Saturday, April 15, 2017

Celery Soup with Horseradish Cream and Ham Chips

I love it when a plan comes together!  It makes me smile.  It makes me happy.  That is how I felt when I was putting together the menu for our gourmet group and Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen selected root vegetables as the theme for this month's Saturday Soup Swappers. I was doing a happy dance as everything just came together...and there was a table of food critics to sample the dish!

The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members. If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information. All are welcome!

This soup was so smooth and had a lovely flavor. The horseradish cream and ham chips gave it an extra flavor boost.  I loved the little bit of heat from the cream and the crunch from the chips. The word around the table was delicious!

Celery Soup with Horseradish Cream 
and Ham Chips
Soupe De Céleri-Rave A La Crème De Raifort Et Chips De Jambon
adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Yield:  6 servings

Horseradish Cream
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
Generous pinch of sea or Kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish

Ham Chips
6 slices prosciutto

4 large leeks, cleaned
6 Tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or Kosher salt, plus additional if needed
1 1/2 pounds celery root
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs thyme
6 cups water
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
Minced fresh chives, for garnish

Prepare the horseradish cream.  Whip the crème fraîche in a metal bowl with a whisk until it thickens. It should hold it's shape when you remove the whisk from the bowl. Whisk in the salt and lemon juice.  Stir in the horseradish.  Let the mixture chill for an hour to allow the flavors to meld.  (It is best make 3 to 4 hours in advance.)

Prepare the ham chips.  Preheat the oven:  350° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lay the slices of prosciutto on the paper, evenly spaced.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Turn the slices midway through.  Watch the ham carefully as the thickness determines how quickly they crisp up.  When they feel dry and firm, remove from the oven and let them cool until crisp.  Store the chips in an airtight container until ready to use.

Prepare the soup.  Slice the leeks into 1/4-inch slices, white and light green parts, only.  Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the sliced leeks and cook for 10 minutes until the leeks are completely soft.  Add salt midway through cooking.

As the leeks are cooking, peel the celery root.  To peel the celery root, cut off the top and bottom ends of the root and set it on a cutting board, flat side down.  Cut away the coarse skin, slicking it with a curved motion to match the curvature of the root.  Conserve as much flesh as possible.  Slice the root into 3/4-inch thick slices.  Cut the slices into cubes.  Add the cubes to the pot along with the water, bay leaf, and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Decrease the heat so that the mixture is at a simmer.  Cover with the lid askew.  Cook the mixture for 30 to 40 minutes until the celery root is tender.  Pierce some cubes to check for tenderness.

Remove the bay leaf and the thyme.  Let the soup cool to tepid.  Add the white pepper.  Blend the soup until completely smooth.  A hand blender or processor may also be used.  If using a blender and the soup is still warm, only fill the container halfway.  At this point the soup may be stored covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

To serve the soup, reheat and ladle into serving bowls.  Add a generous dollop of horseradish cream and then crumble the ham chips over the top.  Sprinkle chives over the top and serve.


This plan was perfect!  I thought the soup was amazing and since the most time intensive part is peeling the celery root and even that didn't take too long, I would make this bowl of deliciousness again!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Corn and Jalapeño Muffins

Somebody at church made the most tasty cheese and jalapeño biscuits.  I wanted to sit down and eat the entire plate of them.  They were cheesy but not too much and they had a bit of a bite but not so much that it puckered my lips.  Sadly, I couldn't eat all that were on the platter but I sure wanted to do it.  That is what sent me on a quest to find a recipe for a cheesy jalapeño muffin!  It sounded like a good idea, right?

There are times when something sounds really good but it just doesn't come together.  I was disappointed.  This recipe sounded really good and they were but just not close to what I had tasted at church.  Basically, I selected a jalapeño that had absolutely no kick!  I had cheesy, I had the corn, they did pass....but there was no kick....I wanted the kick....

Since I was taking them to a friend's I had wanted them be a little more impressive!  As it goes, her son snatched up a couple as he was going out the door. The next day he sent a picture of the breakfast casserole he had made using the muffins.  Now that, sounded really good!

Corn and Jalapeño Muffins
adapted from New York Times Cooking

Yield: about 12 large muffins or 36 mini muffins

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 ounces grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven:  400° F.

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the corn kernels and the jalapeño and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Place 4 Tablespoons of butter in a glass bowl.  Melt the butter in the microwave, about 30-45 seconds.  Watch it closely.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.  Beat in the eggs and buttermilk to make a thick batter.  Fold in the corn kernels, the jalapeño and melted butter.  Stir in the shredded cheese.

