Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When it's (Not So) Happy Holidays & Christmas Miracles!

 Sample of our Home baked Holiday treats for Teachers, Neighbors and Friends!

 I've been wanting to update a blog post the past few days to offer a little bit of Holiday Inspiration. And wishes for a Happy Holiday. The article I'd written called "Fabulous Foods As Holiday Gifts" was published locally last Friday. And I wanted to mention it here because the fact that it came out made me happy. When I wrote it my intent was to offer inspiration in some small way to those who read it.
     I remember last Friday morning well. It looked like it was going to be an unusually peaceful day. I took a photograph of the sun rise from my living room window. The sky was an unusually bright deep pink. It seemed like it was going to be a good day. Life can change so quickly and not always for the best.
     Yet since my heart has been aching (like so many others) as a result of the recent tragedy in CT last week I didn't feel like sharing what made me happy. It didn't seem right, at least not on Friday, to post when something so tragic had just taken place. I spent the day in deep reflection instead.  I felt (still feel) deep sadness for the families and for the rest of us too. Something is not right with our world if this can happen. There's so much that simply doesn't make sense to me about this unfortunate tragedy.
       Here is what I do know. I believe we still have to do our best in our imperfect way to offer a kindness or a smile to a stranger even when maybe especially when we are hurting. We have to continue to look at our own shortcomings so that we can be the best we can be for our family and friends. We have to recognize that life is short no matter what age or stage we are at and the time to live is now.
      I woke up very early this morning to do some baking. Baking is something that always makes me happy. My kitchen warms up nicely, the smells travel throughout the whole house and I know those people I've baked for will feel a little happier too from my sharing with them.
 I'm going to keep my holidays simple this year by focusing on spending time with my kids and trying not to worry about things that don't really matter anyway.
 My wish for you is that an unexpected Christmas Miracle comes your way this season especially if you are needing one. And remember the thing about a miracle is you have to be willing to ask for (and believe in) them to receive one!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Compassion, Gratitude & Home made Pies!

“It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion toward others. If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others.” ~ Anonymous

Today is Thanksgiving day, 2012, USA. Here are a couple of photos from earlier. The first is of my simple yet sweet dinner table before all the food and family filled things in and then there's me taking the Turkey out of the oven (ta-dah!)
 I cooked it in a bag and seasoned it with celery salt, sage and thyme. It came out pretty tasty and tender--along with the homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and macaroni & cheese. Not to mention the fresh baked bread. And that was just the meal. I served appetizers and dessert too. For dessert I baked an apple, pumpkin and chocolate cream pie. I may not have to eat until next Thanksgiving.
Each year on Thanksgiving my kids and I partake in two traditions. I started them years ago when my oldest was still in Pre-school. I have a number of traditions I've begun with my kids for different reasons. My thinking is that by having their own traditions it gives them a sense of comfort and safety no matter what else is going on in their lives.
For Thanksgiving, the first is simple enough, I buy a balloon and fill it with helium. We each write  things we want to let go of before we enter the Christmas Holiday Season and things we are grateful for on little post it notes, attach them to the balloon and then go out into the yard together to let it go and watch it as it floats away and carries our wishes with it. It's always a unique experience.
Today it seemed we could spot the yellow happy face with pilgrim hat balloon floating away for miles. I could see it above a big puffy cloud then it would disappear and then one of us would spot it again until it was too far out of sight.
Our second Thanksgiving tradition takes a little more preparation. We look for a way to help some one or even a small group of people. I make a point to find someone in need beyond the traditional ways like the local food pantry. Because I find this way leaves a more lasting impression on my kids and helps them to deepen their compassion for those less fortunate then them.
That first year we were living in Dallas and we made over 30 turkey brown bag lunches and passed them out ourselves to people milling about outside the Homeless Shelter. The first year we moved to Cape Cod we purchased gift cards and on our way to a Family get together in Worcester we passed them out outside the homeless shelter there. One year it was hats and mittens.
What started this last tradition comes from something deeply personal to me. When I was young I didn't see my Father from when I was five until about nineteen. There were a number of years that I felt confused. At one point, I realized he was staying in a homeless shelter for a period of time. He passed away six years ago. Seeing someone so close to me suffer like that has showed me that not everyone who is less fortunate is lazy or doesn't care.
 Sometimes, people really do need the kindness and caring from people around them that have a little something extra to give. And that we can never really know just how much a simple act of random kindness can do to make the life of someone else better.
My hope is that when my children are grown they will remember the importance of having compassion for  themselves first and then finding ways to share it with others.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lemon Cake, Quiche & Calm after the Storm

Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.
                                                                      Ho Chi Minh

        I'm in awe of the energy that comes in with a big storm. On Cape we were OK. The storm caused minor inconveniences nothing like the unfortunate tragedies people in CT, NY, NJ and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast are facing. It's easy to feel helpless when watching the devastation and not know how to help in ways that are meaningful. Yet, I do believe we must try to help if even in small ways whenever we can.
      In my classes this week, I asked my students to talk and write about their experiences. We had good conversations and there was lots of passion in their stories.
    There's a unique calm that arrives after a storm. I took the photograph above on Wednesday. I felt I had to visit the waters edge and get a sense of the calm for myself. I knew sensing what remained after the storm would work it's way into my heart and offer me comfort. When I feel upset or disappointed at something happening in my life I know I have to wait out the storm until inner calm returns. Like when a storm hits, there's things that happen in our lives there's not much we can do about. 
I'm baking a Lemon Cake and Quiche for a friend whose coming for lunch on Monday. She's about to submit her Thesis for earning her Master's degree and she's asked me to look it over and offer feedback. It makes me happy to help. I feel useful. And it's a great opportunity to deepen a new friendship that's developing.
Both my recipes for Linda's Lemon Cake and Spinach Feta Quiche are included in "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen".

