Month: August 2014

Tomato Basil Soup



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(serves 8-10)

¼ C olive oil

8 cloves garlic, halved

2 small yellow onions, chopped


2 T tomato paste

1 C red wine


½ C sun-dried tomatoes

2 – 28 ounce cans of diced San Marzano tomatoes

4 C cherub tomatoes

4 C boxed vegetable stock (unsalted)

1 C fresh basil leaves, packed

1 t salt

1 t red pepper flakes

1 T sugar


Preheat a soup pot over medium high heat. (Make sure that you use a non-reactive pot. Stainless is perfect.) Add oil, onions and garlic. Reduce heat to a nice simmer and continue to cook until garlic and onions develop some golden coloring. (pic) Add a pinch of salt. Add tomato paste into pot and mix in well and continue to simmer until tomato bits form on the bottom of the pan. Pour in red wine and scrape up any bits as the liquid begins to thicken to a syrupy consistency. (pic) Add canned tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, cherubs, vegetable stock, basil, salt, red pepper and sugar. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until cherubs wilt – 30-45 minutes. Remove soup from heat and allow cooling. Refrigerate uncovered until the soup is cool enough to puree in a blender. My suggestion is to make the soup a day ahead. Puree the next day and reheat for service. Again, soup almost always benefits from an overnighter in the fridge. Puree the chilled soup in a blender until smooth. If you object to seeds, you can puree the soup through a food mill. Reheat and serve with Texas-sized croutons and additional fresh basil leaves. If you prefer a thinner consistency to the soup, add additional vegetable stock or water.


Texas-Sized Croutons


USE TEXAS TOAST. When’s the last time you bought that? Texas toast makes a light crispy texture that works really well as a crouton. Slice crust off. Into a sauce pan, add 1 C of olive oil. Add 6-8 garlic cloves, halved. Place onto stove and simmer until garlic is golden in color and softened. (This keeps well in the refrigerator and is delicious drizzled on roasted vegetables or to brush on fish or meats when grilling.) For croutons, brush a cookie sheet with garlic oil. Brush one side of the crustless bread with the oil. Cut the bread into four squares and place, dry side down, onto the oiled cookie sheet. Sprinkle with garlic salt and place into a preheated 350 degree oven and cook for 12 minutes. Rotate and cook for an additional 10-12 minutes until golden.


Add these to tomato basil soup. The combination reminds me of a wonderful tomato bread soup shared with friends at a restaurant in Chianti…a lunch I will always remember.

Mixed Greens Salad



Thin slices of radicchio, baby kale, baby spinach, arugula, dill, parsley, blanched French beans, toasted pine nuts, crispy prosciutto, crimini mushrooms and grated parmesan. Dress this mixed greens salad with fresh lemon juice, EVOO, salt, cracked black pepper and a spritz of sugar. This hits all the buttons.


Carrot Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Icing

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2 C flour

2 t cinnamon

2 t baking soda

1 ½ t salt

2 C sugar

1 1/3 C vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 t vanilla

1 pound carrots, peeled and grated

1 C golden raisins

1 c walnuts, toasted and broken into pieces

1/3 C candied ginger, diced small

1 – 8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained


In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, soda and salt. Whisk to combine.

Add carrots, raisins, walnuts, ginger and pineapple to the dry mix. Mix well. Use your hands to break apart any clumps.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add sugar and vegetable oil. Using a paddle attachment, beat until smooth.

In a pourable container, combine eggs and vanilla.

Drop eggs into oil/sugar mix one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour egg mix on top of flour mix. Using a spoonula, mix ingredients completely.

For a double layer cake: Use two 9” X 1.5” cake pans. Spray each pan with non-stick baking spray. Fold over a piece of parchment paper and trace the bottom of the pan onto the paper. Cut to the inside of your tracing mark and place a parchment circle into each cake pan. Pour batter evenly into each pan and place into a 325 degree preheated oven. Bake for 25 minutes, rotate pans and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until the cake is pulling away from the sides of the pan and it feels firm to the touch. It will be sticky. No worries. Remove pan and allow cooling for about 30 minutes or more. I baked the cake one day and iced it the next.

For icing: I like to use the bottom of a tart pan as the “bottom of the cake.” Place the tart bottom on top of the cake and invert the cake out of the baking pan on to a “pedestal” that has a folded piece of parchment on top (see photos). Place a layer of orange cream cheese icing. Invert the second layer on top of the first layer. Spread an even coating of icing on the sides of the cake. For the top, feel free to decorate with swirls and swishes…or a piping bag. Press toasted coconut onto the sides of the cake. This will make a bit of a mess. Be patient and use a gentle touch. Coconut will fall off, reuse it patching where necessary. Scrape away loose coconut. Lift the cake off the pedestal using the parchment and place it into a Tupperware container for refrigeration. The cake will slice better once it has chilled. The cake holds beautifully for several days in the refrigerator.



