The Importance of Casseroles: Cheesy Baked Pasta with Ground Turkey and Spinach


Sickness. A meal for a shut in.   A welcome home meal after a long absence. Beareavement.  A new baby.  A new neighbor.  A casserole serves all needs.  With the ease of the 9″ X 13″ pan, covered in foil with the reheating/cooking instructions written right on top, the casserole has been delivered to grateful recipients for generations.  Think back to the times you have been the lucky recipient of such meals.  You probably don’t remember the meals as much as the love and support nourishing you or your family through your time of need.

A piping hot frittata delivered to my husband after surgery including a gorgeous calla lily, a tea towel and wooden spoon to keep, a salad with vinaigrette and a loaf of French bread, all packaged in a beautiful basket.

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Ricotta-Sweet Pea Toast


“How luscious lies the pea within the pod.”   Emily Dickinson

This easy-peasy(pardon the pun!) ricotta-sweet pea toast is so good, you’ll forget all about avocado! Using a really good sourdough cut thick, lemony ricotta cheese is heaped on then topped with minty peas.  Classic spring flavors made fresh on a toast.  So simple, so good, you’ll want to have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Continue reading

Hypertufa Garden Sphere-DIY Tutorial


Stone in a garden just does something to me.  I love the patina, texture and architectural interest it weaves  into a natural setting. Its earthy color makes it easy to incorporate into any garden for a rich yet subtle sculptural effect.  It whispers of antiquity and timelessness.  Stone spheres as garden ornamentation in particular, imparts a quiet serenity in the space.

Three orbs sit among a perennial bed of bluebells, enhancing but not detracting from the beauty of the flowers.

An added bonus of stone garden ornamentation, is that it can be mobile and moved around the garden at a whim if it is not too heavy.

Stone spheres are usually expensive and finding one, often a random lucky discovery on one’s travels.  Good places to search are in architectural salvage stores.

Two of my spheres invite attention on a garden wall alongside an antique olive oil urn.  The brand new spheres have an ancient looking patina that blends perfectly with the old urn.

For many years I have been making hypertufa containers for my garden.  It never occured to me to try making garden spheres.  After some research I found instructions on how to make them and they were quite easy.  I played around with 3 techniques and all of them yielded beautiful spheres. All the orbs I created were solid.  In the first technique, I used an inflated ball as the mold.  In the second technique, 2 round soup bowls without any rims were sandwiched together to serve as a sort of hinged mold.  In the third technique, I shaped a small orb free hand.  For all methods, I used the standard ratio of 1 part Portland cement, 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss with just enough water to create a thick mixture.   I just adjusted the quantity of the mixture to fill the molds.

Materials needed:

You will need a large bucket, a mask to protect you from the cement dust, rubber gloves, kitchen scissors to cut the top of the ball, a rubber ball to use as a mold, water, equal measures of Portland cement, perlite and peat moss and a box to secure the sphere as it cures.  You will need a plastic bag large enough to hold the sphere as it cures.

Cut a small opening on the top of the ball large enough to get your hand through. The ball will deflate a bit but don’t worry. When you add the cement, it will regain its shape.

Add enough water to your mixture, and using your gloved hands, work it until it forms a thick paste. Start filling the ball with the hypertufa mixture until full.  You will need to get your hand inside the ball often to really pack the stone into  every nook and cranny.  You will know you have it full when the surface of the ball is restored to its original shape.  I was surprised at how much stone was needed to fill the mold and had not mixed enough the first time.  I simply mixed a second batch and continuted filling the ball.  Once it is full, place the ball in a plastic bag, tie it and secure it in a box to keep it immobile while it is setting.  Cure an initial 48 hours in the mold.

After 48 hours of initial curing: Using kitchen shears and working on newspaper, cut away the rubber ball and discard. Your sphere will have some markings at the top where the cut-out hole is. Mine also had a horizontal striation where I had run out of hypertufa stone and had to mix a second batch. At this stage, the cement is still pretty soft. So take a paring knife and gently scrape away to remove any lines you don’t esthetically like.

The markings on my sphere before I remove them.

The surface of my sphere after I carved away the unsightly markings. You could use sandpaper to achieve a similar result.  At this stage, rebag the sphere in the plastic bag and cure for a week, securing the sphere in a box to stabilize it.

