Reasons to love Cherries!

As many of you know, my daughter Dana, is contributing some nutritional information that she has gathered and would like to share with you about some foods that appear on Return to Sunday Supper. She was particularly excited about last week’s post about cherries, so this week we are going to share with some things that you might like to know about these red beauties.Dana says…

Researchers are often quoted saying that the darker the food, the healthier it is for you, meaning that the fruits and veggies that are the most vibrant in color have the most nutritional benefits. If you bite into a cherry and notice the deep, deep red stain throughout this tiny powerhouse, you’ll be convinced that cherries are a prime example of this research.

Cherries, while full of antioxidants and important nutrients, are also known for their potential pain-relieving capabilities. They have flavonoids called anthocyanins 1 and 2 that may be able to reduce muscle and joint soreness, meaning they may be a great snack for athletes and people with arthritis!

Even more, cherries are a great source of beta carotene (tart cherries have 19 times the amount found in blueberries!), vitamin C, fiber, iron and potassium.  But what may be the best part of all: tart cherries (especially the Montmorency variety) contain melatonin, a chemical that may help regulate sleep patterns, making them an ideal treat in the evening!Enjoy!

Disclaimer – Please note: the information presented is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. Please consult your physician if you are having any medical problems.

Michigan! Chocolate Cherry Chunk Cookie Recipe

Why did it take us so long?  Our friends, J and L, had been asking us for years to come and visit them in Michigan, but somehow the timing just wasn’t right till last weekend.

The farther north we drove, the more beautiful it became.  The pine forests became more dense, the air filled with their invigorating scent.  The hills became more steep and the land became filled with orchards.  Miles and miles of orchards; cherry, apple, apricot, pear. By the time we got to the clear waters of Lake Michigan, we were hooked!  We hadn’t even gotten out of the car and we were in love with the area.

Their charming, sun filled house sits right on the water facing east towards the sunrise.  Although, the weather was to supposed to be rainy, we were in for a big surprise…a beautiful sunrise, followed by a fairly sunny day that became a bit windy….and that meant that we could sail!

They asked us what we wanted to do/see before sailing,  and I said that I would like to see the orchards “up close and personal”.  We climbed in the car and went for a drive through rolling hills dotted with cherry trees heavy with their ripe bounty.

That day, we also had the chance to see how cherries are harvested.  I had no idea that a machine shakes the harvest from the tree…it pulls up to the tree, grabs it, shakes it and the cherries fall and are gathered up and transported in water filled bins (so that they aren’t damaged).

We were told that the tart cherries grown in Leelanau County are 75% of the nation’s crop and that it ranks number one for cherry trees and acreage….wow!  That is over a million trees, no wonder I was so impressed!

Our friends are expert sailors so we were in for a treat.  I had never been for a “real” sail before and was a bit apprehensive, but they put me at ease right away because it was evident that they are extremely knowledgeable and also very safety conscious.  The first question I was asked after stepping aboard was “Would I like a life jacket?”.

The sun came out, the wind picked up and we were off on our sail.  We were very interested in learning about sailing and they were gracious enough to answer all of our questions.  By the end of the sail, we still could not have manned the boat, but we knew a lot more than when we boarded.

L is a superb cook and treated us to lovely meals.  I don’t think that there are many hosts and hostesses that are as indulgent as they are.  They even sent us home with a cherry themed “goodie bag” of treats from the area.  When I spied the pack of dried cherries I said, “Oh, I’ll have to think of a great recipe to use these”, and L told me about one from 2007 that was in Gourmet Magazine.  When I got home, I found this recipe on the internet that I adapted, and I believe this is the one to which she was referring.

Inspired by their hospitality, I have an idea for when your guests come over to share Sunday Supper.  Why don’t you send them home with their own personal little “goodie bag” filled with these cookies?  My great aunt used to do that, she would send you home with flowers from her garden and a treat from her kitchen.  What a wonderful way to continue sharing smiles with your family and friends all week!



