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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Monday, August 26, 2019

Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce

I do a lot of cooking, as you all know, and I grow a lot of vegetables. Despite both of these facts, I have never made fresh tomato marinara sauce. Having now done just that, I will never use the jarred variety again as long as fresh tomatoes are at hand.
Whereas previously I was wondering how on earth I was going to use up all of these tomatoes, I am now wondering if I’m going to have enough. I will be stocking the freezer with this wonderful sauce, and if you can get your hands on some fresh tomatoes, you should too. It is magnificent!
Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce

3 T. olive oil
1 3-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s shallots
12 Roma (or medium tomatoes), peeled* and quartered
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
½ c. good red wine
1 T. dark brown sugar
½ c. packed fresh basil
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried marjoram
1 t. kosher salt
Few gratings freshly ground black pepper
¼ t.
fennel seed
Pinch crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, more or less to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium stock pot over medium heat. Sauté shallots in oil until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until tomatoes are softened, about 30 minutes

Place wine, brown sugar, basil, oregano, marjoram, salt, black pepper, fennel seed, and crushed red pepper into a small food processor. Pulse until blended. Add to tomato mixture, bring to a simmer, and cook another 30 minutes longer. Remove from heat, whisk in balsamic vinegar.

*To peel tomatoes, remove core and cut an “X” in bottom. Immerse into boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove to a bowl of ice water. Turn upside down and peel at “X.” The skin will come right off.

Serve with your favorite pasta. This sauce turned pre-made cannelloni into Food for the Gods!

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Kick in the Pants Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have gone absolutely nuts over Melissa’s Hatch Chile Pecans. You may recall that I first used them in astoundingly good pesto (the recipe can be found here), then, when I’m not munching on them, have experimented with other recipes. Today I’m sharing one for chocolate chip cookies. Essentially it is your basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, with the addition of Red Hatch Chile Pecans. They taste like normal chocolate chip cookies, but leave you breathing fire at the end. OK, so it’s not fire, but it is a nice heat, that gives you quite a kick after the cookie is gone. It will definitely leave your nibblers wondering what on earth you put into these cookies, and they will be back!
Kick in the Pants Chocolate Chip Cookies

1¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 extra-large egg
1¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Beat shortening and brown sugar in large bowl on medium speed with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in milk, vanilla, and egg.

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir into shortening mixture until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 8 to 13 minutes until lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes. Remove to rack to cool completely.

Makes 3 dozen cookies (more or less)

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Green Hatch Chile Pecan Pesto

I just made the absolute best pesto that I have ever made in my entire life. My basil plants were starting to look a bit threatening, so I figured it was time for a harvest, and what better thing to do with fresh basil than to make fresh pesto? I’m not a fan of pine nuts, considering them a bit bland, so have never used them in pesto, I generally opt for walnuts. But, this season Melissa’s Produce introduced both Red and Green Hatch Chile Pecans (as well as almonds), so I used them. This stuff is heaven on earth! Who needs pasta? With this delicious pesto, all you need is a spoon.
Green Hatch Chile Pecan Pesto

2 large cloves garlic*
½ cup
Melissa’s Green Hatch Chile Pecans
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups fresh basil
Scant ½ cup
extra virgin olive oil

Place garlic, pecans, Parmesan, salt, and pepper into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until it looks like course meal. Add basil, and pulse once or twice. Then, with motor running, slowly pour olive oil in through the work tube until everything is well blended and creamy. Store in an airtight container (drizzling the top with a little extra olive oil will keep it from turning dark). Best when used within two days. It freezes beautifully.

* Use more if you like things extra garlicky.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Summer Pasta Salad

Last week was a crazy one. I’m not going to get into the details, but I will tell you that at one point, I decided to touch up the woodwork in the bedroom, and ended up painting it all! That was a lost day. At any rate, the deck garden is doing well, and cucumbers and green peppers are ripening in leaps and bounds. In addition to dicing and slicing the peppers to freeze for use during the winter, I’ve also used them just serve pasta salad with great results. Look how cute these are. It serves a dual purpose of using up one of my many (way too many) peppers, and saves me washing a dish, not to mention delighting my lunch guests with this clever edible “bowl.”

I had intended for this post just to be a brief one on a rather unique use for green pepper, but I thought I would toss in my recipe for pasta salad as well. I liked this one in particular, because I found the addition of dried cherries to be quite a pleasing one. I tossed them into the salad dressing to hydrate them a bit, and then mixed everything together. Wonderful!
Summer Pasta Salad

4 whole red, yellow, or green peppers

2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
½ t. kosher salt
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
½ t. dried oregano 
1 clove garlic, crushed

3 c.
tri-color rotini, cooked according to package directions
½ c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
12 pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup diced red onion
1 c. feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Cut the tops off of the peppers, as well as a tiny bit off the bottom to allow them to stand upright. Seed and remove any white pithy parts. Rinse and invert onto a paper towel to dry while you make the salad.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic until thick and creamy; add cherries and chill. In a large mixing bowl combine pasta, tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, olives, red onion, feta cheese, and parsley. Toss salad ingredients with dressing gently to coat. Scoop into hollowed out peppers and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Spicy Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Crisps

It’s Hatch Chile season once again, and for me, half the fun is finding creative new ways in which to use them. I decided to go with something sweet this year, and made these spicy brownie squares using Melissa’s Hatch Chile Clean Snax in the topping. Considering how addicting Clean Snax are (the zesty Hatch Chile variety in particular), I figured the brownies would be as well. I wasn’t wrong. They are so good!
Spicy Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Crisps

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Rice Krispies

Line a 13” x 9” baking pan with parchment, letting ends hang 2” over the sides. Prepare and bake brownie mix according to package directions; pour into prepared pan. Cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.

