Friday, June 24, 2011


niman ranch pork tenderloin (3)

Oven- or stovetop-cooked pork tenderloin doesn’t excite me.  Grilled pork tenderloin, on the other hand, is one of my favorite dinners.  I’ve tried several recipes, looking for the best:  Indonesian Pork Tenderloin, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette, Southern Living's Tortilla-Crusted Pork and Easy Lemon-Soy-Grilled Pork Tenderloin.  They were all good, but the one I keep going back to is Indonesian Pork Tenderloin because of the spicy combo of flavors. 

Thanks to my local newspaper, I now have a new recipe that I’ll be using a lot.  The coffee rub and grilling sauce were intended for steaks, but go beautifully with pork.  Especially when it’s Niman Ranch pork.  No more Smithfield pork tenderloin for me.  Once you taste Niman Ranch’s pork, there’s no going back.  Yes, it’s pricey, but I look for packages that are marked down because they’re near or at their expiration date.  When it comes to beef and pork, that’s actually a good buy.  Beef or pork that’s sitting longer has a better flavor because it’s aging as it sits.  (Don’t try this with poultry or fish, though.  They need to be absolutely fresh.)  If your grocery store doesn’t carry Niman Ranch, try to find one that does.  And, full disclosure, I’m not being compensated in any way for this endorsement.  This is a product that I love, love, love.

niman ranch pork tenderloin

Coffee-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Espresso Grilling Sauce
Adapted from The Sun Journal
Rating:  10 out of 10

1 Tbsp. coarse sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 tsp. coarse ground coriander seed (I used fine ground, it’s all I had)
1 tsp. coarse ground coffee beans (I used leftover coffee grounds that were still moist)
1 tsp. coarse ground black peppercorns
1 pork tenderloin, about 1 to 1-1/2 lbs.

Mix salt, coriander seed, coffee beans and peppercorns.  Yield:  2 Tbsp.
Rub over pork tenderloin.  Cover and refrigerate meat or leave out at room temperature for up to 1 hour before grilling. 

1 cup brewed dark-roast coffee (I used decaf)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown mustard
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp. orange or lemon juice
2 Tbsp. hot pepper sauce
2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. coarse salt

Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Store in a tightly closed container for up to 1 month.  Use it to baste or accompany beef, lamb, duck, wild game or pork.  Yield:  about 2-1/3 cups

Leave rubbed tenderloin out at room temperature about 45 minutes before grilling.  Heat gas grill to 425F with one burner turned off.  (Turn on all burners and get grill very hot; then turn off one burner and adjust to 425F.)  Oil grates using a wadded paper towel that’s been dipped in vegetable oil.  Place meat on oiled grates over a burner that’s lit.  Sear meat about 4-5 minutes per side, then transfer to a burner that’s not lit to finish cooking.  Baste meat with grilling sauce once when transferring to turn-off burner, and again in about 10 minutes.  Cooking time will depend on thickness of meat.  It’s not necessary to turn the meat once it’s on the turned-off burner.  Check for doneness with a meat thermometer that’s placed in the side of the fattest part of meat.  Be sure thermometer only goes to the center part of the meat, and not all the way through.   Baste, then remove meat when thermometer registers 155F.  Cover and let rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.  If desired, serve additional sauce with meat a serving time.  If you’re lucky enough to have meat left over, it makes wonderful sandwiches the next day.

niman ranch pork tenderloin (2)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


artichokes (5)

In the Hungarian-German household I grew up in, artichokes were unheard of.  So when I married into a Sicilian family, some of their foods at first seemed odd to me.  Cooking a big, fat artichoke with garlic, pepper and Parmesan cheese and then scraping each leaf against your teeth is definitely strange.  Most of the outer part of the artichoke is discarded, and none of the leaves are chewed.  As you work your way towards the prize – the heart, or center of the artichoke – the aromatic leaves are to be enjoyed and savored. 

Nutritionally speaking, artichokes are  low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol.  They’re a good source of Vitamin C, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Folate and Manganese.

If you’ve never tasted a freshly cooked artichoke, don’t wait any longer.  This delicious delicacy will become one of your favorite dishes, and they’re so easy to prepare.  Try to find artichokes that have just come in for the best-tasting and most tender leaves.  I’m partial to the super-sized ones that are great to share as an appetizer.  As you sit around, pulling off leaves, then scraping them and discarding them in a pile, conversation will flow naturally.  And when you reach the prize, it can be divvied up.  My mouth is watering  just thinking about it.

