Basil Gazpacho with Homemade Crunchy Croutons


This is  Helen’s Basil Gazpacho and Crunchy Crouton recipe and it is worth the trouble!  I am not saying you will need to grow your veggies in a garden like Helen’s –  see below – but according to Helen “If you want something good then you have to go to a lot of trouble and that’s just the way it is.”  Helen is an extraordinary cook, gardener, knitter and friend.  Thank you for doing this post with me Helen – now I have one of my favorite Helen creations down on the books.



The reason you want the croutons to get extra crispy is so they stay crispy once they are put in the Gazpacho. This is the best Gazpacho so get ready!  Helen says “god help you if there are any leftover croutons because you will just sit there eating them.” It is SO true.

INGREDIENTS for Crunchy Croutons

1 day old free form loaf or baguette

3 – 6 T each – butter & olive oil,  – adjust amount depending on the size of the loaf.


garlic powder

onion powder

dried parsley


use Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning as an alternative to the individual seasonings


  1. Preheat oven to Bake  300°
  2. Cut bread into 1 inch cubes
  3. Bake for 1 hour
  4. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet on Medium, add toasted bread and toss until well coated in oil and butter
  5. Turn heat to low, add spices and toss
  6. Remove from heat and set aside


INGREDIENTS for Basil Gazpacho

Serves 4 – 6


1 large sweet onion, chopped

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped with juice

2 garlic cloves minced

1 4 oz jar of pimento, drained

3 cup of vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 c white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

4 tablespoons basil, chopped

  1. Skin tomatoes: submerge tomatoes in hot water for 2 minutes, until skin cracks easily.  Cool and peel.
  2. Chop all the veggies and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add other ingredients and spices.
  4. Blend ingredients with a hand blender (or use a food processor) until you reach the right consistency.
  5. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
  6. Garnish with herbs and Crunchy Croutons and serve chilled.



Blueberry-Orange Sour Cream Muffins

Welcome to my latest creation. My daughters are crazy for baked goods so this summer we are trying some new recipes.  The blueberries are so beautiful right now and bursting with flavor.  The topping is crumbly and makes these muffins a bit irresistible.  My first thought this morning was “maybe I should have one for breakfast.” Yumm….


First make the topping and refrigerate until you are ready to use.


Makes topping for 18 – 24 muffins


3/4 cup light brown sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter cubed

1 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Cube butter and allow it to reach room temperature
  2. Combine ingredients in a bowl
  3. Use your fingers or a fork to mix ingredients to form coarse crumbles



Makes 18 – 24 muffins


3 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups sour cream

2 teaspoons orange extract

1 teaspoon vanilla

Zest 1 large orange or 2 small oranges

2 cup fresh blueberries


  1. Heat the oven to  375°. Butter muffin pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the 3 cups of flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, wisk the egg until frothy. Add the sugar and melted butter and beat until pale yellow, 1 minute. Beat in the sour cream, orange extract, vanilla and orange zest until blended.
  4. Add the blueberries  to your dry ingredients and toss. Using a wooden spoon, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Do not over mix – batter should be lumpy.
  5. Fill the muffin cups three-fourths full of batter and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when placed in the center of a mufffin. Remove the muffins from the pan and let cool on a rack.





The taco is a  delicious creation in which the eater is able to design a new masterpiece with each tortilla. Really…building a taco is just good fun. On tap tonight; a meatless taco, made with Morningstar Crumbles, topped with all the good stuff.  Super easy to throw together and you can use any filling that sounds tasty – try grilled shrimp, ground beef, or tofu.



makes 8 tacos


1 bag of Morningstar Crumbles

1 avocado diced

1 tomato diced

1/2 cup red onion diced

10 sprigs of cilantro

1/2 cup  cheddar cheese shredded

1/2 cup sour cream

1 lime cut into wedges

flour or corn tortillas

hot sauce


Prepare your toppings

Cook your filling

Heat tortillas  – I use tongs and heat mine over the flame of my stove top

Build a taco and enjoy!


Pan Roasted Chicken and Sweet Cherry Salad with Dijon Dressing

You’d never know I was such a grumpy lady while preparing this dinner. Yesterday was just kind of crazy. I feel like I had a fussy baby clinging to my leg and frizzed out hair and one shoe off around 5:30 yesterday. I guess that isn’t really true…well, except the fussy baby part. We are adjusting to the changes of being in a new place, as we must.

The tired child soon fell fast asleep, and the hubby and I sat down to this very tasty, very peaceful dinner afterwards. I feel much better.

I’m going to call this meal quite budget-friendly. I bought a large pack of chicken thighs and pan-roasted them all, saving some for another meal this week. Lettuce, radishes, and chives are not expensive. The cherries are our week’s very special treat. As long as I control myself with munching from the bowl, I will have some left for another cherry treat, but they totally make this salad. If you’re stuck in a dried fruit rut with your salads, using fresh cherries as this recipe does, is a vibrant change.

