Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Provençal Tian

Summer flew by! We happily hosted friends all summer long at our club on the shore as well as at home. As I mentioned a few posts ago, Life is Meals right? My trusty blue journal has been filling up with this summer’s favorite menus. I noticed the other day, that more than a few meals had a favorite side dish – zucchini, tomato, goat cheese Provençal tian.

The dish is actually a tian, which is a French dish and really refers to the type of cookware. The main ingredients for this version are zucchini, tomato, onions, goat cheese on a bed of white rice drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. I also add in a generous handful of fresh, chopped thyme and some dried herbs de Provence.

It is a perfect side dish in the summer with zucchini and tomatoes being at their peak. That said, this dish has also graced my Christmas dinner table too. Even winter zucchini and tomatoes are still tasty prepared this way. The green and red of the dish are festive too. I also love how it is both a vegetable and starch which makes meal planning much easier.

Recipe to follow but let’s talk favorite summer menus first.

Menu #1 Short Ribs, Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Provencal Tian

A rundown of our weekends and favorite menus of course –

Late June, good friends of ours from business school made the trip to see us. They are also a couple comprised of a French husband and American wife so we have lots in common. J and Mr. SB are also excellent cooks and in fact J passed along the wonders of sous-vide cooking last year with some delectable lamb chops.

Mr. SB was not to be outdone so this menu features his sous-vide short ribs which are finished on the grill. I served a green salad, the zucchini, tomato goat cheese Provençal tian and this blueberry crisp with a side of vanilla ice cream. Note on the blueberry crisp I would not use as much flour as is called for in the recipe. It was a most memorable meal (in spite of the copious amounts of French Bordeaux we drank with it:)

Saturday arrived with picture perfect weather. Blueberry muffins, fresh orange juice, coffee and eggs were on the menu for breakfast. Dinner that evening included an appetizer of fresh clams and oysters (dug up by J and Mr. SB). The main course was salmon grilled on a cedar plank, grilled zucchini and eggplant, pasta salad. For dessert, well of course we had s’mores at the fire pit while we watched the sunset.

Menu #2 Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Provençal Tian

A few weeks later good friends arrived from London. Mr. SB once again decided to cook sous-vide this time, lamb loins. Lamb (and really any meat goes well with this dish), tian Provençal and salad. I also made this peach crisp which was delicious (the pecans really add to the flavor).

Peach crisp with a crunchy, pecan topping

Breakfast once again included: the famous Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins, along with zucchini bread, fresh orange juice, fruit salad and plenty of coffee and tea.

For dinner we headed to the shore for drinks and I made up a charcuterie board. Mr SB once again made his salmon. I made my adaptation of toasted Israeli couscous with grilled vegetables, farm tomatoes with garden basil and fresh mozzarella. For dessert we had the amazing crispy, chewy chocolate chip cookies.

Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Provençal Tian Recipe

So enough about meals (or can there ever be enough?) and onto the tian. Years ago, we visited my in-laws, and I first tried Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Provencal Tian. The creamy goat cheese, sweet tomatoes and fresh zucchini and onions came together so perfectly. My sister-in-law gave me the magazine copy – it was from a French magazine (which I have since lost and forgotten the magazine name).

Through the years I have adapted it. Their version had the vegetables cooking together and as zucchini takes far less time than onions, there were a number of times when the zucchini was overcooked. She also shared a trick, take a knife to spread the goat cheese onto the zucchini coins. It is much easier than trying to cut goat cheese into slices.

I also shorten the recipe by occasionally using store bought balsamic glaze. If you are a purist (or don’t have glaze on hand), then you can boil down some balsamic vinegar for that part. I also love garlic olive oil, and I use that to coat my dish. As for the dish, I have an Emile Henry 4 quart casserole dish with a cover. You can use any 4 quart dish frankly although I do recommend a cover for part of the cooking.

So here is the recipe. Also, as it is always eaten so quickly, my photo is a “before” I put it in the oven…will try to add the cooked version at a later date!

