Thursday, April 15, 2021


 Our good friends, Dorita and Rudy Pina joined us for Easter dinner this year. It was so fun to laugh, love, enjoy lively conversation and tasty food. The theme this year was FRENCH! Today I am going to talk about our starters and first course.

My husband, Jerry is on the left. 

Dorita and I began the celebration with a classic French cocktail...
The inspiration for this cocktail originated in Paris around WWI and was named after the 75mm Howitzer field gun, which both French and Americans used. Like the Howitzer it packs a punch. We were both new to the drink and found it slightly tart, refreshing and not at all overpowering. The flavors were mellow and sophisticated. It is often made with gin, but I decided to use vodka as that is our drink of choice. I'm not big on exact measurements when making cocktails, but this is roughly what I came up with (using my eyeballs to measure!). Adjust to your own taste...more simple syrup if you like sweet; more lemon juice if you prefer a more tart drink.

1 1/2 oz. vodka
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Simple Syrup*
3 oz. champagne
Lemon twist

Shake the first 3 ingredients in an ice filled cocktail shaker. Strain into champagne flute and top with champagne and lemon twist.


*Since I had made the candied lemon slices for the Lemon Curd Cheesecake the day before, I used the Lemon simple syrup, which gave this drink a rich, super lemony flavor. Plain simple syrup would work, too. Next time I will blog that special Easter dessert!

Dorita made the puff pastry for these savory Palmiers from scratch. I have never tasted anything quite like them. For the filling she used onion caramelized in red wine and orange juice, toasted walnuts, and orange zest. After the onions were caramelized she blended and then added roughly chopped green olives. She only used 1 stick of butter to make the pastry! It tasted like much more. They literally melted in your mouth! Flakey deliciousness. 

I found this recipe online and liked the idea of swapping out the white wine with champagne for the Beurre Blanc, but the recipe was really overly complicated so I have simplified it. This made an intensely flavorful starter for the 4 of us. I did have a little extra Beurre Blanc, but that is always nice to have on-hand in the fridge. 

Ingredients For the Marinade:
12 shrimps, peeled and deveined
1 cup champagne (I used Prosecco, but any dry sparkling wine would work.)
3 Tbsp. minced shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced chives
1 Tbsp. minced tarragon
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Combine all ingredients and place in a zip lock bag. Marinate shrimp at room temperature for an hour or more. Every 15 minutes give the bag a shake to ensure that all shrimp is getting the benefit of the marinade. 

Ingredients for the Beurre Blanc:
2 cups champagne or dry sparkling wine
1/3 cup minced shallots
2 Tbsp. champagne or tarragon vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar.)
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

Combine the champagne, shallots, vinegar, and white pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup liquid; about 20 minutes. Set aside. 

Drain shrimp. Pat dry with paper towels. Arrange shrimp on a foil lined, lightly oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Broil shrimp until just opaque in the center; about 2 minutes per side. Arrange 3 shrimps on a plate.

Rewarm sauce base over medium-low heat. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt before adding the next. Do not let the sauce boil or it could separate. 

Season Beurre Blanc with salt and more white pepper if needed. Spoon the warm sauce around the shrimp. Sprinkle with a few more fresh herbs if you like. 

The third hors d'oeuvres was a Smoky Salmon Dip served with crostini's. I wanted to make a classic French black olive tapenade, but could find no cured black olives in the entire town of Nogales. Possibly people are hoarding them, along with the toilet paper and grape-nuts! I have made this appetizer before, but this time added about a cup of chopped smoked salmon, which really enhanced the smokiness!




What an interesting combination of flavors and textures! The soup had that perfect blend of sweet and tart from the red plums and was thick and luscious. The Roquefort Panna Cotta was the complement that brought these flavors together; salty, sublimely silky and smooth. This is a winner! It would make a lovely lunch paired with a mixed green salad, Roquefort cheese, pears and toasted walnuts, possibly with a balsamic dressing. I found this online, too, but don't remember which site. I made the soup 2 days ahead, which really helped with the prep on Easter Sunday.