For large muffins, fill muffin papers 3/4 full with batter.  Bake about 12 minutes.  Test the muffins with a toothpick before removing from the oven.  (If you prefer, muffins may be baked in a well buttered muffin tin.)

For mini muffins, place about 1 1/2 Tablespoons batter in each section.  Bake about 10 minutes, until golden. Check for doneness using a toothpick.


They may not have been the jalapeño muffin of my dreams, but,
they sure didn't last long!

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Turkey Tortilla Soup - #soupswappers

Turkey Tortilla Soup...what a tasty and healthy soup!   This soup was so delicious, that there was no question about whether or not leftovers should be served.  Actually, seeing the bottom of the pan was disappointing!

Living in California, Mexican cuisine is just a regular part of our rotation.  I love the flavors, the spices, the spiciness...just about everything.  Now, can I make really authentic dishes?  Well, sometimes, it all depends.  Is this soup authentic?  Probably not. For authenticity I do refer to Rick Bayless, my favorite source for Mexican cooking.  Did I refer to Rick for this recipe, no.  But, I did use his technique for preparing the tortilla strips.

Today is Soup Swapper Saturday and our theme is Mexican Soups!  I am really looking forward to each participant's post today...I so love Mexican cuisine.  Our hostess today is Karen at Karen's Kitchen Stories.  Thank you, Karen, for selecting such a great theme!!

The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm.  The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members.  If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information. All are welcome!

Turkey Tortilla Soup
adapted from Food and Wine

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, small dice
1 jalapeño, seeded, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used the smaller amount and adjusted for our tastes.)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound ground turkey
1 28-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Six 4-inch corn tortillas, cut into narrow strips
2 limes, cut into wedges
1 avocado diced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Sour Cream (optional)
Shredded Monterey jack cheese or crumbled queso fresco

Preheat oven:  375° (for the tortilla strips)

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add the onion and peppers.  Cook, over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add the jalapeño and garlic. Cook 1 minute.  Add the spices:  chili powder, cumin, cocoa, oregano, paprika, cayenne, red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few twists of black pepper.  Stir.  Add the turkey and cook, breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon, until it is browned and cooked through.  About 8-9 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and the chicken broth.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Prepare the tortilla stips while the soup is simmering.

Cut the tortillas into strips. Place the strips on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Mist both sides lightly with vegetable oil. Bake, stirring them around once or twice, until they are crisp and lightly golden, 10-15 minutes.

When the soup is finished simmering, stir in the beans and the corn.  Allow the mixture to simmer until it reaches serving temperature.

Ladle into bowls and serve with the tortilla strips, a squeeze of lime and additional toppings as desired.

Note:  The soup keeps well and may be prepared the day before.  Add all of the garnishes just before serving.


I'll be making this soup again soon.  It was hearty, healthy and flavorful!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes aka Always Have a Back-Up Plan

Always have a back-up plan.  

I was really excited about the recipe that I found for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge.  The theme was potatoes and chives and it was March!  What could be more perfect?  I think it was the recipe that I was going to didn't happen.

Things started out smoothly but quickly changed when my mom came down with a bit of pneumonia. That meant long days at the doctor, the lab, the radiologist and the pharmacy...repeated each week for three weeks.  I am happy to say that the CAT scan on Friday was clear.  That said.  I haven't gotten groceries not have I cooked much.

I did however, have a back-up plan that wasn't really I hadn't thought of as a back-up plan.  I just happened to have everything that I needed and was trying to use up some buttermilk.  Thus, we have today's post:  Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes.  Not the most difficult side dish and rather obvious for the ingredients, but I am so happy that I made them and photographed them for future!!

They were wonderful!  I remember my mom using buttermilk in mashed potatoes on occasion and how good they were.  These hit the mark especially with butter melting on them!  When I make mashed potatoes, I don't measure.  I use liquid sparingly and aim for consistency of the mashed potatoes.  We prefer potatoes that are on the thick side.  That said, below is the recipe that I used as a guide for ingredients.

Buttermilk-Chive Mashed Potatoes
adapted from The Irish Spirit by Margaret Johnson

Yield:  4-6 servings

3 pounds baking potatoes, peeled ad cut into small chunks
1/2 cup unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain.  Return the potatoes to the pot.  Mash over low heat until they are almost smooth or to your desired consistency.  Stir in the butter. Add the buttermilk and half and half in parts mixing after each part. Stop when they are at your desired consistency.  Mix in the thyme and chives.  Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Note:  Everybody has a preference when it comes to the consistency of their mashed potatoes.  I did not use all of the liquid in the recipe.  I added it in parts until I was happy with the consistency.  

