Monday, October 22, 2018



I'm starting with the sweet. These luscious bites are exquisitely easy to make, have no sugar added, and are truly delicious. I got the recipe from my Paleo Cookbook.

Every January my husband, Jerry and I go on some type of strict eating plan after our holiday indulgences. One year we did Paleo and decided we really liked many of the recipes. The Paleo Diet is roughly crafted after "Eat as our ancestors ate", which I interpret to mean no processed food, sugar (honey and maple syrup in moderation are OK), no grains, legumes or dairy. There are many different interpretations of what this diet is. My personal opinion is our ancestors ate anything they could get their hands on. We did not follow Paleo that strictly, but did see some health benefits, namely we both lost weight! These little Coconut Date Bonbons (In the cookbook they're called Macaroons, but they really are not; this name courtesy of Steve Vis.) taste like something right our of your favorite confectioners, and they only contain 4 ingredients.
Not pictured: salt and vanilla

2 cups plus 2 or more Tbsp. unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups dates, pitted and soaked in warm water for 5 minutes
1/4 tsp. vanilla, optional (Paleo recipe calls for alcohol-free if using. No alcohol on Paleo diet.)
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place 2 cups of coconut flakes, dates, vanilla, and sea salt in a food processor and process until thick and sticky.
Place remaining coconut (you may need more than 2 Tbsp.) on a plate. Form the date mixture into little balls. Roll in coconut flakes. The coconut flakes get a little brown and crispy while baking, which adds a nice texture contrast.
I lined the cookie sheet with parchment paper so did not grease.
Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until just golden.

I think soaking the dates in some warm rum for 5 minutes, instead of water, would give a beautiful tropical flavor! (Definitely NOT Paleo!) Mickey Trescott, cookbook author, also says they freeze well. Mine didn't last long enough!

The last couple of blogs covered a delicious duck dinner at my friend Debby Vis's. As you may remember the duck was a little tough, but still very flavorful. I took what was left of the duck meat on the bones and the bones home to make soup and this is what I came up with.
As with most soups, and recipes for that matter, mix this up any way you like. This soup reminded me of a hearty Hunter's Stew and the use of the fruit sauce gave it a slightly sweet flavor, reminiscent of Eastern Europe.

Ingredients-for the Stock:
Remains of 4 duck legs
1 cup of duck fat leftover from roasting the duck*
1 cup leftover fruit sauce from roasting the duck
2 stalks celery, roughly diced
1 carrot, roughly diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
1 Bay leaf
*That sounds like a lot of fat, but you will be removing most of it later.

Ingredients-for the soup:
4 roughly chopped carrots
1 diced onion
2 large cloves garlic
4 cups sliced mushrooms
Duck meat from the bones
1 cup barley
1 cup frozen peas

Place all ingredients for the stock in a large pot and cover with water, about 1 quart. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for 2+ hours. The longer you simmer, the richer the duck broth. Remove from heat and cool. Chill in refrigerator overnight to allow duck fat to harden. Once hardened, remove most of visible fat, which will have hardened on top of the broth. Bring back to a low simmer and then strain all the veg, bones, and duck from the broth. Remove any large pieces of duck from the bones and chop to add to soup. To the broth add 4 roughly chopped carrots; 1 diced onion; 2 large cloves garlic, chopped; 4 cups sliced mushrooms--I used 2 cups white buttons and 2 cups baby portabellas. Add the duck meat and 1 cup barley. Bring back to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer for another 35-40 minutes until barley is just tender. Add 1 cup frozen peas. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve. This soup also freezes well.

I just finished reading Ruth Reichl's, Comfort Me with Apples, a fabulous story of her early years in California as a restaurant critic and food writer. She has inspired me to be a better and more adventurous cook. She captures the most heart-wrenching details of her life with warmth in an easy-to-read, conversational style. Throughout the book she shares recipes either she refined or from others, along with wonderful stories of outrageous dinner parties that make you feel like you're sitting right next to her! Including her first dinner with the Danny Kaye, who I did not realize was quite the chef himself! Thank you Trudy G. Silverman for turning me on to Ruth's books. Have known Ruth as Gourmet's editor for years, but did not know she was such a great writer! Here's my recipe for Mushroom Soup.

