Two Melon Soup – A High Impact, Low Effort Recipe

Hi, folks!

We had a busy weekend which started with the celebration of this gal’s birthday.

the birthday girl

You may know her as “Momma” from the comments section of this blog. I know her as the best mom a gal could ever have.

Our two-day celebration was capped off with a delicious dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s.  By the way, did you know that they will print a special occasion message to the guest of honor on the top of your menus? Nice touch, McCormick & Schmick’s.

On Saturday night we had a mini-reunion with part of our Camino de Santiago group at the home of fellow pilgrims, Nora and G.

Before dinner, we plugged our computers into G’s gigantic and gorgeous television to share pictures from the trip. We scrolled through 300+ photos bringing back great memories of a most amazing journey.

In honor of the evening’s theme, Nora prepared a lovely and delicious paella.

paella and two melon soup

Paella is something I enjoy eating but would never attempt to make myself. Nora is a gifted cook who whips up dishes like this with her eyes closed.

I’m delighted to be the frequent beneficiary of Nora’s culinary skills and have, in fact, “borrowed” her recipes for posts (Panzanella salad).

Today I’m going to share another of Nora’s recipes with you.

See that pretty bowl of soup served with the paella?

This Two Melon Soup, served chilled, is the perfect, refreshing start to a summertime meal.

Also, Nora assures me that the recipe fits my requirements of being High Impact, Low Effort. The hardest part, she says, is pouring the soup into the bowls.

two melon soup

Nora’s Two Melon Soup

  • 1 ripe cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 small honeydew melon, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon minced fresh mint

Puree cantaloupe with lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Rinse blender then puree honeydew with lime juice and mint until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, either:

Transfer purees into two separate measuring cups. With one in each hand, pour simultaneously into the bowl, pouring equal amounts on each side.

or use Nora’s preferred method:

Tip bowl slightly to the side and pour in the desired amount of cantaloupe puree. Pour the honeydew puree into the other side of the bowl as you are lowering the bowl back to level.

Either way might take some practice but the result is beautiful.

Garnish with a mint sprig.

Easy, peasy. Or so I’m told.

Big surprise, Peter and I brought wine to enjoy with dinner.

First up, a bottle of Albariño.

Albariño is a white wine commonly grown in Galicia, the Northwest region of Spain. Galicia is the very same part of Spain we walked through on the Camino of St. James. Along the way, we enjoyed lots and lots of great Spanish Albariño. 

Peter and I brought a bottle from one of the few U.S. producers of Albariño, Hendry Vineyard. It was on a trip to Hendry’s winery in Napa that we first tasted Albariño and fell in love with it.

2014 Hendry Albariño

The 2014 Hendry Albariño ($22) is light and refreshing with good acidity. It is fruity and floral without going over the top. 

Floral, herbal and peachy aromas. On the palate, tangy citrus, nectarine and passion fruit flavors reflect the bright acidity.

– Tasting notes via

Albariño reminds me a bit of Viognier in that it is a pretty versatile food wine. It pairs best with shellfish like mussels and clams but is also great with chicken. It’s the perfect white wine to serve with paella.

For the red wine lovers in the group, we brought a bottle of 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat from Spain.

2007 Clos Magador

This bold red Spanish wine, a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carinena, is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Albariño.

The 2007 Clos Mogador Priorat is dark and juicy and immensely satisfying. It brings flavors of licorice, blackberry, and black cherry. It’s a little bit spicy and a little bit smoky.

Oddly, though, because of the hearty nature of paella, this wine played well and did not overpower the flavors in the main course.

You have to love a dish with which you can pair both a light white wine and a bold red wine. Something for everyone.

For dessert, Nora made (you won’t believe this) homemade non-dairy rocky road ice cream with mini-marshmallows, almonds, and dashes of cayenne and red pepper.

That’s what I call a “HIGH EFFORT, HIGH IMPACT” recipe!

