Sunday, May 31, 2020

Toast Toppers

Forget about plain old toast! These toppers go above and beyond the usual.

Yummy add-ons like roasted pineapple, mixed fruits, bacon, radishes, cucumbers are sure to keep you satisfied for hours.
Cream cheese, Nutella, hummus, refried beans are great starter spreads for the toast. Add an egg for some extra protein and then let your creativity flow for toppers. 
Check your refrig for a starting point. 
My idea started with a piece of whole wheat toast, mashed avocado, smoked salmon, a fried egg and topped with my recipe for homemade Bagel Everything Seasoning.  
Bagel Everything Seasoning 
Make bagel seasoning ahead and store any extra in a covered container or jar.
Mix 1 tablespoon each poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried minced garlic, dried minced onion and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.

Check out this link for another idea that uses Bagel Everything Seasoning

Friday, May 29, 2020

Strawberry Tomato Bruschetta

"Ladies of the Lake"
I’ve invited them for tea
hoping for a response
to dine with me on this
warm spring day.

Perhaps they can’t choose
what elegant gown to wear
or which slippers suit their attire best.
It’s been said the yellow is the first to arrive
followed by pink beauty
who often steals the show.

The calendar has been set
though Spring is known
to be a season’s trickster
holding all the ladies back.

Who will arrive first is anyone’s guess.
It could be the Lady's slipper adorned in shades of yellow
or the Moccasin Flower veiled in delicate pink.

by Sue Ready

Meet the first lady of the spring-Yellow Lady's Slipper

An easy appetizer made with toasted French baguette slices topped with fresh ripe Roma tomatoes, strawberries, mozzarella cheese with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. 
Strawberry and Tomato Bruschetta 
Cook's Notes: Recipe makes 12 can be made ahead and assembled right before serving. 
Cooking Tip: Toast the bread slices, dice strawberries and tomatoes, set aside. 
  • 1 baguette, sliced diagonally
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced strawberries
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil ribboned
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 teaspoons good quality dark balsamic vinegar, divided 
  • Grated mozzarella cheese 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush each bread slice both sides with olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and toast 4 minutes on each side.
  • In a bowl mix diced tomatoes and strawberries, basil, garlic and 2 teaspoons balsamic. Let sit 20 minutes, stir a few times. Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Spread mixture on toast slices. Grate mozzarella cheese over each slice. With remaining teaspoon drizzle balsamic over each toast. 
Pair the appetizer with a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc! 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Cedar Plank Cooking 101

Cook's notes:
Plank grilling gives salmon the flavor imparted by a smoker with the convenience of a grill. It is a simple and elegant technique for cooking salmon.The fish steams gently in the heat of the grill, staying incredibly tender and moist. It also picks up smoky flavors from the grill and woodsy flavors from the cedar, along with whatever was used to soak the planks. You can find the planks at some grocery stores with well-stocked grill sections, cookware stores or your local hardware store. 

The meal was served with a side of wild rice and a fresh garden salad.
What You Need
A grill
Several cedar planks

Plank Tips 101:Be sure to prepare your wood properly to increase moisture for cooking and prevent burning. Take these steps to prepare your wooden grilling plank:

  • Rinse the plank with water to remove any dust.
  • Fill a sink or other large container with water.
  • Submerge the plank in the water, placing a weight on top of it. Soak the plank for 4 hours. I used several heavy bowls to weight the planks down.
  • Enhance the plank's flavor by adding 1 tablespoon salt to the water. Further reading suggested you may also stir in 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, wine, citrus or berry juice, or flavored liqueur to add more flavor. I will admit when I read the wine part I quickly decided serving wine with dinner was a much better plan than soaking a plank in it! But just my opinion:) I went with plain salted water. 
  • The planks were patted dry and olive oil rubbed on both sides. Planks were placed directly on grill racks. 
  • 350 was a good temperature and 12 minutes a side worked well. The fillets were basted with an Asian BBQ Sauce.  
  • 1 piece Alaskan Wild Salmon (check out Costco)
Asian Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons each ketchup,hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon each soy sauce, sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons Asian chili garlic sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • Sprinkle of sesame seeds
  • Pat salmon dry and brush with olive oil.
  • Mix all sauce ingredients together in a small pan and heat on low 1-2 minutes to thicken slightly. Transfer mixture to a small bowl to use for basting.
  • Heat grill to medium 350 degrees heat. Place salmon skin side down on foil or cedar planks. Baste and cook 12 minutes a side. Turn once during the cooking time. Baste a second time.   
Up Next Wild Rice Dish

