Sunday, October 19, 2014

Field to Fork - Fall Fresh Flavors

Andy Warhol is quoted as saying that everyone experiences 15 minutes of fame. I guess I've had about 15 seconds of it, which is the amount of time it took the nice photographer guy to shoot this particular photo here on the left. I'm the person in the middle of the cover of the October issue of the Greenwood Community Newsletter.  To my left and right are Adam Moody and Cathy Richards. Both are part of the local farm to fork movement.  Each of their third generation family farms has been honored for being a leader in their industry by using best agricultural practices. I had the privilege of featuring them in an article I wrote. My story also included recipes made with the products they raised and grew. The dishes I shared had to be simple and easy to keep the word count down, but they are still delicious - Enjoy! To see the inside of the publication and read my article on page 37,  Please Click Here.

Giant Chicken Bombs

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 slices of high quality bacon
2 to 4 fresh jalapeno peppers
1/4 cup prepared barbecue sauce 


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the ends off of each pepper and then slice them down the middle length-wise. Discard the membranes and seeds, keeping each half intact.

Butterfly each breast by slicing it long-wise through the middle, but not cutting all the way through. Place two halves of each pepper inside each piece of chicken and close it up. Wrap two pieces of bacon around each chicken breast by winding one slice of bacon at a time around it.

Place the chicken on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush each piece with a tablespoon of the prepared barbecue sauce. Replace back in the oven and bake for five more minutes or until the sauce begins to bubble and brown.

Sauted Kale Bacon Salad

2 large bunches of Lacinato kale
6 slices high quality bacon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar (optional)


Cook the bacon until crisp, then remove from skillet, and set aside leaving 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Rinse and pat the kale dry with paper towels. Fold each leaf in half and remove the rib by slicing along the edge of it with a sharp knife. Chop the kale leaves and saute them  over medium low heat in the skillet with the bacon drippings. After about 5 minutes, add the vinegar and pinch of sugar if using. Saute for 5 more minutes. The kale will be "wilted" but still have a lot of texture when chewed. Remove to a serving dish. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle on top.

Beets and Butternut Squash with Lemon Shallot Dressing

4 medium beets
1 medium butternut squash
1 shallot
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Rainbow chard for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Wash the beets, slice off the stems, and cut the bottoms off.  Wrap them in another sheet of aluminum foil and place on one side of the baking sheet. Cut the ends off the butternut squash, slice it down the middle lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and place on the other side of the baking sheet.  Place in the oven and bake for about an hour or until tender (easily pierced with a fork). Check at 50 minutes; the squash may be ready, but the beets might take another 10 minutes or so. When the vegetables are done and have cooled down enough to handle, cut the skin away and cube into large pieces. Place the rainbow chard leaves on a serving platter or individual plates and arrange the squash and beets next to them. Peel and finely dice the shallot. Place in a small bowl along with the oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine.  Drizzle the lemon shallot dressing over the vegetables.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

My Mom's Lasagna

Every family has there own way of making lasagna. Here is ours - it's a straight up ground beef/red sauce variety, but it gets rave reviews.  If I offer to bring a casserole to an event or over to another family who is in need of comfort food, I've always heard, "Can you make your lasagna? It's wonderful!" It's actually not my lasagna; its my mother's version and where she got the recipe, I don't know. I do know that people seem to love it so I thought it was time I shared it here -  now my daughters can look up the recipe in a snap as well as anyone else who is craving old school, traditional cold weather comfort food!

For a printable recipe click here

Meat Sauce for Lasagna


2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 (15 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes
2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


     Place the hamburger into a skillet and break up into chunks with a fork. Dice the onion and add to the pan. Brown the mixture over medium low heat until the meat is no longer pink and the onions are tender. Put the garlic cloves through a press, add to the pan, and saute for 30 seconds. Drain any grease from the pan. Add the sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano, salt, and pepper. Let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring every so often.