Simple but delicious!

The Improv Cooking Challenge Facebook Group is a monthly challenge supported by Nicole Little at Cookaholic Wife.  Each month two ingredients are listed and the challenge is to create or find a recipe that you would like to prepare and share.  Everything you need to know can be found on Nicole's blog.  Join us!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Cheddar Walnut Bread

I love March.  I love the wind, the rain, the warm sunshine, the wildflowers, it stays daylight longer and there is a hint that spring is around the corner.  In March my cooking changes.  I don't prepare as much comfort food.  Our comfort comes from the warm sunshine and being able to use the barbecue more frequently.

In March I spend time perusing Irish cookbooks.  My daughter surprised me with my first Irish cookbook, The Irish Spirit by Margaret Johnson.  In that particular book, the recipes were inspired by the drinks of Ireland.  This led me to The Irish Pub Cookbook featuring recipes from various pubs in Ireland.  And, that is how I came across this delicious Cheddar Walnut Bread!  One can only make so many loaves of soda bread trying to find the "right" recipe before deciding to try something else!

Cheddar Walnut Bread
adapted from The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret Johnson

Yield:  1 loaf

1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
6 Tablespoons unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups Kerrygold Vintage Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Prepare a 9 X 5 X 3 inch loaf pan by lightly buttering.

In a food processor combine the flours, dry mustard, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Pulse to blend.  Add the butter pieces and process for 10-15 seconds, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside 1 Tablespoon cheese and 1 Tablespoon chopped walnuts for the topping. Add the remaining to the processor.  Pulse 8 to 10 times to blend.

Add the eggs and buttermilk to the mixture and process 10-20 seconds, or until a soft dough forms. Spoon the dough into the prepared loaf pan.  Smooth the top with a rubber spatula that has bee dipped in buttermilk.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese and walnuts over the top.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.


Should you be searching for a great soda bread recipe, you might be interested in this Not Just Any Irish Soda Bread is super!!

I am participating at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

We recently decided to take a break from our weekly veggie box subscription.  We found that we were getting many things that we just don't eat in volume!  For example we received two types of kale, chard, greens, dandelion greens, lettuce, rutabaga, cauliflower, butternut squash, apples, and tangerines.  Yes, I know it's winter so naturally we received winter vegetables but that is too much leafy stuff week after week.

The head of cauliflower we received was beautiful and I just happened to be paging through an Irish cookbook and it just happened to be when I turned the page and saw Cauliflower Soup, well, it just had to be!  Margaret mentions that you can find some version of Cauliflower Soup in most Irish pubs.

It was velvety and had a lovely flavor.  I served it with a Cheddar Walnut Bread and the two together were just right!

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
adapted from The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret Johnson

Yield:  4-6 servings

2 Tablespoons unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and sliced into half moons
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of curry powder
Minced fresh chives for garnish

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leeks, onions, celery, and thyme.  Cook until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 10 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and cook until slightly soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low.  Simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Allow the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.

In batches, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half and half.  Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and curry.  Simmer the soup until heated.

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with chives.


This was an easy soup to prepare and would be a great opener for a dinner.  On this night, we were eating light....just soup and delicious Cheddar Walnut Bread.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

When I first saw it, there was something about this recipe that called my name.  I am not certain if it is because I am a lover of carrots or that they were maple-roasted and in a salad.  Or maybe it was because, when I was little, my uncle told me if I ate my carrots my eyes would turn blue.  I have eaten an awful lot of carrots since then and I am still waiting for the color of my eyes to change... Whatever the attraction, this Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad worked.  I served it at a dinner with friends and everybody gave it a thumbs up.

I first saw the recipe on the Barefoot Contessa blog.  It came from Ina's new cookbook, Cooking for Jeffery:  A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  And yes, I had to add another cookbook to my collection! In the last month, I have made three or four of the recipes and found each one to be a keeper.  This cookbook would be a super addition to any cookbook library.

Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

Yield:  4 luncheon servings, 6 dinner servings

2 pounds carrots, with leafy tops 
Good extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup pure Maple syrup
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice, about 2 large oranges
3 Tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces baby arugula
6 ounces Montrachet goat cheese, diced 
2 cups, roasted and salted Marcona almonds 

Preheat oven 425° F.

