Lime, Mint and Aniseed Dressing

Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. Anais Nin

Friday was our monthly Girls Games and Giving event.  There were a few ladies who were there for the first time.  I think one of the things I love best about this group is that, at almost every meeting, I walk away having made a new friend or two (or even three!).  Our group was small and we had so much fun.  We like to play Catch Phrase and if you haven’t played, it’s hysterical.  Someone told me it’s similar to the game Taboo, but what it reminds me of is the show/game Password. Basically you have to get your team to guess a word without saying the word or giving any obvious hints (like “sounds like” or “starts with”). 

The kicker is that the game makes the most horrible loud beeping noise – it’s basically a timer.  The game itself is a round electronic widget that is about 6″ in diameter.  Your team has to guess the word and the game has to be in the next person’s hands before the timer goes off. As you’re holding the game, the beeps get closer and closer together – Beep!……Beep!…..Beep!…..Beep!…Beep!…Beep!…Beep!…BEEP!..BEEP!BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPHONK. There you sit with the game in your hands looking pathetic. When the beeping starts to get really close, the person who is next line will often delay taking the game – because even if your team has guessed the word correctly, you CANNOT be holding it when the timer goes off. The best is if you pass it to the next person and the timer goes off immediately.

The charity chosen by our hostess was ALS – or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. What an awful disease.  Essentially you end up with a body that doesn’t work and a fully functioning brain – trapped.  Two of the girls in our club are cousins and they’ve had 5 people in their family who either died or are dying from this disease. It’s always amazing to me how I can so easily feel like I don’t have enough in my life; yet hearing about a disease like this really makes it clear how blessed I really am.  The hostess showed us a before and after picture of the latest family member who has been struck with ALS – in six months she looked like she had aged 30 years. A good thing to think about when I feel like I’m somehow deprived!

I had this bright idea that I was going to can peaches this year.  This was brought on by my friend  and co-worker, Annie, who is this truly amazing woman – she can do anything.  She’s an outstanding cook, baker, quilter, sewer, accountant, just name it.  She brought in these peaches she had gotten at a local produce market.  They’re called Colorado Mountain Gold and oh my goodness – I’ve never had such a good tasting peach.  So I went to the market and bought an entire box. And before I could get them canned, we ate them all!  I have three left. And now, sadly, they’re not available anymore.  So, I’ll try again next year.  But, I did use them in some very creative ways.  Last weekend I made a salad with peaches, blueberries, and strawberries, and I topped it with a mint lime dressing that was used in a different type of fruit salad by my cousin Sue.  It was outstanding.  And even though the peaches were wonderful on their own, I also tried them alone with the dressing – yummers. And, it’s simple to make and keeps well. One thing I want to point out – I DO NOT like black licorace.  In fact, I would eat something with raisins in it before I would eat black licorace.  But don’t let the aniseeds in this recipe scare you.  The flavor is so subtle and adds so much to the final product – I promise you it will be good!

Just a few simple ingredients.  Those are the anise seeds on the bottom left. 

Mix together the sugar, finely diced mint leaves, anise seeds, lime juice and water. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.  Cool completely.

Here it is still warm from the stove.  If you’re going to make this a couple days ahead of time, you can leave the mint out when you boil it and add it in when the syrup is cool. Let it steep for a couple of days and it will have a wonderful mint flavor, and the mint pieces will stay bright green instead of losing their color (when they’re cooked they look a little like basil).

So good drizzled on fresh fruit (the last of the peaches!).  For more intense flavor, soak the fruit in the dressing for a couple of hours before serving.  So far my favorite combination is peaches, orange slices (from either mandarin or Cara Cara oranges), strawberries and blueberries.

Lime, Mint and Aniseed Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon anise seed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a small heavy saucepan over high head, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and boil for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat, and cool completely. May be used immediately after cooling or store in the refrigerator.

Alternative: Follow directions above, but do not add mint until mixture has cooled.  Allow to steep in the refrigerator for at least one day before using. This method keeps the mint leaves a nicer green.

