Postcard from the Garden ~ End of July

Welcome Welcome to the Jardin des arcs.
This is my favorite spot for a cup of coffee, tea or fresh juice each morning.
It is very peaceful, yet there is so much bird, bee and colorful activity during the growing season, it is a joy to start the day here.


Little Fried Fresh Peach Pies

Oh, these little darlings are dangerously delicious! I will only make them if I can give most of them away.

The recipe is from a wonderful cookbook "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea" by Martha Hall Foose, the executive chef of the Viking Cooking School.

The filling is simply 2 cups of fresh or frozen peaches, a little brown sugar, ground allspice, cider vinegar, with a bit of cornstarch and lemon juice. The filling is briefly cooked, then cooled while the pastry is blended.
And a lovely, tender pastry dough it is. Baking powder in the dough makes the finished product puff beautifully while shallow-frying in canola oil. After allowing the pies to drain on a cooling rack they are not oily tasting at all. They can then be sprinkled or rolled in cinnamon sugar.

Of course you can just cut the rolled dough with a knife into desired shapes, then crimp to seal the filling, or use a dumpling maker, but I favor this little "Tart Master" as recommended by the late cook book author, Lee Bailey. They make quick work of either savory or sweet little pies/tarts.

I bought mine a few years back from:
"Kitchen Connection, Inc."
8405 45th St., Lyons, IL
United States
Phone: (708) 442-5232.

I haven't checked, but they still may be available. I haven't been able to locate a website for the company, so it would be best to telephone.

Update: A very kind reader let me know that The Pampered Chef, Ltd. also offers a similar mold/press as the one in the photos. Thank you so much for the information!


Shrimp and Cream Cheese Chili Bites

I don't make these very often, but they are fun to serve at summer parties, or casual events like a
Superbowl Party, etc.
I bought the grills online from a couple of years ago for a Mexican-themed summertime party.

The company manufacturer's many different styles of chili grills;I chose these two smaller grills rather than one large one so I could keep the peppers coming, hot off the grill for a crowd.

One small grill makes more than enough for 3 to 4 people,
more if you are serving lots of other appetizers. Handmade, and very sturdy.

The "heat" of each crop of jalapenos can vary widely,from mild to very HOT, so beware.
(I prefer the milder ones, but this particular batch was very hot.)

Ready for the oven, or covered grill.
Usually I make these on the covered outdoor grill, this time I baked them in the oven.
The basic directions: Wash the peppers, cut the stem end from each, scoop out the seeds and ribs with a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon, using a toothpick poke a hole in tip end of each pepper, fill them any way you would like, standing each in the chili grill as you fill them.
Then simply bake or grill for 50 to 60 minutes.
You can find all kinds of suggestions on the Iron Desert site (link above) for serving ideas My favorites are the plain cheese, or the shrimp/prawns with cream cheese.
If you're using a fresh meat, you'll need to poke a hole in the bottom of the pepper with a toothpick to allow juice to drain.
Allow them to cook for 50 to 60 minutes; allow them to cool slightly before passing
(you'll want to give your guests a napkin with each one.)
Shrimp Jalapenos1 shrimp for every pepper you're fixing (20-30 count size)Cream cheese
Shake some Tony Chachere's seasoned salt (or any seasoning you like) on the peeled shrimp and stuff them head first into the jalapenos.
Fill up the gap at the top of the jalapeno with cream cheese. Bacon on the top of this one is mandatory.
Poke a hole in the bottom of the jalapeno with a toothpick so it can drain as it cooks.


Postcard from the Garden ~ July 28th ~ Dragonfly

Chicken Piccata to GO

I devised this method of preparing Chicken Piccata to save time ~ it has all the flavors of the traditional method, but eliminates the horizontal slicing and pounding the boneless breasts. It just requires a little more knife work.

I simply slice each breast into 3 to 4 length-wise sections, then slice each of those rather thinly into bite-size pieces. Season with salt and pepper, toss with all-purpose flour; shaking off excess and the chicken is ready for the pan. Continue with recipe as you normally would, it's usually best to lightly brown the chicken in two batches so it cooks evenly.

A great way to serve this favored dish at a party, too! No need for a dinner knife.

