Monday, July 29, 2013

Special, Yet Simple Summer Salads

     Jenn lives in what most people would call an "upscale" suburb community while Caroline lives in a big city, but both have discovered farmer's markets this summer. There is only one in Jenn's  little town, but it's a good one.  It has fun breakfast options like walking waffles and breakfast crepes that people munch on while they walk around and look at the local produce.  Caroline has her choice of many different locations and she and her friends get there more on the lunch end of the market times. Both girls have been experimenting with all the veggies they bring home; Caroline even made pickles with some little cucumbers she bought!  I have also been having been having a lot of fun experimenting with all the wonderful produce summer has to offer. The "caprese" salad posted here developed when I discovered how good balsamic vinegar is on watermelon!  The gazpacho salad is cool and refreshing - it's yummy like the soup it's named after and makes an impressive salad for company.  The last salad in this post is our neighbor and friend John's invention.  It tastes great either still warm or room temperature.

Watermelon "Caprese" Salad 

Ingredients for each serving:

Seedless watermelon

Handful of arugula leaves

Fresh mozzarella cheese slice

Several fresh basil leaves, chopped

A few green grapes, sliced in half

A drizzle of olive oil

A drizzle of balsamic vinegar


For each serving desired, cut out a watermelon round by using the open end of a glass like a "cookie cutter".  Place a handful of arugula on each individual serving plate. Place the watermelon round on top of the arugula. Place a cheese slice on top of the watermelon. Sprinkle the basil over the cheese and place some of the grape halves on top of the basil. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar before serving.

Gazpacho Salad


Ingredients for Four Servings:

For Salad:

1 (5 oz,) carton of cherry tomatoes

1/2 large cucumber

1/2 large green bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped white or yellow onion

For Dressing:

1 large tomato

1 tablespoon chopped white or yellow onion

1 clove garlic, put through press

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper


Cut each cherry tomato in half and place in a bowl along with the onion, diced  green pepper and seeded and diced cucumber.  Place the tomato, 1 tablespoon diced onion, garlic, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor.  Liquefy until well blended. Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing over the vegetables in the bowl.  Reserve the rest of the dressing to drizzle on top of each serving. 

John's Salad

Ingredients for Four Servings:

1 large white or yellow onion

1 large red bell pepper

1 large avocado

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper


Peel and slice the onion. Slice the pepper into strips.  Place the onion and pepper in a skillet along with the olive oil.  Over medium heat, sauté the vegetables are tender and soft, but not mushy.  Meanwhile, peel and chop the avocado.  Roughly chop the cilantro leaves.  When the onion and pepper are ready, toss in the avocado, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summertime Strawberry Soup - Sassy or Sweet

     Earlier this summer, our church had a huge garage sale (at our house) to raise money in order to send kids to camp.  For a week, my world was turned upside down as people dropped off donations at all hours of the day and others appeared to "preview" the goods.  It was actually like a seven day party; the workers moved heavy furniture around, unpacked boxes, and laid sundry items out on tables as well as sharing lots of meals and laughter with each other.  It was all worth it though - we raised over $2000 that benefitted seven children and their families.  A week after the garage sale, one lady of our church family had the core group of workers over for a lunch at her beautiful home.  Shari is known to be a gracious hostess and her elegant luncheons are famous for her special chicken salad.  She served the first course, strawberry soup, on her sun porch.  When I was handed my delicate little tea cup full, I took my first sip.  What a surprise!  I was expecting something sweet and what I tasted was quite sassy!  It was a strawberry soup that even a man would like - fresh, bright, and pleasantly tart.  Sherry was kind enough to send me the recipe, but admitted that she had changed it up a lot to achieve the soup we sampled.  I played around with the recipe as well and came up with the version that is posted here.  To be fair and equal to the old style ladies' luncheon strawberry soup, I have also included a sweeter version in this post.  This one is from Assistance in the Kitchen, a fundraiser cookbook available from Assistance League of Indianapolis here:  Jenn prefers the sweeter version and has asked me to whip it up so she can drink it as a smoothie.  Both soups are incredibly easy - isn't it nice to have a choice?

