Author Archives: Patti

FRESH CORN, RED ONION, AND BASIL SALAD

This is an Ina Garten recipe I discovered on the internet. I didn’t change a thing, except reducing the ingredient amounts to accommodate just the two of us. I used two cobs of corn rather than 5 and altered the remaining ingredient amounts accordingly.

Now usually I mess with a recipe as I prepare it. Not this time. I immediately felt that the restrained number of ingredients in this dish was genius. And I sure as heck didn’t want to add an addition flavor that might detract from the delicious taste of the corn. As it turned out, the balance of flavors in this simple salad is absolutely perfect.

So I’m not going to expound on this dish any more than I already have. Well, except to say that once again Ina has proven what an exceptional cook can do with a few straightforward ingredients. This is simply the easiest and best corn salad I have ever tasted. Try it, you’ll like it! And thanks again Ina.

  • 1 T. cider vinegar
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 – 3 ears cold cooked corn on the cob, depending on the size of your ears (not the ones on your head; the ones off a corn stalk)
  • ¼ c. chopped red onion
  • ¼ c. fresh basil chiffonade*

Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a salad bowl. Cut the kernels off the corn cobs and add to the dressing along with the onion. Stir in the basil and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

Please note: If you plan to make the salad ahead of time, don’t add the basil until just before you plan to serve.

Serve cold or at room temperature.  

**Chiffonade (pronounced “shif-oh-nod”) is a knife technique used for cutting herbs and leafy vegetables such as lettuce into thin strips or ribbons. To chiffonade leaves of basil, stack the basil leaves and roll them into a tube. Then carefully cut across the end of the tube with a sharp knife to produce fine strips.

 

BERRY PIE BARS

Yes, I know. Berry season is just about over. So why am I publishing this recipe now rather than 2 months ago? Well the answer is simple. I didn’t have time to work on this recipe until now. (I have a life you know!) Besides, I mostly use frozen berries when I bake with berries anyway. So using fresh berries is not the least bit necessary. (I know I didn’t really need to explain myself on this issue, but sometimes I just like to set the record straight right up front.)

So – this is my spin on an averiecooks.com recipe. And why “pie” in the form of a bar cookie you might ask? Well, first of all – I love pie. But pie is a lot of work. And making enough traditional pies to serve a crowd would be a ridiculous use of my dwindling energy level. (Not that my guests aren’t worth the effort. I’m just not the energizer bunny I used to be.) 

So last evening when we hosted a potluck dinner for our friends and neighbors who are on the board and committees of our homeowners association, our guests got their blueberry pie in the form of a blueberry pie bar. And I’m happy to report, no one complained about it either. (18 good people, each and every one!)

Now, if you have already glanced at the recipe below, you might be a little put off that there are 4 steps to compiling this delicious concoction. But in my defense, each step is very easy and takes no time at all. You don’t even need a mixer, which in my case means I don’t have to take my stand mixer off a shelf in the pantry and carry it to one of the counters in my kitchen. So anytime I can leave my mixer firmly planted to a pantry shelf, I am ever so delighted.

But back to these bars. OMG, what can I say? Well, to begin with, they are just plain delicious. The crust is crunchy, the filling isn’t runny, and the cinnamon flavored topping is as lovely to look at as it is to savor. So regardless of the fact that these bars don’t come in a round pie pan and cut into wedge shape pieces, they are still the essence of pie at its’ finest.

Just so you know, I actually do know how to build a pie. Search this site for my Lemon Meringue Pie, Bourbon Pecan Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream, French Apple Pie, and Chicken Pot Pie. Ok, ok – maybe Chicken Pot Pie is a bit of a stretch, but it‘s still a pie, and delicious to boot! Enjoy them all. 

Crust and Topping

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. light brown sugar, packed
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Melt the butter in a medium sized, microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the sugars and salt. Add the flour; stir to combine. Set aside 2 cups to be used as the topping. (Before topping the dessert, add the cinnamon to the set-aside mixture. Don’t break up the crumbs as you incorporate the cinnamon. Its best if the cinnamon just coats the crumbs.

