Tropical Shave Ice

Two friends of mine posted photos of themselves in Hawaii on social media today. I immediately felt jealousy and a craving for shave ice. Not the kind with sticky syrup in every color of the rainbow, but the kind made of tropical fruit with a big scoop of ice cream at the bottom. 
This sauce is the perfect topper for shave ice or plain ice cream and comes together in a jiffy. 

Tropical Sauce

1/2 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks

1/2 cup Fresh or frozen mango chunks

1 fresh peach, peeled or 1 cup canned peaches 

Blend all together in a high-powered blender. 

Serve over shave ice or ice cream and pretend you are in Hawaii!

Authentic Bagels



Repeat after me, “Bagels are not hard to make.”

Good.  Now, keep that in mind as you read on.  There are several steps, but they are NOT hard.  You can do this!

Authentic bagels are always boiled before they are baked, which lends their distinctive chewy texture.  Legitimate bagels also make use of a long fermentation process to increase the depth and quality of the final flavor.

There are three steps:

  1. Make the dough
  2. Poach each bagel for 1-2 minutes (you can do several at a time in a large stock pot)
  3. Bake the par-boiled breads until chewy


makes 12-16 bagels
Recipe adapted from a Peter Reinhart version found here.

2 Tbsp honey (substitute barley malt syrup if you have it)
2 tsp instant yeast
1 Tbsp salt
18 oz lukewarm water
7 cups bread flour

In a BOSCH mixer, or by hand, mix 6 1/2 cups flour, yeast, and salt.  Dissolve honey (or malt syrup) in water and add to the bowl of the mixer.  Mix on low speed 2-3 minutes.

Check dough.  It should be tacky, but not sticky.  Add remaining flour if necessary.

Mix another 3 minutes on low speed.

Let rise 1 hour at room temperature.

Shape into bagels and place onto a sheet pan that has been either greased or lined with a silicone baking mat. I actually love these that have a permanent silicone coating. To shape, form 4 oz balls and use one of two methods:

  • form rolls and poke a hole in the center, widening the hole to desired size
  • roll dough into a snake and using your palm, roll the ends together to form a circle

Spray surface of bagels with oil, cover pans loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.

Alternatively, you can proof entire batch of dough and shape 1 – 1 1/2 hours prior to baking time.


Remove bagels from fridge 1 hour before you want to bake them. Prepare the poaching liquid:

  • Fill a stock pot with at least 5 inches of water (around 3 quarts).
  • Add 1 Tbsp baking soda, 1 1/2 Tbsp honey (or barley malt syrup) and 1 tsp salt.
  • Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low if bagels are not ready quite yet.
  • Preheat oven to 450° F

To check for readiness:

  • Fill a small bowl with cold water.
  • Drop a bagel into the cold water.
  • If it floats, they are ready.  If not, recheck in 15 minutes.

To poach:

  • Gently add a few bagels to the boiling liquid (don’t overcrowd-they should fit in a single layer).
  • Poach for one minute and then flip with a slotted spoon.
  • Poach second side for an additional 30-60 seconds.
  • Remove to a greased or silicone-lined baking sheet

Now is the time to add toppings such as garlic, cheese, salt, cinnamon & sugar, etc.


Put trays of bagels into oven and check after 8 minutes.  If they are browning too quickly on the bottom, lower heat to 425° F or add another baking sheet under the pan for insulation.

Rotate pan and bake another 8-10 minutes, or until bagels are golden brown.

Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Strawberry Freezer Jam


Have you read the children’s book, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

The sneaky fox goes to great lengths to get just half of a juicy strawberry and I certainly don’t blame him.  A fresh-picked berry is nature’s perfect treat. They are unique in taste and structure, being the only fruit to bear its seeds on the outside rather than in, and can be successfully used in sweet and savory dishes alike.

Strawberries grow reasonably well in Zone 8, especially if you plant varieties that are heat-tolerant.  Two of my personal favorites are Earliglow and Eversweet, but the local nurseries almost always carry a selection of appropriate types.  Plant them in a raised bed with plenty of loose soil and consider a location that will give them a little afternoon shade for a longer season.

