Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint

Watermelon salad with feta and mint on multiple platesI adore this salad. Nothing starts a summer meal better than this Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint! It’s great to start a lunch or dinner. It’s surprising, refreshing and scrumptious! I love how the black olives tease you to look like seeds but of course, you use a seedless watermelon. The olives are a delicious burst of salty goodness in contrast to the sweet watermelon. I started making this JACQUES PÉPIN recipe (I LOVE his recipes) when it first came out in the June, 2007 issue of Food and Wine magazine. The original recipe says this is for 12 servings but it really worked for just 10 people in our house. It’s easy and relatively fast to make. In the original recipe, Jacques tells you to use a watermelon baller and then throw in the remaining scraps but I prefer my salad to look more uniform so I just cut it into nice chunks. No matter how you cut it, my recommendation is to make this salad now, while the watermelons are ripe, sweet and juicy. Enjoy!

And, don’t forget to comment on my Calphalon Skillet Giveaway post for your chance to win one. This giveaway will end tomorrow, Thursday, at noon. Good luck!!Watermelon salad with feta and mint on a burgundy trimmed plate.!

WATERMELON SALAD WITH FETA AND MINT – Adapted from JACQUES PÉPIN – serves 10 – 12

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp.Tabasco
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
One 8-lb. seedless watermelon, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (10 cups), chilled
1/2 lb. feta cheese, crumbled (2 cups)
1 1/4 cups pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 small sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, salt, Tabasco and pepper. Add the watermelon, feta, olives and onion and toss gently. Garnish with the mint and serve.

Salmon with Mango Tomato Salsa

Salmon with mango tomato salsa served with parsley buttered boiled potatoes and roasted broccoli.

Salmon with mango tomato salsa served with parsley buttered boiled potatoes and roasted broccoli.

So I’ve been on this sweet and savory kick. (We loved the pork chops with grapes.) Just the other night I wanted a quick meal again. Quick, because I’m always starving when I get home from work at night and my husband says I get very mean when I’m hungry. (he’s right :( ) I had a beautiful piece of salmon and a mango. Yellow mango on a pale grey napkin.I love these little yellow mangoes. Here’s one that’s really ripe but I wanted to show it to you because I think these are so much more flavorful than the large red and green ones. I put together this dish of roasted Salmon with Mango Tomato Salsa in a jiffy, and it was so delicious, so fresh tasting and so very yummy!

I’ve done mango salsas before but never with tomato, but being on this sweet and savory bent gave me the go-ahead to do this. (Like I need permission for myself?) Mango, tomato, jalapeno, olive oil, lime and cilantro – a beautiful combination!

Salmon filet seasoned with Dijon mustard and Old Bay.Then to quickly season and cook the salmon, I turned to Old Bay – for the first time on salmon and it was perfect! My husband is from Baltimore, the home of Old Bay. I always have some around, just in case we get the urge to steam hard-shelled crabs, a family favorite. But you know, I thought I should be using it more than once or twice a year and so here we are with this delicious salmon dish!

Here’s the recipe – light and bursting with freshness – perfect for a late evening summer meal. It was another “can you make this again?” request from my husband, and I wanted to share it with you. And please remember to make it with LOVE as it will always taste better!

SALMON WITH MANGO TOMATO SALSA – serves 2

1 14 oz. piece of center cut salmon fillet, washed and patted dried
1 rounded tsp. Dijon mustard
Sprinkling of Old Bay seasoning
1 tbs. olive oilMango tomato salsa in a yellow bowl.

Salsa

1 small orange mango, peeled and diced into 1/4″ pieces
4 cherry tomatoes cut into 1/4” dice
1/2 of a jalepeno, minced with seeds
1/2 lime, juiced
1 tbs. olive oil
Fine sea salt
Pepper
2 tbs. chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make the salsa: Toss together the mango, tomatoes and jalapeno. (omit the seeds if you’d like less heat) Drizzle on lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the cilantro to combine everything. Taste to correct seasoning, if necessary. Let flavors meld while you make the salmon.