Italian Artichokes
Rating:  10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS:  1 super-sized fresh artichoke, rinsed well
1 Tbsp. or more of finely grated fresh garlic
1/2 tsp. good sea salt, such as grey salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup or more of freshly grated good-quality imported Parmesan cheese
2-3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Trim stem from artichoke so it will lay flat in the pot.
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Spread artichoke leaves open, being careful not to break them. 
artichokes (2)

Stuff leaves with garlic. 
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Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle and stuff with cheese.  Place in a pot with a few inches of water.  Sprinkle some salt over the water.  Drizzle olive oil over artichoke and water. 
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Bring to a boil, cover pot and reduce heat to a high simmer.  Cook artichoke for about 35-40 minutes, or till fork tender.  Drain and serve.  Delicious hot, room temperature or cold. 

To eat:  Pull off one leaf at a time.  Scrape leaf (with stuffing) against your teeth.  Discard leaf. 

When leaves are off, the heart remains, covered with fibrous “hairs.”  Pull off hairs to reveal a smooth heart that can be eaten as is.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Admittedly, I'm not a cake decorator, though I may take a course some day when I have time.  Without those decorating skills, my homemade cakes are plain janes at best, ugly ducklings at worst.  But I have friends that are very understanding and accommodating.  This birthday cake is a recent example.  (The cake, by the way, was delicious, if not beautiful.)  Read more...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011



Chick peas have a very low glycemic index, which means they create steady blood sugar and are especially healthful for diabetics.  Curry powder contains curcumin, an antioxidant believed to be anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic.


This recipe, published in USA Weekend in 2005, caught my eye because I’m a hummus fanatic and I love curry. 


It's so quick and easy and I love the flavor of it so much that it has become my go-to hummus.  If you want a creamier texture, just add more olive oil. 

Curried Hummus
Adapted from Jean Carper, USA Weekend, 2005
Rating:  9 out of 10
1 (15.5 oz.) can chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 garlic cloves (about 1 tsp. chopped)
2 tsp. Hot Madras curry powder, or other curry powder of choice
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. water
scant 1/2 tsp. sea salt
optional:  2 drops Tabasco or hot sauce

Place all ingredients in work bowl of food processor and blend till smooth.  Serve drizzled with olive oil if desired, with pita chips or crackers of choice.  Makes about 1 cup.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


blueberry swirl bars (4)

Here is a perfect dessert for a summer barbecue or picnic.  The tangy flavors of citrus and blueberry combine perfectly in a creamy cheesecake that sits atop a buttery, tender whole-wheat shortbread crust.
Southern Living Magazine’s recipe for Strawberry-Lemon Shortbread Bars was the inspiration for my adaptation.  SL used strawberry preserves on top of the crust and topped the preserves with cheesecake filling.  It sounded too sweet for me.  Most commercial jams taste more like corn syrup than fruit, IMHO.

blueberry swirl bars (2)

My blueberry puree has less than a tablespoon of sugar per cup of blueberries.  Because the blueberries are cooked down, the blueberry flavor and sweetness are intensified, requiring less sugar.  You’ll really taste the blueberries in this dessert, and you won't feel deprived of sugar.

blueberry swirl bars

Blueberry Swirl-Lemon Shortbread Bars
Adapted from Southern Living Magazine, April 2011
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

Blueberry Puree: 
5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup sugar

In 3-quart saucepan, combine blueberries and sugar over medium-high heat.  Bring mixture to a boil and cook down to about 1-1/4 cups, or till mixture is jam-like in consistency, about 20-25 minutes.  Stir as needed to prevent scorching.  Puree with immersion blender, or transfer mixture to food processor or blender to puree.  Cool.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose, if preferred)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

Heat oven to 350F.  Combine ingredients in work bowl of food processor.  Pulse till crumbly.   Press onto bottom of lightly greased 13 x 9 pan.  Bake 20-22 minutes, or till lightly browned.

Cheesecake Filling: 
16 oz. cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In work bowl of food processor, combine cheese, sugar and lemon zest.  Pulse till smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing each till just incorporated.  Add juice with last egg.  Scrape bottom and sides of bowl to be sure everything is mixed well.  Pour over hot crust.  Drop puree by large tablespoonfuls over filling, then swirl with knife to create a marbled effect.

blueberry swirl bars (3)

(You may have about 1 cup of puree left over, and it is absolutely delicious with toast, oatmeal or heck, just straight out of the jar. )  Bake 28-32 more minutes or till set.  Cool one hour on wire rack.  Cover and chill 4-8 hours or overnight.  Cut into squares to serve.  Yield will depend on size of squares.

blueberry swirl bars (7)

Friday, June 10, 2011


orange cc pecan muffins

True beauty is on the inside, right?  Remember that if you make these muffins.  They’re not much to look at.  There’s no streusel topping or chocolate drizzle to catch your eye, and they don’t even crown nicely.  Oh, they puff up in the oven, but then they deflate and look defeated.  Not to worry.  Once you sink your teeth into these babies, you’ll forget about their outside appearance.  A faint orange flavor pairs beautifully with a rich, buttery taste…. and chocolate.  The muffin has a very tender, moist crumb. 

orange cc pecan muffins (8)

These are good no matter how you serve them, but just remember when they’re warm the chocolate chips are gooey.  I’m just sayin’.

