strawberry lemon balm butter


summer berries are filling the market.  why not try this strawberry butter for a special weekend breakfast treat?  i made the recipe with margarine and it was just as delicious.

the spread can be used on toasted English muffins, French toast, pancakes, toast, or even cinnamon Triscuits.


i just love the taste of the strawberries combined with homegrown lemon balm from my garden. i only have a few recipes that use the lemon balm, so this one has added in nicely to my summer file of herbal treats.

to make the butter:   bring 2 sticks of unsalted butter or margarine to room temperature.  chop about 10 strawberries into small pieces.  chop lemon balm leaves to measure about 2 tablespoons. measure out 3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar.


in a mini food processor, combine the butter and the sugar until creamy.  add the strawberries and lemon balm until the mixture is well combined.

transfer to a small container for serving. refrigerate until ready to serve.

baking with yacon syrup


within the past five years, there have been many new products introduced on the market shelves to help with dietary restrictions.  some of which have been gluten-free products, and others to help diabetics or those wanting a healthier nutritional plan.

this product, yacon syrup, was introduced as a natural sweetener.  it is produced from a plant grown in South America.  the syrup is very sweet, having been processed and pressed from the underground tuber of the plant.

the taste is sweeter than honey or maple syrup, almost similar to caramel.  yacon syrup is glucose free, contains fewer carbohydrates than agave syrup and is low in calories.

for this reason, it has received some press.  with the rush of these types of products into the marketplace, so came a variety of cookbooks. Elana Amsterdam offers several recipes for baking with yacon syrup.  she suggests that the syrup can be used in place of molasses in many recipes. Elana offers a recipe for ginger cookies that combines yacon syrup and agave nectar.  she has recipes for chocolate chip cookies, carrot muffins and molasses spice cookies that all use yacon syrup in her book.

the syrup product is dark in color, sticky in texture, and thick in consistency.

other interesting facts include — the yacon plant is as easy to grow as dahlias.  in fact, the tubers are very similar. at the end of the growing season, the tubers can be dug from the soil, cleaned and eaten.  the texture of the tuber is similar to a water chestnut or a firm pear.  it could be served with pineapple, papaya or mangos in a fruit salad.

since most of us are trying to reduce sugar in our diets, this may be a wonderful way to incorporate an alternative in our baking techniques.

check out Elana’s book for more ideas on how to use this syrup for healthy cooking. and, check out this link for more information on yacon syrup:

cookbook photo


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

grilling made easy


during the summer months, my outdoor grilling menus expand, and i have been attempting a variety of new recipes. one of the best decisions i made was to try out a new pair of super gloves for safety while cooking outdoors.

these super gloves are comfortable to wear and provide an easy grip for tongs and other barbecue tools. they are heat-resistant, and provide wonderful protection for extended use over a hot barbecue grill.  i have enjoyed the five-finger design, whereas many of this products are more of a mitt style.  i find that i have much more control over the use of the tools, and like the comfortable feel of cloth on my hands.

although i have not tried the gloves indoors while cooking, they are also great for oven use. safety should always be a priority when cooking with high temperatures or an open flame.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.


tea and honey


a perfect day begins with a pot of tea. i use an electric tea pot, and pour my tea over the leaves in a ceramic  pot.

i usually steep the tea less than the four minutes recommended, as i don’t like my tea full strength.  taking time for tea allows for time to organize my thoughts for the day, re-hydrates me for the morning, and gives me numerous health benefits that have been documented over time.

honey on toast is an added treat.  some of my favorite tastes of honey include Maine blueberry and honey with cinnamon.  the bees in Maine feed off of the blueberry bushes and impart a very pleasing taste of blueberry into their honey.   and, the taste of cinnamon combined with the honey brings back the flavor of cinnamon and sugar on toast from my childhood.

i have read a great deal of information and claims that honey with cinnamon can cure just about anything, however; i feel a bit more cautious about believing most of those stories.  but, i can say that it provides a great breakfast along with fruit. something as simple as this can be a wonderful start to any day.




tasting party — mustards


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESa fun way to entertain is to offer a tasting party.  tastings, which usually last only 1 1/2 to 3 hours can be any day of the week or at any time of day.  some tastings might be better suited for evenings, such as a beer tasting.  whereas, a tea and honey tasting would be perfect for the afternoon.

tastings can be held at different times of the year, such as an apple tasting in the fall or a chocolate tasting at Valentine’s day.  recently, i was sent a variety of mustards from from Germany.  how wonderful to have such a large assortment at one online location.  the page is in German, but will translate immediately with a simple click.  the flavors of the mustards range from star anise and pink peppercorn to a horseradish mustard blend.

so, i am seriously considering having a mustard tasting party.  the mustards would be served with a variety of small finger foods.  i am planning on using small boiled fingerling potatoes, miniature finger sandwiches of turkey on pumpernickel bread, mini grilled swiss cheese sandwiches, and pretzels.  also, i will have a cracker assortment with cheese and sausage slices.

mustards have a wide range of strengths and flavors.  so, it is important to have a variety of foods that are bland, which will compliment and allow the zest of the mustard seeds to take the lead.  other accompaniments can also be offered at the tasting, for example:  an antipasto platter of olives, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and even raw vegetables.   arrange attractively on the table and let the party begin.


the conservatory at longwood gardens



last week i visited Longwood gardens just outside of Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  i have never experienced a garden that was nearly 1000 acres.  this magnificent estate and gardens belonged to Pierre DuPont and his family, and was created over a period of nearly 50 years. the gardens include majestic fountains, more than twenty garden rooms, and displays of horticulture design that are nothing less than magical.

the four-acre conservatory was phenomenal.  the size, design, and numerous plants were overwhelming to me, as we passed from room to room.  this is not a greenhouse experience.

this is a true conservatory, where the DuPonts entertained and socialized with their friends and family.  photographs are offered in the estate home of their events held in the conservatory.  the space even includes a lawn space, which is simply beautiful.


while touring the conservatory, i really lost track of time and focus.  i entered another world of living plants and beautiful flowers.  the orchid room was lovely.


i spent four hours touring the gardens, and was inspired to visit again during the winter season.







cherry vinaigrette on homegrown lettuce leaves



it was time to cut some lettuce leaves from my deck garden.  the single lettuce leaves were tender and delicious.  having grown to three to four inches in length, i simply cut them and washed and dried in a salad spinner.  the lettuce flavor is so mild and sweet, also being a great source of Vitamin A.


growing home lettuce in pots is so easy.  no worries about rabbits munching them in the evening.  to serve with this lettuce, i tried making a cherry vinaigrette.  i used a sample of fresh fruit vinegar from mange.  the sample was provided for me to taste and review for the blog.  the fruit vinegars are made in Vermont, and are shelf stable vinegars.  they are perfect for basting, cooking, and even for cocktails.

using my basic recipe for vinaigrette, i mixed three parts of salad oil to one part of the cherry vinaigrette.  i also added a pinch of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.  the dressing on the lettuce leaves was delicious.

for more information about fruit vinegars, please follow this link:
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.