Friday, July 31, 2009


After making an adapted version of Cooks Illustrated blueberry pie, I was anxious to make the real thing. But when I read through the recipe instructions, I almost got dizzy. It was overly complicated, and there didn't seem to be a good reason for some of the complexity. I was surprised that the cinnamon and cardamom in the adapted version were not in the CI original. IMHO, there was not enough lemon juice or tapioca either. (CI felt that the grated apple would produce enough pectin to thicken the blueberry filling.) I added the cinnamon and cardamom and increased the tapioca by 1 Tbsp. and the lemon juice by 1 Tbsp, and this pie was wonderful. Nice thick slices, full of blueberry flavor, a definite winner. The lemon, cinnamon and cardamom worked in the background to make the blueberries the star. CI, take note: I've improved your recipe!

One other change I made was to eliminate the top crust. Who needs the calories? And from readers' comments, the top crust was cumbersome anyway. Everyone had trouble with it, because CI designed a top crust that had circles cut out all around, making the dough hard to handle and hard to place over the filling. Instead, I cut out stars of the leftover dough, and baked them after the pie came out of the oven.
And, oh, yes, another change -- I decided not to grate the apple. I did that with the adapted version and wasn't happy with the way it baked. Instead, I chopped the apple and cooked it with the first half of the berries. This worked much better. The apples are "invisible" in the pie -- you can't taste them or see them. I still think this recipe is overly complicated, even for a masochist like me. A jar of blueberry preserves would work just as well as cooking the blueberries on the stove. But here it is, if you are a glutton for punishment:
The Real Cooks Illustrated Blueberry Pie, Adapted
Rating: 9 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: Cook's Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust (Make it with Limoncello for an even better crust)
6 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, chopped
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1-1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar, divided use (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 1-1/2 tsp. Stevia)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
3 Tbsp. instant tapioca, ground (I used my coffee grinder)
pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp. butter, cut into 1/4" pieces (I used Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend)
Prepare pie crust and refrigerate. When ready to make pie, roll out dough on well-floured surface, fit into 9" pie plate that's been lightly sprayed with cooking spray, trim the overhang, crimp edges and refrigerate. Roll remaining dough out and cut with star-shaped cookie cutters, or other favorite designs. Place "cookies" on a pie plate and refrigerate.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack and heat oven to 400F.
Place 3 cups berries, 1/2 cup sugar, zest, juice, tapioca, salt, cinnamon and cardamom in medium bowl. Toss to combine; let stand 1/2 hour.
Place 3 cups berries, chopped apple, and 1/4 cup sugar in saucepan and heat till thickened.
Combine berries; fill chilled pie crust. Dot with butter, pushing the pieces into the filling. Bake on preheated baking sheet for 30 minutes. Cover edges and top of pie with loose tinfoil. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake an additional 45 minutes, or till juices bubble. Transfer to wire rack to cool at least two hours before cutting.
While pie is cooling, brush raw pastry "cookies" with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 10 minutes, or till nicely golden and cooked through. Place decoratively on cooled pie before serving.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


There is no doubt in my mind which magazine is going to be next on my subscription list: Cook's Illustrated. The people in America's Test Kitchen continually beat the crowd for innovative ideas and recipes. Their vodka pie crust is just one example of their ingenuity at work. I've already made it several times, and honestly, it is just the best darned crust ever -- so flaky and tender. Of course, I took it to another whole level this time by making it with Limoncello (lemon-infused sweetened vodka).

Currently, I don't subscribe to CI; so, when I saw this recipe in our local paper I decided to try it. The article stated it was an adaptation of CI's blueberry pie. The recipe for their vodka pie crust, and the recipe for the pie were both printed. I had no earthly idea what it was they adapted, left out or added. So I just went with it.

