Quick And Easy Tomato Salad 1, 2, 3

Believe it or not, I am actually almost out of all my delicious tomatoes Gift From The Garden, I will finish up the last of this batch of delicious tomatoes today by making some pico de gallo. But have no fear, I have it on very good authority that yet another batch is on the way today.

My last creation was a simple tomato salad that got used in not one, not two, but three different and delicious ways. My first creation was just a simple tomato, onion and garlic salad that is great all on its own.

I used some of the heirloom and golden sunny boy tomatoes and combined them with sliced onions. It was simply scrumptious.

Tomato Salad

6-7 tomatoes, diced medium

1/4 onion, sliced very thin

1 TBSP garlic

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1-2 TBSP fresh ground pepper

sprinkling of salt

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 TBSP lemon olive oil

2-3 TBSP lemon balsamic vinegar or lemon juice

3-4 TBSP white balsamic vinegar

Gently toss everything together and chill until ready to eat. The freshness of the tomatoes really shines with this simple, easy-peasy recipe. Plus it is a very pretty and colorful salad.

Recipe #2 – Steak Salad

Once again, we are really trying to use up ALL of our leftovers to leave with an empty refrigerator, since we are about to be on the go once more. This time we will be in VA for a week for our niece’s wedding.

We had some steak leftover from Roasted Strip Steak and Vegetables that needed to be used, as well as some fresh spinach, and of course, our tomato salad. I mixed them all together for yet another fresh and tasty way to enjoy this salad. Larry’s salad had some feta cheese added to make it very Mediterranean. I used all the beans and what was left of the vegetables as well, making this a heartier salad.

But believe it or not, I still had some of the tomato salad left, and it needed to be used. There was no way I was going to let these delicious tomatoes go to waste. So, I recreated it in yet another way to finish it up.

Recipe #3 – Shrimp, Tomatoes and Asparagus

My last creation with this simple salad was to cook it with some shrimp and asparagus that I served over wild rice.

Again, this was just a simple recipe that was using up my leftovers.

I just used all of the tomatoes with their juices and put it all in the skillet. I added a bit more olive oil and a bit more salt and pepper and that was it.

Once the asparagus was cooked, I added it to the shrimp and then served it all over the wild rice, with some pita bread and hummus on the side.

Play with your food. It’s OK. Don’t be afraid to be creative. As you can see, I started off with one very easy, very simple recipe, and used it three different ways. Larry has always said I have a gift for turning leftovers into even more than when I started. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving. 🙂

Have a great day and a great weekend Everyone. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

North African Chicken and Vegetable Maftoul

Matfoul or matfool is the Palestinian and North African version of “pasta”. Instead of being made with flour though, it is usually made with semolina (couscous) or bulgur, especially in Morocco. For the past century and a half, maftoul has been a traditional holiday or festive food in Palestine and across the Levant generally. Many families continue to make maftoul at home. You can also use the tiny pasta ” beads” known as acini de pepe.

I have a ton of different cookbooks, of all different ethnicities. I try my best to keep them as authentic as I can, but I don’t stress out if I can’t find certain ingredients. And of course, I always change things around, doing my best to keep in the same theme and vein of that culture. Usually this means I add things or make adjustments accordingly to what is available. This is how most people cook all over the world. They adjust to what is readily available in their area.

I made my own version of matfool, using couscous and I served it with a North African chicken and vegetable stew.

