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Fruit, Snack

Goals and Granola

Breakfast for a new year – Goals and Granola!

On the first of January I found myself making broad resolutions for 2016. You know – write more blogs each week, clean out my kitchen cabinets, learn how to use Adobe Lightroom, read several news outlets daily…

My husband reminds me that, to work, goals need to be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.


I really dislike this process and its catchy little acronyms, but he is right. I’m getting out my kitchen timer (see Favorite Kitchen Tool #4 blog) and setting it for 30 minutes to get going on my SMART goals. What are your goals for 2016?

Let’s start at the very beginning. Ok, no more Sound of Music specials.

The fun goal: discussing food! I am done with refined sugar for a while. No more Christmas cake for breakfast. No more cookies and chocolate bourbon balls on the kitchen table.

I love breakfast. That first cup of tea or coffee needs to be hot, not warm, along with something that is flavorful and nurturing. It has to be easy and quick, with minimal clean up. Usually I like a great deal of variety in what I eat, except for weekday breakfasts. I go back and forth between a poached egg on toast, and yogurt with granola that has fruit and occasionally oatmeal, when I remember to start it the night before.

My favorite breakfast or afternoon treat right now is yogurt with granola and berries. I have two favorite granolas: Out of the Blue and Purely Elizabeth. Both have no refined sugar and a fresh balance of whole grains and natural sweeteners.

My favorite Purely Elizabeth granola is the pumpkin, fig, quinoa, amaranth and chia flavor. Pumpkin and fig add a fresh sweetness and depth of flavor that speaks of autumn richness. This is what I grab when I want something sweet in the afternoon.

Out of the Blue is a granola with a cause. The granola is handmade by the women at the Blue Monarch non-profit program in the Tennessee Valley. Sales of the granola supports a successful program that helps women to recover and lead useful lives who have been abused, have addictions or have been in jail. The program has a success rate impressively near 100% for women who complete the program. In each bag of granola you’ll find the story of one of the women who baked it. My favorite, Honey and Oats, is packed with flavor and can be ordered online or found at Whole Foods in Nashville or Chattanooga.

A friend of mine introduced me to this particular combination:

Goals and Granola

serves 1


1/3c           granola – try Out of the Blue or Simply Elizabeth

4oz             yogurt – my current favorite is Siggi’s ginger and orange

1/4 c          raspberries and blueberries


I often drizzle honey on top…Enjoy!



Bread, Desserts, Fruit, Great Gift Ideas, Snack, Treats

Melissa’s Banana Bread – the best!

LR final-3139-2

Melissa’s Banana Bread – the best banana bread!

I love banana bread. I’ve tried all sorts of recipes and have concluded that finding a great banana bread is hard to do. Sometimes they are too sweet and often they don’t pack a bold banana flavor. I lost my favorite banana bread recipe years ago and I’ve been looking for another one ever since.

Melissa’s Banana Bread is the best I’ve ever eaten.   Sometimes the memory of a really great meal is not just the flavor of the food but is colored by where you were and the people you were with. You’ve had that experience of trying a recipe for the second time because it was so good the first time (and the meal or party was really fun) and it just didn’t taste the same, haven’t you?

The first time I had Melissa’s Banana Bread was aboard the 28’ Beneteau, Booty-Ful, in the Harvest Moon Regatta. This annual race is from Galveston to Port Aransas and takes about 24 hours to complete. We hit the start line perfectly at 2pm. Tom, the captain, put Booty-Ful on a broad reach about a mile off the Texas coast. Just after dark the wind picked up unexpectedly so we sailed into the evening with eight foot waves crashing over the boat. Booty-Ful held her course but with the tossing and crashing of the waves, no one wanted the dinner I had prepared. Instead, we dined on Melissa’s Banana Bread because it was a perfect balance of sweet banana while being easy on the stomach. See the Harvest Moon Regatta – the Voyage of the Booty-Ful for more.

I asked for the recipe, made it, and found that it was as good as I remembered, even without the saltwater and the excitement. I tried making the recipe three ways: according to Melissa’s recipe, adding a few tablespoons of banana liquor and with fried plantains. The recipe really did not need the extras. Melissa’s Banana Bread is perfect just as is.

Tip: Grill or toast it for breakfast.

