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While Mum was in town and available to watch our kids, my husband and I took the opportunity to leave town for a trip we had bid on and “won” at a local fundraiser. Once we had decided on a date, the entire reservation process was extremely well organized and seamlessly accomplished, resulting in a very pleasant experience – and the flights and our accommodations at the Meritage Resort and Spa were wonderful.

We were famished following the stately although sluggish drive from the airport in San Fransisco, and immediately headed to Goose and Gander, a restaurant in St Helena that came highly recommended by a friend. We savored a delicious and very welcome lunch, which included Crispy Olives with Pistachios and a salad of Summer Cucumber and Greens accompanied by a delicious glass of rose. We then walked the charming streets before setting out for our hotel, stopping for a glass of celebratory sparkling wine on the way, at the Domaine Chandon, where we strolled around the beautiful grounds while enjoying the Classic Tasting, and the people watching at this busy winery.

one of the gorgeous views from our hotel

one of the gorgeous views from our hotel

After relaxing by the pool surrounded by picturesque views of the vineyards, we sought dinner in the pretty downtown of Napa, beginning with a cocktail and appetizers at Angele, seated overlooking the Napa River, before moving on to another course at another restaurant.

the crispy veal sweetbreads, summer squash, figs, lentils

the crispy veal sweetbreads, summer squash, figs, lentils

We ended our evening at Basalt, a modern looking restaurant with a rustic vibe, that was new since our last visit. We sampled several small plates, the most surprising and delicious was the Dungeness Crab Salad with Avocado, Roasted Jalapeño, Spiced Almonds, Tortilla Chips

the beautiful Dungeness Crab from Basalt

the beautiful Dungeness Crab from Basalt




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A refreshing and flavorful alternative to a traditional burger.


pinto bean and corn burgers

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 to 2 teaspoons chile powder

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans

2/3 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup corn kernels

cornmeal as needed

hamburger buns and toppings as desired

In a medium skillet, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until softened and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika, chile powder, salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of the beans.

In a food processor, pulse the oats a few times and then add the sautéed onion-bean mixture. Process until well combined but still somewhat chunky.

Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining cup of beans and the corn and mix well with your hands. If the mixture is too wet to form into patties, add some cornmeal.

Shape mixture into patties, chill until firm. Heat skillet over medium heat, cook patties until heated through and lightly browned.


Recipe adapted from The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, May 2016



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Banana Bread for a beautiful morning!


banana sour cream bread

3 1/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

4 1/2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter, softened

3 eggs

3 cups mashed banana

1 (16-ounce) container sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 300F. Grease two 9-inch-loaf pans.

In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Cream butter with remaining 3 cups sugar in a large bowl. Mix in eggs, banana, sour cream, vanilla and remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon into butter mixture. Gradually stir in flour. Add chocolate chips and stir until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans, bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted into center of loaves comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.


Recipe adapted from allrecipes



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I recently experimented with two canned green bean, bacon dishes, both which were baked in the oven. Cooking one lot because I can never resist trying a recipe that someone is so excited about they declare it in the title and the second batch for friends and family at our lake house, to accompany the grilled chicken I had prepared for dinner.


green beans yall wont believe

1/2 pound bacon, chopped into bite-sized pieces and fried, reserving 3 tablespoons grease

6 cans whole green beans, drained (I used less)

6 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons white vinegar

2 packages slivered almonds

Place drained green beans in a casserole dish. Mix 3 tablespoons bacon grease with sugar and vinegar over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is heated through. Sprinkle bacon on top of green beans, then pour liquid mixture on top and garnish with slivered almonds. Bake at 325F for 25 to 30 minutes.


Recipe adapted from A Little Salty With The Sweet (from the adorable Sophie Hudson), 2013


arkansas green beans

2 (15-ounce) cans green beans, drained

8 slices bacon

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

7 teaspoons soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Heat oven to 350F. Place the drained green beans in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Cook bacon about half way, chop and place on top of green beans.

Combine the brown sugar, melted butter, soy sauce and garlic powder in a small bowl. Pour the butter mixture over the green beans and bacon. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.


Recipe adapted from The Dining Guide, April 2016




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A lovely ladies cocktail I made to celebrate Mum being in town. We took them out to the back yard and sat down by the pool as the kids swam.


lavender and mint cocktail

Bring 1 cup of lavender sugar and 1 cup water to a boil, cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add a bunch of mint and let it steep for 30 minutes. Strain syrup, and chill. Add a teaspoon or two to your glass and top with champagne.


