Irish Cream Sugar Cookies

There's nothing that speaks "Holidays" to me like Irish Cream. It seems to be the only time of the year when I even think about buying it!
I love Irish Cream in a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee, it warms from head to foot. These days in the Rogue Valley, we need warming. The temperature has barely budged over 40 degrees and the fog has settled in good and thick.
I also love baking Holiday cookies, it is November 30 and I'm already devising my baking schedule to accommodate copious amounts of cookie baking. Not one to leave well enough alone, I fiddled with a Sugar cookie recipe today and turns out Irish Cream is really good in a Sugar cookie!

This recipe is adapted from my favorite cookie book of all time; The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion.

2 sticks Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend (or 1 stick Butter & 1 stick margarine)
1 & 1/3 cups granulated white sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Irish Cream Liqueur (such as Bailey's Irish Cream)
2 tsp vinegar (white or apple cider)
1 tblsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or ground nutmeg)
4 cups AP white flour (King Arthur Flour is the best!)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (heaping)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl with a hand mixer or bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
In a small bowl combine milk, Irish cream and vinegar, pour into creamed butter mixture.
Mix until well blended, it's OK if it looks curdled.
Combine the nutmeg, flour, baking soda and salt and add to creamed mixture, mix until it all becomes a cohesive dough.
Drop by the tablespoon full, or use a small cookie scoop onto the parchment. Lightly butter the bottom of a water glass and dip into granulated sugar and press cookies flat to about 1/4 inch. Dip glass in sugar for each cookie and flatten all of the cookies.
Bake cookies for 20 minutes or until just beginning to get barely golden around the edges.
Remove to a cooling rack.

These cookies are absolutely out of this world as is....however.... there is a way to make them even more incredible.......Irish Cream Glaze!

1 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 tblsp Irish Cream liqueur
1 tblsp milk
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients and mix until very smooth. Add Irish Cream, milk or a dab more of vanilla if it needs to be thinned. Add more confectioner's sugar to thicken. You are looking for a honey like consistency for drizzling over the cookies.

Happy Holidays!


Foodcrush Best Thanksgiving Recipes

I was just poring over my list of recipes accumulated and there are quite a few to enhance your Thanksgiving Holiday already posted!

Main Dish
BBQ'd Turkey Breast w/ Gravy
Lamb Meatballs with Smokey Blue Cheese
Buffalo Meatloaf

Oregon Blue Cheese Crostini w/ Fig Jam
Polenta Bites

Harvest Pear Salad with Pear vinaigrette

Easy Stuffing
Roasted Butternut Squash
Yam & Rum Souffle

Manchego Cheese Knots

Chocolate Hazelnut cheesecake
Classic Pumpkin pie
Cranberry Bread
Pumpkin Bread

....and don't forget the delicious Mulled Cider recipe!

Happy Thanksgiving!

BBQ Turkey Breast and Gravy

We normally do a turkey as a matter of tradition in our house, we have deep fried our turkeys for several years in a row, and the results are truly amazing. My husband is the "deep fried turkey" king in our family and has yet to set anything on fire, including himself, of which I am very grateful!

Just to mix things up a bit, we are storing the deep fryer in favor of the BBQ this year, must be a outdoors thing with him? We are working on a recipe for a BBQ'd turkey breast that I'm sure will make everyone drool.

The recipe we have been working with is an inspiration from Ina Garten, otherwise known as the Barefoot Contessa. Ina has some of the most classic, yet approachable recipes on the Food Network, her style is impeccable, her recipes are not too exotic, even my husband thinks she rocks, because there is always a nice cocktail to start the meal.
Ina's recipe is very classic, whereas I always seem to fall into the familiar flavors I grew up with. Paprika, cumin, garlic, celery salt are all flavors my family use on a regular basis when preparing meat dishes. The smoked paprika and cumin lend a particularly smoky flavor to the turkey, which will be enhanced by the BBQ.

A BBQ'd Turkey breast will feed 4-6 people with leftover turkey sandwich fixin's for the next day.
Start this recipe Wednesday evening and refrigerate overnight for a nicely flavored turkey breast.

BBQ'd Turkey Breast
1 whole turkey breast - bone in (approx. 6 lbs)
2 tblsp melted butter
2 tblsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic- minced
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tblsp lemon zest

Place your Turkey breast in a small roasting pan with rack. Combine all of the ingredients above and rub into the turkey breast, rubbing some of this mixture under the skin as well.
Cover breast with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat your BBQ grill to 400 degrees F. My grill has a temperature gauge, you can also use an oven thermometer placed inside the closed grill as it heats. Place the entire roasting pan with turkey in your grill and close the lid. Grill for 15 minutes at 400 degrees F, then lower the grill to 325 degrees F and let the breast grill for 90 minutes.
Turn your grill to it's lowest setting, remove breast from roasting pan after 90 minutes and place directly on your grill rack, skin side down. Grill for 5 minutes to crisp skin.
Turn breast back over and take it's temperature, 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast is what you are after. Remove from grill and place on a board to rest.

