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an especially beautiful salad

I served this salad on Christmas. I think it’s one of the prettiest salads around. It is inspired by a photo I saw on Pinterest.

Easy and Pretty. Now that’s a nice combination!

wreath salad

Fruit & Cheese Green Salad Wreath with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

Salad

  • 1 small head iceberg lettuce
  • 3 cups mixed greens
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 2 small bunches grapes (red and/or purple)
  • 1 small red and 1 small green apple (1 cored and cubed and 1 sliced)
  • 2 pears (1 cored and cubed and 1 sliced)
  • 8 Strawberries (3 left whole for decorating, the rest diced)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Dressing

  • Zest of 1 lemon (remove zest and set aside before juicing lemon)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Salad: Place the iceberg lettuce and mixed greens in a large bowl and toss to combine. Place a bowl in the center of a large round platter and spread the lettuces around the bowl on the platter. This is your wreath base.

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January 20, 2015   2 Comments

mini cupcakes for a baptism

Sunday was baptism day for Peggy’s grandson, Cruz. Cruz is the cutest baby boy there ever was! I swear, he is a little chub of pure joy and his grandma is head over heals in love! I don’t blame her one little bit!

Cruz Baptism

Darling Cruz being held by his godfather, along with his godmother, proud daddy Stevo (Peggy’s son) and beautiful mommy Keegan.

 

The baptism was held during the 10:30 mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and the lunch was at Cruz’s great-uncle’s home.

Peggy was responsible for dessert and she did herself proud! She made the most adorable and delicious little lemon cupcakes with lemon curd, lemon frosting and lemon sugar. I held myself back and only had two. It was a test of control and strength!

Peggys cupcakes

I just noticed that the cupcake liners match her dress. What did I tell you? Adorable!

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January 19, 2015   1 Comment

slow cookers are made for pulled pork!

Pork + Slower Cooker = Perfect Match

pork loin

Honestly, when I lay my eyes on a large cut of pork, I always think of the slow cooker. With very little initial effort, the cooker turns the meat into the most tender and moist meat there is.

clean plate

In these parts, it’s a family favorite, no matter how I fix it.

salsa and coke

This recipe in particular, using a few key spices, Coke and salsa, is one of Connor’s favorites. So much so, that he insisted I take a photo of his “clean plate” which was clean before the rest of us even finished on taco. Growing boys… always a pleasure to feed!

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January 13, 2015   5 Comments

yes, I do bake… every now and then…

lemon glazed blueberry lemon bread

We all know that I don’t bake.

Yet I did, voluntarily, on Sunday.

Weird, I know!

frys ad

It all had to do with the blueberries that were on sale at Fry’s.

I bought them, only because they were on sale, then I didn’t know what to do with them … so I baked. The result was pretty darn fantastic! (Oh, I bought the pork loin on sale too… that recipe will follow soon.)

meyer

I used Meyer lemons, because I have them, but regular Lisbon lemons would be just as delicious.

2 varieties

If you need either, and you are in my neighborhood … contact me and you can pick as many as your heart desires.

expesive lemons

I do not charge $46 (plus $10 for shipping) for 3 pounds like they do on Food52/Provisions!!! In fact, I don’t charge anything, they are free for the picking. Meyer or Lisbon! And yes, both are organic!

lisbon

Before we get to the recipe, a few notes:

lemon glazed blueberry bread

I love to use a longer and thinner loaf pan for breads. There are more slices and they are a nicer size. A 12″ long by 4 1/2″ wide by 2 1/2″ deep loaf pan is my favorite size to use.

drips

When you use a glaze on baked goods, the glaze drips. Many recipes call for you to place the baked item on a rack – over waxed paper or such.

pastry scraper

Don’t bother, just place on a rack – on a clean counter. It is much easier to pick up the excess glaze drips with a pastry scraper and drizzle over the bread a second or even a third time this way.

drizzle the drips

When making the glaze, start with the juice from 1/2 a lemon and add more as needed. Powdered sugar soaks up liquid like a sponge, so start with a little and add more as needed, instead of adding too much liquid at the start and having to add more and more sugar to get the consistency you want.

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January 12, 2015   6 Comments

savory raspberry dip

This is another of the recipes I made for the bridal party lunch for my niece’s wedding day. The lunch was served in the Presidential Suite at the Hyatt Magnificent Mile, which is where we all stayed in downtown Chicago. Maureen and her bridesmaids were in the suite having their hair and make-up done. The girls had been there since 9:15 and the wedding was at 4:00, so they needed nourishment in the middle of that time.

maureen bridePhoto

How beautiful is she?!?

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January 5, 2015   No Comments

Our Christmas dessert

apple cranberry crumble pie

I am in Chicago for my niece’s wedding, so there will be no long explanation or story attached, except to say that this pie was a Christmas hit.

pie slice missing

Apple-Cranberry Crumble Pie

Crust

  • 1  1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup plain, vanilla or honey yogurt

5 apples

Filling
  • 2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick (I used 4 Granny Smith and  1 Honey Crisp)
  • 1  1/4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  •  1  1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Crumble
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Vanilla ice cream

processor

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December 30, 2014   4 Comments

en Papillote

salmon en papillote

This is the salmon and spinach recipe that I was talking about in yesterday’s post. I’ve corrected two items from the original recipe – which I enjoyed at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The first change being the enormous amount of spinach the recipe called for. I’ve reduced it from 2-pounds to 8-ounces. If you make this dish you will be amazed to think that 2 pounds could have ever been used!

too small

The second major change was the shape and size of parchment. The original recipe called for a 10-inch circle. I’ve made Fish en Pappillote (in parchment) several times before, so I should have known better. The traditional shape is a heart, not a circle. Even if a circle is used, 10-inches is in no way large enough, as you can see from the photos above and below.

the good the bad

I’d already cut out the 16 parchment circles I needed for a cooking class, so I went ahead a struggled through by using them … along with about 60 paper clips to hold the parcels together!

