Search This Blog


Friday, May 25, 2012


One of my little chefs painting toast!

And what a week it was!  Last Saturday was great fun at the Howell History Days celebration in downtown Howell - we had perfect sunny weather and a ton of kids join me on the side lawn of the library to make Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcakes and a fun food science project - painted toast!

We had over 75 children participate in this fun project that incorporated a little food science, a little food history, a little nutrition and lots of fun

To make 'paint' for your food artists, simply mix a few drops of liquid food coloring into 1/4 cup of milk and 'paint' the bread.  When toasting, the sugars in the milk caramelize and the colors become extremely vibrant.

Still laughing after the play!!!  GREAT job!

Saturday evening, with a whole bunch of friends, Mr. W and I attended the Community Theatre of Howell's performance of Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels and I stuck around to congratulate the cast and crew, and especially my friend, Jon King, who played Andre the Police Inspector - all I can say is.....I will never look at my pink scarf the same way again!!!  This is me with Jon and his adorable daughter, Emily after the show.

Some of my Brighton BFF's visited the Pop-Up Bistro!
Wednesday - in conjunction with the Livingston Arts Council and the Howell Opera House - we held the first Great Foodini Pop-Up Bistro Lunch and Lesson.  We served Michigan Dried Cherry Salad with my Balsamic Vinaigrette, a Michigan Seasonal Fruited Salad with my Honey Mint Vinaigrette, my Tomato Basil Tortellini soup, homemade breads and rolls and, for dessert, my Chocolate Toffee Bread Pudding.  For the lesson part of the day, I shared some of my tips, tricks and secrets for making the most of your Farmer's Market purchases - and finished up with my summertime favorite - Watermelon with Lime and Mint.....

On my deck, with  my treat, overlooking just a bit of mint!
Oh yes, there's more.......!!!!

Which brings me to today's morning fun on WHMI with Mike and Jon - I took in the watermelon because Memorial Day officially kicks off the start of the summer picnic season and what else besides hot dogs is a summer picnic staple???  Watermelon!

Here's my twist - cut up your watermelon into bite sized chunks, squeeze with a little fresh lime and a little finely chopped mint have a most refreshing summertime snack!

In case you missed the Foodini Friday show this morning, (you can get there by clicking on the WHMI link and then clicking on their Podcast button, or by visiting our Facebook page), Mr. W and I have a veritable plethora (big word Friday!!!) of mint growing in our backyard!  What started as a meager supply of mint for our Mojito habit, grew into about a quarter acre over the course of a couple of years so I am always looking into ways to use a little mint in my recipes.  This recipe has always been a huge hit and a really fun taste sensation - give it a try!

I hope you have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend!  Our plans changed unexpectedly so we will be around - and taking the surprise time off to get lots of work done around the house and yard.  I wonder if Mr. W is as thrilled about this as I am?!?!?!?!   I am pretty sure there's a barbeque in the future too....

Also - heartfelt hugs and love to all soldiers and their families, those with us and those gone, and to my special Soldier Girl - a big long distance mommasan  hug!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012


Happy Friday everybody!!!  Greetings to you from sunny, warm and beautiful Michigan!   So exciting - it looks like we have just about perfect weather coming our way this weekend - yay for us!!!

I spent my morning, like I do almost every Friday morning with Mike and Jon at WHMI studios and we had a little fun on the Foodini Friday morning show - we had a chance to catch up a little and talk about something healthy, something chocolate, something for the grownups and something for the kids - I'd say that's just about a home run for a Friday morning!

I had told the guys I was bringing in something healthy and something chocolate and they would cancel each other out - probably not something that the Biggest Loser or  Jillian Michaels would go for, but it works for me!!  All the guys heard was chocolate this case, my Chocolate Toffee Bread Pudding.   Jon even sent an email back that said effect.....Chocolate.  That's really all you have to say, hahaha!!

This is what I have lined up for the next week - tomorrow morning I am appearing as Great Foodini from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Howell Carnegie Library for a Cooking with Kids workshop during the Howell History Days celebration - there I will be doing two fun projects with the kids - one is food science and perhaps a little 'artful' and the other is an old fashioned strawberry shortcake that the kids will assemble themselves - this is the old fashioned biscuit shortcake that our grandma used to make.  Bring the kids to come see me - I will be alternating shows with an artist doing art and drawing workshops with the kids.