Meanwhile, your luscious turkey drippings are dying to be made into GRAVY.

Place your roasting pan over medium heat (or pour drippings into a saute pan). Depending on the volume of drippings, feel free to add 1/2 stick butter or so to increase the fat volume.
Add 2 tblsp of flour to drippings and butter, stir constantly over heat until a nice roux is achieved.
Add water or broth to thin out roux until desired gravy consistency is reached.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Local Turkey.... with or without bullets?

Searching for local turkey isn't a easy process. There is a very timely column in the Medford Mail Tribune outlining some options for local turkey. Of course, one of those options involves a hunting license. If hunting is not your cup of tea (I prefer not to shoot the poor turkey) there is some good information in this column for Thanksgiving 2009.

So...for 2008, it seems as though if you know someone who hunts or raises turkeys, you are set. If not, try to buy the most natural turkey, grown in the Northwest.

Click on this link to view article
Medford Mail Tribune "Since you asked" Saturday November 22


A Local Thanksgiving

Growing up in New England, our nation's history is everywhere you look. George Washington really did sleep here! A trip to Plimouth (Plymouth) Plantation as a child was very exciting. Actors in period costumes transport your imagination back to what it must have been like. Those Pilgrims who did survive the first year on the salty coast celebrated their hearts out with the bounty of their harvest.

Truly, the first stewards of our land, the Native Americans living on the Coast of Massachusetts educated the Pilgrims on the importance of being a "locavore". The Wampanoag tribes had been living on the bounty of the coast for generations, fish, eels, lobster, clams, wild turkey, squash, corn, and many indigenous foods were caught or cultivated. Without the help of one particular Native American named Squanto, the Pilgrims who survived the first year would not have survived the second.

Are you looking for a way to celebrate Turkey Day in a local way?

Luckily we live in an area of America that has so much good local food, it will be easy!

Check out my list of websites to the right, you will be able to locate purveyors of local foods very easily! Since our local artisan food community is so supportive of each other, several local products can often be found at one location!

Let's start with an appetizer that makes use of our locally available foods.

Appetizer Idea:
Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese
Pennington Farms Fig Jam
Deux Chats Bakery Crostini
Unwrap the blue cheese and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to "bloom".
Spread a little Blue Cheese onto the crostini and top with a dollop of Fig Jam.
Wash it all down with a stand -up red such as Roxy Ann Claret or Red Lily Temperanillo.


Years of Research & Development

I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe with you yet! It is the most requested recipe I make, I know it by heart and usually jot it down on the spot when asked. Most people ask, "Is this the recipe on the back of the bag?" Sort of... let's just say over the years I have taken liberties with oven temperature, amount of sugar, flour and the creaming process.... so I have pretty much tweaked this recipe to produce a soft, perfectly textured chocolate chip cookie!


This recipe makes 36 cookies
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and prepare 3 jelly roll pans (1/4 sheet pans) with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle add
1 stick (4oz) cold margarine, cut into cubes
1 stick (4oz) cold butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp real vanilla extract

Cream together margarine, butter, and sugars until just barely mixed together, small visible lumps of the butter/margarine is OK. Add vanilla extract and cream for just 30 seconds more.

Add 2 cold eggs and mix until just blended

In a large bowl combine
15 1/2 oz All Purpose white flour
Yes, weigh the flour, it's the only way to get perfect cookies.
If you can't weigh the flour, measure out 3 & 3/4 cups.
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Salt
2 cups Chocolate chips

Add the dry mix to the wet and mix until just combined. Measure out dough onto prepared cookie sheets with a 2 tblsp scoop. Make 4 rows of 3 cookies each. Flatten slightly. Bake for 7 minutes and turn your pans front to back, top to bottom to prevent uneven baking. If you have a perfect or convection oven skip this step!
Bake for 7 more minutes. Remove from oven, they should look slightly under done. Let cookies cool on pan.


There is nothing more satisfying than freshly pressed apple cider on a cool fall day. Growing up in New England cider was a staple in our fall diet. A trip to the orchard for a huge bag of "drop" apples for sauce or pie always included picking up freshly pressed cider. All of the goodness of a fresh apple is packed into this delicious juice.

The best cider is "raw" or not pasteurized. Before you panic, realize that the as long as the apples and cider are handled properly, it is perfectly safe to drink and has many more health benefits than apple "juice" sold in the supermarket. Oregon permits the sale of raw cider "at your own risk" of which I am grateful.
Purchasing cider from a reputable orchard is the best way to ensure safety.
The local Grants Pass Grower's Market has delicious, raw cider from Green Ridge Farm.
The FDA warns against giving raw cider to babies and small children, however if your child is being raised with raw foods, it is your choice.

You can always pasteurize raw cider at home by bringing the cider to a boil for at least a minute or two. Cool and refrigerate.

Below is a recipe for mulled cider that is a delicious way to wind down a chilly fall day.

Mulled Apple Cider

1 gal fresh pressed (raw) Apple Cider*
Zest of 1 small orange
10 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy stockpot and heat until mixture just barely simmers. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove cloves and cinnamon. Pour into pre-heated slow cooker or keep over very low heat. Serve immediately.
Serves 12-16.