We ended the evening re-watching the movie that inspired us to do the walk in the first place, The Way.

This film from 2011 stars Martin Sheen and is written, produced and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. Dedicated to Sheen’s father, Francisco Estevez, who hailed from Galicia, the film was inspired by a trip Sheen took with Emilio’s son on which they walked part of the Camino. A real family affair.

Although the movie tells the sad story of a dad completing the pilgrimage on behalf of his late son, it also captures the beauty, the community, and the spirit of The Way.

I highly recommend it!

And if you can get Nora to make some Two Melon Soup and paella for you – even better!!

I’ll bring the Albariño.

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Beef Tenderloin and Cabernet Sauvignon

Beef tenderloin is my very favorite cut of meat.

And it scares me to death.

Beef tenderloin can be culinary bliss or if cooked improperly, the most expensive mistake you’ll ever make.

So, when I recently prepared a beef tenderloin dinner to celebrate having the twins and their parents in town, I turned to the wise and wonderful Barefoot Contessa for advice.

Seriously, is there anyone better at instilling confidence in home cooks than Ina Garten? Her soothing voice. Her “keep calm and trust me” demeanor.

She is simply the best.

Ina’s recipe for beef tenderloin calls for four ingredients.

  • 5-pound beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter at room temperature
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Ok, that’s the easy part.

I’ve made beef tenderloin enough to know the drill: take the meat out of the refrigerator several hours before cooking to let it come up to temperature, slather the tenderloin with butter, generously salt and pepper, place in a roasting pan and you are ready to go.

The very, very, very tricky part of cooking a beef tenderloin is the temperature at which to cook it.

A Google search for “how to roast a 5-pound beef tenderloin” brings results ranging from 250° to 500°.

Quite the range, eh?

Now you know why I turned to my culinary spirit animal, Ina Garten.

I will let the expert show you how it’s done.

Our crowd favors “rare” so I cooked my tenderloin at 500° for EXACTLY 22 minutes as Ina instructs here.

It turned out perfectly as I knew it would and we gobbled it up before I thought to snap a picture.

One little side note.

Because I was terrified of overcooking the main course, I used not one but two meat thermometers.

The standard, every kitchen should have one, old-school meat thermometer

Mocadeaux - meat thermometer

and the fancy-pants, set it and forget it, remote meat thermometer.

Mocadeaux - remote meat thermometer

Both were brand new as my old ones had gone caput within days of one another.

At the precise 22 minute mark, the low-tech thermometer registered a few ticks below 130°, just where I wanted it to be.

However, the high-tech device registered an alarming 86°! If I had relied just on that thermometer without the backup thermometer and the guidance of my mentor, Ina, my precious tenderloin would have been destroyed. Shoe leather.

Lessons learned: Always have a backup thermometer and always trust Ina.

Now, about the wine…

A dinner featuring my favorite meat needed to also feature my favorite wine – Cabernet Sauvignon.

Peter reached deep into the wine cellar and picked out two gems.

2007 Quintessa Cabernet Sauvignon

Mocadeaux - 2007 Quintessa Cabernet Sauvignon


2009 Darius II Cabernet Sauvignon

Mocadeaux - 2009 Darius II

Both of these beautiful wines are definitely special occasion gems pulled from the top shelf of our cellar. But you can find great bottles of cabernet sauvignon at your local wine store. Always remember to ask the staff for suggestions.

Check out my recommendations, including “Everyday Cabernet Sauvignons”Chimney Rock which always rocks and “A Red Wine Lovers List of Red Wines I Love”.

Mocadeaux - red wine list

With a perfectly cooked beef tenderloin and a thoughtfully chosen Cabernet Sauvignon, you can’t go wrong.

By the way, be sure to send a note letting me know when dinner will be served. I wouldn’t want to be late!

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Say Cheese! Grilled Cheese That Is.

Hi, everyone. I’m sure that many of you, like me, are recovering from staying up too late watching the Academy Awards.