I don’t mean to make it sound as though the recipes from Ballymaloe where bad. There were 14 recipes from that wonderful day of cooking and this is the only one I’ve had to correct or modify.

The thing I like best about this recipe is the fact that the parcels are steamed – not baked. Fish en Papillote is traditionally baked, I love this extra-moist alternate way of cooking so much, that I think I’ll steam instead of bake from here on out.

This is the very definition of healthy and delicious!

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December 17, 2014   No Comments

Mini Spinach Flower Tarts

I brought these pretty and tasty little morsels to a family Christmas party on Saturday night. I made a double batch so that I’d have them in my freezer for the rest of the holiday season, ready to pull out on a moments notice.

spinach flower tart

They were made out of necessity, not only the need to bring something to a party, but also the urgency to use over 2 pounds of fresh spinach that I reluctantly had in my refrigerator.

Later in the week, I’ll share a Salmon and Spinach recipe that called for 2 pounds of fresh spinach. The recipe was from my day a Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland and I was sharing it with the students in my cooking class at Les Gourmettes Cooking School here in Phoenix.

2 plus pounds

Anyhow, I was doubling the Salmon recipe to feed sixteen – so according to the recipe, I’d need 4 pounds of spinach. That’s A LOT of spinach. While shopping for the class at Costco, I realized that would have been 4 boxes of Costco baby spinach. I had not realized that each box was 1 pound until I looked, so I cut back and only bought 3 boxes. Well, I didn’t cut back enough! In the end, I did not even use 1 full box of spinach (1 pound) to make the double recipe for the cooking class.

That’s way too much leftover spinach, so this recipe was born out of the wish to not waste food.  If you would rather substitute frozen chopped spinach for the recipe, rest assured, that is perfectly fine. A 10-oz package of frozen spinach is almost the same as 1 pound fresh spinach, once the spinach is cooked.

If you want to be extra smart, like me, make a double batch and freeze for your later entertaining needs.

to freeze

To Freeze: Place the unbaked filled muffin tins in the freezer for at least 3 hours. Once frozen solid, use the tip of a paring knife to pop each mini tart out and place in a freezer quality zip-lock bag. Write on the bag, not only what they are, but also the date and baking directions (Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.)

frozen adn baked

I did a test to see if it was best to bake the frozen tarts in or out of the muffin tins. The good news – you may bake them on a baking sheet, no need to dig out the muffin tins again. In the photo above – the top two were baked on a sheet pan and the bottom two were placed back in the mini muffin tin and baked. Fantastic, they hold their shape!

One more thing…

rolled not folded

Did you know that Trader Joe’s carries puff pastry during the holiday season? Yes, they do and it’s better than the Pepperidge Farm brand that you buy at the grocery store.

PF vs TJ

It actually has real butter in it… unlike that other brand (which is still pretty good stuff) that uses only shortening. Additionally, the TJ’s puff pasty sheets are rolled, whereas the PF sheets are folded in thirds. The rolled sheets are MUCH easier to work with.

I buy not only what I’ll use in December and January but at least another 8 packages to have for the rest of the year. Super Smart!

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December 16, 2014   3 Comments

radish leaf soup

radish leaf soup

Let’s say that you want to make little tea sandwiches for a Holiday Ladies Luncheon or Open House.

You buy a few bunches of radishes for the tea sandwiches. You cut off the tops, the radish leaves, and you toss them in the trash or the compost.

Stop right there! Don’t throw them out! Make a delicious radish leaf soup instead!

This is a recipe that I made for my series of cooking classes at Les Gourmettes Cooking School and shows the good old Irish way of making the most of everything.

wash well

Be sure to wash the radish leaves well. Really really well! Radishes tend to have quite a bit of sand and dirt.

spin dry

Do ahead and spin dry, line a plastic bag with paper towels and store the radish leaves in the crisper for up to 3 days.

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December 9, 2014   No Comments

Shrimp Sliders

shrimp burgers

Yesterday, I shared Barb’s Baked Eggs with you – today I’m giving you another of her fabulous recipes! Many thanks to Barbara Fenzl for allowing me to share her Les Gourmettes cooking class recipes with the masses.

Barb made shrimp sliders in class, I made shrimp burgers, with the same recipe and bigger buns, at home. My family went crazy for them!

take out center

One super-smart thing Barb does with her sliders – she cuts out the center section of the King’s Hawaiian rolls, making them a more manageable size. When you eat it, you get less bun in each bite and more shrimp.

2 thirds

She saved all the center portions of the buns from all six of her classes and used them in her Thanksgiving stuffing. See, I told you she was super-smart!

kings

King’s makes hamburger buns too, so I used the buns in place of the rolls, changing the sliders to burgers. Either way … Delish!

2 sizes

Note: I was feeding a crowd, so I doubled the recipe and made 12 burgers out of 2 pounds of shrimp. The recipe, as written, would have made 6 burgers and makes 12 sliders. Don’t let the photos vs. the recipe quantities confuse you.

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December 4, 2014   2 Comments