African foods, and especially Middle Eastern foods, are known for using a wide variety of spices. Fortunately, I always have a large array of different spices on hand, since I never really know what I am going to cook until I actually start cooking. I like to be prepared for whatever happens, especially in my kitchen. 🙂

For my version of North African stew, I added pumpkin and a variety of squash, as well as tomatoes and sliced olives, making it heartier and more of a one-pot meal. As usual, I had a recipe that was my inspiration, then I recreated it and made it my own. A lot of African countries use pumpkins and squash in their cooking, mostly the countries in the southern parts of Africa. The Africans, and particularly the Nigerians, call pumpkin ugu or ugwu, which is their version of a fluted pumpkin. I obviously did not use this type of pumpkin. I just used one of our own types of local pumpkin instead. I also used up some of the Sweet 100 tomatoes from my beautifully delicious gift of tomatoes from Janet and Bob (I am using my fabulous tomatoes in as many ways as I can). Gift From The Garden

North African Chicken and Vegetable Stew

1 TBSP allspice

1 TBSP cumin

1 TBSP coriander

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2-3 lbs chicken, cut into think strips

1 onion, diced medium

1 zucchini, sliced

1 crookneck, sliced

1/2 delicata squash, sliced and seeded

1/2 small pumpkin, peeled and seeded, cubed

1 1/2 cups small grape or Sweet 100 tomoates

1 cup sliced olives

olive oil and lemon olive oil for cooking

6 cups chicken broth

1 can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

chopped parsley

In a very hot skillet, add the oil(s) and then cook the chicken slices until done. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions and vegetables, except for the tomatoes and olives, and the spices and seasonings and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add the chicken back to the mix, as well as the chicken broth and the chopped parsley.

Mix together thoroughly and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the tomatoes and olives.

Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. When the couscous or matfool is done, serve the stew on top. I added some warmed pita bread and hummus and a glass or two of a nice, dry Verdicchio (that we made from InVintions A Lot of Wine, A Lot of Fun).

As you all know, we love to travel, but we can’t always get to travel to distant lands as much as we like. However, we can take short little trips from the comfort of our own home by cooking different kinds of foods in our kitchen. You can too. It is a fun way to taste the world, one dish at a time.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Baking With The Family

Baking can be a really fun family affair too. It’s time spent together making memories and having fun.



The weekend is just around the corner – phew!!! Will you have time this weekend to bake something for THE 2022 GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF? We love the team effort baking that is going on. Special mention to the Nyamake family – Jacob you make me smile!

Perhaps you don’t have time to bake something new for the BAKE OFF. As always, we are very happy to include photographs of bakes you made in the past.

THE GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF is a celebration of WordPress bloggers and readers – we don’t give you a list of complicated rules. All we ask is that you have fun and enjoy getting to know other bloggers.

Just over two weeks to go!!!


15th & 16th October 2022

Send your photos in now to:


Pumpkin Spice-Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

We are just in the early days of fall, and it is already pumpkin season. That means there will be a lot of pumpkin recipes in the making. I love pumpkin, and I actually cook with it quite a bit, making many different fabulous creations. Everything nice with pumpkin spice, and even better when chocolate chips are added to the mix. I just made some pumpkin coffee cake, which would have been very good on its own, but I added chocolate chips and it was transformed from being good to being fantastic. I personally think pumpkin and chocolate are a great combination.

Pumpkin Spice and Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

The Cake

Preheat the oven to 350* F or about 180* C.

Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray,

1/2 cup or 1 stick softened butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1-15 oz can pureed pumpkin

1 heaping cup chocolate chips

Mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Mix the butter and sugar together until creamy, then add the eggs, mixing in between each addition. Add the vanilla. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture and 1/2 of the pumpkin puree, mix, then repeat until everything is added and mixed together well. Do not over mix. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Evenly spread 1/2 the batter into the prepared pan, then layer the top with the filling. Add the rest of the batter on top of the filling and carefully spread the remaining batter to cover the filling and to fill the pan.

The Filling

3 TBSP softened butter

1.2 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix everything together either with your hands or with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse sand. Set aside.

The Streusel

5 TBSP softened butter

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice

Mix everything together either with your hands or with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse sand. Set aside.

Sprinkle the streusel topping over the batter, covering it completely, then bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow the cake to col completely before cutting into slices. Then share with friends and enjoy.

You can enjoy pumpkin and all it has to offer at anytime of the year, but it just seems to really hit the spot during fall, when the there is a slight crispness to the air. Fall is my favorite time of year. I just love everything about it, including all the pumpkin spice dishes.

