Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Robin'sTaco Beef Soup

Category: Beef
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Pretty Healthy

Ole Ole! Another great 'go-to' recipe for those who want to make something simple yet satisfying after they come home from work. I didn't time it, but I think it takes less than 1/2 hour to make!

Robin Maxey comes from a branch of our family known to us as "The Robinson Clan". It's sort of a large, friendly Scottish-Frenchish clan. This branch of the family has a lot of energy. Robin just posted a picture on Facebook of herself repelling down a 350 ft. cliff in Moab. She's also done a lot of running--like in the N.Y. Marathon. The rest of the family is the same--Aunt Fizzy climbed half-dome with us when she was about 66. And she went sky-diving at ...I think 75? So, they need good food to keep going!

"This chunky soup is like a taco in a bowl" says my cousin Robin. She made this for her children all the time when they were growing up. What can I say? A good cook's work is never done!


1/2 lb. ground beef
1/4 C chopped onion
1 1/2 C water
1 16-oz can stewed tomatoes
1 16-oz can kidney beans
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1/2 envelope (2 T) taco seasoning mix
1 small avocado, peeled , seeded and chopped
shredded cheddar cheese
corn chips
Dairy sour cream

In large saucepan cook ground beef and onion 'till meat is browned; drain off excess fat. Add water, undrained tomatoes, undrained kidney beans, tomato sauce and taco seasoning mix. simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add avocado. Pass cheese, corn chips, and sour cream to top each serving. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Robin sometimes adds a can of jalapeno salsa to give it some "zip". I would add it a little at a time and taste as you go!

Sarah's Rich Chocolate Cheesecake

Category: Dessserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium

Our Christmases present an opportunity for my whole cooking family to try new recipes. We pot-luck everything, and usually two or three people bring a dessert along with another course. So we have not just dessert, but a dessert buffet!

A few years ago my sister Sarah brought this chocolate cheesecake for the buffet. We all tasted it and fell on the floor, fainting at the dense, chocolate rich-ness of it.


25 Oreo cookies, crushed fine
6 T butter, melted
1 1//2 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar
3 eggs
8 oz. semisweet chocolate,
melted and cooled
2 t cocoa
1 t vanilla extract
2 C sour cream

For the crust: Mix ingredients thoroughly and press into a well-buttered 10-inch springform pan. Chill. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy and smooth. Add sugar and beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in chocolate, cocoa, and vanilla, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream and continue beating until very smooth and well belnded. Pour into crust. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a crack forms on top. Cake may appear t be too liquid, but it will become firm when chilled. Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 5 hours.

Note: I used 4 oz. Ghiradelli bittersweet baking chocolate and 4 oz. Nestle baking chocolate. Ghiradelli has a fine reputation for being a good bittersweet, but I find that using only bittersweet makes for a cake that isn't sweet enough. Valrhona and Callebout are also renowned, but they're too 'spensive for moi! You can always use just Nestle or Bakers  if you fine! This is really great served with whipped cream on top (just whip 2 cups cream till peaks form, adding 2 T powdered sugar at the end along with 1 t vanilla extract). Orrrr, serve it on the side. I like to decorate the top with a pastry bag, but it's not necessary.

Cheddar-Chive-Bacon Biscuits

Category: Breads
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Not Healthy

These are like geodes--ugly on the outside, beautiful on the inside. Honestly, bake them and crack one open. The first thing that will hit you is the steam. It is warmly aromatic and fills the kitchen with a delectable scent. The cheddar and the bacon all combine with a soft buttery chive biscuit in a way that is...sort of miraculous! I love soup, and I feature lots of recipes for them on my blog. If you make soup, be sure and make these too. They freeze really well in freezer bags. I have them on hand for a night when I need a small miracle... Recipe by Kelsey Nixon on "".