Zucchini, Tomato, Onion, Goat Cheese Casserole (Tian)

Summer's favorite vegetables, assembled easily with crumbled goat cheese, fresh herbs on a bed of rice. Perfect accompaniment to any meal (and any season!).
Course Side Dish
Cuisine French
Keyword French, Goat Cheese, Provencale, Side Dish, Tomato, Zucchini
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 6
Cost $8

Equipment

  • 1 4 quart dish suitable for baking

Ingredients

  • 4 medium zucchini or 2 large
  • 4 to matoes
  • 1 large onion or 2 small
  • 1 log of soft goat cheese Costco has an excellent one that comes in a two pack
  • 15 cl de vinaigre balsamique
  • White rice – enough to cover the base of your casserole about 2 cups
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon or more of chopped thyme
  • Herbs de Provence to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Balsamic glaze

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Wash all vegetables and dry. Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch or so coins. Spread goat cheese on top. Slice tomatoes and onions. Put onions in microwave for a minute or two until starting to cook (they should not be fully cooked as you will cook them some more in the oven).
  • Grease casserole with olive oil. Run a sliced garlic clove around greased sides and bottom or use garlic olive oil.
  • Spread rice on bottom of casserole. Layer zucchini, goat cheese, tomato, goat cheese, onion on top. I like to layer so it looks pretty. Sprinkle chopped fresh thyme on top. Sprinkle herbs de provence on top too.
  • Bake covered for a half hour. Uncover and bake some more until vegetables are fork tender.
  • Serve with your favorite main dish. Enjoy!

Saying Goodbye Part 2

So we just returned from dropping CG1 off at college. We are officially empty nesters. If you read my last post about saying goodbye, you know that when we get to this stage with an official goodbye, we are really saying goodbye to all of those other stages that we did not know we were saying goodbye to – that last time we picked them up, read a bedtime story, put out the Easter bunny candy and many more. That tiny baby who could not walk or talk, the kindergartener who soon was graduating from fifth grade or that confident high schooler crossing the stage for her diploma.

All of this was in my mind but I also realized that this milestone is reason for celebration too. CG1 and CG2 are in the right places, both ready to thrive and become the adults we have worked so hard to help them be.

Mentally we moms try to get ready. Packing the memory foam mattress topper, an extra set of Twin XL sheets, surprise snacks and maybe a pillow personalized with her zip code. It keeps us all busy and for us, this was so much fun. Both girls and I love to decorate and plan.

The day arrives, the car is packed and loaded to the top of the Thule. Mr. SB and I are ready right? We arrive at college. Lots of helpers to unpack. And, CG2 and I unpack and decorate the room. Her roommate is super nice, and the roommate’s parents are too.

Oh and CG2 is attending my alma mater. It sure has changed. Really hard to get into (am sure I would be rejected now:) but it is the same in so many ways. This makes it both easier and harder as I recall my own struggles as a freshman.

It is time to say goodbye. We hug, and yes, we are misty eyed. Of course we know that texts and Facetimes await us anytime we want but nothing beats being in person.

Mr. SB and I drive off. I see a dad giving his son a hug. It is an emotional day to say the least.

I call it happy/sad or sad/happy depending upon the day. Happy because seeing your children grow and achieve important milestones is one of life’s greatest joys. Sad, because frankly the day-to-day won’t ever be the same. The “What’s for dinner?” or “Mom I need new ballet shoes can we go after school?” days are mostly over.

I know there is also so much to look forward to. In our case, football games, tailgates and parents weekend in a few weeks. October break where both girls should be home.

And, in my empty nester new life, more time to work peacefully without interruption. Time to exercise (after work which I have not done since the girls were born). Time for new hobbies such as gardening, sailing/kayaking/hiking, skiing for two and more. Travels for Mr. SB and I (and not during summer or breaks when everyone else travels and it is expensive and crowded).

As the saying goes, if you have done your parenting job right, then you are out of a job at some point. We may not be quite there…but hopefully we are on track for that promotion. If not, we have not really done our job now have we?

And this was a fun day in spite of the bittersweet feeling. Decorating her college dorm and knowing lots of fun adventures and challenges lay ahead is a memory I won’t forget.

Decorating college dorm room at Boston College Sundays Bread

Saying goodbye

This morning, bright and early, College Girl (who I will now refer to as CG1) left for her junior year and a new apartment in Burlington, VT. I was fine. I really was until I saw high school girl (soon to be referred to as College Girl 2 or CG2 as she is no longer in high school) with tears rolling down her face.

