Rocking out like no one is watching

I love a good hamburger. Scratch that.  I love a good CHEESEburger –with the works, which usually prompts Hubby to ask me if I can taste the beef. What can I say, my personal food pyramid has a little section smack dab in the middle for condiments. A small, but basic food group capable of enhancing virtually anything that’s plain. Notice plain rhymes with pain, which is exactly what I feel when I watch my niece prepare and subsequently eat a sandwich. Bread, cheese, meat. Makes my taste buds hurt. But I digress.

On Saturday night our family enjoyed some time at Milwaukee’s Big Gig aka Summerfest. Youngest daughter went to drool over Jason Aldean with a cousin and friend while the rest of us went to enjoy some good rock while waiting for the 10pm Pat Benetar concert.  (Awesome! Hope I look that good when I’m 60!)) It was an unusually cold summer afternoon and evening; the wind was frigid and cut through me as though I was wearing a kleenex and not a jean jacket. Thankfully, people watching made me forget about my frozen toes.

The opening band had a fantastic sound and inspired music lovers to live in the moment and just enjoy. One Packer fan wearing a bright gold t-shirt with a big green G in the middle faced the audience while standing on a bleacher, singing and dancing to every number.  When the lyrics escaped him, he simply directed those singing in the audience while grooving to the music and never loosing rhythm. Or falling off the bleacher.  All of that must have pooped him out because he left after Pat’s first song. Happy, I’m sure, in a way that only music can make you feel. Milwaukee is as known for its beer as  for our brats, Friday fish frys and everything tasting better with cheese. This man’s happiness, however, was visibly not induced by beer.  For the hour+ I enjoyed watching him I never saw him even sip a cold one. Kudos, dude!

Only one person topped Mr. Packer’s enthusiasm. A lady who I’m guessing was in her mid to late 50s, standing on her seat, fist pumping to the music: open palm right hand, double cheeseburger in the left.  The woman never dropped a crumb and only snatched bites during the band’s brief interlude between songs. Now that’s rocking like no one is watching.

It was a night I won’t soon forget and made better by enjoying sounds from the best era of rock with my musical first born beauty. (Can you tell I grew up in the ’80s?)

On the foodie front, cupcake push pops where the new item featured at this year’s gig. Looked yummy, but we opted for a sampling of traditional cupcakes that allowed for bigger sharing bites. 🙂 Carrot cake, cookies-n-cream, peanut butter cup, and Stout cupcakes with mocha butter cream frosting. The latter was the winner and I’m going to try to recreate that gem for our annual 4th of July pool party.  If I achieve pastry success I’ll be sure to pass on the recipe.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy America’s birthday with good people, great food, and music that makes that lifts your heart.

Blackberry (drop) muffins made with yogurt

What do you get when you cross a scone and a muffin? A scoffin! Not very original, huh? Hubby tells me my funny bone was removed with my adenoids. Call these whatever you wish, I call them deliciously-irresistible-good-luck-eating-just-one blackberry muffins.

blackberry scone muffins - scoffins

I seem to be hung up on what exactly to name these little treasures. “Blackberry drop muffins” is fitting since there’s no forming involved and they are tender, moist and sweet just like a muffin top. Hence the cross between a scone and muffin.

In between baking and lamenting on what to name my baked goods, I’ve been trying to take to heart the words spoken so meaningfully and eloquently at my niece’s high school graduation. I’m reducing the multitasking, unplugging to live in the moment more and finding sheer pleasure in even the minutest things by not thinking about a gazillion other things – just living in the moment.

And on that happy note I hope you try these randomly named blackberry drop muffins made with yogurt. Let me know if you come up with a clever name. 🙂

Blackberry Drop Muffins
Serves: 12
Yogurt cuts the fat but the taste soars in these blackberry drop muffins. A cross between a scone and a muffin - tender, sweet, delicious.
  • 1½ Cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ Cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ Cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 Cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ Cup melted butter (unsalted)
  • 1 Cu fresh or frozen blackberries
  • Optional Glaze:
  • ½ Cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Stir wet ingredients into dry until just moistened.
  2. Fold in blackberries.
  3. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at 400F for 15-18 minutes.
  5. Mix powdered sugar and lemon juice and drizzle glaze over warm muffins.