3 cups rich chicken stock*
1 cup rich wild mushroom broth**
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups sliced mushrooms. I used white buttons.
4 Tbsp. flour
4 large Tbsp. chicken fat or butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 capful either dry sherry or Madeira (I used Madeira as that's what I had.)
Salt/Pepper to taste

*To make rich chicken stock, make chicken stock as you normally would and then cook the stock a second time in new bones to make it more rich.

**The same friend who cooked the duck dinner, gave me this beautiful mushroom broth. Thanks Deb! Like myself, Deb feels most sane and balanced when she has several types of soup stock in the freezer.

In a large pot, bring all ingredients, up to the mushrooms, to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Let cool slightly and strain. Heat the chicken fat or butter in a shallow pan and add the flour to make a roux stirring until slightly thickened. Add the chopped mushrooms to coat and then add mushrooms to the strained broth. Bring back to slow boil and reduce heat and cook 15-20 minutes until mushrooms are tender.  Add sherry, cream/milk, and salt/pepper to taste. I think what made this soup so special was the mushroom broth. I served with some freshly chopped parsley.



Me on my FIRST Ferris Wheel ride at the Santa Cruz County Fair!
September 21, 2018
Live life to the FULLEST!

Saturday, October 13, 2018


As I said in my last blog post the recipe we used for our Duck Legs was not perfect. I am not sure what happened, but the legs were quite tough. Tasty, but tough. The sauce we made was spectacular so I am going to focus on that. I am also including Debby Vis's recipe for Duck a L'Orange as this is perfect every time.
Deb and me making the marinade. She just knew
that duck would be happy swimming in delicious red wine!
First we marinated the legs for about 1 hour in the following:

2 cups red wine
3 tsps. olive oil
1 tsp. salt/a few grinds black pepper
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. onion powder

Preheat oven to 350.
Remove duck legs from marinade and pat dry. Reserve the marinade. In a large, heavy skillet heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter over high heat until smoking. Brown the duck legs on both sides. Place the legs in a large casserole and cover with the marinade. Roast at 350 degrees for 1 hour. I think the cooking time was off on this recipe. We should've cooked another 30 minutes. Next time I would suggest testing for doneness with a meat thermometer. The USDA recommends internal temp be 170 degrees, but for medium rare legs I would stop cooking at 135 degrees. In the rush of getting the other dinner items readied I am not sure we gave the legs the finger test to tell if they were soft, succulent or still stiff and tough.
This is a very brown plate of food. We should have added
freshly chopped parsley to the brown rice and topped
the duck leg with scallion tops.
To make the sauce, remove legs from the pan and set aside under foil to keep warm.
Heat the pan juices adding 1 more cup red wine, 1/2 cup chicken stock, 2 Tbsp. butter, 1 finely diced shallot and 1 cup dried fruit: cherries, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries. Salt/Pepper to taste. Stir any brown bits into the sauce and cook until reduced by half; about 20 minutes. We chose not to strain the sauce as the fruit and shallot gave it a nice, rustic texture, although straining the sauce gives it a little more elegance.

Here is my friend Debby Vis's excellent tried and true Duck a L'Oranage. She has made this dish for me and my husband and it is truly delicious!
Deb's husband, Steve, storms the kitchen brandishing
 a sword making sure the 2 cooks stay in line!

I snagged this photo from the internet.
Deb's Duck a L'Orange looks just as pretty.
Only difference is she cuts the duck in half.
2 whole ducks, cut down the middle, lengthwise
4 oranges, cut into thick slices, leave peel on
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and pat duck halves dry. Rub all sides with the Herbs de Provence. Liberally salt and pepper. Place half the orange slices in a large pan. Top with duck halves, skin side up. Add the rest of the orange slices, onion, and celery. Cook for 11/2 hours. Every 20 minutes baste the duck and use the baster to remove some of the duck fat. To brown the duck, turn oven temp up to 425 degrees and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove duck from the pan and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Make the sauce in the same pan you roasted the duck in.

