Wednesday, July 22, 2020

LIFE IN COVID DOES GO ON. LIVE!





Hello friends!  Just dropping in to share some pretty garden pics, and some of my cute little granddaughters.  They were up for the 4th of July, and sometimes I'm a little slow on getting my act together, editing photos and such.

First, I have this glorious bloom.  This climbing rose has been temperamental for the last few years.  But it's a tough little gal.  I think our lawn people have weed-whacked it down to the ground several times.  I finally started tying it up the arbor and since then, I'm getting flowers.  I did a little checking on the species (more on that later), and it turns out it's not a climber at all.  Just a rose bush.  So I think I'll move it when the time is correct.  And I'll probably get that wrong.  🙄




I love the nursery/farm market at the lake.  I didn't have time to plant as much as I had bought over the 4th, so I brought it back to Chicago, where I have a lot of backyard and garden projects going on.  I love this trailing annual that you can see in this photo.  It's called Blue Mustard, despite its color.  And it's edible, supposedly tasting like mushrooms.  I'll pass.  




Our 4th of July holiday was an absolutely fun and carefree bunch of days.  The Husband's birthday is on July 2, so we always have a festive time celebrating that.  I was able to purchase a small cake at the Farm Market I mentioned.  My eldest granddaughter, Elsie and I snuck into the mudroom to put the candles on and light them.  Elsie carried the cake out to the Great room as we all sang.  I don't think The Husband even knew it was for him!  His eyes just glaze over when he looks at our grandchildren.

He did a smash up job getting the beach and toys ready for company.  Again, it was just two of my kids and their families.  Son Kevin is a single parent now and Emily takes full control of the caring and feeding of four little girls.  I'm there for the fun and games!🥳.  It makes me smile when I hear the door slam and they come in calling, "Grandma!"  They know to find me in the kitchen, always cooking and chopping and washing dishes.  Sounds like a chore but you know, sometimes I like getting out of the heat and sun, and I'm in my element in my "lab".  So---good times all around.  I know it sounds like the distant past, but please share how your holiday went. my American friends.  





I wanted to share some pottery pieces I recently purchased from an Instagram friend and her Etsy shop.  This handmade plate had me at Hello, and the mug is totally me and my love of birds.  Every morning at the lake I awake to the cooing of the mourning doves on a power line outside the balcony doors.  Love this.  I wouldn't dream of pouring a drop of anything in it.  You can visit Cindy at Fat Cow Studio.  Such great pottery pieces and her life and times on the ranch are so worth reading to get a smile. 



I was in the process of decluttering and taking photos at the same time.  Emily was here, and I'm happy to announce she is back to designing first and foremost after working as a legal assistant with The Husband for three years.  She's working on a webpage and I'll share that with you when it's completed. She styled some of my sad areas at the lakehouse one evening.  I was upstairs reading when everyone else had gone to bed.  I could hear her rattling and banging around below me.  She's amazing, she sorted through things I never realized were just taking up space. She tucked a lot of good odds and ends away so I could pull them out if and when I wanted to.  All in all, everything was more streamlined and pleasing to the eye.  She did a bang up job on my Hoosier cabinet, which had become a catchall for everything under the sun.  God, I love her!  And that's another piece from Fat Cow Studio there, a long platter with a leaf etched in before the glaze.  I can't wait to do a meat and cheese selection on it for guests.  And we have some special guests coming---more on that further down.



This is another prized piece.  This cabinet or whatever you want to call it, was found at the shop of a gal who fixes up, stains and/or paints old furniture.  She's just a town over and I swear her shop just beckons me every time I pass it.  The weight of this is unbelievable and it's solid.  What it was made for and when...I don't know.  I definitely got my money's worth.  It fits so perfectly in front of the windows of the Great room without blocking the view of the lake.  And that's Monster Jade, over thirty years old.  It's been spawning baby Jade's that I pot for my daughters and friends.  Sometimes the stems just fall off with age.  Sometimes I have to hold my breath and prune.  Overall, I think it likes me.  

I love this pic.  My oldest and youngest grandgirls.  Elsie is like a little mama at just five years old.  That was a huge help for Emily.  Little Lucy is sitting in the very same highchair that we had for Abby when we bought the house on the lake 30 years ago.  And we bought it already used at a church sale.  Abby was six months old, just like Lucy.  It's had a few coats of paint. ;-D




Patsy is Elsie's little sister, my fourth grand, and she's 3 years old now.  This is an older picture, she was in the water 99% of her time here.  Just like her daddy, my son Kevin, she's a little fish.  She definitely won her fins this summer!




Emily made the most delicious pasta salad that took us far and beyond the regular old regular summer pasta salad.  She couldn't remember where she found the recipe so we just put it together on paper to share.

Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Pesto

1 lb. rigatoni pasta  (or whatever you prefer)
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c basil pesto (available in most grocery stores)
1 T dried Italian herbs
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 c yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4  c. sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 1/2 c fresh or buffalo mozzarella cheese, roughly chopped
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
S & P to taste


Boil pasta according to box directions.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the olive oil with the pesto, herbs, and garlic.  Drain the pasta and toss with the olive oil mixture.  Gently mix in the sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.  Stir in the parmesan cheese and season with S & P to taste.  Serves 8-12 as a side dish. 


