Best Steaks in New Hampshire

Buckley's Kansas City Rib-Eye Steak

Buckley’s Kansas City Rib-Eye Steak

We enjoy great steaks, especially rib-eyes, and Buckley’s consistently delivers the best in New Hampshire.  At our dinner party the other night, most of us couldn’t resist the Kansas City Rib-Eye special of the night.  The steaks had been rubbed with dry BBQ seasonings and grilled to tasty perfection!  They were served with parmesan new potatoes and garlic green beans.

My husband and one other guest “oohed and ahhed” over the night’s swordfish special.  The hearty steaks were thick, juicy and cooked just right!

Wedge lettuce fans should note that Buckley’s wedge is a beauty.  The iceberg lettuce is sprinkled liberally with tomatoes, bacon, and some red onion.  You choose bleu cheese or cherry pepper ranch dressing.

We also heartily recommend the onion rings.  They may not be “THE” best in the state, but they come close.  These are great for panko fans.  The rings are thick-cut, panko-encrusted, flash-fried, and disappear right before your eyes.  With 8 in our group, two large-sized baskets vanished easily.

We also love their house-made chips and dipping sauce… and the fried orange sesame tenderloin tips are uniquely delicious.

Buckley’s wait staff is well-trained and highly attentive.  Our favorite is Constantina (Connie).  She’s super.

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Bar and Bistro at Marek’s is Merely Okay

Bar & Bistro @ Marek's Terrace, Marco Island, FL

Bar & Bistro @ Marek’s Terrace, Marco Island, FL

Far from the best food on Marco Island, the Bar and Bistro at Marek’s does deliver a nice atmosphere, especially if you can sit outside.  The veranda is lovely, as is the terrace, and the live music featured on Tuesday and Friday evenings is perfect.  Service was cordial, but inconsistent at best.  The bartender was very pleasant but had no information about what bottled wines were dry versus sweet, for example.  Thankfully, Penny, one of the owners, I think, loves wine and could help.

Several menu offerings looked enticing.  My husband chose the Asian Crispy Shredded Beef.  Portions are very European, which is fine with us.  But he found the taste just “okay,” nothing special.  (He wished he’d ordered something else.)  I had the Crab Stuffed Jumbo Shrimps.  The bacon was crisped nicely, and the stuffing on these three beautiful shrimp wasn’t overly breaded.  That said, the overall taste was not special.  For the price, the value was good.  Both entrees came with rice and stir-fried vegetables, were nothing to write home about, but the little side salad was nice.

Bar & Bistro @ Marek's Crab Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp

Bar & Bistro @ Marek’s Crab Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp

My husband wanted a cappuccino with dessert, but the machine was giving them trouble.  We did share a slice of Key Lime Pie, which was zesty and pleasantly not overly sweet.

For bistro fare, the prices are exceptionally reasonable.  For foodies, the food may be a bit mundane.  For everyone, the atmosphere is welcoming and casual.  Will we go again?  Probably, but we are more apt to choose the original and adjoining Marek’s Collier House Restaurant.  Or we may simply order appetizers and a salad to enjoy with cocktails and the live music.  (Management could benefit by switching out the outdoor light bulbs to the warm variety they use by the driveway entrance.  The cool, white-hot bulbs on the terrace cast an almost florescent -like, cafeteria-glow over the tables.  It’s the only terrace improvement I suggest.)

Maybe our expectations for the food at Bar and Bistro at Marek’s were too high, as a couple of folks had told us this was their favorite restaurant on Marco Island.  (Maybe they should get out more.  Or perhaps this is simply the handy restaurant to where they were staying.)

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GREAT Flatbreads!

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill Flatbreads

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill Flatbreads

Hubby and I were checking out a boat in North Naples, FL.  We lingered, checking out the yacht club, marina, and some nearby condos.  That means that we’d missed lunch.  Hah!  Traveling down the road by the Mercato Center, we spotted Seasons 52 Fresh Grill.

Unfamiliar with the restaurant group, we popped inside to check out the menu.  Scrumptious-looking appetizers, salads, seafood and more.  Being mid-afternoon, we felt it was too early for dinner, though a bit late for lunch.  We both opted for flatbreads.  Ron chose the Grilled Garlic Pesto Chicken with mozzarella cheese, balsamic onions, roasted red peppers, and arugula.  He absolutely loved it.

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill Lobster Mozzarella Flatbread

I chose one of the day’s specials, a Lobster and Mozzarella Flatbread, with lots of plump bite-sized pieces of Maine lobster, sliced scallions, toasted almonds, diced tomatoes, lemon zest and a lobster sour cream drizzle.

Both featured a superb light cracker-thin crust.

I will definitely return.  Several items on the menu are calling out to me, including the Maui Tuna Crunch sushi-grade tuna salad and the Sesame Grilled Salmon salad with pineapple, mango, and jicama.  Then again, the Oak-Grilled Rack of Lamb with spring vegetables also sounds scrumptious, as do the Lump Crab, Roasted Shrimp and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms.

The restaurant and wine bar atmosphere is classy, but not at all pretentious.  From the outside, we feared it might be “stuffy.”  Such thoughts were unfounded.  Seasons 52 is inviting and comfortable.

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Somethin’ Fishy at the Capri Fish House

Capri Fish House "Grouben" and Onion Rings

Capri Fish House “Grouben” and Onion Rings

I love trying restaurants!  I love good food!  Looking for things to appreciate is a passion of mine.  The Capri Fish House Restaurant on the Bay on the Isles of Capri in southwest Florida had been calling to me for some time!  We could choose indoor air-conditioned seating, outdoor tables with our toes in the sand, or in the big chickee hut, which is where we dined for lunch.

My husband ordered some white wine for us, and we began perusing the menu.

At first, I was wishing for a basket of fried oysters, but The Ronald didn’t want to partake, and I preferred to share an order.  So, I looked at some other intriguing options.  The Shrimp Spinach Salad tempted me with its chilled spinach, mushrooms, strawberries and grilled shrimp served with hot bacon dressing.  Nice!

Hubby was busy complaining about the high prices, moaning that this must be their “in season” lunch menu.  Particular examples of his angst include the Fish House Hot Dog Sub for $9.99, which had him exclaiming that he’d “never heard of a $10 hot dog anywhere.”  The cheapest burger on the menu started at $10.99, and you can add grilled onions or mushrooms for another $1.50.

Anyway, I told him to be a sport and select something that appealed to him.  He chose the Tuna Salad Sandwich for $9.99, and enjoyed it very much.

I opted for their “Grouben,” a grouper Reuben prepared with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on marbled rye bread for $14.99.   Wow!  I sure do recommend this beauty.  It featured scrumptious, plump, tender filets of sweet grouper.  It was completely delicious.

Sandwich selections come with your choice of French fries, onion rings or fresh fruit.  We love great onion rings, and these promised to be large, hand-cut gems.  Well, this proved to be a poor choice.  The golden mound of rings on both our plates arrived cold… okay… at room temperature.  I popped one in my mouth anyway.  Ooops!  Bad move.  They’d been fried in the same oil as a lot of fish and tasted very bad.  My husband called a wait staff over and explained that we’d just been served cold, fishy onion rings.  They immediately promised to bring us a side of fresh onion rings.

Shortly, a small dish with half a dozen hot onion rings arrived.  That was good service.  However, even at their freshest, I will tell you to avoid fried food here.  Period.  These may not be the absolute worst onion rings I have ever tasted, but I can’t remember where I have had any that were more awful.  The Capri Fish House batter is simply too dense and absorbs so much oil that foods fried in batter are almost spongy in texture.

I was glad I had not gone for the fried oysters or any other seafood.  I just don’t see “bad batter” as a good sign at a fish house.  Again, I recommend skipping anything fried here, unless you like a stale, old, fishy oil flavor.  This is really sad when I take into account that we dined at high noon on a Friday.  (So, if management believes that the oil is changed daily, someone is telling them fish tales.)

Sandwiches were truly good; salads looked lovely.  As your side dish, I suggest trying the fresh fruit.  We saw it, and it looked good.

The atmosphere is fun and super casual; the staff is friendly and very helpful.  The view is superb.  Will I return?  I would, because the grouper was perfect, but I must say it’s highly unlikely.  There are simply too many other great dining options on Marco Island and the Isles of Capri with similar menus, atmospheres, and views… and fresh oil in their fryers.  The bad taste remained in our mouths for hours, regardless of how many mints we popped.  I guess that I have discovered a pet peeve of mine.

The Capri fish House Restaurant does feature early bird specials Monday through Saturday from 4 – 5:45 pm, and all-you-can-eat buffets for both brunch and dinner on Sundays… just beware of anything fried.

Posted in Martin on Marco, Taste Bud Travels, The Gripes of Cath | 1 Comment

#1 Island in United States

Sunset from Sale e Pepe, Marco Island

Sunset from Sale e Pepe, Marco Island

Hey, Marco Island… Congratulations on your #1 US ranking and #4 world ranking as the Best Island to Visit!  (2014 Travelers Choice Awards)  I’ve been visiting Marco Island for 30 years and watched it grow from slow and sleepy to wonderfully Wow!  (Sorry the secret’s out!)

However, we enjoy traveling around the world and have been on some great islands.  Marco is the one I go back to again and again.  Great beach, super people, fabulous restaurants, and very safe.

With the best climate in the lower 48 and the gentle trade winds, it reminds me very much of Hawaii… without the travel.  Okay, and without the luau and volcanic mountains.  🙂

Year ‘rounders tell me they do tend to forget they live in Paradise.  Check out TripAdvisor.com for info on activities, restaurants, and hotels.  LOVE this place!

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Sasso’s is Secret Gem in Marco Island Dining

Sasso's Seafood Stuffed Lobster

Sasso’s Seafood Stuffed Lobster

Most locals and regular visitors will likely include Sasso’s International Cuisine and Seafood in their Top 3 Southwest Florida dining favorites.  I don’t find articles about it in the standard Marco Island promotional publications, so locals and those “in the know” have managed to almost hide this gem.  My husband and I found it by accident about 4-1/2 years ago, and we never fail to dine here at least once on every visit… as many times as we can, quite frankly.  The dining rooms and lounge, with a big, comfy bar and several dining tables all fill up very fast.  Even full-time residents say they try to make reservations at least one to two weeks in advance.  If you are in a hotel, ask your concierge to help you, but don’t wait until your last night.  We’ve talked with several folks who did that, only to regret having to wait until a future visit to get back to Sasso’s.

Because we travel and love foods from various cultures, Sasso’s lands right on target.  The Mediterranean-styled interior is sassy, yet stylish… classic, yet comfortable.  Diners fit in whether bedecked in their dressiest ensembles or in casual attire and flip-flops after a day at the beach.  Regardless of whether Sasso’s becomes your favorite Marco Island haunt or the spot where you go just for a special dinner, you will probably find the owner (Marianne Kramer) circulating about the tables, making sure you feel welcome and that your foods are prepared to your liking.  Sasso’s reflects Marianne’s passion!

We’ve always been welcomed by the staff and treated warmly and with the utmost professionalism, whether we were eating several courses in one of the exquisite dining rooms or simply sharing some appetizers in tapas style at the bar in the lounge.  (Bartenders Jo-B and Cathy handle a big crowd with skill and smiles.)  We admit that we are frequently wooed by the splendid nightly specials.

We love the regular menu items, especially items like the Ahi Tuna, whether as an entrée or in the Ahi Tuna Stacks appetizer, which is outrageously awesome, served on crispy wonton chips with a marinated seaweed salad and a superb Japanese ginger dressing.  We also enjoy the ever-changing House Spring Rolls, the calamari (both the spicy Asian variation and the traditional Italian style with marinara for dipping), and the melt-in-your-mouth Lobster Purse.  Who knew Maine lobster, portabella mushrooms, and brie cheese all wrapped in perfect puff pastry could be so gleefully addictive!!?

Every night a special menu features a different international culture.  The other night, Greece got the nod, and my husband was wowed by the Lemon Chicken soup, heralding as the best he’s ever had… anywhere.

The live entertainment is also first rate.  Everyone we have seen makes an effort to befriend the audience, welcoming both regulars and newcomers, and getting everyone dancing and having fun, whether you are 4, 40, or celebrating the 40th anniversary of your 40th birthday.  Owner Marianne Kramer and her staff are doing a great job of making fine dining fun and not at all stuffy.

If you drop in some night without a reservation, don’t worry about the wait time for a table.  The lounge is apt to be standing room only, especially on Thursday through Saturday nights.  That’s because the Happy Hour deal is great and the musical entertainment is delightful.  You could actually plan to go earlier and pop in next door to the miniature golf facility recently opened by Marianne and her husband.  These 18 holes are far from typical, as the course meanders through luxurious gardens throughout the tropical theme.

Regardless of where we dine across the United States or abroad, we always look forward to coming home to Sasso’s.  Check it out at www.Sassos.com or in person at 961 Winterberry Drive in Marco Island, Florida, just off Collier Boulevard, one block east of the Hilton.