 

Romesco Romesco Wherefore Art Thou?

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me. C.S. Lewis

One day at work I looked up and realized it was 11:30 AM. Not an unusual discovery, nor even odd.  I often look up at work and realize it’s 11:30 AM.  I have a Pavlovian reaction to that time of day – it’s when I eat lunch. What was unusual was that I had forgotten my lunch at home.  Bummer.  Okay, so what to eat?  We have lots of restaurants around, but nothing sounded good to me.  We even have a pretty nice restaurant in the building.  But still, nothing clicked.  Plus, it was an amazing weather day so I decided to go for a drive to see if anything called my name. 

As soon as I got in my car I remembered this amazing little deli called D’Amico.  It’s a little further away than I usually go, but they have great salads, soups and sandwiches. Once I got there I spotted this lovely salad made up of cold tender-crisp vegetables and garbanzo beans.  Very fresh, very enticing. So I asked for a serving and the guy behind the counter asked me if I wanted some of the sauce sitting next to it on my salad.  It looked like regular red sauce, which frankly, didn’t hold a lot appeal for me for topping a veggie salad, but I decided to try some anyway.  Needless to say, I nearly swooned when I tasted it.  I practically licked the container to get every last tasty bit. And I didn’t even care that for the rest of the day I was breathing the hot breath of death by garlic to every unsuspecting co-worker who happened by me that day.

Of course, I didn’t know it was called Romesco sauce, but I immediately went on line and looked at D’Amico’s Web page, found the description for the salad, and wrote “Romesco” on my hand.  When I got home that night, I was obsessed with researching this yummy concocotion.  And what I found is that it is mostly made of garlic.  Just kidding.  There is a lot of garlic in it, however.  I think it’s sort of the Latin version of Skordalia, the Greek garlic spread (which is just as lucious, by the way).  Frankly, as much as I love garlic I’m pretty disappointed in myself for just now discovering Romesco.  Which could also be called Red Nectar.  Apparently it’s sort of the ketchup of Spain.  The best thing about it is you can add different ingredients to it to slightly change the flavor – like mint, fennel, peppers, hot peppers, wine, bread, etc.  What I found is that the most common ingredients are filberts (hazelnuts), almonds, tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper, olive oil, salt, and vinegar.  So that’s how I made mine. I found a wonderful recipe here: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/romesco_sauce.aspx which I altered just a bit.

Here we have ground almonds, filberts, salt, yummy olive oil (this one is very fruity), tomatoes, GARLIC, red wine vinegar, pepper, an ancho chili, some bread, and some dry red wine.

Preheat oven to 350°. Core the tomatoes and place them on a pan for roasting.  Drizzle some olive oil in the center of the tomato.  Bake them for about 1-1/2 hours.

 

Chop the top off of a head of garlic.  Now smell it.  Take a bite if you want!

After you’re done playing with it, put it on a piece of tinfoil, and drizzle it with oil.  Now wrap it up really tight and put it in the oven with the tomatoes.  You’ll leave it in for about 35 minutes.

Here’s how it looks after it’s roasted.  At this point you may have to physically restrain yourself from spreading it on a cracker and eating it right now.

Squeeze all this yumminess out of the skin and put it in your food processor or blender.

When the tomatoes are done, let them cool for a bit and then pull the skins off so you just have the meaty insides. Put these in with the roasted garlic. Leave the oven on.  Please accept my apologies for my complete inability to photograph anything red so that it looks remotely nice.  I will get it eventually, but…

Roast some filberts for about 10 minutes or so. Give them a shake every once in awhile. When they’re done, let them cool for about 30 minutes or so. 

Now toast the almonds.  I know this doesn’t look like toasted almonds.  I have a bag of blanched almond “flour” which is just finely ground almonds.  But they taste so much better if they’re toasted! Be careful, ground almonds will burn much more easily than whole ones.  I put them in the oven for about 7 minutes and stir every few minutes. When done, put them in the food processor. Alternatively, use whole blanched almonds and toast for about 10 to 15 minutes, and add them to the food processor.

