Friday, August 18, 2017

Alycia's Peach Daiquiri

Today's recipe is another one from Alycia of Inspirational Sloppy Joe fame. I was going to hold off on this one, not wanting to put two of them from Alycia so close together lest she think I'm stalking her, but peach season is coming to an end, and you need to try this before it's over. It's been a long time since I've made myself a cocktail, but yesterday I decided it was high time. I don't treat myself as often as I should, and, in fact, I have pretty much been eating out of the freezer the past couple of weeks, so felt I deserved a little treat.

This is easy to put together, and I counted it as a serving of fruit on the daily nutrition pyramid, because it calls for an entire peach. Can you imagine another cocktail that's as good for you as this one? Not only is it good for you, but it is also absolutely delicious. The recipe, without alteration it fabulous, but, in the name of full disclosure, I changed it up a tiny bit using a handful of ice cubes made from pineapple juice. I imagine this would be delicious with any type of fruit juice-based ice cube, but do know that it is fine on its own.  I just happen to have an obsession with making ice cubes out of pretty much anything in liquid form.

Okay, run out and get yourself some fresh peaches and prepare to be treated to a luscious cocktail.
Alycia's Peach Daiquiri
Makes one ample portion…unless you're a lush

2 ounces Malibu rum
3 ounces sweet and sour mix
1 whole peach, pitted
Splash Grenadine
Ice (see above regarding my choice here)

Toss all into a blender, or bullet blender, and blend until the ice is crushed and incorporated; serve immediately. Double, triple, quadruple, go crazy. You're going to love this one.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cherry Almond Haystacks

I have been obsessed, of late, with the cherry and almond combination. There is evidence of this in my Bing Cherry Amaretto Preserves as well as my Cream Scones with Amaretto Cherries. I decided to take this combination one step further and make a luscious chocolaty treat out of it. You're probably all familiar with haystacks. I remember these way back from when I was a kid. They're easy to make, no bake, everyone loves them; you simply can't go wrong with these. But I thought I would make them a little more sophisticated, so I added amaretto-soaked dried cherries and slivered almonds to the mix. These were so good I could have easily inhaled them. In fact, I had to hide them from myself to keep from doing just that.

These are the perfect summer treat because you don't have to heat up the oven to make them, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.  Here is an adult version of your childhood favorite. 
Cherry Almond Haystacks

2 Tablespoons amaretto

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chow mein noodles
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Soak cherries in amaretto until plump, about 20 minutes. Drain; set aside.

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips, at 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth. Stir in chow mein noodles, almonds, and reserved cherries until well coated.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a waxed paper or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Yield: 8 clusters. Feel free to double, triple, quadruple…you get the picture.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Inspirational Sloppy Joes

Facebook friend Alycia of the Tablescapes at Table 21 blog recently posted a blurb and photo that had my mouthwatering. She had decided to make homemade Sloppy Joes, adapting her recipe from four or five recipes that she had found on Pinterest, playing with it until it tasted right. She added that they were so delicious that her husband didn't stop at two of them.

I couldn't remember the last time I had made Sloppy Joes, so was intent upon doing just that. She told me that her basic recipe was one from Pioneer Woman, but that she added a number of extra ingredients. I took the same recipe and, like she did, made it my own with numerous additions and deletions. They were so good, undoubtedly the best Sloppy Joes that I had ever eaten. Because I cut the original recipe in half as it would have made way too many for my interest, you can feel free to double this one if you like.

I think one of the reasons why I liked this version so much is because I used one of my favorite Melissa's products, yup, you guessed it, Fire Roast Sweet Red Bell Peppers instead of the called for fresh green pepper. There is a need, I think, to have peppers in a Sloppy Joe, but I have always found that green peppers tend to overwhelm the taste. These complemented rather than overwhelmed, and I will never make another Sloppy Joe without them. You have to try this recipe. With fall coming up it will be a mealtime staple, and is perfect for gatherings for football season.

Inspirational Sloppy Joes

1 Tablespoon butter
1-1/4 pounds ground chuck
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 cup ketchup (I used equal portions of regular and Sriracha ketchup)
1/4 cup barbecue sauce (I used Stubbs)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder (more or less, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce (more or less, to taste)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (more or less, to taste)

Add butter to a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain fat on a paper towel-lined plate.

Add onions, red peppers, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until onion begins to soften.