1 Tbsp. butter
2 large shallots, diced
Rind of 1 orange, cut into strips
1/2 can orange juice concentrate
1/2 (or more) cups Cointreau
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 Tbsp. brown sugar

Melt 1 tbsp. butter in the roasting pan. Add the shallots and cook until just softened and caramel color. Add the orange strips, 1/2 can orange juice concentrate, 1/2 cup Cointreau, 1/2 cup chicken stock, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Stir constantly to incorporate the drippings from the pan the duck cooked in along with cooked celery, onion and orange slices. Cook for 15-20 minutes until reduced by half. Strain and pour over the duck to serve. Garnish the duck with a few fresh slices of orange.

This is the first blog-post I have published since my dear friend, Dennis Makes passed away. Since starting this blog (thanks to the urging of his wife, Diana, 6 years ago) Dennis has not missed making a comment each and every time I post, even while traveling in Africa, New Zealand, or the Galapagos Islands, he always had a positive word. He was a fabulous cook himself and we loved to talk food, cook and share meals together. We shared many holidays; good times on the golf course, and simply enjoying each others company. Both my husband, Jerry and I are missing him dearly.
NOVEMBER 13, 1952 - OCTOBER 5, 2018
'Thank  you' dinner for work Dennis had done on my computer.

Camping Salero Ranch
Very special Czech dinner for Dennis's Mom, Helen.
We "Birdied" #14 at Kino Springs!
What's missing from this photo?!?
Kino Springs 2015
We've shared many Easter feasts with Dennis and his dear wife, Diana.

Easter 2017
Dennis was filled with love, joy and laughter, never
missing an opportunity to live life to the fullest!
And he loved his Wildcats!
You've made a big impact on my life,
as you have on all those you touched.


Saturday, September 22, 2018


We recently had the most spectacular evening with our good friends Steve and Debby Vis. Eating wonderful food, sipping lovely wine, enjoying each others company on a warm early fall night...what could be better? I often say "Food is Love" and this night was filled with both.
Deb and Steve stealing a kiss!
Our duck had some problems. We'll talk about that in the next blog. Although the sauce Deb and I created for the duck was out of this world!
But, first things first...APPETIZERS!
We had three different appetizers, but let's start with the one everyone liked best.

I found this recipe at The Rowdy Baker's blog site ( The Rowdy Baker, aka Lorinda, served her salmon dip in a hollowed out loaf of bread shaped like a football to serve on game day. Very clever. I will keep in mind for the Super Bowl where hopefully our beloved New England Patriots will win this year. (Sorry, Steve!) I served our Succulent Salmon Dip with crackers.
And here is Fr. Vis blessing our evening
with one of those crackers.
3 7.5 oz. cans Demings Red Sockeye Wild Alaskan Salmon (or The R.B. suggests either using the canned or 1 1/2 lbs. cooked salmon)
8 oz. Neufchatel or Creamed Cheese (I used Creamed Cheese.)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. liquid smoke (R.B. says optional, but I think this is what made the dip so special.)
3 cloves garlic, minced very finely, about 1 Tbsp.
4 slices thick bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3 green onions, sliced thinly (R.B. calls for 6. That seemed like too many to me, although I did garnish with more green onion.)
Salt/Pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and garlic. Mix well with a spoon. Do not use a food processor or the texture will become too smooth. Drain and clean the salmon and roughly chop it. Add to the bowl and mix gently with a spoon. It's OK to have some good bite-sized pieces of whole salmon. Stir in the bacon, lemon juice, green onions, salt and pepper. Top with green onions if you like. Keep in fridge until ready to serve. I made this dip about 6 hours before our dinner, but you could also make it the day before to allow the flavors to meld. This was very delicious!
The view from Steve and Deb's back patio.
My happy husband, Jerry, and me ready to dig into appetizers!
This recipe came from a site called "The Foodie Physician"  (
1 1/2 lbs. (about 3 medium) sweet potatoes (choose long, narrow potatoes)**
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika*
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. aged cheddar cheese
I was out of Smoked Paprika so used this spice blend of
Smoked Paprika, Garlic, Chili and Chives.

**I realized I was making too much food so only used one sweet potato, but kept all the proportions of all other ingredients as the recipe called for, which meant much more spice than if I had used 2 more potatoes. As with most recipes like this, you can take a lot of liberty.

