Triple Berry/Cream Shortcake Bars

>> Sunday, July 1, 2018

Light Berry-Cream Shortcake Bars
Even better than strawberry shortcake!
When we took a cooking course in Tuscany, we learned how to make a traditional apricot tart with the super-fresh and aromatic apricots the villa owners grew on their Agriturismo farm. I still have to write and post that delectable recipe, but I've used the basic shortbread crust for a lot of tarts and dessert bars since then.

The beginning of June is prime strawberry season here in Chicago. When I was growing up in the country, my birthday always had fresh strawberries in it - usually ones I'd picked that morning. The smell of a perfectly ripe strawberry brings me back to those dewy mornings walking barefoot out to the strawberry patch...and my mom brewing fresh jam in the afternoon. Lovely.


For the Crust

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon zest

For the Bars

12 oz. light cream cheese
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries (or blackberries, or both!)
1 cup raspberries
1/3 cup Triple Sec liqueur


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Stir together the flour and baking powder. Slowly add it to the butter mixture while mixing. 

Grease a 9x11 baking pan and spread the dough on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 18-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes.
Whip the cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar together. Spread over the crust, then top with rows of berries. Drizzle the orange liqueur over the berries. Cut into squares and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 15-18 bars.


Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad

>> Sunday, June 17, 2018

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad

I've heard that Sweet Tomatoes restaurant makes a potato salad like this. That's a little disappointing because I thought Joe and I made up this recipe. Oh well. I'm extremely picky about potato salad (I really like my own recipe), but changing it up with red potatoes and blue cheese is pretty awesome, too.

If you happen to find some specialty blue potatoes at a Farmer's Market, throw them right in there. You can't get enough of the holiday colors around Independence Day, can you?


2 pounds of small red potatoes (use the new potatoes if you can find them, they are smaller than a golf ball)

1/2 cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped celery
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Coleman’s dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste


Wash potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a covered bowl in the microwave and cook until tender (the mircrowave will preserve more of the pretty red color than if you boil them).

Cool in the refrigerator. Stir together the rest of the ingredients, then mix it into the potatoes. I like to serve my potato salad at room temperature, but if you like it col or you're worried about the mayonnaise problem, chill it until you're ready to serve.

Serves 4-6.


Kale with Bacon and Pine Nuts

>> Sunday, June 3, 2018

Kale with Bacon and Pine Nuts

Our very last Iron Chef Bacon Cook Off recipe comes from my friend John, our tattooed and Harley-riding church consultant friend who loves his food creation time as a meditative, relaxing practice. We've enjoyed many of his fabulous dishes over the years. This wilted kale salad has all the good benefits of leafy greens, along with buttery pine nuts and of course, good-quality bacon.

John Holm cooking

This dish can be whipped up quickly and is great for a side dish or a main-meal salad.


1 very large bunch of kale, mustard greens, or other leafy greens, stemmed and washed
8 strips of bacon
1/2 cup chopped green onion
3/4 cups pine nuts
1 small lemon


Toast the pine nuts over medium heat in a dry skillet. Be careful not to burn. In a large pot, fry the bacon, remove and let cool on paper towel. When cool, crumble. Save the bacon grease.

Cook the green onion in bacon grease until soft. Add kale to pot; it may not all fit at first. Add 3/4 cup water. Put lid on pot to wilt the kale. Stir/toss occasionally. Add additional kale until all is wilted. Add bacon and toasted pine nuts and toss. Squeeze the juice of 1 small lemon. Toss before serving.

Serves 4.


Cajun Bay Scallops with Zucchini Noodles and Potato puree

>> Sunday, May 27, 2018

Cajun Bay Scallops with Zucchini-Noodles and Potato puree

2 pounds small (5-inch-long) zucchini
1 pound russet potatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups chicken broth
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Creole seasoning (we like Emeril's Essence)
2 cups bay scallops
1/2 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup corn kernels
1 tsp parsley (optional)


If you have one of those gadgets that turns vegetables into noodles, use it on this zucchini. Otherwise, use your vegetable peeler to make thick linguini-like ribbons, or use a mandoline to cut the vegetable into julienne strips.

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat half the oil in a large pot, then saute the onion until tender. Add the garlic,and  potatoes and cook 2 minutes more. Pour the broth over it all. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes or until tender.

Pour half of the vegetable mixture into a food processor or blender (more or less, depending on your appliance size) and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot and stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Keep hot. You can make this part ahead of time if you like.

Bring a pot of water to boiling and then add the zucchini "noodles" and corn. Cook for about 30 seconds or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.

Sear the Creole seasoning, scallops, zucchini noodles, and corn in the rest of the oil, shaking regularly for 2 minutes, or until the scallops are just cooked through. To serve, pour the vegetable puree into individual dishes and top with zucchini noodles, corn, and scallops. Drizzle with the half-and-half, then sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Serves 6.


Paul's Pork Wontons

>> Sunday, May 13, 2018

This easy recipe for pork wontons is one that my step dad Paul learned when he was teaching agricultural methods in Vietnam during the war. My mom calls them "little porkies".

In this photo, Paul is grilling with his brother in my parents' annual family barbecue, the August Corn Fest. They set up big tables and chairs on the back acre that was once used as an animal paddock, and grill up a couple hundred ears of corn picked from their fields. He's a good griller as well as a cook.

The wontons in the picture below have been steamed. They can be fried, steamed, boiled in soups, or whatever else your imagination suggests. Here is my Dad's recipe.


1 lb. Ground Pork
1/2 cup green onions, diced
2 tsp ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Won Ton Skins
Hot Chinese Mustard
Teriyaki or Soy Sauce


I take a pound of ground pork and cut into 4 sections. This gives us about 12 to 14 pieces per section. Mix diced green onions, ginger, and garlic into the pork.

Take one wonton skin and wet one side with water, place a dash of ground pork on the center of the wet won ton (amount of pork is determined by you) and then fold the wonton and seal. Place on plate to deep fry later.

The original process calls for rice paper instead of wonton skins. Rice paper comes dry but need to be moistened with water so it can be rolled with ground pork in it.

Deep fry the wonton skins with the pork. I use a skillet with frying oil. Caution: warm oil slowly and do not over heat or the little porkies will come out dark brown and raw inside (that’s a no-no). When lightly brown and floating on the oil, turn them over to cook on the other side for about the same time.

Mix to taste, teriyaki or soy sauce with Chinese Hot Mustard. Dip deep fried wontons into the sauce and enjoy. We serve the cooked won tons with a vegetable stir fry over rice. 

Note: The original sauce is fish sauce with nothing added.
Serves 4.

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