Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranate Margaritas

This potent potable tastes great….fruity, tart, and sweet and is a perfect libation for Valentine’s Day because of it’s beautiful pink color.  You can get pomegranate juice (which is high in antioxidants and will perhaps counteract the damaging effects of the alcohol) in the produce section of some grocery stores (POM is the brand name) or you can squeeze your own.  This recipe makes one drink, but can easily be adjusted for a crowd…just multiply the recipe by the number of drinks you wish to make.

pomegranate margaritas

1 ounce tequila
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 ounces pomegranate juice

Pour ingredients in a cocktail shaker cup.  Add ice (replace lid) and shake.  Strain into a salt-rimmed glass or a salt-rimmed glass filled with ice…your preference.

Spicy Posole Soup

This is one of my favorite soups and my absolute favorite way to eat kale (which is highly nutritious, if not the most nutritious veggie).  Below is the recipe I started with.  I have tweaked it to suit my tastes by:  using more vegetable broth, adding a whole bunch of kale instead of just 3 cups, adding 2 (15 oz.) cans of hominy instead for only 2 cups, and by adding fresh minced jalapenos or serranos instead of canned green chiles.  I also add chopped zucchini towards the end of cooking.  My version ends up being chocked full of veggies and makes quite a bit more than the original recipe.  This soup freezes really well and I always try to have some in the freezer for quick a lunch or dinner.  Sometimes I like to crumble some tortilla chips into the soup while I’m eating it.

Spicy Posole Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
6 medium cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
2 TBS fresh lime juice
3 cups kale rinsed and chopped fine (remove stems)
2 cups canned hominy, drained
15oz can diced tomatoes
4oz can diced green chili
3 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 T. olive oil in medium sized soup pot. Sauté onion over medium heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently, until translucent.  Add garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.  Add remaining ingredients except cilantro.  Bring to a boil on high heat.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.  Add cilantro, salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Cherry Garcia Biscotti

Cherry Garcia Biscotti

From June 7, 2008:  This is another great cookie recipe from my friend Donna in California.  It’s hard to believe there is no butter in these crunchy treats….they are just too good.  I used mini chocolate chips instead of chunks. I tosed the chopped dried cherries with a little bit of flour to help seperate the pieces.  I totally recommend doing that so that the cherries pieces don’t clump together.  If you do not have parchment paper or Silpats, foil works just as well.  Enjoy these biscotti with a cup of hot coffee or tea.

Cherry Garcia Biscotti

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks/chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or use Silpats.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt bowl.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, adding sugar gradually, at medium speed until smooth and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. At low speed or by hand, stir in flour mixture followed by cherries and chocolate.

Drop spoonfuls of batter into long lines on the prepared baking sheets and, with well floured hands, shape the irregular lines into rectangular logs about 12 inches long and 1/2 inch high. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until logs are a light golden color and are fully set (they will spring back slightly when touched with a finger).  Slice logs into 1/3-1/2 inch thick slices and lay flat (on their sides) on baking sheet.

Lower oven temperature to 300F. Bake sliced cookies for 15 minutes, flip them over and bake for an additional 15 minutes. If biscotti cookies are not firm, depending on how thickly they were sliced, turn again and bake for 10 more minutes, being careful not to burn. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Cherry Breeze Pie

cherry breeze pie

This is a pie that my mom would make us when I was growing up.  It was a favorite of mine.   I still love cherry breeze pie, but I rarely make it (maybe once a year) because I end up eating half of the pie (or more) myself.   I can’t afford that kind of caloric luxury.  The creamy tartness of the filling with the sweetness of the cherry pie filling and graham cracker crust is just heaven and takes me back to my childhood every time.  It is super easy to make.

cherry breeze pie

1 (9 inch) graham cracker ready-crust pie crust
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 c. Real Lemon reconstituted lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling, chilled

In medium bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in sweetened condensed milk. Add lemon juice and vanilla, and stir until well mixed. Pour filling into crust. Chill at least 2 hours. Top with cherry pie filling before serving.

Garlic Beef and Broccoli

Garlic Beef and Broccoli

This recipe is a mash-up of many recipes I have tried over the years.  None of them really did it for me.  This version is by far the best I have made.  I really like the sweetness of the hoisin sauce (much better than the oyster sauce typically found in beef and broccoli recipes). The sauce is pretty yummy and could actually be used for other stir-frys.  Serve the garlic beef and broccoli with rice.