 

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Shame Shame Shame — Shame of Fools

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry closed out 2013 providing the year’s easiest addition to the “Gripes of Cath.”  She lessened respect for herself, political commentators, her fellow MSNBC staff members, and other journalists.

 

While I have come to expect low humor from comedians and actors, I do not expect such from someone who purports to be a serious commentator and newswoman.  As others have learned, commentators should stick to political commentary and avoid pretending to have any sort of objectivity.

 

In my opinion, Harris-Perry’s obvious and snidely-expressed political bias diminishes her credibility as a political science professor.  Unless a student has already decided to be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, they would surely strain to respect Harris-Perry’s views.

 

I respect her emotional apology.  That showed guts.  However, I can’t help but wonder if it might have had a lot to do with preventing the possible loss of her MSNBC job or repairing the warped stature she created for herself as a laudable opinion-molder.

 

As a political independent since the early 1970’s, I admit to being no fan of politics.  However, Harris-Perry and her giggling gaggle spewed worse garbage than some conservative commentators, of whom so many liberals delight in poking with criticism.  Tasteless.  Ignorant.  Strongly biased.

 

Lacking sense, these thoughtless comments not only revealed how out-of-touch some folks are regarding Mitt Romney, but they also revealed a seeming disdain for decent human values and the very color blindness they would like people to think that liberals alone advocate.  Embarrassing for us all.

 

They can now tweet, email, and offer heartfelt apologies all they like.  I respect Romney and his family for having the class to so graciously accept Harris-Perry’s apology.  From where I stand, she should never use the word journalist or newsperson in association with her name.  Ever.  As a political science professor, she most assuredly should know better.  Period.

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Dog Writes Woofin’ Wonderful Book!

Miles-Mannered Man  When a great dog writes a great book, he’s far from barking up the wrong tree!  “Dog Days in the Life of the Miles-Mannered Man” is a heart-warming and hysterical collection of tall tales, wagging tails, and tantalizing treats.  Dog fans everywhere love how relatable this Forever Dog…. er… ah… Fur-ever Dog is.

After all the “atta-boys” for his limited edition hard cover, Miles’ book is finally available in paperback and as an easy e-book.  This makes a dog-gone superb gift for anyone… or yourself, if you’ve been good!  Check it out on www.Amazon.com by simply searching for Miles Mannered Man, if the link fails.

Along with all of Miles’ paws-itively relatable stories, special treats are included FREE!   They include:

  • Presidential Pooches (& other White House pets)
  • Other Famous & Heroic Dogs
  • Miles’ Favorite Recipes
  • Dog Quotes & Jokes with the  Miles Paw of Approval

So… get your copy, published by Quiet Thunder; then grab a biscuit and a cool bowl of milk and enjoy the “Miles-Mannered Man.”  If you get it from Amazon.com you get the value-added benefit of being able to then snag the Kindle digital eBook copy for FREE (rather than the usual $7.99).  Woof!

PS. Oh, and there are a few other titles from Quiet Publishing, as well, but dog fans think that Miles’ book is the cat’s meow.

Posted in Must Love Dogs (& Other Wonderful Pets) | 10 Comments

“The Counselor” Delivers a Halloween Trick, Not Treat

As much as I dislike giving bad reviews, sometimes someone earns it with such fervor that I must comply.  Few films reviewed by me since the early 1980’s miss the mark on as many levels as “The Counselor.”  Bottom line:  don’t pay money to see this.  When it’s available for free, don’t waste two hours on it.  Okay, that’s cruel, but “Yikes!”

 

The trailer failed to hint at what the film delivered.  Perhaps they were going for farce, in which case they did fine.  If they were aspiring to reach Tarantino-dom, Quentin has little to fear.

 

The great cast list sucked us in, and, to their credit, the actors did the best anyone could do with this over-articulated, unresolved script and storyline.  Hearing some of these characters “waxing poetic” sounded ludicrous to say the least, yet their diatribes go on and on and on, making the film feel painfully longer than it’s one-hour-and-fifty-one-minute running time.  An audience needs to be able to care about characters before they’ll care about their convoluted philosophies.

 

Lots of holes and continuity issues abound in the deliberately disjointed story line.  Contrived and illogical choices by characters simply add to the pretentiousness of this loose character study surrounding an attorney’s foray into a deal with Mexican drug cartels.

 

That said, “The Counselor” kept us talking for a long while.  We could even see some scenarios for a sequel that could actually tie in many of the dangling story lines and characters.  However, everyone in our group agreed that they would not bother seeing a sequel, even if it promised resolution.

 

Overall, the film doesn’t work for me on lots of levels, including bad screenplay, ridiculous dialogue, morbid sexual undertones, crazy continuity issues, weak segues, predictable twists, gratuitous violence,  and underdeveloped characters.

 

The best thing I found in “The Counselor” surprises me, since I am not a fan of tattoos.  Regardless, the leopard tattoos sported by the Cameron Diaz character totally rocked.

 

Just because I didn’t care at all for “The Counselor” does not mean you shouldn’t see it.  However, when you come out disappointed, at least you were warned.  It will not add one thing that helps us strive for Good Living.  Go to “Captain Phillips,” “Thor,” “Last Vegas,” “Rush,” even “Chance of Raining Meatballs 2.”  Choose ANYTHING else.  Give me something with action, substance, or good humor… please.

Posted in The Gripes of Cath | 1 Comment

An Apple a Day

 

apples cropped2 I love good food… it’s central to making good living as easy as 1-2-3.  At this time of year, little is as refreshing as biting into a crisp Autumn apple.  This rings especially true in the northern United States, where chilly late summer night temperatures truly deliver the apple’s sweet juiciness.  Nothing beats picking your own apples at a local orchard.  You get great apples while making some magical memories.

Picking apples at a supermarket lacks the memories, but it can stir quite an adventure if you want freshness and quality, too.  Buyers beware!  Even apples listed as meeting the same quality and size standards may not be at all equal.

Watch out for wormy apple deceptions.  In their rush to offer cheap prices and beat the competition, some supermarkets select lower grades of produce, while passing it on to us as top quality.  These “rotten apples” definitely spoil the rest, as they drive top quality supermarkets out of business.  In New Hampshire we just experienced this as Market Basket expanded adding a couple mega stores.  Their dramatically lower prices caused Shaw’s to pull out of the Manchester area and Shop and Save to leave the state entirely.  We consumers are left with the cheaper prices, but we get stuck with lesser quality produce.

For example, I selected a nice looking bag of fresh McIntosh apples at Market Basket.

Extra Fancy McIntosh Apples from Market Basket

Extra Fancy McIntosh Apples from Market Basket

They are 2-1/2” Extra Fancy by grade.  That means that each is a minimum diameter of 2-1/2 inches, and they are of top quality.  I also liked that the local orchard is listed on the label:  “Packed and grown for Applecrest Farms, Hampton Falls, New Hampshire.”  Read carefully… “packed and grown FOR Applecrest Farms.”  Where were they grown?  I don’t know.

Earlier in the day I had bought a bag of 2-1/2” Fancy grade McIntosh apples at another supermarket, Hannaford’s.

Fancy McIntosh Apples from Hannaford's

Fancy McIntosh Apples from Hannaford’s

The bag notes the apples hailed from the New Hampshire Growers Co-op and even listed the associated apple growers.

Remember… not all apples are created equal.  When I put my apples side by side I saw dramatic differences.  The Market Basket apples were all small, perhaps barely meeting the 2-1/2” minimum for the grade.  The Hannaford bag contained not one single apple with less than a 3 or 3-1/2” diameter.  If Hannaford’s were “Fancy” and Market Basket’s are “Extra Fancy,” why were the “Extra Fancy” ones smaller?  And what’s “Extra Fancy” about bruises on every single apple?

Side by Side... Market Basket vs. Hannaford... No Contest

Side by Side… Market Basket vs. Hannaford… No Contest

I like making apple crisp, apple pie, and apple sauce.  I like stuffing a whole apple with nuts, raisins, and cranberries and baking it.  I like reaching into the refrigerator for a crisp, cold apple and taking that first luscious, juicy bite.  I like getting what I pay for… even in apples with which I cook.  Sigh.

Whenever possible, look for farm fresh, organic, locally grown produce.  For apples in the Granite State, check out the New Hampshire Grower’s Co-op.  Its website is www.NewHampshireGrowersCoop.com.

 

Check out the member farms.  Per my winning apple bag from Hannaford’s, they include:

2013-10-08 14.46.04

Appleview Orchard in Pittsfield   www.applevieworchard.com

Carter Hill Orchard in Concord  www.carterhillapples.com

Duane Family Farm in Barnstead  www.duanefamilyfarm.com

Gould Hill Farm in Hopkinton  www.gouldhillfarm.com

LaValley Farms in Hooksett  www.lavalleyfarms.com

New Hampshire Cider Works in Concord (Sorry, but I didn’t find a website.)

Information is good.  Use it to enjoy the best of the season… with love and laughter.

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Savoring Summer

Cloud Duck

Cloud Duck

In the North, we tend to say the same sort of thing at this time of year… “The summers are just too short!”

But savoring the beauty of change becomes part of the art of experiencing all four seasons.  We’ve loved the lingering daylight hours.  We’ve played gleefully in the cool waters of the wonderful Lake Winnipesaukee.  We’ve sipped icy cold beverages to beat the heat… the same heat that we’ll long for in just a few short months from now.  We’ve sung songs at sunsets that striped the skies from horizon to horizon.

In fact, we bobbed in a bay on the boat during one glorious sunset while listening to the Margaritaville channel on Sirius XM radio.  Jimmy Buffett introduced each of the songs on his new album, “Songs from St. Somewhere” in  a sneak preview.  We snapped this red and purple sunset sky, appropriately, during the song “Color of the Sun.”

Color of the Sun

Color of the Sun

The best parts remain the glorious days and laughter shared with so many dear friends.  We’ve missed sharing time with loved ones we didn’t get to see this summer.  Sigh.  Such is Life.

My husband often says such things as, “None of us knows just how many Summers lie ahead.”  So true.  So savoring each day seems all the more important.

Dock Party

Dock Party

We began to bid adieu to some of our boating friends with a Labor Day weekend tradition.  We all gathered for a huge barbecue, hosted by a Scotty, a fellow boater.  He and his friend “Chef Bill” seared the beef to perfection.  The rest of us pitched in some cash and a healthy array of appetizers, salad, side dishes, and desserts.

For one of the appetizers, we made a great little gem that we’ll share with you now.  These super simple Peppery Bacon Mushrooms are easy to  make and can be made ahead of time, which I love!  We prepped them on foil trays to cook on the BBQ grill near the dock just before serving time.  You can bake or broil them in a traditional or convection oven just as easily.

Ready to bake

Ready to bake

 Peppery Bacon Mushrooms

 These are so simple, it’s crazy!  AND they’re gluten free… no breading of any sort.

48 lg mushrooms, (stems removed and finely chopped)

1/3 – ½ c thinly sliced green onion (green portions)

8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temp

1 to 1-1/2c shredded Cheddar cheese (or a blend)

1 heaping cup crumbled, crisply cooked, peppered bacon

Cook the chopped mushroom stems and chopped sweet onions on high in the microwave for 2-3 min.  (Or sauté in 2 T butter.)  Cream the cream cheese in a bowl; stirs. in the mushroom stems, sweet onions, and sliced green onions, followed by the shredded cheese and bacon.

Spoon mixture into the hollows of the mushroom caps and place in shallow pans.  Cook 8-10 min over high heat in a covered BBQ grill or in a 400°F oven.  Serve hot.  Makes 4 dozen pieces.

1 yummy Peppery Bacon Mushroom

1 yummy Peppery Bacon Mushroom

Kiss Lips croppedKISS Tip:  No peppered bacon?  No problem.  Just add ¼ – ½ c de-seeded, very thinly sliced fresh jalapeno pepper along with the green onion

Kiss Lips cropped KISS Variation:  For Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms,, simply use your regular favorite bacon instead of a spicy variety.

Kiss Lips cropped KISS Note:  To make ahead, just cover your filled trays with plastic wrap & refrigerate or freeze till needed.  If cooking from the freezer, add another minute or two to the cooking time.

If you’re looking for a super source for every sort of gourmet bacon imaginable, check out www.BaconFreak.com.  They have so many sweet and savory flavors, it’s bacon amazing.  Some of the peppery flavors include Pepper Country, Cracked Pepper and Garlic, Cajon, Chipolte, Jalapeno bacon and more.  Serious sizzle!

Anyway, this tasty original recipe is one of dozens that we compiled in Dockside Dining.

Dockside dining at the BBQ

Dockside dining at the BBQ

That cookbook is perfect for anyone who cooks on their boat or any casual dockside environment. Recipes are all easy.  Many can be prepared ahead of time, which is great whether you’re heading out for a day trip, a weekend, or a vacation holiday.

