Friday, June 30, 2023

Purple & Yellow Summer Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

One of the best things I did this year was to give over one of my window boxes on the deck to the growing of lettuce. This beautiful variety is called “Merlot.” Interestingly enough, it was not my plan to grow lettuce. I got the seeds for free as a ‘thank you for the purchase of other seeds, so I decided to give it a try. Now I am hooked! This is a beautiful, tender, delicate lettuce that has been a wonderful addition to my dinner table. Every evening I go out with the scissors, cut what I’d like, experiment with different colors and ingredients, and enjoy a colorful, healthy, and delicious main or side.
Today I decided to focus on purple and yellow in my salad, and the results are absolutely delicious. The beauty of summer is that so many diverse fresh fruits and vegetables are available. I intend to take advantage of as many as I can.

Purple & Yellow Summer Salad

with Lemon Vinaigrette

Use the following ingredients in any quantity:
Merlot Lettuce
Fresh corn, stripped from cob
Blue cheese
Red Onion, thinly sliced

Melissa’s Yellow Watermelon
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

 Lemon Vinaigrette

 ¼ c. fresh lemon juice

1/3 cextra-virgin olive oil

1 t. Melissa’s minced garlic

1 t. Dijon mustard

1 t. sugar

¼ t. kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 Place all ingredients into the work bowl of a mini food processor and process until emulsified. Taste for seasoning.

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Thursday, June 29, 2023

Spinach and Mushroom Tart

I don’t know about you, but I will often buy things at the grocery store with the intention of using them for a specific recipe, and then, as soon as I get home, can’t find the recipe. As often as this happens to me, you’d think I would do something about it, but no. Such was the case with a package of crêpes. Somewhere I knew that I had seen a recipe for a tart using crepes, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, find it. I remembered that the recipe called for spinach and mushrooms, but that was the extent of my remembrance.

 Today, feeling a bit cocky, I decided to make up my own, and boy, was it delicious! Honestly, I couldn’t believe how good it turned out to be. There are so many wonderful things that you can do with crêpes, but the most important thing is, don’t make your own when beautiful, delicious ones are available ready-made from Melissa’s Produce. This recipe would make a wonderful brunch, lunch, or dinner addition. It could be a main for brunch or lunch, and a side dish for dinner. If you want to make it heartier, add some chopped ham, or cooked and crumbled bacon. I don’t think you can go wrong.

Spinach and Mushroom Tart

 2 T. butter

2 T. flour

2 c. whole milk

Few gratings whole nutmeg

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 T. butter

8 oz. fresh baby spinach

2 c. sliced crimini portobello mushrooms

1 t. Melissa’s minced garlic

¼ t. Montréal Steak Seasoning

4 green onions, thinly sliced

2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 10-pack Melissa’s Ready-to-Use Crêpes

2 scallions, thinly chopped

Red pepper flakes

 Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 10” skillet or sauté pan with PAM; set aside.

In another large skillet, melt butter and sauté the spinach, mushrooms, and garlic until mushrooms are soft and spinach has wilted; set aside.

Make the béchamel sauce by melting butter over medium heat in a 1.5-qt saucepan. Whisk in the flour and continue to cook and stir until golden. Slowly whisk in the milk; cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and set aside to cool slightly.

 Once the sauce cools down, measure out 1/4 cup, set aside, and mix the rest with the spinach and mushrooms.

 To assemble, place 2 crêpes into the bottom of the prepared 10” skillet. Spread about 1/3 c. of the béchamel sauce mixed with the spinach and mushrooms over the top. Sprinkle with some of the grated cheese.

 Repeat this process, using a two-crêpe layer each time. When you have only two crepes left, pour reserved béchamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with cheese, scallions, and pepper flakes.

 Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until edges of crêpes are flaky and golden, and sauce is bubbling around the edges.

Allow to rest for five minutes before slicing and serving. It is delicious warm or at room temperature, so is perfect for a buffet.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Summer Berry Icebox Cake

There is a lot to like about this dessert, particularly where patriotic summer holidays are concerned. It is cool and refreshing, makes use of the sweet goodness of fresh fruit, will be enjoyed by all, it is boldly red, white, and blue, and probably most importantly is that this no-bake dessert is make ahead. There is nothing to putting together this simple dessert; it’s more assembly than anything. I have found its sweet, cool deliciousness to be quite welcome for breakfast, so I think this would be as suitable for brunch as it would be for lunch or dinner.

No Bake Summer Berry Icebox Cake

Adapted from

 21 graham crackers

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 (3.4 oz) packages Vanilla Instant Pudding

2 c. whole milk

½ c. Amaretto

12 oz. Cool whip (or homemade whipped cream)

3 c. sliced fresh strawberries

1½ c. fresh blueberries

2 oz. white chocolate chips

 Beat cream cheese and dry pudding mixes in large bowl with mixer until blended; gradually beat in milk and Amaretto.