Garlic Beef and Broccoli

1 pound steak (sirloin, flank, or London broil), trimmed of fat and gristle and thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch thick) and slice cut into 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine (or sake)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon cornstarch

5 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, separated into bite-size florets
1 bell pepper, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into “coins”
3 tablespoons of water

1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine (or sake)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Place the sliced beef in a bowl. Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over the beef.  Let marinate for 1 hour at room temperature (or for longer in the refrigerator).

Mix the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat a wok (or large skillet), add 2 tablespoons oil, and add beef.  Stir-fry over high heat until just cooked through.  Remove from the wok and set aside.  Clean out the wok.

Reheat the cleaned wok over high heat and add 3 tablespoons of oil.  Add the minced garlic and ginger.  Stir-fry for about 15 seconds and then add the broccoli, bell pepper, and carrots.  Stir-fry about 3 minutes.  Add the 3 tablespoons water.  Add the cooked beef and the sauce.  Cook,mixing constantly, until beef is heated through and the sauce begins to thicken.  Serve immediately.

Vegetable & Coconut Curry

Vegetable & Coconut Curry

From December 31, 2006:  This is a curry I made up for our Christmas dinner.  It was very good and didn’t take long to make.  I served it with basmati rice, samosas, and naan bread.  I was able to find frozen samosas and naan bread in the natural foods section of a local grocery store.  This curry is excellent the day after it’s made….the flavors have extra time to amplify.  Any combination of vegetables may be used for this curry.

Vegetable & Coconut Curry

2 T. canola oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 green chile (jalapeno or serrano), minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
salt to taste
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup green beans, ends cut off and halved
1/4 cauliflower, seperated into florets
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
2 medium potatoes, cut into large chunks
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
cilantro leaves

In a large pan, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the onion, chile, garlic and ginger.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions are soft.  Add the cardamom, turmeric and cinnamon and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and simmer gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the potatoes, cauliflower, and green beans until almost tender.

Add the steamed vegetables, zucchini, and peas to the coconut sauce and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender (5 – 10 minutes).  Stir in chopped cilantro.  Serve with basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

Cream of Celery Soup

Cream of Celery Soup

From November 19, 2006:  Celery is pretty cheap at the grocery stores right now.  I got a couple of heads of celery at the grocery store this week for 49 cents each.  Yesterday, I made this soup for lunch and it was yummy. I have never made cream of celery soup before and I was a tad bit apprehensive to make it.  I like celery as part of a whole recipe, but it has a strong flavor and I wasn’t sure how it would be on it’s own.  I made a cooked celery side dish in the past and didn’t like it at all.  Luckily, this soup was nowhere like that old dish.  This is another soup recipes that I’ll add to my favorites list.  This recipe makes about 2 servings.

Cream of Celery Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, diced (including leaves)
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup cream (or half & half)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan, over a medium heat. As the butter begins to melt, add the
sliced onion and garlic, and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add the diced celery, and continue cooking for 1-2
minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth, then lower the heat to a simmer, for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.  Blend with a hand (stick) blender until smooth (or pour in a blender and blend until smooth).

Texas Pesto

Texas Pesto

I absolutely adore cilantro and always welcome ways to use even more of it.  Years ago I had a cilantro-pecan pesto at a Central Market in Austin, Texas and was hooked.  This recipe is very similar to the pesto I had in Texas.

This Texas Pesto is versatile.  I used some to make pizzas (pesto instead of tomato sauce) topped with mozzarella, onions, red bell pepper, black olives, and artichoke hearts…..they were delicious.  The pesto is also great as a dip with tortilla chips.  My friend, Donna mixes a few tablespoons in with rice for a pretty and delicious side dish.

Texas Pesto

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper (I used a whole chile)
1/4 cup toasted pecans
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil

Prepare the pesto by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

Vegan Melty Cheese

Melty Vegan Cheese

From August 13, 2005:  Believe it or not, I have been off cheese (and dairy products) for 3 months now.  I do miss cheese and haven’t had much luck with cheese alternatives.  Most of the cheese substitutes I have found contain casein (a milk protein) and I would like to avoid that as much as possible.  Totally vegan cheese alternatives are generally awful.  Vegan Gourmet by Follow Your Heart is the only decent vegan cheese….it melts.  Unfortunately, I can’t get Vegan Gourmet where I live, so I have been on the lookout for a vegan cheese substitute.  