To Assemble Lasagna:

     Cook 8 oz of lasagna pasta (9 strips)  according to package directions.

      Gather together:
8 oz. ricotta cheese
3 (6 oz.) packages mozzarella cheese slices
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Then, Follow These Steps:

Spread about a fourth of the meat sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Cover the sauce with three of the cooked lasagna pasta noodles.

Spread a third of the ricotta cheese over the pasta. It helps to use the back of a spoon.

Curious about making homemade ricotta cheese? Click HERE .

Sprinkle 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese over the ricotta cheese.

Next, cover with six of the mozzarella cheese slices

Spoon and spread one fourth of the remaining meat sauce over the cheese layer.
Repeat the process again two more times so you end up with the meat sauce on top.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lentil (or Any Luscious Legume) Soup

In the Midwest there is no such thing as an endless summer. Each year in mid-September the night time temperatures start to drop into the low 50's and as the month progresses the days begin to get chilly as well. It's sad to see summer go, but it's also strangely refreshing to witness the change of seasons. The sunshine seems to look golden, the air is crisp, and the changing leaves give the eye a break from the dried out colors of August.  In the hot weather, we eat a lot of salads at our house.  When it starts to get cool, everyone wants soup. This soup is so easy; no sauteing necessary - just throw everything into a soup pot and simmer until it's done. This recipe works with any legume but our favorites are brown lentils and dried split peas. Serve with some crusty bread and a small salad.

16 oz. legumes: lentils, peas, or dried beans
8 cups chicken broth
1 (8 oz.) package cubed ham
1/2 cup water
2 medium carrots
2 medium celery stalks
1 medium onion
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme


Peel and slice the carrots, dice the celery, and peel and dice the onion.

Put the carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, thyme, broth, and water into a soup pan.

Rinse, drain, and pick out anything that isn't whatever legume you have decided on.and add them to the pot. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium low.  Cook until the legume of choice is tender. It will be about 40 minutes if you are using brown lentils. If you are using split peas or dried mixed beans (the beans have to be soaked over night), it will take one hour and 15 minutes. For lentils like the red ones or Belugas, the time will be much shorter, about 20 minutes.  Stir every so often, making sure it is not burning on the bottom.  Add  a bit more water if it gets too thick before legumes have a chance to get tender.  Ladle into bowls.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tomato Party on Toast

     Just going to say it - I got this recipe from the August 2014 Bon Appetite. This recipe isn't a total rip off however; the tomato mixture is the same base for many of our family recipes that my girls love.  Some prime examples are in an old entry called "Too Many Tomatoes" (Click Here to View It) . The other day I found myself with that happy problem again. I had gone to a farmer's market and bought a bunch of yellow, green, and red varieties. Then that night Roy came home with several more that one of his secretaries had given him from her garden. I gave some away, used several in salads, and decided to give this recipe a whirl. In the magazine, they used cherry tomatoes, but since I had a tomato surplus, I just diced up what I had. It turned out to be a riot of color on the fresh ricotta cheese spread atop the grilled bread - sort of like confetti at a celebration! What to try to make homemade ricotta cheese? Click HERE

6 tomatoes, various kinds such as red, yellow, even green.
Large handful of fresh herbs such as chives, oregano, rosemary, basil

1 French baguette
3 tablespoons olive oil 

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove. put through a press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

16 oz. fresh whole milk ricotta cheese

Chop up the tomatoes and place in a bowl. There should be able 3 cups. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper together. Pour over the tomatoes and set aside.

Cut the bread into fourths and then slice each piece down the middle lengthwise. Brush each piece with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Grill about 1 minute per side.

After the bread is grilled, roughly chop the herbs and mix them into the bowl with the tomatoes.