The Food Issue

I thought I would share this fascinating article from the NY Times magazine. Very well written by "Omnivore's Dilemma" author Michael Pollan, this letter to whomever our President-elect may be, is a compelling argument for an often overlooked sector in our life....where our food comes from.
The Food Issue- Farmer in Chief-NY Times Magazine


Flipping the switch to "Fall"

Is there a switch located in the skies above the Rogue Valley? One that Mother Natures flips at will? Well, she flipped the switch to Fall on Friday after a beautiful 90 degree Thursday that still had us in light clothes and open-toed shoes! But that is typical Rogue Valley weather, the switch gets flipped all the time, unexpectedly, and we have just learned over the years to always be prepared!

So in keeping with Mother Nature's desire to force Fall upon us with a mere flip of a switch... here is as easy Vegetable Soup recipe requested by my dear mother-in-law Jean. As with most (if not all) soups, make it ahead, it is always better the second day.

Easy Vegetable Soup
This soup combines tasty vegetables with hints of smoke from the paprika. The honey melds all of the flavors and minimal fat makes this soup healthy and delicious!

2 tblsp butter
2 tblsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tblsp honey
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

In a large (3 qt) stockpot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion, carrot, celery, garlic and mushrooms until onions start to brown. Add tomatoes, broth, honey, soy sauce and spices. Simmer for 30 minutes over low heat. Add zucchini and simmer 5 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasoning. Yields 4-6 servings.


Happy Birthday Foodcrush

Foodcrush....... that's what I get for reading a little article in Food Arts magazine about the new age of "blogging". Your very own digital soap-box to stand on in a virtual world.
Blogs can be about anything, but they should always be about something.

In the past year, I have not "blogged" as much as I planned to, yet the recipes, photos and commentary that is on Foodcrush is as much about quality, as it is quantity.

I hope you have enjoyed the content thus far. I will continue to make Foodcrush a place where you can peruse the latest recipe, get a dinner idea, research similar websites, and most of all, find inspiration and discover your own "crush" whatever it may be.

Bon Appetit
Lisa Marie
Sept 16, 2008


A Man and a Plan

A busy summer, a bountiful garden, (tomatoes anyone?) and my husband Mike has finally laid aside his golf clubs for a little while. I don't think I've ever bemoaned the fact that I am a golf "widow" during Spring and Summer, while my husband chases golf tournaments around the state.
So, with all my free time in the summer, I work at the Saturday market in Grants Pass, and spend Sundays catching up on housework and reminding our two dogs that I still love them.
(I think I'm a bad dog mommy, but they seem to love me anyway)
Surprisingly, Mike has decided to become more involved in the planning of weekday dinners and "Perhaps I (Lisa) could cook more on the weeknights?", he gently pushes. I have to admit he does a LOT of weeknight cooking, and I deeply appreciate it. So this particular Sunday morning was dedicated to inventory and a meal plan.
I have to admit, it was pretty funny, if you could only see us with our heads buried deep in chest freezer in the garage, "One large ham", I shout,"Four chicken thighs", "Why do we have frozen BBQ sauce?" Quite the ordeal!
What we did accomplish was a pretty good weeknight plan of dinners, using on hand staples, then a quick trip to the grocery store for the perishables.We both work 50 hour per week jobs and arrive home each night tired and hungry, as I imagine we are not alone in this, I thought you might enjoy the recipes from this week's "meal plan".
Bon Appetit!

Fresh Cucumber Salad

Fresh Cucumber Salad

3 medium sized cucumbers (green, lemon, or English)
1/4 cup White Balsamic Vinegar (or unseasoned Rice Wine Vinegar)
1/4 cup Lemon or Orange infused Olive Oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tblsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel cucumbers if needed. If they are organic or from your own garden, wash, but don't peel.
Slice into rounds or wedges and set aside. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, and lemon juice. Add sliced cucumbers and mix to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve at room temperature within two hours or refrigerate.

Sauteed Summer Squash w/ Roasted Garlic

Sauteed Summer Squash w/ Roasted Garlic
Roast garlic by slicing off a small portion of the top of the bulb. Place bulb onto a sheet of foil large enough to be wrapped around the bulb, drizzle with olive oil, gather up the foil, leaving a small opening at the top for steam to escape. Roast in the oven (or toaster oven) for about 30 minutes or until soft when pierced with a sharp thin knife or skewer. You can roast the garlic ahead of time, squeeze roasted garlic into a small container and refrigerate.

2 medium sized summer squash (Zucchini, Zephyr or Yellow)
2 tblsp butter
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp Celery seed
Slice squash into evenly sized pieces. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat, add butter and squash all at once, then add 2 cloves of roasted garlic and celery seed. Saute until squash begins to soften and becomes a lightly golden brown, about 7-10 minutes.Salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Leg of Lamb and Brown Rice

Leg of Lamb Roast over Brown Rice
(all day slow cooker recipe)

Lamb Roast
1 -3lb bone-in, leg of lamb roast
4 cups water, broth or stock
3 tblsp flour
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
I tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic- minced
1 small sweet onion diced

1 15 oz can Muir Glen Fire roasted tomatoes
2 tblsp red wine vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Turn slow cooker to low heat. Blend flour into water, whisk in salt, pepper, and spices.
Place lamb roast in slow cooker and pour water mixture over the top, add garlic, onion and bay leaf. Cover and let roast for 7-8 hours.

