Sunday, May 30, 2010

Alfresco Dining...Where Casual Meets Chic!

Just because we live on a lake doesn't mean we can't entertain in style. Casual and inexpensive can be chic also as you can see from this video of Colin Cowell when he appeared in the Today Show last week.  In case you missed it, here it is.

There are lots of ideas over in my other blog Lindaraxa's Garden for beautiful table settings to inspire your summer entertaining.  There are beautiful melemine plates out there in all price ranges which are great not only for the lake but also for picnics, the beach and any type of outdoor entertaining.  Come on over and check them out.  You have one more day of shopping, use it wisely!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

How to Build A Picnic Table

If you wanted to set up a folding table and chairs for your barbecue guests, party planners say you'd need to allot 10 square feet per person to create enough access. Do that on the average deck or patio and your Fourth of July celebration will get so chaotic that it may end with the wrong kind of fireworks. A classic picnic table with attached benches is the perfect solution. This staple of backyards and parks—with its elbow-to-elbow dining and climb-over seating—works in all terrains, so you can move off the deck and onto the grass.

It's an easy and fun solution even I could tackle.  Economical too...cost $95,,20291200,00.html

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Memorial Day...Bobby Flay's Cheyenne Burger

I am not usually a lover of turkey burgers but with a photo like that who can resist! Granted, there's always someone in the group who can't or won't eat them I say, this time you are in luck!

There's no one like Bobby Flay when it comes to grilling hamburgers and if you want the real thing, one with beef, that is, check this out!



Ground turkey tastes great in this combo-just make sure to use a mix of white and dark meat (90 percent lean) and cook for 5 minutes per side.


This serious burger comes with two strips of bacon. Bobby likes them crisp.

Onion Rings

To make shoestring rings, heat 1 quart peanut oil to 360 degrees in a deep, heavy pot. Dredge thin Vidalia onion rings in flour seasoned with salt, pepper and cayenne; dip in buttermilk seasoned with salt and pepper, then dredge in more flour. Fry until golden brown, turning once or twice, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels; season with salt.


This extra-smoky burger calls for two thick slices of smoked sharp cheddar cheese.

Bobby's BBQ Sauce


2 tablespoons canola oil

1 Spanish onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon molasses

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the onion; cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the ketchup and 1/3 cup water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper); simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor; puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a bowl; cool to room temperature. Spoon on burgers.

Makes: 1 cup

Photograph by Steve Giralt
Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Corniest Corn Muffins

Have been looking for a good corn muffin recipe for awhile now.  I think I've found it!

Dorie Greenspan is one of the best food writers around.  She has written many baking books on her own and co-authored a couple with the great French chocolatier, Pierre Herme and also with restaurateur Daniel Boulud, owner of the world famous New York restaurant Daniel and Cafe Boulud, among others..  If you like baking, take a look at some of her books.

Dorie Greenspan on Amazon

- makes 12 muffins -


1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal

6 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

1 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 tablespoons corn oil

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 cup corn kernels (add up to 1/3 cup more if you’d like), fresh, frozen or canned (in which case they should be drained and patted dry)


Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter or spray the 12 muffin molds in a regular-size muffin tin, or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.

Working in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a large glass measuring cup with a spout or in another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg and yolk. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – the batter will be lumpy and that’s just the way it should be. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Pull the pan from the oven and carefully lift each muffin out of its mold and onto a rack to cool.

Serving: The muffins are great warm or at room temperature and particularly great split, toasted and slathered with butter or jam or both (if they’re not in breadbasket at dinner, that is).

Storing: Like all muffins, these are best eaten the day they are made. If you want to keep them, it’s best to wrap them airtight and pop them into the freezer, where they’ll keep for about a month; re-warm in a 300°F oven, if you’d like, or split them and toast them—do that and they’ll be that much more delicious with butter.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Basic Italian...Eggplant Parmesan

I agree with my friend Joe of DetroitEats who prefers his Eggplant Parmesan breaded and fried. The crunchy texture, along with the Marinara sauce and Mozzarella cheese melted on top is my idea of this classic dish.

I remember growing up in the NYC area and ordering this when I went to an Italian restaurant.  Now, it's nowhere to be found.  Most Italian restaurants you find these days serve more "elegant or "refined" Italian dishes, what you might call Northern Italian.  If you find eggplant it is usually roasted or grilled, hardly ever fried, unless you order eggplant fritters and that is usually served as an appetizer.

