Tuesday, December 27, 2011


asparagus spinach pesto

Here’s an easy way to eat your greens:  make this fabulous pesto.  Toasted nuts, garlic, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese bring nice flavor profiles to the asparagus and spinach.  Serve it or take it to your next gathering, with fresh veggies, crackers or chips.  Use it as a sandwich spread or as the base for a gourmet pizza.  I sometimes eat it straight out of the jar, it’s just that good.

aspar-spin pesto
Asparagus-Spinach Pesto
Adapted from Southern Living,  March 2010
Rating:  9.5 out of 10


3/4 lb. fresh asparagus, peeled, tough ends cut
1/2 lb. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup freshly grated good-quality Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted nuts of choice (pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds for example)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, grated or minced
1-1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt or Morton kosher salt

Cook asparagus in boiling water to cover 3-4 minutes, or until crisp-tender; drain and cool on paper towels.  Coarsely chop.

aspar-spin pesto (4) 
Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down as needed.
Yield:  About 3 cups

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Make the best spiral-sliced ham ever -- moist and delicious -- following the easy steps I've outlined.  And don't forget the sweet potatoes.  I've included a link to the easiest and best candied sweets.

Finally, for something different that the crowd will love, try my pineapple stuffing.  It's a recipe from many years ago that still pleases.

You'll find the recipe for the ham plus links to the sweet potato and pineapple stuffing HERE.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Here is a dessert that everyone will love.  It’s rich, decadent and absolutely mouth-watering delicious – perfect for a holiday gathering.  You’ll get 12-16 servings from this 9” cheesecake pie, and unless you are serving gluttons or giants, no one will be able to request seconds.  It’s that rich and filling, but oh, so very good.  It’s not a 1-2-3 quick recipe, but very worthy of your time and trouble.  Read more...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Here’s a rich, creamy, firm, New York-style cheesecake that delivers a subtle Nutella flavor from Nutella that is spread over the cooled crust before adding the cheesecake filling.  The filling, itself, has hazelnut liqueur added, and the cheesecake can be topped any way you like.  In the above photo, I sprinkled with bittersweet chocolate shavings and toasted chopped hazelnuts for a nice crunch.  Below, I drizzled with Nutella.
On another piece, I spread Nutella over the top and sprinkled with hazelnuts.
My hubby prefers the cake as is, with no topping.  I prefer it with Nutella spread on top with hazelnuts.  The flavors, along with the creamy and firm texture of this cheesecake, make it a winner.  Everyone who tasted it raved, as did I.  This one is definitely a keeper!

Nutella Mascarpone Cheesecake with Chocolate Graham Cracker Crust
Rating:  10 out of 10

2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa, natural or Dutch
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (1 pack)
4 Tbsp. butter, melted + 1-1/2 tsp. butter to grease pan

Heat oven to 325F.  Combine ingredients in medium bowl and mix with fork.  Grease an 8” springform pan on bottom and 3/4 up sides with 1-1/2 tsp. butter.  Pat graham cracker mixture onto bottom and sides.  Bake 10 minutes to set crust.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.  Increase oven heat to 350F.

Bottom Layer:
1-1/2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup Nutella

Heat heavy cream in microwave or small pot till steaming.  Add butter, stir till it melts.  Whisk in Nutella till smooth.  Spoon over cooled crust, spreading evenly. 

Mascarpone Cheesecake Filling
8 oz. mascarpone
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp. Nu Natural Stevia)
16 oz. Neufchatel cheese
3 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla)
2 Tbsp. hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelica

Increase oven heat to 350F.  Have all ingredients at room temperature.  Cheeses should be very soft.  In work bowl of food processor, combine mascarpone cheese and sugar.  Pulse till well mixed and smooth.  Add Neufchatel, 8 oz. at a time, and pulse just till smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing each just till yolks disappear, then briefly pulse to stir in cream.  Sift cornstarch over filling; pulse briefly to combine.  Add flavorings, scrape  bottom and sides with spatula and pulse one last time, briefly.  Pour filling over Nutella-filled crust.  (You can wrap the pan in tinfoil and place inside a roasting pan filled with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan, or just bake as is, as I did.)  Reduce oven temperature to 300F after cheesecake goes in oven.  Bake about 75 minutes, till still jiggly in center.  Off heat, open oven door and leave cheesecake in oven 1 hour.  Transfer to wire rack.  Loosen edges of cheesecake with thin, sharp knife.  Allow cake to cool thoroughly, away from drafts, 2-3 more hours.  Place in refrigerator 1 hour uncovered, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Serve plain or topped as desired.  Yield:  8 –10 servings  (Cut the slices thin, as this is a very rich cheesecake.)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011



