Creamy Avocado and Romaine Salad

Endive and Avocado Salad

Have you ever searched for a lost recipe? One you used to love until suddenly it went missing?

I had a pear and blue cheese salad recipe that I adored. It was a little too gourmet to be an everyday recipe, so I used to make it for special occasions. It came from a cooking class I took with the chefs at a long gone, but much celebrated Houston restaurant called Aries. Then when I moved to Chicago, I suddenly couldn’t find the recipe. I looked through all of my files, I called my mother and I searched online but no luck. The recipe was gone and although I could remember parts of it I just couldn’t recreate it.

Southern Living had a story about a woman who had gone on her own recipe search. She had lost her mother’s prized apple pie recipe. Her mother had passed away and somehow the recipe had couldn’t be found. Her recipe search lead her to call old family friends. She even made signs looking for the recipe which she posted all over her hometown. She had hoped that her mother had shared the recipe with someone. Although she never found her mother’s exact recipe, she received so many great responses that she created her own version.

I too found a few good things on my missing recipe search. While I was looking online I found another avocado salad from Aries chef Scott Tycer. This creamy avocado and romaine salad has become a new favorite. My recipe is an adaptation of his salad, but I love his creamy and tangy avocado salad dressing. This salad is great for a simple dinner at home, but the salad dressing flavors are so good that it would make a great veggie dip too.

Creamy Avocado and Romaine Salad- serves 4

Homemade Croutons

  • 2 cups French bread or sourdough bread, cubed into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Creamy Avocado Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 Hass avocado
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked pepper

Avocado and Romaine Salad

  • 1 Hass avocado, sliced into thin bite sized pieces
  • 2 small heads of baby romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 endives or radicchio, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup sliced chives or thin green onions
  • 4 slices of applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

First make the croutons. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the garlic powder, salt and pepper and then add in the bread cubes. Stir them well to make sure they are evenly coated in the seasoned butter and olive oil mixture.

Toast the croutons over medium low heat until they turn golden brown and crispy on both sides. Then set aside to cool.

Next make the salad dressing. In the large bowl of a food processor add in the avocado half, the white wine vinegar, buttermilk, shallots, parsley and garlic.

Blend the ingredients together on high speed until creamy. Then through the top shoot of the food processor slowly drizzle in the oil while blending. Then season the salad dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Finally assemble and toss the salad ingredients together in a large bowl or platter. Mix together the lettuce, endive or radicchio, chives, bacon and croutons. Then before adding the avocados mix in or drizzle on the creamy avocado salad dressing. Then add the avocado pieces so they hold their shape.

This side salad is a real scene stealer. It’s the kind of salad that has you wanting seconds from the first bite. The creamy avocado dressing is a mix between a really good ranch dressing and a tangy Caeser salad. The homemade croutons and bacon make it irresistibly good.

I am happy to report that four years after it went missing, I finally found that missing salad recipe. It was wedged inside another cooking magazine. Truthfully, I am kind of grateful that my original recipe went missing. Because the recipe search lead me to find other dishes, like this delicious creamy avocado and romaine salad.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Homemade Pretzel Recipe

It was a gray cloudy Saturday and my girls were complaining in chorus that they were bored. So I decided that it might be good time to do a little fall baking. I had been cleaning my office a bit this week and I found a recipe for homemade soft pretzels that one of my daughters had brought home from preschool a couple of years ago. So I did a little quick research on pretzel making and then we began creating our own. The end results where so good and fun make that I thought I would share them with you.

Homemade Soft Pretzels- makes 12

  • 1 package of yeast
  • 1½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 cups of flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon rock or coarse salt, for sprinkling on top

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Next, in a glass measuring cup or small bowl dissolve the sugar into the warm water. Stir in the yeast and then let it sit until it blooms, about 5 minutes.

Then mix together the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl. Mix together 3 cups of flour and the salt.  When the yeast is ready for it in and add the melted butter. Blend at a low speed or stir and knead the dough until it comes together. If it is sticky add about 1/4 of a cup of flour at a time until the dough is less sticky and slightly shaggy. I found that I only needed to add an additional 1/4 of a cup of flour.

Cover the bowl with a bowl or plastic wrap and let it rise for 10 minutes.