Recently, my friend, Shawn, shared a recipe for a vegan cheese and it turned out much better than expected. It may be that I haven’t tasted real cheese in so long, but I actually enjoyed the Vegan Melty Cheese.  I added chopped pickled jalapenos and a dash of turmeric (which gave it a mustardy yellow color) to half of the batch to make a queso-like dip for nachos…I couldn’t stop eating it.  It looks terrible (I almost didn’t post the picture, it just doesn’t look very appetizing), the texture is funky, and it really doesn’t taste like cheese, but I’m happy to have come across this recipe.  I’ll definitely make this vegan cheese alternative again.  I am looking forward to experimenting with variations and ways to use it in other dishes.   Here is the recipe that Shawn gave me:

Melty Pizza Cheese
Makes 1 1/4 cups/5 servings

1 c. water
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
2 T. cornstarch
1 T. flour
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic granules
OPTIONAL: 4 tsp. calcium carbonate powder
2 T. water
OPTIONAL: 1 T. canola oil
(my addition – 1/4 tsp. turmeric)

Place all ingredients, except the 2 T. water and oil, in a blender/processor and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until it starts to thicken, then let it bubble for 30 seconds. Whisk vigorously.

Or pour the mixture into a microwave-proof bowl; cover and cook on high for 2 minutes. Whisk, then microwave for 2 more minutes, and whisk again.

Whisk in the water and optional oil. The oil adds richness and helps it melt better, but the cheese still only contains 2.6 g. of fat per 1/4 cup.

Drizzle immediately over pizza or other food, and broil or bake until a skin forms on top.  Alternatively, refrigerate in a small, covered plastic container for up to a week. It will become quite firm when chilled but will still remain spreadable. You can spread the firm cheese on bread or quesadillas for grilling, or heat it to spread more thinly on casseroles, etc.


Melty Jack Cheese: Omit the oil and add 1 T. tahini to the blender mixture

Melty Suisse Cheese: Omit the oil and use only 1/4 tsp. salt. Add 1 T. tahini and 1 T. light soy or chick-pea miso to the blended mixture

Melty Cheddar Cheese: Use 1/3 c. nutritional yeast flakes and add 1/4 tsp each sweet Hungarian paprika and mustard powder. Use only 1/4 tsp. salt and add 1 T. light soy of chick-pea miso to the blended mixture

Smoky Cheese: To the basic recipe or any of the above variations, add 1/8 tsp. liquid smoke

Cheese Sauce, Rarebit, or Fondue: Add 1 cup to 1 1/4 cup non-diary milk, dry white wine, or beer (can be non-alcoholic) to any of the cheese variations. (Try using the Suisse for fondue and the Cheddar for Rarebit). You may add a pinch of nutmeg and white pepper. Add salt to taste.

Nacho Sauce: You can add drained canned black beans, chopped jalapenos or other chiles, chopped olives, a pinch of cumin, etc.,using Jack or Cheddar as a base.

From Bryanna Clark Grogan’s 20 Minutes to Dinner.

Update: January 5, 2013 – I have been making this Vegan Melty Cheese for years now. I still love it! I mostly use it for a queso type dip. Sometimes I do add a bit of oil at the end, but most of the time I don’t. Here is the recipe I use for my dip:

1 c. water
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
2 T. cornstarch
1 T. flour
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 T. water
OPTIONAL: 1 T. canola oil
2 T. chopped pickled jalapenos

Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp Tacos

From August 25, 2005:  These shrimp tacos are very quick and easy to put together and make a nice light meal.  Serve the tacos with black beans and rice (perhaps a cilantro-lime rice) to make a more substancial meal.  Filling possibilites are endless……play around with ingredients to find the combination you like. I really like shrimp tacos with slices of fresh avocado (or guacamole) with grilled onions and bell peppers.

For the shrimp tacos (like the ones shown in the picture), you will need:

shrimp, shelled, deveined, and roughly chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper (cumin and chili flakes are also good seasonings)
resh juice from a lime
chopped cilantro

Saute shrimp in a small amount of olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  When shrimp is cooked (be careful not to overcook), squeeze in fresh lime juice and add chopped cilantro.  Use mixture to fill tacos.

fresh corn tortillas, warmed
shredded cabbage
chopped cilantro
favorite salsa
lime wedges

Fill warmed tortilla with a little bit of shrimp mixture.  Top with cabbage, cilantro and salsa.  squeeze a bit of lime juice over taco contents and eat.

other toppings to consider:
chopped onion
fresh avocado slices
grated cheese (mozzarella, queso fresco, cojita, etc.)
sliced radishes
grilled bell peppers and onions
salsa verde
mango salsa
black beans