Dockside Dining is part of the KISS™ (Keep It Super Simple) cookbook series from Quiet Thunder Publishing.  Check them out at www.QTPublishing.com for other great original recipe collections and other books, too.

Meanwhile, as we help you make Good Living as easy as 1-2-3, enjoy these Peppery Bacon Mushrooms… with love and laughter!

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Summer Fortitude

‘Tis the season when the days stretch mercifully slowly into night.  Summer Solstice means our daylight hours will start to grow shorter, but the sun’s warmth now gets deeper.  Summer fun rules supreme… or, at least, it should!

Fort Mountainview

Fort Mountainview

Where my hubby and I go boating, some kids built a makeshift “fort” at the base of some trees.  I well remember the importance of these less-than-bountiful barricades.  We plotted our childhood strategies there.  We hid from parents.  We laughed a lot.  We believed we were invincible.  We had Fortitude… ha ha!

Without such dalliances and daydreams, summer’s sizzle fades fast.  That’s true for us as adults, too.  From our years of maturity we build our inner defenses against the stresses and stressors abounding around us.  We don’t likely build too many forts from fallen tree branches, but we definitely do so with all the branches our individual Trees of Life afford us.

That’s how Ariel - Kiss - borderedTM (Keep It Super Simple) developed.  Enough complications fly at us in our day-to-day lives.  How great we feel when we figure out all the ways we can simplify life.

The barbeque grills surely helps us keep it super simple.  But don’t just grill your main course.  Consider your bread.  Whether you bake it or buy it, now try it grilled

Everything Sourdough

Everything Sourdough

Loafin’

1 loaf unsliced bread (baked or bought)

½ c melted butter

Thinly slice the bread.   Brush one side of each slice with butter.  Reassemble the loaf and wrap securely in a double layer of foil.  (You can easily make this ahead to this point.  Store at room temperature or refrigerate until 30 minutes before grilling time.)

Place over indirect heat in a covered barbeque grill for 10-15 minutes, turning once.

(You could also bake it in a traditional or convection oven on moderate heat.)

Expect no leftovers.

Loafin' Everything Sourdough, ready to wrap & grill!

Loafin’ Everything Sourdough, ready to wrap & grill!

Kiss Lips croppedKISS Variations:  Mix a dried soup mix of your choice (such as herb or onion) in with the butter.  You can also sprinkle each bread slice with grated Parmesan or Romano or other cheese before assembling.

Kiss Lips croppedKISS Tip:  My favorite bread for this is Everything Sourdough.  The texture is hearty and the crust includes all the yummy seeds and seasonings of an “everything bagel.”  Other awesome breads for this include anything with savory twists, herbs, seeds, or onions.

Check out the other articles to see some great ideas, tips, and FREE Super Simple recipes.  Our recipes are exclusively published by Quiet Thunder Publishing on whose website you can find a number of Super Simple cookbooks… all sold in various places from Barnes & Noble to Amazon.com.  Make it easy.  Take it easy.  Remember to play… especially in these easy, breezy days of summer …with love and laughter!

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Blessing of Friends

Lobsters - someone elses photoMay marks my birthday month.  I really gave the event little thought.  I ended up spending the evening with wonderful friends strolling the Portsmouth harbor for the annual Hit the Decks event, heralding Spring on the New Hampshire seacoast.  Oh yeah… lobster satisfied as the main event!

Throughout the day and evening and well into the following day, however, I became overwhelmed by all the dozens upon dozens of cards and emails phone calls and voice messages and text messages and social media touches and timeline posts.  Hmmm… friends, family members, and business associates both past and present had remembered me on my special day.  Messages.  Greetings.  Friendly.  Sincere.  Funny.  Sweet remembrances of living.  Lives touched.  Lives that have touched mine.

They all reminded me of how truly connected we remain throughout this journey called Life.  Sometimes up.  Sometimes down.  Sometimes upside down.

Many I see quite often.  Many not often enough.  For many, it’s been far too long.  Some I haven’t seen in decades.  But the connections remain, whether we realize it or not.  Even when we drift apart, technology makes it super simple to reconnect.

We all have these caring connections… these magic moments… these precious parallels.  Some hail from our youth.  Some have always been with us.  Some are newly forged.  Some slipped into our grasp for a brief time, then slipped through our fingers.

DSC02050 Wine at Maxim's - Copacabana Beach - Rio 2012Each glistens like the remarkable facets of the perfectly cut gem they form.  We need to remember that when Life seems to lack sparkle and luster… when we feel invisible or minimized in value.

So, my dear family and friends… those past and present… those no longer with us… those yet to come… I lift my birthday glass to you.  Thank you all so very dearly… with love and laughter.

 

 

twitter-bird-blue-on-white

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Zenzational Friends and Good Times

Bob Briggs, Ron Martin, Debbie Briggs

Bob Briggs, Ron Martin, Debbie Briggs

The Ronald and I have some of the most wonderful friends in the world.  (Of course, I hope everyone feels that way about their best buds, but I still must give proper appreciation to ours… naturally… for being the very best.)  Anyway, a couple of our favorite folks hail from Landrum, South Carolina.  Bob and Debbie Briggs.  He has served as Landrum’s mayor for nearly two decades.  She owns Zenzera Restaurant… an amazingly perfect coffee and wine bar on Landrum’s main drag, which is East Rutherford Street.  Check it out at www.Zenzera.com if you can’t get there in person.

 

(2014 Update… Unfortunately, Bob and Debbie have retired and sold the restaurant.  Thanks for the memories!!!)

 

As true Zen Friends, we love the food that Bob and Debbie and their team serve up… ranging from tempting tapas items to superbly satisfying lasagnas.  A particular favorite of mine remains the crab cakes… easily the lightest and most crab-filled with perfectly crispy edges.   These Zenful little delights literally melt in my mouth!

We also love the many bands we’ve seen play there, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.  Zenzera attracts some of THE most remarkable talent, both on nights where dancing rocks the floor to Open Mic Tuesdays.  Seriously.  Hubby hails from New York City.  Despite being an admittedly “citified snob” (aka “NYC is the center of the universe and nothing is as good anywhere else”), he regularly comments on some of the talent we’ve seen at Zenzara as even better.  There’s one particular guitarist who truly plays Hendrix as well as Hendrix and Santana as well as Santana!  Oh, and then, just as part of his Zenzomenal range, he’ll swing into a Johnny Cash song with every bit of the deep, round-toned resonance as the Man in Black himself.

DSC07146 spinach strawberry salad

Anyway, when we are at Zenzera, we delight in entertaining Bob and Debbie, for a change… when they manage to get a rare night off.  One evening recently, Ron roasted up some yummy Cornish Game Hens, and I prepped the Veggie-Filled Rice and my fun Spinach Strawberry Salad.

 

Cornish Game Hen preps

Cornish Game Hen preps

True believers in the Keep It Super Simple philosophy, we just topped the hens with some butter and a sprinkle of Montreal Chicken Seasoning.  The rice was out of a box, but with plenty of sautéed chopped sweet onion, mini Portabella mushrooms, and red bell pepper added.

 

We’ll share the salad recipe with you here… it is so Super Simple and yet so scrumptious, you’re apt to find yourself making it several times in the next few weeks!

 

Super Simple Spinach Strawberry Salad

Super Simple Spinach Strawberry Salad

Super Simple Spinach Strawberry Salad

1 pkg baby spinach leaves

1 pkg fresh strawberries, sliced

6-8 crisply cooked bacon slices, broken into coarse chunks

Bottled Vidalia Onion salad dressing (your favorite brand)

At serving time, toss the spinach and strawberries with half the bacon slices and the amount of dressing that you prefer.  Sprinkle with remaining bacon.

Kiss Lips

KISS Tips:  Expect no leftovers, but if there are any, plan to eat them within 24 hours, as spinach salad with dressing goes limp rather quickly.  This recipe also travels well, as long as you keep your ingredients separate until serving time.  No pre-mixing!

We serve up lots of our Super Simple recipes in a number of cookbooks.  Try Fifty Years of Fabulous Family Favorites, or Champagne!  Facts, Fizz, Food & Fun, a cookbook dedicated to champagne and sparkling wine.  There’s also a new Cranberry Cooking.

An all-time favorite, if you love dogs, is a book called Dog Days in the Life of The Miles-Mannered Man.  Written by a Newfoundland, it’s a splendid collection of tall tales, wagging tails, and tantalizing treats.  Seriously, at Miles’ insistence, one of the 4 FREE bonus treats is a collection of his favorite recipes.  (No, he did not cook them up; he gobbled them up!)

Anyway, you can check out some of the publications in the Books category on Amazon.com or at www.QTPublishing.com, the Quiet Thunder Publishing website… with love and laughter.

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My Perfect Diet

Yum - Grilled Shrimp Salad with Fruit

Yum – Grilled Shrimp Salad with Fruit

Is there such a thing?  Sure.  But each of us is different.  Our individual bodies have individual needs, tolerances, and even cravings.  Some food and nutrition basics apply to us all however.  If we follow basics and good instincts our normal diet will be fine; if we tweak it a bit, our normal eating habits will even let us lose weight.  AND we can eat some of our absolute favorite, not to mention decadent foods!

As a devoted fan of non-fiction, I’ve read dozens upon dozens of works focused on health, nutrition, and diet.  I’ve typically believed some of what I read and then the rest with a large grain of salt… okay, a nice, coarse, organic sea salt, to be precise.

I love seeing increasing numbers of doctors, scientists, and nutritionists in agreement on more and more of what I call the basics.  Someday, even our United States FDA will catch up and redesign the standard food group pyramid to reflect modern knowledge and nutrition reality.

Meanwhile, for My Perfect Diet, I’ll stick with the basics and common sense:

Fresh Crudites from my Garden

Fresh Crudites from my Garden

  • Sugar is just plain poison.
  • Avoid all hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats.  Period.
  • Skip wheat whenever possible.  (When impossible, opt for 100% whole grain rye or sprouted wheat.)  Flour is more responsible for gumming up both digestion and circulation than saturated fat.
  • Eat and enjoy real 100% butter.  Don’t let margarine, butter blends or substitutes pass your lips.
  • If you are going to consume dairy, do so in limited amounts, but ALWAYS choose whole milk and cheeses and even ice creams.  (Skip the low fat or fat free.  The chemicals and substitutes are far worse than dairy fat.)

    Fresh Berries

    Fresh Berries

  •  Eat a wide variety of different colored vegetables and fruits, especially berries.
  • Eggs are good for you AND for your cholesterol… especially the yolks.
  • Choose wild fish and seafood and organic meats, poultry, and produce whenever possible.  Our bodies get zero benefit and PLENTY of harm from the hormones and chemicals used commercially.
  • Drink water… lots of it, but filter out chemicals like fluoride.

    Planked Wild Salmon Preps

    Planked Wild Salmon Preps

  • Avoid soy, unless it’s truly organic.  (It totally grossed me out to learn that 85% of the U.S. soy crop has been genetically altered.  Those changes do a 180-degree switcheroo on soy’s health benefits and make soy highly risky and harmful.  Swell.)
  • Take natural vitamin and mineral supplements.  Even if you eat great food, the nutrients just aren’t there any longer.  You’ve probably heard such remarks as we’d have to eat 10 oranges to get the nutrients our grandparents got in 1.
  • Avoid prepared, packaged diet foods.  They’re typically loaded with over-processed ingredients, chemical sugars, and unidentifiable substances you would never knowingly choose to eat.
Strawberries & Nectarines

Strawberries & Nectarines

I know I feel better when I eat several small meals… grazing as it were… rather than gorging on a huge dinner.  I know if I’m eating rice, brown, long grain & wild are far better than white.  I know there are great nutrients and fiber in skins, so I don’t peel potatoes, apples, peaches, etc.

Woah!  All these basics may have you thinking that My Perfect Diet will leave you craving all the good stuff.  On the contrary.  I don’t miss the bread at all when I’m enjoying a loaded baked potato with dinner.  I don’t miss the pasta when I’m devouring all the seafood or veal or whatever entrée I want.  I easily skip the morning cereal and simply savor a big bowl of berries.  I pass on cookies and candy, but I get to enjoy popcorn with real butter.

Soft Shelled Crab with Salad

Soft Shelled Crab with Salad

I fry food.  I just use organic coconut or peanut oil.  I eat a full range of whatever main dish I want, from fish and seafood to beef, poultry, lamb, and pork.  I love fresh vegetables, both raw and cooked all sorts of ways.  I enjoy as much fresh fruit as I want.  I nibble on organic nuts and seeds and berries.  A favorite snack is 100% corn tortilla chips with zesty salsa.

When I’ve overdone the eating (and underdone the exercise) and need to lose a few pounds, My Perfect Diet features a super simple technique.  Nix the starches for a few days.  (That includes the rice, potatoes, corn, and such.)

My sister, Deborah, enjoying corn on the cob and steamed lobster!

My sister, Deborah, enjoying corn on the cob and steamed lobster!

