The Best Blender Salsa

Easy Blender Salsa
• 1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes
• 1-10 oz. can original Rotel (if you can find the new fire roasted Rotel I like to use that)
• 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
• 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
• 1/2-1 jalapeno, seeded or not depending on how spicy you like it
• 1 tsp. honey
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
• 1 – 2 handfuls of washed cilantro, roughly chopped
• juice of 1 lime

Put all the ingredients in the food processor or blender. Pulse to combine for 30 seconds or until all the ingredients are finely chopped and salsa is desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve with chips or favorite dishes.This salsa gets better when it can sit in the refrigerator overnight or even a day or two. It gets better with age.

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Cherry-Almond Focaccia

This recipe was on the cover of Bon Appetit this month, and I thought it looked delicious. A sweet dough with tart cherries, almonds, raw sugar and a syrup made from the cherry juice on top. Yummm. I made the dough on Friday night and finished the recipe on Saturday morning. Everyone thought it was delicious, from kids to adults. I’m thinking of making another batch to bring to Easter dinner at my dads.

Cherry-Almond Focaccia

Recipe from the April, 2012 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. 

Serves 16

Master Sweet Dough
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups drained pitted tart cherries in light syrup (such as Morello) plus 1 cup syrup (from a 24–28-ounce jar)*
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup sliced almonds (with or without skins)
1/3 cup raw sugar

*Tart cherries in light syrup can be found at some supermarkets and at Middle Eastern markets and

Punch down dough. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet (about 16×12 inches) with 1 Tbsp. oil. Press dough evenly into pan, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel; let rise in a warm, draft-free area until puffed but not doubled in size, 45–50 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring cherry syrup and granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; let cool completely.

Arrange a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 400°. Using your fingertips, press dimples all over dough surface. Drizzle dough with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Scatter cherries over, pressing them gently into dough.

Drizzle reduced syrup over, allowing it to pool into nooks and crannies. Sprinkle almonds over, then raw sugar. Let rise until dough is doubled in size, 15–20 minutes.

Bake until focaccia is golden brown, 20–23 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Master Sweet Dough

Makes 1 pound, 10 ounces dough

Recipe from the April, 2012 Bon Appetit


  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (from one 1/4-ounce envelope)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus 1/2 tablespoon, melted


Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave until an instant-read thermometer registers 110°–115°. Transfer milk to a 2-cup measuring cup; stir in 1 Tbsp. sugar. Sprinkle yeast over milk and whisk to blend. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs; whisk until smooth.

Combine remaining 4 Tbsp. sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. (If making Vanilla Cloverleaf Sweet Rolls, scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. If making Apricot-Anise Tarts, add aniseed.) Add milk mixture. With mixer running, add 1/2 cup room-temperature butter, 1 piece at a time, blending well between additions. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Knead on medium-high speed until dough is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.

Brush a medium bowl with some melted butter; place dough in bowl. Brush top of dough with remaining melted butter; cover with plastic wrap. Do Ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic; chill.

Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 1–1 1/2 hours (or 2–2 1/2 hours if dough has been refrigerated).

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Sauteed Scallops with Spiced Couscous and Preserved Lemon-Curry Sauce

Remember those Preserved Lemons I made just before going away on vacation? Well, they’re ready now!

This is the recipe I made them specifically for, so last night I made it for Jim and my friend Cyrena. (I don’t eat shellfish, so I just got to enjoy the beauty of the dish.) The recipe came out of the book Cooking My Way Back Home by by Mitchell Rosenthal which is an inspiring new cookbook by the chef/owner of the San Francisco restaurants Town Hall, Anchor and Hope, and Salt House.

I love to cook for Cyrena because she makes a lot of what I call “yummy noises”. A true appreciator of food is always a joy to cook for, and she made a lot of yummy noises over this dish. I almost took a picture of her chasing the last grain of couscous around the plate and then licking the plate clean.

I’m not going to lie and say this isn’t a complicated recipe. It’s not something you’re going to throw together in 30 minutes, and not something you’re likely to make on a school/work weeknight (unless you’re an idiot, like me). That said, it is a lovely and impressive dish and one that should be made on a weekend or for your next dinner party. You could even serve it in miniature as an appetizer portion (maybe with one or two scallops and small portions of couscous and fennel salad).

I had every intention of making my own shrimp stock, but I couldn’t find shrimp with their head’s on, which is what the recipe called for. In the end I purchased frozen fish stock, which I figured was close enough, but use shrimp (home made or purchased) stock if you can. I also didn’t have any fresh dill for the couscous, so I used a few shakes of dried. Prepare all of your ingredients prior to cooking as things come together pretty quickly once you start cooking and you won’t have time to stop and chop vegetables in the middle of cooking.

Jim felt a little short-changed with just 3 scallops for his meal, so you  might want to up your scallop count if you’re serving hungry men.

