The Sunday Recipe(s): Making Marinades and Dressings


Making Dressings and Marinades

When it comes to making a marinade or dressing, it’s pretty simple once you know the ratios involved. Anyone who has ever used the Good Seasons Italian dressing packets on a regular basis knows you put ¼ cup of vinegar in (white, cider, red wine, champagne – it’s all good) then add 3 tablespoons of water, pour the packet in and give it a swirl to reconstitute the spices, then add ½ cup of oil. (I use light olive oil.)

You can switch out the vinegar and put in lemon to make a pretty good lemon chicken in the slow cooker. (In fact, I put a stick of butter instead of the oil for the slow cooker.) I’ve also used it to marinate chicken for the grill. (Always marinate for three days in the fridge, for maximum flavor.)

I was trying to reduce my intake of table salt so I started experimenting with using a couple tablespoons of Tastefully Simple’s Garlic Garlic seasoning instead of the dressing packet. I put 2 tablespoons of water in a cup with the seasonings and let that reconstitute for an hour before adding ¼ cup lemon juice and ½ cup light olive oil. It turned out fantastic!

Here’s another great trick. If you have a stick blender, use that puppy to blend the marinade before putting it on the chicken, it keeps the marinade on the chicken while it’s sitting in the fridge instead of sloughing off so that it sits in a pool and you have to flip the container.

Now, if you don’t have the, somewhat expensive, Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic blend, what can you use? I found a DIY blend that is supposed to simulate Garlic Garlic here —

The other dressing and marinade I love to use is balsamic. The key here is getting a balsamic vinegar you really like. Basically, I’ve heard you get what you pay for when it comes to balsamic because aging is the key and the older it is, the more flavor it has. Personally, I love the fruit blended ones. We’re lucky in the Southern Tier of New York to have Crystal City Olive Oil which offers many wonderful balsamic vinegar flavors – I particularly enjoy their raspberry or cherry balsamic. It’s not cheap, but a little bit goes a long way.

To make a quick dressing for a salad, I take 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons of the balsamic in a small container, like a Tupperware midge, then fill to the first line with light olive oil, about 1 1/2 tablespoons. Add a few grinds of sea salt and half a dozen grinds of fresh black pepper. Cover and shake well. (I shake it again just before I put it on the salad.)

In larger quantities, this makes a fantastic marinade for steak. I use a thick, strong balsamic so I use 1 part balsamic vinegar to 3 parts oil. You don’t have to be perfectly exact, and you don’t need a lot to marinade a couple steaks. Again, for me, marinating for 3 days is optimum.

Go with the ratio and try some different combinations of vinegars or acidic fruit juices and butter or olive  oil, then add some herbs, based on what you like. I’m trying a Greek marinade on chicken this weekend. I’m sure it will taste fine and maybe I’ll tweak it later on.

And, I fell down a rabbit hole when I went to the Crystal City Olive Oil web site. They have recipes. You should definitely check those out, and, if you can’t find a good balsamic vinegar near you, they do offer shipping.

The Friday Poem: Frenetic Lines


Fantastic Summer Reads Half-price on Smashwords

Just a few days left! Looking for a fast-paced and fun paranormal #Romance for summer reading? Earthbound is just $2 for all ebook formats on Smashwords right now, along with a host of other great books in many genres. #tirgearrtuesday


The Sunday Recipe: Vanilla Applesauce



This past week my munchkin and I were sick with the stomach flu and I discovered I had none of the recommended B.R.A.T. diet in the house for recovery. (Yeah, you don’t want to be running out to the store with the stomach flu.)

For those who don’t remember, B is for bananas, to which I am allergic. R is for rice, but apparently only white because the bran in brown can make matters worse. A is for applesauce, which is generally eaten as whole apples in our house. And T is for toast, but again only white bread which I rarely eat because it just doesn’t like me.

So, we had apples. Luckily, I’m well acquainted with a little kitchen magic to turn them to sauce. It’s a handy trick to master. My mother taught me years ago to add a teaspoon of butter and a bit of vanilla to please the young palate. I will venture to suggest that if you don’t do dairy, a teaspoon of any neutral kitchen oil will work.

Fat content, even a tiny bit, is a major trick in many recipes to make the tastes hit your palate in a very different way. It’s why just a touch of cream in coffee can make a big difference.

So many recipes use sugar but we’ve never found it necessary. We ate a couple bowls of applesauce today and I asked my daughter if she would call it sweet or sweet-tart. She said, “sweet!” There you have it.

One of the nice things about applesauce is it’s pretty forgiving, use what you have and just enough water to keep the apples from sticking to the pot. Make a big batch or a single apple. It’s all good.


  • 6 medium apples (Northern Spy or Granny Smith preferred. Other tart varieties will do.)
  • Water to cover the bottom of the pot.
  • 1 teaspoon butter or neutral oil such as light olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)


  1. Peel, core, and chunk up the apples into a medium pot.
  2. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Maybe 1/3 cup.
  3. Bring the water to a quick boil.
  4. Stir and cover the pot.
  5. Turn the heat to low.
  6. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. If the apples aren’t soft, give them a little longer.
  8. Mash the apples.
  9. Stir in the butter or oil and vanilla.
  10. Serve warm or chilled.
  11. Enjoy.