Well, no more, now that Joe has refreshed my memory, this recipe will be reappearing quite often on my dinner table!


1 medium Eggplant peeled and slice into rounds

1 cup flour

1 egg + 1/2 cup milk

1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)

Mozzarella Cheese


Using what is called “Standard Breading Procedure” bread your Eggplant by dredging it first in the flour, then in the egg and milk mixture and finally in the breadcrumb. It is important to make sure your hand is dry when dredging the eggplant in the breadcrumb or you risk the breading coming off due to wet hands.

Fry your eggplant in vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel and keep warm in the oven until all the Eggplant has been fried.

To assemble top a fried Eggplant round with a dollop of marinara sauce and some shredded Mozzarella cheese. Place another round on top and repeat until you have 3 layers. Place in a hot oven until the cheese has melted and the Eggplant is hot throughout.

Marinara Sauce

1 can ground tomato (28 oz)

1 table spoon sugar

1 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

fresh basil

Lemon juice


Place the first 5 ingredients into a sauce pan and simmer (low) for 45 minutes.

Add some fresh basil. I don’t chop or tear it. I just throw it in stem and all ( I pick them out later). The basil will steep in and flavor your sauce like you couldn't’t imagine. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more.

Pick out the basil and give your sauce a squeeze of lemon. Your done!

Recipe reprinted from

Monday, May 17, 2010

The BassThat Got Away...

The "official" story is that this baby, caught off our dock yesterday, jumped out of the bucket and back in the fish!

The fisherman (or fisherwoman) responsible for this lapse has declined to comment....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Beer Batter Onion Rings

The buttermilk-beer batter, seasoned with cayenne, yields a golden coating on the fried rings that gets even better when spritzed with lemon juice.


Serves 6

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Cayenne pepper

3/4 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup beer, preferably lager or pilsner

1 large egg

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Vegetable oil, for frying (about 4 cups)

2 large white onions, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices, separated into rings

Sea salt

1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving


1.Combine flour, salt, and a pinch of cayenne in a medium bowl. Whisk in buttermilk, beer, egg, and lemon zest, and let stand for 20 minutes.

2.Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a baking sheet on middle rack of oven. Heat oil to 380 degrees in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Dip a few slices of onion in batter, turning to coat. Gently drop slices into oil. Cook, turning once with a wire-mesh skimmer, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer rings to paper towels, season with salt immediately, then transfer onions to the baking sheet to keep warm. Repeat with remaining onions. (Adjust heat as necessary to keep oil at a steady temperature.) Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seared Sirloin Steak With Onion Relish

I'm gearing up for grilling weather and practicing with this recipe until the next warm spell.  This relish will be especially yummy when the steak can be grilled outside.  We did manage to sneak in a couple of steaks and hamburgers this past week but all of a sudden, the cool weather is back.  This happens every year...a nice tease in the beginning of April, then cool again before the real Spring weather sets in.  No matter, this is the kind of recipe you want to have on file in case of unexpected rain before your next Summer cookout!  We've all been there, haven't we?

Serves 4


1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup olive oil, preferably Spanish, plus more for skillet

1/2 red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon minced garlic, (2 medium cloves)

1/3 cup brine-cured pitted green olives, such as Picholine, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

1 navel orange, peel and pith cut off, flesh cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus sprigs for garnish

1 (1 1/2 pounds and 1 inch thick) boneless sirloin steak


Whisk together honey and vinegar in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, pour in oil in a slow, steady stream; whisk until emulsified. Stir in onion, garlic, olives, orange, and parsley; set aside.

Season steak all over with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Coat a 12-inch seasoned cast-iron skillet with a thin layer of oil; heat over medium-high heat until very hot. Sear steak, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, and tent with foil; let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

To serve, cut steak against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and arrange on a platter. Spoon relish on top; garnish with parsley sprigs.

From Martha Stewart Living, May 2004

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Honeysuckle Rose

Every honey bee fills with jealousy

When they see you out with me

I don't blame them

Goodness knows

Honeysuckle rose

When you're passin' by,

Flowers droop and sigh

I know the reason why

You're much sweeter

Goodness knows

Honeysuckle rose

Well, don't buy sugar

You just have to touch my cup

You're my sugar

And it's oh so sweet when you stir it up

When I'm takin' sips

From your tasty lips

Seems the honey fairly drips

You're confection

Goodness knows

Honeysuckle rose

Well, don't buy sugar

You just have to touch my cup

You're my sugar

And it's oh so sweet when you stir it up

When I'm takin' sips

From your tasty lips

Seems the honey fairly drips

You're confection

Goodness knows

Honeysuckle rose

                                - Fats Waller.

