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Heirloom Tomatoes with Corn and Basil


I think I’m obsessed with tomato and corn salads right now…



and when my friend, Valerie, took me to her Tuesday night farmer’s market I knew I had to make just one more.  I bought the Sungold and the sweet grape tomatoes as well as a couple of the heirloom tomatoes.  Let me tell ‘ya they surely didn’t disappoint my taste buds.  One great tip I heard about going to your local farmers market is to arrive early so you will get the best of the best in their selections, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Now go to your local farmers market and get inspired!

Just look at those vibrant and fresh colors.  When I tasted these delicious heirloom tomatoes I noticed a unique sweetness to them.  Their texture is smooth and the skin is very thin.  I think that these just might be the perfect tomato.

What is an heirloom tomato exactly?  It just means that its variety is at least 50 years old grown from seeds of native, nonhybrid plants. (I am sure this has satisfied all your questions about heirloom tomatoes).


The original recipe called for safflower oil….and I read it as Sunflower oil, so I just ended up using Olive oil for the vinaigrette.  I also did not have any fresh limes so used some key lime juice that was in my pantry.  I also used just a tad bit of sugar in my vinaigrette as well.  It really wasn’t necessary because the corn and the sweetness of the tomatoes were enough.


After you cook the corn add the basil.  I cut the heirloom tomatoes and alternated their vibrant colors.


Mix all the vinaigrette ingredients together, then top the cut heirloom tomatoes with the corn and drizzle the vinaigrette on top of that.


Toss in the cut sweet grape tomatoes and garnish with a little bit of basil and there you have one amazingly beautiful, and flavorful salad.

I  am a little fearful that this might not be my last tomato and corn salad….because the height of corn season is next month.  I think I just may need a corn and tomato intervention.

I am back!!!

Hi Everyone!!!!  I am back!  It has been a very long, hard and difficult year for me.  My blog has suffered greatly and I have missed it very much.

I have recently moved to Napa, California and I LOVE IT!!  With this new move I am on a great culinary adventure.  Where better to do it than here in beautiful Northern California.  So please, stay tuned.

My blog will also be getting updated within the next month with a new look and will be easier to view my blog posts and delicious recipes.

Thank you everyone who continues to support me and my blog.

Can’t wait to get back into making delicious dishes!

See you in a few weeks.  Melissa

Deviled Eggs

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I think when it comes to serving  brunch or appetizers we tend to forget about these delicious little deviled eggs.  They come with such a wonderful and natural vessel to fill with delicious concoctions.  I have filled mine with tangy blue cheese, crunchy apples, and walnuts.  In the recipe part of the post I will give you a few ideas on something more than just the traditional filling.  I still think the traditional filling is wonderful, it is just fun to play around with an old classic.

 

 

 

Hard boil your eggs, peel and allow to cool.  Cut the eggs in half and gently remove the yolks to a bowl.

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In a small bowl add the mayonnaise, prepared mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper, mashing and mixing to incorporate until the mixture is smooth.

 

 

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Add your “fun” ingredients.  I did have to make sure that the items were chopped small enough that they didn’t look odd when piped into the egg.

 

 

 

 

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To make it easy to pipe into the egg white I put the egg yolk mixture into a large baggy and snipped the end off.

 

 

It is so much easier and less messy this way.  Of course you can sprinkle with a little bit of paprika for some added color and interest.  Yummy, and your gluten free friends will love you, too!!

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Classic Lemon Bars

 

Oh Yum!!  Who can resist the buttery crust, tangy lemon custard filling and the sweet dusting of powdered sugar?  I sure can’t!  This was the very first recipe I ever used when I was in college.  I remember using baking soda instead of powder, figuring they were the same!  Oh I have come a long way baby!  In the photo above I cut the bars into small squares and placed them on a cup-cake liner.  A perfect way to serve them to large crowds.

Make life easier and mix the dough and filling in your food processor!  Perfection every time!

The crust is a beautiful golden brown.  Ready for the lemon topping!

Be sure to dust the top of the bars with powdered sugar right after they come out of the oven.  The sugar kind of “melts” into the topping and stays somewhat secure when you cut into them.


Pure lemon heaven!