When ready, turn off slow cooker. Leaving lamb roast in slow cooker, carefully pour the cooking liquid into a deep sided saute pan, add tomatoes and vinegar. Over medium-high heat reduce cooking liquid, tomatoes and vinegar mixture by half. Salt & pepper to taste. Add lamb roast meat, it will be so tender, it will fall off of the bone. Serve over brown rice.

Brown Rice
1 cup brown rice (Lundberg short grain is my favorite)
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 tsp salt
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a heavy 3 quart sauce pan, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook for 40-50 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.


Recipe: Locally raised Buffalo Meatloaf with Wild Mushrooms

This past Sunday, I had the extreme pleasure of teaching another class at The Last Bite cooking School in Eagle Point, OR. The class was based upon eating locally grown and produced foods. Cooking school owner and teacher, Denise Marshall and I perused the Saturday Grower's Market looking for (and finding) the most perfect fruits, veggies, berries, cheese, buffalo, bread and more to put together a class that not only tasted great, but gave all of our eager students an education in becoming a locavore!

The highlight of our five course meal was the entree of Buffalo Meatloaf. This humble dish was transported by the addition of locally foraged mushrooms, that included morels, chanterelles, and matsutake. The mushrooms we used were freeze-dried, since right now our local mushroom "guy" is in Alaska. Feel free to use Crimini mushrooms in place of wild, you will still have a great tasting dish! The ground buffalo came from Full Circle Bison Ranch in Williams, OR.

Locally-raised Buffalo Meat Loaf with Oregon-foraged Wild Mushrooms

4 strips thick cut bacon

½ sweet onion – chopped
2 ribs celery- diced
2 cloves garlic- minced

4 tblsp butter- melted
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs*
6 oz wild Oregon mushrooms, such as morel, porcini, chanterelle (whatever is in season), chopped
1 egg
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
2 lbs ground buffalo
¼ cup water

¼ cup tomato paste
2 tblsp honey
Pinch salt

Remove ground buffalo from refrigeration 30 minutes before beginning meatloaf.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Render bacon in a heavy skillet, remove strips and drain on paper towels. Chop bacon finely and set aside. Add chopped onion, diced celery and minced garlic to bacon fat, sauté until translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, place ground buffalo, chopped bacon and sautéed onion, celery and garlic (with bacon fat). Mix briefly. Add breadcrumbs, chopped mushrooms, egg, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and water. Mix well with your hands.

Pack meatloaf mixture lightly into an oiled loaf pan. Mix together tomato paste, honey and salt. Spread over the top of the meatloaf. Bake in pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes or until thermometer inserted in center reads 160 degrees F. Slice and serve.

*Pulse fresh white or wheat bread slices (about 2) in a food processor fitted with a blade.


Zucchini Ghosts

Chocolate Zucchini Cake- recipe below

Most everyone who grows zucchini remarks on the aggressive growth and the seemingly thousands of squash it produces. Zucchini is prolific, just how tenacious it is was proven to me this year. For reasons that shall remain private, I did not plant zucchini in my garden this season. As the garden progressed, I noticed two squash plants popping up seemingly out of nowhere. I let the plants mature a bit and behold..... zucchini. It had reseeded itself and returned to haunt my squash-less garden. I briefly encouraged the zucchini plants to grow, before I noticed an alien looking fruit beginning to develop. It was the furthest thing from the sleek, shiny zucchini from last year.
Lumpy and bumpy with odd coloration, I made an executive decision to pull up the plants and make room for my tomatoes, which are doing great!
So for all of you that DID plant tenacious, prolific zucchini, this recipe is a great way to use up some of your crop and and satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time.

I have used this recipe for many years, adapted from the Oregon Journal.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup canola oil
1 & 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour milk*
2 & 1/2 cups AP Flour
1/3 cup dutch process Cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups shredded zucchini (green or yellow)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease & flour a 13 X 9" sheet cake pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, oil & sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and sour milk, blend thoroughly. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Blend with creamed mixture. Stir in shredded zucchini. Pour into prepared pan and even out batter.
Sprinkle chocolate chips and walnuts evenly over the top of the cake. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes with a toothpick, when the toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, the cake is done.
Cool completely in the pan, cut into squares and serve.

* Sour Milk can be made by adding a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to fresh milk, let sit for about 10 minutes.


Recipe: Peach Cobbler

Fresh peaches made their debut at the Grants Pass Grower's Market this Saturday and peach cobbler is a summer must!

Feel free to use this recipe for berry cobblers as well. August in Southern Oregon brings on some of the best wild blackberry picking there is.

