Category Archives: north carolina

Bisquick Banana Bread with Coconut…and Lake Toxaway

I can’t seem to find the time, or the inspiration to write anything these days. Everytime I think of something to write about, I look outside and see this…

or this…

or this…

…and I just can’t get past this….

We’re at the lake for three weeks…the longest time we’ve been able to stay here. We bought the little house on the lake at the end of last summer, but we’ve been coming up two or three times a year and renting places for the last 7 years. Up until now, the longest time we were able to stay was five days. This place in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been. It’s a private lake at the top of a mountain, with gorgeous weather, a golf course, tennis, hiking, mountain biking, boating, and swimming right outside our door. But it’s not really a social place. We’re probably the youngest family here, most of the residents are retirees. The summer is the busiest time, and the only young people are the grandchildren who are visiting. So far H doesn’t really care about that, nor do we. We’ve met a few of the club members and homeowners, and they’re really nice, but this is our getaway place. The three of us have so much fun exercising together, reading, watching movies, boating, taking the dog on hikes and swims, and just being together without the distractions of home. There is no grocery store…the closest places are 30 minutes away, no shopping, no movies, no parties. But when we get here we are more relaxed than we could ever be at home.

We do have guests coming. My in-laws are coming up on Sunday for a week, and a few days after they leave, we will take H to point guard camp, and come back to meet two other couples here for five days, before we have to leave. We’re pretty excited about sharing our piece of heaven with our friends and family. I don’t know if they’ll be as enthusiastic about it as we are, but it will be fun.

Anyway, I’m enjoying catching up on my reading, taking tennis lessons, and cooking for my family. Here’s an EASY recipe for Banana Bread made with Bisquick. I changed it a little bit…added chocolate, cranberries and pecans and topped with coconut for a great (semi-healthy) dessert.


1/3 cup oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar (or splenda for baking)
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (3 medium/large ripe bananas)
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 1/2 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 hershey bar, chopped fine

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of loaf pan, 9″ cake pan, or use muffin pans with liners. Beat all ingredients vigorously with spoon for 30 seconds. Bake 55-65 minutes for loaf pan, 45-50 minutes for cake pan, 15 minutes for mini muffins, 20 minutes for regular muffins. Cool five minutes. Top with shredded coconut.

Greystone Inn’s Potato Soup

If you’ve ever read any of my previous posts, you know we spend a lot of time in North Carolina. It’s a community called Lake Toxaway, and it’s a beautiful, turquoise lake at the top of a mountain. We found it 7 years ago, when we stayed at a resort called The Greystone Inn. Over the years, we’ve stayed there several times, then we started renting homes, and finally, last summer we bought a little place of our own there. We don’t get there as often as we’d like, since H is so busy at school, but whenever we can get away, we’re there.

Last week, while H was in Washington, DC, on a school trip, we spent the week there. It was so great. Our dog, Rosie, was in heaven. We hiked every day to a different waterfall, went mountain biking up Cold Mountain Road, swam in the lake, and J tried to teach me to golf. Not a pretty picture. He only let me use a 3 iron, and a putter. I teed up in the fairway, and still embarrassed myself.

We ate dinner on night at the Greystone, and I ordered this cream of potato and leek soup that I didn’t think I’d like (I don’t like creamy soups…too fattening), but ordered anyway because it came with the meal. It was so great I ate it all, and asked for the recipe. To my surprise the “cream” came from blending up the potatoes and leeks…it was a broth soup, and only had a tablespoon of olive oil in it!

Don’t pay any attention to that description. It was phenomenal! I made it tonight, and J and H loved it. It’s super easy, too.

Here’s the recipe:
Potato Leek Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 large)
5 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold or red potato (about 2 1/2 pounds)
5 cups organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add potato and vegetable broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until potato is tender. Place 3 cups of potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Return pureed mixture to pan; bring to a simmer. Stir in salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes, serve warm.

Garnish with chives and croutons, if desired.


I love North Carolina Mountains!!!

