Monday, July 31, 2023

Spicy Ground Beef Teriyaki

Over the weekend I got into the mood for something really tasty. My original intent was to fire up my little smoker box and do burgers (I could, seriously, eat a burger every day), but the 102 degree temperatures put a serious kibosh on that. Instead I opted for this quick and easy stove-top dish that satisfied my craving for ground beef and spice.
Spicy Ground Beef Teriyaki

Serves 4

 1/3 c. soy sauce

2 T. Mike’s Hot Honey

1 T. Sriracha sauce

1 t. sesame oil

1 t. rice vinegar

½ t. onion powder

¼ t. ground ginger

1 lb. ground chuck

2 t. cornstarch

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-4 heads Melissa’s petite baby bok choy

Cooked rice

 In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, Sriracha, sesame oil, rice vinegar, onion powder, and ginger until well combined; set aside.

Brown the beef in a 10” skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Add sauce mixture and bring to a simmer. Set the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add bok choy; simmer until wilted.

 Dissolve the cornstarch in ¼ cup of water and add the mixture to the pan. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve over rice or Asian noodles (or in lettuce leaves).

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Sunday, July 30, 2023

Sunshine Pie, a Review

I have a confession: I love children's books. In fact, I think I have more of them now than I did when I was a child. I have actually started to collect them, and not those from my youth, but those from the youths of my parents and grandparents. I find the difference in both text and illustrations to be fascinating. Because of my interest, I jumped at the chance to review this new picture book from Welbeck Publishing Company called Sunshine Pie.

  This wonderfully illustrated, colorful story of making a pie to enjoy at a picnic from shopping for fresh ingredients, to the baking, to consumption, is a real charmer. When rain befalls the planned picnic, other options are offered in order to save the day. What a wonderful way to teach children not only how to make a pie, but how to gather ingredients, where to find them, what to do when things go wrong, and how to enjoy same with many generations of friends and family.

  Adults will find it informative and charming as well, particularly considering that the recipe for the pie is contained at the back of the book to be prepared and enjoyed (perhaps with a young friend).

  Super cute, and lots of fun for both young and old. Recommended!

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 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Sunshine Pie from Welbeck Publishing Company in exchange for anhonest review

Friday, July 28, 2023

Noodles & Company Pesto Cavatappi Copycat

I’m going to be honest with you, I have never eaten at Noodles & Company. Truth be told, I thought it was some sort of Americanized lo mein place. Friend and fellow blogger, Alycia Nichols, with whom I discuss many recipes, told me how wonderful she found a copycat recipe for their pesto cavatappi. Considering that I had been making pesto the past week as well as harvesting cherry tomatoes like crazy, this seemed well worth trying.

The advantage that I had having never been to Noodles & Company is that I didn’t know what this was supposed to taste like. At Alicia’s suggestion, I added chopped rotisserie chicken, and let me say this is deceptively delicious! When I turned it out of the skillet onto a plate, I didn’t think it really looked like much. One bite, and I knew that this was going to be gobble-it-up delicious. Whether you have tried Noodles & Company or not, this is a recipe that you really need to try.

Noodles & Company Pesto Cavatappi Copycat

8 oz. cavatappi pasta

1 c. fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 T. olive oil

1 c. halved cherry tomatoes

½ t. garlic salt

½ c. pesto sauce

½ c. heavy cream

½ c. freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ - ½ c. reserved pasta water

Cook noodles according to package directions.

While the noodles are cooking, sauté mushrooms with olive oil over medium/high heat. I like to get a good sear on mushrooms to bring out that meaty taste, so I let them cook for about a minute before shaking the pan. Cook mushrooms for three minutes, add cherry tomatoes and garlic salt, and cook the tomatoes for one minute without disturbing, then lower heat to medium and continue cooking for seven minutes, stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat on tomatoes and mushrooms to low, and add the cooked and drained cavatappi to the pan. Stir, and then add pesto sauce to the mixture. Stir to coat noodles completely then add heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and pasta water. Stir until creamy and serve. 