When you reach the weight you want, start to slowly phase starches back in to make you satisfied but not overstuffed… or overweight.

Most importantly, keep smiling.  Life is way too short to get too worked up over junk.  Enjoy each day… with love and laughter.

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Childhood Comfort Food Memories

Hot Buttered Popcorn

Hot Buttered Popcorn

Even comfort food can’t always be about popcorn and hotdogs, although they remain not-so-secret favorites of mine still today.  Comfort food, when I was a child, included almost everything my Mom or Dad prepared.  It ranged from Mom’s melt-in-my-mouth whoopee pies to Dad’s cornmeal-crusted (and freshly reeled in from Newfound Lake) white and yellow perch sizzling in a pan of butter.

 

Family Dinner 1986

Family Dinner 1986

Back in the 1950’s, the family budget may have been stretched to the max, but we always had food on the table.  Usually multiple vegetables were featured, thanks to the huge, bountiful family garden.  Beef, when it appeared, was ground and usually stretched with beans in a chili-con-carne or with bread in meat loaf.  Spam was standard fare, along with other delicious cheap eat, from tuna noodle casserole and American chop suey to macaroni & cheese, sandwich spread sandwiches, and Welsh rarebit.  Everything was made from scratch except for the one packaged mix that showed up now and then as a special treat.  That was a fun little box of the fixin’s homemade pizza from Chef Boyardee .

As an adult, I see ingredients for some of our standards on the store shelves, and I smile.  Kids today probably have no idea what “sandwich spread” even is!  (Okay, it’s a creepy combination of seasoned mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish.)  I vowed to not dine on it again.  I also totally avoid anything resembling creamed chipped beef.

Then again, one such budget-friendly lunch from my childhood remains a comfort food favorite of mine today.  Mom called this warm, tasty, open-faced combination the Fireman’s Sandwich.  She said it made great, easy fare in a firehouse, since it could stay on the stove on low heat for hours till the crew returned from an alarm.  The flavors would just get better and better.

Fireman's Sandwich Ingredients

Fireman’s Sandwich Ingredients

I have no idea where she came up with the idea or the background story.  I’ve never found anything like it elsewhere, even online.  But it’s great, since the ingredients are very easy to have on hand in your kitchen pantry.  I don’t leave it on the stove simmering for hours, but I’ve kept the name Mom  gave it.  On a cool day, give the Fireman’s Sandwich a try on a nice hearty rye toast.  Easy.  Crisp.  Satisfying.

Fireman’s Sandwich

From Glenna Burnham, 1950’s

Chop 3 cups onions.

Melt 4 T butter in large skillet; add onions and fry till light brown.

Add ½ lb corned beef, crumbled.

Stir until the corned beef and onions are well mixed; then add 1 can tomato soup.

Serve hot on toast.

Makes 8 slices.

Kiss Lips croppedKISS Tip: Keep it super simple by using canned corned beef.

In the Pan

In the Pan

Ready to Serve

Ready to Serve

This is just one of the hundreds of tried and true recipes in “Fifty Years of Fabulous Family Favorites.”  Several of my cookbooks are now available on Amazon.com.  You can check out several titles at www.QTPublishing.com, the official Quiet Thunder Publishing website.

 

Oh, and for an updated use for the Fireman’s Sandwich filling, turn it into Super Simple Corny Beef Bites.  Just get 2 or 3 boxes of the frozen mini phyllo pastry cups (15 per box).  Simply mound a spoonful of the hot filling in each and serve as perfect bite-sized tapas.  Instant and super simple for you to enjoy… with love and laughter!

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Farewell to Football

Be not sad football fans… it’s just for the season!  As with every year, there were lots of highs and lows… resounding victories and near-misses… superstars and super flops.  We cheered and we jeered.  In the end, whether our favorite team made the Super Bowl seemed to somehow matter less than the way in which we celebrated the season.

2013 Super Bowl Party

We joined in the celebration, though without our beloved Patriots in the final showdown.  We hosted one of the gadzillions of Super Bowl parties throughout the nation, and we all had a blast… even with the Superdome’s 30-minute super power outage.

Setting the stage, we decorated to salute both teams, as well as host city New Orleans.  Upon each guest’s arrival, they donned Bourbon Street beads reflecting their chosen team’s colors.  And sure, the plates, napkins, and tablecloths also represented the Superdome and the contenders.

02-03-2013-Cheese Tray at Super Bowl Party

Key to a great party proved to be keeping it super simple.  Everyone brought something to share.  Appetizers led the way, followed by a hot buffet at halftime.  No one left hungry, as we feasted on sausage and meatballs, shrimp, pulled pork, Buffalo wings, salads, dips, deviled eggs, and even colorfully sporty cupcakes topped with gag Super Bowl rings.  Nice!

Oh, yeah… there were prizes for closest score and betting on the “squares.”  The big winner?  Super Simple FUN!  See you next year!

Posted in Party Themes & Schemes, Super Simple Is Key! | 1 Comment

Diet Dilemma

 

tape measure

“I tried dieting for a month; I lost 31 days.”

Okay… ha, ha, ha!  We’ve all heard all the quips about dieting.  However, laughing at ourselves when we struggle for discipline is far from easy.  So, we look for the latest greatest super diet… the one that’s discovered the secret we seek.  You know, the one that encourages us to eat macaroni and cheese, crispy fast-food fries, juicy rib-eye steak off the grill, and a piña colada to wash them down.

 

Seriously.  When we want to get it right, we tend to hungrily read whatever “they” are selling.  Then we sign on as a new and righteously enthusiastic devotee.  The list of possibilities out there to entice us is virtually endless.  Which should be choose?

 

Low-carb?  Carb Lovers?  High-protein?  Low-fat?  Gluten Free?  Low-calorie?  Negative Calorie?  Detox?  Master Cleanse?  Blood Type? Fasting?  Liquid Amino?  Live Foods?  Raw Foods?  Paleo?  Super Immunity?  Zen?  World Peace?  Apple Cider Vinegar?  Rice?  Cabbage soup?  Oatmeal?  Salad?  Lemonade?  Grapefruit?  Banana?  Apple a Day?  Chocolate?  Peanut Butter?  Martini?  Scarsdale?  Zone?  Pritikin?  Atkins?  New Atkins?  South Beach?  Weight Watchers?  New Weight Watchers?  Jenny Craig?  Medifast?  NutriSystem?  New York?  Park Avenue?  Beverly Hills?  LA?  Hollywood?  Makeover?  Models?  Super Model?  Meal Replacement?  Eat to Live?  Naturally Thin?  Vegetarian?  Vegan?  Fruitarian?  Meat Lovers?  Man?  Eat This, Not That?  Mediterranean?    Big Fat Greek?  St. Tropez?  Brazilian Bikini?

 

Choosing any diet is probably okay if it’s for short-term use only.  But there’s no way a diet, even the most successful, will ever make me look like a super model on Park Avenue or as if I belong in a Brazilian bikini in the Mediterranean or on St. Tropez.

 

I would love to think a diet could successfully let me focus on chocolate, peanut butter and martinis.  However, common sense dictates otherwise.  I finally decided to try using the best of what I’ve read, especially the information that comes from repeated findings from different studies.

 

This means that I’ll stick to real butter, fresh fruits and vegetables, organic meat and poultry, seafood and wild fish, and plant-based vitamin and mineral supplements, along with lots of fresh water.  Nah, it’s not boring.  Because I am human, I know I’ll mess it up regularly with that irresistible homemade pasta, handfuls of crispy, salty chips, and a toasted English muffin with nooks and crannies.  Oh, well.  I can meditate in search of my personal Zen and continue to hope for world peace.  Happy New Year… with love and laughter.

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Red Arrow Diner Special – Yum!!!

If you have an affinity for great diners, then you likely know (or know of) Manchester, New Hampshire’s claim to diner fame.  The Red Arrow 24-hour diner stands out as an award-winning classic by any standards.

 

Today they were remembering the founder’s wife, Mabel Lamontagne, who just passed away at age 105.  Seriously.  1907 – 2012.  Good home-cooked food at the Red Arrow boosted her longevity, I am sure. For this week, they honored her memory with a crazy discounted price on the original #1 menu item … the Hot Burger Sandwich.

 

I was hankering for breakfast, however, and chose a most amazing treat… the Crab Cake Hash Brown Special.  Not to be punning, while all their hash brown dishes are great, this one literally takes the cake.  They toss their crispy hash browns with grilled onions and their classic crab cake, cut up, all topped with melted cheese.  Then, in true Red Arrow Diner style, they serve it up with toast and a couple of eggs, prepared any way you like.

 

If you are a fan of crispy hash browns… not to be confused with home fries, though they make those as well… get to the Red Arrow and order some up as a side dish or with a nice variety of add-ons in casserole style.  Yum!

 

This particular dish, with the crab cake, wowed my happy taste buds.  So, today I offer up our Keep It Super Simple rendition… another free recipe for your enjoyment.

 

Crab Cake Hash Browns a la Red Arrow Diner

Per serving:

1-1/2c finely shredded potatoes, crispy cooked (& seasoned with salt & pepper, as desired)

1 large or 2 medium crab cakes, cooked and cut in bite-sized pieces

¼ – 1/3 c sweet onions, thinly sliced, then coarsely cut, grilled in a bit of butter till soft

2 deli squares (about 3×3” each) of cheese (Cheddar, American, or Muenster)

 

On a hot grill or skillet, toss hash browns and onions together.

Gently stir in crab cake pieces, taking care not to break them up too much.

Transfer to an oval, individual-sized baking dish.

Top with cheese and bake at 350°F for 7-10 minutes, till cheese is melted.

Serve hot with toast and eggs, as desired.

 

Kiss Lips cropped KISS Tip:  You can surely enjoy this any time of day, with no need for eggs or toast.  You can prepare it in larger amounts in a large, shallow baking dish to serve multiple people.  Go for it as lunch with a side salad.  Or turn it into crazy little tapas crab cake hash brown pancakes and serve with slices of a favorite fruit on the side.

 

As the say at the Red Arrow, “Have a diner day!”  This is more Good Living as easy as 1-2-3… with love and laughter.

 

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Christmas Celebrations to Cherish

DCP_2046 Annual humorous Grinch decoration  For the love of Christmas!  I have always loved Christmas… the decorations, candlelight services, fresh baked aromas, music, parties, family gatherings, sharing.  But with no small children in the home any longer, the need for all the presents under the tree escapes me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love finding perfect presents, wrapping and decorating packages, and giving gifts.

 

Regardless, I find myself loving the Thanksgiving ease and lack of pressure or expense.  In the next moment, I recognize that the spirit of giving, so central to our Christmas traditions, can be perhaps far better celebrated without all the shopping and gift unwrapping chaos.

 

I remember annually pondering, “Who else do I need to buy a gift for?”  Or, “Have I missed anyone on the list?”  Now I think, “There must be a multitude of great ways to share Christmas spirit without blowing the budget.  If folks want to give gifts to certain people, they can and should.  But let that be personal, rather than “the” party.

DSC00002 Christmas Fireplace

What if:

  • Sharing is Caring – Everyone comes to a party ready to share a favorite holiday memory, or poem, picture, story, or song.  With or without a bonfire, this is bound to be filled with laughter.
  • Yankee Swap – Guests bring just one gift, generically wrapped and valued at not more than a pre-set amount.  Everyone draws numbers.  Then, #1 selects a package and opens it.  #2 then either selects an unopened package OR can opt for the item #1 opened.  #3 and all numbers after, sequentially then select either an unopened package or opt for any item previously opened.  Once you’ve been through all the numbers, #1 gets to keep their current item or swap for anything else.  Everyone comes with one gift and leaves with one gift… and lots of happy new memories.
  •  Homemade Memories – Whatever you give as a gift to anyone must have been made by you.  Simple.  Heartfelt.  Meaningful.  No, you do not have to be an artist or seamstress or cook.  Consider the plethora of coupons you could create and give.  Sharing your time with someone is the most precious gift possible.  A coupon could be for washing and detailing their car or taking them to the movies, including the popcorn.  You get the idea.
  • Caroling Capers – No gifts to or from anyone at the party.  Instead, everyone takes Christmas Carol songbooks and candles in hand.  The group goes door-to-door singing.  This could be in your neighborhood or at a local nursing home or senior center.  If you want to give gifts, take cookies or wreaths to leave at our caroling stops.
  • Travel Time – Christmas in Cancun sounds lovely, and if you can afford it, let the whole family ring in the holiday together at a lovely destination.  Or you can celebrate anywhere.  Everyone shares a tale or tradition from a favorite place they’ve visited or a place they’d like to visit.  Another twist is to pre-select a culture and announce it well in advance of Christmas.  Then everyone comes to the part ready to celebrate in that culture’s traditional manner.  Naturally, your menu will reflect the same!
  • Secret Santa – At some earlier time in the year, say a summer BBQ or birthday celebration, all family members who will be celebrating Christmas together draw names.  That name is the one person form whom you will wrap a gift.  Nobody tells whose name they drew.  The recipients need to try and guess who their Secret Santa was.  Set a price maximum.  You can also try other “field leveling” techniques such as giving everyone the same festive Christmas bags into which their gift must fit.  Then even the wrappings won’t give away any particular Secret Santa’s identify.
  • Theme Party – Set a theme for gifts each year.  One year it might be music.  Another year it could be some food or food group.  Or select one color, and all gifts must reflect that color.  Be creative.  Set a theme or approach that nicely fits your family and friends.  Keep it light-hearted and fun.  Focus on sharing with each other and serving up foods that especially please your guests.