The crust was, of course, fantastic -- made with limoncello, remember? The pie filling was good but not great. It was kind of on the thin side, with only 3-1/2 cups of blueberries. Of course, everyone else loved it. Am I the only persnickety pie eater out there? I knew I was right. So I researched on the internet and found the original CI blueberry pie recipe, which I promptly made and will be posting next. In the meantime, here is the adaptation which is also on the internet somewhere. If you're in a hurry, you can make this version because the original is a bit more work, but vastly superior to the adaptation.

Blueberry Pie
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated by ?
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: Cook's Illustrated Vodka Pie Crust or your favorite crust
3-1/2 cups blueberries, washed and dried
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 small green apple (about 1 cup) peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2-1/2 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca

In a medium bowl, combine blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, cardamom, grated apple and tapioca. Toss lightly and let stand about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly coat a 9" pie pan with cooking spray. Prepare crust; chill; roll out on well-floured counter to 12" circle. Transfer to prepared pie pan. Trim edges. Transfer blueberry filling and any juices to the pie shell, smoothing the filling into an even layer. Bake 20-25 minutes; reduce temperature to 350F and bake for another 35 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool at least 2 hours before cutting.

Roll scraps of dough out on floured surface and cut with your favorite cookie cutter. Place these on the pie, or better, on an ungreased cookie sheet to bake alongside the pie. Then you can put the pie crust "cookies" on top of the pie as a decoration. Brush them with some milk, cream or H&H and sprinkle with sugar before you bake them. As you can see, I put mine on top of the pie and they kind of curled up when they baked. They'll look nicer if you bake them separately.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I'm celebrating blueberries this week. Eastern North Carolina is flooded with blueberries. They're good and they're cheap. And they're good for you. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants that protect your eyes, colon, urinary tract and brain from degenerative disease. Blueberries are easy to freeze. Just rinse them well, drain in a colander, pat dry on paper towels, remove any stems and pack in plastic bags containing 1 cup each, inside freezer bags. Then, when you need some, you can just remove a bag. And you don't have to use a whole cup. If you just want a handful, take that out -- the blueberries will not be stuck together, so you can easily remove what you want and leave the rest in the freezer. In the winter, you can easily remove some blueberries, mix with yogurt, and top with toasted sliced almonds for a delicious mid-day treat; or sprinkle some on your morning cereal. You can enjoy blueberries all year long if you pack them now in your freezer.
This recipe for blueberry muffins was an experiment, again with coconut flour, coconut oil, and coconut-flavored rum. It turned out even better than expected. I used fresh berries (always the best in muffins) but frozen will work. I highly recommend baking with coconut flour and coconut oil because of the numerous health benefits, especially if you are pre-diabetic or diabetic. Coconut flour will add fiber and protein both of which will slow the carbohydrates down in your system; and the coconut oil contains good heart-healthy saturated fat. The coconut-flavored rum speaks for itself -- remember that the alcohol burns off and you are left with the fantastic flavor. Coconut and blueberries are meant to be partners, and in this muffin they will stay wedded for life because they are completely synergistic. This muffin is tender, flavorful and moist, full of blueberry goodness with a nicely sweet crunchy topping. You'll get 6 standard muffins and 12 minis from this recipe, and they freeze beautifully.

Coconut-Blueberry Muffins with Coconut Streusel Topping
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin coconut oil
2 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend, melted and partially cooled
2/3 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup sugar + 1-1/2 tsp. Stevia)
1 large egg
6 Tbsp. low-fat buttermilk
4 Tbsp. lite sour cream
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. coconut-flavored rum (or plain rum if preferred)
1 cup + 3 Tbsp. Ultra-grain flour (30% whole wheat) (You can sub all-purpose or white whole wheat flour)
3 Tbsp. coconut flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided use
Coconut streusel topping (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 425F. Spray a 6-cup standard muffin tin and a 12-cup mini muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk coconut oil, SB and sugar together till smooth. Whisk in egg, buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla and rum, beating till thick and smooth. In a small bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Toss 3/4 cup blueberries in the flour mixture. Add dry ingredients with blueberries all at once to wet ingredients and stir lightly with a spoon or spatula till barely mixed. It's ok if some flour is showing; and it's ok if batter is lumpy. Don't overmix. Using an ice-cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, fill standard muffin tins with batter, almost to top. Press remaining blueberries into tops of muffins and press on some streusel topping. Repeat with mini muffin tins, dividing remaining batter equally among 12 cups. Place tins in oven and immediately reduce heat to 375. Bake minis about 13 minutes; standards about 18 minutes. Test muffins with toothpick -- when it returns almost clean muffins should be removed from oven to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then transferred to wire rack to finish cooling.