Ingredients for the soup:
2 lbs. (about 8 red plums), pits removed and diced, skin-on
1 cup white wine (I used Cupcake chardonnay, which is slightly sweet.)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
a couple cranks of freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until boiling. Reduce to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes, until plums are soft and falling apart. Remove from the heat and cool slightly before pureeing. You can use either an immersion blender or the regular blender. I wanted it to be extremely smooth so used the standard blender. Chill until very cold.

Ingredients for the Roquefort Panna Cotta:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
3.5 oz. good quality Roquefort cheese
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3 Tbsp. cold water

Lightly oil 4 ramekins and set aside. Pour the cold water in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the water. Set aside while preparing the milk/creams. In a small saucepan, heat the milk/creams and sugar over medium low heat, whisking occasionally until sugar is dissolved and a few bubbles begin to appear. Don't let the milk/creams get too hot or the cheese may curdle when you add it. Reduce heat to low and stir in crumbled Roquefort cheese. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into the water/gelatin bowl and whisk briskly until lumps are dissolved. Pour into cups, cover, chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or until set. 

To serve:
Ladle soup into four small dessert bowls. Dip the panna cottas briefly into a bowl of hot water. Run a knife around the ramekins to loosen the panna cotta and carefully drop in the center of each bowl.

I think any cheese would work well with these savory panna cottas and look forward to experimenting with parmesan, goat cheese, stilton...the possibilities are endless. 

Butter Poached Cod heading to the dining room!


Our bearded iris are in full bloom!


Wednesday, March 31, 2021


This is a Ree Drummond recipe--The Pioneer Woman of Food Network fame. They are actually more like a shortbread than a traditional Irish scone, but are fabulously delicious! I added one additional Tbsp. of rosemary than Ree calls for (2 in the scones and 1 in the glaze), but otherwise stayed quite true to the recipe.



3 cups flour, plus more for rolling the dough

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup (that’s 2 sticks) very cold butter*

1 cup heavy cream

1 egg

2 lemons; the zest of 2 and juice of 1

3 Tbsp. finely chopped Rosemary for the scones

1 Tbsp. finely chopped Rosemary for the icing

4 cups powdered sugar**

½ cup half and half, plus more if needed for thinning

Pinch of salt for the icing

*I put my butter in the freezer for about ½ hour to get it very cold. I recommend grating the cold butter rather than cutting in with a pastry cutter. Much easier! Ree suggests cutting the butter in with either 2 knives or a pastry cutter, which works, too.

I grated the butter right on top
of the sifted dry ingredients.

**This will make more icing than you need for 24 scones, but if you have lots of Lemons it would be great on a Meyer Lemon Pound Cake or Lemon Bundt cake.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the flour, granulated white sugar, baking powder and salt into a sifter. Sift the mixture into a large bowl until it is well combined. Grate the butter into the flour and gently mix with a fork until the butter is cut into the flour. You may also cut the butter in with a pastry cutter, but grating makes it much easier to mix.

Measure the cream in a spouted measuring cup and crack in an egg. Zest one of the lemons and add the zest to the cream. Add 2 Tbsp. Rosemary to the mixture. Whisk together and then drizzle it into the flour-butter mixture, stirring gently with a fork until combined and a dough forms. The dough will be quite shaggy.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and lightly press it together until it forms a rough rectangle. Use a rolling pin to roll into a rectangle about ½-3/4 inch thick and 18 x 10 inches.

Use a knife to cut dough into 24 equal pieces. Ree Drummond suggests cutting into squares and then cutting again to form rectangles. My dough was not holding together well enough so I simply formed 24 small rounds from the squares I cut believing all of the butter would bring them together as they baked...and it did!

Unbaked, these scones are very shaggy,
but came together beautifully after baking. 

Bake until just barely golden brown, about 18 minutes, then allow to cool completely.

