Monday, July 6, 2015

Tomato Time: Bruschetta

How many years have you been reading this blog?
Seven, I hope.

Are you tired of me telling you that the word bruschetta is pronounced BREW-SKETTA?
Too bad.

Even at my favorite upscale Italian restaurant in the city (that would be NYC, not NJ), the waiter said "bru-SHETTA" recently. It made me sad.

Make me happy and make these wonderful simple tomato toasts with the first of your tomatoes.

I really don't care how you say it.

Bruschetta Recipe:

3 red ripe tomatoes, diced small
a pinch of kosher salt
a drizzle of olive oil (about a tbsp)
a dash of balsamic vinegar (about a tbsp)
1 garlic clove, minced

ciabatta slices
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half for rubbing the toasts
basil for garnish

Make the tomato mixture and let sit in a bowl on the counter for up to 4 hours.

Just before serving, toast up your bread slices and rub with cut sides of garlic.
The warm bread will become nice and shiny, and the garlic will melt into the hot toast.

Spoon the tomato mixture over the garlic toasts and garnish with basil chiffonade.

There is nothing better than home grown Jersey tomatoes in the summer.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why I Blog: 7 Years

People always ask me, how is it that I post a recipe almost 5 days a week on this blog for the past 7 years? Do you ever sleep?

The answer is: I must be crazy.

I cook early mornings when I am most creative, and then late at night, after 10 pm.

It's just my thing, 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The truth is, cooking relaxes me.
Quiet kitchen. No music. No tv.
Just me and the food.

I don't always have the time to write out the recipe, and I certainly don't have a food studio for photographing all the food I prepare.

My studio is my kitchen counter in front of the window in the natural daylight by the coffee maker, or if the light is right, in front of my wood pile outside on a tree stump.

I have never claimed to be a chef, just a home cook.

I'm not a nutritionist, but have good sense when it comes to what to eat and what NOT to eat.

You can take what I say with a grain of salt (hopefully, Maldon sea salt).

Why do I blog? (I hate that word, it sounds like BLOB).

I do it because I like to share.

I love food and love people.

I love cooking and watching people eat and enjoying the things I prepare.

Food is like love.

I love food.

I work for food, cause the pay stinks.

I wish I had gone to culinary school when I was 17 instead of college which did nothing for me.
It's never too late, but at 50 years old, I don't want to be the oldest one in the classroom, and the one without tattoos.

Why do I blog?
Because I love it.
It's my creative outlet and gives me something to look forward to on a daily basis.

Thanks for reading me.

I am happy to know you for 7 years.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gluten Free Chocolate Chunk & Peanut Cookies w/ Oats

I get a lot of requests for gluten free recipes.
Thankfully, I don't have an allergy to gluten or dairy, so I don't usually prepare gf recipes.

But when I can save calories from the white flour, why not?

These cookies are fabulous.
Nice and crispy, and not too sweet. (I love a crispy cookie).

They only use 1 egg, and only half stick of butter! So now I can eat 4 of them!

I added crunchy peanuts, and I highly recommend you make these right away. The kids will love them, as long as there are no nut allergies, obviously.

Julie's recipe calls for 15 minutes in the oven, but my bottoms burned, so I changed it to 12 minutes, much better.

Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies (adapted from Dinner w/ Julie)

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut or almond butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups old-fashioned (I used Quaker) oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chunks
1/4 cup of roasted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, beat or stir together the butter, peanut butter and sugars until creamy and smooth; beat in the egg, vanilla and salt.

Stir in the oats and baking soda, then the chocolate chunks.

Drop by the spoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them well apart (they spread out pretty thin), and bake for 12 minutes, or until spread out and golden.

Let them cool for a bit on the baking sheet, then remove them with a thin spatula.

These were fantastic.
Thin and crisp.

We loved them.

And of course you know I made ice cream sandwiches with the cookies!
These were the bomb.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Taco Tuesday: Chicken Tacos

Don't get too excited.

We are not making Tuesdays a regularly scheduled taco night.
However, I had leftover roast chicken, so why not?

I feel tacos are best made with warm soft corn tortillas, but my market didn't have them, so I used the hard shells instead.

It's not rocket science, but everyone loves these for some reason.

Here's how:

Take some garden tomatoes and cut them up and add them to a cut up ripe avocado in a bowl.
Sprinkle w/ kosher salt and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Set aside.

I make a crema with some sour cream, minced garlic and fresh cilantro.

Spread some of the "crema" into the taco shells and then some shredded roasted chicken on top.
Next add in the tomato avocado mixture.

I like to finish it off w/ Trader Joe's green salsa verde (so good).

This is a kid friendly and husband friendly meal.

Henry happy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges w/ Chimichurri Sauce

I love chimichurri sauce, an Argentinian green sauce made w/ fresh herbs and vinegar served on grilled meats.

