Monday, August 31, 2009


Tomato soup is tops on my list of comfort food. I love Tomato Basil Bisque, Fire Roasted Tomato Bisque, Creamy Tomato Soup, Smoky Tomato Soup, and Roasted Tomato Soup. I thought I had tried tomato soup in all its forms, but I was wrong. Grilled Tomato Soup is the best one yet, and my new fave.

The June 2009 issue of Cooking Light had this recipe, titled "Roasted Corn, Pepper and Tomato Chowder," (Italics mine). But the oven was not used. Instead, the veggies were grilled. It sounded great, but I thought it needed a title change to more accurately reflect the cooking method used. CL topped the soup with crumbled blue cheese and fresh chives. I had chives in my garden, but no blue cheese. After tasting the finished soup, I didn't think it needed chives or blue cheese. I cut some cream cheese into little pieces and dropped it on the soup. It wasn't bad, but I still say the soup should stand alone.

Grilling the veggies is easier and faster than roasting them in the oven, and the grilling sweetens and intensifies the flavor, just as if the veggies had been roasted. CL pureed everything, even the corn. I opted to add the corn back in after everything else was pureed. Hubby and I both loved this soup and will be having it again, when more tomatoes are available. (Hubby pulled our plants out and planted green beans because we had another tomato plant ready to produce. But the little gecko that frequents our patio has been eating the tomatoes before they ripen, leaving us with nothing. Oh, well, there's always the farmer's market.)

Grilled Corn, Red Pepper & Tomato Chowder
Adapted from Cooking Light
Rating: 10 out of 10

3 ears shucked corn
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
3 red bell peppers, quartered and seeded
1-1/2 lbs. tomatoes, halved and seeded* (about 4 big ones)
4 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
2-3 (14 oz.) cans fat-free, lower sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp. sea salt (or more if needed)
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Optional garnishes: 1/4 cup (1 oz.) crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

Heat grill to medium-high heat (about 400-425F). Rub corn with 1 Tbsp. EVOO. Arrange bell peppers, skin side down, and corn in a single layer on a grill rack; grill 5 minutes, turning corn as needed to keep from burning. Add tomatoes; grill 5-10 more minutes or till peppers and tomatoes are charred.

Keep turning corn to keep it from getting too charred, and remove it when you see it's done enough. Let peppers and tomatoes get nicely charred skins, and do not turn them.

Remove veggies from heat; cool 10 minutes or till they can be easily handled. Peel skins from peppers and tomatoes, if desired, then coarsely chop. Cut kernels and scrape milk from corn cobs; set aside separately.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in 3-1/2 to 4-quart heavy pot over medium heat. Saute onion till almost caramelized**, about 30-40 minutes, stirring as needed and reducing heat if necessary. (You can cover the pot after you reduce heat, and onions should cook without burning, but be sure to check them.) Stir in tomato-pepper mixture, 1 can chicken broth, salt and pepper; bring to boil; cover, reduce heat to low and cook about 30 minutes to blend flavors. Using an immersion blender, puree soup (or puree in blender in batches and return to pot). Taste soup to adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Add corn and enough additional broth to bring soup to desired consistency. Taste again to see if more seasonings are needed. Garnish as desired. Yield: 5-6 servings

* To seed tomatoes, gently squeeze them until juice, seeds and membrane begin to come out. With fingers, pull out remaining seeds and membrane.

**You do not have to caramelize onions if you don't want or don't have time. I did so because I prefer their sweet, rich taste. Caramelizing the onions definitely adds more flavor to the soup, but it will still be delicious if you just saute the onions till transparent, about 10 minutes.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Coconut-Almond is a great flavor combo, one that never gets old. I found this recipe (for cake) on, and tweaked it to make it my own. These were so very yummy. They're a tad lower in fat since I subbed applesauce for half of the butter. This is a tender but dense-crumb, flavorful cupcake with subtle coconut-almond flavors.

Coconut-Almond Cupcakes
Adapted half recipe from
Rating: 8 out of 10

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. Stevia)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups + 2 Tsp. low-protein flour (White Lily all-purpose or cake flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1/2 cup plain applesauce
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste)
1/4 tsp. almond extract

1 Tbsp. almond liqueur
3 Tbsp. lite coconut milk

TOPPING: 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds

FOR CUPCAKES: Heat oven to 350F. Set out muffin tins and line with paper cups or grease and flour cups. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed of electric mixer till creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each.

