Ravioli Soup

This soup shouldn’t work, but man, does it ever!

None of the veggies are cooked beforehand, everything but the ravioli and the sherry vinegar go into the pot at once, then gets brought to a bowl and left to simmer for an hour.

Simplicity itself, and oh! so tasty!

I should note that Rich, while he liked it and had two bowls, thought it a bit, ermmm, zippy.

No doubt due to the Szechuan peppercorns I added to my chicken stock and the crushed red pepper I added to the soup.

So, you might want to think about that when making your soup.

A note on the chicken stock. I save leftover, bone-in chicken pieces in the freezer and, when I need stock, I pile ’em all into my pressure cooker with an onion, some parsley, carrot, celery, and bit of wine, water, garlic, and, yes, those Szechuan peppercorns. Set the cooker for 45 minutes at high pressure, then go away and let the pot do its thing.

Quick release the pressure, then strain the solids out and discard.

After skimming the fat, I ended up with six cups of very nice chicken stock and cleaned out one of my freezers!


If you want to use canned stock, go for it, but I kinda like basically getting free food out of stuff I would have tossed back in the day. Stock taken care of, let’s get on with the soup!

•6 cups chicken stock
•2 cans diced tomatoes
•2 cups sweet onion, diced
•5 cloves garlic, minced
•1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
•8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp dried shallots
•1/2 tsp dried oregano
•1/2 tsp onion powder
•1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp dried thyme
•Frozen ravioli
•1/4 cup grated Parmesan
•1 tbsp sherry vinegar

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Add all of the ingredients, except for the ravioli, Parm, and sherry vinegar to a large pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, for 45 minutes.

Add the sherry vinegar, ravioli, and Parm.

Give it all a stir and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and the ravioli cooked.

A note on the ravioli. We have this pretty terrific family owned Italian deli just up the freeway, and if I am looking for frozen pasta, that’s where I go.

Serve with more cheese, additional freshly chopped parsley, if you like, and crusty bread.

I wouldn’t say no to a 1905 salad, either.

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1905 Salad

In the Ybor City section of Tampa, there is a famous restaurant, The Columbia.

I had always wanted to check it out when my parents lived there, but my dad was not a fan of anything with a hint of spice or flavor to it, so… Fast forward a couple of decades or so, and I came across a recipe for The Columbia’s signature salad, the 1905; mad with ham and Swiss cheese and olives and lemon and… well, you’ll see. I think this is a pretty terrific party salad, because the dressing needs to be made ahead, then you can just toss and serve.

Simple, no?

•2 tbsp champagne vinegar
•1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
•4 garlic cloves
•2 tsp lemon juice
•1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
•1 tsp oregano
•1 tsp black pepper
•1/8 tsp Kosher salt

•1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
•2 ripe tomatoes, cut in eighths
•1/2 cup sliced red onion
•1/2 cup Swiss cheese, cut in julienne strips
•1/2 cup ham, cut in julienne strips
•1/4 cup olives, pitted (I get mine from the olive bar at the market)
•2 tsp grated Romano cheese*

*I used Penzey’s Salad Elegant seasoning.

A couple of days ahead (for best flavor), combine the dressing ingredients together in a beaker or blender container and give a good whizzz to emulsify.

Note: an immersion blender works a treat for this.

Transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid and stash in the fridge until needed.

Note: the olive oil will more than likely chill into a solid chink, so plan to allow the dressing to come to room temperature before dressing the salad.

When ready to serve, add the lettuce, tomato, onion, Swiss cheese, ham, and olives to a large salad bowl.

Pour the dressing over all, season with the Romano cheese (or Salad Elegant), then toss and serve.

A bit of crusty bread might be nice here to sop up some of that tasty dressing.

Just a thought…




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Birch Syrup Cod

While in Canada for a family wedding this spring, one of our cousins gave me this cool cook and travel book, “Feast – Recipes & Stories from a Canadian Road Trip.”

It is a beautiful book, with recipes from one end of Canada to the other, and many of the spots in between. A couple of recipes called for Birch Syrup, and I, of course, was immediately intrigued and on the hunt. Even in Ontario, though, birch syrup was kinda hard to find, and, when I did, it was pricey – about $25 Cdn for a small jar.

Still and all, find it I did, and so I set about to make one of the recipes. Ermmm, with a few, minor tweaks.

The original recipe called for white miso paste, which I don’t happen to keep on hand. They did have it at my market, but at around $10 for a tub, I opted for an interwebs inspired substitute:

In place of 1/4 cup (four tablespoons) white miso paste, I used two tablespoons each lower sodium Tamari and ketchup. Worked a treat, I think.