Top with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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Thursday, July 27, 2023

Sizzling Summer Tablescape

It’s amazing how one small change can alter your entire household. I recently discovered blanket hangers. You’re probably wondering where I’ve been all these years that I didn’t know about them; I can in no way defend myself. I chalk it up to cluelessness. I will say that these things are great! Instead of storing my quilts on the downstairs guest bed, stacked one on top of the other, making it appear as though there were three mattresses rather than two, I now have them freshly laundered, lightly pressed, and hanging up in my closet.
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about these in a post that’s about tablescapes. It’s because this table is the result of my discovering blanket hangers, because at the same time I discovered the blanket hangers, I also rediscovered the quilt that I used here as a tablecloth. I bought this during my colorful bohemian stage just after Mr. O-P passed. I was eager to change things up to begin the next chapter in my life, and didn’t entirely think things through. This quilt, purchased six years ago from Urban Outfitters, was part of my effort to completely redecorate the guest bedroom. In giving it a fresh new look, I was curious as to how it would look on my table. I know a lot of people use quilts as table coverings, but that’s really not my style. I enjoy making my statement with plate stacks. Today, however, I threw caution to the wind, and honestly think it works.I decided to use every color that I found in this quilt beginning with the centerpiece, a green Tulipiere into which I placed a variety of faux tulips.

From there I was off and running, grabbing red, blue, and orange.
Water hyacinth placemats make up the base and they are topped with white washed rustic tin chargers that I purchased at a local shop. Rustic orange melamine plates from Williams-Sonoma will be used for dinner, the bold Sicily ceramic salad plates, also from W-S are on top.
Orange flatware and napkins are from Amazon, as well as the red rose napkin rings.
The red stemmed water glasses are by Villeroy and Boch; the champagne flutes that will be used for sparkling lemonade. I found here.

Cupcakes are for dessert, and they will be served in these darling domed cupcake stands that I found at your summer and table settings awash with color. Stay cool!

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 This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday


Monday, July 24, 2023

Prince William’s Spaghetti Bolognaise

Have you ever wondered how the Princess of Wales manages to stay so thin, or, for that matter how the entirety of the royal family retain their youthful figures? I have the answer: the cuisine. I recently came across a recipe for Prince William’s bolognaise sauce, the one that he used to woo the former Kate Middleton. It was unique to my experience as it contained both wine and milk, as well as nutmeg. Over the weekend, I made the sauce, and what I learned was that, despite the wine, milk, and nutmeg, what it didn’t contain was flavor. It was all right, I suppose, but nothing to write home about, and you probably wouldn’t dream of asking for seconds. I will say that I loved the additions of the vegetables (that I sometimes add, sometimes don’t), as well as the wine and milk; the texture was lovely. I’m also well aware that the Royal Family does not indulge in garlic in any form, and I understand that, and consequently was willing to forego that for the sake of experimentation. Ultimately, though, I opted for taste. To HRH’s recipe I added:

 ¼ t. Montreal Steak seasoning

½ t. dried basil

1 t. Italian seasoning

1 T. Melissa’s minced garlic

 With these additions, it was downright tasty. Because I tasted throughout the three-hour simmer time, I ended up not adding these until the final hour. So, if you would like to try Prince William‘s recipe, as is, knowing that if you don’t care for it, all is not lost, give it a go.

Prince William’s Spaghetti Bolognaise

As seen on Women&

(Serves four)


1 T. olive oil

1 T. (30g) butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, scrubbed and chopped

2 sticks of celery, chopped

12 oz. (350g) best quality lean beef

8 oz. (250ml) dry white wine

4 oz. (120ml) milk

Pinch of nutmeg, freshly ground

1 14.5-oz. can (400g) Italian chopped tomatoes

1 t. tomato purée

8 oz. (250g) spaghetti or bucatini

1/4 c. (50g) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

2 T. freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper


To make the sauce, heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and fry the onion over a medium heat until just softened, then add the carrot and celery and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.

