South of the Border Squash Casserole

My sweet and gracious friend Carolyn at "A Southerner's Notebook"
shares such wonderful recipes, and this is
one of them.  The main ingredient is yellow crookneck squash,
(I think zucchini might also be good in this recipe) and the
good news is no canned soup as many squash casseroles
call for. 

As Carolyn notes many times we think of
squash casseroles in connection with winter holiday dinners,
but I agree with her that this goes fabulously well 
in the summertime. I think it is an exceptional accompaniment
to grilled meats or chicken, etc. 

It makes a wonderful meatless entree as well ~ I served
it with sliced tomatoes from the garden doused
with a light vinaigrette for dinner and it was
very satisfying. 

I halved the recipe and baked it in a 10-inch
pie pan, it worked out perfectly ~ which served
4 very generously.

The recipe calls for canned Ortega chilies which I
am sure would be delicious, however I had some
roasted New Mexico Hatch Chilies on hand in the refrigerator
so I used those.  It made the casserole a bit spicier
(I was a little apprehensive to use them as someone at our
table cannot tolerate very spicy food, but the
casserole was enjoyed by all.)
However if you are cooking for children or people who
don't like a little heat, I would recommend making
the recipe just the way it is written.

This received solid thumbs up at my house,
and I look forward to making it again.

Thank you Carolyn for sharing another delicious

You can click on over to Carolyn's blog for the details.

If you give this one a try I hope you enjoy it as much
as we did.  Thank you for stopping by.



Garden Vegetables and Italian Sausage Spiedini

If you planted a vegetable garden this year you
might find, as the season winds down, that you
are left with odds and ends, maybe not quite
enough of any one thing to make a recipe.

One of the things that we like to do is cube up the
vegetables, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper,
and roast them off until done to our liking.
At this point you can cool, place the veggies in a
bowl, add a little wine vinegar (or your favorite)
and toss with some fresh herbs, additional
raw tomatoes, peppers, etc.

It's delicious as a accompaniment alongside the main course;
excellent with meat, poultry or fish, or tossed with some cooked
pasta; served hot or room temperature.

The other thing I like to do when I have just
a few remnants from the garden, is cut or slice into appropriate
size for grilling, toss with olive oil, salt
and pepper and grill. Most recently I had some
Japanese eggplant, zucchini, Italian peppers, and Bell peppers.
I also had some cherry tomatoes
(which were oven roasted earlier-- I had set some aside
from making another dish) and ripe yellow tomatoes.

I wanted to assemble it all into Spiedini.
You probably know that Spiedini are the Italian
equivalent of Shish Kebabs (a Turkish meal on a stick.)

I sliced some partially boiled* and cooled Italian Sausage
into 1 1/2-inch pieces and skewered them; alternating with
red onion pieces and Italian Peppers, brushed them with
olive oil and set on the grill. You will want to turn them
every few minutes for even grilling.

*Well, not actually "boiled"; I just place the whole sausages in a skillet with about 1 to 1-1/2 inches of cool water, bring to a gentle simmer
over medium to medium high heat. You can pierce the sausage casings
with a toothpick or tip of a sharp knife to allow some of the fat to escape and to prevent the  casing from bursting.
I allow them to just barely simmer for a couple of minutes, turning once. Cook just enough for the sausage to lose the pink, 
as they will finish cooking on the grill. Allow them to cool
a bit before slicing into portions (as they will slice in a neater
fashion when cooled.)

Alongside the skewers on the grill, I placed some Japanese
eggplant  and zucchini-- sliced diagonally (to make a larger
suface area)  about 1/2-inch thick, and brushed with olive oil, 
and sprinkled with salt)  then grilled until tender.

When it comes time to serve you can either serve the
grilled skewers (everything left on the skewer)
accompanied by the eggplant, roasted
cherry tomatoes, and diced fresh tomato and sprinkle 
with fresh herbs if desired.  

This time I served appetizer-size portions on small plates.  
If you have access to really good Italian sausages, and happily I do--
I like to serve this as is ~ because it's really flavorful.  
You can also serve with a squeeze of lemon or drizzle with
your favorite vinaigrette. 

Good for a party or get together as you
can assemble and prepare ahead, then just
grill everything when you're ready.