Miso Paste Substitute:
•2 tbsp lower sodium Tamari
•2 tbsp ketchup

•1/4 cup white miso paste
•3 tbsp birch syrup*
•2 tbsp rice vinegar
•1/2 tsp powdered ginger


*No birch syrup? No worries! Use two tablespoons of maple syrup instead.

Stir the marinade ingredients together until well blended, then pour over the fish in a bowl or gallon-sized zipper bag. Turn the fish to coat both sides, then stash in the fridge overnight, turning the fish when you think to.

Note: this was my other tweak. Totally due to my misreading the recipe, I did not have overnight to marinade my cod, so did two hours, flipping the cod after one hour. Still worked out well.

Position an oven rack in the middle, and preheat your broiler.

Remove the fish from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and arrange on a baking pan in a single layer.

Broil for two minutes, then rotate the pan and broil for another two minutes.

Flip the fish over, then return to the oven and broil for one minute. Rotate the pan and broil for another two minutes.


We thoroughly enjoyed ours with a tossed salad and some leftover sweet potato cakes.

So, birch syrup? Well worth the hunt, and the price.

Thanks, Lois!



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Sweet Potato Cake Lettuce Wraps

Let me begin by saying that Rich does not care for sweet potatoes.

I don’t either, really, if we are talkin’ about that marshmallow and brown sugar thing that folk trot out at the holidays; so, when I told him what we were having for dinner, and he fixed his plate, he was a wee, tiny bit apprehensive…

His remark after the first bite?

“You can make these again!”

I thought so. It is all about the seasonings and the sauces and the prep.

The original recipe, from The Pho Cookbook, called for shrimp and rice flour and cilantro and mint.


I had leftover grilled chicken and corn, could not find rice flour at the market I was shopping at that day, and do not particularly care for cilantro or mint in cooking; so, I made a few changes.

Really tasty potato cakes!

•2 tbsp water
•2-1/2 tsp sugar
•1-1/2 tbsp lime juice
•1/2 tsp rice vinegar
•2 tsp fish sauce
•1 garlic clove, minced
•1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
•2 tbsp finely chopped carrot
•1 tbsp chopped shallot*

Potato Cakes:
•2 cups grated sweet potato
•1/4 tsp Kosher salt
•2 tbsp chopped shallot*
•3/4 cup cooked corn kernels
•1 cup cooked chicken, chopped
•1/4 cup flour
•1/2 tsp fish sauce
•1/8 tsp black pepper
•1 egg

To Cook and Serve:
•Canola oil
•Lettuce leaves
•Chopped parsley
•Sweet chili sauce

*I used freeze dried shallots, at a ratio of one teaspoon freeze dried for each tablespoon of fresh chopped. Worked a treat.

First, the sauce: whisk the water together with the sugar, lime juice, and rice vinegar until the sugar has dissolved. Add the fish sauce, then pour over the veggies in a bowl and toss to coat.

Let the sauce stand for at least 15 minutes before serving, or, make it ahead, cover, and chill for up to three days.

Sauce made and stashed in the fridge, let’s get to the sweet potato cakes.

Grate the sweet potato (most of one large sweet potato), place in a bowl, and add the Kosher salt.

Using your hands (messy, I know, but, sometimes, you gotta get your hands dirty, and this is one of those times it is definitely worth it) massage the salt into the shredded sweet potato until the mixture is moist and limp.

Rinse the potatoes, then drain.

Wrap the potatoes in paper towels and squeeze to remove excess liquid.

Note: I started my potato cakes well ahead of time and squeezed, then set them to drain in a sieve, then squeezed again with my hand through the sieve to as much liquid out as possible.

Cut your cooked chicken (I was using leftover butter grilled thighs and drumsticks) into pieces, then chop really well, or… pop it into your processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until it is well and truly minced.

I also had one leftover grilled cob of corn, so I cut the kernels off, and then chopped them and added to the chicken in a mixing bowl along with the shallots, fish sauce, and black pepper.

Give the potatoes one more squeeze, then stir into the chicken mixture in the bowl.

Lightly beat the egg and stir into potato and chicken mixture, then add the flour and, again working with your hands, mix into the mixture until it has been nicely incorporated.

Full Disclosure: some of my potato cakes held together better than others, but, in the end, it didn’t really matter, they were all terrific in the lettuce cups!

Divide your potato mixture into eight cakes.

For me, a 1/4 cup oval measure worked a treat, giving me eight more or less evenly sized quenelles for cooking.

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large, low skillet over medium high heat.

Add four of the sweet potato cakes and gently flatten them out in the skillet.

Cook for two minutes, then flip and cook for another two minutes or so, until both sides are golden brown and a bit crispity.

Transfer to a rack set in a pan in a warm (200º) oven and repeat with the remaining four sweet potato cakes.

Keep the cakes warm in the oven until ready to serve.

I had Iceberg lettuce, which worked a treat, but you could use butter lettuce, Romaine, even endive leaves.