Transfer remaining mixture to a lightly buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish. (I prefer glass.) Using your fingers, pack the mixture down hard to create an even crust slightly sliding up the sides of the pan. Set aside.

Filling

  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 lg. egg
  • ½ c. plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the egg, yogurt, and vanilla. When thoroughly blended, pour the filling over the crust and tilt the pan to evenly cover the crust. Set aside.

Berry Layer

  • 2/3 – 1 c. granulated sugar (use full cup if the berries are tart)
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1-2 T. fresh lemon juice (depending on the tartness of your berries)
  • 4 c. frozen or fresh berries – blackberries, Marionberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. (no need to thaw frozen berries)

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Add the berries and lightly toss until the berries are thoroughly coated. Evenly distribute the berry mixture over the filling. Sprinkle the reserved crust/topping mixture over the berries.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the berries are bubbling around the edges and the bottom crust is a nice golden brown. (That’s just one of the reasons I use glass baking pans! I can see the bottom crust. Thank you Pyrex.)

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before cutting into serving sized pieces. Great dolloped with whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

MEZCAL MARGARITA

Well, true to my word, here comes another fabulous cocktail recipe. (And no, we don’t spend all of our time drinking amazing adult beverages, but we do usually have an early evening drink while I cook dinner and we discuss the days’ events.) This drink has become one of our favorites.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of tasting mezcal, but possess both an inquiring mind and a wish to obtain mezcal enlightenment, read all about this amazing product at the end of this post.   

Now as the name implies, this drink is called a Margarita for good reason. Basically this is our favorite recipe for a tequila Margarita simply substituting mescal for tequila. Ta Da – that’s it! The difference? Mezcal has a light to moderate smoky flavor that is not found in tequila. The difference is delightful, especially if you happen to love alcohols like Scotch with their inherent smoky flavor. Of course, mezcal doesn’t incorporate that nasty peaty flavor associated with Scotland’s finest. (I don’t care for Scotch. Can you tell?) Mezcal simply exudes a rich smoky essence that is quite appealing.

So next time you are at your favorite liquor emporium, pick up a bottle, especially if you are a Margarita fan. I’m sure you will love this new spin on a classic Margarita as much as we do.

  • 2 parts Mezcal (we use the El Zacatecano Reposado Mezcal for this drink)
  • 1 part Cointreau (orange flavored liqueur)
  • 1 part fresh lime juice  
  • ice
  • coarse salt (kosher works fine)
  • Tajin Clásico Seasoning*, opt.

Combine the mezcal, Cointreau, lime juice, and ice in a martini shaker. Shake well and pour the liquid and a few of the ice cubes into prepared glasses. Garnish with a thin wedge of lime.

To prepare the glasses, rub the rims with lime and dip into coarse salt combined with a pinch or two of Tajin Clásico Seasoning.

Chilled glasses are always wonderful. If you have the time, and presence of mind to chill your glasses ahead of time, you’re doing better than we are! But I highly recommend chilled glasses for the best presentation and mouth feel.

We enjoy the following two brands of Mezcal:

For mixed drinks – El Zacatecano Reposado Mezcal – Made in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, this 100% agave-based spirit is elegant and powerful, with herbal notes of rosemary and mint, along with cooked agave and green olives. It won a Silver medal at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Its appearance is golden, with yellow straw highlights. Its distinguished elegant style, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and almonds, come from time spent in white oak casks. The powerful and intense palate has herbs and spices, while the finish shows cooked agave, anise, and subtle remnants of white oak. Information Source – Crafts Spirits Exchange

For sipping – Fidencio Clásico Mezcal Joven – Made from 100% agave and double distilled. Earthy and slightly fruity on the palate, with mineral, smoke, and dried herbs, with a consistent fruit and agave undertone. Information Source – kegnbottle.com

*Tajin Clásico Seasoning – a delicious blend of ground chili peppers, sea salt, and dehydrated lime juice

Mezcal: The following information is from an article on examiner.com (now discontinued) with a little editing by yours truly.

