pesto-ish spread

So people have been beating me down at theCross recently to post some recipes.  Unfortunately, my computer decided back in May to stop cooperating with me and I have been computer-less ever since.  While it’s been nice doing things other than surfing the internet in the evening when I get home, I’ve really missed this little blog, and I’ve missed sharing some great recipes.  I’ve also really missed Pinterest, which is just not the same on my phone as it is on a nice big monitor!

In response to all these crazy Bible-beaters (joking) begging me for recipes, I’m going to post one…just one for now as I am at work and wanting to leave soon.  So I’ll go for the fave…the one that people practically want to lick off their plates every time I make it…the one I am now calling the “pesto-ish spread”.

I really made this one up in my head, and I don’t always write these things down, so just experiment if you make it yourself…don’t follow my measurements to the letter, do what you like and add your own “ish”.

Sorry, no photo this time.

what’s in it

about a cup of non-fat greek yogurt

dollop of non-fat or low-fat sour cream

juice from 1 lemon or lime, depends on what you like best

a handful or two of leafy greens such as spinach, kale, watercress, arugula or any combination thereof

about a tablespoon of olive oil

basil or mint, depending on what you’re serving with


2-3 garlic cloves

dash of red pepper flakes

dash of black pepper

couple shakes of cumin

salt to taste (add at the very end)

how it comes together

by the grace of god…haha just kidding, well not really but you know.

pack all the green stuff in the bottom of a food processor, then add the garlic, the spices (except salt), then pour on all the liquid stuff

yeah…that’s it

serve with anything.  literally anything.  well except cake…it may not taste so good with cake.

what’s in it

2 large garlic cloves

1 sweet onion, diced

splash of olive oil

2-3 chopped jalepenos

2 bags of kale, or fresh kale

2 bunches of chopped basil

2 boxes of strawberries (32 oz total)

1/4 cup sugar or splenda sugar blend

juice from 2 limes

water, salt and pepper to taste

how it comes together

sautee 2 large garlic cloves with diced sweet onion in olive oil.  add the chopped jalepenos when onions are clear or caramelized, your preference.  cook 2-3 minutes then add kale.  add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan with the kale, and minimal salt & pepper.  cover and let stand 1-2 minutes until kale is bright green but not totally cooked.  it should still have a shape.  meanwhile, clean and slice strawberries and toss with sugar and lime juice.  when kale is done, add to large bowl with strawberry mixture and toss with chopped basil.  serve warm or cold.

made this one up all by myself.  enjoy and share with friends.

what’s in it

the roast…

1 5-6 pound boneless chuck or rump roast

sea salt

1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground black peppercorns

1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground white peppercorns

1/2 tablespoon corriander

1/2 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 cup sriracha sauce

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

canola oil for cooking

2 sliced onions

6 cloves garlic, sliced

5 slices of fresh ginger

2-3 whole roma tomatoes

1-2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 cups dry red wine

2 zucchinis, thickly cut

2 colorful bell peppers, largely diced

2 large carrots, peeled and thickly cut

1 pound whole baby bella mushrooms

the aioli… (from yummly.com)

3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

squirt of sriracha

2 cups or so vegetable oil


how it comes together

season roast with salt, mix all spices and roll the roast well in them.  roll the spiced roast in the flour.  heat a dutch oven to high.  coat with oil and sear all sides of the roast until brown and crusty.  lower heat and add onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, sugar, wine and sriracha.  cover and let simmer for 3 hours (turn it every hour, but check on it…i don’t like my roast over-done, just tender).  in a large bowl, mix the remaining vegetables with some salt & pepper.  during the last 20 minutes of roasting, add the vegetables and cover.  roast is done when it’s fork tender.  remove roast and check the veggies and sauce for seasoning.   

while roast is roasting, make the aioli that goes on top.  combine all ingredients in food processor, while machine is running, slowly pour oil in stead stream.  continue to add until it’s thick as you like it.  i don’t add both cups of oil…like my aioli a little thinner.

the roast recipe is doctored from a ming tsai recipe on foodnetwork.com.  i added the aioli and mustard, and changed the veggie timing because i hate mushy veggies.  enjoy this one…i certainly did!


what’s in it

tot nests…

3 small sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and moisture wrung out with a towel