Place a sweet potato cake in a lettuce leaf, spoon some of the sauce over, and add a sprinkling of parsley.

We also added a drizzle of sweet chili sauce.


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Salted Caramel Icebox Cake

Rich came across this recipe somewhere on the interwebs, and asked that I try it; but to wait until we had folk over to make it, because he was thinking that he would most likely lose any self-control it until it was well and truly gone. As it turned out, he was correct.

He enjoyed a slice for dessert at dinner, then another slice before bedtime, another the next day before telling me to please give the rest to a friend – who was very pleased to get it, and even promised to – mebbe – save a slice for her husband.

Note: the original recipe called for buying a salted caramel sauce. I chose to make my own, because it is wickedly simple to make. Two jars turned out to be just about right for spreading on the cake layers and topping the sliced pieces.

You do what you want.

•48 Ritz crackers
•2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
•1 cup granulated sugar
•1 cup heavy whipping cream
•1 tsp vanilla
•A pinch of black pepper
Salted Caramel Sauce
•Whipped cream (optional)*

*I bought some, forgot to serve it, and none of us missed it.

Beat the sugar together with the cream cheese until smooth.

Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and pepper (trust me on this) and beat for about five minutes, until stiff peaks form.

Apply cooking spray to an eight inch square baking pan and arrange 16 of the crackers on the bottom.

Spread 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture over the top of the crackers, then add enough salted caramel to cover that. Top that with another 16 crackers, more of the cheese mixture, and more of the salted caramel.

Arrange the last 16 crackers on top, then cover them with the remaining cream cheese mixture, smoothing it over the top to the edges. Cover the pan and stash in the fridge for at least four hours, but, as is the case with most everything, overnight is always more better.

Once chilled, serve with more of the salted caramel on top and, if you really think it needs it, and you didn’t forget (I’d had a couple of Cherry Cosmos and several glasses of rather nice wine by the time we got around to dessert), go ahead and add some whipped cream.


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Corn Relish

My local family farm runs a deal they call “Mystery Bag.” The open the event on facebook on a Thursday, you join the event, then show up with $10 the following Tuesday and they fill a shopping bag with produce.

Good deal!

So, this one Tuesday, I end up with a hoooge bag o’ veggies and a dozen ears of corn. Let me just say this about that… that is a lot of corn for a two person household.

What to do?

Why, make corn relish, of course!

•6 cups corn kernels (from 12 ears of corn)
•4 cups diced red pepper
•3 cups chopped onion
•2 cups shredded cabbage
•2 cups diced celery
•1 tbsp mustard seed
•2 tsp dry mustard
•2 tsp turmeric
•2 tsp celery seed
•1 tsp crushed red pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper
•5 cups white vinegar
•1-1/3 cup sugar
•2 tbsp pickling salt

Note: many corn relish recipes call for blanching fresh corn before removing from the cob, but I skipped this step, and my relish is pretty darned fine.

Bring the vinegar, sugar, and canning salt to a boil in a large, non-reactive pot; stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Add the veggies and seasonings, return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Ladle the relish into sterilized canning jars, then process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

I ended up with a dozen, half-pint jars of very tasty corn relish.

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Cherry Cosmo

On a recent trip to Door County in Wisconsin, we stopped by a cherry place so Rich’s mom could pick up some treats for friends back home – y’know, chocolate covered cherries, dried cherries, cherry juice. While poking around, we came across a pamphlet listing a bunch o’ ways cherry juice could be used in cocktails, and we were sold. The only thing was, the pamphlet only listed ingredients, giving no insight into exactly how much of each should go into the cocktail, so, I went in search on da Google, and found several decent options.

I served these to friends who came over for Sunday dinner, and all were pretty happy with the results.

•4 oz vodka
•1 oz Cointreau
•12 oz cherry juice (check in the juice aisle)
•1 oz lime juice
•Cherry soda (or ginger ale)
•Orange slices

 Note: this’ll make four or five cosmos.

Add the vodka, Cointreau, cherry, and lime juice to a cocktail shaker over ice, then cover and shake well to blend.

Add a splash of cherry soda (or ginger ale) to a chilled martini glass, then pour the cosmo mixture in to fill.

Garnish with an orange slice.

Tasty, but, made with the cherry soda, mebbe a touch too sweet (for me, anyway); so next time, ginger ale.



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Parfait! Slow Cooker Salted Caramel

Also known as Dulce de Leche, this fine caramel sauce is dead simple to make, but it will take about ten hours in your slow cooker, so plan accordingly.

We’re having friends over for diner this weekend, and Rich found an Icebox Cake recipe he wanted me to try – made with layers of Ritz crackers, cream cheese, and salted caramel; so, a perfect time for me to take out the slow cooker and dust off this recipe – I add a tablespoon of brandy to mine, ’cause that’s how I roll; you do what you like.

