Recipe Ideas for Cherry Season!

School is out for summer vacation! Time to slow down, relax and make some great food. Right now, it is all about cherry season.


Cherries, like any fruit, make a great pair with grilled meats. The sweetness of the fruit combined with the smoky flavor that comes from cooking meat on the grill is a dinner everyone around here enjoys.


Extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of white balsamic vinegar, chopped cherries and strips of bright basil are the perfect topping for grilled pork chops for dinner out on the patio.


The farmers’ markets have the cherries front and center right now at the stands. Pick some up for snacking or recipe ideas.

We like to lightly coat a crusty loaf of bread with olive oil and toast on the grill.


When the bread is toasted, remove from the grill and cut into slices.  Layer a piece of creamy Brie cheese and a mixture of chopped cherries tossed with basil, extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Kosher salt. Spoon the cherry mixture on top of the Brie and toasted bread.


You can certainly swap out the Brie for goat cheese. Drizzle a good-quality organic honey on the goat cheese before adding the cherries.


There are two ways to get the pits out of the cherries to start to work with them for any recipe. You can lean on them with some gentle pressure with the back of a kitchen knife or you can invest in one of these.


That is a cherry pitter and it is super easy to use. Simply place the cherry in the plastic tube and squeeze the handle which will spear through the cherry and push the pit out from the middle of the fruit.


It’s that simple. Repeat until all cherries are done. Sounds like the perfect job for the kids to help prepare a meal for the family.


Of course you will want to use some cherries for a dessert now that dinner is outside.


Pick up some frozen phyllo dough shells for dessert tonight. Place the pastry cups on a pan on the cool side of the grill with the lid closed. If you place them on a pan over a direct flame they will quickly burn.


Macerate some cherries and blueberries in white balsamic vinegar and granulated sugar. Drain and spoon in the toasted phyllo cups and tear some mint leaves to scatter on top.


Easy and delicious. Bring on summer!

Making a Memorable Burger!

The rain was falling just as we were getting ready to leave to join our school at the start of the parade route for the annual Memorial Day parade down the main avenue of the neighborhood.


Once we met our group, the raindrops stopped and we were happy to close our huge umbrella and carry it behind the elementary school marching band. The brass instruments pierced the air with the sounds of Yankee Doodle and the drums pounded away as everyone walked behind the school banner.

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After we marched to honor those who fought for our freedom, everyone wanted hamburgers and fries. They had worked up an appetite but the cover on the grill had pools of water in the crevices of the cover. Not the inspiration to get outside and start grilling!


We decided it wouldn’t be the official kick-off to summer without burgers cooked outside on the grill. Maybe the weather conditions weren’t ideal. It didn’t matter. We went ahead as planned and got the most important ingredient for the chef at the grill ready to make dinner!


We’re looking at you, Mike!

We like to assemble our burgers and pop them in the freezer for a bit. This keeps them from falling apart when they hit the hot grill grates which have been brushed with a light coating of cooking oil.


Once the burgers have achieved a nice char on the outside, they get placed on the other side of the grill where a cooler zone is set up with no direct flame underneath. Place a sheet of aluminum foil for the burgers for easy clean up and to catch the drippings as they are topped with thin slices of cheese.


Split the hamburger rolls and lightly toast the insides face down on the grill. This is not the time to walk away! The rolls will toast quickly.


When the burgers come off the grill, take the toasted hamburger rolls and dip in the drippings of the burgers for a little more flavor before putting the burgers in the rolls to serve.


For more burger ideas take a look at my most recent post in the Food section over at Parade.

Grilling season has arrived!


Recipe Ideas for Leftover Easter Candy

We did not hide chocolate bunnies for the egg hunt this Easter since there was the added pressure to find them before they had a chance to melt in the 80-something degree weather.

What a wild ride the daffodils had in the month of April! When they first burst forth through the soil, for their return in the garden, they were covered in a layer of snow. Eventually they got to bloom in a sunny day or two.


By the time Easter rolled around, the temperature was above 80 degrees when the kids were hunting for eggs in the bushes and trees. April can sure fluctuate with the temperature and our hopes that warm weather is here to stay.

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We’ve had more chilly days than sunny days as we look back on April. Yesterday was a trip up the thermometer again for a taste of summer complete with a baseball game and hot dogs.


A bonus for a sultry afternoon when the lilac tree and hyacinths are blooming? The fragrance is intensified and carried through the warm breeze. Cooler temperatures don’t bring this added way of enjoying these flowers.


