Monday, August 31, 2015

Celery Root and Sweet Potato Puree

This is such a simple recipe, but it's soooooo freaking good, I have to post it.

If you've never had celery root, otherwise known as celeriac, you're really missing out. As the name implies, it's the root of a celery plant, but it's a plant that's been bred specifically for the root - just like chard is a type of beet that's grown for its leaves.

My favorite way to eat celery root is in a puree, but it can be eaten raw or stewed or roasted, or pretty much any way you use any other root vegetable. Usually I puree the celery root along with a regular old white potato. This time though, I changed it up by using a sweet potato.

The result was interesting. The flavors mingled in a surprising way, making it taste like something totally different. Not really like sweet potato, and not entirely like celery root, either.

Celery root can be a little difficult to mash with a hand masher and sometimes it can be a little fibrous. I suggest using a stick blender or a regular blender to puree it. Since I got an early birthday present this year - a Vitamix - I used that to puree the celery root and the sweet potato and I was suitably impressed with the smoothness of the puree - like velvet!

But you can use other methods. I survived for many years without a Vitamix, and I've cooked plenty of celery root in those years.

Celery Root and Sweet Potato Puree

1 celery root
1 sweet potato
1-2 tablespoons butter, to taste
Salt and white pepper, to taste

I suggest finding a celery root and a sweet potato of about the same size, but if they're not exact, it's no big deal. This is a vegetable mash, not a chemical combination.

Peel the celery root. You're best off doing it with a knife, sort of how you remove the rind from a pineapple. Cut the celery root into approximate 1-inch cubes and place them in a saucepan with sufficient salted water to more than cover the celery root.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into cubes the same size. Add them to the pot. Make sure there's water to cover. The celery root cubes might float - don't worry about that.

Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the cubes are very tender.

Drain very well. Put the cubes in your blender (if that's what you're using) and add a tablespoon or two of butter, depending on how much you like butter. Add a pinch of salt and several grinds of white pepper. You can certainly use black pepper, but I preferred the puree without the black specks of pepper.

Puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or butter, if desired.

Serve hot.
Celery root (celeriac) and sweet potato puree.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Shrimp with Marsala and Tomatoes

Seafood is ideal when you don't have a lot of time to cook. While shrimp isn't the cheapest thing at the store, frozen shrimp is great to have on hand. I buy it when it's on sale and stash it in the freezer for nights when I need a quick dinner.

This dish is not only quick to cook, you can also cook the tomato/vegetable mix ahead of time, and then reheat it and add the shrimp at the last second. Great for nights when you want to have dinner on the table a few minutes after you get home.

The Piment d'Espelette is a special type of paprika that comes from a specific area in France. It has a little bit of heat to it, but not a lot - it's certainly not like cayenne. If you don't have it, regular paprika is fine. Depending on your preference, you can use either sweet or sharp paprika.

You might notice that I used a cooking wine for this. I keep a few bottles on-hand for convenience, because I don't always want to open a bottle of good drinking wine just for a small amount for a recipe. A while back, I did some sponsored posts for Holland House, and I liked the product so much, I continue to buy it.

Because cooking wine has salt in it (to make it unpalatable for drinking, which is why they don't sell it as booze) you may not need to add much salt to recipes where you use it. As always, taste the food when it's nearly done and add salt if you think you need it.

I thought this was particularly good on top of rice or polenta, but you could also serve it as-is, or with pasta.

Shrimp with Marsala and Tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peel and cut into chunks
1/2 orange bell pepper, cored and cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon Piment d'Espelette (or paprika)
1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1/4 cup marsala cooking wine
Salt and white pepper, to taste
2 pounds peeled raw shrimp (if it's frozen, thaw it)

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables are almost cooked through.

Add the tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring as needed, until the liquid is reduced and thickened.

Take the pan off the heat and add the wine (to keep it from flaming). Place it back on the heat and cook for a few more minutes to reduce it again. Add a few grinds of white pepper. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if desired.

Add the shrimp and cook, stirring often, until the shrimp is just opaque.

Serve immediately.
Shrimp with Marsala and Tomato

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chunky Blue Cheese and Buttermilk Salad Dressing (or vegetable dip)

When I was a kid, I loved pretty much any cheese I encountered, from mild brick cheese to sharp cheddar. I loved cottage cheese and cream cheese. I loved ricotta in lasagna (although when I tasted it plain and cold, I thought it was terrible).

