Salted Peanut Cookies

002Oatmeal cookies are a favorite in our house.  I don’t make cookies as often as I used to, and not nearly as often as Joe would like for me to, but I have tried a variety of recipes besides the tried and true Oatmeal Raisin.  This batch of cookies disappeared so fast I am glad I took the picture as soon as they were taken from the oven!  They are a smaller, crispier cookie than most Oatmeal cookies, and the addition of salted peanuts is definitely a taste treat. Of course, for those who have members of their family with a peanut sensitivity, the recipe works fine if you omit the peanuts.

Salted Peanut Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 cups oatmeal

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup salted peanuts (I used large Virginia peanuts)

Cream butter and sugars, add beaten eggs, and mix well.  Sift flour, soda, and baking powder together and add to creamed mixture.  Add oatmeal, vanilla, and peanuts. Mix well.  Drop by teaspoonful on greased cookie sheets.  Bake 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from baking sheet to wire rack to cool.  Makes at least 7 dozen cookies.

This recipe is found in the cookbook published by the Richardson, Texas Woman’s Club – The Texas Experience, Friendship & food Texas Style given to me in 1984 by my dear friend Sondra Skaggs.


Stay Cool!

002Summertime on the South Texas Gulf Coast has arrived with a vengeance.  After an unusually cool April and May, the humidity and mid to upper 90 degree temperatures make us grateful for ceiling fans, air conditioners,iced tea,  Blue Bell ice cream, and cold watermelon.  One of the ways to keep healthy cooling snacks for all ages is to keep an assortment of homemade popsicles in the freezer.  Our family is currently enjoying finding lots of ways to use coconut, and these coconut  popsicles are one of the results.Skye helped me make them last week and was the first to try one.   We adapted  this recipe from one found on Food Network, but my inspiration was eating one of Blue Bell’s new fruit bars, Coconut dipped in Dark Chocolate.

Lime and Coconut Popsicles

 15 ounce can coconut milk

zest of 1 lime

juice of 2 miles

1/3 cup grated coconut

1/3 cup powdered sugar

In a blender jar, add coconut milk, zest, lime juice, powdered sugar,  and grated coconut. Pulse a few times until well combined.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until firm.  There are many inexpensive popsicle mold sets available.  I like the Zoku set which I bought at Sur le Tables which is in a classic popsicle shape and very durable with easy to grip handles, but simple molds can be made with 3 ounce paper cups and wooden popsicle sticks.

Try these plain, drizzle with melted chocolate, or quick dip them in melted chocolate.

http://www.zokuhome.come has recipes for breakfast pops made with yogurt and berries, as well as melon and fruit pops.

What is your favorite frozen treat?

001Skye loves coconut!

Zesty Zucchini


We are eating more vegetables than ever since I started trying so many vegetables to roast, and  different ways to make them special.  Don’t get me wrong, a simple brush with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper gets delicious results.  But the addition of lemon zest, shredded basil, and a few cherry tomatoes definitely makes zucchini that is a favorite to add to any easy summer supper.

Zesty Zucchini

3-4 medium zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

zest of one lemon

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

olive oil for coating

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place zucchini and tomatoes in ZipLoc bag with enough olive oil to coat.  Lay zucchini halves on  baking sheet, cut side up with cherry tomatoes on top and around them. Sprinkle with lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Top with lemon zest and basil.  Sprinkle with olive oil and place in oven to roast for about 25 minutes, or until squash is fork tender.

There are many variations and combinations that work to make this one of the most versatile side dish for your summer meals.  Try mixing yellow squash or any other summer squash with chopped thyme and sliced lemon.  Fresh mint and a squeeze of orange juice is a bright, fresh taste for a change.  You can also use your outdoor grill for roasting if you prefer.

Special K Crunch

016There are certain family favorite recipes that are connected with people (Iris’ Toffee, Mother’s Lemon Icebox Pie), some with holidays (Christmas -Crusty Fennel Potatoes, Thanksgiving – Cornbread Dressing, others with places (Singapore Chili Shrimp, Indonesian Nasi Goreng), and even some that come from restaurants where we first enjoyed the dish (Tino’s Flautas, Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscano).  But I have one category of family favorites that came from simple snacks we enjoyed making with children in Vacation Bible School. The star of that collection is the sweet, crunchy confection shown here.

