Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fire Up the Grill

Salmon 101

A small 3-oz serving of wild salmon has about 156 calories and 23 grams of protein, plus 6 grams of fat. Omega 3 fatty acids are salmon's claim to fame, “providing anywhere between 2-3 grams per 3-oz. serving,” says Julia Renee Zumpano, a registered dietitian at the Center for Preventive Cardiology Cleveland Clinic. (To put that into perspective, that's the nutrient equivalent of taking three days' worth of soft gels of fish oil in supplement form.) “Omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce blood triglycerides, blood pressure, and reduce swelling.”

“Wild is better than farmed,” says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, an assertion with which most of our experts agree. Zumpano points out that farmed salmon may contain more saturated fat, calories, pollutants and antibiotics than wild salmon. Salmon does have low mercury levels, according to the FDA.
Cook's Notes: So it was a no brainer what to serve for dinner. The sauce was enough for 6 salmon fillets. Grilled chicken could be substituted for the salmon. The sweet savory taste was so good you'll find yourself spooning right out of the pan.  
Salmon with Cherry Balsamic Sauce
  • 4-6 salmon fillets
  • 1 can (15 oz.) dark cherries
  • 1 TB cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark good quality dark balsamic vinegar ( I used a Black Cherry Balsamic)
  • 1/4 tsp.each sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 TB. cherry jam
  • Rinse salmon and pat dry. Place a large piece of foil  on a plate and add the salmon fillets. 
  • Drain cherries and reserve 1/3 cup of juice. Add cornstarch to the reserved cherry juice and mix well. 
  • In a saucepan add reserved cherry juice, cherries, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt . pepper, wine and cherry jam.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring to combine ingredients.Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 5 minutes or until sauce has reduced and thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.  
  • Divide the sauce in half reserving rest of sauce for serving. 
  • Remove salmon from the plate and grill fillets on the foil. Drizzle half of the sauce over the salmon and grill salmon about  9 minutes. Serve the cooked salmon with rest of the Balsamic Cherry Sauce.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Creative Food Ideas

What I love about Food Network Magazine is how they create recipes for the everyday cook but add in a creative twist or think outside the box idea. Take for instance in the current summer issue Salad on a Stick is featured. The photo below is Pasta Salad on a Stick and then there's Chef's Salad on a Stick,  Caesar Salad on a Stick, Garden Salad on a Stick,  Nicoise Salad on a Stick and Steakhouse Salad on a Stick. Each photo comes with how to directions and a suggested dressing recipe.  
Each month there's an insert booklet titled 50 Ways e.g use an avocado, burger toppings or cake pops .
Another featured item this month was Old Bay Seasoning
with some creative ideas to use the seasoning on foods other than seafood  e.g. hummus. fruit cubes. grilled cheese. bacon and French toast. When Old Bay was first sold in the 1940's the spice blend was called Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning.The exact combination of ingredients remains a secret but old cans listed the following ingredients: celery salt, pepper, mustard, pimento, cloves, laurel leaves. mace, cardamom, ginger, cassia and paprika.  
Keeping with the red, white and blue theme this dessert has it all.  Color, taste, fresh fruit and easy to put together making this treat a real winner. 
                                                   Lemon Berry Shortcake
Cook's Notes: Prepare the sauce a day ahead and refrigerate until needed. The cake recipe called for adding  1 cup sliced strawberries to the batter which I did and it was fine. But since the cake is served with a strawberry/raspberry sauce this step could be omitted.  The cake is moist with the addition of buttermilk and flavorful with lemon juice and zest. It's a recipe keeper in my book. Recipe adapted from Taste of Home Magazine and serves 6-8. 
Cake Ingredients:
  • 1-1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1-2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 TB lemon juice 
  • 1 tsp.vanilla  or 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • optional 1 cup diced fresh strawberries
Cake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of a 9 inch round cake pan.
  • In a bowl sift and whisk first 4 ingredients together. 
  • In another bowl whisk the egg, buttermilk, melted butter, lemon peel, lemon juice, and vanilla or almond extract. 
  • Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in strawberries. Transfer batter to pan and evenly smooth out. 
  • Bake 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes and invert on to a plate.    
Raspberry Strawberry Sauce 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 TB. tapioca
  • 1 package frozen sweetened raspberries, thawed in the juices from the box (I used product Birdseye Whole Red Raspberries with Syrup)
  • 1 pint of fresh raspberries 
  • 2 cups diced strawberries
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TB cherry brandy or Grand Marnier