Make the most out of every season. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

We Want To Hear About Those Less Than Perfect Efforts Too

As you all should know by now, our 2022 Great Blogger’s Bake-Off is almost here. Not all of us are perfect bakers. In fact, even those of us “who should know better” still make plenty of mistake. We want to see those efforts too, and heart their stories.


For the past three years, THE GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF has been made even more lively by the photographs sent in of bakes that did not quite go according to plan.

Although the 2022 GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF is focusing on three special themes:


….yes, we love seeing those pictures of bakes that nearly sent Yorkshire (or Texas) up in smoke.

The BAKE OFF is a weekend of fun, colour, music and lots and lots of bakes!!! The international flavour is fantastic this year and we love the low cost recipes that many of you are sending in.

There is still time. Please send a picture of a bake you would like to be featured in THE 2022 GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF to:


Nature Walks – Follow The Magpie

The lakes are pretty quiet these days, but I always have my camera with me, at the ready, just in case. The only thing of interest to me today was the Magpie. I was following him from tree to tree and across the ponds. I think he loved the attention. We were playing a little game of hide ‘n seek.

Make today and everyday a great day. 🙂


Yesterday Larry and I celebrated out 19th wedding anniversary. We celebrated at Texas de Brazil for dinner. Texas de Brazil It has been quite an adventure so far. Let’s see what the next 19 brings. I am looking forward to all the new adventures that await us. Bring them on!


and now. We’re a little grayer (Larry. I still have no gray hair or just a minimal amount) and a lot heavier (me, not Larry), but we are still having fun and still as adventurous as ever, if not even more.

Life is definitely good. I love you Sweetie. I am looking forward to the next set of adventures that come our way.

Roasted Strip Steak and Vegetables

When we were in Bonaire, we ate mostly seafood. Larry is most definitely a meat and potatoes kind-of guy, but he also likes a wide variety of foods, including fresh seafood whenever we are by the sea. But now that we are home, Larry wants a lot of steak. I guess he was feeling a bit deprived, although he loves good seafood too. So steak was definitely on the menu once again.

I found a new recipe I wanted to try, that was quick, easy and delicious; my favorite kinds of recipes. I love quick and easy recipes, especially when they are full of flavor. It was steak and roasted vegetables cooked all together in one pan, roasted in the oven.

Of course I enhanced the original recipe and “Jeannefied it”, though I followed the directions for the cooking time, and the steak was a little over-cooked for my tastes, but it was still very good and full of flavor.

Strip Steak and Roasted Vegetables

1-1 1/2 cups mushrooms, quartered or sliced

2 bunches or broccolini or broccoli rabe, trimmed

1-2 TBSP garlic

1/2 onion, diced medium

1 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 TBSP lemon olive oil, optional

2-3 TBSP lemon balsamic vinegar, optional

1 cup grape tomatoes or other small tomatoes

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed – I used northern beans

1 1/2-2 lbs strip steak

Preheat the oven to 450* F or about 225* C.

Combine the oils and vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and pepper flakes, then toss all the vegetables except the tomatoes and the beans. You know when I add the optional part that I have used that and recommend it. 🙂 Spread the vegetables out onto a rimmed baking pan in an single layer. I used my Sweet 100 tomatoes from Janet & Bob’s garden. Gift From The Garden I am creatively using up all my delicious tomatoes. 🙂

Roast the vegetables for about 15 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, coat the steak with the same olive oil mixture, then place in the center of the pan, pushing the vegetables to the sides, and continue to cook for an additional 5-7 minutes per side. I LOVE a good medium rare steak, but unfortunately, I cooked it for about 6 minutes per side, and it was over done. So if you like it more rare like I do, NO MORE than 5 minutes per side.