While the dough is rising make a water bath for the pretzel dough. Pretzels need to be briefly boiled in an alkaline water mixture to give them their signature chewy crust. The baking soda and water mixture controls the pretzels rise and it gives them their signature brown color and texture.

Boiling Water

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/3 cup baking soda

Pour the water in a large sauce pot and mix in the baking soda. Then bring the water to a boil.

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

After the dough has risen for 10 minutes knead and divide it into four equal portions. Take each quarter of the dough and then divide it further into three smaller balls of dough. Take the smaller dough portions and roll them into long rope like pieces. Keep rolling and stretching them until they are about 18 inches long.

My baking assistant helps me roll and twist the pretzels. This recipe was easy to make with kids because the dough doesn’t require a long rise. My girls really enjoyed rolling and shaping the pretzels.

Shape the pretzels by taking the ends and draw them together so the bend of the dough forms a circle. Then twist the ends and flip them over to create a traditional pretzel shape. I found it was easier to use half of the dough at a time and make them in two batches of six. Form all of the pretzel shapes for one batch.

Then using a slotted spatula or spider strainer individually dip each pretzel in the boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds. Hold the pretzel up over the water to make sure that it is dry before placing it on the baking pan. Then sprinkle them with the rock salt.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. So here is a step by step picture guide to shaping your pretzels.

Continue boiling, drying and sprinkling each pretzel with salt. Bake the pretzels for 12 minutes until golden brown.

These homemade soft pretzels are easy and fun to bake. They have a golden crispy crust with a soft and chewy center. Pretzels are a Midwest favorite, however my favorite way to eat them is with a Southern twist. I like to serve my pretzels with a side dip of pimento cheese. So as soon as we made a batch I ran out to store to pick some up. They would also be good as a side with soup or as an appetizer for fall dinner. But, no matter how you serve them homemade pretzels are a delicious treat to share with family and friends.

The Dream House

“A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every home has a story to tell. We live in an orange brick 1960’s colonial revival. Our Relator affectionately called it the “Leave It to Beaver House.” Our house was well loved, but it took time it to really feel like it was ours. A few months after we moved in, I realized that I had severely underestimated how long my painting projects would take with two preschoolers in tow. My house dreams were beginning feel a bit deflated. I was worried that my daughters might never nap enough to allow me to fully unpack and finish.

Then one day, I was pulling out of the carpool line when I heard a small voice from the back seat. “Mom are we going somewhere?” It was my youngest daughter Alyssa who is perpetually hoping that we will go somewhere new. However, before I could answer her question my oldest daughter Gabby chimed in, “We are going somewhere. We are going to the dream house, right mom?”

Her response surprised me. Perhaps my girls have seen a few too many Barbie episodes on Netflix. However, the idea that they consider our house the “dream house” gave me pause for thought. Before that moment, although I liked our house, I had never pulled in my driveway and thought “dream house.” As I reflected on our conversation, I realized that my daughter was right. Great houses come in all shapes and sizes.

I still fondly remember the 1930s home where I grew up and the converted attic bedroom that my sister and I shared. Childhood homes have a way of shaping us like few other places do. Maybe that’s why they are often remembered with such love and nostalgia.

A picture of my childhood home. When I was writing this column I looked our old house up online. It was interesting to see that although much has been remodeled small things like the old 1930’s black and white tile bathroom are still there.

Now in the craziness of 2020, our house has become more than just a home. I find myself cherishing our house more as I watch it take on so many new and unexpected roles. The kitchen doubles as a school room and the basement has become the office, a greenhouse and a gymnasium. The back yard has been transformed into a camping site, a fashion show runway, a waterpark and a sports field.

On any given day there are papers, markers, art projects, pillow forts and Lego creations happening everywhere. One week this summer I even let my daughters turn the dining room into Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The costumes and paper decorations made quite a creative mess, but our dining room looked more magical than ever.

Sometimes I wonder what stories my daughters will tell about this time. Spending so much time at home certainly has its challenging moments. Then in the middle of this stuck-at-home craziness, I remember that moment of carpool line wisdom. What I learned from my little back seat drivers is: sometimes a “dream house” is more of a perspective. Now, more than ever I am grateful for our home and the all dreams it inspires.