Chocolate Cherry Chunk Cookies

Yield: 24 Cookies

Prep Time: 25 Minutes

Cook Time: 25 Minutes

Total Time: 50 Minutes


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
3 1/2 oz. fine quality milk (or dark) chocolate, cut into small chunks, about 1/2 inch
1 cup of pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup dried Michigan tart cherries


Before you start, please note the importance of toasting the pecans. To do this, preheat oven to 350, spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes then stir and toast for another 5 minutes. Please watch them carefully, so that they do not burn.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, making sure that you position the racks in the upper and lowers thirds of your oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk the first 5 ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and cinnamon) together until mixture is well blended.

In a separate large bowl, add the softened butter together with the brown sugar then using a hand held blender set on the medium/high setting, blend until mixture is fluffy and lighter in color.

Slowly blend in the flour mixture into the butter mixture till incorporated. Do not over blend.

Then fold in the chocolate, pecans and the cherries.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop approximately 2 tablespoons of dough onto two cookie sheets that have not been greased.

If your oven bakes evenly, bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes. If your oven bakes in an uneven manner, please bake them for 6-7 minutes then switch the positions in the oven front to back so that cookies will brown evenly. Bake for an additional 6-7 minutes till done.

Immediately transfer cookies to cooling rack. Cool and serve!
If you are going to put them in gift bags like I did, please make sure that they are thoroughly cooled before placing them into your bags.


Clare Ferguson’s Mixed Green Bean Salad Recipe

Last month, Jeff and I attend the International Conference for Food Styling and Photography, where Jeff was one of the guest speakers.  Jeff was there to talk about artistic collaboration with world renowned celebrity food stylist, Clare Ferguson who is a proud New Zealander, based in London. They had worked long distance on their presentation, but had the pleasure of meeting each other in person when we arrived in Boston.

Clare is larger than life, a great deal of fun, and filled with enthusiasm… she (of course) has a lovely accent and way of saying things that charms all.  Her food styling is legendary, and she is flown all over the globe for her expertise in coaxing food to look its best.  Clare is a contributing editor for Elle and She and has a very long list of cookbooks to her credit.  It was so much fun getting to know her, and sharing her love for her craft.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see her style food, but I did get to drool over the photos that she included in the presentation.  I hope that you agree that I was inspired by her when I made this dish!

At the end of the conference she presented Jeff and me with a signed copy of one of her cookbooks, Flavours of Provence.  In it, she captures the vibrant flavors and colors of the area. It is a beautiful book with many classic French recipes.  Clare gave me permission to share one of her recipes with you for your Sunday Suppers.

Clare loves to gather friends together on Sunday and prepare a beautiful feast for their eyes and their tummies.  l thought that you might like to be introduced to her through this recipe from Flavours of Provence.

I have adapted and converted the recipe so that it would be more understandable to those of you who do not live in the UK or Europe.  I am trying to stay true to her list of ingredients, but also wanted to adapt the recipe so that you can buy what you will need at your local market or store to prepare this dish. I have eliminated the walnut oil because I did not want you to go and buy that just for this recipe, but if you have it on hand you might want to use both olive and walnut oil.

I also tried to make the preparation a bit less complicated so that it would be easier for you to prepare for your Sunday Supper to share with your family and friends.


Clare Ferguson's Mixed Green Bean Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes


1/2 pound green beans
1/4 pound wax beans
1/4 pound roman beans (if you can't find these, use 1/4 pound more wax beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil or (1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon walnut oil, if you prefer)
1 large clove garlic
1 shallot, sliced
2 green onions, sliced thin (use the white and a bit of the green)
4 walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Italian (flat leaf) parsley for garnish, if desired


Wash beans and snip the ends. Place water and clove garlic in bottom of your saucepan, add your steamer to the pan and bring to a boil. Then add the beans and steam until tender.

While your beans are cooking, in a saute pan add olive oil, shallot and green onions and saute till translucent. Add the chopped walnuts, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

When the beans are tender, drain them and add them to the saute pan and toss. Garnish with fresh parsley if you like.


Cookbook Giveaway – Salad as a Meal by Patricia Wells

This week, just in time for the “dog days” of summer, I’m giving away a copy of Patricia Wells newest cookbook Salad as a Meal.  This is perfect for how you’re cooking now for summer…light, healthy and tasty.