When I unpacked this year’s box of free Kikkoman products, there were two bottles of Ponzu Lime sauce.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Ponzu, it is a tart citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine.  Ponzu shoyu  is ponzu sauce with soy sauce added, and the mixed product is widely referred to as simply ponzu

But, back to the box.  When I saw the two bottles of lime Ponzu, I remembered last year’s box that contained a bottle of lemon-orange Ponzu.  It was still in my pantry, unopened.  I was anxious to try the lime flavor, but knew I had to first use the lemon-orange.  So I started adding it to salad dressings, basting grilled chicken and meats with it, as well as adding it to mayonnaise.  I was pleasantly surprised at the boost in flavor to these foods.  (Kikkoman’s Ponzu has a soy base with citrus flavors, so it provides a salty-sweet component that is very enjoyable.)

I decided to get even more creative.   I want to get to that lime Ponzu.  And so, today’s recipe is one of the most enjoyable fish dinners that I’ve had the pleasure of eating, and I’ll be making it often.  Besides being an easy recipe with minimal clean up, the fish is moist, tender and succulent with amazing complex flavors from the also moist and tender vegetables and the seasonings, and it provides a complete meal in one package.  This can be a dinner for one or a dinner for 6, depending on how many packages you prepare.  Make one for however many people you need to feed.  They each get their own private package.  How cool is that?
For more recipes using Kikkoman products, visit their website.

Asian-Inspired Fillet of Fish in Parchment
Adapted from Epicurious, February 2010
Rating:  10 out of 10 

1 (18”) piece of parchment paper
4-6 oz. fillet of fish of choice
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
1/16 tsp. black pepper
About 1/3 medium zucchini or yellow squash, julienned
About 1/2 medium carrot, peeled and thinly julienned
1 green onion, white and tender green, cut into lengthwise strips
1 25-cent size, 1/4” thick, slice ginger, peeled and very thinly julienned
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro or parsley (I used parsley
1-1/2 tsp. Kikkoman Ponzu sauce
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Heat oven to 425F.  Lay the parchment on a baking sheet.  Fold the parchment in half. 
Sprinkle fish very lightly with the salt and pepper on both sides.  (Remember the Ponzu is salty.) Lay the fish right at the crease where the parchment is folded, in the middle. 

Lay the vegetables on top of the fish.  Sprinkle with parsley. 
Stir the Ponzu and sesame oil together in a small dish and sprinkle over the vegetables.  Fold the parchment over, then fold in the open edge twice.
Next, pleat it all around to make a semi-circular airtight package. 
If it tends to open up where the folded edges meet, secure that place with a paper clip.  Bake for 10 minutes.  (If you have a fairly thick fillet, you may need another minute or two.  Also, if you are baking a lot of packets, you may need a few extra minutes.)  Test with a skewer; if it goes in easily, the fish is done.  Plunk the whole parchment package on a dinner plate and enjoy!  (A word of caution:  Please open packet carefully – the contents inside are steaming hot.)
Yield:  1 serving.  Make as many packets as you have diners.  Everyone gets their own private dinner packet.

Be creative with this recipe and use the vegetables that excite you.  I happen to love this combo but potatoes, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, bok choy and eggplant are other possibilities.  

Full disclosure:  My opinions are my own and not influenced in any way by free products received from Kikkoman.

Monday, December 5, 2011



Last fall, I was contacted by the Rogers Group and asked to use one of their Kikkoman recipes and blog about it.  In return, the Rogers Group sent me a basket of Kikkoman products and a $25 gift certificate to purchase a turkey.  I accepted, tweaked their recipe to my liking and found a new family favorite:  Soy-Apple-Brined Grilled Turkey.  We’ve had it several times since last fall and love it more each time. 