IMG_9574 IMG_9577



Pan Roasted Chicken and Sweet Cherry Salad with Dijon Dressing

adapted from Bon Appétit


4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (I couldn’t find them with either skin or bones, but they were fine)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1/4 C Fresh Lemon Juice

3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

3 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Dill (I used dried b/c it’s what I had, again, loved it anyway)

2 Tablespoons Honey

1 Clove Garlic, minced

1/4 C Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, plus one Tablespoon (divided)

2 Tablespoons Butter

4 Thick Slices Sourdough Bread, torn into 3/4″ pieces

1 Pound Fresh Cherries, stemmed, pitted, and lightly crushed

1 Large Head Leaf Lettuce

4 Radishes, thinly sliced

1 Tablespoon Chopped Chives


Pan Roast Chicken Thighs-

Preheat oven to 475°. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy skillet med-high heat, until just before it smokes (It shimmers). Place chicken in with skin side down until skin is golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to oven to cook for 13-15 minutes more. Flip chicken and cook another 5 minutes until skin crisps and meat is cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes.

Using two forks, pull chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside*.

*If using my money and time-saving method, cook 7-8 chicken thighs the same way, pull apart all chicken. Reserve 2 Cups cooked chicken for the salad and store the remainder for a broccoli chicken and rice casserole later in the week.

Prepare the Dressing-

In a small bowl, whisk together the Lemon Juice, Dijon Mustard, Dill, Honey, Garlic. Gradually drizzle in Olive Oil while whisking to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

*I recommend doubling this recipe and keeping this dressing on hand in a jar. It is outstanding!

Croutons + Assembling Salad-

In the same skillet used for the chicken thighs (yes, use the fat!) Melt the Butter and 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil. When bubbling, place torn sourdough bread pieces in and cook, stirring frequently, for two minutes or until golden. Remove from skillet and drain onto paper towel. Season lightly with salt and pepper while hot.

Place pulled chicken in a large salad bowl. Add cherries, lettuce, radishes, and chives, and drizzle with the dijon dressing. Toss to coat. Divide among plates and garnish with croutons.

Relax +Enjoy!

Quiche Muffins

with oranges2
Want to make your family smile with a gourmet breakfast that couldn’t be easier? Try these yummy savory muffins. I used to eat these for breakfast a few times a week when I worked across the street from the Millstone Bakery, a nook reeking of roasted coffee, sweet breads and other gourmet manifestations .  I loved this place and was sad the day Millstone closed.  However, they printed and shared their recipies with all of their faithful customers who came in for some irresistable goods on the last day of business.  How thoughtful – thank you Millstone!  I have changed the recipie a bit and remember – this is a quiche so you can add other veggies, cheeses, or herbs.


makes 2 dozen


3 cups of half and half

6 eggs

1/2 minced onion or shallots

1 cup (drained) chopped spinach

8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350.  Wisk first 5 ingredients. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt.  Pour into greased muffin pans (almost to the top). Bake 25 minutes until light browning on top. Wait 5 minutes before removing from muffin pans.

First 5 ingredients

first five ingredients

Plated with Fruit Salad and Avocado


Arriving at our New Home: Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad

Leek and Cannellini Salad1
Whew. That was the longest road trip of my life- and I don’t mean in distance. Traveling with MSU’s Littlest Bobcat was way different from when it was just the two of us driving across the country! We made it, and the tot did amazingly well. For the past two days, we have been stretching our legs and exploring this gorgeous gem of a city, so I thought I would share one of my first restaurant finds and one of our first meals in the apartment…


Yesterday, after shopping for necessities, having arrived late on Friday night, we found this sweet little joint for a late-morning meal:


This laid back, order-at-the-counter restaurant seems like a chain, but after visiting their website, there is only this one, as far as I can tell. Clark’s Fork is an allusion to Lewis and Clark’s explorations and is geared toward fresher, healthier food, fast, as well as being very eco-minded. They serve breakfast all day, make sandwiches from fresh-baked bread, and also have a drool-worthy case of baked goods to accompany a coffee.

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The price was right. I love eating cheap when you know you’re still getting something good. Soaking in the view from our table of the snow-capped mountains and green hills surrounding town, I felt sure this spot would be visited frequently during our time out west and missed when we make our return east.