My husband Jeff, daughter Dana and I worked on this cookbook and I know that you will enjoy the recipes and of course, anything written by the legendary Patricia Wells is a joy to read.

In order to win, just share a favorite summer food moment in the “comment” section of this post.   The winner will be picked at random by Dana next Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. CT.   We will be picking the “old fashioned” way, I’ll print each comment,  put them in a stock pot, stir and out comes a winner!

Good luck and I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Down on Prairie Fruits Farm – Grilled summer vegetables with herbs and fresh goat cheese recipe

I had no idea!  They attack….viciously and continuously!  I would have to hide and run for cover.  Who would have thought that gals with pedicures were in danger down on the farm…from the chickens!  Yes, it seems that they like bright red and shiny toes!

That was how I was introduced to Prairie Fruits Farm by one of the owners, Wes Jarrell.  Prairie Fruits is located in southern Illinois near Champaign/Urbana.  The farm produces small batch,  hand crafted, artisan cheeses which some say are among the finest in the US and is purveyor to some of the best restaurants in Chicago and beyond.

Thankfully, the goats are a lot less blood thirsty….in fact, they’re down right sweet.  Since it’s a dairy farm, almost all of them are girls…with the exception of a couple of sassy looking billy goats.  The girls (who all have names) come right up to you and want to investigate and perhaps get a pet or two.  They did seem to want to nibble anything that you are holding (probably thought we had treats).  I really believe that one of them was trying to kiss Jeff…jealous!

I was very impressed by their environment.   It was about 95 degrees that day and “the girls” had more fans in their area than we had in ours!  Shade, fans, and sweet hay….I could swear that one of them was smiling.

I discovered that they only eat the finest locally grown hay and alfalfa to supplement their forage based diet. No wonder that Prairie Fruits is Animal Welfare Approved.  Prairie Fruits also is home to fragrant fruit orchards, thorny berry patches, lush pastures and hay fields, and of course flowering prairies.

We (Jeff/photographer; me/prop stylist) were there on assignment to take pictures for famed Chicago chef, Paul Virant’s ,new cookbook that he is writing with Kate Leahy (of A-16 fame).  He was there as celebrity chef for one of Prairie Fruits famous Dinners on the Farm.  These dinners are held from May through December and feature a variety of different themes and menus.  I loved the fact that attending the dinner were multi-generation families enjoying themselves very much in the Sunday Supper tradition!

Prairie Fruits has one of the largest wood fired grills that I had ever seen and it was to be the focal point for the preparation of many of the mouth watering dishes that chef Virant would be cooking that day.  The food was beyond tasty….stay tuned to when his cookbook will be released featuring canning, pickling and the kind of soul satisfying dishes that will have you licking your fingers!

I asked Leslie Cooperband, the other owner of Prairie Fruits, what she would say was one of her favorite Sunday Supper dishes and she told me that they love to grill some tender summer veggies such as yellow squash, zucchini, and beets…add a dollop of their fresh goat cheese and “voila.”

I don’t know if I can even describe just how delicious their cheese is….I think it reflects the “good life” the goats have…lots of love and great nibbles that produce great milk and a great product.  If you can find it, treat yourself to some…it’s well worth it.

I hope that you find that this combo is perfect with the beautiful summer vegetables that are available when you get together with family and/or friends for your next Sunday Supper.


Grilled summer vegetables with herbs and fresh goat cheese

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

I love the taste of oven roasted beets, so I decided to roast these before grilling them. Actually I only grilled them to give a bit of "grill flavor" on top of their roasted flavor.


1 zucchini (average size, about 1/2 pound)
1 yellow squash (average size, about 1/2 pound)
4 beets (about 3/4 pound)
6 oz. fresh goat cheese (preferably Prairie Fruits, if you can buy it in your area...try Whole Foods)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme plus some for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Splash of balsamic vinegar


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash beets and cut off the ends, but do not peel. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake beets till fork tender (about 30 minutes). Let cool then peel and slice. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme.

Slice zucchini and yellow squash and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme.

Grill for about 2 1/2 minutes per side till golden.

Remove from grill, splash with a bit of balsamic vinegar, add a dollop of goat cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, a bit more thyme and you're all set.