Sift flour, measure; sift with baking powder and salt twice in medium bowl (Flour will have been sifted three times, in all. (You may think it's a lot of work to sift the flour so many times, but it makes a definite difference in the finished cake or cupcake.) Add flour mixture alternately with coconut milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating on low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in applesauce and flavorings. Bake 17-20 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn cupcakes out onto wire rack to finish cooling.

TOAST COCONUT AND ALMONDS: Combine coconut and almonds in pie plate; reduce oven heat to 325F; bake about 12 minutes, or till coconut is golden brown; cool.

MAKE COCONUT SYRUP: Combine syrup ingredient in small microwaveable cup; microwave on high 30 seconds; stir till sugar dissolves. Brush tops of warm cupcakes with syrup. Let cool.

8 oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 cups 10 X sugar, sifted
1-1/2 tsp. lite coconut milk, or more if needed
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. coconut extract

In medium bowl, cream the cheese and butter till smooth. Slowly add the sugar, continuing to beat on medium speed till smooth. Add enough coconut milk to make a frosting of spreading consistency. Add extracts and beat on high till smooth and creamy. Spread frosting on tops of cupcakes; sprinkle with toasted coconut and almonds.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Recently, we had hot dogs, chili and corn muffins for dinner. I've made some pretty decent corn muffins in the past, but this time, I think I've topped them all. No, I didn't add berries, bacon or nuts. Instead, I sauteed onions in Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend, then added fresh scraped corn kernels with their milk and some fat-free half and half. I cooked this down a bit, cooled it, then added it to the corn muffin batter. These were the bomb! The sauteed onions and the creamed corn together brought these muffins over the top. Besides the outstanding flavor, the texture of this muffin is soft, tender and moist. These are now my favorite corn muffins; and, though they're a bit more work than opening a box of corn muffin mix, they are oh, so worth it. You can double this recipe to get 18 muffins, or make it as is for about 9 standard, or 6 standard + 12 minis.

Favorite Corn Muffins
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10

1 Tbsp. solid + 4 Tbsp. melted, cooled Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend (or butter or olive oil), divided use
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onions
1 ear fresh corn, kernels and milk scraped clean in two stages (first the kernels, then the milk)
2 Tbsp. + 1/4 cup fat-free half and half (or milk or cream), divided use
3/4 cup Ultra-Grain flour (or all-purpose)
1/4 cup regular cornmeal (not whole grain)
1/2 cup whole-grain cornmeal
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 large or jumbo egg
6 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. lite sour cream

In medium skillet, over medium heat, saute the onions in 1 Tbsp. SB till transparent. Add the corn, corn milk and 2 Tbsp. half and half, and continue to cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, till the mixture is the consistency of a creamed corn. Don't let all the liquid evaporate, but don't let it be too loose. Remove from heat and let cool.

Heat oven to 475F. Spray 9 standard muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray (or 6 standard cups + 12 mini). Combine flour, cornmeals, baking powder and salt in small bowl. In medium bowl, whisk egg, sugar, and melted, cooled 4 Tbsp. SB till smooth. Whisk in sour cream and
1/4 cup H&H till again smooth. Stir in dry ingredients all at once and gently mix with spoon or spatula, just till barely combined. Fold in corn and onion mixture and don't worry about lumps. Do not overmix. Divide batter among muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup for standard muffins and about 1-1/2 Tbsp. for minis. Place muffins in oven, close door, and immediately reduce heat to 400F. Bake about 12 min. for minis, about 15 min. for standards, or till toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs. These will not brown, so be sure to test them before you think they're done. Transfer muffins to wire rack and cool in pans 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling or serve immediately.

Muffins are easy to freeze -- just put them in a plastic container and pull one out when you want one -- nuke it for 20-30 seconds and let sit for 1 minute, then serve. Or wrap in tinfoil and place on grill or in oven alongside your other items.