In addition to writing this blog I also write as a contributing columnist for The Hinsdalean, who this week was named the number one midsized newspaper in the state of  Illinois. The editor, Pamela Lannom and the staff writers are certainly deserving of this wonderful award. My piece “Dream house” is in the eye of the beholder was for my column this week.

Mini Apple Cinnamon Donuts

Apple Cider Donut Recipe

There is nothing like a warm apple cinnamon donut and the heavenly smell that fills my kitchen. I have been getting ready for fall. Half day school started back for my girls, so I wanted to make something fun for a back to school Saturday family breakfast. These sweet mini apple cake donuts are tender and topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. The mini size makes them easy to make and quick to bake. They are perfect for a weekend breakfast treat. Serve them with a big cup of coffee, if you are a coffee lover like me or a cup of hot chocolate or warm apple cider. These cake donuts are so tender and delicious that I think they would also make a delicious dessert too.

Mini Apple Cinnamon Donuts- makes 18 small donuts

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1¼ cup apple cider (Martinelli’s or another good all juice based cider)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice and salt. Then add in your apple cider, melted butter and egg. Stir until the batter is well combined.

Next prepare the donut pans by spraying them with a flour based baking spray like Baker’s Joy.

Then once your pans are ready pour or spoon the donut batter into a 1 gallon zip top bag. Then snip a small hole in the bottom corner of the bag. The plastic bag will work like a large pastry bag which makes filling the donut pans much easier. Fill the donut tins about three quarters of the way full, which is about two quick turns or circles of batter for each donut.

The key thing with mini donuts is to not overfill the tins. This is why I love using a plastic bag or pastry bag to pipe in my batter. It helps you make the cute little donut shapes every time.

Bake the donuts for 15 minutes. Then while they are baking make your cinnamon sugar topping.

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

  • 5 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a shallow bowl or plate mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Then melt the butter in a bowl or small skillet. Once the donuts have cooled for about five minutes quickly dip one side of the donut in the butter and then the cinnamon sugar.

These mini apple cinnamon donuts were a hit in our house. I got these mini donut pans for my birthday this year and I have had so much fun baking with them. The batter for this recipe doesn’t require a mixer so it’s perfect for little ones who love to help. I think my six year old said it best as she was dancing around the kitchen, “These donuts are so yummy!”  So if you are looking to do a little fall baking then try these mini apple cinnamon donuts.

Grilled Pound Cake with Grand Marnier Strawberries

Berries and Grilled Pound Cake Recipe

Grilling is great for more than just savory meats and vegetables. It also happens to be a fun way to cook dessert. So after sharing a dinner that was all on the grill I though I would add a dessert to the menu: grilled poundcake with Grand Marnier strawberries.

A few years ago my husband and I went to one of Steven Raichlen’s grilling courses where he created a grilled pound cake with a strawberry, lime and jalapeño salsa.  After experimenting with pound cakes, including a homemade version or two, he found that the texture of Sara Lee cake (from the frozen dessert section) stood up best when grilled.

Wanting a slightly sweeter dessert I decided to create my own strawberry shortcake like topping. The warm cake with the creamy ice cream and the orange strawberries is magic. I made this one up on the fly a couple of weeks ago and my husband was wishing I had made more. So here is a simply delicious summer dessert perfect for any dinner on the grill.

Grilled Pound Cake with Grand Marnier Strawberries – Serves 4

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries stemmed and halved
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grand marnier
  • 8 approximately ½ inch slices Sara Lee pound cake (thawed)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream (My midwest favorite is Hudsonville creamy vanilla)

First prepare the macerated strawberries. In a small bowl mix together the strawberries, orange zest, sugar and grand marnier. Let them sit in the fridge. They will create their own delicious sauce.

Next prepare you grill and pound cake. Set your grill up for direct grilling at a medium heat. Brush each side of the pound cake slices with the melted butter. Then grill the cake slices for 1 to 2 minutes a side.

Finally, assemble the strawberries and cake. Place one to two cake slices on a small plate or in a bowl. Then spoon ½ cup of the strawberries on each dish. Top it with a scoop of vanilla cream and spoon a little of the strawberry sauce on top.

This dessert may be simple but the flavors are extraordinarily good. So this holiday weekend leave the grill going for a memorably delicious finish to your meal.