You see, this year, CG2 will be embarking on her own college journey so I think we all realized at the hour of 6:30 a.m. that our little family won’t be the same…at least not on a day-to-day basis. Even G our 80-pound pile of Labrador love felt it trying to squeeze herself into the front seat:)

I am sure no one will notice me here…

The past few weeks have been a flurry of getting both girls ready for college. CG1 has a new apartment so she needs items like pans, cleaning supplies, silverware. CG2 is moving into a typical freshman dorm so the shower caddy, twin XL sheets and comforter, frames for pictures and all kinds of storage were on her list. So off we went to Ikea, Target and the girls even hit a local flea market for one-of-a-kind items. We have been busy, busy, busy.

Time Flies

Some of this is surreal. I mean it was yesterday that Mr. SB and I were looking at CG1 in the delivery room. We said her name, and she turned to look at us. There was no mistake she had heard our voices in utero and knew exactly who she was looking at now in the world. I mean this was yesterday, right?

Or watching the first time she ate real food, skied, rode and then jumped a horse, rolled over for the first time onto her stomach (this last one was with my mom which was so special). All of those school memories too. Getting on the bus for kindergarten (without a glance back), presenting at fifth grade graduation, having her girlfriends for a sleepover in middle and high school, earning National Honors at her high school, calling us from babysitting to tell us she was accepted at her dream college.

CG2 entered the world two years later – sleeping all day and up at night (threw out my strict schedule that I had for CG1 when she was first born). I remember she smiled so much even at a sick visit doctor appointment. The doctor was sure I was an inexperienced mom and she was just fine. How could she be sick with that beaming smile? She had a 102 temperature by the way – I was not inexperienced at all!

Or the day she was chosen for the spelling bee, read her essay on the danger of drugs to the entire fifth grade, starred in the fourth-grade play, went to her first dance, toured colleges in the south with me last summer, shouted with joy at her acceptance to her dream school, right up to walking across the stage for her high-school diploma? Where does the time go? It plays tricks on us for sure.

The Days are Long but the Years are Short

You see what has hit me is as we say goodbye as they embark on this new stage of life away from us (at least for nine months) – we are also saying goodbye to that baby, toddler, kindergartener, awkward middle schooler, confident high-schooler. We never said goodbye to those younger versions. They just disappeared as we unwittingly moved onto the next phase not really realizing that they had left.

Those early years of parenting had some of the longest days…but as they say, those years were also painfully short.

Of course, our kids come back. Of course I have, as of the time of posting this, had a Facetime tour of her new place. Of course, I will be sending a care package this week (complete with my care package chocolate chip cookies). Of course, we have so much to look forward to (including fall college visits to see them). Of course, empty nest hood will mean time for things that we have put to the back burner.

While this is all true, this time, I know the last phase is over and a new, exciting one is about to begin. I will hug them tight, shed a tear, allow myself to process it all. We parents have been so busy getting them ready to leave for college, it is now time to get ready for our next step too.

The Real Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin Recipe

If you read my last post you know that for me, memories, places and food have always gone hand in hand. Many years ago, I visited a friend’s home on Wellfleet, Cape Cod for the weekend. After making the long trip from Boston (complete with bumper-to-bumper traffic), we awoke to a brilliant, blue-sky Saturday. This house had a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. Breakfast, served on the deck, was comprised of some good strong coffee, freshly scrambled eggs, sausage and the most delicious blueberry muffins. My hostess shared that the recipe was supposedly based upon the legendary Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe. The “secret” was the addition of mashed up blueberries to the batter.

Maybe it was the sea air, the in-season, local blueberries or maybe it really was the recipe. Fast forward many years, and I have recently found myself on a hunt to know all about these amazing muffins named after the now closed, but once famed Jordan Marsh department store.

What is Jordan Marsh?

Jordan Marsh was a department store, founded in 1841, with a flagship in Boston’s downtown crossing. The store is deeply engrained in my memory. My aunt Mae always bought my Christmas present from “Jordans” when I was a kid. Usually, the gift was a very high-quality wool skirt and matching Shetland sweater (both in a size or two too big with the idea I could grow into it:).

Occasionally my sisters, mom and I would venture into Boston to shop Filenes Basement as well as Jordans. Jordans sadly closed in the early nineties. But the lore of one of the first American department stores and those muffins lives on today.

The legendary Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe was once a coveted and secret recipe. Now there are variations all around the web and dozens of other muffin recipes of course. In fact, I recently made some fresh blueberry muffins for friends joining us for the weekend.

