Friday, August 24, 2018

Fresh Peach and Tart Cherry Crumb Pie

I always tell people that I am not a pie person, because I truly believe that I’m not. But, in looking back over the blog, I see that I have more than a dozen pie recipes here, all of which I have eaten and enjoyed. So, perhaps I should change my catchphrase that pies are "the liver of desserts" to something else. It seems as though, much to my surprise, I have indeed become a pie person.

When peaches caught my eye at the local market, fresh from an area farm, I had to buy them. Peaches are one of my favorite fruits, and there’s nothing I like more than peach cobbler. When I got them home, I was thinking that instead of cobbler I would make a pie, because I know my dad prefers that, and I also knew that I would be taking him a big slice. I wanted to do something different, and as I was wondering that, my eyes fell upon a package of Melissa’s tart cherries. I was thinking how wonderful they would be in a peach pie. There amongst the juices, they would hydrate, and become plump and add a delicious tartness, as well as color and interest. I was right! This is a sumptuous pie, with a combination of ingredients you most likely have not run across before. It’s easy to put together, well, as easy as is any fruit pie, it is delicious warm, or cool, or for breakfast.
Fresh Peach and Tart Cherry Crumb Pie

1 crust for a 9” pie*
5 cups sliced peeled peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon bourbon
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt

1½ cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of cardamom
1½ sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate with crust; flute edges. Make topping by placing all topping ingredients into a food processor and pulse until mixture becomes crumbly.

Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl, and sprinkle with lemon juice and bourbon. Mix gently. Stir in dried cherries.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt. Pour over the peaches, and mix gently. Turn into the piecrust. Cover with crumb topping.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juice begins to bubble. If the top browns too quickly, cover with aluminum foil about halfway through baking. Cool before serving.

*I am not a crust snob. Make it, buy it, do what you like.

Plumberry Pie is another favorite that uses a simple crumb topping to enhance the delicious summer fruit inside.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Directly translated, the words croque monsieur become “crispy mister.” Essentially, it’s a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. But don’t let the seeming simplicity of this bore you. It is so much more than that. This simple grilled ham and cheese sandwich is also topped with a rich and creamy béchamel, additional freshly grated cheese (in this case Gruyere), and then put under the broiler until it gets hot, brown, and beautifully bubbly. This is like no grilled cheese sandwich you have ever had. Yes, it’s a little more effort than just slapping some cheese between two pieces of bread and shoving it into your toaster oven, but the extra work is well worth the sinfully delicious taste. Make this once, and you will never be satisfied with a plain old grilled cheese sandwich again. 

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf

4 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
4 ounces sliced Gruyère cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add nutmeg and bay leaf. Increase heat to medium-high and boil until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Place 2 bread slices on work surface. Top each with half of ham and sliced Gruyère. Top with remaining bread. Heat heavy large skillet over low heat. Brush sandwiches with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Add to skillet and cook until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to small baking sheet. Spoon sauce, then grated cheese over sandwiches. Broil until cheese begins to brown, about 2 minutes.

Looking for something to feed the family? Try this Croque-Monsieur Pie!

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Cream of Roasted​ ​Hatch Chile Soup

In case you were unaware, it is hatch chile seasoning. Years ago, I had never heard of hatch chiles, these days it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t. If you happen to fall into the latter group, let me explain what hatch chiles are. Hatch chiles are those grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico. The warm days and cool nights in this valley create a uniquely flavored chile that is much sought after by fans of southwestern dishes like me. They have a meaty flesh and mild-medium heat making them ideal for use in a wide variety of dishes. I roasted them this morning, and used them in this delicious soup. For more information on how to prepare hatch chiles, or additional recipes, you can purchase a copy of Melissa's Hatch Chile Cookbook here. Celebrate the season! It doesn’t last long. 
Cream of Roasted​ ​Hatch Chile Soup

3 T. butter
3 T. flour
3 c. homemade chicken stock
2 c. heavy cream
2 T. butter
1 large onion, minced
1 c. Melissa's Roasted Red Bell Peppers, finely diced
​3 Melissa's Hatch chiles*, roasted, seeded, finely diced
2 c. Gruyere cheese, grated
¼ t. Kosher salt, if needed
Garnish with finely chopped parsley, a sprinkling of Hatch Chile Powder, or crumbled Hatch Chile Clean Snax. The latter gives it a nice sweet little kick.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large saucepan over low heat. Add flour and ​whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in stock and cream. Increase heat and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Add cheese to cream mixture and stir until melted.

Meanwhile, in a ​heavy small skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally about 8 minutes. Mix in red peppers and hatch chiles. Stir vegetables into cream mixture. Season with salt, garnish with parsley, and serve.