Stir in ketchup, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard, and broth. Stir to combine and simmer for 15 minutes. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper, to taste. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve on toasted buns.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sweet Corn and Cucumber Salad

I love salad in the summer, and I like it to be made with the freshest produce available. I happened to pick up some local cucumbers, and a dozen or so ears of the fresh corn that we have had in abundance this season. So, while spending an entire day prepping vegetables for various dishes I was going to make during the week, I decided to combine some ingredients that aren’t always paired in order to make a delicious, crunchy summer salad. This was the end result, and boy, was it fresh and delicious! Even the onion and basil were homegrown as I grew both in pots on the patio. I made the pesto as well (there is just nothing like homemade!), but if you prefer not to, I highly recommend Melissa's pesto. They have both basil and sun-dried tomato, both equally good.
Sweet Corn and Cucumber Salad

4 cups fresh corn kernels
2 cups diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced
Melissa’s Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers
1/4 cup diced red onion
5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 large basil leaves, minced (more for garnish)
Salt and cracked pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons pesto, homemade or purchased
1 tablespoon Dukes mayonnaise
Pinch garlic salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toss vegetables and basil leaves together in a large mixing bowl, pour the dressing on top, and toss once more. Serve immediately garnish with basil leaves.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

I LOVE gazpacho, and making it with heirloom tomatoes is an experience all its own. Using different colors of tomatoes for different batches of gazpacho (It is so easy!) yields the most beautiful cold soup you can imagine. It's quite simple to vary a standard recipe to create as many varieties as you have colors of tomatoes. Today, in a matter of minutes, I made three different types of gazpacho, with three different colors of tomatoes. Look how beautiful it is, and the taste is phenomenal, so fresh and so summery. This is what it's all about.

Go crazy with your toppings; you're only limited by your imagination here. When you're considering a variety of garnishes, go not just for varying tastes, but colors and textures as well. I'm hard-pressed to decide my favorite among this bunch; I love them all!

Here are three recipes. I made all three of them in the food processor, and I didn't even rinse between batches. There's no need to because it is basically all the same thing. So whip up as many as you like, and consider serving each one of your guests a different color. How much fun would that be?!
Yellow Heirloom Gazpacho

1 large yellow heirloom tomato
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoons
Melissa’s chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon capers
1/4 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put all ingredients into the work bowl of a food processor.
Pulse until blended. Chill for at least an hour before serving. Top with your favorite garnishes.
Green Heirloom Gazpacho

2 large green heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon
Melissa’s chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon capers
1/4 of a medium yellow onion
1/4 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

See above for directions.
Red Heirloom Gazpacho

2 large red heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon
Melissa’s chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon capers
1/4 of a medium yellow onion
6 fresh basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

See above for directions.  In the photo above I topped this with chopped fresh spinach and crumbled bacon and served it as "BLT Gazpacho."

Suggested garnishes
Chopped spinach
Crumbled bacon
Sliced hearts of palm
Green or black olives, sliced
Kernels of fresh corn

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Shrimp Boil Foil Packs

Ever since making my first foil pack meal (that I told you about last week, when I used spinach and scallops), I've been keen to learn more. While perusing recipes on the Internet, I came across one for a Shrimp Boil Foil Pack that sounded heavenly! I happened to have all of the components on hand, so was eager to try it. I cut the recipe way down, just making two, so that I could enjoy them two nights in a row, and posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook. Almost instantly I started getting requests for the recipe. I found this one on Le Crème de la Crumb blog, but made quite a few changes of my own.

This dish is both delicious and easy.  I didn't bother to boil the corn, but instead microwaved it in the husk, wrapped in a damp paper towel, for three minutes. Upon completion, I cut off the stem end, and then squeezed the top, allowing the entire cob to slide out cleanly with nary a silk attached. I let it cool, and then cut it up as directed. If you don't know about this easy method of microwaving corn, you need to give it a try. It is life-altering! I got my dad started on this a year or so ago, and now he's eating corn like crazy. Nothing could be easier.

The recipe below is adapted from the above-mentioned blog. I added onion because I liked the additional flavor, I also drizzled beer over the tops of everything before drizzling with butter and grilling. It made one heck of a delicious sauce, and had me wishing for some crusty bread to soak up the goodness.
Shrimp Boil Foil Packs
Adapted from Le Crème de la Crumb

1-pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
2 ears of corn on the cob, husked
½ pound kielbasa, sliced
2 medium onions, quartered
3 Tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 teaspoons minced garlic
Juice of ½ lemon, plus lemon wedges for serving
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup lager beer

Wrap each ear of corn in a damp paper towel. Microwave 2-3 minutes per cob. Remove from microwave using a potholder. Place cobs on cutting board and chop off the stem end of each about an inch from the end. Pick up the silk end and squeeze. The corn will slide right out free of silks. Cut each cob into thirds, and chop each third in half lengthwise.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil for ten minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, and onion. Stir together melted butter, Old Bay, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and pour over shrimp, sausage, and veggies. Stir to coat.

Divide between four 12x12 inch sheets of aluminum foil. Drizzle each foil pack with two tablespoons of beer.  Fold edges of foil up around the food to create a closed packet.

Cook on preheated grill over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes on one side, then flip and cook another 5-6 minutes on the second side. Alternately, you can bake the packets at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until corn is tender and shrimp are pink and fully cooked.