Many of the other perennials are filling in the gaps and starting to change the landscape. It’s such an energy-filled time of year as there is something new to see and observe every day.


Was the Easter bunny generous with your baskets of candy this year? If you find yourself with a large supply of leftover candy there are ways to use it up with some creative recipe ideas.


Peeps can make use of their fluffy texture and help you create favorite desserts like S’mores or they can be used as toppings for spring-season cupcakes. Jelly beans can brighten batter for cookies or cupcakes for rainbow-colored treats that are easy to make so kids can help make them in your kitchen.


Have an ice cream party and set up a toppings bar with sprinkles, shaved coconut and broken bits of chocolate from leftover bunnies. Gather leftover chocolate bunnies and melt them down gently in a saucepan to spoon as a hot sauce for chilled scoops of the kids’ favorite ice cream.


We did our annual Eggs Benedict Easter brunch with poached eggs and Canadian bacon on toasted English mushrooms with Hollandaise sauce. One of the first spring herbs to return are the chives and they are chopped and scattered on our brunch dishes.


Read all about how that leftover Easter candy can be used to make desserts the whole family will enjoy in my latest post over in the Food section at Parade.





The Reign of The Waldorf Salad

Some recipes have real staying power. Take the unassuming Waldorf salad named after the New York City hotel that first served the dish at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1896. The salad wasn’t created by the hotel chef but by the maître d’hôtel Oscar Tschirky.


The Waldorf salad is made up of a few ingredients and has seen many different versions created through the years using added ingredients like raisins or tart cherries.


Long before the dawn of celebrity chefs Tschicky was educating diners at the New York hotel’s dining room about food and wine topics. He was a presence in the dining room and was just as well known as the society people who dined there.


Tschirky’s recipe, which later appeared in a cookbook of his, used apples, sliced grapes and slivers of celery tossed in a creamy mayonnaise and served over a bed of greens. It seems that chopped walnuts were added at some point and the rest is history.


The Waldorf-Astoria is closing the famous hotel doors to accommodate renovations to make way for new condominium units. You can continue to dine on the salad that remained a menu item for decades for hotel guests by making your own Waldorf salad at home.


Try this recipe from The New York Times and get a taste of what has been served in a New York City hotel dining room for all these years. Add some fresh herbs and you can serve this salad all year long.

Good-Bye 2016 and a Surprise Ingredient for Hot Chocolate!

Many people are saying they can’t wait for 2016 to play the exit music and be gone.


We had a good year with some happy surprises along the way.

After much discussion about having the centerpiece of our holiday meal be something other than ham — we ended up putting a honey baked ham on the menu for dinner after all.


It’s tradition. Maybe we counted on our traditions a little bit more than usual this holiday season for stability and peace.

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We’ll see what kind of winter we will get in the new year. We got a snow storm last winter like we hadn’t seen in years with changing snow drifts until it ended.


A big snowfall can be a chance to slow down, watch a movie or play a board game. As long as you are where you want to be, and have enough food and drink in the house, a winter storm can be fun.


The effort you have to make with the shovel when the snow stops falling is when the work begins!

Try the recipe with a surprise ingredient that has adults enjoying a mug of hot chocolate in a whole new taste experience these days. Read all about it in my latest post over in the food section at Parade this week. Find the link below.


You don’t have to wait for some snow outside to try this version of hot chocolate. It will make winter that much better all season long!

Happy New Year!



Teal is the New Orange Pumpkin for Halloween

Halloween is not a fun day for kids with food allergies. They have to either not take part in class parties and door-to-door fun with trick-or-treating in the  neighborhood or maybe sit out on all the fun as a way of avoiding any potential problems. Another option is for kids to head out with everyone else to ring doorbells in the neighborhood and then have most of the items in their bags removed when they get home.


Who wants to do any of that? If you are a kid, none of these options sound entertaining at all.

There is a new alternative with the Teal Pumpkin Project. It is a great campaign to help kids with food allergies participate in the fun this Halloween.

Read all about it here and keep all the kids safe and enjoying themselves this Halloween. All the information is in my post at Parade.


Help all the ghosts and goblins in your neighborhood be able to make it an afternoon to remember!



A Tip for Summer Tomatoes

Summer tomatoes. This is the time of year to enjoy them. Ripe, juicy tomatoes from the farmer’s market or plucked from the vine in the garden is a seasonal pleasure.