This.  Is.  A.  Keeper!




I wish I could say we ate more fish.  My husband loves salmon but I'm a little so-so about it.  I prefer sweet whitefish like cod and tilapia.  When you factor in that I've never found a creative bone in my body when it comes to preparing and cooking fish, it just doesn't happen much around here.  I did however, come upon a sale at my grocer on cod and tuna.  So I really had to put my thinking cap on and do this fish right.


So you have a little over a pound of cod.  Let's bring out the flavor (butter), and add to the flavor (a veggie, in this case spinach). To give it that extra kick, some herbs and spices, and the final touch to make it all come together, it can be anything from a sprinkle of cheese to toasted breadcrumbs to a splash of cream.  I used the juice of a lemon.

These flavors are those we find in Mediterranean cooking and it's one of my passions.  Very fresh, vibrant, and heart healthy. I hope you enjoy making this dish as much as I did putting it together.

 Mediterranean Baked Cod

1.5 lbs fresh cod fillets, cut into 4-6 pieces

5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
5 T fresh lemon juice
5 T olive oil
2 T melted butter
1/3 c flour
1 t ground coriander
3/4 t sweet paprika
3/4 t ground cumin
1+ T salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, and melted butter in a shallow bowl.  In another shallow bowl mix together the flour, spices, salt and pepper.


Pat all sides of the cod pieces dry (very important).  Dip the pieces (both sides) in the olive oil/butter mixture first followed by the flour mix.  Set aside on a plate.


Heat 2 T olive oil in a cast iron or heavy oven proof skillet over medium high heat.  Add the fish and sear on both sides until you have a golden color but not cooked through.  Off the heat and spoon the spinach over and between the cod pieces.   To the remaining lemon mixture, add the chopped garlic and swirl to mix.  Pour this over the entire dish.  



Bake the fish in the same skillet for about 10 minutes or until it flakes easily.  Finish with a good squeeze of lemon and garnish with fresh parsley if desired.  Serves 4 
Asian Style Oven Roasted Veggies



I don't really have a recipe as such for this dish.  I was in the mood for a stir fry, a great way to use up the veggies in my fridge and have a meatless dinner.  But instead of doing them in a wok or what have you on the stove, I roasted the vegetables in the oven until they had a nice crisp and blistering.  Then I gently tossed them with an Asian sauce I make a lot.  It's just a mix of olive oil, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, honey, soy sauce, minced garlic, and whatever spices you might want to add (please email me if you want quantities).  Add this while the veggies are just out of the oven and hot.  I also highly recommend white rice of the longer cooking variety.  It is moist and clumps together so perfectly...no flaky or hard pieces at all.  I add a touch of olive oil and some chopped green onion.  Chinese food minus the take-out trouble. :)

So I mentioned I had a few things to add at the end of my post.  I won't spend a lot of time, I've already droned on long enough.

First I want to share an app I use on my iPhone.  It's called Picture This. It's free. This app can identify flowers, weeds, bushes, trees...all growing things that you might not be able to identify or forgot the name of, or want to know more about.  You take a photo of said plant (or weed--love this), and your phone will show a photo of the real deal with everything you want to know about it.  Also, it will tell you how to care for the plant, or how to eradicate the weed.  It's fascinating.  I use it at the Farm Market to identify and get the facts on plants and flowers rather than look at that flimsy stick. I've been known to walk around my yard snapping pictures of trees, bushes and weeds, like Inspector  Closeau.  And it keeps your photos in a library to refer back to.  If you do use the app, let me know how you like it.  

And second, we are getting together with my longtime blogger friend, Cindy, and her husband Dan.  Doesn't sound huge but if you've followed me since the Stone Age, you'll know that I met Cindy in our blogging days 11 years ago.  I wrote to her, "Hey, you live in Wisconsin, just above Illinois.  Let's  get together."  Little did I know that she lived in Western Wisconsin, 4 hours from Chicago.  This has been a yearly tradition since...we meet up in every place or town we come up with that is between our homes. How do you maintain a long distance friendship when you have no history, see each other once a year, and have 2-3 days to catch up?  It's incredible but it works.  So this year we are getting together here at the lake.  With the pandemic, it's perfect, and they are staying 5 days.  But oh, I don't envy their drive; from Wisconsin, through Illinois, then Indiana, and finally Michigan. I'm so ready to see them tomorrow.  I'll take lots of photos!

I hope all of you are happy and healthy.  Keep up the good work of avoiding crowds, wearing your mask, washing your hands, and keeping hand sanitizer in your glove compartment of your car (but out of the heat and sun on your dash), your purse, your pocket, anywhere you can grab it and apply.  Sometimes I hit it several times in the grocery store just worrying about what I touch.  But it's pretty clear, just stay far back from others.  

Love and Lysol,

Jane

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

HAPPY SUMMER! GARDENING,THE LITTLE ONES, & A QUICK RECIPE




Hello, friends!  So glad to be back (again, so soon!).  A little odd that when we were really sheltered in place for several months, I just never felt inclined to post.  Maybe I'm just feeling a little more energy now.  I'm not doing a whole lot more other than seeing family and grocery shopping, a few trips to the garden nurseries.  Going back and forth to the lake gives me a nice change of scenery.  Illinois is now open with a lot of restrictions and our numbers have gone down.  I pray everyone continues to practice the social distancing, masks, and hand washing.  How is everything in your area?

