My Hummingbirds, Up Close!

I am about 18″ away from the feeder.  I’m in the hibiscus bush and I look like a crazy person.  This was a tricky angle as the opposite side of the feeder is most accessible to them.   She decided to give me a show.

I have a “sports continuous” button on my camera.  I can just push it down and hold and it’ll take a picture a second, or there about.

She is very curious about me and she’s looking at me and buzzing about.  I can actually hear her wings “buzzing.”  I love her.
They are so fascinating and beautiful.  This week I added another feeder, I now have 3.

She’s had enough of me, she’s off.

Do what you can for our precious birds.  You can see in the background that I have a bird feeder.  I feed them year around.  To the right of the feeder I have a bird bath that I fill with clean water most everyday.  With their natural habitats disappearing, they need our help more than ever.

Happy bird watching!


We Miss Mary…..

Hello everyone-

As I sit on my deck on this beautiful summer day,  I’ve got a lump in my throat, it’s hard to swallow.  You know what I mean.  When you are about to let the flood gates open for a good cry.  This day, you see, is very much like any other day when Mary was here, right next door.  I would hear the squeak of her back door and we’d talk over the fence for a minute, then decide to either sit on her patio or on our deck to enjoy conversation and an afternoon cocktail.  Kathy, my other good friend on the opposite side of Mary, would join in too.  We were three peas in a pod.

Since Mary’s passing, I’ve desperately wanted to write about her, but couldn’t find the words.  Or, most likely, it was too soon to write about it.  She passed away October 29th, 2011.  Today is the day I write about my friend.

I think about her daily, but I especially thought of her while writing my last post.  Food Talk.  I spoke of foods and memories of our favorites and precious traditions we hold onto from the past.  This photograph is of Mary’s 71st birthday, the last one we’d share with our dear friend.  It was a tradition to have Mary over for dinner for her favorite meal of mine, Panko and Herb Encrusted Tilapia.  I served it religiously with red skinned mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.  There was birthday cake too, of course…..

Mary spoke of the birthday cakes her “Ma” made for each sibling.  The type of cake never changed, they would have their favorite every year, religiously.  I don’t remember when I started making Mary’s favorite, but I do remember the last two very vividly.  I made dinner and cake for her 70th birthday hoping that she would be around for her 71st.  On her 71st birthday I was quite sure this would be the last I would spend with my friend.

Mary was not terribly fond of desserts or sweets so when she described her traditional birthday cake growing up with a look of total delight on her face, it was a done deal.  I had to make it.  It was a basic angel food cake with pink icing and big ripe strawberries.  Simple and sweet.  To this day, whenever I see an angel food cake, I think of Mary.

I feel truly blessed to have had such a wonderful and true friend.  She was like a second mother to me.  She was one of the most trusted friends I’ve ever had.  I miss her so much.  My whole family feels a tremendous loss.  Jack, Chris and Ryan grew up with Mary next door, she was like a grandma to them.

Make your kid’s or your friend’s favorites when you can.  It’ll make you both feel wonderful, you’ll be so happy you did.

Have a nice weekend.


Food Talk…..

Hello everyone-

I think what I love most about what I do is menu planning.  I scour magazines for new ideas and on occasion I watch Food Network.  I especially love learning new tips or ideas from other great cooks.  Love “food talk!”  Often times I will strike up conversation with people in the check out line about how they’re going to prepare items in their cart.  People love talking about their specialties and they share their best tips freely.

Recently I had a conversation with one of my clients who is 84 years young.  We spoke of fall apart pot roast, mashed potatoes and cooked carrots…OMG, totally a favorite of mine since I was a little girl.  Clearly the conversation struck a chord with her, she had the sweetest expression on her face when she spoke of it being a favorite meal that her mother used to make.  I am SO going to put that on my menu in the very near future.  I love creating meals that take people back.  Sort of nourishing the body and soul.  I can’t explain why I get so much satisfaction out of that, but I truly love it.

Since it’s been so hot this July I took soups off my menu until fall.   I had a hankering for soup today.  I love it because it’s the simplest lunch that requires no thinking or assembly.  Simply warm it up and you’ve got all kinds of veggie and broth goodness in one bowl.  I love that there are no rules, whatever you want to throw in, it’s up to you.  I throw little bits of leftover vegetables, rice or pasta.  I think anything you throw into homemade chicken stock can’t help but be delicious.