Cut the ancho chili open and flatten it out.

 

 Take all the seeds out, and get rid of the stem.

Roast this in a frying pan over medium high heat, and press it down with a spatula.  Should take about 10 to 15 seconds on each side.

Now put it in a cup of warm water, weigh it down with a spoon, and let it soak for about 15 minutes to get nice and soft.  Discard the water, and put the chili in the food processor with the tomatoes and garlic and almonds.

Now it’s time to peel the filberts.  Put them in a clean towel…

Wrap the towel around the filberts and vigorously rub the nuts together through the towel.

All peeled!

So we have the chili, the almonds, the hazelnuts, the tomatoes, and the garlic. Add in the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Slowly pour the olive oil into the food processor in a thin stream while the food processor is running.  It should be spreadable, but not really thick. If it’s too thin, you can add some stale bread crumbs.  Too thick?  A little red wine.  Now, if you want this super garlicky, you can add some fresh garlic cloves the mix.

I discovered it’s wonderful on bread! Seriously wonderful. 

Makes about 7 ounces.  Keep this in the fridge.  Eat it on things like veggies, pasta, meats or just with spoon.  You should make this as soon as possible.  It is loverly.

Romesco Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic bulb, roasted
  • 4 or 5 medium tomatoes, roasted
  • 1/3 cup olive oil plus extra for drizzling
  • 1/3 cup filberts, toasted and peeled
  • 1/4 cup finely ground blanched almonds, toasted until light brown
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 dried anchoo chili
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  You will use this oven temperature for everything you roast, bake or toast.
  2. Core the tomatoes, drizzle the cores with olive oil,  and roast for about 90 minutes.  Let cool, and remove skins. Place in the bowl of a food processor or a blender.
  3. Cut the anchoo chili open, spread it flat, and remove the seeds and stem.  Press into a frying pan over medium high heat to roast – 10 to 15 seconds on each site.  Put into a cup of warm water and weigh down with a spoon.  Let it soak for about 15 minutes until soft, take it out of the water, and add it to food processor.
  4. Cut the top off a bulb of garlic.  Place on a piece of tin foil, and drizzle the top with olive oil.  Wrap in tin foil and bake for 35 minutes.  Let cool, and press garlic out of skins.  Add to the food processor.
  5. Toast the ground almonds for about 8 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.  Alternatively, toast whole blanched almonds, let cool, and add to food processor.
  6. Toast the filberts for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Place on a clean towel and let cool for about 30 minutes.  When cool, twist the towel around and rub the nuts together through the towel. This will remove the skins!  Put the skinned filberts into the food processor.
  7. Add the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to the food processor. Put the lid on, and start the motor.  While it’s running, add the vinegar in a thin stream until well combined. If it’s too thin, you can add some dried bread crumbs to thicken it up.  Too thick?  Add a tablespoon at a time of dry red wine until it’s the desired thickness.

 

 

Hey, That’s Nacho Nacho That’s My Nacho

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.  Romans 15:7

My cousin Troy and his beautiful bride Nickie work for the government, and they get postings in all sorts of exotic locales.  For about the past year they’ve been living in Doha Qatar, which when pronouned sounds like “dough ha cutter”.  Qatar is an Arab emirate (ruled by an emir) in the Middle East, sharing a border with Saudi Arabia.  It’s fascinating listening to the stories about how different it is there. 

For one thing, there’s very little greenery.  Grass or lawn is really hard to come by, and it’s a hot property. Apparently it’s not unusual for someone to take the lawn when someone moves out of their home. They actually had to have someone watch their house so no one would take their lawn!  And of course, there are different rules about how to dress – women cannot show their bare shoulders or their knees. And you can’t get any pork there – they have beef bacon instead of pork bacon.

