45 minutes. Shake excess water off, place the corn on the grill, close the cover and grill for 20-25 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.
Cook's additional notes: So while I was putting this meal together I left my husband on bat alert. 
Unfortunately we recently discovered bat droppings on the porch. In 2004 we had our first encounter with bats. I called Rollie the Bat King (recommended by neighbors). I inquired how do we know we really have bats? His exact words were, "Tell you husband to get a beer, sit outside at dusk and see what happens." So it's 2016 and that's just what my husband did.  
In 2004 Rollie the Bat King showed up one day in his batmobile. He had to drive some 50 miles to reach our house and he guarantees his work 100%.
In 2011 he made a return visit. This is what I wrote at that time...
After several sightings at dusk and in the wee hours of the morning we knew it was time to get Bat Man back. No, I am not referring to the caped crusader from the 1989 movie but the real bat man who drives a bat mobile. His job is to eradicate bats from homes. Bat Man had visited us seven years ago and true to his word, my work is guaranteed, our call for help was answered promptly. We knew of at least three bats who had taken up residence in the soffits near the roof line.
Now it's 2016 and perhaps it is time to make another call.  Here's his website in case you might need some help too.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekend Round-Up

I've Been Hy-Veed
Best New Grocery Store Experience
Cook's Notes: I FINALLY got my chance to experience the store many  Twin Cities residents have been buzzing about. 
Hy Vee is an employee-owned chain of 240 supermarkets located throughout the Midwestern United States in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Several stores have recently opened in the Twin Cities area. 
Now you're probably wondering What's the big deal? Well I must say the size of store and variety of goods available were impressive. I truly have never seen so many meat cases this size
and bakery goods with every fancy cake, torte, bar and  brownie imaginable. 
And the distraction of fast food kiosks and a huge salad bar outlining the outer edges of the store made it hard for me to stay on task. 

There were some unusual items. I found Hedge Apples in the produce. 
They are an ornamental fruit (do not eat) advertised to keep spiders away.
So if you have a problem with roaches, ants, mice, or other pests inside the house, gather some of these Hedge Apples and place them around your basement, crawl space, and foundation of your house.
Oh, I need to mention when you get tired of looking at all the food just head over to the clothing section and check out the F and F line.  
Best Versatile Healthy Meal- serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner using fresh corn with a healthy dose of creamy avocado. 
.Mexican Corn Salad with Avocado Toast
Best New Muffin of the Week
Cranberry Apple Granola Muffins
Cook's notes: This easy recipe comes from Southern Living 2016 . A perfect early fall treat.
Skillet Baked Ziti with Andouille with Tomatoes and Peppers
Cook's notes: An easy no fuss weekday meal that uses some late summer produce.  Recipe from Southern Living September 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Snack Smart-Eat Healthy

Stock up on healthy ingredients so the right stuff is always available. Good snacks should come in around 200 calories each and contain:  
Since it is digested slowly, a protein rich snack gives you a steady stream of energy. Aim for a minimum of 3-5 grams of protein per serving.
Fiber helps slow the release of energy you get from carbohydrates. A healthy snack should have at least 3 grams per serving. Apples have healthy doses of fiber and good carbs. 
Good Carbs
Choose recipes that include  whole grains, whole oats or whole wheat flour. Fruits and vegetables  also count as healthy carbs.   

Some Suggested Healthy Snack Solutions
Pistachios are high in fiber, protein and antioxidants. 30 pistachios =100 calories. Most other nuts you only get half this amount for same calories.   
Snack Mixes
Check for these products at Target or Walmart and in some organic sections of the grocery store. 
All natural made with whole grain, high in fiber and only 120 calories per bag.

Saffron Road products come in 6 flavors  and are big on crunch, fiber and protein.
Nourish products choose among flavors, combos of granola bites. popcorn and nut mixes. 

Scrambled Egg Burrito with Avocado
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ red onion, diced
  • 4 flour or whole wheat tortillas 
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • Whisk eggs with 1 tablespoon of water to make the eggs light and fluffy. Set aside.
  • Drizzle olive oil into a skillet over medium heat, add peppers, garlic and onion and saute about 2-3 minutes until just tender. Whisk eggs one more time and pour into skillet with vegetables. Scramble eggs just until set. 
  • Divide scrambled eggs across the flour tortillas. Top with salsa and avocado slices.
  • Wrap and serve warm.
Check out this link to some of the best smoothie recipes ever from BHG

Cherry Almond Smoothie
Recipe serves 3-4 each serving 98 calories with 3 g. fiber, 5.5 grams protein
  • 2 cups unsweetened frozen dark cherries
  •  1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • one 6 oz. Greek plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 small banana peeled , cubed
  • Combine in a blender and blend until smooth

Thursday, August 25, 2016

It's Thursday-Fire Up The Grill

Enjoy summer cookout time with these delicious sides. 