White Chocolate Apricot Scones

apricot white chocolate scones

I’m making good on my promise and sharing my family’s absolute all-time favorite white chocolate apricot scone recipe. Light and moist, and not overly sweet, these apricot scones are enhanced by creamy white chocolate and are a perfect compliment to a strong cup of fresh brew.  It’s an easy recipe that I am convinced is 100% goof-proof.

apricote white chocolate scone close up view

My food photography skills are a work-in-progress, though I’m rather proud of this picture. The melted white chocolate surrounding the chunks of apricot look luscious. Makes you want to go ahead and bake up a batch of these scones right now, doesn’t it?

freshly baked scones

These white chocolate apricot scones are longtime Easter morning tradition in our household and who knows, maybe my Beauties will someday make it a part of their own household traditions.  Of course,  each of my three Loves complain that I don’t bake these scones very often during the year, and I suppose that’s subconsciously purposeful. I don’t want to ruin tradition.  I think we all tend to associate certain foods with certain holidays – it’s part of coming together with those we love and part of the memories. These white chocolate apricot scones are simple in many ways, yet oh so special.


White Chocolate Apricot Scones
Serves: 8
White chocolate and apricot are a delightful combination in these scones. Light, slightly sweet, and delicious served warm or cooled, these scones make for a special breakfast any time of year.
  • 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅓ cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • ⅔ cup white chocolate baking chips
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup half-and-half cream
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with shortening or lightly spray with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and baking powder. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles the size of small peas.
  4. Stir in chopped apricots and white chocolate baking chips into flour mixture.
  5. Add egg and half-and-half cream until dough just leaves side of bowl and forms a ball. NOTE: When making scones, work the dough quickly and do not over mix.
  6. Place dough on greased cookie sheet and pat into an 8-inch circle.
  7. Cut the disc into 8 wedges, but do not separate.
  8. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp sugar and spread the sugar lightly by hand to cover each wedge.
  9. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately remove from baking sheet; carefully separating wedges.



Change is coming

The end of the school year is just 4 days away, technically 3 ½  but who’s counting?  I am. Boy am I ever.

In years past, I sounded a robust “hallelujah!” on the last day of school.  Goodbye, morning madness, see ya in September – and September was a long way away.  This year my “hallelujah”  is a bit on the weak side.  Sure, the end of this school year marks the end of more triumphs and challenges, new growth, and even more preparation for the future. But this year also marks a change that’s coming to our little nest.  It will mark the beginning of the end of my firstborn’s high school days as she will become a full-fledged Senior and Beauty #2 will be an upperclassman in her own right as a Junior. It will mark the beginning of Beauty#1’s final preparation to take her first real solo flight and will subsequently steer me and Hubby onto the start of a new course of our own whether we like it or not.   That has me freaking out a bit.

It was sometime during middle school that my Beauties and I began our tradition of going out to lunch on the last day of school –specifically to Buffalo Wild Wings until last year when we switched to Quaker Steak & Lube. (Both places are sinfully delicious and my comments are nothing more than that –comments from a happy customer.)  Sometime between jabbering away in between licking our fingers while eating hot wings or between mouthfuls of yummy wraps, a few moments of quiet set in. I’d reflect on the highs and lows of the past school year and dreamily fantasize over the coming lazy summer days –ones that I would make sure included good reading along with all of the swimming, barbecue gatherings, and family adventures.  Gratitude always filled my heart and lodged in my throat as I prayed a silent thank you to God for the blessed privilege of being in the position to share such a lunch with my babies.

This year both Beauties have summer jobs, volunteer commitments, and a host of other to-do’s beginning on THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL  Really?! Change has to set in from the get-go?  Alright, this one I can handle. We’ll enjoy a family celebratory dinner. Score for hubby.  Truthfully, score for the entire family.  We are all about to embark on the start of a new adventure and it’s only fitting we do it together. Gratefulness will undoubtedly fill my heart, it’s the lump in my throat that’s bound to be a little bigger.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie Recipe

I’m back after a short siesta that was anything but restful. Life has been busy, but full of blessings so I’ll just put a cork in it and not complain. After all, I did find the time to try out a new pie crust recipe from Cooking Light that made a tasty base for my strawberry rhubarb crumb pie. I should rename it Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie Recipe with Less Guilt. 🙂

strawberry rhubarb crumb pie recipe

If you read my blurb on cranberries, you’ll gather I’m not one to enjoy anything that makes my eyes water and my lips pucker. And you may recall that it took a clean-out-the-fridge bread baking adventure to change my outlook on Wisconsin’s finest fruit. Rhubarb has a similar story. My late Gramz was quite the baker and in her youth she was in charge of baking pies for the borders every Saturday, baking a variety for the coming week. I should add that the home that housed the borders eventually became “the homestead” – the home that my Gramps moved into shortly after they married, the home where my mother grew up, and the home my grandmother lived in after Gramps passed and Alzheimer’s forced her into a safer envionment. Well, someone, at some point in time, planted rhubarb at the homestead and Gramz kept it growing throughout my youth. Strawberry rhubarb pie was her #1 favorite pie. Having passed the pie loving gene to her decendents, I had never met a pie I didn’t savor until I had a bite of Gramz’s favorite that she happened to make “low sugar.” It scarred me for decades.

