BANH MI (VIETNAMESE-STYLE SANDWICH)

OK, confession time. I have never tasted a real Bánh Mì sandwich. (I live on an island, remember! No local Vietnamese restaurant. We’re lucky just to have a half way decent grocery store on the island!) Anyway, our good friend Todd told Mr. C. and me all about his love for Bánh Mì sandwiches while we were enjoying a mini golfing vacation with him and his wife Cindy this last May. Todd just kept saying how much he loved these sandwiches. So sure enough, last week I decided to do some research and see what all the fuss was about. (My best sources were Cooking Light and nytimes.com.) I get it! Even though I have no idea if this recipe comes even close to what a “real” Bánh Mì sandwich should taste like; it is so good I just had to share it with you, regardless if it has as much semblance to a real Bánh Mì sandwich as a “Ritz” apple pie does to a “real” apple pie. I really don’t care. This is simply one very delicious sandwich, call it what you may!

So next time you want to tantalize your taste buds, give this recipe a try. And while you are busy in the kitchen fixing this recipe, I am going to try and find a Vietnamese restaurant less than 60 miles away. And when I do, I am going to order a real Bánh Mì sandwich. If I find that the recipe I have just shared with you has absolutely nothing in common with the real thing, I will do an edit, and call this by some other name, like “Pork Sandwiches with an Attitude” or Pulled Pork Step Aside Sandwiches”.

So, if you happen to be a Bánh Mì aficionada, and have a great recipe you would consider sharing, please send it my way. If we agree it is amazing, I’ll publish it faster than the time it takes to explain how to pronounce segue correctly.

  • 1 med. carrot, julienned
  • 1 small English cucumber, mostly peeled, cut in half, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 4-5 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 2 T. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ c. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped green onions, divided
  • 1-2 T. Sriracha or other chili sauce
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 T. Asian fish sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ c. chopped fresh basil
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 4 individual ciabatta rolls, split, and toasted
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and thinly sliced, opt.
  • mint sprigs, opt.
  • cilantro sprigs, opt.

Toss the carrot, cucumber, radishes, vinegar, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl; let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of the green onions, and 1 tablespoon of the Sriracha. Taste and add additional Sriracha to liking. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining chopped green onion and the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add pork and cook, breaking up the ground pork with a spatula, until meat is no longer pink. Stir in the fish sauce and black pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the basil, lime zest, and lime juice. Adjust seasoning.  

Cut each ciabatta in half; bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 7-10 minutes or until the bread is nicely heated and crisp.  Lightly spread all of the cut sides of the toasted ciabatta halves with the mayonnaise mixture. (Use it all!) Spread the bottom half of each cut ciabatta with the pork mixture. Press the jalapeño, mint, and cilantro sprigs into the pork. Spoon some drained pickled vegetables onto the sandwiches and serve immediately. Serve any extra pickled vegetables on the side.

 

 

RANCH DRESSING AND DIP

Yes, I know. There is just something terribly ordinary about ranch dressing. So call me “ord” for short. Unlike some people’s incorrect perception of my culinary tastes, I am a devoted fan of ordinary food. Really fabulous ordinary food you realize, but still common and easily prepared or obtained.  I love burgers and mac and cheese and almost anything homemade. I’m actually uncomfortable in a restaurant when the entrée is over $30. I do dine at fancy restaurants, albeit infrequently, but only for special occasions. Then, while eating the “whatever”, I entertain myself by analyzing the cost of the ingredients in the dish or dishes I am eating. (And yes, I do consider the time it took to prepare the dish.) With few exceptions, I usually find that what we patrons are actually paying for is the bragging right. “We dined at Le Rip-Off Bistro last evening. It was marvelous, simply marvelous!”

If the food is actually amazing, I can forgive the price tag. Well at least a little bit. But if the food is mediocre, it not only depresses me; it makes me mad! Now, how fun is that? So I am usually better off dining at a restaurant where the food is good, but the term gourmet would never enter my head. So, having shared with you more than you ever wanted to know about me, let’s get on with this recipe.