Nothing beats heading out to pick a few for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert.  When our plants are bearing fruit, my kids can always be found outdoors during snack time.  When you find yourself with an abundance of fruit from your backyard patch, or the local sale, try this freezer jam.  Unlike cooked jams, it brings back that fresh taste of spring berries all year round.  Try it over vanilla ice cream or toss a little over fresh berries for the perfect strawberry shortcake topping.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

6 cups finely chopped strawberries, pulsed in food processor
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cups sugar
½ cup instant pectin
¼ – ½ cup Ultra Sperse/Instant Clear Jel (a starch thickener that does not need to be heated)

Pulse strawberries in food processor until finely chopped.  In large bowl, mix strawberries, pectin and sugar.  Add Ultra Sperse until desired texture is reached.  Freeze in zip-top bags or plastic containers labeled with the date.


I Heart Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp tacos, how I love thee.  Garlicky, with plenty of shredded cheese, cabbage and salsa, these beach-side tacos are love at first sight.  They make the perfect meal any night of the year, but especially May the 5th. So, if you need a quick, delicious Cinco de Mayo dinner, look no further.


Shrimp Tacos

1 lb raw shrimp
4-6 large cloves garlic
1/2 a lime (extra wedges for serving)
corn tortillas
pepper jack cheese, shredded (can substitute cheddar)
1/4 head green cabbage, shredded
1 avocado, diced
blender salsa

Peel and de-vein shrimp.  (Incidentally, this is my favorite tool for doing so. Paired with a willing husband it’s really the best method.) Pat shrimp dry with paper towels so it doesn’t splatter as much when you fry it.  Or, don’t.  It’s your stovetop, you decide.

Shred the cheese and melt a little between two tortillas (like a quesadilla).  Keep warm in a tortilla warmer or under a dishtowel until you are ready to eat.  Each of these mini quesadillas will make one taco, so plan accordingly.

Finely chop your garlic and heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.  You want enough room for the shrimp to fit in a single layer.

Toss in shrimp and garlic, season heavily with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, 2 minutes per side.  When curled and pink, they are done.  Avoid overcooking them, it’s really a quick process.

Remove shirmp and garlic to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Place in a bowl and drizzle any pan juices over the mix.  Squeeze half a lime over all and toss to combine.

Top each “double tortilla quesadilla” with a small handful of cabbage, a large scoop of shrimp, some avocado and a little salsa.  Serve with lime wedges and napkins. Divine.


Need a good cutting board that can go in the dishwasher and won’t transfer that garlic and onion taste to your strawberries?  Check out Epicurean.


Garlic makes everything better.


Party on, taco lovers.

Blender Salsa

This recipe was born in a moment of desperation when I realized that someone had eaten the very last of the store-bought salsa and that someone else (it may have been the same person) forgot to add salsa to the grocery list when they took the last jar from the pantry. The result was disastrous: not a drop of salsa in the house. 

I am unable to live without salsa. It is my condiment of choice and I slather it liberally on dishes throught the day. A breakfast of eggs gets a nice dollop, while a lunch of nachos or beans and rice is never complete without either a scoop of pico de gallo or bottled tomato goodness. Dinner at our house often involves a tortilla, some fixins’ and, of course, salsa. 

This recipe turned out to be the solution I didn’t know I had been looking for. Our favorite commercial brands were a touch too spicy for my youngest and we were going through it quickly. 

Inexpensive, completely customizable and fast, this blender salsa pleases the whole crowd. In the event that I find myself with only an empty jar, a refill is only five minutes away. 

Blender Salsa

Yields 1 quart

1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic

2 scallions or a handful of chives

A small handful cilantro, with the bottom of the stems trimmed off

1/2-1 Jalapeno, seeded (leave seeds in for more spice)

1 small bell pepper (omit if you don’t have one)

Juice of a lime

1 tsp smoked paprika

Tiny dash ground cayenne 

2 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly-ground pepper

2 cans diced tomatoes, 15 oz each

With the blender motor running, drop the garlic through the small hole in the lid and let it chop. Using the same technique, add the chives, cilantro (stems and all!) pepper and Jalapeno. Turn off the motor. Add lime juice, spices and tomatoes. Pulse until desired thickness is reached. Taste for salt and add more, if needed. Enjoy any time of the day!


