Manchego Jam Twists

Welcome to cooking school…Ready for a crash course? Temp me please with jam and cheese! But first, a little history lesson; so pull out your notebook. Manchego (used in this recipe) is a semi-hard cheese from the sheep of the central province of La Mancha, Spain; remember the windmills in Don Quixote? That’s the place. Back in November of 2004 (yep, that long ago far away time) Brenton was studying in Spain, so we all ventured over to enjoy a Spanish Thanksgiving. We hopped the train from Seville to Segovia one day to see that charming town, which is adjacent to the region of La Mancha. Needless to say, they served cheese on every corner and every café in between! That was my introduction to the wonderful world of Manchego. Let the games begin…I’ll take cheese for $1000 please.

The image above was captured by Brenton (with an authentic 35 mm camera, waaaay before the iPhone camera). This is the Alcázar of Segovia (Castle), dating from the early 12th century. The town is in the unpictured foreground, with the view of Castile and Leon region in the background.

Enough brain infusion for today. Now on to the recipe. My platters are always on call for hors d’oeuvres!

This is all you’ll need:

All purpose flour for dusting
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 Tbs strawberry jam
1 cup grated Manchego
1 egg
*Remember please that I am an unapologetic messy baker; evidence follows!

Here are the particulars:

Preheat oven to 400°.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
On lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 12 x 14 inch rectangle.
Cut dough in half at center of short side.
Spread one half of pastry with jam.
Sprinkle evenly with cheese, reserving 2 Tbs.
Top this with other piece of pastry.
Press gently to adhere.
Cut with pizza cutter into 1/2 inch wide strips, about 18 pieces.
Twist each piece 4 to 5 times, pinching ends tightly.
Place on baking sheet.
In small bowl, mix egg with 1 t water.
Brush onto twisted pastry.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake until golden, about 12 to 14 minutes.
Let cool slightly before removing from parchment.
Serve immediately.

Makes “18ish”.

Cheese & Jalapeño Sour Cream Muffins

This is what you’ll need to create these treats:

Cooking spray
3/4 cup fine corn meal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
3 Tbs light sour cream
3 Tbs canola oil
2 eggs
3 Tbs chopped jalapeños
3/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.
Lightly coat 8 muffin tins with cooking spray
Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in large bowl.
In separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, oil, and eggs.
Add sour cream mixture to cornmeal mixture, stirring until just combined.
Fold in jalapeños and cheese.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden.
Insert knife or pick in center to test for doneness.
About 150 calories per muffin.

I was in Cabo when I concocted these little nuggets of a muffin, taking full advantage of the abundance of jalapeños. Fun fact: jalapeños account for thirty percent of Mexico’s chili production. I snapped the above left photo at the end of the day when they were freshly baked and the sun was streaming dreamily in through the living room window. The next day we pulled out the preserves and enjoyed brunch with the muffins reheated, along with Donaldo’s delicious version of Huevos Rancheros, where flavors comingle in the best imaginable way.

Donaldo is his Cabo name, assigned by the Diamante caddies. He is on those golf courses when not in the kitchen with his skillet in hand! Go on, send your taste buds on holiday.

Halloumi Za’atar Grilled Toast

Yummmmm…za’atar, that delicious Middle Eastern herb seasoning. I was first introduced to this seasoning at the Old Spice Souk in Dubai. The year was 2013 and we took an abra across Dubai Creek where a purveyor invited me to smell it. Then he sprinkled it on a slice of grilled halloumi and I was hooked for life. Join me on this journey half way ’round the world! This halloumi toast is terrific cut into small squares for an appetizer, or halve the whole piece of toast and serve it for brunch.

4 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
1 Tbs minced fresh oregano
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs Za’atar seasoning
1/2 t ground pepper
8 oz halloumi cheese, sliced into 3/4” slices
4 slices hearty sourdough or strong wheat bread
1 clove garlic, halved
1 cup microgreens

Whisk together olive oil, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, za’atar, and pepper.
Brush both sides of halloumi and bread with oil mixture.
Grill halloumi and bread on both sides until charred, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Rub one side of bread with garlic.
Top toasts with halloumi.
Drizzle with remaining oil mixture.
Sprinkle with lemon zest and micro greens.
Serves 8 for appetizers or 4 for brunch.