Spread crunchy peanut butter over brownies. Place chocolate chips and creamy peanut butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals until melted; stir until smooth. Stir in Rice Krispies and Clean Snax; spread over chunky peanut butter layer. Refrigerate, covered, at least 30 minutes or until set.

Lifting with parchment, remove brownies from pan. Cut into bars. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

NOTE: Feel free to play around with the amount of Rice Krispies and Clean Snax. If you don’t want it quite as spicy, use ½ cup of Clean Snax and 1 ½ cups of Rice Krispies. Also, if spicy isn’t your thing, check out the other varieties of Clean Snax (almond and coconut are my two favorites), for an entirely different taste.


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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Haviland Fruit Bowls...This Week's Find

When I was packing up my parents' things in preparation for selling the house, I did so in haste. I was careful, don’t get me wrong, but I tried not to dwell on individual items, just pack them up as quickly and carefully as I could. I am still unboxing things, and just the other day unboxed these beautiful fruit dishes (if that is indeed what they are), that you saw in this post. I was with my mother when she bought these, having no idea what she would ever do with them, just bought them because she liked them, but didn’t realize that they were Haviland.
What treasures! Like my mother, I have no idea what I’m going to do with them, but I suspect I will use them for cold salads or soups. They are a bit more dainty and delicate than what I’m used to, but I find, these days, then you can pretty much mix everything with everything.
Aren’t these lovely?

To see last week’s unique find, click here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Slow Cooked Red-Eye Roast Beef Sandwiches

All in all, I can’t complain about the summer. We had a delightful month of June, my plants are going crazy, I’ve been able to enjoy the deck, and utility bills have, largely, behaved themselves. As such, a week of temperatures near 100°, while not my favorite, I am willing to accept. I am, however, not willing to heat up the kitchen with cooking. During this week, out came the slow cooker, and I experimented with a variety of recipes. I found that I really liked this one, born from my making way too much coffee one morning. Nothing is easier, it’s hearty enough for dinner fare, will greatly please the carnivores in your life, and if any remains (I’m laughing here), it freezes beautifully.
Slow Cooked Red-Eye Roast Beef Sandwiches

1 (4-lb) boneless chuck roast
1 T. olive oil 
½ c. strong, brewed coffee
½ c. beef broth

Spray the inside of a 6-quart oval slow cooker with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, stir together the coffee, beef broth, and liquid smoke; pour into the bottom of the slow cooker.

Rinse the chuck roast and pat dry with a paper towel. Drizzle with olive oil. Rub the chuck roast on all sides with the Grill Mates seasoning. Center the roast in the slow cooker. Drizzle the top of the roast with Worcestershire sauce.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours until fork tender. Remove from the slow cooker and, using 2 forks, shred the meat, removing all visible fat.

Separate fat from the cooking liquid using a fat separator; discard fat. Stir 1/2 cup of the cooking juices into the beef. Reserve the remaining juices to serve alongside, French dip-style.

Top the warm beef sandwiches with slices of onion, pickles, a slice of cheese, or sautéed mushrooms.

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Monday, August 5, 2019

Easy Plum Cobbler

As traditional as plum season, so is my making a cobbler from that most welcome summer stone fruit. I dabble with the recipe every year, and I think this is my best combination of ingredients yet. Whether you are as big of a fan of plums as I am, or can take them or leave them, this recipe will rock your world! It is super easy to make (one of the many things to love about plums is that you don’t need to peel them like you do other fruit), lovely to look at (nothing beats that jewel-tone coloring of summer plums), and remarkably delicious.
Easy Plum Cobbler

1 1-lb. container
Melissa’s Magenta plums*, pitted and sliced
½ lemon zested and juiced
1 T. cornstarch
½ t. vanilla extract
½ t. almond extract
Pinch of ground cinnamon
½ c. granulated sugar
1 c. flour
1/3 c, powdered sugar
½ T. baking powder
½ t. kosher salt
½ c. cold butter, cubed
½ c. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an
8” x 8” baking pan or 1½-quart baking dish with PAM; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss together plum slices with lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, and sugar. Spread evenly in the prepared baking pan.

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter, until it resembles a course meal. Pour in cream, and pulse again until a thick batter is formed. Dollop batter on top of the fruit. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*or seasonal plum or your choice

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