1 small red potato, washed and peeled

1/4 cup flour

4 oz soft goat cheese

oil for frying

sea salt

dipping sauce…

1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1/3 cup nonfat or low fat sour cream

1/3 cup light mayo

2 tablespoons honey

cinnamon to taste – I used a bunch, like a teaspoon

4-5 shakes of red pepper flakes

a couple shakes of corriander

how it comes together

grate the potatoes and drain/wring them of moisture.  throw them in a bowl with the flour and goat cheese and mix until combined.  an electric beater makes this easier, and it’s also a little better if the cheese is room temperature.  wrap the mixture in plastic wrap to form long logs about an inch thick.  freeze them for 20-30 minutes and cut into small pieces.  

original recipe calls for you to heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, but i think it may work better to do it in a fry pan with about 1/4 inch of oil in the bottom.  i think it may make the tots look like actual tots rather than nests.  either way, heat over low heat until very hot, drop in the tots (not too many at a time) and fry until crispy.  drain on paper towels and shake with salt.  

for the dipping sauce, mix all those great things together and serve with the tots.  it’s a great combination of spicy-creamy-sweet to go with the goat cheese and sweet potato.  

this one’s not mine, but i forgot where i found it.  some other blogger who is obviously awesome as this was truly tasty.  i modified the dipping sauce on my own.  

There I was, in my apartment, strawberry buttermilk cake iced and decorated on the counter in it’s crystal cake stand, my hair in curlers, doing my makeup and getting ready for a ladies tea party, drinking a gin cocktail and singing along to some forgotten Dean Martin song.  And I thought, I would have made a damn fine 196os housewife.

That line brought to mind all kinds of interesting foods and images…pot roast, meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, gin, card games, pencil skirts, Brussels sprouts, all those things that were so decadent and were staples of every Betty Crocker-loving housewife.  Coincidentally, I used the 1973 version of the Betty Crocker Cooking for Two Cookbook to make the scalloped potatoes for my first Family Meal.

So those thoughts and images inspired my first dinner party.   But in order to make my friends part with their cash in return for a home cooked meal, I had to make this a really special, edgy 1960s Family Meal.  In my mind, 1960s housewives didn’t exactly get paid by those they hosted dinner parties for, unless you count payment as the opportunity to clean up  the whole mess, have your husband’s creepy boss hit on you and his wife get drunk and spill her red wine on your white carpet, or if you’re lucky, your husband gives you a little bauble or access to a credit account at the grocery or Macy’s as payment.  And for those of you who are wondering, yes I do have a very odd imagination.  Anyway, menus worthy of a paid-for dinner party started forming in my mind.

The pot roast was a must, but I needed some kind of kick to it, no mushy boring potatoes and veggies for this dinner party.  At my office Christmas party last year the gift I bartered for was a Sriracha cookbook.  It intrigued me so I bribed a co-worker to take the crappy scented candle I’d picked out of the pile.  I made this pulled pork with a brown sugar / Sriracha rub that was amazing.  I decided to do some kind of spicy-sweet pot roast, and try to keep the veggies slightly firm.

So what else?  The aforementioned scalloped potatoes were essential, and I couldn’t bear to butcher Betty’s butter-laden creamy goodness, so I left those alone.  Brussels Sprouts were a done deal.  If you read the “Tastes Like Broccoli” post from a few days ago you’ll know why I had to choose those pretty little cabbage cousins.  I did them up with garlic, honey and a touch of Sriracha (yeah, I’m obsessed with that stuff).

The appetizer was a bit more of a challenge.  My aunt and uncle who were my age in the 60s were visiting from Maryland as I was putting together my menu, and I scoured them for ideas for appetizers.  They came up with Jello.  Seriously.  Jello.  And cheese and crackers.  Turns out 1960s housewives weren’t that creative when it came to appetizers.  So I improvised.  Simple…fried…tasty.  TATER TOTS!  But I couldn’t just pop open a bag of Ore Ida and throw them in the oven.  Had to make special tots…sweet potato goat cheese tots with a dipping sauce made with sour cream, Greek yogurt, honey, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.  Oh yeah.

So amazing (though the tots actually became nests as I fried them…I am terrible at frying things).  No matter, I just served them in little cupcake tins with forks.  And of course no self-respecting housewife gets through the 1960s without mastering a bundt cake, so I threw in a lemon blueberry bundt for dessert.  Just the right tart and sweet to end a great meal.