Spread 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese on each baguette piece.  Then top each with a generous 1/3 cup of the tomato mixture. Cut in half if desired and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Special Summer Salad

As it gets closer to Labor Day, I find myself trying hard to hang onto summer. The salad in this post is a copy of one I had in Michigan on a perfect July day.  Our family cottage is in Northwest Michigan which besides being the "Cherry Capital of the World", happens to be a good climate to grow grapes. We discovered a great place to rent bikes and a wonderful bike trail that had several wineries along it.  Caroline and Adam were visiting for a few days, and our day of biking and viewing wineries was one of the best activities we did during their stay. Before we left the bike shop, the clerk pointed out a few must see wineries on the map and we stopped at one for lunch. We were starved and everything was so delicious - especially the salad. The dressing was made with verjus which is the juice of tart green grapes. I loved it so much, I bought a bottle of it at the winery and it could be bought on line, but champagne vinegar would probably be a good substitute for it. The dressing also included finely diced preserved lemons. I  bought those at a middle eastern grocery but lemon zest could be used instead.  The baked ricotta and hazelnuts really add a lot to the salad and the dressing wraps it all up in a bunch of lemony yumminess - Enjoy!

Ingredients for Four Salads

1 (5 oz. bags of spring mix salad)
1 1/3 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/4 cup plus hazelnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon or 1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup verjus or champagne vinegar
1 small clove garlic, put through a press
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
scant 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper plus a little more for sprinkling

Directions for the Salad

Mix the ricotta cheese with the lemon zest. Brush the inside of a small baking dish with a bit of the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the ricotta mixture in the dish evenly. Drizzle the rest of the 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. If the top isn't browned, place it under the broiler for two minutes, watching carefully so it browns by doesn't burn.  Curious about making homemade ricotta cheese? Click HERE .

Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the hazelnuts and stir for a minute or two until they begin to brown.  Watch carefully so they don't burn. When they have browned, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. 

Whisk together the verjus (or vinegar), olive oil, pressed garlic, preserved lemon (or zest), salt, and pepper. Set aside. Curious about making homemade preserved lemons? Click HERE .

To assemble the salad divide the spring mix between four plates. Put 1/3 cup of the sliced strawberries on each plate.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon dried blueberries and 1 tablespoon hazelnuts on each serving. Cut the baked ricotta cheese into cubes and place 1/4 cup of the cubes on each plate. Give the verjus dressing a good whisk and drizzle 2 tablespoons of it over each salad.

Sprinkle a bit of fresh ground pepper over each plate to finish the salad off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Very Easy (and Yummy) Shrimp Tacos

It doesn't get much easier ( or tastier) than this!  I have found that "cheating" by using frozen precooked shrimp allows me to whip up a meal in about 15 minutes.  The shrimp tacos here are so quick to make but they are so yummy.  They came about one dinner time when the only protein I had in the house was a bag of frozen shrimp. I was lucky enough to have an avocado and a lime as well as a tomato.  I had just gotten back from California after visiting Jenn and I was dreaming of the shrimp ceviche we had eaten out of a paper cup in one of the many fish taco joints near her apartment. The shrimp mixture in these tacos tastes a lot like that; the lime makes the precooked shrimp tastes fresh. With the addition of a corn tortilla, avocado, and tomato - it's a winner!

Ingredients for Eight Shrimp Tacos

1 pound precooked large frozen shrimp
2 to 3 tomatoes
3 green onions
2 limes (enough  for 3 tablespoons juice and garnish)
1 avocado
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
16 (six inch) corn tortillas


Put the shrimp in a bowl of cold water to thaw while you are preparing the rest of the ingredients. Peel the avocado, discard the seed, and dice it into chunks. Chop the tomatoes. Slice only the stems of the green onions.  Then drain the shrimp and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the shrimp, avocado, tomatoes, and green onions into a mixing bowl.

Peel the garlic clove and put it through a garlic press. Juice one of the limes so there is three tablespoons of juice.  In a small bowl, whisk together the pressed garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and crushed red pepper flakes.  Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the mixing bowl.