Other summer squash would work
well in this preparation, just cut to shape/size
that you can skewer securely.

Cubes of chicken, beef, pork, seafood
or prawns are fabulous served this way too.

I do love Fall, however I am sad to see Summer winding down
(but I do not think any of us will miss the forest fires.)

I hope you are having a good week~

~mari  xoxo


Summer is Jam Making Time

I believe homemade is the best!

We had several fruit trees in our backyard while I
was growing up, my grandpa and my dad planted them soon after
Mom and Dad bought our house which was a couple of years
before I was born.

The suburban land there was fertile, located in what was once called
"The Valley of the Hearts Delight" in Santa Clara County, California.

Known then for its prolific fruit orchards and farmland,
it is known as the (original) Silicon Valley today.

The Valley of the Hearts Delight  ~ the name sounds so much
sweeter to my ear than 'Silicon Valley'
(and those days were sweeter, as well.)

My parents also nurtured our vegetable garden,
plus chickens and rabbits in our backyard plot.
But that is another story for another time...

The crops were incredibly abundant from just those few 
backyard trees, and what fruit we didn't eat fresh
my folks either canned or made into into jam.

Apricot, Plum, Peach and Strawberry were my favorites.
My parents canned the jam in 16 ounce jars.

These days I use the  8-ounce capacity jars ~ more
manageable for smaller households.

We enjoyed that delicious jam throughout the year,
on toast, pancakes and waffles from the
good old waffle maker. I think one of my favorite meals
was having 'breakfast for dinner' ~ what a treat,
especially for my sister, brother and me.

When I married and we began our own household, I continued the
tradition nearly each summer since then.

 I can probably count  --on one hand-- the number of 
summers that I have missed making jam for one reason or another 
through the years.  And during those years I was always 
thankful when my family would share what 
they had "put up" with us.

I usually always made traditional jam, but then
sometime in the late 1960's to early 1970's the innovative idea of
making Freezer Jam and Refrigerator Jam became popular. 
Made with less sugar and with a shorter
cooking time it brought jam to a new level ~
fresher tasting and not cloyingly sweet.
I love it!

That was when we lived in the "city".

I still enjoy the freezer/refrigerator jam, but
these days I usually make only a couple of jars of that kind for
just two of us.  

Living out in the country-side
we  occasionally frequently face power-outages at any time
of the year. It's risky to invest all of the jam to the freezer 
or refrigerator; so I find it safer to can most of it in the 
traditional way (hot water bath) so it is shelf stable.

Most recently I made red raspberry jam ~ which
I dearly love for its intense color, flavor and deep, delightful perfume.
 However, some that I cook for cannot tolerate the seeds
so for the past couple of years I began straining the seeds out
~ it takes a little more time, but the results are so worth it.
Pure raspberry goodness.

You can just press the slightly cooked berries through
a medium-fine mesh sieve by pushing through with the back of
a wooden spoon, or use a food mill, then proceed with
your favorite jam recipe.  

I always trust the recipes that come in
the pectin packages. 
You can find pectin in most well stocked grocery stores.
 (Pectin is a natural ingredient to
thicken jams, jellies, made from apples.)


For a good tutorial on traditional jams, low sugar,
lower sugar and no-sugar jams, click here.

Please note: The only thing I disagree with is --
I would advise against is using
a "non-stick" coated pot for cooking the jam.  

Cooking surfaces such as
 stainless steel, porcelain coated cast iron, or 
natural copper are my cooking vessels 
of choice for jams, jellies, preserves, etc.

You probably know, if you have made jam, there
might be a little left over when making a batch. 
Cook's Treat!  

I love to have it on warm toasted
bread (butter is optional for some, but not for me!)
A length of warm, toasted baguette is superb...
(it must be the French in my blood...)

It's soo good and the aroma of jam simmering
on the stove takes me right back to my 
childhood summers. The little bit of left over
from the jam making process has the same effect.


The wild blackberries which grow on the property have been picked and
I'll be making seedless Blackberry Jam next. Photos to follow if I
have a chance.

It's wonderful of you to have stopped by,
please say 'Hi!'

I love to read your comments and enjoy
hearing your thoughts.

xo~ mari


Caprese Salad to go . . .