Then - Monday I have my last Made in Michigan class for this season - this class is called Making Magic with  Michigan Foods and includes some old favorites like....Sander's Hot Fudge, Vernors ginger ale, Faygo and some newer products like Kid Rock's Bad Ass Beer, Red Gold tomatoes and one of my new fun things - Hard Luck Candy vodka - those plus more and how to best use all of the in season and upcoming season produce and foods grown in Michigan.

Then - next Wednesday I am holding a Pop Up Bistro at the Opera House in Howell - they have invited me to come in and use my 'culinary arts' demonstrations as part of their repertoire of 'arts' in downtown Howell. The Opera House is owned and being refurbished by the Livingston Arts Council and I am honored to be a part of their ongoing effort to restore this beautiful downtown landmark.  For that event, I am cooking up my Michigan Seasonal Fruit Salad with Honey Mint Vinaigrette and my Michigan Dried Cherry and Blue Cheese salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, herbed chicken for the salads, my Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup, homemade breads warm Chocolate Toffee Bread Pudding for dessert.

For the radio show this morning, I took in the fruited salad (nobody even took a bite, hahahaha!!) and the Chocolate Toffee Bread Pudding, (nobody left a bite, hahaha!).  So - here's the recipes!  Enjoy!

Fresh, healthy and GOOD!!!

Cleaned and dried spinach or seasonal field greens
 Sliced or chopped seasonal fruit –strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, apples, dried cherries, etc.
 Herbs – dill, cilantro, tarragon, parsley, mint, etc.

Arrange cleaned and chilled greens over large serving platter.  Top with seasonal fruits and herbs of choice and Honey Mint Vinaigrette.


1 cup olive oil (or canola blend)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
½ cup loosely packed mint leaves, about 18

Blend in blender, food processor or immersion blender until well blended.  Store covered in refrigerator.

RECIPE TIPS:  Make a double batch of the dressing to have in fridge - it keeps very well for a couple of months!


Pools of chocolate.....say  my name!!!
8 cups cubed bread   
4 cups milk 
4 eggs 
1/3 c brown sugar   
1/3 c granulated sugar  
1 t vanilla
1 t salt
½ cup toffee bits
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and add cubed bread.  In a large bowl, beat eggs and add milk, sugars, vanilla and salt.  Whisk to combine.  Let stand 15 minutes or until sugars are partially dissolved.  Pour over bread cubes and carefully stir with a spoon until bread is saturated.  Sprinkle with toffee bits and swirl spoon through pudding to blend in toffee a bit.  Bake 45-55 minutes or until pudding has set.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan combine sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips over medium low heat until smooth and blended.  Serve over warm pudding.

RECIPE TIPS:   Heat the chocolate chips and condensed milk just until melted - do not turn up the heat and walk away for 20 minutes, lol.....don't ask me how I know this, just trust me!!!  Store bread pudding and sauce in refrigerator if not serving right away.  Warm before serving.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I hope everybody had a wonderful weekend - and especially those who celebrated Mother's Day!  Even though my mom has been gone for many, many years, I still enjoy celebrating the day both as a mom of two wonderful children and being allowed to have a day where memories of my mom flow freely.  I can honestly say that there are many laugh out loud chuckles when I think of some of our mother/daughter escapades!!!

Sandy Vyletel, who owns the winery in Howell and I partnered up again this year for our Second Annual Mother's Day Brunch and Tea where we shared food, drink, memories and lots of fun with a full house of beautiful women!  They've allowed me to share some photos of the day - hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

The brunch and tea were such a huge success - we sold out a couple of weeks ago and if you tried to attend but were unable, our apologies.  We intend to do this event each year and may bring similar events to downtown Howell very soon!  Stay tuned!

Thank you again for sharing your day with us - it was our pleasure to have you!

