Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Toffee Chunk Brownie Cookies

 Earlier this month was our county fair. The recipe for Toffee Chunk Brownie Cookies was one that I was going to make in the dark drop cookie category. However, I had quite a few entries in baking and decided not to make the cookies for the fair.

So a couple weeks later, I made the recipe and it is amazing!

The cookies, when they are right out of the oven, taste like brownies but have a little crunch to them with the chocolate-covered toffee bars. They harden up a bit when they are cool. However, heating them in the microwave for 6-8 seconds makes them soft again. 

Everyone liked these cookies. So, this is a recipe that will be saved and made again.


1 cup butter

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 3 ounces unsweetened and 1 ounce of semi-sweet chocolate)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped chocolate-covered toffee bars


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and chocolate in large sauceplan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Stir sugar into chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in eggs until well blended. Stir in vanilla until smooth. Stir in flour and salt just until mixed. Fold in chopped toffee.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 1 1/2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. (I made smaller cookies - about half that size.)

Bake 12 minutes or until just set (for smaller cookies, about 9-10 minutes). Let cookies stand on cookie sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. 

Makes 36 cookies. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Tortelloni Caprese Salad

 In the September 2018 Costco Connection, there was a recipe for Tortelloni Caprese Salad. The recipe used six Kirkland items. However, I adapted the recipe using items from the grocery store, homemade things, and produce from the garden or CSA. 

The recipe is easy to make and the results are delicious! I ate this hot and cold, and both ways are excellent. There's a lot of flavor, especially from the fresh basil and the homemade pesto.

I'll be making this again while the cherry tomatoes and basil are prolific in the garden.


24 ounces cheese tortelloni

16 ounces grilled chicken breast strips (I didn't include these)

16 ounces fresh mozzarella, pre-sliced log

2-3 cups cherry tomatoes

1-2 cups basil pesto (I used a homemade recipe)

1/4 to 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

fresh basil for garnish

balsamic vinegar, to taste


Prepare the tortelloni according to package directions, drain and set aside. Cut the chicken strips and mozzarella into bite-size pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes, if large.

Place tortelloni, chicken, and tomatoes in a large bowl, toss with 1-2 cups of pesto, using enough pesto to thoroughly coat.

Allow pasta dish to cool a bit and toss in mozzarella cubes. Garnish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving, if desired. 

Can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature. 

Makes 8-10 servings.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Lemon Pound Cake Muffins

Last month for the county fair, one of the recipes I made and entered was for Lemon Pound Cake Muffins. I've had this recipe in my "Want to Try" recipe collection since February 2006. 

The recipe is easy to make and all the ingredients were ones that I had on hand. The only thing that I noticed - as did the judge - was that the lemon flavor isn't that strong. Although there is lemon extract in the batter, the addition of lemon peel and/or freshly-squeezed lemon juice would enhance the muffins. 

When competing in the county fair, entrants cannot put any type of glaze or frosting on muffins. So, the glaze for this recipe - which does have lemon juice in it - perhaps would have added that lemon flavor that was missing.

I received fourth place in this category with which I'm fine. There are only six ribbons to give out in each category, so I'm happy I received one of them. 


1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (I used 1 teaspoon)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup sour cream


2 cups confectioners' sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice


In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and extracts; beat well. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. 

Combine the glaze ingredients; drizzle over muffins. Serve warm.

Yield: 1 dozen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Lavender Scones

One of the recipes I tried this year for the County Fair was Lavender Scones. I've had this recipe for a while and have been waiting until the lavender in the garden was growing well enough to be clipped. 

I used three different types of lavender for this recipe and it ended up being a nice, subtle blend. The recipe is easy to make. The only change I would make is to use a larger biscuit cutter. I used a small one for the County Fair and the scones puffed up and then tilted to one side. That's definitely not good with judging. 

So, I got fifth place in the County Fair. There are only six places awarded. If you're not in the top six, then you don't get a ribbon. The other suggestion from the judge was to bake them a bit longer so the top was more brown. I wouldn't do that. I think the top is brown enough. Anything more would have resulted in a harder crust which I wouldn't have enjoyed. 

I'll be making these scones again during the summer and early fall when the lavender is still outdoors, and in the winter using either dried lavender or lavender from the plants I bring indoors. (I'm going to see if I can overwinter some lavender indoors.)