My muffin was well received. My friend bit into the home- made muffin and affirmed that a real blueberry muffin tastes sooo good. Homemade is nothing like the overly sweet, often greasy, tinny, minimal on the blueberries sort of muffin you tend to find at the supermarket.

While my muffin was very good, it was not “twenty years later I still remember it while looking out at the Atlantic Ocean good.” I recalled how so many years ago my friend had said that the mashed blueberries made all of the difference. But there had to be more, so I decided to do some research.

Secrets from the original Jordan Marsh baker

First, the baker, John Pupek, who originally created the recipe was interviewed on TV! John explains, that yes, you want to mash up some of the blueberries. You also use a blend of flours – one is pastry flour (I found the Bob’s brand on Amazon). The interview also indicates that John likely used shortening instead of butter (or maybe a blend). I could not personally bring myself to use shortening knowing all of the adverse health effects. A good sprinkle of sugar on top gives it a crunchy dome as well.

So here is what I think is pretty close to the real Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe. Grab a cup of your favorite tea or coffee, spread with some good butter and enjoy!

The Real Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin Recipe

The legendary Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins were a treat for many Bostonians visiting downtown crossing. The recipe was a secret for years. SB researched just what made those muffins so good (hint it is more than mashed blueberries). Read on for the recipe and a bit of history.
Course Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Blueberries, Breakfast, Muffin, Quick Bread
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 12
Cost $7

Equipment

  • 1 Stand or electric mixer This recipe is very easy with a stand mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment. You can use an electric hand mixer if you don't have a stand version

Ingredients

  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar plus extra for topping
  • 2 extra large eggs John Pupek refers to fortified eggs. These could be Eggland’s Best. I used farm fresh eggs instead and the muffins came out perfectly
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • cup bread flour spoon and leveled (substitute with all-purpose flour if not available)
  • ¾ cup pastry flour spooned and leveled (substitute with cake flour if not available)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 ½ cups fresh blueberries divided
  • 2 Tablespoons flour used to coat 2 cups of blueberries (can be any flour)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F, position oven rack in the center. Spray a muffin tin with non stick spray including the top of the pan. Line with muffin paper liners (due to blueberries, these muffins can stick to the pan)
  • In a stand-alone mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter (if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use an electric hand mixer). With the mixer on low, gradually add 1 cup granulated sugar. Scrape the sides down then beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Gradually add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until blended. Add the vanilla extract. Beat for a few minutes on medium until light and fluffy.
  • Spoon and level 1¼ cups of bread flour (substitute all-purpose flour) and ¾ cup cake flour (substitute pastry flour), 2 teaspoons baking power and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Sift together over a mixing bowl and whisk to combine all the ingredients.
    Jordan marsh blueberry muffins
  • Add the dry and wet ingredients to the creamed mixture alternating between flour and milk, starting and ending with flour and scraping down the sides as you go. Beat on low just to combined. Don’t over mix (or you will have tough chewy muffins)
  • Remove the mixing bowl from the stand-alone mixer and scrape off any batter from the paddle attachment.
  • In a small bowl, mash ½ cup of blueberries. Fold into the batter with a spatula. In a separate bowl, coat and toss whole blueberries with 2 Tablespoons of flour and fold into the batter.
  • Generously fill each muffin cup to the top. Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of granulated sugar over each muffin.
  • Note: I used 1 teaspoon of sugar as a measuring unit, but in the original recipe, enough sugar was spread over the top to completely cover.
  • Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes. Lower temperature to 375 and bake for another 20. Muffins may need another five minutes for a total of 30 minutes. Tops should be lightly golden.
  • Insert a toothpick to test for doneness. If it comes out clean, remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.
  • Remove and finish cooling on wire rack.
  • For me the best way to eat these is right out of the oven with some good quality butter. Enjoy!
    Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Summer Menus and Musings

Life Is Meals is one of my favorite books. Penned by James and Kay Salter, this delightful book, given to me by a dear friend years ago, takes you through meals and musings from a year of cooking. It really hit home the summer I read it, as I could not enjoy my own summer menus.

Why? Well, I read it during a rough patch when both my husband and I found ourselves out of work during the Great Recession. I took a consulting job in Chicago that summer to tide us over financially. I commuted every week for three months – leaving my first grader and four-year old at home with my husband who was diligently looking for a new job. Up at 3 a.m. Monday to catch a flight, and back at 11 Friday. Home never felt so good those weekends back in CT. I was thankful for Skype too (but a poor substitute to four- and six-year-old hugs).

