recipe: stir-fry

October 11th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Entrées | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

When I am trying to clean out the vegetable bin and I need a fast tasty meal that everyone loves, my go to recipe is stir-fry.  I can use almost any meat I have in the fridge, chicken, beef, or pork.  I can also stretch my volume if I am low on meat and heavy on veggies.  You always need garlic and some type of onion, white, green, red, or shallots.  I used San Marzano tomatoes I picked up at the market, fresh red & green peppers from the garden, and poblanos.  I also added some fresh basil from my garden.

For the sauce I marinated my chicken in a small amount of sesame oil and soy sauce.  I always keep hoisin sauce and Trader Joe’s General Tsao’s stir-fry sauce.  This sauce is sweet tangy and has a small amount of heat.  There is no need to order out when you keep this sauce in your house.  I serve this over brown or white rice for an easy, quick, great tasting meal.



• 3-4 whole chicken breasts or 6-8 halves
• ½ large onion (cut in small wedges)
• 2-3 variety of green peppers, sweet & hot depending on your taste palate
• 1 large red pepper
• 3 cloves of garlic
• 2 tomatoes sliced or cubed
• 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce
• ¼ cup of General Tsao’s sauce
• Stir Fry oil
• Sesame oil
• 1/3 cup fresh herbs




• Slice your chicken or meat of choice into strips and marinate for a ½ hour.  While you are waiting for your meat to marinate cut up your veggies.

• Use a large stir fry pan and add a couple of tablespoons of stir fry oil.  When it is hot add your meat and cook.

• When the meat is cooked almost through add your veggies and toss with the hoisin sauce and General Tsao’s sauce.

• Stir-fry until veggies are cooked but still crisp, toss in your fresh herbs and serve.





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I have previously written about Columbia Crest’s H3 line of wines and how great a value they offer. The Grand Estates level is one notch below the H3 line in price and often is very similar in quality. This merlot recently received 89 points from the Wine Spectator as did the 2009 vintage so you can’t go wrong either way.

I found this at Total Wine for $7.99 and there were 69,000 cases made so it is easily found in grocery stores or big box wine stores.

Merlot is to red wine what Chardonnay is to white wine. Popular, plentiful, and one of the first “go to” wines for Americans because it is easy to find and drink.

Rather than me give you my own description, it’s easier to give you the official write up from Wine Spectator:

“Lithe, polished and approachable, with generous raspberry, cranberry, floral and white chocolate flavors that linger easily against refined tannins. Drink now through 2016.”

This is one of those perfect weekday wines and it doesn’t take a lot of contemplation. Just go get some and enjoy it. I promise you there will be more Columbia Crest writings because they are one of the best values in the USA.



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recycling summer plants

October 10th, 2012 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Indoor - (0 Comments)

I feel fortunate when I can recycle anything!  So bring your summer plants indoors.  These are ferns that have been replanted for indoor use.  Accent with fall pumpkins and gourds for a fun fall table.



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recipe: freeform blueberry pie

October 10th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Desserts | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

I love a dessert that is easy to make and tastes like it wasn’t.  I am also a big fan of blueberries no matter what time of year.  This recipe could be changed and you could use apples.  I’d add cinnamon.  I always like to make a fresh bowl of whipped cream; it makes the dessert even more special.  You can keep the discs of dough in your fridge pre-made and ready to go.  Easy, simple, and tastes great… a perfect recipe for me.



• 1/2 cup of butter softened
• 1 egg
• ¼ cup of heavy cream
• 1-¼ cups of all-purpose flour
• 4 cups of fresh blueberries
• 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
• 1 tsp of lemon zest
• ¼ cup flour
• ¼ cup sugar
• 4 tablespoons of butter


• Beat butter in an electric mixer for 30 seconds, add egg and beat until combined, then beat in cream at low speed.  Add flour until well combined.

• Remove dough and make a flattened disc.  Wrap in parchment and chill for at least an hour.

• When ready, either divide dough into four parts for individual pies or roll out into one pie.  Roll out onto a lightly floured surface.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.



• Combine blueberries, sugar, zest, and breadcrumbs.  Toss to combine.

• Mound the blueberries onto the center of the pastry dough.  Carefully fold the pastry border up and over the blueberries, pleating the dough when necessary.



• Mix butter, flour, and sugar into fine crumbs and sprinkle over the pies or pie.

• Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 60 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly over entire surface.

• Transfer pie to a plate and cool before serving.  Serve with fresh whipped cream.





