Introducing Clark…My First Ever Guest Editor/Contributor

Hellodie from the great ENC…I want to introduce Clark, the older son of my dear lifelong friend Michѐle. I trust that you will learn more about him as the blog expands and he contributes with a more contemporary (read that as younger!) offering. This Monday heads up gives you time to study his recipes for two French Toasts, grab the ingredients, and bake it all up this coming weekend. Prep it for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner…Home Grown and Orchestrated like a Beautiful Symphony…That’s our Clark! And Now…

In his words: Hey I’m Clark – I’m 23 and live in Washington DC. Food has played an important role throughout my life whether eating out or cooking at home. Now that I have my own kitchen, I’ve been focused on developing new recipes and flavors as I cook to sustain and entertain.

I feel like the potential of French Toast often gets overlooked as an exciting dish because most restaurants don’t offer much variety around it. From my experience, most places that serve French toast don’t do it justice and I think that can be attributed to a few things. For one, assuming it’s a breakfast place, they are probably putting out a high volume of orders. Often times this can result in thinner slices and drier toast, understandably due to the need to conserve portions and put out orders quickly. Another reason might be because better restaurants often only serve French toast as a breakfast item, allowing it to get overlooked as a featured dish. Whatever the case may be, I definitely prefer making it at home because you can control all the flavors and variables that go into the dish.

French toast can be so much better if you just take the time to soak the bread enough to yield a soft fluffy result instead of a chewy dry texture. Here are two recipes that can help you step up your French toast and get creative with the flavors.

Cardamom French Toast (sweet)

Custard dip
Coconut milk – 1-2 cans
2 egg yolks
Mirin (can replace with sugar or honey)
Cardamom – 1-3 tablespoons
Cinnamon – 1 tablespoon
Freshly ground nutmeg
Vanilla extract – a few drops
Coconut extract – a few drops (optional)

Loaf of challah or brioche
Sliced almonds or other crush nuts
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds (optional)
Citrus zest (optional)
Mint (optional)

Step 1:
Combine all the custard ingredients until they are mixed well. Adding the miring or sweetener to the custard will help the toast to caramelize when cooking
Step 2:
Cut bread into 1.5 inch slices (you need thick slices up to 2 in. if you want)
Step 3:
Soak bread in custard; make sure it gets fully coated on both sides and soaks up the liquid
Step 4: (medium to high heat, 5-7)
Add a knob of butter to a nonstick pan and let it get hot – the butter should be bubbling before you put the toast in
Step 5:
Set the toast in the pan and let it sit until the bottom starts to brown and crisp up, then flip and let the same happen to the other side.

Syrup/custard reduction:
Take the remaining custard and put it into a small pot on the stove and bring to a simmer. Add in more mirin (or other sweetener) and let it simmer uncovered so it reduces into a thick paste. Add more nutmeg/cardamom to taste. Once the custard is at the desired consistency, turn off the heat and mix in the nuts.

Plate the toast and top with your syrup reduction, citrus zest, poppy seeds and mint (or whatever else you would like)

Garlic & Onion French Toast (savory)

Savory custard dip
Coconut milk – 1-2 cans
2 egg yolks
Garlic cloves (a couple)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Any other herb/spice mixes (thyme, oregano, etc…)

Loaf of challah or brioche
Herb yogurt sauce

Caramelized Topping
Step 1:
Slice onions and zucchini into thin pieces
Step 2:
Add sliced onions and zucchini to a sauce pan with some oil and salt to taste
Step 3:
On medium heat, cover with a lid and let them cook down, stirring once in a while until they caramelize (add a little butter or deglaze if needed)
Step 4: (Optional)
You can add different flavors to the caramelized onions like curry powder or paprika

Prep steps:
Mince garlic
Combine all the custard ingredients and mix well.
(Optional but better) Heat custard to a brief simmer to bloom the garlic & herbs, then let cool in the fridge until room temp again