Coconut Streusel Topping
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup toasted pecans (or other favorite nut), chopped or crushed
1/2 cup dried sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar (I used 2 Tbsp. sugar + 3/4 tsp. Stevia)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
pinch of sea salt
2-1/2 tsp. melted Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend (or butter)
Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Freeze leftover topping to use later.

Friday, July 24, 2009


If you are looking for a great recipe for cupcakes, look no further. Southern Living did it again! The recipe for Basic Vanilla Cake Batter in their March 2009 magazine has it all. Moist, tender, and delicious, these cupcakes will have you coming back for more. I frosted most of mine with Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate Frosting” flavored with vanilla and peppermint – yummm! A few were frosted with SL’s Mint Chocolate Chip Buttercream Frosting (also yummm.)

One of the keys to success in this recipe is using a low-protein flour. Regular all-purpose flour will work, but you’ll need to slightly reduce the amount, and the crumb won’t be as tender and light. If you read the reviews for this recipe online, you'll note that quite a few readers had poor results. I'd like to bet they used all-purpose flour, and they scooped it rather than lightly spooning it. In the southeast US, where I live, White Lily all-purpose flour is readily available. While it’s not a cake flour, it is lower in protein than all-purpose and works very well with this recipe. The bad news is you'll be eating bleached flour. If that bothers you, use unbleached all-purpose with the changes noted above. Be sure to whisk or sift, then lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup. The way you measure flour will determine how good your cake is. You can actually get almost 1/4 cup more flour in some recipes if you "scoop" the flour instead of lightly spooning it. I always whisk my flour well before spooning it, because it packs down in the container during storage.

The other ingredient making these cupcakes tender and moist is buttermilk. If you don't have any, not to worry. Just add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of sweet milk, and let stand for 5-10 minutes before using.

Nielsen-Massey Vanilla bean paste can be purchased at Williams Sonoma or online. It has real vanilla bean seeds in it, and is the closest jarred vanilla product to actually scraping the pod yourself.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted ½ recipe from Southern Living
Rating: 10 out of 10

1 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 large eggs (or use 2 medium)
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or 1-1/4 tsp. vanilla)
1-1/2 cups cake flour (I used White Lily all-purpose.)
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. sea salt
½ cup low-fat buttermilk

Heat oven to 350F.  Place baking cups in 12 muffin tin wells; spray with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In medium bowl, beat sugar and butter with electric mixer using medium speed, until creamy and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add whole egg and beat till yellow disappears; repeat with ½ egg (or 2nd egg if using). Beat in flavoring.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to wet mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at medium-low speed just until blended after each addition. Batter will be thick. Spoon batter into cups, filling ¾ full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in center of cupcake returns with just a few crumbs. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire rack and cool completely (about 1 hour). Spread with desired frosting. Yield: 12 cupcakes


This is a simple, quick and delicious chocolate frosting. You can change it up by adding mint, almond or other flavorings.

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Hershey Chocolate Company
Rating: 8 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted in medium microwaveable bowl
1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
1-1/2 cups 10X sugar
2-3 Tbsp. fat-free half and half or milk
1 tsp. vanilla (or 1/2 tsp. vanilla + 1/2 tsp. peppermint or other flavoring of choice)

Stir cocoa into melted butter. Alternately add 10X sugar and milk and beat on medium speed of electric mixer till desired consistency is reached. Add more milk if necessary. (It's also nice if you use some liqueur in place of the milk.)