To the left is pictured a brunch serving of this wonderful toast, cut on the diagonal. I added bean sprouts, and pink salt to jazz it up a bit.

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Canyon Ranch, be still my heart, soul, and body. I would like to write you a love letter, because you provided so much positive assistance to me; alas, I pause…sort of! I have a series of recipes based on my Ranch experience. They cook with uncommon creativity, making everything healthy and tasty. I’m revealing secrets from the premier health institute in the USA. Enjoy. This is a national treasure and I’m certain that this recipe (and more shortly) will become a staple on your spreadsheet. Hit the pause button and enjoy. Sending love, good health, and lots of happiness!

Medium spaghetti squash
Pinch salt
Pinch black pepper
Baking spray to prep baking sheet

Images: Top Left ~ Whole Spaghetti Squash – Top Right ~ Top half seeded, bottom half, not!
Lower Left ~ Face down on cooking sheet – Lower Right ~ Straight out of the oven

Preheat oven to 375°.
Spray baking sheet with small amount of canola oil.
Cut spaghetti squash in half.
Scoop out seeds.
Place cut side down on baking sheet.
Bake 45 minutes or until soft.
Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Shred squash with a fork into a bowl.
Makes 6 one cup servings.
35 cal per serving.

I add this baked version to a salad for extra flavor and fiber.
I really love this plain, warm out of the oven, room temp, or chilled.
The “add ons” can enhance the flavor if so desired.
You may add spaghetti sauce, maple syrup, Parmesan cheese, or top up a sandwich if you’re in the mood, just for extra fun. Pictured below is the squash topped with my homemade tomato sauce, along side a sculpture from my private collection by Jeff Kiefer.

Slice and Bake Cheese Wafers

School Days, School Days, Dear ole Golden School Days…Children arrive home “hangry”. So have this prepped and ready in your fanny pack (I hear they’re making a comeback!). I suggest forgetting the pecans for your grade schoolers, but that version may be nice for a dinner party app for friends, also fun to sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar. Just thinking out loud. Food is meant to temp as well as to nourish. Perfect snack. Afterall, Life is Too Short for Dull Food! Go Bake it!

1 stick butter, sliced
2 cups coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 t kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
Garnishes may be powered sugar, pecan halves, sliced olives, thyme leaves.

Combine butter, cheeses, salt, cayenne, and flour in food processor.
Pulse several times until crumbly.
Process 30 seconds more until a mass forms.
Transfer dough to sheet of parchment paper.
Roll into log about 2 inches in diameter.
Wrap in the parchment and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the chilled dough into 1/4 inch slices.
Arrange on parchment lined baking sheet.
Top with preferred garnish if you like.
Bake 12 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Immediately sprinkle with salt.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Wafers can be stored in airtight container for up to a week.

This cheese wafer is the good-time, slice and bake cousin of the cheese straw.
Keep a log of cheese wafer dough in the fridge, and in 20 minutes you have a delicious little treat.
Dough may be wrapped in parchment, then in aluminum foil, then placed in zip top freezer bag. It may be frozen for 3 months.

Grilled Shrimp and Fruit with Honey and Lime

Donaldo and I (and everyone that goes with us) find Diamante a perfect place of peace and joy…just what we all need, right? It means Diamond, and it is a lovely private resort on the Pacific, totally self contained, a few miles outside of Cabo proper. Cooking creates a calm in me, and sustenance is nurturing to all on the receiving end of dinner. And I adore cooking in the Diamante villa. Grab the essence of this mix of flavors in the recipe that follows!

And while I’m at it…All of my friends understand how difficult Covid and the quarantine were for me. I was paralyzingly afraid. But thanks to Frances, who introduced me to a new thought process, the amazing staff at Canyon Ranch who filled my box with the perfect tools, and James (nod to Brenton for her intuition, research, and choice!) who keeps me steady on the weekly, and finally…to me for creating menus that maintain that calm on the daily…I may just become a sociable person again…yes, the longest run on sentence ever! So enjoy the fruits of my joyous labor! This shrimp and fruit concoction is a true delight. YUM!! *Note: If anyone would enjoy further info on any of my helpful team of peeps, I’m happy to share! In the meantime, get your tastebuds ready for a happy dance!