Monday, August 24, 2009


This soup is so easy to make and so tasty, I may never make split pea soup again, much to my hubby's consternation. Of course, you can buy fresh peas and sit there and shuck them, but frozen organic peas were my choice. Most of the work had already been done for me. Serve this with a slice of pizza or a grilled cheese sandwich and you have a complete meal.

Quick and Easy Frozen Pea Soup
Adapted loosely from, Lizz C., Recipe ID 95110
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 2 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 lb. bag frozen organic peas, rinsed and drained
Sea salt and pepper to taste
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 (14 oz) can low-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
Optional: 1/4 cup fat-free half and half
Optional Garnish: cooked crumbled bacon & additional thyme sprigs

In 3-quart heavy pot, melt SB over medium heat; saute onions and garlic till soft, about 5 minutes. Add peas, salt, pepper and thyme sprigs. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until peas are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs, then use immersion blender to puree soup (or pour soup into blender in 2 batches to puree and return to pot). Stir in broth. If desired, top each serving with some half and half, bacon and thyme sprigs. Yield: about 4 servings (This freezes very well.)

Friday, August 21, 2009


You've got to hand it to Southern Living -- sometimes they come up with really good recipes. This frosting recipe is to die for -- that is, if you like chocolate and mint together. Actually, their recipe calls for peppermint schnapps. Since I didn't feel like buying a bottle of schnapps that would probably sit for 10 years in my cupboard, I decided to improvise with what I had (peppermint extract and cream de cocoa). This frosting will take a so-so cupcake to a sublime level.

Chocolate Mint Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Southern Living
Rating: 10 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (if using creme de cocoa -- do not use with mint liqueurs)
1-1/2 Tbsp. cream de cocoa or peppermint schnapps or creme de menthe
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/2 box 10X sugar (1 box is 16 oz.)
1/2 - 1 Tbsp. fat-free half and half or milk
2 oz. finely chopped good quality bittersweet chocolate, 60-70% cacao

In medium bowl, beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, alternately with milk, until frosting is of desired consistency. Beat in chocolate. Yield: about 1-1/4 cups


Mike Douglas was a TV personality in the 60's and 70's, for all you young'ns out there. He was an avid cook, and even penned a cookbook. This recipe was printed in a magazine in the 60's. I added some "coffee essence" to it to bring out the chocolate flavor. Instead of cake, I made cupcakes, and used a half recipe. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. These are not the best chocolate cupcakes I've ever had, but they're good.

Mike Douglas' Buttermilk Chocolate Cake, adapted
Rating: 8 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2-1/2 large eggs, room temperature, yolk and white separated
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1-1/4 cups cake flour, sifted, spooned lightly into cup
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coffee essence (mix equal parts of instant coffee with coffee liqueur)

Heat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups. In medium bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer. Add egg yolks and melted chocolate. Beat well.

Sift together flour, soda and salt in small bowl. Add alternately to creamed mixture with buttermilk. Stir in vanilla and coffee essence. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Spoon into cupcake liners, dividing batter evenly. Bake 16-18 minutes, or till toothpick inserted near center of cupcake returns with just a few crumbs. Cool in pans 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling, about 1 hour. Frost with favorite frosting. (SL's Chocolate Mint Buttercream Frosting is delicious on these.) Yield: 12 cupcakes

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


We went to a crab party a few weeks ago. My hubby took some photos in between cooking batches of crabs. That's me in the pink, going for "one more" crab. They were so sweet, meaty and delicious. We decorated the tables with our crab paper and Guy's crab boards, and had a really good time.

I don't know what it is with Guy, but he always gets me in the most dignified poses, like with my mouth open, eating some delicious Mediterranean chicken orzo salad. All the photos are on my other blog, if you want to see them and read more about the party.
It was potluck in addition to the crabs. I brought green bean and radish salad, these delicious blueberry bars, and Peanutty Peanut Butter Bars (recipe to post soon). I used fresh blueberries to make the bars, but frozen would be fine, too. They were just sweet enough for me, and the oats and whole wheat were perfect with the fruit. For you purists out there, adding a touch of cinnamon and cardamom will not destroy the blueberry flavor. In fact, it enhances it. And you will not know you have added spices, because they work in the background. Honest. Try it once and you may be converted. These bars are easy and good and I'll be making them again. I promise you they don't taste of lemon, orange, cinnamon and cardamom. They taste of blueberries.