“Mezcal (traditionally spelled mescal) is a Mexican distilled spirit that is made from the agave plant. Tequila is technically a mezcal, however, there are differences in production technique and in the types of agave used. Tequila is made from a single type of agave plant – the agave Tequilana (blue agave) – and can only be produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco and in small parts of four other Mexican states.

Mezcal can be produced from up to 28 varieties of agave (including blue agave) and is made around the city of Oaxaca and, according to official government regulations (NOM -070-SCFI-1994), can also officially be produced in some areas of the states of Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas. Most mezcals are made from the Espadin agave, although some mezcal producers blend agave varieties to create a distinct flavor.

Mezcal traditionally has a very unique, smoky flavor that makes it fairly easy to distinguish from tequila. It also tends to taste sweeter, or richer, than tequila. Some mezcal producers have adopted production processes similar to tequila, and the resulting mezcal has flavor profile similar to tequila.

Traditional Production Methods:

When tequila is made, the agave head is baked in an above-ground oven. This began in the late 19th century. Mezcal producers, however, often follow the traditional method of using in-ground pits. The agave heads (also called agave hearts, or piñas) are roasted or grilled over hot rocks in a cone-shaped pit (called palenques or hornos). A fire is started and burns for about 24 hours to heat the stones that line the pit. The agave heads are put into the pit and then covered with moist agave fiber that is left over from the fermentation process. A layer of agave leaves or woven palm leaves cover the fibers and the agave heads are left to cook for two to three days.

Types of Mezcal:

Mexican government regulates mezcal, defining various types and aging categories in a manner similar to tequila. The regulations split mezcal into two categories:

Type 1: 100% agave (using any or all permitted agave plants)

Type 2: Minimum 80% agave and maximum 20% other sugars.

There are three aging categories:

Abacado (also called joven or blanco): clear, un-aged mezcal that results from the distillation process. It is often bottled immediately, but flavoring or coloring agents can be added.

Reposado (also called madurado): aged in wood barrels for two to eleven months.

Añejo: aged in wood barrels for a minimum of twelve months.

(The regulations also forbid mezcal producers to make tequila, and tequila producers cannot produce mezcal.)

Mezcal is widely known for the agave “worm” (or gusano) that floats toward the bottom of the bottle. It is primarily a marketing gimmick to help boost sales, especially in the United States and in Asia. In fact, it is not a “worm” at all, but one of two insect larvae (a caterpillar of a night butterfly or the larvae of the agave snout weevil) that can infest yucca and agave plants. Tequila never (ever!) has a worm in the bottle.”

 

 

 

 

 

IRISH CREAM AND PECAN BUNDT CAKE

Yesterday was my dear father-in-law John’s 98th birthday. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law came over from Winthrop, we drove up from Camano Island, and the 5 of us went out for dinner. Of course first we had appetizers and a drink at John’s home before venturing into the bustling town of La Conner to dine. And as usual the 5 of us had a grand time.

Previously I had decided that John needed a birthday cake. Of course he did! So in trying to keep my work to a minimum (getting lazy in my “full speed ahead” advancement into old age), I decided to work up a recipe for a Bundt cake that would be easy to prepare, a bit different, and easy to prepare. Did I mention I also wanted it to be easy to prepare? Anyway, this is the result.

Now, not to change the subject (and of course I am going to do just that), but I am pretty darned disgusted with manufacturers whose products used to be a standard weight that I could depend upon. Until yesterday, I was completely oblivious to the package weight change on cake mixes. I don’t even know why the weight verbiage caught my eye, but before I went any further with this recipe, I checked the weight on the other cake mixes in my pantry. They were all 15.25 ounces instead of the standard 18.25 ounces. That’s a 3 whole ounce reduction! What? Why? And when did this happen? And why didn’t they just ask me if I would be willing to spend a little extra money to keep the same number of ounces? I would have answered in the affirmative. It also registered on me that the change in ounces would make a significant impact on the final product when I used cake mixes as an ingredient. Then I got mad! Grrrrr! So I went on line and did some research on the subject.