Balsamic Roasted Broccoli and Cherry Tomatoes
Recipe serves: 4

  • 2 bunches of broccoli, separated into florets,stems removed
  • 2 TB. Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Lemon Olive Oil 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1- 1/2 TB. Balsamic vinegar 
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • fresh basil leaves, snipped
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • In a bowl coat tomatoes and broccoli with oil.
  • Spread mixture on baking sheet.  Place diced garlic cloves among tomatoes and  broccoli. 
  • Sprinkle mixture with balsamic vinegar, pepper and oregano. Roast  about 14 minutes or until broccoli is lightly browned. Add in basil leaves last few minutes of baking time. 
Mediterranean Herb Potato Salad
Cook's notes: Potatoes that are infused with Mediterranean flavors of oregano and thyme. Toss the potatoes in the dressing while still warm so that they can absorb more of the aromatic flavor.
Recipe adapted from and serves 4. 
  • 1 pound small red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 TB. olive oil or Lemon Olive Oil
  • 1 TB. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp. thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  •  2 TB. drained capers
  • Bring potatoes and water to cover to boil in medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain well.
  • Mix oil, vinegar, oregano, parsley and thyme in large bowl until well blended. Add warm potatoes; toss to coat. Add tomatoes and capers; toss gently to coat.
  • Serve immediately.

Caramel Ice Cream Torte with Toasted Almonds
Recipes comes from
Cook's notes: I loved the ease of this recipe that uses only three ingredients-ice cream, caramel sauce and toasted almonds.  Be sure to use good quality ice cream.  
Cooking tip: For easier removal from pan, run a sharp knife under hot water and then in the inside of the springform pan before removing the outer pan edge.   
  • Press ½ gallon (4 pints) softened vanilla ice cream into a 9-inch springform pan. Freeze until slightly firm, one hour. Depending on the size of your pan you may need more ice cream. 
  • Top with 1 cup caramel sauce (slightly warmed, if too thick) and ½ cup toasted sliced almonds. Freeze until firm, several hours and up to 2 days. To serve, remove from pan and slice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Turn the Heat Down- Cool Off with a Salsa Dish

Take advantage of seasonal produce, try on of these salsas.
Blueberry-Peach Salsa
Cook's notes: Peach Salsa is a versatile condiment that can be used in a variety of ways; served over pork or chicken, as an appetizer with goat cheese or warmed Brie. Recipe adapted from Southern Living July 2014

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 large peaches, peeled and diced
  • 3 Tb. minced shallots or red onion
  • 3 TB. fresh basil
  • 3 TB. fresh chives
  • 3 TB. hot pepper jelly
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • Coarsely chop half of the blueberries and toss with whole blueberries.
  • Add remaining ingredients, salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Cover salsa and let set at room temperature 30 minutes for flavors to meld, serve or cover and chill up to 4 hours.
  • Use a slotted spoon to serve salsa.

Peach, Corn and Avocado Salsa

Peach and Watermelon Salsa
Cook's notes:For a change of pace, try a fresh fruit salsa with lightly sweetened tortilla chips at your next cookout. The no-cook salsa is also great as a refreshing topper for simply grilled fish or chicken.
Serves: Makes 4 servings (1/4 cup salsa and 8 chips each). Recipe adapted from McCormick

  • 2 cup chopped peeled peaches
  • 2 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 6 TB. orange juice
  • 1-2 TB. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 TB. finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves 
  • 2 TB. sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 6 flour tortillas, (6-inch)
  • For the salsa, mix all peaches, watermelon, juice, basil, red onion and thyme in medium bowl until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate 30 minutes to blend flavors.
  • For the chips, preheat oven to 375 degrees and mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Spray tortillas lightly with no stick cooking spray. Cut each into 8 wedges. Place on baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with cinnamon sugar mixture.
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with Peach Watermelon Salsa.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Early Autumn Salad

Wild Rice Salad with Apples, Celery and Cranberries 
Cook's notes: This salad comes from the General Store Cafe of Minnetonka, MN. It's a gluten free recipe featured in Eat and Explore Minnesota Cookbook and Travel Guide.  Use only enough dressing to moisten salad. Any extra dressing can be used the next day on left over salad.  Recipe serves four.
Cooking tip: 1 cup uncooked wild rice = 4 cups cooked wild rice  
Dressing Ingredients:
  • 6 TB. white balsamic vinegar or Cranberry Pear Balsamic
  • 4 TB. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon Olive Oil or Blood Orange Olive Oil  
  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 4 TB. honey 
  • 2 TB. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. grated orange or lemon peel  
  • Dash of salt
Salad Ingredients:
  • 4 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1-1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup red apple, diced  (with skin on) 
  • 1 cup green apple, diced (with skin on)
  • 3 TB. sunflower seeds or 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries or cran-raisins
  • optional adding red or green grapes
Dressing Directions:
  • Add all ingredients in a blender  and mix well. 
Salad Directions:
  • Pour 1 cup boiling water over dried cranberries,let sit 10 minutes and drain water. 
  • Mix cooked rice with celery, apples, nuts and cranberries.
  • Add enough dressing to moisten salad. Refrigerate 2-4 hours covered. Just before serving add more dressing if needed.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Deconstructing a Recipe

Food Term 'deconstruction'
When it comes to food, "deconstruction" — a riff on the term coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida — it refers to the idea of breaking apart elements traditionally combined together to make a dish, and serving the items separately in a unique way.
An example would be

deconstructed beef stew where the beef, liquid, vegetables, and potato are isolated and served in an unconventional presentation.  Or it can be taking a dish apart and reforming it in a different way.