So, invitations were sent, the night arrived, and two by two some of my most supportive friends started arriving.  And…other supportive friends, I didn’t forget you.  My table only seats 10, so you’ll get the chance to part with your cash in time.  I promise.  I fried up the tot nests, let the meat rest, carved it, enjoyed bustling around the kitchen while listening to my dear friends chat about random things.  It was a really great mix of people…I tried to put together friends from different areas of my life, but made sure I wasn’t the only common denominator so they would have plenty to talk about.  I couldn’t believe how well the night flowed.  We even had some crashers that I was able to feed, and who joined the conversation perfectly.   I’m starting to think that I can do this…that I can really cook for people on a regular basis.  It’s taken a lot to get here…a lot of stress, planning, finding the right people to come.  But when that first knock on the door came and my first guests arrived, I figured out that I was doing something really important.  Something that will make me happy for a long time.  That’s exactly what I was hoping for. So, stay tuned to see what inspires my next Blue Envelope Family Meal.

Tastes Like Broccoli

That’s what Richard said to me when I asked him if he liked the food we made in class last week.  It tastes like broccoli.  Not such a problem if you’re making broccoli…we made Brussels sprouts.

So I know Brussels sprouts are a pretty big thing to start cooking with kids.  All I heard about growing up is how gross they are…how you’re supposed to try to feed them to the dog or sneak them into your napkin so you don’t have to eat them.  I never actually tasted a Brussels sprout until I was in my 20s.  Kind of weird, huh?  My first Brussels sprouts were bought on a whim a few years ago as I was walking through Publix looking for something to cook.  I bought them, found an easy recipe (roll them in olive oil, and season with mustard powder, garlic salt and pepper, then microwave for about a minute to soften.  Stick them on a skewer and place on a grill for a few minutes, turning once), and I’ve been in love ever since.

My thoughts last week as I planned the meal were about that first Brussels sprout experience.  All I wanted to do was share it with the kids, show them they don’t have to feed their sprouts to the dog, they can eat and enjoy them.  I tried to make them tasty, they had a million spices on them, they were just the right degree of doneness, and were surrounded by whole wheat pasta and fresh grape tomatoes, parmesan and basil.  No luck. Turns out they had a lot more fun preparing the food than eating it.  But I guess that’s ok too.

Not going to share this recipe…it was merely mediocre, and not how I’d like the world to see my lovely Brussels sprouts showcased.  There’s another recipe coming up that does them justice.














I’m starting to realize that I’m pretty blessed.  This cooking thing has been so simple, and support has just been magically coming in.  I’d always heard that doing the things you love can be so difficult, so much work, but somehow I’m missing that part, and only getting the fun.

So I had the chance to cook for two very special birthdays over the past few weeks.  A party of eleven for my friend Nikki, which I hosted at my place in Downtown Orlando; and a party of six this past Saturday at my parents’ house for my brother Kyle’s 35th.  Nikki’s party was the first I’d hosted and Nikki is literally the hostess with the mostess, so the prospect of cooking for her party was intimidating.  Plus it was a dinner that would be kind of a prequel to the parties I’ll be hosting for my friends for actual payment.  I volunteered as a way to impress my friends…to show them that this cooking thing was a big deal, and that it’s not just another random project to keep me busy.  That I’m actually good at it, and it will be worth it for them to part with obscene amounts of their money over the next few months in order to taste my amazing creations (ok, not obscene…actually I’m charging a rather modest $15-20 per person).

I made quite the meal…started with some Midnight Moon goat cheese, crackers, nuts and fruit, then moved on to pan-seared scallops topped with a cucumber-cilantro sauce.  The main course was Guinness braised beef over crostini and linguine with kale pesto (the kale pesto is from another blogger…in pursuit of more), and for dessert black & tan brownies (also made with Guinness).  It was a pretty incredible meal, and everyone had a great time.  The guest list added a couple when my roommate and her boyfriend joined us, but there was plenty of food, and everything got rave reviews.  As I sat on the balcony with Nikki in the last minutes of the party, I heard my friend tell me she was proud of me.  That she could see that I was happy with myself and that this cooking thing really fit me.  Those words were pretty powerful for me.

