Picnics, concerts and trips to the lake

Recently I was introduced to a new way to easily transport everything I need for a summer picnic, outdoor concert or for a trip to the lake.  The new SMART CART has smooth rolling wheels for easy maneuvering over a variety of outdoor surfaces.

It is waterproof in case of spills and weighs less than three pounds, but will hold up to 110 pounds of food or supplies for the trip.  I love the front pocket for those items needed quickly and even better, the whole cart folds down to a 2″ size for easy storage.  The long handle is super easy to use and has an ergonomic curve.

This style of cart is made for foodies who are ready to travel and want to take everything with them.  I was even able to pack my picnic blanket inside of the cart with fruit, cheese, bread, snacks, beverages and so much more.

SMART CART is made by dbest products which was featured on Shark Tank.  This company offers a variety of other terrific products, including pet carriers, dollys, trolly dollys, backpacks and more.  Check them out online for more information at:

Smart Cart

All American Apple tart

Are you already thinking about the upcoming summer holidays?  We have Father’s day this coming weekend and then the 4th of July soon to follow.  I am planning to prepare a classic apple dessert for the 4th this year to celebrate.

My husband recently purchased the Le Creuset apple tart pan that I have been dreaming about for many years as a surprise gift.  Needless to say, since it has been on my wish list for years, I could not wait another moment to bake a tart to give it a trial run.

I used the recipe from Le Creuset and made a couple of adjustments based on the apples I had on hand.  I also used a refrigerated pie crust this time to save a few steps.  Their recipe includes a great pie crust dough.

So, here is how my tart came together, and it was tasty.

I used 3 Granny Smith apples and 4 Red Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small pieces, 1 egg white mixed with 1 teaspoon water, and 2 teaspoons sugar for the topping

First, I sliced and peeled the apples and mixed with all of the above ingredients in a large bowl, except the butter, egg white and 2 teaspoons sugar.

I placed this mixture into the apple-shaped tart pan and baked at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  I removed the excess liquid from the dish.

While the apples were baking, I prepared my refrigerated pie crust by slicing the strips for the top of the tart.  I also used smaller leaf and apple cookie cutters to decorate the top of the tart.

Now that the apples are cooked part way, I placed the pie crust strips on the tart and decorated with the other pie crust shapes.  I brushed the top of the crust with the egg white mixture and sprinkled with sugar.  Next, I returned the tart to the oven and baked at 400 degrees for another 20-25 minutes until the crust was brown.

This was an excellent tasting tart and would be perfect for the 4th of July.  Dad might even like it too this coming weekend served with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.


I continue to love my Venn Kitchen tools, and used some of the measuring scoops for this dish.  They are the perfect size and neatly stack in my cupboard for easy access.  I also used the measuring jug set to separate my egg white.  And, it was a time saver.

For more information on these and many more products, follow Venn Kitchen online.


Baked Blueberry rectangular pancake

Are you entertaining a crowd for breakfast and prefer not standing in the kitchen making individual pancakes? Here is a fun recipe that works perfectly and the rectangular pancake is cut into pieces for easily serving guests. I found this idea on Taste of Home online.

I recently tried this recipe and found that it works perfectly and can also be adapted to other small fruit pieces.  I would only use a total of one cup of fruit, as too much fruit would make the pancakes too soft and not hold together perfectly.

The secret to this recipe is using the correctly sized baking sheet. I used a Williams Sonoma baking pan that was 15 inches by 10 inches by 1 inch.  I would say 1/2 inch either way would be satisfactory, but nothing more or less.  These ingredients fit this pan and release from the pan easily, as I coated with PAM cooking spray.

To make the blueberry pancake: Combine these ingredients in a large bowl.  2 cups Jiffy pancake mix or any favorite pancake mix with 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon canola oil, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. I had Jiffy baking mix in my pantry and it worked perfectly, though the taste is not equal to a buttermilk pancake mix.

Blend these ingredients until almost smooth, and then stir in one cup of blueberries.

Spray the baking pan with PAM cooking spray, and spread out the mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, rotating half way through cooking for even browning of the pancake.

Serve with butter pats, syrup, powdered sugar, extra blueberries, or whipped cream.  The toppings can be used or eliminated as desired for your guests.


This pan will make 12 equal sized pancakes.

Heart Tarts

With only four ingredients, this easy dessert comes to the table for summer tea parties or afternoon lunches.  These heart tarts could be made to any shape based on the cookie cutter choices used to cut the Puff Pastry sheets.

I simply used two frozen Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry sheets and thawed them on the counter-top for twenty minutes. They roll out very easily without any flour on waxed paper or silpat mats.  I rolled to flatten only and then used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to form the tarts.