Friday, October 19, 2012

Recipe for Baked Brie with Mango Chutney, Apple Cake & Gift Making Party!

         One thing I love about the holidays is all the food. I'm currently working on an article for a local magazine supplement about ideas for Holiday Foods as gift. When you find something unique it becomes a good way to gift neighbors, teachers and other friends.
       If you don't feel like doing the work alone you can invite a friend or two over to help. And turn it into a party. I've done it in Holidays past with making Limoncello, Cake Balls and Cookie decorating.
    And there are a number of recipes I only pull out between the first of November and New Year's like Baked Brie. I might be on the early side this year because I already made it for a friend get together last week.
      For my birthday an old friend from Texas sent me a yummy recipe for Apple Cake that she thought I'd like to try along with a sweet card. It's a bundt cake and if you know anything about me, I'm a big fan of the bundt. So I bought a big bag of fresh apples and I'm going to bake it over the weekend.
  As for the recipe for Baked Brie with Mango Chutney, it's delicious and super easy. Give it a try. Simply take a brie wheel and spread mango chutney and chopped pecans on top of the wheel, wrap it in a sheet of puff pastry. Place it on a cookie sheet or in a pie plate then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes and serve with your favorite crackers or small bits of bread.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

coyotes, writing & turning on my oven

 It seems like just over night the warm air is gone and the autumn leaves are not only turning colors they're already falling too. In the summer I bike. I ride every morning a ten mile ride and stop at the water. I sit and write for a while then return home. In the Fall I walk more.

As soon as Sophia gets picked up by the bus for school (and it's not a day I'm dashing off to teaching)  I walk around my neighborhood. My neighbors stop and ask me to walk throughout the Autumn months too. There's no humidity and the structured schedule allows for afternoon walks more often.

The other morning I was on a walk and a coyote crossed my path. He didn't bother me. Which I was glad he had better things to do than lunge at me. Yet there was something about his presence on my path that reminded me how the seasons are in a process of deep transformation.

And the cooler weather gets me in my kitchen more. I'll get up early in the morning and bake until noon-dreamy island and celebration cookies and seven layer squares. I'll store them in my freezer (the way the animals are preparing for the colder weather too) for my kids school lunches.

I realized recently with all of us back at work and a new school year that I haven't had much time for catch ups with friends lately. So I'm planning to host a get together next weekend. I'm going to bake tarts: a bacon and Gouda and my favorite a cheddar and pimento cheese. Autumn's a good time to get together with friends.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Autumn, Apples and Baking Pies!

 ~"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf's a flower." Albert Camus

Autumn on Cape Cod is wonderful. The air is crisp in the morning. The cooler weather invites a coziness that I've missed throughout the summer. Outdoors long walks with a sweater, morning frost and the falling then raking of leaves offer a soothing texture to my neighborhood. Indoors the smell of apple cider and the peeling of apples for baking sweet treats offers comfort.

At my house our favorite go-to Autumn recipes once the apple trees invite us to pick their bounty include Steele Family Apple Crisp, Apple Pie and Cranberry-Apple Pie.

Every Autumn I look forward to taking the short drive North over the Bourne bridge to Acushnet to go apple picking with my kids. The hay ride over the pumpkin patch and the filling of our baskets with apples is something I always treasure. When we arrive home we often watch football, throw some Chili in the Crock-Pot and bake an Apple Crisp.

Each year some things will change. Yet some things remain constant like a simple afternoon to share good food in the crisp Autumn air.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Family Dinners

Did you happen to see my recent article in the Upper Cape Enterprise Magazine in the Family Supplement that came out last Friday?
I wrote a piece on the topic of "Family Dinners" . I talked about things like getting picky eaters to eat, getting kids to eat healthy and ideas for getting dinner on the table easier.
I shared a recipe for Linda's Sour Cream & Chicken Enchilada's, a favorite at our house and I wanted to share a photo of the enchilada's we made for dinner last week.
If you're in town and get a chance, check it out.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Holding on to Summer

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time." ~ John Lubbock

      This past week I certainly could have skipped spending two days at Wood Neck beach and the next at Menahaunt but like Lubbock suggests it was 'by no means a waste of time".
My teaching semester is about to get underway, I have an article coming out soon and my kids are busy with back to school preparations and sports practice. So there was plenty to do.
 Yet the way I see it -- all too soon my children will be at school all day and I will be teaching then rushing from one activity to the next.
So for now we did what made the most sense: we called a friend, grabbed our suits and headed down to the beach.
Surprisingly I didn't turn my oven on all week (this might just be a first) yet we did use the grill to make burgers and dogs (a summer favorite).
The photograph above is from a sunset walk I took earlier this week with my girls down to South Cape Beach.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Falmouth Road Race & Super Yummy Lunch with Old Friend!