I even liked the stronger cheeses that made rare appearances in the home fridge.

But blue cheese ... I was rather skittish.

For one thing, I don't think my mom ever bought it, so it only showed up on restaurant menus as a salad dressing. Since I loved Thousand Island dressing, I always ordered that. So I didn't get much chance to try blue cheese - even as a dressing.

I was also a little bit afraid of it. You see, I'm allergic to penicillin, and the "blue" in blue cheese is actually a penicillin mold. So for quite a long time, I was afraid to eat it. I wasn't sure if I'd have a bad reaction, and I didn't want to take a chance.

Then I did some research and found out that people with allergies to the drug can safely eat the cheese.

I started with a cautious little nibble and then a little more and a little more. These days, if no one was watching me, I could probably polish off a giant wedge of the stuff.

Most of the blue cheese that comes into this house gets eaten on a cracker, but I also like blue cheese dressing. Which also happens to be great as a dip for fresh vegetables.

The little secret in this dressing is that some of the blue cheese is blended into the dressing, while some is added in chunks and crumbs. Every little bit of the dressing has the blue cheese in the background and then you get a little chunk of blue cheese and it's a "pow" of blue cheese flavor.

This is a super-simple dressing, so the cheese really stands out - it's absolutely not ranch with blue. It's very simply blue cheese dressing with no herbs or other strong flavors competing.

You can used any blue cheese you love. I used Point Reyes Buttermilk Blue, because it's one of my favorites.

Chunky Blue Cheese and Buttermilk Salad Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk (milk is fine, too)
Pinch of salt
4 ounces blue cheese, divided

Blend the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, salt, and HALF of the blue cheese in a blender until it's smooth.

Meanwhile, crumble the remaining half of the cheese into small bits.

Stir the blue cheese bits into the smooth mixture and transfer to a storage container. Refrigerate until needed.
Home Made Blue Cheese Dressing - it's so easy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chorizo and Fried Egg Tacos

There are two basic types of chorizo, and they're completely different from each other. Spanish chorizo is something like pepperoni in shape and form. Mexican chorizo is totally uncooked. It's more like spicy sloppy joe in a tube than it's like a typical sausage. Needless to say, you can't substitute one for the other.

This recipe requires Mexican chorizo.

Now that we've got that settled, you might find a whole lot of different versions at the store. Most of the time, I see it sold in plastic tubes that make it look like a sausage, but sometimes you can find it sold in bulk. Some chorizo is made from pork and some is made from beef.

For this recipe, it's not going to make a whole lot of difference. Use what you like - or what you can find.

The great thing about using chorizo in a recipe is that since it's so highly spiced, your really don't need to add a whole lot more. You could, if you wanted to. But you totally don't need to. And that's what makes it perfect for a quick meal. No need to drag out half the spices in the cabinet.

The downside about chorizo is that it can be very greasy. Like oil-slick greasy. It depends on the brand you buy, but be prepared to drain the grease if you need to.

The other bad thing about chorizo is that the red chile in the meat can stain things. If you splatter on your clothes, you won't be happy. So be neat.

On the other hand, it's delicious, and it cooks really quickly. You can have dinner on the table in no time at all.

I've seen plenty of recipes for chorizo and eggs, but usually it's scrambled eggs with chorizo mixed in. That's great, for sure, but I decided that a slightly runny fried egg would add a nice complement to the sharp and spicy meat.

Chorizo and Fried Egg Tacos

For the chorizo filling:
8 ounces Mexican chorizo
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 medium green bell pepper, cored and diced
Salt, as needed

For the taco:
Tortillas (as needed)
Eggs, fried, poached, or sunnyside-up, as desired (as needed)

Heat a saute pan on medium and add the chorizo (removed from the tube). along with the onion and bell pepper. Break up the chorizo with a spoon or spatula as it cooks, stirring as needed so it all cooks evenly.

Because of the red chiles in the chorizo, the color doesn't change very much as it cooks, so you won't see it turn from reddish to brownish. It stays pretty red and only turns slightly brown.

But, since you have onions and green peppers in the mix, you can use those as your gauge. If the onions and peppers are done, you know the meat is done as well.

Taste the mix. While you won't need to add more spice, you might need one other adjustment. Some peppers can be a little bit bitter, so if you taste that bitterness in the chorizo, add a bit of salt.

Yes, salt. Not sugar. Sweet is the opposite of sour, but salt combats bitterness. Trust me, it works. And of course, you can add a bit of salt just because you think it needs it.

