Monthly Archives: July 2014

Easy Black and Blue Fruit Jam

There’s just something special about old-fashioned homemade fruit jam and this Black and Blue recipe is chocked full of fresh chunky berries. Lemon citrus cuts the sweetness and a smidgen of ginger offers a nice tang to each bite. It’s made in the same way my Strawberry-Orange and Continue reading

Asian Hot & Sour Noodle Soup


Did you know some sauces make great soup starters?

My husband taught me this trick.

And just in time too, because I used it for this little number when I had dipping sauce leftover after making these Asian Summer Rolls.

Do you like vermicelli noodles?  

Then you’ll love Asian vermicelli noodles…

…they’re even more petite than the pasta variety.

How about red bell peppers, mushrooms and bamboo shoots?

This soup is loaded with them.

And baby shrimp?

Yep, they’re in here, too!

This soup is so savory, healthy and delicious…

                                    …but in a blow-your-doors-off kind of way…

…as my husband would say.




Asian Hot & Sour Noodle Soup

2-1/2 TBSP sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 TBSP + 1 tsp chili sauce, such as Sriracha
1/2 fresh lime, juice squeezed out
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 TBSP ginger paste
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper seeds
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup finely shredded carrots
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup Shitaki or Black Straw mushrooms or any variety, any hard stems removed
1 small can bamboo shoots
1 cup uncooked Thai or Asian Vermicelli noodles (or about one handful)
1 cup baby or salad shrimp
salt (optional)

1. Mix together first 7 ingredients and set aside.

2. In large saucepan add 1 tsp oil then saute crushed red pepper, Bell peppers, green onions and carrots, about 3 minutes. Add in the mix of first 7 ingredients plus chicken broth, mushrooms and bamboo shoots then bring to a boil.

3. Add uncooked noodles and shrimp, lower heat and simmer about 2 minutes or until noodles are al dente. Remove from heat, taste for salt if needed.

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries


I’ve never met a sweet potato I didn’t like.

And baked fries are my favorite way to eat them.

Crispy saltiness on the outside…

…warm sweet creaminess on the inside.



My husband devours them right off the baking sheet before I can get them on a plate.

I have to shoo him away every time.


Olive oil, salt and pepper are all you need for amazing flavor.

They’re packed with Vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium, too.

I just know you will love them!

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Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

2 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Cut in half horizontally, and then cut the halves into thick fries. Pour olive oil on a cookie sheet. Toss potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake about 30 minutes, turning once. They are done when they begin to brown up a bit.

Sweet Watermelon & Feta


The mix of sweet watermelon and savory feta make for a mouthwatering combination and craving satisfier.  By adding orzo pasta you can turn this recipe into the main entree, if you like.  The grocery stores in the small town we were vacationing in did not carry orzo when I made this dish (and took the photos), but I have included the petite pasta below because it’s so good as an option.





Sweet Watermelon & Feta

1 tsp honey or fruit preserves
1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp Greek or Italian dressing
Juice from 1/2 a fresh lemon or lime
1 cup cooked orzo, chilled (optional)
3 cups sweet watermelon, cubed
1 cup fresh baby spinach & arugula
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Mix first 4 ingredients in small bowl and taste for preference. In medium serving bowl combine chilled orzo, watermelon, spinach and arugula, and basil then lightly toss. Drizzle dressing and add feta over the top and serve.

This girl can eat the whole bowl. Enjoy!


Glammed Up Vintage Salt & Pepper Shakers


On our recent family vacation to upper Michigan we stayed with my husband’s parents near Tawas, Michigan. It’s a popular, small boating and fishing town on Lake Huron. Many visitors camp right on the lake, rent cabins or own small vacation homes there.  Lake Huron is very cold until almost August when the hot summer days have finally warmed it up.  The frigid water doesn’t seem to keep the kids from swimming in it or the men from fishing either.  And so while they’re having fun playing, the women take time to shop and flock to the boutiques and art festivals.

My mother-in-law and I enjoy the antique stores and flea-markets.  We spent three afternoons browsing in them and sharing our old finds. Many of the treasures had us reminiscing about her mother or my grandmother who owned a lot of the same stuff back in the day. And we marveled at how expensive that stuff has become.  We had a lot of fun “saling” together that’s for sure!



One find on my wish-list was a set of potbelly vintage salt and pepper shakers that I could spiff up and paint similar to a set I had seen in HGTV Magazine. We couldn’t find the potbelly-style, but my mother-in-law spied this set, and for 2 bucks I snatched them up.



At the camp I gave them a good scrub down with an S.O.S pad until their old silver selves shined and gleamed again.



When I got them home I painted the bottoms and rims with two coats of teal and pearl nail polishes swirled together.  The polish took really nicely to the silver and hardened to a smooth coating.


So that is my fun little DIY. A set of old antique tarnished salt and pepper shakers all glammed up. Special reminders of our family time up at the lake this summer.


Summer Orzo with Shrimp


This dish is a light mix of petite pasta, grilled shrimp, fresh summer vegetables and herbs. I skewered and grilled the shrimp on our indoor grill after basting with olive oil to keep preparation simple. Any of your favorite herbs and vegetables will work of course and sliced fresh avocado would be an amazing addition.


