Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Red fruit with mascarpone vanilla bean dip

This creamy vanilla dip tastes somewhat like a thick whipped cream.  It is the perfect complement to red fruits such as cherries and strawberries.  It tastes best when the dip is maxed together several hours in advance so that the flavors have time to blend together.  This is a good item to use as part of a brunch, dessert or picnic spread.

1 8 oz. container mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs. heavy cream
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. strawberries
1 lb. cherries


In a small mixing bowl, mix together mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and seeds.  Add cream in two batches and mix.  Add more cream if necessary to get desired consistency.  Refrigerate of serve with red fruit.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Honey-Balsamic Shallot Tart!

This tart is the perfect appetizer to serve with wine.  It makes 9 squares, and people often like it well enough to go back and get a second piece. One is enough to serve four to six people.  If you're having a bigger party, make two!

3 Tbs. butter
10 shallots, quartered lengthwise
3 Tbs. honey
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough
2 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Unfold pastry dough onto a buttered baking sheet.  Fold about 1/2 inch of each edge in to make crust.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until edges turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.  Add shallots and honey, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shallots are slightly caramelized.

 Add vinegar, and cook for about 10 more minutes, until liquid is syrupy.  Remove pan from heat.  Spread shallot mixture over baked pastry dough. Top with crumbled goat cheese, and bake at 400 for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool for 5 to 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Last Day of School Lemonade

Summer is almost here!  Make this tasty fresh-squeezed lemonade to celebrate the last day of school.  It's made with seltzer instead of water, so it's refreshing and fizzy.  The lemon slices that float in the pitcher are optional of course, but they make it festive.  For those of us who are out of school, or at least 21 or older, this also tastes good with vodka or gin added in.  Serves 4.

3 small lemons
1/2 cup sugar
1-liter bottle unflavored seltzer water, chilled
Ice cubes

Slice one of the lemons crosswise to make circular slices.  Squeeze the juice from the other two and place in a small mixing bowl.  Add sugar, and mix until thoroughly dissolved and not grainy.  Pour into pitcher, add seltzer water and stir to combine.  Add ice and lemon slices.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pasta with Garlic Browned Butter

I discovered this dish by accident, when I let the pan get too hot and accidentally browned the butter.  My husband loved it.  It's a regular on our dinner menu, but is definitely meant for garlic lovers.  This is a good complement to a plain chicken dish.  Makes 4 side-dish servings

4 oz. angel-hair pasta, cooked and drained
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 8 slices
Salt to taste


Take a small metal pan, and place it, dry, over medium-high heat, for 5 minutes.  Then put butter in pan, one slice at a time, and let each slice sizzle and completely melt before adding the next.  Swirl the pan slightly while doing this.  When all the butter has been added, remove pan from heat and add chopped garlic to pan all at once.  The pan will sizzle and foam. 

Pour warm garlic-butter mixture over pasta and stir to combine.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Milk Chocolate Lovers Cookies with Hazelnuts

I have long felt that milk chocolate lovers are discriminated against in the chocolate chip cookie world.  Sure, you can make chocolate chip cookies with milk chocolate chips, but there is no chocolate chip cookie recipe I know of that is tailored milk chocolate.  So, I decided to make one.  I took a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, added more vanilla, traded in some of the brown sugar for white sugar to make it crisper, and used hazelnuts, the perfect nut complement to milk chocolate (think Nutella).  Check it out!  Makes 4 dozen

2.5 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups milk chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
1 cup chopped hazelnuts


Preheat oven to 375.   Mix flour and baking soda together in a small mixing bowl; set aside.  Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla together until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Add dry ingredients, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating to combine.  Add nuts and chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.  Using a cookie scoop, drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake each sheet for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are browned around the edges.  Cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Homemade slice and bake sugar cookies

Sugar cookies!  Who doesn't love them?  The simple sweet-buttery-vanilla taste will delight almost anyone.  Chances are, you have picked up some store- bought slice and bake dough at some point.  However, with a few simple ingredients, you can make your own slice and bake dough, which has no preservatives and tastes much better.  This dough can also be used to roll out and cut with cookie cutters, if desired.  Makes about 18 large cookies. 