1 Tbs olive oil for grilling
1 Tbs butter
1 lb large shrimp, cleaned
2 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs honey
Medium honeydew melon, halved and seeded
Medium cantaloupe, halved and seeded
Small seedless watermelon, halved
2 Tbs lime zest
2 Tbs lime juice
1 t chopped fresh mint

Combine 2 Tbs lime juice and honey in small bowl, and set aside.
Using 1 1/4” melon baller, scoop 24 balls of all 3 melons.
Place in large bowl.
Add lime zest, lime juice, and mint.
Toss to combine.
Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Preheat grill pan with olive oil and butter over high heat.*
Add shrimp and grill about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
Brush both sides shrimp with lime and honey glaze.
Grill 15 more seconds per side.
Serve shrimp along side melon balls.
Serves 4.
140 calories per serving.

*We didn’t have a grill pan at Diamante, so I just prepared the shrimp with a simple sauté pan. Just as delicious as the grilled version.

P TO THE S…SORRY IF THAT WAS TOO MUCH PERSONAL INFO! IT’S MY CURRENT LIFE PATH, AND I AM MORE THAN PLEASED, SO I WANT TO SHARE, ESPECIALLY IF IT CAN ASSIST ANYONE ELSE IN NEED OF A RESET! HAPPY HAPPY WEEKEND TO ALL. AND A VERY MERRY GOOD NIGHT! IS IT CHRISTMAS? 134 DAYS!!

Mexican Succotash

The original succotash was introduced by American Indians in the 1600’s. The name was derived from the Narragansett Indian word msickqqustash, meaning boiled corn. I’m not quite certain what they call it in Cabo, but corn is an obvious staple of Mexico; so, here we go! Last month at Diamante, the posse and I enjoyed poolside time, strict studying and taking notes while “reading” Audible books, the occasional margarita, wild golf cart rides around the property, and then back to the villa for cooking dinner. This is one sweet and spicey version of succotash that we concocted. It may be served warm, room temp, or even chilled…your choice! Take a look! PS. We served it with a grilled shrimp, and lime and honey fruit. That’s coming to you tomorrow right here! Stay tuned.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 t butter
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
3/4 t salt
3/4 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced jalapeño pepper
1 Tbs minced garlic
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cracked black pepper
Pinch cayenne
1 cup green beans, cut on bias in 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup water
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup cooked fresh or frozen baby lima beans (thawed)

Heat oil and butter in skillet over medium heat.
Add onion and salt.
Cook stirring until onion is golden and soft, about 6 minutes.
Add pepper, Jalapeño, and garlic.
Cook until peppers are soft, about 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne.
Cook and stir until heated through, about 1 minute.
Add green beans, water and 1/4 t salt.
Cook 4 minutes.
Add corn and lima beans. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.

2/3 cup serving is 140 calories.


Turkey Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

Visions of Italy Dance in my Head. I have so very many wonderful memories of holidays and birthdays in Italy with the fam…literally suspended moments in time that are priceless. Once we had a delightful houseparty and celebrated 80th, 85th, and 50th birthdays. This marinara takes me back to Villa Gerlino, in the sweet little village of Ambra. At the end of these journeys it’s important to remember not to cry because it’s over; but to smile because it happened. Bear with me here please…it looks like a really long recipe, but it comes together really quickly!
Count your rainbows, Not your thunderstorms.

For the Sauce:
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 Vidalia onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced*
2 Tbs chopped cilantro*
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, coarse chop*
1  28 oz cans San Marzano hand crushed tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup Rotel, flavor of choice
2 Tbs sugar
1 t Kosher salt
2 t fresh ground black pepper

To Make:
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.
Add onion, garlic, cilantro, and basil.
Cook 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, Rotel, sugar, salt, and pepper.
Bring to simmer.
Simmer uncovered 25 minutes, stirring frequently.