Whole-Grain Blueberry Crumb Bars
Adapted from, A. Beavers, Recipe ID 10462
Rating: 9 out of 10
CRUST: 1 cup sugar
2 cups white whole wheat (or whole wheat) flour, whisked first then lightly spooned into cup
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. molasses
1 cup (2 sticks) Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend
1 large egg
Heat oven to 375F. Grease a 9" x 13" pan. In work bowl of food processor, combine sugar, flour, oats, zest, baking powder, salt and molasses. Pulse till well mixed. Cut butter into pieces and add with egg to flour mixture. Pulse till mixture is a crumbly dough, and ingredients are well distributed. Pat half of dough into prepared pan.
FILLING: 4 cups blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/ tsp. orange zest
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
In large bowl, combine all ingredients, stirring gently so as not to break the berries. Spoon the fruit mixture over the crust evenly. Crumble the remaining half of dough over the berry layer. Bake about 50 minutes, or till top is nicely browned and filling bubbles. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
These are nice party bars because they can easily be picked up. I had no trouble removing them from the pan either. However, they have a good amount of sugar and fat, so eat sparingly. These are not healthful. They are just a little less harmful because of the whole grains.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Last Wednesday, on my way home from Morehead City, I ran into an intense storm system and wound up in a ditch filled with water. My car was totaled because of the flooding, but I was unhurt. I'm currently driving a rental car, waiting for the insurance company to settle our claim. So this week, it's dessert all week. That makes sense, right?

Anne Overeboe, a County Fair Judge, produced this recipe, but I'm not sure if her cookies won a prize of if this is what she thinks it takes to win a prize. Whatever....these are some good cookies. They're not quite as chewy as I'd like, but they are slightly crispy with soft centers and a delicate crumb, nicely browned, not overly sweet, but sweet enough, with a hint of orange (my addition).

I added nuts though, because I do prefer nuts in my CCC. I also added creme de cacao, subbed some Stevia for part of the sugar and subbed Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend for the butter.

The chocolate I used contributed to the richness of this cookie -- a combination of Nestle Chocolatier 62% Cacao Bittersweet chocolate chips; Ghirdadelli Intense Dark Citrus Sunset 60% cacao bar; and Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips. The orange undertones in the Ghiradelli bar came through nicely without overpowering the cookie.

For nuts, I used a combo of toasted walnuts and pecans and salted Brazil nuts from a can of mixed nuts. The brazil nuts, when chopped, resemble macadamia nuts in appearance and flavor.
Usually, I like to mix cookies by hand -- this avoids overheating the butter which contributes to a flat cookie. But I decided to make the full recipe, and thought it was just too much batter to mix by hand. I carefully mixed this with my KA mixer, keeping it on low and not overmixing -- the cookies did not deflate after they cooled.
Blue Ribbon Fair Cookies
Adapted from Anne Overboe
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup low-protein flour (such as White Lily all-purpose or cake flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1-1/4 cups sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 4-1/2 tsp. Stevia)
1-1/4 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter (I used Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend)
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. creme de cacao or other liqueur of choice
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks, or combo (see my notes above)
1-1/4 cups toasted nuts of choice (my addition, omit if you don't like nuts)
Heat oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment. Whisk flours well before measuring, then spoon lightly into measuring cup. In medium bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, soda and salt together till combined; set aside.
In large bowl, combine sugars and SB on low speed of mixer till smooth, about 1 minute. Add eggs, liqueur and vanilla and continue to beat on low till eggs are incorporated. Scrape bowl well. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed just till barely combined. Stir in chocolate and nuts using mixer or spatula by hand. Using a 2" diameter ice-cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets 2" apart.

Do not push balls down -- leave them as they come out of the scoop, nice and rounded and high.

Bake 12-14 minutes, or till cookies are light golden brown. Do not overbake. (Mine took 12 minutes, and I used a toothpick inserted in center to tell me if they were done.) They won't puff up in the oven; instead, they'll kind of melt down.
Cool cookies in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling. (This is supposed to help make them chewy, but they're not chewy.) This recipe is supposed to make 40 cookies, but I got 24 (3-1/2") cookies. I probably used more dough for each cookie, but I do like mine nicely big and fat -- make yours the way you like them. Either way, everyone is loving these. And when I eat one, I momentarily forget all about last week's disaster and the fact that I lost the car I loved (3-year old Honda Accord with 5,500 miles).