DCP_2050 Christmas Brunch

Whatever you do, take the focus off having a plethora of gifts under the tree.  Put the focus on everyone sharing an abundance of laughter and love.  Less pressure.  Less expense.  More fun.  More memories.  Merry Christmas… as easy as 1-2-3… with love and laughter.

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Twisted Tiramisu Treat

  In our continuing quest to share easy tips and suggestions to make Good Living as easy as 1-2-3, we’ve got another great recipe for you.  This one was tested out on friends and family on Thanksgiving and got unanimously rave reviews.  In addition to the array of warm, fresh pies, we wanted to offer something that didn’t require a guest to commit to a full plate, a full slice, or even a fork or spoon.  Plus, this extra treat needed to be chilled.  So a cool dessert dip seemed like a great idea.

My husband’s favorite dessert is Tiramisu, with all its aromatic coffee elegance and richly satisfying creaminess.  Whether in a trifle, cake, or ladyfinger variety, he gleefully slides into taste bud heaven when he savors a well-made Tiramisu.  Our natural Super Simple kitchen challenge?  Creating a dip that eliminates the time and hassle of making traditional tiramisu, but delivers the cherished flavors.

Oh, yeah!!!  This beauty fills the bill perfectly… without filling the belly!  Enjoy our Thanksgiving gift to you at any time of the year!  It’s also perfect to serve at a brunch, using waffle or French toast strips as your dippers.

Super Simple Tiramisu Dip

 

Super Simple Tiramisu Dip

12 oz (1 ½ c) mascarpone cheese

12 oz (1 ½ c) ricotta cheese

¼ c Splenda brown sugar blend (or 1/3 – 1/2 c sugar)

¼ c brewed strong black coffee, cooled

1/3 Kahlúa or other coffee liquor

1-2 T Captain Morgan or other spiced rum

½ to 1 tsp cocoa powder

1/3 c grated special dark (72% cocoa) chocolate (try specialty types as with hazelnut toffee)

 

Whisk mascarpone in a large bowl just till smooth.

Stir in ricotta, brown sugar, coffee, and liquors, whisking till smooth & fluffy.

Spoon into shallow serving bowl; dust with cocoa powder.

Sprinkle chocolate over the top and chill, covered with plastic wrap, till serving time.

Serve with ripe strawberries, seedless orange slices and 2-3 types of light cookies for dipping.

Makes 3 to 3-1/2 c dip.

Kiss Note:  You can make this dip 1-2 days in advance & store, covered in plastic wrap, in its serving bowl in the refrigerator.

Kiss Tip:  For dessert tasting portions, place a ladyfinger in each of 8-10 small glass tasting cups and top with a spoonful of dip, leaving one end of each ladyfinger exposed.  Sprinkle with a bit of chocolate & serve.

Consider cookies varieties such as Girl Scout Thin Mints, cinnamon French pastry twists, ginger snaps or lemon cream-filled ginger sandwich cookies, shortbread cookies, or Pirouline type rolled wafer cookies filled with chocolate or chocolate hazelnut cream.

Super Simple Tiramisu Dip is one of the dozens of Super Simple recipes in Dockside Dining: Round One, one of several cookbooks available from Quiet Thunder Publishing.  Check them out on the www.QTPublishing.com website.  Dockside Dining: Round One and Dockside Dining: Round Two are both available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and other sites.  Meanwhile, enjoy this Super Simple Tiramisu Dip… with love and laughter!

 

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Fabulous Fall Foliage

Fall foliage on tree in center of Dunbarton

My mind marvels at God’s glory every year when the trees turn their gallantly green leaves to Autumn’s fiery pallet of red, yellow, orange, gold, bronze, and burgundy.  Each day I can literally watch the same trees and yet see a totally different view.  If you are fortunate you live in or have at least visited a region where Nature’s artistry blazes so beautifully for weeks.

As a child I would see various sites and imagine my eyes snapping photograph after photograph.  If I could see it, my memory could capture it.  Yet, each Fall the foliage stirs my memory all over again.

Still I find myself wishing to instantly photograph everything I see.  It just seems that in any direction I look, my mind whispers, “Oooooh!  Ahhh!”  Sometimes the view is a scenic lakeshore splashed with colors reflecting from the trees in the water with stunning purple mountains rising above.  Other times, a single tree grabs my attention and holds my focus on its colorful perfection.

When the skies are gray or rainy, the brilliant foliage lights up the day beautifully, and when you see the trees against a cobalt blue sky?  Well, even in late Autumn, when the leaves are dusty bronze tones, it redefines the phrase, “make the colors pop!”

 

Backyard Bronze

I remember years of family car trips to “look at the pretty leaves.”  My folks never tired of this seasonal splendor either.  My Mom always packed a lunch and some snacks… usually including her famous Blonde Brownies and some refreshing fruit juice punch.

Now, when the warmth of the Autumn sunshine chills in the evening, I enjoy holding a toasty mug of some mulled cider or cranberry juice.  A favorite version was taught to me in the mid-1970’s, when it was known as Percolator Punch.  In this day in age, coffee percolators have given way to drive-thru windows, home coffee makers, and K-cups.  So, preparing this satisfying treat is even easier.  Still, I offer you the original 1974 recipe from Betty DeLuca of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, just in case you still have a traditional coffee percolator tucked safely away in storage.

Hot Percolator Punch       

In basket in top of percolator place:

½ T whole allspice                           ½ tsp salt

3 sticks cinnamon, broken             1 T whole cloves

¼ c brown sugar

Through the basket of spices pour:  2 c pineapple juice

4 c cranberry juice                           2 c water

Perk 10 minutes or until spices permeate juices.  (Aroma will be deliciously spicy.)  Serve hot in mugs.

 

In the mid-to-late-1990’s, I gave the original recipe a Super Simple Mulled Cranberry twist.  In addition to the heating method, one of my big changes made the finished product a lot less sweet.  I simply found the 2:1 cranberry to pineapple juice ratio and the brown sugar ratio made Hot Percolator Punch too sweet for my taste.  In the KISS Note you’ll find another Super Simple twist.

Anyway, for Super Simple Mulled Cranberry pour into a crock pot type slow cooker 8 cups cranberry juice for every 2 cups of pineapple juice.  No need for any sweetener.  Simply season with some pre-mixed, packaged spiced cider mix.  Let it simmer on low heat for a couple of hours.  This is absolutely mahhhhhvelous when guests are dropping in or you want to include a warm beverage for an open house or party.

KISS Note:  You can use whole mulling spices OR simply add 2-4 single serving envelopes of spiced cider mix, to suit your taste.  (Try the sort that Lipton packaged to be mixed with hot water.)  Serve hot in mugs.  You can float some whole allspice and cinnamon sticks for extra zip and impact.

 

Quiet Thunder Publishing featured these recipes, both the original and my variation, in the 2007 Collector’s Edition of the 2-volume series, Fifty Years of Fabulous Family Favorites.  You can find an eBook digital and soon-to-be paperback formats on sites such as Amazom.com.  These super cranberry recipes appear in the Appetizers and Beverages sections.  There are also LOTS more cranberry recipes in Cranberry Cooking, available on Amazon.com.   Meanwhile, get a taste right here from the free sample recipes.  Enjoy… with love and laughter!

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Cranberry Capers

 

Fresh Cranberries

When Autumn temperatures arrive, delivering their cool evenings and crispy, clear mornings, many delightful memories burst back into view.  The splendidly vibrant fall foliage colors reign high on the list.  As a child, I remember going on long drives with family during warm Autumn days along with droves of other leaf peepers.  Personally, I loved the weeks that followed just for that sensation of shuffling my feet through thick droves of dried leaves on the sidewalks.  Jumping off my Grandmother’s front porch into the huge piles of leaves my Dad had just raked also scores pretty high on that hit parade list of memories… probably with my siblings and cousins, too!

 

Number one for me, however, remains the fact that harvesting of cranberries happens now.  Whether you enjoy them sweetened in perfect sauce or relish as a side dish, nestled into a tangy pie, or sprinkled over a sweet potato casserole, yum comes to mind.  I love them tart and crisp, fresh and popped in my mouth just as they come.  Naturally, I also enjoy cranberries in a wide variety of recipes, too… from appetizers and sauces to salads and entrees.

 

As a dedicated foodie and truly good cook, I create recipes.  I’ve done this since childhood, when I was taught at a very young age to not only help with family meals, but to plan and cook them, too.  My earliest schoolgirl recipes don’t typically get included in cookbooks, but some could!

 

With cranberries scoring so high on my list of favorite foods, I naturally wanted to gather together some of my favorite cranberry recipes.  So many favorite recipes abound that we actually filled a lovely volume, officially named Cranberry Cooking for the KISSTM cookbook Super Series.  Quiet Thunder Publishing features the paperback and Kindle eBook digital edition, which are available for sale at sites including Amazon.com.

 

With little ghosts and goblins eagerly preparing their costumes to the annual Trick-or-Treat goodie-gathering ritual, I thought sharing a fitting recipe with you from Cranberry Cooking would be a good treat. While I offer Trick-or-Treaters store-bought candies also, families in the neighborhood always look forward to the homemade specialties.  My Mom started me on that tradition with her specialty Gingerbread Boys.  (Hmmmm… I’ll have to share her recipe in a future article.)  By the time I sold the family home, I was serving up more than 200 gingerbread boys and girls, even though the house was on a dead end street requiring a tenth of a mile trek from the main road.

 

For the cranberry lovers, for Halloween, Thanksgiving, or the Christmas holiday season, I offer you my recipe for Cranberry Popcorn Balls.  Make them as large or as small as you desire, based on how you wish to serve them.  This recipe, by the way, is just one from the Cranberry Cooking cookbook.

 

Cranberry Popcorn Balls

3 qts popped popcorn                     1-1/2 c water

1 tsp whole cloves                           1 tsp whole allspice

2 whole cinnamon sticks                1 c sugar

2 c chopped frozen cranberries    2 T light corn syrup

1 T grated orange peel                    ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Keep popcorn warm in 250°F oven in large, buttered baking pan.  Tie cloves, allspice & cinnamon in cheesecloth; place in water in large, buttered pan over med heat.  Bring to boil; cover pan, reduce heat to low; simmer 20 min.  Remove spices.  Stir in cranberries, sugar, corn syrup, orange peel & nutmeg; cook over med heat, stirring till mixture boils & reaches 250°F on candy thermometer.  Remove popcorn from oven; drizzle syrup slowly over popcorn, stirring with wooden spoon to coat.  Shape into balls.  Allow to cool.  Wrap each ball in plastic wrap.

KISS Note:  You can add 3-4 drops of red food coloring along with the cranberries, if desired.

Yum!  Enjoy all my cranberry recipe favorites… with love and laughter.

 

 

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Easy Dockside Dining

Friends enjoying dessert at our dockside picnic table

When we hang out dockside, I like to serve foods that I can prepare ahead of time.  Then, when folks spontaneously decide it’s time to eat, I am ready to cook before the grill is even done preheating.  Advance planning and preparation remain key to super simple recipes, dining, and entertaining.

 

I like preparing items that offer flexibility, regarding whether you need appetizers or entrees.  I also love recipes that work when you’re not sure how many people you may be feeding.

 

Try my Super Simple Chicken Kebabs, for example.  I usually make 1-2 dozen at a time and wrap them up in groups of 4-6 kebabs.  They freeze well, before or after cooking, depending on your choice of veggies.  To freeze any veggie combination, simple cook them on high in your microwave oven for 40-60 seconds before threading them on the skewers with the chicken.  (This serves the same purpose as par-boiling, which is all you need to do to freeze fresh vegetables.)  Remember, you must NOT freeze uncooked chicken kebabs if you used previously frozen chicken.  Previously frozen meats and poultry can ONLY be RE-frozen AFTER being cooked.

 

Chicken Kebabs on the grill

Super Simple Chicken Kebabs

 

Boneless chicken breast and/or thighs, cut in 1-1/2” chunks

Montreal Chicken Seasoning (or your favorite combination of salt, pepper, garlic, onion & herbs)

Sweet onions, halved, then each half quartered

Pea pods, cut in half crosswise (ends trimmed & discarded)

Sweet red  pepper, cut in 1-1/2” chunks

Bamboo skewers, soaked in warm water for 20 min

 

Sprinkle all sides of chicken cubes with seasoning.  Microwave onion on high for 1 min.

