June 29, 2018

Overnight Cherry Butter


6 lbs cherries, pitted
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar

Place all ingredients in a 4-quart slow cooker, pressing down to crush the cherries enough to be able to close the lid, if needed. Cook on high 2 hours. Mash with a potato masher.

Continue to cook on low, with the lid slightly ajar, overnight or until it has reduced by half. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. I then whisked it through a sieve to make it extra smooth but that is optional.

Ladle the butter into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes. I used my electric canner which takes the same amount of time as processing on the stove but without heating up the house. If you don't want to can, just refrigerate it and use it within 2-3 weeks.

Yield: about 2 pints

My thoughts:
I've always thought it was cruel that canning season and summer coincide. I mean, it obviously makes sense, you are preserving the harvest but why does it have to be so hot? We don't have central air conditioning, only one room unit for the first floor, and it gets hot!

Luckily, I have the advantage of modern technology. As it turns out, it is easy to make fruit butter in my slow cooker and then use my electric canner to can it without heating up the house. Of course, you can do both (using this same recipe) on the stove top and the traditional canning pot as well.

Northwest Cherry Growers contacted me about being a canbassader again this year and I had a minute of panic when I realized I was called for jury duty and had to go out of town for a wedding directly after the cherries were to arrive. To make things easier for me, I pitted the cherries (use a pitter, save yourself) while watching tv and made this cherry butter slow cooker butter vs a more complicated, hands-on recipe while pitting even more cherries. The flavor is still there but the hands-on time is seriously diminished, a major plus when it comes to cherries which are one of the more labor-intensive fruits to prep and can. The balsamic seems odd but it deepens the flavor and keeps the butter from being overwhelmingly sweet. It also helps the acidity so it is safe to can.

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June 27, 2018

Cocoa Chocolate Chip Brownies

2/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
pinch salt

sprinkles if desired


Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour an 8x8 inch pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer, using an electric mixer, beat the oil, cocoa and brown sugar until a smooth, cohesive mixture forms. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until fluffy and well-combined.

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Slowly stream into the bowl as the mixer runs and beat until smooth, glossy batter forms. Fold in 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan. Scatter the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips across the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges come across from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out with moist (but not drippy!)  crumbs. Sprinkle with sprinkles if desired.

Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

My thoughts:
I know I make brownies year round but honestly, I think of them as a summer dessert most of all. They don't take long to bake (so they don't heat up the house much!), depending on the recipe you can make them with pantry staples, they don't melt, they don't need to be iced and they transport well to get-togethers and cookouts. And who doesn't love a brownie?

This recipe is so quick and easy you can whip a batch in a flash. It only contains ingredients that any baker would have on had, no stove use, no melting chocolate just a bit of mixing and they are oven-ready. They are moist, super chocolatey and slightly chewy.

The perfect dessert addition to #cookoutweek!

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June 25, 2018

Smoked Duck Spicy Sesame Noodles with Zucchini


for the sauce:
1/4 cup "pure" sesame paste*
1/4-1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons chile-garlic sauce
1/2 tablespoon hot sesame oil

for the duck:
1 1/2 cold, roasted duck (I used Maple Leaf Farm's Roast Half Duck with Orange Sauce -discarded the sauce packet)
green tea leaves

to serve:
10 oz egg noodles (fresh if possible)
1 zucchini, julienned (or zoodle-d)
slightly crushed Sichuan peppercorns
chopped peanuts (optional)
sesame seeds


for the sauce: (can be made a few hours ahead of time)

Place all ingredients in a blender, blend until a smooth, pourable sauce forms, adding additional water if needed.

For the duck:

Prepare grill according to manufacturer's instructions. Toss a handful of green tea leaves on to the coals. Grill the duck to heat it through, about 10 minutes on each side. Cool to around room temperature.


for the noodles:

Cook according to package instructions, add a couple drops of hot sesame oil to keep them from sticking and allow to cool.

for the salad: (minutes before serving)

In a large bowl, toss together the noodles, zucchini, and sauce. Top with shredded duck and a mix of other toppings.