All I wanted to do was get back to my normal life and this book, which I read on the plane over a few weeks underscored how important my family’s home cooked meals were to my very soul. I was staying in a chain hotel with a poor excuse for a kitchen. Meals were usually pasta with butter and cheese and maybe a salad – or it was take-out.

The good news was that the assignment was only three months, and I returned appreciating our usual routine and all of the delightful summer menus that usually grace our table. Additionally, I took up my own habit of writing down memorable menus in a blue journal. This summer has been particularly fruitful so today’s post I am sharing our latest summer menu (also to be written down in my trusty blue journal).

Clambake and An Easy Dip

This past weekend included the annual clambake at our beach/boat club. It was steamy hot, and I found the perfect (budget friendly Target:) long sundress (the thought of anything form fitting was not going to work) plus lots of room with the maxi skirt for a good meal! Front view below (side view above). Paired with flip flops and my favorite straw hat…this may be a perfect outfit to enjoy a favorite summer menu.

Waiting for the boat launch…and looking forward to lobster! Maxi dress from Target

If you have not had a traditional clambake, you must try it! A summer menu of fresh lobster, quahogs (or steamer clams), mussels, corn on the cob and small red potatoes is the main. Of course, you must have a healthy dose of good quality, melted butter to dip (or drench). In our case, we enjoyed this perfect meal on the beach. Lobster is really best eaten outside, spread out on a picnic table and preferably with a view of the ocean.

Summer menu drinks and appetizers

Friends mixed up fresh margaritas (deadly). Mr SB decided to pick some fresh mint from our garden and whip up mojitos. Of course, we indulged with chips and freshly made guacamole (a must with margaritas right?). I also was looking for something easy to put with some crudité. Traditional clambakes are usually short on vegetables. Slaw in mayo is not my idea of a good fresh veggie option.

Smitten Kitchen is a favorite blog of mine and Deb’s red pepper white bean dip was perfect. I also loved that similar to my very simple artichoke dip (my go to for winter entertaining), I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. The dip uses a can of white beans, a jar of red peppers, lemon and a dab of cream cheese). I tweaked it a bit by adding some Tuscan seasoning from Saratoga Olive Oil and a healthy dose of chives from the garden. I served it in this cute boat bowl (a Homegoods find:).

White bean and roasted red pepper dip
White bean and red pepper dip with Tuscan seasoning served up in a boat for a cute touch

A well thought out charcuterie board is always welcome too. So easy to assemble and perfect with mixed drinks…good to have something a bit more substantial to snack on! Costco is my go-to store for the meat and cheese. I keep Carrs crackers on hand as well as dried fruit and nuts. You can see my version for the clambake above and another below served with friends on our deck.

Top off the evening around the fire pit with traditional s’mores. Don’t try to improve the s’more recipe as they are perfect in their original form.

Is there a better summer menu? And with this view, and some good friends, summer is sweet.
Sunset over Long Island Sound
Sunset over Long Island Sound

Fresh Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Summer is in full swing, and we have been making the most of our beach club on the CT shore. Every weekend we eat dinner there (weather permitting) and this past weekend was no exception. We have had a steady stream of guests too, so I have wanted to mix up the sides from the usual pasta salad. Mr. SB tends to grill (this past weekend it was his famous ribs recipe) so sides are my thing…it is not quite corn season here, but I was able to find some fresh corn from Georgia at Whole Foods and dove in to make fresh corn salad with lime vinaigrette.

What ingredients do I use for Fresh Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette?

For last week’s version I used fresh corn (of course but you could use canned or even frozen), tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, chives and black beans. This recipe is super versatile though so you could add some red or green peppers, scallions and mix up the spices too – parsley would work just fine.

The lime vinaigrette is also so easy to make. I used a very mild olive oil (avocado would work well too), fresh lime juice, garlic, some white wine vinegar, salt and some chili powder. If you have access to a Trader Joes I love their chili lime spice (available online too), and have used that too in both the salad and the vinaigrette.

What does the salad go well with?

Most summer fare would work with this salad. We ate it one night with some burgers and then again at our fourth of July celebration. I have been known to put some tortilla chips out and serve it as a dip. It is also delicious as a salad topper. The flavors are the taste of summer!