  • In a large saucepan, combine sugar and tapioca.
  • Add one package of raspberries with juice, stir to coat with sugar and tapioca.
  • Let stand 15 minutes in pan.
  • Stir in orange juice,cinnamon stick, salt and nutmeg.
  • Bring to a slow boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat, add lemon juice, a pint of fresh raspberries and diced strawberries.
  • Cool at least 15 minutes, remove cinnamon stick and refrigerate.
PLEASE NOTE A CORRECTION:There was an incorrect rice measurement in the ingredient list and in the how to rice directions  for Chicken with Wild Rice Casserole recently posted.
It has been corrected in the original recipe.  I apologize for the confusion. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

A nation that does not honor it's heroes, will not long endure.
Abraham Lincoln

Take time to reflect and honor those men and women who have served our country, past and present. So...

When You See a Soldier

When you see a soldier
Be sure to shake his or her hand,
And let that soldier know you're grateful
For the protection the military affords our land.

But most of all express your thanks
for every soldier's personal sacrifice.
In order to serve our country,
They risked their entire lives.


Strawberry –Rhubarb Sauce
Cook’s notes: Celebrate spring with the sweet tart taste of rhubarb with strawberries. This sauce is versatile using it as jam on muffins, over ice cream or pound cake or as a side for meats and poultry. The sauce can be pureed in blender to make it smooth or pulse a few times in blender and let some chunks remain in the sauce. Sauce will thicken as it is refrigerated for several hours. I used a margarita glass for a scoop of vanilla cream with Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce. The dessert was paired with Sweet and Spicy Chicken Skewers previously posted at
2 cups diced rhubarb and 2 cups diced strawberries
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 TB. Grand Marnier
½ TB. lemon juice
1 TB. grated orange or lemon zest
optional dash of cinnamon

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water and stir to dissolve.
Add rhubarb and simmer on low 15 minutes, add in strawberries, lemon juice, zest and cook 10 minutes longer. If using cinnamon add in this cooking step.
Remove from heat and add in Grand Marnier.
Puree in blender or pulse a few times in blender keeping in some chunks.
Refrigerate to thicken.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Weekend Round-Up

Amy Thielen is a chef, TV cook, and two-time James Beard Award–winning writer. She is the author of "The New Midwestern Table" (2013) and host of Heartland Table on Food Network (2013–2014) and worked for celebrated New York City chefs David Bouley, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Daniel Boulud before moving back home to the Midwest. 
Thielen speaks widely about home cooking and contributes to radio programs and magazines, including Saveur, where she’s a contributing editor. She lives with her husband, visual artist Aaron Spangler, their son, his dog, and a bunch of chickens, in Park Rapids, Minnesota.
In 2013 I wrote a review of her first book "The New Midwestern Table"which featured over 200 recipes that showed Midwestern cooking like our grandmothers used to do but with a modern freshness. Thielen's cuisine is thrifty, intuitive and seasonal. "The New Midwestern Table" was a cross between a memoir, a travelogue and a cookbook. Thielen is a strong writer who engages  the reader with her keen sense of observation.

Amy has rock star status in our area with a devout following. Recently Beagle Bookstore in Park Rapids. MN held a book launch for her latest book "Give A Girl A Knife". 
Note the creative way knives are displayed with the 3 letter I's.

Thielen's newest book "Give A Girl A Knife" is a food memoir that chronicles her cooking journey from her rural Midwestern hometown to the world of New York City fine dining and back again in search of her culinary roots. The book is written in two narratives. One it is an autobiography about how food can define your life, the special moments and the every day ones. The second narrative is a about a young rural Minnesota-born couple who choose Minnesota over all other places, making some extreme but exciting sacrifices to defend and hold their dream of a "living off the land" existence in the north woods. It’s where Thielen really, truly learned to cook and to honor the way her ancestors cooked in the first place.
I did enjoy one reviewer's comment who said Thielen's writing is quietly lovely, Minnesotan through and through. I am looking forward to the read. 