For the salmon: Smear the top of the salmon fillet with the mustard and sprinkle on Old Bay. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick, ovenproof skillet over moderately high heat. Place the salmon in, seasoned side down for 3 minutes. Then carefully turn over and place the pan in the oven to roast for 7 – 10 minutes, depending on how well done you like your salmon and if the salmon is super cold or not. Transfer to a platter. Cut into 2 pieces and serve topped with the salsa. Enjoy! 

Dijon Pork Chops with Herbs and Grapes

Dijon porks chops with herbs and grapes on a platter. “Can you do this again?” That’s what my husband said on finishing this dinner last Sunday night. So I quickly went to work to write all this down so I would remember how to make these Dijon Pork Chops with Herbs and Grapes again! I got this idea from a veal chop recipe I had made years ago. Second Chance Farm business card.And once again, I get inspired by what’s in my refrigerator and what needs to be used up and how fast can I get something on the table – not really too exciting and all out of necessity. I was making our breakfast fruit salad that I usually make for the week, before making dinner on last Sunday night, and had too many grapes. We had just picked up these beautiful heritage breed pork chops from Second Chance Farm on our way home that night. They have wonderful beef, pork and chickens and sell at the Milan Farmers Market on Fridays, and had invited us to their farm to pick up some fresh chickens. Kim and Charlie are wonderful folks who run a very clean and neat farm in Milan, NY. It was so nice to see their whole operation. All of the animals are happy campers – their pigs love to be petted! Here’s what I did, which was simple, quick, delicious and a little different! This is a riff on the combo of savory and sweet – which I LOVE. I hope you will too!

DIJON PORK CHOPS WITH HERBS AND GRAPES – serves 2

1.5 tsp unsalted butter
1.5 tsp olive oil 1 medium onion, sliced 1/4” thick
2 heritage breed pork chops, 3/4” thick
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 tbs. chopped fresh herbs – oregano, rosemary and thyme
3/4 cup dry white wine, divided – I used Sauvignon Blanc
3/4 cup seedless red grapes

In a skillet, melt butter in olive oil on low heat. Add onions and cover to sweat and soften for about 20 minutes.

Dijon Pork chops raw with mustard. Wash and dry pork chops. Salt and pepper and smear one side with 1 tsp. Dijon mustard on each chop. Toss together the mixed herbs, take half of them and divide into two equal portions and sprinkle on each chop. Press them down into the mustard.Dijon pork chops raw with mustard and herbs. Push onions to the side in the skillet, raise heat to medium high. Add the chops, mustard and herb side down. While they are browning, salt and pepper the top sides of the chops. Turn the chops after 3 minutes and pile the onions on top of the chops. Sprinkle remaining herbs overall. Saute 1 minute to brown the bottom of the chops. Add 1/2 of the wine and all of the grapes and cook for one more minute or so, until chops reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. (they will cook more while resting) Remove the chops to a platter. Leave the grapes in the skillet and add the rest of the wine and simmer rapidly for 1 -2 minutes, stirring constantly. When sauce has thickened a bit and reduced, and the grapes are softened, remove from heat and pour sauce and grapes over the chops. Make sure the chops have rested for a total time of 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!Dijon pork chop  half eaten.    

Clean Lean and Sexy

Summer_box_Products__0003_CleanLeanSexyClean Lean and Sexy – wouldn’t we all like to be that way? Well their coconut cashew bar and whole line of snack items is just that. This is the last item in our MARY’s secret ingredients summer box. Suzie Carpenter was a mom on a mission to help her daughter conquer all kinds of problems including a gluten, soy, corn and dairy intolerance. Plus, she was tired of reading ingredients on foods that you couldn’t pronounce nor know what they really are, so she created this line of all natural, healthy-for-you snack foods. This is an energy bar and it really does the trick as a quick pick me up with the power of coconut and cashews.

I made this delightful breakfast this morning with yogurt, fresh blueberries and honey, and I was raring to go all day long. A great, delicious morning starter, use good unflavored 2% or 0% Greek yogurt for optimum taste and health. (I like Fage) If you can, use a great farmer’s market honey, (Ethel’s in Milan, NY is the best!) and blueberries are at their height now, so enjoy this wonderful concoction. I also think this bar would be great broken up as a topping on Irish oatmeal as another breakfast. Eat it plain, eat it broken up as a topping – enjoy it any way you please – it’s good for you!

