31 May 2010

Saugatuck and Soap

One of our family's favorite weekend spots is Saugatuck Michigan. A quick 2.5 hour drive straight west to Lake Michigan puts us in the R & R mood! It's hard not to relax when you are sitting on white, sugar sand beaches facing indigo blue water and 80 degree temperatures! Not to mention, there is no wireless service on the beach, so real life just blurs into blue water and sailboats!

We have always loved the town as well. Cape Cod-ish look on the Kalamazoo River with a bustling marina and very walkable downtown. Lots of live outdoor music, a world-renowned film festival in June, art galleries, shops and restaurants, it's a trendy fun town. The teenagers have a good time as well and we never leave empty handed.

I always buy a bar of Nesti Dante soap from the Tuscan Pot shop. A charming shop, studio and gallery of ceramic artist Rachael Hirt. She creates lovely Italian inspired ceramics and stocks interesting, authentic, imported Italian goods. I stock up on Florentine paper notecards and stationary, leather goods and these Nesti Dante soaps. BIG bars of lather-y, scented goodness that doesn't dry out your skin, give you a rash or leave a soap ring in the tub! The above photo is my favorite scent, but Tuscan Pot has a great selection of scents! Rachael has some new Venetian glass pendants this year and beautiful Italian wrapping papers....I will be back to pick up later this summer! You can see her shop online at www.tuscanpot.com

We also love the neighboring town of Douglas. The Wild Dog Grille is always a winner for food and outdoor seating. I had their Gazpacho and Wild Dog Burger...a burger topped with grape tomato jam (a homemade chunky ketchup) avacado/pesto sauce, french fried onions and gorgonzola all on a medium cooked burger with a grilled bun. Incredible! Outrageously delicious! The best burger I've had in a really long time. Gina's friend, Lewis, concurred. John and Gina got the Tilapia Fish Tacos, Jamie a brick oven pizza. All was wonderful!

In Douglas, I always have to stop at the Steve Rubinkam Gallery and Joys of Life Artful Gifts . He is a very talented impressionist acrylic painter and his work never fails to bring me joy! Joys of Life Artful Gifts always has a little something sweet and interesting to pick up for myself or gifts! Plus the owners are fabulous!

Our favorite place to stay is a little unconventional...room 16 at Captains Quarters Motel on the Blue Star Highway. We LOVE motels! Nothing fancy, but large rooms, lots of pillows, great air conditioners and plenty of hot water! Everything is clean. I enjoy taking my coffee to the backyard in the morning and waking up to the great outdoors. Funky statues, manicured gardens, comfy outdoor seating allows me to read and wake up amongst the little grey squirrels and roses. Not dirt cheap, or for everyone, but we love it! If you go, tell the owner "The cheese people sent us!" (Here's hoping that he likes us too!)

18 May 2010

Chicken...a mistake or two and WOW!

Last evening was chilly and rainy and as 6pm came around, I still had no idea what to make for supper! Jamie suggested a chicken en croute recipe she really likes so I began preparing it, only to find...I pulled out phyllo dough instead of puff pastry and I was out of homemade pesto. It is a bit of a running joke in our house that we have shelves of food and nothing to eat!

I scavenged the fridge a bit and came up with a little something new, yummy, done in 35 minutes and beautiful!

1 whole chicken breast (2 halves)
1 package phyllo dough
4 Tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup mixed mushrooms (shitake, cremini, oyster, portobello)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1 package smoked scamorza cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick

I filleted whole chicken breast and cut each fillet in half for 8 pieces, each about 4X4 and 3/4 of an inch thick.

In a saute pan, I melted the 2 tablespoons of butter and sauted the seasoned mushrooms until tender, adding the minced garlic about the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Lay out the phyllo dough, 3 sheets thick, and brush the top piece with melted butter. Top with chicken, a slice of cheese and about 2-3 Tablespoons of mushrooms. Fold the phyllo dough into a packet and brush all with butter, you want to make sure you don't have any open spots.