Recently my daughter and I attended her book launch in Park Rapids. It was held in gallery of an old courthouse called Nemeth Art Center. 

I missed my chance to get a photo of the whole cake (featuring copy of book cover) but you get the idea how creative it was. 
My small connection to Amy is that she and my niece are really good friends so we took this photo to document the event.   
Here's what I would consider an Amy approved recipe that speaks to Midwestern cooking, a hotdish with chicken and wild rice. I happen to know Amy has harvested wild rice and she raises chickens. 
Chicken with Wild Rice Hot Dish (known as casseroles everywhere else) 
Cook's notes: Whether you're from the Midwest and grew up eating "hot dish" or never heard the word before this comfort food hits the spot on a cold evening. This is my updated version that uses no canned soups.  The rice and chicken can be prepared the day before for easier prep.

  • 1 cup wild rice and 1 cup long grain or brown rice 
  • fine sea salt 
  • 3 TB, salted butter, divided 
  • 1 cup diced onion or 2 leeks, white and light green parts, diced 
  • 1 cup celery, diced 
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms 
  • optional 1/2 cup diced water chestnuts 
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 4 TB. all-purpose flour 
  • 1- 1/2 cups 2% milk 
  • 2/3 cup fat free half and half 
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock, low sodium 
  • 1/4 cup white wine 
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme (or 1- 1/2 teaspoons fresh) 
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes 
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence, divided 
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cooked chicken 
  • 4 ounces Swiss or cheddar cheese, grated (about 1- 1/2 cups) 
  • 2 cups coarsely ground buttery crackers (such as Ritz or Club; about 2 sleeves) 
  • 2 TB. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • optional 3/4 cup silvered almonds 
  • Rinse both rices together, add to a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until both rices are al dente about 40 minutes. Set aside. 
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks or onions, celery and mushrooms. Cook until tender, about 6 minutes. 
  • Add the flour to the vegetables and stir until well combined. Pour in the milk and bring to a simmer, whisking to prevent any lumps. Add in the half and half, chicken stock, wine, 3/4 tsp. thyme, 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence, 1 tsp. parsley, chopped chicken pieces and both rices. 
  • Grease a 2-1/2-3 quart baking dish. Pour the chicken mixture into the dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes. 
  • Add crackers to a zip loc bag with 1/2 tsp. herbes de Provence. Use a rolling pin to crumble. Add in 1 tablespoon melted butter and shake to combine. Set aside. 
  • Remove foil and sprinkle with slivered almonds and the cracker mixture over the top. Bake until the crackers turn golden brown and the mixture bubbles in the center, 1o minutes. Serve immediately. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Day Treats

Firecracker Cupcakes
Cook's Notes: The recipe is so easy when using a box of red velvet cake mix and cream cheese coconut balls for inside filling. Michaels or the Dollar Store  are good places to look for decorating toppings. Here are a few to consider
Cherry Bombs
Twizzler Fizzler
Texas Style Buttermilk Brownies
Cook's Notes: These buttermilk brownies are old fashioned goodness, fudgy and decadent. The recipe was easy with straightforward directions. For a  mocha experience substitute coffee for the water. It adds depth to the chocolate flavor.  One of the best parts was having all the ingredients on hand and the second best part the creamy chocolaty frosting. I guarantee you'll be licking the bowl. These brownies are reminiscent of a Texas Sheet Cake recipe. 