Prepare the carrots by trimming and scrubbing.  Large carrots, those over 1 inch in diameter, should be cut in half lengthwise.  On the diagonal, cut carrots into 2-inch chunks.  Place the carrots into a large bowl.  Toss the carrots to coat with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.   Spread the carrots between two baking sheets (Using two sheets avoids crowding and enables the carrots to roast as opposed to steam.)  Roast the carrots for 20 minutes toss/stir the carrots once during the roasting.  When the carrots are tender, transfer them all to one baking sheet.  Pour the maple syrup over the carrots and toss to coat.  Continue roasting until the edges of the carrots caramelize, about another 10 to 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on them so they do not burn.  Remove from the oven, toss and set the carrots aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries and orange juice.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and set aside for 10 minutes.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the sherry wine vinegar, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Add 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and whisk to mix.

In a large salad bowl, place the arugula, carrots, the cranberries and liquid, goat cheese, almonds, and the vinaigrette.  Toss together.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve the salad at room temperature.


Everything about this salad works!
I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I used to think that I had a great meatball recipe, but I don't think that any longer.  After making these meatballs, I can honestly say that I won't be making any others.  These were so easy and flavorful. they held their form in the sauce and that also met the "kid" test.  My granddaughter has asked her mom to make spaghetti and meatballs like grandma's.  So now, when she and I are together we make spaghetti and meatballs.  She isn't too keen on forming the meatballs, though.  She likes the dump ingredients and stir part!  

This is another New York Times recipe.  I tell you, their collection of recipes rocks.  

Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Yield:  4 Servings

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces ground beef
6 ounces Parmesan, about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped, reserve 2 Tablespoons for garnish
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
Fresh ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
6 cups canned crushed tomatoes (a little less than two 28-oz cans)
3 bay leaves

1 pound spaghetti

Brings a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it.  Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.

Put the ground beef in a medium bowl.  Grate the cheese, put 1 cup over the meat.  Reserve the rest of the cheese, about 1/2 cup.  Chop 1/2 cup of parsley and add all but 2 Tablespoons to the meat mixture.  Save the rest of the parsley for another use.  Add the bread crumbs and the egg to the mixture.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Gently mix until everything is just combined.

Raise the meat to medium high.  Using a scoop or 2 teaspoons, drop rounds of the meatball mixture into the skillet without touching one another.  Adjust the heat so the meatballs sizzle but do not burn. Cook the meatballs undisturbed until they are lightly browned on the bottom, 5-6 minutes.

While the meatballs are browning, trim, peel and chop the onion.  Scatter the diced onion around the meatballs.  Peel and mince or crush the garlic.  Put it on top of the onions.

When the meatballs are browned on the bottom and the aromatics begin to soften, add the tomatoes and bay leaves to the skillet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Adjust the heat to medium low so that the mixture bubbles gently but steadily.  Cover the skillet and cook until the meat cooks through, about 8 minutes.  Remove the lid and let the sauce bubble vigorously to thicken, about another 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir carefully, but only as needed.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and stir.  After five minutes check the pasta.  When it is tender, not mushy, drain it.  Reserve some of the cooking water.  Return the pasta to the pot.

Move the meatballs to one side of the skillet and stir the sauce.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Discard the bay leaves and spoon about half the sauce into the pasta pot.  Toss the pasta over low heat.  Add a splash of cooking water to the pasta to make it saucier, if you like.

To serve, divide the pasta among 4 plates or bowls; top with meatballs and additional sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and parsley over the top.


This went on the rotation after the first time I made it.  I love, love the meatballs!!

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rustic Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup - #soupswappers

Welcome!  I am hosting the Saturday Soup Swappers and this month, we have gone International. We are preparing and posting soups that have an International flare!  Going International is actually pretty easy as far as soup goes.   There are so many soups in our world that all one has to do is decide what ingredients sound good and go from there.  As I think about it, most of the soups that I prepare have an International flavor to them.

The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm.  The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members.  If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information.  All are welcome!

So, let's go International!  For me, selecting the ingredients was pretty easy.  It was to be sausage and pasta.  I selected sausage, as Miss Sabine's new favorite food is sausage and since pasta is another hit in her book, the ingredients were determined. (Sabine is my four year old granddaughter.)  After that, selecting the country was a no-brainer...On to Italy!

I settled on a Rustic Sausage and Tortellini Soup!  It is not a brothy soup.  It is a hearty soup and quite filling.  The broth, though, is so packed with flavor....(Hint:  Do not omit the Parmesan rind or small hunk of Parmesan cheese.) This is a keeper recipe and worthy of going on the rotation!