While packets are cooking, melt remaining butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Serve shrimp boil packs topped with lemon wedges for squeezing.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Loving the (Bordallo Pinheiro) Cuteness!

The late Mr. O-P had a darling set of demitasse cups. It seemed strange that a guy like him would have had something so delicate, when he generally drank his coffee out of a rather hefty mug. But, I suppose he found these somewhere, they pleased him, and he bought them. They are China, very delicate, each cup with the name of a foreign hotel. One of these days I'm going to get them out and share them with you, but for the moment they are on a high shelf in the far back of a cabinet because we never used them, what's more, I'm not so sure that he ever used them. So, in my mind, that wasn't a good purchase. It's not that we didn't drink espresso, we did, and these cups would have been perfect, but the handles were small, and they just felt rather awkward in hand.
With this in mind, it would probably seem strange then that I bought a set of demitasse cups on my own. Hold on, I'll explain. I am crazy about Bordallo Pinheiro cabbage plates, and have long wanted a set of cups and saucers, because I'm one of those people who isn't particularly fond of a mug for morning coffee. It just seems so much more civilized to me first thing in the morning drinking out of a cup.
When I spotted this set, I ran them by friend and tablescape blogger, Marigene Purcell, to see what she thought. A big collector of Bordallo, she told me that she had a set of these, but warned me that they were very tiny. Obviously I bought them anyway because I just love cuteness.

I am very happy with my purchase because I can see a lot of uses for these. I can envision them filled with cold soup, or, perhaps fruit salad, or a pea salad. They might look lovely filled with tiny, seasonal blossoms, one at each place setting for a ladies luncheon or tea.

How would you use these if you had a set? I'm open for ideas, although I seem to keep coming up with my own. Wouldn't chocolate mousse be grand served in something like this (rather than my usual of just dipping it straight from the mixing bowl)? Give me your thoughts. You may see your idea in a future blog post.
(People always ask me where I store everything. My answer is generally, "Everywhere!" and this proves it. Here are four of these cups perched on top of a desk in my office.)
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Monday, August 7, 2017

Black Bean and Fresh Corn Bisque

The couple of cool days we had last week (and by cool, I'm talking nighttime temps that dipped into the fifties!) had my friends and me stalking fall crafts on Pinterest, and pulling out the pumpkin recipes. Perhaps it's because summer is my least favorite season that it just seems to last FOREVER. I had every door and window open in the house trying to suck in the chilly goodness, hoping to capture it for when things ultimately heat up again.

I found myself at the stove, stirring up a favorite fall bisque to enjoy one lazy afternoon out on the lanai. This recipe is easy and delicious, and a swap out of the chicken stock for vegetable makes it vegetarian.
Black Bean and Fresh Corn Bisque

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 ear fresh corn, husked, kernels removed*
1 large carrot, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, ribbed, seeded, and chopped (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon
Melissa's chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil until it shimmers. Add corn, carrots, onion, and jalapeño, and sauté until onion becomes translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in salt.

Stir in garlic, chili powder, and cumin, and cook until the spices are fragrant, about one minute. Add tomato paste, vinegar, beans, and 4 cups chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 35 to 40 minutes. If soup is too thick, add more stock, ¼ cup at a time, until desired thickness is reached.

Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Leave as is, or do as I do, and purée it with an immersion blender. Garnish as you see fit, or top with
corn and avocado salsa.

*I char mine on the grill to give it a more complex taste, but you don't have to
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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal, reviewed

 Believe it or not, I had never eaten Indian food before I married Jim. What this means is that it wasn't until I was in my late 30s that I first tasted the exotic deliciousness that is Indian cuisine. My mother was an excellent, but traditional cook, and we never had anything more exotic in our home than chicken chow mein.
Once I tasted Indian food, I was keen to learn more. I absolutely loved the warm spices, heady aromas, and complex taste. Jim was a good cook, and made a lot of Indian dishes and, because of this, we built up our collection of spices to include every Indian spice we could find, and added to our cookbook collection with dozens of books on Indian cooking.
In the interim I became interested in films about the history and culture of India (My favorite being The Lunch Box, a sweet story and fascinating look at the lunch delivery system in India.), not to mention having a growing interest in side dishes, vegetable dishes, and other Indian food that wanders from main dishes.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with this rambling introduction. It's actually my way of telling you about a wonderful book on Indian cooking called Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore by Chitra Agrawal. I feel obligated to tell you that it's a vegetarian cookbook, but don't be put off by this, the recipes in here are phenomenal, making this book not just a visual feast, but a culinary one as well.

Written simply so that even a novice cook can prepare these recipes, they are also steeped in the author's family history, something that she engagingly shares in this informative book. It has wonderful main dishes that will leave you not missing meat in the least, along with incredible, unique breakfast fare, and tantalizing desserts. If you are a fan of Indian or vegetarian dishes, this is a must for your cookbook library.

 Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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