Step 1:
Cut bread into 1.5 inch slices (you need thick slices up to 2 in. If you want)
Step 2:
Soak bread in custard; make sure it gets fully coated on both sides and soaks up the liquid
Step 3: (medium to high heat, 5-7)
Add a knob of butter to a nonstick pan and let it get hot – the butter should be bubbling before you put the toast in
Step 4:
Set the toast in the pan and let it sit until the bottom starts to brown and crisp up, then flip and let the same happen to the other side.
Step 5:
Lay down some type of sauce, plate the toast and top with the caramelized onions and zucchini

This dish is great paired with a light salad or mixed greens
You can use cream too; I just prefer coconut milk
In the picture I used leftover beef that I had from lunch but to keep it simple, I just used caramelized onions for the recipe
You can customize most of the herbs, seasonings and flavors that go into this to make it your own

Just hanging out one afternoon in DC…Prior to Covid !!!

Messy Baking at Its Best !

We’re just completing this convenience expansion downstairs on our home; and there have been 8+ of the most dedicated gentleman working on the project for months. So Christmas week I baked, and baked, and baked a bit more to show my appreciation. I don’t know about all of you banana bread bakers in this pandemicized world, but I’m a very merry messy baker. And there are images to prove it! However the cakes and loaves all turned out to be bright stars in a dazed and confused time. So give them a whirl to pep up your New Year’s Weekend, and glide sweetly, filled with lemon and rum into 2021.

Have a Helluva Happy New Year’s Weekend and an Even Livelier Entire Year. Vaccines are popping up all over the place…soon we will be hugging and loving on all of our family members and circle of friends! Grab the Lemon Loaf Recipe HERE. And the Rum Cake Recipe HERE. Run and Go Dance into 2021! I send lots of love to my Circle of Family, Circle of Friends, and Friends of this World Wide Web!

And Boy Oh Man do I have a FIRST, and DELIGHTFUL surprise waiting for you next week! Think…Clark, soccer, Shaker Heights, DC entrepreneur, foodie, delightful young gentleman, and lifelong family friend!

Taking it Easy Tuesday

We’ve all been cooking, shopping, wrapping…and all of this while sadly refraining from being with our family and closest friends. Yep; it’s a drag. So I’m giving you a wee little Tuesday pep up to help manage this unfortunate stress. As good as it gets, just got a bit better; no recipe hunting and easy on the cook! So just order delivery service from your local Trader Joe’s, and call it a day. (If your local Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer delivery service, Amazon will do it for you!)

This is my very favorite Fast and Furious supper. Butternut Squash Ravioli and Vodka Tomato Sauce. Cook according to package directions and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Zero to Sixty in 5.2 Package to mouth in 13 minutes!

Lemon Pasta, Shrimp and Capers

Hello! Hello! It’s Friday (in an hour!) and I’m feeling all shrimpy for the weekend. This little pleaser is bright and satisfying, all in the same bite. It’s a cinch to concoct and you’ll be so happy you did. Have a happy weekend and I’ll see ya next week with some child friendly creations that I’m going to make Saturday with my “Littles”, who just turned five this month. What?!

For Shrimp:
1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 t salt
1/4 t ground black pepper

For Pasta:
1 lb angel hair pasta
1 t kosher salt
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 t fresh black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 Tbs capers, fried

In medium sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium high.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper.
Add to pan in single layer.
Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, until pink. Set aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until tender firm,
around 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water.

Whisk oil, Parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice in large bowl to blend.
Toss pasta with lemon sauce, shrimp, and pasta water (adding 1/4 cup at a time until proper moisture is achieved).
Season with salt, pepper, and basil.
Garnish with capers and more Parmesan.

To Fry Capers:
Drain, rinse, and dry capers.
Heat 1/4 inch vegetable oil in small skillet over medium high.
Add capers and fry 2 minutes until they “pop” and are crisp.
Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Hand Held Blueberry Pies

Sliding in to Thursday on a Sweet Note you Good Folks of the InterWeb! I tried and tried to carve out time to make these yummies with my three golden grandchildren…alas, I was so lazily enjoying their hugs and conversation the last couple of times that we were together that I ended up making them on my own last week. But check out that cute little car that Liam left here 7 1/2 years ago; it still lives in my kitchen window sill. So that’s my garnish and nod to my grands, and the children in all of us who love a hand held pie memory from our youth! Yum.