7 slices bacon or use 5-6 t Hormel Real Bacon Bits
3 C flour
3 T sugar (I used only 2 T--like 'em less sweet)
4 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
3/4 C (1 and 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces or grated
1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 C chopped fresh chives
1 C buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a skillet, cool bacon until crisp and brown. Transfer to paper towels ( I put mine on paper towels on top of a paper bag 'cause I have granite counters) and drain. Chop and set aside. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Using a food processor, pastry cutter, or fingertips incorporate the chilled butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cheese, fresh chives, and cooked bacon or bacon bits. Mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the buttermilk and stir until juuuuust moistened. This is important. If you overmix you will get a tough biscuit. And as we used to say "Tough beans!" (too bad).

Using 1/3 C of dough for each biscuit, drop the biscuits with a measuring cup on the baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake the biscuits until golden brown on top, about 15 to 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean ( I use a strand of spaghetti as a tester). Serve warm with butter on the side for those who want it (they don't really need it).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fudge Cookies with Toffee and Cherries

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Every Cookie-Monster out there should make these! One of my favorite cookies in the world, these are crisp on the edges, chewy on the inside, very chocolate-y, with the unusual addition of toffee pieces, and dried cherries.

Lauren found these fudge cookies. They were originally from "The Sweet Kitchen" cookbook. I'm on a diet right now so I after I made these, I schlepped them over to the guys in the garage band next door. They had a cow over them. "Thank you so much, Mrs. Smith!" It was great. Note to self: If you want appreciation, deliver baked goods to teenage boys...


2 1/4 C flour
1/2 C cocoa
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 C butter
1 C dark brown sugar
3/4 C sugar
2 large eggs
1 /2 t vanilla
1 C dried sour cherries (or Cran-cherries)
8 oz. (1 C) semi-sweet chocolate cut into chunks or chocolate chips
1 C English toffee pieces for baking, such as Heath or Skor bits.

Note: In some stores toffee pieces are seasonal --I found them at Safeway year-round

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Sift the flour, cocoa, b. soda and salt together into a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in vanilla. Stir in flour mixture in 3 additions, blending until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in chunky ingredients and mix until evenly distributed. I find this part of the job easier with a wooden spoon rather than a mixer, as I can better see what parts of the batter need more cherries or bits. Dough may be frozen up to 4 months after this, but it won't last that long. If you're like me, you'll be snitching little pieces of the dough right out of the freezer. So you'd better bake the cookies soon!

Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets. Place in center of oven--switching positions halfway through (turn the pan around so back is to front of oven). Bake 15 minutes, until BARELY set in the center and just firm around the edges. Trust me on this--they will look undercooked. Cool on tray 3-5 minutes, then transfer to rack or paper on counter. Best eaten warm, with ice-cold milk!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Artichoke Soup from Duarte's Restaurant

Category: Soups
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium

Having Artichoke soup from Duarte's is a Northern California Bucket List item. The restaurant itself is a little hole in the wall in the historic Portuguese-American town of Pescadero. Been there since 1890--and kinda looks it!  The nice thing about that is that it is California casual. Great for large families. My three-year old neice stood up in the booth the whole time and everyone just smiled Their artichoke soup is famous! Deceptively simple and  fragrant, it grips you by the nose, and makes you sit down to eat. There is something about the thyme...

Note: Most Artichokes come from fields in Monterey County--over an hour south of Duarte's on Hwy. 101, on the way to Monterey and Carmel. We always go past large spike-y artichoke fields. They look like a teenager's hair in the morning. If the hair was as green as chlorophyll...This is the original recipe as given to Via magazine reporter Jeannette Ferrary by Ron Duarte in the year 2000. I believe Ron has since then changed the recipe to use half milk and half cream. Much lighter now...


4 C water
1 T lemon juice
1 T oil
4 garlic cloves--crushed (2 large, 2 small)
3 lbs artichokes (3-4 medium)
2 C chicken stock
1 1/2 C. half and half (I increased this from the original recipe by 1/2 cup)
1 t ground pepper
salt to taste (start with 1/2 t.)
1 sprig fresh thyme or t tsp dried thyme

Bring water to a boil with oil, lemon juice, and two large crushed garlic cloves. Add the artichokes and cook 45 minutes. Remove hearts and puree in food processor or blender with the stock, remaining 2 SMALL cloves of garlic, salt and pepper. Optional: slice whatever is left of the tender ends of the artichoke leaves into thin strips. Reheat soup with leaves, half-and-half and thyme. Let the soup simmer gently for 20 minutes before serving. Recommended accompaniment: "Cheese, Onion and Bacon Biscuits" coming in next blog...

