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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I Love Charleston

Last weekend I headed back down to my home away from home, Charleston, SC.  If you've never been there before, I HIGHLY recommend it.  It's truly the best of the South, a nice laid-back coastal town chocked full of history, fabulous food, great shopping, beachy goodness and some of the nicest people you'll find around.  Even though it's a touristy town, it doesn't feel like one.

My good friend and fellow haiku master, Jennifer N, moved down there three years ago and after my second trip down (the first involved a 4 AM trip to the ER for yours truly, memorable, but not in a way I recommend) I have been making regular pilgrimages to go visit.

While Ms N is one of my favorite human beings, she is not known in our circle for her kitchen skills because (bless her heart) they are non-existent, but on the upside a visit to the JN Bed and No Breakfast means you get to go out and try new eateries all the time and that ends up being beneficial for you all.

After this last trip I came back brimming over with so many new recipe ideas and Check It Outs to share that I have decided to start a new feature called "Why I Love Charleston" (or WILC for short).  Even if you never get to go yourself, I plan to bring a little of Charleston home to you.  So for the next couple of posts, and random other times, I hope you'll bear with me as I experiment my way through some new goodies.  I'm hoping this will be fun for everyone involved!

empty the fridge stands
quest for new and edible
Charleston treats await

Sunday, July 28, 2013

K2's Favorite Veggie Enchiladas

Have you ever eaten something so memorable that at random times the idea of it will pop into your head and make you start drooling?  I don't know what it is about this particular dish, but that happens to me all the time.  It's vegetarian fare, but very filling and quite the tasty treat.  Even GP Dad, who is by no mean a huge fan of veg-only cooking, loved this.

So after years of drool-filled cravings, I FINALLY remembered to ask my friend Mara if I could get the recipe from her and here are the make-your-tastebuds-happy veggie enchiladas.

Veggie Enchiladas
based on recipe from Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin (2001) via Mara via me, paraphrased and slightly tweaked -- makes 8

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large white onions, diced
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chiles
2 cups frozen corn
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped
8 large whole wheat tortillas
1 cup medium salsa
1/2 cup skim milk*
1/2 cup Half-n-Half*
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook onions until they become translucent and start to caramelize, about 7-10 minutes.

Add zucchini slices to the skillet and cook an additional 5-6 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add beans, chiles, corn, oregano, and cilantro to the pan.  Mix everything together and set aside.

In a medium size bowl, blend together the salsa, milk, and Half-n-Half.  Set aside.

Prepare two (2) 9x13" baking pans (or one big honkin' cake pan) with cooking spray, then spread a thin layer of the salsa-milk mixture in the bottom of each pan.

Take the bean mixture and divide it between the eight (8) tortillas, then fold and wrap them up.  I found the easiest way to get a more even distribution was to divide the filling mixture in the skillet, lay out four tortillas at a time and divide half of the filling mix between the four.  Wrap those and then do the next four.

Place the filled tortillas folded-side down in the pan(s).

Spread the rest of the salsa/milk mixture over them and sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Serve up with some shredded lettuce, sour cream and/or guacamole and some extra salsa if you want.



Mara's Note:  If you want your cheese to be "well done," after 20 minutes remove the cover and continue to bake until it's the texture/color you want.  Dad was chomping at the bit for dinner, so we opted out of the extended cooking option.

*You can substitute 1 cup of whole milk for the 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 cup H-n-H.  You want the higher milk fat content to give the dish some depth and flavor, skim milk by itself will be too watery.

Dad suggested adding some Monterey jack cheese in the filling to give it some more kick.  Or you could use hot salsa with the sauce.  Mom suggested adding sour cream to the filling before baking to give it some tang.  All good suggestions for the next time...and oh yes, there WILL be a next time.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Herby Pork Chops with Peach Salsa

For those who subscribe for auto post notices, sorry about the double email on Sunday.  Got a notice the first time I hit publish that it didn't go through.  Apparently that was a big fib. :/

Anywho...still rolling with that what's-in-season thing.  Since you have to buy peaches in batches at the Farmer's Market and I had some leftover, I thought I would try to do something savory with them and this is what I came up with.

Herby Pork Chops with Peach Salsa

6 thick boneless pork chops
salt and pepper to season
1 tsp. olive oil

herby mix
1/4 cup fresh chopped thyme
1/4 cup fresh chopped sage
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
4 tsp. olive oil

peach salsa
2 cups fresh peach, peeled and rough chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh mint, finely chopped

Mix together the peach, red onion, lemon juice and fresh mint.  Cover and set aside to let the flavors hang out for awhile.