To make the tacos, add a small amount of the chorizo to the taco and top with your cooked egg. Serve immediately.

You can serve these as-is, or you can bring out your favorite taco toppings, like guacamole, sour cream, chopped tomatoes or onions, or shredded cheese. Basically, grab whatever's easy and have dinner on the table in no time.

On the other hand, if you're avoiding bready things, you can ditch the taco and serve this without it. Or make a bed of lettuce and make it a salad!
Chorizo tacos with fried eggs - a fast and easy meal with tons of flavor.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chai Ice Cream

Heh. I wanted to combine Chai and Ice in the title, but who on earth could pronounce Chaiice. You'd kill me, right?

So anyway, my buddies over at 37 Cooks have a challenge going with the folks at Leafcutter Designs who make the Recipe Dice, Chai Dice and Cocktail Dice. I said, sure, I'll play, but I don't need the dice, since I already have them.

I decided to roll some chai, and then I drank some chai and then I thought that iced chai might be nice and then the next thing you know the ice cream machine was churning.

It happens like that sometimes.

The really cool thing about the Chai Dice is that I don't have to think about what flavors to use (although you do need to decide how much, and you also need to think about what else you might add, besides what's on the dice).

The not-so-cool thing was that I rolled star anise, which happens to live at the very back left corner of my spice cabinet. I know exactly where it is, but it's a bit of a pain to get to. On the other hand, I like the flavor.

I guess digging for awkward anise was balanced by the fact that I had some dried lemongrass from Litehouse that I hadn't tried yet, so this was a good occasion to do so.

The chai dice told me to use milk and sugar ... but I fudged just a little by using a can of sweetened condensed milk. Close enough, I think.

Chai Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 star anise
2 green cardamom pods
2 teaspoons dried lemongrass
2 black tea teabags* (I used a decaf breakfast tea, but use what you like best)
5 allspice berries
5 black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream, sweetened condensed milk, star anise, cardamom pods, lemongrass, tea bags (tear off the little paper tag - you don't want bits of that in your ice cream. Ick.), allspice berries, peppercorns, and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer.

Let it simmer gently for just a minute or so. Give it a little stir to make sure all the spices aren't just lazily floating on top.

Turn the heat off, add the vanilla, and transfer all of it to a storage container. Let it come to room temperature (or close enough), then refrigerate until fully chilled.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove all the spices and tea and whatnot, and discard the spices and tea and whatnot.

Churn the cream mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instruction. Transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.

*You don't actually need tea BAGS. If you buy loose tea, use that as-is. No need to put in in a tea strainer or other device - it will get strained out along with all of the other spices.

I received the Chai Dice from Leafcutter Designs for my use on the blog at no cost to me. Quite some time ago. Any perceived obligation to write about them is long gone. Now I'm just having fun.
Chai-flavored ice cream!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Very Veggie Chili Spuds

There are a couple of theories about making quick dinners. One is to find things that can be cooked from start to finish very quickly. The other is prep and cook ahead as much as possible, so that dinner can be on the table quickly.

This is definitely the second version. The chili can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and reheated.

Or it can be tossed in the slow cooker earlier in the day and served straight from the slow cooker. This is particularly useful if people are on different schedules, since it can rest on the warm setting until everyone is done.

As far as the potatoes, they can be cooked ahead of time and reheated for dinner, or they can be cooked in the microwave right before dinner. A lot of microwaves these days have a "potato" button for cooking baked potatoes, so older kids can independently make dinner.

Very Veggie Chili Idaho® Potatoes
Makes 12 servings (1/2 potato plus 1 cup of chili per person)

For the chili:
1 pound ground beef*
2 medium bell peppers, cored and diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 small zucchini, cubed
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
2 15-ounce cans kidney, navy, pinto, garbanzo, or other beans, drained
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons salt-free chili powder
1/4 cup masa harina
1 tablespoon oregano (Mexican preferred)
1 tablespoon ground cumin

For the potatoes and toppings:
6 Idaho® potatoes (1/2 potato per person)
Shredded cheese, as desired (optional)
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, as desired (optional)

To make the chili:
This can be made in a slow cooker or in a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. If you cook on the stovetop, you'll need to do some stirring to make sure it doesn't stick and burn.

If your slow cooker has a browning setting, you can make the chili entirely in the slow cooker. Otherwise, you'll need to brown the meat in a separate pan before adding to the slow cooker.