Fresh Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Fresh Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette tastes like summer! Fresh corn combined with ripe tomatoes, fresh cilantro, black beans, and a hint of red onion with a zesty, lime dressing makes a perfect side for ribs or whatever you are grilling.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword Sides
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 6 people
Cost $5

Ingredients

  • Corn Salad
  • 5 ears of corn shucked and steamed or boiled.
  • 1 red pepper cut in small dice
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or to taste
  • 1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • Lime Vinaigrette
  • Fresh lime juice from one lime or to taste
  • ¼ cup of white wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup of mild tasting olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey
  • 2 teaspoons of Trader Joe’s chili lime spice mix or 1 teaspoon of chili powder if not available

Instructions

  • Instructions
  • In small bowl whisk lime juice, honey (or sugar), ground cayenne pepper, garlic salt and chili powder or Trader Joe’s spice. Slowly drizzle in olive oil; whisking continuously.
  • Remove corn from cobs (I angle a knife to remove kernels)
  • In a large bowl and add the cooked corn, diced red peppers, grape tomato halves, cilantro, black beans and red onion. Drizzle with the lime vinaigrette and toss to coat.

Notes

If at all possible use fresh corn. Either white, yellow or bi color corn. I cook corn by putting about two inches of water on the bottom. Once it boils the corn steams. I check it after two minutes (early season corn is more tender and takes less time to cook). Then I cut it right off the cob once it cools.
• In a hurry? Make the lime vinaigrette the day before. You can also use leftover corn.
• Dice and cut your vegetables small. You want all your vegetable to complement the corn.

End of year musings

Before I get to a summer update and my recipe for fresh corn salad with lime vinaigrette (my next post) – a spring update is in order! I realize my last post was from our spring break in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. So much happened after that as it was high-school girl’s senior spring.

Senior year is a year of “lasts”, so each event was very bittersweet. Fortunately, I knew it would fly by, and so I made sure to soak in every second. With college girl, that was not an option as senior spring ended March 13, 2020 due to Covid.

First up was senior prom. All, heads up for you newbies – one starts shopping for the dress in February (no that is not a typo). This is far more complex than when I went to the mall with my mom to pick out a dress. Girls log their dresses on Facebook so no one will have the same one. After the stress (and a bit of drama) it all worked out. She and her date looked so great (lavender dress with lots of detail). We were fortunate to go to two beautiful pre prom parties and took dozens of photos. After no real junior prom, the kids so enjoyed themselves (and we did too!)

Up next was the last dance recital. Dance has been a fantastic outlet for high-school gal, and she started at age 3! After staring at her older sister’s dance class, the dance instructor finally let her in to the class! I don’t consider myself a dance mom but let me tell you every recital is like watching them grow in technicolor. I have loved watching her dance and am so glad she stayed with it (even after many other sports were tried). Dance introduces you to music, culture and of course is physically challenging (especially if you dance six days a week as she does!). I will miss the rhythm of the Nutcracker (camp begins in the summer with an intensive) and that spring recital too. Empty nest hood awaits – maybe I should start dancing again?

Next it was senior awards night. This mama was so proud as little miss earned the Civic Leadership award from the Social Studies department plus a service award for her involvement in Save the Children and two scholarships! That same week was the end of year Girl Scout ceremony. Bittersweet for me again, as I have been a leader for nine years and she has been a Girl Scout for 13. She was awarded another scholarship (more on this to come…Girl Scouts is a fantastic opportunity for college applications (in addition to being a great organization in general).

Lastly, before we knew it, she was crossing the stage for her diploma. Again, missing a real graduation in 2020 (and I am not complaining as I know so many lives have been lost to the pandemic so these events took the backseat to all of that sadness), we soaked it all in. Next thing you know it was the fourth of July this past weekend! As this post is rather long I will save my fresh corn salad, tablescape tips for the next post. Glad to be back blogging!

April Catch Up

Hi all…April has been a whirlwind and I have been meaning to blog but am just getting around to it. I have not been cooking much as we have been traveling and really busy with work and end of year planning. So today’s is more of a this and that jumble of what I have been eating, seeing, thinking!

Travel to Indian Rocks Beach Florida

High school girl and I took a trip to Florida for her last high school spring break. We flew into Tampa and stayed in a VRBO in Indian Rocks Beach. Our house (nothing fancy) was a short walk to the beach and within walking distance to lots of restaurants, cafes and more. Weather was great. Would recommend the area for a trip with teens that won’t break the bank. We had some nice meals too. Seafood was delicious at Guppy’s on the Beach and the folks at the Indian Rocks Cafe were so friendly. We enjoyed super fresh sandwiches, smoothies and muffins.