Gently toss. Warm the corn tortillas up by wrapping them in paper towels and microwaving them for 30 seconds. Or, wrap them in foil and heat them in a 350 oven for 5 to 10 minutes. 

Assemble by using two corn tortillas per serving. Put 1/4 cup of the shredded lettuce on each double tortilla and divide the shrimp mixture up evenly among them. Serve with lime slices.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Farmers Market Feast

I love farmer's markets. They are a fairly new experience for me because for years, I was too exhausted from work and running the girls around all week to go anywhere on a  Saturday morning. I do have memories of going to them as a kid; my mom would buy lots of fruit and vegetables that were in wooden woven pint containers and little bushel baskets. When we got home, she would let us husk the corn outside. Then we would pretend we were Rumpelstiltskin making gold by turning out bikes upside down and running the corn silk through the spinning wheels. Although I never showed my girls that fun little activity, they discovered farmer's markets on their own.  When Jenn was living close by, she took me to one by her house and I remembered how wonderful they are.  This summer I have been inspired by the beautiful vegetable salads I've been seeing in the foodie magazines. And, when I get the chance to go out to lunch, I've been so impressed by how eating one's vegetables seems to be back in style; it's so trendy now to like corn and beets!  The corn, bean, and tomato salad posted here is copied from Taste, a local restaurant.  The beet salad was came about after seeing a dazzling photo in Bon Appetit  (different recipe than theirs however).  The last salad is just fresh tomatoes and basil with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  It's so easy to eat healthy in the summertime. Grab a fork; enjoy the feast! 

Corn, Bean, and Tomato Salad

Ingredients for Four Servings:

3 ears of corn on the cob
1 pound fresh green beans
2 large tomatoes
3 green onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Either use left over corn on the cob or cook the corn by husking it, brushing off the corn silk, and dropping it in boiling water for seven minutes.  When it is cooled, stand the cob upright and use a sharp knife to cut off the kernels. It's alright to have some kernels that stay together in big "patches".
Snap the ends off the beans, rinse them, and place in a sauce pan.  Cover them with water, bring it up to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for just barely five minutes. They should be tender but not mushy. Drain them and set aside.
Wash, core, and chop the tomatoes.
Wash, cut the little end roots off, and slice the green onions.
Place the corn, beans, tomatoes, and green onions in a bowl.
Whisk the vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper together.  Pour over the vegetables in the bowl and gently toss.

Lemon Dill Beet Salad

Ingredients for Four Servings

6 medium sized fresh beets
1 yellow bell pepper
Salt and Pepper to shake
1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/2  tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon* or 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
Some really good olive oil for drizzling
Scant teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or labneh*

*There is a little Middle Eastern grocery store near my house where I can buy jarred preserved lemon and labneh. The labneh is just really thick yogurt - I've been buying it for years - it's great for dips and sauces for Mediterranean food.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and cut off the tops to get rid of the stems. Place the beets in a foil "packet" and drizzle them with olive oil. Shake a little salt and pepper on them and seal them up. Wash and core the yellow pepper, cutting it into four quarters. Place the yellow pepper in another foil packet and drizzle it with olive oil.  Shake some salt and pepper on it and seal it up.  Place both packets in the preheated oven and let them cook for an hour.  Let them cool. Peel or cut the skin off of the beets and cut them into slices. Cut the pepper into strips.
Arrange the beets and pepper slices on a serving platter.
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and preserved lemon or zest.
Pour over the beets and peppers.
Sprinkle the cut up dill over the vegetables.
Drizzle with just a bit more olive oil.
Sprinkle the kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on top.
Place two tablespoons of the yogurt on each serving.

Tomato Basil Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients for Four Servings

Four good sized fresh, ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
1 small glove garlic, put througha  press
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pinch pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Wash, core, and slice the tomatoes.  Gently toss with the fresh basil and put in a serving bowl or platter.  Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pinch of pepper. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes and basil and sprinkle with the kosher salt and pepper.