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cannelini pesto bean dipNext time you make pesto, consider reserving a few tablespoons for this satisfying dip.  The dip is great with veggie sticks or pita wedges, or spread it on bread and top with lettuce and tomato for a hearty and healthful sandwich.


  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2 15.5 ounce cans cannellini (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
  • 2-3 Tbsp. pesto
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sauté the onion in olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent, then a little longer until it turns slightly yellow.
  2. Combine onion, beans, and pesto.  Purée in a blender or with a stick blender until the beans are mostly smooth but slightly chunky.
  3. Season with plenty of salt and black pepper.

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I first heard of the avocado/mango/crab combination on the cook show Mexican Made Easy and I was immediately intrigued.  The green creaminess of avocado, juicy sweetness of mango, and rich flakiness of lump crab meat come together to create a vibrant summer salad.  To make it somewhat heartier, roll it up in a sandwich wrap.  This recipe will serve 2-3.  When preparing this salad, stir as gently as possible so the avocado does not become mashed.

Ancho chili powder has a very mild flavor compared to other chili powders.  If you don’t have ancho chili powder, it is better to leave it out all together than to substitute with a different chili powder.


  • 2 avocados, peeled and diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 12 oz. canned lump crab meat
  • salt and pepper to taste (be generous with the salt)
  • 1/8 tsp. ancho chili powder
  • mixed baby greens


  1. Toss the avocado with the lime juice.
  2. Add the mango and crab and toss gently.
  3. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and ancho chili powder across the top and stir very gently to distribute.
  4. Serve on top of lettuce.

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Corn on the cob is an easy side dish to pop in the oven while you’re preparing the rest of your meal.  In my house, we even enjoy it as a simple breakfast.  I put it in the oven while we’re taking our showers and dressing and 50 minutes later we have a healthful breakfast.  It is a great one-handed food for busy commuters who have to grab their breakfasts on the way out the door, too.

To roast corn on the cob in aluminum foil in the oven, first peel and wash the corn.  Do not dry the corn; the water that clings to the kernels will provide just enough steam inside the foil.

Each ear is wrapped separately.  The method of wrapping I’ll describe ensures that the steam stays inside where it can keep the corn juicy.

First, place the ear of corn in the center of a piece of aluminum foil leaving several inches of foil on each side of the corn.

Take hold of the foil sides above and below the length of the corn.

Bring these two sides together above the corn, forming a tent around the corn.

Holding the two edges together, roll the foil down until it is laying on top of the corn cob.

Flatten the foil on one end of the cob, and roll all the way to the cob.

Repeat with the other end.

Bake at 350° for 50 minutes.  After removing from the oven, open the foil carefully as hot steam will escape when you open the foil.  The corn is hot!  Give it a few minutes to cool off before eating.  If you wish, now is the time to smear it with butter and salt.  In my house, we like to eat it plain.

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Vanilla Mint Soda

homemade vanilla mint soda

Refreshing vanilla mint soda

Homemade sodas are  easy to make, caffeine free, and free of all the funky chemical ingredients of store bought soda.  This vanilla mint soda is unbelievably refreshing.  Prepare the simple syrup a few hours ahead so it will have enough time to get cold before serving.


  • 1 1/2 c. fresh mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or alcohol free vanilla flavor
  • 2 liters seltzer, chilled


  1. Place mint, sugar, and water in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2 minutes.
  2. Strain mint mixture into a heatproof container, pressing the leaves with the back of a spoon to extract all liquid.  Discard mint leaves.  Allow syrup to cool to about room temperature, then cover and refrigerate to cool completely.  You have just made mint simple syrup.  When you aren’t using it in vanilla mint soda, you can use this in your iced tea or as an ice cream topping, among other uses.
  3. Before serving, add 1 tsp. vanilla extract to mint simple syrup.  Add seltzer and serve ice cold.
mint simple syrup

Mint simple syrup with vanilla, before adding the seltzer.

homemade vanilla mint soda

Homemade vanilla mint soda

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Whole wheat cheddar chipotle crackers

Whole wheat cheddar chipotle crackers with a heap of refried beans

The dominant flavor of these delicious crackers is that of sharp cheddar.  There is a mild chipotle flavor in the background.  The recipe was inspired by the beautiful homemade Cheez-its post on In Katrina’s Kitchen a few days ago.  I replaced the all purpose flour with whole wheat, added the chipotle, and…er….doubled the batch.  It’s a good thing, too.  This recipe made four trays of crackers; my daughter and I had finished the first tray before the second came out of the oven.   These things are dangerous!

These were great by themselves.  For lunch today I served the survivors with some Amy’s Organic Refried Beans with Mild Green Chiles.  The two together made a delicious and satisfying lunch.

This was the second time I’ve made crackers, and I have to say that I enjoy it very much.  Both times I’ve found that homemade crackers are nothing like crackers I’ve bought at the store, especially when they’re still warm from the oven.