Cauliflower Soup

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I loved this silky, creamy and very flavorful soup.  Easy to make for a weeknight meal.  Serve with crusty bread and a green salad and you have one healthy “meatless Monday” meal!!

I added some carrots for color and interest and a little bit of a sweet flavor.  Carrots just happen to be my most favorite vegetable, so whenever I can add carrots I will do it. :)

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So here are the cast of characters.  One does happen to be missing and that is the Yukon Gold Potato that I used.  I also used fat free half and half (just seems weird that they can do this fat free), but we needed to keep this soup healthy and low cal.

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Get out a large stock pot.  Add the butter and melt, once the butter has melted add the chopped leeks.  When using leeks just make sure that you clean them well.  Dirt likes to hide in between the layers of the leeks, and you don’t want a gritty, “dirty” soup LOL.  Saute for about 15 minutes, or until the leeks are a light golden brown.  Season with salt and white pepper.

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Once the leeks are done cooking add the flour, incorporate well with a whisk or a fork.

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Slowly add in the chicken broth, whisking the flour mixture into the broth.

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Cut your cauliflower and potato into bite sized pieces (all about the same size for even cooking).  Place the cauliflower florets and diced potatoes into the soup.  Allow the soup to boil until the cauliflower and potatoes are a little “mushy”.

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While the soup is cooking sauté your carrots with a little bit of butter, salt and white pepper until al dente.

Puree the soup with an immulsion blender or food processor.  The soup should be nice, smooth and creamy.  At the very end add the carrots and half and half.  Ladle into bowls and serve!  So delicious.

Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart

Cauliflower and Caramelized onion tartCauliflower tart ingredients IMG_6547 IMG_6550 IMG_6551 IMG_6553 IMG_6554 IMG_6557 IMG_6558 IMG_6559 IMG_6560Wow!  This delicious little tart is so full of amazing flavors.  Who can resist roasted cauliflower, caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese all topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese to give it a nice golden brown crust on top?  I sure can’t.  My house smelled so amazing while this was baking.  If you need to put this together at a later time you can certainly roast the cauliflower, caramelize the onions, and grate the cheeses an entire day ahead of time.  Let’s get started.

Make sure that you use Mascarpone cheese.  You could substitute regular cream cheese,  however the Mascarpone is smoother and won’t clump like regular cream cheese.  So do what you can to find it.  It will be worth it in the end.  I promise.

When caramelizing the onions just be sure to go slow.  It takes time to get them to their perfect color.  When you get ready to assemble the tart just brush the bottom and sides with the Dijon mustard, lay the onions on the bottom, top with the bite-sized roasted cauliflower.  Beat your eggs first then add the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, pepper, nutmeg and Gruyere cheese together in a medium sized bowl.  Pour over onion/cauliflower mixture.  Top with the Parmesan cheese.  I pressed down on the cheese just a bit to make sure it formed a nice crust on top.

Bake for about 40 minutes.  The tart will be nice and golden on top and the center will be set.  Serve this as an appetizer, brunch item or for a meatless dinner served with a bright green salad.  Whenever and however you serve it, it will be guaranteed to be a hit.

 

 

Mushroom Barley Soup

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What a delicious little soup.  We had our first rain yesterday and I just had to make a soup.  I am trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet these days (who isn’t!) and this is such a tasty way to do it.Mushroom Barley Soup

This soup has minimal ingredients and the deep flavors of the beef broth and chewy texture of the barley makes this soup a home run.  Serve it with a light green salad and some crusty French bread and you have yourself a meatless dinner that will be sure to please even the pickiest of eaters!!  Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beef Wellington Bites

These have to be my most favorite appetizer for the holiday season.  Not only are they beautiful to look at but they are so very decadent and bursting full of flavor and texture.  What’s not to love about puff pastry, prosciutto, mushrooms, blue cheese and tender filet mignon.  I can’t wait until next year.

I got the idea for these beauties from Claire Robinson on the Food Network, but the filling came from my most favorite mushroom saute that I found in Bon Appetit.  They paired together in perfect harmony.  These are very impressive and sure to knock the socks off of your guests.

