"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!


Lime Shrimp Kebab: Foodie Friday


shrimp kebabs
Shrimp Kebabs

We sat down to eat this shrimp for dinner one hot night last week, everyone started raving about the marinade. Comments like: "This is right on the money." were circulating around the table. All I could think about was, "What the heck did I put in the marinade?" I excused myself, snuck into the kitchen. Scanning the mess I made preparing the meal, and I figured out what I put into the marinade. I jotted it down quickly and returned to the meal. Fortunately, I had not had any wine yet, or this post would not exist.

by Diane Balch

Prep time: 20 minutes                       Serves: 4-6


2 - 3 pounds of shelled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1 red pepper chopped (large pieces for all)
1 green pepper chopped
2 onions chopped
1 pound of white mushrooms larger the better, remove stems.
2 bags of whole wheat pita bread

1/2 cup of lime juice
1 cup of white wine vinegar
The zest of one lime
1 tablespoon of fresh dill
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves of chopped garlic


1) Clean shrimp

2) Whisk marinade ingredients together in a medium size mixing bowl.

3) Put shrimp and marinade together in a gallon zip lock bag. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

4) While shrimp marinades put each type of vegetable on their own skewers and brush them with extra-virgin olive oil and salt. (I find it is best to grill the same type of food on it's own skewer because the cooking time will be the same.)

5) When your grill is at medium heat grill the vegetables first about 2-3 minutes a side. Grill the shrimp after they cook quickly about 2 minutes on each side. 

6) You can grill the pita bread a little too before serving it with the vegetables and shrimp. 

Home Maid Simple
Simple Living with Diane Balch

Spotlight from Last Week:

From: Ms. enPlace

This dish is summer. Spicy shrimp with Avocado on top of a tostadas...so fresh!

From: Newlyweds

Panko flakes make for a light coating on this straight from the garden chicken dish.

From: Pamela's Heavenly Treats

These lemony cupcakes are little bursts of sunshine.

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Corn Pancakes: French Fridays with Dorie

corn pancakes
Corn Pancake with Smoked Salmon, Miniature Zucchini, Creme Fraiche and Dill

I was really skeptical about this dish... buying a canned grain (a popular myth, but no corn is not a vegetable) was such an anti-foodie experience. I didn't realize what a food snob I've become. My 10 year old explained to me that Dorie probably uses canned corn because it is so moist. I think she is right. The batter came out very creamy. The pancakes cooked up nicely: crisp and light. 

I served them with smoked salmon, thinly sliced miniature zucchini, topped with creme fraiche and dill... WOW, these were delicious. Though after my 4th one my stomach felt like I had swallowed a brick. I realized that these pancakes served this way are probably best as an appetizer. 

My family and I brainstormed ideas for toppings...my daughter really wanted to have them as a dessert. She covered a leftover pancake with strawberries and whipped cream, pretty good. She also thought that they might be nice filled with cinnamon sugar and cream....maybe? but I see them as being more as a savory dish.

I can see ladling a ratatouille with sausage over them or maybe a Southwest dish: some black beans mixed with lime and cilantro and topped with sour cream... 

What are your ideas for toppings I would love to hear them...???


The Versatile Blogger Award


Dear Readers, 

I'd like to thank Debra from  Granny's Down Home Southern Cooking  for bestowing this honor upon me. Please take a little time and check out some of 
the wonderful blogs that have been nominated for this award.

Now to receive this award I must do 7 things:
  1. Thank the Blogger who nominated me.
  2. Include a link to their site.
  3. Include the award image in my post.
  4. Give 7 random facts about myself.
  5. Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.
  6. When nominating, include a link to their site.
  7. Let the other bloggers know they've been nominated.  

Seven Random Facts About Myself:

  1. I am a fairly private person so this is hard.
  2. I like Ugly Dolls.
  3. My favorite book is: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.
  4. I was a clown captain in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  5. I road a camel to the Sphinx.
  6. I love Southern Rock from the 1970 - 80's.
  7. I wish I could speak another language, preferably French (cause I really like their food). 

 I would like to share this award with a group of bloggers who's recipes and or writing about home and happiness have enriched my life. My list of blogs is not in any particular order. 