8 fresh, ripe (large) peaches (peeled and sliced)
1 cup sugar
3 tblsp AP flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt

1 & 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tblsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold butter
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3 tblsp milk

3 tblsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 13 X 9 baking dish.
Combine sugar, flour and nutmeg. Stir in sliced peaches. Pour mixture into baking dish.
In a large bowl combine 1 and 1/2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in cold butter with a fork or pastry blender until butter is absorbed by flour mixture. Stir in egg and milk until just barely combined. Crumble this mixture over peaches. Combine 3 tblsp of sugar and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon, sprinkle over cobbler. Bake 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche.

For berry cobbler use 3 pints of fresh berries. You can also use plums, nectarines and apricots.


Summer Hiatus

First, I must apologize for the break in communication since early June. There were some technical difficulties with this blog to overcome and some time spent in a place where there wasn't an Internet connection. Now everything is back to "normal" ...Ha.. I love that word!

Well into a food obsessed summer, I am bursting with recipes and ideas. The Growers Market is in full swing and there is so much to cook with right now! Every waking moment seems to be spent thinking about the next great ingredient I can play with!

Have I ever told you how much I LOVE blueberries? Well I guess I just did. Right now, the promise of fresh blueberries every week at the Growers Market has me on blueberry overload. What I don't eat directly from the basket is usually transformed into some sort of decadent baked good.

When on ingredient overload, which is often, I try to marry some of my favorite foods. Of course after experimenting, I often find it has been done already...where was I?

In this case, I thought I would add my blueberries to my burning passion for cornbread!
I know...burning passion and cornbread don't really gel as a fantasy, but to each her own!

Sweet Cornbread with Fresh Blueberries

This sweet version of cornbread is more like a corn muffin. Excellent for breakfast or as dessert.

2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
2 cups AP flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 -1/2 tblsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 pint fresh blueberries, picked over, stems removed.

1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup melted butter
2 eggs
2 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients. Gently toss blueberries in dry ingredients.
Whisk together honey, oil, butter, eggs and milk.

All at once, add liquid ingredients to the dry, mix until just barely blended. Measure into muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden in color. Check after 15 minutes, rotate pans if necessary to prevent uneven baking. A toothpick inserted into muffin should come out clean. Remove from tins and let cool.

Yield, approx 24 + muffins.

Quick Option: Add blueberries to Butte Creek Mill Stone-Ground Cornbread mix.


Recipe: Pasta with Asparagus & Leeks

Fresh & quick for summer. This dish is easy and classy enough to serve as a vegetarian main course. As a side dish, it complements seafood cooked on the grill very well.
Don't freak on the heavy cream, it is only a few tablespoons and adds a velvety texture to the wine sauce. If you don't cook with wine, substitute veggie stock for the wine.....just as tasty!

Pasta with Asparagus & Leeks

1/2 tblsp butter
1/2 tblsp olive oil
1 leek, white part only, washed and thinly sliced
4 scallions, white part only, minced
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
2-3 tblsp white wine... Chardonnay, Viognier or Riesling
8 oz of Pasta, such as Orcchiette
1 & 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1-2 tblsp heavy cream
4 oz grated cheese, such as Vella Dry Jack (or Parmigiana- Reggiano)
Sea salt & Pepper to taste

Steam the asparagus tips until just crisp- tender, about 4 minutes. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking, set aside.
Boil pasta until just al dente, drain and set aside in a large serving bowl to cool slightly.
In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the leeks and scallions, until just translucent.
Add wine to saute pan and and stir occasionally, until wine is reduced by half, this should only take a minute or two. Lower heat and add heavy cream and steamed asparagus.
Pour saute pan ingredients over cooked pasta, add cheese and minced parsley. Salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately! Makes 4-6 servings.


Salad Days

Time flies even when you are not having fun.......although it's been a long wet, cold spring in Oregon, we are trying to be perky and optimistic about the upcoming summer. Even today, June 1, we have the heat on in the house as the sun comes up..chilly, chilly, chilly.

They say if you drink hot chocolate, it will snow.....so maybe.... if we eat some summer-style food the temperature will rise? I'm willing to try!

One of my staple summer foods is a potato salad I've been making for years! It is different than most because it does not contain onions or eggs! A lot of my friends shy away from potato salad because of those two ingredients. So if you have lovable, yet picky eaters in your circle, try this recipe. Great with burgers, ribs, (come on summer) sandwiches.....you name it.

Couple of tips....hand pick your potatoes, so they are all the same size and roast evenly.
Let potatoes cool to room temp before mixing with dressing, hot potatoes will "break" your mayo based dressing. This potato salad tastes best if you serve it minutes after making it, room temperature seems to enhance all of the flavors. If you make it hours, or even a day ahead, refrigerate!
By the way...this recipe makes enough Potato Salad for a crowd of 10 or more...cut recipe in half if needed.

Roasted Potato Salad

2 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 lbs Red Potatoes
Roast potatoes on a baking sheet in a 375 degree F oven for 30 -40 minutes. Pierce with knife to check if done. Let potatoes cool, and remove skins.