Rustic Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
adapted from the Kitchn

Yield:  2-4 servings

Neutral flavor cooking oil, such as Canola
1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1/2 cup dry red wine (Chicken stock may be substituted.)
1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, San Marzano if available
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Parmesan rind or a small hunk of Parmesan cheese
1 package fresh or frozen tortellini, 9 or 12 ounces (I used cheese filled.)
2 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Red pepper flakes

Shaved Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil into a large Dutch oven.  Heat over medium-high until shimmery.  Add the Italian sausage but do not break it up.  Sear each side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Once both sides are golden brown, break the sausage into smaller bite size pieces.  Cook allowing a nice layer of caramelization to form on the bottom of the pan.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage from the pan to a bowl.  Set aside.  Leave the fat in the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the chopped onions and carrot coins, then sprinkle with salt.  Cook the onions and carrots until they have softened, about 8-9 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and cook until the aroma is releases, about 15 seconds.  Add the red wine and bring to a boil allowing the wine to cook out.  While the mixture boils, stir to release the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the canned tomatoes and juices to the pot.  Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces using your kitchen shears.  Add the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, parmesan rind, and cooked sausage.  Season with salt, fresh ground pepper and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the tortellini.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the tortellini is heated through, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the spinach to the pot and stir until wilted.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Remove the Parmesan rind before serving.  Ladle the soup into bowls.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and a few shavings of Parmesan.

Note:  Serve with some crusty garlic bread.
When reheating the leftover soup, add some additional chicken stock.


I enjoyed this month's theme which led to exploring so many different ideas.  It was really challenging for me to focus and settle in on a particular cuisine!  I forgot something...did Miss Sabine like the soup?  Well, she opted to have pizza.  So, I guess that answers the question.  Next time...maybe.

Follow the Linkz below to visit all of the bloggers who have prepared great soups with an International flare!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ghost Chili Honey Cake - #ImprovCooking

While this sounds like a crazy combination, chocolate and chiles actually work well together.  In fact, this duo has been around since about the 16th century and may have originated in Mexico when convent nuns were trying to prepare a meal for their guest, the archbishop.  They started mixing a little of this and that and created a mix or "mole" which is well known in Mexican cuisine. The chocolate and chili duo is the theme for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge.  It is fun to be challenged to find or create a recipe following a designated theme.

I was originally going to make a chicken mole.  I have never made a mole and it sounded great but I got lost along the way....  As I was searching for the chiles that I needed to make mole, I came across a recipe for Ghost Chile Honey Cake that was really intriguing.  I was familiar with the ghost chili as I had eaten a burger with ghost pepper cheese.  It was super delicious and quite memorable!

The Bhut Jolokia, the ghost chili, is from India and holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest chili pepper in the world! While the pepper has a very nice smoky flavor, it is the heat that really gets ya!  A little of this pepper certainly does go a long way.  India's Bhut Jolokia is 10 times hotter than a habañero!

You may be asking how in the world this can work in a cake.  It works because the chili peppers are infused in honey.  The fire is mellowed and the flavor is what shines through.

The cake isn't as scary as it sounds.  I think I detected more of the chili heat when the frosting was warm.  The slice I ate had a very nice flavor but there wasn't any heat!

Ghost Chili Honey Cake
adapted from Silk Road Diary

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup ghost chili infused honey (instructions below)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 cup Seville orange marmalade

10 oz chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup ghost chili infused honey

Ghost Chili Infused Honey
Heat one cup of honey in a small pan over a low heat.  Make a small slit in three ghost chili pods. Submerge them in the honey.

Steep the chiles for 30 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.  Pour the honey and chiles into a container and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Prepare a 9-inch cake pan by spraying or greasing.  Cut a piece of parchment to cover the bottom of the pan.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a small bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of your mixer, mix together the sugar, infused honey, eggs and vanilla, until blended.  Add the vegetable oil, then half of the flour mixture.  Mix until blended.  Add all of the buttermilk and mix until just blended.  Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Bake the cake about 55 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean.  The cake will have a slight "dome".  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Then, invert onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Remove the parchment.

Fill a double boiler halfway up with water and heat on medium high.  (Or, use a saucepan and put a glass bowl on it to make a double boiler.)

Put the chocolate in the top of the double boiler or in the bowl.  Stir until almost melted.  Set the bowl aside.  Empty the bottom/saucepan.  Pour in the remaining half cup of infused honey and the cream. Bring to a boil, then pout over the melting chocolate and stir until smooth.  Let it cool.

When the cake has cooled, carefully cut it in half horizontally.  Place the bottom of the cake onto a cake dish.  Spread the marmalade over the cake bottom, being careful not to spread it all the way to the edge.  Place the other half of the cake on top of the filling and gently press down.