But often the cooking term is applied to a dish reformed using scientific methods like emulsifiers and foams and 'airs' and all sorts of weird textures. They break a meal down to it's 'core' and twist it around and make it different so you look at it in a new light. So a cheese is no longer cheese – it is a foam or a crisp something strange like that. 

Today's post:Deconstructing a Recipe
Cook's notes: This is my take on deconstruction. I found this recipe on Pinterest Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake
The picture shows a luscious lemony, fluffy and creamy cake. In fact so good when I pinned it on my board recipes to try several people inquired if I had tried it. So always up for a cooking challenge I took up the task of deconstructing Sally's three pages of ingredients and directions to a manageable number to make this luscious looking cake.  In the process I found it necessary to streamline directions and make adaptations to cake but particularly for the frosting. While my efforts produced a lovely and very tasty cake (what's not to like about lemons and blueberries) it did not resemble the above Pinterest picture.  
I decreased the amount of lemon juice and zest used in the cake recipe and the amount of cream cheese and butter used in the frosting from original recipe. I have yet to figure out how adding lemon juice and lemon zest to batter would produce almost a lemon curd look in the Pinterest cake picture. The batter was just the right amount for two cake pans rather than suggested three cake pans. Cooking tip: do not over measure your flour as it will result in heavy, dense textured crumb. 
Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake
Cake Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 sticks of butter and 1/2 stick of margarine (total 1 cup) softened to room temperature 
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  •  1/2 cup brown sugar
  •  4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 TB. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract 
  • 3 cups sifted all purpose flour (spoon and leveled) or for a lighter crumb you can use 3 + 1/4 cups sifted cake flour instead
  • 1 TB. Saigon cinnamon or 1-1/2 tsp. regular cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk (no substitution) 
  • zest and juice of 2 medium sized lemons
  • 1-1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not thaw)
  • 1 TB flour mixed with a sprinkle of cinnamon   
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 3 TB. butter, softened to room temperature 
  • 3 -1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 TB heavy cream or half and half
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
Cake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray to grease 2- 9 inch cake pans. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl beat butter and margarine until creamy about 1 minute. Add in sugars beat until creamed, then adding in eggs, vanilla and almond extract.  Beat mixture a full 2 minutes.
  • In another bowl toss together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 5 seconds.  Add the buttermilk, lemon zest and juice. Stir lightly until everything is just combined. 
  • Toss blueberries with 1 TB. flour and cinnamon. Fold into batter. Batter is thick do not over mix.
  • Divide batter among 2 pans. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.    
Frosting Directions: 
  • Beat cream cheese, butter, lemon zest and vanilla extract for 2 minutes. Add in powdered sugar and cream. Use more cream if needed to get frosting the right spreading consistency.  
  • Frost cake and refrigerate until frosting sets about 1 hour. Then place a few toothpicks in cake and lightly cover with foil and refrigerate until serving.  
To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weekend Round-Up

Best Fruit Salad of the Week
Mojito Fruit Salad
Cook's notes::Mojito Fruit Salad is a fresh fruit salad tossed with a minty sugar/lime mixture with a little rum for a kick.  It's versatile using any kind of fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew, red grapes, and blueberries. You could even leave the rum out and to make a non alcoholic fruit salad. 
5 Easy Salmon Recipes
Salmon Tacos with Mango Salsa
Best New Easy Apple Slab Pie Recipe
Apple Slab Pie with Maple Icing
Cook's notes: Make apple slab pie baking easier by substituting 2 refrigerated pie crust discs for homemade pie crust.
Best Weekend Meal 
Tomato Galette with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese
Cook's notes: A savory dish that serves four. It's perfect for using summer produce. 
Best New Cookbook Travel Read

Eat and Explore Minnesota Cookbook and Travel Guide is one of the home state cookbook series from Great American Publishers. It explores the state of Minnesota's favorite festivals, celebrations, landmarks and unique destinations. Each page features a regional recipe. 

Follow this link to discover what other state books are included in the series. 
JoAnne found the perfect gift for me who enjoys discovering new destinations and trying regional recipes. I was pleasantly surprised Hyde-A-Way Bay Resort Hackensack, MN was featured in the book. They submitted a French Dip Sandwich recipe.

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 ...