Yield: enough to frost 16 cupcakes

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The nice people at the Pecan Store, 1625 E. Sahuarita Road, Sahuarita, Arizona, sent me a half-pound bag of their halved pecans to sample. This was like sending an egg to a chicken, because North Carolina has lots of pecan trees, and delicious pecans abound in our stores. In fact, there's a nice gentleman at our local farmer's market that sells young pecans from his trees that are unbelievably delicious. I also buy young pecans from Sam's Club that are very high quality and low in price. But, always up for something new, I decided to try the Pecan Store's pecans to see if they were better. I tasted them plain, toasted and in baked goods. While I can't say that they were any better than what I can get here, I will say their brochure is interesting. The Pecan Store sells all kinds of pecan goodies, and they ship. They have bread mixes, BBQ sauce, honey butters, hot sauce, salsas, relishes, jams, jellies and mustards. Check out the Pecan Store's website for a complete list of sale items.

In the meantime, here's an experimental dessert I made with their pecans. These coconut-pecan shortbread hearts are delicious. Not overly sweet, they have a delightful coconut taste which complements the toasted pecans. The chocolate drizzle takes them over the top. Bake them till golden brown for a nice crispness. (Coconut flour is available in most grocery stores, in the health food section. Bob's Red Mill produces a nice small bag which stores in the freezer quite well. Extra virgin unrefined coconut oil is also available at many grocery stores and there are several brands to choose from. Spectrum is one. The brand I use is Garden of Life, available from their website or through health food stores. )

(Coconut meat and flour add fiber and protein to baked goods; coconut milk and oil have numerous benefits and are considered to be stable, healthy saturated fats.) However, all desserts, even those that have been "dressed up" with healthful ingredients, should be consumed in moderation.

Coconut-Pecan Shortbread Hearts
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup toasted pecans
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend (or butter, if preferred)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. coconut-flavored rum (or plain rum)

Place nuts in work bowl of food processor and pulse several times to chop them. Add flour, coconut meal and brown sugar and pulse again till nuts are more finely ground. Add remaining ingredients and pulse till mixture comes together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Place the chilled dough onto a floured surface and roll the dough 1/4" thick; cut into desired shapes; place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes, or till golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Make a double boiler by placing a glass or metal bowl over a pot of hot, not boiling, water. Put about 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks in the double boiler till they melt. You can spoon this into a plastic bag and snip the end off to drizzle over the cookies, or you can just drizzle from a spoon -- your call. I did the former. It's a thick drizzle, but it's delicious. I used Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips. This recipe yielded 15
cookies for me, but yield will vary according to the cookie cutter you use and thickness of dough.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I love peanut sauce. Can't get enough of it. This recipe, from Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious magazine, March/April 2009 issue, is pretty good, with some changes I've made, but my favorite peanut sauce recipe is my friend Sara's. Her recipe is really simple and delicious, and since she is Thai, I trust that it's pretty authentic.

Pork Satay
Adapted half recipe from Taste of Home Simple & Delicious
Rating: 7 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 2 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
1 green onion, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp. honey
1-1/2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. Thai sweet chili sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. minced or grated garlic
1/2 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into chunks
3 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
1 tsp. lime juice

In a small resealable plastic bag, combine first seven ingredients. Transfer 2 Tbsp. to small cup for dipping sauce. Add pork to remaining mixture in bag; seal; refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Combine peanut butter, broth and reserved dipping sauce mixture in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in lime juice; set aside.

Heat grill to medium-hot (400-425F). Drain and discard marinade. Thread pork onto metal or soaked wooden skewers. Place on grill, about 4-5 minutes each side, or till meat is thoroughly cooked.