Bake 20-25 minutes on 375 degrees until well dough is well browned. Do not over bake, you want a juicy, moist piece of chicken.

I served with a bit of white and wild rice blend and a green salad dressed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

10 May 2010

Tarte au Citron

I have a confession, I ate 2 pieces of Tarte limone, 1 piece of peach/blueberry pie, a piece of pineapple-something pie and a piece of Mukova buchta (a Czech poppy seed pastry) yesterday! It was Mothers Day and all the mothers in my family made something special...I was being polite! It was so fabulous to indulge in so many lovely desserts!

My family tends to be "fruity", fruit pies, cobblers and pastries. John and his family tend to like chocolate, cakes and frosting. It is an excellent marriage of tastes!

I have been dying to use my new tart pan from France. A 9 inch square of fluted beauty with a toasty brown teflon surface and removable bottom. It's heavier than what I've seen available in the US.

I dug through all of my cookbooks and knew I didn't want a "baked" tart, I wanted it "filled". I had a bowl full of lemons that were enticing me with their fragrance...Viola! This is what I came up with. Enjoy!

Lemon Curd: You could always buy it in a jar, but why? This recipe came together like a dream, bright yellow, a touch of creaminess and bursting with lemon goodness!

I put the crust together first and got on with the curd, so the tart cooled as we finished up supper. I garnished each piece with a bit of whipped cream, but it was unnecessary, next time a scattering of green ground pistachios will do it!


1 1/2 cups sifted flour, all purpose
7 Tablespoons butter, chilled
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg beaten and mixed with
2 teaspoons water

In a large bowl, work together the flour and butter until incorporated. Add sugar, mixing with your fingertips and finally the egg and water. It will seem too dry, but you will want to knead it until you have a smooth consistency. Roll out on a floured surface to 10 inch circle or square. I cut my remaining dough off at the edge, or you could leave a 1/4 above the rim if you like. Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes.

This crust is sturdy enough to make individual tartlets too! Simply bake about 8 minutes.


2/3 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons, I would not use the bottled stuff)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup of sugar
3/4 Tablespoon butter

Use a bouble boiler if you have one, or I put a glass or metal bowl on top of a pan of simmering water. Put juice, zest, sugar and egg yolks together and stir continuously about 8-10 minutes until mixture has thickened to the consistency of sour cream. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until completely melted.

At this point I filled my pre-baked tart shell and refrigerated it for about 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. You could also put your curd into covered jars. It will keep 1 week, chilled and covered.

It was a delightful Mother's Day, full of family, love, sunshine and desserts!

05 May 2010

French days I'm remembering...

We are still in "Post Paris Bliss" and now that I'm not sharing a computer with 3 daughters, 6 hours ahead of America, I am able to put memories and photos in order!

If you are thinking of visiting Paris these are a few out of the way spots we really loved! There will be no particular order to these posts. ENJOY!

On our last full day in Paris we met up with a fellow Tecumseh-ite and friend, Mel Dickerson (he traveled France for a MONTH-LUCKY!) at Jardin du Luxembourg. It was a beautiful walk from our apartment thru the 6th Arrondissement passing sights like Sainte Chapelle, Saint-Germain-des-Pres a beautiful fountain at St Michel and of course some major sites too! We loved the outdoor booksellers, corner bistros and and as we got closer to Sorbonne and the gardens, the vitality of students! I especially enjoyed a fountain erected by Catherine de Medici at Jardin du Luxembourg. We decided to eat near the Sorbonne campus and passed the Pantheon without going in. I will have to see Victor Hugo on my next trip! We ate at a lovely bistro with fantastic food!

Mel and I enjoyed Quiche Lorraine, John and Jamie weren't quite as keen on their "meat patty", but the potatoes were yummy! Julia got a vegetarian platter with the most delicious salads that (I am working on replicating) were cold and beautifully presented!

I will finish up the day another time...lots to talk about! Au revoir!