Monday, September 16, 2019

Coconut Cream Pound Cake with Toffee Crunch Topping

Ever since making that Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t been able to get coconut off of my mind. Today I wanted something a bit less labor intensive, and, being in the mood for pound cake, came up with this creation, using my wonderful new Nordic Ware loaf pan. I call this Coconut Cream Pound Cake with Toffee Crunch. Marvelous with a morning cup of coffee, but frankly, it’s just plain suitable anytime of the day.
Coconut Cream Pound Cake with Toffee Crunch Topping

½ c. unsalted butter, softened
½ pkg. (4 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 t.
coconut extract
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. cake flour
¼ t. baking powder
1 c. flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Spray a 9” x 4” loaf pan with
Baker’s Joy; set aside

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and cream cheese until well blended, 3 minutes. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, 7 minutes.

While mixer is running, take this opportunity to place coconut into a food processor and pulse 5 to 6 times; set aside. To the mixer contents, beat in eggs one at a time; stir in coconut and vanilla extracts. With mixer on low, beat in flour and baking powder just until moistened. Fold in chopped coconut.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for one hour, or until knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.

Coconut Glaze

½ c. sifted confectioners' sugar
1 T. half-and-half
¼ t. vanilla extract
1/8 t. coconut extract
¼ c. crumbled
Wickedly Prime Toffee Coconut Cashews

Whisk together all ingredients except cashews. Drizzle over top of cake. Sprinkle cashews over glaze before it sets.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Deck Garden September Wrap-Up

It’s September (Can you believe it?), so it is time for a deck garden wrap-up. It has been a garden friendly summer. For the most part temperatures have been moderate, rain was plentiful early on, and everything grew like mad. You know that your garden has been a success when neighbors become wild-eyed upon seeing you; faint strains of “no more tomatoes” hang in the air, as they turn on their heels and flee. I think half the neighborhood is suffering from acid re-flux as a direct result of consuming too many tomatoes.
I never thought I would say this, but I am sick of tomatoes, tired of cutting up peppers for the freezer much less eating them, most sorrowful at all of the green beans that went bad because one can only consume so many, and wishing I had a lot more flowers. 
The Cathedral Bells climbed everywhere, teasing me all summer, but didn’t bloom until this morning when I was greeted with the most amazing purple flower. Here’s hoping something will become of the small bird sitting out in the plant so that I can reap rewards for all of my hard work and dedication. This variety is Cobea Scandens, and those seeds can be found here.

The herbs did marvelously, and I did well, I think, growing nothing more than mint (in its own pot), and a big pot of basil, chives, and parsley. With few exceptions, I didn’t find I needed much more. Next year I will add lemon balm, because I do like that in a nice cold brew tea. Note made.
I learn things every year when I garden, but I think the most important lesson learned this year was to carefully read seed packets. I was so charmed by the thought of growing gourds, that it never occurred to me to CAREFULLY read the packet. Had I done so, I would have discovered that I’d purchased seeds for miniature gourds only destined to be 2 inches long. They are adorable, but not exactly what I was hoping for.
Speaking of which, once I harvested the gourds and pulled up the vines, the ruffled pink morning glories that I had forgotten I’d planted (in the hopes of them entwining themselves in a beautiful gourd/flower display) began to grow and bloom. I absolutely love this variety, and will definitely grow them next year. Many people have inquired about this variety. These are Split Second Morning Glory, the seeds can be found here.
Another thing that I learned is that no way do I need as many peppers and tomatoes as I grew. The same goes for the cherry tomatoes. Not that I’m complaining, they provided me with a lot of wonderful, crunchy, flavorful little fruit, but enough is enough. My refrigerator is full of bowls of them, and I just can’t take it anymore. The jury is still out on the cucumbers.

I am letting the big boy tomatoes continue — they look quite lush —but long ago pulled down their trellises, so, while they are vining all over the place, they are providing me with wonderful tomatoes, that I am turning into the best ever marinara sauce.
The ginger is still doing well, and will go into October. 

My notes for next year are this; grow fewer vegetables and more flowers. I didn’t need the 50 jalapeños that I harvested in one week. While I love the peppers, one plant will do, if that, and I’m not going to grow jalapeños. They are easy to grow, and quite prolific, but next year that pot is going to hold either flowers or lemon balm. One of my great joys this season has been all of the butterflies and hummingbirds that have visited.
Next year I hope to have more. I don’t mind planting zinnias, solely for the enjoyment of the goldfinches, who holds onto their strong systems, plucking each petal from every flower head, one at a time, in order to get to the fresh seeds. It’s adorable.

What did your garden do? And what will you do differently next year?