Last Sunday was the 40th Annual Falmouth Road Race. It's always an extra busy weekend with tons of people in from out of town. My oldest daughter is an avid runner and runs on the Falmouth High School Track Team and Cross Country Team.

She ran her first Falmouth Road Race this year and it was so much fun to be there for her and cheer her on from the sidelines. She did awesome! And I know I'm just a proud mama, but she really does have a knack for running and she loves it.

She ran nine minute miles and she said the last two miles were a killer. It's that last steep hill as you approach the finish line that seems to challenge the runners most. The cool thing is you run along the water that overlooks Martha's Vineyard so the views are gorgeous.

Later that afternoon I had plans to meet a good friend of mine. Both of our lives are so busy so we don't always have a chance to get together as much as we'd like. But when we do it's always such a fun time.

 I had lunch ready for us back at my house before we headed out for the day. We decided to take a drive down Cape out to Province town. We wanted to walk the rock jetty, maybe ride our bikes out to race point and then do some people watching and shopping along Main Street.

 I made a big fresh leafy green Salad, and I put together a special thin crust pizza topped with fresh tomatoes, roasted fresh sweet corn and black beans tossed in a bit of light olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette then topped with fresh Mozzarella and Parmesan. I served black raspberry ice cream with whipped cream and a cranberry biscotti on the side for dessert.

Recipe for Linda's Black Bean & Roasted Corn Thin Crust Pizza

Take a thin crust and place onto a pizza stone
In a small bowl toss 1/4 cup fresh diced tomatoes, freshly cut corn off a single cob, 1/4 cup black beans, Tbsp. light olive oil, Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette and salt and pepper to taste
Spread onto the crust
Top with 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan and 1 cup freshly grated mozzarella
Bake in 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes until crust browns and cheese melts.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Dinner Party, Awesome (and Easy) Appetizer & Old Family Recipes!

I hosted a dinner party for ten on my back porch last night. It turned out really sweet. My guests said all the food was amazing and we sat around and chatted well into the night. Family I had not seen in many years came down and it was nice to catch up.
Earlier in the day I was a little worried about the weather--there were thunderstorms predicted, but it turned out to be a perfect night for eating out and grilling on the deck. Shown is a super easy appetizer that I make often because people love it so much. It's a simple recipe using hummus and feta cheese. The other dish is our favorite Summer Salad. We ate Strawberry Shortcake and Ice Cream Pies for dessert.
In case you're hosting a dinner party of your own soon here's my super easy recipe for a tasty appetizer.
Hummus & Vegetable Dip
Take a  container of your favorite hummus (I used a spicy version)
Sprinkle a half cup of crumbled feta on top
Slice and chop fine your favorite fresh summer vegetables ( I used finely sliced cucumber, red onions, diced fresh tomatoes and chopped yellow pepper) -Sprinkle the cut vegetables on top of the feta and hummus. Serve with your favorite cracker. I love the Simply Naked plain Baked Pita Chips.
As for the old family recipes, my guests mentioned they still have a lot of my grandmother's recipes (my dad's mother) written down and they are going to share them with me the next time we get together. I can't wait to try some of them. She was a woman who raised ten children. I can only imagine how much cooking and baking she must have done over the years.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Happiness & Breakfast!

  "All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast."
                                                    ~John Gunther

    Best day to make a big breakfast is on sunday, when everyone's around and feeling a little lazy. I woke up this morning thinking about my favorite version of pancakes because there's lots of fresh ripe raspberries ready to be eaten in my fridge.
The photo here is from a picture of when Cape Cod Magazine came to my house to photograph a number of my recipes for publication.
Later that day, my kids enjoyed eating all the food I made for the photo shoot.
I'm going to leave you with my recipe for Pancakes with Slivered Almonds, Raspberries and Fresh Whipped Cream in case you're looking for something to do with all your ripe fresh fruit.

Pancakes with Slivered Almonds, Raspberries and Fresh Whipped Cream

Servings: Refer to Batter Recipe

Begin with your favorite pancake batter. We like buttermilk pancakes. Warm a large flat griddle pan with oil. Drop medium size rounds of batter evenly and grill evenly on both sides.

Prepare fresh ripe raspberries by cleaning and drying gently, gather a large handful of slivered almonds and cream (take heavy cream and a tsp. of vanilla and mix on medium in blender until light and fluffy.)
 Take three pancakes and place in the center of a plate and top with some of the raspberries, almonds and cream.
 Serve warm with  maple syrup. (And try grade A maple syrup it's a little more expensive, but definitely worth it in taste.)

Enjoy and while here you're invited to purchase an e-book version of my recipe book. Happy Baking!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Recipe for Ice Cream Pie!

It's been especially hot and humid on Cape this week. The best place for my kids and I is cooling off down by the beach.
 Another way to keep cool is to make an ice cream pie and have it ready in the freezer for when we return.
I'm sharing my recipe below- It's so easy and such a smart way to have a cool treat ready on a hot day!