The other evening, all I wanted as a side dish was a simple romaine and tomato salad with ranch dressing. So I proceeded with a basic recipe I had found in Sunset about 100 years ago, and added a couple of my own touches. The dressing turned out really, really good. Then we had our good buddies Jim and Margo over for dinner a couple nights ago, and I served the leftover dressing as a dip for crudité. (Just thought I’d use the cool French word for cut veggies just to prove I’m not totally lacking in culinary prowess! Don’t want to lose my gourmet fans after all!)

Anyway, enough blather. Just give this recipe a try. Use it as a dip or a salad dressing. Your choice. And if the mixture is a little too thick for the style of salad dressing you prefer, add a tiny bit more milk.

  • ½ c. sour cream (I use Mexican style)
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk (I use Bulgarian style)
  • 1 T. mayonnaise (I use Best Foods light)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped dried chives, opt.
  • ¼ tsp. seasoned salt, or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small jar; whisk until combined. Adjust seasoning. Refrigerate until needed.

 

BACON CHEESEBURGER PATTIES

OK, I like a good old fashioned bacon cheeseburger as well as the next guy. Maybe even more than the next guy. Add a slice or two of avocado and you have the recipe for my favorite burger.

Now either I’m getting sloppier or restaurant burgers are getting bigger and therefore more unwieldy. Whichever, I seem to always make a horrible mess when I eat a hamburger. Even if I try really, really hard, I usually manage to get hamburger detritus all over the front of me, the table, and whomever I am dining with! (Not a pretty sight!)

So the other day when I wanted to serve a ground beef pattie for dinner, I went on line and found the bones of this recipe on the allrecipes.com site. Of course I had to make a couple of changes, like adding an egg. The organic, open range, loved and pampered cow from whence our ground beef had cometh, was so lean, that if I didn’t know better, I’d swear the cow had been anorexic when butchered. But not to fret. This cow had been loved and well taken care of throughout its short but happy life. (Thank God no vegetarians will be reading this recipe. My reputation as a fairly decent person would dissolve in the time it takes to pop the lid on a container of hummus!) But fellow carnivores, back to this burger.

When I saw this recipe, or the bones for this recipe, I knew that I would love the outcome. And oh my, the burger patties were even better than anticipated. Next time I make them, I am going to serve them on really nice toasted buns (maybe brioche buns), with slices of avocado, red onion, tomato, and lettuce. And dressed with Thousand Island dressing. Yum. I figure if I’m lucky, with the bacon and cheese contained in the burger itself, I have about a 50/50 chance of making less of a mess. Wish me luck.

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • ¼ tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. dehydrated onion
  • 1 T. prepared horseradish
  • 1 egg
  • 4 slices cooked lean bacon, chopped  
  • ½ c. shredded sharp cheddar, pepper Jack, or blue cheese

In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, onion, horseradish, and egg.   When well combined, stir in the bacon and cheese. Shape into 3-4 patties. Preheat your grill. When ready to cook the burgers, lightly oil the grill grate. Place patties on the grill, and cook for 4 minutes per side, or until done to liking. Or fry in a pan. That works too!

 

TRIPLE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

Yesterday we decided to go for an evening picnic up the Finney Creek Road out of Concrete, WA, then up a long, very skinny National Forest road to the Gee Point trailhead. (Mr. C. had wanted me to see this view since he had hiked up to Gee Point a couple of years before.) The view from the top of this road (and I use the word “road” loosely) is spectacular. You can see Glacier Peak, White Horse Mountain, and various other peaks around the Marblemount and Darrington environs. Fantastic. But this is not a drive for sissies. (I told Mr. C. when we reached the end of the road that I was very glad I had worn my big girl panties, because the last several miles of this “up to the top of the world” drive had scared the bajesus out of me. (Having survived some fairly amazing roads on our travels over the years, I’m usually fearless. But this road path we took yesterday was the scariest I have ever experienced.) But we made it up and down without breaking an axle, having to change a tire, or reaching the main road with a wet spot on the passenger side seat. (Just barely!)