Rinse and dry your helps, then chop finely.

In a small bowl, mix them together with the olive oil.  Let sit while you prep the chops.

Lightly sprinkle your chops with salt and pepper.

In a hot skillet with a little bit of olive oil, brown the chops, 2-3 minutes per side, over medium high heat.

Remove from skillet and place in a baking dish.  Distribute the herby mix evenly over the tops of the chops.

Place pan in oven on top rack.  Cook at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.  Then set oven to broil and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from oven and let stand for 1-2 minutes.

Serve up with a generous scoop of peach salsa and your favorite sides.


Because it is ridiculously hot outside these days, we chose NOT to grill, but you could adapt the recipe/cooking to do it outside.

You want to make sure your salsa is at room temp before serving so that you are not putting cold peaches on a hot chop (sorry Dad).

While they go great together, I was informed by my favorite guinea pigs that both the chops and the salsa would be able to stand on their own merit.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Berry-Peach Tart

More fun with blackberries!

For the GNO brunch last weekend I promised to bring a fruit salad so went to the Farmer's Market that morning to gather some seasonal ingredients.  Made a mixture of blackberries, blueberries, peaches, fresh chopped mint and honey.  It came together really nicely, so nicely that I thought "you know, this would make a great pie filling too."  But instead of a pie, I decided to do a tart, with some finely chopped pecans (to give it a little crunch) and cinnamon crust...mmm mmm mmm!  Experimental cooking can be so much fun (especially when it turns out the way you crossed your fingers for).

Summer Berry-Peach Tart

1-1/4 cup flour
3-4 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 tbsp. cold butter, cubed
1-1/2 to 2 tbsp. water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
sugar to sprinkle

1-1/2 cups whole blackberries
3/4 cup blueberries
1 medium peach, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
1-1/2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 cup pecans, finely chopped

Mix together flour and cinnamon.  Add in pieces of butter and incorporate using a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.  You can use your fingers, but I find the heat from my hands will start to melt the butter and make it less malleable.  Yes, I have hot hands in the kitchen.
Starting with 1 tbsp. of water (and adding more as needed in 1/2 tbsp. measurements), bring mixture together until it forms a soft dough ball. Will take some kneading so be patient.

Wrap the dough in plastic or wax paper and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime mix together the fruit, mint, honey and sugar.  Set aside.

When the dough is ready, roll out and transfer to a lightly greased tart or springform pan.  If you use a springform pan make sure to press it up along the edges to form a short ridge to hold the filling.

Sprinkle the chopped pecans along the bottom and press into the dough.

Pour the fruit mixture into the tart pan and spread out evenly.  Fruit filling will be higher than the sides of tart pan when you pour it in, but not to worry, it will cook down.

Place the tart pan on a cookies sheet.  As an easy-to-clean-after precaution, I had put a sheet of foil down in case of fruit juice spillage.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove tart from oven and brush edges with egg yolk.  Sprinkle with sugar and bake another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool tart pan on a rack.

Once pan is cooled, remove tart and place on a serving dish.  Or cutting board if you're going to jump right in on that.

Serve with your favorite ice cream or a decorative dollop of whipped cream.


I forgot to put my cinnamon in the flour to start with, but you can fold it into the dough after it's mixed, will just give it that marbled effect.

To get my pecans finely chopped, I just threw them in a food processor for about a minute.

For the mint, rinse and dry the leaves.  Then the easiest way to chop them is to chiffonade them -- roll them together into a long "tube" shape and then cut along the short end.  Will give you small "ribbons" of mint.

You could substitute other fresh berries in this dish, I just chose blackberries because I adore them and because all my fruits are currently in season.

Whatever fruit combo you use, you want to make sure they all have the same cooking time (for example, apples take longer to cook than berries so would not work with this unless partially cooked to begin with).

I served my torte with caramel honey frozen Greek yogurt. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Not-a-Food Recipe: K2's Happy Hands Sugar Scrub

Every year my Girls Night Out (GNO) crew has a Summer Birthday Bash to celebrate all of our birthdays (three June babies, three July babies, no wonder we all get along so well).  And every year, I like to make homemade gifts, everyone gets the same thing only personalized to their individual tastes or personalities.

This year I decided to make sugar scrub.  There's a steak place down in Charleston we always go to for dessert when we're out and about in the market area and in their ladies room they always have a big bowl of sugar scrub.  Spoon a little out, rub it on your hands, rinse, pat dry...voila! baby soft skin.  It's WUNderful.