Steak Tacos with Roasted Corn Salsa

Grilled Steak Tacos

Grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook because it brings everyone together. Head outside to grill and company follows. My husband, my girls and even the dog love to be apart of making dinner when grilling is involved.  The sizzle, the smoke and the smells are exciting. It makes dinner an event that everyone gets to experience and be a part of. So I thought I would share a late summer meal where everything is cooked on the grill. These steak tacos with roasted corn salsa are a quick and flavorful dinner that our family loves.

Steak Tacos with Roasted Corn Salsa -Serves 4

  • 1½ to 2 lbs thinly sliced strip steaks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Spice rub (recipe follows)
  • 3 ears of corns
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 green onions
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato or 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 flour or corn tortillas, warmed

Preheat the grill for direct medium high heat.

Steak Spice Rub

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Create the spice rub and season the steaks. Mix ingredients in a small cup or bowl. Rub the steaks with the olive oil. Then generously season the steaks with the spice rub on each side.

Prepare the corn for the grill.  Rub the corn ears with butter and then sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.

Next get the corn and steaks grilling. Place the corn ears on the grill first because they need to cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the ears of corn so they cook evenly and turn a bright yellow. Then add the steaks to the grill. Cook the steak for 3 to 4 minutes a side for medium doneness. Finally, open the grill and cook the green onions with the top open until just charred about 2 minutes. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes.

The other thing I loved about dinner on the grill is no pots and pans are needed so clean up is quick.

Prepare the corn salsa. Cut the corn kernels off the cob and slice the green onions thinly. Next in a medium sized bowl mix together the corn, green onions, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, kosher salt and garlic powder.

Finally, assemble the tacos. Slice the steak across the grain into thin strips. Place the steak in the warm tortillas and top them with the roasted corn salsa. Add a side of black beans and dinner is served.

On a side note: if you happen to have any leftover steak it makes wonderful steak and egg breakfast tacos the next morning.

So fire up the grill and make cooking dinner fun! These steak tacos with roasted corn salsa are filled with the fresh delicious flavors of summer.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Sometimes running out of an ingredient like cocoa powder makes room for the serendipity of something even better like chocolate fudge frosting. This week I was well into baking chocolate cupcakes with my daughters when I discovered that there wasn’t enough cocoa powder left for my traditional chocolate buttercream. The thought of a last minute store run these days comes with so many other worries that I decided to check my baking stash. As luck would have it I found two chocolate bars. I improvised and added the melted the chocolate to my frosting, which created a delicious fudge like flavor. The results of my substitution were so good that it just might be my new go to chocolate frosting.

So I smiled when I read The Wall Street Journal’s Saturday food column by Bee Wilson. She too had been improvising from her pantry trying to avoid an unexpected trip to the store. As she was reflecting on her own off the cuff cooking, she made an interesting observation about how these pandemic inspired substitutions just might change how people cook. Maybe she muses it will cause us to experiment more. Maybe we will all become slightly more adventurous cooks who add more of our own personality to the recipes we make. As I found this week, sometimes an unscripted substitution can inspire some surprisingly delicious results like outrageously good chocolate fudge cupcakes.

 Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes – Makes 16 standard sized cupcakes

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (Since I am talking about substitutions, if you don’t have buttermilk then don’t worry add 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar to the milk and let it sit for a minute or two.)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 TSP salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat to oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your cupcake pans by lining the cups with cupcake papers and lightly spraying the cups with cooking spray.

Then in a saucepan combine the butter, water and canola oil and set over medium heat until the butter is just melted.

Meanwhile in a large bowl of your mixer add together the sugar, cocoa and flour. Then pour the butter mixture into the sugar and flour mixture and beat until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time then whisk in the buttermilk. Next add the baking soda, salt and vanilla all at once and mix until fully incorporated.

Finally fill the cupcake liners about three quarters of the way full. Use a large cookie  dough scoop to make filling the cups easier.

Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes and let them cool before frosting them.

Fudge Frosting

  • 3 oz semisweet dark chocolate (My favorite is Scharffen Berger chocolate)
  • 3oz bittersweet dark chocolate
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, well softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

First break your chocolate in small pieces and place them in medium sized microwave safe bowl. Heat your chocolate for one minute then stir. Then continue heating it at 30 second intervals stirring well in-between until the chocolate is fully melted and shiny. It takes 2 minutes total in my microwave, but microwave strength can vary so keep a close eye on it.