Anyway, you know I like to start with a pretty photo.  I'm working very hard on my garden beds here in the city because I've been here longer than usual.  We have a huge backyard as far as city norms; great for badminton, corn in the hole, kids running through the sprinkler, a little soccer, space for the dogs to play. 


This is the north side and that's crazy Poppy chewing on a stick or something.  The afternoon shadows make it hard to see the border left of my little woodland garden.  I have sedum, phlox, lilies, spiderwort, speedwell, milkweed, and tons of tulips and daffodils,  Once those spring bulbs are spent, I pull off the brown leaves and fold the rest over, securing loosely with a rubber band.  Never cut them to make room for the rest of your flowers, they need them for nutrient.  Doing what I do makes room for your summer plants.  The south side has a bed which is undergoing a lot of changes.  Whew, I'm worn out and sore every evening.  A long hot shower and scrubbing the dirt off is the best remedy.  Sometimes I wonder how I do all the bending, squatting, and lifting with all the metal and screws in my back.  Maybe it's a good surgeon or maybe it's just good stretching.  😏




I bought a lot of plants at the nursery at the lake.  They have a super selection of perennials and the prices are very reasonable.  This was my haul.  I have this fancy dandy plastic wagon thing.  I place all my plants (and also groceries) in this and roll it wherever needed.  What a time saver and easy on the 'ol back.  With my plants, I can add some water from the hose into it so that they can bottom water until I get them planted.  



The other day Poppy was making a fuss near my day lilies.  The Husband went over and then called me to come quick.  Here was this magnificent moth.  I don't know how I knew it was a moth, perhaps the huge, fuzzy body.  



He carefully picked it up with this magazine cover and brought it around to our patio table.  It wasn't moving much at all.  Then we took pics and let it go in some greenery outside the backyard, safe from our dogs.  I managed to find it on Google, it's called a Polyphemus moth.  The photos I saw were incredible.  Our guy was actually a lot smaller than some.  We learned they only live about five
days so maybe it was near the end as it was so chill with us. 😥. They have no mouths, so they don't eat, and they are only here to mate and leave something behind.  How it landed here, I'm not sure.  We had several trees trimmed in April so maybe there were cocoons.  What an amazing experience!




Sausage, Vegetables & Kalamata Olives over Orzo.

I'm going to break things up here with a recipe.  This is actually my own picture- Ta-Da!  You all know how bad I feel about the poor quality of my photos of food.  I probably share 1/4 of the dishes I make because of the hideous pictures I take which I think turned out delicious.  

I keep my grocery list and cost to a minimum mostly because of my feelings about being in public places during this pandemic.  I also go back and forth to the lake so much that I either cart food to and fro in cooling bags, or I spend more money shopping there.  The verdict is: I often wind down to what I have in cabinets, and the freezer and fridge.  I love the challenge of cooking with just a few items, such inventiveness!  Without further ado, this meal worked really well one night and I've vowed to make it many more times.  

2 Italian sausage links, casings removed, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, sliced 
2 c fresh spinach, loosely chopped, or 5 oz of frozen, thawed and water squeezed out
1/4 c red onion, thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic (or more), minced
6-8 oz uncooked orzo
1 c whole Kalamata olives
I T olive oil + more as needed
Pinch of red pepper flakes 
S & P to taste

Start the orzo in a pot of boiling water according to package directions.  Once done, drain, reserving 1 cup of the starchy water.  Return the pasta to the pot with a splash of olive oil and keep covered. 

 Meanwhile, sauté the sausage over medium heat until almost cooked through.  Add  the tomatoes, spinach, onion, an d red pepper flakes.  Cook over low heat about 3 minutes until just softened.  Stir in the garlic for the last minute, adding a bit of the pasta water as needed to keep everything saucy.  Divide the orzo over 4 plates.  Top with the sausage mixture.  Scatter the Kalamato olives all around. Adjust seasonings to your taste.  Serves 4.

We had a few slices of Italian bread with this dish.  Absolutely wonderful for using just a little bits and pieces from the fridge just waiting to be used up. Let me know if you give this recipe a try. :)




Lucy June

I came home from the lake to celebrate Emily's 33rd birthday.  The memories of her birth always come back so vividly.  She was my firstborn, I was twenty-seven years old and so naive. We hadn't even considered names, and never thought to ask whether it was a boy or girl.  I'm so grateful for the experience.  Many haven't gone through this but I hope for many, that just being there for young family members, the children of friends, fostering or adopting fills your heart...and for those who continue to try, all my prayers.🙏 

We had Emily, Mike, and the two littles ones over for a steak dinner with crab cakes--surf and turf.  I need to brush up on the crab cakes,  I made them earlier and refrigerated them not wanting the kitchen to smell like grease and fish.  I reheated them in the oven before serving and they were limp and flavorless.  Bad mistake.  The chocolate cake made up for it!