 Use a fork to crumble the mince and add that to the pan, stirring to mix all together. Cook until the meat is no longer pink but do not let it brown. Pour in the wine and continue cooking until it has all evaporated. Then turn down the heat and stir in the milk and nutmeg, and cook over a medium heat until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the tomatoes and purée then season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer very, very gently, uncovered, for about three hours, stirring from time to time.

 When your sauce is ready, bring a big pot of water to the boil and add a teaspoon of salt. Add the pasta to the water, stir well with a wooden spoon and cook as per the packet instructions. Drain well. Divide the pasta between four bowls and add the hot sauce to each serving. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve the Parmesan in a small dish.

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Thursday, July 20, 2023

Creamy Scallion Dressing

I enjoy garden talk. The other afternoon I was conversing with a fellow gardener, both of us lamenting the fact that our harvests were a bit lean thus far this season. I do have a bumper crop of scallions (re-grown from those initially purchased at the market) however, so decided to pull up a couple of them, pinch off a couple of basil leaves, and throw them together along with other pantry staples to create a truly fresh salad dressing. There’s nothing like making homemade salad dressing, but particularly when you’re using your own fresh herbs and vegetables. This one is light, fragrant, and as you can see, the color is beautiful.

Creamy Scallion Dressing

2 scallions, cut into 2” pieces

2 fresh basil leaves

½ c. vegetable oil

¼ c. cider vinegar

1 T. sugar

½ t. Worcestershire sauce

¼ t. dry mustard

½ t. kosher salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

 Place all ingredients into the work bowl of a mini food processor. Process until smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate four hours or overnight before serving to allow flavors to meld.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Product of the Month - Burger Press

I do a lot of cooking, with a repertoire that ranges from simple dishes to those that are quite complex. Despite all of this, my favorite food in my adulthood is the same favorite I had as a youth, and that is the humble, but soul satisfying, cheeseburger. I like making thin, flat burgers that get crispy on the edges, and then will double stack them between layers of melted cheese. I have never been able to get the patties as thin as I wanted because it’s impossible to get the leverage that you need to do so through the use of a spatula; the pressure points are off. That’s why I was so excited to find this Burger Press. It is my new favorite kitchen tool.  It is stainless steel (so easy to care for), has a nice weight to it, and it will smash those burgers diner-style flat. I love how well it works, and that it can be put in the dishwasher after use. I really think this item is going to get more use that everything else in my kitchen.

 This is my product of the month.

Photo from Amazon

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Monday, July 17, 2023

Cheddar Ranch Dip

I’m not going to lie, now that I am an adult and can do what I want with never any scolding, there are times when I’ve had dip for dinner. Not just spooning it out of the bowl, mind you, but serving it with a nice array of freshly cut vegetables, as well as crackers, and the occasional bit of rolled salami — cigarette style — that I use as a dipper. Today I decided to use this dip as a topper for a baked potato. Why not? I mean, think about it. You top potatoes with sour cream, bacon bits, chopped scallions, and shredded cheese, why not combine all of that into one, making it so much easier to deal with, and far less messy. It's also amazingly delicious when dolloped on top of an omelet. Seriously, you cannot go wrong with this delicious dip that is suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Cheddar Ranch Dip

16 oz. sour cream

3 T. (1 packet) Ranch dressing mix

1 3-oz. pkt. bacon bits

1 c. shredded Gouda cheese

2-3 scallions, chopped

 Whisk together sour cream and dressing mix in a medium bowl. Fold in remaining ingredients. Cover and store in the fridge overnight before serving.

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Thursday, July 13, 2023

Fresh Corn Salsa

With all of the fresh vegetables available both in your garden and at local farm stands, now is the time to make this salsa when it will be the freshest it can possibly be. Not only does this make a wonderful salsa, but it also makes an excellent side dish. When you have a meal that looks a bit bland color wise, say fish and chips, shrimp and chips, or grilled chicken and baked potato, a side dish of this looks beautiful, and is wonderful with almost any meat. If you’re fond of salmon, grill some and top it with this colorful condiment. It’s super simple, but it makes you look like quite the chef.