Couple of Good Instant Pot Recipes

While I have not been experimenting much with my own recipes this month, I did find two fool-proof recipes at Creme de La Crumb. Our weather in CT is still on the chilly side and I had stew beef in the freezer ready for a cozy meal. With my French husband that meant one thing – Beef Bourguignon. This recipe was easy and delicious. I added some extra fresh rosemary too. She has a few other Instant Pot recipes that are on my list to try. Will let you know how they go.

Personal Finance Podcasts

I love podcasts as they give me something interesting to do when I am walking my dog. I recently discovered The Financial Feminist which I am enjoying. I really liked the interview with Sallie Krawcheck. I am probably too far along for some of the other episodes but if you are dipping your toe into finance or just want a female perspective this is worth the listen. Of course Jean Chatzky is also interesting and I think there is a time and place for Dave Ramsey too. I would probably disagree with Dave on a number of his non-financial ideas but I think his get out of debt baby step plan is worth following if you find yourself in debt which many Americans are…

On the Bookshelf

With the travel came time to read! I was delighted to read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry If you are a book lover you will enjoy this book about a curmudgeonly bookstore owner who surprisingly ends up raising an orphan girl. My favorite part is his attitude towards books and in particular – short stories. It is also on Nantucket (at least that is my hunch even though it is disguised as Alice Island).

I also finished The Lost Girls of Paris, another excellent read about women spies during WWII. Plenty of intrigue and twists and turns. So happy to have loved both books for my vacation.

Next up…

Now we are countdown to graduation for Miss High School (soon to be College Girl 2). College girl 1 landed an internship and will be home soon. Watch out for the fighting over the car! I am sooo looking forward to summer and getting out on the water. Will be back soon with more recipes and updates! XO, Mimi

Simple Artichoke Dip and a Catch Up

Hi all. Not sure where winter went (although not quite done here in CT). Super busy at work but not complaining. Having a lot of fun – you know what they say when you enjoy what you do, and they pay you? #blessed. That said this poor little blog has been ignored…so today’s post is a bit of a catch up, and I am sharing what is hardly a recipe it is so easy (but so good)…Simple Artichoke Dip. It is delicious and takes all of 5 minutes to mix up and another 15 or so to cook in the oven. Read on for what may become your go-to dip for whatever entertaining you have planned.

January/February Catch Up

Winter is ski time around here and this winter was no different. We had a great time up at Mount Snow and at Stowe in Vermont. Of course, I made my famous Buffalo Chicken dip. There really is nothing better après ski! Serve with nacho or pita chips or maybe even just some thick slices of bread.

In adorable Stowe, VT, we stayed at the Green Mountain Inn. It is such a cute, historic inn complete with an outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi – nothing better after a day of skiing. Our room was spacious – it was actually two rooms and two bathrooms which worked well as we had our girls with us. We enjoyed afternoon tea and the general vibe of a cute Vermont inn on a cold, snowy day. At night we ate some yummy fondue at Swiss Fondue by Heinz. The vintage ski posters and chalet atmosphere made it a perfect place to dine. I recommend ordering the apples along with the bread to dip into the delicious Swiss fondue.

Simple Artichoke Dip

So that is the highlight of January and February…but let’s get to the good stuff – simple but delicious (as in I can’t stop eating it) artichoke dip.

Where did this begin? I seemed to recall something addictive, cheesy but full of texture that my mom made years ago. I remembered that it used a can of artichokes – yes the plain old ones that you get at any supermarket. Then you add some mayo and parmesan cheese. Mix it up. Maybe add some garlic powder and a bit of cayenne (or not). Bake it. That’s it. Sometimes life is complicated. This is not.

We went to friends for dinner this past weekend, and I made the dip. I prepared it at home but then put in a bowl and microwaved it at their home for a minute – just to reheat. Served with olives, pita chips, baby carrots and some hummus for a platter. There was nothing left. So, without further ado, here is the recipe for simple artichoke dip. It really does not get simpler or more delicious for a dip than this!