I didn’t get pictures of all the steps, but I did use Pepperidge Farm puff pastry.  In the picture above I have lightly rolled out the puff pastry on a floured surface.  Cut the puff pastry into squares, place about two teaspoons or so of the mushroom mixture and top with the seared filet mignon.  Bringing the opposite ends up, crimp them together and bring the other two corners together, making sure everything is all wrapped up.  Place the bites on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper or greased, brush an egg wash on top of each bite and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Pecan Balls


I’m not sure why I only make these cookies around the holiday season.  They are so scrumptious that I should make them year round.

Maybe it is because they look like little snowballs.

They’re not too sweet, not too big and they go perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.  This recipe also makes a lot, so it is perfect for a family get together or for gift giving.


First you need to beat your butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium high speed for 30 seconds (need to get it a little fluffy).  Add the sugar and salt, mix until it is combined.  Add in the vanilla and flour and pecans.

Yep, that’s it.


Take a tablespoon and measure out the dough, roll into balls and place on cookie sheet.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes, or until bottoms just begin to brown.  Let cool enough so you can touch them.


You’ll want them just a little warm so that the powdered sugar can “melt” onto the cookie.

Give them a good roll in the powdered sugar until all sides are coated.


Is’t he cute!


These are perfect little bites that will delight your palate.  It is like a little pecan shortbread.

Yummy!

Sugar Cookies

***********NEWS ALERT***NEWS ALERT***NEWS ALERT***NEWS ALERT***********

Did the strength of baking powder become stronger in the last 25 years?  I’ve been making these deliciously tender sugar cookies for a good 25 plus years and for the last year my cookies have been coming out kind of funky.

I don’t like funky.  I like perfection (well, when I bake anyway).

So back to the drawing board I went with these cookies.  I made a batch yesterday and kept all the ingredients the same, except I cut down on the baking powder.  I went from 2 1/2 teaspoons to 1 teaspoon and added in 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tarter.

It made for a delicious cookie that didn’t melt all over the cookie tray.

Thank you for understanding.  Now, back into the kitchen for more holiday baking.


These sugar cookies are so moist and tender and the butter cream frosting tops them off perfectly.

Now I’ve been making these cookies since I was in college.  Yep, a very long time.  But they are so good, unlike most sugar cookies out there (just my opinion).  My mom and I have had a cookie “feud” going every since I started making these delectable little bites.  Hers are good, but she makes hers thin and crunchy, where mine are thick, moist and tender.  One thing we can agree on is the butter cream frosting.  Hey Mom, I still love ‘ya.

So many people use the royal icing, and for good reason, it makes for a beautifully decorated cookie.  However (and once again, just my opinion…I sure am opinionated today), it ruins the taste of the cookie.  I would rather have a delicious tasting cookie than something someone will only admire with their eyes.


And sugar cookies are so much fun to make.  You can make any shape and get very creative with decorating them.  The top picture is of a wedding cake.  Perfect for a bridal shower or even a wedding favor.

I used a plain terra cotta pot in the above photo and made sunflowers, then placed each one in a cellophane bag, they were very festive looking.


Here are some cute little ducks.  Fun for a baby shower.  Oh, we could go on and on, but I won’t bore you any longer.  Let’s get started on making these delicious little gems.


Make sure that your butter is at room temperature and you have a good quality vanilla extract, wait, I forgot to put out the vanilla.


I used to just put all the ingredients into one bowl and turn the mixer on and once it formed a ball I was done.  However, lately they have been turning out kind of flat, so here’s what I did a little different, and they turned out perfect.

First cream together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.


Now add your eggs and beat for another minute.  Add your vanilla, baking powder, a pinch of salt and slowly add in the flour.


Now add in the milk, one tablespoon at a time.  You don’t want a real wet dough, but you want it moist.  Give it a poke and if it feels too dry then add in one more tablespoon of milk.


Remove the dough from your mixing bowl and cut the dough into two small balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let it chill in your refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight.


Once the dough has been chilled roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/4″ thick.


Cut into your desired shapes and place on a cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes.

The bigger cookies will take a minute or so longer, but watch them carefully.  An overdone cookie will be dry.


Let the cookies cool.  While they are cooling mix your frosting ingredients together.

You may need to loosen the cookies with a spatula.


and decorate….


until your heart…..


…feels happy….or you get too tired to continue…whichever comes first.

You will bring a lot of smiles with these delicious cookies.

You can make them for any holiday, special event or just because you love your family.  Enjoy.