Frost the cake using an offset spatula.  After putting the frosting on the cake, it may be smoothed out using a clean knife that has been dipped into hot water.  The warm knife will smooth out the frosting.

NOTE:  If you desire a spicier cake, 1/4 teaspoon of ghost chile flakes may be added to the batter or the frosting.


I would make this cake again but I would probably add the ghost chili flakes just because...I'm curious and want to know what it would be like.

If you are interested in taking part in the Improv Cooking Challenge, hosted by Nichole at Cookaholic Wife, please visit her post for all of the information.  It is great fun!

I am also sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Seattle's Winter Wonderland

Last Saturday I arrived in Seattle to be Grandma.  When my daughter and son-in-law's schedules involve travel, an extra pair of hands and driver, are needed!  I was especially excited because the weather forecast was for snow!  I had not seen snow up close and personal for twenty years.  In the Central Valley of California snow is an unlikely occurrence.  In fact the last time it snowed was 1999!

And yes, I was weird and ran out front every hour on Sunday evening to take a selfie and mark the progress of the snow.  Never, did I believe that in the morning, I would see this:

It was like seeing a Christmas Card but in this case it is early Valentine's!

I was fascinated with everything about the snow:  the quiet beauty, the way it blanketed the area, how it layered on the tree branches, the echo of the children as they ventured out to play....  

Some of the trees couldn't handle the weight of the snow such as the bamboo tree below.

I especially liked the contrast between the tree branches and the snow.

Snow removal seemed to be Sabine's focus.

Kissing the snow was also a highly rated activity.

I am sharing today at Outdoor Wednesday hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Chocolate Coated Beer Marshmallows...for your Valentine!

Chocolate and beer...a nice chocolatey stouty beer!    Doesn't that sound like a nice combination? You are right, it is amazing!  Making marshmallows sounded sticky to me.  I wasn't certain about working with it but on this adventure, I was the, no worries.

My SIL was the chef in charge.  He had been participating in a baking competition at work...yes, there are teams that find time to do something totally different from their jobs!  Anyway, he had won level one and was moving to level two.  These little chocolatey guys were certain to be a Level 2 winner!

Did I mention that there is a garnish?  Yep, a crushed pretzel garnish..and, that was the sidekick's role....crush pretzels.  Sprinkle when requested, and add a sprinkle of sea salt!

This is a recipe that takes time.  The beer should flatten overnight.  The marshmallows must cure in the refrigerator 10 to 12 hours or overnight.  Just a note so that you allow yourself the needed time.

Chocolate Coated Beer Marshmallows with Crushed Pretzels and a Sprinkle of Sea Salt
adapted from Kitchn

Yield: About 24 marshmallows, based on how you cut them

For the Bloom (the process of softening gelatin in cool liquid)
1 1/2 Tbsp unflavored gelatin
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup flat dark beer

For the Sugar Syrup
1/4 cup flat dark beer
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp corn syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt

Coating and Topping
10-12 oz milk chocolate
2-3 tsp canola oil (for thinning the melted chocolate), optional
1/2 cup pretzels, crushed

The best beginning is starting the night before.  Open the bottle of beer and let it sit overnight.  If you forgot...pour the beer into a bowl.  Whisk to release as much of the CO2 (carbon dioxide) as possible.

Line an 8 X 8 inch baking dish or an 8.5 X 4.5 loaf pan with parchment paper and then spray with nonstick spray.  Tape the edges of the paper to the sides of the pan.  This keeps the paper in place as you spoon in the mixture.  Or, spray your baking pan with nonstick spray.

Preparing the Bloom
Sprinkle the gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer.   Mix the flattened beer and vanilla together.  Pour the mixture over the gelatin.  Allow the mixture to stand for three to five minutes. Whisk until no lumps remain.

Preparing Sugar Syrup
Combine the flattened beer, corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a 4-quart saucepan or larger. (We opted for the larger pan to avoid the overflow of any unforeseen excessive bubbling!)  Attach a candy thermometer to the side.  Turn the heat to medium high.  Bring the sugar mixture to a boil.  As the syrup heats it will foam up to the top of the pan.  Keep watch!  When the mixture is between 225° F. and 230° F., let it bubble for another 5 minutes and then remove from the heat.  Ideally the syrup should reach 240° - 250° F, but you may have trouble getting an accurate reading due to the foam.  If your syrup starts to climb to 250° F., remove the pan from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, carefully pour the hot syrup mixture down the side of the bowl into the gelatin bloom.  Turn the mixer to high and whip for 8-10 minutes, until it is very thick and looks like glossy meringue.  Pour the marshmallow into the baking pan or loaf pan.  Let it cure, uncovered, for 10-12 hours or overnight.