Serve with dipping sauce.
Cucumber salad
and coconut rice make nice accompaniments. (Yield: 2 servings)

Friday, July 17, 2009


Guy and I were invited to the beach for a crab party. From New Bern, the "beach" is about 45 minutes. Our friends (from Virginia) rented a house for themselves and their children. The house was beautiful, well appointed, and comfortable, but Pat and Kathryn were unhappy that it wasn't as nice as the homes their mother had rented in previous years. Their mother, Therese, was our dear friend and she died last year after a short but valiant bout with lung cancer. We were so pleased that they thought to invite us to spend a day with them to connect a little with the past. I insisted on bringing dessert, and had high hopes for a fantastic strawberry filled cake. Turns out I was as unhappy with the dessert as they were with the house.

First off, strawberry season is over in East Carolina, but I decided to buy a big box of strawberries at Sam's Club anyway because they looked beautiful. Big mistake. The second disappointment was that I couldn't find mascarpone cheese anywhere, so I subbed cream cheese, which isn't quite the same. Third disappointment was the topping didn't firm up enough, so the strawberries weren't solidly on the cake. When I cut the first two pieces, the cake collapsed. All in all, I was underwhelmed with this cake. Everyone seemed to like it, though, and Guy gave it two thumbs up. I can depend on his honesty. In fact, he's the first person to tell me when something isn't up to snuff. So I guess the end result was good, but I do like a cake to stay together, remembering that you begin to eat with your eyes, as Giada always says. If you want to venture forth on this one, here's the recipe:
Strawberry Filled Cake
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 8 out of 10

1 yellow cake mix (I prefer Duncan Hines, but all I had on hand was Pillsbury Moist Supreme)
3 large eggs
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate + enough fresh lemon juice to equal 1/3 cup
1/3 cup Canola oil
1 Tbsp. lemon zest, packed
1 Tbsp. orange zest, packed
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9" tube pan by reinforcing bottom with tinfoil so cake batter does not leak.

Grease and flour pan; set aside. Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix according to package directions. Pour batter into pan; bake 36-40 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center returns clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling, about 2 hours.


2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided use
4 (1 oz.) squares premium white chocolate (I used Baker's)
8 oz. Mascarpone (or cream cheese), softened
1/2 cup half and half
3-1/2 Tbsp. instant vanilla pudding mix
1-1/4 cups strawberry preserves
about 15 whole strawberries for top
3 cups sliced strawberries

In small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup cream to boiling; off heat; add chocolate squares. Stir till dissolved. Refrigerate till chilled, about 1 hour. In medium bowl, using electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cheese till smooth. Stir in the half and half, chilled white chocolate and pudding mix and beat at least one minute, or till smooth and creamy. Slowly add the remaining heavy cream and beat till thick, for several minutes -- first on low speed, then gradually increasing speed to high. Refrigerate 1 hour (or freeze for 15 minutes).

Heat the strawberry preserves in a small saucepan (or in the microwave if you prefer) till you can stir it easily with a spoon. Remove from heat. Place the whole strawberries on wax paper, cut sides down. Brush each strawberry with some preserves. Cut the cake in half horizontally. (To make it easier, you can place toothpicks all around the cake and follow the line with your sharp knife.) Lay the bottom slice, cut side up, on a serving plate. Brush with some of the preserves. Arrange sliced strawberries on top of preserves.

Spread some white chocolate cream over strawberries. Top with second cake layer, cut side down. Spread some preserves over top layer, then top with the white chocolate cream. Arrange whole strawberries decoratively around top of cake.

Toss remaining strawberries with preserves. Serve slices of cake with additional white chocolate cream and strawberries on the side.

