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”.

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!!

Quick and Easy Biscuits

Start to Finish in Less that 20 Minutes. And That’s a Promise! This is life in abundance, as we neither bake nor eat biscuits in this household often. But when we do, we do it right baby! I paired this wonderful bread with homemade pimento cheese, cilantro butter, and homemade blueberry jam. That was for Sunday brunch. Sunday Supper saw us making tiny turkey sliders and topping them again with yummyness. The Don enjoyed his with pimento cheese and jam; and I enjoyed mine with cilantro butter and jam (and plenty of it)! I made it just to share with you excellent people who follow along on this joint journey. Southern know how people! Shine Bright Like a Diamond.

2 cups all purpose flour 
1/4 cup sugar
2 t baking powder 
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1 cup whole milk 
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs melted butter

Preheat oven to 450°.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.
In separate bowl, whisk together milk and mayonnaise.
Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until just combined.
Spoon level scoops of dough onto parchment paper, spacing them an inch apart.
Spread with melted butter.
Bake until golden, about 12 to 14 minutes.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Raspberry Brut Ice Cream Float

Hello…it’s midweek my fine folks, and it’s better than just a good day. Here comes an assault on your senses. It’s berry season and I’m punching you up with a sweet treat. This is a fabulous dessert…or I mean…it’s fantastic for brunch as well…this Sunday we’re celebrating my bro’s b’day, and I’ve already placed the special order, Booyah!

1/2 cup raspberries, plus more for garnish
2 Tbs sugar
4 large scoops vanilla ice cream, softened a few minutes
1/4 cup raspberry liqueur
Rose brut champagne

In blender, purée raspberries and sugar.
Pour in glass.
Rinse blender.
Add ice cream to blender.
Purée until smooth.
Place ice cream in 2 short glasses.
Pour liqueur over ice cream.
Pour raspberry purée over ice cream.
Top up with champagne.
Serve with a straw.

Every Day/Evening Sangria

Our family has always enjoyed the properties of a single, simple glass of Sangria, especially following a L.O.N.G. day of walking streets, touring museums, scouring markets, and absorbing culture in a distant city…or simply picking up the 5 year olds for the week right here in ENC (Eastern North Carolina)! The top pics below are from a treasured Thanksgiving holiday in London, on a quiet little street in Brenton’s neighborhood, when she was there and studying at Sotheby’s. Dare I say a magical adventure. The London version is a white wine Sangria, and my recipe is for a delightful red wine Sangria. Cheers!

2 oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
2 Tbs superfine sugar
2 (1/5th size ) bottles red wine
2/3 cup Grand Marnier
1 red apple, cored and sliced into thin wedges
Club soda to top up

Place half orange and lemon slices in large pitcher.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Leave to commingle flavors 15 minutes.
Add wine and Grand Marnier.
Refrigerate 1 hour or more.
When ready to serve, add apple slices, remaining orange and lemon slices.
Add ice to tall glasses and pour over.
Top up with small bit of club soda.

Strawberry Goat Cheese Crostini

It’s still strawberry season, so don’t sit under the apple tree; get yourself to the strawberry fields. Then bring the berries home, race to the kitchen, and make this treat to tickle those taste buds. And the crunch factor of the toast just adds a bonus to the mouth feel. Enjoyed by adults and children of all ages. Just sitting back smiling!

4 slices wheat/seed bread*
4 oz fresh goat cheese
Pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 t salt
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.
On parchment lined baking sheet, toss together strawberries, syrup, olive oil, and salt.
Bake, stirring twice, until berries are slightly shrunken and juices are syrupy, about 30 minutes.
Let cool slightly.
Toast the wheat bread and brush with olive oil.
Spread with fresh goat cheese.
Top with berries.
Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
Enjoy for breakfast.
Or cut into pieces for appetizers.

FYI…a cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than a cup of oranges, and almost as much fiber as brown rice. 
Leftover berries can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Makes 16 appetizers.

*My favorite wheat and seed breads are made by Food for Life, specifically Genesis and Ezekial.


I

Wonton Cinnamon Crisps with Fruit

Happy Monday! I trust that this “Spring of Vaccinations” is bringing a freshness to you and yours…hope and recovery from 2020, and renewal, with positive refreshing energy changes. And speaking of energy, a couple of weeks back the grands and I joined forces for a bit of energetic fun in the kitchen to make these cinnamon crisps. It’s a “duck for cover” situation when you have 5 year olds mixing cinnamon and sugar free hand, but filled with smiles, love, and giggles. This house wasn’t built on gummy bears alone!

8 wonton wrappers, cut in half diagonally
Nonstick cooking spray
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups fat free vanilla yogurt
1 cup mixed berries of choice
4 t honey

Preheat oven to 400°.
Mix cinnamon and sugar together in small bowl.
Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Arrange wonton wrappers on baking sheet.
Lightly spray wontons with nonstick cooking spray.
Sprinkle with cinnamon mixture.
Bake 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.
Set aside to cool.
Spoon yogurt and berries into dessert dishes.
Drizzle with honey.
Serve with cinnamon crisps.

Note: Cinnamon Crisps will last 3 weeks in zip top bag or sealed container.