Fast forward to my own homestead and two strawberry rhubarb lovers in the house (Hubby and youngest Beauty) and their never meeting a crumb topped anything they didn’t savor.  It took many trials before I perfected my strawberry rhubarb crumb pie recipe — one that I thoroughly enjoy and one my firstborn Beauty actually tried…and liked. Crumb topping in all its buttery goodness made me think twice about the crust, so I gave Cooking Light’s pie crust recipe a try and found a winner. Definitely two forks up.

strawberry rhubarb crumb pie

Hmm, crumb topping might even make cooked cranberries taste good.


Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie Recipe
Serves: 6-8
Sweet strawberries with a hint of rhubarb tang get a layer of decadence with a buttery crumb topping. A beautiful presentation and delicious summer dessert!
  • 5 medium stalks rhubarb, cut into think slices
  • 1½ lbs. strawberries, sliced
  • 1⅔ Cup white sugar, divided
  • 1½ Cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 Tablespoons tapioca
  • 1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • ⅓ Cup butter
  • 1 unbaked 9" pie crust
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Mix 1 cup of sugar, ⅓ cup of flour, rhubarb, strawberries and nutmeg in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
  3. Let set 5 minutes.
  4. Gently stir in tapioca.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fruit mixture into unbaked pie shell.
  6. Make crumb topping by cutting ⅓ Cup butter into ½ C all-purpose flour mixed with ⅔ Cup white sugar until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  7. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over the fruit filling.
  8. Transfer pie to cookie sheet to catch any spills and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
  9. Cool on rack.


Sowing Seeds indoors and Itchy Green Thumbs

Wisconsin is a fickle, fickle state. Memorial Day weekend usually flags the beginning of summer and the call for itchy green thumbed gardeners to begin planting. For those that begin sowing seeds indoors in winter, the itch to get the garden growing is huge.

My dad, Tata, has had the gardening itch for months. An itch that began in January when the first few seed catalogs arrived in the mail. An itch that has only gotten itchier, perpetuating daily as he carefully tended the assortment of seedlings in the basement. Roma and beefsteak tomatoes, four varieties of peppers, four varieties of herbs, and my mother’s favorite Zinnia flowers comprise this year’s inventory of seeds that Tata has sown indoors. Specifically in the basement.

For him, function always wins over fashion as does prudence. Tata constructed a small, cabinet-style greenhouse  entirely from scrap — gardening on a budget at its best.  With adjustable shelves, the pepper seedlings could be close to the light source and the tomato seedlings a bit further away. Up to now, no one but our family has seen his greenhouse creation, but I find it too good to keep to ourselves. Anyone with the itch to start sowing seeds indoors over winter next year should give careful consideration to this economical approach. Who knows? A home store near you may also want to offload scrap shelving. (Upon close examination you will see that the laminated shelves are by and large the only “new” materials used in the construction of this cabinet greenhouse. Two bucks a pop.)

sowing seeds indoors in winter

Tata’s little seedlings were happy and well cared for.  They grew, and they grew, and they grew and whammo –a few pepper plants even began to flower.

pepper plant sown from seeds indoors

A few such happy plants have already made their way to my house with the remaining lot still comfortably hanging out in Tata’s garage, acclimating to the fickle Wisconsin weather.  With a forecast average high of 63F and low of 50 we’ll just have to skip the gardening this Memorial Day weekend but, as always, remember to give thanks to all those that gave for us. This year we’re surely add extra prayers for the people in Moore, Oklahoma.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone.


Blueberry Orange Bread

Blueberry orange bread is springtime in a loaf pan.  Sans pollen.

blueberry orange bread loaf

The Badger State is in full bloom, as are my eyes, and the photo below identifies some of the many gorgeous culprits to blame for my unpleasant appearance. The four flowering trees are two pear trees and two dwarf apple trees. They looked like this last March, before a nasty frost came and zapped every last blossom, rendering our fruit trees fruitless last year.

spring fruit trees in bloom

Thankfully, the warmer temperatures  and sunny skies are occurring in the correct month this year and have kicked off a flurry of pollen production.  While the burst of color and abounding sweet fragrance is uplifting, the floating fluffy white fluff can be quite a downer.  Pollen snow showers: the trigger that causes countless eyes across the country to blossom into oversize, watery welts. A minor inconvenience compared to what others are dealing with and a good reason to count my blessings as I reach for another tissue.