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Ravioli e Fagioli

by Elaine Magliaro

Tall lilacs border
my grandparents’ driveway.
In May they bloom
with clusters of lacy lavender flowers
that fill the air
with the scent
of remembered springs.
Poem selected from "A Home for the Seasons" (book of memoir poems)
 by Elaine Magliaro

Ravioli e Fagioli
Cook's Notes: Fagioli means "beans" in Italian. This classic pasta soup dish has lots of options using a variety of beans e.g. cannellini, lima, chickpeas, white beans or Great Northern. In an effort to maximize my available pantry staples, I went with kidney beans and cannellini beans. The recipe called for a refrigerated 9 ounce package of cheese ravioli or tortellini. I had frozen cheese ravioli to use up and went with that. But note, if using larger ravioli it will soak up more liquid and will need to add more chicken broth or water when reheating. I would recommend not skipping the wine part as it adds more flavor and it is simmered for almost 5 minutes to half of the original amount.  
This one pot soup was quite flavorful and filling. I found it perfect for a chilly and  rainy evening. Pair the meal with crusty French bread and a fruit compote.
The recipe serves 4 and was adapted from BHG One Pot Dinners 2020. 

  • 8 ounces uncooked bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup mini red and yellow peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1- 32 oz. carton reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (basil, oregano, garlic)
  • 3 cups total (two kinds of beans e.g. cannelini and lima)  
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed and 1 teaspoon parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-9 ounce pkg. refrigerated Buitoni ravioli or tortellini
  • Optional chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano
  • In a 5 qt. Dutch oven or soup pot, heat oil and add sausage, onion, peppers and garlic to pan. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned, stirring occasionally. 
  • Crumble meat with a pastry cutter. Wipe pan clean of grease. 
  • Add wine and simmer, uncovered, 3 to 5 minutes or until wine reduced by half.
  • Stir in next ingredients (through salt). Bring to boil and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in ravioli and cook uncovered, 8 minutes more or until pasta is tender. Top with fresh herbs if desired.

UP NEXT: Cedar Plank Cooking 101 with Salmon as a main entree 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Spinach and Bacon Salad with Nectarines

Spinach and Bacon Salad with Nectarines 
Cook's Notes: Sometimes the best laid plans go awry through no fault of your own. The recipe called for peaches, this is not the peach season but I found nectarines were even a better choice as they hold their shape better. I had a bag of spinach but our refrigerator stopped working overnight and we had to throw out several items one being the bag. Lucky I had romaine as a backup. For this recipe I used a product that was new for me.

It's not fresh but smoked and comes in a box.  Worked great for the salad. 
The salad was the perfect side for grilled hamburgers. 
The ingredients can be increased for more servings. This salad serves 4.
Spinach Bacon Salad with Peaches or Nectarines
  • 1 small bag of spinach
  • 2 medium peaches or nectarines
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • Red onion slices 
  • Croutons
  • Bacon bits
  • 1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • Sliced almonds
Cook's Notes: Use over a fresh fruit salad or garden salad.

  • 1/3 cup lime juice (3–4 limes, juiced)
  • 3 tablespoons of honey (preferably raw!)
  • 2 tablespoons light tasting olive oil (you can use extra virgin if you prefer)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • Combine all ingredients in a small jar with tight fitting lid.
  • Shake well or use a blender to mix.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Strawberry Shortcakes with Macerated Strawberries

Savor the unofficial beginning of summer with a traditional summer dessert
Strawberry Shortcakes with Macerated Chocolate Balsamic Strawberries
 Cook's Notes: Recipe adapted from Midwest Living and makes 6-7.
I followed the Chocolate Balsamic Macerated recipe for the strawberry filling. 
Use a serrated knife to slice shortcakes. They can be served open faced or with top on as shown in photo. 
Cooking Tips: Avoid overworking the batter so shortcakes are tender not chewy. 
Shortcake Biscuits Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cold butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I used the yogurt) 
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2-3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream 
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and baking soda. Whisk ingredients. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (pea size for butter). Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, stir together egg, sour cream and milk. Add to flour mixture all at once, stirring with a fork just until moistened.
  • Drop dough into 7 mounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack; cool completely.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the strawberries and 2 tablespoons sugar. If desired, mash slightly with a fork or a potato masher. To serve, split shortcakes horizontally. Fill with the whipped cream and sweetened berries.