 A popular name for pets of all sizes!

 Honeysuckle Rose, the Old English Sheepdog

Honeysuckle and baby Dove

Honeysuckle the cat

CH. Honeysuckle Rose the Irish setter champion

Miski the Westie as Honeysuckle Rose!

and Honeysuckle the cow

Ooops, wait...and a champion Longhorn, TR Honeysuckle Rose!

(I think I need to get out of the lake for a few days....)

While my northern friends are basking in lilacs and peonies, which I love and sorely miss, we here in the South are enjoying  honeysuckle and honeysuckle rose.   I'm so surprised to see both blooming in great profusion at the lake.  I must say honeysuckle and pines are a rare combination, at least for this city girl!

my neighbor's honeysuckle on the fence

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poker Night At The Lake...General Tso's Chicken

Let's face it, when you live by a lake, sometimes things get pretty slow.  I haven't made too many friends since I've been here and frankly, that has been by choice.  Luckily, we have been blessed with wonderful young neighbors who are lots of fun and keep me entertained with outings on the lake and what have you.  One of the things I miss dearly though is playing cards.  I am a bridge player and used to play at least twice a week when I lived in New York and Miami.  Now I play on the computer, but that gets kind of boring sometimes.  I miss the feel of the cards in my hands.  I have found a duplicate group nearby and next week I think I'll check it out.  Unfortunately, duplicate bridge these days is full of, shall we say, older people?  Not very conducive to fun, especially on weekends!

 Last Saturday I organized a poker game here at the house and what better food to serve my friends than Chinese.  One of my neighbors adores General Tso's chicken and Chinese takeout is  hard to come by where we live.  You may have noticed the abundance of Chinese recipes here on the blog and that is for a good reason...if and when we want Chinese the only way to get it is by cooking it ourselves.

There are two versions of General Tso's chicken.  On one the chicken is coated and deep fried and on the other it is simply stir fried.  The traditional one and the one served most often in Chinese takeouts is the former and that is the one I served last weekend.  Both are wonderful so when you want a lighter version, go for the stir fried.

This recipe, although classified as Hunan, is really an American invention.  You will be hard pressed to find it in China.  You will also have a hard time finding it in most good Chinese cookbooks.  The recipe below is Martin Yan's stir fried version

Makes 4 servings



3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine

or dry sherry

1-1/2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs,

cut into 1-inch pieces


1/4 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon regular soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons cooking oil

6 small dried red chilies

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced ginger

2 green onions, cut into 1 inch lengths

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red chilies

1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Getting Ready

Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place chicken in marinade and turn to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl.


Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add chilies and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, green onions, and crushed chilies; stir-fry for 1 minute.

Add sauce and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.

Place chicken on a serving plate and sprinkle with peanuts.

This recipe was slightly changed on 10/26/10

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mother's Day...Coconut Cupcakes

I'm not going to lie to you, on Mother's Day, I take the easy way out.  On the rare occasions that I have to host it, I usually make a brunch for my mother and my aunts.  Otherwise, if invited to a family event, I'll offer to bring dessert, usually something simple but spectacular.  Cupcakes fit the bill.  They are simple to make and you can decorate them to your hearts content. 

Coconut cake is an old favorite of mine, and since it's my day also, this Martha Stewart cupcake recipe would be my choice. My second choice will be posted later on Lindaraxa's Garden.  Don't worry about the roasted fresh coconut...dip the cupcakes in good old fashioned coconut flakes with a little something on the top and you are set to go. Or toast the coconut flakes.  I'm not going to sweat it out finding a coconut and splitting it up.  Not for Mother Day, not for any day!

I love the substitution of coconut milk for the eggs as well as the lightness you get from  the beaten egg whites.  Beat them  first and set them on a plate or bowl to add later to the mix.  It is less messy and you eliminate one bowl.  I'm always loooking for shortcuts and this is a good one.  Enjoy your day!


Makes 2 dozen

3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup coconut milk

8 large egg whites

1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut

Seven-Minute Frosting

Fresh Roasted Coconut, for garnish or toasted coconut flakes


1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.