And Lucy June was christened last Sunday.  Just grandparents, the godmother and father.  The church was empty, and the lunch celebration was limited to six people as mandated at the time, so The Husband I couldn't attend.  But the church was the best part.  I love the whole celebration, as in the past with all of our grands and our own children.

Lucy wore the same gown as Madelyn.  It was custom made from Emily's wedding dress, all satin and tulle ruffles along the bottom.  It's a beautiful keepsake.



I can't get enough of Madelyn.  She was a little out of sorts and confused by the celebration although she attends Sunday mass.  Look at that dress! I gifted Emily with some dresses and outfits from Boden USA,  If you are familiar with the British company, it's just the most precious patterns and fabric, and the best quality you can get for your money. and she's hooked.  Em washes all the baby clothes on gentle with a mild soap and hangs each and every piece to dry.   


Madelyn & Lucy


So--my little Poppy girl made it through the spaying and had her stitches removed at a veterinarian clinic near the cottage. Then she came down with painful infections in both ears.  The vet asked if she had been in the water and she hadn't yet, but she rolls in everything, including the marshy grass near the shore.  The doctor treated her with a med that lasts 30 days and in the meantime, she can't get wet.  So we haven't been able to get her used to swimming, although I doubt she has any qualms.  While hanging out along the water before the infection, she gifted me with a bunch of weeds, lily pads, and a dead snail.  And I can't bathe her!!



A snap from the front of the veterinarian hospital.  I talk a lot about the lake but there is so much more to love and be grateful for in just being surrounded by fields, farms, barns, and a wide open green paradise with fresh air.  

I'm off again tomorrow, the last day of June.  In past years I've settled in around May.  Everything is off due to the Covid, and sometimes I feel I've missed the summer.  But we haven't, it's only June.  I'll be back the week after the 4th of July for an appointment and (finally) a hair appointment!  I'm back to being brown, and just a bit of gray strands (thank you good genes!), and I haven't had a cut since January.  I like my hair long  but this is looking scraggly.

SO:

1) How are you coping with the pandemic right now?
2).  Anything good happening in your garden?  How's your weather?  Super humid and hot here in the Midwest.
3)  Cooking or trying new recipes?
4). Activities that keep you happy and moving?

Again,

Love and Lysol,

Jane




Friday, June 19, 2020

LOVING SUMMER, SOME GARDEN TIPS & A REFRESHING SALAD RECIPE





I'm currently not at the lake as I came back to Chicago for my daughter Emily's birthday and the christening of her baby girl, Lucy.  Big events that I wouldn't think of missing. I had Emily, Mike, Madelyn, and Lucy over for dinner to celebrate.  We had a little plate of apps...cheese, crackers, almonds, some veggies, and a simple cheese spread.  For dinner I made a salad, steaks, my first try at  crab cakes (which were so-so, I think), and prosciutto wrapped asparagus.  I did most of the prep work early in the afternoon so everything went smoothly and I could have a cocktail with everyone.  But in making the crab cakes earlier, refrigerating them, and reheating in the oven, made them a little soggy.  Next time I'll do everything but the frying them up which only took about 3 minutes per side.  All in all it was the perfect celebration of my firstborn just 33 years ago.  What a day back then of emotion, fear, pain, and then pure joy!  I'd do it over again in a heartbeat.  

So this is a serene little photo from the patio at the lakehouse I took before I left, the much used hanging swing and the old shed in the background.  So much more work to be done there and now I'm focused on the way I left things here in the city back in mid-May.   You know...the mindset is: It always gets done in the end.  





I love the nursery and small grocery near my house on the lake. I find plants I've never seen before, some of which I brought back to Chicago this week.  The grocery shop is all local produce and so darn fresh.  The people are friendly and helpful.  One of these days I'll take a few snaps.  This particular hanging basket of petunias had me floored.  The throats are a deep, deep purple that look almost black.  And they look almost like a pen and ink drawing.  I hope it doesn't die before I get back, we've been very hot and dry here in the Midwest for days.





I have birdbaths at both of my homes.  I have to admit I don't relish cleaning them but it really is important to do that once in a while instead of just adding water.  I always worry about gnats and mosquitos and those are really a danger for people and pets.  So I did some research and it really boils down to emptying the stagnant water in a bucket or whatever and disposing of it away from your yard or garden.  Then use the jet spray of your hose nozzle inside the basin and out.  Mix up 1 part white vinegar to 9 parts hot water, pour it in and let if soak for a bit.  Use a hard bristle brush to scour it clean and then rinse well.  Don't forget the pedestal.  To keep this work down to a minimum, remember to empty out the old water before refilling...something I'm really guilty of, and don't  have the birdbath in the hot sun which causes algae to grow and evaporation of the water.  Finally, keep it away from your feeders ,nothing like soggy seeds and squirrels hopping in and out!  I love to watch the birds flock around these baths, its always a treat to see them splashing around!!




photo credit:  Cooking For Keeps

This is such a refreshing salad and I'm always looking for something out of the ordinary for summer when we really get into our salads.  You can double or triple this if you are having guests for lunch or dinner.  It's easy to assemble and super fresh.  I love the sweetness of the melon with the saltiness of the prosciutto.  I found this on Pinterest and changed it up quite a bit.  As usual, I forgot to take a photo.  Enjoy!