Lemon Bars from Gayle's Bakery

Category: Cookies and Bars
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Lemon Bars: luscious, tangy Lemon-Meringue Pie-ish filling with a buttery short-bread crust. Totally difficult to eat with your fingers but we manage to do it somehow! A few friends and I volunteered to help out at a wedding last year.The Father of the Groom made about 200 Lemon Bars for the dessert. I was, as the Brits say,'gob-smacked'!
Firemen can bake!

After trying two recipes that didn't work (their lemon filling turned out too liquid for my taste), I found this in Gayle's Bakery "The Village Baker's Wife" cookbook. Works like a charm. DO remember to follow the recipe exactly, tho. Do not over-process the crust--15 seconds is 15 seconds. Also do take them out of the oven when the filling is light brown, or at least with light brown 'pimples' on the top. It's important to bake the bars till they are done...


1 C 8 oz. cold butter
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/4 t. salt
2 C flour

1/2 t baking powder
1/4 C flour
4 eggs
2 C sugar
1/4 C freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
2 T grated lemon zest (after squeezing lemons, use them for grating just the yellow off--no white (it's bitter). You may need to use an additional lemon for this step.
Extra powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make with a food processor: Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and return it to the refrigerator. In bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade, place the powdered sugar, salt and flour. Pulse until well blended. Add the chilled butter and toss with your hands to coat the pieces with flour. Process the mixture until it looks like a fine meal, about 15 seconds.

OR to make the crust by hand: cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and return to the refrigerator. In a bowl, combine the powdered sugar, salt and flour. Add the chilled butter and toss to coat it with flour. With a fork or pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like a fine meal, about 15 seconds.

While the crust bakes, make the filling. Combine the baking powder and flour. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a hand-held whisk until they are well mixed. Add the sugar and beat until it is fully incorporated. Add the baking powder and flour in small amounts, beating after each addition. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest. Pour the filling over the hot crust and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the filling has set and is golden brown. Let the bars cool in the pan on a wire rack. When completely cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saltimbocca with Polenta

Category: Pork
Difficulty Rating: Medium

Who doesn't like Italian food? I have been made an honorary Italian by so many Italian-Americans, I can't even count 'em. We of Scottish descent and Italians have a lot in common--we love food, family and we love to party! My mom used to make chicken saltimbocca and we loved it! This is a lighter version, but just as good. Saltimbocca is traditionally made with veal, but you can make it with chicken or pork too. I've made it here with pork. Honestly, any meat stuffed with fontina cheese and proscuitto ham will be fantastic. The key is to brown it thoroughly in the pan and to not skimp on the cheese. This is beautiful served in pasta bowls on top of polenta swimming in sauce. Don't forget the sage leaves! Yield : 6 servings, only 404 calories per serving. From Cooking Light ...

Note: Feel free to substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the pork chops, still yummy!

6 (4-0z) boneless center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed (cut off all the white stuff)
6 very thin slices proscuitto (about 2 oz.)
6 large sage leaves
3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
1/8 t salt
2 T flour
1 T Olive Oil
1/2 C dry white wine
1 C fat-free less-sodium chicken broth
1 t thinly sliced sage

Polenta: (or use your own recipe: the one for corn mush on the Albers corn-meal box is fine)

2 C 1or 2% reduced-fat milk
1 14-oz. can fat-free less-sodium chicken broth
1 C instant polenta
1/2 t salt


To prepare pork, place each chop between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4 inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Arrange one proscuitto slice over each chop; top with one sage leaf and about 2 T cheese. Fold chops in half to sandwich filling and secure with wooden toothpicks or bamboo skewers that have been broken in half (to shorten). At this point, trim off excess pieces of meat to make the rolls look somewhat uniform (food tastes better if it is presented well). Save the excess pieces for a stir-fry another time.

Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge stuffed chops in flour. Heat olive oil in large nonstick skilet over med-hi heat. Add chops, cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove shops from pan, set aside.

Add wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook until reduced to 1/4 C. Add 1 C broth and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 C (about 5 minutes). Stir in 1 t sliced sage
Reduce heat to medium. Return chops to pan; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, turning once. Remove wooden picks from chops.

To prepare polenta, bring milk and 1 can broth to a boil. Gradually stir in polenta and 1/2 t salt. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook two minutes. Arrange 1/2 cup polenta on each serving dish or plate. To with a chop and drizzle with 4 t sauce and a sage leaf or two. Serve immediately!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Corn Bisque with Shrimp

Category: Soups
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Having a pot of soup simmering on the stove makes me smile. There's something about the aroma filling the kitchen as it cooks. It says "You are home. Be at Peace". I made this last night for the first time in years and remembered why I liked it so much. It's light, subtle but soooo satisfying. Common Sense Tip: Yep--it has a potato in it. Come On! One small potato used in a whole soup recipe won't kill you. Or maybe it will? If so you can always substitute a little cornstarch or arrowroot mixed with water INSTEAD of a potato and stir it in until it thickens. Yield: 7 cups, Only 174 calories per cup. Serves 4 adults very well . From Mildred Sherrer in Bay City, Texas for Cooking Light Magazine.


3 C frozen whole kernel corn, thawed and divided
2 C low sodium chicken broth, divided into two separate cups
1 T olive oil
1 C chopped onion
1 C chopped red bell pepper
1 C skim or 1% fat milk OR coconut milk
1 lb medium fresh shrimp, peeled ( I used the peeled, cooked shrimp that comes with a shrimp cocktail sauce in the ready-made lunch section of the meat counter at Costco--excellent shrimp!)
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro (try not to get too many stems, and chop fine)
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley (I use Italian flat leaf)
1/4 -1t salt ( salt to taste)
1/8 t pepper
1 small peeled raw potato, cut in small chunks

Combine 2 C corn and 1 C broth in a blender; cover and process until smooth. Set pureed corn aside. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and next 2 ingredients; saute 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in pureed corn mixture, remaining 1 C broth, and milk; bring to a boil. Add a small peeled potato, cut in chunks, to thicken. If you do not wish to use a potato--mix 1 T cornstarch or arrowroot with 3 T warm water and add to soup. Stir until it thickens.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add remaining 1 C corn, shrimp, and remaining ingredients; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Yield: 7 C (serving size:1 C)

Note: I like the subtle taste of this soup. But if you like things a little more spicy, add 1/8 t Cayenne pepper.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Hard

Blum's restaurant is in only San Francisco now, but it used to also be at Stanford Shopping Center near Palo Alto, California. In the 1960's and 70's, it was a place of ice-cream wonder and sugar-sprinkled joy. You walked in, and the whole thing was a soft pink and white. There were murals on the wall of stylized cartoon ladies having lunch as well as of cartooned sundaes and parfaits. There were white marble tables and white iron garden chairs with pink padding to sit on. It was part bakery, part eatery and part creamery. And to a 6 year-old, it was heaven on earth.

My mom used to take us there every week when she was pregnant with my brother Jim. That was back when women were only aloud to gain 19 pounds in 9 months. Lord! So after she weighed in at the Ob-Gyn, she would rush Sarah and I over to Blum's. There she would sigh with relief while eating a congratulatory "Coffiesta Sundae" or a piece of "Coffee Crunch Cake". The key is the "crunch", which made both desserts unique. It's the same thing as "seafoam candy" (at Marini's in Santa Cruz) without the chocolate coating. This is the real thing...found on

Note: If you want a short-cut,  bake a mix cake (Duncan Hines Yellow Butter Cake)and just concentrate on making the Coffee Crunch instead of a scratch-cake. I personally have used a cake-mix many times as well as Martha Stewart's Old Fashioned Yellow Cake recipe. But this "genoise" recipe is very light and authentic! A bit tricky, but warm the eggs, before you crack 'em, in a bowl of very warm water first and you'll be fine.