Mar-a-Lago's Fabulous Turkey Burgers

Mar-a-Lago's Turkey Burgers
This is simply the most fabulous turkey burger I have ever tasted, and competes with my favorite luxe Sirloin burger as well.
When I heard Oprah, and a few of my own acquaintances rave about these burgers, I knew I had to make them.
The recipe is from Donald Trump's executive chef Jeff O'Neill, and is available on Oprah's website.
Just a note - other's have commented, and I agree 8 ounces is a HUGE burger. I prefer a 4 to 5 ounce burger.
When I made them I used 20 ounces of "Jenny-o's" ground turkey (7% fat), and approximately quartered the remaining ingredients; I was generous with my measurements as I was working with 20 ounces of meat, not one pound. I formed the amount I used into 4 patties, they were plenty big enough.
While the Pear-Chutney recipe is very good, I feel it is overkill and not necessary at all. I'm going to serve it another time as a condiment for grilled chicken, fish, or shrimp.
I much preferred blending about 1/2 cup of Best Foods (Hellmann's) mayonnaise with about a tablespoon of Mango chutney (straight from the jar); whirring it in the mini food-processor. (Pictured in the small square dish on the plate.) It is a fabulous spread for this sandwich. I served the burgers on my own homemade sandwich buns, however, they would be wonderful in pita, on whole wheat buns, or even by themselves, without bread.
Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burgers Recipe
from chef Jeff O'Neill
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1/8 cup canola oil
4 pounds ground turkey breast
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. black pepper
2 tsp. chipotle Tabasco™
1 lemon, juice and grated zest
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup Major Grey's Chutney, pureed
Sauté the scallions, celery and apples in the canola oil until tender. Let cool.
Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl.
Add sautéed items and the remaining ingredients. Shape into eight 8-ounce burgers.
Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Season the turkey burgers with salt and pepper.
Place on a preheated, lightly oiled grill.
Grill each side for 7 minutes until meat is thoroughly cooked.
Let sit for 5 minutes.
Serve with a side of Mar-a-Lago Pear Chutney (see below) and your favorite toasted bread, pita or hamburger roll. If desired, omit the chutney and serve with other favorite condiments.
Mar-a-Lago Pear Chutney
1 Anjou pear, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups Major Grey's Chutney
1/4 cup dried currants or raisins
Preheat oven to 350°.
Toss the diced pears with the cinnamon and salt.
Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 10 minutes.
Cool and mix with the chutney and currants or raisins.

Chicken Caesar Salad ~ Jaime Oliver's Version

Chicken Caesar Salad ~ Jamie Oliver's Way
Jaime's method seemed terrific.
Rip about a 9 ounces loaf of fresh ciabatta bread into 'thumb' size pieces, placing them into a roasting pan which will snugly hold the chicken. He rubs chicken thighs and legs with chopped fresh rosemary, salt & pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss all together in the pan with the ripped ciabatta pieces to coat everything with the olive oil. Arrange the chicken on top of the ciabatta pieces, and roast in a preheated 400*F oven for about 45 minutes; the chicken will crisp up. Then lay a few strips of pancetta or thin-sliced bacon over the chicken and continue to roast until the bacon is nicely done; about 15 to 20 more minutes. Remove from oven to allow chicken to cool slightly, then pull meat from bones. Make the salad dressing.
Please see my evaluation below.
Jaime's recipe for Caesar Salad Dressing ~
1/4 clove peeled garlic 4 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained 3 ounces freshly grated Parmesan, plus a few shavings to serve 1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche 1 lemon, juiced Extra-virgin olive oil 2 or 3 heads romaine lettuce, outer leaves discarded
Pound the garlic and anchovy fillets in a pestle and mortar until you have a pulp. Scrape into a bowl and whisk in the Parmesan, creme fraiche, lemon juice and 3 times as much extra-virgin olive oil as lemon juice. Season dressing, to taste, with salt and pepper.
To assemble salad, toss lettuces, torn chicken, and bacon pieces in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing and toss well to coat; add croutons and toss again.
Garnish with Parmesan cheese shavings.
My evaluation:
I was disappointed with this recipe. The croutons did not crisp up during the baking time. To remedy this, I removed the chicken when it was done and continued roasting the croutons in an attempt to rescue them from their soggy state. They were not tasty, and were overly greasy because of the fat from the chicken and the bacon. I felt they were inedible, so I cubed up some additional ciabatta bread and lightly toasted them in a small amount of the residual fat.
The dressing was bland ~ I prefer a traditional Caesar dressing with more of a garlic punch.
1/4 of a clove of garlic was not enough, although I did like using only fresh lemon juice as the acid in this recipe. I would make the dressing again; but I would increase the amount of garlic; using a clove and a half, or two cloves.