We had planned to eat at the top. But when we got out of the truck, it was really cold, and the million or so mosquitos hovering around our bodies would have eaten us alive before we even got the table set or the cooler unpacked! So back we climbed into the truck and started our very slow trek down the long and winding road. Half way back to the main road we stopped at a one lane bridge, got our table and chairs out, and had our dinner. These delicious cookies were part of our picnic dinner.

 

Earlier in the day I had decided to build some cookies for our adventure. (We never want to go into the wilds of the North Cascades without a supply of homemade cookies. It’s almost a sacred Carr tradition. You just never know if a hungry bear might show up and demand a cookie as ransom for our lives!) So I decided to try out a recipe that I had been envisioning for quite some time.

Now I know, there are those of you out there that strongly believe that a good old fashioned peanut butter cookie simply cannot be improved upon. And I agree. But a variation on the basic peanut butter cookie can be delicious too. (Like my Chunky Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe already on this site.) For this variation, I decided to add salty peanuts and Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips. Yum! They came out soft, with a delightful crunch from the whole peanuts.

So regardless of whether you like your peanut butter cookies standard (see recipe below for my standard recipe) or enhanced, bake up a batch in the near future. Peanut butter cookies are just one of the loveliest creations on planet earth. Unless of course you are allergic to peanuts, then of course all bets are off!

  • ½ c. unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • ¾ c. packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 lg. eggs, room temperature
  • ½ c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ c. roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 c. peanut butter chips

Beat butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer for about 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add eggs, peanut butter, and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the butter mixture and beat on low until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add peanuts and peanut butter chips; beat on low just until incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop, drop cookies about 1-inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes or until light brown on the bottom edges but soft in the middle. Transfer to a rack to cool. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

 PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES – straight out of my Betty Crocker cookbook

  • ¼ c. Crisco (plain)
  • ¼ c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ c. peanut butter
  • ½ c. granulated sugar + more for dipping
  • ½ c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Cream shortening, butter, peanut butter, sugars, and egg until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to shortening mixture.

Using an ice cream scoop, drop batter onto ungreased baking sheet(s) about 1½ inches apart. Slightly flatten each cookie with fork dipped in granulated sugar.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Don’t overbake. As soon as cracks appear on the surface, they are done. Remove from oven and cool on racks. Store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

CHICKEN, PROSCIUTTO, AND PARMESAN CHEESE SALAD

While we were on our last RV camping trip to Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington (remind me to tell you someday about watching a rattlesnake being killed on the site across from ours) I decided that upon our return I would start working on summer salads perfect for taking on picnics. (And no, none of them include baked rattlesnake even though I’ve heard it tastes a lot like chicken.)

So last evening I prepared this salad. (Unfortunately we couldn’t get away for an actual picnic because of time restrictions and uncooperative weather, but none the less we persevered.)

Anyway, this salad was just plain delicious. Mr. C. really loved it. (I think it’s probably the crispy prosciutto that really won him over.) Regardless, he said he could eat it any old time I wanted to fix it. (Always a good indication that he really likes something.) And truly, what’s not to like? The salad in and of itself is wonderful. But when topped with moist and tender chicken, crisp prosciutto, shaved Parmesan, and croutons, well it’s just a flavor burst with every bite. And, a meal unto itself. (I’m getting fonder and fonder of one dish meals. Part of getting older I’m sure!)

So while it’s still summer, whip up one of these salads and dine al fresco. Doesn’t need to be up in the mountains or next to water. Can be on your deck, patio, or lanai. Anywhere that reminds you that summer is the bomb. (Of course, if you live in a South Western state and the air temperature is 118F, you might want to stay inside cuddled up to your air conditioner.) But for those of us that live for long days, no rain, and temperatures in the 70s, it’s outside dining as much as possible.

So enjoy the rest of your summer. Stay cool. Go on picnics. Eat salads. (That’s my bonus recipe for a wonderful way to stay both healthy and happy.)