* Note: If I am in a hurry, I use Gourmet Garden Garlic Paste, Cilantro Paste, and Basil Paste. They are all made with fresh ingredients, and I keep them in my fridge! They come in a tube in the produce section of your grocery. It helps tremendously when your garden is out of season or you need to get the meal going quickly.

Note: Taste sauce at this point. If it is too spicy; simply sweeten the pot! Add 2 Tbs sour cream or heavy cream and stir to combine and calm. You may also use honey, more sugar, or half cup of vegetable broth if cream products are not on hand. There is no compromise of flavor.

For the Turkey Balls:
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup panko
1/4 Vidalia onion, diced
2 t garlic powder
2 Tbs chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 heaping Tbs Dijon mustard
1 t paprika
1 egg
1/2 t Kosher salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
Fresh Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

To Make:
Combine turkey, panko, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, mustard, paprika, egg, salt, and pepper in large bowl.
Gently mix with your hands.
Mixture should be soft to retain moisture during cooking.
If mixture is too moist, simply add a bit more Panko.
Form in to 18 turkey balls.
Heat olive oil and 1/2 cup of prepared sauce in large skillet on medium heat.
In batches, add turkey balls to skillet.
Cook 12 to 14 minutes, rotating often to brown all sides.
Transfer to plate while cooking next batch.
Serves 4 – 6.

To plate:
Place sauce on plate.
Place turkey balls on top of sauce.
Drizzle with a bit more sauce.
Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

*Note: This recipe doubles quite easily if you want extra for the freezer.
I cook the extra meatballs and freeze with prepared sauce.

DIG IN!

Minestrone for a Crowd

Because I love soup, I gift you this minestrone recipe. A little knowledge from my Trapper Keeper…Hundreds of years ago, Italians would use whatever leftovers were in the kitchen to make this family soup. It quickly became a staple, and found a way to travel to the grand ole USofA. The first time that the don and I made it together was this past summer at the historic Ocean House in Watch Hill, RI. We spent a lot of time in their culinary center with this darling chef pictured below. When the weather snapped cool at home this past autumn, I started making it from items available in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. And I continued to create random concoctions throughout the winter and now into the spring season. The recipe that follows is really just a guide line; you do you, and make it your own! Ahhh…the sound of slurping soup.

3 Tbs olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
13 oz frozen tiny green peas
13 oz bag frozen black eyed peas
8 oz fresh haricot vert, cut into thirds
1 Tbs minced garlic
8 cups vegetable broth
6 cups hot water
15 oz tomato sauce
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup ditalini pasta
2 Tbs sugar
3 bay leaves
1 Tbs dried oregano
2 t dried basil
1 t dried thyme
1 1/2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
3 cups baby spinach
Grated Parmesan cheese

Above right photo shows the minestrone with Puff Pastry Croutons!

In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.
Add onion and celery; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add garlic: cook 1 minute.
Add broth, hot water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, green peas, black eyed peas, haricot vert, pasta, sugar, bay leaves, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 20 minutes, storing often.
Stir in spinach; cook 2 to 3 minutes, until spinach wilts.
Top with grated cheese to serve.

Puff Pastry Crouton Crackers

How’s your Monday? Happy, I trust. This past weekend I had “The Littles” here…BTW, not so little anymore. We had friends with children over for salad, pizza, and Coach K’s farewell to Cameron game. So I had the four children making these puff pastry crouton/crackers to serve with our cheese and jam. They loved the way the dough was flat initially and then puffed in the oven…said a six year old, “so that’s why they call it puff pastry!”

Happiest little treats on the block, and simplest little treats to make.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbs heavy cream, for egg wash
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

All you need to do is this!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dust board and rolling pin with flour.
Unfold sheet of puff pastry onto board.
Roll to smooth out creases and flatten to appx 10 x 14 inch sheet.
Cut 24+ rounds of dough with 1 1/2″ cookie cutter.
Place them on prepared baking sheet.
Brush tops with egg wash.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes until puffed and golden.
And take a peak below to see how I use
them as actual croutons in my soups!