Preparing the Coating and Topping
When the marshmallows are cured, rub the top with a little powdered sugar.  Turn the marshmallows onto a cutting board.  Rub additional powdered sugar on the top.  Cut the marshmallows into about 24 squares of equal size.  The number depends on the size of square you desire.

Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler or in 30-second intervals on HIGH in the microwave, stirring between each interval until the chocolate is melted.  Should the chocolate be too thick, whisk in the canola oil a teaspoon at a time until the chocolate is thin enough to coat the marshmallows.

Coat the marshmallows entirely by using a fork to lower the marshmallow into the chocolate and using a chopstick to turn the marshmallows in the chocolate.  Lift the marshmallows out and set them on wax paper.  Quickly sprinkle the tops of the marshmallows with crushed pretzels and a tiny bit of sea salt before they dry.

Marshmallows will keep in a covered container for several weeks.

NOTE:  This is a recipe that takes time.  The beer should flatten overnight.  The marshmallows must cure in the refrigerator 10 to 12 hours or overnight.  Just a note so that you allow yourself the needed time.


You will be happy to know that the marshmallows did win in the second level of competition.  Go Kevin!  In fact, he won level three and the final level, four!  Congratulations!  Sadly, I do not have pictures for the chef's entries in level three or four so I cannot share....

I enjoy cooking with my SIL.  He rocks!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mexican Cabbage Soup, Olé! - A Healthy Choice - #soupswappers

It is January.  Time to take a look in the mirror and make some decisions.  Do I or don't I try to drop a few pounds?  It's a cycle.  Don't we tend to do this every year?  Start out fresh, craving healthy foods, wanting to maintain healthy eating habits...and sometimes we even get out of the house and take a walk or jump on the treadmill.  Additionally, every year cabbage soup makes its regular appearance along with all of the regular promises. I do love cabbage and I eat my fair share, but, no, for me it doesn't appear only in January and only in soup!

That being said, for this post it is cabbage soup but it is a kick up your heels kind of cabbage soup! 


It is a healthy soup. It is a smack your lips tasty soup!

I am not bashing other cabbage soups. Being from the Central Valley of California, we have a large Basque population and there isn't anything better than their cabbage soup which is brothy and flavorful...and the best part, it is eaten with a scoop of pot beans and topped with some pretty spicy salsa.  Now that is cabbage soup and one that I should post!  So, I do like cabbage soup..and I like it year round, too.

I am sharing this particular recipe because I am participating with a great group of ladies who have dubbed themselves the Soup Saturday Swappers.  Forming the group was the brainchild of Wendy's at A Day in the Life on the Farm.  The third Saturday of each month all participants will share a soup based on the selected theme! If you would like to participate, contact Wendy at the Soup Saturday Swappers link or at her blog. This month's theme is healthy soups. Here is my healthy soup choice for you!

Mexican Cabbage Soup
adapted from Eating Well

Yield:  10-12 servings

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2-3 chopped carrots ( about 1 cup)
2-3 chopped celery ribs, about 1 cup
2-3 Anaheim chiles or poblano chiles (about 1 cup)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
8 cups sliced cabbage
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
3-4 cups water
2-3 (15 oz) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained (Your preference on the amount of beans.)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
Crumbled queso fresco, nonfat plain Greek yogurt and diced avocado for garnish

Heat oil in a large soup pot or le creuset (8 quart or larger) over medium heat.  Add onions, carrot, celery, Anaheim and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened, 10-12 minutes.  Add cabbage.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 10 minutes more.  Add the tomato paste, chipotle, cumin and coriander.  Cook and stir for about 1 minute.

Add the broth, 3 cups water, beans and salt.  Cover the mixture and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add the remaining cup of water if desired.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with queso fresco, yogurt and/or avocado.


I am also participating in Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lemon Rosemary Muffins

Are you one of those people who likes to do "everything"?  By that I mean that you have many irons in the fire at the same time....I admit, I am one of those people.  I like to feel the momentum around me and participating in different things and have projects fits my style.  When I was working I always felt as though I was juggling....there were many projects happening and things were always whirling. That is the way that I have approached retirement, also.  I love the energy!

All of that said, I am adding a cooking group to the mix.  The Improv Cooking Challenge is a group of ladies who love a challenge!  Each month two ingredients are listed and the cook is to find a recipe or create a recipe that uses the two ingredients.  I am more of a "find a recipe" type of gal so I went searching for January's ingredients:  lemon and rosemary.  They are such a delightful flavor combination.