Postcard from the Garden ~ July


Szechuan-Style String Beans

Chef Chu has been a very popular celebrity chef, cooking school teacher & restaurant owner in Los Altos, CA. for over 20 years.One of my favorite recipes (of many favorites) from Chef Chu, it is found in his cookbook "Chef Chu's Distinctive Cuisine of China". I alter the recipe a little, as I don't "oil-blanch" the beans, I simply stir fry, then steam them, by covering with a lid, until just tender.

This is very good made with Chinese Long Beans, but the String Beans were exceptional in the market today so that's what I used. I'm sure you could substitute the ground pork with ground chicken or ground turkey.

I usually increase the amount of meat, serve it with steamed rice, and increase (double, or triple the seasoning ingredients depending upon the amount of sauce we want.)

Szechuan-style String Beans

6 to 8 servings as part of a traditional multi-course Chinese meal.
Serves 2 or 3 as a main course

1 tablespoon dried shrimp (can find in Asian markets, or on line)
1 pound string beans, trimmed
1 ounce ground pork (I usually use 4 ounces for a main course)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed (I use more, and divide use)
1 teaspoon minced preserved Szechuan mustard green (I love this stuff in this dish, but it's difficult to find--- it's okay to omit.)
1 teaspoon chili paste (from a jar; it's usually labeled Chili-Garlic paste)


As mentioned, I usually double or triple these amounts depending upon how saucy I want the dish.

1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon sugar


Soak shrimp in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes; drain and mince.

Next I brown the meat in a little vegetable oil, when it is nearly done add half of the minced garlic & the minced dried shrimp. Stir until heated through. Drain and remove to a bowl or plate.In the same pan over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil until hot.

Add string beans and stir fry for a minute or four until just barely tender.
Stir in the remaining garlic, tossing & stirring until fragrant.
Cover with pan lid and allow to steam for a moment or two until crisp tender ( a bit under-done).

Add the meat/shrimp mixture to the pan of string beans, stir until combined then add the seasonings; tossing well until all is heated through.

Note: If you like a thicker sauce you can make a slurry with a little chicken broth & corn starch.

After vegetables are nearly done, stir in the additional chicken broth/cornstarch mixture a little at a time to the green beans & meat until the sauce is thickened to your liking.

Before serving taste and adjust seasonings.

If you make it, I hope you like it as much as I do.

Chicken Tsukune (Yakitori) Chicken Meatballs

Chicken Tsukune (Yakitori)

Asian Style Chicken Meatballs

Grilled Chicken Meat Balls (Yakitori)


11 oz skinless chicken (minced)

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons plain (all-purpose) flour

2 teaspoons corn starch

6 tablespoons dried bread crumbs

2 inches fresh ginger root (grated)

Bamboo skewers

For the "tare" yakitori sauce

4 tablespoons sake

5 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon corn starch blended with 1 teaspoon water


Put all the ingredients for the chicken balls (except the ginger) in a food processor and blend well.

Wet your hands and scoop about a tablespoonful of the mixture into your palm. Shape it into a small ball about half the size of a golf ball.
Squeeze the juice from the grated ginger into a small mixing bowl. Discard the pulp.

Add the ginger juice to a small pan of boiling water. Add the chicken balls and boil for about 7 minutes, or until the color of the meat changes and the balls float to the surface.

Scoop out and drain on a plate covered with paper towels.

In a small pan, mix all the ingredients for the yakitori sauce, except for the corn starch solution.

Bring the mixture to boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sauce slightly reduced.
Add the corn starch solution and stir until the sauce is thickened. Transfer to a small bowl.

Thread 3-4 balls on to each bamboo skewer. Grill the skewers with an indoor grill or broiler or on a barbeque (preferred). Brush them with the yakitori sauce and turn the skewers frequently until the balls turn brown. Serve hot and sprinkle with shichimi togarashi (Japanese chile powder with sesame seeds) and some yakitori sauce if you like.

Recipe from Malaysia Rasa website.

My Notes:

Here's what I would do differently ~I think I would prefer these as an appetizer. Perfect for a party as they can be made ahead and grilled as you want them, or made, and even grilled ahead then kept warm in extra sauce.