Once placed on the covered cookie sheets, I added strawberries sliced into thirds or fourths, depending on the size of the strawberry. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar before baking and just after baking.  Other types of sugar could be used, such as: granular, sanding sugar, or even flavored sugars.

Bake them in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until browned. Arrange the strawberry after baking if it dislodges.

Serve with coffee, tea, lemonade, or as a sweet treat at afternoon tea.

Other fruits could be used, such as raspberries, blueberries or blackberries.  Remember that fruits are soft, so not to use too much per tart as it could make the tart soggy rather than crispy.

Maple roasted vegetables

We always enjoy roasted vegetables throughout the seasons, and this recipe is another way to prepare them quickly and easily.  I found this recipe in Real Simple magazine, March 2017.

I roasted the vegetables at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, although the original recipe said to roast at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time.  I found my vegetables were perfect and very tasty.

Try this idea for your next gathering.  I whisked 2 tablespoons olive oil with 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, with a dash of salt and pepper to taste in a small measuring cup.

Mix with one-half box of Brussels sprouts, which have been cleaned and halved, along with a 1/2 bag of small carrots in another bowl.  Spread the vegetables onto a sheet pan covered with a Silpat mat.  Bake at 375 degrees in a pre-heated oven for about 35 minutes or until browned to perfection.

Enjoy these vegetables as a side dish to chicken, fish or red meat entrée.  Also, these vegetables could accompany a small pasta dish.

Cooking with Quail Ridge Press

Recently I found a great source for some amazing cookbooks that can be ordered online and be directly mailed.  Quail Ridge Press began nearly 40 years ago and continues to publish and showcase many regional and national cookbooks.

I have been cooking from Picnics, Potlucks & Porch Parties and have been enjoying every recipe that I have tried.  This book is written by Aimee Broussard, food blogger and the 2013 Dixie Crystals Cookie Bake Off champion.  Her recipes are delicious and I highly recommend this entertaining cookbook.  She shares hostess ideas and great photos of almost every recipe.

The book includes party and menu planning, as well as beverages, appetizers, ideas for barbecues, casseroles, seafood, soups, salads, cakes, pies, sides and even recipes for the slow cooker.

I tried her slow cooker stuffed bell peppers recently and our family loved them.  I adapted her recipe and scaled it down to a smaller quantity for us. It works well during the summer months as no oven is needed.

Gather these ingredients:  3 peppers, 1 pound ground beef, chopped white onion, green onions, 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire, 1 cup wild rice, salt, black pepper and 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese. Water for the slow cooker.

Clean and open up the peppers. Brown the ground beef and onions in the slow cooker.

Next, mix together the cooked ingredients from the slow cooker with the Worcestershire sauce, uncooked rice, salt, pepper to taste, and almost all of the shredded cheddar cheese in a large bowl. I used my Venn Kitchen mixing bowl which has become a favorite in my kitchen. Then, stuff the peppers.

Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water into the slow cooker.  Place the peppers into the slow cooker and cover. Cook on low for 6 hours until the peppers are soft and cooked through.

Around 15 minutes prior to serving, the peppers can be topped with additional shredded cheese. I used shredded white cheddar cheese for this recipe.

These peppers are easy to make and cook without supervision in the slow cooker.  This is a very tasty dish that can be adapted in many variations based on the colors of the peppers.  The dish will also freeze well for great leftovers another day.

For more information on Quail Ridge Press, search them at quailridge.com

For more information on Venn Kitchen, follow them on Facebook.


Cookbook review: Food Swings

Jessica Seinfeld has a new cookbook and it does not disappoint.  Her food swings concept is one that most everyone struggles with on a daily basis.  Should I keep to my list of good food choices or is today the day that I can treat myself to something fun and really amazing?

Her new cookbook covers all the options.  One half of the book is devoted totally to the virtues of cooking, with recipes that are dairy free, gluten free and better for you in the overall concept of eating.

Whereas the second half of the book is filled with comfort food and so called vices, for any time of day, including breakfast ideas through dessert options.

Some of the first recipes I am trying are: spinach eggs, breakfast toast, lemon thyme milk braised chicken with spinach, ginger salmon with sesame cucumbers, and roasted spaghetti squash with almonds, cinnamon and sage.

And it will be only a matter of time that I can resist making several choices from the Vice section of the book, including rigatoni alla vodka, salad with crispy prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, and finally the meringue cake with raspberry sauce.

With more than 125 recipes that sound super yummy, I can’t wait to begin to share some of these with you right here on the blog.  I am already giving this book a thumbs up for summer going right into fall with great ideas to share with your family and friends.

Every recipe has a nice color photo and lots of tips to make the easy preparation go smoothly.  Jessica is a home cook and not a chef, so this cookbook is an easy read and fun for everyone.