4 stalks celery- diced
1 & 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup brown mustard
2 tblsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sweet relish
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp celery salt
2 tblsp McCormick Salad Seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine roasted, peeled potatoes with all of the dressing ingredients. With your clean hands, gently "hand" mash the potatoes into the dressing. Don't over mix.
Adjust seasoning adding more of any of the spices, until you like the flavor.
Serve immediately, or refrigerate.


Recipe: Matching Dinner Rolls

Buy extra Manchego cheese when you make your lasagna and prepare these delicious rolls as a go-along. Pair a salad with your lasagna & rolls and you have a delicious meal. These rolls are especially easy; adapted from a recipe I've used for over 20 years, they require only one rise before baking. Although the recipe calls for only 1 cup of cheese, feel free to add as much cheese as you like. As the rolls bake the cheese melts into the roll and onto the baking sheet forming lovely bits of crispy cheese that I like to break off the roll and munch on. Delicious!

Manchego Cheese Knots

2 cups of buttermilk
1 ½ tblsp active dry yeast
2-tblsp honey
2 scant tsp salt
2 tblsp butter
¼ tsp baking soda
3 ½ cups unbleached white flour
½-cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup Spanish Manchego cheese – grated
Melted butter
Heat the buttermilk to lukewarm, pour 1/3 cup into a bowl and sprinkle yeast into milk. Let stand to proof.
Melt the butter and honey in the remaining buttermilk. Add salt and baking soda to liquid and combine with proofed yeast.
Add flour 1 cup at a time, thoroughly mixing in each time.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 2-3 minutes, dough should be soft, yet smooth and resilient.
Roll dough out to a 1” thickness and brush with melted butter, spread grated cheese evenly over dough and roll up as if you are making a jellyroll.
Slice roll into approx 20 equal pieces. Take each piece and roll into the shape of a cigar. Tie a loose knot in dough and set on baking sheet prepared with parchment paper. Brush each roll with additional melted butter, cover loosely with waxed paper and a light towel, Let rise in a warm draft free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Bake in a pre-heated 400 F oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. These are best eaten fresh and warm.

Recipe: Birthday Lasagna

For my husband's birthday we had his favorite dish. He always begs me to make lasagna, even when it is not a special occasion. The part about baking the lasagna with plastic wrap freaks out most people, it even scared me the first time I did it. I had the assurance of a seasoned Italian cook that nothing bad would happen. Now, I have been baking lasagna like this for 20 years and it always comes out perfect!
This is a large recipe, perfect for a large family dinner or special occasion; but there is no need to wait for a family dinner, bake, cool and cut into portions and freeze. It freezes beautifully for up to 3 months and tastes even better when re-heated.


½ cup diced sweet onion
2- 28 oz cans stewed tomatoes- Muir Glen Fire Roasted is best
1 tblsp minced garlic
½ lb Cremini or Portobello mushrooms – sliced
1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
½ lb lean ground pork or mild sausage
3 tblsp tomato paste
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper- optional
2 tblsp honey
Olive oil

Over medium- high heat, sauté onion in 1 tblsp olive oil and 2 tblsp of butter until clear, add mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes. Add ground beef (or lamb), pork and minced garlic. Cook until meat is done. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, spices and honey. Let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Taste and add salt & pepper to your liking. Turn heat to the lowest setting and let simmer while you prepare noodles & cheese. Note; you may increase beef (or lamb) to 1 ½ lbs and omit pork.

1 lb Manchego cheese- shredded
½ lb fresh mozzarella-sliced
1 cup low fat ricotta

Boil 1 pkg of high quality lasagna noodles for only half the cooking time recommended on pkg.
They should be very al dente, or only half cooked. Drain and set aside briefly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a large lasagna/casserole (15 x 9) with olive oil. Assemble a layer of lasagna noodles in bottom of casserole. Ladle approx 1/3 of your sauce onto noodles, spreading evenly.
Spoon ricotta cheese over sauce, layer with noodles and press gently to even out. Ladle half of your remaining sauce on the noodles and sprinkle ½ of the shredded Manchego cheese on that layer. Assemble your last layer of noodles and sauce, sprinkle remaining Manchego cheese, and lay the sliced fresh mozzarella on top of all. Press down slightly to even out.
Cover pan with plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Wrap foil tightly to cover all plastic wrap. I know it doesn’t seem logical to bake with plastic wrap, but I learned this trick from a true Italian cook and it works! Bake for 45 minutes. When you remove the lasagna from the oven, remove foil/plastic right away, you will see the plastic wrap is intact and sticking to the foil. If you like a browned top, broil for 2 minutes to bubble and brown the cheese.
Let lasagna sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Serves 10-12 people.
The leftovers warmed up are even tastier than the day it is made. You can also make this a few hours ahead and refrigerate until baking. If you do that, increase baking time to at least 1 hour.


Successful Vegetarian Conversion

Not a lot of meat based recipes fare well under transformation to a vegetarian version.
I really don't perform this process very often, preferring to build a vegetarian recipe layer by layer to keep the integrity of the dish. However, the Portobello Tortellini soup recipe took quite well to a stripping of the meat based components and I think I actually like this version better!