Look for different varieties that are available. Some tomatoes can have a darker hue leaning toward more of a brown color.


One ingredient can help make your tomatoes taste even better. It will also help the slices of tomato as an ingredient in a dish.


Sprinkle your tomatoes with some Kosher salt and allow to sit for a few minutes before preparing a salad or other dish. The salt will penetrate the tomato slices with flavor and it also acts to draw out moisture.


Tomatoes are made up of mostly water. This is why if a tomato plant is dry and suddenly gets a rush of water cracks will appear in the surface of the skin as the tomato swells and takes on water.


When you add Kosher salt to tomato slices it adds flavor. There will also be a pool of tomato water under the slices on the plate as the salt draws out the juices.


If you are making a caprese salad of tomato paired with creamy fresh mozzarella you want to season the tomatoes and let them drain first in order to avoid a soggy salad.


Tomatoes, mozzarella, and torn leaves of basil dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. This salad with a glass of wine is the perfect August dinner out on the patio.


You can also use brightly-colored cherry tomatoes as a substitute or addition in the salad with the mozzarella.


Remember to season tomatoes with salt before you prepare your dish and allow the extra water in the tomatoes to drain. It makes a difference.

The time for summer tomatoes is now – so have some for dinner tonight. It’s a brief season to enjoy the summer tomatoes.

You can see my latest post over at Parade here.







He Went Out to Starbucks and Came Back with a What?

Kids reach a certain age and they want a bit more independence. They want to be able to stay up later or go someplace with a buddy or a small group as a team. You give them a little bit of freedom and hope they act responsibly.


This summer has been about someone walking with friends to a local Starbucks a number of blocks away. So far so good. Give him a little money and he and his friends return home again with some change for Mom.


Until this week when he came home from the Starbucks run with no change and this guy.


Not far from Starbucks is a 99-cent store. I guess I never thought to say, “By the way, don’t continue walking to another store and get a fish.”


Now we have a new member of the family happily swimming in what was formerly a Pyrex bowl used for cooking in the kitchen. It is now this guy’s water world with two cobalt-blue feathery trees to swim around.

Here’s hoping the fish from the discount store is a hearty specimen!








July is Flying By

It’s the end of July and summer is slowly slipping by. The Shasta daisies have stood tall and are now getting ready to give way to the August showing of flowers.


Grilling time is turning out the burgers and hot dogs that are a symbol of the summer dining experience. There is nothing like the air filled with what is sizzling on the grill during the warm-weather season.


We planted some leftover plants from extra trays that we got this spring and they are doing so well in their space at the edge of the dining patio where we are enjoying our summer meals. The buds and flowers are bright and plentiful around our dining area.



The flowers are in bloom and create a lovely border where we sit and have meals.

If you want some tips on how to grill the best hamburgers for your family check out my post at Parade about turning out the most delicious hamburgers for your summer dinner.

It’s Time for Summer Flavor

The backpacks brought home what was left in the desks at school. Crumpled papers, books with ragged covers and markers that haven’t seen their tops in some time.


The basil we grew on the counter in the kitchen is now living happily outside. Basil thrives in summer heat and is an ingredient that pairs well with summer meals. The leaves can be chopped and added to pasta dishes or as a last-minute finish to pizza made on the grill.


Pizza on the grill is a summer favorite around here. It’s easy to make and a fast way to get dinner on the table.

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You can find pizza dough in the refrigerator section of your market. The key is to lightly coat the dough with olive oil before starting to shape it. This will make it easier to work with by making the dough less sticky to the touch.

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Place dough on the grill and watch for bubbles to start to form on the surface. When the bubbles appear, turn the dough to the other side so that both sides are grilled. After a minute or so add sauce and cheese and slide pizza to the cool side of the grill to allow the cheese to melt into the sauce. Finish with a shower of chopped basil.

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Summer is the time for tomatoes and basil is a delicious partner on the plate with some milky mozzarella and a good quality extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can also mix the ingredients in a blender along with toasted pignoli nuts and serve tomatoes and cheese with a pesto.


A caprese salad is a summer favorite served with a crusty loaf of bread and a glass of wine. Be sure to add salt to the slices of tomato as it brings out the flavor of the tomato. Place the tomatoes on paper towels before adding salt because the salt draws out the juices of the tomato. This simple step will help avoid a soggy salad.

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The Shasta daisies are starting to bloom just in time for the Fourth of July weekend. It’s time to switch to summer schedule and menu ideas!