We ate our fill of blue claws, and the leftovers are being picked for tomorrow night's crab cakes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


My hubby doesn't eat his veggies, and this is something that bothers me. I've told him repeatedly that veggies are good for him and he should eat more of them. His answer is that he eats plenty of veggies: corn, potatoes and tomatoes. So, when he told me that he won't eat green beans hot, but he does love them as a salad, I went right to it. This salad has evolved from just green beans with oil and vinegar, to its present state. This has become one of our fave salads for summertime because it's cool, refreshing and the flavors go together perfectly. And he's actually eating something green.

Green Bean and Radish Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10
Whole green beans (allow about a small handful per person), rinsed, ends cut or snapped
Sea salt to taste
Radishes (allow 4-5 per person), scrubbed, ends cut, thinly sliced
Green onions (allow 2 per person), sliced
Barely cover beans with cool water in appropriate size pot. Salt to taste. (Sometimes I cook the beans in chicken broth, if there happens to be some hanging out in the fridge.) Bring to boil over high heat; cover, reduce heat to simmer. Simmer about 5 minutes, or till beans are still crisp-tender. Drain; pour beans into bowl; cover; refrigerate. When beans are thoroughly chilled, add radishes and green onions. Toss with vinaigrette and serve immediately.
Lemon Vinaigrette: 1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. Grey Poupon mustard
2 tsp. honey
1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a jar; seal with lid; shake till emulsified. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Bravo TV has a
website that lists all the top chef recipes,
lots of them. Season 5 winner, Hosea Rosenberg, is credited with this great tomato soup recipe. It was too complex for me to follow all of it -- not that I couldn't, I just didn't have the time. I left off the grits croutons, but I bet they were great. And I didn't do the cilantro oil -- instead I just garnished with cilantro.

I made other changes, according to my personal preferences: Instead of cream, I used fat-free half and half. I decided to roast the Roma tomatoes, to bring out more flavor. But instead of roasting the corn, I just used an ear of leftover corn, and scraped the kernels and milk off the cob. None of these changes could ruin this fantastic soup. The smokey flavor, spiciness and the addition of shrimp and corn makes this soup wonderful. Here's a word of caution: add the chipotle in Adobo sparingly at first, and test to see if you need to add more. I find the chipotles in Adobo bitter-hot, which I don't care for, so I usually use less than called for.

Top Chef Hosea Rosenberg's Smokey Tomato Soup
Adapted Version
Rating: 9 out of 10

6 Roma tomatoes, halved
6-8 fresh thyme sprigs
sea salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbsp. canola or olive oil, divided use
1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. chipotle in Adobo sauce (I found this to be too much; start with 2 tsp. and taste before adding more.)
1 cup Land o' Lakes fat-free half and half, OR cream, if preferred
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 ears cooked corn, kernels and milk scraped off cob
12 small freshly cooked shrimp (saute in 1 Tbsp. oil if preferred)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 350F. Halve tomatoes and place in large pie plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; top with thyme sprigs. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. oil; bake 30-35 minutes, or till very tender. Cool slightly.

In 3-quart heavy pot, saute onions and garlic in 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat till soft. Add tomatoes with all their juices and the thyme sprigs; chipotle, broth, and paprika. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more chipotle, salt and/or pepper, if needed. Strain through cheesecloth, discarding solids. Add half and half and bring back to simmer. Simmer 10 minutes; check seasonings again, adding what may be necessary. Stir in corn and shrimp; garnish with chopped cilantro.
Yield: 4-5 servings

Friday, July 10, 2009


Poundcakes are delicious, but they are oh, so fattening with all that butter, sugar and flour, and this poundcake has heavy cream to boot. But once you taste this light, airy, buttery cake you won't care. I found the recipe on, but it's originally from Gourmet Magazine, September 2005. I felt it needed more flavoring, though, so I added lemon and orange zests and lemon and orange extracts in addition to the vanilla the recipe called for. IMHO, the flavor is perfect with those additions.
Instead of making the full recipe, I made a half recipe and used a 4" x 8" loaf pan and 6 standard muffin cups. My hubby opted for thick slices of the loaf cake, and I chose the smaller cupcakes. Split in half, the cupcakes toasted beautifully and were the perfect vehicle for some seasonal macerated fruit and gently whipped honeyed cream. This was a dessert made in heaven.