 Gently stir in Cool Whip or homemade whipped cream, reserving ½ cup. Spread a thin layer of Cool Whip in a 9” x 13” pan just to coat the bottom.

 Layer 5 graham crackers across the center of the pan, then 2 more, breaking them as needed, to fit around the top and bottom edges.

 Spread a layer of pudding mixture over grahams and top with a layer of blueberries and sliced strawberries. Place graham crackers on top of berries, then pudding mixture, and then layer of berries again. Repeat the graham/pudding/berries layers 1 more time (3 times total) and you should reach the top of the pan.

 Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight until the graham crackers have softened completely.

 When ready to serve, melt white chocolate chips in a bowl as directed on package and drizzle over dessert.

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Monday, June 26, 2023

Cheesy Paprika Cauliflower

My mother used to say that she could make a meal out of vegetables, and I was always right there with her. Dad, being a carnivore, wouldn’t go for that, and neither would the late Mr. O-P. Now that I’m on my own I eat what I like, when I like, and today was one of those vegetable days. Green beans amandine, broiled tomatoes, and this cauliflower dish made up my dinner plate. It was colorful, satisfying, and delicious, and, truth be told, eating vegetables always makes me feel a whole lot less guilty about having a buttered-slathered crusty roll alongside. This is a dish that is tastier than it would appear. It is super simple to put together, and is one that I do believe the kids would enjoy.

Cheesy Paprika Cauliflower

Adapted from

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 t. smoked paprika

½ t. garlic powder

¼ - ½ t. seasoned salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1-2 scallions, chopped

 Preheat the oven to 350°F.

 Blanch the cauliflower in a large pot of boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and transfer the florets to a large bowl. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. Add the paprika, garlic powder, seasoned salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the cheese; gently toss to coat the florets evenly.

 Transfer the cauliflower to a shallow baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 5 minutes, until the cheese melts.

 Top with scallions and serve.

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Saturday, June 24, 2023

Entertaining is My Love Language, Reviewed

Back in my, let’s call it heyday, like author Dawna Pitts, I used to look for any excuse to have a party. Ahh, youth. If any excuse to have a party describes either how you currently roll, wish you could, or if you simply prefer to wax nostalgic, then you will certainly enjoy Pitts’ new book Entertaining is My Love Language. Whether you are interested in entertaining spur-of-the-moment, on a small scale, or putting together a grand event, this step-by-step guide to stress-free parties with delicious foods is for you.
Pitts was born in South Korea, lived in Australia, and now resides in Arizona, ergo she has global dining and party experience, all of which is reflected in this lovely book. Here she provides you with step-by-step information on how to prep for entertaining both dinner guests and house guests, but also goes the extra mile to advise you on how to prep yourself to be beautifully ready so that you, too, can enjoy the entertaining experience.I have a lot of books on entertaining; I honestly won’t tell you how many, as it’s far too embarrassing. This book is unique in that it provides so much needed information on party planning, prep work, step-by-step tips on how to be infallible, not to mention wonderful recipes, party and menu ideas, as well as her personal tips that she has gleaned over her years of successful entertaining. Just looking at the pictures of Pitt herself automatically make you happy and ready to party.
The pictures are stunning, the food mouthwatering, and she is making me wish that I had been able to attend every one of the parties that she discusses. She also includes information on various cooking techniques that you perhaps may not yet have tried such as sous vide cooking.On the downside, there are two things lacking here, one (and this is probably just me)  is more pictures of table settings. I love to set a beautiful table, employing a wide variety of crystal and dinnerware, as well as various themes.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some in this book, but I could have used a whole lot more. On the other hand, it’s a weighty tome as is, so I doubt much more could have been included.

Perhaps there will (hopefully) be a volume two. The other thing is that there is no index. As a former researcher, let me say that indexes are invaluable when it comes to finding things that might otherwise be missed. It would have been very helpful to have had an index to the recipes in this book. Do I still recommend it? Yes I do, but for lack of an index, it only gets four out of five stars.

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 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

"Morning Mist" Tablescape

Don’t ask me why I decided to name this tablescape “Morning Mist,” because I honestly don’t know. Those are two words that happened to pop into my head while I was setting it, and I decided to go with it.

When I have one person for lunch, we always dine in the conservatory. It’s my favorite room in the house, and it soon becomes the favorite of any and all who visit. Those who dine with me do have to agree to sit down with a plant or two, sometimes hovering over their plate, when they come dining. While I have tried to reign myself in over the past couple of years, I recently couldn’t stop myself from buying a small vanilla plant (in the white pot on the pedestal to the left) in the hopes that I live long enough to see it flower and (dare I dream?), bear.  I do have blossoms on my coffee plant, so who knows what’s going to happen?

  I also found this little face vase, irresistible, and had to have it as a vessel to hold terrarium plants that I decided to take out of the terrarium because I was finding it a bit overgrown. Doesn’t she have the sweetest face?

