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This recipe is the one that, to me, says ‘it’s summer’!

It is the combination of colors, the freshness, the cornucopia of summer vegetable and herb flavors with that deliciously filled pasta, also known as the ‘belly button’ pasta (obviously an outie, or maybe an innie from the inside view). Also, you can ‘change up’ the vegetables that you use, depending on what is fresh and what you have on hand. Who doesn’t love versatility?

I also love it because you can make it the day ahead, or even the day you want to eat it (although it is better if made ahead, even a few hours, to let the flavors blend).

This recipe came from the same summer cooking contest as my summer recipe a couple of weeks ago (on July 30), in our local newspaper. I cut both out of the paper, and have been making both of them, regularly ever since.

So, here is the recipe of the week …

Tortellini Pesto Salad

Chop up 1/4C fresh parsley, and 3/4C fresh basil (okay, confession time … years ago, I bought a butt load of herbs for my garden, and planted them all together. Well, the next year only one came back … what I thought was basil … not! It was Thyme, but I thought it was basil … so, for about four years I made this recipe with fresh thyme … and it tasted pretty good too! So, if you, like me, have blond roots, and no sense of taste, you can use either one … but, I digress ;).

Whip together 1C mayonnaise, and 2Tbsp milk (or, if you want to live on the edge, half and half … but I do prefer my blue-hued non-fat milk) until smooth. Then stir in the parsley, the BASIL, 1/4C fresh parmesan cheese (if it comes out of a can, that you bought from a shelf, and not from a cooler, it is NOT fresh … fresh parmesan melts, stuff in cans does not … I am a parmesan snob), and 2 cloves minced garlic.

Set your delicious saucy mixture into the refrigerator, while you get ready to chop, chop, chop.

Now, this next step is only for the adventurous cooks out there … it is the vegetable chopping time! And, if you take your vegetable chopping as seriously as I do, when it comes to knives, size matters! The bigger the better to make cutting vegetables more … funner (?).

Get ready to slice / julienne your 1C carrots, and 1C zucchini. Then cut 1C of cherry tomatoes in half. Other vegetables that could be good are small snow peas, corn kernels, broccoli (small florets), diced sweet peppers and any other vegetables that sound appealing. Once you are finished slicing better than a Slice-O-Matic, get out your P & P’s … pots and pans …

Really you just need the pot … Fill it about three quarters full of water, cover and place on stove top on high. Once it boils, add salt and 1 package (24oz / 518g) cheese tortellini (I like the ones that are multi-colored … orange and green … it kind of makes you think you are getting healthy vegetables in your carbohydrate-laden pasta), and cook until al dente (tender, but firm). Drain in colander, and run cold water over the pasta, until cooled down.

Toss pasta, vegetables and saucy stuff in a big bowl (and if you are nuts about nuts, throw in 3/4C walnuts … my family is nutty enough without them). Then chill until ready to eat!

It is great served with grilled meats, or on it’s own as the main event. It will be hard to eat only a little bit.

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Although garden vegetables are available all year, there are some recipes that are simply reserved for when the vegetables are fresh from the garden … and this one is best when the vegetables are taken from the garden and made up the same day.

Now there are different varieties of this recipe. Some have vegetables that would never have been added to the Hodge Podge recipe that we would have enjoyed. Such as turnips or carrots.

Now to start this recipe get your big pot (the one you make spaghetti in), and place it on the stove top. Put about two inches of water into the pot to boil (depending on how many vegetables you use).

While waiting for the water to boil, wash the vegetables. Since they are fresh, and their outer layer is thin, there is no need to peel them (this helps to make this recipe easie peasie).

Once the water is boiling, add enough fresh from the garden baby potatoes to cover the bottom of the pot. Then add an equal amount of fresh from the garden green beans, and fresh from the garden peas (in or out of the shells … I prefer in, but it was always made without shells, at home). Boil until the vegetables are just starting to get softer.

Now, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and add cream. You can add cereal cream, coffee cream or milk. I prefer half and half, as it still gives a creamy, rich flavor, but is not quite so heavy, and unhealthy as heavy cream (do not use skim milk … the final product will not be appealing at all). Simmer until the vegetables are all softened.

Then add about 2Tbsp of butter (margarine should not be used … yucky). Once the butter is melted, and warmed, the meal is done, and ready to be enjoyed.

Season with salt and pepper … especially the pepper 🙂 . This recipe is cheap, quick, easy, and terribly nutritious.

The taste of hodge podge is the taste of freshness!

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It is summer and the cooking MUST be easy!