Flavor Enhancing Cooking Techniques: Healthy Eating



From years of watching very technique oriented cooking shows: Alton Brown, Tyler Florence and Sarah Moulton, along with diligently reading our monthly Cooks Illustrated magazine (They have a show: America’s Test Kitchen) I have really improved my cooking skills.
Let's face it, the difference between a good meal and a great meal is determined by two things: quality ingredients and good preparation. 

So, the more you can learn about cooking techniques the better your cooking will become.
A lot of recipes I see from both blogs and magazines have really good ingredients in them, but the directions for preparation are either non-existent or lacking in precision. The person who wrote the recipe may have intuitively used good technique, but forgot or didn’t even think of, relaying it to you.
So beside the chefs and magazines I recommend above here are some cooking techniques that I have found very helpful for improving the flavor in most recipes.
Salt each part of a dish: as you add an item salt it. Then you can be sure that every ingredient in a dish has benefited from the enhancing and blending ability of salt. Most home cooks do not put enough salt in their cooking. You really do need to put a substantial amount in many dishes... especially stews and soups. Dishes that have ingredients that already contain salt don’t need as much, such as, meals made with soy sauce or any type of cheese. Don’t worry... if you are working with fresh unsalted ingredients you are not going to come close to adding the amount salt that is unhealthy like the vast quantities that are in fast foods or processed foods. 
Layer as you cook. Often, especially in a soup recipe, it will basically say to throw everything into the pot and boil it. If you really want to bring out flavors and experience an initial taste, followed by an interesting after note,... you need to cook in layers. Say for instance, you are making a beef stew. I would first braze the meat and then deglaze the pan. Afterward cook the vegetables in that foundation sauce. Add broth to it, and top the stew off with aromatic fresh herbs added just before serving, so their delicate flavors are not destroyed. For Example: Puree Root Vegetable Soup (Could be topped with some fresh parsley.)

Deglaze the pan. If you brown anything: meat or fish, add a little wine or vinegar to the pan after. Turn up the heat and scrap the bottom of the pan reducing your liquid into an incredibly flavorful sauce...that you can pour right over what you just cooked. For Example: Half Crocked Beef Stew,  Steak Pizzaiola

Look for recipes with glutamate rich foods in them or add these items to a recipe to improve it’s flavor. Foods and seasoning like: mushrooms, tomatoes, anchovy, Worcestershire sauce contain a natural version of MSG in them. These ingredients almost guarantee that the dish will have knock out flavor to it. Check out my post on this topic: The Height of Flavor: Glutamate Cooking For Example: Sicilian Tuna Pasta


Sunday: Spicy Beef Kebabs with Onions, Peppers, and Mushrooms on Pita Bread with Tahini yogurt sauce.

Meatless Monday: Chickpea Patties on brown rice with cucumber radish and dill salad.

Tuesday: Spaghetti with Clam Sauce and baby green salad

Wednesday: Pan Fried Cod with Mustard Caper Sauce, Roasted Potatoes and Swiss Chard

Thursday: Freezer night: Smorgasbord of frozen appetizers that have been in the freezer too long. All served with a side salad. 

Friday: Dinner Out

Saturday: Grilled Chicken with a Paul Newman's Marinade, Corn on the cob with a Red Onion Tomato Salad

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Fried Goat Cheese Beet & Lentil Salad: Foodie Friday

Fried Goat Cheese Beet and Lentil Salad
Fried Goat Cheese Beet and Lentil Salad

I talked this salad up so much in my French Friday's with Dorie cooking group that I hope it lives up to everyone's expectations. But how can it not: fresh greens, smothered in lentils with sweet beets as a contrast to the earthy lentils, topped with crispy goat cheese that melts in your mouth....  Have I sold you yet?
Maybe I should tell you that the last time I served this was the eve of a hurricane in the Adirondacks last summer. The sky was red and the evening calm... it was a really memorable night with friends at our camp that quickly changed when the hurricane decided to pour more rain on to our area than was expected. We had to "bug out" of our island home at dawn in hopes of out running the storm. We were not successful and spent many hours on the road detouring off of flooded highways... but at least we had the memory of our yummy dinner the night before to sustain us through the ordeal. 


by Diane Balch

Prep 1 hour                         Serves: 4 - 6


large container of baby green lettuces

Italian vinaigrette dressing 

1 cup of dried lentils (French de puy lentils are really nice if you can find them)

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1/4 cup of minced red onion

1 tablespoon of brandy or cognac (optional) 

1 pound of fresh beets
extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

1/2 cup of Italian flavored bread crumbs (Aleia's gluten-free Italian Bread Crumbs)

2 eggs

1 large log 6-8 oz of goat cheese


1) One hour before you plan to fry the goat cheese put the whole log in the freezer. This will keep the centers from melting too quickly when you fry them.