Lots of folks who are much more knowledgeable than me will weigh in on all things Oscar so I will just present a quick recap.

Chris Rock – I think he did a great job in a difficult situation. I think he handled the lack of diversity with an appropriate balance of outrage and good natured ribbing.

I agree completely.

Best Dressed: Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Julianne Moore


All alone on the worst dressed list because it was JUST.THAT.BAD: Heidi Klum


Seriously, what was she thinking?!?!

Having seen none of the nominated movies, I’m not qualified to comment on any of the winners except to say that a) I’m happy for Leo and b) NEVER will I ever see Mad Max: Fury Road or The Revenant.


Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about something that’s been on my mind:

Grilled Cheese

Although I’m certain that none of the nominees enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich on Oscar day, lest they have to go up a Spanx size or risk not fitting into their couture gown, we mere mortals are lucky.

We can indulge.

Grilled cheese is truly the perfect food. Whenever I see it on a menu, its ooey-gooey deliciousness beckons and I become blind to everything else.

Throw in a bowl of tomato soup? Heavenly bliss.

Over the weekend, Peter and I popped into a new-to-us spot nearby for lunch. I was inspired to try Rock House based upon this enticing photo on their Facebook page.

Rock House Glenview Facebook Grilled Cheese

Imagine my delight when upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by this sign:

Rock House Glenview Grilled Cheese Menu

Build your own grilled cheese? Be still my heart!

My creation consisted of cheddar and provolone cheese, pesto and roasted red peppers on sourdough bread.

The sandwich was delicious and I am considering going back every day this week.

Grilled cheese is one of those foods for which an infinite number of recipes exist.

A Pinterest search for “grilled cheese” produces an avalanche of results. (One tip, though, do NOT do this search on an empty stomach. The pictures will make you so hungry that you will want to gnaw off your leg.)

Yummy Food board

Grilled Cheese leads my Yummy Food board on Pinterest.

The plethora of recipes, of course, is due to the infinite combinations of ingredients that can make up The World’s Most Perfect Food (tied with pizza).

In the starring role: the cheese. American, Cheddar, Provolone, Swiss, Pepper Jack, Brie, Gorganzola and on and on and on.

Perhaps you want to add some meat. Bacon is probably the most popular add-on but many recipes include pepperoni, sausage, salami, ham, turkey and short rib. Personally, I would draw the line at ground beef because adding a ground beef patty to a grilled cheese would pretty much turn it into a cheeseburger. Not for me; I’m a purist.

The “extras” are where one could really go crazy in creating a grilled cheese sandwich. Peppers, onions, tomatoes, greens, olives, pickles, spinach, mushrooms, pesto, siracha, BBQ sauce, mustard. You name it, someone has probably included it in a grilled cheese sandwich.

And finally, the bread. My husband prefers what he calls it, “crappy white bread” (aka the Wonder bread from our youth). My favorite is sourdough. But whether you choose white or wheat, brioche or Texas toast, the bread must be sturdy enough to hold up to all the ingredients you choose to shove into adorn your sandwich with.

In doing research for this post I became intrigued by the number of grilled cheese cookbooks.

The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Cookbook

(Affiliate Link)

This particular one caught my eye. The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Cookbook.

Taking a peek inside as Amazon allows you to do, I found that this book contains recipes for such gems as “Loaded Bake Potato Grilled Cheese” and “Lobster Grilled Cheese” and “Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Grilled Cheese”.

The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Cookbook is currently winging its way to my house – hopefully via an Amazon drone – so I can start planning a Grilled Cheese Party. According to Pinterest, Grilled Cheese Parites are “a thing”.  A pretty fabulous idea I might add.

So, if you were to attend my Grilled Cheese Party, what ingredients would you want to have on hand? Are you a “crappy white bread” lover or do you prefer something fancier? Are you a purist who draws the line on too many ingredients? Do you have any grilled cheese cookbooks?

