Friday, June 25, 2021

Asian Pork Chops for Two

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Most of us have a slow cooker; I have three. I always thought that I used my slow cooker more often in the winter than the summer. It’s practical, of course, to use it in the summer so as not to heat up the kitchen, and yet I tend to use it for heartier winter foods like soups, stews, and chili. I decided to challenge myself to use the slow cooker at least once a week this summer to make a meal on a small scale. These Asian pork chops were the result. Intensely flavorful and wonderfully juicy, these chops are an easy way to make a tasty dinner for two.

Asian Pork Chops for Two

1 3-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s shallots
2 1½” thick boneless pork loin chops
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ c. honey
½ c. low sodium soy sauce
¼ c. ketchup
1 t. ground ginger
1 t.
garlic chili sauce
2 t. Melissa’s minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice shallots and scatter in the bottom of a 4-quart crockpot. Place chops on top. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic chili sauce, minced garlic, and black pepper. Pour over pork chops, cover crockpot, and set to “Low.” Cook for 4 hours until trumps recent internal temperature of 165°. Do not over cook or they will become dry. Serve on a bed of jasmine rice and pour sauce over top.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Seaside Tablescape

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It is officially summer and time to break out the summer dishes. Perhaps it’s because I live in a landlocked state that I so love my coastal collection of tableware.

The Maxcera salad plates and pitcher are in the “Stamp Seahorse” pattern, and appeal to my artistic nature being a fan of both rubber-stamping and collage. They are layered on top of square black dinner plates. The metal chargers beneath are favorites of mine, and from a local shop.

The teal napkins, knotted and placed on the side are from Pier One. To give them an underwater look I used a stem of mountain mint that I grow in my container garden giving a nod to seaweed.

The bamboo-handled flatware seems appropriate here, as does the little fish plate at upper left that can be used for holding anything from pats of butter, to after dinner mints, to nuts.

I had a hard time deciding which stemware to use, but ultimately went with my mother’s topaz stemware. I think it makes a bolder statement than the turquoise. What do you think?

I used the pitcher as a vase, holding white hydrangeas and additional strands of mountain mint. The fragrance is fresh and clean.

The oatmeal colored cup and saucers were one of my first acquisitions upon setting up housekeeping. They are part of a full set of dinnerware from the galloping gourmet, and were a gift with purchase at the grocery store. I had every member of my family picking up different pieces for me until I got the entire set.

The tablecloth is from; the macramé runner, a versatile favorite, is from Anthropologie.


This post is linked to:

Tablescape Thursday



Monday, June 21, 2021

Spinach Artichoke Pasta for Two

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This is a wonderful main dish for two that is perfect for both Meatless Monday, as well as those who are fans, as I am, of spinach artichoke dip. This is my homage, you might say, to that popular dip, in pasta form. If you cook wisely, and get that water boiling before you get out your sauté pan, this can be on the table in 30 minutes. 

Spinach Artichoke Pasta for Two


4 oz. bow tie pasta

2 T. unsalted butter

1 t. Melissa’s minced garlic

2-3 handfuls fresh baby spinach

1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1 t. chicken soup base (I use L.B. Jamison)

2/3 c. heavy cream

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 to 3 gratings fresh nutmeg

1 7.5-oz. marinated artichoke hearts, drained

2 T. Melissa’s pine nuts, toasted*

2 T. chopped parsley

Sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, to garnish

 Prepare bow tie pasta according to package directions; drain.

 In 10” skillet melt butter. Add minced garlic and sauté for one minute. Add baby spinach and sauté until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.

 Stir in Parmesan cheese and soup base until blended, and then slowly stir in heavy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add cooked pasta to cream sauce and toss until pasta is coated. Fold in artichoke hearts. Sprinkle with pine nuts, parsley, and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

 Serves 2.

 * I toasted mine in the sauté pan prior to melting the butter. Over medium heat, it takes about 3 to 5 minutes to turn them a nice nutty brown.



