Friday, May 18, 2018

Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder

Is it just at my market, or is corn all over the place at yours too? This is not corn season, but I have seen loads of it at local markets, and for a decent price. I expected it to be tasteless and a bit on the dry side, but it was actually quite good. Whenever I can get my hands on ears of decent corn, I like to make corn chowder.

Today I combined a recipe for chicken enchilada chowder, with corn chowder, and came up with what I'm calling Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder. It’s positively addictive, with just the right amount of heat and loads of flavor. If you like your soup a little hotter, double up on the jalapeños. This is easy to put together, because you throw everything into the crockpot add forget about it. And I mean this literally. This afternoon, I got sidetracked watching the ball game, had the doors and windows open, and thought somebody in the neighborhood was cooking something wonderful because I could smell the aroma coming in through the door. Nope, it turned out to be me! It was the chowder.
Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups chicken stock, preferably
1 14.75-oz. can cream-style corn
2 ears of corn, husked, roasted, and sliced from the cob
½ cup diced
Melissa’s Pickled Jalapeños
½ cup diced
Melissa’s Fire Roasted Sweet Red Peppers
1 15.5-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 ½  teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ cups freshly grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish as you see fit

Spray a six-quart crockpot with Pam. Add all of the ingredients, give it a stir, and cook on low for six hours. During the final half hour of cooking, remove the chicken, shred it, and return it to the crock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish any way that you like. For my tastes, I enjoy a sprinkling of Cojita cheese and scattering of freshly chopped chives.

Another delicious slow cooked soup with a Mexican bent can be found in this recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lobster Roll

I have no explanation as to why this unseasonably warm weather has me thinking about lobster rolls, but indeed it has. Lobster rolls are something that I have loved ever since I first sank my teeth into one back in 1995. Occasionally, I will get a tempting email from a seafood company in Maine offering to send me a lobster roll kit, but the exorbitant price has aided my resistance. Today, while rummaging through the freezer, I excavated a frozen lobster tail. That was it, I thought to myself, I am making myself a lobster roll!

There isn’t much to it, really, you want to season it lightly so as not to detract from the sweetness of the flavorful chunks of lobster. This is a recipe that I put together and I found it to be very good. Some people enjoy tarragon in a lobster roll, and if you are one of those people, then scatter a whisper of ground tarragon on top of the mixture and stir it in. It does add something to it, but I prefer it this way.
Lobster Roll

1 4-ounce
lobster tail, cooked, cooled, and diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon
Old Bay seasoning
2 tablespoons mayo (more or less to taste)

Toss all ingredients together. Place in a little container and refrigerate for an hour or more to meld the flavors. Serve on a split-top lobster roll. If you can’t find one, then toast a hotdog bun and use it, that’s how we do it in the Mississippi Valley.

This is particularly good with a side of Warm Bacon Coleslaw. You can find that recipe here. 

If you prefer to start your day with lobster, this Nantucket-inspired Lobster Omelet will make you think that you have died and gone to heaven.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Best of Both Worlds Creamy Bacon Coleslaw

I grew up with two distinctly different types of coleslaw. My grandmother made a hot, wilted, bacon coleslaw, while my mother made a creamy (but not too creamy) coleslaw with carrots and raisins. The fact is, I liked both because, unlike a lot of people, I really like coleslaw. I particularly like it on top of barbecued beef or pulled pork sandwiches.

Today I wanted to make coleslaw, but not a variety that I had made so many times before. I wanted one that was creamy (but not too creamy), and yet warm, vinegary, and dotted with bacon like my grandmother’s. So I got to thinking about what I liked best about both varieties, and combined the two. This was genius! This has to be my new favorite coleslaw. It is warm, it has bacon, it has a wonderful amount of vinegar, and just the right amount of creaminess to make it the best of both worlds. It’s good warm, room temperature, or cold from the fridge. I think you and your family are going to love this.
The Best of Both Worlds
Creamy Bacon Coleslaw

1/2 head cabbage, finely sliced
4 slices bacon, diced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small
Melissa’s organic shallot, finally minced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cracked pepper

Place cabbage in a large mixing bowl; set aside.

Cook bacon in a 9-inch sauté pan over medium heat until almost crispy, stirring occasionally. Add shallot and cook two
more minutes.

While bacon is cooking, whisk together remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl. After the shallot has finished cooking, stir this sauce mixture into the pan with the bacon and shallot. Increase heat to medium/high, and simmer for one minute, until fully combined, and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and immediately pour over the sliced cabbage. Toss together and serve immediately.

This will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days.