3 cups blueberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
3 Tbs cornstarch 
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon 
1 t vanilla extract 
3 sheets frozen puff pastry (from two packages, such as Pepperidge Farm), thawed
1 large egg beaten with 2 Tbs water
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

For the filling:
Combine blueberries and granulated sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to boil, reduce heat, and cook, stirring, until sugar is melted, and berries start to burst.
Stir together cornstarch and lemon juice in small bowl until combined.
Add to the blueberry mixture.
Add lemon zest and vanilla and continue to cook until glossy and thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the pastry:
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
To make the pies:
Unfold the thawed pastry and roll out to 10-inch squares.
Cut each square in quarters, making four 5-inch squares from each.
Spoon 1 1/2 Tbs of cooled filling onto one corner of each square.

Brush around the squares with the egg wash.
Fold the pasty over the filling on each to make a triangle, pressing lightly to remove air pockets. Crimp the edges shut with a fork.
Put the pies on the prepared baking sheets.
Brush the tops of pies with egg wash.
Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Transfer to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet.
For the glaze:
Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and 1/3 cup cold water in a bowl until smooth.
Drizzle glaze over pies and let set until dry.

Jazzy Grilled Cheese


Your finished “Grilled to Perfection” product!

Just in time for the weekend…the temp promises to be a bit more comfortable for Fall Ball Y’all! We are all about a jazzy grilled cheese lunch and then heading to the ball park for late afternoon and evening games, under the lights!  Please know that we are super careful; We group together as families, in our own circle of chairs. We are 12 feet apart from the next family. We are not allowed on bleachers. We do not exchange even elbow bumps with other families. But it still brings great joy to be there for the love of the children, grandchildren, and the game!     And now to share a great thought here:

“We believe in friendship,
In community,
And in gathering side by side.
We believe in lively conversation…
The kind where our differences are realized and met with honor.
The kind where we leave having been made better.
We believe that when gathered around the table,
There’s room enough for all of us.
Where strangers become friends.
And friends become family.”
Magnolia Journal, Summer 2020. Joanna and Chip Gaines.

Let’s spread faith not fear. Happy Weekend!

For 4 sandwiches:
8 slices favorite bread
2 cups grated Colby jack cheese
1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
Kernels from 3 ears corn, sautéed or grilled until tender 
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup pimento cheese
2 Tbs soft butter

Mix together Colby jack, tomatoes, onion, corn, salt, and pepper.
Spread on 4 slices bread.
Top with dollop pimento cheese; spread to edges.
Spread butter on all other sides of bread.
Grill or sauté 3 or more minutes per side.

*Try my homemade pimento cheese recipe here!

This is your starting point, just placed on the griddle. I use my George Foreman Rapid Grill for tasks like this all the time. It’s so simple!

Grape and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

I mean seriously, have you ever seen the cooking show Naughty and Delicious? There is a wonderful Brit gal that is as charming as the English countryside…for me, that means the city of London… I’ve been watching her for a while now and hoped to bump in to her on my three day layover in London last year! Alas, that didn’t happen. But to satisfy all of us until I do meet her, here’s a great easy on the cook Bruschetta, reminiscent of her.

Dodge those raindrops outside!Appetizer Grape Goat Cheese Bruschetta
1/2 small sourdough loaf, cut into six 1/2″ slices
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup green seedless grapes, cut in half lengthwise
6 fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup soft goat cheese, room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400°.
Brush both sides of bread slices with oil.
Toast on middle rack 1 minute.
Turn and cook another minute until bread is crispy on both sides.
Rub each slice of hot bread with cut garlic clove as it comes out of the oven.

Add 3 Tbs oil to skillet over medium heat.
Add red grapes and sauté until warm and softened, about 3 minutes.
Add green grapes and toss just to warm. Remove to a bowl.