Recipe for Ice Cream Pie

Take a half gallon of your favorite ice cream
Buy a pre-made graham cracker crust
cup whipping cream
tsp. vanilla
Feel free to even buy ready-made whipped cream (it's just so easy to do and tastes so much better fresh)

Let the ice cream soften so you can spread it into the bottom of the crust. Put the whipping cream and vanilla into a mixing bowl and whip until becomes thick. Spread the cream on top of the ice cream. Cover and place in your freezer.
Go to the beach for the day and VOILA, there will be a ready made treat for you to enjoy!
Have Fun--the warm weather won't last.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Out of the Ordinary & What's for Breakfast?

When we moved back to New England from Dallas, TX to settle on Cape Cod over five years ago I was surprised to learn how many year round residents took their vacations in the summer far away from the Cape. I remember being surprised at that because Cape Cod is so beautiful and offers so much in the way of recreation and rest right here.
As a full-time resident I can now appreciate the charm in going off Cape for vacation  right when so many others are finding their way here.
Leaving Cape Cod in the summer offers an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary. And it offers a chance to get away from it all and see life from a fresh perspective. And spend some quality time with my kids.
The photo above is of my two teenagers this past week after hiking a trail in Ouray, Colorado. They enjoyed the change in culture and climate that a trip to the Mountains offered.
 While visiting with family one morning I offered to make breakfast. Finding the right ingredients for a recipe can be a bit of a challenge in a town like Ouray that is set high in the mountiains. The closest large Grocery story is about 35 miles away.
I decided to make a trip down to the local market to see what I might find. I wanted to make a fresh baked pastry, and what I came up with was a welcome and delicious breakfast treat. Tastes great with a pot of fresh coffee on the side too. And, as always it's great to be back home.

Breakfast Fruit Bake

1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
two cans refrigerated croissants, open containers and spread flat on bottom of greased baking dish
1 8oz. container, cream cheese softened
8 oz. vanilla yogurt (Whip the yogurt and softened cream cheese until smooth in a small bowl)

Bake the flat croissant dough at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until begins to brown. Let cool. Spread the cream cheese mixture over cooled dough. Place clean and dried fresh fruit evenly on top. Let chill. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Berry Pie

      I baked a pie earlier today. My daughter Bella asked if I would.
How could I resist? I know how much a simple well baked pie fresh from the oven can make others feel happy. And it's so easy.
     I chose the freshest blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries I could find from the grocery store. Brought them home and washed them in the large colander that rests on the top of my baker's hutch.
     I let them sit in the sink so the sun that peeks in through the kitchen window could kiss them dry while I tended to the (much needed) laundry. The summer always brings large loads of towels in need of washing from days spent at the beach. Not to mention all the sweaty clothes from kids playing outdoors much of the day.
      As for eating the Summer Berry Pie-- once cooled from the oven you might think you've died and gone to heaven. A single bite dissolves in your mouth and invites you to taste more. Satisfaction only comes when you can lick your whole plate and there's a dark circle of bluish red almost burgundy from the pie juice that rests above your top lip waiting to be wiped clean too..
     My son and his friends were at the house earlier today before heading down to Falmouth Heights to meet up with friends and watch the Fireworks. It's an important tradition to eat burgers cooked on the grill and slices of watermelon too. I didn't want to miss the opportunity while all the kids were around so I fired up my grill and turned my oven on. Besides, the teenagers always seem to be starving and I start to wonder if they possibly could have a hollow leg.
    At my house Summer is not only trips to the Beach, walking on the sand or staying up late watching a movie or reading a good book---it's also S'mores and Summer Berry Pie.
Looking for more yummy recipes? Check out my recipe book e-book version.

Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Birthday Parties & Summer Writing!

With two daughter's having birthday's in the summer, I've been busy planning parties. Ever since I can remember I've wanted to give my kids a birthday party that makes them feel (extra) special. It's the little things I do that seems to help them remember what they mean to me. Especially around their birthday.
Sophia and I baked sugar cookies together yesterday and rolled them into the shape of a pony. We are making them as party favors to give out at her pony party at our house this weekend. I decided to have a pony visit to give her and her friends a ride around the yard.
As for summer writing, I've been working on "Sweeter by the Beach". This past week Ive written the prologue and the first chapter called; "The Limoncello Girls".
With the kids out of school it's definitely slow going, but the way I see it, at least I'm making progress. And enjoying my kids while having a bit of a break from my busy teaching schedule.
My daughter Bella has developed a passion for photography and took this fun photo of our pony shaped cookies. You can find my recipe for "Nana's no Fail Sugar Cookie" in "Meet me in my Cape Cod Kitchen".
Link to purchase book below.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The e-book version of Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen now available!


  I'm excited to share that I finally figured out (through trial and error) how to convert my recipe book to an e-book format and make available to you here.
You're now able to order an updated copy of "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen".You can purchase a hard copy at Maiden Voyage in Mashpee Commons.
 And you can read about where my love for baking began and have access to some of my very special and favorite recipes like "Summer Vegetable Tart", "Fabulous Carrot Cake" or "Dreamy Island Cookies".

Happy Baking!

Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chicken Ceasar Salad Wraps, Sunset Cruise & Shrimp Cocktail!

I submitted the most recent article I wrote this week. It's about food ideas you can bring to the beach.

 It will be out for the July 4th supplement. I wrote a lot about keeping food dry and fresh while spending time on the sand and water. And I included a few fun and fancy food ideas like making a bunch of fresh Chicken Caesar salad wraps and even shrimp cocktail for a trip to the beach.