Summer Orzo with Shrimp

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 6 ears), or frozen whole-kernel corn
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (16 oz) package orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions, drained and cooled
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 large green onions or shallots, minced
3 tbsp red wine vinegar or balsamic
1 large lemon, juiced and zested
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2 cups grilled shrimp

In large skillet over high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil and corn and sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Let cool.

In large bowl, combine corn, cooked orzo, yellow peppers, tomatoes, basil and stir well. In a medium bowl, combine onions, 1/2 cup olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Pour dressing over salad and toss well. Top with shrimp and extra lemon citrus if you like. Salad can be made up to 6 hours in advance and refrigerated. Serve cold or at room temperature. (Recipe inspired by Country Living Magazine.)


I love summer in a bowl, don’t you?


Brown-Sugar Balsamic Strawberry Sauce



This sweet and tart strawberry sauce is amazing! The balsamic brings out the berries naturally tantalizing flavors and the brown sugar caramelizes the syrup as it reduces while cooking. But what’s truly amazing is how fresh the chunky sauce tastes even after simmering.


We enjoyed the thick berries and warm syrup poured over vanilla bean ice cream. I paired my sundae with a scoop of frozen pineapple yogurt which knocked my socks off. It’s just the best homemade strawberry sauce ever! But this sauce has skills and would be just as divine over brownies a la mode, as a compote in fruit crepes, and drizzled over pancakes and waffles.  It’s saucy perfection!image

Brown-Sugar Balsamic Strawberry Sauce

2 pounds fresh, hulled strawberries, chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp balsamic glaze (1 cup balsamic plus 1 tbsp white or brown sugar boiled and reduced by half. Makes 8 tbsp.)

In medium saucepan over high heat, bring strawberries and brown sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and mash berries until broken up but still chunky. Let cool for 30 minutes. Then stir in 4 tablespoons of balsamic glaze. Serve sauce over ice cream.

So good! More please. 🙂


Before & After Painted Vintage Side Tables


A little elbow grease goes a long way on vintage side tables given to me by my dear friend Gene from his estate sale last summer. I’m guessing they’re from the 1950s/60s based on what he shared with me over the years about his traditional home decor.  Mr. Gene, as my sons affectionately called him, also gifted me with two picnic bench seats I added seating to and shared more about in this post here and here.


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Baked Raspberry Pecan Brie


This recipe and photo is from my cousin Cyndi who lives in Florida. It looks so good — warm, melty, creamy — yummy! And I can’t wait to scoop up some of this gooey goodness for myself. She posted this photo on Facebook and I couldn’t private message her fast enough for the recipe, which she graciously shared. Several of her friends asked for it too, so I know many of you will be happy to have it.  I picked up all the ingredients to bake it this weekend when my sons get back from youth camp — if I can wait that long!  Thanks for the recipe Cyndi! xo

Baked Raspberry Pecan Brie

Cooking spray
4 sheets Fillo (Phyllo) dough
1 egg white, mixed
raspberry jam (not jelly)
1 – 8 oz. round of Brie cheese
1 cup of fresh raspberries
chopped pecans
fresh fruit of choice like strawberries, apples, etc.
wafer crackers of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray cookie sheet or baking dish with oil. Lay down 4 sheets of fillo dough in center of pan or dish. In the center of the dough spread raspberry jam to make a large circle. Cut Brie in half horizontally through the middle to make a top and bottom. Place and center bottom of Brie on top of jam circle and sprinkle with pecans and top with the other half of Brie. Snip the corners of the fillo to round the dough and avoid overlapping. Brush egg white along the round edge and fold over then brush the top to seal it closed and for nice browning. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and spread raspberry jam over the top. Cool 10 minutes to set. Serve with fresh raspberries and any fruit, favorite wafer crackers, or slices of thin French bread for scooping.

How do you like to bake your Brie? There are so many ways to indulge in this decadent treat.


Shrimp & Ceasar Salad


Oh Momma! This salad is a specialty my mother serves at our family gatherings. Her favorite entrees to pair it with are marinated grilled pork or grilled herb chicken breasts. Mom’s secret is in the bottled creamy dressing she blends with a smidgen of milk. She’s tried them all and says this brand is the best! I do agree, because her version of Caesar salad is better than any I’ve ever had.


I served it up with leftover baby shrimp and added fresh basil from the kitchen, but the extra herb is not necessary. You can add any meat or fish you like of course and it’s amazing with marinated grilled kabobs. Mom says it’s divine with Greek olives, too!

Shrimp & Ceasar Salad

2 whole romaine lettuce stalks, washed, leaves removed and lightly chopped
1/2 seedless cucumber, peel on, sliced thin, cut in half
1/2 onion, sliced thin, ringlets cut in half
1 cup small red grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup cooked salad shrimp, peeled and ready-to-serve
3/4 cup Ceasar dressing (Marketside Classic Caesar Dressing available in produce dept. at Walmart).
1 tbsp milk
Bacon bits (optional)
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
6 fresh herb leaves of choice (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

In large bowl combine lettuce leaves, cucumber, onion, tomatoes and shrimp. In separate bowl mix dressing, milk and bacon bits to combine. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Sprinkle sunflower seeds over the top and add fresh herb leaves (optional). Salt and pepper to taste and serve. Also delicious with grilled chicken breast or marinated pork.

Don’t forget to enter my Better Homes & Gardens Magazine 1-year subscription giveaway. Look in the right sidebar on this page for the contest.


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