So you can imagine how much they miss the food they grew up with, and the restaurants they love. There are fast food restaurants in Doha, but not great “sit-down” restaurants.  So when my cuz and his wife were here for 3 weeks, they had a list of restaurants they wanted to visit.  Nickie’s a foodie like me, but she’s young and slim.  She’s an awesome cook and I sure love talking to her about recipes and such. One of the places on the list was Green Mill, and we all went out to dinner there one night.  Actually, we were celebrating a rather momentous occasion – it was my Uncle Dave’s birthday!

I haven’t eaten at Green Mill for quite awhile, and, as usual, the food was wonderful (as was the company).  We had some appetizers, including these outstanding nachos.  They were made with pulled chipotle chicken and they were scrumptious. I’ve been craving them ever since and decided to try to make my own version. And they turned out to be really good!  I made the tortillas from scratch because they’re so much better that way (I love them fresh off the griddle with butter and sugar – kind of a corn version of lefse which is another favorite).  You can whip up a batch of tortillas in about 30 minutes or less, but since I screw around while I’m cooking it takes me longer to do stuff.

So thanks Green Mill for the wonderful inspiration; and thanks to Olha at Food.com  for the Chipotle Pulled Chicken Recipe.

For the tortillas, all you need is a tortilla press and some fine ground masa (corn flour).  You could use a heavy pan as a press if you like, but I really like the tortilla press and they’re relatively inexpensive – around $15.00.  If you’re going to make them frequently, it’s worth it to buy the press. Add a little salt if you like, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Mix about 2 cups of flour with about 1-3/4 cups of water.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt if you like. You may need more water.  You don’t want the dough to crack when you’re working with it -then it’s too dry.  But you don’t want it so sticky that you can’t get it off your fingers.  It should be the consistency of Play Doh.  Mix it together and knead it a bit.

Roll them into balls, about the size of a golf ball.

Cover them with a damp paper towel.

 Put a piece of plastic wrap over each side of your tortilla press, and place a round of dough on the bottom slightly offset toward the hinge.

 Press down, and put some muscle into it!

Yup, you did it!  Now peel that beauty off the plastic and put it on a hot griddle (I use my non-stick pancake griddle preheated to about 375°, but you could also use a frying pan over medium high to high heat). 

Let it get some nice brown spots.

Now let’s make the chicken.  Start with chicken breasts, chicken stock, salt, onion, garlic and cilantro.

Chop some onion and garlic (I like to use a garlic press because I’m lazy and I don’t have to peel the garlic!). Onions don’t have to be too fine.

Put the chicken breasts, chicken stock, onions, garlic, some salt and a few sprigs of cilantro into a pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until the juices run clear.

While the chicken is cooking, gather up some salt, oil, diced tomatoes (or whole, doesn’t matter), some chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, some garlic, and some onion. Ignore the cilantro, I just got carried away (I LOVE cilantro – isn’t it funny, it seems like people either love it or hate it, no real middle ground there – but the smell is heavenly!).

Finely chop some onion, crush the garlic, and cook all of it in a couple tablespoons of oil over medium heat, until the onions and garlic are translucent.

In the meantime, in a blender or food processor, combine the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chipotle peppers.  Now, there is one caveat.  I don’t like it when the peppers are so hot that you can’t taste the other flavors.  So I take the chipotle peppers out of the can, and scrape the seeds out.  That way I get spicy but not too hot.  If you like it hotter, leave all or some of the seeds in.  I also add a couple spoonfuls of the adobe sauce which is also spicy but adds a wonderful smokiness that I really enjoy.

Puree until smooth, and add it to the onion mixture. Cook over medium heat until it reduces by about half. It’ll get nice and thick.

Take the chicken out and discard the broth, onions and cilantro.  Let it cool for a few minutes.

Use two forks to pull the chicken.

Make a big pile!

Mix the chicken into the sauce.

Mmmm mmmm my my.

 Heat up some peanut or vegetable oil in a large frying pan.  When it’s hot, cut the tortillas in half and fry them until they’re light golden brown. 

 Drain them on paper towels. You can salt them a little when they are still hot (I didn’t, but you can!).

 Make some Pico De Gallo – use equal amounts of onion and cilantro, and slightly more tomato.  Add as much jalapeno as you’d like (again, with seeds, much hotter – your choice).