Suzi and her Strawberry Bread

I met Suzi, by text and chat, through the Pandemic of Love organization. We’ve never seen each other in person, but had an immediate connection. She is, in a word, amazing. She’s a giver, fun, funny, spirited, a warrior, a survivor…she never quits, wouldn’t dare give up, and conquers it all. Here’s Suzi:

I am a Savannah girl who grew up spending summers with my grandparents, aunts and uncles in Lumberton, Fairmont, and Rowland. I am blessed with very good southern cooking DNA. My family lived in different areas of NC when I was growing up, New Bern and Lake Norman were 2 of my favorites.  
My mother instilled the importance of volunteering in my siblings and me. So, I have spent my life volunteering for a variety of causes and organizations. The Red Cross, Army Family Services, The Brady Campaign & Million Mom March, Junior League, local NPR stations, school and church organizations and more.  
The two closest to my heart have come into my life in just the last few years.  Bethematch.org, because I am a 2 time stem cell transplant patient. I have stage 4 DLBC Lymphoma. I am so very lucky because my 100% match donor was found relatively quickly through the National Registry. Many, especially those of color or mixed race, spend years waiting for a transplant. I am working to register 5000 new donors before reaching my 5th “ReBirthday” June 5, 2023!
The second organization is PandemicOfLove.com. This organization started on March 14, 2020 in the beginning of the global Covid Crisis. It was started by a mom in South Florida who saw friends and neighbors suffering as businesses and schools closed. Family incomes evaporated leaving people without food and means to survive. It is a simple formula of Mutual Aid. Those who need help register for assistance with utilities, groceries, diapers, car repairs etc. Those who have enough, register to help out a neighbor in need. I manage the NC chapters of Pandemic of Love. In North Carolina in 13 months we have matched over 1000 people who connect, and neighbors help neighbors. Globally the organization has matched more than a million people. More than 55 million dollars in direct mutual aid has been given. The organization has chapters worldwide and is completely volunteer driven. We have been featured on The Kelly Clarkson Show, ABC, CBS, chosen as a CNN HERO in 2020, and many print and media outlets. Shelly Tygielski, our founder is a Nationally recognized Mindfulness and Meditation leader.  

2 cups all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup Greek vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 t pure vanilla
1 1/2 cup fresh chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir sugars and egg together, mix well. 
Add oil, milk, yogurt, vanilla, and stir together thoroughly. 
Add flour, baking soda and salt; stir to combine-lumpy is ok. 
Fold in berries to combine. 
Do not over mix. 
Pour into parchment lined loaf pan. 
Bake in center of oven. 
Test after 45 minutes by inserting a toothpick and see if the bread is cooked through. 
Every oven is different and honestly every  bread and cake are different!

Grape and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

I mean seriously, have you ever seen the cooking show Naughty and Delicious? There is a wonderful Brit gal that is as charming as the English countryside…for me, that means the city of London… I’ve been watching her for a while now and hoped to bump in to her on my three day layover in London last year! Alas, that didn’t happen. But to satisfy all of us until I do meet her, here’s a great easy on the cook Bruschetta, reminiscent of her.

Dodge those raindrops outside!Appetizer Grape Goat Cheese Bruschetta
1/2 small sourdough loaf, cut into six 1/2″ slices
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup green seedless grapes, cut in half lengthwise
6 fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup soft goat cheese, room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400°.
Brush both sides of bread slices with oil.
Toast on middle rack 1 minute.
Turn and cook another minute until bread is crispy on both sides.
Rub each slice of hot bread with cut garlic clove as it comes out of the oven.

Add 3 Tbs oil to skillet over medium heat.
Add red grapes and sauté until warm and softened, about 3 minutes.
Add green grapes and toss just to warm. Remove to a bowl.

Add mint leaves to the hot oil and fry until crisp, 15 to 20 seconds.
Remove to paper towel to drain.

Spread goat cheese over one side of each piece of toast.
Top with mound of warm grapes.
Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
Top with a mint leaf.
Zest the lemon generously over each slice.

Frozen Lemon Pie

Friday Post Script, a day later than the Thursday Pie Post…Bull City Little League cancelled the weekend tournament. I must say that with my personal fear of Covid, I was relieved in a sense. the don and I were looking so forward to being with Liam for a few days, and Liam was very disappointed, as he adores baseball. Alas, healthy decisions were made by caring coaches and I say a warm thank you to Ray and all involved! Cheers to you and many future tournament weekends together!

I know…It’s been a second since I’ve been here; precisely it’s been 35,942,400 seconds! Yes, I calculated it (meaning that Google actually did the math)! But who’s counting?! Let’s move onward; summer may technically be over since Labor Day has come and gone. But the hot and muggy summer weather still persists here in good ole Eastern North Carolina. So whip up this light and breezy lemon fruit pie for the weekend. Perfection in a pie shell! I’m heading to see the Grands this afternoon, pie in hand. We’re ready for a weekend of Bull City Little League with Liam, all while being smart, wearing masks, and trying our darnedest to remain healthy.  Doing my best to stay safe y’all…my buddies know I’ve been totally reclusive since February! Let’s continue to take care of each other, and always eat pie when it’s available!
Dessert Lemon Pie III

This is All You need!
6 oz frozen lemon concentrate can, thawed
8 oz container whipped topping, thawed*
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 9” graham cracker pie shell, purchased or homemade

And This is How You Do It!
With electric mixer or blender, beat together lemon concentrate and condensed milk.
Fold in whipped topping.

Spread mixture in pie crust; cover and freeze, 6 hours or overnight.
Take pie out of freezer about 15 minutes before serving time.

Garnish with raspberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, lemon slices, and edible flower petals.
Slice and serve.

*I prefer Cool Whip Lite.
It does not change the consistency or flavor of pie, and saves those calories.