You know I love Ghiradelli’s bittersweet chocolate chips, but this time I used Harris Teeter’s semi-sweet chocolate chips.  The 11.5 oz. package was only $1.97, and they’re quite good.  And then I found American Basics yogurt at Wal-Mart for 33 cents, making these muffins a real bargain.  

Though I’d like to give credit to the person who posted this recipe (which I’ve adapted quite a bit), I cannot remember the name of his blog. 

Orange-Chocolate Chip-Pecan Muffins
Adapted from an unknown blogger
Rating:  10 out of 10

1-1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 orange, washed, quartered, seeded
1 large egg
7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, cooled
2 (6 oz.) containers vanilla low-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1/2 cup sugar

Heat oven to 400F.  Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. 

Chop orange sections into smaller pieces, then pulse them in the work bowl of a food processor several times, till finely chopped.  Add egg, butter, yogurt, lemon juice, orange extract and sugar and pulse several times till mixture is well mixed.  Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix lightly with a spoon or spatula.  Do not over mix.  It’s okay if there are some lumps.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup for each. 

orange cc pecan muffins (6)

Bake 15-20 minutes, or  till a toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs.  Yield:  12 delicious muffins

orange cc pecan muffins (7)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


potato salad (2)

Sometimes a small tweak is all you need to change a great recipe to a really great recipe.  My go-to potato salad is a real crowd pleaser.  I’ve tried others, but it’s the one I keep going back to.  The warm sliced, cooked Idaho potatoes are marinated in a dressing of vegetable oil, cider vinegar, salt, pepper and onions.  When cooled, they’re mixed with sliced celery, chopped hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise mixed with light cream. 

 Here’s what I did:  I used Yukon Gold potatoes.  Instead of cooking the potatoes whole and then peeling them when they’re cooked and still hot, I peeled them BEFORE cooking them, and cut them into cubes.  They cooked a lot faster (about 8 minutes, vs. 20-25 minutes) and I didn’t burn my fingers from peeling hot potatoes.  I used extra-virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar in the dressing instead of the usual vegetable oil and cider vinegar.  I chopped the celery instead of slicing it, and added the mayo straight instead of diluting it with cream. 

The transformation was nothing short of amazing.  Hubby and I couldn’t stop raving over this potato salad.  This is the way I’ll be making it from now on.

What a perfect accompaniment to our steak dinner, along with some sauteed beet greens.
potato salad

Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for

3 medium-size Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
2 Tbsp. Colavita extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp.  Colavita white balsamic vinegar
1/2 medium-size onion, chopped fine (about 1/3 cup)
3/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/3 – 1/2 cup lite mayonnaise (Hellmann’s or Duke)
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced
1/2 cup diced celery

Cover potatoes with water  in 2-quart pot.  Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and bring to low boil over medium heat.  Cook about 5 minutes, or till potatoes are fork tender.  Drain; cool slightly and return to pot.  Prepare dressing:  Combine oil, vinegar, chopped onion, salt and pepper in a jar with a screw top.  Cover jar and shake to mix. Pour over warm potatoes and toss to mix well.  Cover pot and refrigerate for several hours or overnight to blend flavors and cool potatoes thoroughly.   Just  before serving:  Stir in mayonnaise, diced eggs and celery, and toss lightly.  Line a salad bowl with Boston lettuce, if desired, and fill bowl with salad.  Sprinkle top with paprika and serve.  Yield:  6-8 servings

Monday, June 6, 2011


DSC01930 Lemon is a summertime flavor.  There’s something refreshing and almost cooling with tart citrus, even when it’s just in a cookie.  That’s why I pulled this recipe out of my file to repost.  The record-setting heat made me do it.  For you, of course.

You don’t have to use lemon flavors.  Southern Living used spice flavors, a 5-sided star cutter and red and blue sprinkles.  So nice for the 4th of July.  I couldn’t find a 5-sided star cutter, and red and blue sprinkles were really pricey, so I improvised. 

Either way, this is a great summertime cookie.