Friday, June 18, 2021

Party Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

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The 70s is the decade that I remember most vividly from my youth. It was a lovely time of backyards and barbecues, stay-home mothers who raised their children happily without being ostracized by society, bridge parties, ladies who lunch, and casseroles. Because my mother was a busy woman, she was also the casserole queen. This was one of my favorites back then, and I had such a hankering for it this week that I had to make it. In the process, I decided to give it a bit of an update by adding a jar of hearts of palm, and substituting insipid pimientos, for flavorful roasted red peppers. Wow! That took it right over the top.

This is an easy casserole to put together because all you do is dump the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, mix them together, and bake until hot and bubbly. The aroma is heavenly, and this delicious casserole serves a crowd. It can be easily turned into a vegetarian dish by leaving out the chicken. You can replace it with tofu if you like (frankly, that stuff tastes like caulk to me, but I don’t judge), or leave it out all together. Surprisingly, it is equally good cold. Consider serving leftovers for lunch, mounded on a bed of greens. You can also make it ahead, and bake it the next day, or put it together and freeze it to enjoy later. Here’s to the 70s!

Party Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Melissa’s shallots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 14.8-oz. jar
Melissa’s Hearts of Palm, ¼” sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 6-oz. box
long grain and wild rice, cooked according to pkg. directions
½ c. diced
Melissa’s roasted red peppers
1 t. kosher salt
1 14.5-oz. can
cream of celery soup
1 14.5-oz can French style green beans, drained
1 c. Duke’s mayonnaise
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted (reserve 1 T. For top)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 1½ -qt. casserole with Pam; set aside.

Place all ingredients (with the exception of the tablespoon of reserved slivered almonds, the ½ c. Parmesan cheese and paprika), into a large bowl and mix it together. Turn it out into your prepared casserole and top it with the almonds, cheese, and paprika. Place it in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the top is golden and it is bubbling around the sides.

 Serves 6.



Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Melon and Cucumber Salad with Jalapeño and Pine Nuts

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Fresh melons are in season, and they are more delicious than ever. I recently discovered the charentais melon, and I can hardly stop eating it, it that good! In addition to having it on its own, and in a fruit salad, I decided to use it on top of a bed of tender greens, pairing it with cucumber, and spicy slices of pickled jalapeño, topping it off with the woodsy crunch of pine nuts. Fresh, cooling, unique, and delicious, this is going to be my “go to” salad of the summer.

Melon and Cucumber Salad with Jalapeño and Pine Nuts

 ½ c. cup olive oil

¼ c. Champagne vinegar

1 t. ground coriander

1 t. kosher salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

Pinch ground cardamom

½ large Melissa’s charentais melon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cucumber, sliced into quarters ¼” thick

1 Melissa’s pickled jalapeño, thinly sliced

½ c. toasted Melissa’s pine nuts

¼ c. chopped mint

Mixed greens (for serving)

 Violently whisk oil, vinegar, coriander, salt, pepper, and cardamom in a large bowl. Add cantaloupe, cucumber, and pickled jalapeño, and toss to coat in dressing. Let sit, uncovered, 15 minutes.

 To serve, add pine nuts and mint to salad and toss gently to combine. Serve on bed of mixed greens.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Red Potato Salad

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 ​Ask people what they like in potato salad, and you are going to get as many different answers as there are people. I like a potato salad with potatoes that are cooked to perfection and not mealy or mushy. I want a crunch of vegetables, and great flavor, without that flavor leaning heavily in any direction. Essentially, I want a basic potato salad that is so versatile it can become absolutely anything I want.

This recipe is my favorite. Made as is, it is wonderfully delicious and goes with any meal from hot dogs to steak to fish. I have even served it for breakfast to rave reviews. Add a little vinegar, and you have something new. Add a tablespoon of yellow mustard, and you have mustard potato salad. If you want something heartier, add bacon, shredded cheddar, or, to take it really over the top, blue cheese. I have fixed it all of these ways, but the basic recipe is still my favorite. 