  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. minced shallots
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • cooking spray
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto
  • 4 c. baby arugula
  • 1 romaine heart, chopped
  • ½ c. grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed or shredded (I use my recipe for Baked Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (see recipe below) or when I’m feeling lazy, one of the chicken breasts from a Costco rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/3 c. shaved Parmesan, Asiago, or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 c. croutons (see recipe below if you want to make your own croutons)

Whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, and shallots. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk until emulsified and thickened. Adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Spray a small amount of cooking spray on a medium sized fry pan or griddle. Add prosciutto; sauté over medium heat for about 4 minutes or until the prosciutto is crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. When cool break into bite sized pieces.

When ready to serve, toss together the arugula, romaine, tomatoes, and chicken in a medium sized salad bowl. Add enough dressing to moisten the ingredients, but not drown them. (You may have extra dressing. All the better to use on another salad later in the week.) Scoop onto 2 dinner plates. Sprinkle on the cooked chicken, crispy prosciutto, shaved cheese, and croutons. Serve immediately.

This dish is loosely based on a recipe in the Cooking Light magazine.

BAKED BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS

  • 1 qt. warm water
  • ¼ c. kosher salt
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika

Combine the warm water, kosher salt, peppercorns, brown sugar, and garlic cloves in a 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Whisk the mixture until it looks like most of the salt is dissolved.  Add the 8 pieces of chicken breast and let them sit in the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from the brine, rinse with cold water, and pat as dry as possible with paper towels. 

Using the same pan, washed and dried of course, place the chicken breasts in a single layer. Pour on the olive oil. Using your hands, best tool in the kitchen BTW, massage the oil all over the chicken. Wash your hands and mix together the seasoned salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and paprika. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over both sides of the chicken.

Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.  If you use an instant read thermometer to measure the temperature at the thickest part of the breast, it should read about 170 degrees. Remove from oven, loosely tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for at least 5-10 minutes before serving.

GARLIC CROUTONS

Chop up some small bite sized pieces of a chewy, artisan baguette. Place in a frying pan with butter or olive oil (or a combination) and sauté until each crouton is crunchy. (This takes about 45 minutes because you need to go low (heat) and slow.) Add more butter or oil as needed. When desired crunchiness is attained, sprinkle with granulated garlic. Allow to cool completely before placing in an airtight container.

 

 

BAKED BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN BREASTS

Yah, yah, yah! I know at this time of year I should be posting a recipe for grilled chicken breasts, but hey – I’m lazy. It’s just so much easier to pop chicken breasts in the oven than heat the grill, go back and forth to the grill, and then clean the grill. Like I said, I’m lazy. And truthfully, heating up our grill for 4 chicken breasts just seems kind of wasteful. Well not so much of propane, because both grilling and firing up our oven require propane, but of Mr. Cs time and energy to clean the grill.  

So, if you will forgive me this crime against summer grilling, I will share with you one of the best ways to ensure a flavorful and moist piece of meat. The chicken is wonderful all by itself, but also perfect used in your favorite recipes that call for cooked chicken.

So give this recipe a try. And yes I know this recipe is not as easy as just slapping the chicken breasts on a sheet pan, sprinkling them with a little salt and pepper, and throwing the whole mess in the oven. This recipe takes a little time and planning. But please believe me, the time your chicken breasts spend in a warm soothing bath is well worth the effort. When prepared this way, the meat will practically melt in your mouth. And isn’t that so much better than trying to swallow a piece of meat that really should be classified as “chicken jerky”. (Believe me, I have made more than my share of chicken “jerky” in my time. I’m just sad it took me this long to figure out what I was doing wrong!)

Anyway, I hope you profit from my quest for a better cooked chicken breast. And don’t hesitate to share your new found knowledge with everyone you know. After all, brining isn’t just for turkeys anymore. It’s also absolutely wonderful with pork.

And should you wonder if it would work to grill the chicken rather than baking it, please give it a try. If it turns out just great, just let me know so I can feel even guiltier about being such a lazy daisy.

  • 1 qt. warm water
  • ¼ c. kosher salt
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika

Combine the warm water, kosher salt, peppercorns, brown sugar, and garlic cloves in a 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Whisk the mixture until it looks like most of the salt is dissolved.  Add the 8 pieces of chicken breast and let them sit in the mixture for 30 minutes. Remove from the brine, rinse with cold water, and pat as dry as possible with paper towels. 