Melissa’s Banana Bread – the Best Banana Bread Ever


2 ½ c    all purpose flour

1 tsp      salt – I use Morton’s Kosher salt

2 tsp     baking powder

1 c         coconut oil

1¾ c     sugar

2 c         bananas, very ripe, mashed – about 6

4            eggs, slightly beaten

1 c       chopped pecans, coarsely chopped


2 medium loaf pans, measuring cups, measuring spoons, one small bowl, two medium bowls, a fork, a wooden spoon, and a toothpick or skewer.


Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour two medium loaf pans.

Mash the bananas with your fork in the small bowl. Beat the eggs together in a medium bowl just until the white and yolks are blended. Stir in the coconut oil, sugar, mashed bananas and pecans. Mix all the remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until the batter is just blended.

banana bread ingredients 20115-_MG_3131.CR2

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for

55-60 minutes. Insert the skewer into the loaf. If the skewer comes out clean, your banana bread is done.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then turn the bread out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Desserts, Fruit

Lemon Curd

lemon curd blackberries 20151030-_MG_3101.CR2_

Lemon curd is so simple and delicious that I make it all the time. There is something about the balance of tart with sweet that perks up your taste buds. And I’ve just finished making limoncello so I have lemons on my mind.

You can use lemon curd over fruit or put fruit over lemon curd depending on which you prefer. Lemon curd is my secret for making a lemon meringue pie quickly. You can spoon lemon curd over ice cream, dip gingersnaps into it … the list goes on and on.

If you want something a little different, use limes or Meyer lemons. Lime curd with blueberries is wonderful.

Lemon Curd

10 minutes, makes 1 cup


2 large lemons, zested and juiced

4T  butter

1/2c sugar

2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, well beaten


1 medium size saucepan, a measuring cup, a wooden spoon, a bowl


Melt the butter over low heat . Add the sugar, lemon juice and zest. Slowly add the egg mixture, stirring gently so the egg does not scramble. Continue to heat and stir gently until the curd covers the back of the spoon. Take the saucepan off the heat, pour the lemon curd into a bowl and leave to cool and thicken.


lemon curd ingred 20151023-_MG_2930.CR2_

After cooling, place a piece of wax paper on the surface of the curd and store it in the refrigerator.

If you have a little scrambled egg in your curd from heating it too quickly, just strain the curd through a sieve.

Drinks, Fruit, Travel

Limoncello, Salute!



Making Limoncello every fall is a tradition in our house. It’s a unique gift and I love to use it as a special treat throughout the year.

It all began when I went to Italy years ago with two friends and my mother. We spent several days in Rome then drove to Umbria and stayed just outside of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis and the Franciscan order. Assisi is on the western flank of the mountain of Monte Subasio. We spent a rainy but beautiful week driving the curving back roads as far north as Florence and all around Umbria.

The first afternoon we drove up Monte Subasio until the snow made us turn around. On the way down we found a tiny restaurant jutting out over the edge of the mountain. We were generously given a table in the middle of the small dining room and were kindly greeted by the other diners with help ordering and with stories of life on the mountain. I had my first pasta with black truffles there, which I remember to this day. Capping off this lovely, hilarious evening we toasted our good fortune with a small glass of limoncello. The proprietor even gave Lisa the small glasses as a gift.

We found ourselves placed at the middle table in quite a few small restaurants. This pattern of meeting lovely people, pantomiming our way through a delightful meal and finishing the evening with limoncello, was set for the rest of our trip.

Limoncello is made in three steps:  1. The lemon zest is soaked in vodka for 30-40 days. 2. Then more vodka and a simple syrup is added to the soaked lemon zest. 3. Finally, the limoncello is decanted and stored in the freezer until used.


This takes less than 30 minutes of active time.


18 lemons, zested. Be careful not to get any of the white pith in with the zest because it is bitter.

1 Bottle (750ml) 100 proof vodka

1 Bottle (750ml ) 80 proof vodka

3c sugar (used in step 2)

3c water (used in step 2)


A 1 gallon glass jar, a zester,  and a strainer (used in step 3)


Step 1: Put the lemon zest in the gallon jar and fill it with half of each bottle of vodka. Put the jar in a dark corner and leave it to steep. I usually leave mine for 30 to 40 days. You can leave it for at little as 2 weeks but it just gets better and better as it matures.