So I did a little research and found that you can make it yourself...and it's super easy!  The hardest part is tracking down essential oils, but once you have them it takes only minutes to throw a batch together.  Everyone seems to have their own variation on the recipe so I checked out a handful from here and there and came up with my own concoction formula.

K2's Happy Hands Sugar Scrub
Note -- this is NOT, repeat NOT an edible recipe, please don't eat it, no matter how tempting it is to try!

1-1/2 cups sugar (white, raw, and/or brown)
1/2 cup light olive oil
1/2 tsp. vitamin E oil
10-12 drops essential oil
1/2 tsp. dried herbs or spices (optional)

Measure, mix, moosh together, package prettily...annnnnnd done.

Recipe fills two (2) 10 oz. jam jars.


K2H2S2 has a shelf-life of 2 months, so make it and use it right away.

You can buy vitamin E in liquid form, in some places you may find a lanolin/vitamin E blend.  I had a bottle of vitamin E capsules at home that I popped open and squeezed the oil out of (4 capsules = 1/2 tsp.).  Vitamin E is available anywhere you can buy over the counter vitamins.

You can find essential oils at some drug stores, grocery stores or specialty food shops.  Depending on where you go and what scent you choose, be prepared to pay between $3-$25 per bottle.  I found my sweet almond oil at Rite Aid for $3.19, and my lime and tangerine oils at Whole Foods for $4.99 and $5.99, respectively.

Here are some sugar/scent variations I made following the recipe above.

Tango Lime = white sugar + 6 drops lime essential oil + 6 drops tangerine essential oil

Sweet Almond = raw sugar + sweet almond oil

Cinnamon Brown Sugar = brown sugar + cinnamon + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

You can use extract in lieu of essential oil, but because its alcohol-based, the scent won't linger like it does with essential oils and it will not have the same softening effect that the essential oil does.  If you do try it, I would use it sparingly.

For packaging, I went to Michael's and found my screw lid jars, but you can find the same at Walmart.  In fact, Walmart has some Ball wide mouth half-pint (8 oz.) mason jars with screw on lids which are perfect packaging for the sugar scrub. I also found some plastic long-handled miniature spoons at Party City which are great for scooping out of the taller jars.  Or small coffee spoons would do the trick too.

Have fun experimenting!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blackberry Marbled Pound Cake

The past couple of weekends I've been religiously making the early morning sojourn to the Farmer's Market to get first dibs on the blackberry stash.  Learned very early on that they go fast and furious and with a short season, need to get them while I can.

Outside of my normal blackberry addiction, I've been hoarding them because it's cordial-making time in the K2 kitchen.  After the requisite batches, I found myself with some extra berries and thought I'd try something new so here you go.

Blackberry Marbled Pound Cake

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup blackberry puree (approx. 1-1/2 cups full berries)

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add in vanilla and mix until blended.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.

In a separate small dish, combine your dry ingredients and then stir into the creamed mixture until smooth.

In a blender or food process, puree the whole blackberries (only takes about 30 seconds).

Messy mix the pureed blackberries into the batter.  By "messy mix" I mean very loosely fold without fully blending the puree in so that it will have that marbled look.

Light grease the bottom of a loaf and carefully pour the batter into it.  Carefully as to retain the marbled effect while baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Set pan on a rack to cool.  Let sit in pan about 5-7 minutes, then loosen the sides and turn out of the pan to finish cooling.


The blackberry puree will be as sweet as your berries are when you puree them.  If you need to sweeten them up a bit, just add a mere sprinkle of sugar to it. 

If you're not a huge blackberry fan (which is ridiculous, of course), you could always substitute another fruit puree.  Raspberries or even fresh peaches (which are currently in season) would work really well with this recipe too.

You can serve this will ice cream and top with fresh berries.  According to the Guinea Pig Parents, it also toasts up really well and, with a nice light smear of butter, is quite tasty.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Red Coleslaw

Since white coleslaw got its day in the sun, figured I couldn't let you go without adding a "red" slaw to your NC BBQ repertoire.

If you like things with a kicky tang, then this peppery slaw will be just the ticket.  Red slaw is also known in some circles as "barbeque slaw" and is oftentimes used as a condiment on hot dogs, burgers, or pork sandwiches.  Because of it's vinegar-base, its not unlike sauerkraut, but much less pungent and much more crunchy because it hasn't been fermented like kraut has.

Red Coleslaw

4 cups finely chopped green cabbage, raw
1/3 cup ketchup
6 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

In a medium size bowl whisk together ketchup, cider vinegar, sugar, pepper flakes, tabasco, salt and pepper.

Cut your cabbage very fine and add it to the mixture.

Mix together well.  Put in the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.

Serve up with your favorite BBQ dish.