 

 Squeeze in some garlic – a clove or two…

Some fresh lime juice – 1/2 to 1 lime – and salt to taste.

Grate some pepper jack, monterey jack and cheddar cheese.

Place the tortilla chips on a pan (I covered it with non-stick foil – easy peasy clean up!) and pile on some chipotle chicken.

 Add some of each cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted.

Serve hot with pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole. Now you will notice there is no guacamole here. It was late, I was hungry and lazy and I chose to just eat slices of avocado.  Now this was good, but it would have been better with guacamole. Just so ya know.

Chipotle Chicken Nachos

Ingredients:

Tortillas:

  • 2 cups fine ground masa flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
  • water

Chicken:

  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Chicken stock
  • 1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 or 4 sprigs of cilantro
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

Chipotle Sauce:

  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  •  1 – 28 ounce can of tomatoes
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
  • 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pico de Gallo
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • 2 medium size tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 chopped jalapeno, with or without seeds depending upon your individual preference
  • 2 cloves minced or crushed garlic
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Nacho Assemblage Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup each monterey jack, pepper jack and cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion

Directions:

Tortillas:

  • Heat electric griddle to 375°, or use a frying pan over medium high to high heat.
  • Mix together fine ground masa, salt and water.  Knead well.  The dough should have the consistency of Play Doh
  • Roll into golf ball sized rounds.  Cover with a damp paper towel.
  • Press balls of dough using a tortilla press lined with plastic wrap or using the bottom of a heavy pan covered in plastic.
  • Carefully peel the tortilla from the plastic and cook until golden brown. 

Nacho Chips:

  • Cut the tortillas in half.  Heat about 1″ of oil in a medium to large frying pan, and fry the tortillas until golden brown. 
  • Drain on paper towels.  You may add salt at this point if you like.

Chipotle Chicken:

  • Combine chicken breasts, roughly chopped onion, 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh cilantro, and salt in a heavy medium size saucepan.  Cover with chicken stock.
  •  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a heavy simmer.  Cook, covered, for about 20 minutes or until chickn is cooked through (juices will run clear).
  • Remove chicken breasts from pan and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • When cool, use 2 forks to pull or shred the chicken.

Sauce:

  • While the chicken is cooking, begin sauce assembly.  Combine finely chopped onions and minced garlic in a frying pan with about 2 tablespoons of oil.  Cook over medium heat until the onions and garlice are translucent. 
  • Combine the tomatoes, tomato paste, cseeded hipotle peppers, adobe sauce and salt (if desired), in a blender or food processor and puree.  If you want the sauce hotter, use the chipotle peppers without removing the seeds and add additional adobe sauce from the can. You could also add additional peppers if desired.
  • Pour the tomato mixture into the pan with the onion mixture, and bring to a simmer.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced.  Add chicken and mix well.

Pico de Gallo:

  • In a medium size bow, mix together the chopped onion, chopped cilantro, chopped tomatoes, minced garlic and chopped jalapeno.
  • Add the juice of 1/2 a lime (or more if you like) and season to taste with salt.  You can make this a couple hours ahead of time if you want to let the flavors blend a bit, but it’s also great right away).

Assemble the Nachos!

  • Heat oven to broil and line a baking sheet with non-stick foil.
  • Place tortilla chips on the baking sheet without overlapping, and add about 1-/2 tablespoons of chipotle chicken to each.
  • Put about 1/2 tablespoon each of monterey jack, pepper jack and cheddar cheese on each chip (or more if you like them extra cheesy!)
  • Broil for 1 to 2 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  When the come out of the oven, transfer to a plate and sprinkle with chopped green onion.
  • Serve warm with sour cream, pico de gallo and guacamole (also salsa if you like).  By the way, these are pretty good cold the next day, too!

 

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

“My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.” – Dave Barry

Chocolate is a beautiful thing. I love to have a cup of coffee, take a sip, and then pop a little piece of chocolate in my mouth and let it melt.  Oh my goodness, what a fabulous way to eat chocolate. I’ve been looking for some good recipes for an event I’m hosting in July. 