Then in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer beat your butter and salt until creamy about one minute. Add in the vanilla, milk and powdered sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Finally drizzle in the melted chocolate and beat on med high speed taking care to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure that the chocolate is fully incorporated.

The melted chocolate makes this fudge frosting irresistibly good.

Finally using a pastry bag with a large star tip pipe a circle around the outside edge then create a second swirl in the center.

Now the fun part decorating them. Top them off with some chocolate sprinkles or for a festive touch add a mint sprig and a raspberry.

Over the years, I have found that the best kind of kitchen creativity is often inspired by necessity. These chocolate fudge cupcakes are so irresistibly good that they just might eclipse my old standby recipe. The cake is light and moist and the chocolate frosting melts in your mouth.

So have you found yourself cooking a little more off the cuff? I would love to hear how in these uncertain times perhaps cooking has changed for you? Cooking has always been a source of great comfort to me, especially in times of change. Because there is a certain soulfulness in creating and sharing something that is deeply delicious.

Wasabi Beef Rice Bowls

I have been fighting the late summer blahs. We’ve been staying safe and close to home, but as time goes on, I miss the all those small things that added a little spice to the everyday. I know I am not the only one. Maybe you are feeling it too?

I was surprised to read that even people with autobiographic memories, those who can recall what they ate for breakfast on a random Tuesday ten years ago, have found their memories of quarantine life a bit fuzzy. It turns out that our minds thrive with a little variety. So lately our family has been trying to create a little magic of our own.I have been reading the Harry Potter series to my girls. They have been outside on our brooms playing quidditch and turning sticks into magic wands.

I have also been trying to make dinner more of a destination or an adventure. Take out is good, but longing for the days of restaurant dining and travel I have been letting dinner take us places. This week I was inspired by some of my favorite Japanese steak houses. These wasabi beef rice bowls are topped with grilled steak, crisp veggies and a delicious wasabi sauce.

Wasabi Beef Rice Bowls- Serves 4

  • 1 to 1½ pounds of flank steak
  • Flank steak marinade (recipe follows)
  • 3 cups cooked white or brown jasmine rice
  • Sesame dressing (recipe follows below)
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced or julienned into thin matchsticks
  • 3 green onions thinly sliced
  • Wasabi sauce (recipe follows)

1. First prepare the steak and marinade.

Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score the top of the steak diagonally in a crisscross diamond like pattern. This will allow the marinade to fully infuse the steak with flavor.

Flank Steak Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Place the flank steak in a large zip top bag and pour the marinade in. Seal the bag pressing any air out and let the steak marinate in the fridge for at least an hour, but it is especially good if you let it marinate all day or overnight.

2. Preheat the grill and cook the jasmine rice.

Heat your grill to a medium high heat. Then cook the jasmine rice following the package instructions. Place your steak on the grill to cook for 7 to 8 minutes a side for medium grilled steak. I like to cook mine to 140 degrees. Take the steak off the grill and allow it to rest on a plate for 5 to 10 minutes. Then once it has rested, slice the steak thinly on the diagonal.

I cooked two flank steaks so I would have extra for sandwiches too. Just thinly slice the beef and place it on some French bread or a sandwich rolls with some sliced cucumbers, radishes and any left over wasabi sauce and you have one incredible sandwich.

3. Prepare the sesame dressing for the rice and the wasabi sauce.

Sesame Rice Dressing

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Whisk together the rice vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add in the soy sauce and oils. Then mix the sesame dressing into the cooked rice.

Wasabi Sauce

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonaise
  • 2 teaspoons Wasabi Sauce (my favorite brand is Kikkoman)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons reserved steak juices

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, wasabi and soy sauce along with approximately a tablespoon or two of the steak juices from your steak plate.

5. Assemble the rice bowls.

Finally, Place a cup of rice in each bowl and top it with the sliced steak, radishes, green onions and cucumbers. Then add generous dollop of the wasabi sauce.

This wasabi beef rice bowl has layers of textures and tastes that make it a one bowl dinner favorite. So if you too have had a case of the 2020 summer blahs then add a little spice or wasabi to your menu.