Chipotles in adobo sauce are chipotle peppers preserved in a flavorful paprika-based sauce.  They are available near the other canned chiles on the Mexican shelf of most grocery stores.  You will only be using one pepper for this recipe; simply store the others in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  They will last a long time, and there are many uses for them.


  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • 1 chipotle in adobo
  • 16 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 c. ice cold water
  • Coarse sea salt for sprinkling


  1. combine butter and chipotle in food processor
  2. combine chipotle butter and cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Mix the cheese into the butter by pressing with a pastry blender, or follow Katrina’s instructions to see how to do this with a stand mixer.
  3. Mix the salt with the flour, mix the flour into the butter-cheese mixture bit by bit.
  4. Gradually add the water.  This should be a firm dough; do not add more than a few drops of water beyond the recommended amount.
  5. Divide the dough into quarters, forming each quarter into a disc and wrapping each quarter in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
  6. Remove one disc from the refrigerator.  Roll on a well-floured silicone mat or parchment paper to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut into desired shapes.  Poke several holes in each cracker with a toothpick and transfer to a baking sheet.
  7. Roll the scraps together and cut again, punch holes, and add to the baking sheet.
  8. Sprinkle the crackers with a small amount of coarse sea salt; pat the salt down slightly so it sticks to the crackers.
  9. Bake in a preheated 375° oven 10-15 minutes until puffed and browning around the edges.  Keep a close eye on them at the end so they don’t burn!
  10. Repeat with each dough disc.
why to punch holes in crackers

See how that cracker got too puffy? Uh oh, that's because I forgot to punch holes in that batch! Learn from my mistake, friends.

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Cabbage and Leek Pancakes101 Cookbooks is a fantastic cooking blog.  I never visit without finding at least one recipe I want to try.  Such was the case with this delicious Okonomiyaki recipe.  The pancake consists of shredded cabbage and sliced leeks held together with a simple batter of egg and whole wheat pastry flour.   You can chop the veggies several hours in advance and store covered in the fridge until it’s time to mix the batter, if desired.


  • 2 cups cabbage,  finely shredded (red cabbage makes it pretty!)
  • 1 cup leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • salt (101 cookbooks says a few pinches of fine grain sea salt.  I say you need to be more generous, but plain old salt will do.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or more
  • about 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • a few tablespoons of chopped chives


  1. Toss together the almonds and chives and set aside
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cabbage and leeks.
  3. Add flour and salt and toss the veggies until they are evenly dusted with flour.
  4. Add the eggs and smoosh it up until all the flour is wet and the batter is mixed evenly on the veggies.
  5. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Dump the veggie mixture into the pan and press flat with a spatula.
  6. Cook for 4-5 minutes on the first side.  As the batter cooks it will begin to hold the vegetables together.
  7. After 4-5 minutes, pushing one edge of the pancake with the spatula should cause the pancake to slide easily around the pan.
  8. After being sure the pancake slides easily, flip it.  I found that the easiest way to flip this was to do the egg-in-the-air flip.  If you aren’t comfortable with that, follow 101 Cookbooks’ advice and slide the whole pancake onto a plate, top with another plate, flip, and slide back into the pan.
  9. Cook 3-4 minutes on the second slide, then slide onto the serving plate and top with almond chive topping.

I added a few clementines, grabbed some bottled water, and took my daughter off to the park to meet my husband for an after work picnic.  It turned out to be wonderful picnic food.  Leftovers are great cold or reheated.

chopped leeks and cabbage

That's a lot of veg

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How to toast slivered almonds

Raw Slivered Almonds

how to toast slivered almonds

Toasted Slivered Almonds

Toasting slivered almonds is easy to do and adds a great deal of depth to their flavor. The hardest part about toasting almonds is to watch them closely so they don’t burn. To toast slivered almonds, spread the almonds in a single layer on a dry, shallow baking dish or cookie sheet. Place in a preheated 350° oven. After five minutes, remove the pan, shake to rearrange the almonds, and return to the oven. After another five minutes, check the almonds again. If they are dark enough, remove them from the oven. If they need a little more browning, shake again and return to the oven. Check every couple of minutes to avoid overcooking. Overall, the almonds should roast for 10-15 minutes. When toasted, the almonds will be just barely darker than they were raw; they should not be too dark.

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Chilled Avocado Soup with Scallops

In this dish, from Fresh Mexico: 100 Simple Recipes for True Mexican Flavor by Marcella Valladolid, the creaminess of avocado combines with the bright flavors of lemon juice, serrano pepper, and cilantro to make a multi-layered soup that simply dances on the tongue.  Without the scallops, the soup would make a lovely light lunch.  With them, the recipe makes a refreshing dinner for 3-4 people.

This dish is perfect for summer, both for its lightness and its limited stove time.  A few minutes of sauteing and a few to sear the scallops are the only exposure you’ll have to the flame of your stove for this dish, a very real concern during the hot months of summer.