Plain Greek yogurt with coconut cashew bar bits blueberries and honey.

CLEAN LEAN AND SEXY BREAKFAST – serves 1

1 Clean Lean and Sexy Coconut Cashew bar, broken into pieces
1 cup 2% or 0% plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1 tbs. honey

Spoon the yogurt into a bowl, top with the coconut cashew bar bits and blueberries. Drizzle with honey and LOVE. Enjoy!!

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Spice Cake

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale is, in one word, amazing! It is made with real fresh ginger and pure cane sugar, and this, my friends, is the complete real deal. As they say in their ads, you don’t have to imagine the ginger. Now as you know, real ginger is spicy wonderfulness – I LOVE it!!! But if you’re not familiar with the real thing, you might think this a bit strong. You can drink it straight and iced or mix a cocktail, as the brochure indicates, that we included in the MARY’s secret ingredients summer box. Or you can use one cup of it as an ingredient to make this Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Spice Cake recipe.  Use the rest for your cocktail and you’ll really enjoy making this cake!
Bruce cost ginger ale spice cake on a crystal platter.

I made this for a big family Sunday night dinner that was so much fun. You know, the loud noisy wonderful family parties where everyone is talking at once? My oldest niece, Lisa, was in town from St. Louis visiting with her husband and two kids, as well as our oldest son with his girlfriend and his former roommate Bert, all joined us a couple of weeks ago when I made this cake. I also used my mother’s bundt pan (doesn’t everyone think of that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when they hear those words?), for the very first time! My mother passed away in 1995 and I’ve had it since 1998 and never used it until now. I could feel her. It was a nice connection to have while making this from scratch, super delicious cake for a Sunday family dinner party.Bruce cost ginger ale spice cake in a bundt pan.

I served it with a dab of good vanilla ice cream and a fresh strawberry garnish. Two guests took some home and told me later they ate it all for breakfast! It was very, very good!!!

BRUCE COST GINGER ALE SPICE CAKE – serves 12

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 scant cup of white sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 cup Bruce Cost Ginger Ale
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbs. rum
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbs. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
3 cups of all purpose flour
Sifted confectioner’s sugar for dusting on the top

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a (9×13 inch) pan or a (10 inch) tube or Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Blend in eggs, vanilla extract and rum. Add Bruce Cost Ginger Ale.

In another large bowl toss together the dry ingredients. Add to the creamed mixture and mix well.

Spoon into prepared pan. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed (45 minutes for sheet pan and 55 – 60 minutes for the tube or Bundt pan). 

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Cool thoroughly on a rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with LOVE! Enjoy!

Jaxn’s Twice-Baked Potato Stix

Jaxns twice baked potato stix.

Jaxn’s Twice-Baked Potato Stix arrived on this planet due to a little boy in Jasper, Georgia, named Jaxn, who LOVED French fries and was getting just plain fat from eating them. So his mother came up with this delicious crunchy, twice-baked version. True love! Made with all natural ingredients, Jaxn’s Twice-Baked Potato Stix are gluten-free, delicious and the perfect salty crunch to go with a cocktail or cool summer drink. The Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper flavor was included in our MARY’s secret ingredients summer boxJaxns twice baked potato sticks with cheese and tomatoes.

I prepared this appetizer to work with cocktails when our friends Margaret and Wayne came over for dinner on the 4th of July. I speared small cherry tomatoes and mini mozzarella cheese balls on these little sticks and made this tasty snack even tastier! Both versions were super delicious, although I preferred the tomatoes.

The potato stix themselves cannot punch the hole in the cheese or tomatoes. Don’t try it – they will break. Take a pair of pointed ended scissors and keep them closed and punch a hole in the cheese balls and the cocktail tomatoes. Stick the potato stick inside and voila! You have a pretty, and tasty appetizer in no time flat!

Next time, I might drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top and throw on a few fresh basil leaves too, but it was raining really, really hard and I just couldn’t convince myself to go out in it to the garden to get some.  Even if you have some leftover mini meatballs hanging about, they would be great stuck with a Jaxn’s stix! Go crazy and have fun!