We’re in the mountains this week since H is in DC on a school trip. I love the off-season. Nobody is here, so it’s easy to get reservations and the traffic is almost non-existent. The lake is so beautiful, it’s crystal clear and the sun makes it look like sparkling diamonds. Rosie (our black lab who needs to lose weight due to arthritis at the young age of 3), was so excited, and even though the weather is pretty cold (snow last night), she jumped in the lake and swam like crazy. We bought new chaise lounges for the deck and watched the sun set and listened to … nothing, really. Some ducks and the sound of the wind chimes on the deck.

I miss my daughter. I wish she was with us, but she is having a great time with her class in DC. This place is so perfect, it makes missing her a little bit easier.


We’re in the mountains. Rained all day long, cold and foggy, so no view, no hiking, but it has been the perfect day! Slept late, went for a run in the rain, watched cable moves (World according to Garp, Risky Business, Man of the Year), played Skip-Bo, Monopoly, and grilled a couple of huge tenderloin steaks, and roasted butternut squash, potatoes and onions. I’m so relaxed there’s no word to really describe it!

The only negative is this is the off, off season, so the coffee shop with homemade muffins is closed. Bummer. We packed no breakfast food, so this morning I looked at the pantry to figure out what we could have for breakfast. We did have a box of bisquick, sugar, cinnamon, craisons, and skim milk. So I remembered a recipe for cinnamon rolls with bisquick. They were pretty easy to mix up and were perfect! I didn’t have confectioner’s sugar for the glaze, but I put granulated sugar in the blender with 1 tsp. of cornstarch, and voila…powdered sugar! Here’s the recipe:

Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

2 TBSP granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 ½ cups original Bisquick mix

2/3 cup milk

2 TBSP granulated sugar

2 TBSP butter or margarine (I didn’t have butter, but used butter flavored PAM)

¼ cup raisins (no raisins, but substituted craisins…dried cranberries)

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 13x9inch pan. In small bowl, mix 2 TBSP sugar and cinnamon, set aside.

2. In medium bowl, stir bisquick mix, milk, and 2 TBSP sugar until dough forms. If dough is too sticky, gradually mix in enough bisquick (up to ¼ cup) to make dough easy to handle. Turn dough onto surface well dusted with bisquick mix,; gently roll dough in bisquick mix to coat. Shape into ball; knead 10 times.

3. Roll dough into 15×9 inch rectangle; spread with butter (or spray with butter flavored PAM). Sprinkle evenly with sugar mixture and raisins (or craisins). Roll up tightly; beginning at 15 inch side. Seal well by pinching edge of dough into roll. Cut into 1 ¼ inch slices, place cut sides down in pan.

4. Bake 23-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pan.

5. In medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and 2 TBSP milk until smooth. Spread glaze over warm rolls.

Doesn’t get better than this!


Company’s gone, bags are almost packed, played cards with my family, went on a beautiful run in the mountains, took a loooonnng, wrinkle inducing bubble bath (with an extra cold diet coke…too early for wine), put on my most comfortable, ugliest pajamas, lit a fire, and cooked a steak. Now we’re getting ready to eat in pajamas, then snuggle up on the big couch to watch a movie.

Doesn’t get better than this!

Now I have to start thinking about Christmas

Well, Thanksgiving is over. The in-laws and my parents will be leaving today and driving to Florida and Tennessee, respectively. It’s been a wonderful holiday…no fights or awkwardness at all. (Except when I shrieked in horror when my mom doubled the butter in the sweet potatoes…sorry, Mom. They really did taste better). I do have food issues, I admit it, but I think I did remarkably well, and I even ate a little of everything. And there was a lot, believe me. Turkey, Gravy (well, I didn’t eat the gravy. I don’t want to tell you what it looked like), cornbread dressing, bread stuffing w/bacon and onions, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes, roasted butternut squash, potatoes, and onions, and we finished it off with chocolate pecan pie and cranberry pear pie, made my H (her first!). OMG…writing it down makes it look even worse. It really didn’t look like that much on my plate.

Just needed an extra hour in the gym and I was fine.