Note:The key to anything made with egg whites is to always have the eggs at room temperature.


1 1/4 C cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 t salt
6 egg yolks
1/4 C water
1 C large egg whites
1 t cream of tartar
1 t vanilla
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 t grated lemon zest

Coffee Crunch (Seafoam):

Unflavored vegetable oil
1 T sifted baking soda, sifted
1/4 C strong brewed coffee ( or 1 t instant espresso mixed with 1/4 C warm water)
1 1/2 C sugar
1/4 C light corn syrup
Note: For accuracy, always grease measuring cups or spoons before measuring corn syrup)


2 C heavy cream
2 T sugar
2 t vanilla
Note: when whipping cream have the cream and the bowl as cold as possible. Stainless steel bowls are the best conductors of cold temperatures.


For the cake: Adjust rack to lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. sift flour, 3/4 C sugar and salt onto a sheet of wax paper or another bowl, set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks with 1/4 C sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add water and beat until thickened, about 4 minutes. Whisk egg whites in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, (I have a hand mixer--works fine)just until frothy. Add cream of tartar; whisk until soft peaks form. Add remaining w/2 C sugar in a steady stream,whisking until thicker, stiffer, glossy peaks form, --about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour yolk mixture over whites. Fold together with rubber spatula. Repeat two more times just until ingredients are incorporated. Gently pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch round tube pan. Level top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until top springs back slightly when touched with a finger. Invert pan over a long-necked bottle to cool for about 45 minutes. To remove cake from pan, slip a flexible metal spatula down one side of pan; slowly trace perimeter to release the cake. When sides are free, push up on bottom to release cake. Tilt cake,with removable bottom still attached, and gently tap bottom against counter to loosen cake. Rotate cake, tapping a few more times until it appears free. You can also run a knife along the edges, but make sure the cake is absolutely cool before doing this! Put a plate or a rack on the top of the cake pan, and invert, so that cake lands on plate or rack when it falls out. Remove bottom of pan by sliding a knife around the edge, but only if needed. It may just fall off!

Coffee Crunch Topping: Generously oil a large baking sheet; sift baking soda onto a sheet of wax paper or plate; set nearby. Combine coffee, sugar and corn syrup in a heavy, 4qt. saucepan. Place over med-low hear, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. When mixture is clear and begins to boil, increase heat to med-high; cook until mixture reaches 290 degrees on a candy thermometer. Toward end of cooking (around 270-280 degrees), the candy should be the color of real caramel (like on candied apples). Stir constantly at this point to prevent mixture from scorching and becoming too foamy. When it's just starting to scorch a bit or smell a little burned, remove from heat and immediately stir in presifted baking soda. You only have to give it 2-3 stirs. Mixture will foam up fiercely--it will balloon up almost to the top of the pan. That's how you know it's a successful batch--- it billows! While still frothing, pour out onto an oiled baking sheet. Do not spread. Let cool, undisturbed for at least 1 hour. Crush into small pieces by placing between two pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap and roll with a rolling pin or tap with a cooking knife.

Note: If it only ballooned enough to fill the saucepan half full--the candy wasn't hot enough. It has to be almost burnt. Try again. Practice makes perfect!
For the Frosting: Combine cream, sugar and vanilla; beat until cream holds sturdy peaks.

To Assemble: Slice cooled cake into 3 equal layers using a serrated knife. Spread whipped cream between each layer, carefully stacking layers as you go. Spread remaining whipped cream over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate. Just before serving generously sprinkle top and sides with coffee crunch. The cake should be fine for up to 1 hour after the crunch is applied--but after that the candy will melt completely into the whipping cream. Sort of like Cinderella and the clock striking midnight!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grilled Lamb Chops with Morroccan Barbeque Sauce

Category: Lamb
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium

I remember going to Moroccan restaurants in the 1980's that were wonderful. You sat on huge pillows on the floor and ate wonderful exotic things with your fingers. And there was Moroccan music and all these! Moroccan flavors are a bit different, they usually put cinnamon in just about everything. Including this BBQ sauce. Common Sense Tip: Did you know cinnamon is really good for you? It cuts down on inflammation in your whoooole body.