Macerated Strawberries 
2 cups fresh strawberries and add
2 tablespoons sugar

Macerated Strawberries with Grand Marnier
reduce sugar to 1 tablespoon and add
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Macerated Strawberries with Citrus Juice
reduce sugar to 1 tablespoon and add
2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice

Macerated Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

Cook's Notes: Use a high quality dark balsamic vinegar for this recipe. Consider a splurge and purchase Chocolate Balsamic. It's amazing and really elevates the flavor. Recipe is enough filling for 5-6 biscuits or shortcakes.
Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
the skinny on it...
Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar is rich, thick and resounds with the complexity of three different chocolates responsible for the depth of its flavor. Drizzle over vanilla gelato, mix with fresh berries or add zing to your chicken mole sauce. Make a simple salad of greens, berries, feta or blue cheese with nuts. This balsamic makes a perfect meat marinade, especially wild game.
Chocolate Balsamic Strawberries

  • 2 cups diced strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Chocolate Balsamic or another high quality dark balsamic
  • In a bowl add diced strawberries and stir in sugar. Drizzle in balsamic and mix well. Let strawberries sit for one hour on the counter, uncovered. Stir and use a slotted spoon to serve. Add a dollop of whipped cream for piece de resistance.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Memorial Day Eats Part Two

Sides and Appetizers
7 layer salad gets a holiday makeover 

Best Ever Baked Beans

Chipolte Lime Shrimp Bacon Wrapped
Yummy appetizer with your favorite margarita

Tomato Basil Caprese Skewered Appetizer
Drizzle with a high quality balsamic right before serving

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Great accompaniment for fish, chicken or pork
Foil Packet Dinners
Lemon Dijon Shrimp with Potatoes 
Lemon Shrimp with Corn and Zucchini 
Both recipes found at

 Chicken Fajitas

Provencal Shrimp and Fish Foil Packets with Creamy Saffron Orzo

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Memorial Day Treats Part One

A Blitz of Memorial Day Recipes
Desserts and Salads
Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches
Cook's Notes:Sandwich homemade (or store-bought!) waffles with ice cream and roll in colorful sprinkles. Need I say more for a winning kid-friendly treat. Bonus save extra waffles for breakfast. Recipe makes 8 servings.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 pints  vanilla ice cream, softened or another favorite
  • Multicolored sprinkles, for coating
  • Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter in a separate bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until incorporated.
  • Heat a round waffle iron. Spoon a heaping 1/2 cup of batter onto waffle iron and cook until light golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • Scoop ice cream onto half of the waffles, spreading evenly. Sandwich with remaining waffles, gently pushing ice cream out to the edges. Coat edges in sprinkles. Freeze until firm, 4 hours and up to 2 days. Cut each waffle into 4 triangles just before serving.
Desert Tacos
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Cherry Float Cupcakes

Watermelon Salad with Tomatos and Strawberries
Strawberry Avocado Spinach Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing
Tex-Mex Cauliflower Rice Salad (GF)
Blueberry Corn Salad

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Oven Roasted Salmon with Asparagus and Roasted Potatoes

Oven-Roasted Salmon, Asparagus and Roasted Potatoes
Cook's notes: A meal made on a sheet pan that requires almost no cleanup. Not only is it  healthy, delicious and fast, the flavors of the salmon, potatoes and asparagus come together beautifully to make a dish company worthy.

Recipe serves 2 and is an Ever Ready Special.

  • 1 pound small new potatoes, scrubbed clean and halved
  • 2 TB. olive oil or Herb Olive Oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound medium asparagus, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal, 1-inch long pieces
  • 1 TB. chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp. dried dill flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 TB. lemon zest
  • 1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 2 (8-to-10 ounce) salmon fillets, or salmon steaks cut about 1-inch thick
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 slices