Now I have to start thinking about Christmas. My nephews are the hardest two teenagers in the world to shop for. They have two perfect aunts (their mom’s sisters), and me, the idiot aunt who never buys the right thing. The PA’s (perfect aunts) buy cool things like Playstation 3, Wii, go-carts, etc., and I end up buying them sweatshirts from Abercrombie. Every year. Just bigger sizes. I vow not to do that again this year. I found some really cool rocker chairs that you can plug into the video game console, with speakers in the headrests, etc, that looked like them. When I asked my sister-in-law, she said to wait, that her sister might buy them a Wii, and if so, they wouldn’t be sitting much. I begged her to let ME buy the Wii. I haven’t heard back from her. These boys have every kind of electronic gadget because my brother buys them for them. They’re 16 and 13. I am absolutely stumped.

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 7 people in a little tiny kitchen…

We’re having Thanksgiving at our new mountain vacation home. My parents, my in-laws, my dear hubby and daughter. Usually we do thanksgiving at my in-laws, Christmas at my parents (husband’s family’s Jewish, we’re Christian, so it makes more sense). We’re kind of excited about the new home, so we negotiated big time, and convinced them to come here this year. Now we have to negotiate the cooking of THE MEAL. I cut out these great recipes from “Cooking Light” magazine. Mom offered to help me out. I had to run to the store for eggs so she mashed the sweet potatoes for me. In her defense, she wanted to make them taste good, so she doubled the butter. So much for the “Light” part of the recipe!

But so far, so good. Everyone is getting along, and it’s great to all be together. I’m waiting for the pie crust to cook so I can go to bed, everyone else is sleeping.

Tomorrow, we sleep late, eat a good breakfast, set up H’s new basketball goal and try to cook with 4 cooks in a tiny little kitchen. At least the Turkey is being cooked by the club…

Here are the best recipes we tried. Half of the guests don’t like turkey, so we’re roasting some turkey sausage for them.

Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip

Prepare a day ahead; bring to room temperature before serving. Serve on bagel chips garnished with rosemary sprigs.

1 whole garlic head
1 cup water
1 (3.5-ounce) package sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15.8-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 375°.

Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap head in foil. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes; cool for 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add tomatoes; cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain tomatoes in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup liquid.

Place garlic pulp, tomatoes, 1/4 cup reserved liquid, oil, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

Yield: 2 cups (serving size: 2 tablespoons)

Bread Stuffing with Caramelized Onion, Bacon, and Apples

Cook the pearl onions in boiling water for 20 seconds and plunge them into ice water to make the skins slip off easily. Substitute cipollini, another small onion, if you can find them.

1 (1 1/2-pound) loaf sourdough bread
8 bacon slices, chopped
2 cups pearl onions, peeled (about 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon sugar
Cooking spray
3 cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apple (about 2 large)
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
2/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°.

Remove crust from bread; cut bread into 3/4-inch cubes to measure 8 cups. Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on 2 jelly-roll pans. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted; cool. Place bread in a large bowl.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan. Drain bacon on paper towels. Add onions to drippings in pan; cook 3 minutes or until soft, stirring often. Sprinkle sugar over onions; cook for 3 minutes or until onions begin to brown, stirring frequently. Add bacon and onion mixture to bread.

Return pan to heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add apple and celery to pan; cook 6 minutes or until lightly brown, stirring frequently. Stir in parsley and next 4 ingredients (through pepper); cook 1 minute. Add apple mixture to bread mixture; toss to combine.

Combine broth and eggs, stirring with a whisk. Add egg mixture to bread mixture; toss to coat. Spoon bread mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until browned.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup)

Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole

To prepare this a day ahead, cook the sweet potatoes; combine with brown sugar, butter, and vanilla. Before baking, stir in half the pecans, place in a baking dish, and top with the remaining pecans and marshmallows. If you’re toting this dish to a Thanksgiving celebration, assemble the casserole and bake at your host’s home while the turkey stands.

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, divided
Cooking spray
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place the sweet potatoes in a Dutch oven, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until very tender. Drain; cool slightly.

