Friday, June 28, 2019

Spinach and Avocado Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

In reviewing recent posts I noticed that I haven’t given you all a salad recipe in a while, so I thought I would remedy with this one. I was experimenting over the weekend and came up with what I think is a unique combination. But unique as it is, it is also delicious. Sophisticated, complex, crunchy, chewy, with hints of sweetness, and decided zing, it is easy to prepare, and incredibly good for you. The dressing can be made in advance, and all but the avocado can be prepped ahead of time. That way, it takes nothing more than slicing pitted halves of avocado, adding them artistically to your plate, and drizzling them with the tangy dressing. This is perfectly suitable for during the week, but quite impressive when you’re having company.
Spinach and Avocado Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
16-oz. pkg. fresh baby spinach
½ cup toasted walnuts
¼ cup sliced
Melissa’s Italian Sun-dried Tomatoes
½ cup fresh cubes of pineapple
Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt.
½ cup vegetable oil

For Vinaigrette:
Place all dry ingredients into the bottom of a medium size mixing bowl and whisk together until blended.

For Salad:
Place baby spinach on plates. Top with avocado slices, walnuts, pineapple, and sun-dried tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing on top, sprinkle with a few grains of salt, and serve.

Serves 4

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Great Lovers Wine Glasses...This Week's Find

Prepare yourself to be wowed. I mean it. This week I brought home my mother’s collection of “Great Lovers” wine glasses. At least that’s what we called them. Officially they are Maurus Gallo Pewter Toasting Cups featuring Beauty and the Beast, Romeo and Juliet, and a Renaissance Wedding couple. Each pair locks hands when put together. I don’t remember where they were purchased despite the fact that I was with her at the time, but it was some time during the 1980s. They are made from pewter and spun silver and each holds 4 ounces of liquid. They certainly draw gasps from guests when they see how they go together.
My mother would use these for very special dinners, or ones that she would serve around Valentine’s Day. Naturally, the female guest would get the female lover cup, the male guest, the male lover cup; they would be put together between place settings.
I honestly don’t know how many times I will use these, but I need to find a place to put at least one pair of these on display. Truly magnificent!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Brandied Blueberry Crumble

I cannot get enough of fresh fruit this season. My refrigerator is packed with it, including all forms of fresh berries. One of my favorites is blueberries, and I have been including them in salads, on top of oatmeal for breakfast, baked into pancakes, and for dessert. This recipe is easy, but elegant, considering the inclusion of the brandy. It can be made in a baking dish, or individual ramekins for a nice presentation.
Brandied Blueberry Crumble

1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. Brandy

Crumble topping:
1 cup flour
5 Tbsp. butter, chilled and cubed
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly butter a 1-quart ovenproof dish (or four small ramekins, I used
these); set aside.

Put blueberries in a bowl with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and brandy, and toss to mix. Pour berries into the prepared baking dish(es) and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

Place flour, butter, and brown sugar into the work bowl of your food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle crumble mixture evenly over the berries and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let
crumble cool slightly before serving with your favorite topping, or none at all.
Serves 3-4.

If you prefer your blueberries for breakfast, give this recipe for “To Die For” Blueberry Muffins a try.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Deck Garden Update for June

It’s hard to believe that the last time I updated you on the deck garden was three weeks ago. Go back to this post and see the huge difference! Things have grown incredibly since I first began. We have been lucky in away because our summer has been rather mild thus far, and the rain, though not helping with the flooding, has certainly helped with the plants. I don’t think I have ever had as lush and healthy a container garden as I have this year.
I am going to give you a number of views of it; this one is from the lanai. If you take a look at this post when the deck was first built, you can see that I have an enclosed area where I spend a good bit of my time, and an open area for gardening. I find such comfort being around my plants, and when they grow like these have I feel like I’m in my own little private world.
I hesitated to grow petunias, because I know they tend to get leggy, but I have been doting on them, being sure to pluck off the spent flowers every day, and, thus far, it’s doing quite well.  I love that pop of bright color.
It always amazes me when I plant a seed is that it actually grows. I planted four Cathedral Bell seeds, and not only are they growing quite well, but beginning to attach themselves to the bottle tree. I cannot wait to see this plant flower.
My seeds for the “For mature audiences only” Elever pumpkins arrived from the Philippines, were planted, and are showing good growth. I cannot wait for this to bear fruit.
 I thought I would have a good time growing gourds this year, and they’re growing quite well. It was only after I planted them that I read the information on the back of the packet only to learn that they are only going to be 2 inches long. Well, they should work well at individual place settings come fall, but I’m sure I’m not sure what other good they’ll be.
The cucumbers are encroaching on my seating area, as are the green beans, undoubtedly they will need to be moved, but where? I am beginning to get the impression that I may have over planted. 
Basil is ready for pesto making, now that I have managed to ward off a rather substantial attack by the dreaded Japanese beetle.
The grill takes up quite a bit of real estate on the deck, and if I had another place to put it that was as convenient as it is now, I probably would. My dear dad gave me this grill and as I write this it’s Father’s Day, and let me tell you this is excruciating for me -- the first one without my dad. I’m laying low today and surrounding myself with my plants. They are comfort.