It was fun to hear back from the editor who said she not only loved reading the story but also made the Chicken Caesar salad wraps herself. She said they came out really good. I suggested she make sure she uses the large tortilla's and to wrap them first in foil and then seal in Ziploc bags so they'll stay fresher longer.

As for the Sunset Cruise, I went to a fundraiser last weekend to raise money for new uniforms for the Falmouth Football team with a bunch of friends. It was a fun time. It's always fun to laugh and be a little silly with a group of girlfriends.

 It turned out to be a really perfect night for a cruise around the harbor and the sunset was gorgeous! I donated a recipe book with a bunch of baker's tools that I put together in a gift basket for the event. Although I realized I never got to see who won the basket in the raffle. I hope whoever it was has fun trying out all the recipes.

I took the picture above while out on the cruise. It's a view of the Nobska Lighthouse in Woods Hole.

Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recipe for a Rainy Day!

There's not much you can do about it when it rains. But sometimes, it's disappointing when your expecting to do something fun outdoors. There's a lot of people in town for celebrating Falmouth High School Graduation and different weddings that are scheduled this weekend.

 My sister is heading down tomorrow for my daughter's dance recital and we planned to go to the beach for a day. There's nothing like a sunny warm day at the beach, but what can you do? Like I told her, I'm hopeful the sun will return soon.

My students are taking their finals next week and I wanted to share a picture I snapped (above) of a ship heading out through the canal since I won't be up on Campus for awhile after my grading is done.

I'm home for the afternoon and I'm going to make two tasty dishes: Chicken & Sour Cream Enchilada's with a Tomatillo Sauce and Pecan & Maple Cookies. I've made the Enchilada's a hundred times. It's a favorite around our house.

And I'm sharing the recipe I'm trying below for Pecan & Maple Cookies. It's super easy and I love the combination of maple with pecans. In case you are sitting at home too and looking for something to do give these simple cookies a try.

And if you're in town look for Gail Blakely's Food Column in Friday's Enterprise. I shared my experience with cooking on my new Grill and chatted with her about making Pizza's!

Pecan & Maple Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped + additional pecan halves to top cookie
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
3/4 cup self-rising flour

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2) Place the butter, maple syrup, and sugar in a bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk. Sift over the flour and chopped pecans. Mix until the dough becomes stiff.
3) Place balls of dough onto the cookie sheets and top with a reserved pecan half, pressing down gently.
4) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Caprese Salad & Back-Yard Fire's!

"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie."
                                                                                                          ~Jim Davis, "Garfield" Cartoonist

It's that time of year when there's so many opportunities to bring a favorite dish to a get together. There's cookouts, graduation parties and other celebrations to attend. One of my favorite salad's to make and bring especially this time of year to a gathering is that deliciously simple combination of fresh grown tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. My favorite version of it is shared below.

 I love the sentiment in the quote above because it's true; when it comes down to it we really like to eat what we like.Whether you're on a diet or not. I try to keep a balance between exercise and healthy eating. But I love a slice of Lemon Cake and a really good Chocolate Chip Cookie once and awhile too. So be it. Life is short. And why not try to enjoy it?

As for back yard fire's, it's a good time for that too. There's a chill in the air as the sun sets and the mosquito's haven't arrived quite yet. My daughter's and I sat around our fire-pit Friday. And of course we had to make s'mores.

Caprese Salad

1 lb. Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thin
2 large Ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
 1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped fine
Salt and Pepper to taste
 Fresh Romaine Lettuce, cleaned and dried

Take a large platter and place the romaine lettuce in a thin layer. Layer the mozzarella and the tomatoes on top of the Lettuce. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh basil and salt and pepper as desired. Chill slightly before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Chocolate Crown Cake & Recipe for a Fabulous New Sandwich!

I baked a chocolate crown cake for dessert this week. It's such a fun and easy cake to make. I bake a chocolate cake in a bundt pan, let it cool and then drizzle it with lots of melted dark and white chocolate. It does look a little like a crown!
My son was home from school one day this week. I decided (since as a growing teen he's always hungry) to make a special lunch for us to share. Food always brings us together in a way that we can talk and share about things that matter.
I was in the mood to make French Dip sandwiches: those yummy sandwiches with sliced roast beef, cheese and au jus dipping sauce but I didn't have roast beef or au jus sauce on hand.
I decided to be creative instead and come up with a new specialty from items already in my fridge. Below is the recipe of what I came up with. We ate it with roasted rosemary, olive oil and garlic potatoes.
Black Pepper Turkey with Feta & Sharp Cheddar Melts with Barbecue Sauce
Yield two sandwiches
4 Slices Black Pepper Turkey, thin from Deli
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Hearty Fresh Oatmeal Bread
Barbecue Sauce
To make:
On a medium heat warm a skillet and place the bread buttered, face down and add the turkey and cheeses then cover with another slice of bread buttered on the top. Grill until brown and cheese melts. Slice in half and serve with potatoes on the side. Take a small bowl and warm Barbecue sauce in the microwave and serve as a dipping sauce along with the sandwich.
If you give it a try, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake!

Monday is the last day of classes for one of the College Writing courses I've been teaching. By now my students have read and discussed many essays, wrote many entries in their journals and have written four essays to place in their final portfolio's.