Want other Maison McCauley destination dinner ideas?

Then let your dinner take you places with New Orleans Shrimp Rolls, Chicago’s Chicken Vesuvio, Greek Lamb Burgers, or Italian Caprese and Prosciutto Sandwiches.

Homegrown Happiness

“Happiness held is the seed; happiness shared is the flower.”

John Harrigan

I marvel as I hold tiny seeds because they are filled with wonder. Oh, the promise and possibility they hold. This spring, finding myself more home based I was searching for a hopeful project. So, looking forward to my summer garden, I turned my basement office into a mini greenhouse. I tired more varies of plants and I grew more seeds that ever. However, our mini greenhouse winner is the zinnias.

In the past I have tried smaller varieties I found from  the nursery, but the blooms from these larger varieties are spectacular. I can see them out my living room windows. Their tall wavy stems and bright, pink, purple and red blooms give my garden a the happiest pop of color.

Their blooms start small and then explode with color like little fireworks.

I planted two seed mixes from Park Seeds. Parks Picks which had these gorgeous purple and red flowers and a pink mix called Siesta. Both of these varieties are double bloom zinnias so over time the blooms become these beautiful full petaled flowers.

The bold blossoms are fun to watch because they invite the happiest garden visitors: humming birds, bees and butterflies. They all come to delight and share in their dazzling beauty.

I planted three large grouping. However, heavy spring rain washed away a group of seeds that I sewed directly in the ground. So I started most of my seeds in egg cartons filled with potting soil. This made it easier to plant them at a shallow depth and the cartons sides could be cut to allow me to get all the roots when I transferred them to the flower beds. They didn’t look like much at first. The wavy seedlings looked so small, I wondered what would become of them. Then slowly with lots of watering and sun, their steams grew stronger and taller. Buds began to appear and those tiny seeds blossomed into beautiful flowers.

Sometimes the best kind of happiness is homegrown. Often the moments and things that bring me the most joy are like small seeds that have been thoughtfully tended. All this quarantine gardening is good for the soul, because it’s in the tough times that we need to believe in the wonder and possibility of new seeds.

Cooking Up Some Pineapple Party Fun

Pineapple Birthday Cake

She leaves a little bit of sparkle wherever she goes.

Kate Spade

It was six thirty in the morning and my husband woke up singing my now six year old daughter’s song, “Alyssa Sparkles.” It’s a little song that she sings to herself when she is happy. The birthday girl was still in bed, but thoughts about her sweet laughter and joy had us all singing her song.

Having a summer birthday during the middle of a pandemic could put a snag in the birthday party plans, but we aren’t ones to let that stop us from cooking up a little birthday fun. This year the birthday girl dreamed up her own party ideas and what she came up with is better that what I could have planned. She wanted a pineapple party, straight from the pages of one of her favorite book series about Princess Penelope Pineapple.

We ordered some pineapple balloons and party supplies from Party City and Paper Source. Then we decided to make a pineapple cake that the birthday girl could help decorate herself.  We baked a small three layer cake which we decorated with lots of yellow fondant circles. This made it easy for my helpers to decorate the cake.

Then as a topper I made some chocolate pineapple leaves using some candy melts which are easy to find at the craft store. White chocolate can be temperamental and it requires special oil based food coloring so pre-colored candy melts are the way to go. I melted the candy melts in the microwave for about a minute and then I piped some leaves of various sizes on some parchment paper. When the chocolate set I placed them around the center of the cake to create a pineapple top.

One of my all time favorite books on chocolate work for cakes is The Whimsical Bakehouse it’s an older book but it is still available online it has all sorts of ideas for creating colorful cakes that are filled with personality.


We decorated the table with pink paper lanterns that we tied to a set of faux pink cherry branches. Then for dinner we had virgin pina coladas and homemade pineapple and prosciutto pizza.

Here is the birthday girl with the gold glitter pineapple sunglasses that she adored. These sunglasses were so sparkly and fun that the birthday girl wore them for most of the day.

We took time to Zoom with family and have a Pictionary game night.

It’s good to have an older sister who loves to celebrate and help with all those candles.

So sparkle on my six year old because your sunshine, kindness and laughter are what the world needs more of. Your joy and inner light shine so brightly that those around you can’t help but sparkle too.