I loved these posters they had on the walls; each with a different quote from Clark’s expedition journals, I assume. This one just seemed so perfect…


…which leads me to our first homemade meal in Bozeman…


Leek and Cannellini Salad2

After five days in a stuffed car and an unexpected delay in Wyoming with car trouble, our systems felt a little…ummm…rough. The first request was that I make something light. Second, something cleansing. I decided on using leeks since they are a mild diuretic. I had been able to catch glimpses of the Food Network while chasing the toddler around a car dealership for 3 hours, and I saw Claire Robinson, of 5-Ingredient-Fix, making a Cannellini Bean salad that looked yummy. I didn’t really hear much of the show, but it’s amazing what you can catch just from glimpses every now and then. I saw her flame-char her red pepper, and this really did add such flavor that I will probably do this much more, for any recipe. The majority of the ingredients are really just what I felt like throwing in. This is a great summery dish to serve with broiled tilapia and sourdough bread…

Leek and Cannellini Salad6

Leek and Cannellini Salad5


Leek and Cannellini Salad5


Inspired by Claire Robinson 


1 Can Cannellini Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
1 Leek, coarsely chopped (use only white and light green parts)
1 Medium Cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 Large Red Bell Pepper
1/2 Cup Coarsely Chopped Parsley
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1-2 Cloves Garlic, minced
Juice of 1 Large Lemon
1/4 teaspoon Herbs de Provence or Italian Seasoning
Salt and Pepper


Heat olive oil in a skillet and add minced garlic. Simmer for 3-4 minutes to infuse flavor.

Char red pepper either in gas flame or under broiler. Peel and dice red pepper.

In a medium bowl, combine beans, leek, cucumber, bell pepper, and parsley.

In a small bowl, whisk together Olive oil (w/garlic), seasonings, and lemon juice. Pour over bean mixture. Stir gently to incorporate.

Chill before serving.

Summer Raspberry Cream Cake

         Summer Raspberry Cream Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing – Yes please!

Cake and plate

When my friend invited me to watch her put together her summer time cake and take the recipe with me for my blog I was really excited.  Heather is a stay at home mama with three in her brood. She also has a wonderful story of childhood that helps one understand why Heather cares so much about preparing natural, wholesome, and delicious foods, from scratch.  Heather was raised in Papua New Guinea, in a tribal village. Her parents were missionaries and she was there between the ages of 2 and 11. Heather watched closely as her Mom grew and prepared everything by hand. She learned skills as well as a philosophy on preparing food that she carries with her today. She cares very much about the origin of the products she buys and makes efforts to use local and natural ingredients. Heather makes foods like yogurt, jams, and breads. She has a vegetable garden, she enjoys knitting beautiful accessories for her little girls, and she loves to bake. She invited me over to watch her put together this summer time cake; as well as enjoy a piece with a lovely cup of Earl Grey Tea. I highly recommend trying this combination – it is so delicious. Thanks for sharing this, Heather.

Just a couple of things about the recipe I should mention is that in developing these recipes, Heather was trying to achieve a creamier frosting with less powdered sugar – as many recipes call for – so after years of altering her favorite recipes Heather has reduced the butter and created a lighter meringue to incorporate into the icing and therefore was also able to reduce the amount of sugar. She also chose recipes based on the number of egg yolk vs. egg whites for the frosting so there would be no waste.  So together, these recipes for cake, filling and icing will produce a creamy, light and fluffy, perfectly sweetened cake. Some things you will need: electric mixer, two  9 inch cake pans, long bread knife, food thermometer, and a cooling rack.


3 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

 2 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter room temp

1 1/2 cup sugar

4 lg egg yolks + 1 egg – separate and reserve 4 whites for the icing

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1.  Heat oven to 350°, place to racks in the center of oven. grease two 9 inch cake pans with butter. Dust with flour. Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

2. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, gradually add sugar. Keep beating until light and fluffy – 3 minutes. Drizzle in egg yolks,beating on med – low until fluffy.

3. Alternate adding flour mixture and sour cream to butter mixture, ending with flour mix. Beat in vanilla, divide between pans. Bake 30 – 40 minutes – until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 min then remove from pan, cool on wire racks.  Score the cakes before slicing – this will help you slice it through the center. Please click here to see Heather’s demonstration. Split layers horizontally using a bread knife. Set aside the prettiest dome for the top. Assemble. Refrigerate if necessary (due to the whip cream filling it is best to keep this cake in a cool place).


  12 – 14 oz of raspberry jam

1 1/2 cup whipping cream – will yield about 4 cups

1 1/2 tablespoon of powdered sugar


1. Whip cream, adding the powdered sugar during the whipping process.

2. This filling will be divided among the three layers.  Spread the jam over the top of your bottom layer, then spread your whip cream over the jam, leaving a 1 inch border. Place the next layer of cake and gently press from the center of the cake to help distribute the cream.  However, do not over do it, the weight of the cake will spread the cream to the edge of the layer as the cake settles.


4 lg egg whites

2 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup sugar

2 sticks butter unsalted


1. Combine egg whites, water, cream of tartar and sugar in a bowl. Set bowl in skillet with simmering water. Beat on low until whites reach 140°. Beat on high until 160°. 2-4 min. Remove bowl from heat add 1 tsp vanilla. Beat on high 3 – 5 min to cool and until meringue holds glossy stiff peaks.

2. In a separate bowl beat unsalted butter to cream. Fold large dollop of meringue into batter.  Continue to fold in meringue in stages.

On plate