On each skewer thread chicken, 2 peapod pieces, chicken, red pepper, chicken, onion, chicken, 2 peapod pieces, chicken.

Stack on a platter, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate till needed, up to 24 hours.

Place kebabs on bbq grill, preheated to high (400°F), spritzed with high heat grilling oil.

Close cover; turn in 5 min.  Close again & reduce heat to low.

Turn once more in 5  min and let cook 5 more min.

Plan 1-2 skewers per person for appetizers, tapas, or lunch.  Plan 3-4 skewers for large entrée portions.

 

 KISS Tips:  Serve with a favorite pasta salad & grilled corn on the cob for a winning lunch on a warm summer’s day.  Chill leftovers to serve cool for another meal atop a salad or as easy chilled appetizers.  Grill any leftover vegetables, sprinkled with seasonings & wrapped in foil for 5 min per side.  (Just 2-3 min for peapods)  You can also choose lots of other vegetables, from green beans, asparagus and zucchini to yellow summer squash, tomatoes, and other peppers.  Choose any 3 vegetables you like, considering color variety and different textures.

 

KISS Note:  Cut a standard boneless chicken breast half into 15 chunks to make 3 kebabs.  A single boneless chicken thigh makes 5 chunks or 1 kebab.  Thighs are thinner, so you may have up to 10 pieces, which you then double up on the skewer, using 2 pieces pressed together for each chunk.

 

You’ll find plenty of our KISS recipes to  help you Keep It Super Simple at http://www.qtpublishing.com/  Quiet Thunder has exclusively published our recipe collections for years!  (2014 update:  Two large dockside-ready recipe collections are now available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com   Dockside Dining: Round One was joined by Dockside Dining: A Second Helping in late August, 2014.)  Enjoy… with love and laughter!

Dockside Dining: Round One

Dockside Dining: Round One

Dockside Dining: A Second Helping

Dockside Dining: A Second Helping

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Roman Toga Party

Antica Pesa Appetizer

Theme parties set the stage for fun.  In college we found toga parties to be a blast, but as adults, they’re still a hoot-and-a-half.  They’re easy for guests, too.  Simply tie on a white bed sheet and decorate your head with a laurel crown, and you’re good to go!

 

For decorations, strew flowers about, turn on fountains, and light some candles.  Use the fireless LED lighted types for safety!  You can even use them in outdoor tiki torches.  I like the rechargeable kind.  Use them over and over in all sorts of candle holders to suit any theme at any time of year.

 

Though he is Neapolitano, not Roman, put on some Dean Martin tunes.  If you’re hosting a fancy Roman dinner, opt for Italian opera.

 

When we were in Rome last Autumn, we had the good fortune to be directed to a classic and award-winning true old-style Roman restaurant.  Founded in 1922, Antica Pesa is not the sort of place a tourist would stumble upon or select without knowing about it.  It’s located in an extremely vibrant neighborhood, alive with lots of inviting restaurants and al fresco dining options.  Antica Pesa definitely has the al fresco dining, but it’s not visible from the street.  Naturally, tourists gravitate to the settings we can see from the outside.

Antica Pesa restaurant front door

Antica Pesa’s modest front door leads to a foyer and winding hallways in which the walls are liberally decorated with photos of the owner with every movie star, business mogul and hot politician you can imagine.  It truly is a must visit restaurant in Rome.

 

Roman food is scrumptious, though quite different than what we may have commonly come to know as Italian fare.  At Antica Pesa, you’ll find a luscious array of vegetables, baked items, and cheeses, plus scrumptious meats and poultry cooked perfectly over the flames. The wine list is extensive.  And you’ll be dining in an amazingly  intimate outdoor setting, flanked by classic Roman buildings.  No cars drive past.  No pedestrians gawk at your incredible edible selections.  It’s private, classy, and very comfortable.

Courtyard dining area at Antica Pesa in Rome, Italy

Okay, for your own home setting, add some swaths of richly-colored fabrics, draped on walls or over railings or over tables, and revel in the lushness.

 

Go ahead and choose standard Italian fare and serve up a crockpot of meatballs in a  nice marinara sauce, along with trays of cheese-filled manicotti or your favorite lasagna.  Be sure to offer a freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the side.  Add a great salad and some warm, crusty Italian bread, and you’ve got a winning dinner.

 

Among your super simple but Italian-themed appetizers, try the Mini Chicken Caesars recipe featured below.  It’s one of the oodles of easy, super simple to prepare recipes in our Champagne!  Facts, Fizz, Food & Fun original recipe collection, published by Quiet Thunder.

 

Mini Chicken Caesars

3/4 c finely chopped, cooked chicken (from a leftover rotisserie bird is AOK)

¼ c finely chopped romaine lettuce

3 T of your favorite Caesar salad dressing

1 pkg frozen mini phyllo pastry tarts (15 in pkg)

2 T shaved Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

 

In small bowl, mix chicken, lettuce, and salad dressing.

Arrange mini tarts on serving dish; divide chicken-lettuce mixture among them

Sprinkle with cheese and a bit of black pepper.

Makes 15 pieces.

KISS Note:  These can also be served warm, if you prefer.  Simply put on baking sheet in 350°F oven for 5-10 min before serving.

KISS Tip:  Remember that crisp pastry will start to lose its crunchiness once it sits with moisture inside it for any length of time more than an hour.  That means this is a dish that needs to be assembled just before serving time.

Get your copy of Champagne!  Facts, Fizz, Food & Fun and enjoy all the easy recipes.  It’s available in Kindle eBook digital and paperback formats.  Several cookbooks have now been released by Quiet Thunder Publishing.  They are typically available on Amazon.com.

There are also other good living-themed book titles from Quiet Thunder.  Enjoy them all… with love and laughter!

 

 

 

Posted in Bubbly Makes the World Go 'Round, Party Themes & Schemes, Taste Bud Travels | 3 Comments

Paradise North Carolina

DSC03631I get it… I totally get it.  Silver Fox Farm is a pastoral paradise!  Hubby and I have been renovating a large ranch in North Carolina.  The original part was built by  his parents when they retired… a perfect escape from the hectic hustle and bustle of New York, where they had lived for decades.

The Asheville foothills of southwestern North Carolina captured Dad’s fancy when he was working on the road here.  He built the hilltop cottage overlooking the rolling pastures, lush forests, and mountains in the mid-1980’s.  He did it right.  A walk-out basement, hardwood floors, a fireplace, a master bedroom en suite.

DSC06059 kitchen addition from shedThey’d later added a massive screened in porch over a 2-car garage, along with an enormous addition with a living room, laundry room, and a new master bedroom wing.  Oh, yes, plus two more bedrooms and another bathroom were added upstairs.  Okayyyy… this is a country retirement retreat.  4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms might seem to be a bit much.  But they loved their Carolina home.

 

DSC05942 mtIt’s virtually impossible to argue with the splendor of the views, regardless of the season of the year.  The mountains and forests are stunning all year long and remind  me daily of how blessed we are to experience this gorgeous part of the country.  Gently sloping pastures are gallantly fenced for both good looks the traditional horse fencing offers AND the dream of actually seeing horses grazing in these lush meadows.   Expansive lawns are lusciously green most of the year, but they also capture my heart when draped in a dash of winter snow.

DSC07719 side yard east in winterSnow is particularly fun here.  Perhaps it strikes me so because it doesn’t last very long.  Typically, I better get up early if it snowed overnight, because it will likely melt away before lunch!  Like the first snowfall every year in the north country, we like to ooh and ahh at the lovely aura a fresh snowfall creates.  Of course, here in North Carolina, every snowfall seems much like the first one of the year.

DSC07233 barn in early winterOne of Dad’s goals was to have horses, so they also built a lovely barn with wrought iron-trimmed stalls plus a full upstairs.  Oh… and another bath and powder room, too.  (I sense a trend here.)  All gorgeous hardwood.  Built right.  And it’s never yet had a horse in residence!  Sounds crazy.   Unfortunately, Dad’s declining health prevented the ranch from developing its full potential.

DSC04150 from deckBut he made the most of what he could.  He loved walking throughout the four dozen acres, the upper and lower pastures, the beautiful rolling woodlands, absorbing Nature’s finest.  He showed me his favorite hideaway on a big, secluded rock on a mountain stream that flows through the property.  And Dad proudly fed herds of deer every single day at dusk… without fail… for years.  His haven was their haven, too.

DSC04901 KitchenMom always missed the excitement of New York.  She loved entertaining and hosting parties.  We hope she has watched our renovations with great glee, as we’ve now added a large gourmet kitchen and cedar decking along the full length of the house, complete with gracious stadium stairs.  Oh, the entertaining she could do!

Every room gets a great view.  I love simply sitting at the kitchen table or on the back deck and reveling in the pastoral splendor through the horse fence.  Every direction I look is lovely.

DSC05367 Crape Myrtle by driveDad took great pride in his landscaping.  We’ve tried to supplement it all in ways that would make him proud.   I particularly love the abundant, stunningly soft pink crape myrtle flanking the driveway and giving me a beautiful view out the front door.  Butterfly bushes, holly, Rose of Sharon, azaleas, and mature magnolias also flourish among the many plantings.   The carefully curved driveway is lined with pink and white dogwood, too.  Silver Fox Farm, to me, is true country elegance… Paradise in North Carolina.

The frolicking of various wildlife makes me feel a bit like Snow White….deer, fox, rabbits, owls, and countless small birds, from blue birds and cardinals to robins, wrens, and purple martens.  (If they suddenly broke into Disney songs, I doubt I’d be too surprised!)

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Graduation Day

Ron’s #1 Eldest Daughter earned high academic honors in her studies to become a Registered Nurse.  Keira honored Dad by asking him to pin her in the RN Pinning Ceremony, which preceded the actual graduation.  All family members thorough enjoyed both events.  We then invited everyone to a backyard barbeque to celebrate.

 

05-26-08 Asparagus Pasta SaladHer boyfriend helped out with preparations.  James also planned a special weekend outing to follow graduation with lots of lovely surprises.  But his assistance with the food preparation was wonderful.  He learned how to make pasta salad, and whipped out a big success.  So here’s the free recipe

 

Pasta Salad a la James

12-oz pkg tri-color pasta, such as rotini or other curly style, boiled in salted water just 7-8 min, till firm-tender

Assorted vegetables:

1 c thinly sliced sweet onion, cut in 1” pieces; microwaved 30 seconds

2 c peapods, tips removed & discarded; pods halved crosswise; microwaved 30 sec

1 c sweet red, yellow, or orange peppers, sliced thin & cut in 1” strips; microwaved 30 seconds

2 c cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ c thinly sliced green onion, green portions only

 

Dressing:

1 c your favorite bottled salad dressing (Italian, Ranch, Sweet Vidalia, Caesar, etc)

½ c mayonnaise

Freshly ground black pepper, to suit your taste

In small bowl, mix dressing ingredients together and set aside.

Rinse and drain pasta in a colander.  In large bowl, com bine hot pasta and microwaved vegies; stir in dressing, starting with just half the mixture.  Add more until the creaminess suits your preference.  Stir in cherry tomatoes.  Cover and refrigerate overnight  (or at least 1 hour).

At serving time, top with green onion slices and stir the salad one final time.

Makes enough to serve 8 as an entrée or 12-20 as a side dish.

Kiss Lips cropped

KISS Tip:  Use any vegetables you like, opting for nice color and texture contrasts.  Except for tomatoes and the green onions, you’ll note that we recommend light microwave cooking.  20-30 seconds is the max.  Cook each veggie separately and do so just before mixing in with the hot pasta and dressing.  As when making potato salad, always stir the dressing onto warm ingredients to help the flavors absorb better.

Enjoy… with love and laughter.

 

 

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Outdoor Entertaining

Dockside dining at the BBQ

Dockside dining at the BBQ

We were recently invited to an outdoor appetizer party with an international theme.  After a busy day of boating, I knew I needed a super simple-to-prepare recipe that was also super satisfying for ravenous appetites.

 

Recognizing a pot luck style event would draw various chips and dips, crackers and cheese, crock pots and chilled treats, I opted for something off the grill… kielbasa.  Check out this Super Easy and FREE recipe:

 

Super Simple Kielbasa

1 link kielbasa, grilled until browned nicely on all sides

Mustard, such as cranberry mustard or Dijon

Apple butter

Slice hot kielbasa into bite-sized pieces and serve with your savory (mustard) and sweet (apple butter) dips in small bowls.

Kiss Lips croppedKISS Tip:  You can grill ahead of time and simply warm the cut pieces up in a microwave at serving time.

A recipe really can’t get much more simple than this.  We really like serving the kielbasa with two different dips, so guests can choose between one that is savory and one that is sweet.  Straight up Dijon mustard is a pleasing savory option.  A jar of apple butter delivers a most satisfying sweet treat as a zesty sausage dip.  You can keep them that Super Simple or opt for some twists.  For example, in your apple butter, stir in some freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese.  Into the mustard, stir some whole cranberry sauce.  How much, you may ask?  I only add about ¼ to 1/3 as much of my “additions” as I have of the main ingredient, but go by your own taste preferences.