I have a group of amazing friends, and one of them, Jacqui, came up with incredibly fun idea about 2 years ago. She created a club called Girl’s Games and Giving. Now, this isn’t an exclusive club, anyone – any GIRL – can come to any of the meetings, which are held about once a month.  Each month a different member gets the chance to play hostess.  Everyone comes to the party and the hostess makes some yummy goodies to nosh on. We usually play games like Catch Phrase or Apples to Apples, or sometimes we just get to yackkin’ and that’s what we do all night.  There is always wine involved (or sometimes sangria) but the best part is the giving. 

Everyone brings $10 to the party, and the hostess gets to pick out the charity that she wants to support that month.  So far, we’ve raised about $2100 for a bunch of different causes.  Sometimes the hostess chooses a charity that is very personal (like donating to someone she knows who is in need of help) and sometimes the money goes to a larger organization such as Feed My Starving Children.  Which, by the way, if you have never gone to a FMSC food packing party, you need too.  It’s a lot of fun and it’s unbelieveable how many meals can be packed up in a couple of hours.  So as the hostess I feel I have two duties.  One is to come up with a fabulous spread; and the other is to pick a really good charity.  This time I’ve decided to give to – whoops, it’s supposed to be a surprise.  I’ll update you after the event.

I need to come up with some great goodies and I found this recipe for a Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball.  Isn’t that cool idea?  A cheese ball that’s sweet instead of savory?  I thought so.  I found the recipe on the Taste of Home Web site and modified it just a tiny bit. Last night I mixed up the ingredients and gave it a little taste.  It was pretty good, but not knock me back on my heels good.  But today, the flavors melded and it is really delicious.

Gather up these low fat ingredients.

Let the butter and cream cheese sit out and get nice and soft.  Then mix together until fluffy.

Mix in the powdered sugar, brown sugar and vanilla (the vanilla’s in there, it’s just buried under the powdered sugar. Really).

Mix it up good and then add in the mini chocolate chips. Yeah.

Mix those chips and try a taste.  Now cover it up and put in the refrigerator for awhile.  I put mine in overnight but I bet an hour or so would work.

Now dump it all out onto a large piece of plastic wrap.  Don’t eat any (KIDDING).

 

Now use the plastic wrap to keep your hands clean and wrap it up into a ball.  Stick it back in the fridge for about an hour.

While you’re patiently waiting, keep yourself occupied by toasting some walnuts and chopping them up. Chop into pretty small pieces.

Peel off the plastic wrap.  Mmmm. Smells great!

Roll them it in the walnuts.  Keep rolling it until it’s completely covered. This is also a chance to make it rounder if you need to.

Voila!

Very nice! Serve with graham crackers, cinnamon sugar pita chips, vanilla wafers (you get the idea, nothing healthy).

Don’t eat half of it while typing stuff into a blog. I didn’t do that. I had help. Well, at least I had help with the pita chips and graham crackers – I don’t feed chocolate to the dogs.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

  • Beat butter and cream cheese in a medium sized bowl until fluffy.
  • Add powdered sugar, brown sugar and vanilla, and beat until combined.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.
  • Scoop out mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
  • Toast walnuts and finely chop.
  • Unwrap cheese ball and roll in walnuts until well covered.
  • Serve with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, cinnamon sugar pita chips, or any goodie of your choice. 

 

 

 

 

 




Raspberry Salad with Sugared Walnuts and Blue Cheese

 The serious business of heaven is joy. C.S. Lewis

Oh boy, do I love raspberries! Little red jewels of flavor. They’re so delicate and so pretty!  Isn’t it fun to eat pretty food? And so versatile – amazingly good either in a sweet or savory dish. 

Many years ago I had a wonderful salad at one of our local restaurants, and this is my version of that salad.

First we need a really good raspberry vinaigrette.  I found a great recipe on All Recipes from a lovely lady named Valerie Jordan.  I changed it just slightly because it was a tad too tart for my tastes (raging sweet tooth here) – so start with a little less sugar and taste as you go to make exactly the way you like.