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp lavender
1/3 tsp salt
1 egg mixed with 1 tsp water for glaze
1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp raw sugar (turbinado sugar)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly butter a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, lavender, and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

In a small bowl, stir together the cream, egg, and vanilla. Add the cream mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined.

With lightly-floured hands, pat the dough into a 1/2" thickness on a lightly-floured cutting board. Using a floured heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out hearts from dough and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Gather the scraps together and repeat until all the dough is used. 

Lightly brush the tops of the scones with the egg mixture and raw/turbinado sugar, if desired. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Makes about 14 scones.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

7 Days of Food

On Swap-Bot, there's a swap in which participants photograph one thing they are eating every day for one week. Below are seven days - from August 9th-15th - that included two salads, two dinners, an appetizer/meal, and two desserts. Below are the photos and descriptions of the seven things I ate along with links to the recipes.

Sunday, August 9th - Garden Fresh Corn Salad

I've been enjoying the Garden Fresh Corn Salad that I made to use up some ears of corn. This recipe took five ears of corn...a good amount of what we had. However, there's still more corn left. It's time to start looking for more recipes for fresh corn. 

Monday, August 10th - Powdered Sugar Cookie

I had a Powdered Sugar Cookie that I made for the Washington County Fair. Sometimes in the afternoon I need a little pick-me-up, especially if my days start early like it did today. 

Tuesday, August 11th - Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

I've had this recipe for Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs since December 2014 in my "Want to Try" file and finally made it on August 10th. It's an easy recipe to make since it is basically just chopping, pouring, mixing, and frying. Nothing too complicated. The recipe makes 12 servings, so I froze half of it for a meal at another time when I'm rushed and I need to make a meal for my family. 

Wednesday, August 12 - Supreme Pizza Eggrolls

This is another recipe that I've had for a while that I've wanted to try. I had a lot of onions and peppers from the CSA that I wanted to use, and this recipe called for 1 cup each of green peppers and onions. So, it was a great way to use them. 

The innards of the eggroll do not have sauce - it's just meat with vegetables. I added two pepperoni slices in each eggroll which gave it more of a pizza taste. 

Everyone liked these and they were very easy to make. I'll make Supreme Pizza Eggrolls again. 

Thursday, August 13 - Quinoa with Vegetables and Raisins

This recipe for Quinoa with Vegetable and Raisins is one that I tasted at an open house at Hazelden many years ago. It calls for couscous and cilantro, which I didn't have. However, I replaced the couscous with quinoa which tasted great. What sets this recipe apart from other ones I've had is that it uses a head of fennel. I like the taste in this recipe.

Friday, August 14 - Chicken Enchiladas with Red Enchilada Sauce

This is a recipe that my sister gave me. She found it online and experimented with it a little to come up with a version that she liked. I made her version of Chicken Enchiladas with Red Enchilada Sauce and it turned out great. I added some fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden and CSA to give it some color extra flavor. 

Saturday - August 15 - Mackinac Fudge Over Ice Cream

My daughter wanted to make Mackinac Fudge for a friend who loves fudge. I had found this recipe on the Taste of Home website and thought it would be a good one to try since Taste of Home's recipes are typically very good and easy to make. 

This one, however, did not turn out. My daughter followed the recipe exactly as it was posted and it never set. Although the flavor is delicious and it is quite decadent, it isn't fudge...which is what we wanted. So, instead of the recipe going to waste, we are using it as a topping over ice cream. 

So, that's seven days of food - six new recipes...plus one modified recipe. It was a lot of fun to try so many new recipes in one week! 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

My Last Vacation - A Staycation

From July 21st-25th, Olivia and I went to Grand Marais to take a photography workshop with Layne Kennedy. We both received scholarships from North House Folk School which enabled us to take the workshop. I posted 11 photos from the workshop in another post HERE.

More recently, I've changed my vacation focus from going somewhere to simply enjoying places and doing things that are within easy driving distance from my home...a Staycation. Below are some of the things I did for my two-week Staycation.  

4-H Dog Show 

On Saturday, July 31st, I didn't go to the 4-H Dog Show since Olivia was getting her 4-H projects judged at the county fair. However, after the show was over, I got to enjoy petting and talking with the owners about their dogs who were in the Dog Show. 

