Caprese Salad on a Stick

caprese salad on a stick - with oil and vinegar

The Minnesota State Fair recently announced 45 new foods for 2013. Of the over 400 total food options, 70 of those are attached to a stick. You won’t find “Caprese Salad on a Stick” at the Fair – but it’s a delicious appetizer you can make at home.

But first, more on fair-fare…

There are fair-goers who’ll swear you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a pork chop, Scotch Egg or fried Snickers on a stick.  Even Minnesota’s own “Tater-Tot Hot Dish” can be enjoyed kebab-style. Continue Reading →

Creme Brûlée French Toast {a.k.a.The Miracle}

Creme Brulee French Toast

This Creme Brulee French Toast recipe is one you pull out when you need the heavy ammo.  For example, let’s say you’re asked to make breakfast for teenagers, but you forgot to have children of your own, so you have no idea what they eat.  Except that they eat a lot.  OK, we’re talking about me.

Anyhooo… we were joining friends at their cabin for the 4th of July a few years ago.  The kids greatly outnumbered the adults, and the couples split up cooking duties.  I drew breakfast. This was no time for experimentation – I had to launch a missile!  After all, we wanted to be invited back!

Enter “The Miracle.”

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{Low(er) Fat} Pad Thai

Pad Thai

I grew up eating mostly meat and potatoes {Nebraska does that to a girl}.  My mom is a fabulous cook, but the closest we ever got to “ethnic” food was Chicken Chow Mein with those crunchy La Choy noodles on top (correct me if I’m wrong Mom!).

Then came my first “real job” and business travel.  And expense accounts.

At a client dinner at some swank Vegas restaurant, a colleague – eager to help broaden my food horizons, insisted I try an oyster. Let’s just say that my “pharyngeal reflex” response is seared into my memory (and probably the client’s as well), and I STILL can’t get up close and personal with shellfish of any kind.

So while I tend to stay in my comfort zone with food items {except for that time I ate crickets in Mexico}, I grew to love experimenting with different flavors and cuisines.  And one of my favorites is Thai food.

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Poppy Seed Cake

poppy seed cake - on red platter

You’ve just been assigned “dessert” for a dinner party.  Or, in a weak moment, you signed up to bring something sweet to your office pot-luck.  If the thought fills you with dread, fear not!

Resist the urge to stop by Costco and get a pie-on-steroids, or those ubiquitous brownie bites.  Instead, make this super easy, delicious Poppy Seed Cake.
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Green Quinoa with Pepitos

Green Quinoa with Pepitos

Few foods are as polarizing as cilantro.  There is no middle ground here.  Ask a group of people if they like cilantro and one half will say they LOVE it, the other will say they HATE it. No “take-it-or-leave-it” attitudes on this one…

Me?  Love it.  Bring it on.  A cilantro candle?  Sure!

Cilantro bath salts?  You mean I can soak in it?  YES!

Cilantro on my toast?  Please and THANK YOU!

Husband?  Hates it.  Thinks it tastes like dirt.  Or soap.

When asked if she’d eat it, Julia Child said “Never! I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”

One friend said it tastes like a penny.  Another added “a bad penny at that.”  (Is there a “good” penny taste!?).  Another said it tastes like perfume…  There’s even an “I Hate Cilantro” Facebook group, with the motto “Cilantro is disgusting and ruins everything.”  There are currently 2,990 members.  What an angry lot!

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Ice, Ice Baby! {Amp up your summer beverages!}

flavored ice cubes

Summer means outdoor entertaining {finally!}.  I, for one, love to enjoy a tasty beverage on the deck – but too often it gets diluted from melting ice.  Add a little “zip” to your beverages with flavored ice cubes.

I’ve just experimented with a few combos today – but this is where you {and your kids} can have lots of fun.

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Mini-Reubens {These will make you very popular}

mini reubens

If you ever want to make a cook’s day, request a favorite dish of his or hers.  Speaking from experience, we’re so thrilled that we’ve had a “hit” we’ll gladly oblige!

For years, I hosted Husband’s annual office Christmas party at our house.  The guinea pigs (God bless ’em!), who attended year after year, apparently had their patience rewarded with a few memorable offerings. That, and there was plenty of beer and wine…

As a result of those “experiments,” the one thing I’ve had more requests for really isn’t a “dish” – it’s a sandwich.  And a mini-sandwich at that.

These Mini-Reuben Sandwiches are pretty much the perfect party food.  You can make them well in advance, they’re easy to eat, and they’re “guy friendly.” And I don’t just make them for parties.  For all the reasons above, if you stop by during football season, it’s a safe bet I’ll have some of these on hand.

This week, though, I learned that a friend’s wife (one of our frequent party guests) had undergone an emergency surgery, and I offered prayers and anything else that might help.  His response?  “Prayers are great!  As for food, I could never refuse Mini-Reubens.”  

Coming right up!

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Grilled Vegetables {and 10 ways to enjoy ’em…}

veggies - platter c

My favorite farmers’ market is finally in full swing, and there’s nothing better than spending a weekend morning, coffee in hand, strolling from booth to booth.

Sometimes I go with a plan, other times I go looking for inspiration.  I always come home with what looks good that day – and it’s fun to see how the offerings change as the season progresses.  No matter what I pick up, there’s a good chance it’s going on the grill!

Grilling vegetables brings out their natural sweetness.  Other than a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper, they don’t need anything else.  One of the great things about a platter of grilled veggies is that it’s an easy make-ahead buffet item or side dish that is wonderful served at room temperature.  If I’m asked to bring a dish to a picnic or summer dinner with friends, this is it — I’m not taking up their oven space, and it’s ready when they are!  And isn’t it gorgeous?!

The grilling can be done a few hours before, leaving the grill free for burgers, and you free to enjoy your guests.

Added bonus:  a big batch of grilled veggies can be used in a number of other simple summer dishes.

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Cowgirl Turkey Burgers

cowgirl turkey burgers

Greetings from Couer d’Alene, Idaho! I’m spending a few days with my best friend and her horses, and we have worked up an appetite! (Those stalls don’t muck themselves, now, do they!?)

While I love spending time in the kitchen, spending a few gorgeous days in this beautiful place with these precious ponies takes priority on such a quick trip. So when we get back to the house at night – exhausted, sore and filthy… we want something delicious, but easy!

On the menu? Cowgirl Turkey Burgers! Maybe you’ve had a bad turkey burger experience. I’ve been there! I’m betting the burgers you’ve tried were either dry or flavorless or both. Several versions I’ve experimented with were too. But when a friend introduced me to these… WOWZA!

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Placido Domingo… and some sort of pork dish

placido - rosas night

I’ve had a number of memorable meals at Rosa Mexicano, but one stands out above the rest.

It was early 1994, and Husband and I were in New York for some event or another, and as always, we made to book one dinner at the original Rosa’s on 58th and First Avenue.   We were shown to a cozy spot in a little alcove that had just two tables, way in the back of the restaurant.

We were too busy enjoying a beverage and narrowing down the fabulous menu options to pay attention to the group sitting next to us.

But then the singing started …

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