We love including free recipes for you for being our blog readers.

Super Simple Kielbasa is one of the many recipes available in my “Serve with Champagne” recipe collection in Champagne!  Facts, Fizz, Food & Fun.  It was also featured in Dockside Dining: A Second Helping.  Look for all the Super Simple cookbooks on Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and other sites in both eBook digital and paperback formats.

 

To whet your appetite, here’s a list of the recipes included in the “Serve with Champagne” collection:

Champagne and Cheese

Decadent and Delicious Champagne Pairings

  • Caviar
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Foie Gras
  • Fruit
  • Lobster
  • Mushrooms
  • Oysters
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Strawberries
  • Sushi
  • Tarts

Champagne Brunch

  • Apple Bacon Cheddar Breakfast Pie
  • Asparagus Ham Puff Pancake
  • Seared Peach Pancakes
  • Nutty Citrus Berry Parfaits
  • Super Simple Eggs Benedict
  • Hollandaise Sauce
  • Spaghetti Squash Frittata
  • Mini Sausage Cheese Muffins

Choice Cheese

  • Super Simple Baked Brie
  • Cheese and Fruit Tray
  • 1970’s Cheese Fondue
  • Super Simple Open-Faced Poppers
  • Tomato Quiche Tartlets
  • Mini Cheese Melts

Delightful Dips

  • Baked Bacon Dip
  • Hot Broccoli Dip
  • Warm Lobster Dip
  • Mushroom Bacon Dip
  • Dijon Party Dip
  • Zippy Cheese Spinach Dip

Fabulous Fruits

  • Marinated Grapes
  • Pistachio Cheese Stuffed Apricots
  • Fried Bananas
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Stuffed Cantaloupe
  • Chili Toasted Coconut Strips
  • Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates

Mouthwatering Meats

  • Caramelized Beef Kebabs
  • Baby Beef Wellingtons
  • Mushroom Blue Cheese Sliders
  • Super Simple Taco Quesadilla Wedges
  • Super Simple Dijon Sausages
  • Super Simple Kielbasa
  • Pork Won Tons
  • KISS Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce
  • Pepperoni Bread
  • Ham Balls
  • Cheesy Bacon Bites
  • KISS BLT Bites

Poultry Pairings

  • Savory Chicken Tenders
  • Super Simple Teriyaki Tenders
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Super Simple Chicken Chutney Bites
  • Cashewed Chicken Strips
  • Mini Chicken Caesars
  • Ginger Chicken Rumaki
  • Sauced Crunchy Chicken Bites

Sensational Seafood

  • Super Simple Salt and Pepper Shrimp
  • Super Simple Baked Clams
  • Crabby Cocktail
  • Cocktail Sauce
  • Crab Fritters
  • Lemon Mayonnaise
  • KISS Lobster Quesadillas
  • Steamed Mussels
  • Enlightened Coconut Shrimp
  • KISS Piña Colada Sauce
  • Shrimp Cakes

 

Super Snacks

  • Fresh Tortilla Chips
  • Super Simple Hot and Spicy Peanuts
  • Super Simple Roasted Pecans
  • Super Simple Sugared Walnut Crisps

Super Simple Instant Pairings

  • Sweet
  • Salty
  • Savory

 

Various Vegetables

  • Open-Faced Cucumber Sandwiches
  • Artichoke Parmesan Crostini
  • Easy Eggplant Caviar
  • Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Super Simple Onion Crisped Veggies

Snag your copy of Champagne!  Facts, Fizz, Food & Fun from Amazon.com.  Enjoy… with love and laughter.

 

 

Posted in Bubbly Makes the World Go 'Round, Party Themes & Schemes, Super Simple Is Key! | 3 Comments

For Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day I got thinking about family heritage… and food, naturally.  My parents are both wonderful  cooks and took great care to teach us good cooking technique along with the reasons “why.”  All the while, they instilled a spirit of culinary adventure.

Okay, I’ll admit it started with them repeatedly badgering me to taste things I wouldn’t eat.  “Just try it,” Mom would say.  “Our tastes change; you might find you like it one day.”  Well, it never worked with turnips, olives, beef liver, or stewed tomatoes.  Beyond that, however, my palette broadened.

I also enjoy blending cultures and creatively pairing flavors, colors, and textures.  All the while, simplicity reigns supreme.

My heritage by birth is fully Eurasian, thanks to my Armenian-Irish Mom (with a touch of Dutch) and my Scottish-English Dad.  He brings a touch of Welch, too.  I think it gleefully makes me one of the hundreds of blends in our all-American, eclectic melting pot.

My heritage by association and experience is even more multi-faceted, with lots of Mediterranean, Baltic, Latino, and Caribbean flair.  Yum!

Whether it’s for Mother’s Day, another holiday, or any day, my natural and relational cultural blends flavor my food choices.  I especially love small plates or tapas presentations.  They are simple, flavorful, and offer countless possibilities from all my cultural flavors.

One of my favorite easy-to-make nibbles could be classified as very Armenia-Meets-Britain.  These Pistachio Cheese Stuffed Apricots can be placed on a serving tray, covered securely with plastic wrap, and taken with you to any get together.

Enjoy this free recipe as a sample of the scrumptious original and creative variations in the “Serve with Champagne” segment of Champagne!  Facts, Fizz, Food & Fun.

Pistachio Cheese Stuffed Apricots

50 dried apricots (about a pound), sliced down one side, so each has a large “pocket”
1 1/2 c shelled, salted pistachios, chopped
1 pound, soft mild cheese (such as a brie) or one in a jar (such as Old English)

Into the pocket of each apricot, spoon about a teaspoonful of cheese.  Press the exposed cheese into the nuts.  Continue with all the apricots.  Place all on serving tray and cover with plastic wrap.

Makes 50 bites.

Kiss Lips croppedKISS Note:  This is a great little recipe since it can be completely made a day ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until needed.  It also travels beautifully.

Kiss Lips croppedKISS Tip:  Do not skimp on cheap apricots.  You want them to be large, moist, and plump.  Also make sure they are pitted.  If you can only find apricot halves, that is AOK.  Simple mound a bit of cheese on each and then lightly press the cheese into the nuts.

The entire “Serve with Champagne” recipe collection is available in the book Champagne!  Facts, Fizz, Food & Fun  from Quiet Thunder Publishing.  You’ll find it on sites like Amazon.com.  In addition to food recipes it has lots of bubbly beverage recipes, champagne tips, and the classic “Champagne Quotes: Historical to Hysterical.”

Enjoy… with love and laughter.

Posted in Family -- Says It All | 2 Comments

The Tower of London

14 Tower of London 01Even for us Americans, there is something truly special about visiting “the Motherland,” Great Britain.  A visit to the Tower of London is easily a full day’s adventure and teaches us so much about our Founding Fathers’ heritage.

 

Why separate Church and State, for example?  Centuries of turmoil, as royalty shifted from one faith to another, had resulted in countless imprisonments, persecutions, and executions.  Religious tolerance continues its slow evolution.  But visiting the tower, reading personal accounts, and hearing stories told, all bring the enormous site into perspective.

 

The Tower of London, with its many walls, towers, chambers, and wide array of purposes, clearly illustrates a dark and oppressive time, while it celebrates generations of royalty.  Touring included the famed crown jewels and a stunning array of armor, including the legendary set belonging to King Henry VIII, revealing signs of his need to also appear sexually “well-armored.”

 

14 Tower of London 02This day literally sizzled with discovery and broadened our perspectives.  I’d visited London before and toured Westminster Abbey, stood under Big Ben, and watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  Somehow, amidst all my sightseeing and visits, I had failed to visit the famed Tower complex.

 

Be sure to take a nice, compact digital camera with you.  There are delightfully worthy sights to snap at every turn.  Or try some of those snazzy new video camera eye glasses.  You simply must capture the images to delight and relive your memories after you return home.

 

Posted in Taste Bud Travels | 3 Comments

Ron Howard and Racine

Racine Fois Gras

Racine Fois Gras

Hmmm… a month ago in the blog, I got talking about seeing Ron Howard at Racine in London and totally forgot to share our beautiful evening of food with you.  For this French dining experience, I started with Seared Foie Gras while The Ronald (my husband, not Ron Howard) opted for an Heirloom Tomato Salad with Crème Fraiche.  He also had medium rare Sliced Leg of Lamb for an entrée, while I relished my pair of perfected Roasted Quail.

 

Just go there.  The service, atmosphere and food are wonderful and truly French.  Besides, Brompton Street provides a pleasant walking atmosphere, plus another strong cultural dimension, specifically Lebanese.

 

Reflecting back, after Ron Howard’s departure from the restaurant with his companions, we chatted with our waiter.  He’d had no idea who he had just been serving at the table beside us.  Someone had tipped him off, so he went to Google it.  He was young, but he remembered “Happy Days” reruns in France, where he’d grown up.

 

We told him of the directing prowess of this former child star and even sang songs from “Music Man.”  Hey, wait staff deserve some silly entertainment from time to time.  We all had a lot of laughs.

 

Apologies to Ron Howard.  We tried to protect your privacy while you were dining, but we still wanted to do right by your well-earned positive reputation.  Restaurants love knowing stars dine in their establishments, especially when they are truly first class acts!

 

Posted in Taste Bud Travels | 1 Comment

A Taste of London

London, as is the case with most European cities, presents an eclectic collection of cultures and cuisines.  If true English fare doesn’t suit your taste, then skip the meat pies, the bubble and squeak, and even the fish and chips.

You’ll find superb restaurants, reflecting a wide range of cuisines, from Indian to French, Italian to Lebanese, and Japanese  to (God forbid) American.

Now, if you happen to find yourself in the West End theatre district, stumble into Li Posito.  We did, following a superb production of “Wicked.”  Li Posito served up what is possibly the best Italian food we’ve ever enjoyed in the UK… fresh, flavorful, the real deal.  We spoke with the owner and learned they also opened a small location in Kensington.

I hesitate to name everything we tasted, but I must mention the Grilled King Prawns.  Perfect.  Utterly perfect!  If you are a shrimp fan, this marks a most unexpected taste delight in London.

The following night, The Ronald (my hubby), wanted French cuisine.  The concierge at The Cadogan Hotel made us a reservation at Racine, a splendid French restaurant on Brompton Street.  We were seated at a little round table in the front window.  Value-added is an understatement when I tell you how giddy The Ronald was, as he giggled and chortled intermittently at the regalia of the passersby.  He always loves people watching best of all.  We humans are rather intriguing creatures.

Amidst his various guffaws, I was able to interject that Ron Howard’s “twin brother” was seated beside him just to his left.  (Hello!  This means it was truly Ron Howard.)  Being of the theatre ilk and a broadcast journalist, I am not taken aback by folks of celebrity, but this gentleman brought out childhood smiles.  He was Opie, for crying out loud, and lisped adorably through “Music Man.”  Okay… that’s way before “Happy Days,” but we of a certain age had watched Ron Howard grow up and blossom.  More importantly, we’d cheered as he earned respect as a wonderful film director, somehow managing to avoid or escape what I call Hollywood Hell.

There he was, blissfully orchestrating a movie industry meeting.  He and the two men with him relished both ice cream and their global cinema discussions, before Howard donned his baseball cap and they all slid past us and back out onto the London street.

Posted in Taste Bud Travels | 6 Comments

London Style Tropical Fruit Smoothie

12 London Style Tropical SmoothieA nice surprise I found at Harvey Nichols’ Fifth Floor Café in London were the fresh fruit smoothies.  I chose their Tropical Smoothie, which oozed with freshly pressed (or squeezed, as we Americans say) pineapple, papaya, mango, and coconut.  The balance was perfect and yields the most luxurious color!  To mirror this at home, I recommend the following free recipe:

Super Simple Tropical Breeze

1/3 c papaya nectar  (or 1 c papaya chunks)

1/3 c pineapple juice (or 1 c pineapple chunks)

1/3 c mango nectar (or 1 c mango chunks)

¼ c coconut milk

Blend with 2-3 large ice cubes until smooth.  Makes 1 serving.

KISS Tips:  Fruit chunks work far better than juices for a thick, fruity smoothie that doesn’t even need the ice!  Add some spiced rum and garnish with a tiny paper umbrella and fresh fruit chunks, and you’ll feel as though you’re sipping on the shore of some exotic island, rather than in your own kitchen.

Posted in Taste Bud Travels | 4 Comments

Jolly Ol’ London Town

The English have long-suffered a somewhat less than celebratory reputation for their cuisine.  Well, much has improved!  Even my hubby now relishes the “Full English Breakfast,” with its eggs and bacon, beans, mushrooms, and toast.