Patti’s seat-of-the pants economic analysis: Companies live or die by their bottom line. Apparently manufacturers realized that their profit margin would increase significantly if they simply decreased the amount of product contained in any given package, but failed to adjust the price accordingly. Duh! In other words, consumers would continue to pay the same price for their product, but the content of the package would be much reduced. And consumers like myself, who don’t necessarily check package weight, but rather focus on the ingredient list don’t figure it out, sometimes for years. (Guilty as charged!) In my defense, I simply don’t use cake mixes that often, but I have several killer cake recipes on this site that call for an 18.25-oz. cake mix. As a result of finally realizing what has happened in the cake mix world, I plan to edit my blog recipes in the very near future to include extra cake mix as explained below.

My solution: Since cake mixes now all seem to come in 15.25-oz. packages rather than 18.25 ounce packages, I’m going to simply add about 1/3 cup yellow cake mix to all my recipes that call for an 18.25 ounce cake mix. (I’ll use yellow because it won’t add or detract from the flavor of the cake I’ll be baking.) And yes, I know it’s a pain to always have to add that little extra cake mix. But I frankly can’t think of any other way around the problem. I’m simply going to keep an extra open cake mix (stored in an airtight container) at the ready. One additional cake mix should last me through several recipes.

I’m sure many of you are way ahead of me on this new product challenge. But sometimes I’m just clueless. This was obviously one of those times. But I still know a good cake when I taste one. And this is one good cake!

  • 1 c. chopped pecans, divided
  • 1 package (15.25-oz.) yellow cake mix
  • 1/3 c. additional cake mix
  • 1 pkg. (3.4-oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ c. room temperature water
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • ¾ c. + 2 T. Irish cream liqueur, divided
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 T. hot water
  • 1-2 c. powdered sugar, or more as needed

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Sprinkle ½ of the chopped nuts evenly over bottom of pan. Reserve the rest of the chopped nuts for the cake batter.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cake mix and dry pudding mix together. Add the eggs, ¼ cup room temperature water, oil, the ¾ cup of Irish cream liqueur, and the remaining chopped nuts. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed. Pour batter over nuts in pan.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 52-57 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then gently pry the cake away from the sides of the pan, and gently invert onto a serving dish. Cool completely before adding the glaze.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, hot water, the 2 tablespoons Irish Cream Liqueur, and enough powdered sugar to bring to desired consistency. When the cake is cool, drizzle glaze over the top letting it flow down the sides. Let the glaze set before serving.

To reiterate: – Adding an additional 1/3rd cup cake mix whenever you use a cake mix as an ingredient and the recipe calls for an 18.25-oz. cake mix and what you have in front of you is a 15.25-oz. cake mix, solves the weight problem and thus assures you a wonderful final product. But please note, if you are simply making the cake as is, and not using the cake mix as an ingredient, follow the instructions on the package.

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP AND SALTED PEANUT BAR COOKIES

Never one to refrain from proceeding where others would tell themselves enough is enough, here is yet another cookie recipe featuring peanuts and/or peanut butter. What can I say? I love peanuts. Maybe it’s because my dad loved peanuts and I loved my dad. (Funny how that works sometimes!) Anyway, as a child there were always peanuts in our kitchen pantry or mixed in with the always available bowl of popcorn liberally “garnished” with either regular salted peanuts or red-skinned Spanish Peanuts. So how could I not love these salty little bites of heaven? They are part of my cell structure. It’s kind of like baseball fans loving hot dogs. It’s organic.

But back to this recipe. (I am so easily distracted. Sorry about that.) Anyway, this recipe evolved because I’m lazy. Simple as that. I wanted to bake a batch of cookies to feed 4 distinct groups of people, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I needed to have a treat for the Board of our home owner’s association meeting at our home last evening, the guys tiling our new shower, Mr. C. and his trio drummer Grant who would be practicing in our living room for an upcoming performance, and still have some cookies left over to take with me to Keizer, Oregon for my daughter Paula’s 50th birthday celebration this weekend. Yikes – that’s a lot to ask from one batch of cookies.