So my next meal was a week later, at my mom & dad’s.  My brother came in from Brooklyn for his 35th birthday, and I asked to cook for him.  There’s something special about cooking a meal for your big brother’s birthday.  Something incredibly adult, but still innocent about it.  It’s like you revert back to being in kindergarten drawing a picture or gluing macaroni to a piece of paper in the shape of his face…but of course your using incredibly sharp knives, ovens, and drinking wine.  The process is all wrapped up in love and thoughts of our growing up years…he’s one of the first people I ever met and the only person who has known me my whole life (other than my parents), so all of this emotion is rolled up into the meal.  Memories of watching Star Wars over and over again every summer; running for my life after I’d done something to really piss him off and he was chasing me toward my room with what I thought at the time was absolutely lethal intent; crying with him in his room after our first horrible day of school in a new city.  And now, as an adult, sharing a bottle of wine with him and ringing in the end of his 35th year with a pot roast, Brussels sprouts, scalloped potatoes, rosemary sriracha aioli and chocolate souffle.  I think it is one of the best times I’ll ever have in my life.  And it makes me realize that I’m doing the right thing by cooking for the people I love.

I’m glad that Nikki and Kyle were the first people I got to share this with.  They are important people in my life for very different reasons.  Kyle, for having been by my side through a lifetime of growing up, and Nikki for being supportive of me and truly being one of the first people to understand what I’m doing here.  Explaining to each of them that by cooking for them I was starting to find my place, my purpose, was a wonderful thing.









what’s in it

1 pound sea scallops (u-10 or larger is best, these were u-15)

2-3 tablespoons of butter

salt & pepper to taste (divided)

1 cup plain, non-fat greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups low fat or fat free mayo

1 peeled cucumber, grated on cheese grater

3/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

red pepper flakes, to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or use a little fresh garlic (like 1/2 a clove, crushed)

how it comes together

clean the scallops under cold water, pick any grit out that you can see, and pat dry with paper towels or a bar cloth.  dust with salt and pepper.  to cook, heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  drop the butter in and melt it.  put the scallops on when the skillet is very hot, but butter has not yet started to burn.  sear the scallops for about 90 seconds per side.  if they’re super stiff, they’re over-done.  they should still have some give in them and look just slightly translucent in the center.

to make the sauce (you can make it ahead), combine yogurt, mayo and remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  set aside in the fridge to serve with the scallops.  you’ll have extra most likely.  this sauce also tastes delightful with grilled artichokes (healthier than drawn butter).  so make some before you do the scallops and you’ll have plenty of ways to enjoy this sauce.  it’s totally worth it.










what’s in it

cooking spray

4 1/2 tbs granulated sugar, divided

1 tbs all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tbs dutch process cocoa

2 tbs fat-free milk

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg white

1 tsp powdered sugar

how it comes together

preheat oven to 350

coat 2 small ramekins with cooking spray and sprinkle each with 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, flour, cocoa and milk in small saucepan over medium heat (it makes it much easier if you sift the cocoa a bit before putting it in).  cook 2 minutes, stirring until smooth.  Spoon mixture into a medium bowl.  cool 4 minutes and stir in vanilla.

place egg white in a medium bowl.  beat with mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  add remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating until soft peaks form (to avoid over-beating, I just used a whisk instead of the electric beater at this point).  gently stir 1/4 egg white mixture into prepared dishes.  sharply tap dishes 2 or 3 times to level the mixture.  place dishes on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until puffy and set.  sprinkle each with powdered sugar.

add your favorite sauce to this, or make your own.  i added a hot caramel sauce to it and it was very tasty!

i didn’t make this one up either…it’s from the april 2007 issue of cooking light magazine.  

yum some-oh

what’s in it 

3 tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups bite-sized chunks of peeled, sectioned grapefruit

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped, roasted, salted peanuts (optional)

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped shallots

2 teaspoons dried chili flakes

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint and cilantro

how it comes together

toast the shredded coconut in a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, tossing often, until most of it turns a soft brown.  set aside to cool.

in a medium bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar and stir well to dissolve sugar and form a smooth sauce.  add the grapefruit, nuts, shallots, chili flakes, mint and cilantro and toss gently to combine.  transfer to a platter and top with toasted coconut.  

by the way…i don’t make this stuff up.  this recipe is from quick & easy thai by nancie mcdermott