While the scones are cooling, make the icing. Combine the powder sugar and half and half in a large bowl. Add the juice of the lemon you zested to the bowl. Zest the second lemon and add the zest to the bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. Rosemary and whisk until combined. Add a little extra cream/milk/or water if it needs thinning. I also added a pinch of salt, which Ree does not call for, but it helped soften the sweetness of all that powdered sugar.

Once the scones are cooled coat the tops by gently dropping them into the icing. Allow the glaze to set completely before serving.

Easter, one of my favorite holidays, is this Sunday! This will be the second year in a row we are not having our big "hoo-doo" dinner, but we are having our good friends, Dorita and Rudy Pina over to share a meal. The theme this year is French. Here is my menu:


EASTER * APRIL 4, 2021



PaLmiers fait par Chef Dorita

MaRinated Shrimp with Champagne buerre blanc

Classique Olive Tapenade






Cucumber AND MINT Granita



Butter Poached Maine Cod with French Tarragon Lobster Garnish served on Pea Puree

Gruyere Escalloped Pommes de Terres

Haricot Vert Almondine



Lemon Curd Cheesecake with Candied Lemon Slices








Wednesday, March 24, 2021


 I love all animals...dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, insects, flying things, wild animals and more! During this last year of much more time at home, my husband, Jerry and I have spent a lot of time watching the birds. My old friend Diana Makes, knowing I love bird-watching, sent me a recipe that sounded like a winner for our feathered friends. 


This wreath was very easy to make and the birds loved it! They devoured the whole thing in just under 3 days! Here's how to put it together...


4 cups of bird seed. I used the seed with fruit and nuts.

About 1 cup of fresh cranberries or enough to cover bottom of Bundt pan.

2 packets unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup warm water

1/3 cup cornstarch

3 Tbsp. light corn syrup

Thick ribbon for hanging the wreath

Nonstick cooking spray

Bundt pan


Spray Bundt pan with cooking spray. Place the cranberries in bottom of pan. Measure out the seed. In a medium sized sauce pan on medium heat, whisk together the packets of unflavored gelatin and warm water. Whisk until dissolved. Add in the corn starch and light corn syrup. Whisk until there are no lumps left.

The mixture starts to form a thick paste very quickly. The paste should be smooth and thick. Once the paste is formed, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the 4 cups of bird seed. Add the combined mixture to the Bundt pan.

Using your fingers, pack it down firmly. Evenly distribute the mixture so the wreath will be balanced when hung. Place in the fridge overnight to harden the wreath. After the wreath is hardened, gently remove from the pan by flipping it upside down. It comes out very easily.
Attach the ribbon and hang where the birds will find it. It didn't take them long!

I made dog biscuits with my brother a couple years ago for his 2 beautiful cocker spaniels, but the biscuits were a little dry and too thick so I did some research, combined a bunch of different recipes and came up with these doggie treats. These biscuits were a big hit among my dog friends.
Doggie Treats!

Bailey Sykes is so well behaved, he is waiting to say 'Ok to EAT'!

And now, Mom Karen gives the go-ahead.

Goldie Prim with her Mom, Joyce.
2 cups flour. I used white, but you could also use whole wheat.
1/3 cup Old Fashioned Oats; not the instant kind
1 large egg
1 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 cup non-fat dry milk
3 Tbsp. bacon fat
3 strips crispy cooked bacon, chopped
La Quinta Ungerecht checking out her treat. 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, gently mix peanut butter, powdered milk, and egg together. Add the flour and baking powder. Mix in the oats, bacon fat and bacon. The dough is quite stiff so you may need to pour it onto a floured surface to fully mix together by kneading. 
Using a floured rolling pin, roll to about a little more than 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into shapes using cookie cutters or a knife. Arrange on the baking sheets.

Bake for 20 minutes or until very lightly browned on the bottom. Remove from the oven and flip the biscuits to the other side and bake for an additional 12 minutes more. Allow to cool completely before serving to your pup.