Melon, Prosciutto, and Arugula salad

1 small cantaloupe melon
2 T lemon juice
1 t honey
1/4 t Dijon mustard
1 T olive oil
4 c arugula
4 oz fresh mozzarella pearls or pieces
3 oz prosciutto, roughly torn (I actually use about 6 oz as it is sooooo good!)

Use a melon baller to portion out melon or simply slice and cut out  1 inch pieces.  (Perfect for lazy and un-fancy people like me).


In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, honey and mustard.  Gently whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.  Gently mix with arugula. Add melon, cheese, and prosciutto, toss and serve.  Serves 4-6


I hope all of you are doing well.  Illinois has not opened up completely and we continue to go down in Covid cases and deaths.  Hallelujah!  We continue to wear masks, keep the social distancing of six feet, and use one way directions in aisles of stores and other essential places.  I don't feel this virus is going to go away and I'm going to be vigilant for a long time to come.  Just my feelings.  So all the best to you, my friends.  Be healthy.  

Love and Lysol,

Jane❤️

Thursday, June 11, 2020

THESE ARE THE DAYS (WE WILL REMEMBER)



Well, hello my blog, and all of you great friends!  I'm here to get some relief from all the world events, as important as they be. I keep well aware of all the happenings, clearly spending way too much on TV, social media, newspapers, and alerts I get on my cell phone regarding anything and everything in my area. I see protests which make me afraid and other times relieved.  I hope we all continue to be diligent in staying safe during this time of contracting or spreading Covid19.  Many of us have the okay to go ahead into the world, and I can't say much more than make it safer now than we did before we were sheltered in place.  It matters a lot and will help us stay in a more normal way of living.  My thoughts anyway.

And the death of George Floyd. I was sick to my stomach to watch the footage.  I am 100% for major change.  We had peaceful protests and violent. I don't think the people who were looting and destroying property were actually there to be part of the message. This happened recently a few blocks from my home in Chicago.  Stores and shops were evacuated and closed, some boarded up.  Businesses and gas stations were shut down.  I've been in Michigan but I was worried sick about my family.  The violence is uncalled for.  Peaceful protesting sends a better message.  I'm not here to preach-just my personal feelings and what I've experienced.   

Above is a picture of my little Poppy who was  recently spayed.  She did really well but was absolutely miserable and frozen with the cone on.  My niece saw this pic and thought we posed her with  little chef's cap on!  She survived and is a happy camper now.  She always delights us.  Now 8 months old, she's maturing but some of her puppy antics have us laughing, and some--not so much.



I was really happy to zoom in on this little family of three.  Swans are majestic and I like that they spend time on our little bay.  I've always had a little info on my blog,  based on personal experience that they can be very aggressive and people on the water need to steer clear.  Never mess with nature.  They guard their little babes like all get out.  With a wing span of 6 feet, you never want to get close to them on the water.  I have been able to touch their beaks---okay, I've offered them little bits of our meals or snacks when they swim close to our guest cottage near to the water.  Surprisingly, they are quite gentle in taking a bit of food.  But I'm sincerely not a fan of interfering with the ways of nature.  


French Yogurt Cake

I'm jumping in sooner than normal with a recipe.  I'm still cooking up a storm and I find it super comforting right now.  I'm also working on gardening here at the lake and getting some herbs and veggies going, albeit somewhat later than usual.  I've been here since mid-May and and I'm chipping away everyday at the indoors and out.  But--I keep telling myself, it always gets done.  And I carve out time to sit outside, read some of my current book, and just enjoy the beauty of the lake.





So this is a recipe I found on the blog, Rosie The Londoner.  I found it unique because it not only calls for yogurt, but all of the ingredients are measured in a yogurt container.  But beware, the ounces of said yogurt container was not included in the recipe, and I found our American size was a bit smaller,  so reduce the ingredients a bit in our American yogurt cups. But it was a wonderful cake and we all loved it.  Doesn't it look good?  I used blueberries but you can always do the berry of your choice.  I was so proud as I'm not much of a baker and my pics never really look this delicious! The cake was very dense and moist, and not very sweet...the powdered sugar made it a bit more so but I would have loved it without.  This is the link.





In the city house, I recently bought a new set of stainless steel pots and pans by Calphalon. My cookware was all mismatched and pretty beat up.  Some of the cheaper pots caused my food to stick and burn so I knew I needed to make the investment.  As much as I cook, I wonder why I waited.  I do have a few heavy duty ceramic pieces of Le Creuset and I treasure them.  When I arrived at the lakehouse a few weeks ago, I took a good look at what I have here and it was dismal.  I didn't want a whole lot, just essentials that I use most of the time.  

Above is the dutch oven from Target in the Chrissy Teigan brand.  I have one of her pieces and love it.  This dutch oven is ceramic and goes from stove to oven.  I love the color and pretty copper handle.  



I have two Calphalon skillets that can go from stove to oven, but I wanted non-stick skillets as well.  These are also from Chrissy Tiegan's line. They are so easy to clean up.  Just a note: always let your cookware cool before you add any water to soak or wash.  I also pay attention to the handle and the screws as they can get a buildup which is hard to remove.  These areas are often overlooked.  