Using the same pan, washed and dried of course, place the chicken breasts in a single layer. Pour on the olive oil. Using your hands, best tool in the kitchen BTW, massage the oil all over the chicken. Wash your hands and mix together the seasoned salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and paprika. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over both sides of the chicken.

Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.  If you use an instant read thermometer to measure the temperature at the thickest part of the breast, it should read about 170 degrees. Remove from oven, loosely tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for at least 5-10 minutes before serving.

Please note: This recipe can be halved, doubled, tripled etc. with no ill effect. In fact, the picture shown is of only 2 chicken breasts.

 

ASIAN VEGETABLE SALAD

 

 I have been making this delicious salad now for many years. I have no idea where I found this recipe, or if I just cobbled it together. I know I didn’t find it (if I found it) on the internet because I didn’t really start surfing the net for recipes when this fabulous recipe came into my life. So if you happen to be the inventor of this salad, please let me know. I will immediately update this post to include that fact.

In the meantime, let’s just assume I am responsible for this recipe and get on with our lives!

Like I said, I first made this salad many moons ago. And I still love it, mainly because it is easy to prepare, crunchy, contains almonds, and the dressing is just plain delicious. That about says it all. Therefore I don’t need to bore you any further with expansive rhetoric about this amazing salad. Just make it – you’ll thank me!

(Sorry – no picture. The salad was eaten so quickly I didn’t have time to get my camera out of the case!)

  • 2 T. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 T. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 c. chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 c. thinly sliced red cabbage
  • ½ c. sliced green onions
  • 1 lg. carrot, grated
  • 2 T. sesame seeds
  • ¼ c. sliced or slivered almonds

Whisk or shake together the rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated, but bring to room temperature before using.) 

Combine the romaine, cabbage, green onions, carrot, sesame seeds, and almonds in a salad bowl. Pour on enough salad dressing to moisten. Avoid adding too much dressing or the salad will taste heavy or over-dressed. (It is meant to be a light and refreshing salad, lovely with BBQ’d meats and perfect for a warm summer evening.)

 

FRESH RASPBERRY SAUCE

I love raspberries. In fact they are my favorite berry. Although, strawberries and blackberries both run a close second!) So when I saw fresh raspberries for sale at our local farmer’s market this past Monday, I just had to buy a 4 pint box. And since I needed to build a light dessert for our 4th of July celebration with good friends Ken and Christine, I decided to try out this recipe from my favorite magazine – Cooking Light. Well it turns out Ken is a raspberry lover too. Actually we all are, but Ken gets just about as excited about raspberries as Scooby Doo does when given a Scooby snack. It’s really quite fun to watch. (Sorry Ken, but if you can’t rat on your good friends, who can you rat on?)

Anyway, this sauce over vanilla ice cream was a total success. What made the dessert course even more delicious; Ken had made a blackberry cobbler. OMG – we were all in berry heaven until we couldn’t look at another berry, much less take another bite. What a fun way to spend the 4th of July. Watching fireworks from our good friend’s deck (west side of Camano) and eating raspberries and blackberries with shear abandon. Good times my friends, good times! Thanks again K & C for another wonderful evening together.

Please don’t take my word that this is the best raspberry sauce you will ever taste. Make it for yourself. If you end up disagreeing with me, shoot me an email. I’ll take your thoughts into consideration, promptly dismiss them, and proceed directly to the kitchen to build myself yet another batch of this amazing berry sauce. Yay raspberries!

p.s. If you want to take this whole raspberry sauce over ice cream to an even higher level, after you scoop ice cream into individual bowls, pour on some warmed Dark Chocolate Raspberry Sauce (recipe below) and then spoon on as much of this raspberry sauce as the bowl will allow.  

  • 2 pints (4 cups) fresh raspberries, divided
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 1 T. raspberry liqueur (Chambord, Framboise)
  • ½ tsp. fresh lemon juice

Combine 1 pint of the raspberries and sugar in a food processor; process until pureed. Press mixture through a fine sieve over a medium bowl; discard solids. Stir in remaining 2 cups of raspberries, raspberry liqueur, and lemon juice. Cover and chill. Wonderful over vanilla ice cream, pound cake, or angel food cake. Watch for my recipe for Chocolate Angel Food Cake in the near future.