The second technique I developed was to use 2 rimless soup bowls from my kitchen that that a perfect rounded shape.  For this technique, you must generously spray the inside of the bowl with cooking spray to be sure you can separate the mold.  The rest of the technique is exactly as described above.  I liked this technique as I could lift the mold and look at my mixture once it was packed in tight and use my hand to smooth any air bubbles.  I also liked that I could reuse these soup bowls as subsequent molds.  Because I only had 3 molds and I made 2 spheres at the same time, I let one half of the first one dry outside the mold.  Both spheres cured the same way.

The third way I created hypertufa spheres was free hand.  With some left over material I created a finial for an antique cloche(Eastcote Lane, Devon, PA).  I really like the organic texture of the finial against the glass.  When the material was still soft, I notched the bottom with the rim of the cloche by spinning it on the rim a few times so it would lock into place once dry.  I let it cure in a plastic bag for a week like with all the other spheres.  I just love the way this little finial turned out.

My friend Inta is perhaps the gardener I admire the most for her expert eye at integrating architectural elements masterfully in the garden landscape.  Plants remain the focal point in her garden while architectural salvage and other sculptures provide unique punctuations of texture and interest.  You can visit Inta’s incredible garden here to be inspired and mesmerized!

I hope you have enjoyed learning how to make hypertufa garden spheres with me today.  These examples were my very first attempts at making them and I assure you they are easy to make.  In a future post I will share how to grow moss on these hypertufa spheres.  One of the deterrent to making hypertufa projects is that Portland cement is sold in 96 lb bags.  My awesome local hardware, Do It Best in Wayne, PA, repackages broken bags into 10 lbs bags for small projects which they sell for a few dollars. It’s worth asking if you can purchase a smaller amount.  I made all 4 sheres with just one 10 lb bag of cement.

Happy gardening!

Coconut White Chocolate Scones


These scones are out of this world.  With a double dose of coconut inside the scone and sprinkled on top, they are a coconut lover’s dream come true. The white chocolate chunks are a lovely complimentary flavor and a nice surprise as you bite into one.  Moist and not too crumbly these will please even non-scone lovers.  Truly delectable!

Coconut-White Chocolate Scones

Adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold, grated
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
½ cup white chocolate morsels
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the Glaze
1/4 cup milk, coconut, almond or regular
1 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup toasted coconut for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Add the grated cold butter to the dry mixture and gently combine with a wooden spoon until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture ressembles coarse oatmeal.
Fold the coconut into the dry mixture along with the white chocolate. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream and vanilla. Fold everything together just to incorporate. Do not overwork the dough.
Form 16 mounds out of the dough. The size can vary depending on if you want to stretch the recipe to make more or less.  I found 16 was just the right size.  Arrange them on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven for 14 minutes, or until the top just barely turned golden brown.  Watch them closely as the bottom can burn where any white chocolate has settled.
Combine the milk, powdered sugar and melted butter in a small bowl and whisk until no clumps remain. Once the scones have cooled, drizzle with the glaze and  sprinkle with toasted coconut.  You can toast regular sweetened coconut in the microwave, dry skillet or on an oven sheet, stirring often, for a minute or so.

Franciso Oller, Puerto Rican Impressionist, 1833-1917, Still Life With Coconuts, Brooklyn Museum image

Spring Sweet Pea Soup


“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” –Harriet Ann Jacobs

Throw open your windows and doors and let those wonderful spring breezes in while you make this soup. Soup? You bet.  Spring and green peas go hand in hand and this soup showcases peas brilliantly.  Velvety smooth without a drop of added cream, the flavors are bright and fresh like a burst of sunshine.  I made it a day ahead and reheated it gently on low heat. A delicious early spring in a bowl!

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Easter Table and Front Porch Décor


Treating you to lots of eye candy today to inspire your spring or Easter décor and entertaining!  From the welcome of spring blooms on our front porch to Easter around the house and at the table, there are ideas galore  to take away.  Enjoy!

An ice cream parlor chair repurposed into a planter greets visitors with a chalkboard welcome sign. Tutorial here.

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Charlotte aux fraises


“Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.” –Ellis Peters

Looking for a make-ahead, no-bake, showstopping spring dessert?  Look no further.  This strawberry charlotte is it!  The lovely pink color comes from puréed strawberries which are passed through a sieve to give the filling a luscious, velvety texture.  The lady finger cookies are dipped in a lemon simple syrup giving the cake a fresh burst of flavor.  Easy to make, the cake looks sensational and tastes, well, like a slice of heaven!

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