A bar cookie seemed like the perfect solution. So I went on-line in search of a bar cookie recipe that would be large enough to feed my army. I found the bones of this recipe on the Land O’Lakes web site. I changed a few things, but the real credit belongs to the fine cooks in the Land O’Lakes test kitchen. Thank you one and all.

So if you too have an occasion when you need a goodly number of cookies and you’re feeling a little lazy, give this recipe a try. It’s pretty darn wonderful. Oh what the heck, bake up a pan of these little darlings even if you aren’t feeling lazy! They’ll still be delicious.

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ c. packed brown sugar
  • ¾ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 lg. eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1½ c. rolled oats
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • 1 c. peanut butter baking chips
  • 1 c. salted peanuts

Beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in your mixer bowl until thick and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Add oats; mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and peanuts.

Press dough evenly into an ungreased 16 x 10-inch baking pan. (Preferably glass)

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven (glass) or 375 degree oven (metal) for 20-30 minutes until just set and a lovely golden brown. Don’t overbake.

Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars just before serving. 

BTW, if you too are a peanut freak, check out my other cookie recipes that include Mr. Peanut and his friends – Chunky Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies, Triple Peanut Butter Cookies, Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, and Chocolate Chip Bars, and Payday Candy Bar Bars.

HAMBURGER DIP SANDWICHES WITH ONION AND DRY SHERRY AU JUS

Well once again I have managed to use one of the many 1 pound packages of ground beef that currently takes up about a half shelf in our not-so-tiny freezer. Hurray for me! Don’t get me wrong, I love ground beef. But it does tax my old brain trying to think up new and inventive ways to serve it.

But, lucky for me, one of the best ways I know to dress up simple ground beef, is to use it in a dipping sandwich.

Almost everyone I know loves a good French dip sandwich, as long as the au jus and meat are really flavorful. (I hate some of the weak tasting excuses for an au jus served in many restaurants. But I’ll save that pontification for a rainy afternoon when it isn’t so pleasant outside.) But before I leave the subject, I would also appreciate if the sliced beef had some good flavor. Yes, I know – I’m picky, picky, picky!

Well one thing you can be sure of, although this sandwich is not made with thinly sliced prime rib, it is extremely flavorful. The ground beef is seasoned with Montreal Steak Seasoning (my favorite) and the au jus is absolutely divine. Also easy to prepare. And might I add – reasonably inexpensive. Always a nice thing.

So next time you have a pound of ground beef staring at you when you open your freezer door, take it out and make it into one of these sandwiches. You’ll thank me. They are just really, really yummy.

  • 1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 T. Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c. finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 T. dry sherry
  • 1 T. flour
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2½ c. hearty beef broth (I use beef base and water)
  • 1 chewy baguette, cut into individual portion sized pieces, then halved and toasted just before serving

In a small bowl, gently combine the ground beef and Montreal seasoning. (You never want to work ground beef too hard or too long or you lose the wonderful tender quality of the beef.) Shape the meat into long and narrow patties. (Basically you want the meat patties to be just a tad bit larger than the size of your baguette pieces.)

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized frying pan. Fry the patties until they are done to your liking. Remove patties from pan and tent with aluminum foil. Set aside. (And no, they won’t be piping hot when your sauce is ready, but that’s why God gave us microwave ovens. Just don’t nuke them for too long. You want to slightly warm the meat, not over-cook it. No hockey pucks, please!)

Add the onion to the pan. Sauté the onion until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the dry sherry and then the flour, whisking the entire time. Slowly whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and beef broth. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, place patties inside prepared baguette pieces and place on dinner plate. Pour the dipping sauce into small individual bowls and set beside the sandwich. Add a nice salad or roasted potatoes or vegetables, and dinner’s served!

 

 

PEPPERMINT FUDGE

OK, I know. It’s way too early to start publishing recipes for Christmas. But I decided that this was such a great recipe, you all should know about it early enough that you could include it on your Christmas list of goodies to fix for family and friends. And I know all of you are as crazy as I am about sharing the holiday spirit by preparing way too many cookies and more candy than is necessary. OK, maybe you’re not as crazy as I am in that regard, but even if it’s only one thing you prepare, it should possibly be this recipe.