 I decided to do something slightly girly, thanks to the vase, and went with the color scheme of pink and green. The chargers, as you all know, undoubtedly by now, are Bordallo Pinheiro geranium leaf chargers. Topping them are new Kate Spade dinner plates from the "Make It Pop" Collection. I love the green surround, deeper green border, and pink ring in the middle. On top of them are Bordallo Pinheiro Majolica Green Geranium Leaf salad plates.

Continuing the plate stack are these wonderful Longchamps wine label appetizer plate, topped with lightly floral soup bowls from Hartstone Pottery, part of a snack, set, that I inherited from my mother.


 The floral napkins are from Pottery Barn. The pink stemware is from Amazon; the green water glasses are by Villeroy and Boch.

The hammered flatware is Mikasa "Opulent" (a new favorite) also found on Amazon, as is this super cute little cream pitcher (that comes as a set of two for a fantastically low price). Isn't is darling?

The silver salt and pepper shakers belonged to the late Mr. O-P’s maternal grandmother (!!).  I discovered these when I was digging around in a box of things in the belly of the beast. Honestly, I just never know what I’m going to find. I fell in love with them on sight, and they have been a fixture on the Conservatory table ever since. If you look closely, you can see the initial "K" because his grandparents' last night was Keogh.

If you’re ever in the area, stop by and join me. A table is always waiting.

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 This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday


Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Portobello Cream Sauce

I love mushrooms, all kinds. I particularly love portobello mushrooms because of their meaty texture and taste, not to mention versatility. If you have never made one of those bad boys on the grill, that’s a “must do” this summer. I was looking to do something different with them, so decided to slice a couple super thin and turn them into a sauce for pasta. It was decadent! I truly think this sauce would be excellent over steak, chicken, and pork chops as well. You simply cannot go wrong with this, and it takes no time to put it together. Easy and company worthy, how often does that happen?Portobello Cream Sauce

  1 T. butter

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

6 oz. portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced

½ t. Montreal Steak Seasoning

1 t. Dijon mustard

1 c. heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Parsley flakes, or freshly chopped chives, to garnish

 Melt butter in a 10” skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and raise the heat to high, getting the pan quite hot. Add mushrooms all at once, and let them cook for a minute without stirring. You want to get a nice sear on them. After a minute (or two) reduce heat, add steak seasoning, and sauté mushrooms until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in Dijon and heavy cream, and cook until sauce has thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Serve immediately over steaks, chops, or chicken, or toss as I did, with pasta.

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Monday, June 19, 2023

Air Fryer Breaded Pork Chops

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to the air fryer, but I’m learning fast, and am really enjoying it. It honestly does make meal prep easy, and I have recently found that it is one of the best ways to cook a pork chop in order to keep it juicy.

This recipe is super simple. I whipped up the breading, coated the chops, and stored them in the fridge until I was ready to make dinner. Super simple, and super good.

 Air Fryer Breaded Pork Chops

Adapted from

 1 c. Italian breadcrumbs

1 T. cornstarch

1 t. garlic powder

½ t. freshly ground black pepper

½ t. onion powder

½ t. dried parsley

½ t. thyme

¼ t. smoked paprika

1 T. seasoned salt

5 T. extra virgin olive oil

4 boneless pork chops

 Place dry ingredients (bread crumbs, cornstarch, salt & pepper, paprika, onion powder, parsley, seasoning salt and thyme) into a mini food processor and process until blended. Add 1 T. olive oil and mix until a sandy texture is created.

Rub each pork chop, and then coat with breading mixture.

 Preheat the air fryer for 3 minutes to 400°F. (For easy cleanup use silicone or paper liners; in this case, I used both).

Put the pork chops into the air fryer for 7 minutes, then flip them over, and cook for another 7 minutes until the internal temperature of the pork chops reaches 145°F.

 Take the pork chops out of the air fryer and let them cool on a cooling rack. (This will prevent the bottom coating of the pork chops from getting soggy as they cool.)

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Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Black Bean Hummus

I love hummus! What I don’t particularly care for is tahini, generally one of the main ingredients in hummus. I’m not wild about the flavor or the price, or the fact that it seems to only come in large jars that ultimately end up getting shoved to the back of the fridge after I have it used it only once or twice — one or two tablespoons per use — where it mocks me every time I open the refrigerator door, and ultimately goes bad. That’s why this recipe is so appealing. No tahini! Made with fairly common pantry ingredients, this is an excellent snack, a great thing to serve when you have surprise guests (or guests that you’ve actually invited), and healthy to boot.

Black Bean Hummus

1 15-oz.can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 small clove garlic

1 scallion, both white and green parts

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1½ T. fresh lemon juice

1 T. champagne vinegar

½ t. ground cumin

½ t. kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 Place all ingredients into the work bowl of a high-speed mini food processor. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate for one hour to allow flavors to meld before serving.

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