Brown the ground beef (you can add a splash of oil, if you think it's necessary), breaking it up as you cook it. Add the bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini and cook for another minute or two, until the vegetables begin to cook just a little.

If you've used a separate pan for the browning, transfer to the slow cooker.

Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as you add them, or you can break them up in the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the corn kernels, beans, salt, chili powder, masa harina, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine.

Set the slow cooker on low and cook, covered, for 4 hours, or up to 6 hours. While you could leave it a little longer if you need to, it's best to let it switch to warm after 6 hours or there's a chance the beans can begin to break down.

To cook the potatoes:
Scrub the potatoes, then stab the potatoes on all sides with a fork or paring knife and place them in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate. Use the "potato" setting on your microwave, or if your microwave doesn't have a potato setting cook on high. A single 7-8 ounce potato will be done in about 6-8 minutes; 2 potatoes will take about 10-12 minutes; four potatoes will take about 22-24 minutes, and six potatoes will take 28-30 minutes depending on your microwave.

It’s a good idea to turn the potatoes over halfway through the cooking time, and if you’re cooking a larger number of potatoes, you may need to rearrange them during cooking time so they cook evenly. Be careful, as they be quite hot. If the potatoes are not done in the time indicated, continue cooking as needed.

When the potatoes are done, carefully remove them from the microwave - they'll be very hot - and cut them in half lengthwise.

Place each half potato on a plate. Use a fork to fluff the meat of the potato, then top with chili and your other desired toppings. Serve hot.

You can cook the potatoes in advance, if desired, and refrigerate until needed. Just reheat to warm them enough for serving.

*You can use ground turkey if you like. To make it completely vegetarian, you can eliminate the meat, or substitute it with additional vegetables, beans, or your favorite meat substitute.

This post was sponsored by Idaho® Potatoes.

Potatoes stuffed with chili are an easy meal.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

English Muffin Grilled Cheese

Did you grow up eating English muffin pizzas? My mom never made them. I'm really not sure why.

But that doesn't stop me from thinking that they're a fun idea. I was thinking about making one the other day. Or I guess two, since I would have used both halves of a muffin.

As usual, the idea in my head usually changes several times before I even get the ingredients out. I started with pizza flavors, but then I started thinking about the grilled cheese sandwiches my mom used to make, with a slice of fresh, ripe tomato and a sprinkle of oregano.

Of course, I didn't make that, either. I started rooting around to see what kind of cheese I wanted to use and emerged with some Emmentaler and some Gruyere. They're the two most common cheeses to use in fondue, and they both melt really well.

So this is what happened.

English Muffin Grilled Cheese

English muffin
Emmentaler cheese, grated or cut in small, thin pieces
Gruyere cheese, grated or cut in small, thin piece
Tomato, sliced thickly
Dry thyme

Split and toast the English muffin.

Put the Emmentaler on one English muffin half, and the Gruyere on the other half of the muffin - as much as you like. Melt the cheese under a broiler or in the microwave.

Add the tomato slice to the bottom muffin, sprinkle with a bit of dry thyme, and flip the muffin top where it belongs.

Eat. Repeat as desired.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Baileys Caramel Swirl and Poke Cake with Baileys Whipped Cream

I'm a huge fan of Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur. Not just for sipping, although that's a very nice use of it. But I've also used it for recipes. So when the folks at Baileys asked me if I wanted to use some of their salted caramel flavored Baileys in a baking recipe, I knew I had to do it.

I had a couple different ideas, but I kept thinking about a caramel I made for ice cream that I used for a guest post on Cravings of a Lunatic. I decided to make a similar caramel, but make it more sauce, and then incorporate it into a cake.

Or course, caramel sauce wasn't enough Baileys for me. There's also Baileys in the cake batter, and in the whipped cream topping.

The caramel that's "poked" into the cake stays soft and squishy, while any excess caramel on top of the cake turns into a thin, crisp, flaky layer. As for that whipped cream, it's an amazing topping for the cake ... but if you happen to have extra, it adds a lovely note on top of hot chocolate. Particularly if you spike that hot chocolate for a little bit of Baileys.

Baileys Caramel Swirl and Poke Cake
with Baileys Whipped Cream

For the caramel sauce:
1/2 cup Baileys Salted Caramel Irish Cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
Pinch of salt

For the cake:
1 3/4 cups (7 7/8 ounces) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Baileys Salted Caramel Irish Cream
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 to 2/3 cups caramel sauce

For the whipped cream:
2 tablespoons Baileys Salted Caramel Irish Cream
7/8 cup heavy whipping cream

To get started:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9-inch round cake pan with baking spray.