Vanilla Cake with Fresh Peaches and Blackberries

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3 C flour

½ t baking powder

½ t baking soda

1 t salt

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2 sticks soft butter

2 c sugar

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4 eggs

1 t vanilla extract

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An ice cream scoop works well for even portioning.

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Choose your mold. Two large, mini loaves, individually sized cakes. Adjust cooking time accordingly.

¾ C sour cream

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Freestone peaches from Fredericksburg. Toss slices of peaches with blackberries and a sprinkle of sugar. Allow fruit to release juices.

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For the finished presentation, I used a Pyrex soufflé dish for the baking mold. I inverted the cake and sliced it into three layers. Layer your fruit and soft whipped cream. Garnish with mint and you have a magazine cover!

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter and beat with paddle attachment until smooth.

Add sugar to butter and continue to beat until well combined.

In a pourable container, combine eggs and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, to butter/sugar mix and combine well.

Add flour mix and sour cream to the butter/egg mix alternately beginning and ending with flour mix. Mix on lowest speed. Finish incorporating by hand.

Portion batter into prepared molds that have been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Place in a preheated 325 degree oven for 15 minutes, rotate and cook for another 15 minutes or until they are just set. Cooking time depends on size of baking molds. Remove and allow cooling for about 15 minutes before removing from cooking molds.

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Chipotle Shrimp Skewers with Pineapple Serrano Salsa

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For shrimp:

Use 16/20 shrimp. (numbers indicate the approximate shrimp per pound) Peel and devein one pound of shrimp leaving the tails on. Rinse and pat dry. Lightly coat both sides of shrimp with chipotle marinade. Sprinkle each shrimp with salt. Into a preheated sauté pan, add 2 T of olive oil. Place shrimp into pan and adjust heat. Careful not to cook to fast. Chipotle marinade can burn over high heat. A little color is nice, however. Flip skewers over and cook until shrimp are just firm to the touch. Remove to a plate and serve with pineapple/serrano salsa. Summer yum! Grilling is an option too.

For chipotle marinade:

Drop 3-4 cloves of garlic through the feed tube of a food processor while machine is running. Stop machine and scrape down sides making sure the garlic has been well chopped. Add one can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (see Shrimp Quesadiva recipe for picture of can) and zest of one small orange. Process until smooth. This marinade will hold in the refrigerator for 7-10 days. Use it to flavor mayo, as a marinade for pork or beef, or to add zip to your soups. Smokey, fragrant heat!!!

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For pineapple/serrano salsa:

1 C fresh pineapple, diced small

Half of a red bell pepper, diced small

Half of a small red onion, diced small and rinsed

2 serrano peppers, seeded and diced small

Half a bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 t salt

1 T olive oil

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Salsa can hold for 2-3 days. Also great on grilled pork.

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Ensalada Melones

(easily makes 2 dozen “boats”)

2 C seedless watermelon, small dice

2 C cantaloupe, small dice

2 C honey dew melon, small dice

1/3 C pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped

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4 slices prosciutto, crispy and broken into small pieces

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Place prosciutto slices on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Place into a 350 degree preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until crisp. Remove and cool. Break into small pieces.

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Fresh mint

1/4 C toasted pine nuts

Kosher salt

Cracked pepper

1 C feta cheese, finely crumbled


Lime wedges

Artisan Romaine leaves (sold at…cue the chorus…Costco for sure…perfect for these salad “boats”)

Spoon melon mix into Romaine leaves. Add crispy prosciutto, pine nuts, feta, sprinkle of salt, cracked pepper, mint leaves, a drizzle of EVOO and a squeeze of fresh lime.

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Chilled Avocado Soup with Mango Jicama Relish

(Serves 6-8)

3 large avocados, remove pits and scrape meat out

1/2  C sour cream

1 C buttermilk

1 C vegetable stock

1 C filtered water

1/3  C fresh lemon juice

2 t salt

¼ t cayenne pepper ( or more if you like the heat)

1 English cucumber cut into 1/2 inch pieces, leave skin on

1 bunch of green onions, chopped into inch long pieces

Half a bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped

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Organize ingredients first. You will need to blend in two batches.

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Creamy goodness. Cool and addictive.

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Place into a container and chill in the refrigerator. Best made in the morning for evening eating. Can be prepared a day ahead. Color can suffer a bit, however.

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For relish:

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1 small jicama, peeled and diced small

1 small mango, peeled and diced small

Half a small red onion, diced small and rinsed

1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced small

Half a bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

Zest of half an orange

1 T olive oil

1/2 t salt

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Mango relish is also good on a shrimp taco, fish taco, grilled salmon or dip a chip in it.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Relish can hold for a couple of days.