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Avocado Hearts of Palm Salad with Parsley Vinaigrette

We all have our favorite ingredients, those that we tend to use again and again. Two of my favorites are avocado and hearts of palm. My fridge is never without at least one avocado; my pantry is never without a jar of hearts of palm. Up until now, however, I had never combined the two. Wow! What an impact it made in this fabulously good and company worthy salad. The combination of the two, along with the peppery red onion, and fabulously tangy dressing made with fresh parsley from my garden makes this a total winner!
Avocado Hearts of Palm Salad with Parsley Vinaigrette

For vinaigrette
1 small garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Few gratings black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

For salad
1 14.8-ounce jar Melissa’s Hearts of Palm, drained
4 ripe avocados
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 large head Romaine lettuce, broken into bite-sized pieces

Make vinaigrette:
Toss all ingredients into a mini food processor, and process or 30 seconds until emulsified. I’m not kidding, if you don’t have a mini food processor, you have to get one. Get this one right here. I use it all the time, and it works beautifully for salad dressings in particular, because once it emulsifies them, they stay that way.

Make salad:

Slice hearts of palm into coins and avocado into cubes and place, with onion, in a large bowl with vinaigrette. Combine gently and mound on top of plates of lettuce.

Serves 6

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Two Peas & Their Pod Cookbook, Reviewed

​I love it when bloggers are awarded book contracts. It is wonderful compensation for all of the work that they put in, day after day, and a blog is work. If you’re not cooking and baking, you are developing recipes or hunting for ingredients, all the while trying to keep up with the latest new foods and trends. And, oh yes, styling,​​ photographing, and writing about all of that food. Such was the case with Maria Lichty and her new book, Two Peas & Their Pod.
Subtitled “Favorite Everyday Recipes from Our Family Kitchen,” it is quite a resource. As I was paging through, it occurred to me what a wonderful gift this would make for a pair of newlyweds. This book lays out all of the information that you need in setting up a kitchen. There is a section on tools for becoming a confident cook, kitchen gear and gadgets that you’ll need, how to organize your ingredients (after all these years this is still my nemesis), staple ingredients that are a must, as well as meal planning tips. The book is laid out in the order meals are consumed beginning with breakfast. If you aren’t taken in by the delicious sounding recipes, you will certainly be taken in by the mouthwatering photos.
One of my favorite salads of all time is her Chickpea, Avocado, and Feta Salad, that I wrote about here.  The fact that it contains ingredients that I tend to always have on hand, and that it’s very quick and easy to put together, are pluses to be sure, but the real winner is the taste. I look quite forward to trying all of the salads in this book, each one looking more inviting than the next.
Being a lifelong fan of cheeseburgers, I had to try husband Josh's favorite double cheeseburger recipe. I didn’t think it could be possible, but this may be my new favorite cheeseburger. The addition of mild Italian sausage in with the ground beef gives it an excellent, earthy taste that so many of them lack. Doubling up the patties, and topping them with two different kinds of cheese, just adds to the wonderfulness of this burger.  Factor in grilled onions and aioli, and you have yourself a quick little trip to heaven.
 The Easy Blender Salsa is another winner, and as easy as it is good. I was looking for something else to do with my mountains of fresh jalapeños, so decided to try this. Not only have I been using it as a dip with tortilla chips, I find it is a wonderful drizzled on top of a grilled burger, grilled chicken, or even over an omelet.
While I try to avoid them, chapters on desserts do tend to grab my attention, so I tried the lemon poppy seed Bundt cake. I made mine in loaf pans (because my new loaf pan is the absolute cutest) and it came out marvelously. This is a densely lemony, flavorful cake that reminded me of the poppy seed cakes my grandmother used to make.
Each recipe is preceded by a bit of verbiage that I quite enjoy. This type of thing in cookbooks has recently come under fire, but I find it delightful. It makes me feel as if I am connecting directly with the author, and that we are old friends.
I don’t have to tell you that my list of recipes to make from this book is a long one. My best guess is that it will take me until the end of the year to do so. You might consider joining me, and getting one for your kitchen bookshelves. This book is full of recipes to suit all tastes, diets, and interests. Vegetarians, meat eaters, vegetable fanciers, and dessert lovers will all find something of value in here. There’s so much, that I’m not sure what to try next.
You need this book in your cookbook library. Click the photo link below and make it your own.

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Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Peppery Pecan Pasta Florentine

When you think of pasta, you may not consider it a dish that’s very exciting. This recipe will change your mind about that. I had such a taste for pasta, but with the temperatures around 93° all this week — I am not happy — needed something lighter than typical heavy white or red sauce fare. When I started thinking about things that reminded me of summer, spinach and lemons came to mind. So, incorporating those two items, and a host of others, I created this.