Friday, August 14, 2009


This is a wonderfully flavorful and light dessert muffin with chocolate chips incorporated in a crunchy, sweet topping and drizzled with warm caramel. To make it a little less sinful, I reduced the fat and sugar and switched the all-purpose flour to Ultragrain (30% whole wheat). The nice thing about the changes is that no one will know. The muffin doesn't taste "healthy," and, in fact, it isn't healthy. It has chocolate, sugar and some butter in it, in addition to the caramel topping and flour. Did you know there are over 400 calories in 1 cup of flour, whether it's whole grain or stripped all-purpose? This muffin will impact your diet a little less than it would with the original ingredients, but it will still impact your diet. You can find the original recipe on the Land o' Lakes website, along with some other great recipes.

Coffee Cake Streusel Muffins
Adapted from Land o' Lakes
Rating: 8 out of 10
STREUSEL TOPPING: 2/3 cup milk chocolate chips (or semi-sweet, if you prefer)
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, broken or chopped
3 Tbsp. quick oats
1/4 cup sugar (I used 3/4 tsp. Stevia + 2 Tbsp. brown sugar)
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in small bowl; set aside.
MUFFINS: 2 Tbsp. melted butter
3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 Tbsp. Stevia)
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. coffee essence*
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup Ultragrain flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour, if preferred)
1/2 cup quick oats (not instant)
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
*Coffee essence: Combine equal parts of instant coffee granules and coffee brandy, or your favorite liqueur. Store in fridge to use as needed.
DRIZZLE: Purchased caramel topping
Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray, or grease well.
In medium bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, eggs, and flavorings. Add sour cream and applesauce and whisk till smooth and well combined. In a separate large bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Add wet ingredients all at once to dry ingredients and whisk lightly, till just barely combined. Do not overmix.
Spoon half of batter into muffin wells. Top with half the streusel. Repeat. Bake 16-17 minutes, or till muffins are done. (Test with toothpick.) Cool in pans 10 minutes, then lift muffins out of pans onto wire rack to finish cooling. Before serving drizzle with microwaved caramel topping, if desired. Yield: 12 muffins

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


There is something homey and comforting about soup, especially tomato soup. I love trying different tomato soup recipes, and when I saw this one on 101 Cookbooks, I knew I had to try it. (Since we're having a glut of tomatoes from our two plants right now, it was an easy decision. This is also the best tomato crop we've had in years. The tomatoes are almost as good as Jersey tomatoes, and that is saying something!)

I'll tell you upfront, this is not a fast soup -- if you want a faster recipe, try Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque, or Creamy Tomato Soup. This soup has no cream or milk in it, and it doesn't need any. It tastes great as is. The only changes I made were to add fresh thyme sprigs, jalapeno pepper and1/4 tsp. ground chipotle chile pepper. This is our new favorite tomato soup recipe.

Roasted Tomato Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 5 large tomatoes, quartered, seeds squeezed or pushed out with fingers
7-8 fresh thyme sprigs
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
3 medium yellow onions, peeled, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and halved
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste
5 plump cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable stock, if preferred
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. dried, ground chipotle chile pepper (McCormick)
Preheat oven to 375F and position racks in middle of oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or grease with oil. Arrange tomatoes, skin-side down, on one baking sheet. Toss the peppers and onions with olive oil and put them on the other baking sheet, skin-side down for the peppers. Give both sheets a light showering of salt and lay the thyme sprigs over all.
Bake until the tomatoes start to collapse and the onions start to brown and caramelize, about 1 hour. You may have to turn the onions if they start to get dark brown on the edges. Set the timer for 30 minutes, then put the garlic cloves in. If you put them in too soon, they'll burn.

If you do a good job of squeezing the seeds out of the tomatoes, you won't have to pour off the tomato juice about half-way through. The first time I made this soup, I had to pour off juice several times, because I left the seeds in. Subsequently, I found that by squeezing the seeds out first, and the accompanying membrane-liquid, the tomatoes don't give off so much juice as they roast. If you get a lot of juice and don't pour it off, the tomatoes will steam and not roast. If you do pour off juice, save it and add it back into the soup after it's pureed.