Chock full of plump blueberries with a hint of citrus, I forgot all about the pedometer when I cut myself a generous slice of blueberry orange bread.

slice of blueberry orange bread

Baking in between eye-dabbing was worth every bite.  I adapted this recipe from another blueberry orange bread recipe that I found among a collection of loose pages that at one time constituted a softbound cookbook. I would give credit where credit is due if I had the cover page, inside copyright page, or back cover. The pages I do have are 20+ years worn, stained with spills and splotches, but the recipes are still readable and include my family’s Easter breakfast delight (I’ll share it in a future post). Back to blueberry orange bread: I replaced the milk called for in the original recipe with orange juice, and opted to use a blend of whole wheat and white flour. I also omitted the salt since baking powder and baking soda contain plenty of sodium. Those changes, along with using frozen blueberries instead of fresh (or thawed and patted dry) give the bread a moist, chewy texture. Delicious to eat as is or use for French toast.  Enjoy!

Blueberry Orange Bread
Serves: 12
Sweet with a hint of citrus, blueberry orange bread is delicious on its own and makes terrific French toast!
  • 1½ Cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ½ + ⅓ Cups sugar
  • ⅓ C unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ C orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (could substitute orange zest or omit entirely)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ Cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar for topping (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a standard size loaf pan.
  2. Mix sugar, applesauce, orange juice, zest and eggs in a large mixing bowl until well blended.
  3. Stir in blueberries.
  4. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix gently to avoid crushing the blueberries.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  6. Sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar on top, if desired, to form a sweet crust.
  7. Bake 50-60 minutes or until bread tests done.



Growing Brussel Sprouts in Wisconsin

I had never eaten brussel sprouts until I was a teenager and one bite had me gagging. Maybe it was puberty, the fickleness that comes with being a teen, or the fact that to me they tasted bitter beyond anything I had ever ingested. My family always planted a big garden yet those itty bitty cabbages never graced our dining table. And now I know why.  As a mother I do not prepare what I don’t have a pallette for eating (cooked peas) and I clearly inherited that gene from my mother who never cared for brussel sprouts.  Exactly when, where and how my sister developed a taste brussel sprouts remains a mystery, but every so often during our high school years my mother would prepare them for her – and her alone.

Fast forward a few decades and my darling green-thumbed hubby announces the addition of brussel sprouts to our garden, insisting that I will surely like them the way he prepares them. Uh, sure. “You love cabbage more than anyone I know, these are just mini cabbages.” Uh huh.

Growing Brussel Sprouts in Wisconsin

The first year we grew brussel sprouts happened to be an unusually cold summer in Wisconsin.  Hubby harvested our small bounty and prepared a deliciously simply side dish that evening: steamed brussel sprouts lightly sauteed with bacon. Oooh la la I was hooked. Emeril was right when he said that pork fat makes everything taste better, but to be fair I ate plenty of sprouts sans bacon and they were tender and delicious. The next time around the brussels sprouts had a light dijon sauce and once again I was hooked.

Last year, I became unhooked. Our plants didn’t produce well and the brussel sprouts we did harvest had that distinctive bitterness that turned me off to them 30 years ago. It was then that I began to question if growing brussel sprouts in Wisconsin was such a good idea. After consulting cousin Google I come to find that these babies prefer cooler climates. Well, the scorching temps and drought-like conditions we experienced last summer explain the meek yield and awful taste.

Three key points I learned about growing brussel sprouts in Wisconsin:

  • The lower leaf of the plants should be cut off when the sprouts first appear and are about the size of a large pea. We didn’t do this.
  • The sprouts should be picked by twisting them off when an inch or so in diameter. We waited and did one big harvest as shown in the photo above and the sprouts were larger than an inch in diameter. Oops.
  • A number of sources noted that frost improves the flavor of brussel sprouts and harvesting should be delayed until after the first frost, preferably first two frosts. However, sprouts can be harvested throughout the summer if continuously picked when they reach marble size. Double oops.