•Sweetened condensed milk
•1 tsp sea salt
•1 tbsp brandy

Empty a can of sweetened condensed milk into a low jar with a tight fitting lid, then stir in the sea salt and, if you’re using it, the brandy.

Note: I make a double batch, using two cans of sweetened condensed milk and two  low, pint size wide mouth canning jars.

Screw the lids on the jars and place in your slow cooker.

Add water to cover the jars, put the lid on the slow cooker, set the temperature to low, and cook for eight to ten hours, until you have a couple of golden jars of caramel goodness.

Remove from the slow cooker and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.


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Swiss Steak


Swiss Steak?

Yep. And, you know what?

This is pretty darned tasty!

Of course, my Swiss Steak has a bit more seasoning than your mama’s Swiss Steak probably did; beginning with a nicely spiced seasoned flour and ending up with a finishing touch of sherry vinegar, but, there is another secret…

This kinda cool tenderizer tool! 4 dozen blades punch through the meat and break down the tough bits (technical talk), giving you a better piece o’ meat.

So, cast your childhood unpleasant dinner memories aside, and try this Swiss Steak.

Seasoned flour:
•1 cup flour
•2 tsp paprika
•1 tsp garlic powder
•1 tsp 21 Seasoning Salute (available at Trader Joe’s)
•1 tsp celery salt
•1 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp dry mustard
•1/4 tsp salt
•1/2 tsp curry powder

•Unsalted butter
•Cooking oil
•14 oz can diced tomatoes
•1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 red bell pepper, diced
•1 sweet onion, diced
•4 cloves garlic, minced
•8 oz sliced ‘shrooms
•1 tsp dried thyme
•1 tsp dried parsley
•1-1/2 lb round steaks
•1/2 tsp sea salt
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tbsp butter
•1 tbsp oil
•1 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
•2 tbsp heavy cream

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Tenderize your round steaks, then whisk the seasoned flour ingredients together in a shallow bowl and dredge the steaks in the flour.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pan over medium heat, then add the steaks and cook for a couple of minutes per side, just until both sides are nicely browned. Remove the steaks and set aside.

Melt another tablespoon of butter with one tablespoon of oil in the pan.

Add the onion & pepper and cook for five minutes.

Stir in ‘shrooms and one tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce, cook for ten minutes, until the veggies are tender and any liquid has been mostly cooked off.

Add the veggies to a slow cooker with the tomatoes and seasonings.

Add the browned steaks, pushing down into the sauce, then cover and cook on high for five hours, or on low for eight hours.

About on hour before serving, stir in the heavy cream and one tablespoon each sherry vinegar and Sherry Peppers Sauce.

Serve as you will. This recipe is made for rice or noodles, but we split a baked potato that evening, and thought it a fine dinner with French peas on the side.

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Parfait! Honey Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

This might just be our new fave sauce for all things grilled (or sautéed – I added a dab to ham steaks last night, and, topped with chive cream? Tasty!) Based on my own Terryaki Sauce, but with extra pineapple and a few – mebbe surprising – other additions, we’ve enjoyed this sauce on chicken, salmon, pork chops, the aforementioned ham steaks (details to come), and all was pretty darned terrific, if I do say so myself.

Note: my Terryaki Sauce is a might bit, ermmm…

Zippy! Yeh, that’s what I’d call it – no doubt it’s the Szechuan peppercorns – so if you use a bottled jar from the market, you may not need to bother with the later addition of ketchup and water.

Oh, and do not forget the bourbon! I used Red Stag Honey Tea because that’s what we had rattling around the liquor cabinet, but a quick search on da Google shows a lot of different options, so go with your own fave or, better yet, set up a tasting to choose your fave.

•2 cups Terryaki sauce
•1/2 cup brown sugar
•1/2 cup white sugar
•1 tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup – or corn syrup
•1-1/2 cup Steak and Chop Sauce – or ketchup
•1 cup French dressing – you can use Catalina
•3/4 cup honey bourbon
•1/2 cup crushed pineapple
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1/2 tsp Cayenne
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No problem! Simply substitute two tablespoons of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff), and your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Stir all of the ingredients together in a large pot until blended, then bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes – stirring often.

Note: just as with my original Barbecue Sauce, you can do this in a slow cooker, but will obviously have to adjust the cooking times – I use four hours on high, followed by two hours on low to get the sauce consistency I like.

Take a taste.

NICE, but still a bit edgy, those Szechuan peppercorns pack some heat, so…

I then added 1-1/2 cup ketchup and 1/2 cup of water, and simmered for another 30 minutes.

Take another taste.

This is it!

A bit of a kick, but nicely, I think balanced between bourbon and sweet and spice.

Transfer the sauce into prepared caning jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

I got nine half pints.

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