2) Preheat oven to 425 degrees at least 10 minutes before you want to roast the beets.

3) Rise lentils and remove black or cracked ones. Put them in a large sauce pan with the onions, stock, brandy and a dash of salt and pepper. With the lid on bring them to a boil and lower them to a medium simmer for up to 30 minutes. Check occasionally to see if they need more stock. Lentils are done when they are tender to the taste. 

4) While the lentils are cooking cut off the stems and roots of the beets. Scrub them under water with a vegetable brush. Cut them in half for a faster cooking time or leave them whole. Coat them with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast them in a large baking dish until you can easily poke a fork through them, approximately 30 minutes. When you remove the beets from the oven let them cool to the touch and then peel off their skin. Chop them into 1 inch cubes and toss them with a vinaigrette of your choice. You can prepare the beets the day before and add them cold to the salad. They will have absorbed the dressing more.

Goat Cheese:
5) Once your lentils and beets are cooked. Spread bread crumbs out in a large plate. Beat the eggs. On medium-high heat put 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. When the oil is hot (a drop of water sizzles in it) Remove the goat cheese from the freezer and slice it into 1 inch pieces. One at a time coat the goat cheese in egg and then cover them with bread crumbs. Fry for approximately 1 minute on each side or until the outside becomes golden brown.  

Assembling Salad:
6) Toss greens with vinaigrette. In each bowl place greens, then lentils, next beets and top with goat cheese. Rustic bread goes nicely with this salad.

vegetarianbeetssaladlentilsgoat cheese  

Home Maid Simple
Simple Living with Diane Balch

Spotlight from Last Week: 

From: Peanut Butter & Peppers

Watermelon and tomatoes: this salad is a good reminder that tomatoes are really fruit. Interesting flavor: a mixture of sweet, bitter and the creaminess of the goat cheese.

From: girlichief

Mexican comfort food: pork, beans, beer all in one dish. How can you go wrong.

From: It's Not about the Recipe...

Cajun comfort food, andouille sausage makes the flavor pop in this spicy dish that is perfectly balanced by creamy grits

From: It's Not about the Recipe

Got any room for dessert... try this simple, yet light and summery lemon poppy cake. 

Instructions for Foodie Friday linky:


1) Copy the Foodie Friday Button's html from this website's sidebar.

2) Paste this html to the html page of the recipe you want to link to Foodie Friday. You can also make a word link or post our button on your sidebar. Please link back.
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4) Click on "your next" on this page.

5) Past your link and type in the name of the recipe, not your name.

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David's Seaweed Sables: French Fridays with Dorie

Seaweed Sables

When I was about 4 my mom frequently dropped me off at her Italian parent's house to have them babysit me for a few hours. 

Every time my mom picked me up she would ask: 

"How was she?" and her parent's would reply,

"Oh, so easy... she slept the whole time." 

My mom would shake her head in wonder. "She doesn't take naps at home... odd." 

One day during the car ride home my mom asked me what I ate at Grandma's. "Hard cookies." So the next time my mom dropped me off she asked her mother, 

"What are these hard cookies Diane is eating." 

"Oh, just biscotti's... but I have her dip them." 

"In milk?" 

"Milk...no, grappa." 

I thought of this story while my family and I were sampling these Sables. Why? Because I sure wish I had some grappa to dip these into. 

The consensus was too dry, too salty, and too much seaweed. I actually dipped them into the Cabernet I was drinking and they did become edible... but not delicious or chic, or really interesting in any of the ways that were described in the recipe.

Let me clarify we are not a seaweed adverse family. My kids love sushi and were eating pieces of the Nori while my daughter was assembling the cookies. 

My husband used to accuse me of making the house smell like low tide because I love to cook up hijiki on cold winter nights. 

We really liked the Sable Breton Cookie that were just butter and salt that had been recommended for the olive oil ice cream and maybe if these cookies had just a sprinkle of seaweed... just a bit to make one wonder... what is that unusual ingredient... they might have been enjoyable?