This is a pasta dish that won’t soon be forgotten. It is bright, peppery, and complex. The lemon juice gives it a citrus-y freshness, the pecans add nutty, woodsy heat, spinach adds both flavor and nutrition, and the basil provides a wonderfully pesto-like addition, all of which combine to make this one amazing dish. Try it at your first opportunity.
Peppery Pecan Pasta Florentine

½ lb. angel hair pasta
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ t.
dried chili flakes
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 bag baby spinach, chopped, rough cut, or left as is
1 t. kosher salt
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

½ c. Melissa’s Green Hatch Pecans, rough chopped
¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan

Cook pasta according to package direction; drain, reserving one cup pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat in a 9-inch sauté pan. Add garlic and
pepper flakes and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add spinach and lemon zest, and cook for two minutes until spinach is wilted. Add the pasta, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt, and pepper. Toss until coated. While tossing, pour in reserved pasta water, a little at a time, until a creamy texture is achieved.

Add pecans and Parmesan, and toss one more time before dividing among plates. Garnish with a few additional pecans and gratings of cheese.

Makes two main dish portions or four starter or side dish portions.

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Friday, September 6, 2019

Artichoke Remoulade

Planning ahead (something I seldom do), I decided to make remoulade over the weekend in preparation for what I had planned on eating this week. For the first time in my life, I decided I needed to make fried green tomatoes, and what better topping than remoulade? I also had picked up some beautiful crab cakes from a local market, and have those on the schedule, as well as planned on making egg salad for sandwiches. Egg salad? You ask, quizzically. Yep. If you’re as lazy as I am, having remoulade on hand makes egg salad the easiest thing ever. Just chop your eggs, and spoon in the remoulade, a little at a time, until you get the desired texture. It works equally well in chicken and ham salads. I have another recipe on the blog that you can find here, but today I decided to mix things up a bit and add artichoke hearts. Boy, is this delicious!
Artichoke Remoulade

1½ cups Duke’s mayonnaise
¼ cup
whole grain mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. smoked paprika
¼ t. Old Bay
¼ t. Crystal Hot Sauce
3 scallions, white and tender green parts, chopped
1 6-oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and minced
In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until combined. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow flavors to meld. Keeps, refrigerated, for 7-10 days. Makes 2 cups.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Olive and Feta Stuffed Mushrooms

My olive-loving friends, this one is for you. The filling can be made a day ahead, and then just plop it on top of your mushrooms and bake. It is a delightful and welcome cocktail nipple that your friends will surely enjoy.
Olive and Feta Stuffed Mushrooms

1 8-oz. package button mushrooms
1 4.25-oz. can chopped ripe olives, drained
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
½ c. crumbled feta cheese
2 T. finely chopped
Melissa’s shallot

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Clean mushrooms. Remove stems and chop. Place chopped stems with remaining ingredients (except mushroom caps) into a medium bowl and stir to combine. Mound filling in mushroom caps and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Feel free to top mushrooms with a sprinkling of Parmesan or a few gratings of mozzarella. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until mushrooms have given off some juices and shriveled slightly. Remove from oven, allow to cool for five minutes; serve.

NOTE: To make things easier, I tossed all ingredients into a
mini food processor and pulsed until blended.

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Monday, September 2, 2019

Fresh Tomato Galette

My tomatoes are still coming in like crazy, and when I’m not making gazpacho or fresh marinara, I’m experimenting with other recipes like this one. I made a mini version just for me about the size of a luncheon pizza. It was easy to put together, fresh and delicious, and a wonderfully healthy lunch.
Mine, made in haste, probably looks a little more rustic than one that you would make for your family, nonetheless I enjoyed every last bite. If, like me, you’re still bringing in lots of tomatoes, give this a try. It’s so versatile it can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Fresh Tomato Galette
Adapted from Food52

sheet puff pastry
5 fresh tomatoes
1 t. dry thyme
1 t. 
mustard powder
3 T. 
3 T. freshly grated Parmesan
Few gratings Melissa’s Lemon Pepper
egg, beaten

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Slice tomatoes ¼ inch thick; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 2 T. grated Parmesan with the thyme and mustard powder.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper placing puff pastry on top. Spread pastry with 2 T. Panko, leaving about ½ inch of the border uncovered.

Sprinkle the Parmesan/mustard/thyme mix evenly over the top. Starting at the center, place the tomato slices in circles overlapping each other.

Sprinkle the remaining Panko and Parmesan on top, season with lemon pepper if you like, and carefully fold the leftover dough over the tomatoes.