To make the caramel sauce:
Combine the 1/2 cup Baileys, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, and pinch salt in a saucepan. Heat to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

Cook until the mixture thickens. It should be thick enough so that when it's at room temperature it will be thick and, but not chewy. It also shouldn't be super-runny. You can test it by putting a small amount on a spoon and putting it in the refrigerator to chill.

You should end up with somewhere between 1/2 cup and 2/3 cup of syrup. Pour 1/4 cup of syrup into a glass measuring cup and refrigerate while you work on the cake. Leave the remainder of the syrup in the pot; you'll be reheating it later.

To make the cake:
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Combine the Bailey's and the yogurt in small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of the yogurt mixture, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl when needed. This is a fairly thick batter, so don't be concerned that it's not as loose as many cakes you've probably made.

Take 1/2 cup of the batter out of the bowl and add it to the chilled caramel sauce you set aside in the refrigerator. Stir to combine.

Transfer the rest of the batter to your prepared pan. Dollop the batter mixed with caramel on top of the plain cake batter, and swirl with a knife.

You could also add half of the plain batter to the pan, top with the caramel, then add the rest of the plain batter. Swirl or not, as desired.

Level the top of the batter and bake at 350 degrees until the cake springs back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Heat the remaining caramel sauce until it's a pouring consistency.

Holey Baileys Cake!
Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes into the warm cake, then pour the warmed syrup into the holes. You don't need to be neat about it - it's fine to spill over the top of the cake.

When you've used all the syrup, use a spoon or soft spatula to spread the syrup remaining on top of the cake into a thin layer and encourage it to fill any holes that might not be completely full.

Let the cake cool completely, then turn out onto the rack then immediately flip over onto a plate or cake stand, so the side with the holes is on top - the caramel is soft, so if you leave the cake upside-down too long, the caramel will start oozing out.

To finish the cake, you have several options. Because of the holes from poking, you probably want to do more than just sprinkle it with powdered sugar. You could, of course, frost it. You could also cover it with a poured or whipped ganache.

But I thought the perfect partner for this slightly dense cake was a fluffy Baileys-flavored whipped cream. If you know you're going to serve the whole cake for dessert, you can top the entire cake with the whipped cream, but I actually like the idea of topping each individual slice with a pretty little dollop of cream. Or a big dollop.

To make the whipped cream:
The best way to measure this is to use a 1 cup measure, add the 2 tablespoons of Baileys, and then add the cream to measure 1 cup.

The easy way to make the cream is to combine the heavy cream and Baileys and place in a nitrous cream whipper. Charge and dispense according to manufacturer's instruction.

The other way is to start by whipping the cream until it begins getting thick, then add the Baileys and continue whipping until it is as thick as you like.

Because of the Baileys in the whipped cream, it doesn't hold its shape for as long as a plain whipped cream, so it's best to make it right before serving and decorate the cake or slices at the last minute. Of course, if you're using a whipper, you can just leave the cream in the whipper and dispense as you serve.

I received Baileys for my use at no cost to me.
You want this triple-Baileys cake ... trust me, you do!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Taco Salad

A long, long time ago, I had a job that required that I spend countless hours driving all over the Chicagoland area.

On some days, I went out to lunch with customers. Most days, I ate lunch alone.

If I was in a hurry to get from one side of town to the other, I sometimes grabbed fast food. But if I was close to my next appointment and it was lunchtime, I had plenty of time to have a decent meal.

I had some criteria for where I dined. For example, I didn't like getting seated at a tiny table, even though I was alone. Sometimes I brought work with me to read over, and sometimes I brought a book. I didn't need a huge table, but I wanted a little bit of elbow room, if the restaurant wasn't crowded. It irked me to be seated at a tiny table if the restaurant was only 1/4 full, so I tended to avoid those sorts of places.

As far as food, I wanted something filling enough to get me through the rest of the day, but not so heavy that I'd want a nap in a couple hours. I also didn't want a super-expensive lunch. This wasn't a special treat, it was just an everyday lunch.

And I didn't want something messy. After all, I was going to be visiting with customers after lunch.

Over time, I found favorite places in many of the areas where I had customers, and I had favorite dishes at many of those restaurants. One of my favorite lunches was served at a Mexican restaurant, but it certainly wasn't a traditional Mexican dish. It was taco salad.