First of all, it’s an easy recipe to prepare. Plus, who do you know that doesn’t like peppermint and chocolate together? And, well, it’s just a delicious fudge. So put this recipe on your Christmas baking/candy making list. Santa will thank you.

And sorry for not including a picture. Somehow last Christmas I failed to take a picture before all the candy went into my kids Christmas goodie packages, or someone else (not going to mention any names here) got to it before I had a chance to immortalize the fudge on film. (Like anyone uses film anymore. But the whole image of immortalization on film sounded so delightful, I just had to step back a few years to a more romantic time and savor the whole concept.)

Speaking of savoring, I hope you give this recipe a try. And no, you don’t have to wait for Christmas to make this fudge. Somehow making homemade fudge has been relegated to “just for the holidays” fare. Come to think of it, what’s with that? You go to any touristy town and you can practically be guaranteed at least one shop that specializes in fudge. So by all means, don’t wait for Christmas. Treat your family and friends now. (Note to self: that means you too, Patti!)

Just know that you are setting yourself up for a great deal of future fudge building. But things could be worse, demanding fudge is one thing; demanding homemade pickled herring is another matter entirely. Speaking of which, I should share my recipe for pickled herring with you all. Look for it in the near future.

In the meantime, enjoy this recipe. For another great fudge recipe, try my Fudge with Brandied Cherries and Walnuts also on this site. Cheers  

 

  • 3 c. sugar
  • ¾ c. (1½ sticks) butter
  • 1 small can (5-oz.) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
  • 1½ c. chocolate chips
  • 1 7-oz. jar marshmallow crème
  • 1 tsp. real vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. good peppermint extract
  • heaping ¼ c. crushed good peppermint candy (preferably King Leo or See’s, not inexpensive candy canes)

Heat sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent scorching; about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and marshmallow crème until melted. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts. Spread immediately into a lightly buttered 9×9-inch pan. Top with peppermint candy, pressing in slightly. Cool at room temperature for about 4 hours. Cut into small squares and store in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

 

KENTUCKY OR MOSCOW MULE

There are just some drink recipes that should be shared. And these are two recipes you really must add to your collection. I don’t even like bourbon, but I like this drink be it made with either vodka or bourbon. That should tell you something!

Both of these drinks are perfect on a hot day. And when served in an ice cold copper mug, there is just nothin’ more sophisticated, unless of course it’s a Kentucky Corpse Reviver (recipe coming soon to Chez Carr Cuisine) served in a coupe glass. (Didn’t know I knew about coupe glasses, did you? Well you would be right. Only learned about them while researching recipes for Bourbon Corpse Revivers. But more about corpse revivers in one of my next couple of posts.)

The only thing left to say about these mules, is that as the name implies, they can kick just like a mule. So be advised. They go down so effortlessly, it’s easy to forget that you are drinking an alcoholic beverage. So thank you brother-in-law Rick for introducing us to Kentucky Mules and friend Jim for initiating us into the wonderful world of Moscow Mules. We are forever in your debt. I think!?!?

Kentucky Mule:

  • ice
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice (don’t even think about using that bottled stuff)
  • 2 oz. good bourbon (recommend Buffalo Trace or Maker’s Mark)
  • 4-6 oz. good ginger beer (recommend Bundaberg or Fever Tree)
  • mint sprigs, garnish, opt.
  • thin wedge of lime, garnish, opt.

Fill a cold copper mug or Collins glass with ice. Add the fresh lime juice and bourbon. Fill the mug or glass with ginger beer. Stir gently and garnish with mint leaves and a wedge of lime.

Moscow Mule:

  • ice
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice (don’t even think about using that bottled stuff)
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 3-6 oz. good ginger beer (recommend Bundaberg or Fever Tree)
  • mint sprigs, garnish, opt.
  • thin wedge of lime, garnish, opt.

Fill a cold copper mug or Collins glass with ice. Add the fresh lime juice and vodka. Fill the mug or glass with ginger beer. Stir gently and garnish with mint leaves and a wedge of lime.