I think I’m going to have to make myself soup in the next couple of days.  Maybe chicken vegetable noodle.  Recently I de-boned many chicken breasts so I’ve got plenty of soup bones for stock.  Since moving my business into my kitchen rental I haven’t made my usual Sunday chicken stock.  I put it on the stove in the morning after church and let it go all day.  The house smells amazing and at the end I’ve got a rich and lovely stock.  Yup, that’s what I’m going to do this weekend.

Let’s “talk food” again soon.  Thanks for reading:-)


Nature’s Beauty…..

Good evening-

We thoroughly enjoyed our Michigan vacation!  Lazy mornings and hot afternoons spent on the beach of beautiful lake Michigan.

I went for a walk and picked all of these lovely flowers along the side of the road.  Aren’t they beautiful?  I remember picking wild flower bouquets for my Grandma Henderson.  She graciously accepted my gift even though she had major pollen allergies.  She was so cute!

I think it’s interesting that we (myself included) plant all non indigenous plants and try like crazy to keep them alive during extreme mid-western weather conditions.  Plants native to our area do not suffer nearly as much as the nonindigenous ones.  Even though most would consider what I picked weeds, they flourish in drought conditions and are so pretty and sweet.  Other plants that thrive in the heat are blueberry bushes.

Summer vacation would not be complete without a morning spent blueberry picking.  We ended up with about 20 pounds.   I went through them tonight and put them in the freezer.  I plan on using them to make blueberry pie, blueberry jam and tomorrow morning, blueberry streusel muffins.  Additionally, I think I’ll treat my clients to a green salad with blueberry balsamic vinaigrette, yowza!  This dressing is fantastic with toasted walnuts and blue cheese.  Do try!

I will be going to sleep tonight with blueberries dancing in my head!  Have a lovely night~



Ryan’s Birthday Bowling Party!

Ryan Patrick is 7!  Bowling anyone?

My Chris had them all in order, for about one minute!  They had so much fun!  I even got to bowl a few frames.  I’m a pretty good bowler.  Oh, did I mention we had bumpers?

Today wasn’t Ryan’s actual birthday, it was May 17th.  We celebrated on his birthday and at the family lake house with a very fun party my awesome Mother-in-Law orchestrated and today with Ryan’s classmates.  Up until this morning, I hadn’t made him his special birthday cake.

My little guy loves Scooby Doo.  I looked high and low the night before for a pre-made cake.  Yes, I was going to buy a cake!  I could not find anything Scooby Doo, pre made or otherwise.  No decorations.  Nothing.  Ok,  I’ll be making a cake in the morning.

I went on line and found this image and printed it.  This was going to be the cake!  Like his Mama, my guy loves chocolate! I was delighted.  My go to chocolate cake is the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box.  It’s the most delicious and moist cake I’ve ever had.  You MUST try!

There was pizza.  Lemonade.  Singing.  Cake.  Presents.  Good day.

I can’t believe my baby is 7.  Whew, I have a whole year to figure out what I’m going to make for his next birthday!

Have a great day!



Oven French Fries…..

Have you tried these Oven French Fries yet?  Once you do, you will never go back to the expensive frozen varieties.  They are seasoned perfectly and they taste like an actual potato, imagine that!  You will feel so great about serving these to your family.   Won’t do much cooking this weekend, it’ll be a nice break:-)

Going to pick up Jack, my eldest from college today.  I can’t believe he is done with his first year already!  Taking Chris and Ryan along.  We are going to stay at a nice hotel with an indoor pool over the weekend, happy boys!

Have a nice weekend!



Gluten Free=Feeling Good

Good Evening All-

It is about to finally start warming up here in Chicago!  Interesting because we were sitting out on the deck for St. Patrick’s Day!  Looking forward to getting outside and digging in the dirt in my garden.  March was very warm, so I put my hummingbird feeder out…..can’t wait for my favorite feathered creatures to arrive. It is the highlight of my summer, so awesome!

I haven’t been consistently posting for awhile.  Lack of energy.  I’ve had tons of fatigue over the past few years and was talking to my good friend Terri.  She recommended that I have some blood work done to find out what food sensitivities I may have as fatigue can be directly related to diet.   When I broached the subject with my endocrine doctor a couple of years ago, she said my life was most likely making me tired, so I let it go.  This is a doctor I completely respect so I do not intend to take anything away from her incredible abilities!  Four years ago this month, she saved my life.  I am so thankful for her.

This week, just for grins, I decided to eliminate wheat from my diet.  At first I thought I was imagining things.  I actually felt like I had more energy…interesting.  I also felt my mid section getting smaller…also interesting.   I strongly suspect that I have a wheat issue.  Will have blood work results in a couple of weeks.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a HUGE baker.  I’ve got working with butter, sugar, flour and eggs down.  I absolutely love everything about it.   I love being in my cozy kitchen turning out beautiful and delectable baked goods.  I love the joy it brings to the people I serve it to.  I love it being the center of many joyful celebrations.  It makes me very, very happy.