Cake (really yummy cake that's made from scratch and with love) is a perfect way to celebrate the end of a semester. They've worked hard. We've worked hard together.

I'm baking a Lemon and a Banana Chocolate Cake over the weekend to share on our final day.
It reminds me that when I used to sell my cakes (before going back to teaching) I hand-printed my own label designs with a message that said eat more cake it'll make you feel good!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Baking Pies, Time for Grilling & Ships Coming In!

 With the return of warmer weather I decided to cook on the grill this week. We made cheeseburgers and a large cheese pizza. I bought my grill at the end of last summer and got a great deal on it. It has a place for a pizza stone and it comes out surprisingly good. I started with a basic cheese then grilled some vegetables and added sprinkles of feta before serving.
I baked an apple, three berry and a cherry pie earlier in the week. And, I took the photo of the ship from my parking spot at work. It's fun to watch the large ships pass through the canal. I'm anxious for the summer to arrive so we can pack a picnic lunch and head to the beach for the day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chicken & Sour Cream Enchilada's with Tomatillo Sauce, Sangria & Students!

I went to a Spain Reunion Party for the kids and the parents of those who went on the trip over break to Madrid and Barcelona. It was fun to hear all the stories and see all the photographs. What great memories those kids will have!
I decided to bake and bring a batch of chicken and sour cream Enchilada's with a tomatillo sauce to share.
It's super easy to make the sauce. You dice fresh tomatillo's, chop garlic, cumin, coriander, fresh lime juice, chop fresh cilantro, green chile's and salt and pepper- place into a food processor and blend. Then saute on medium heat in a sauce pan and add water to a simmer. Use sauce to cover the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Place flour tortilla's filled with fresh cooked diced chicken, cheddar cheese and sour cream rolled on bottom of baking dish. Fill the baking dish with the rolled tortilla's and top with the rest of your tomatillo sauce, sprinkle additional cheddar cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
They were a huge hit. And work well for a dinner party or other pot luck.
A writer friend of mine is hosting a fun party this Sunday to celebrate her husband's birthday. I offered to bring a pitcher of my Cranberry Sangria- the version I published in Cape Cod Magazine and if you do a blog search I'm sure I've posted the recipe here before. I thought it was a great way to not only celebrate the gorgeous weather we've been having but also his birthday.
As for my students, I can tell they are starting to get spring fever. The sun and warmth easily distract them off the topics at hand. We are studying Robert Frost. Frost knew well the lure and complexities nature offers and what a pretty day can do for the well being of one's soul.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


It seems I get along (a lot) better in my life when I step back and try to let the big questions and problems have a chance to work themselves out while I simply focus on the blessings I already have.
Some of my blessings this past week include:
The weather was so beautiful I got back to my beach walks.
I spent a bit of quality time with each of my kids.
A friend stopped by for a walk and a glass of wine and we chatted for a couple of hours in my kitchen by candlelight.
Getting started (finally) on a pastel drawing I've been wanting to do for my daughter's bed room.
Spending time with my sister and my nephews on a visit off Cape.
And making really tasty food for my family including a couple of tarts and a lemon cake.
Do you count your blessings? Do you find your life goes along more smoothly when you do?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Food as Conversation & a Taste Test!

I realized this week while in the middle of teaching my Analysis of Literature class at MA Maritime Academy how Food is often a powerful starting point for good conversation.
We've been reading Melville, Faulkner, Chekhov and Mansfield. The turning point for the character from Katherine Mansfield's Ms. Brill is when we watch her pass by her usual stop to pick up a honeycake. It was something she did often but on this day she doesn't. We had fun discussing why she didn't stop at the bakery- something she loved to do.
From there a student talked about a time he made an elaborate dinner for his girlfriend. Class ended with lots of talk about good food. Students asked me to promise by the end of the semester to bring in something for them to try.
Talks around food happen often at home too. There are times when I find it can be a bit of a challenge to connect to my teenagers. They grow and change in new directions so quickly.
So, I'll bake a Chicken Pot Pie (Bella's favorite) pictured here. It always gets them out of their room and into the kitchen to talk.
And we recently bought a Chicken Pot Pie from Pies A La Mode in Falmouth and then another one from Centerville Pie Company in Centerville to do a little taste testing of our own. They both make excellent pies but we decided we liked our version best. Because, we made it from scratch ourselves. Besides, it gave us something fun to talk about.

Friday, March 2, 2012

French Dips & Making Progress!

" A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same". ~ Elbert Hubbard

I've agreed to guest blog regularly for Girlfriendology. There is something about the concept of nurturing friendships that really appeals to me. Life gets so busy and time with friends makes it all worthwhile.
I've been lucky enough to have had some excellent friends in my life. Since food is always such a big part of so many friend get together's I thought it'd be fun to offer regular guest posts and reach a wider audience. It's going to be about hosting regular lunch clubs and offering tasty recipes too.
It's been a busy week here with getting my Language and Literature classes at MA Maritime Academy underway. Not to mention, I'm happy to announce I've completed a revised edition of "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen" and have it (just about ready) available as an e-book version through my Blog.
And if I don't hear from a Publisher who is willing to publish "Sweeter by the Beach" anytime soon, I will most likely shoot the photographs myself and make it available as an e-book as well.