* Not tahini, this is made from the whole sesame seed, but you can sub that if needed
My thoughts:
Okay, I really can't claim this recipe is super authentic but it is very good! I wanted to make it with ingredients that were pretty easy to find at any well-stocked grocery store so anyone could make it. Amazon also has a ton of these ingredients very reasonably priced as well which is awesome if you truly are in the middle of nowhere. 

Since it's cookout week, I grilled the duck (using already roasted duck speeds the process up so much and it is so easy to add a smoky flavor) and combined it with a creamy, spicy dressed noodle salad. A little unexpected but very good! Cookouts don't just have to be about sandwiches and hot dogs and steaks! Since the duck cooks so quickly, it is easy to make on a weeknight. It's really the perfect dish for someone who likes takeout sesame noodles but who also loves bold flavors. 

I admit, I was a little skeptical of heating up the duck on the grill but it was so good! The duck was still incredibly juicy and infused with this amazing tea-smoke flavor. This was one of our favorite dinners in seriously months. I can't wait to make it again!

June 21, 2018

BLT Tuna Salad, Salad

2 5-oz cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained
2-3 tablespoons dill pickle relish
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 tablespoon tahini paste*
1/2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise

to serve:
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced into wedges
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
2-3 tomatoes, sliced
4-6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
flatbread or pita,  warmed (optional)

In a medium bowl, flake the tuna with a fork. Add the relish, celery, and red onion. Stir. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, mayo and lemon pepper until smooth. Pour over the tuna mixture and stir to evenly distribute all ingredients.

Place sliced tomatoes on a plate. Top with bacon, lettuce and hardboiled egg wedges. Seve with flatbread or pita if desired.

Serves 4

*A good alternative to tahini in this that I love is sesame Goddess dressing. Annie's Naturals makes it but I buy the knock-off at Aldi. Use it to taste (I use about 2-3 tablespoons and slightly less mayo). Then I can also use it on salad vs just buying tahini to make this with.

My thoughts:
I ate a lot of  very simple, classic tuna salad growing up (my mom loooves making and packing lunches) but as an adult, I generally go for a slightly Mediterranean vibe with sesame and lemon, if I don't have lemons I use lemon pepper which I buy in bulk at Costco for a quick zip of flavor. The beauty of tuna salad is that you can make it with ingredients you have on hand, in my option so even though I dress up the flavor a bit I try to keep to pantry ingredients honestly unless I'm feeling really posh.

I love stuffed tomatoes but it is a little early for tomatoes in Maryland so I've been making do with some from warmer states and they have been fairly tasty but too small to stuff. In the meantime, I've been making an unstuffed tuna type thing for lunch when I don't have leftovers.

To make this dinner-worthy I added bacon and hard-boiled eggs to make it a bit more filling and some flatbread on the side. I made the tuna and eggs ahead of time and all I had to do was fry the bacon (pre-cooked bacon is sad) and assemble. I know people hate on iceberg but it has a great crunch, actually does have some nutrition to it and unlike romaine, hasn't killed anyone lately.

This was so refreshing on a hot almost-summer day! And who doesn't love a meal that comes together in just a few minutes on a weeknight?

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June 14, 2018

Zucchini Slice with Turkey and Chorizo

2 cups finely shredded zucchini, drained
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 1/4 cup cooked, cubed turkey breast (can sub chicken)
2 oz thinly sliced Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 oz crumbled goat cheese
5 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
freshly ground black pepper


Note: this part can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.

Squeeze dry zucchini if needed. Saute the onion and zucchini in a skillet using a small amount of olive oil until the onion is translucent and any water has evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  (I actually did this step, cooled it and added the cut up meat and cheese to the container earlier then did the batter-making, adding the meat/veggie mixture part at dinnertime)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray with cooking spray or grease an 8x8 inch pan.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, flour and baking powder until pancake-like batter forms. Fold in the zucchini, onion, turkey, chorizo, cheese, and spices.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes or until fully cooked (just few dry crumbs when a toothpick is inserted in the center) and golden brown on the bottom. Allow to sit in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

My thoughts:
This recipe is great for using up leftovers (I just used leftover marinated boneless, skinless turkey breast but rotisserie chicken would work too), summer vegetables (I have a ton of Vidalia onions and zucchini right now) and some chorizo for oompf in a reasonably quick way. I bought the chorizo when I was trying out Amazon Fresh awhile back but any store or deli that sells fancy Spanish or Italian meats should have it. Capicola would also make a good choice.