The heat from the serrano pepper is not at all overwhelming.  I say this as someone who does not handle picante well.  The single pepper is diced, cooked, and blended into 6-8 cups of soup which is then topped with crème fraîche, leaving no noticeable heat at all, just wonderful bright flavor.


  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 c. diced white onion
  • 1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt 4 firm but ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 c. water
  • 5 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4  c. chopped cilantro
  • black pepper
  • 6 to 8 jumbo scallops
  • 1/2 c. Mexican crema or crème fraîche


  1. Sauté onion and serrano pepper in 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and set aside to cool.
  2. Combine all ingredients except black pepper, scallops, and crema or crème fraîche.  Blend with a stick blender or in a blender until smooth.
  3. Strain soup into a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and chill about 3 hours until well chilled.
  4. Remove small side muscle from the scallops.  Rinse under cold water and pat dry.  Season generously with salt and black pepper.  Sear the scallops in remaining olive oil over medium heat about 1 minute per side, or until just cooked through.
  5. To serve, pour soup into individual bowls.  Top each bowl with a scallop and crema or crème fraîche.

Several episodes of Marcella Valladolid’s cook show, Mexican Made Easy are now available in their entirety on Hulu.  She has a second cookbook, called Mexican Made Easy: Everyday Ingredients, Extraordinary Flavor due out September 27, 2011.

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Egyptian Pickled EggplantWhen I came home with a small pile of beautiful tiny eggplants, my husband made an emergency phone call to his mother in Egypt to ask her for her pickled eggplant recipe.  I have never seen him waiting so eagerly for food as while he spent a whole half hour waiting for the eggplants to soak in their flavorful brine.

Fortunately, this is the fastest pickle I’ve ever made.  It is also one of the most flavorful.  These eggplants are picante. If you don’t care for the heat, leave out the red chili flakes.  In Egypt these are often served with grilled fish, or another dish in which equal parts of white rice and red lentils are cooked together in the same pot.  Of course, they can also be enjoyed on their own, as they were in our home last night.


  • About 1 1/2 lb. small, thin eggplants.  They should be as thin as possible, certainly no more than 2 inches wide, but ideally much thinner.
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/16 – 1/8 tsp. crushed chili pepper flakes or 1 mild chili pepper, minced (optional)
  • juice of 1 lemon and/or about 3 Tbsp. vinegar
  • water to cover


  1. Peel back the eggplant leaves and cut off most of the stems, leaving just a little of the stem base in place so that the flesh of the eggplant is not exposed.
  2. Boil the eggplants 20-30 minutes, until quite tender.  Allow them to cool until they are cool enough to handle.
  3. Meanwhile, smash the garlic, salt, and chili pepper to a paste with a mortar and pestle.  Once the paste is ready, mix 1/8 cup of water into this mixture.
  4. Make a deep slit in each eggplant from one end to another.  Do not cut all the way through; each eggplant should have a crack like a hot dog bun closed on both ends.
  5. Divide about half of the garlic mixture evenly among the eggplant slits.  Within each slit, be sure that the garlic mixture is spread from end to end.
  6. Place the eggplants in a bowl that holds them tightly in a single layer.  Cover with cool tap water.  Add the remaining garlic mixture and lemon juice and/or vinegar to the water and swirl around.
  7. Wait 30 whole minutes then remove the eggplant from the liquid.
  8. Serve the eggplants whole.  Typically they will be pulled apart along the slit while they’re being eaten, as shown above.
  9. To store leftovers, cover and refrigerate.  They should not be stored in the liquid.

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Hello, blog friends.  I have no picture for you today because it was too dark when the soup was ready to get a good shot, but I just had to post this recipe because it is absolutely delicious.  This dish combines two of the best things about autumn: soup and pumpkins.  Caramelized onions and light coconut milk add a bit of complexity to the flavor.  If you’re new to cooking with fresh pumpkins, you may wish to check out Elana’s Pantry’s beautiful tutorial about how to roast a pumpkin.  And although you won’t need the seeds for this soup, you won’t want to waste them!  A 3-4 lb. pumpkin will give you about 3/4 cup of pumpkin seeds.  There’s a good set of instrucftions here.  Now that the pumpkin is ready, on to the soup!


  • Roasted flesh of a 3-4 lb. pumpkin (if you prefer to use canned pumpkin pulp, I’d say this is equal to about 3 15 oz. cans)
  • 5 large onions, caramelized in olive oil
  • 1 13.5 oz. can lite coconut milk
  • 4 c. chicken broth or water
  • Salt to taste

Puree the pumpkin and onions with chicken broth.  Place pumpkin-onion puree in a pot with the coconut milk.  Heat gently until hot.  Salt to taste.

This is how I made the soup.  If you want it silky smooth you may wish to press it through a sieve on the way out of the blender.  The soup looks like a dull orange puree, very autumny.

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