Brush the galette with the beaten egg and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the dough is cooked through and golden brown.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Fresh Tomato Gazpacho

I had lunch with my aunt last week, and was lamenting the fact that I almost had more tomatoes than I could handle. Every day I was having some form of fresh tomato, and while I thoroughly enjoyed every dish I’d made with them, I was growing weary of tomatoes. She happened to mention a recipe for gazpacho that she enjoyed, that, it turned out, was conveniently located within the food-stained pages of one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, St. Louis Days St. Louis Nights. I looked it up, and, using it as a guideline, was off and running. Magnificent! I used a variety of toppings, and, depending upon my mood, used everything from chopped chives and chopped parsley, to homemade croutons and feta, to sour cream and pesto. You can’t mess this up; it is an excellent, tasty, and cooling way to start any meal.
Fresh Tomato Gazpacho

1 clove garlic, cut into quarters
Melissa’s shallot, peeled and quartered
½ fresh red or green bell pepper, cut in half
½ cucumber, peeled and quartered
4 large tomatoes, peeled and quartered
½ t. salt
¼ t.
Melissa’s Lemon Pepper
1 T. good olive oil
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 c.
Cucumber Dill Bloody Mary Mix

Place all ingredients as haphazardly as possible into the work bowl of a food processor. Blend until thoroughly combined, 10 to 15 seconds.

Chill and serve topped with the garnish of your choice. (Here I used sour cream, basil leaf, a small slice of cucumber, and ground
Melissa's Red Hatch Chile Pecans.)

Serves 8 (Unless you’re me, and then it only serves one.)

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting

Despite the fact that I am not much of a baker (Number two son tells me to stop saying this, assuring me that I bake more than his wife does, and she considers herself to be a baker.) I was missing my dad mightily over the weekend, remembering how much he loved coconut cake. I figured that he would love it particularly if it were topped with Coconut Buttercream Frosting, so I set to work and came up with this one. He would have loved it, and my guess is that the cake lovers in your family will too.
This one’s for you, dad.
Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting

For the cake:
1 c. flour
1¾ c.
cake flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1¾ c. sugar
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c.
cream of coconut
4 eggs, separated
1 t.
clear vanilla flavoring
1 t. coconut extract
1 c. buttermilk
Pinch of salt

1 14-oz. pkg. sweetened shredded coconut
Coconut Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray 2 9-inch cake pans with
Baker’s Joy; set aside.

Whisk together flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking
soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.

In an electric stand mixer, beat together sugar, butter, and cream of coconut until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, along with extracts. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.

In a medium bowl, with clean beaters, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into batter. Divide batter between two pans and bake about 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, and then invert onto racks to cool completely.

Frost with Coconut Buttercream Frosting. When doing the center layer, sprinkle ½ cup coconut on top of the frosting before topping with other layer. Coat entire cake, top and sides, with shredded coconut.

Coconut Buttercream Frosting

4½ c. confectioners’ sugar
11 T. (1 stick, 3 T.) butter, softened
2 t.
clear vanilla flavoring
1½ t. coconut extract
2-4 T. whole milk

In the work bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar and butter until creamy. Add remaining ingredients, and be at high-speed for six minutes until light and fluffy. Fin with more milk, if needed.

If you prefer your coconut in cheesecake form, you will love this Coconut Cream Cheesecake. It was one of my dad’s favorites.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Hatch Chile Pecan Crusted Fish

Today was a bit of a sad day, because today I used up the last of my hatch chile-flavored pecans. I had such a great time using these life-changing bits of deliciousness. You definitely need to give these a try because not only are they amazingly versatile, but, no matter how you use them, they are going to add so much depth and flavor to your dish that you will wonder how you ever got along without them.
I decided on salmon for this evening, and wanted to do something different, so created a nut crust topping using the Hatch Chile Pecans. It was so good, that I, quite embarrassingly, made “yummy” sounds while I was eating it. I chose to use it on salmon (because that was what I had), but you can use this on any variety of your choice.
Hatch Chile Pecan Crusted Fish

2 fillets fresh fish
½ c. ground
Melissa’s Red Hatch Chile Pecans
1 t.
Creole seasoning
1 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. melted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Rinse fish and pat dry. Combine remaining ingredients (I use a
Ninja Mini Chopper for this. It makes it so easy, and everything is mixed thoroughly. Honestly, I would be lost without it). Place fish fillets in a baking dish, mound filling on top of each, covering completely and bake 10 to 15 minutes (depending upon your choice of fish and thickness). Serve.

Other recipes using Hatch Chile Pecans include Green Hatch Chile Pecan Pesto and Kick-in-the-Pants Chocolate Chip Cookies.
atch Chile

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