Red Potato Salad

1 1.5 lbs.
Melissa’s baby red potatoes, halved
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
¼ c. minced parsley
½ c. thinly sliced celery
½ c. thinly sliced green onions
¼ c.
sweet pickle relish
1 T. sweet pickle relish juice
1 T.
Dijon mustard
¼ t.
¾ c.
Duke’s mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place potatoes in a large saucepan; add a pinch of salt and water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain; refrigerate until cold. Add eggs, parsley, celery, onions, and relish; toss well. Stir in pickle relish juice, mustard, paprika, and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Top with additional paprika for color. Refrigerate until serving.


Monday, June 14, 2021

Flag Day Tablescape

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Happy Flag Day, everybody! Celebrated annually on June 14th, Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States that took place on June 14, 1777. Generally, I am not a celebrator of Flag Day, but I was feeling in a red, white, and blue mood and figured, why not?

 As you can see from this place setting, you don’t have to have​​ specialty dishes in order to make a patriotic statement. I just created a red, white, and blue plate stack, and placed it on top of patriotic fabric that I had rescued from my parents’ house.

 My mother was the one who celebrated the summer holidays, always going to a lot of trouble. She would set up individual tables in the backyard and made tablecloths with matching napkins for each. In order to keep the tablecloth in place, she would top it with a glass hurricane filled with a pillar candle matching her table setting. It was always festive and fun. I managed to retrieve a number of patriotic theme fabrics, so you’ll be seeing another come Fourth of July.

Every time I get out these white-washed chargers that I purchased from Pier One prior to their physical demise, I wish I would have purchased more; these work with everything! The red plate on top with a nubby edge is from Pier One as well. The blue plate on top of it was part of a set that I bought 30 years ago, when I was in my blue phase. I got tired of them, and gave them to my number two son. He and his wife used them for years, and then they got tired of them, and gave them back to me. After all that time, I was delighted!

 The heart-shaped casserole with the lid is perfect for one serving, and surprisingly versatile. The bamboo cutlery, purchased years ago, is festive and fun. The white cups and saucers are an Amazon purchase; the stemware is from Avon’s “Cape Cod” collection.

 I hope the weather is beautiful where you are, and that you are flying your flag high.


 This post is linked to:

Tablescape Thursday



Friday, June 11, 2021

Coca-Cola Kielbasa

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There is something about summer that says “sausage" to me. Well, summer says a lot of things to me, but sausage is one of them. While I love to cook it outside on the grill, there are days when the heat and humidity keep me indoors, and it’s on those days when I use recipes such as this one to make it in the slow cooker. If you are short on time and prefer, this can be prepared on top of the stove. Simply sauté shallots in a little bit of oil in a 12-inch skillet until translucent. Add the sausage and remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and then simmer, uncovered, until the sausage is glazed. It’s a winner for dinner, but if you cut it into smaller pieces, it also makes an excellent appetizer or snack.

Coca-Cola Glazed Sausage

3 Melissa‘s shallots
2 lb. kielbasa sausage
¼ c. cider vinegar
2 T. stone ground mustard
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 t. cornstarch
1 7.5-oz. can of Coke

Slice shallots into rounds, and scatter on the bottom of the crockpot. Slice sausage, on the diagonal, into 2-inch lengths; scatter on top of the shallots.

In a small bowl, whisk together cider vinegar, mustard, brown sugar, and cornstarch, and pour over the top of the sausage and onions. Pour the Coke over all. Cook on low for four hours. Remove lid, turn setting to “high,” and cook for an additional hour until sausage is glazed.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Red, White, and Blue Salad with Candied Pecans

This salad is perfect for summer and its patriotic holidays, as well as being elegant, and super easy to assemble. Have your blueberries and strawberries washed and prepped ahead of time, as well as the baby spinach. Candied pecans are a breeze to make, you can find that recipe here, but don’t eat all of them before it’s time to serve your salad because they are quite tempting. Then, it’s nothing more than piling it up on a plate, and dressing it with the best balsamic vinaigrette ever. Or, you can serve the dressing on the side.