I still work in VBS at our church each year.  We don’t cook with the kids, but I have as much fun as they do. Now, over 30 years later, we are very careful about serving peanut butter or anything with high fructose corn syrup to the children. But I suspect our family will never stop making this treat. Recently our youngest son invited us to join him and his wife for a Saturday night dinner.  This was the dessert he asked me to bring!

Special K Crunch

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup granulated sugar

Bring to a boil and add:

1 1/2 cups peanut butter

4 cups Special K cereal

Mix well and quickly spread in buttered 9 inch square pan.  Cool and cut into squares.


Chorizo and Black Bean Chili

LastofFeb 040Homemade chili is comfort food.  Our bunch really likes cornbread and chili, and chili  corn chips, and cheese with a sprinkle of onions is also a favored meal on cold nights.  Now we have a new favorite competing for top recipe.  Chorizo and black beans add a new taste twist that keeps people coming back for seconds. This is also a healthier version than many I have previously used.  I like to make my own chorizo, but you should be able to find prepared chorizo in your supermarket. The following is adapted from recipes at

Black Bean and Chorizo Chili

Makes 8 servings

1 pound bulk chorizo sausage

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes or regular diced tomatoes. (I like Muir Glen organic fire roasted tomatoes)  undrained
1 cup water
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained, rinsed
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Crumbled white Mexican cheese , or shredded Monterey Jack

Brown sausage in large pan or Dutch oven. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Stir in tomatoes, water, beans, chiles, chili powder and cumin. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Serve with cheese and fresh chopped cilantro.

LastofFeb 039

I have made this in my slow cooker by browning sausage, then layering in other ingredients and cooking on high for 3 hours.


Gingerbread House, Now and Then


Gingerbread House Cake, 2012


Gingerbread House, 1973

Almost 40 years ago, in this picture our sons Benjamin, Jeremy, and Sean admire one of the first gingerbread houses I ever made.  They did help!  We didn’t know that many years later, Sean’s 10 year old daughter would be baking and I would be helping her!

Skye and I enjoyed making a wonderful gingerbread house cake this year.  A simple dusting of “snow” was all the decoration needed and this cake is definitely a joy to eat. Nordic Ware has a collection of these pans, which range from this size down so you could make a whole gingerbread village!  We used the gingerbread recipe that came on the Nordic Ware cake pan label, but any 9 cup bundt cake recipe will work.  Next time we will use a recipe that includes dark brown sugar and/or dark molasses so the cake will be a darker color.  This recipe from the February 2000 issue of Gourmet Magazine uses both, as well as dark beer.  I seldom post a recipe I haven’t tried, but maybe this is one we can try out together.  Let me know what you think.  If you don’t have the house cake pan, use a traditional bundt pan.

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread Cake
by Claudia Fleming
Gramercy Tavern, New York, NY
1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cardamom
3 large eggs
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Confectioners sugar for dusting

Special equipment:
a 10-inch (10- to 12-cup) bundt pan

unsweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Serve cake, dusted with confectioners sugar, with whipped cream.

Gingerbread is better if made a day ahead. It will keep 3 days, covered, at room temperature.

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Purple Hull Peas

Summertime when I was growing up in East Texas meant having fresh vegetables on the table. Tomatoes, yellow crookneck squash, onions, okra, mustard and turnip greens, melons, corn and peas. Blackeyed Peas, Crowders, Lady Peas, Field Peas, and best of all – Purple Hull! They may be the hardest of all to shell, but they are certainly the prettiest on the vine and the tastiest in the pot. I have tried lots of ways to cook them and things to put in them, but the way Grandma and Mother cooked them is still my favorite way to eat them – along with a hot pan of cornbread, of course! I even enjoyed shelling them. It took me almost an hour, but there is something very satisfying about popping these lovely peas with their lavender centers out of their pods and filling up the bowl. All they really need is a good rinsing, and into the pot with some bits of bacon and salt and pepper. Add water as necessary as the liquid cooks down. We like to eat them with some onion and tomato slices, chow chow or green tomato relish, and a wedge of crusty cornbread. Cook about an hour, or until done!

Garden Gazpacho

Cold soup in hot weather is perfect for a light lunch or served with pasta salads for supper.  Of all the gifts my garden provides, having fresh herbs and vegetables to gather just before preparing them is one of the best.  Gazpacho is made as many different ways as there are cooks, and I have tried a number of them, but my favorite is this one, combining all the flavor and crunch of our summer harvest.  I make a big bowl of this and store it covered in the refrigerator to ladle out as long as it lasts (usually not very long)!  The receipe is adapted from a Sheila Lukins recipe called Farmstand Gazpacho. There are slight ingredient variations, but the main difference is that the Lukins recipe is placed in the blender and pureed. We like ours crunchy!