Smoky Southwestern Salad Dressing

Smoked paprika, how I love thee, let me count the ways…

  1. On beans
  2. On meat
  3. In soup
  4. On salad
  5. In sauces

The list could go on and on.  Suffice it to say, this gem makes it into my top-three favorite spices list.  Anytime I am cooking Southwestern fare, I add a little dash for that deep, smoky flavor.  It has nearly replaced traditional paprika in my kitchen, as there is rarely an occasion when I don’t want to add a little char.

This simple salad dressing is perfect for weekday lunches, company-over dinners and a killer pasta salad. I like to drizzle it over a bed of romaine or spinach topped with black beans, warm quinoa and queso fresco. If I have fresh tomatoes or cucumbers, I add plenty of each.  Toss some up today.  Yum!

Smoky Southwestern Salad Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cup red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
dash cayenne, optional

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake to combine.  Store in refrigerator for up to several weeks.


Another Soup – Tomato Bisque

IMG_1860.JPGWhat I secretly love most about soup for dinner is that it’s almost a full meal in one pot. Add some bread and/or a salad on the side and you’ve got dinner in 30 minutes. The cleanup is a snap and the leftovers are always in demand, unlike other meals that end up taking up valuable fridge and Tupperware real estate until you guiltily toss them a week later.

Tomatoes are the number one reason I grow a garden. I eat them daily during the summer months, which makes it all the more inexplicable that until this year I could not make a homemade tomato soup that I actually liked.

Enter: bacon. It really is the key to deep flavor here. While you could leave it out and add a dash of smoked paprika to appease any vegetarians in the crowd, it wouldn’t be quite so delicious.
Tomato Bisque

Adapted from:

4 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

2 slices bacon

4 cloves garlic

5 tablespoons flour

5 cups chicken broth/stock

1 28-ounce canned diced tomatoes

3 parsley sprigs or 2 tsp dried

3 fresh thyme sprigs (remove leaves from stem) or 1 tsp dried

1 bay leaf

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt (salt to taste based on your broth’s saltiness

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Cook diced onion in butter for about 5 – 6 minutes or until it softens and begins to brown.

Add bacon and garlic and stir for another minute or two or until the bacon gets crisp.

Sprinkle flour over all and stir for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid scorching.

Add tomatoes and broth, whisking constantly.

Add herbs and simmer about 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.

Puree the soup either in a blender (in batches) or with a handheld immersion blender

Stir in the heavy cream and salt & pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash Bisque


It almost never snows where I live, so when it does, making soup is a requirement.  Today we saw the first, and possibly last, white flurries of the season and while the kids were wildly planning to build a gigantic snowman with the 0.047 inches of snow, I was dreaming of a rich, luscious bowl of soup.

I still have a few butternut squash from our garden in storage and I have been brainstorming the perfect recipe for weeks now.  I wanted it to have layers of flavor, like my favorite tomato bisque (I PROMISE to post that recipe this week as well) and be creamy without masking the flavor of the squash.

I used several recipes as a baseline for this one, and I think it turned out to be the perfect combo of easy prep and gourmet taste.  You’ll want to pull out your blender, one of these amazing jelly roll pans and a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven.   I love this one and may in fact consider saving it during a house fire if all my people were safely accounted for. Other than that, you’ll be sitting down to a steaming bowl within 45 minutes.  If you served it with a side of sourdough bread and butter, I’m certain no one would mind.

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

1 large or 2 medium butternut squash peeled and sliced (or use a combo of butternut and white acorn, which you won’t need to peel)
4 medium carrots, cut lengthwise
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
½ a large onion, cut into large chunks
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
4-5 cups chicken stock
2 large fresh sage leaves or a pinch of dried
salt and pepper to taste
¾-1 cup heavy cream

2 -3 cups mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Prepare squash, carrots, garlic and onion and arrange on a jelly roll pan.  Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Slice 2 Tbsp of butter and place on top of veggies.