I have been longing for a piece from Staub.  It's very high end and I really couldn't find a a need---until I came to the lakehouse. I actually only have one casserole dish and I used foil to cover food in the oven.  Then one of the handles chipped and it was dangerous to use.  I was beyond happy to find this piece at Target.  Who would have thought?  I had spent so much time pricing everything from this brand at Williams-Sonoma and Sur-la-table, and it was always way above my budget.  It's a thing of beauty and it still sits on my counter: I hate to put it away!  Does anybody out there get excited about cookware?  Would you like to share what you have and would recommend?




And finally, we pretty much knew we needed more for than just the kitchen refrigerator, especially when we have company who usually brings a lot of food which we later have to refrigerate the leftovers, and because I love fresh food and veggies that take up so much room.  I found this refrigerator/freezer at Home Depot.  It's from the Unique line and a retro style which  comes in several classic colors, mine is a light minty green.  It's smaller than your conventional fridge and takes up very little space. It fits just perfectly in our laundry/mud room.  Some of my neighbors and friends who stop by go gaga over it!

So...this is it for now.  If you read this before I go back over it tomorrow, forgive any typos.  I'm too tired to edit!  But I will.

Take care all,

Jane ❤️

Friday, May 29, 2020

BRIGHTER DAYS (A PRAYER FOR)

















Here I am like a sea blown wind

Under my thunder and rain
I'll ride the waves til a sunny day
Comes to me again
For I've seen brighter days
Seen lighter places to stay
Along my way
Oh, I've seen brighter days

Loggins and Messina

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

SPRING HAPPENINGS, GARDEN NEWS, & A GREAT ROUNDUP OF MY RECIPES






Hello friends!  Just me.  I can't believe it's almost June.  I've been waiting for months for summer to roll around, literally.  This has been a very hard time for all of us and I have no doubt that we will continue to struggle with this pandemic and all it involves for a very long time.  Be strong and hang in there.  My family, friends and I have been very fortunate in not catching the virus.  We've all hunkered down in our respective homes.  I'm right up there with everyone else feeling sorry for myself being stuck at home day after day, but it makes me also feel a little guilty that there are people who are suffering from COVID-19, or lost someone special due to it, or perhaps out of work and  living on their savings.  It's a lot of mixed emotions and I think that can make tensions high.  So maybe we can focus on the good things for a bit.  I recently read this:  Worrying makes you suffer twice.  It rings pretty true for me but I worry and stress probably more than the average person.  But it's something to think about.

So, this is my herb garden last summer just off the back porch.  The chives and oregano come back every year in abundance, and sometimes I dig a little up and mix it into flower beds just for the fragrance.  I love fresh basil, isn't it insane what you have to pay for a just a few stems at the grocery store?  I get a few small plants in the spring and I have enough for all my recipe needs throughout the summer.  I tried mint one year, I loved the smell but I'm not a fan of it in foods, or even tea.  But it's super easy to grow, smells delicious, and can really take off.  If I'm ever inclined to do it again I'd plant it in a pot.  I like a medium size rosemary plant, usually in a pot.  I've never been able to keep it going indoors after summer.




Besides all the pretty things I have popping up outside, I have a ton of invasive weeds and plants.  Creeping Charlie decided to wreak havoc in my back yard a few years ago.  I was told the only way to get rid of it was to dig it up.  Really?  It's everywhere!!  I know someone who had it and they used a spade to make a little trench around it.  They mixed grass seed with topsoil and sand, and over-seeded the area and the new grass crowded it out.  Anyone have any other suggestions?

A few years ago I had a problem with Chinese lanterns crowding out everything in a large border of flowers along a fence.  Everything I read said, "Too bad. Nothing you can do, it will always come back."  And then one spring, it was gone.  It has never come back.  That very same area is now lily of the valley, which I absolutely did not plant.  It's pretty but you have to be a tiny little fairy and hover over it to see the teeny tiny flowers.  And then I read how poisonous it is, that you shouldn't even touch it without gloves.  Who knew?  Maybe I should stop researching my plants.  And finally, I saw all this unfamiliar stuff popping up in my spring bulb bed in between the tulips, daffs, and crocus.  What the heck?  Well it's fleabane, a sort of herb that has tiny little daisy-like flowers.  I had seen it in my yard here and there, I thought it was a cute weed.  But— it can take off and it sure did. I will be on my hands an knees plucking these little babies out for a loooooong time.




I’ve missed filling bird feeders at the lake. I can only do that from spring to fall when I commit to keeping them filled. While I’m whining about how bad nature has been to me, does anyone else have a problem with chipmunks, squirrels, or mice wreaking havoc near your feeders?  They are scavengers and they burrow tunnels, many of them under our patio.  There are a lot of dirty little secrets behind these lovely pictures. :-D




 One of the best gardening experiences I ever had in my years working in my garden was discovering this big, fat, striped caterpillar climbing on a dill plant and nibbling away. I watched this guy, and then a few more, and although my plants were stripped of their feathery dill,  it was awesome. Whenever I see a monarch, I wave and nod proudly. So anyway- plant some dill and feed a critter!