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Warm Soup And A Red Wine Blend

Once a month I host a Girls’ Night In with my moms and tots group.

Please note that the youngest “tot” is in college and many of the “tots” have tots of their own.

This month’s get together fell on one of our cold January nights.

I know, cold temperatures in Chicago in January?!?! Shocking!


The deal for these monthly parties is that everyone brings an appetizer or a salad to share and I supply the wine and other beverages.

This month, though, seemed to call for some warm soup. So I enlisted my personal chef (aka my retired husband) to whip up a batch of his mom’s Sausage & Tortellini Soup.

Sausage and tortellini soup

You are going to want this recipe.

Sausage & Tortellini Soup

  • 1 Pound Italian sausage
  • 1 Large onion, chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove, pressed
  • 3 Cans of beef broth (14 1/2 ounces each)
  • 2 Cans of diced tomatoes, undrained (14 1/2 ounces each)
  • 1 Can of tomato sauce (8 ounces)
  • 1 Cup dry red wine
  • 2 Carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 Small zucchini, cubed
  • 1 Package refrigerated cheese filled tortellini (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese

Discard sausage casings. Cook sausage, onion and garlic in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Return mixture to pan. Stir in broth and next 6 ingredients, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes. Skim off fat. Stir in zucchini and tortellini; simmer 10 minutes.

Sprinkle each serving with cheese. Yield: 10 cups

Peter says it was easy to make. The ladies and I all said it was delicious!

Peter paired this soup with a red blend: 2007 Facets of Gemstone.

2007 Facets of Gemstone

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (48%) and Merlot (42%), rounded out with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

It features a lovely, full body and lots of juicy, dark berry fruit.

The Gemstone Vineyard has changed hands since this wine was produced. The new owners continue to produce a red blend like this in very small quantities.

But don’t be discouraged because you can’t find this particular wine to pair with a bowl of Sausage & Tortellini Soup. There are other red blends that will do just fine.

First let’s talk a bit about red blends. What are they? Why should we drink them?

Red blends have historically had the reputation for being the wine soup made up of all the grapes that a vineyard couldn’t figure out what else to do with.

Sometimes that is the case. But there are lots and lots of great red wine blends made with thought and intention by very skilled winemakers.

Red wine blends tend to be a bit less expensive than single varietal wines by the same producer. They also tend to be a bit easier to drink – blended for smoothness. In general, red blends are more approachable even for the rookie wine drinker.

Here are a couple more I like.

First of all, my “go-to” red blend, The Prisoner.

The Prisoner

The Prisoner is widely acknowledged as the wine that brought credibility to the concept of a red wine blend worth buying.

I find it to be a very reliable wine, well worth the $40ish price tag. It is smooth and flavorful but not overpowering or too spicy.

Check out my review of The Prisoner here.

Another red blend that I like is the Rancho Sisquoc Flood Family Vineyard Sisquoc River Red from Santa Barbara County. ($20 per bottle)

This blend is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah.

Pretty much you name it, it’s in there. OK, not really, but definitely a true blend of many different reds.

Rancho Sisquoc River Red

Interestingly enough, some wine makers do not disclose the blend of grapes that go into their wine. For some it is a proprietary secret, others are concerned about judgements being made about the wine without tasting.

For instance, a red blend containing even the mention of Zinfandel might be passed over by someone who doesn’t care for Zin. While the truth of the matter might be that the Zin is a tiny fraction of the blend, included for just a tiny bit of zest.

Just the other night we enjoyed a Sans Liege The Offering Red Blend. ($29 per bottle)

The Offering

This winemaker proudly displays the make up of the blend on the front label.

This lovely GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) from Santa Barbara County includes a splash of Viognier, a white wine often used to smooth out red blends.

Check out these blends and others at your local wine store.

And definitely try the soup!

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a red wine blend to recommend?

No one paid me to say this.

Designated driver, Uber or cab

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