Some were happy with how their dogs did while others were disappointed that their dogs didn't quite stay as focused as they should have been while in the show ring. Even if they were a little distracted, they made up for being super friendly and happy dogs...like the one below.

Noerenberg Memorial Gardens

The next day, on August 1st, we went to Noerenberg Memorial Gardens in Wayzata on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. Minnesota is in the middle of a drought, yet the gardens were still colorful, varied, and beautiful. There were a lot of purple flowers, like these Nodding Onions.

One of my favorite flowers, foxgloves, was found throughout the garden.

There were mounds of grasses with striking colorful tops in shades of pink. On iNaturalist it is identified as Natal Grass. 

From a distance, the Globe Amaranth looked purple. It wasn't until I got up close that I noticed the tiny yellow parts on them.

Washington County Fair

On Wednesday, August 4th, we went to the Washington County Fair. It was the 150th year of the fair so there were special historical exhibits throughout the fairgrounds. 

This was the first year that I didn't have something in the Needlework category. However, we went in the building and enjoyed seeing all the quilts and needlecraft projects. 

The girls stopped at one booth and designed buttons that were made for them on the spot. 

I liked seeing the fresh herbs. This one caught my eye because the flowers are all purple and they are not your typical herbs. This person has exhibited before doing a similar concept and always places well.

This year there were some cute entries in the "Dress a Potato" contest. Sophia noticed this little potato-cat.

We all laughed at the Bob Ross potato. It was really a clever entry.

Olivia and I entered six photos each in the fair. In this part of the Photography exhibit pictured below, it shows Olivia's rose covered with dewdrops getting 4th prize and my catkin caught on the barbed wire fence as getting 1st place.

My photos had a range of ribbons - from 1st (the bottom image of Rattlesnake Master in sepia tone) to 4th (the image above it of two pine trees on an island).

Olivia also entered projects and did well. She got a blue ribbon (1st prize) for her two canisters.

This year I entered ten pre-printed pictures that I colored with Prismacolor colored pencils. This landscape image took me a while, but it was worth it. It's my favorite one out of the ones I did.

After looking at exhibits, we headed to the poultry barn. I always enjoy seeing the variety of chickens. It reminds me of ones we used to have back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

There was a tom turkey who was putting on quite the show for the girls.

Out for Lunch 

On Thursday, August 5th, after Sophia donated platelets at the American Red Cross, we went to El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul. There's a restaurant, bakery, and grocery store.  

We each had a platter of food...way more than we could eat in one sitting. So, we had another meal with our leftovers. 

After lunch, we went to the bakery section and picked out four pastries to bring home to share with Olivia and Paige. 

Dog Walk 

On Friday, August 6th, I took the dogs on a walk one morning from 6-7 a.m. The weather has been hot and humid, so it is best to take them early in the day.

I watched the sun rise over one of the hills and open land.

Jungle Cruise Movie

On Friday, August 6th, we went to see Jungle Cruise at Lake 5 Theatre. It is an adventure-packed movie with the corny jokes that are typical on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. We all enjoyed seeing the movie and liked the storyline.

Fort Snelling National Cemetery

On August 8th, after dropping off Sophia at the airport, I went to Fort Snelling National Cemetery. My parents are buried there. At 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I was the only one there. Needless to say, it was very quiet and peaceful.

Barn Quilt & Visiting with Neighbors/Friends

On Monday, August 9th, Olivia finished her barn quilt for a customer.

They came over to pick up their barn quilt and we spent some time talking with them. They are such a nice couple.

Scandia Farmers Market

On Wednesday, August 11th, the Lions Club I'm a member of was at the Scandia Farmers Market

We had 200 free milkweed plants to give to people to plant at their homes to help monarchs. 

There were four different types of milkweed plants: whorled milkweed, spider milkweed, butterfly weed, and swamp milkweed. Whorled and spider have white blooms; butterfly has orange blooms; and swamp has pink blooms.

We also collected eyeglasses for the Recycle for Sight program, pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, and cash donations for the food shelf.

Carver County Fair

The last activity of my Staycation was going to the Carver County Fair on Saturday, August 14th. We enjoyed seeing the animals, especially the sheep. This one was sleeping.

Olivia enjoyed petting the goats. This one was very inquisitive and wanted to play with a latch on the wall.

We went a parakeet exhibit. In a large trailer, there were quite a few parakeets. To enter, you had to buy a stick covered with birdseed. The parakeets flew around the trailer, with some landing on our hands.