This year, the Rogers Group again sent me a basket of Kikkoman products and several recipes to try.  My first was the crunchy-topped chocolate chip muffins of today(originally titled,  “Crunchy Topping Coffee Cake”).  My picky hubbie loved them!  The crispy-crunchy topping, made of pecans, panko breadcrumbs, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, imparts complex flavors to a tender, moist and flavorful muffin filled with semi-sweet chocolate chips.  The muffins are just sweet  enough and really satisfy as a snack or dessert.  For those of you who like sweets for breakfast, this one would be great for Christmas morning!

I used vegetable oil in place of shortening and nonfat Greek yogurt in place of buttermilk in order to bring some healthy notes to the recipe, but I used unbleached all-purpose flour to get the full effect of a tender, light and fluffy muffin.  You’ll get 2 dozen muffins from this recipe, but if you can’t use them all at once, freeze some for later.  They’ll taste fresh if you just nuke them for about 10 seconds, rest 10 seconds, nuke 10 seconds more, let rest 5 minutes. 


Please note:  The free Kikkoman products in no way influenced the writing of this post.  I truly like their products and am happy with what I’ve made with them.
Crunchy-Topped Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from Kikkoman Crunchy Topping Coffee Cake
Rating:  9 out of 10
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
6 Tbsp. butter, melted and slightly cooled
2/3 cup Kikkoman Panko Breadcrumbs
2/3 cup toasted chopped pecans

Heat oven to 400F (375F for dark or coated pans.)  Adjust oven rack to upper middle position.  Spray 2 (12-cup) standard-size muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.  In medium bowl, combine ingredients with fork.  Set aside. 

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt or fine sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, plain or vanilla flavored
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla.)

In large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Stir in chocolate chips.

In medium bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, yogurt and vanilla.  Pour over dry ingredients and lightly stir with spatula or spoon till just barely combined.  Some lumps are okay.  Do not over mix.  Divide  the thick batter evenly into muffin wells, using about 2-3 Tbsp. per muffin.  Spoon about 1-1/2 tsp. topping over each.  Bake 13-16 minutes (mine took 15 minutes).  Cool in pan 3-4 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.    Yield:  24 standard-size muffins

Note:  Find more recipes for Panko, visit kikkomanusa.com/pankoThe site has Buy One, Get One coupons!

Friday, December 2, 2011



In December of 2009, I made a scaled-down version of the Four Seasons Hotel Chocolate Ginger Cookies, thanks to Kristin of the Schell Cafe blog who was able to track down the chef and get the recipe.  She then worked it down to a sizeable batch for home cooks.  The cookies are amazing – crispy edges with chocolaty chewy centers that have a nice zing from the ginger. 

Today’s cookie is from Martha Stewart.  After I made them and compared her recipe with the Four Seasons Hotel’s cookie, I realized that they were the same.  Martha cut the recipe in half,  switched the chocolate chips to chunks and added some freshly grated ginger, but everything else is identical.  This makes me wonder how many TV and internet chefs are taking recipes from bloggers without giving proper credit. 

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
Source:  Martha Stewart???
Rating:  9.0 out of 10

7 oz. best-quality semisweet chocolate
1-1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used sanding sugar.)

Line baking sheets with parchment.  Chop chocolate into 1/4” chunks; set aside.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes.  Add brown sugar, beat until combined.  Add molasses; beat until combined.

In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in –1-1/2 tsp. boiling water.  Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture.  Beat in baking soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture.  Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Pat dough out to about 1” thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.

Heat oven to 325F.  Roll dough into 1-1/2” balls; place 2” apart on baking sheets.  Refrigerate 20 minutes.  Roll in granulated sugar.  Bake until surfaces crack slightly, 10-12 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes on pans; transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Yield:  about 2 dozen

Thursday, December 1, 2011


This year was a bad one for New Bern area pecans, thanks to the unwelcome visit of one blustery Irene.  All the unripe nuts were blown off the trees before they could be harvested.  Fortunately, I found pecans at Sam's Club and I still have some in my freezer from last year.  I love the buttery flavor of pecans, especially in shortbread cookies where they can be the star.  Like this recipe from Ina Garten.  These are simple cookies, but oh, so very good, with a nice flavor from almond and vanilla extracts.  Read more....