 

While in London, if you are in the Knightsbridge neighborhood, check out the Fifth Floor Restaurant & Café directly over Harvey Nichols.  The food market there is also delightful and highly diversified.  In the café, you can enjoy a variety of traditional English dishes.  I heartily recommend the Bacon Sandwich.  Don’t picture typical bacon from the United States.  These slices are thick, wide disks of English bacon, perfectly crisped on the edges and truly bursting with taste bud-delighting flavor.   The slices are served on a golden grilled, soft ciabatto roll with your choice of Ketchup or Brown Sauce.

 

If you hail from the UK, you will think me daft to try explaining Brown Sauce.  However, this staple condiment is non-existent on tables in the USA.  Brits may scoff because they are as accustomed to its presence as we are to Ketchup.  However, if you have not yet tasted Brown Sauce, go for it!  I found it blended perfectly with the Bacon Sandwich, as it would with any pork product or poultry for that matter.

 

I can only describe its flavor as a very close match to clove-rich Raisin Sauce my Mother always made to serve with her Baked Ham.  Brown Sauce seems virtually identical, but with thickeners added.

 

Here is Mom’s Free Recipe for you, straight out of “50 Years of Fabulous Family Favorites,” from Quiet Thunder Publishing in 2008.

 

Raisin Sauce for Baked Ham

1 c seedless raisins

1 c sugar

½ c vinegar

¼ tsp cloves (or a bit more, as you prefer)

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 (8-12 oz) jar grape jelly

Pinch salt

Heat together slowly in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, stirring several times.

OR this Variation:

Mix ½ c brown sugar, 1 tsp dry  mustard, and 2 T corn starch.  Slowly add 2 T vinegar.  Add 2 T lemon juice, ¼ tsp lemon rind, 1-1/2 c water, and ½ c raisins.  Stir over low heat till thickened.  Makes 2 cups.

(I must admit that my adult taste buds made me completely eliminate the sugar from her original recipe; I also use more Worcestershire sauce and vary the jelly flavors.)

Obviously, either way you may it, the flavor is similar to the thick Brown Sauce, but Brown Sauce has no raisins.  Dip a crispy bacon sandwich in that!

You can enjoy hundreds of time-tested and true family recipes in “50 Years of Fabulous Family Favorites,” now available in convenient eBook and soon-to-be paperback formats at Amazon.com.

Anyway, check out the real Brown Sauce.  I found the most popular bottled variety to be called “The Original HP Sauce,” with the label indicating they’ve been making it since 1899.  The label ingredients include malt vinegar, molasses, glucose-fructose syrup, spirit vinegar, sugar, dates, corn flour, rye flour, salt, spices, flavourings, and Tamarind.  Check it out on their website:  www.hpsauce.co.uk.  HP Sauce notes it’s great on sausages and bacon sandwiches, but they also suggest trying it in casseroles, pies, or gravy.  Definitely try it on the Bacon Sandwich at the 5th Floor Restaurant over Harvey Nichols by the Knightsbridge station of the London Underground… with love and laughter.

 

Posted in Taste Bud Travels | 2 Comments

Taste Bud Travels

Ephesus ruins in Turkey

Traveling, for me, is much about absorbing the culture, the people, the lifestyle, and the rhythm of the area.  Food is paramount for this dedicated foodie.  For many years, I simply have said that I travel on my taste buds.

I have not been around the world, by any means.  However, I have been privileged to visit a wide variety of places and cultures.  Articles in this category will reflect travels, naturally highlighted by great foods, delightful restaurant “discoveries,” goodies to gobble up if you go there, and recipes to replicate the yummy flavors found.

My Taste Bud Travels range from most of the states in the USA to Denmark, Russia, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Israel, France, Turkey, Spain, Costa Rica, Croatia, England, Honduras, Argentina, Panama, Canada, Uruguay, Monaco, Colombia, Malta, Brazil, and a variety of Caribbean Islands.  I love to travel.  My passion is good food… and sharing where my Taste Bud Travels take me.

Naturally, I will include a few travel highlights, but great food remains the centerpiece.  I will look forward to your feedback, too, so feel free to share great spots you’ve “discovered” along the Taste Bud Trail.

You can catch a lot of our original recipes in various cookbooks from Quiet Thunder Publishing.  Enjoy… with love and laughter.

Posted in Taste Bud Travels | 5 Comments

Go Guilt Free After the Holidays

 

It’s the end of January. If you haven’t stopped already, now is the time to quit beating yourself up over all the delicious indulgences consumed throughout the holiday season.

We only get a short run on this planet. While that doesn’t mean we should just crash through life like a bull in the proverbial china shop, it does mean that showing too much restraint is simply an opposite and equally undesirable extreme.

So, you’ve given up sweets, for example. Now your Sweet Tooth is screaming at your daily, and life is torturous as you watch others continue to pop goodies into their mouths. Why not give yourself a break and start figuring out great and super simple ways to satisfy the sweet craving without allowing even a single grain of processed sugar into your body?

Try this truly easy baked apple. It’s both sweet and luscious, plus it beats the urge for super satisfying comfort food!

Super Simple Guilt-Free Baked Apple

For each apple:
1 large apple (Cortland, McIntosh, etc), cored, but not peeled
1 T raisins
1 T coarsely chopped walnuts
Ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg or allspice
1 c sugar-free soft drink

Place apple (or apples, touching one another) in baking pan.
Stuff with raisins & walnuts; sprinkle with spices to suit your taste.
Pour beverage around the apple. Bake at 350°F for 15-20 min just till tender. (You could also microwave it on high for 4-5 minutes, if you are in a terrific hurry!)

You can find our books and Super Simple cookbooks from Quiet Thunder Publishing at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other sites.  Enjoy… with love and laughter!

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Super Simple Pepperoni Chips – Our Free Gift to YOU!

03 Super Simple Pepperoni CrispsWhether you are lifting a glass of bubbly, sipping red wine in front of a fireplace, or enjoying a beer during a favorite sports event on television, we have a Super Simple snack that is AWESOME!  We absolutely love the spiciness of pepperoni, but we are not so keen about all the greasiness.

I created these gems in the mid-1990’s.  It was one of my first super clever recipes since Cheese Crisps in the early 1980’s.  There are countless uses for Super Simple Pepperoni Chips… macaroni and cheese, garnishes, salads, casseroles, pizza toppings, snack chips, in rolls, on burgers, in eggs or quiche, etc.  Enjoy ALL the flavor without the fat!

Super Simple Pepperoni Chips

Place 2 dozen slices of packaged, pre-sliced pepperoni on 4 layers of paper toweling.

Top with 2 more layers of paper toweling.

Microwave 45-75 seconds.

Let cool.   (Note: every microwave is different, so start at 45 seconds and then check the pepperoni to be sure it’s not burning.)

Store in sealed containers or plastic bags. They stay crisp at room temperature.

KISS Variation:  Microwave just 30 – 45 seconds to use on pizza, but without the excess grease.  Partial cooking lets you double or triple up on the amount of pepperoni you load on your favorite pizza, but you don’t have to have pizza dripping with all that sloppy grease.

If you would like more recipes like this one, simply write to us at QTPub123@aol.com.  The inventory of exciting, original, and Super Simple recipes, books, and collections is constantly growing!  You can find collections at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and other sites.

Posted in Bubbly Makes the World Go 'Round | Leave a comment

Lift Your Glass!

We just returned from a Greek Isles cruise that started and stopped in Barcelona, Spain.  Sure, I’ll bring you the latest and greatest tips, tidbits, and recipes from these great adventures, but first, you need to just take a moment to toast to Life.  It’s all so fragile.  Choose your beverage, but definitely choose a delightfully memorable piece of stemware.

Consider the beautiful hand-painted lines by Bellismo and many other designers.  In celebrating the sights, sounds, and savory flavors of Barcelona, a few I’ve seen really stand out.

I especially favor those with grapes and vines twirling around the glass.  Some include the names of favorite wines scripted in bronze amid elaborate clusters of grapes exquisitely hand painted in various hues of purple with golden accents.  Swirling grape vines and leaves complete these designs.

Other designs that make me think “Barcelona” are those with nouveau style modern art shapes or anything that hints of Art Deco.  Look for fun hand-painted angular components in colors or mixed metallics.

Because of the lush Mediterranean setting, I would be remiss if I failed to suggest styles that feature lush greenery and palm trees.

No matter what you’re serving at your party, serving beverages in beautiful collectible glasses lets  you pour and enjoy… your beverages AND the compliments… with love and laughter!

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Summer Travel Quickie

‘Tis the season to take to the road… or the rail… or the air… or the water.  However you travel, and wherever you go, here are some super simple ideas to take along to make your vacation fun.

We all know it’s great to tuck in a game or magazine somewhere handy.  Think of it as “insurance.”  Without it, there will surely be some long periods of “hurry up and wait.”

Keep a camera handy… never in a bag that is out of reach.  Digital cameras make it easy to snap away like mad, without the expense or time of film developing.

Oh, and have you seen the sunglasses that also record video?!?  These are a hoot-and-a-half.  Seriously, check out products like Air Venturi Video Recorder Sunglasses.  You could spend up to $100 though, so it’s a pretty expensive “extra.”

Be sure to include items like motion sickness medication, insect repellent, sunscreen, and bottled water.  Like a good scout, you want to be prepared.

Mark your luggage boldly, to help you spot it easily AND to deter theft.  Attach brightly color scarves or bandanas or reflective ribbons and such.

If you are flying, a small, extremely light-weight, portable scale is super to pack.  They are designed for luggage and should cost you less than $20 for a good one that can handle up to 75 or 80 pounds.  This helps avoid some VERY hefty fees if you happen to show up at the airport with an overweight bag!

We always like to include some dried fruit, nuts, and trail mix, when we are not sure if we’ll get easy access to fresh foods.

Here’s a Super Simple recipe to get you started… it’s healthy, tasty, and fast!

Almond Snack Mix

1/2 c whole almonds (raw or roasted, salted or plain)

2/3 c cereal squares, such as corn chex

1/2 c low-fat granola cereal  (with or without raisins, as suits your preference)

1/4 c dried apricot halves, cut into strips

1/4 c golden raisins

1/4 c dried cranberries (sweetened with apple juice are superb)

Mix all the ingredients together and store in airtight containers or zip-top style plastic bags.

You’ll find more great snack ideas including Super Simple Pepperoni Crisps, Cathy’s Perfect Party Mix, Super Simple Pita Crisps, and Perfect Poppy Cock, among others in our cookbook Fifty Years of Fabulous Family Favorites.

Travel with a smile on your face and do return safely!

Posted in Taste Bud Travels | 15 Comments

What’s in THEIR Food?

08 what's in their foodMedia pay lots of attention now to food additives and unnecessary or potentially harmful fillers in food… for humans.  What about our beloved pets?  Television and magazine ads make dog and cat food sound as though it is designed and produced with great care and attention to each species specific nutritional needs.  Can we be sure?

Frequently, we hear of people taking the extra step to prepare cat food and dog food at home.  Some folks select all organic meats and vegetables.  Others simply prepare their pets’ food because they like truly knowing there are no fillers or potential dietary risks.

For many of us, we might start out making treats for our pets.  Then we may sometimes make “entrees” for our dogs and cats.

Miles, our favorite Newfoundland, let us know about his favorite goodies.  He even gave us permission to share a couple of his recipes with you here.

Because it’s summer here, he chose a couple of his favorite icy cool treats.

Upgraded Cheap Cookies

I’ve told you how I love what we call “Cheap Cookies.”  Okay, they’re called “ice cubes” in human lingo.  They are GREAT in the summer, especially.  However, for variety, try this upgrade.

Ingredients:

2 cans chicken or beef broth

Small pieces of cooked chicken or beef

Directions:

Place a bit of chicken or beef in each ice cube tray.  Pour broth over and freeze.  AWESOME!

Note:

Except for really large dogs, only fill each ice cube tray ¼ to ½ full.

Also… you can use just one can of broth and one can of water, if you prefer an “enlightened” cookie. (Ha-ha-ha… even we dogs can do plays on words!)

Veggie Pops

Ingredients:

Your dog’s favorite fruits and vegetables, cooked or raw

Directions:

Cut up the fruits and veggies in small pieces and put in ice cube trays.  Pour water over the fruits and veggies.  (Only fill to ¼ or ½ full if your doggie is small.)  Once frozen, store in closed plastic bags in the freezer.

Note:

Some favorite Miles-Mannered combinations:

  • carrots and bananas
  • green string beans and tomatoes
  • apples and raisins

Along with all of Miles’ favorite recipes, you will find his favorite pet jokes and quotes, details on dog heroes, and even Presidential pet lists in the FREE bonuses he includes with the purchase of his book, “Dog Days in the Life of the Miles-Mannered Man.”  Both the eBook and paperback formats are filled with his stories, adventures and misadventures, and life philosophies for good living… along with lots of great laughs.

Check out this title and more from Quiet Thunder Publishing, widely available on sites like Amazon.com… with love and laughter.

Posted in Must Love Dogs (& Other Wonderful Pets) | Leave a comment