If coleslaw is not your thing, this Sweet Corn and Cucumber Salad is a wonderful summer salad that you may enjoy (it similarly has bacon!).


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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Oreo Cheesecake Trifle

My granddaughter, Gabby, celebrated her fifth birthday last week. I invited her and the family over for dessert and presents. Both of my grandkids (as well as my son and daughter-in-law, who celebrates her birthday at the end of this week) are great appreciators of desserts. As a consequence, I try to be dazzling. So when I spotted this Oreo Cheesecake Trifle on the Life, Love and Sugar blog, I knew I had to make it.  I was lulled into a false sense of security with the idea that this was no-bake. It was far more labor intensive than I had anticipated. Still, it was unique among trifles that I have made, and a real crowd-pleaser. It is also extremely rich, so don’t do what my son did, and ladle heaping spoonfuls into the ample bowls that I had foolishly provided. Serve smaller portions in demitasse or teacups. I have adapted the original recipe a bit. The original called for making brownies from scratch. Life is too short to spend time making a brownie from scratch that is ultimately going to be buried under layers of filling. Use your favorite box mix, and save yourself some grief.
Oreo Cheesecake Trifle
From Life, Love and Sugar, edited for ease and clarity

1 box brownie mix (I used

Oreo Cheesecake Layer
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups Oreo crumbs (about 16 Oreo cookies)

Whipped Cream Layer

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup
Hershey‘s Special Dark chocolate syrup
10 Oreo cookies, rough chopped (you should have 5 to 6 left in the package, use those as a garnish on top)

Prepare brownies according to package directions. Set aside to cool, and then cut into small squares.

Place cream cheese and sugar into the work bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed until smooth and creamy. Beat in milk and vanilla extract until well combined. Set aside. In another bowl beat the heavy whipping cream with the powdered sugar to stiff peaks. Slowly fold whipped cream mixture into cream cheese mixture until combined. Fold in Oreo cookie crumbs.

Beat remaining heavy whipping cream with powdered sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form; set aside.

To assemble trifle, divide brownies in half. Crumble half of them on the bottom of the
trifle dish. Top these with half of the cheesecake filling, smoothing it to cover with a spatula. Sprinkle 3/4 of the chopped Oreos on top of the cheesecake filling. Drizzle chocolate sauce overall. Layer 2/3 of the whipped cream on top of the crumbled Oreos spreading to even out. Add another layer of brownies, then remaining cheesecake filling. Top trifle with remaining whipped cream, either swirling or piping it on top in a decorative fashion. Continue decorating top with remaining chopped Oreos and chocolate syrup. Place whole Oreos upright on top in little mounds of whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This keeps in the refrigerator up to three days.

Another delicious, crowd-pleasing chocolate dessert that is also make ahead are these Chocolate Éclair Squares (also available in a chocolate and peanut butter combination here).

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Deck Gardening: CARROTS

I have huge issues with holidays, I think I always have. It goes back to when I was a little girl, and had to be good on holidays. Frankly, I thought I was good all of the time, so the fact that there was a certain day that I had to be extra good was a bit stressful. Being an only child was stressful as well, particularly when my mother told me that I was a difficult baby (I never slept — I still don’t), and that, after me, she decided she had had enough. Yeah, that made me feel great. It also meant that I was the whole show, and had no one else with whom to share the joys…or burdens. Then, as I got older, and my mother expected gifts from me on every holiday, even the less celebrated ones, it became stressful as well, because back in the lean years, I couldn’t afford to buy a gift for someone who could have easily enough afforded to buy anything she wanted. So that was stressful.

Mother’s Day was the absolute worst! Eventually I became a mother myself, but that didn’t mean that I ever got to relax and enjoy the day, no, it just meant that my burden was compounded. I still had to buy a gift for my mother, only as an adult, I also had to provide a home-cooked meal. That meant that from the moment my feet hit the floor on Mother’s Day morning, I not only had two young boys to take care of, but also a house to clean, and a dinner to prepare. It was a nice day for her, but it was always a nightmarish one for me, something she never understood.

My husband Jim was always very sweet to me on Mother’s Day, giving me a lovely card, and generally buying me one of my favorite things, lots of plants for the garden. Now that he’s gone and my mother is gone, my day is mixed with anger and sadness. To compound things, today would have been Jim and my 23rd anniversary. So, today, I am ignoring it as much as I can, and focusing my attention on what I hope will be a successful deck vegetable garden.