Garden Gazpacho

Makes 8 servings

2 cups diced cucumber (peel if skin is thick)
 2 cups diced  bell pepper
 2 cups diced ripe tomato
 1/2 cup diced red onion
2 cups tomato juice (or V8 if you prefer)
 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
 1/3 cup  olive oil
several dashes Tabasco sauce
a pinch of sea salt, and ground pepper
fresh basil for garnish

1. Place all of the diced vegetables in a large bowl. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, oil, and Tabasco. Season with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate for several hours before serving.  I like to serve in chilled stemmed glasses with mint or basil as a garnish. A dollop of sour cream is optional.

Per serving: 122 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 179mg sodium, 8g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2g protein

Bahn Mi

Our family’s favorite sandwiches when I was growing up in the 40’s and 50’s?  Pimiento cheese, tuna salad, bologna and spam, grilled cheese, and hot dogs were old standbys.  My Daddy made the best hamburgers ever in his Bus Station Cafe.  Other than bologna and spam, I still have a fondness for all those.  But our family has a new hands down favorite:  Bahn Mi, or a Vietnamese sandwich.  The ingredients in this photo are ready to stack into crusty French bread.  I like to use leftover pork tenderloin to slice into this sandwich, but freshly grilled is fine, too.  The traditional bread is the French baguette, but I like to use Mexican style Bolillo from our local supermarket which are crusty with a puffy light bread inside each oval roll.  We are not alone in our taste for these sandwiches.  They have become so popular that many fans declare them a favorite.  There is even a website for this craze:  Battle of the Bahn Mi:  Finding, Feasting, and Making Vietnamese Pork Sandwiches.

First, make pickled carrots and daikon radish to use as a condiment.

Pickled Carrots and Daikon

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin strips

1 Daikon radish, peeled and sliced very thin

3 teaspoons sea salt

4 Tablespoons sugar

1 cup rice vinegar

1 cup water

Mix sliced carrots and daikon with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 Tablespoon of the sugar.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes so that moisture begins to seep from the vegetables. Rinse well and drain.

In another bowl, mix vinegar, water, sugar, and salt until sugar and salt dissolve.  Pour over vegetables and let them sit for an hour or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Bahn Mi

1 pork tenderloin. (I buy the tenderloins already marinated, 2 in a package)

Carrot and Daikon pickles

1 English cucumber or 2 Baby cucumbers, sliced

½ cup Light mayonnaise with olive oil

2 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Grill pork tenderloin on a hot grill for 10 minutes or until cooked through.  Set aside and toast sliced baguette or rolls until crusty and heated through.

Mix mayo and chili sauce before spreading on top half of bread.  Slice pork and arrange on bottom half. Top with carrot and daikon pickles, cucumber slices and cilantro.  Cover with top bread half, slice diagonally, and serve with extra chili sauce or sriracha.

Caramelized Onion and Sorrel Tart

Sorrel is another old fashioned green that is actually a hardy herb.  Usually called French sorrel to distinguish it from a sorrel known as dock that may also be used in cooking, it has a lemony taste that makes it good with fish. It is used by the French for ragouts, sauces, and soups.  I have made a creamy sauce with it to drizzle over salmon.  But this lovely, light tart uses it with caramelized red onions and makes a delicious offering for brunch or a simple supper.  I adapted the recipe as shown on for use as a lower carb dish by using Phyllo pastry sheet layers instead of a traditional tart crust.

Caramelized Onion and Sorrel Tart

1/2 package of Phyllo sheets

Cooking spray

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

 8 ounces sorrel leaves

2 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated


In a 10 inch tart pan, layer the Phyllo sheets one at a time, spraying each with cooking spray before adding the next.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a wide pan, add the onion and the salt. Cook until onion softens and begins to caramelize, stirring often.

While the onion is cooking, cut off the stems of the sorrel leaves and roughly chop the leaves. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a pan, and add the sorrel by large handfuls, tossing as they cook down to almost nothing.  3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk the eggs with the cream; then stir in the onion, sorrel, and half of the cheese. Taste for salt, and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the crust; then pour the filling on top. Bake in the center of the oven until the custard is set and golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve the tart while it is hot. .

Epicurious based the tart on a recipe from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food.

                                                    Bon Appetit!