Add mint leaves to the hot oil and fry until crisp, 15 to 20 seconds.
Remove to paper towel to drain.

Spread goat cheese over one side of each piece of toast.
Top with mound of warm grapes.
Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
Top with a mint leaf.
Zest the lemon generously over each slice.

Frozen Lemon Pie

Friday Post Script, a day later than the Thursday Pie Post…Bull City Little League cancelled the weekend tournament. I must say that with my personal fear of Covid, I was relieved in a sense. the don and I were looking so forward to being with Liam for a few days, and Liam was very disappointed, as he adores baseball. Alas, healthy decisions were made by caring coaches and I say a warm thank you to Ray and all involved! Cheers to you and many future tournament weekends together!

I know…It’s been a second since I’ve been here; precisely it’s been 35,942,400 seconds! Yes, I calculated it (meaning that Google actually did the math)! But who’s counting?! Let’s move onward; summer may technically be over since Labor Day has come and gone. But the hot and muggy summer weather still persists here in good ole Eastern North Carolina. So whip up this light and breezy lemon fruit pie for the weekend. Perfection in a pie shell! I’m heading to see the Grands this afternoon, pie in hand. We’re ready for a weekend of Bull City Little League with Liam, all while being smart, wearing masks, and trying our darnedest to remain healthy.  Doing my best to stay safe y’all…my buddies know I’ve been totally reclusive since February! Let’s continue to take care of each other, and always eat pie when it’s available!
Dessert Lemon Pie III

This is All You need!
6 oz frozen lemon concentrate can, thawed
8 oz container whipped topping, thawed*
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 9” graham cracker pie shell, purchased or homemade

And This is How You Do It!
With electric mixer or blender, beat together lemon concentrate and condensed milk.
Fold in whipped topping.

Spread mixture in pie crust; cover and freeze, 6 hours or overnight.
Take pie out of freezer about 15 minutes before serving time.

Garnish with raspberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, lemon slices, and edible flower petals.
Slice and serve.

*I prefer Cool Whip Lite.
It does not change the consistency or flavor of pie, and saves those calories.

Avocado Toast with Yogurt and Honey

This is the best simple breakfast that you will EVER serve your overnight guests, or just your adult children and grandchildren. I promise!!! The vanilla yogurt makes it just a little sweet for the little ones, and the rest is just yummy right down to that tummy. First thing in the morning…it’s a lot better to wait a few minutes before consuming the slight acid in our favorite coffee. Get revved up with that caffeine after you coat that little tum tum. Happy Day My People!
Brunch Avocado Toast with Avocado and Honey

You’ll be so darn happy!

4 slices multigrain bread, toasted
2 avocados, halved, seeded, peeled, and sliced
1 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 t salt

Arrange avocado slices in single layer on toast.
Spoon yogurt over avocado, spreading slightly.
Sprinkle zest over yogurt.
Drizzle with honey.
Sprinkle with pomegranate arils.
Sprinkle with salt.


Prosecco and Lemon Sorbet Cocktail

The liveliest little cocktail that you will enjoy all summer…I PROMISE! I mean it’s my new “go to” light summer sipper! In this recent heatwave I’ve been enjoying club soda, on the rocks, in a wine glass, with a wedge of lemon..but, hey, this is a wee bit more festive!

Adult Beverage Lemon Prosecco Cocktail

1 bottle Prosecco, chilled
1 cup vodka, chilled
1 pint lemon sorbet
Lemon wedges for garnish

Combine Prosecco and vodka in small pitcher.
Place scoop of lemon sorbet in each of 4 wine glasses.
Pour Prosecco mixture over sorbet.
Top with a lemon wedge.

Adult Beverage Lemon Prosecco Cocktail Sorbet

Author’s Notes: I prefer my lemon wedge squeezed and in the glass, rather than on the glass rim. Also, I use this wonderful sorbet “SorBabes” brand, Jam’n Lemon flavor. It is made with real lemons and lemon zest that pumps up the flavor to unexpected levels of happiness. Enjoy, and…happy almost weekend!