Summer Tomato Salad

Did you miss posts from me last week?! It was my one week each year off of work, and I started it off by forgetting my Chromebook at my grandparents house 30 miles away from home. I use the Chromebook for my blogging and photo editing, so I took this as my sign that I needed to take a vacation from all work, not just my 9-5 (okay, or 7:30-4:30) work. No blog posts went up last week, but since it was my first blogging break of 2019, I forgive myself!

What did I do instead? Well I finally tackled the basement dungeon that I’ve been avoiding – it is now all cleaned up and organized, and even the laundry is caught up! I cleaned all of my windows inside and out and I steam cleaned the grout on my tile floors. I also got some sun on my porcelain skin, celebrated a friend’s birthday, took a one day trip with Michael, and did some fun cooking…from which Michael was most definitely the largest beneficiary. He loves to eat, and I love to cook, so you could say we’re a match made in culinary heaven! I’m pretty sure he would not argue on that last point.

For the grand finale, Mia (his daughter) and I planned a Father’s Day picnic at a park downtown, where I could also get some family pictures of him and his kids that he’s been wanting (a little collage of some of them is below). I put together a spread of antipasto kabobs, BLT and PBJ skewers (basically just BLT’s and PBJ’s cut into quarters and pierced with a toothpick), strawberry and dark chocolate turnovers (I might be sharing this recipe soon as well), some cheez-it’s for Gabriel, and the subject of today’s post – a tomato salad!

I got the idea from an episode of Barefoot Contessa that I watched a couple of months ago where she had a picnic with her husband and served various types of salads, including a tomato salad. Michael loves tomatoes, so I decided to come up with a tomato salad just for him. It turned out so good, I had to share this one on the blog with all of you! So here goes…

Summer Tomato Salad



  • 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes (I used an heirloom variety container from Aldi)
  • 1 TBS fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 1-2 sliced of cooked bacon, crumbled (leave out for plant-based)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions, pickled in apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 TBS olive oil
  • 1-2 TBS white balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. First things first – the onions! To do these, I thinly sliced about 1/4 of a cup of red onions, then cut the rings into halves. I put them in a glass jar with a lid, poured in apple cider vinegar until the onions were just covered, put on the lid, then popped them into the fridge while I made the rest of the picnic foods. I would allow them to pickle for at least half an hour before using.
  2. On to the rest of the recipe! Start by frying the bacon, then setting aside. While this is cooling, slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and add to a bowl. Remove the onions from the vinegar and spread these into the bowl with the tomatoes. Add the basil, oregano, salt and pepper, then toss ingredients of the bowl together.
  3. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle on top, then drizzle on the olive oil and the white balsamic. We picked up a bottle of white balsamic from a little shop in downtown Columbia, Missouri called Boone Olive Oil Co., and it has an incredible flavor!
  4. My friends, that is it! Your tomato salad is ready to serve. How simple is that?! Incredible flavor with minimal effort. You could easily add a little crumbled goat cheese to this dish as well, and if I hadn’t had lots of cheese in the antipasto kabobs already, I probably would’ve.
  5. This recipe makes about 4 servings (or 2 if your name is Michael!), but can easily be doubled if you need it for a larger gathering.

Coming up later this week I will have a garden update. The weekend before my vacation week, we (and by we I mean mostly Michael, with Logan as an assistant, and a bit of help from myself and my mom) built the enclosure for my tomato bed to keep out the squirrels and it turned out so good! I can’t wait to share it with you, so stay tuned for that post hopefully on Thursday!

Bell Pepper Quinoa Salad

What a divinely beautiful weekend it turned out to be! Forecasters predicted Armageddon for Saturday, but it turned out to be a quick lunchtime thunderstorm, followed by sunshine and upper 60’s for the afternoon. I spent my late morning and lunch hour holed up in a local coffee shop, working on book writing and discussing film and books with a couple of the regulars. Then I took to the patio at a downtown microbrewery with friends for the afternoon.

The first hints of spring always arouse feelings of newness and anticipation, brought to the surface from the place deep inside where they hibernate during the gloom of winter. Dreams of budding trees, blooming flowers, and the summer garden give way to plans and action.

Yesterday I cleared the last of the limbs from the tree cut down last August, cleaned up the leaves lingering in my back yard, and set my new raised bed and filled it with soil. My bench cushions and pillows returned to their home and the hammock was given a good wash. Many are the days that will be spent in that hammock, and on that bench, reading and writing and drawing my time away. I wish I could bottle this feeling and store it up on a shelf, so I could take a sip any time I’m feeling blue.