Recipe adapted from
  • 1-1/2 sticks of butter and 1/2 stick of margarine-total 2 sticks
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (regular-type, dry)
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 1 cup water or 1 cup coffee
  • 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt 
  • 1/2 tsp. espresso powder (it amplifies the chocolate flavor) 
  • 2 slightly beaten large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 TB. Kahlua
  • 1⁄4 cup butter 
  • 3 TB. unsweetened cocoa powder (regular type, dry)
  • 3 TB. buttermilk 
  • 2 1⁄4 cups powdered sugar 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1 TB. Kahlua
  • 3/4  cup walnuts or 1⁄2 cup pecans, chopped 
  • In a saucepan combine butter, cocoa, 2 cups sugar and 1 cup coffee or water 
  • Bring to boil; stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In large mixing bowl, blend together flour, soda, espresso and salt.
  • In small bowl combine buttermilk, eggs, Kahlua and vanilla; whisk lightly with a fork.
  • Pour buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients; mix until smooth.
  • Add cocoa mixture gradually with mixer on low setting.
  • Mix until well blended (flour and buttermilk mixture will be thick and likely need to be scraped from sides of bowl to blend thoroughly).
  • Pour into greased 13 x 9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 22-24 minutes. Test with toothpick.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
  • In saucepan, mix 1/4 cup butter, 3 TB. cocoa and 3 TB. buttermilk.
  • Whisk and stir until boiling (mixture will be slightly curdled); remove from heat.
  • Beat in 2-1/4 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 TB. Kahlua. Add more buttermilk as needed for correct consistency.  
  • Pour frosting over brownies and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. 
  • Refrigerate until set about 1-2 hours. 
Red, White and Blue Parfaits
Cook's Notes: This eye-pleasing patriotic mousse parfait recipe in the best colors around -- red, white and blue! Recipe from Serves 4-6 dependoing on size of parfait glasses.

  • 3½ cups heavy cream, divided
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. red food color
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • Assorted NEON! Food Colors & Egg Dye
  • 2 TB. white chocolate chips
  • Beat 1½ cups of the heavy cream, cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Add in red food color; stir gently with spatula until evenly tinted.
  • Beat remaining 2 cups heavy cream, remaining ½ cup sugar and lemon extract in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Remove 1 cup.
  • Add ¾ teaspoon neon blue and 5 drops neon purple food colors; stir gently with spatula until evenly tinted.
  • To assemble parfait, alternately layer red and white mousses in dessert glasses.
  • Top with blue mousse and white chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Memorial Weekend Cooking

The first observance of Memorial Day was held May 30, 1868 to honor soldiers killed in Civil War. Today Memorial Day is celebrated the last Monday in May to honor all Americans who have given their lives during wartime. The event became a federal holiday in 1971.
There are many ways large and small to pay tribute on this day to those who lost their lives and those missing in action by displaying a flag, writing a letter or contacting a family who has a missing service member or who has lost a loved one, attending a Memorial Day service/ceremony or parade in your area and visiting a grave site. Be sure to check your newspapers for other events being held in your area.

Often the holiday is celebrated with get-togethers. Here are some easy, no-fuss ideas. 
7 Layer Salad gets a holiday makeover
Ever Ready Round-Up Ideas 
Moroccan Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Raspberry Chipotle Bean Dip
Cook's Notes: I could have skipped the lunch and just eaten the dip it was that good! By the time I remembered to take a photo this small portion was all that was left. 
Only 5 ingredients. Next' go around' I thought Peach Mango Salsa would be a good substitution for Raspberry Chipotle Salsa to try.  Start out small with chili powder and work your way up the hotness gauge. 
1 lb. mild Italian sausage or Mexican chorizo
1 jar of Mrs, Renfro's  Raspberry Chipotle Salsa 
1-2 tsp. chili powder  
1/2 can refried beans
1/2 prepared  package of Mexican 4 Cheeses
  • In a large skillet brown meat, Drain grease and use a food processor to crumble meat. Wipe pan clean and add meat back into pan with a jar of salsa, chili powder, refried beans and cheese. Mix well and cook on low heat, uncovered about 20 minutes. 
  • Serve with chips 
I had company for a fiesta lunch which included chicken burrito bowls. Watermelon slices were an easy side to add. Recipe previously posted but some updated photos. 

Red White and Blue Parfaits, Texas Style Buttermilk Brownies and Firecracker Red Cupcakes with Coconut Filling

Monday, May 22, 2017

The World According to Bella

Catching Up with Spring 
What started out as birthday party for Mr. C  (Yikes ! Look at all those candles! I was worried about a fire.)  
ended up as a raw hide party for me, Sadie and Luna.
And what a feast we had. Kept us busy for a real long time. Did you notice the bed I am on? They sure know how to treat a guest well. I felt like a queen getting to use Sadie's Orthopedic Memory Foam bed. She did not seem to mind. But when it was time to leave I did not want to go. Mr.C had to drag me off the bed. It was a really fun party. 