Simple Artichoke Dip

Super easy artichoke dip is made in minutes and could not be simpler to make.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword Appetizer
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Cost 5

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Mayonnaise (please use full fat not light) I prefer Hellmans
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated Store bought is fine. I like to add some fresh grated at the end if I have it.
  • 1 can Artichoke hearts in water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Mix ingredients in a oven safe dish
  • Put in oven and bake for 20 minutes

Notes

Add garlic or cayenne for more spice.  This is also delicious on a flatbread (a Boboli or other pizza like crust).  Enjoy!

Stir Fried Saucy Udon noodles (using supermarket ingredients)

Hi there friends. It has been a while as 2022 has started out even busier than 2021 ended.

The SB family took a fantastic vacation to Mexico (hoping to write about it soon) and have been back at work/school catching up. I have also been making my usual new year’s effort to organize the house (ski clothes were yesterday). So, with all of that going on (plus work and school of course) it is just the right time for some super simple recipes that taste like your favorite takeout but may take even less time than it takes to dial the number (and a whole lot less money!).

Today’s post is for stir fried saucy udon noodles using supermarket ingredients that you can get at mainstream grocery stores. I have been craving noodles and some spice post holiday. I found myself staring at the pantry and freezer and realized I had some ingredients (nothing fancy) that may just suffice.

It was so nice to make a recipe from standard stuff that is easily found in the international foods aisle at my local Stop N Shop. So let’s run down what you will need on your next shopping trip because I am sure you will love this recipe. It takes all of 20 minutes to whip up (and that includes clean up) so it is great for days when you are short on time too.

Asian Noodles

The first step to making saucy stir fried udon noodles is getting your hands on some noodles. Ever wonder how your favorite Asian restaurant gets that chewy goodness? I have, and frankly what I just discovered is that you can buy it! Yes, look for Asian noodles where you find tofu in the refrigerator section. Lo and behold there are some very nice options. I tried Fortune brand’s Yaki Soba noodles. They come with a sauce packet, but I discarded that as you make a super easy (and healthier) sauce for these noodles. Other options at the market were dried noodles and packages of udon noodles in the Asian food’s aisle. I plan on testing the latter and will let you know how that goes.

The sauce and vegetables/protein for stir fried saucy udon noodles

The sauce here is very easy. A bit of dark soy sauce (or regular if you can’t find dark), oyster sauce, brown sugar and rice vinegar. Once again, all of these items are available at your regular old supermarket (as well as big box stores too). Next up on the ingredient list is a bag of stir fried vegetables. I used easily found Bird’s Eye brand. Again I did not use the sauce (by the way the store sauces are full of questionable ingredients…MSG, thickeners etc.). I happened to also have some fresh peppers which I sliced into thin strips and sauteed ahead of time, as well as some green onions and toasted sesame seeds for a nice crunch. You can easily add protein – sauteed chicken, shrimp or protein would go nicely. So without further ado, here is the recipe.

Stir Fried Saucy Udon Noodles (made from easy to find ingredients!)

Chewy, slightly spicy, saucy udon noodles are stir-fried perfection and just like your favorite take-out. They are also so easy to make (cheap too:) and use ingredients that you can find at any supermarket. Friendly for weeknights as you can have the noodles on hand along with a package of frozen stir-fried vegetables. Easy to add protein – tofu, chicken or shrimp are all delicious with these noodles. You will have this recipe on repeat!
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Asian
Keyword Asian cuisine, budget friendly, noodles
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4
Cost $7

Equipment

  • 1 Wok or large frying pan

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons dark or regular soy sauce I typically use low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 bag refrigerator section udon noodles
  • 1 bag frozen stir fry mix veggies
  • Tofu, shrimp or chicken, cooked to add if you like (or keep this as is without the added protein up to you!)
  • 1 bunch green onions (or to taste) sliced thin
  • 1 to 2 tbs toasted sesame seeds for topping I like Costco brand – already toasted for you

Instructions

  • Sauce: Shake up all the ingredients in a jar or stir with whisk in a bowl.
  • Udon: Heat your wok or pan over medium high heat. Add oil. Add the noodles and enough sauce to coat. Stir-fry and then leave for a minute or two to caramelize. Microwave your frozen veggies and drain any water (important to drain the water or it will make the sauce runny).
  • Add the veggies. Combine and let cook for a couple more minutes until everything is covered in sauce and nice and hot.
  • Remove from heat. Add toppings and enjoy!