Place potatoes in a large bowl. Add sugar and next 3 ingredients (through vanilla). Mash sweet potato mixture with a potato masher. Fold in 1/4 cup pecans. Scrape potato mixture into an even layer in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup pecans; top with marshmallows. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until golden.

Yield: 16 servings

We had so much fun shopping today!

Another day in heaven, I mean North Carolina. Rosie the dog is limping after our hike to the waterfall yesterday, so we didn’t walk her around the lake, but we did take her down for a quick swim. Went to the fitness center to get in a quick workout…it’s only open from 9-2 from Nov. 1-March, 2008, so we have to do it early. Went to Cashiers for lunch and shopping. We found a great painting for over the fireplace, and things for the table for Thanksgiving. Cashiers is a cute little town, lots of little boutiques and things and it only took us about 20 minutes to drive there.

We’re continually amazed by our daughter…she’s perfectly happy just hanging out with us. It might be an only child thing, but as much as she loves her girlfriends, when she doesn’t have them around she doesn’t whine and pout like other girls her age. We had so much fun shopping today. She now wears a size 9 shoe and she is so excited, because now we wear the same size. Her shoe wardrobe has now increased since she can borrow mine! We bought her the sweater “ugh” boots, which are so comfortable and cute, and it was an easy decision because I can wear them, too! It’s like getting 2 for the price of 1! (Nashvillians….do you remember Family Booterie shoes? The commercial “2 for the price of 1 plus a dollar…”) We also found a really cute shirt and fur vest for her. I didn’t find anything I liked, which was fine, but H tried to get me to buy something. She’s like J…when she gets something for herself, she feels guilty, so tries to find something for me to buy. I’m starting to push things for her that I like, too, since we’re almost the same size. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes we like the same things, like the blue faux fur vest she got today…I’ve got my eyes on it!

crimson, yellow, apricot, orange…absolutely breathtaking

I literally feel like my heart is 20 pounds lighter. That’s what the mountains do to me. We didn’t get to Lake Toxaway last night until after dark (days are getting shorter, and we ran into traffic outside of Asheville, so we cut through Pisgah National Forest…a beautiful drive, but windy roads so it takes longer). When we woke up this morning, it was like someone spilled a tray of watercolors all over the mountains…crimson, yellow, apricot, orange…absolutely breathtaking. When you add in the lake which gives a mirror image of all the colors it just multiplies everything. I don’t know if this is the usual time of the colors, but I have a feeling that the dry warm weather postponed it this year. We just lucked out being here this weekend, because I think in a week or so they’ll start falling. By Thanksgiving we’ll probably have very few leaves. The bright spot is that we’ll have an even better view of the lake.

Leaves changing before your eyes!

Got home a little while ago. It was SO hard to leave…the weather cleared up and the temperature dropped so the last two days were absolutely GLORIOUS!!! You could almost see the leaves changing before your eyes. I met a life-long Lake Toxaway resident who owns the cute little coffee shop with homemade pastries and breads and daily New York Times and Wall Street Journal (what a relief…we can at least get daily news, if we want it!). She said that as soon as they get rain combined with a drop in temperature the leaves start turning very quickly. I’m hoping that when we go back in a couple of weeks there will still be some color. Yesterday we took a boat out on the lake to show B&B the views from the water. It’s quite different than from the streets, because the homes are mostly hidden from the street. It was so nice. Even though it was chilly (62 degrees), the sun was out so it felt perfect. Then last night we loaded up a cooler with champagne and snacks and drove up to the top of Meadow Ridge for “Music on the Mountain”. They do that once a month on Saturday nights, and this was the last one of the year, until they start back up in the spring. It was great. Bluegrass music, not my favorite, but it was really good. They even did some old time gospel kind of stuff that made me think of the Lefevres (my mom’s family, who are in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame). Rosie went with us and had a blast, got lots of attention, and lots of “big dog” “chubby dog” “blockhead”comments (which drives Jeff crazy-I think he takes it personally, like we should have a thin dog!) I think we’re almost ready for our Thanksgiving trip…just need a few pillows and things are shaping up quite nicely. Now it’s back to reality…yuck.