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walk in the woods

October 9th, 2012 | Posted by admin in UPDATES - (0 Comments)

Early morning and the weather is crisp and cool.  It’s the perfect time to take a walk in the woods.  I love looking up at the tree tops, taking a deep breath of fresh air and being grateful for a glorious day!  Nothing better than a walk in the woods to clear your head, awaken your senses, and make you realize how beautiful the world is!




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fall spruce up

October 4th, 2012 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Outdoor - (0 Comments)

A great day to be outside and spruce up your containers for fall.  Tall grasses, mums, cabbages, sedum, celosla, pennisetum, spurge, and bittersweet make up a great fall container… kept the potato vine from summer.



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I am not a fan of sweet potatoes so I shy away from recipes with this vegetable… but this soup is beyond delicious.  It is a recipe from “Stonewall Kitchens” and I find all their recipes are proven winners.  I made it with fresh corn and peppers from the farmer’s market.  The aroma and flavor of the saffron cream finishes this soup to perfection.  It is a must try for the cold nights ahead, let me know if you enjoy it.  It can be served as a first course, for lunch, and don’t forget to include a crusty bread, homemade cheddar biscuit or oyster crackers.


• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 large red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch squares
• 1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into ½-inch squares
• 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch squares (about 2 cups)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon flour
• 4 cups low-sodium canned chicken or vegetable broth
• 6 large ears fresh corn, or 3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
• 1 cup heavy cream
• About 1 teaspoon crumbled saffron
• 3 scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped



• In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

• Add half of the red pepper and all of the yellow pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

• Add the sweet potato, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

• Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, stir in the broth, and bring to a boil.

• Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.

• Meanwhile, if using fresh corn, shuck it and remove the silks. Using a sharp knife remove the kernels from the cob by standing each cob on one end of the cutting board and working the knife straight down the cob; you should have about 3 cups of kernels.  Mix in the kernels; set aside.

• In a small saucepan, heat the cream and saffron over low heat for about 5 minutes, until just simmering.

• Add the saffron cream to the chowder and stir in the corn.  Heat over low heat for 5 minutes.

• Taste for seasoning.  Serve piping hot, topped with the scallions, and the remaining red pepper.

 PANTRY STAPLES: Trader Joe’s Soup & Oyster Crackers (Click to Read)


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fall container

September 25th, 2012 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Outdoor - (0 Comments)

I love these big iron containers; they tend to eat the plants up!  Meaning I can never have enough fun material to use each season.  This time of the year we used mums, ornamental peppers, assorted cabbages, and a variety of perennials.  I accented with interesting wooden accent sticks and bittersweet.



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recipe: nan’s gazpacho

September 19th, 2012 | Posted by admin in Appetizers | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

This past weekend was an adventure in food and activity.  I spent the weekend with six couples that are all in better shape than me, but I kept up!  We could ski, paddle board, kayak, swim, water ski, bike, sail, hike… and read.  We all shared our cooking skills each assigned a night to make a meal.  This was my very favorite appetizer served by my friend Nancy.  At 5:30 every evening we met at the dock for appetizers, drinks, and eagle watching cruising the lake. What a treat this was, served with a variety of beers.  Enjoy!



• 1 32oz bottle of low sodium V8 juice
• 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
• 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
• 6 green onions, finely chopped
• 1 green pepper, finely chopped
• 1 yellow or orange pepper, finely chopped
• 2 English cucumbers or 4 small pickle cucumbers, finely chopped
• ½ cup of shredded/chopped carrots
• ½ cup of ketchup
• 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
• 2 large 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes with juice
• Tabasco to taste
• Salt & pepper to taste
• Optional – 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro or parsley



• Mix all of the ingredients in an extra large bowl.

• Let sit overnight in fridge.

• Serve in individual “ball jars” with cooked shrimp and sour cream.  Serves 12



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bannockburn garden club

September 7th, 2012 | Posted by admin in TABLE DRESSING - (0 Comments)

I was invited to speak to the Bannockburn Garden Club this week.  It was such a lovely group of women.  I feel at home with people who love to garden and cook.  Many of these women live a few blocks from me but we have never met.  It is always a gift to get to meet your neighbors especially those that share your interests.  I live in Deerfield so I’m just a block away from joining this great group of women on their yearly adventures relating to gardening.

We spent our time discussing recipes that worked with our end of season vegetables.  I made Gazpacho filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, and a variety of peppers, served in mason jars.  We discussed table dressing… a favorite accent to entertaining.  I brought three fun settings for this amazing kitchen that’s accented in red.  I hope to get some recipes promised and I am so fortunate to have met all these women.

A special thanks to Joanne, who is a gracious host and has one of my favorite kitchens.

RECIPE: Nan’s Gazpacho  (Click to Read)



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