DARK CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY SAUCE

  • ¾ c. premium cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli Majestic Premium Cocoa Powder purchased at Cash & Carry)
  • 6 T. sugar
  • tiny pinch kosher salt
  • 2/3 c. water
  • 4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. raspberry liqueur or water

Whisk cocoa, sugar, and salt together in a medium-sized saucepan. Gently whisk in the water. Slowly bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla, and raspberry liqueur or water. Serve warm or allow to cool completely and store in the refrigerator. Warm before pouring on ice cream. 

 

 

 

LEMON MERINGUE PIE

So, this is a plain, old fashioned lemon meringue pie recipe. No fancy frills. No new-age ingredients. No reduction in calories. No new nothin! Just your grandma’s lemon meringue pie.

So Patti, you might query, why bother posting a standard, easily obtainable recipe? Nice of you to ask. I am posting this recipe because you simply can’t improve on perfection. And Betty Crocker has had the filling and meringue part of Lemon Meringue Pie “right” for decades. So like I said, why mess with perfection?

Now as far as the crust part of this recipe, to the best of my knowledge Betty never prepared her pie crust in this manner. But I am here to tell you, this recipe always works, is light and tender, and very easy to make. It has never failed me. Never!

I had been dreaming about lemon pie for a long time. So when I was deciding what kind of dessert I wanted for my birthday dinner, there was simply no other choice. It had to be this nostalgic slice of sunshine that was such a special part of my childhood. When grandma made this pie, it was like the angels were singing right through every bite.

Now one thing you should know about pie if you are new to baking. It usually takes a couple of hours to build a pie or two, but only a few short minutes for your family and friends to devour your entire creation. So for the first time baker who has invested a lot of time in the preparation, it can cause considerable consternation to witness your pie or pies being devoured in less time than it takes to send a text message! (At least for me to send a text message!)

But for those of you like me, who have been baking pies for several decades, it’s just a matter of fact development that happens as often as you bake a pie. (Oh who am I kidding? It’s still hard to watch my piece de resistance evaporate before my very eyes only to be left with a few crumbs and an empty pie plate! All that work. Gone in mere minutes. Heavy sigh….) But if you are going to be a pie baker, it’s just the consequence of preparing a rare treat. And the first or next one you should prepare is this Lemon Meringue Pie.

So charm your family or friends with your culinary prowess, bake them a pie. Other pie recipes on this site that are delicious include Bourbon Pecan Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream, French Apple Pie, and Chicken Pot Pie. OK, Chicken Pot Pie doesn’t quite fit in the dessert category, but it’s still darned good. Just don’t serve it for dessert. Just sayin’!

Pie Crust:

  • ¼ c. very cold water
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • heaping 2/3 c. Crisco

Step 1 – Pour cold water into a small bowl.

Step 2 – Measure flour and salt into a mixing bowl.

Step 3 – Take 1/3 cup of the flour back out of the mixing bowl and stir it into the water. Make a paste. Set aside.

Step 4 – Add the Crisco (heaping 2/3 cup) to the flour and salt mixture. Mix together. (I use my KitchenAid mixer.)

Step 5 – Add the water/flour paste to the flour/shortening bowl and mix just until blended. Do not over-mix. Roll out dough and place in pie plate. Trim and flute the edges. (This recipe makes enough dough for a double crust pie if using a regular sized pie plate, or one large bottom crust with a little left over for a tart like the one described below.)

Prick the pie crust all over with a table fork. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven until light golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool before pouring in the filling.

Helpful hint: Use a floured pastry cloth to roll out your pie crust. It really makes a difference. You can find pastry cloths in almost any kitchen wares shop. Well worth the $10 or so.