Frosted Lemon Cookies
Adapted from Southern Living
Rating:  8 out of 10

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup White Lily self-rising flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 packets True Lemon (or 2 tsp. lemon juice)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. orange zest
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Sift together first 4 ingredients in a bowl. In a medium-large bowl, whisk butter, cream cheese and sugars by hand or with electric mixer till very smooth.   Add egg yolk, zests and vanilla and whisk again till very smooth. Stir in flour mixture with spatula, mixing till just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F.   Place dough on floured surface; roll to 1/4" thickness; cut with cookie cutter of choice. Place 1" apart on ungreased, parchment-lined baking sheets.   Bake 8-10 minutes or till cookies are set and just beginning to brown around edges. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Yield: 26 cookies
Lemon-Cream Cheese Frosting
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. cream cheese, softened good pinch of sea salt
2 packets True Lemon (or 2 tsp. lemon juice)
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1-1/2 cups 10X sugar (confectioner's)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 Tbsp. fat-free half and half (or more if needed to make a spreading consistency)

In small bowl, with electric mixer, whip butter, cream cheese, salt, True Lemon, lemon zest and 1/2 cup of 10X sugar on low speed till combined; then whip at medium speed till smooth and fluffy.   Gradually add remaining 10X sugar, vanilla and half and half.   Add more half and half, if needed, to make a frosting of spreading consistency.   (I only used 1/2 Tbsp.)
When cookies are cool, spread a thin layer of frosting over the tops. Sprinkle with crushed nuts or sprinkles of choice.   (If freezing: Air dry on racks for 1 hour before layering them in a container for the freezer. The frosting will harden just enough that you will be able to layer them.)

(This post is supported by Reader's Digest of Canada.  More recipes for SUGAR COOKIES can be found on their website.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011



Spanokopita or spinach pie is a Greek savory pastry with a filling of chopped spinach, feta cheese, eggs and seasoning.  The filling is wrapped or layered in phyllo pastry, either in a large pan from which individual servings are cut, or rolled into individual triangular servings.  It is mostly eaten as a snack in Greece.    In the US, spanokopita is available in the frozen foods section of most grocery stores.  If you’ve never tasted it, you are really missing out.

spanokopita (2)

Spanokopita is not hard to make at all.  If you’re afraid of phyllo dough, don’t be.  It’s extremely easy to work with and also is available in the frozen foods section of most grocery stores.  To get the authentic flavor of spanokopita, you’ll need fresh dill.  If you don’t have dill in your herb garden, pay for fresh dill from your grocery store.  There is no substitute here and it just won’t be the same without it. 

spanokopita (4) 

Since beet greens and spinach are so similar in taste and texture, I decided to use my boatload of beet greens to make some of this delicious delicacy.  The bulk of my spanokopita went into – you guessed it – my freezer.  When I have a snack attack, I just take a few out and bake them.  They’re also delicious as a bread replacement for your lunch or dinner salad.  Sometimes for dinner I just have a salad with leftover chicken or fish and the spanokopita.  

Beet Green Spanokopita
Adapted from
Rating:  10 out of 10

3/4 lb. fresh beet greens or spinach, washed, drained
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, minced
1 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
4 oz. good-quality Feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 pkg. phyllo dough, thawed overnight in fridge
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or Smart Balance buttery spread, melted

Heat oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.   Chop the beet greens.
spanokopita (7)

Boil the greens in water to cover about 5 minutes, or till tender.  Drain well. 
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In large heavy skillet, sauté the onion in oil over medium heat till soft, about 10-15 minutes.  Add greens  and cook till liquid is absorbed, about another 15-20 minutes, stirring as needed.  Remove from heat and cool.  Add dill, flour, feta, eggs, salt and pepper and mix well with spoon or spatula.

Open 1/2 package of phyllo dough and spread it out on a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap.  Cover with a second sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap.  Top it with a dampened clean kitchen towel.  Lay out a large cutting board so that the short side faces you.  Take one sheet of phyllo and lay it on the board.  Lightly spread melted butter over entire sheet.  Top with a second sheet of phyllo dough.  Press together.   Cut phyllo into 3 long equal strips.  Each strip will be approximately 3” wide.  (As you work with the phyllo remember to keep covering it to keep it from drying out.)

Place a heaping tablespoon of filling at the end of each strip. 
spanokopita (5) 

The photo below shows the three strips, each filled.  The strip on the left is folded over once to the left.  The strip in the middle is then folded up.  The strip on the right is folded to the right and the next fold will be up.   Just keep repeating this pattern, keeping the dough straight till you get to the end of each strip.  Easy peasy.  You are folding the dough like a flag.
spanokopita (8) 

Repeat the process with the remaining dough.  As you fill and roll the strips, lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment. 
spanokopita (3) 

Brush them with the remaining butter.  Bake them 40-45 minutes at 350F, or till golden brown and flaky.  Try not to eat them right away, as you may burn your mouth.  They’re excellent warm or room temperature and freeze beautifully.  Yield:  27 triangles