Chipotle Crema:
1/2 cup lowfat plain Greek-style yogurt (I used one 7 oz. container FAGE 2%. This is Bobby Flay's favorite so works for me!)
1 tsp. minced chipotles in adobo (I used a little less, but use more if you like spicy.)
1/2 tsp. adobo sauce from the can
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup sliced scallions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash the potatoes and slice them into 1/4 inch slices or "coins". Use a mandolin if you have one or simply a sharp knife, which is what I did. Place them in a bowl and add oil, cumin, paprika and salt. Toss to combine well. Arrange the potato coins on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip and roast another 10 minutes until tender.
At this point, I let the potato coins cool and bagged them to take to Deb's. Before serving reheat at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes just to get warm. Top each coin with equal amounts cheddar cheese. Return the tray to the oven for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted.

You can also make the crema ahead of time. Mix yogurt, chipotles, adobo sauce and lime juice together in a small bowl. Arrange the sweet potato coins on a serving platter. Top each with a dollop with chipotle crema and garnish with scallions. Very good and good for you! Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A, B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and due to their orange color high in carotenoids.

The last appetizer was so simple it hardly needs a recipe, but here goes.


3 soft flatbreads or flour tortillas
4-5 generous Tbsp. Garlic & Fine herb Boursin Cheese
3 Tbsp. prepared Basil Pesto
1/4 lb. (or 9 slices) good quality deli Roast Beef, thinly sliced and preferably rare
Salt to taste

Top each flatbread with 3 slices of roast beef. Gently salt the beef. Spread about 1 1/2 Tbsp. of Boursin cheese all over the beef. Add about 1 Tbsp. of Basil pesto. Roll up tightly the long way.
Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. To serve, trim off ends and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Plate, cut side down on a serving tray.

Can you believe after all these treats we moved into dinner? In the next blog I'll talk about the continuation of our feast, which included Roast Duck Legs, Creamed Spinach baked in Portobello Mushrooms and Wild Rice with dried fruit. For dessert we had Coconut Date Bonbons, an excellent sugar-free treat.

In the meantime, remember to enjoy each and every precious moment of this glorious life! Be good to yourself and let friends and family know how much you love them.
This was such a special evening with good friends.
Can't wait to share more!
Tune in again soon for another episode of:

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


I made this cheesecake for the 4th of July this year. It was a fun way to help celebrate our most American of holidays while living in Ireland for the summer. You can top this cheesecake any way you like or is also delicious plain. I topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries and shaved white chocolate for our festive holiday celebration.

The recipe is from All Recipes.

3 Tbsp. Melted butter
18 Graham Crackers*, crushed
1/4 Cup Flour
1 Cup Sour Cream (I used creme fraiche.)
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
4 8-oz. Packages Cream Cheese, at room temperature
4 Eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp. Lemon Zest
1 tsp. Orange Zest
* I could not find Graham Crackers here in Ireland so used half a sleeve of Tea Biscuits. Perfect substitution.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease bottom and sides of 9" springform pan. I used my hands to crush the Rich Tea Biscuits. Mix Biscuits (or Graham Crackers) with 3 Tbsp. melted butter until evenly moistened. Press the buttered crumb mixture into bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of springform pan. Put in fridge to chill while making the filling.

Whisk flour into the creme fraiche or sour cream. Add vanilla. Whisk in cream cheese, 8 oz. at a time. Add sugar and whisk until thoroughly combined (3 - 5 minutes) and shiny. I am sure you could do this with either a hand or standing mixer, but I have neither here in Spiddal so the whisk worked well and also provided some good upper body exercise!

Whisk in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in lemon and orange zest.

Gently spoon filling into pan. Bake in preheated oven until edges are nicely puffed and the surface of the cheesecake is firm except for a small spot in the center that will jiggle when pan is gently shaken. This will take about 1 hour.

When done, turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven to cool for about 1 hour. This prevents cracking. I learned another neat way to prevent cracking from Chef Jane St. Pierre at the cooking class I went to with my brother at Stonewall Kitchen in York, Maine. Jane says check the cheesecake temperature just before you think it's done. Insert thermometer in the center of the cake. If it registers 160 degrees, it's done! No cracks! Cool completely before topping.