It's so good w/ grilled hanger steak, but it's even better on roasted sweet potato wedges!

This is a great side dish to accompany any summer grilled foods, and really amazing w/ some sliced avocado the next day (if you have any leftover).

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges w/ Chiminchurri: (adapted from this recipe)

1 large garlic clove
2 green onions, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 jalapeno, stemmed and roughly chopped or hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whiz the ingredients for the chimichurri sauce in mini food processor. You don't want a puree, just a few pulses.

For the sweet potato wedges.

Slice 2 sweet potatoes or yams into wedges and lay on a baking sheet.
Drizzle w/ olive oil, kosher salt & pimenton (which is smoked good w/ the sweet potatoes).

Roast in a 400F oven for 25-30 minutes, turning them over once.

Serve the wedges w/ some chimichurri drizzled over them, and dot w/ sour cream or creme fraiche.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Excellent Blueberry Coconut Loaf

Lately, I have been obsessed with eating yogurt with fresh blueberries and coconut on top for breakfast.

I love the combination of the two, so why not bake a blueberry coconut cake?

Ok, so I did.

I like to use Greek yogurt in cakes, and I happened to have a coconut yogurt in the fridge. I figured double the coconut, double the fun.

Since blueberries always sink in cakes, I decided to decorate the top of the cake with the fresh berries instead of mixing them all in with the batter.

It came out great. One of my top 10 cakes.

Here's the recipe, made up by moi.

Blueberry Coconut Loaf:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
6 oz. container plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani coconut flavored)
3/4 cup of sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup milk
a big handful of fresh blueberries (about 3/4 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and sliced almonds for the top

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, yogurt, coconut and zest together.

Next, mix in the dry ingredients, ending with the milk. Add in some blueberries and mix lightly.

Pour the batter in the loaf pan and lay the rest of the blueberries on top, pressing them into the batter only slightly.

Sprinkle w/ sliced almonds and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Let rest in the pan 10 minutes, before unmolding to a cooling rack.

Eat with a side of yogurt and some fresh blueberries.

So good!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Yogurt Quinoa Parfaits

This is such a great idea for breakfast, lunch, dessert or a healthy snack.

I have been using Fage 0% fat plain Greek yogurt and doing my own mix ins.

Here, I used cooked, cooled quinoa, then a layer of plain yogurt mixed w/ honey.

Top with the berries of your choice and some fresh mint.

A delicious protein packed breakfast.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Shrimp & Calamari Ceviche in Avocado

This is more of a seafood salad than a ceviche, because the calamari (squid) is cooked before you add it into the mix.

Ceviche is a Peruvian specialty, cooking fresh fish in acid such as lemon, orange or lime juice. The citrus actually cooks the fish, believe it or not, and gives it a fresh beautiful taste. I order it whenever I see it on a menu.

Here I used 3 color peppers, green, yellow and red, along w/ some diced celery and cilantro.

I cut everything into a tiny dice. You can add red onion if you like, but I was out, and I didn't miss the bad breath!

Here's how:

Take small raw shrimp and cut them into small pieces.

Squeeze about 4 limes, about 1/2 cup of lime juice and pour over the shrimp.

Let sit for 15-20 minutes or so until the shrimp is "cooked". The longer the shrimp sits in the acid, the tougher it will get, so you want to make this just before serving.

I used frozen calamari rings, which I blanched in boiling water for only a few minutes (you can omit the squid if you are not a fan).

In a large bowl toss the shrimp, lime juice and diced peppers and celery together. Add in the cooled, cooked calamari.
Sprinkle w/ some sea salt & hot pepper flakes if you like.

Add in a big handful of chopped fresh cilantro and mix.

I served this in avocado halves and it was cool and refreshing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Last Night's Dinner: Wild Salmon w/ Avocado Salad & Pesto Smashed Potatoes

I'm in the mood for potatoes this week.

I have been posting most of my dinners on instagram lately, so sorry if you saw this one last night.

It was too good not to write about and share the recipes with you.

I love this time of year, everything is blooming and so colorful, including the fish, eg. this gorgeous wild Alaskan salmon.

Wild salmon tastes nothing like the farm raised stuff, (that I am usually forced to buy, except for this time of year).

On a hot night, there is nothing better than putting this wonderful avocado salad on top (which I make in the morning and stick in the fridge, it does not turn brown for some odd reason).

I paired it with farmers market NJ potatoes, and made a simple pesto with my garden basil.

This is the perfect summer meal.

Here is a recap of last night's dinner:


1 lb. of wild salmon filet, skin on
kosher salt & pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander

Season the fish with the spices and oil and place in the fridge until ready to cook (can be done in the a.m.).