Sweet Strawberry Soup




2 pounds (8 cups) fresh strawberries

2 cups vanilla yogurt


½ cup orange juice


½ cup sugar




  In a blender, combine the yogurt, orange juice, strawberries and sugar in batches.  Cover and process until blended.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Garnish with additional strawberries, yogurt, or fresh mint leaves.


Sassy Strawberry Soup


2 pounds (8 cups) fresh strawberries

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon really great balsamic vinegar

1tablespoon chopped mint leaves



In a blender, combine the strawberries, lemon juice, vinegar, and mint leaves in batches.  Cover and process until blended.  I think it tastes great right away, but refrigerating for a while probably lets the flavors meld.  Garnish with addition strawberries, mint leaves, or a drizzle of some really good balsamic vinegar.  A fruit infused balsamic such as raspberry or strawberry, is very nice to use.


                                                            What a choice...    




                                                             Sassy...Or Sweet?



Saturday, July 20, 2013

Grilled Flank Steak with Ginger Lime Coleslaw

     Our little lake cabin has been in our family for over 50 years.  Now my sister, brother, and I share, maintain, and try to visit it as much as we can.  It's on a breathtakingly beautiful lake in upper Michigan and there is truly nothing better than being "at the lake".  Over the years we have seen the nearby cottages change hands a few times, but for the most part we have had the same neighbors for quite a while.  The "Dad" of us all is Terry who organizes at least one gathering  each year where everyone pitches in and brings something yummy to share.  Tables are set up right next to the lake, and it's a great opportunity for everyone to catch up.  

Caroline, enjoying a game of Ladders at the lake gathering

     I always love hearing what Terri's and Melanie's kids are doing since they are about the same age as my girls.  This year we were lucky enough to be there when everyone got together.  Ann, Terry's wife, grilled chicken and made great baked calico beans.  Julie and Lyle supplied brats and other delicious sides. Everyone brought terrific dishes but the hit of the night was Sue's Chipotle Cilantro Slaw from Southern Living Magazine.  It was the inspiration for the Ginger Lime Coleslaw in this post.  The spicy heat in the coleslaw goes really well with the flank steak that has been marinated in a healthy mixture (no oil) of pineapple juice, soy sauce, and spices.  Enjoy!

For the Flank Steak

     Ingredients for the Flank Steak Marinade

1/2 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 cloves minced garlic or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons sliced green onions

1 teaspoon dried ginger or 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger


Combine the ingredients and marinate the flank steak for 10 minutes room temperature or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.  Grill over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes per side according to desired doneness.

For Coleslaw:


2 cups shredded green cabbage

2 cups shredded purple cabbage

1 cup matchstick or shredded carrot

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon Sriracha Hot Sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt


Combine the cabbages, carrots, onions, cilantro, and ginger in a bowl.  Whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, lime juice, ginger, hot sauce, and salt. Pour the dressing over the slaw mixture and toss to coat.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Grilled Peach Salad with Herbed Goat Cheese

     This past Fourth of July, Roy and I were lucky enough to be able to spend it at the lake. We were happy that Caroline and her boyfriend Adam were there with us and glad that Jennifer had worked out a way to join us. However, it started out to be an unusual type of day. When we woke up, the sky was overcast and gray with the threat of rain. Adding to that minor disappointment (the lake is still beautiful, whatever the weather is), was a phone call from Jenn saying she had gotten a flat tire on her way up to join us. The morning was spent watching the sky and talking with Jenn about the how her rental car didn't have a spare and the steps she and her travel companion were going to take to get back on the road. Thankfully, the sun came out about noon, but Jenn didn't resume her trip until three o'clock. Our point of rendezvous was Traverse City and Jenn's ETA was about 7 p.m. We were planning to see the fireworks there that night, so we packed some sandwiches and hopped in the car. We also wanted to see the parade that started at 6:30. And - the National Cherry Festival was also going on. When we drove into town, there were people everywhere!  We found a space to park and made our way through the crowd to a spot to watch the parade. It happened to be right by one of those olive oil/flavored vinegar places that tourist towns seem to have. Of course I went crazy and bought lots of wonderful stuff such as peach balsamic vinegar and basil olive oil.  Just as I was checking out, Jenn texted me that she was trying to locate us, and I went to find her with all my purchases in my arms.  The grilled peach salad in this post is a result of playing around with my impulse buys, but any vinegar or olive oil could be substituted.

