sunny phoenix memories

1 antique holiday window

2 joyride tacos phoenix

3 desert botanical 8

churn in the park

desert botanical 1

desert silhouette

st. francis restaurant at night
As I write, the wind chill factor in Indiana is negative 3-degrees, and there is almost 4 inches of snow on the ground. These photos were taken just over a week ago in sunny Phoenix where the temperature reached 88-degrees! The images of the Desert Botanical Gardens, afternoon markets and open air restaurants are warming, but the memories shared with a dear friend are even more so.

one d.c. afternoon

2 diebenkorn phillips collection3 laib wax room phillips collection 4 afterwords cafe 5 afterwords crabcake pasta 6 astro doughnuts dc 7 astro doughnuts on the rack 8 astro doughnuts cinnamon and lemon blueberry doughnutsOne D.C. afternoon, I took the Red Line to Dupont Circle station. I walked one block west on Q Street to 21st Street and entered the doors of the Phillips Collection. Next, dreams came true.  Sitting on a bench in the Rothko Room, standing in the Laib Wax Room, turning the corner to encounter Bonnard, Diebenkorn, Grandma Moses, and The Migration Series.  I consciously reminded myself to breathe.

Hours later I walked back onto the street and consciously reminded myself to eat.  Crabcake pasta at Afterwords Cafe, and a buy-one, get-one-free good fortune at Astro Doughnuts (cinnamon and lemon-blueberry, respectively).  It was more than two weeks ago, and I am still gathering my thoughts about that one May afternoon.

breakfast at wimbledon (in indiana)

When the players take the grass on center court in England, it is 9am here in the States. We turn the TV set on, and John McEnroe welcomes us to breakfast at Wimbledon. But where’s the grub, Johnny Mac?

One year during the tournament I was staying with my aunt and uncle who are also tennis fans. I will never forget my Uncle George bringing eggs, bacon, and orange juice out to us in the living room during the championship match. “It’s breakfast at Wimbledon, dummy,” he said. Yes it is!

Most years for me, it’s coffee at Wimbledon, but this year I put together a breakfast for my folks (not to mention that they get ESPN, so I can actually watch the sportscast). I baked everything in a 350-degree oven, and the results were nearly trophy worthy.

Nutty Zucchini Boats w/o Nuts
Start with halved zucchini (thank you Mary for sharing your abundance!) and scoop out the middle. Lightly coat in olive oil, sprinkle with raw sunflower seeds, shredded pecorino romano cheese, and a pinch of salt & pepper. Bakes about 35 minutes.

Bacon Wrapped Figs & Pineapple Chunks
Halve raw figs (I used California Mission Figs this time) and chop up chunks of fresh pineapple. Get the best bacon strips you can find and cut them in thirds. Wrap each fig half and pineapple chunk in bacon and secure with a toothpick. Sprinkle smoked demerara sugar (ordered some from 240Sweet) over the tops. Brown sugar will substitute. Bakes about 30 minutes.

Ramekin Baked Eggs
Sautee onions, mushrooms, and spinach in olive oil over low heat until the spinach wilts. Place this mix (or whatever mix you like: add peppers, ham, etc) in the bottom of a ramekin. Crack 1-2 eggs over the mix. Spoon 1 teaspoon of heavy cream over each egg. Sprinkle shredded pecorino romano (or your fav. cheese) over the tops, dot with olive oil, and a pinch of salt & pepper. I put my ramekins in a casserole dish and filled the bottom of the dish with water. This step may not be necessary. If you prefer a runny yolk, watch the oven. Bakes about 25 minutes.

Serve with toast, jam, and beverages. CONGRATULATIONS SERENA & ROGER. Hooray over 30 club; looking forward to the Olympics!

yeast-raised pancakes with ginger syrup & oranges


I never met a pancake I didn’t like, and I met a tasty new one this weekend. After flagging the recipe at SweetFineDay over a year ago, I finally got around to making Mark’s Yeast-Raised Pancakes. I remember reading the entry from the Pastry Chef of Whimsy & Spice and thinking to myself, those sound too good to be true: lighter, fluffier, slightly-yeasty pancakes that are ready to cook when you wake up?

Believe it, folks. Whip up the batter before bedtime and by morning you will find that your recipe has raised overnight! All that remains is cook time.

I burned the first few, because my skillet was too hot. After turning the dial down to between the 2 & 3, the pancakes puffed up and cooked throughout while staying golden on the tops and bottoms. The addition of ginger syrup and oranges to the yeasty pancake plate was reminiscent of a Belgian White beer brewed in orange peel. Welcome to the breakfast table at Summerflavorville.

orangina french toast clouds

There’s this magical thing that happens when you slice up a loaf of challah: yeasty cumulus clouds fill the board! The braided kosher egg bread is so beautifully golden and perfect for french toast that it makes any cloudy day feel sunny.  Since I had the eggs blown out from my little seasonal decorating project, I made my Orangina French Toast and decided to share the recipe here.

I went through a phase a while back using fizzy beverages in my cooking (Limonata, Jarritos, Ginger Ale, you name it). In my head it perks up anything; who knows if something really is happening there. I may just like the excuse to purchase single soda bottles, add a portion to the recipe, and finish drinking it while cooking (if you cook with wine, you know what I am talking about).  The first time I had Orangina was at the rooftop cafe of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  Needless to say, it was a good day.

Since Christmas, I have been keeping my new recipes and cards in the book in the first picture: a gift from my brother-in-law’s folks!  I will treasure it till the cows come home.

Orangina French Toast for 2

1/3 C milk or cream

2 eggs

1/2 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon or cloves

4 slices challah

Orangina & orange zest

Whisk together first four ingredients.  Soak challah in mix for several minutes.  Sprinkle with zest and splash with Orangina.  Melt one tablespoon of butter (sub oil or use bacon drippings) in skillet.  Fry orange clouds over medium heat until golden.  Dust with powdered sugar, fruit, or your fav. light amber syrup.  Buongiorno!

jingle balls brunch

The holidays are a great time for brunch, don’t you think? This year I put together a brunch where the menu items (except the eggs and beverages) were ball-shaped! It was fun to come up with flavor combos using that shape limitation, and I do believe the meal “made spirits bright.”

Kumquats with Chèvre rolled in Brandied Pecans / Aged White Cheddar & Brown Sugar Bacon Monkey Bread / Twice Baked Mini Mashers / Roasted Cappellini Onions and Grape Tomatoes / Macaroons with Tart Cherries & Key Limes.

Half of the food was prepared in advance. Day before: bake mini mashers once, bake bacon in oven, roll goat cheese balls, make macaroons, wash fruits & veggies. Day of: bake bacon cheddar monkey bread, hollow out mini mashers, roast mini mashers, onions & tomatoes, stuff mini mashers with filling, make eggs.

Black Diamond & Brown Sugar Bacon Monkey Bread (Amy’s Adaptation)

2 Tubes crescent roll dough, balled up (a revelation in semi-flaky monkey bread)
12 slices good bacon, baked with dark brown sugar, broken up (bake your bacon!)
One little block Black Diamond aged white cheddar, chunked up (I used to live on little shrink wrapped packets of this cheese)
Half stick unsalted sweet cream butter, melted

lightly grease loaf pan.
coat each dough ball in butter and fill bottom of pan with dough ball layer.
sprinkle bacon and cheese over the layer.
repeat a few times.
finish with a dough ball layer.

takes about 35 minutes in 350-degree oven. let cool in pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to plate.