Thursday, August 27, 2015

No Bakes Cookies...perfect for a summer heat wave

I type this as the temperature in the SGV has broken 100f and it isn't even noon yet.  Too hot to bake but you still want a good cookie?  This is the ticket.  The "No bake cookie" has been floating around my Mom's house since we got the first version from our friend Marty Hintsala back, way back in the '60s.

Added bonus is its stupid easy.  Use a large nonstick pot and the clean up is easy too.

What makes this "MY COOKIE" is that I switched up some ingredients to make it deeper and richer in flavor than the original.  Half brown sugar instead  of all basic white granulated.  My current go to "Black Onyx Cocoa" instead of regular Hershey's as its an almost black all cocoa solids powder for better flavor.  A bit of kosher salt to balance out the flavors and cut the sweetness.

No Bake Cookies 

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 4 T Black Onyx of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 c brown sugar lightly packed
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 3 1/2 c quick cooking oat meal
  • 2 t vanilla

Put first 6 ingredients into a large non-stick stock pot and bring to boil over medium heat.  Boil at full rolling boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter.   Stir in vanilla.  Stir in quick cooking oats.

Drop by tablespoonful onto silpat sheet.  Or by 2 tablespoonful if you like big cookies.  Cool to room temp to set.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Armenian Tabbouleh

A few weeks back my friend Rouzanna Berberian had a reception at her house to celebrate getting her MFA from Cal State LA.  Among the dishes prepared by she and her mother was Armenian Tabbouleh.  It was simply amazing and magical. I've been trying for a few weeks from recipes on the web to duplicate...but my efforts fell short in duplicating the bright taste of her tabbouleh.

So I broke down and begged her for the recipe.  As with most family dishes its a handful of this, some of that, less of the other type recipe that is typically passed down through the generations.  What she did give me was something I would have never guessed and never found in other recipes.  Spices...specifically Aleppo Pepper and Paprika to bring a sweet heat to the dish.  I had to guesstimate quantities and took copious notes.  I think I nailed it.  This is some righteous food stuff.

Also...this can be a lunch onto itself on a hot summer day.  Vegan too if you substitute veggie broth for the chicken broth in the bulgar wheat.  Or use it as a side dish with grilled meats or fish.  

I get my bulgar wheat at Fresh & Easy markets here locally.  Its inexpensive and oh so good for you.  If your regular groc doesn't carry, any local hippy mart surely will.

Armenian Tabbouleh
  • 1 1/2 c raw bulgar wheat
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 c grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 c thin sliced spring onion including green tops
  • 1 c fine chopped parsley
  • 1/2 c fine chopped mint
  • 2 t paprika
  • 1 t aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth to a boil.  Add salt and the raw bulgar wheat.  Cover and remove from heat.  Allow to steep for 30-45 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Add aleppo pepper and paprika and gently fold in to mix.  Put into a covered mixing bowl to cool.

About 1 hour before serving layer on to the cooled bulgar add tomatoes, onion, parsley and mint.  
Mix olive oil and lemon juice, some salt and pepper.  Pour over the veggies and herbs, gently fold to combine.  Test for seasoning and more salt and pepper if needed.  Cover and put in fridge to allow flavors to blend before serving.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dr Pepper Pork Loin Chops

This was the result of a little brainstorming and thinking...what could I do to jazz up a basic pork loin chop and play on the sweet white flesh of pork.  I've seen Coke used in marinades and chili and stuff, why not Dr Pepper.   Its sweet with vanilla overtones, could be a match with pork.  What did I have to lose right?  Nothing it worked out pretty swell.

Use regular Dr Pepper, not diet. You want the sugar to combine with the salt to create a brine.  Using diet you'll only get a funny aftertaste from the artificial sweetener in Dr Pepper, or in my case, a migraine.

Dr.  Pepper Pork Loin Chops
  • 4 thick cut Pork Loin Chops (about 2 lbs)
  • 3/4 c Dr Pepper
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 t fresh ground black pepper.