Red, White, and Blue Salad with Candied Pecans
1 bag fresh baby spinach
1 4-oz. container blueberries
1 small container strawberries
Candied pecans
Balsamic vinaigrette

Place ingredients, in order, on serving plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette, or serve it on the side.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Cow Pies

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With the kids now largely out of school, or very near, you are going to be looking for ways to keep them busy. This last year has been a real test of endurance and family love, so I’m going to help you out here. One of the most important things is to keep kids busy and entertained. This recipe will do both. It’s one that I have shared via a rather whimsical envelope that I made years ago, and revisited them the other day. 

These are easy, fun for the kids, and full of that chocolaty goodness that we all so deserve. I made the envelope sometime ago, but since then revised the recipe to do away with the double boiler and make use of the microwave. That makes it easier, faster, and safer for the kids. 

Cow Pies

2 c. milk chocolate chips
1 T. shortening
½ c. raisins*
¼ c. slivered almonds**

In a microwave safe bowl (invest in a set of Duralex bowls, you will never regret it), melt chocolate chips with shortening at 30-second intervals, stirring after each. Fold in raisins and almonds, and drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper. Allow to set up and store in the fridge. Dole out as needed. If you need one for breakfast, I won’t judge.

 *Not a fan? Any dried fruit will do.

**Any nut will work here.



Monday, June 7, 2021

The BEST Balsamic Vinaigrette

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I don’t know about you, but I stopped buying salad dressing years ago. I love making my own because it gives me the control over the ingredients, I can make it as often as I like so it’s always fresh, and during this time of the year, when fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful, I am enjoying a lot of salads. If you like balsamic vinaigrette as much as I do, I think you will find this recipe to be one of the best.


The BEST Balsamic Vinaigrette

½ c. olive oil
¼ c. Balsamic vinegar
1 t. sugar
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. fresh orange juice (trust me)
1 small Melissa’s shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/8 - ¼ t. kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a ninja blender, or other high speed blender, and blend until emulsified, 20 - 30 seconds. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. Gets better with age.


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Pizza Czar by Anthony Falco, Reviewed

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If the name Anthony Falco sounds familiar to you, there’s a reason for that. The former Pizza Czar of Roberta‘s in Brooklyn, New York, is now an internationally known pizza consultant. Imagine having a job like that, but Falco has earned it. When it comes to pizza, his knowledge and experience is a gift to us all.

His new book, Pizza Czar: Recipes and Know How from a World Traveling Pizza Chef, is a winner. If the photos alone don’t suck you in, the recipes will. Now if, like me, you don’t make your own pizza crust, not to worry, while his crust is no doubt excellent, it does call for a bit of dedication in that you need to keep and maintain a starter in order to make it.

 I learned my lesson years ago when my sole effort at making pizza crust was not unlike the efforts of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz and their bread baking. You Boomers will remember that episode. So, instead of making my own, I buy pizza dough from local merchants. If, however, you do want to make your own dough, there is absolutely everything you need to know right here in this book.

His commentary and introduction to each recipe is educational and charming. What I particularly love about this book is the creativity, cleverness, and variety of toppings. I love the way that he not only tells you what vegetables to use, but gives you instructions on how to prepare them beforehand. The oven-roasted fancy mixed mushrooms I found to be excellent alongside a steak, so this book goes beyond just pizza.

Imagine if you will, a Brazilian mashed potato pizza. How about a brussels sprouts pizza? Roasted eggplant pizza? It may be a way to get the kids to eat their veggies. No? Then you will surely love the special pizza, veggie lovers pan pizza, or the spicy pepperoni Sicilian pizza. Thus far my favorite recipe for pizza is his Bolognese pizza. There is just something about that zigzag of béchamel sauce squeezed over the top that makes this outstanding. Who knew?  For those of us who enjoy cold pizza for breakfast, why not have a hot one and make his Potato, Egg, and Cheese Pizza? There are also recipes for pasta; the pesto alla Trapanese he is a true winner. Here Falco provides what I consider to be the best recipe for ranch dressing that I have ever tasted.

With directions on how to turn your kitchen oven into a restaurant-style pizza oven, the best cheeses and olive oils to buy, flours to use (for you crust people) and a taste-tempting salad or two, anyone and everyone who loves Italian food or pizza is going to love this book.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review as a member of Abrams Dinner Party.