The Asian lilies that came back last year seem to be dying off, so I may use that pot for some sort of fruit or vegetable.
In the blue planter there is a Stella Dora Lily. I dug it up, As well as a couple of hostas when I put my parents house on the market. I just had to have something from their garden.

That’s the update for June. I’ll be back with another one in July. What successes are you having in your garden this year?

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Green Pepper Fries

Onion rings, step aside; I am about to kick you to the curb. Today, I harvested my first green pepper from my deck garden. It was an exciting moment. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with it, whether or not I should sink my teeth into the sun-warmed fruit (yes, green pepper is a fruit), make up some pepper steak (a single serving, naturally), or do something completely different. I decided upon the latter. Having recently come across a recipe for oven baked green pepper rings, today seemed like an excellent day to give it a try. 
These are easy to make, and are amazingly good! I credit some of this to my recipe for rémoulade that I will share below, but you can dip them in anything that you like. I think this would make a great snack for the kids this summer, or a nice side for a grilled steak, chop, or piece of chicken. They will surprise and delight you, and they’re guilt-free!
Green Pepper Fries
Adapted from

bell peppers, sliced into ½” rounds, seeds removed
large eggs, beaten with 1 T. water
1 c. flour
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a medium shallow bowl, combine panko with paprika, garlic powder, and salt. Coat pepper rings first in flour, then egg, and then the panko mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.


Bake 10 minutes, carefully turn them over, and bake 10 minutes more, until tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
While peppers are baking, make rémoulade (recipe below).

Serve pepper rings with dipping sauce on the side.

1/3 c. mayonnaise
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp.
Creole seasoning
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
½ tsp. dill pickle juice
½ tsp.
hot sauce
1 small clove garlic, minced

above ingredients together in a small bowl. Will keep in the refrigerator 3-5 days.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Caramelized Shallot Dip with Toasted Everything Bagel Topping

I am not too proud to admit that I love onion dip, and, yes, I am talking about that package of desiccated mystery ingredients that are dumped into a container of sour cream. I have been known to have Designthat stuff for dinner with whatever leftover I have from the day before dipped into it. But I got to wondering how real onion dip would taste, that is, onion dip actually made with onions (or a member of the onion family), and real ingredients. I started rummaging around online and came up with this recipe. I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit of work. There’s a lot of measuring and chopping involved, and I don’t know about you, but I particularly hate peeling and mincing garlic, but it’s well worth it.

This dip is intensely flavorful. It taste like real onions, has an earthiness to it, and the crunch of fresh ingredients like parsley and chives, as well as the phenomenal “everything bagel” topping, toasted to perfection prior to use.

I found this recipe in an ad for Stacy’s pita chips, so no surprise it goes very well with them. But! It is also incredibly good on top of a baked potato, alongside roasted vegetables to use as a dip, french fries, or tater tot’s, or anything you can imagine would be good dipped into something like this. Make it! Double it! Once you do, you will never use that dried stuff again.
Caramelized Shallot Dip with Toasted Everything Bagel Topping
As seen in Bon Appétit

For the shallots:

2 3-oz. pkgs.
Melissa’s shallots, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons
sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped (a bit reserved for garnish)
2 tablespoons chives, finely sliced (a bit reserved for garnish)
Kosher salt
Black pepper

For the everything bagel topping:

1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon dried minced onion flakes
1 tablespoon dried
minced garlic flakes
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

For the dip:

1 16-ounce container sour cream
1 bag pita chips or dipper of your choice

Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Melt the butter, and then add the shallots. Sprinkle the sugar over the shallots and season generously with salt and pepper, stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until shallots are soft and deeply golden. Adjust heat as needed between medium and medium-low to keep from scorching. Once shallots are deeply browned, add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, until just softened.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Once the vinegar has evaporated, stir once more to incorporate completely. Turn off heat. Stir in parsley and chives, reserving a bit for garnish. Let shallots cool completely.

Mix all topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Heat a
small pan on medium-low heat. Toast the mixture in the pan, tossing frequently, 2-3 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned.

Transfer the mixture immediately to a sheet pan and spread out to cool.

Fold the cooled caramelized shallots into the sour cream and stir to mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Top generously with everything bagel mix, reserved parsley and chives. Serve with your favorite dipper.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Baked Spaghetti

The late Mr. O-P loved pasta. And because of this love, and because we shared cooking duties, we would have pasta in some form once a week. That tradition came to an end when he did, and I’m sorry about that. I do like pasta; I just don’t often think to make it.