Still using the olive oil mixture, coat the tomatoes and the beans and gently toss. Remove the steaks and let set for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans to the vegetables and continue to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

By the time you remove the vegetables from the oven, it will be time to slice the steak into thin strips. And everything will be ready to eat and ready to enjoy.

I served it with some warmed ciabiatta and a glass or two of deliciously smooth Malbec, from of course InVINtions, to make a perfect meal. This was so good and so simple.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

More From Mel and the 2022 Great Blogger’s Bake-Off

Mel has already eloquently explained everything about this year’s Great Blogger’s Bake-Off, so i am going to let her tell you about in her own words:



The GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF has been an event to bring together some amazing WordPress users – both writers, poets, bakers, bloggers, readers and others who want to engage with other very lovely WordPress users. It has been an incredibly colourful, yummy and joyful event for the past three years, and Jeanne, Gary and I are delighted to be preparing for the 2022 BAKE OFF.

This year, we are inviting writers to respond to a special GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF Writing Prompt. However, your writing does not have to be strictly about baking (although we would be thrilled if there was a baking aspect).

Pixabay image – Credits: ArtsyBee / 3959 images

Many of you will have seen that this year’s BAKE OFF has the theme:

The Joy Of Baking

But we are focusing on three areas of baking that can bring joy despite the anxious worries many of us have due to tumultuous world events and personal concerns.


This year we are asking you to write in response to one of the following three themes (you can respond to as many as you like):




Your piece can take any format you prefer. It can be short, it can be long. It can be comedy, mystery, or real-life drama. It can be a work of fiction, a story, or it can be your thoughts on any of these subjects. But we would love your work to be a reflection of you as a writer. Every year THE GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF introduces us to more and more fabulous bloggers so we would love you to put some of your personality and style into your writing so that new readers can get to know you.

Please publish your writing in response to the special bake off writing prompt ON YOUR SITE. During BAKE OFF weekend (15th & 16th October 2022) we will have a special post featuring links to your posts. But our writing prompt is open now, so please either pingback to this post or copy a link to your post in the comments below, so that we can find your post.

You are very welcome to advertise our SPECIAL BAKE OFF WRITING PROMPT. You are very welcome to use the Pixabay image used for our writing prompt logo. You are very welcome to send in any questions about the BAKE OFF (or indeed baking photographs) to:


More Fun In Estes Park

Estes Park is a good place to just stroll around town and take it all in. It is a very creative place that is matched by its gorgeous scenery, making it a top tourist destination. Plus it is home to the Famous Stanley Hotel too. We went with no agenda other than to just take it all in and see what we saw. We strolled up one side of the street and down the other, stopping at whatever place tickled our fancy at the time. And of course, taking pictures all along the way. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we all had a great time just having fun being together.

Once we parked, we started with a picnic lunch by the creek, where we saw some fly fishermen in action. I wonder if they caught anything.

Estes Park is definitely a walking town, but there is a free trolley to take you all around too, if you prefer.

Along the river walk, there are all kinds of large percussion instruments for people to play with, as well as various sculptures and colorful murals to see.

This is Buddy, the dog immortalized in the mural. He was such a sweet greeter to everyone walking by. Or maybe he was just hoping they would give him a hot dog.

Buddy belongs to the owner of the Chicago Hot Dog Place, and Mike being from Chicago just had to give it a try. I think he enjoyed his “dog’.

Mike enjoyed his Chicago dog, and stopped in for some homemade taffy, but Larry, Lauren and I had to try some moonshine.

There were lots of pretty, colorful flowers in bloom, and of course I took a bazillion pictures of them too. As you know, I love flowers.

These flowers are beautiful, but I was really focused on the Hummingbird Moth. Believe it or not, I had never seen one before, nor had I ever heard of one either. It is a moth, but looks just like a hummingbird. I actually thought it was a hummingbird at first. He was hard to get because he never slowed down or stopped. I was lucky to get these pictures.

It was a beautiful and relaxing day, and we all had a great time just hanging out and taking it all in. Sometimes, you just have to slow things down and just enjoy.

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