Serves 8.
*Hatch chiles are available either mild or hot, so you control the heat here.​

One of the most popular recipes on the blog is Cream of Roasted Jalapeno Soup. If you like more heat and less cheese, you may want to try that one. It was on it that this Hatch version is based.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Pork Chops with Leeks in Mustard Sauce

I always consider pork, particularly when accompanied by apples or leeks (or both) to be a fall dish, but with a lot of leeks hanging out in my fridge, I thought today just might be a good day to give this combination another try. I had long been interested in a recipe that I saw on Epicurious, adapting it to make it my own. This recipe is a bit of work, but not as much as it would appear. I did my prep work early in the day, and this all went together during the seventh inning of the ball game, when things were tense, and my attention was divided. They still turned out wonderfully flavorful and delicious!
Pork Chops with Leeks in Mustard Sauce
Adapted from

2 1½”-thick pork chops

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon freshly ground Melissa’s lemon pepper

2 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
Olive oil (optional)
2 cups thinly sliced Melissa’s leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 2 large)
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup brandy
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup heavy cream

Pat chops dry with paper towels. Mix rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle seasoning mixture on both sides of chops. Let stand at room temperature 1 to 2 hours or wrap and chill up to 1 day.

Heat heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté until crisp and lightly browned. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to small bowl. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chops to skillet. Sear until brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a plate; keep warm.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet (or add olive oil to make 2 tablespoons). Add leeks and sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add brandy, then broth and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Return bacon to skillet; add sage and stir to blend.

Nestle chops in leeks in skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; simmer 3 minutes. Turn chops over. Cover; simmer until thermometer inserted into thickest part of chops registers 140°F to 145°F, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer chops to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm.

Spoon off any fat from cooking liquid in skillet. Boil until liquid reduces by half, about 3 minutes. Whisk in mustard and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over chops.

Looking for something simpler? Try these Pork Chops au Poivre.

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Baked Campanelli with Leeks

A lot of people are surprised by this, but Sunday is the only day of the week that I cook. What this means is that everything you are seeing on the blog this week, I made in one day. I know, it appears that I do more, but frankly, these days, I’m far too busy (read: old and tired) to spend my time cooking. I worked with Leeks this week, trying a variety of new recipes, and loving them all. Leeks are an amazingly versatile vegetable. Most people know them from various leek and potato soup recipes. I do love leek and potato soup, but I also love them braised, creamed, in scrambled eggs and quiches, and now, in a sophisticated version of macaroni and cheese.

I decided to change things up a bit, and make macaroni look much more elegant by using campanelli instead of the standard elbow or penne pastas. There is method to my madness. Campanelli is a wonderful curled pasta that holds onto a lot of sauce. What this means is that you’re going to get delicious mouthfuls of cheese and leek sauce in every bite. Feel free to put your own spin on this. I like it super cheesy, so use the sharpest cheddar that I can find, but if you prefer yours milder, use whatever cheese suits you.

To familiarize yourself with the various types of pasta, including campanelli, you might want to check out this post.
Baked Campanelli with Leeks
Slightly adapted from

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 bag
Melissa’s Cleaned and Sliced Leeks
  1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more or less to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large eggs
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
1 pound
campanelli pasta

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Lightly butter 15x10x2-inch baking dish.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks; stir to coat. Cover saucepan and cook until leeks are tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes (do not brown). Uncover saucepan; add flour. Stir 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to simmer, stirring often. Add cheese, mustard, and pepper sauce. Stir until cheese melts. Stir in salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Season cheese sauce to taste with salt. Stir in nutmeg.

Whisk eggs in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 1 cup cheese sauce. Stir egg mixture into cheese sauce in saucepan.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return to pot.

Stir cheese sauce into pasta in pot. Transfer to prepared baking dish.

Bake pasta until cheese sauce is bubbling around edges and some ends of pasta are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes. Serve hot.

One of my favorite pasta dishes (try it, and it will be yours as well) is Pimiento Cheese Mac and Cheese. So rich and delicious!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Plum Cobbler