My husband, Jerry, is in cheesecake heaven.
Our cat, JoJo, is happy to nap through it.

I made this cheesecake again when our good friends Brendan and Mary O'Tuairisg came to dinner with their ever so cool daughter, Roisin. Our son, Mike was here visiting, too, which made for a very festive night! This time I made a strawberry topping by combining 2 cups of freshly sliced strawberries with a cup of Follain's Strawberry Jam.

Gently heat the jam and stir in the sliced strawberries. The berries do not need to cook, but get them warm enough so they release some of their beautiful juices to make a rich strawberry sauce. Let cool completely before topping the cake. Let the cake cool completely before topping, as well.




This is our Irish home sweet home!

Sunday, August 19, 2018


There was a time, not that long ago, when you couldn't give Monkfish away. Sometimes called, "Poor man's lobster", now it fetches a premium price and is enjoyed for its sweet taste and pleasing firm, meaty texture, similar to lobster and scallops.
Monkfish is all head and beautifully designed with a huge mouth perfect for catching prey. They live on the ocean bottom, in both the Pacific and Atlantic and some believe got their name from their remote and solitary existence in the ocean's depths. I think that's a bit of a stretch.  A more plausable explanation for the name, monkfish, is that monks used to go to the docks asking for fish. Monkfish, because of its ugliness was not marketable, and fisherman would give them this by-product. Although they are also known by several other odd names: Goose-fish; Sea-devil; All-mouth; and Fishing-frog. Their Latin name is Lophius Americanus and the European variety is L. Piscatorius, caught right off our shores in Galway Bay. They are not a pretty fish and their most distinctive feature is their large mouth.

They also have an interesting, irregular growth of flesh in the front of their head, just above their mouth. The esca, also referred to as the illicium, is movable in all directions and used as a lure to attract other small fish into their massive jaws. The "antenna" dip down resembling a shrimp and the prey is snatched. Nature! Love it!

The tail is the portion of monkfish that is eaten, but the head has lots of "meat", too and makes an incredible fish stock for seafood chowder. Once boiled, pick off the "meat" and make a luscious seafood salad.

Now, on to MONKFISH MARSALA! This recipe is from The Daily Catch in Boston, across from what used to be the famous Jimmy's Harborside.

Served over linguini with garlic bread;
 topped with freshly chopped parsley and lots of
that gorgeous Marsala sauce.

1 lb. Monkfish, cut into 1/2 inch medallions, salted & peppered (We left ours in slightly larger strips.)
1/2 cup flour for dredging
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 1/2 cup Marsala wine*
1/2 cup fish, clam, or mussel broth**
8 white button mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 lemon for squeezing
2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Parsley chopped

*I couldn't find Marsala wine so used sherry instead. Not a bad substitute, but it's best to use Marsala.
This was excellent sherry, but really not the same as Marsala.
**The recipe doesn't call for the addition of fish stock, but my husband, Jerry, used to eat at the Daily Catch weekly and became quite friendly with the chef. He said add 1/2 cup fish stock to deepen the flavor. I had made mussels the day before so used that.

Dredge the medallions in liberally
 seasoned flour. Shake off the excess.

Place a large skillet with oil over medium high heat. I added a tbsp. Of butter to the pan, as well. It helps brown the fish and adds to the flavor. Sear the monkfish in hot pan for about 2 minutes per side or until nicely browned and slightly carmelized. Remove the fish from the pan and set aside.

Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple minutes until the butter/oil is absorbed and mushrooms start to look translucent.

I was a little late on this photo as flames are nearly gone.
 Be careful when igniting alcohol as it really
does flare up and could take off your eyebrows!
Remove pan from heat and add Marsala wine. Return to heat and ignite wine. Flambe until alcohol burns off. Flames will die down. Add fish stock, if using, and squeeze lemon juice into pan. Makes sure you catch the seeds. Continue cooking on medium high until sauce is reduced; about 10-15 minutes.
Return fish to pan. Add 1/2 Parsley, a little more butter and let bubble away on low heat for another 10 minutes. Serve over linguini topped with the last of the parsley. Garlic bread works well to soak up that sumptuous sauce!


Connie Thornton from Ali's Fish Market in Barna knows her fish!