Something about the warming air always sets me to craving fresh veggies. This weekend I came up with something new! I had bell peppers that were intended for stuffed peppers that I failed to get around to making. So instead, I turned them into a delicious side dish that will pair beautifully with any style of chicken or fish. You could even throw in a little ground turkey and swap out the quinoa for brown rice to make it into a simple one-dish meal. Sort of a stuffed pepper skillet–a much healthy version of hamburger helper!



  • 1 cup quinoa
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 3 medium-to-large bell peppers, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 purple onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 of an 8oz can of tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions, then set aside
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add peppers and onion and sauté, stirring often. When onion begins to turn translucent, add garlic, salt and pepper and continue to sauté until peppers begin to soften.
  3. Add tomato sauce and quinoa, and stir to combine. Add more salt and pepper at this point if needed.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and enjoy!

Honestly–it doesn’t get any easier than that! Eating your veggies can be much more simple and fast than people realize. I did my quinoa in a microwavable steamer bowl, so it cooked in about five minutes while I had my peppers and onions sautéing. The whole thing, including chopping the vegetables, was ready to eat in about 15 minutes start to finish!

If you try it, please leave a comment to let me know what you think. Happy eating!

Mushroom and Black Bean Wraps

Happy New Year’s Eve! It’s time to start start setting goals and getting healthy, and I have a little something to help. The boys have been gone for the last week, which means emptying my produce drawer has been a little slow-going. I realized I had a ton of mushrooms left that desperately needed to be used up, along with about a third of a zucchini and a couple of shallots.

I needed something that would use up a good chunk of my mushrooms, so I opted for one of my favorite go-to lunch fixes–a wrap! They’re always quick and easy for mid-day, especially on weekend and post-workout when you’re busy, hungry, and don’t want to spend an hour planning, prepping and cooking your lunch. So yesterday, I created yet another yummy wrap with mushrooms at the center of attention.


Mushroom and Black Bean Wraps:


  • 5-6 smaller-size mushrooms (I used a mixture of crimini and button)\
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1/3 small zucchini
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 whole wheat 10-inch tortilla


  1. Dice your mushrooms and zucchini, and finely chop the shallot. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil over medium heat, then add mushroom, zucchini and shallot to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer.
  2. While this is cooking, open and rinse your black beans, then measure out what you need for the wrap. Return to the pan and add the minced garlic, cooking the mixture down for a few more minutes.
  3. Place tortilla into the microwave to heat for about 20 seconds. While that is warming, add the black beans and ground cumin to the pan, and do a taste test to see if it needs any additional salt and pepper.
  4. Heat this through for a couple of minutes, just long enough for the beans to get hot, then spoon the mixture onto the warmed tortilla. Top with some sliced avocado and salsa, and serve!

How’s that for an easy-peasy meatless lunch?! I also added a dash or two of red pepper flakes to mine because I like a little spice. It was good and filling, it allowed me to use up some produce before it went bad, and it was incredibly good for my body! And you know I had to have myself a glass of chardonnay while I was cooking. It was definitely a love-my-body kind of day!

I hope you all enjoy, and I wish you a fun and safe New Year’s Eve. See you back here in 2019!

Oven Roasted Vegetables

It’s Thanksgiving week, and you can’t think of Thanksgiving without thinking about food! Perfectly browned turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, buttery rolls…and my grandmothers tangy vinegar cole slaw! I’m ready to spend a whole day cozy and warm in the kitchen with my family, sipping a glass of wine (or two!) and stuffing my belly full.

The perfect compliment to the beginning of the holiday season, is anything roasted until lightly-crisp in the oven. Mmmmm, good! This weekend I got a hankering for some brussels sprouts. I had a steamable bag of brussles in the fridge, about a quarter of a bag of baby carrots, and an unopened bunch of asparagus. Perfect for roasting!

For the first batch of roasted veggies, I paired the brussles sprouts and carrots together. I popped the Brussels sprouts in the microwave, in their steamable bag, for three minutes–just long enough to lightly steam them and soften them a bit. I then dumped them onto a cutting board and cut each brussels sprout in half lengthwise.