But the next day turned out bad. I was so excited to help Mr. C launch the boat for the season.     
I was first on board and hoped Mr. C would remember my usual milkbone treat. He did not fail. The seas were calm and plenty of things caught my attention.  
In fact so much to see that I totally lost it and went on a what Mrs. S called a barking frenzy. I just couldn't help myself. There were birds in the water, birds along the shore, birds flying overhead, birds, birds everywhere. My head was dizzy looking here, there, everywhere and not being able to catch a one. Mr. C and Mrs. S said I was causing so much commotion fishing people nearby looked angry as we passed by. 

When we stopped Mrs. S said she had had enough. I spoiled their ride. So now I've lost my boating privileges at least for this month. It is really hard watching them take off another day without me. They don't even look up at the house to see me at the window with my nose pressed against the glass. I don't think they heard me whimpering as I was left behind. They just don't seem to realize I'm only doing my job protecting them from intruders who might land on our boat.

There were some bright spots last week to cheer me up. I managed to score big by catching a frog and a mouse.  I even surprised myself but then didn't know what to do with my catch. I gave them both up without a fight for Mrs. S's trade, my favorite sugar snap peas. They're too good to pass up.  You see I am trying to win Mr. C and Mrs. S over with my good behavior. I tried to be helpful on clean-up after some real tall trees were taken down. I got some quick on the job training with Mr. C . He showed me how to fetch small branches and drop them along the side of the woods.   
Memorial Day is not too far off. We have company coming. I sure hope Mr. C and Mrs. S have a change of heart. We always take a boat ride that day.

Love, Bella  

Weekend Round-Up

Think of all the beauty that's still left in
and around you and be happy.
Anne Frank
Photo taken Ely, MN
I picked this photo to go with the quote because I imagined if Anne could escape the chaos of her life she would sit on the bluffs and drink in the solitude. Perhaps she might even write in her diary. How lucky we are to have the freedom and choices to where we roam. 

Cook's Notes: Check out these recipes by Chungah from Damn Delicious site. 15 recipes that are budget friendly replicating take-out foods you can make at home. Some of my favorites were lettuce wraps 
and Orange Chicken.
Memorial Day Cooking
Cook's Notes: This week's Ever Ready specials ideas for your Memorial Weekend Cooking. Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookie Pie is the perfect dessert to have on hand in the freezer so you have more time to visit with friends and family. It's easy, tasty and no baking needed.This pie recipe can be made in a springform pan, 9 inch glass square pan or a glass pie pan as shown in the picture. It freezes well covered with foil up to two weeks. Other ice cream flavors could be substituted such as vanilla, strawberry or chocolate.
This recipe originally came from Nestle Toll House and is sure to be a hit with any age group. 

  Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookie Pie 
  • 1 quart mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • 1 regular package of Oreo cookies (not Double Stuff brand) you will need a total 2-1/2 cups cookie crumbs for this recipe
  • 5 TB. melted butter 
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 10 oz. Dark Chocolate Toll House Morsels (other options include:semi-sweet or bittersweet chips)
  • Remove ice cream carton from freezer to soften
  • In a Cuisinart crush cookies using about 2 and 1/2 rows of Oreos that have been broken up. 
  • Add in 5 TB. melted butter.
  • Use 2 cups of cookie crumbs for cookie pie crust and reserve 1/2 cup cookie crumbs and set aside
  • Place the pie pan in freezer for 15 minutes. 
  • Remove pie pan and add 1/2 of the softened carton of ice cream, smooth out ice cream evenly in pan and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cookie crumbs over it.
  • Return pie pan to freezer for an hour or until ice cream is fairly firm.
  • In a glass measuring cup microwave on high for 45 seconds the evaporated milk
  • Remove and whisk in chocolate chips until smooth
  • Pour chocolate into small bowl and place in freezer for 10 minutes to cool it down. 
  • Remove pie pan from freezer make sure the ice cream layer is firm and chocolate is cooled.
  • Pour chocolate mixture over ice cream return to freezer for an hour to firm this layer. 
  • Add last layer of ice cream and rest of cookie crumbs, lightly cover with wax paper and return to freezer for a few hours. Remove wax paper and cover the pie with foil.  Store in freezer. 
I just had to have two desserts.
Chocolate Mousse in a Phyllo Cup 

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 ...