Recipe adapted from Southern Living, April 2016



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My husband and son returned from an incredible trip up in the Boundary Waters with my husbands two brothers. They had hired an outfitter and carefully selected their meals, which were then packed for them along with the other necessary supplies. It was quickly discovered that most of their food was highly processed, with there being no available refrigeration, so they felt like they hadn’t had “real” food in a while. One night my son said “no actual food was harmed in the making of this dinner” while they were eating freeze dried beef flavored soy bits, and fighting off mosquitos around the camp fire. I had made sure to go to the store the day they were due home, and purchased the biggest steaks I could find to satisfy the tired and hungry returning travelers, and made sides to accompany the meat.


– the rejuvenating steaks fresh off the grill


potato salad

2 1/4 pounds potatoes

3 hardboiled eggs

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup sweet pickle relish

paprika to garnish

Put potatoes in a large pot and cover with salted water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, partially covered. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender but still firm, 20 to 30 minutes, then cut in half.

Whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, garlic salt, celery salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add potatoes, eggs, celery and relish and gently stir together well. Sprinkle with paprika.


Recipe adapted from allrecipes




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I made appointments for Mum to have a massage and a chiropractic adjustment as a belated mothers day gift, and wanted to ensure dinner was a continuation of the contentment, care and wellbeing.


roasted salmon with tomato jam

4 ounces rice vermicelli

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon oil

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 onion, finely chopped

1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 salmon fillets

Heat oven to 375F. Add the vermicelli to a saucepan of boiling water. Let stand off the heat for 10 minutes, until softened.

In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the jalapeño, garlic and 2 tablespoons of the ginger and cook over moderately low heat until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and remove from the heat. Add the fish sauce and lime juice.

Drain the vermicelli, add the curry sauce, red bell pepper and chopped cilantro and toss well.

In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of ginger and the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, sugar and vinegar and cook over moderate heat, mashing and stirring occasionally, until thick, about 10 minutes. Season the jam with salt and pepper.

In an ovenproof skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, add to the skillet, skin side down. Cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until nearly cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Spoon the vermicelli onto plates, top with salmon and serve with dollop of tomato jam.


Recipe adapted from Food and Wine





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Ever since a friend told me about the cabins available at Turpentine Creek – the big cat sanctuary and wildlife refuge – I knew I would be taking my kids there to spend the night.

I made a reservation while Mum was in town visiting and along with the kids, took the afternoon to explore Eureka Springs, returning to our cabin for a dinner consisting of a variety of appetizers, as the lions roared into the evening around us.


greek salsa

In a large bowl, combine 3 ounces feta, crumbled; 1/2 cup pitted, chopped Kalamata olives; 1/2 cup finely chopped English cucumber; 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped; 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves and 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine, cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.


Recipe adapted from Oprah Magazine, April 2016



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This fun summer recipe looked delicious – and once made, tasted every bit as good as had been anticipated!!


stuffed tomatoes with grits and ricotta

1/2 cup dry grits

1 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups ricotta cheese

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup grated asiago cheese

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

8 tomatoes

Combine grits, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until grits are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes (depending on the type of grits you are using).

Heat oven to 350F and coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Beat eggs in a large bowl, then stir in grits, ricotta, parmesan and asiago. Stir in garlic, parsley, basil, red pepper and season with salt.

Slice tops off tomatoes. Hollow out tomatoes with a spoon, divide grits mixture evenly among tomatoes. Arrange on prepared being sheet.

Bake until light golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.


Recipe adapted from allrecipes, June/July/August 2016



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My daughter enrolled in a Cooking and Baking Camp over the summer, where the focus was on varied and different cuisines – and cleaning the kitchen as you go. At the completion of the classes, she offered to make pasta for dinner – and chose a Ricotta Basil Ravioli, making the dough and filling from scratch – and leaving behind a reasonably clean kitchen.

rolling out the pasta dough

rolling out the pasta dough

cutting out the ravioli

cutting out the ravioli

cooking the ravioli

cooking the ravioli

I am yet to attempt homemade pasta – but the fabulous pasta maker given to us by a dear friend – and my daughter have inspired me to try – an elegant enhancement and upgrade from the usual noodle dish I place before my family, which tends toward a cheesy sauce over one of the 310 known forms of pasta – dried and store-bought of course.


six cheese bake

1 (16-ounce) package small pasta

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

8-ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl, toss together mozzarella, gruyere, parmesan and cheddar. Remove 1/2 cup for topping and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together ricotta, cream cheese and cream. Season with parsley, thyme and salt and pepper.

Pour ricotta mixture and pasta into bowl with cheeses and toss lightly. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle reserved cheese over the top.

Bake in oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes, then turn oven to broil. Broil for about 5 minutes to brown the top.


Recipe adapted from allrecipes