2.In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.

4.In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture; stir in shredded coconut.

5.Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 1/4 cup batter. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack. Invert cupcakes onto rack; then reinvert and let cool completely, top sides up. Frost cupcakes with seven minute frosting, swirling to cover. Cupcakes may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Garnish with fresh coconut just before serving.

Seven Minute Frosting


Makes about 5 1/2 cups

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

3 large egg whites, room temperature


1.In a small, heavy saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Rub a bit between your fingers to make sure there is no graininess. Raise heat to bring to a boil. Do not stir anymore. Boil, washing down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water from time to time to prevent the sugar from crystallizing, until a candy thermometer registers 230 degrees about 5 minutes. (Depending on the humidity, this can take anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes.)

2.Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 1/2 minutes. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Remove the syrup from the heat when the temperature reaches 230 degrees (it will keep rising as pan is removed from heat). Pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (to avoid splattering) containing the egg-white mixture, with the mixer on medium-low speed.

3.Beat frosting on medium speed until cool, 5 to 10 minutes. The frosting should be thick and shiny. Use immediately.
From The Martha Stewart Show, March 2008

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sesame Garlic Scallops

Scallops are delicious mussels that have amazing flavor and texture when selected and cooked properly. Scallops can usually be purchased at almost any local grocery store. They are found either fresh at the sea food counter, or in bags in the frozen section. There are two main varieties that are widely available. There are sea scallops, which are the large scallops, and then bay scallops, which are tiny in comparison. The best scallops to purchase are the fresh, large sea scallops. They are about 2 inches wide and must be used within a day or two. In this recipe, I substituted bay for sea scallops. When selecting fresh scallops make sure they are quite dry with no apparent liquid on or around them. Smell them to make sure that they are either odorless or have only a light sweet scent. Any strange or fishy odor is a definite sign that they have spoiled.

Cooking scallops is actually quite simple. They can be pan fried, grilled, baked, or broiled. Then main goal when cooking scallops is to make sure that they do not overcook. Scallops take just several minutes to cook and should be removed from the heat as soon as they turn opaque. Overcooked scallops will become chewy and rubbery in texture. The recipe below is a quick and simple way to make delicious scallops.   Enjoy!

Serve it with white rice and Stir Fry Beef With Snap Peas and Red Peppers coming out next in Lindaraxa's Garden, my main recipe blog.

Makes about 3 servings


15 sea scallops (I used 1 lb. frozen bay scallops)

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tbsp sherry

1 tsp hot chili garlic sauce

1 tsp pre chopped jarred garlic

1 tbsp honey

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp cornstarch

1½ tbsp peanut oil


1.Rinse the scallops under cold water and then dry them thoroughly with a paper towel. Lightly sprinkle each side with salt and pepper and set them aside.

2.In a large cup or bowl, mix together the soy sauce, sherry, hot chili garlic sauce, pre chopped garlic, honey, and sesame oil and set it aside.

3.In a small cup mix the cornstarch with just a little water until it dissolves. Set it aside.

4.Begin cooking the scallops by heating a non stick pan or wok on high. Add the peanut oil. Once the oil is hot add the scallops in a single layer in the pan or wok. Let them sit for 2 minutes or until they are brown. Then flip them over and let them once again sit for 2 minutes or until the other side is brown.

5.Once the scallops are brown, remove them from the pan and set them aside.

6.Without wiping out the pan or wok, add the sauce mixture and bring it to a boil.

7.Then add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thick. Turn the heat to medium.

8.Return the scallops to the sauce and let them simmer for about 2 minutes or just until they turn opaque.

Recipe adapted from Bellaonline

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Twilight on the Lake...

Late afternoons on the lake are my favorite time.  Drink in hand, I rush down the trail to catch up with our neighbors for a spin and possibly, just possibly, fresh fish for dinner! We  are still searching for the elusive striper, but as you can see, we only have one fisherman, or fisherwoman, and things didn't go well from the start...

Someone's line got caught in our cove...definitely, not a good start!

Help is on the way...sort of

and away we go...

Here's where the fish supposedly hide...mmm

Captain, Oh Captain...where's your bathing suit?!!

Phew, he does have one! I think we're done here...

No fish, but a splendid sunset!

Birds in flight

no fish here either

...or here

or here

or here, but the view is beautiful!

last chance...last dance!

Almost home....empty handed...


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