Most recipes use 100 proof vodka only because limoncello is stored in your freezer and you do not want it to freeze.

The first year I made limoncello I used a bottle of Grey Goose vodka. Well – I’m just spoiled after that. I’ve since tried a variety of less expensive vodkas. One year I bought a much lower priced vodka and ran the vodka thru a filter 8 times but even with all that filtering the limoncello came out with a slightly bitter edge.

untitledI find the 80 proof smoother so I mix them. The 100-proof vodka is basically acting as an anti-freeze – but what an anti-freeze!

The vodkas I am trying this year are Polar Ice and Burnett’s Vodka.

Steps 2 and 3 will be on the blog site on the first of December!


Bread, Drinks, Fish, Fruit, Pork, Travel

Sailing from Grenada to St. Vincent

6-May-08_101652-547x364The idea for this blog began with cooking on a sailboat.  My last trip was in May 2015. Here are some highlights of that trip.

Several girlfriends and I chartered a 42-foot sailboat out of True Blue Bay in Grenada and sailed up through the Grenadines to St. Vincent and back. It was a windy, sun drenched, wild ride among verdant islands.

We left our spouses at home, wanting to test our knowledge and skills as sailors. We laughed a lot and held our breath as the 30-knot winds (about 35 mph) from the East slid up the windward side of the volcanic spines of the islands, then rushed down the valleys to slam into our boat, Chinook. The wind roared around the tips of the islands creating a mishmash of wind, tide and current. At one point we took pictures of the speedometer as Chinook approached hull speed (the top speed for the boat) with the main double-reefed. Each reef in the sail depowers the sail to make it easier to control the boat in high winds. It was grand.

20151008-_MG_2444.CR2 Map of Grenada sailing trip-2444

The voyage of the Chinook – the first two weeks

My daughter and one of her best friends were on a big sailboat with me for the first time.  Their eyes got a little large as we occasionally heeled over with the side rail near the water and as we sailed up and over 10 ft swells. They were great crew and no one was sick!  Now, the true test is will they go with me again.

Chinook’s galley – a very small space!

With the winds (unusually high for that time of the year) staying between 20 and 30 knots for the first two weeks, it was almost impossible to use the grill. The galley (kitchen on a boat) stove had two burners, a small oven and a very good refrigerator – not always the case on a chartered boat. I had taken my bag of herbs and spices and Debbie, fabulous first mate, brought the sharp knives. Those, with a few favorite utensils that I carted along,  made up my travel supplies. The list will be in my next blog.

20151008-_MG_1571 Scones on Chinook -1571

Scones still hot from the oven with Mama’s local honey, nutmeg jelly and pepper jelly.

The crew ‘s special breakfast treat.

The second week, a very experienced sailor, Stephanie, joined us at St. Vincent and the two girls flew back home.  Debbie and I were thankful she joined us because we started hearing a strange thumping sound that she identified as the nut on the rudder about to fall off.  Although we had a good assortment of tools, nothing was big enough for this job.  We made an evacuation plan, putting the most essential items in three small dry bags (charts, compass, passports, money, credit cards, water, cell phones that worked everywhere, sun block …).  Our charter company directed us to Union Island for repairs which was a few hours sail.  Of course, a thunderstorm came up and pelted us with stinging drops as we came screaming into Clifton Harbor.  We waited until the storm had passed and moored.  Help came out immediately and fixed the boat.

Grenada is one of the “spice islands,” rich with nutmeg, bay, cinnamon and wonderful chocolate. I built my menus around fresh fish, great breads, luscious seasonal fruit and chocolate.  The Grenadian nutmeg chocolate is a special favorite of mine.  We made a nutmeg chocolate souffle with only three ingredient that is super easy.  The recipe is coming in a post soon.

20140516-IMG_5107 cacao pod.jpg-5107

photo by Guinevere Bell

Cacao pod: where chocolate comes from

Grenada and Bequia had the best stores for provisioning and had most of what we wanted. On Union Island we bought freshly caught tuna.

Before these trips I eagerly anticipate the surprises we find each time we charter in a new place. I never have any idea what I’ll find (or not be able to find), which is always the greatest challenge for the cook on the boat. What surprised me on this trip was a glorious variety of fruits, including mango, papaya, pineapple, pears and wonderful tomatoes!