Cover and store at room temp for up to 1 week or in the fridge for a couple weeks. They also freeze well for up to 2 months. 
Augie Fahey and her Mom, Kathy sniffing out a potential treat.

Here's Bailey Prim, new addition to the family, biting into his snack.

I love the Itule dogs! Pablo is taking his biscuit from his Mother, Lori.

Zoey Manspeaker seems to be enjoying her treat, too!

Sammy Ungerecht taking a careful bite!

The Itule dogs, Butters on the left and Pablo
on the right having a free-for-all.
And even Heidi was licking up some crumbs!





Tuesday, March 9, 2021


I made this rustic, but elegant dish in my Slow Cooker. I'm wondering when Crock Pots became known as Slow Cookers? Possibly the marketing geniuses thought Crock Pot was not fancy enough. It is true if you change just one letter, it becomes a "Crack Pot".  Also if someone is telling you something less than truthful, you might say that it is a "Crock of S**t". Possibly too many potential negative connotations. Anyway, this was the perfect way to cook this iconic French classic. By calling this a "Cassoulet" instead of "Casserole", which it really is, the dish takes on a whole new identity.

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole containing meat, white beans, herbs and veg. Originating in southern France, it is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the casserole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides, kind of like my slow cooker.  

As with so many dishes, ingredients vary, but this Cassoulet is always slow cooked, and generally contains pork, often in the form of pork sausage, although duck or lamb may be added or used in place of the pork, as well. White beans are a must and I used the Cannellini Beans from Lesley Sykes Primary Beans Co. (

Although herbs vary, thyme is the most traditional for Pork Cassoulet.  Here's what I came up with...



1 pound Cannellini beans, or Great Northern's or other white beans

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces and cooked until crispy

2 lbs. Country Style Pork Ribs (preferably bone-in)

4 large Pork neck bones (I used these because I could only find boneless Pork Ribs and the bones are necessary to bring about the correct depth of flavors. I was very lucky to find Pork Neck in my local super market. It's quite delicious!)

3 cups rich Chicken Stock (preferably home-made)

1 cup white wine (I used Brancott Estate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.)

1 1/2 cups diced carrots

1 cup diced white onion

4 cloves garlic, about 2 Tbsp. roughly chopped

14 oz. canned San Marzano tomatoes

1/2 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper

3 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning the pork

2 tsp. dried thyme leaves, not ground thyme

3 bay leaves

I used half of this 1 lb. can of San Marzano's.

For the Breadcrumb topping:

1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (When I cut off crusts of bread or just have a piece or two left in a loaf, I grind them and keep in the freezer. If you don't have fresh breadcrumbs use half Italian and half Panko.)

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

4 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

I soaked the Cannellini beans for about 6 hours. Because these beans are dried, but not ancient they do not require overnight soaking. 
Cook the bacon until crisp in a very hot, heavy bottomed skillet. I like to use cast iron. Set the bacon aside and pour off all but about 2 Tbsp. of the bacon fat. 
Very liberally salt all sides of the Pork Neck and Pork Ribs. Sear the Pork Neck bones (if using) on all sides until nicely browned.
Pork Neck just going in the pan to brown.

Once browned on all 4 sides, remove from the pan, and brown the pork ribs in the same pan.
Add the ribs, neck, cooked bacon, chicken broth, tomatoes, wine, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme to the slow cooker. Stir. Cover. Cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook for an additional 3 hours.  Add the beans and cooking on low, cook for an additional 5 to 6 hours. Check every hour for seasoning and to make sure all ingredients are covered with broth. Add more chicken broth if necessary. When the pork is drop dead tender, remove from the slow cooker and with 2 forks shred the pork off the neck bones and shred the pork ribs. Add the meat back into the slow cooker and stir. 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix the breadcrumb topping over medium high heat until well combined and slightly browned. 

Pat the mixture gently over the top of the Cassoulet and remove the slow cooker insert and place in the oven to heat for about 10 minutes or until the topping is browned. Most modern slow cookers, aka crock pots, are oven safe up to 400 degrees. The breadcrumb topping gives a little extra thickness to the Cassoulet and also adds the perfect finish to the dish.