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the potatoes with olive oil and parsley flakes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  • Place the potatoes cut side down on the baking sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the potatoes begin to brown on the bottom.
  • Turn the potatoes over and roast another 10 minutes until browned on top. Remove the pan from the oven.
  • In a medium bowl, toss the asparagus with the chopped dill, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper and a little olive oil. Place on baking sheet near potatoes. 
  • Add salmon filets skin side down. Sprinkle the salmon with herbes de Provence. Add two lemon slices to each fillet. Return the baking sheet to the oven.
  • Roast the salmon and asparagus for 10 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.
  • If you want, remove the skin and center bones (if you are using steaks), and arrange on individual plates before serving. Garnish with fresh dill and lemon wedges or slices.
Food Ideas for Memorial Day 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sheet Pan Meal

True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by E.S. Bouton
Chicken Apple Sausage Sheet Pan Meal with Roasted Veggies and Couscous
Cook's Notes: A healthier alternative to traditional sausage when using Aidells Chicken and Apple Sausage. They are gluten and nitrate free with no added hormones. Some delicious add ins include: butternut squash, sweet potatoes and broccoli. Serve the entree with a side of Parmesan Garlic Couscous. It's an Ever Ready Special that serves 4.
Cooking Tips: I added the broccoli in the last 5 minutes of cooking time with dried cranberries. This avoids the broccoli getting mushy being overcooked. 
Reserve one teaspoon of the olive oil /syrup/spices to toss with broccoli. Quartered Brussels sprouts can substitute for broccoli but will need the full cooking time with butternut squash cubes and sweet potatoes. 

  • 2  tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon each thyme, parsley, rosemary, cinnamon 
  • 1 package (12 oz.) chicken and apple smoked sausage such as Aidells. Each link cut into fourths  
  • 2 cups each broccoli florets and diced sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into slices
  • 2 Honeycrisp apples, diced or another crisp apple (could substitute Bosc pears)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • Optional 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pad.  
  • In a bowl mix sweet potatoes, butternut squash cubes, sausage links and diced apples with olive, maple syrup and spices. Reserve 1 teaspoon of liquid for broccoli. 
  • Spread mixture out on a baking sheet and arrange garlic and red onion chunks around the veggies.
  • Roast vegetables and apples until tender 15 minutes. Add in broccoli florets and cranberries or cherries. Cook 7 minutes longer.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Celebrating a milestone birthday
Happy Birthday to the guy who loves his Minnesota sweatshirt and all things chocolate.   
Jenny and Chris's dogs, Sadie and Luna stood at attention waiting for their treats. 
Yes indeed, my husband likes all things sweet particularly chocolate but a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie comes in at a real close second. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Cook's Notes: With it being mid May and rhubarb one of spring's first I thought surely I  would not have any trouble finding it in stores. WRONG assumption as I called 4 local stores and not a one had any  Lucky for me, a friend came to my rescue with some from her prolific garden patch.
Thank you Shirley for  the rescue.

  • Pie crust for a top and bottom
  • 1-1/2 cups of sugar
  • 3 TB. quick cooking tapioca
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 3 cups sliced strawberries
  • 3 cups cut finely rhubarb
  • 2 TB. ground cinnamon or 1-1/2 tablespoons Saigon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 1/4 cup mixture of cinnamon and sugar for top crust
  • Preheat oven 425 degrees.
  • In a large bowl combine sugar, tapioca, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add in cut strawberries and rhubarb. Mix well to coat.
  • Let stand 30 minutes and stir occasionally.
  • Place one pie crust in bottom of pie pan. Use a slotted spoon to drain fruit juices, placing fruit mixture on top of bottom pie crust.
  • Dot with butter and place other pie crust on top of the rhubarb mixture.
  • Brush crust lightly with milk.
  • Mix sugar and cinnamon together and a couple of tablespoons and sprinkle over crust.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut a few vents in the crust.
  • Add strips of foil on outer edge to prevent crust edges from over browning.
  • Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees, reduce heat to 400 and bake 30 minutes longer or until filling is bubbling and looks set.
  • Wait until completely cooled before cutting so pie can set up.

You know summer is just around the corner when Roxie shows up. She looked ready for the  season with her new Webb Lake sweatshirt and stringer of empty beer cans.  Note Roxie wearing a facemask as a public service message to traffic going by. She is so ready to enjoy all that summer has to offer.  

Meet Minnesota Author Barbara Saefke

NAC 2020 AUTHOR VIRTUAL TOUR MEET MINNESOTA AUTHOR BARBARA SAEFKE Barbara E. Saefke author Mystery and Romance Barbara...