Today’s yummy summer recipe is called CAFE MOCHA

I found this recipe for Cafe Mocha, years ago, in a local newspaper. The paper had a contest to find the best summer recipes, and this was the winning dessert recipe. It is a recipe that I have often referred to as quick and easy Tiramisu. It is divine!

Pros …

EASY!

Contains whipping cream

Can be made the day before it is needed

No cooking!

Cons …

Contains whipping cream (this is only a ‘con’ if you look at the nutritional information on the carton)

Can be made the day before it is needed (it is not still going to be there tomorrow … once it is made, NOT eating it is impossible)

Not enough chocolate (this is not a problem if you are making it 🙂 )

So, here it goes …

Cafe Mocha

Make yourself the stiffest drink … of coffee that you can imagine. Set it aside.

Layer lady finger cookies (you will need about two packages of them) on the bottom of a 13X9 glass or ceramic pan (or a metal one lined with parchment to prevent rusty whipping cream … YES! This recipe has whipping cream 🙂 )

Now, take a spoon and drizzle (oh, how I love the word ‘drizzle’) your strong brew over the ladyfingers, until they are all saturated with caffeine (or decaf. if that is what you must do … but, seriously, 1 tsp. is only going to be a problem if you are planning to indulge in the entire recipe … come to think of it, maybe decaf. is a more sensible choice). Set aside.

Haul your electric mixer out of mothballs. Into it pour:

2 Cups whipping cream (you could use that low fat, oil product, or frozen stuff, but seriously, it’s summer! Don’t deprive your taste buds … use the good ol’ fashioned whole fat, found on the dairy aisle, whipping cream).

3/4 Cup powdered sugar (sometimes known as snow, icing sugar or simply that stuff that seems to melt in your mouth … or so I have been told …).

1 tsp instant coffee grounds (this is an ingredient that I ONLY recommend using for this recipe … coffee should NEVER be instant or powdered).

1 tsp pure vanilla (okay cheapo’s out there, imitation vanilla is just that … an imitation! Go pure or go to the dessert aisle of your local grocery store and just buy a ready-made dessert … gramma never used imitation!).

Now, whip the life into this weird and wonderful concoction of ingredients, until it has been whipped firm like my thighs …

Once the mixture has been whipped and creamed into culinary submission, spoon half of it onto the soaking ladyfingers. Then top with another layer of lady finger cookies. And, finally (unless your ‘just a taste’ of the creamy mixture has resulted in an empty bowl … not that that would ever happen to me), spread remaining whipped mixture, over cookies.

Then, sift cocoa (I am not providing an amount here, use at your own discretion) all over the top of it!

Then, the most difficult part of the recipe … chill at least six hours before serving (if there is anything left to serve after your family of five has been taste testing when you haven’t been looking).

Enjoy.

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This is definitely an easy please recipe!

So, as I write this I am in the midst of summer vacation, and the only thing I have cooked (?) is wieners in the microwave for my sons lunch (and do not go getting all nutritionally righteous on me … he likes it, and they are simple, which makes HIS life more healthy … because it is so easy to prepare for him, I do not get stressed and then uptight and grumpy … ever heard the old adage … if momma ain’t happy? Oh, how I can digress …).

Obviously, I am not an expert cook! But, it is summer, and I bet that even the best chefs grill hot dogs (just maybe not in the microwave) in the summer.

The recipe today is even easier than hot dogs. And, in case you cannot figure out my unique style of recipe writing, just check out Kraft Recipes where you can find a more traditional style of recipe, in the place where I first found it.

So, guess what is the first ingredient? You got it … meatballs! NO, you do not have to hand form them! Go to your local frozen foods section of your grocery store, and pick up a bag (whatever size floats your boat) of preformed, frozen meatballs (any variety … heck, even the faux meat ones work). These babies need to thaw, in your refrigerator. So, take them out in the morning, go to the beach all day, and then they are ready for you when you get home with a rumbly in your tumbly (in the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh).

Now, when you place your frozen meat product in the refrigerator, remember to place your kabob sticks/skewers in a dish of water, if they are wooden. This keeps ‘burnt offerings’ out of your skewers … aka, it prevents your skewers from burning up. By the end of the day, they will be more wet than your lawn in the Northwest from October to June! For those of you a bit on the slow side … this is NOT necessary for those using metal skewers … enough said.

If you want to be really prepared (and people to call you Martha … Stewart), cut up a red pepper, and a green pepper (and maybe a yellow pepper),  into about 1″ square pieces, also in the morning. That way everything is ready when you get home (and if you are smart, you will just stop at the store and purchase a ready made green salad, and maybe a potato salad, and maybe a nice french loaf too, on your way home too).