The biggest culinary surprise was the bread: freshly made loaves on several islands and baguettes and croissants that were flaky and buttery on Bequia.

Not finding on Grenada the main ingredient for that quintessential summer drink, the Pimms Cup,  we had a treasure hunt for Pimms No. 1, a British gin-based liqueur, at every port of call. We finally discover a half bottle behind the bar at Lourdis on the island of Carriacou in Hamilton Bay. While there we also found that the jerk chicken at Lourdis will scald your mouth – but is delicious!

20150516-_IMG_0659 pimms bottle.jpg-0659

photo by Sebastian Duffell

THE BEST FOOD we had was in the Tobago Cays, a National Marine Park in the middle of the Grenadines. Most people call the Tobago Cays the jewels of the Grenadines. The Cays are three very small islands with miles of reefs and a turtle sanctuary, which makes this an excellent area for snorkeling and diving. The tiny pristine islands have white beaches, big lizards, and lots of birds. We saw scores of small brilliant reef fish, enough starfish to light the heavens, and rays and turtles of all sizes.

photo by Guinevere Bell

photo by Guinevere Bell

photo by Guinevere Bell

photo by Guinevere Bell

photo by Sebastian

photo by Sebastian Duffell


As we sailed into the narrow entrance to the cays, we were greeted by a floating concierge fleet, with men in small, brightly-colored motor boats offering mooring help, various provisions and “beach barbeques.” The men in the boats go by monikers. Our charter company had said to look for Romeo but we did not find him. Instead, Lady Luck was with us and Kojak offered us help mooring (by then, the wind had freshened and I wanted a mooring ball for one night). We accepted his help and his offer to have a lobster barbeque on the beach. This was the last day of the lobster season, we were not going to pass that up. The beach cooks share several large tents which cover grills. Regardless of who was cooking for you, you shared six or seven picnic tables. That day in May (which is low season), we were only one of four groups having dinner. I can’t imagine the pandemonium this place must be in during the high season with 30 or more boats moored and countless guys offering their wares and their help!



That evening was perfection, with the sun setting, the beach glistening white, the beer cold, the rum punch strong, and the smell of grilled lobster beyond enticing. Kojak and his wife prepared a feast to make your heart stop with buttery grilled lobster, fried plantain, rice and potatoes. The dessert, banana bread, was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was truly a dinner to match the magnificent scenery. They fixed dinner for us again on our return trip, but instead of lobster, we had fish and tender conch, which rivaled the lobster – and that’s saying a lot for conch!

The third week of our adventure my dear friend, chef and sailor Audrey and her son Sebastian, joined me.  As a young woman, Audrey had sailed across the Atlantic and lived on Palm Island, sailing charters for her father.  It’s a small world and many of the people she knew were still legends in the area.


Audrey’s tuna sashimi

The wind dropped to its normal range of 10 to 15 knots for this last leg of the journey.  With Audrey aboard we feasted every day. Look back at the picture of the galley.  Audrey would take one burner and I the other fixing sautéed vegetables and pan seared pork in a rum sauce.

THE MOST UNUSUAL FOOD we had was a mangrove oyster.


Mangrove oyster

In Tyrell Bay on Carriacou, the site of the customs office, a man called Warrior paddled a small rowboat up to our boat.


Most of what he had we did not need. Then he asked me if I’d ever tried mangrove oysters. I had never heard of them. Early the next morning he brought several dozen mangrove oysters for us to try. They are small briny bivalves with a tart buttery flavor.

THE BEST ISLAND for traipsing around and shopping on was Bequia, a funky island with a corniche for strolling that offers interesting art shops, a dive shop and several good restaurants. Just a short walk away from the water are artists’ galleries and workshops worth the walk.

20150516-_MG_1653 reaturant on Bequia.jpg-1653

Doris’ is a great place for provisioning. It’s on a back street and is easy to miss. She offers many goods from the US and England, a good wine selection, interesting canned goods if you are homesick, as well as fruits, fresh vegetables and frozen foods in the back. I bought frozen chocolate croissants to surprise the crew for breakfast since the bakery was only open on Mondays during the slow season.

Grenada and the Grenadines are beautiful islands which are well worth the trip, whether you’re sailing there or just visiting. Recipes from some of our great meals will be coming soon.