Simple lovely ingredients make up this delicious dressing.  Mix them together – put them in a jar and shake shake shake. I like to make this a day or two ahead of time because the flavors have tme to meld.  Also, you can substitute a different mustard to give it a slightly different flavor.

Now some caramelized onions – a perfect addition for this salad.  And so easy to make. 

Get an onion and some butter.

Slice the onion into fairly thin slices.

Melt some butter in a frying pan.

Add the onions and turn the heat down to medium low or low.  You want to cook these babies very slowly for a long time.  I’d say 30 to 40 minutes.

Get out a few more ingredients (I like them all close to room temperature except for the spinach).

While the onions are cooking, we’ll make some sugared walnuts.  Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil (I love this stuff!). Put the walnuts in a frying pan and turn the heat to medium high.

Add a nice amount of sugar…

And a little bit of water…

 

And stir it up.

Give the onions an occasional stir.  They should be starting to turn a light brown.  Remember to keep the heat low so they don’t burn.

The water in the walnuts should be starting to evaporate.  At this point keep stirring and turn the heat down a little if you need to.  You’ll see the sugar start to melt and carmelize to some extent.  And this smells heavenly because you’re toasting the walnuts so you get the rich walnut smell and the yummy sugar fragrance.

When most of the liquid is gone and the sugar is melted, take them off the heat…

 

…and spread them out on your non-stick foil or parchment paper. Whack ’em a little with your wooden spoon to separate them. Just let them cool (a word to the wise – DO NOT TASTE NOW – the sugar will stick to your tongue and burn it – somebody else told me that – I didn’t have to find out the hard way *I am such a liar*). When they are cool, hide them, they’re wonderful on their own and you need to save them for the salad!  Trust me!

When your onions look like this, take them off the heat and let them cool down.  You’ll want them room temperature. 

Now get out the spinach and some plates.  We’re making a salad! A spectacular fabulous salad!

Some pretty green baby spinach (or whatever you like)…

Some sugared walnuts…

Some caramelized onions…

Some gorgeous ripe red raspberries and yummy Gorgonzola cheese…

And finally, some of our wonderful raspberry vinaigrette. This is such a fresh tasty salad. I like to serve this with beef tenderloin or other heavier meals, because it complements the meal perfectly. It’s also great as a stand alone treat.

Here are the recipes you little chickadees!

Raspberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or mustard of your choice)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and shake well before using. Making it a day or two ahead of time allows the flavors to develop, but it is very good immediately as well.

Carmelized Onions

  • 1 large sweet yellow onion
  • 1 quarter stick of butter

Directions:

  1. Slice the onion into thin slices.
  2. Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat.
  3. Add the slice onion and stir well to coat with butter.
  4. Continue cooking over low or medium low heat, letting the onions slowly turn brown.  This will take 30 to 40 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  5. They will be a beautiful caramel color when done, and you can eat them warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Sugared Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 -1/4 cup whole or halved walnuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

Directions:

  1. Place a piece of non-stick foil or parchment paper on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.
  2. Place walnuts in a frying pan over medium to medium high heat.
  3. Add sugar and water and stir to combine.
  4. Stir frequently until the water starts to boil and the sugar begins to melt.
  5. Turn heat to medium or medium low and stir as the water evaporates and the sugar begins to caramelize – it will stick to the walnuts.
  6. When the water is evaporated transfer the walnuts to the prepared pan and break up with the spoon.  Let cool completely.
  7. These can be chopped into smaller pieces if desired.

Raspberry Salad with Sugared Walnuts and Blue Cheese

Ingredients:

  • Baby spinach leaves or greens of your choice
  • Sugared walnuts
  • Caramelized onions
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese
  • Ripe raspberries
  • Raspberry vinaigrette

Directions:

Layer all ingredients as desired. I like to try to make sure I have about the same amount of raspberries, onions and walnuts so I can get a bit of each in every bite.