Now, when it is show time, you need to mix equal amounts of apricot jam and barbecue sauce, in a bowl, and nuke it ’til it bubbles. Then skewer your meaty (or not so meaty) balls and peppers (in whatever creative manner you choose). Now, place skewers onto hot barbecue grill, and heat until warmed all the way through (somewhere around ten minutes). When they are almost done, brush with delightful saucy stuff. Grill ’til caramelized. And enjoy.

And, if you want to make it look like you put far more effort into dinner than you really did, make sure you rub a bit of the sauce on your cheek before serving 😉

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Way back (in the dark ages) when I was a kid, having hamburgers for dinner, or a party, or a BBQ, or a picnic was not as easy peasie as it is today. Today we go to the store, pick up a package of frozen hamburger patties, or go to the deli, where someone has pre-formed them for you, and purchase them. As a kid, I remember mixing ingredients (with my hands), shaping the patties, and then cooking them.

A while back, I had a ‘hankering’ for a REAL hamburger! Usually, when my family has burgers we get them from the freezer, and we  are eating within half an hour. And, truly, I usually choose to have a veggie or salmon burger, because the frozen patties just do not impress me. So, this particular day, I had fresh ground beef, and thought I would introduce our kids to real burgers.

Well, I had no idea that the treat I made would become such a hit! They LOVED them! And they now ask … very regularly (like every second night) if we are having real burgers for dinner.

So, I thought I would share, this recipe from my childhood (and maybe yours too), that is quickly becoming my families favorite summertime dinner.

Old Fashioned Hamburgers

Grab that really big mixing bowl out of your cupboard … you know, the one you really only ever use for popcorn …

In the bowl drop 1-2lbs of lean ground beef. Lean is really best … less fat … that means you can eat more! It also means that there will be less flame in your BBQ, because there is less grease to drip on the coals.

Add to the bowl 1-2 eggs … this is easy to figure out … if you use 1lb of beef, add 1 egg, and if you use 2lb of beef, add 2 eggs … even a blond male can figure this one out!

You need to add a ‘filler’, not like how mass food producers add fillers, but this filler is there to absorb any fat that is in the beef. So, add to the bowl 1/4C  of either cracker or bread crumbs for every pound of beef used (and for the blond males out there that means 1/4C for 1lb of beef, and 1/2C for 2lb of beef). I like my crumbs ground to the consistency of powdered sugar! So that I do not have to see it in my burger.

Okay, here is where the directions get … hum, well they remind me of my grandmothers (who never used a cookbook) cooking directions. If you like garlic (fresh, not that dehydrated garbage … FRESH), add it. If you like onions … chop them up small (or else they will make your burgers come apart at the seams), and maybe even pan fry them ’til softened (in BUTTER, of course), and add them. Use the amount of these that you desire (watch out vampires!).

Then there’s the spices … I love Montreal Steak Spice … it is marvelous! And the quantity … in the words of my grandmother, ‘well, as much as looks right.’ You can mess with the spices you desire, maybe cayenne pepper for a spicy burger, or Italian spices for a savory flavor.

My mouth is starting to water, and I am writing this at 6:30am!

You must add BBQ sauce (about 1/4C/lb of beef), of your choice of flavor. It really does add such wonderful experience for your taste buds!

Then, I like to add grated cheddar or parmesan cheese … again about 1/4C/lb of beef. This is easier than trying to melt it on top (without causing the fire department to come to your BBQ’s rescue). Also, by adding it ‘into’ the patty, you still get the flavor with less cheese … therefore less fat! Try other cheeses … Monterey Jack or Feta would be amazing!

Now, wash those hands, dry them and get ready to get dirty!

This is the part I think that your kids and hubby should do for you … I mean finding all those ingredients, and adding them to the ‘popcorn’ bowl is hard work! So, use your hands to combine all the ingredients. Then, start forming the patties. The size of the patty is up to you. I aim for about 1/4lb patties, and if you have a scale, you can make it happen without the guess-work!

Then grill to perfection! My hubby is king at this … in a previous life he was king of the regularly served ‘burnt offerings’, but he’s come a long way, baby!

Place your patties on buns, and voila … dinner is served!

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Hot Fudge Sauce

Wanna know what makes my house smells  g o o d?

When I make hot fudge sauce. This is a long, drawn-out process, where I am bound to my stove top for a handful of hours.’Burnt’ can happen at any time. IF the jars are not sufficiently hot, and the sauce not just the right temperature, the lids won’t seal.

BUT, it is so worth the effort!