1 and 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
Sparkling sugar sprinkles (optional)


Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla together in a larger mixing bowl, until mixture becomes fluffy.

Add egg, and mix until the mixture is almost glossy in texture.  Add dry mixture, and mix in, 1/4 cup at a time, until thoroughly combined.  Shape dough into a roll, about two inches in diameter, and refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat over to 375.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet.  cut dough into slices, abut 1/4 inch thick.  If using sprinkles, take a pinch of sprinkles and press them lightly into each dough slice with your fingers.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from pan, and cool for about 10 minutes before eating.  Cookies will be crisp around the edges, but chewy in the middle. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MJ's Shortcut Guacamole

God is great, God is good, let us thank him for avocados!  Having spent my formative years in San Antonio, Texas, I am a huge fan of guacamole.  When people are coming over and I need something fresh and simple to serve before the main event in the warm-weather months, there is never a question in my mind what to serve.  This recipe is for a mild guacamole.   Feel free to add some chopped seeded tomato, jalapeno pepper, or cilantro if it suits you.  Just in time for Cinco de Mayo! Makes about 2 cups. 


4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 lime, cut into quarters
3 ripe Haas avocodos
Salt to taste


Put the minced garlic in a small bowl or ramekin.  Microwave on High for 30 seconds.  This roasts the garlic slightly.

Put the chopped onion on top of the garlic.  Squeeze two of the lime quarters on top of the onion.  Microwave on high for another 30 seconds.  This does two things - it takes the bite out of the onion, while the lime juice extracts some of the garlic and onion flavor to spread into the avocado later.

Peel and halve or slice the avocados, and place them in a medium bowl.  Add onion mixture.

Mash avocodos with a fork.  Add as much salt as you would like, and squeeze the remaining two lime quarters into the guacamole.  Serve with chips and/or vegetable sticks. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fruit Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing

I have found another use for the lovely meyer lemon!  I love fruit salad, but I have a major hangup about it:  a lot of the fruits I like to use, such as apples, pears, and bananas, turn an unsightly brown when left out for too long.  There are dressings you can use, but I often find them to be too sweet or too acidic.  Not this one!  The meyer lemon is just acidic enough to keep fruits from turning brown, and it adds a subtle orange taste to the salad, which helps the different fruit flavors blend together nicely.  I made this salad with green apples, nectarines, strawberries, and blackberries, but obviously it will work with any combination.  However, I do think a nice variety of colors and flavors of fruits make it come together nicely.  Serves 6 to 8.

Juice of 1 meyer lemon
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 large Granny Smith apples
2 large nectarines
1 lb. strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1/2 pint fresh blackberries, washed


Whisk together meyer lemon juice, sugar, and vegetable oil in a medium serving bowl.  Cut apples and nectarines into large chunks.  Put the chunks into the dressing and stir to coat. 

Add strawberries and blackberries, and stir salad to mix.  Serve or refrigerate.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Floating Raspberries

I have always loved raspberries and cream.  This dessert is a thick, creamy vanilla custard with raspberries floating on the top.  Vanilla extract works fine to flavor this, but I love the specks of the vanilla seeds. This dessert is simple enough for every day, yet elegant enough to serve to company. Makes 6 servings.

1.5 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 envelope unflavored gelatin


Oil the inside of a 9-inch pie plate.  Pour the gelatin into a small bowl or ramekin, and add 3 Tbs. cold water.  Set the milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla seeds over medium heat in a medium-sized pot.  Bring to a boil, and allow to boil for 3 minutes.  Add gelatin and boil for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently until dissolved. 

Pour entire mixture into the pie plate.  Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.  One by one, put raspberries into the pie plate, with the tops facing up.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Meyer Lemon Chicken with Pasta

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare chicken in the warm weather months.  It utilizes the Meyer lemon, which is not as exotic as it used to be.  I love the sweet and sour taste of the Meyer lemon, and the pesto adds basil flavor and a greenish color to the sauce.  It's pretty easy to bake the chicken and cook the pasta while you are preparing the sauce.  Serves 2.