Lemon Filling:

  • 1½ c. + 6 T. sugar, divided
  • 1/3 c. cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ c. water
  • 3 extra lg. egg yolks, slightly beaten (save the egg whites in the bowl of your mixer – set aside)
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. finely grated lemon rind
  • ¼ c. fresh lemon juice

Whisk the 1½ cups sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy, medium sized saucepan. Gradually stir in the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil one minute. Very slowly whisk half of the hot mixture into the slightly beaten egg yolks. Then pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and continue stirring until smooth. Stir in butter, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Pour into baked pie crust and cover with meringue.

Meringue:

  • reserved egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Do not under-beat. (The secret to good meringue is to beat the heck out of the sugar.) Add the vanilla and pile the meringue onto warm pie filling, being careful to seal the meringue onto the edge of the crust to prevent shrinking or weeping. (Can’t have weeping meringue. We want our meringue to be happy, happy, happy!) Swirl or pull up points for decorative top.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until the meringue is a light, golden brown. Remove from oven and cool in an area with no drafts. Eat the pie slowly as to savor every delicious morsel.

SOUR CHERRY AND CHOCOLATE TART

  • pie crust
  • Nutella
  • sour cherry fruit spread or spread of choice
  • powdered sugar

Roll your pie crust out to desired thickness. Place on baking sheet. Spread Nutella fairly thickly to within 1½ inches of edge. Spread a thin layer of fruit spread over the Nutella. Fold the edges over the filling.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until the crust is light brown, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven, cool, and lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

GREEK GROUND CHICKEN MEATBALLS WITH TZAZIKI SAUCE

Sometimes dishes get served before I have a chance to take a picture. That’s exactly what happened at a recent pre-concert JazzVox meal. Before I could take a picture of these meatballs based on a recipe from the Juicy Bites website and the tzatziki sauce (my recipe from about 25 years ago), they were history.

So the next time I serve this delicious combination, I will take a picture. But for now you will just have to content yourself with a mental image of light colored baked meatballs, smothered with a white sauce with green things in it, aka – tzatziki.

Now most of you know that I love chicken and serve it a lot. But chicken can be a bit boring. Well I’m here to tell you, there is nothing boring about these meatballs. The mint and the dill give the dish a unique flavor, and when slathered with tzatziki, well frankly, there is just nothing finer. (Actually, I think dog kibbles would taste good if they were slathered in tzatziki. But I’m not going to stand behind those words; just offer them up as a lazy summer afternoon rumination.)

So next time you want to serve ground chicken or turkey (I use ground turkey as much as I use ground chicken), give this recipe a try. Serve the meatballs and tzatziki with a savory pilaf, a crunchy Greek Salad, and a beautifully chilled bottle of white wine, and you will have captured the wonderful flavors and essence of Greek dining. Huh? Maybe Greece should be our next overseas adventure. Time to buy a couple travel books and see if Greece meets our criteria as a perfect travel destination. We love to visit countries with an ancient culture, beautiful art and architecture, interesting museums, pleasing climate, fun and friendly people, and of course – fantastic food. Wait! I don’t need a travel guide to tell me that Greece would be perfect for us. I already know all of our travel desires would be met in Greece. So, time to make a plan and present it to Mr. C. I know, I’ll serve up my idea along with a meal as described above, and I’ll bet you he’ll be searching our calendar for dates within an hour. Wish me luck! And enjoy the meatballs.

At the bottom of the post you will find 2 pictures of our orange cat Miles. The first picture shows Miles sound asleep on our catwalk. No problem, right? Wrong! The second picture shows why his sleeping at the end of the catwalk is of concern. It’s 9 feet down if our little darling were to fall. And since that part of the catwalk is above the bottom of the stairway, there is no way for either of us to fetch him. And no, when I designed our home Max and Miles were not even a glimmer in their papa’s eyes. We had another pair of orange brothers who were very coordinated and we never worried about them falling.

A little background. Miles and his brother Max are two of the least coordinated and skittish cats we have ever had the pleasure of owning. They can fall off the back of a couch and land on their backs at the slightest movement that might be threatening, like Mr. C. turning a page in his book, or me walking by with a glass in my hand. So the thought of either one of the brothers being startled awake while on the catwalk and reacting quickly to a perceived threat always scares the pickles out of me. And since I’m sure you want to know, Miles survived his nap and my heartrate is back to normal.