In mini food processor add garlic, salt, and pepper.  Strip leaves off the Rosemary stem by pulling backwards down the stem across the grain.  Add leaves to mini food processor.  Pulse a few times until garlic is finely chopped.  Add Dr Pepper and oil oil.  Pulse until mixed.  In small non reactive dish or large plastic bag add the pork loin chops and marinade.  Turn over a few times to coat well.

Set aside for 1 hour (no longer as the acid in soda will break down the pork).  Turn chops over every 15-20 minutes to keep well coated in marinade.

Preheat oven to 325F at end of hour.  Heat an oven proof pan such as the Calphalon everyday pan over medium high heat.  Coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Sear pork chops on one side about 5 minutes.  Turn over and turn off the heat.  Spoon 1 T marinate over each chop.  Cover and bake in oven until they test medium 145F.  About 20-25 minutes.  

Remove from oven.  Place chops on platter and loosely cover with foil to rest.  Use pan drippings to make a gravy from scratch or with the no-brainer stupid easy success every time Ah Bisto gravy mix. If your local groc doesn't carry you can buy it on line at Amazon.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Feta Cucumber Tomato Salad

This is healthy-ish until you get to the sour cream base.  You could substitute IMO that imitation sour cream with no problems.   It doesn't quite have the same mouth feel and tang but it works well.  What this does devilishly well is use up garden fresh ingredients into a refreshing treat from seasonal ingredients.

I used heirloom grape tomatoes but any grape or cherry tomato would work well.  I'm lucky in that I have a Pavilions market here in town and they do carry the more unusual items.  If you grow your own, use it and might I add...I'm totally jealous!

I use rice wine vinegar as it has both sugar and salt already in it.  Its a nice way to thin the sour cream to a dressing consistency without losing flavor. As it is already seasoned, don't add salt until the two are combined and you taste for seasoning, depending on brand of vinegar you may not need to add any salt or just add pinch to balance the flavor.

With the cheese simply let it lie on top of the salad while you chill and let the flavors marry.  If you toss to early the cheese starts to dissolve into the dressing and gets kind of mushy slimy grossness.

Feta Cucumber Tomato Salad
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 8 oz grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 oz sour cream'
  • 2 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T minced fresh Parsley
  • 1 T minced fresh Mint
  • 1/2 black pepper

Peel cucumbers. Seed cucumbers.  Slice length wise in half, then in half again.  Cut into 1/2 cubes.  Place in bowl.  Half the tomatoes and place in bowl.  Sprinkle minced herbs over the veggies.

Whisk together sour cream and seasoned rice wine vinegar.  Test taste and add salt if needed.  Pour over the veggie herb mixture.  Toss lightly until combined.

Sprinkle feta cheese over the salad.  Cover and place in fridge on hour, but not more than 4 to allow flavors to marry.  Just before serving toss gently to distribute the cheese.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Chicken with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

Think of it as a somewhat lighter deconstructed version of a classic Cordon Bleu.  No heavy breading.  No worries about getting the center cooked through and the filling leaking out.  Its really the best of both worlds.  Salty melty pork product and can that be bad?

This falls into the incredibly stupid easy category as well.  Easily doubles for a bigger crowd or family.  I cheat and by at Trader Joe's or Fresh & Easy the already made prosciutto and mozzarella rolls from the deli section to speed the process.  Its also cheaper than buying either separately and rolling your own.

Chicken with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

  • 4 chicken breasts, skinless and dry
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 8 oz mozzarella and prosciutto roll

Preheat oven to 350F  Line baking tray with aluminum foil and spritz with cooking oil spray.

Clean and dry chicken breasts.  Salt and pepper both sides to taste.  Divide garlic powder into 4, 1/2 teaspoon portions.  Dust 1/2 t garlic powder evenly on both sides of chicken breast.  Repeat with remaining breasts.  

Split the dried thyme into 4, 1/2 teaspoon portions, dust one portion both sides of a chicken breast. Repeat with remaining breasts and portions of thyme.