Friday, May 11, 2012


Getting Jon's autograph!
Well not exactly 'scoffing'...but perhaps, a bringing a little 21st century into the Escoffier history.  You see - here's how I have come to be speaking of the man, Auguste Escoffier, a popular French chef, restaurateur, and culinary writer who enjoyed fame in the late 1800's- early 1900's for his 'streamlined' approach to French cooking.  

I enjoy spending my Friday morning at the WHMI studios with Mike and Jon who do the morning show and my little segment called, Foodini Friday.  We have a little fun discussing, eating, and generally having a little fun with my favorite subject - food!!  It's tons of fun and I get to share my passion for sharing recipes that are reasonable and seasonable while talking about my upcoming appearances and events - great fun for everybody!

So - my buddy, Jon - is channeling his inner French thespian talents over the next couple weeks and is playing Andre the Inspector in the local CTH play, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  I told them last week that I wanted to do something French in his honor and he advised that Escoffier is mentioned in the play so......I'm thinking - hey - I'll do an Escoffier recipe!  I am thinking.....Creme Brulee - everybody loves Creme Brulee right???

I get my hands on Escoffier's very famous Berry Creme Brulee recipe and guess what?  THREE PAGES and TWO DAYS to make this.  

Hold. Ze. Plane. (speak this with a vewy vewy Fwench accent.....)

While restaurant chefs can and should capitalize on foods that bring people to success is sharing recipes that can and will be duplicated so - a little 'recipe redux' was in order!  This recipe - where I add an element of fun and a bit of a twist, can be prepared in less than an hour and according to my friends at WHMI...was "C'est bon"!!


Here's the recipe for my Creme Brulee Shooters - 
Berry, berry good Creme Brulee Shooters!


2 cups prepared custard, chilled
1 cup half and half
Seeds from ½ vanilla bean or
  1 teaspoon vanilla
Candied Sugar Crumbles
Fruit puree or fresh fruit, optional

Combine custard and half and half in blender or, if using an immersion blender, in a large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean or vanilla and Puree until well blended. If necessary, add additional half and half or milk until a milk shake consistency is achieved. Garnish with Candied Sugar Crumbles and fruit if desired.


1/2 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup milk or half and half

Combine sugar and milk in small, heavy saucepan, stir to blend well. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until milk reduces and begins to thicken. Reduce heat slightly and continue to stir until most milk is evaporated and sugar becomes lightly golden and begins to crumble. Remove from heat and sprinkle over waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in airtight container or zipper bag.

RECIPE TIP:  Any prepared custard will work in this recipe - in a pinch you can even use Bill Cosby's famous recipe (yes, the Jell-o one....cooked version, please!)

Sound good?  Oui, oui ma cherie!!!

Ahhhhh, channeling my inner French woman..... with a name like Renee Marie....well, I oughta know at least a little French!!

Jon's autograph - NOT going on Ebay!!!
The show was a lot of fun today and I even had a little fun at Mr. W's expense, lol - if you have a few minutes, listen in - click on the WHMI link and find the Podcast - or check out my Facebook page where I will post it soon.

Also - be sure to check out the performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - link is

 Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, May 4, 2012


Hola mi amigos!!!  That's about the extent of my Spanish - although I can also find the bathroom and order a beer and totally confuse a dog in Spanish as well.  But the way I figure ....that's about all I need to know!

Just some of my tennis group - looking good AND
rock star tennis players too!!!
I am back from tennis camp - had a BLAST with 24 of my dearest friends.  We went to Kiawah Island Golf and Tennis Resort in South Carolina - what a wonderful place.  We enjoyed lots of great tennis lessons, lots of people watching, lots of great food and many other activities like kayaking, biking, beach walking, swimming and yes, a little libation now and again.

Thomas Blake and me....on the Ocean Course at Kiawah.
Yes, that is the ocean in the background - gorgeous 18th
hole - they actually still have caddies there!  We refrained
from heckling the golfers as they came
We had some fun with some tennis and golf celebrities while we were there - almost saw Andy Roddick, except that the one person with the group who didn't know who he was happened to be the person that the waiter let in on the secret.  Oh well.  We saw Thomas Blake, a tennis player himself and the brother of James Blake - they happened to be there on a golf outing so that was great fun.  Thomas was such a nice guy - he patiently, patiently and did I say patiently.....took pictures with all of us.  He and I had a long discussion about the alligators that were all over Kiawah Island and the benefits of NOT looking for lost balls!!!