To me, the flavors and colors of Salad Caprese are the essence of 
summer  ~ Vine ripened tomatoes, fresh Mozzarella
cheese, fresh basil, red wine vinegar, good olive oil
and salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Usually it is neatly arranged either stacked,
or in fanned layers of sliced tomatoes and slices
of Mozzarella, then drizzled with dressing and
showered with chopped basil leaves.

It's a beautiful presentation when served that way, 
but a little fussy to serve on a picnic or on the buffet table.
I've made it served on skewers, but that is
a little time consuming especially if you have
to make many of them.

This version has all of the glorious flavors,
and is easy to serve on the buffet table
plus it travels well.

Just halve the little tomatoes, cut the Mozzarella
into cubes, or buy the little "pearl" size as I did.
Add some minced parsley, the red wine vinegar and
olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

This time I added some capers in brine (drained).
Sliced scallions, chives or slivers of sweet red onion
are also a good addition.

I pluck the smallest basil leaves and add them
just before serving in order to retain their bright
color and flavor.

It's best served at room temperature to
enjoy the full goodness of all the flavors.

Additional ways to enjoy it:
Bobby Flay does a very similar version which
he serves as a rough 'relish' with grilled
Italian sausages on rolls.  I probably would
cut the tomatoes and cheese into smaller pieces in
that case, for easier eating, but I'm sure these
flavors would taste delicious on grilled sausage or chicken.

If you give it a try, I hope you love it.

Thank you for coming by today!

Cheers ~ mari xo 


Vanilla and Cream Cupcakes with Fresh Fruit Toppings

Since July 26th, smoke from the nearby forest fires 
 continues to move in and out of the area, and those in
the know tell us that it will likely be like this
way until the rainy season arrives.

As you might guess, conditions have put a
damper on many summer outdoor activities . . .

On days when the air is in the unhealthy, very unhealthy,
or hazardous range it's just best to remain indoors 
as much as possible.

If we must be out in the smoke on bad air days ~ use of one these are strongly recommended. We've got our supply.
Yes, a pain in the bee-hind to wear, but breathing is difficult without one ~ 
even for people with excellent respiratory health.

Thankfully, recently we've had more good air days
than bad, but it has been so sad to see the destruction
the wildfires have done to the wild and scenic areas.

Soo . . .
to help cheer spirits up a little bit I made these
easy cupcakes.  I used the recipe for Nigella Lawson's
Fairy Cakes. I have posted about them before and 
you can find the printable recipe here or here.

But your favorite recipe or even
a boxed cake mix will produce similar results.
Because when it comes down to it ~ it's really all about 
the whipped cream and fruit toppings.  :o)

This is one of the last ones I piped. I should have whipped the cream a little stiffer
(or added a bit of gelatin) so the cream would retain form.

I just slightly sweetened the whipping cream
and added a little vanilla for flavor, then topped
with some fruits of the season.

Spoon the whipped cream on the cupcakes
or pipe it on. I used the Wilton M1 tip.

You know those talented people who are masterful
with piping tips and decorating?

Well, I'm not one of those... 
I'm still in the 'practicing' stage after all of these years.

But Wilton has good tutorials on line, and here
is the one for this particular tip ~ and if you use a stiffer
frosting, (rather than the whipped cream I used)
the detail will be much sharper:

step 1

Hold tip 1M approximately ½ in. above cupcake top at a 90° angle to cupcake surface. Squeeze out icing to form a star.

step 2

Without releasing pressure, raise tip slightly as you drop a line of icing around the star in a tight, complete rotation.

step 3

After completing the first rotation, move tip toward center and up and around to make a second spiral around the inside edge of the first spiral.

step 4

Release pressure to end spiral at center of cupcake.

Tutorial from

I found the tutorial very helpful ~
(though it's apparent I need a lot more practice.)

Thanks for stopping by for a visit today~

~mari xo


Hot Chicken Meatball Sandwiches with Marinara, Mushrooms and Cheese

Remember those Cheese Stuffed Chicken Meatballs
I posted about earlier this year?

I've made them a couple of times since then,
and most recently I used them to make
these hearty meatball sandwiches. 

I had some of the chicken meatballs in the freezer 
so I just thawed them and warmed them up before
assembling the sandwich.

