Cashew lettuce wraps

Lettuce wraps are often a staple menu item,  expanding to a variety of family restaurants recently.  Beginning in Asian only restaurants, the wraps have moved mainstream with great popularity.  Understandably, since most lettuce wrap recipes are very tasty and can be made with only vegetables or with added chicken, beef or fish proteins.

This inspired recipe came from Cooking Light magazine, January-February 2014. I have used this recipe and especially enjoyed making with grilled chicken. Of course, this recipe can be adapted to omit that ingredient if desired. I do recommend purchasing Bibb or Boston lettuce for this one, as the delicious taste of that lettuce only adds to the flavor of the wraps.  Serve these on an appetizer buffet, for a main dish, or with rice on the side.

For this recipe, gather these ingredients:  

2 tablespoons light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon red wine, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1/2 bag shredded coleslaw mix, 1-2 grilled chicken breasts, 1/2 cup sliced green onion, Boston lettuce leaves, and cashews.

In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, red wine, hoisin sauce, and rice vinegar. In a wok, use sesame oil to grill the sliced chicken.  Adapt the amount to the number of wraps desired. Next, add garlic and ginger, cooking about one minute.  Add the coleslaw mix and cook about one more minute.  Add the sauce and mix everything together.  Add onions as the final step.  Cook all the ingredients together to finish about one minute.  Serve with cashews for presentation.  If desired, additional chopped green onions can be added to the top for presentation.

Herb and Bacon Red Potato Salad

Small red potatoes are very easy to work with when preparing summer potato salads. I like to use them because of their quick cook time, and tasty skins.  Almost all of my favorite potato salads leave the skins on the potatoes for that added texture and flavor profile.

The inspiration for this recipe came from a Picnics cookbook, which over the years, I have adapted for my family. This one uses bacon, which is unique for the rest of my potato salad recipe collection. For those guests who like bacon, this is a great recipe and one that could be prepared for summer holiday weekends.

To make the salad,  gather these ingredients:

8-9 small red potatoes, 6 slices of microwave bacon cooked, 1/2 of a medium red onion, 1/2 cup light mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 1 tablespoon dried basil, fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Scrub clean and boil the potatoes for 20 minutes until fork tender.  Drain and cool until warm.  Chop into bite-sized pieces for the salad. Chop the cooked bacon.  Add bacon and onion to the potatoes.  Mix well.


In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, vinegar, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.  Pour dressing on the salad and mix well, while the potatoes still have some warmth to them.  This will give the salad the blended consistency.


Greek pasta salad

Adding to my list of wonderful pasta salad recipes has to be this one for Greek pasta salad.  I love a Greek salad, so substituting pasta for the lettuce seems almost too easy.  This one comes together quickly, because as the pasta is cooking for about 11 minutes, the chopping of the other ingredients can easily be completed.

I like to use 3 cups of either a spiral, penne, or shell pasta for this recipe.  Any other noodle type just doesn’t seem to work as well with the other ingredients.  I add chopped cucumber, sliced grape tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, sliced black olives, and red onion.  I estimate how much of these ingredients are needed for the amount of cooked pasta.  This recipe can be sized up or down for the number of expected dinner guests.

For the dressing, here is the recipe: Mix 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.  Add freshly ground pepper to taste and about 1 teaspoon dried oregano.

I usually cook the pasta, drain and allow to cool.  Run cold water over the pasta only briefly.  When almost totally cool, it is fine to add to the bowl with the other chopped ingredients. Often, I reserve the feta cheese and place on top of the salad for presentation.  Mix the ingredients together, and add the dressing.  Chill until ready to serve to guests.

This is a wonderful picnic salad, Memorial day salad, and perfect for summer entertaining.

appetizer presentation

An easy appetizer menu is one that is handy for summer entertaining.  Here is a quick appetizer that looks perfect and takes five minutes to prepare 20-30 bites.


I use grape tomatoes and Monterey Jack cheese cubes.  I usually purchase in the block, and cut my own to size.  It is nice if the cube size is similar to the tomatoes.  Alternatives would be to use feta or swiss, or even pitted olives.

Super quick and easy and fun for summer!

shopping for spices

On a recent trip to Grand Rapids Michigan, we stopped at one of my favorite places to purchase spices.  I first found this store in Philadelphia over one year ago, and then saw another sister store in West Hartford, Connecticut last year.

At that point, I realized that Penzeys Spices was a family of stores located throughout the country. Located in 28 states, Penzeys is known for an incredible selection of herbs, spices and seasonings, including everything from soup bases to pepper blends.


The Grand Rapids shop is 2 1/2 hours away, so when I travel, I often look to see if one of their stores is nearby during my trip.  In Michigan, we also have a shop in Beverly Hills, which I have not yet visited.

In the past year, I have especially enjoyed their bonne herbs and fine herbs blends. Penzeys offers a nice selection of spices for baking, with cute store displays and recipes within their catalogs.

I have also enjoyed a variety of their other spices, and have ordered through their catalogs by mail.  They often offer free samples and free shipping with mail orders.

Here is their website link:


lemon chicken

I consider lemon a Spring flavor, and I have been cooking with lemon juice and lemon zest the past couple of weeks.  One of the easiest and most delicious chicken recipes has an Asian inspiration, made with lemon.  And, this recipe even has a shortcut, which uses lemon curd for the sauce.

I can’t remember where this recipe originated, probably with Martha Stewart, as I have used her recipes for years, but here is my take on lemon chicken which is better than any found at a restaurant.

I simply grill thin chicken breasts, and at the same time, prepare the sauce.  I use one jar of lemon curd, and dilute with chicken broth until the mixture is no longer thick and congealed. Perhaps I use about 1/2 cup of chicken broth.  I heat the lemon curd on the stove top and gradually add the broth, until an even sauce consistency is reached.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, I allow it to boil for about 4-5 minutes.

When the chicken has finished cooking, I serve with white rice, topped with shredded lettuce and chopped green onions.  The plating is done in this order.   Rice, shredded lettuce, green onion, grilled chicken and then topped with lemon sauce.

This entrée was a perfect choice for Mother’s Day. I served the dish with glazed carrots.


shopping in Holland MI

handmade wooden shoes
handmade wooden shoes



As a gardening and cooking enthusiast, I search to find the best stores for cooks and gardeners.  I love to find unusual gourmet foods from other countries, as well as gardening tools and historic seeds.  On my recent trip to western Michigan, I found some great boutique shops in downtown Holland Michigan.  Michigan is filled with small towns and darling shops.  I love to browse these stores to see products I am not able to buy in my local markets. This was my first trip to western Michigan since we moved back to the State.

Since Holland is well-known for Dutch history and authentic customs, such as wooden shoe dancing, the shopping is very unique.  Some shops have authentic food products from the Netherlands, along with wooden shoes and other Dutch items. The downtown area is beautiful. The stores have been renovated, and the merchandise is amazing.  Some of the shops seem geared to summer Lake visitors with nautical merchandise.   A very large cooking and home store is located downtown, Teermans, which I could have shopped for several hours. A hometown candy store  was totally fantastic.  Other shops included The Seasoned Home filled with spices, loose leaf teas, gourmet foods, kitchen accessories and home decor.


In another part of the city, was the wooden shoe factory with the only blue and white delftware made in the United States.  Here visitors watch how wooden shoes are made on machines imported from the Netherlands.  And, artists paint the delftware while visitors watch.  The store is filled with merchandise not found other places in the United States.  Many of the patterns are garden themed.


This was so much fun.  And, of course Lake Michigan is less than thirty minutes away.