Remove veggies from oven when done and let cool on wire rack till you can handle them. Peel the garlic. It's up to you whether you peel the tomatoes and peppers. I did, but the peel has flavor and if you're going to puree the soup any way, you won't notice them in the soup. Dump all the veggies into a 3-quart heavy pot and puree with an immersion blender. If you don't have one, you'll have to use a food processor or blender and do it in batches. Pour the broth in, adding a little at a time till you get the soup to its desired consistency. Add seasonings and taste to adjust. Yield: 1 quart pulp without broth. (This freezes beautifully and will take up less space in the freezer if you do not add the broth until you thaw it. What a great fall/winter treat to reach in the freezer and pull out your soup for dinner -- just add broth, heat and serve. Now that's easy!)

Monday, August 10, 2009


This is a great way to use up some of the Basil-Pecan Pesto that we just made. It makes the chicken taste so yummy, and pesto (with the good fat of extra-virgin olive oil) takes the place of some of the bad fat (mayo), so it's healthier.

And it's easy......Just put some pesto in a bowl. Add some avocado and a squirt of lime or lemon juice and mash it in. Stir in some mayo (preferably lite). Now mix in your shredded chicken. You can eat this as is or make a sandwich with it. Try this, because it's really good and good for you.


Our garden is producing plenty of tomatoes for soup, salads and the like, but the basil plants are not doing that well. I managed to eke out 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, and concocted this recipe, which is the best basil pesto I have eaten thus far. Basil pesto is easy to make if you have the fresh basil leaves and other ingredients. I quickly mixed it up, then dropped tablespoonfuls onto plastic wrap that got tucked inside a small freezer container. When I want some pesto, I just have to reach in the container and pull out a packet. It thaws pretty quickly and can be mixed with mashed avocado and a tiny bit of mayo for a delightful sandwich spread. (You can leave out the avocado if you don't have it.) The point is you are subbing healthful ingredients for not-so-healthful mayo and adding some great flavor to your sandwich, cracker or baguette.
My trusty immersion blender comes in very handy for this task. The Braun comes with several attachments.

The dry ingredients go into the little blender jar and get chopped fine.

Then the olive oil is added and you blend again. Finis. It's that simple. Doesn't take long at all.

I was experimenting with this recipe, but really, really like it. The flavors are perfect, and I'll definitely be making more as my basil grows. You won't get much with this recipe -- less than 1/2 cup -- but you can double or triple the amounts if you have more basil.

Basil Pecan Pesto
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 10 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1-1/2 Tbsp. good-quality Romano cheese, cut into small chunks
2 Tbsp. toasted pecans
1 medium garlic clove
sea salt and pepper to taste (I didn't add very much -- start with 2 pinches and taste it)
1/2 - 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (start with 1/2 tsp. and taste it; add more if needed)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (add more if needed, but this should do it)

In blender or work bowl of mini-food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil. Pulse till everything is ground fine; add oil and process till it becomes a loose paste. Use immediately or refrigerate or freeze as desired.

8/9/09 Update: The basil started to grow, with all the rain we've been having. I picked 1-1/2 cups packed (about 2-1/4 cups loose), so I tripled the recipe, but had to use my Cuisinart to make it, because it was too much for the little Braun chopper. And, btw, you may think the Braun is pricey, but it's the only one that doesn't splash. It's well worth the price and I totally love it.

I made a delicious sandwich with leftover pork tenderloin and leftover sweet potato mash and some pesto mixed with avocado and just a dab of mayo. It was super yummy. Sweet potato mash is fantastic on a sandwich.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Last year I made Williams Sonoma's Summer Fresh Peach Cobbler, and it was wonderful. This year, I tried to improve on it. With a rating of 10 out of 10, there wasn't much room to make it any better, but I wanted to try anyway. Since I love frangipane (peach, pear or any other kind), I thought I would work off the idea of using almond meal in the dough. And since I love Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust, I thought I would sub Limoncello (a lemonny vodka liqueur) for the water in the dough. I also subbed some white whole wheat flour for part of the all-purpose, and used Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend in place of butter. And I put some Limoncello in the filling.