Serve with crusty French bread and a bright green salad for a perfect, comforting, rich and satisfying meal! I know you will enjoy this old-world French classic!








Saturday, February 27, 2021


I like a bone-in leg of lamb as cooking on the bone always gives you more flavor and juiciness. With the addition of mustard, rosemary--a perfect pairing for lamb--and the pistachio and bread crumb crust, you will have a very tender and tasty lamb. By starting the lamb roasting before the vegetables you are ensured medium rare lamb and vegetables that are not overdone. My husband did most of the work preparing this meal as it was Valentine's Day and that was his gift to me!


One 4-5 lb. bone-in leg of lamb

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped*

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

6 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus a couple sprigs for top of lamb

1 Tsp. grated lemon zest

1 tsp. coarse salt for the crust; more for salting the lamb

1/2 tsp. pepper, freshly ground for the crust; more for the lamb

About 8 small new potatoes, unpeeled and left whole

5 carrots, peeled and left whole

2 yellow onions, peeled and quartered

*This will make more crust than needed for the lamb, but it's excellent to use with other meats so very handy to have all made waiting in the fridge.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove any silver-skin from the lamb by inserting a very sharp knife just under the skin and both cutting and pulling to remove the skin in pieces. The silver-skin is tough so removing it ensures a more tender roast. Do not remove the fat. As you can see my lamb did not have much extra fat. 

In a medium bowl, combine the pistachios, panko, 3 Tbsp. olive oil, and the mustard. Mix well. If it seems too dry add a bit more olive oil. Stir in the chopped rosemary, lemon zest, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper until thoroughly blended.
Liberally salt all sides of the lamb. Also top with some freshly ground black pepper.
Place lamb in roasting pan fat side up. Sprinkle the minced garlic over the lamb. Firmly pat the nut mixture (about 1/4 inch thickness) over the top and sides of the meat pressing to hold in place. Place a couple rosemary sprigs over the lamb. Loosely tent with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Immediately reduce oven temp to 325 degrees and roast for 45 minutes. 

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, carrots and onion quarters with the remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the foil tent and scatter the vegetables around the roast. 
As the lamb is roasting if the crust seems to get too dark replace the loose foil over the roast. Continue roasting for 1 hour longer. Every 15-20 minutes baste the lamb. Check veg doneness and if they are getting close, remove them and tent with foil to keep warm. Roast the lamb for 1 more hour or until an instant read thermometer reads 140 for medium rare meat. The lamb will continue cooking after removing from the oven so if you like more rare cook only to 135 degrees. Transfer the roast to a platter and let rest for about 15 minutes before serving. My friend Dorita Pina gave me the inspiration to use pistachios with the lamb. So smart and so delicious! Thanks Dorita--another good friend, fellow foodie and tremendous cook!

Our neighbor, Brian Itule, who is also an excellent cook and baker, has perfected the art of making Sourdough Bread. His wife Lori brought us a loaf fresh from the oven, still warm, that Brian made on Valentine's morning. It was the best Sourdough I have ever had. Perfect texture and delicate flavor, not at all too sour. 
I won't tell you how many slices Jerry had that morning, but suffice it to say that neither one of us stuck to our Weight Watchers program on Valentine's! It was truly a day of feasting. And next day, that bread made the best lamb sandwiches I have ever had. Thank you Brian!  We are so fortunate to have such thoughtful and wonderful neighbors!

Later in the week I used the pistachio on extra-thick cut, bone-in pork chops. 

It's also great on chicken!

I cannot believe we are moving into March!
And spring is just around the corner!

Time has taken on a new meaning during COVID---It either feels like it is standing still or racing by!

I have so many more recipes to share with you, so until next time...

Keep loving, cooking, and living life to its fullest!
Me and Jer on Valentine's morning!

JoJo is a lover-boy, too!