Portobello Tortellini Soup (vegetarian version)
1 small sweet onion- diced
3 ribs celery-diced
3 cloves garlic- minced
3 tblsp olive oil
3 tblsp butter
1 lb Portobello mushrooms- sliced
1 pkg (12-18 oz) Three- cheese filled tortellini- fresh or frozen
2-32 oz containers of Vegetable Stock
1 tblsp Balsamic vinegar
2 -15 oz cans Diced tomatoes
¼ cup Tomato Paste
½ lb Parmesan Cheese-grated
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
2 tblsp honey
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh basil

Sauté onion, celery and garlic, in butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add sliced mushrooms, and sauté until golden brown. Add balsamic vinegar and stir to coat well.
Add diced tomatoes with juice, and 32 oz of the vegetable stock. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes.
Boil tortellini according to package directions, do not overcook. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
To finish soup, add tomato paste, add more vegetable stock if necessary to achieve the consistency you are looking for. Add spices, and honey. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
To serve, place 6-8 tortellini in a soup bowl, ladle hot soup over pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and minced fresh basil


15 Minutes

The funny thing is I've been a subscriber to Bon Appetit Magazine since I was 15 years old, let's see that's _____years ago! Too many to count. The March issue with the beautiful corned beef sandwiches held an emotional moment for me. In the R S V P section there it was.... Zinnia Cafe in very large, bold letters and the cutest line drawing/ cartoon of a Portobello Mushroom sandwich. Apparently someone in West Virginia thought enough of my food to write a letter to Bon Appetit looking for this sandwich recipe of the now closed Zinnia Cafe.
To tell you the truth, I had forgotten I had submitted the recipe. I think it was late 2004 when I received an official looking letter from Bon Appetit requesting this recipe at the beckoning of several requests they received. I was beside myself with excitement then. I submitted and waited, and waited, scouring every issue for nearly a year. Then, when I closed up shop in 2005, I had moved on, life had taken me many different directions, until.....
Thank you Mr. West Virginia! As I imagine you taking the time out of your busy life, (it must be busy if you travel to Medford, OR for business) to pen a request for a sandwich you enjoyed so much you could not forget about it. Thank you for resurrecting my dream one last time.
OK... it's been 26 years of subscriptions and one moment I'll be forever grateful for.

Portobello Mushroom Sandwich with Roasted Garlic and Basil Mayonnaise
Makes 6
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Olive oil - for drizzling
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup minced fresh Basil leaves
1 tsp plus 3 tblsp Balsamic vinegar
6 tblsp butter- divided
1 lb Portobello mushrooms (about 5 large) stems trimmed, cut into 3/4" thick slices
1 -1lb loaf of pain rustique, ciabatta, or focaccia, halved horizontally
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 lg tomato -thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place garlic in a small ovenproof dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cover tightly and with foil and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Cool; peel and mash garlic.
Mix mayonnaise, basil, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar and mashed roasted garlic in a small bowl.
(Can be made ahead- cover and chill)
Melt 4 tblsp of the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and toss to coat. Drizzle remaining 3 tblsp balsamic vinegar over and cook until tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper.
(Can be made 2 hours ahead, let stand at room temp-reheat before using)
Preheat broiler. Spread remaining 2 tblsp butter over cut sides of bread. Broil bread, buttered side up, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Watch closely to prevent burning. Spread desired amount of basil mayonnaise over toasted sides of bread. Arrange mushrooms in an even layer over bottom half of bread. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Arrange tomato slices in a single layer over the cheese. Cover with top of bread, cut into 6 sandwiches and serve immediately....................BON APPETIT!

Cooking Class- Portuguese Kale Soup

I had the honor of being guest chef at The Last Bite Cooking School in Eagle Point, Oregon.
The class was based on recipes that were favorites at my cafe "Zinnia Cafe" circa 2002-2005.
The intimate class was on March 2 and we focused on the soups and bread that were the cornerstones of my menu at the cafe.

If you live in the Rogue Valley don't pass up a chance to attend one of Denise Marshall's classes. They are outstanding, informative, and fun.

Go to http://www.thelastbite.com/ to see a class schedule.

This is one of the recipes we covered in the class.

If you go to the Azores there is a version of this soup to be found in every household. Classic Portuguese ingredients include Linguicia, Kale and Beans. The oxtails can be used, but I prefer beef marrow bones slowly simmered until the marrow dissolves into the soup.
The moment I smell this soup I am transported. For those of you who have seen the movie Ratatouille, it is a similar experience to that of Anton Ego's as he tastes the rustic ratatouille presented to him. The familiarity of this soup reminds me of Sunday afternoons centered around food and family. Of course, like everyone else, my childhood was not idyllic, but this soup forces me to remember only the good times, when everyone was too busy eating to yell at each other.