The Friday Poem: A Sanctuary Built of Words

I’m afraid the munchkin and I have been down with a rather severe stomach virus this week so I’m going to revisit an old poem that captures my philosophy about writing. I hope you enjoy.


The Sunday Recipe: Coconut Oil Chocolates


Fruit & Nut or Coconut Chocolates

Years ago I came across a recipe to make chocolates out of coconut oil, cocoa powder, and Stevia. I used maple syrup instead and I’ve added different things. Recently I made fruit and nut bars with pecans and reduced sugar Craisins in cupcake liners, and smaller chocolates with coconut in them in mini muffin liners. Here’s my recipe. They are as good as anything I can buy, and slightly healthier, in my estimation. Plus, they make great little energy bites while I’m writing!


  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder (56 grams, packed tablespoons will yield a MUCH darker chocolate)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans & 1/3 cup chopped craisins OR ½ cup (40 grams) grated unsweetened coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 cup cake liners or about 15 mini cupcake liners


  1. Heat the coconut oil gently in a glass bowl or measuring cup on 50% power for about half a minute.
  2. Stir in the cocoa powder.
  3. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt.
  4. Stir in any additions.
  5. I divided the cranberry and pecan ones evenly between 6 muffin liners.
  6. The shredded coconut ones made about 15 tablespoon sized chocolates in mini muffin liners. (Or would have if my daughter didn’t steal a spoonful to eat.)
  7. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  8. Store in the refrigerator, especially in hot weather.
  9. Enjoy!

The Friday Poem: Continuity

This one was inspired by physicist Alan Lightman’s book, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.


The Sunday Recipe: Zucchini and Red Bell Pepper Melange


Zucchini and Red Bell Pepper Melange

I remember serving this to my father many years ago, it was one of his favorite things that I cooked. I was surprised and elated when my young daughter loved it. She was the one who dubbed it “Veggie Melange.” If you have the option, get a red bell pepper with four ‘lobes’ on the bottom, they are better for cooking.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet red bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 1 medium zucchini squash or 2 small, chopped in about ½ inch chunks
  • 1 – 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (no salt added, or leave out the salt below)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder (or 2 cloves of crushed garlic added in with the onions)
  • ¼ teaspoon of sea salt
  • Pinch of sugar


  1. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and pour in the olive oil.
  2. Allow to heat on medium while you dice the onion.
  3. Saute onion while you core and chop the bell pepper.
  4. Add the bell pepper, give it a stir, and turn the heat down a little bit, medium low now.
  5. Dice the zucchini and add to the pan. Stir and cover.
  6. Cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Stir and cook another 3 minutes.
  8. Add the diced tomatoes and seasonings. Stir and recover.
  9. Simmer 5 minutes.
  10. Stir and simmer another 3 to 5 minutes.
  11. Add anything you would like from options below and enjoy!

Optional —  Add a cup or two of cooked pasta or tortellini, add some chopped up leftover meatloaf, some meatballs, or Italian sausage. Stir in some cheese. These days I tend to serve it with Italian sausage but my daughter likes to stir in some cottage cheese.

The Friday Poem: Tension Headache


Childhood Summer Reading


Is there much better than summer reading on vacation? There seems to be a central mystery theme at the core of my reading when I was growing up. I still love a good mystery. Some were books I found at my grandmother’s house where I went on vacation and some were books I got through my little local library.

Here’s just a few of my favorites from summer reading as a kid –

Bobbsey Twins in Rainbow Valley by Laura Lee Hope  – This was a little book that I found in my grandmother’s house and I loved reading it every time I was there.  The two sets of twins, Flossie and Freddie and Bert and Nan, go on vacation with their parents to Rainbow Valley.  Many mildly scary adventures befall them on their trip.  I think the adventure on vacation angle appealed to my mind because I was on vacation at my grandmother’s house.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I think my recollections of this story could be a little bit mixed up with the movie at this point but I still remember the soft green of this paperback copy and the softness of the pages for some reason.  The story never got old for me.  Mary is an orphan after her parents die of Cholera in India.  She is frail and sickly but when she goes to stay with her uncle on the moor in England, the garden she finds helps her return to health even as she helps it.  Who wouldn’t like a little bit of Earth to call their own? And how much better if it’s a secret garden with a hidden door in a high wall?  It’s the magic of nature.

The Mystery of the Crimson Ghost by Phyllis A. Whitney – Like most teen girls, I was horse crazy. Of course, it didn’t help that I grew up on the same street where they held horse auctions every other Friday and I walked horses to cool them down after polo matches one year.  I spent years trying to find this book again because I didn’t have the title quite right.  I finally ran across it and found out it was by none other than Phyllis Whitney.  This was the perfect story for a horse crazed teenager with a love of mysteries.  Janey goes to visit her Aunt Viv on summer vacation and sees a mysterious crimson ghost dog across the lake.  There’s also a beautiful horse across the lake.  In order to ride the horse, she’ll have to figure out the mystery surrounding the crimson ghost.

What were some of your favorite childhood reads?

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