As for the French Dips, over winter break my youngest daughter and I visited my sister for a night. She took good care of us and when we arrived made us a really tasty sandwich. It's something I see offered on pub menus often yet never made myself. Since we visited her, I've made them for my son (his new favorite sandwich), the kids Dad, neighbors, a friend who stopped by for an unexpected lunch and myself. They're so easy and good.
If you're looking for something new to make this weekend maybe you can give this super simple sandwich a try.

French Dip Sandwiches

Roast Beef, quality deli meat, sliced thin
Provolone cheese, sliced thin
Sharp Cheddar, sliced thin
Large Fresh Sub Rolls
2 cups, au jus sauce, for dipping the sandwiches

Place the fresh rolls, sliced open faced on a baking sheet. Turn your broiler on to a low heat. Place a baking rack close to the flame. Layer the roast beef and cheeses on top of the bread and place into a heated oven and brown for about 3- 4 minutes or until bread starts to brown and cheese melts. Place single servings of au jus sauce in small bowls and serve along with the sandwiches for dipping the sandwiches into and a nice freshly tossed green salad. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Small Things, Letting Go & Baked Mac and Cheese!

"We can do no great things; we can do small things with great love". ~ Mother Theresa
When I want someones attention I usually bake something for them. I woke up on Valentine's Day in a bit of a panic fearing that maybe no one would remember me that day. I made chocolate cookies and cranberry Biscotti dipped in chocolate for neighbors, the school bus driver, my kids and a couple of other friends. It was nice to see their smiles and receive words of appreciation. It is better to give then receive. Besides Mother Theresa was on to something-it really is those small things we do that matter most.
As for letting go, I don't like it when I have to, especially of something I deeply love and care for. But sometimes I see that I must. We all have to at times.
My daughter Bella left for a trip to Spain with her Spanish class. It wasn't easy for me to let her go, but I knew that I had to. She has a journey and a unique path of her own to follow and going on this trip was a part of it.
She and I spent the afternoon together before she left. I made a large Baked Mac and Cheese, neighbor's came over to eat with us. I made a heartier than usual Mac and Cheese. I used what I had on hand and what I thought would make a tasty combination. My son seemed to like it as he ate three bowls of it. And Bella left for Madrid, happy and full! Just in case you feel like giving it a try, here is what I made.
Baked Mac and Cheese with Bacon
1 lb. elbow macaroni
5 strips bacon, cooked and cut into small pieces
2 cups sharp cheddar, grated fine
1/4 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh diced scallions
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1) Cook the macaroni. In a large bowl toss together all ingredients, except the bread crumbs. Spoon into a 13x9 baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil & Ricotta Tart

I got a call the other day from an old friend in Texas. She reminded me of a recipe I'd shared with her years before. It was something I baked often for either a lunch get together with girlfriends or to add to a Potluck party. But I haven't made it in years.
I shared the recipe in "Linda's Hearth"- a collection I put together years ago for Christmas gifts for friends and family.
When my now teens were still toddlers, I didn't feel like dragging them around to shop at the mall looking for gifts so that year I put together those books right from home.
I baked it for this weekend because I'm going to a birthday party later today and I hate showing up to a party empty handed. I also baked one of my Lemon Cake's.
Are you looking for something to do this weekend? Give this simple and delicious recipe a try and invite some friends over to share it with you.
Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil & Ricotta Tart
Prepare your pie crust
Take 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
2 Tbsp olive oil
black pepper, freshly ground
12 oz. ricotta
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
3 eggs
4 Tbsp. whipping cream
1/4 cup chopped, oil-cured sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1) Pre-bake your crust until edges are golden brown at 350 degrees.
2) Put your basil, oil, eggs, whipping cream and cheeses into a blender or food processor, season with black pepper and process until just mixed.
3) Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and nuts but don't process.
4) Pour mixture into the pie shell and bake for 40 minutes or until set. Serve warm.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cupcakes, Joy of Food & Super Bowl Sunday!

"Talk of joy; there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread--there may be" ~ David Grayson

I baked a batch of cupcakes today to bring to a dance Sophia is going to this weekend. I made butter flavored cupcakes with a whipped cream cheese frosting and decorated them in honor of valentine's day.

On Super Bowl Sunday I'll continue the tradition I've started with my kids years ago; we put together a squares chart with candy or fun toys as a prize.

It's going to be cold Sunday so I'm going to put a large beef stew in my crock pot and bake some home made bread first thing in the morning. It will make the house all cozy and warm and smell extra good.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Story Behind Dreamy Island Cookies

A couple of summer's ago I baked and sold many of my Dreamy Island Cookies at the Coonamessett Farm Store in Falmouth. I hadn't baked them in a long while and the other day my daughter Bella asked if I would make them. They have chocolate, finely crushed pecans and flakes of coconut.

The best time to eat them is warm, right out of the oven.

I started my small at home baking business from the first summer we moved to Cape Cod. One day I decided to take my kids to Martha's Vineyard for the day. It was a perfect summer day. We rode the ferry, had lunch and took a swim. I remember we walked by a large white house that had a beautiful blue glass collection in the window. We went into town and bought a new piece for their collection. We had the store clerk gift wrap it. We went back to the house and left it on the doorstep anonymously with a note that said, "to add to your collection".