I set the oven to 400 degrees, then sprayed a cookie sheet with olive oil spray. I spread the brussels sprout halves evenly on the sheet, then distributed the rest of the bag of baby carrots among them. I sprayed the veggies with some more olive oil spray, then sprinkled with salt and pepper.

To roast: pop cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees, sprinkle some minced garlic on top of the veggies, and roast for an additional 10 minutes.


The roasted brussles and carrots turned out perfectly! They were just starting to brown on the edges, but were still a little soft in the middle from being lightly steamed before going into the oven. Some diced potatoes would have also gone wonderfully with this combination, or even some sweet potatoes or parsnips!

To roast the asparagus, I used the exact same method, except I didn’t steam the spears at all prior to roasting. Asparagus has a pretty good water content on its own, so it roasts well without needing to be steamed or softened beforehand.

I trimmed the hard ends from the asparagus, sprayed the same cookie sheet with olive oil spray, then spread the spears out on the sheet evenly. I sprayed them with some more olive oil spray, then sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Just like the brussels, I roasted the asparagus at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, turned the oven down to 350, sprinkled some minced garlic on top of the asparagus, then roasted for an additional 10 minutes.


Really…is there anything more beautiful than boldly colored, freshly cooked vegetables?! Just looking at them makes my mouth water! If you weren’t ready for Thanksgiving before…I bet you are now!

Gobble gobble, my friends…enjoy your friends, family, and lots of sweet and savory treats!


Loaded Veggie Quesadilla

Hello Friends,The holidays are coming and I’ve been overtaken with holiday spirit! Last weekend I put up the Christmas tree…yes, already! In between hanging ornaments from the skin-breaking branches (my poor hands are torn to bits), I baked up a batch of chocolate chip cookies from scratch and washed them down with a glass of egg nog. With the chilly air and snow already in the forecast for this week, I simply cannot resist the feeling of Christmas cheer weaving its way into my heart!

With the teensy sampling of winter we’re having comes the sick-bugs. Hunter came down with some sort of odd virus just in time for Veteran’s Day, which means my solo day home from work became a day for taking care of the sick. Sore throat and fever for him, and scrubbing and sanitizing everything in sight for me. It also reminded me to eat my veggies to load up on vitamin protection.

My original plan for today’s post was to share the broccoli soup I made this weekend with you, but the call for veggies took center stage. I have a regular hankering for rich sweets and decadent chocolate, but I thank my good Lord and maker every day that He also put some pizzazz in my taste buds for those savory vegetables!

I have a produce drawer in my fridge that is always brimming with beautiful colors, and today they were calling to me. I had a handful of cherry tomatoes and two Baby Bella mushrooms that were both starting to pass their peak, so I centered my lunch around them. For me, tomatoes and mushrooms almost always mean spinach too. And I can’t sauté spinach without some bell pepper, onion and garlic. I also had about an ounce of white cheddar cheese left in a baggie, so I found a way to bring it all together.

Loaded Veggie Quesadilla



  • 2 TBS chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1 chopped mini bell pepper
  • 1/2 TBS minced garlic (I cheat and use the stuff in the jar!)
  • 2 Baby Bella mushrooms
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes
  • Generous handful of fresh spinach leaves
  • 1-2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 whole wheat tortilla
  • 1 TBS cashew-based cheese


  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and onion, and cook until onion begins to turn transparent.
  2. Add garlic to onion and peppers. While this is cooking, slice the mushrooms and add to skillet.
  3. While the mushrooms are beginning to cook down, go ahead and slice the tomatoes in half and add to the skillet. Stir the mixture together and let cook for a few minutes, until the tomatoes soften and start to break down.
  4. Turn off heat, then toss in the spinach. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and stir constantly until the spinach leaves begin to wilt. Remove from heat immediately and set aside on a plate – the spinach will continue to wilt as it sits.
  5. Spray the skillet with a bit of olive oil spray and place the tortilla in the bottom. Spread the cashew cheese over half the tortilla, then layer on the vegetables. Fold the tortilla in half, cover the skillet with a lid, and let tortilla brown over low-medium heat for about 3 minutes.
  6. Gently turn the tortilla over using a sturdy pancake turner, and allow the other side to brown for an additional 3 minutes, covered with a lid to help the cheese melt.
  7. Slide quesadilla from skillet onto a plate and allow to rest for a couple of minutes. Then, using a pizza cutter, slice the quesadilla into three equal-size squares.