 I have rambled on about food storage and expiration dates in past posts.  During these past few months of staying home as much as possible, when I do suit up and go to the grocery store, I buy an alarming amount of fresh foods.  And no- I'm not hoarding any one item, I just like fresh foods.  So I have been looking for was to stretch and extend the life of fresh fruits and veggies.  My refrigerator can get so packed that it becomes inefficient in maintaining the right temp.  Item are stacked precariously and bordering an avalanche when I'm reaching near the back of the shelf.  Well fear not,  you don't have to refrigerate everything, and some foods actually do better being left out.  But don't think that if it's not in the refrigerator section at the grocery store, that you can leave it out as well--some fresh foods need to be kept cool to last longer.  So I've have some prep and storage  tips broken down according to in-season fruits and veggies we are now buying.

Strawberries---The best thing you can do to keep strawberries fresh is soak them whole in a bowl of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts cold water.  10 minutes will do it.  This destroys the bacteria, or that fuzzy gray stuff on them.  Rinse the berries and let drain in a colander.  Place them on paper towels and let them dry a bit, then store in a tightly sealed container in your frige.  This works with other berries also.

Lemons---I've always stored my lemons in a bowl on my counter.  Not good, they don't make it much more than a week.  I buy quite a few of them at a time as I use them, the juice, and the peel quite a lot.  So, here's what the experts say:  Wash your lemons really well, dry them and then store whole in your refrigerator in a tightly sealed plastic bag.  They will last almost 4 weeks.

Herbs---Hardy herbs like chives, rosemary, basil and oregano can be washed, trimmed, and placed on a damp paper towel.  Roll it up jelly roll style and store in a sealed plastic bag in your refrigerator.  Tender herbs like parsley, cilantro, and thyme can be trimmed and placed upright in a mason jar filled with water.  Cover the top with a damp paper towel securing with a rubber band around the jar.  Refresh the water every few days.

Tomatoes/Avocados---Tomatoes do not like cool temps so it's best to store them on your counter. If they start to soften or the skin bruises, it's time to transfer them to the fridge and use them up quickly. Avocados are quite the same.  Keep on your counter but once they start to over-ripen, move to the refrigerator and use them as soon as possible.

Onions---I've always kept my onions and shallots on the counter.  it is however recommended to keep them in a cool, dry, dark space, in the mesh bag they came in, or you can use regular old nylons.  And of course, a bowl works fine as well.  I'm not one to run all over the house to gather up what I need to prepare meals, so the solution for me was to hang a hook in the stairwell going to my basement, just off the kitchen.  I leave them in their netted bag and so far, so good. I think a pantry or closet can work as well.


Now, on to recipes!





I love a light and fresh seafood dish in the summer.  This works for both lunch and dinner.   I was curious about the shrimp and marinade and I just happened to have a pound of nice sized shrimp in the freezer.  I served it over thin Thai noodles (my new love) but it would be great along side rice or pasta tossed with your favorite sauce.  Keep it light to compliment the tanginess and spice of the shrimp.  I took the liberty of giving it my own name.

Spicy Marinated Shrimp

1/2 to 1 lb jumbo shrimp
1/3 c packed cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 c fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)
1/4 c olive oil
1 T honey
1/2 t chili powder
canola oil for cooking
S & P

Blend all of the ingredients except the shrimp in a food processor.  Place the shrimp in a large zip lock bag and pour the marinade over.  Place in refrigerator for no longer than 10 minutes or the shrimp will actually 'cook' in the acidic ingredients.  

Heat 1 T canola oil in a skillet or grill pan.  You can also do this on an outdoor grill.  Place each piece on and grill 1 minute on each side until lightly charred.  

As I've said, you can serve this in so many ways.  I am looking forward to having this as an appetizer for company over a bed of lettuce, it's great at room temp.  Something cool to counteract the spiciness would be a yogurt dip with cucumber slices or tortillas and a salsa verde.

This comes together very fast if you peel and devein the shrimp ahead of time.  I do this unpleasant task because I save big $$$.  In any case~~~you will love it and get great rave reviews if you serve it to company.  :-D


Stacked Iceberg Lettuce Salad

I was scratching my head the other day thinking that I couldn’t remember the last time I had a salad with crisp iceberg lettuce and tomatoes along with some goopy dressing at least since we stopped going to restaurants awhile ago. And I always go for the salad rather than soup at restaurants as an exchange for the greasy, calorie loaded entree I plan to order. So anyway, I was pawing through the veggie bin in my fridge and all I had was baby arugula, baby spinach, and baby wilted something or other. The next time I did a shopping I grabbed a nice head of iceberg and then I tried to recreate the salad of my youth before all the “super greens “ came along with their fancy balsamic vinaigrette’s. Is anyone else sick and tired of balsamic vinegar?  So here you have my latest and greatest summer salad. 

1 head of iceberg lettuce
4 stalks of celery, washed and chopped in 1/2 pieces
8 radishes, thinly sliced
6 oz feta cheese crumbles
3 oz chopped pancetta  (or bacon)

1/2 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sour cream
1 t Worcestershire sauce 
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 T fresh lemon juice
S&P to taste


Prepare salad dressing, cover and refrigerate. In  a small skillet, sauté pancetta. Drain and set aside. 