Today I was looking for something comforting, reminiscent of the old days, and in casserole form. It seemed a bit of a tall order initially, but then I thought about how much Jim used to like spaghetti and I thought why not make a big spaghetti casserole, and so I did. It was as good as I hoped it would be.
Baked Spaghetti

8 oz.
1 lb. ground chuck
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ c. chopped Italian flat-leaved parsley
½ t. Montreal steak seasoning
1 32-oz. jar spaghetti sauce (your favorite)
½ t.
seasoned salt
¼ t. dried basil
¼ t. dried oregano
2 large eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 15-oz. container of ricotta cheese, divided
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 1½-quart baking dish; set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 12 minutes; drain.

While pasta is boiling, cook beef and onion in a large skillet over medium heat until meat is browned and onions are soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and parsley and cook 1 to 2 minutes more; drain. Turn off heat; return drained meat mixture to pan. Stir in spaghetti sauce, seasoned salt, basil, and oregano.

Whisk eggs, Parmesan cheese, and butter in a large bowl. Add drained spaghetti to egg mixture and toss to coat.

Place half of the spaghetti mixture into your baking dish. Top with half of the ricotta cheese, 1/3 of the mozzarella, and half of the meat sauce. Repeat this layer once more. Top with the final third of the mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes longer.

Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serves 6

Another delicious baked pasta dish is Baked Ziti.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Greek Egg Salad

It’s not that I eavesdrop on fellow diners when I’m enjoying a meal out, but when I hear the word “marvelous” in a neighboring conversation during a discussion of a recipe, admittedly my ears perk up. In this case “marvelous” was paired with the words “Greek Egg Salad.” Intriguing, no? As a lover of egg salad, I can assure you that I pondered this for the rest of my meal, and continued to do so after I got home. The next day I came up with my own version and it is, indeed, marvelous!
Greek Egg Salad

¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup finely chopped scallions
½ cup finely chopped, seeded tomato
¼ cup chopped
Kalamata olives
1 teaspoon drained capers
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon Greek salad dressing (your favorite, or
this one)
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Creole seasoning
Pinch oregano
8 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
 4 croissants, or other favorite roll 
Shredded lettuce, for serving

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl, and fold together carefully with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld, or ideally, four hours or overnight. Serve generous scoop on croissants and top with shredded lettuce.

Serves 4.

If unique egg salads are you thing, you’ll surely enjoy this Pimiento Cheese Egg Salad.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Cheesy Garlic Bread

It’s cheese, it’s bread, what’s not to like? When I was a kid this was one of my favorite sandwich combinations, second only to peanut butter and bread. When my palate became more sophisticated, I moved to cheese, mustard, and bread, and peanut butter, jelly, and bread. At any rate, favorites of my youth continue to be favorites of my not-so-youth.

I look for different cheese spreads and toppings all of the time, and this one is particularly good. I also like the fact that it can be made ahead, stored in the refrigerator, and slathered on bread and baked anytime you get a cheese and bread hankering.
Cheesy Garlic Bread

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup chopped scallions
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon
Creole seasoning
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 1-pound loaf of French bread, halved lengthwise*

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Thoroughly blend all ingredients together (except the bread, natch) in a large bowl. Slice each half of French bread diagonally into four pieces. Spread the cheese mixture evenly on the bread. Bake for 8 minutes. Set the oven to broil, and broil until hot and bubbly, about 2 additional minutes.

This is good hot from the oven, room temperature, or even cold.

*Don’t feel you need to limit yourself to French bread. Any thick-sliced bread will do. It’s wonderful on Rye bread.

If you prefer your cheese in your bread rather than on it, you must try this easy Pimiento Cheese Bread.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

NO CHURN Tiramisu Ice Cream

Some time ago I bought a couple of boxes of ladyfingers to use to make individual tiramisu. Then I lost the recipe. I put those two boxes into the freezer downstairs, and then the freezer went out. So, I brought those boxes upstairs and stared at them for a while, and then decided to make tiramisu ice cream. I just tasted it. Oh, my heavens! You are going to want to try this. Quick, easy, and positively sinful!
NO CHURN Tiramisu Ice Cream

2 c. whipping cream
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 T.
espresso powder
1 T. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
1 T. hot water
1 T. brandy
1 t. vanilla extract
½ c. crushed
¼ c. roughly chopped milk chocolate

Beat cream on medium speed using the whisk attachment of your stand or handheld mixer until stiff peaks form. Lower the speed and slowly pour in the condensed milk. Turn speed to medium/high and whip until mixture is thick and stiff peaks have formed a second time.

In a small bowl or custard cup, place espresso powder and cocoa, and stir together. Pour hot water over the top and stir to dissolve. To this mixture add brandy and vanilla extract; set aside.

Add coffee/cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed until uniformly tan in color. Fold in crushed ladyfingers and chopped chocolate.

Pour into a 1½-quart container, seal, and freeze for six hours or overnight.

Sprinkle with cocoa just before serving, if desired.

Chocolate lovers will enjoy this “no churn” variety, Billie’s Chocolate Ice Cream.

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