I have to admit, my hot fudge sauce recipe is stellar! I makes jars of it to give as ‘hostess’ gifts, birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, heck, I even used to sell it. But my sales were short-lived, as I had the ‘privilege’ of meeting a health inspector at one of my first ‘Farmer’s Markets’ … sigh, that too is a story for another time. But, I digress.

Other than my kids I don’t share my hot fudge sauce recipe (and they really don’t give a rip about the recipe, because if they want hot fudge sauce, they just open the cupboard and pull out a jar).

Although, now that I think of it, I did give it to a pregnant lady once. Who, in their right mind would ever say ‘no’ to a pregnant lady? Any of us who have been in those tight, water-retained feet-wearing shoes, know that whoever she is, she is not to be messed with. There’s the hormones, the stretch marks, the multiple mid-night (not midnight, but in the middle of the night … although a pregnant lady might see midnight in the middle of the night … sigh, I digress again), pee runs (ha! ha! that is funny … pee runs … oh the irony … I’m sitting here, alone, at 6:57am giggling like I’ve inhaled laughing gas … I digress again), digestion problems that lead to sounding like a sailor whenever you eat broccoli … hum, there’s enough material here to start a new blog entry … suffice it to say, she’s pregnant, who would ever say no to her, knowing what she is going through?! That said, I did have her promise, on the life of her unborn child (another area where pregnant ladies are rather … vulnerable), that she would NEVER share the recipe with anyone else 😉 … oh ya, I could have been a political negotiator!

When I give my hot fudge sauce to someone, there is often a card attached, with directions. Lets face it, it’s not every day that a person gets handed a ‘pickling’ jar with dark brown ‘stuff’ in it … hardly appealing! The directions go something like this:

Remove lid

(duh, ‘metal’ rings … but someone has to say it)

Heat in microwave, til hot and pourable

(mouth is now watering)

Serve on ice cream

(I bought some yesterday … it’s just feet away)

Or on fruit

(there’s strawberries in the freezer too)

Or, if PMS prevails,

(really women are always PMS …

PREmenstral Syndrome

OR

POSTmenstral Syndrome)

Take a spoon,

(I have spoons)

and the jar,

(there’s five on the counter)

put your feet up,

(I’ve been up for … an hour … I need a break)

and enjoy

(all sensibilities about the fact that it is only 7am,

and I am never going to lose weight, have left my being)

So, suffice, it to say, I make good hot fudge sauce. Maybe the next time I write the directions out I will say, it is great for breakfast 😉

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I am pretty certain that cinnamon buns are my favorite comfort food. I have been know to awaken in the middle of the night muttering, “I need cinnamon buns.” I have also been known to go for a little evening drive, and arrive home with cinnamon buns for the following breakfast … minus one (or two, or … ).

They cover almost every quality of what it is to be a comfort food. They are carbs., they are sweet, they are slightly spicy, and (if you know, like I do, that there is no other way to serve cinnamon buns) they are to die for when fresh from the oven. The only thing they are missing is chocolate (maybe chocolate could be drizzled over the tops of them). But, sometimes they are topped with cream cheese icing … can you say culinary heaven?

When I was back in New Brunswick this past summer, I was reminded that (how do I say this gently?) … New Brunswickers make better cinnamon buns! At a family potluck gathering my cousin made and brought these delightful, mouth-watering, sweet and flakey pinwheels. They were made in the way I remember, not from sweet bread dough, but they are made with something more closely resembling biscuit dough. And they are so very delicious.

I do not remember my mother making these wonderful treats very often, but my memories of them are very vivid and warm and sweet. When I was a little girl my mother would make them with raisins … but I have wisely not continued with that tradition.

So, because I believe in sharing from the bounty of deliciousness that I have been given, I am sharing my recipe for these tummy warmers.

In a large bowl combine 2 cups of flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoons of salt. Now  w  a  y  back in the stone ages (when I was growing up) people would have next cut shortening into the dry ingredients … but, my twist on my mom’s recipe is to use 1/2 cup of butter, cut into the dry until the dough resembles oats. Stir 1 cup of milk into the dough.

Now turn the dough onto a floured surface, and roll to a 12″ square.

Then, the fun part. Either the butter, then the sugar, followed by the cinnamon can be layered on the dough, then it can be rolled up. Or (and I like this better, because then the ingredients are all combined, and ready to infuse into the dough as one), cream 1/3 cup butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon until well combined. Spread over the dough. Then roll the dough into a log, pinching edges.

Cut into twelve pieces, placing each into a greased muffin tin. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 14-18 minutes.

And, of course, serve warm 😉 (is there any other way?)

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