There are several reasons why this poundcake is so special. First off, it uses cake flour that's been sifted 3 times. Secondly, the heavy cream. And thirdly, after everything is mixed, you beat the cake for an additional 5 minutes, which will visibly expand and lighten the batter as you watch. And you can taste it in the finished product which is smooth, creamy, light and delicious. The cake is started in a cold oven, which feels a little weird, but it works. This is a top-notch recipe, but one that demands your total attention and strict adherence to directions. Good luck if you try it, and do let me know how it turns out.

Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound Cake
Adapted Half Recipe from and Gourmet Magazine
Rating: 10 out of 10

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cup cake flour, sifted before measuring (I used White Lily all-purpose which is a low-protein flour similar to cake flour)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/4 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1/2 cup heavy cream

Put oven rack in middle position, but do not preheat oven. Grease and flour 4" x 8" loaf pan and 6 standard muffin wells. Sift together the already sifted flour and salt into a bowl. Repeat sifting into another bowl (flour will have been sifted 3 times total).

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or 6-8 minutes with a handheld mixer. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in flavorings. Reduce speed to low and add half flour, then all of cream, then remaining flour, mixing well after each additiion. Scrape down side of bowl, then beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes. Batter will become creamier and satiny.

Spoon batter into pans; rap against hard surface to remove air bubbles.

Place pans in cold oven; close door; heat to 350F. Bake till golden -- test with toothpick -- when it returns clean, remove from oven to cool in pan 15 minutes, then run a knife around edges and turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling. Cupcakes will take 20-25 minutes (mine took 22 minutes); loaf pan will take 30-35 minutes (mine took 32 minutes). These freeze well. Delicious toasted. Top with fresh macerated fruit and honey whipped cream or ice cream, chocolate syrup, toasted walnuts and whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I've canceled my subscription to Southern Living magazine, and I hope I won't be sorry. There are just too many magazines for me to read (Taste of Home, Better Homes & Gardens, Living and Bon Appetit). I've gotten some good recipes from SL over the years, like this one from their November 2008 edition. Their recipe is called, "Golden Potato Latkes" since the principal ingredient is Yukon gold potatoes.

I used red potatoes and left the skins on. And I subbed shredded zucchini and parsnips for part of the potatoes. You can also sub carrots, and use any combo you like. It's just nice to get some other veggies in there. Instead of matzoh meal, I used cornmeal and flour, since I don't stock matzoh meal. These were absolutely delicious, a great accompaniment to fish or chicken. I used Mrs. Dash seasoning blend (original blend) as the only seasoning (I had a sample packet), but it worked so well I may just buy some. You can sub salt and pepper if you don't have Mrs. Dash.

Veggie Latkes
Adapted 1/3 recipe from Southern Living
Rating: 9 out of 10

1 lb. total combo of unpeeled red potatoes, unpeeled zucchini and peeled parsnip or carrot
1/3 medium onion
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 egg
1 Tbsp. cornmeal
4 tsp. all-purpose flour (I used Ultra Grain, which is 30% whole wheat)
1/2 tsp. Mrs. Dash seasoning blend (original)
OR rounded 1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt + 1/4 tsp. pepper
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

Grate veggies, including onion, through large holes of a box grater; toss with lemon juice. Spread mixture onto two clean, dry kitchen towels. Roll up each towel, starting with 1 long side. Wring towels to squeeze out excess liquid. Place potato mixture in a medium bowl.

Stir in egg, cornmeal, flour, and seasoning. Mixture will be dry but will hold its shape when pressed together. Loosely form 6 patties.