I found the perfect recipe for us.  It was in one of 2016's cookbook recommendations, Better Baking:  Wholesome Ingredients, Delicious Desserts by Genevieve Ko.  Her book has used alternative ingredients and fats to make delicious, "better for you" recipes that are painless and fun!  You will want to check it out.  In fact, you can peek at it here.  Her mini muffins are the bomb!

Lemon Rosemary Muffins
adapted from Better Baking

Yield:  36 mini muffins

1 1/4 cups fine stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh corn kernels, chopped
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus leaves for topping
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large lemon, zested, juiced

Preheat Oven:  375° F.
Coat the mini muffin tray with cooking spray or use cups

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the corn and rosemary.  Toss until the corn is coated with the mixture.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk, oil, maple syrup, and egg.  Zest the lemon into the mixture, add 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice and whisk to blend.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients.  Fold gently until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.  Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.  The cups will be almost full.  Top each muffin with a few rosemary leaves, if desired.

Bake until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Cool the muffins in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Pop the muffins from the tin and cool on the rack until warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead:  The muffins are best served the same day but can be kept at room temperature for up to two days.  They may be frozen for two weeks.


If you would like to join in, check out the Improv Cooking Challenge post made by our hostess, Nichole, at Cookaholic Wife.  I am also sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Chicken Tarragon Pot Pie

I took a long winter break from blogging.  While I missed keeping up with everybody and preparing great food to post, it was time to take "thyme" for me!  My daughter and her family visited us over the holidays.  It was so much fun to have both girls for the holidays and of course, adding a four year old to the mix made everything extra special.  As usual, my son-in-law and I cooked together.  It is so much fun for us to be in the kitchen preparing great food to share with one another.

We have had the strangest can be really cold one day and the windows can be open the next.  I am not certain what kind of weather to expect, how to dress for it, or what to cook!  The one thing I do know is that the evenings are cold and comfort food fits the bill.

This recipe originates from Julia Child and Jacques Pépin and was adapted before being featured in a the New York Times article.  I have made it a number of times as it seems we have had leftover turkey or chicken on hand regularly!  The New York Times has become my favorite source for cooking guides, new recipes and inspiration.  I think I mentioned that in the past.  Get on their mailing list, you will love the variety of articles and recipes!

Chicken Tarragon Pot Pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp cold vegetable shortening
Scant 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Scant 1/2 tsp sugar
1 egg used to make an egg wash to coat the dough prior to baking

Prepare the crust:  Combine the flour, butter, shortening, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse together until the mixture is crumbly and butter is broken into small pieces.  Pour 1/3 cup ice water into the bowl.  Pulse 3 to 4 times.  Test the dough by squeezing in your hand to determine if the clumps together and is evenly moist.  If it is not, add and additional tablespoon of water, and pulse once or twice.  Do not overmix so that the dough comes together in a ball.

Turn the dough onto plastic wrap.  Lift the ends of the wrap to bring the dough together inside.  Press it into a large disk, wrap tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.  The dough may be made up to two days in advance.

5 Tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 carrots, peeled, chopped to make 1 cup
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup leeks, cleaned, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
1 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried tarragon
1 cup frozen baby green peas
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 cups leftover turkey or chicken, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Prepare the filling:  Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add carrot, celery, leeks and tarragon and cook, stirring, until slightly softened but not browned (adjust the heat, as necessary, to prevent browning), about 3-5 minutes.  Transfer the cooked vegetables to a bowl.  Wipe out the skillet.

Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons butter over medium-high heat.  Whick in the flour, and cook, whisking, until the mixture bubbles and smells cooked.  Do let let the mixture brown.  Whisk in 2 cups of broth.  Cook, whisking, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the cream, cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the salt and pepper.  If the sauce appears to be too thick, whisk in the additional half cup of stock/broth.

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Add the cooked vegetables, peas, chicken, and sauce to an 8-inch deep pie dish or small baking dish. Mix gently, adjust seasoning.

Flour a work surface.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Roll out the dough, turning and flouring often.  Cut a shape approximately the size of your baking dish plus 1 1/2 inches overlap all around.

Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, and unroll evenly over the dish.  Fold the edges under and crimp.  Create hole vents near the center using a knife or a fork.

Whisk the egg and 1 Tablespoon of cold water together.  Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the crust with the egg wash.

Place the dish onto a baking sheet and place in the oven.

Bake 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350° F. Bake 25 to 30 minutes longer, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Allow the pot pie to rest for 10 minutes before serving.


You won't regret making this tummy-warming dish!  It is great comfort food.

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.