2 chicken breast cutlets (about 6 oz. each), baked
1 Tbs. olive oil
Juice of1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. basil pesto
3 oz. small pasta, such as macaroni, cooked
Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a small metal pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add cream in 2 batches, cooking for about 3 minutes after each batch.  Add pesto, and stir to combine.  Add Meyer lemon juice, and and cook for about 4 more minutes.  Salt to taste. 

Arrange chicken over pasta on plates, and spoon the sauce over the top.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve.  Shown here with baby bow tie pasta.  Hint:  Tastes great with a green vegetable and a glass of white wine. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Arugula and Nectarine Salad with Pistachios

Since I can remember, I have loved the taste of nectarines.  Their smooth, brightly freckled skins encase succulent fruit that tastes like summer melting in your mouth.  As soon as the weather turns warm, my husband and I look forward to making this simple salad.  We made it for first time this year for Easter.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!

1.5 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1.5 Tbs. canola or grapeseed oil
3 cups baby arugula
2 medium nectarined, chopped
1/4 cup shelled pistachios


Mix together vinegar and oil in the bottom of a large bowl.  Add chopped nectarines, and stir to coat.

Add baby arugula and toss.  Sprinkle pistachios over the top, and serve.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tart Lemon Squares

Happy Saturday!  I took pictures of these lovely lemon squares on Thursday, but could not bring myself to post a dessert on Good Friday.  Made with real lemons, these lemon squares are a brightly colored departure from the usual brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  The tart lemon filling complements the crisp, buttery crust.  Makes 9 large or 16 small squares.



1 cup flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1/4 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tbs.flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. baking powder


Preheat the oven to 350.  In a medium bowl, mix together crust ingredients.  Stir until the mixture forms a dough-like texture, and you can form a ball with in. 

Pat the dough into the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 8 by 8 inch square pan.  Bake the crust at 350 for about 20 minutes.

While the crust is baking, mix the filling.  Beat eggs with sugar until they become a pale, fluffy yellow.  Add flour and baking powder, and continue to stir.  Add lemon juice and zest, and stir for about 1 more minute.
Pour filling onto the hot crust.

Bake at 350 for about 25 more minutes, or until the top is slightly browned.  Allow to cool for 1 to 2 hours, then cut into squares and serve.  Unlike with most bar cookies, I actually prefer the edge or corner pieces of these!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tangy Fried Apples

Just to be clear, these are a side dish, not a dessert.  They are sweet and have a great cinnamon taste, and the apple cider vinegar serves two purposes - it changes the way the apples cook, and they cause the apples to have a two-dimensional taste that really pops. 

3 large Golden Delicious apples, cut into thick slices (about 2 pounds)
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon


Slice apples and place in a medium bowl.  Toss with vinegar to coat.  Melt butter in a small metal pot over medium heat.  Place apples in a bowl and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add sugar and cinnamon and cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until apples have softened and the liquid has thickened slightly.  Serve warm.

Shown here with pork chops.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Smoked Salmon Sliders

Yesterday I attended my friend Michael's annual Spring potluck brunch. I had to wear a thick sweater because it doesn't quite feel like spring yet here in Kentucky, but it was great to relax and catch up with friends.  I wanted to share with you what I brought - one of my favorite brunch items - smoked salmon sliders.  Lots of people love smoked salmon on a bagel, and these provide it in a delightful finger food option.  These are appropriate for any season.  Makes 12 sliders.

12 mini bagels
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 4 oz. package smoked salmon
1/4 cup copped red onion (optional)


Slice bagels if not pre-sliced.  Unwrap salmon and cut into 12 pieces.  Spread each bagel half generously with cream cheese.  Place a piece of salmon on the bottom half of each bagel.  Top with red onion, and then with top half of bagel.  Serve or refrigerate.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pesto Goat Cheese spread

This is an appetizer that is very easy to whip up in 5 minutes and store in the fridge.  It has a creamy, savory flavor.  I invented this a few years ago out of what I had in the fridge, and I liked it enough to recreate it many times. 

1 4 oz. log goat cheese, softened
1 Tbs. store-bought pesto
2 Tbs. have cream
Crackers for serving


Unwrap goat cheese into a small mixing bowl.  Mix in pesto.

Mix in cream and stir until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.  (You can skip this step if you are in a hurry, but I recommend it because it allows the flavors to blend).  Serve with crackers or toast points.