So - speaking of is Friday and I was so excited to do my Foodini Friday morning show with Mike and Jon at WHMI because I wanted to share one of the BEST drink recipes ever with the guys - yes, I know it's a little early is Friday!!!   I also have my favorite quick salsa - using my favorite tomatoes, Red Gold.....and my most requested recipe ever, which is for my shredded beef filling. goes!

Maybe even less than 2 minutes!  Jon did it on the air!


1 can Red Gold diced tomatoes with 
   Green Chilies, slightly drained    
Juice from 1 lime
½ teaspoon cumin   
½ teaspoon salt
Small handful cilantro

Blend well with blender, food processor or immersion blender.  If this mixture is too spicy, add a second can of drained petite diced tomatoes.  That’s it!  Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

The rub adds great color to the beef when it is seared...
see Recipe Tip for additional helpful information.

1 tablespoon garlic powder  
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons paprika  
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 teaspoon ground Cayenne pepper

Mix all powders together – breaking any lumps sometimes found in the onion and garlic powders. 

The rub can be used on chicken, pork, beef, and whatever else you might like to put between a tortilla!

RECIPE TIP:  Be careful not to breathe in the powders – seriously!!

Griddled corn tortilla...Red Gold Salsa, a little cheese
and a nice slice of avocado...breakfast of champions!


2 lbs beef roast (chuck, english, round etc)
3-5 teaspoons of THE RUB    
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 cups water (or more if necessary)
large onion, chopped

Trim meat of any easily removed fat.  Rub spices into both sides of meat, let stand several hours in refrigerator.  Heat oil until very hot in deep pan.  Add meat and sear until very dark, almost burned…turn over and do the other side.  Once meat is seared, cover with water, add chopped onion and cover.  Simmer rather rapidly, turning several times until tender, about 3 hours or so, reducing heat to low for the last half-hour.  Watch that water does not run dry.  As you get close to three hours the liquid will thicken a little and begin to be absorbed.  When meat becomes fork tender do not add more water, reduce heat.

When fork tender, remove from pan and save drippings.  Once meat is cool enough to handle, use a fork to shred the meat, and add to the pan with drippings.   Add a little more water if necessary to make a nice consistency.  Add bbq sauce to meat for Tex Mex flavor.

For burritos, spoon into tortillas, top with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa – mmmmmmmmm good!

Also good with quesadillas, tacos, nachos, taco salad, fajitas, etc.

RECIPE TIP:  It is very important to sear the meat in a very hot pan - because of the dry ingredients in the rub, the pan will smoke and make lots of noise - but that dark, rich color is so important for the success and the development of flavors in this recipe.  I love to say that the pan is hot enough if the smoke alarm goes off...hahaha!  For the record, it did yesterday! 


Just add.....salt!

12 oz can frozen limeade
12 oz Corona beer
12 oz tequila
12 oz dry ginger ale

Combine all ingredients, stir and serve over lots of ice – with or without salt and a squeeze of lime.  Enjoy!

The recipe for the Beergaritas was given to me by my great friend Judy - who did have two things to say about it......always use Corona beer careful, they will sneak up on you!!

Ooooohhhh, you want to know about the Spanish dog?  Well, a few years ago when Mr. W and I were down in Mexico SCUBA diving, we stopped at a little hole in the wall for authentic Mexican food and lo and behold....there is a stray dog wandering around and of course, won't leave me alone so I try to shoo it and get it to leave and then I think - hey, talk to it in I start yelling "Vamanos"  "Vamanos" and it keeps following me - so I yell it louder...."VAMANOS....VAMANOS"...   Still following me.....  I look over at Mr. W and he is HOWLING....doubled over laughing......says to me....."Do you know that 'vamanos' means 'Come on - let's go?'    Poor dog.  Poor Mr. W.  Poor me.  Time for another Beergarita!!

Have a great day, a great weekend and I hope that these fun Cinco de Mayo recipes make it to your table!!!