Avocado Salad:

1 ripe avocado, sliced
a couple of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 small red onion, sliced
hot pepper flakes
juice from 1 lemon & the zest
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
kosher salt

Lay all the ingredients in a bowl and lightly mix, you don't want to break the avocado slices.
You can make this ahead and keep covered in the fridge.

Heat a non-stick skillet or grill pan with some oil, and sear the salmon skin side down for only 3 minutes (wild salmon is much denser, though thinner than farm raised salmon and will dry out quicker).

Flip over and cook another 2-3 minutes.

Place on a platter and spoon the avocado salad on top and serve.


For the Pesto Smashed Potatoes:

1 cup of fresh basil leaves
handful of walnuts
1 garlic clove
juice of half a lemon
kosher salt
4 tbsp olive oil

Whiz all ingredients in a mini food chopper and set aside.

Boil some Yukon gold and/or red new potatoes for about 22 minutes.
While still warm, smash with a fork lightly.

Lay the potatoes in a baking dish and drizzle w/ olive oil and season liberally w/ kosher salt.

Place the casserole dish under a broiler for about 8 minutes, keep an eye that they don't burn.
Carefully remove from the oven and spoon the pesto over the tops.

Serve with the salmon, because you know Henry has to have carbs with his dinner. Who doesn't?

Enjoy the glorious summer.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Potato & Green Bean Salad w/ Dill Pesto

I have made pesto with every herb now, except dill.....not sure why, but it was time I tried it out.

I have an abundance of dill in my herb garden right now, and truth be told, I liked this as much as basil pesto, if not better.

This was GREAT w/ potatoes and green beans, and the next day, I mixed some in with plain yogurt to make an amazing dip.

I have been adding in a squeeze of fresh lemon juice lately to all my pestos.
It gives them a brightness and seems to keep the sauce nice and green.

Serve this at your 4th of July BBQ, you won't miss the mayo.

Potato & Green Bean Salad w/ Dill Pesto: (adapted from Dishing up the Dirt)

For the pesto:

1 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
a handful of walnuts (lightly toasted)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a small handful of parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
toasted walnuts and chive flowers for garnish

In a food processor blend together the dill, garlic, and walnuts. Add in the oil and cheese. Process until desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl and add in the lemon juice.

Keep covered in the fridge until ready to use. Can be made a day ahead.

For the potatoes and green beans:

Cook about 5 medium sized red potatoes (skins on) in boiling water for 18-20 minutes, during the last 3 minutes of cooking add about 2 cups of fresh trimmed green beans (this saves you from washing 2 pots!).

Combine potatoes and beans with pesto and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Garnish w/ toasted walnuts and chive blossoms if you like, and I like.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Garden Berry Yogurt Cake

"I am no baker", says the woman who bakes 2 cakes per week..........

I am enjoying baking this summer w/ all the fresh berries that are in season, I am actually getting good at it.
"Practice makes perfect" someone said to me a long time ago.

I decided to try and recreate Mimi's Garden decoration only.

I love using the edible flowers from my garden, though I am probably not going to eat them, they don't impart that much flavor if you ask me, but they sure make for a stunning cake.

                                     illustration by Tiffany Douzart

I made a simple mixed berry cake, and for the icing, I used full fat Greek yogurt! So, there is protein in the icing, not just sugar, so this is the perfect breakfast cake!

A note regarding the flowers you are using:
Make sure you are using edible safe flowers, ones that you grow yourself, that are not sprayed (therefore, organic), like roses, pansies, feverfew, daisies and herb flowers (all edible).

I used mint leaves for the base, because ivy is poisonous, and then I removed the flowers before digging in.

This is actually an easy cake to make......the hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool so you can frost it!

My Summer Garden Berry Yogurt Cake:

3/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp of softened butter
1 egg
zest of a lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of Greek yogurt
1/4 cup of whole milk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
handful of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries

Yogurt Icing: (adapted from cupcake project)

7 oz. container of FAGE Greek full fat plain yogurt (this will not work w/ nonfat yogurt, trust me)
1/2 cup (or more if you like your icing sweeter) of powdered/confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract


edible flower petals, such as feverfew, pansies and roses
mint leaves for the base
more berries

Mix the yogurt icing ingredients together and keep in the fridge so it firms up and is nice and cold.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Grease an 8" springform pan and line w/ parchment paper.

Mix the sugar with butter, egg, vanilla and zest.

Add in the yogurt and milk then mix in the dry ingredients.

Pour cake batter into prepared pan and push down the berries so they sink into the cake.

Bake 25-30 minutes.

Remove cake ring and transfer to a cooling rack and cool COMPLETELY before frosting.

Spread the icing all over the cooled cake and decorate w/ the toppings; berries, and edible flowers.

Keep cake in the fridge until ready to serve.

The flowers will wilt after a few hours, so this is best to decorate just before serving.