The longer you marinate the chops thebetter--I would suggest making the marinade one day and leaving the lamb-chops in it overnight! The next day, make the BBQ sauce and grill the chops. This is from a place called "Willi's" in Santa Rosa via Sunset Magazine circa 2004. Serves 4--fancy enough for a dinner party. And two lamb chops are 414 calories, which ain't bad!

8 lamb loin chops (each about 1 in. thick and 4 oz. fat trimmed
Mint-Chutney Marinade(recipe follows)
Salt and Pepper

Mint Marinade:

In a blender,whirl 1 C lightly packed rinsed fresh mint leaves, 1/2 C olive oil, 1/2 C chopped green onions (white and pale green parts), 1/2 /c rinsed fresh mint leaves, 1/2 C olive oil, 3 T parsley leaves, 1 T lemon juice, 1 peeled clove garlic, 1 T salt, 1/2 t curry powder, and 1/4 t cayenne until smooth. Makes about 1 cup. If you have any left after marinating, save it and freeze it for another time!

Moroccan Barbecue Sauce:

In a 2-3 qt. pan, combine 3/4 C honey, 1/2 C fresh cilantro sprigs, 1/3 C lemon juice, 1/4 C rice vinegar, 1/4 C ketchup or tomato paste, 1/4 C soy sauce, 1 clove garlic, 1 whole star anise, 1 cinnamon stick-- 3" long,broken into pieces, 1/4 t each ground ginger, ground cardamom, whole cloves, hot chili flakes and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium -high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to about 1 1/4 Cs. About 15 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl. Makes about 1 1/4 Cs. Again, freeze whatever you have leftover for another time!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

4th of July Strawberry-Spinach Salad

Catagory: Fruits and Vegetables
Difficulty Rating: Easy

First served about 7 years ago at the annual Fourth of July BBQ at the Reynolds house--this fruit and spinach salad was a big hit. Almost as big a hit as the home-runs Walter Brighton always hits over the fence at the annual soft-ball game! He and my hubby Alan look like twins--German Bavarian twins, bald heads, mustaches and bodies built for hauling. When they stand together you can just imagine them in Leiderhosen singing "Vunderbar". Such cute knees... I especially like this recipe because it's easy and relatively inexpensive! And in this version you can either use all strawberries or half cantaloupe...

Strawberry-Spinach Salad


8 C loosely packed fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried and crisped in the fridge in plastic bags
3 1/2 C strawberries OR 2 C cubed cantaloupe and 1 1/2 C strawberries ( washed and hulled)
3 T cider vinegar or raspberry white wine vinegar ( for a less acidic taste-use rice wine vinegar)
2 T water
1 1/2 T honey (or to taste)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t poppy seeds (optional)
1/2 red onion, sliced in very thin rings
Crumbled Feta cheese or chopped macadamia nuts for garnish--(optional)

Note: When cooking with honey, always grease your measuring spoon or cups before measuring honey. More accurate measurements that way!

Take 8 cups washed, crisped spinach and put in a large salad bowl. Slice strawberries in half--put on top of spinach in bowl with cubed cantaloupe (if you're using it). In electric blender or a small mixing bowl with a whisk, combine all ingredients except poppy seeds and onion. Taste the vinaigrette--it should be light and sweet but tangy. Add more honey if it's too vinegar-y for your taste. I don't use poppy seeds in my dressing, but you can add 1/4 teaspoon to the dressing if you want polka dots on your fruit. Add sliced onion to the bowl of spinach and fruit and toss with dressing at the last minute. This is also very pretty served as a "salad compose" on separate salad plates if you want to take the time to arrange the fruit on plates instead of tossing it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes - My New Obsession

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Medium

The first time I had "the Red Velvet Experience" was about a year ago. My daughter took me to Sprinkles...a new cupcake bakery...and I wanted to live there! Soon I became an expert on Red Velvet cupcakes. And while I love the Red Velvets at Sprinkles, the cupcakes at " The Icing On The Cake" in Los Gatos are the best I've ever tasted. They have a moist, light red crumb that is a cross between white cake and chocolate cake. And the cream cheese frosting is, well... downright heavenly! Honestly, angels would skip Angel Food cake and eat Red Velvet Cupcakes if they had a choice. I tried to duplicate the taste and found a great recipe a blog called "Gingerbread Bagels" by a wonderful cook named Lindsey:

Here it is...

Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 1/2 C cake flour
1 1/2 C sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t unsweetend cocoa powder
1 1/4 C canola oil
1 1/4 C buttermilk, at room temperature
1 t vanilla
2 eggs , at room temperature
1 t white distilled vinegar
1 oz. red food coloring or 2 T (that's a lot!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa together. Set aside. In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment (I used a hand mixer--no problemo). Combine buttermilk, eggs, oil, vanilla, vinegar and red food coloring. The batter should be BRIGHT RED! Slowly add the dry ingredients until just combined. Use a rubber spatula or mixing spoon to fold ingredients together. Spoon into muffin tins with cupcake liners, fill 3/4 full. Bake 20 min. at 350 degrees.

Divalicious Cream Cheese Frosting: (it's the Jennifer Lopez of frostings)

1 8 oz. block cream cheese
1 stick real butter (1/2 cup)
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Cream cream cheese and butter together. Gradually add powdered sugar at low speed until just blended . Add vanilla and mix for just couple of minutes more. Perfecto!
Note: If it comes out too thin ( which can happen on a hot day or if your butter is too soft), put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or add more powdered sugar.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

You Will Be Stuffed Cabbage

Catagory: Main Dishes
Difficulty: Medium

This is a well-used recipe adapted from the popular 1990's "Spa" cookbook. I have been making these healthy cabbage rolls since Lauren was about 4, when she played with our next-door neighbor John-John. They were bosom buddies. On weekends, John would often burst through the door and yell "What's for breakfast?!". But dinner was different. I would ask if he wanted to stay for dinner and he would only stay if I was making hot-dogs or these cabbage rolls. He would even REQUEST them! There's something about the combination of the raisins, ginger and sausage that is sooo good. So there you go...feed this to your kiddos. I did add turkey sausage to this very healthy recipe, but you can take it out if you are a vegetarian. Only 210 calories per roll, about 310 if you add the sausage. Yield: 10 servings...feeds 5

2/3 C bulger ( find in the kosher section of your grocery store) or cook 2/3 C quinoa
2 t unsalted butter (salted works fine)
1 C chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 C raw sunflower seeds
1/4 C raisins
1 T grated peeled ginger
1 lb. Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage (you can use other brands, but this is really good)
Freshly ground white pepper and salt to taste
10 large green cabbage leaves
Vegetable or Chicken broth (you can make this from bouillon cubes if you like)

Cook the bulgur in 6 cups of simmering water for 25 minutes. Drain and set aside. If you are using the sausage, crumble it and cook till brown in a medium-sized skillet. Set aside to drain on a plate with a paper towel on it. Melt butter in skillet, add onion and garlic and saute over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until transluscent. Transfer to a mixing bowl. add the bulger, sunflower seeds, raisins, ginger and seasonings, and sausage if you are using it. Mix well to combine. Let the stuffing cool.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Blanch the cabbage leaves for 30 seconds in a large pot of boiling water. Drain and immediately plunge into a bowl of cold water. When leaves are cold enough to handle, drain and pat dry. Spread out 8 leaves on a work surface. Fill each leaf with an equal ammount of stuffing, and roll into packages from the stem end, tucking in sides neatly. Use the 2 remaining leaves to patch any tears. Place the rolls, seam side, in a single layer in a baking pan just large enough to hold them, and pour the Vegetable or Chicken broth over them. Bake for 30 minutes, the cabbage leaves should be tender, but not mooshy. Serve in bowls with broth and sprinkle with chopped green onions if you have 'em.