Grilled Peach Salad with Herbed Goat Cheese



4 ripe peaches

1 tablespoon olive oil (I used basil infused)

1 large package of salad greens

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

4 ounces goat cheese

1 teaspoon finely chopped basil

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme

1 fresh baguette, sliced and toasted

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup any white vinegar (I used peach infused white balsamic vinegar)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Optional: 3 to 4 chicken breasts grilled and sliced



Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Brush each side with the one tablespoon of the olive oil and grill over medium heat  for about 10 minutes per side to achieve nice grill marks.

While the peaches are grilling, combine the lettuce, 1/4 cup basil, and green onions. Place the greens mixture on a serving platter or on individual plates.  When the peaches are done, cool slightly, slice and add to greens. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place them on top.  If using, add the grilled and sliced chicken.

Combine the goat cheese with the 1 teaspoon basil and 1/2 teaspoon thyme.

The herbed goat cheese is great served to the side with the toasted baguette slices or even sprinkled on top of the salad.  It is especially yummy spread on a toasted baguette slice and topped with a grilled peach slice.  Drizzle a little balsamic over that, and it's heaven!

For the dressing combine the 1/2 cup olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Luscious Lemonades with Flavor Infused Syrup


Last March when Jenn and I traveled to Argentina to visit Allison, we took an overnight flight.  In the morning, just before we landed, they served us medialunas (croissants) and café con leche.  The typical Argentine breakfast didn’t fill me up for long, and by the time we arrived at Allison’s apartment I was ready for lunch.  She took us to a fun, trendy Buenos Aires’s neighborhood called “Palermo Hollywood”.  It was a warm day and by the time we were seated at the restaurant, we felt wilted and jet lagged.  The waiter gave us a printed copy of the menu and we checked off our choices with a pencil.  One option under the beverage section was lemongrass infused ginger lemonade. Refreshingly tangy but sweet, it was just the thing to give me a jolt of energy. Later in the week, after Caroline joined us, we found ourselves in another cute Palermo café. There I had some delicious mint infused lemonade.  In the months since I’ve gotten back home, I have tried to duplicate these flavor infused lemonades.  It has taken a while – either they have tasted too weak or were teeth achingly sweet. I fell back on the southern way of making lemonade; I made simple syrup but infused it with a flavor.  I think this version below tastes pretty yummy, and the level of sweetness can be altered by adding or deleting the amount of sugar. Likewise, the flavor intensity of the ginger and herbs can be increased or diminished by playing around with the amounts put into the simple syrup. I came up with some interesting combinations such as:


Lemon and Lavender




Ginger and Mint (peel the ginger before slicing when making simple syrup)


Basil and Lemon


For a Batch of Flavor Infused Simple Syrup


2 cups sugar

1 cup water

A flavor ingredient such as: ¼ teaspoon dried culinary lavender, thumbsized piece of ginger – sliced, or ¼ cup of herb leaves such as mint or basil

Place ingredients in a pan over high heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.  Allow to reach a boil and then let the mixture simmer for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and strain the syrup into a container

For the Infused Lemonade:

Simple syrup from above

8 to 10 lemons, squeezed to make 2 cups juice

1 gallon of water

Additional lemon slices and herb sprigs for garnishing


Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher along with ice.  Use the lemon slices and herb sprigs to garnish each individual glassful.