Seasoning & Shaping: I would add finely minced scallions/spring onions to the chicken mixture, and would form them about half the size I did to make them bite--size as they expand when you poach them. The ones I made turned out bigger than I anticipated.
For the poaching liquid: Instead of bothering with the ginger juice I simply sliced a few "coins" of fresh ginger and added them to half chicken broth and half water. When you are finished poaching the chicken, the strained liquid makes a simple base for an Asian style soup (just add some sliced veggies, greens, and/or diced tofu and cook for a few minutes.)
The sauce: Should be doubled or tripled if you would like extra for dipping. The recipe as written makes JUST enough for brushing, with none left over.

You could also use or make your favorite thick teriyaki sauce recipe instead.
All in all, very good and a nice change from regular Chicken-Yakitori made with breast meat squares as they are more moist and won't tend to dry out if held warm, in sauce, even if made ahead.

Ruth Chris' Style Barbeque Shrimp

Unusual name, because I don't consider these "Barbeque" but they are VERY good.

Having plenty of crusty bread to dip up the sauce is crucial.

As well as fresh lemon slices.

Ruth Chris' style Barbeque Shrimp Recipe

My notes: I halved the following Barbeque Butter recipe, and still only used half of what I made and that amount was PLENTY. Other reviewers had the same response.

Barbeque Butter:

1 pound Butter

2 teaspoons Black Pepper

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon Paprika

1 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon whole dried Rosemary Leaves (measured, then finely chopped) [I used 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped]

2 ounces (1/4 cup) Garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons Water

Additional ingredients for preparing the shrimp:

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Olive Oil

1 pound (16-20 count), cleaned, peeled and deveined shrimp

1/4 cup chopped Green Onions

1/2 cup dry White Wine


Sourdough Bread, for serving

Slice lemons, if desired.


First make the Barbecue Butter:

1. Soften butter at room temperature to 70-80 degrees.

2. Place butter, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, rosemary, garlic, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and water into mixing bowl.

3. Whip on high speed 3 minutes or until thoroughly blended.

4. Refrigerate to 40 degrees. (I skipped this step as I made the butter right before I needed it, with no problem.)

For the Shrimp:

This will use only 1 cup of the butter; reserve extra for another use. (Be warned the recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups!)

1. Pour olive oil in a hot sauté pan.

2. Add shrimp to the sauté pan and cook on one side for 1-2 minutes. (Don't crowd; if necessary, use 2 pans. A 12-inch pan will accommodate 1 pound of shrimp.)

3. Reduce heat to medium, turn shrimp, and add the chopped green onion. Cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Add white wine and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup.

5. Stir in 1 cup cold Barbecue Butter, reduce heat to low and cook and stir frequently until shrimp are just done (white throughout, moist and tender), approximately 1 1/2 minutes.
Take care not to overcook the shrimp.

6. Serve immediately in preheated bowl or bowls along with bread for dipping, and lemon slices.

Proclaimed excellent!

Sesame Tortellini Spoons

Thumbs Up! A wonderfully flavorful amuse-bouche.

I used a mild cheese tortellini as I couldn't find ones with plain chicken or meat filling. Even though Cheese is not usually associated with Asian food, these worked out exceptionally well.
Perfect party food, as they can be assembled ahead and served at room temperature.
I bought the tiniest tortellini I could find, so 2 on a spoon worked out perfectly. If you can only find the larger ones, probably one would be sufficient.

I drizzled one scant teaspoon of dip over each spoon, as it's highly flavored.

Sesame Tortellini Recipe

adapted from Emily Richards

(My own notes are in the brackets)

1 pkg (350 g) fresh meat tortellini

[I recommend mild cheese tortellini. I used the tiniest I could find; dried, sold in the box.]

1/4 cup (50 mL) finely shredded Napa or Savoy cabbage

[I had angel shred packaged cabbage on hand, so that is what I used]

3 tbsp (45 mL) finely diced red pepper

2 tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh coriander

[If you don't care for coriander/cilantro, try very thinly sliced scallions instead]

2 tbsp (25 mL) sesame oil

1 tsp (5 mL) minced fresh ginger

Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup (50 mL) soy sauce

3 tbsp (45 mL) seasoned rice vinegar


1. Boil tortellini in large pot of boiling salted water for about 5 minutes or until they are tender but firm. Drain well and place in large bowl. [You can cook ahead and cool, (refrigerate if made ahead), then combine the remaining ingredients shortly before serving.]

2. Add cabbage, red pepper, coriander, sesame oil and ginger and toss to coat well. Set aside.

3. Dipping Sauce: Whisk together soy sauce and vinegar until combined.

4. Divide 2 tortellini among Asian style soup spoons and drizzle each with some of the sauce. Or alternatively, serve tortellini with toothpicks and dip into sauce to serve.

Serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer



Broiled Salmon with Spinach-Arugula-Walnut Pesto

If you make the pesto ahead, this is a very easy meal to put together in minutes. The fresh taste of the delicious cool green pesto complements the warm salmon exceptionally well.
Broiled Salmon
with Spinach-Arugula-Walnut Pesto
There is no real recipe for this one; simply use your favorite basil pesto recipe, substituting spinach and arugula for the basil. You can use all spinach if you like.
Simply salt & pepper a boneless, skinless salmon filet portion, then brush generously with oil. (I prefer to use olive oil in this recipe).
Place on a rack about 4 to 5 inches from a hot broiler; turn the salmon as soon as it begins to sizzle and become light golden. Continue cooking on the other side, just until done to your liking. Broiling time will depend upon the thickness of the salmon filet.
Caution: Don't overcook or it will be dry and leathery, not tender and moist.

Hand Painted Cookies

I first made this recipe when my (now grown) son was a young boy, I loved to see his eyes light up when he arrived home from school to see them displayed on racks on the kitchen table.

They are fun to create; it's a chance to let your creativity flow, and everyone seems to love them. They are completely edible, here are some I made earlier this spring.

These are just simple sugar cookies, dipped in Royal Icing, allowed to dry then painted with a water-color paint brush and ordinary liquid food colors.

I don't plan, I just paint whatever comes into my mind at the time at the time, usually with a seasonal theme.

Here' is the sugar cookie recipe that I use for these ~ from an old Sunset Magazine:

Favorite Cut-Out Sugar Cookie
Makes about 45 2 1/2-inch cookies
I roll the dough thicker; thus the dough produces fewer cookies


1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1. In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Stir or beat in flour until well blended.

2. Divide dough in half. Flatten each portion into a 1-inch-thick disk. On a lightly floured board, with a floured rolling pin, roll dough, a portion at a time, to 1/8 inch thick.

3. With floured cookie cutters, cut dough into shapes (if dough is too soft to handle, freeze briefly until firm).

4. With a wide spatula or your fingers, transfer cookies to buttered or cooking parchment-lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Gather scraps, pat into a ball, and repeat rolling and cutting.

5. Bake cookies in a 300° (F) oven until golden, about 15 minutes; switch pan positions halfway through baking.

6. With a wide spatula, transfer cookies to racks to cool. If hot cookies start to break, slide a thin spatula under them to release; let stand on sheets to firm up, about 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Recipe from "Sunset" Magazine

* These are best made a bit thicker, not thinner & are easier to grasp to dip in the icing that way.

Honestly, sometimes I like my blotting towel more than my painting! It's like that feeling you get when you dump all the Easter egg coloring dye colors in the sink.

~ Welcome to Once Upon a Plate ~

I hope you'll join me in my culinary adventures. I'm not a formally trained chef, just an avid home cook. My taste in food is eclectic and varied, just like my decorating & gardening style.

I find inspiration for recipes from many different sources; blogs, message boards, cookbooks, and magazines.

Most recently a recipe posted on one of my favorite blogs captured my interest, an easy-to-make rustic cake.

A simple batter, fruit topping and a sprinkle of coarse sugar and coarse salt is the finishing touch before baking off. It was very good, not too sweet and a recipe I would definitely make again; great for dessert, snacking or even breakfast!

I tweaked Heidi Swanson's recipe a bit, as follows:

Salt-Kissed Buttermilk Cake Recipe
About 12 servings
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup of berries (or more), I used a mix of 3 berries (frozen), right from the freezer
3 tablespoons large grain raw sugar, I used Turbinado
Scant 1 teaspoon extra large grain salt (see notes below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F)
Grease and flour (or spray with cooking oil + flour product) one 11-inch tart/quiche pan. (This recipe can also be baked in a 9x13-inch rectangular baking dish - begin watching after it has baked for 18 to 20 minutes.)
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and sugar and salt.
In a smaller bowl whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk, whisk in the melted butter, and the lemon zest.
Add the buttermilk-egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined - don't over mix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spread with a spoon or spatula to the edges. Place the fresh or frozen berries over the top. Sprinkle evenly with the large grain sugar and then the salt.*
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, and cake is golden.
*Salt: If you do not have the extra large grained sea salt just omit it. A good quality, fluffy sea salt can be substituted for the extra-large grain salt, but the amount used should be reduced substantially.

A Sampling of my food . . .


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