As it turns out, gluten free baking is possible but entirely different from what I’ve done all my life, a  completely different science.  Ahhh.  A challenge.   I am so up for it!

Take care:-)



Final Menu For My Appetizer Party…..

I mentioned that I change my mind many times while planning party menus, this time was no different.

In my last post I said that I was 99% set on my menu when that evening I was perusing my new Cooking Light Magazine when I came upon a recipe for gnocchi.  OMG!  This was relatively simple and it was really delicious!  I also made Thai marinated spare ribs with an Asian cabbage salad.  I served the Chipoltle BBQ and bacon wrapped shrimp, roasted garlic hummus with warm whole wheat pita bread and for dessert?  I used store bought pound cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries and a Frangelico chocolate sauce.

I must say, I was most excited about the gnocchi.  I bought a potato ricer a couple of weeks ago and low and behold, you need one for gnocchi.  The recipe was pretty simple, but a little time consuming.  Does that make sense?  Ingredients were simply boiled whole russet potatoes, then peeled and put through the ricer, flour, eggs, dried parsley flakes, salt and pepper.  That’s it.  I made the gnocchi ahead and served them with an assorted mushroom and cream sauce topped  with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and fresh chopped parsley.  Delish.

I’ll be making this again, for sure.  These little tender pillows of dough would be excellent with most any sauce.

The recipe for the gnocchi can be found in this month’s Cooking Light Magazine.  I encourage you to try it!  I really enjoyed making it for the first time yesterday.  I will share tips from my experience making it as well as the sauce I served it with.

Have a great weekend!


Dinner With My Valentine At Morton’s Steakhouse…..

Joe and I enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s dinner last night at Morton’s Steakhouse with our good friends Donna and Jim.   We had such a nice time.  It’s a real treat for us to go there, we only go 1-2 times a year.  They’re dinner menu is to die for!

We enjoyed our selections from their Valentine’s Day special.  We both had the Morton’s Salad, the Colossal Shrimp Alexander, a Petite Fillet, Baked Potato with butter, sour cream and bacon, Sauteed Spinach and Mushrooms and our desserts were Key Lime Pie, which I had to bring home!  The meal was absolutely delicious!

I am often asked what my favorite foods are to eat and to prepare.   Last night on the drive home, I decided that my two favorite restaurants are Morton’s Steakhouse and The Kampai.  I especially love these two restaurants because they use very simple preparation techniques and use high quality ingredients.  This is my kitchen mantra as well.  You will notice that my recipes are quite simple and use good, readily available ingredients.

A couple of steakhouse related recipes you should check out would be my Simple Barbecued Ribs and my Simple Grilled Steak with Homemade Rub.   The ribs are extremely tender and there is no boiling involved.  You can get them grill ready and freeze for another time if you wish.  The steak is so, so good.  I love it served the traditional way with a baked potato with butter and sour cream and a salad with crumbled bleu cheese.  So easy to prepare and very wallet friendly.

I hope you all get to enjoy a nice relaxing Valentine’s Day dinner too:-)

Good eating!


Cozy Kitchen…..

My dear friend Mary with Myself and baby Ryan Memorial Day 2005

Hi Everyone-

I’m especially missing my dear friend and neighbor Mary today who passed away last October.  I came across this picture yesterday while looking for a picture for Ryan’s school project.  Isn’t she sweet?  She was like a second Mom to me.  She was an amazing person and friend.  I sure miss her.

Whenever I feel a little blue, I do a few things to take care of myself.   Number one, comfort food.  I know my beloved friend would have been in complete agreement with me on this being the perfect “comfort” lunch.  I will be enjoying a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a hot bowl of Great Northern Bean Soup.  I made a slight variation with my recipe this week.  I didn’t use the chicken sausage this time and I put whole stems of rosemary in the pot to simmer.  Doesn’t that sound good?

Secondly, I am baking today.  We are having snow flurries and I can’t think of a better thing to do than to fill my house with the scent of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  You should smell my house, I am making my family’s favorite, Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Bread.  I am feeling a little better already….

Lastly, what’s for dinner?  I’ll be sharing this one with you as it takes about 5 minutes of prep and then into the oven.  I am going to make pork loin roast.  I have some brussel sprouts and pancetta so pan roasting will be in order.  I’ll throw a couple of sweet potatoes in the oven while the roast is cooking and there you have it, dinner.

Have a blessed day.