If you saute the sliced mushrooms, warm the
marinara and meatballs and keep everything warm
while preparing the rolls, the sandwich assembly
takes only minutes.

These require a sturdy rolls, a split and sliced
baguette, or bolillo rolls. I used Telera rolls from the store
(similar to bolillos, but a bit softer.)

It's best if you toast the cut side of the rolls under
the broiler element of the oven until golden
brown. After lightly toasting, I spread cut side of the rolls 
with garlic butter and popped them under the broiler for another
few seconds, then placed the cheese on the roll, and placed 
under the broiler again until the cheese just began to melt.) 
I used provolone cheese, but anything goes ~ your choice.
If you like peppers ~hot or mild, by all means, add some.

I find the sandwiches are easier to manage if you
cut each meatball in half (no rolling off of the bun.)

Just layer the rest of the ingredients any way you
wish and enjoy. I serve them with a sharp knife and
fork for easier eating ~ but if you're brave you
might prefer eating them as you would a traditional
sandwich, and with napkins!

Since it's summer and basil is growing, I tucked
in a few leaves. If you don't care for it, or it's not
in season just omit.

Thank you for coming by today I hope
you're having a great week!

Bon appétit !



Bismarck Pizza (with no knead dough crust)

When you raise chickens, it's a given that you'll
search for ways to use their fresh eggs, and this
is one way that we accomplish that.

There is an authentic Italian pizza that is similar to
this one ~ and a knock off here in the states
that is named The Bismarck (I'm not sure
where that name originated), but I just call it
that pizza with an egg on top. :o)

This time I used the "Artisan Bread in 5-minutes a Day"
olive-oil dough for the crust (it's a no knead crust.)
You can find the recipe here. But you can use any
favorite dough for the crust.

Aside from the egg, the other ingredients that sets this apart from any
other pizza I've made (or have eaten), this one includes
salt and pepper on the pizza dough, topped with homemade
garlic butter ~ those two ingredients really add a nice
flavor punch.


I baked these on a preheated pizza stone on the outdoor gas grill,
but you can also bake them in the oven on your pizza stone.

If someone you know is allergic to eggs, you can just omit ~
but I hope you will try the technique of sprinkling salt and
freshly ground pepper on the crust, and definitely try
the garlic butter method!

For additional details and the printable recipe
you'll find it here on my recipe blog.
Have a wonderful day everyone!


Mystery Ingredient Club ~ Roasted Nori Salmon with Crispy Potatoes and Wasabi Mayonnaise

Using ingredient number two of three, sent to Mystery Ingredient
Club members by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm. 
(Michael is the creator and host of the club.)

To learn more click the image below:


I chose to use the Citrus Salt from Cyprus
in this recipe from Donna Hay's current
magazine edition. 
(The original version uses plain sea salt.)

The recipe is very simple and would make a great
weeknight dinner as it can be on the table in 
less than a half hour.

The sauce is made by blending Wasabi paste with a
good quality whole egg mayonnaise and fresh lemon juice. 

The method is to smash the parboiled potatoes with your
fingers a little to crush them, drizzle with oil and salt,
then roast them on an oiled, shallow rimmed baking sheet
 for 10 minutes in a 475ºF/250ºC oven. After
the 10 minutes, the seaweed wrapped salmon filets
are placed skin side down on the hot baking sheet,
(scooting the potatoes to the edge of the pan)
then continue roasting the potatoes and salmon
together for an additional 8 to 10 minutes.

The filets I used were on the smallish side, so they
barely took 6 minutes to cook. (There is carry-over
cooking after you remove the pan from the oven.) 

You can make the Wasabi Mayonnaise, and par boil the tiny potatoes
 a couple of hours ahead to cut last minute prep time.

I served the salmon with fresh pea sprouts (love those ~ all the
flavor of fresh peas, but with a delicate crunch). No prep
at all, just rinse them well under cold water and arrange
on the plates or platter.

It received a hearty thumbs-up at our table, 
and I would definitely make this again.

I've posted the printable recipe over on my 
recipe blog ~ click here.

Please hop over to Rattlebridge Farm for The
August 2nd edition of Foodie Friday.

Have a wonderful day!


A Sampling of my food . . .


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