Place chicken breasts onto prepared sheet and let set 10 minutes or so until the oven comes to temp.  Bake 30 minutes.  Remove baking sheet from oven.  Cut the prosciutto/mozzarella roll into 12 even slices.  Lay 3 slices on each breast.  Return to oven additional 5-10 minutes to melt cheese.  Serve warm.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chicken and Biscuit Casserole

Somewhere between a Pot Pie and Chicken 'n Dumplings is where this casserole lies.  Hearty comfort food, enjoy and you really don't have to classify everything in life.  Pretend you're in Minnesota and call it a Hot Dish and be done with it.  Seriously.  Its simple hearty fare no need to make more out of it than what it is.

This is a stupid easy, go to when you're too busy to do everything from scratch.  Left over roast chicken/check.  Frozen veggies/check.  Canned soup/check.  Biscuit mix/check. Open whiz, whir bake and you have dinner on the table/

Chicken & Biscuit Casserole

  • 3 c diced cooked chicken
  • 1 1/2 c peas and carrots
  • 2 T butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 1/2 t dried Thyme
  • 2 cans cream of chicken and mushroom soup
  • 1 1/2 cans milk


  • 2 1/4 c biscuit mix
  • 2/3 c milk
  • 1/4 t dried Thyme

Preheat oven to 400F  Grease a large casserole dish and place on a baking sheet.

In large sauce pot add butter and over medium heat sweat onions with salt and thyme until onions are translucent.  Add soup to pan and stir in milk until smooth.  Heat until just starting to simmer.  Add chicken and vegetables.  Stir until combined.  Reduced heat and let simmer while preparing the biscuit topping.

For biscuit topping combine the biscuit mix, thyme and milk.  Stir until just combined.

Pour hot chicken mixture into casserole.  Drop golf ball sized biscuit dough balls onto hot filling.  There will be some gaps...which is fine as the biscuits rise they will fill into those empty spots.  

Place in preheated oven.  Bake 20 minutes until bubbly and biscuits are light golden brown.  Serve hot. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This pie would have done either of my Grandmas proud.  Perfectly tart Rhubarb and just a hint of citrus and a touch of sweetness.  Not overly sweet as that would hide the tartness of the Rhubarb.

Pie crust...its the bane of my existence.  It really is. I just don't have a dough hand, my Grandma Z never met a dough she couldn't not so much.  But with so many really terrific pie crusts already made...just unroll and use why bother?  Pillsbury for years has made the best, but now even Ralph's and Albertson's do a decent store brand.  Save yourself some time and bother and go that route when you're in a hurry.

Instead of regular sugar on top of the pie I use Turbanado sugar.  Its a raw unbleached sugar that is coarser and because its darker it lends a light caramel note to the taste instead of just sweet.

Save your clean oven from a kitchen disaster.  Place your pie plate in a baking sheet.  If your berries or rhubarb are "wet" you'll have a boil over and the baking sheet will catch it instead of your oven floor.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
  • 2 pie crust sheets to fit 9" pan
  • 1 lb diced rhubarb
  • 1 lb sliced strawberry
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 T corn starch
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • egg
  • 1 T Milk, cream or half-n-half
  • Turbanado Sugar

Preheat oven to 400F

Place 9" Pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet.  Place 1 sheet of crust into the pie plate and set aside.

Dice/Slice rhubarb into half inch cubes.  Slice strawberry's. Combine fruit in large mixing bowl.  Zest lemon and add it and lemon juice to the fruit mixture.  Combine sugar and corn starch and whisk with a fork until it combines to prevent lumping.  Sprinkle on top of fruit and fold lightly to combine but not crush fruit.  Pour into prepared pie plate.

Place top layer of the pie crust on the bottom crust.  Center.  Fold edges under and crimp decoratively.  Mix egg and milk.  Brush egg mixture on top of pie crust.  Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons Turbanado sugar.

Place in oven and bake 40-50 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.  Check pie half way through, if edges getting too brown place a browning shield on the outside edges or use aluminum foil to do the trick.  Cool to room temp...enjoy!
Fruit filling in pie plate sitting on a rimmed baking sheet
Egg washed and sugared ready for the oven
One complete pie, note the boil over went onto the sheet not my oven!