 

 

SHRIMP APPETIZER OR MAIN COURSE SALAD

I love shrimp salad. But I don’t much care for the tiny, pre-cooked shrimp that are labeled “salad shrimp”. I prefer the nice big guys, lovingly sautéed just before adding to whatever version of a shrimp salad I happen to be preparing at the time. And yes I do know that the biggies are more expensive, but I’d rather have less shrimp if push comes to shove.

So, when good friends Jim and Margo invited us to dinner a couple weeks ago, and I asked what I could contribute, Jim said “how about an appetizer salad?” I said “how about a shrimp salad” and he said yes!!

So this is the result.

And if I do say so myself, it turned out pretty darn tasty. Plus it was very easy to prepare. (I just love it when a recipe comes together and it works! But believe me, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I try a dish, and although it is edible, it’s not something I ever want to serve again or pass on to my readers.)  But this recipe is a keeper. It’s terribly elegant when served as an appetizer and just plain wonderful when served as a main dish salad.

Speaking of main dish salads, I simply must tell you about eating a salad for dinner while on our recent trailer trip to British Columbia. (You can stop reading now if all you care about is this recipe. But if you want to hear a bit more about our recent trailer trip, continue reading at your own peril.)

As the pictures below show, we had a fabulous campsite at BCs Juniper Beach Provincial Park on the banks of the Thompson River. Ideal setting with the river so close, but not the ideal backdrop for a quiet dinner. I say, not quiet, because just across the river the main east/west line of the Canadian Pacific Railroad runs about 30 trains over any 24 hour period. And on the side of the river where we were camped, the Canadian National Railroad runs another 30 or so trains a day on their own east/west main line. So in case you are mathematically challenged, that’s a total of about 60 trains blasting our camp site with noise during every 24 hour period. And these are not dainty little trains. These are all incredibly long mother bear trains! Mr. C. counted the cars on a good number of the trains. The longest was 230 cars long! I kid you not! The average size was only about 150 cars long. Only! And many of the cars we counted had a second container on top of the one that was riding the rails. We didn’t even bother counting the second tier freight cars. It was just too overwhelming.

We were at Jupiter Beach for three nights and the trains won, hands down! Before camping at this park, I absolutely adored the clickety-clack of trains, especially at night. But after this episode with the trains from hell, I feel like a new mother just having gone through a difficult childbirth and saying to herself and anyone else who would listen, that never again would she subject herself to such an experience! But I suppose, like childbirth, the memory of “the trains” will fade and I will once again be able to look at a train and not flinch. I hope so. Because for 73 years I have loved trains with a passion. I hope to get back to that place, but frankly only time will tell. (Mr. C. thinks I’m suffering from PTTD (Post Traumatic Train Disorder), and I think he may be right. But good news. I recently read that gin helps with this disorder, so that’s encouraging. If gin truly is the wonder treatment, I should be fine in no time. I’ll let you know if it works.) Enjoy the recipe.

  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. lg. uncooked shrimp
  • ½ tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • ½ c. finely diced red, yellow, or orange bell pepper (or combination of peppers)
  • juice of ½ lg. lime
  • 2 T. mayonnaise
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • dash hot sauce or 1 jalapeño, seeds and veins removed and finely diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 Hass avocado, diced
  • romaine or Bibb lettuce leaves

Heat the butter in a medium-large fry pan. Add the shrimp and sprinkle on the seasoned salt. Sauté until the shrimp are just done. Do not overcook. Remove the pan from heat and set aside. Rough chop the shrimp when they are cool.

In a medium sized bowl combine the shallot, celery, bell pepper, lime juice, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, and dash of hot sauce/diced jalapeño. Let stand for at least 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning. Gently fold in the chopped shrimp, tomato, and avocado. Adjust seasonings and serve as an appetizer either wrapped in lettuce leaves, heaped on one lettuce leaf, or over cut salad leaves. (See picture above.) Or serve as a main dish salad (see picture below) with whatever amount of cut lettuce you want stirred in with the other ingredients.

 

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.