The salad was served in an oversized flour tortilla that was deep-fried in the shape of a bowl. While a giant deep-fried tortilla wasn't exactly the most healthy thing to eat, the rest of the salad was reasonably healthy.

I haven't had one of those salads in years, and I'm not sure why not - it's pretty easy to assemble as long as I have chili on hand.

I don't bother with the giant deep-fried flour-tortilla bowl - I just use a normal shallow bowl.

The appeal of this salad is the contrast between the warm chili and the chilled salad ingredients, as well as the spiciness of chili and jalapenos contrasting with the creaminess of the sour cream.

If you look at it, a taco salad is very similar to nachos, with crisp lettuce instead of crunchy chips. And probably with less cheese - depending on how your make yours.

Just like any salad, you can modify it to suit your tastes. You could even add a handful of tortilla chips, if you like.

Taco Salad

Romaine or iceberg lettuce
Sliced zucchini or cucumbers
Pitted olives (sliced, if you like)
Tomatoes, cut in wedges or bite-sized chunks
Pickled jalapeno peppers, sliced
Sliced or cubed avocado or guacamole
Shredded cheese
Chili (home made preferred, but a good canned brand is fine)
Sour cream or Greek yogurt

Scatter the lettuce in a shallow bowl. I aim for a salad that's at least half lettuce compared to the rest of the toppings, but make it the way you like.

Add the zucchini and/or cucumbers, olives, tomato, and jalapeno over the top of the lettuce. add a few small dollops of guacamole or slices of avocado around the edges.

Add the chili in the center. Sprinkle with cheese, and top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

Serve immediately.

Note: this salad would also work well as a built-it-yourself meal with all of the ingredients available for everyone to add as much or as little of each item as they like.
If you're going to have salad, you might as well make it a taco salad, right? Want some chips with that?Want some taco salad? I know you do!

Monday, August 17, 2015

No Cook Chocolate Ice Cream

The problem with some no-cook ice creams is that they can be icy after they're done, but you won't have that problem with this one.

The huge advantage to doing a no-cook ice cream is that you don't have to wait as long for it to cool down before you churn it. If you have all the individual ingredients chilled, you could churn it immediately, particularly if your ice cream maker has a compressor.

If you've got a freezer-bowl model, you might want to give the mixture just a little refrigerator time, but an hour is probably sufficient.

Since the chocolate syrup is the main flavor in the ice cream, use one you like. I used Hershey's.

No-Cook Chocolate Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Whisk all of the ingredients together to combine.

If the ingredients aren't cold, refrigerate until fully chilled. Or, if you have an ice cream maker with a compressor (rather than a freezer bowl) you can churn right away.

Churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

Transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.
No-Cook Chocolate Ice Cream

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Watermelon and Peach Salsa

Oh my gosh, this salsa is good. You need to try it!

This started as a what-if, and I have to admit that I was a little bit skeptical of my own idea. I've made fruit salsas before, usually with mango or peach. But ... watermelon?

It totally worked.

Not only did it work but it was oh-my-gosh amazing.

The interesting thing was that as the mixture sat, it exuded a bit of liquid and the watermelon seemed to get a little denser, in a very good way.

I just can't say enough about how ridiculously good this is.

I made a pretty small batch because there are only two of us, but this could easily be doubled or tripled or quadrupled for a party.

And of course, adjust the heat to your liking. If you want to add more heat right off the bat, leave the seeds and ribs in the jalapeno. Or just add the other half of the pepper.

Watermelon Peach Salsa

1 tablespoon finely diced onion
1/2 jalapeno cored, seeded, and finely diced
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cubed watermelon (about 1/4-inch pieces)
1 peach, peeled, pitted, and cut in bits about the same size as the watermelon
1/4 of a red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut a little smaller than the watermelon

Put the onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt in a small bowl while you prep the rest. The lime helps mute the sharpness of the onion and at the same time it picks up some of the heat of the jalapeno so it can mingle better with the fruits.

Add the watermelon, peach and bell pepper (I used red, but yellow or orange would look nice as well).

Stir to combine.

You can certainly serve this right away, but I think it improves with a little time to rest and let the flavors mingle - at least an hour, if possible.

The fruit exudes quite a bit of juice, so you can drain some of it before serving - but don't get rid of all of it, since there's a lot of flavor in that juice.
Watermelon and Peach Salsa