Portuguese Kale Soup
1 med size sweet onion- diced
4 ribs celery-diced
4 cloves garlic- minced
3 tblsp olive oil
3 tblsp butter
1 lb beef oxtails
1 lb beef stew meat
1 lb Linguicia sausage- sliced
3 large white or yellow potatoes- peeled and cubed 1 inch
1 (15oz) can small white beans- do not drain
1 (15oz) can dark red kidney beans-do not drain
2 (32oz) cartons beef broth
1 bunch fresh kale, curly or flat leaf
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 tblsp honey

Sauté onion, celery and garlic, in butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add oxtails, beef stew meat, and Linguicia. Brown all meats, add beef broth, lower heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Skim accumulated fat from top of simmering soup. Remove oxtails from soup and set aside.
Add peeled, cubed potatoes, simmer until potatoes are tender. Add canned beans, including liquid from beans.
Simmer for another 15 minutes.
Remove meat from oxtails, chop if necessary and add back to soup.
Wash kale, remove stem from entire leaf, finely chop kale and add to soup, simmer for 5 minutes.
Add honey. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.


Winter of MY Discontent

It has been many years since I read that particular John Steinbeck novel. The title has always come back to me when I'm suffering from "Cabin Fever" of one sort or another. Although the harsh New England winters I grew up in are a distant memory since I've lived in Oregon, somehow the same feelings tend to surface.

Maybe it's the bleak, undependable sunshine that takes it out of me, maybe it's my constantly "chilly" feeling that wears me out?

There's only so much comfort food I can consume during the winter, and I know it is time to stop; I'm down to one pair of jeans I can button!
This recipe is responsible for the inability to wear all of my wardrobe right now!

Any Cheese- MAC & CHEESE
I use whatever left over chunks of cheese are hanging out in the fridge.

This time, I had Rogue Creamery's Smokey Blue, French Brie, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Sharp Cheddar. A total of about 1 and 1/2 pounds. Crumble the blue, shred the cheddar and parmigiano, cut the brie into small cubes, use the rind of the brie if you like a tangy flavor.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 13 X 9 casserole.

Prepare your favorite short pasta, about 1 1/2 lbs. Cook just shy of al dente, it will finish in the sauce and avoid being mushy. If your pasta says boil for 7 minutes, boil it only for 5. I find Penne pasta works well for this recipe. Drain and set aside.


Start with a basic white sauce (bechamel), the best base for mac & cheese.

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir until the butter and flour are well combined. Pour in milk, stirring constantly as it thickens.

Over very low heat add your prepared cheese. Stir until cheese is completely melted. Add more milk if sauce is too thick.

Add to sauce
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tblsp honey
Adjust seasoning to your liking.

Combine cheese sauce and pasta and pour into prepared casserole.
You can top with more cheese and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly.......but I LOVE fresh buttered breadcrumbs.

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse 4 slices of any kind of bread until fine crumbs.
In a saute pan melt 3 tblsp of butter and pour breadcrumbs in pan. Toss to coat all crumbs with melted butter. Spread evenly over the top of the mac & cheese. Bake as directed.


Real Food Returns

However intriguing the trends of 2007, I sense a longing for real food. Foams, edible paper, and surprising tastes are adventurous, but how long can one sustain adventure? Real food is comforting and soul satisfying.

2008, is the year of local food. In a few months Spring will herald the return of the local farmer's market. I urge you to take the time to visit and purchase. Support the folks who have our best interest and health at heart. Speak with your dollars, happily pay just a teensy bit more for the lettuce picked this morning. Farmer's markets are fast becoming the future, as opposed to a piece of nostalgia. While the FDA insists there is nothing wrong with cloned milk and meat, I am hesitant to accept their assurances. I enjoy the simplicity that is home grown and artisan produced food.

1. Plan to visit the Farmer's market when it opens,that's when the selection is at it's best.
2. If you are concerned that local food is more expensive, it's really not. You are investing in your health. You may save money on a few doctor bills.
3. You are supporting food that has travelled just a few miles, consuming many less gallons of fuel, than what you find in the grocery store.
4. Local food purveyors are fun, interesting, intelligent, social folks. The benefit of these friendships is everlasting. Not to mention tasty!
5. Your children will see you caring about what you put on the dinner table. You may just get them interested enough to try a new fruit or vegetable every week! When carrots become candy, you know you there's hope!

As the farmer's markets unfold this year, I will be taking advantage of the bounty. The freshest berries. The ripest produce. Hand made Artisan breads, pies, honey and cheese.

2008.......Real Food returns

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About Me

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Cincinnati, OH, United States
A dedicated foodie, with a passion for the best food. Favorite food crushes include; Cheese, Wine, Breads, Seafood, anything made with eggs, ...there's actually no point in a list, there isn't much out there I don't have a crush on. Transplanted from the Northeast at age 18, a whole new frontier of food was opened up to me. I have fished for Salmon, hunted for mushrooms, cracked open fresh oysters from the sea and devoured them on the spot. Figs, pears, peaches, so many indigenous jewels! I dedicate this BLOG to the endless variety this region provides. My hope is to live here for a very long time & continue to discover and experience it's unique bounty! Alas, my life has now taken me to Cincinnati, OH where the food culture is like none I have ever experienced.


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