April 2011

Creating a food-producing vegetable garden can be, with a little planning, not only enjoyable but very rewarding.

Here are 7 advantages to creating raised beds for food production in your own backyard:

  • They look better because the area is more orderly and defined
  • Soil conditions and can be better controlled
  • Water, fertilizer and compost can be more accurately applied
  • They drain more efficiently
  • You do not have to step in the garden thereby reducing soil compaction providing for healthier plants as their roots need loose soil and air to flourish
  • Plants can be spaced a little closer together increasing productivity per square foot of garden area (some claim it doubles productivity)
  • Raised beds are easier to weed and maintain – saving your back and your knees

Next I’ll share the considerations and reasons around the planning of our own garden.



My broccoli rice and mushroom casserole is always a hit at dinner.  Whether I am entertaining at home or taking a casserole to a party or event – everyone always asks for this recipe.

•    4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for casserole dish
•    4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
•    1/2 pound baby bella mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
•    1 small or medium onion, chopped
•    ¾ cups diced, fresh celery
•    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
•    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
•    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
•    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
•    1 ½  cups chicken stock
•    4 fresh broccoli crowns, steamed and rough chopped (or 1 packaged frozen broccoli, thawed and drained)
•    4 cups shredded Cheddar-Monterey blend
•    3 cups cooked rice
•    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425° F.  Butter the casserole dish.

Steam the fresh broccoli and set aside.

Make the rice per instructions.  NOTE: I use instant rice but add chicken stock instead of water to give it extra flavor!

In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons butter.  Add the mushrooms, celery and onion and sauté for about 4 minutes.   Sprinkle the flour over this mixture.  Over medium to medium high heat, whisk together until golden in color. Cook until the flour browns. Add garlic, garlic powder, cayenne pepper.

When the flour is cooked, slowly add the chicken stock and stir to remove any lumps.  The mixture will start thickening.

Add the heavy cream and cook until thickened.

In a large mixing bowl, add the rough chopped broccoli and rice.  Mix 3 cups of the cheese to the rice/broccoli.

Pour mushroom sauce into the bowl and mix.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour everything into the buttered dish and top with remaining cheese.

Bake until cheese is melted and golden, about 20 minutes.


This is such an elegant dessert!  The pastry is flakey and wonderful!  Be sure to keep the butter really cold and you’ll get a flakey pastry!

For the crust:

•    1 stick butter, cut into pea size pieces (keep very cold!)
•    1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
•    1/4 cup sugar
•    Pinch salt
•    1 teaspoon lemon zest
•    1 egg yolk
•    2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

•    1 cup sugar
•    1/4 cup apple cider
•    1/2 lemon, juiced
•    1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (if you don’t have vanilla bean, use 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract)
•    1 stick butter, cut into pats
•    6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
•    Mascarpone cheese mixed with 2 tablespoon sugar, for garnish


To make the crust:

In a food processor combine the butter, flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Pulse until it looks like finely grated Parmesan cheese.   Add the egg yolk and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the water. Pulse, pulse, pulse until the mixture comes together. If it seems a bit dry add a little more water and pulse, pulse, pulse. Add the water very slowly – you can’t take away too much water but you can add more!!!

The mixture should come together into a ball. Dump the whole thing out onto a clean lightly floured work surface. Knead the mixture 1 or 2 times only to make it a smooth ball. Using a rolling pin or your fingers roll or press the dough out to an even circle about 11 to 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight, covered with plastic wrap.

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

To make the filling:

While dough is chilling, place the sugar, apple cider, lemon juice, and vanilla bean seeds in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof pan. Stir to combine. Over high heat bring the mixture to a boil brushing down the sides of the pan occasionally .  After 6 to 7 minutes the mixture will eventually begin to turn light brown. Swish the pan around gently to promote even cooking. Cook the mixture for another minute or so until the mixture becomes a much deeper amber color. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, 2 pats at a time. The mixture will bubble up. That is okay, just be VERY CAREFUL not to get any of this on you. When all of the butter has been incorporated, begin to arrange the apples rounded side down in circles. Try to do this neatly and in a pretty way. Remember, the bottom will be the top!

Return the pan to the burner and cook over medium for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Retrieve the chilled pastry from the refrigerator and place it on top of the apples. Tuck the pastry in around the edges of the pan. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and crispy. Let the tart cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Place a serving platter upside down on top of the pastry and carefully flip the platter and the pan over. Let the tart fall gently out of the pan.

Slice tart into individual pieces and garnish with a dollop of sweetened mascarpone.


We’ve been eating these “fancy pancakes” for dessert for decades. My mom made these for every bridge club and garden club party that she hosted. We’ve carried on the tradition and serves these “fancy” pancakes at every celebration. They are so easy and simple and one of the first dishes I learned to cook. I’m sure our future generations will learn to make our “fancy pancakes” and continue to pass it on for future generations!


•    3 eggs
•    Pinch salt
•    ¼ cup sugar
•    ½ tsp. vanilla
•    1 ½ cup milk
•    1 cup flour
•    2 tablespoons melted butter
•    Butter or cooking spray for skillet

•    8 ounces cream cheese softened
•    ½ stick butter softened
•    ¼ cup sugar
•    1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
•    1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

•    1 jar Smucker’s Apricot preserves
•    1/3 cup orange juice
•    1 tablespoon lemon juice
•    1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
•    1 ½  teaspoons orange zest
•    2 tablespoons butter

Slivered almonds


For crepes:
In a blender, mix eggs, salt, sugar, vanilla, milk, flour and melted butter.

Butter or spray a skillet and heat.  Make very thin pancakes by pouring ¼ cup batter and swirl to coat bottom of skillet evenly.  When sides of crepe are set, turn over and brown other side.  Stack on a plate.

For the filling, blend together cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until smooth.

Butter or spray a 9 x 11 casserole dish.  Fill each pancake/crepe with about 2 tablespoons of cream cheese filling.  Roll crepes and place in bottom of casserole dish.

For the sauce, in a saucepan heat Smucker’s Apricot preserves, orange and lemon juice, lemon zest and butter until heated.  Don’t boil!  Pour over crepes in casserole dish.

Top with slivered almonds.

Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes or until bubbly.

(NOTE: If you want to be really fancy with this recipe, you can flambé it with either brandy or Grand Marnier.  Keep the filled crepes in a copper skillet.  Pour the sauce over the top and bake until bubbly.   Then pour ¼ cup of the liquor on top and light!  Take to the table to serve with a dramatic flair!)


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