It was fun to do something unexpected for someone else. The kids and I had fun sharing in something spontaneous. My kids are much older now and I hope from time to time they remember that fun day we shared.

On the Ferry ride home I decided I would come up with a cookie for my newly formed business that would reflect the fun of that day. I thought of the name Dreamy Island Cookies to remember that trip to the Vineyard. I am not quite sure which ones I like more my Celebration Cookies with cranberry, blueberry and white chocolate or my Dreamy Island's with pecans, coconut and milk chocolate. I suppose I don't have to choose.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Never the Same Pie Twice!

"Any time of the day is a good time for pie."- Fabienne, Pulp Fiction

My kids were home from school on Monday. It gave me a chance to get a few things cooked and baked to have around the house for the week.

I baked a Cranberry Apple pie (pictured here) and I realized that I've never baked the same pie twice. I always make it more from what seems most fresh at the market and what I have on hand than a recipe.

I used fresh cranberries, apples, lots of fresh squeezed lemon juice and a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon. If I use lots of fresh fruit it's bound to turn out yummy! I like the way the tart of the lemon juice balances out the sweetness of the fruit.

Last weekend, I was invited to a fun birthday party with a group of friends. We stayed at the fancy and well-known Chatham Bars Inn. It was a lot of fun to get away for a little bit. My friend asked me to bake something sweet to share and I decided to take along my Celebration Cookies. We went out to dinner and went into town to listen to a band. We ended up having the cookies with coffee for breakfast as we spent time chatting about the night before.

The cottage we stayed in overlooked the ocean and it had snowed but it was still bright and sunny. It was a perfect winter Cape Cod morning.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do Try This at Home!

Here is the Chocolate Banana Cake I decided to make for Friday's Lunch Club. It was a perfect day for baking a cake-grey, rainy and overcast all day! I decided to share the recipe here and urge you to try it at home. Why? Because it tastes really good and your family and friends will be so happy you did.

It's an updated version of the recipe I have in "Meet Me in My Cape Cape Cod Kitchen" and I think it's my new favorite. I must admit, I was so happy when I started to make this today and realized I had everything I needed on hand so I didn't have to make a last minute run to the store.

An old friend used to sell her version of a two layer Chocolate Banana Cake to the restaurant we helped start when we lived in Dallas and every once and awhile I get a craving for a cake like this. It takes a bit of time to get this done from start to finish, but its worth it.

Recipe for Three Layer Banana Chocolate Cake

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

4 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

2 tsp. baking soda

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. Vanilla

6 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed in a bowl

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 9 inch round cake pans, set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until well mixed and add in the eggs and beat well. Mix in the sour cream and the bananas until blended and then add in the vanilla. Sift the flour and baking soda together and add to the creamed mixture and beat well. Divide batter evenly into all three pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes until baked. Cool a few minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely before frosting.

For Frosting:

4 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup natural cocoa powder

1/3 cup butter softened

4 Tbsp black coffee, brewed

Sift the powdered sugar with the cocoa then add the butter and mix on low until blended. Add the coffee and blend well until you find the consistency you want for your frosting.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Friday Lunch Club

"Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable."
~ Ina Garten, 'The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook'

I relate so well to this quote by Ina. It reflects the same basic ideas I've shared in "Sweeter by the Beach", "Meet me in My Cape Cod Kitchen" and the many articles I've written and published over the past few years like For the Love of Lobster, Fun & Fabulous Holiday Gifts, Comforts of Baking and most recently Food as Gift.

Sharing food for me, really is about making people feel comfortable.

Over the Holidays, I went to a party where an acquaintance told me about a Friday Lunch Club. She gathers girlfriends once a month and invites them over for lunch on a Friday. The idea is to make and share one of your favorite recipes, print up copies of it and send guests home with it so they can make at a later time.

I thought it was such a simple and fun way to get girlfriends together. So I've decided to host a Friday Lunch Club at my house this Friday. For this first one, I'm going to keep it simple: home made soup, a vegetable quiche and one of my favorite cakes that I don't make very often: a layered banana cake with chocolate frosting.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year, Easy Recipe for Chocolate Shortbread & Cake Balls!

"In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, but never in want." ~Irish Toast

I baked Chocolate Cake Balls yesterday (pictured here). I'd been so busy baking for others throughout the holiday season that I never got around to making these for my kids and they are one of their favorites.

I like the sentiment in the Irish Toast because my friends have always been such an important part of my life. I have a couple of friends that I am still close to today from early grade school. It is such a blessing to have good friends.

As for the Recipe for Chocolate Shortbread I wanted to share it here because I plan to bake it later today for a New Year's Dinner I'm making to celebrate my son's birthday. I'm making a black pepper roast, garlic mashed potatoes and a spinach & feta quiche. I thought the shortbread's would be something simple and yummy to go along with it.

Chocolate Shortbread

(with these you may have to begin any new year diets tomorrow)

1 cup butter

3/4 cup confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 ounces milk chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

2 cups all purpose flour

In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, until light and smooth. Beat in vanilla and melted chocolate. Stir in flour until just blended. Spread into a greased 13x9 baking dish and bake at 300 degrees for about 40 or so minutes. Let cool completely and then cut into squares.