I have a seriously short attention span. Sometimes that worries me. Case in point, I was at the market the other day eyeballing the huge stack of local peaches. Peaches are one of my favorite fruits, so I was trying to decide which size bag I wanted to buy. I didn’t want to overdo it as I have done with things in the past (you know how I can be), so I decided to go for a 3-pound bag. I turned my body as I was reaching for the bag and, in the doing, spotted a sale on avocados. Before you could say “guacamole” I was standing by a bin full of avocados that were on special. I haven’t had guacamole in ages, and I love it on top of a turkey sandwich, and, hey, turkey is on sale at the deli! But, I thought to myself, I also need good bread. Hey! Fresh bread is on sale in the bakery. So, I picked out the best avocados from the bunch, bagged them up and put them in my cart, headed straight for the deli counter where I bought not only turkey, but ham that was also on sale, bread, and felt quite chuffed as I made my way to the checkout. It wasn’t until I got home and started unpacking things that I realized the checker had not rung up my peaches. Then I realized it was because they weren’t in my cart. Sigh.
I did have the great fortune to receive a good number of Melissa’s Organic Plum Bites, so I decided, why be locked into peach cobbler? I will make plum! It was exceptionally good, and I think I may make this again before the season is out. Plums are a favorite of mine, but if they’re not a favorite of yours, I really think you could probably use any stone fruit in this cobbler. It’s easy to make, and absolute heaven when topped with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Plum Cobbler

3 lbs. Melissa’s Organic Plum Bites, seeded, cut into thin wedges
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water

Sanding sugar for top

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss plums with sugar, lemon juice, almond extract, and cornstarch in a 2-qt. nonreactive baking dish and bake in middle of the oven 10 minutes.

While plums are baking. Place all topping ingredients EXCEPT WATER into a food processor, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. With motor running, stream in water just until combined.

Remove plums from oven and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. (Topping will spread as it bakes.) Sprinkle with sanding sugar, if desired. Bake in middle of oven until topping is golden, about 20-25 minutes.

These Simple Plum Tarts are another super simple, delicious plum dessert.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Happy Trails Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

As I mentioned in a recent blog post my over zealousness tends to get the best of me. July 16th was Amazon Prime Day, and I got into the spirit of things in fine form. I didn’t buy much, but I ended up being quite surprised by what I did buy when a couple of boxes showed up at my door. I love Amazon’s Happy Belly Tropical Trail Mix. Generally, I am not a trail mix fan, but this has just the right amount of salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy, and a tropical taste that makes this enormously appealing, so I bought a discounted bag of this. Occasionally I will buy their Happy Belly Sweet & Spicy Trail Mix, and always share some with my dad, so I bought a discounted bag of this. But what I didn’t realize was that I’d also bought a bag of their Happy Belly Peanut Butter Plenty Trail Mix.

When I opened up the box and pulled out this big bag of trail mix with peanuts, peanut butter chips, Reese’s pieces, and so forth and so on, I looked at it and said to myself,  “Huh.”  Then I headed to Amazon, just knowing that they had pulled a fast one, looked at my orders, and lo and behold there it was. Wow, I thought to myself, that is a big bag of peanut trail mix. I thought about giving it to my dad, but I didn’t want to over burden him with something he may not particularly like. Don’t get me wrong, he loves peanut butter as much as I do, but I wasn’t sure that he would like this.

So I got to thinking about it, and thought how wonderful all of these ingredients would work in a cookie. I shot off a message to number two son, Andrew, who is my partner in crime in many things, and he thought this idea was brilliant. In fact, he was already to be my taste tester.

After all of this, I had to give it a try, and am I ever glad that I did. These are exceptional! I used a basic chocolate chip cookie dough, substituting 3 cups of Happy Belly Peanut Butter Plenty Trail Mix for the usual 2 cups of chocolate chips and one cup of nuts. Listen to the ingredients in this trail mix: peanuts, peanut butter cups, chocolate and peanut butter candies (a.k.a. Reese’s Pieces), peanut butter chips, and peanut butter coated pretzel balls (Those pretzel balls knocked my socks off! Really, I still can’t find one.) What is not to like here? The cookie is complex, peanutty, sweet, salty, crunchy, absolutely wonderful, with relatively little work, because, essentially, Amazon has done all of the work for you in combining these wonderful ingredients all together in one bag. (Now I’m wishing I would have bought two!) You can find this trail mix here, and the recipe for the cookies below. If you prefer not to buy such a big bag of trail mix, you can easily make your own concoctions using any combination of the list of ingredients above. If your family likes peanut butter, peanuts, or any of the components in this trail mix, they are going to love these cookies!

How did Andrew like them? He LOVED them! I sent him home with a small bag and he didn’t quite make it. He told me that he ate them in the parking lot of Costco. Yep, they’re that good! 
Happy Trails Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or a Silpat; set aside

Beat together butter and both sugars until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add dry mixture to wet ingredients. Fold in
Happy Belly Peanut Butter Plenty Trail Mix.

Using a 1-1/2  tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop cookies onto
Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven; allow to cool on the cookie sheet 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 3 1/2 dozen.

Another delicious and easy cookie recipe that makes use of a variety of flavored chips is these South Pole Cookies.

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