There was an exotic animal area and Olivia fed the animals some seed. This camel was super friendly.

We went to the llama barn. Some were resting, some wanted corn husks (provided at the door), and others liked to be pet.

In the vendor area, there was a Tesla that Olivia was able to sit in. I've never seen what a Tesla is like up close. There were lots of new features. Made me feel like I was driving a car from the 1910s.

We went through the exhibit buildings. In the hobby and craft area, there was an exhibitor who entered quite a few of these collage pieces. She took jewelry and create collages with them. In addition to this Halloween scene, there was a bunny (for Easter) and a snowman.

In another area, there were some barn quilts on the walls and this succulent horse topiary. I've wanted to do a succulent topiary and this has piqued my interest.

Outside the 4-H building, there was a big chalkboard heart that people could write words or names, or decorate in some way. 

I've never been to this fair before and it was a fun one to visit. It's located in Waconia - about 1 hour and 15 minutes from where we live. It was well worth the time to get there. We all agreed that next year we will go back.

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Enchilada Sauce

My sister gave me a recipe for Chicken Enchiladas with Red Enchilada Sauce. She found it online and experimented with it a little to come up with a version that she liked. I made her version of the recipe and it turned out great. I added some fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden and CSA to give it some color extra flavor. 

There was plenty of enchiladas for multiple meals - dinner plus several lunches. It reheats well which makes it a great recipe to make during busy weeks. 


Chicken Enchiladas 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons cumin powder (my sister didn't use this, but I will try it next time)
2 teaspoons garlic powder (my sister didn't use this, but I will try it next time)
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen corn, thawed (or 1 can corn)
5 canned whole green chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped (mild or red pepper)
4 canned chipotle chilies, seeded and minced (I couldn't find these, so I didn't use them)
1 can black beans, rinsed
8 tortillas
Red Enchilada Sauce
1 cup shredded Cheddar and Jack cheeses
Garnish: chopped cilantro, chopped scallions, sour cream, chopped tomatoes

Red Enchilada Sauce

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
fine sea salt, to taste


Chicken Enchiladas

Cook chicken with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 450 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until the chicken is 165 degrees.

Saute onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil until tender. Add corn and chilies. Stir well to combine. Add black beans and saute for 1 minute.

Pull chicken breasts apart by hand into shredded strips. Add shredded chicken to saute pan, combine with vegetables. 

Coat the bottom of a 9"x13" pan with a ladle of enchilada sauce. Heat the tortillas high for 30 seconds to soften them. Spoon 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture and a spoonful of sauce in each tortilla. Fold over filling, place the enchiladas in the pan with seam side down. Top with the remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated (350 degree) oven until cheese melts. Garnish with cilantro, scallions, sour cream, and chopped tomatoes before serving. 

Red Enchilada Sauce

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Add in the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and oregano, and cook for 1 more minute, whisking constantly.

Gradually pour in the stock, whisking constantly to combine until no lumps remain. Continue cooking until the sauce reaches a simmer. Then reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain the simmer (the sauce should continue lightly bubbling) for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce has slightly thickened.

Give the sauce a taste and season with salt, if needed.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Quinoa with Fennel, Vegetables, and Raisins

This recipe is one that I tasted at an open house at Hazelden many years ago. It calls for couscous and cilantro, which I didn't have this time. However, I replaced the couscous with quinoa which tasted great. What sets this recipe apart from other ones I've had is that it uses a head of fennel. I like the taste in this recipe.


1 box couscous, plain (I used about a cup of quinoa instead and followed the package directions for it)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 pint red pear or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 head fennel, bulb only, small diced

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and small diced

1/2 red onion, peeled, small dieced

1 cup raisins 

2 bunches Italian flat-leaf parsley, picked and chopped (I used one bunch of regular parsley)

1/2 bunch cilantro, picked and chopped

juice of 4 lemons

salt and pepper


Place one box of couscous in a large bowl. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over couscous along with salt and pepper. Pour boiling water over couscous and cover. Mix with a fork; cover with plastic, wrap and set aside for 5 minutes. 

Remove plastic, fluff couscous with a fork to avoid lumps and let cool. Once cool; add the remainder of the ingredients and toss well. 

Make sure all the ingredients are ready before making the couscous. For variety, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top just before serving.