Roast for about 20-35 minutes, or until everything is beginning to char, but before it really burns.

Remove from oven and transfer veggies to blender with about 3 cups of the stock.  Puree until smooth.

Combine puree with as much remaining stock as necessary to reach the desired consistency. Add sage leaves and simmer gently for 10 minutes or so to combine flavors, stirring often.

Meanwhile, clean and slice mushrooms and saute in a little butter.  They will sweat out a lot of liquid.  Keep sauteing until the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are coated in a golden glaze.  

Taste for seasoning and adjust.  Stir in the heavy cream and heat through, but DO NOT ALLOW to boil.  Remove sage leaves or inform your guests that they may find a “lucky leaf” in their bowl.

Serve drizzled with plain or flavored olive oil and with a spoonful of mushrooms for garnish.  Sourdough bread with butter is the perfect accompaniment.


Two Easy Caramel Sauces


Simple 10-Minute Caramel Sauce

I am indebted to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for this recipe.  I have made small changes, but she deserves the credit on this one.

1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

Combine butter, sugar, salt and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat.  Stir gently, then increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil.

Boil for 10 minutes without stirring. Watch closely for signs of scorching and lower heat if necessary.

Remove from heat and carefully stir in the vanilla bean paste.  Avoid mixing too vigorously or scraping the sides as this may cause the sauce to crystallize.

Use immediately or let the sauce cool a bit before pouring into a container to refrigerate. Keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.


Easiest-Ever “Cheater” Caramel Sauce

Caramel (premade)
Heavy whipping cream.

The caramel I use for this is here.  You know when you’ve bought a huge bag full of those tiny squares in the bulk food section and then unwrapped them for what seemed like hours so you could melt them down?  This is the same idea, BUT it’s infinitely better tasting and comes in a block, so you can easily slice off as much as you need without the hours of small-motor skill practice.  It LOOKS like this may be the same product (based on the description and reviews) for less, but the title says it’s a “chocolate caramel sauce,” which is confusing and may be something different.  I haven’t used that second link personally before, but I can vouch for Amazon’s return service if it is, by chance, the wrong thing.

Anyhow…This caramel makes the most delicious sauce for apples and pretty much anything else.  It’s truly worth the price tag for special events and splurges.

To make the sauce, simply melt the caramel in your crock pot for about an hour or so.  Alternately, you can do this in a double boiler or in your microwave on LOW for VERY SHORT increments.  If you microwave it for too long or at too high a temp, it may crystallize or harden, so take care with this method.

Stir in enough cream to thin the sauce to the desired consistency.  I use around two cups if I’m melting the whole five-pound block.  Continue stirring until the sauce is well blended.  Enjoy!


Easy Roasted Vegetables 

By request, I give you:

Easy Roasted Vegetables

Vegetables, of course! (We use this technique for Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, thick slices of cabbage, and butternut squash (or other winter varieties)

Olive oil (or avocado oil)

Kosher or coarse salt

Freshly-ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash and prep all veggies.

  • Broccoli/Cauliflower: separate large clusters into single pieces about the size you’d see on a raw veggie tray and then slice in half, exposing a flat side.
  • Brussels Sprouts: peel outer layer away. Trim stem ends and slice in half the long way (hot-dog style!).
  • Cabbage: peel outer layer and cut 1 inch slices (they will be a circle) from the whole head.
  • Winter Squash: peel (this peeler will change your life for under $10, promise!) and either cube or cut into 1/2 inch-thick slices.

Toss veggies in olive oil until well coated. (Except cabbage, which you will put directly on the pan and then drizzle with oil).

Arrange veggies, cut side down, on a baking sheet. You won’t need to grease it as long as you’ve oiled your vegetables well.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast at 450 until the underside that is contact with the pan is nice and golden. Use a spatula to lift a few specimens from the pan to check for doneness. Resist the urge to flip them or turn the oven down. I promise they will be perfection!