Melt butter with oil in a large heavy skillet heated to medium-high heat. Drop the patties into hot fat; press lightly to flatten into 3" rounds. Cook 3-5 minutes on each side, or till golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with additional salt, if desired. Serve immediately, or keep warm on wire rack on a baking sheet in a 250F oven up to 30 minutes. Great with homemade applesauce and/or horseradish-sour cream sauce. Yield: 6 patties (Double this recipe for a bigger yield, or visit the Southern Living recipe site for the original recipe which yields about 2 dozen.)

Monday, July 6, 2009


This recipe has no photo -- it was lost when our old computer was reformatted. My blogging friend, Donna, from My Tasty Treasures, uses this super-simple and quick recipe often. I have to agree with Donna: this recipe is good for a standby fave. There are no exotic ingredients, and you don't have to think hard when you make this. It's great for a no-brainer day -- and we all have those, don't we?

I added some basil to the ingredients, since basil and tomato are inseparable for me, and used dried. It's not that I prefer dried herbs -- my garden herbs weren't ready yet when I made this soup. I think fresh Greek oregano would be wonderful in this soup, but I would still have to add some basil; just can't help it. I also upped the half and half and used fat-free. In tomato soups, I like to cut the acidity of the tomatoes with a milk product, and I prefer using low-fat or fat-free products when I can. Lastly, I subbed olive oil for butter because I like to avoid butter when possible. In savory dishes, most of the time, olive oil can be subbed.

Creamy Tomato Soup, adapted slightly
Source: My Tasty Treasures
Rating: 8 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1-3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. dried Turkish oregano (fresh oregano may be subbed -- use 2-3 sprigs)
1/2 tsp. dried Mediterranean basil (fresh basil may be subbed -- use 5-6 leaves)
sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup fat-free half and half
(If using fresh herbs, you will need additional for garnish.)

Heat the oil in a 3-quart heavy pot over medium heat; add onions and cook till transparent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook additional minute. Add tomatoes, broth, herbs and about 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer; cook till thickened, about 45 minutes. (I used my immersion blender at this point to smooth everything out.) Slowly add half and half, stirring constantly. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish soup with fresh oregano or basil and serve with grilled cheese sandwiches, if desired.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


You're probably wondering how little peach pies can be part of Thrifty Thursday. I'll tell you how. It's really quite simple, actually.
You have to learn to save.

When you use a pie crust for a pie or pastry, don't throw the scraps away. Freeze them. When you make a crumble topping for a dessert, don't throw the extra topping away. Add it to a plastic container that you keep in the freezer. It won't matter if the crumble toppings are all different. Save them in the same container.
And, if you can find them, buy these wonderful little pot pie pans. I was lucky and found them on clearance dirt cheap. You can make pot pies in them, but you can also make little peach pies, or little blueberry pies, or ...... use your imagination.
It just so happens that I had just enough pie dough in the freezer to fill one of these little pans. And some crumble topping that I'd been saving, also in the freezer. And some fresh peaches. One pie was plenty for hubby and me. We each had half. And no leftovers! You can double or triple the recipe to make more pies, but it was nice making one itty bitty pie just for the two of us.

Little Peach Pies
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 7" round of pastry dough to fit pot pie pan
1 cup chopped fresh peaches
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. instant tapioca granules
2 tsp. butter
3 Tbsp. crumb topping

Heat oven to 400F. Place pizza stone or unglazed quarry tiles on center rack of oven. Roll out pie dough to fit pan; place in pan; trim and crimp edges. Refrigerate. Combine peaches, lemon juice, sugar, and tapioca in small bowl; toss to mix ingredients. Let stand 15 minutes. Fill crust with peaches. Spoon crumble topping over peaches. Place pan on a square of tinfoil and pull edges up to slightly cover edges of pie. Bake 45-50 minutes, pulling tinfoil away from edges during last 10 minutes of baking. When filling bubbles, remove pie and cool on wire rack.
If you want more tips on how to save, visit Amanda at her blog to see what she and other thrifty bloggers have to say.