Assemble salad. Remove and loose outer leaves of lettuce. Slice the lettuce widthwise in 1/2 in pieces. Do this until you have 8 slices. You don’t have to be perfect, just try to keep the pieces together. 

To assemble, place one slice of lettuce on each of four plates. Top with a small amount of the radishes, celery, and pancetta. Drizzle a bit of the dressing over and a squeeze lemon.  Top with the last 4 slices and repeat with the veggies, meat and dressing.  Servers 4

*You may want to double the dressing.  It will stay fresh in your fridge for about 5 days and is perfect for sandwiches, burgers, or another salad if you are still craving that crisp, watery good stuff! And a final note, I was inspired by a recipe in The Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I love everything Deb created but I made several modifications.  





I know, this looks like one full plate and it is,  but trust me, this is just one simple recipe that I wanted to pass on and it is for the Parsley Glazed Carrots. Serve it along with a big juicy steak off the grill and some rice flecked with carrots and peas--another favorite from my childhood.  I came across this recipe last year around Easter, we all loved it and then tonight I wanted to make it again and had to pull the ingredients out of my head.  

I cook fresh veggies every single night.  It sounds time consuming but you can easily do it while you are at the stove working on the other parts of your meal.  The only veggies I don't buy fresh are peas (I get them frozen) and canned tomatoes and paste.   I don't have the patience to mess with peas.  I think that jazzing up your veggies makes them more tasty and you tend to add more to your plate, a great trick to get those nutrients.    So, very simply:


Parsley Glazed Carrots

4 cups carrots (sliced in half and then cut lengthwise very thinly into long spears)
S & P to taste
1/2 t sugar
1/4 cup water
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T butter
2 T fresh parsley, chopped

*******

Add all ingredients except the butter and parsley to a sauce pan or skillet with a tightly fitted lid and cook over moderately high heat for approximately 7-10 minutes.  Toss frequently in the last 3 minutest prevent burning.  Remove from heat when they are lightly charred and tender.  Toss with the butter and sprinkle with parsley.  Serves 4-6.

The beauty of this recipe is that the small amount of sugar caramelizes the carrots, and the bit of charring makes for a crispness and earthiness that is softened by the butter.  I hope you try this as a side dish.  It really is delicious.


 I've also learned to love frozen peas and carrots.  I throw them in everything.  I made egg salad last week and thawed some to add to the mix.  It was a really nice difference and added some crunch.  I served it over a bed of iceberg lettuce.  For the record, my salad includes chopped, boiled eggs, mayonnaise, a small amount of chopped shallot, celery, garlic and onion powder to taste.  NO salt, you'd be surprised how much mayo has.  



Photo source unknown


It took me a long time to try a fish taco but once I did I was sold.  I order them at restaurants whenever I see them, and if it's an outdoor dining place, it doesn't get any better than that.  I am also loving making them, and I usually serve them buffet style, which takes away a lot of extra work.   I had something similar these in San Diego a few years ago and I hope you give my recipe a shot.  I took the best ingredients and methods from a few good experiences.  Don't let the list of ingredients daunt you, nor the procedures.  At the end I give some tips on how to prepare part of it ahead of time.  As always, I stress that you line up all of your ingredients before you start anything!  If anything needs to be chopped up, get that done next.  Then get creating!!!


Blackened Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce


 This is a somewhat spicy dish, but the heat is mellowed out by the slaw and creamy avocado dressing.



1.5 lbs. tilapia or cod fillets

1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t garlic powder
1 t dried oregano
1 t onion powder
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/2 t brown sugar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
2 T veggie oil
12 corn tortillas

***For the slaw:


1/2 red cabbage, sliced thin

1/4 green cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 medium sweet onion
1/2 c chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

***For the avocado-cilantro sauce:


1/2 c sour cream

1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1/4 c cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste

In a small bowl mix together all of the spices and gently pat into both sides of the fish


Combine all of the avocado-cilantro sauce in a food processor or blender until well combined.


Prepare the cabbage slaw.


Use the veggie oil to lightly coat your grill or grill pan.  Cook the fillets over high but not direct heat, 4 minute per side.  This can also be done in a heavy skillet on your stove.  Remove the fish from the heat and if desired, warm the tortillas for 30 minutes on each side.


Gently break up the fish into large chunks.  Stack the tortillas in twos.  Distribute the fish evenly between the 6 sets of  tortillas and top with the slaw and sauce.  Serves 4-6


This recipe is not as busy as it sounds.  I make my sauce and slaw the day before and keep it refrigerated.  The spice mix can be made ahead, in fact, you might want to double or triple the ingredients as it makes a tasty seasoning for all types of fish and meats.


I'm leaving for the lake in a few days.  Not sure when I'll be back.  We took a little hike with Poppy around a college campus a few blocks away.  There's a big pond with a waterfall and a good amount of geese and very social turtles.  They are used to people and absolutely unafraid, even around dogs.  Anyway, Poppy waded in the water (first time ever) to get closer to said geese, and Yay!!!  She's a water lover!!

I'll be back later when I'm more alone at the lake after this holiday weekend.  Lot's of time for sure!!  And I want to share some family pics...

Be safe.  Wash your hands.  Sending ❤️ & 🙏