Having done my due diligence I’m going to convince Hubby to try growing brussel sprouts again. I can’t believe I just typed that. By no means does Wisconsin constitute a “warmer” climate but our summers are usually quite hot and humid. Iam determined to prove that a hobby gardener can successfully grow brussel sprouts in Wisconsin, so we’re going to test the theory of treating the sprouts as a fall crop and sowing in mid to late July.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Smoky Avocado Deviled Eggs

Smoky Deviled Eggs

This past week was Bright Week for Eastern Orthodox Christians and the sunny skies, warmer temperatures and blooming foliage added to our joyous celebration of the Resurrection. Yes, we rejoiced celebrating Easter (Pascha) this past Sunday.  If you’re perplexed I recommend reading this wonderful explanation why Orthodox Easter was a month after most other Christians celebrated Easter on March 31st.

So where am I going with this? I had a bowl full of colored Easter eggs in the fridge and a taste for creamy deviled eggs. And I’m not ashamed to admit that my motive for creating my own version of avocado deviled eggs was due in part to my desire to reduce the cholesterol in these little delights and equally in part to selfishly wanting to save some calories –so I could indulge in a handful of peanut M&M’s for dessert.  Hey, ya gotta live a little!


A tiny dollop of Greek yogurt  adds to the velvety texture of the avocado and lends a subtle tang. A pinch of smoky Spanish paprika with a smidgen of granulated garlic provides the “Hmm factor.” You know, that brief moment after taking a bite when you can’t quite put your finger on the ingredient(s) behind that unique taste.

I can see these smoky avocado deviled eggs making an appearance on a few of the buffets I serve throughout the year, casual get-togethers with family and friends noshing on finger foods with a fine red wine in hand. And by fine I mean tasty, price is irrelevant to this budget wine connoisseur.

avocado deviled eggs

Of course, my resident food critics include a 17 year old avocado snubber who politely passed on taking even the tiniest of tiny bites. My other two critics gave these smoky avocado deviled eggs  two forks up, with Hubby noting that he’d prefer a bit more Spanish paprika and garlic. It’s all a matter of taste so go ahead and twist and turn the filling to make it your own. The dab of Greek yogurt can easily be eliminated if you don’t have any on hand or substituted with sour cream.

In keeping with tradition I greet you with Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Smoky Avocado Deviled Eggs
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
Smoky avocado deviled eggs take on a new spin with Spanish paprika, garlic and a bit of Greek yogurt. Creamy, delicious and far fewer fat grams and calories than traditional deviled eggs.
  • 5 hard boiled eggs, cut in half
  • yolk of 2 whole eggs
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic (increase to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (increase to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons Greek yogurt (adjust to taste)
  1. Remove the yolks from the hard boiled eggs and put 4 halves (yolk of 2 whole eggs) into a medium size bowl and mash well.
  2. Add the avocado and remaining ingredient.
  3. Beat until creamy and fill each egg.


Homemade Hamburger Buns

photo of homemade hamburger buns

Disclaimer: these homemade hamburger buns are exponentially better tasting than they look!  I had planned to post this yummy recipe the next time around for the simple reason that my pics are poopy. But I couldn’t wait. Another hasty move, perhaps. I’m sure my photo breaks all kinds of rules beginning with a zero enticement factor, but I can explain. The hamburger buns were piping hot and there were hungry tummies to feed – loud, obnoxious growling teenage tummies – so I was scurrying. Take away here: dismiss the pic and try making these homemade hamburger buns anyway. They are delish and come together quickly as there is no raising time required.

As my alter salt police ego would advise, beware of packaged hamburger buns that are loaded in sodium, dough conditi0ners and host of other unpronounceable ingredients. These homely looking homemade hamburger buns use basic ingredients that morph into soft and chewy rolls that are the perfect size for sliders.

Wishing you picture-perfect hamburger buns,

Homemade Hamburger Buns - perfect for sliders
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
No need to run to the store the next time a slider craving hits. These homemade hamburger buns are the perfect size for sliders or as an accompaniment to any meal. Fewer calories and less sodium than commercial bakery buns with homemade goodness that can't be beat.
  • 2 packages yeast (1/4 ounce or 7g)
  • 1 C warm water
  • ⅓ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt (scant half teaspoon)
  • 1 Cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 - 2½ Cups unbleached all purpose flour
  1. Grease a large backing sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; add 1 Tbs sugar and let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Add egg, salt, and whole wheat flour.
  4. Add enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough.
  5. Using a mixer with dough hook attachment, knead until dough is smooth and elastic (roughly 3-5 minutes) or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface.
  6. Divide dough into 12 pieces, shape into balls and place on baking sheet.
  7. After all pieces have been shaped, cover and let the buns rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Bake at 425F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Remove from pan onto wire rack to cool.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home’s 40 minute homemade hamburger buns