Today I am planting carrot seeds. I bought a nice variety of
organic carrot seeds in various colors from white, to scarlet, purple, and yes, orange. I think carrots are beautiful when they grow because the lacy tops, swaying in the breeze are so tranquil and pretty. I also love carrots both raw and roasted; a variety of colors is going to make for some beautiful dishes. I have no idea what I’m doing here, I have never grown carrots before, but I’m giving it a whirl using this wonderful Guinness galvanized bucket that son Andrew gave me a couple of years ago. I love this bucket, generally it just hangs out in the garage, and I was thinking today that I really should enjoy it as a part of my garden. So, here goes.
The first thing I did with the bucket was to drill a large drainage hole in the bottom. Then, in order to keep it from getting too heavy, I wadded up a little bit of bubble wrap and put it in the bottom, probably about 2 inches up. Then I filled it with an organic indoor/outdoor soil mixture that contains both a slow release fertilizer, and moisture-grabbing medium.
I intend upon planting these carrot seeds throughout the summer, in order to stagger my harvest. They mature in 60 to 70 days, so they have to be planted early to avoid the winter frost. I love the names of these varieties, as well as the cuteness of the seed packets. I am always sucked in by cuteness. In studying the varieties, today I have chosen to begin with the carrots called Red-Cored Chantenay. According to the information that came with these seeds, these are carrots that have wide shoulders, a tapered root, a blunt rounded tip, fine-grained texture, and a red core. Don’t they sound beautiful? We’ll see.

If you love carrots as much as I do, this recipe for Amaretto Carrots is a real winner!

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Ricardo's Lemon Marmalade

This morning, as I was making biscuits, I was lamenting the fact that I was out of marmalade. Then I remembered a recipe that I had seen in the spring issue of Ricardo magazine. I’d saved it because it looked so easy, and, honestly, almost too good to be true. But, as I always do, I had lemons on hand, so I pulled them out, scrubbed them up, and followed the easy directions. In less than an hour I was rewarded with an absolutely delicious topping for my equally delicious homemade biscuits. It took me less time to make this marmalade than it would have to get dressed and drive to the market to buy some. If you’ve never made any type of marmalade before, this is the easiest, most fool-proof recipe ever. I’ve made a good bit of it in my day, finding most of it a two-day process. Anything that takes me less than an hour is my new favorite. Here is a tutorial, followed by a printable recipe. I hope you love it as much as I do. Thank you Ricardo!

Ricardo's Lemon Marmalade

Melissa's Meyer Lemons
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water

Place lemons into a medium/large sauce pan, cover with water (They float!), place over high heat and bring to a boil. When boiling occurs, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes until lemons are tender.*

Drain the lemons, run under cool water, and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes to make them easier to handle.

On a work surface, cut the lemons in half. Remove and discard any seeds, then finely chop the flesh and peel. Place
lemon into the saucepan along with sugar and water.

Cook over medium heat until the temperature on a
candy thermometer reads 223°F, about 20 minutes (mine only took 17). Transfer to prepared jars and either sterilize the jars (if you plan to store them) or place into the fridge where it will keep for a month, if need be.

*As you can see from the picture above, one of my lemons collapsed a bit. I probably cooked them too long because I went the full 30 minutes. You may want to watch yours more closely than I did.

If you prefer a more complicated marmalade with a sophisticated taste, I recommend this Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Slow Cooker Roast Beef with Red Eye Gravy

Dad and I have a bit of a deal. Every week or so I go over to his house with a couple of homemade dinners and delicious dessert (yesterday I also took a piece of the frittata for breakfast), and he heads to the local fried chicken joint, and picks up two fried chicken dinners for us to enjoy that day. Neither one of us ever eats fast food, except when he goes to that fried chicken place, and we love it!

One of the meals that I take him that he likes the best is roast beef, mashed potatoes, and green beans almandine, a meal we fondly remember my mother making quite often. It is always delicious and satisfying, and one of the easiest meals that I make. The beef is done in the crockpot -- the standard recipe that you all have probably seen, but I tweak it a bit by adding red wine and strong coffee. There is something about those two ingredients that makes it so rich and delicious that you will find yourself moaning with delight with each tender mouthful.

I am known for my roast beef dinners. Make this easy recipe, and you will be known for your roast beef dinners, too.

Slow Cooker Roast Beef with Red Eye Gravy

1 3-pound beef roast (I use a rump roast)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (yes, canned soup, so shoot me)
1 pkg.
dry onion soup mix
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee

Place beef into a crockpot that has been lightly sprayed with Pam. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over roast, cover with lid, and cook on low for eight hours. That’s it. Pure deliciousness!

Another super easy slow cooker beef recipe is these mouth-watering Coca-Cola Short Ribs.

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