Fresh Corn Salsa

 2 c. fresh corn, stripped from the cob

½ c. finely chopped red onion or scallions

½ c. finely chopped red, yellow or orange pepper

1 seeded jalapeño, minced

Juice of ½ lime

½ c. minced fresh cilantro

1 clove garlic, minced

½ t. salt, to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour (2 to 3 is better) to allow flavors to meld. Serve in a colorful bowl with tortilla chips, as a side dish, or an accompaniment to fish. Adds zest to any meal.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Zen of Washing Dishes

I know people who will not buy certain kitchen items, even if they would make their lives much easier, simply because these items are not dishwasher safe. On one hand, I completely understand that. Households can be frantic, stressful, and exhausting. You don’t want that. You want to be able to throw everything into the dishwasher, turn it on, and spend the rest of the evening with your family. On the other hand, I think washing dishes by hand is exactly what many people need. There is a Zen in dish washing. The fragrance of the dish washing liquid, the silky smoothness of the bubbles, the meditative, repetitive action of washing, and the relaxing warmth of the water are all things that your life craves.

This should become a daily practice in your home even if it’s only washing one item. Just fill the sink partway, but allow yourself this moment. One thing that you are certainly assured of is that if you’re doing dishes by hand, you are probably going to be doing them alone. People tend to flee when something like this is needed. But instead of looking at it as a negative, embrace the alone time. Use the actions to calm your brain, to put a mental end on your frantic day. Use this as a nice segue to relaxation and eventual sleep.

   Having the proper tools is tantamount, so find a dish washing liquid with a fragrance that you love. I am a fan of citrus, so this is one of my favorites. If you prefer floral, you might try this one. If warm woodsy is your thing, try this.  Get some environmentally friendly sponges, some real dish cloths (don’t use the disposable kind for this task), and really feel what you’re doing. Wash flat pieces with slow, circular motions, and look at the interweaving patterns as you do so. Be present. If you make this a part of your daily life, you’d be surprised how much more relaxed you feel at day’s end, and how much better you sleep.

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Monday, July 10, 2023

Classic Oven Roasted Beef

One of my favorite recipes for roast beef is my own Slow Cooker Roast Beef with Red-eye Gravy. It’s always flavorful and delicious, not to mention fork tender. It’s not exaggeration to say that it cuts like butter. Yesterday, however, I had such a craving for slices of rare roast beef, similar to what you would get at a Carvery. I wanted something similar to the "Sunday Roasts" that we used to get on Sunday afternoons at the local pub when we were living in England. You could get a plate of food that would carry you into the middle of the following week, so laden it was with beef, Yorkshire pudding, two veg, and 2 to 3 kinds of potatoes. The British may not have their own cuisine, but thumbs up to that Sunday roast.

Here’s a recipe that I found that suited me quite well. It was wonderful to be able to use fresh herbs from my garden in coating the outside, and it did give the beef a wonderful flavor. French dip sandwiches are in my future!

Classic Oven Roasted Beef


3 cloves garlic minced

1 T. finely chopped Melissa’s fresh rosemary

1 T. finely chopped fresh thyme

2 t. kosher salt

2 t. freshly ground black pepper

¼ c. olive oil

3 pound rump roast

 Remove the rump roast from the refrigerator 1-2 hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

 Preheat your oven to 375°F.

 In a small bowl (or mini food processor, as I did), combine the garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir in the olive oil until well combined. Let sit for 5-10 minutes so the herbs soften and the oil takes on their flavor.

 Rub the herb mixture all over roast; make sure it’s completely covered.

 Place roast in a small roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes to brown the outside.

 Reduce the oven temperature to 225°F and continue cooking for 1½ to 2 hours or until an internal temperature reads 135° - 150°F, depending on your desired level of doneness.

Remove the roast from the oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let the roast rest for 15-30 minutes before serving.

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