No disappointments here. Though the crust flavor was not like a frangipane, there definitely was a difference. It was light, flaky and tender and had lots of flavor thanks to the almonds and Limoncello.

Yes, I'll be making this again, for sure. Guy requested it.

Limoncello-Almond Peach Cobbler
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Summer Fresh Cobbler
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup almond meal ***see note below
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt
3 Tbsp. sugar for crust + 1/3 cup for filling + 1 tsp. for topping
8 Tbsp. Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend cut into small pieces, divided use
1 egg, divided use
3 Tbsp. Limoncello, divided use
4 cups sliced peaches (about 2 lbs)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
In work bowl of food processor, combine almond meal, flours, 3 Tbsp. sugar and salt; pulse to combine. Add 7 Tbsp. SB and pulse till mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. SB pieces should be no larger than small peas. In small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and 2 Tbsp. Limoncello; pour over flour mixture and pulse in quick, short motions till dough pulls together. Do not overmix. Transfer dough to work surface; divide into two pieces. Pat each into a ball, then into discs. Refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 30 minutes. (Freeze for up to 3 months. )
Heat oven to 425F. Butter a 1-1/2 quart rectangular, square or round baking dish; set aside. In large bowl, stir together peaches, 1/3 cup sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, Limoncello, and cinnamon. Transfer to baking dish; dot with remaining 1 Tbsp. butter. Roll out 1 disc of pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4" thickness and sized to fit inside the top of your baking pan. Lay the pastry dough over the peaches and trim edges as desired. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl; brush the top of the pastry dough with the egg white and sprinkle with the remaining tsp. of sugar. Bake 10 minutes at 425F, then reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 55 minutes, or till juices bubble and crust is nicely browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Yield: 5-6 servings

***If you don't have almond meal, not to worry -- you can make your own very easily.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


It amazes me what the chefs on "Chopped" can concoct with the crazy ingredients in their baskets (bacon and chocolate, e.g.) But, on a lesser scale, it's what we home cooks do all the time. I don't know about you, but I am rooting for Melissa to be the next Food Network Star. Wouldn't that be the greatest validation of home cooks ever?

This home cook concocted corn salad out of the ingredients at hand, mainly summer's fresh bounty from our own garden, local farm stands and a friend's garden. It all came together in this wonderful summery cool salad. Even my picky hubby loved this, served with grilled pork tenderloin.

Chile-Lime Corn Salad
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 2 ears fresh corn, cooked, kernels and milk scraped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp. minced chile pepper (jalapeno or serrano)
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl; taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper and/or chile pepper as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate to blend flavors. Yield: 3-4 small servings or 2 big servings.

You can also add cumin or ground chipotle chile pepper, and even a bit of honey if you like. Double or triple the quantities if you want to serve more people.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Last Thanksgiving, I was given a jar of tangerine marmalade, and it's been nagging at me to do something with it. I don't eat toast or other breads with jam, so that wasn't an option. No, I had to cook something with it. But what?
I decided to try it as a glaze for chicken wings, but wanted the wings to have some heat. So I sprinkled them with a chile mix before grilling them, then finished them off with the marmalade glaze during the last 10 minutes. And they were delicious. Guy liked them too. The bitter-sweet taste of the marmalade goes really well with the chile rub. The wings have a touch of sweetness and a touch of heat, just enough of both. Since I have most of the jar of marmalade left, it looks like we'll be having chicken wings a lot.

Marmalade Chili Wings
Source: Judy's Kitchen
Rating: 9 out of 10

INGREDIENTS: 8 chicken wings
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. chipotle chile powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper or cayenne
1/4 cup marmalade
2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 Tbsp. water or chicken broth

Rinse chicken well under cold running water; pat dry with paper towels. Place chicken on tray or pan. Combine spices in cup; sprinkle over chicken.

Cover and refrigerate till ready to cook. Preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium hot (400-425F). Place chicken on grill, preferably over indirect heat, and cook about 20 minutes, or till almost done. In small bowl, stir together marmalade, orange juice concentrate and water; brush mixture over chicken, turning to coat both sides. Grill 5-10 minutes longer or till chicken is nicely browned and juices run clear when pierced with a fork or knife.