It's sort of based on the old school Betty Crocker/Bisquick "Impossible Pie" where you mix a bunch of ingredients (ground beef and some spice packet generally) and Bisquick to make an "impossible" pie where it magically forms a crust and topping. It's also similar to zucchini slice which I came across when reading an Australian book which is a sliced zucchini pie/bread type thing*.

Anyway, after adding turkey and chorizo it is basically a whole sandwich in square form. It's just as simple as a baked frittata but a little more substantial and different. I think it would be great as a brunch dish or a light lunch or dinner. We had it for dinner (I prepped some during the day to speed up dinner making) with just some veggies/fruit for a side as it is practically a whole meal unto itself.

The texture of this dish is surprising and very, very good. It is light and fluffy like a souffle yet still moist and tender.

*I made a version of zucchini slice with Old Bay a couple of years ago if you are interested

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June 04, 2018

Baltimore-style Fried Oyster Po'Boys


for the oysters:
2 pints oysters
1 1/3 cup self-rising cornmeal mix
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup Old Bay (low sodium okay)
canola oil for frying

for the Old Bay remoulade:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons dill relish
1 teaspoon Old Bay
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (powder)
juice of 1/2 lemon

to serve:
sub rolls (I used  Amoroso’s club sized rolls)
sliced tomato
shredded iceberg lettuce


For the oysters:

Heat 1-2 inches of canola oil in large, heavy-bottomed skillet. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornmeal mix and Old Bay. Do not add extra salt! Dredge the oysters in the mixture to thoroughly coat. Fry oysters in the oil, for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on size. Drain on paper towel-lined plates

For the remoulade: (can be made a day ahead)

Place all ingredients in a small bowl, mix together with a fork.


Spread the remoulade on both sides of each roll, top with lettuce. Line the roll with tomato slices and fill with oysters.

Serves: 4-6
My thoughts:
Oysters have always been a huge part of Baltimore, we had a ton of canneries in the harbor and there were even oyster pirates in the Chesapeake Bay! Local oysters (these were from Virginia) are easy to find locally and are quite affordable.

I love po'boys, especially oyster ones so I thought I'd Baltimore-fy it a bit and add Old Bay because in Baltimore, you just have to add Old Bay to anything to make it "Baltimore-style". It's true. We have Old Bay ice cream and candy here.

To make the sandwiches a little easier to eat, I used "club" rolls but you could use a full sized roll. I also used self-rising cornmeal mix which I feel gives the breading a lighter feel somehow. I don't question it. Between the Old Bay remoulade and the Old Bay batter, these po'boys are super flavorful and dare I say---slightly better than the oyster po'boys that don't have Old Bay? Sorry, New Orleans! We did give you the snowball so let's call it even.

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June 01, 2018

Knackwurst & Summer Squash Sheet Pan Supper


1 lb white or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch thick coins
1 Vidalia onion, cut into half-moon slices
1 1/2 teaspoons hot or sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 lb knackwurst, sliced into 1/2 inch thick coins
1 lb yellow squash, sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch thick half-moons
freshly ground black pepper
canola oil

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the potatoes, onions, and carrots in a single layer. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with spices. Roast 10 minutes or until the potatoes are softened. Add the sausage and squash and stir to coat in spices/oil. Arrange all ingredients so they are in a single layer. Return to the oven and continue to roast 10-20 minutes or until the sausages are browned and all vegetables are fork-tender. You can briefly broil to help brown if desired, prior to serving.

My thoughts:

Late spring has been exceedingly rainy and we haven't had a chance to break out the grill once! I keep buying things to grill and then having to freeze them or think of other ways to use them up. I had bought some knackwurst at Aldi and they just sat in my fridge for ages (luckily sausages have great expiration dates!). The rain doesn't seem to be going away any time soon so one night when I was trying to put off grocery shopping I thought I'd finally make them.

I'm glad I did! Not only were the sausages tasty, this is a super simple dinner that really tasted summery despite being made entirely indoors. In-season yellow squash and Vidalia onions really helped turn it into a complete meal. The paprika and celery seed tied the flavors together and the whole thing took about half an hour. Can't beat that!

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