Sauteed Scallops with Spiced Couscous and Preserved Lemon-Curry Sauce

Curry Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1/2 leek, white and tender green parts, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
  • 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, white and tender green parts, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup miring
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 2 cups Shrimp Stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

Spiced Couscous

  • 1-3/4 cups (1/2 pound) Israeli couscous
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/3 cup fennel, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced preserved lemon
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill (I didn’t have any fresh dill so I used a few shakes of dried dill)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 ounces mustard greens, trimmed, parboiled for 3 to 5 minutes, drained, squeezed dry, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fennel salad

  • 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pounds dry-packed scallops

Canola oil, for sautéeing

To make the sauce, in a small, dry frying pan, toast the curry powder over medium heat, stirring often, for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, leek, ginger,and green onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the curry powder, turn down the heat to low, add the vinegar, and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Cook until the vinegar evaporates, then add the mirin and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the vermouth and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the mixture reduces slightly and the flavors are well blended. Add the cream, season with salt and pepper, and then cook for a few more minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, strain through a fine-mesh strainer, and then return to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition until fully incorporated. When done, remove from the heat and keep warm.

to prepare the couscous, cook the couscous according to the package directions, then toss with the olive oil and set aside. Rinse off the prepared lemons in cold water (I used about 1-1/2 to get 1/4 cup), and using a knife, scrape away and discard the pulp. I also scraped away the very top layer of the white inside as it seemed a little spongy and unappetizing. Dice the lemon finely. In a large sauté pan, heat the canola oil over low heat. Add the fennel and preserved lemon and cook, stirring, until the fennel is soft. Add the dill and cayenne pepper and stir well. Add the prepared couscous to the fennel mixture and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Season couscous with 1 teaspoon salt and the mustard greens. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set the sauté pan aside for finishing up just before serving.

to prepare the salad, in a bowl, combine the fennel, oil, and lemon juice and toss to coat the fennel evenly. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

to cook the scallops, heat a large sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add a thin layer of oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the scallops and cook, turning once, for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until nicely caramelized on the exterior and medium-rare at the center.

While the scallops are cooking, finish the couscous. Return the sauté pan to medium heat and re-heat the couscous over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes. When the couscous is heated through, add the butter and stir gently until melted and evenly distributed.

To serve, divide the couscous among individual plates. Arrange some of the fennel salad and 3 scallops on top of each serving. Pour some sauce around the edge of the couscous on each plate, then drizzle some on top of each scallop.

Serve immediately.

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Black Bean & Mango Salsa

I brought only one recipe down to Mexico with me, mostly because I didn’t have a lot of time to look for any more in the madness that comes with trying to get a family of 6 ready to go on vacation and leave your farm behind all while having yours kitchen and family room floors refinished and some rooms painted while you are gone. Amanda may be in college, but we were having major passport-renewal technical glitches that required working out, as she was flying directly from Lexington to Mexico to meet us.

We few into Cancun but are staying in a small town about 1-1/2 hours away called Akumal. We went into the tiny town today and bought the ingredients needed for this salsa and I made it after dinner tonight so that it can marinate in the fridge and we’ll have it tomorrow. I’ve made this many times before, and not only is it great alone with chips, but it’s awesome on fish and flank steak as well. It’s one of those recipes where measuring ingredients isn’t really necessary.

Black Bean & Mango Salsa

Makes about 5 cups.

Published July 1, 1996 in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Altered by Crafty Farm Girl, March, 2012.


    • 1 large can (or 2 small) black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 mango , peeled, seeded and diced small
    • 1/2 red bell pepper , cored, seeded and diced small
    • 1/2 medium red onion , diced small
    • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
    • 1/4 cup lime juice from 2 medium limes
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
    • 1 small jalapeño chile , seeded and minced
    • Salt and ground black pepper


Mix all ingredients, including salt and pepper to taste, in medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 1 hour or up to 4 days.

Queso Fundido

India is by far the pickiest eater in our family, so with her on her 8th grade field trip down to Washington, D.C. this week, I decided this would be a good time to make this queso fundido as it was something everyone (but India) would enjoy.

The original recipe called for 1 jalapeño, but I’ve really been enjoying the flavor of  poblano peppers lately, so I used half of a jalapeño and half of a poblano, If you like things really spicy, you can use 2 peppers. If you or your friends are more, ahem, delicate, then stick with one chile and remove the seeds and ribs. I also added a bit more chorizo, as I was making it a meal and not an appetizer, and I used black refried beans that I found at Whole Foods and also added a can of whole black beans as well.


Makes 12 servings (appetizer)

Active time: 35 minutes, Total Time: 45 minutes

No offense to salsa, but come on, who doesn’t love a gooey, cheesy bean dip, bubbling hot like lava from the oven?

I found this recipe in Gourmet Magazine’s “Comfort” special edition publication. Original recipe altered by Crafty Farm Girl, March 2012.


  • Dried Spanish chorizo, (4 1/2 ounces) skin removed and finely chopped (about a cup)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 a fresh jalapeño or Serrano chile, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 a fresh poblano pepper, seeded, if desired, and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 (14- to 15-ounce) can refried black or pinto beans
  • 1 (14- to 15-ounce can black beans, drains & rinsed
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 8 ounce Manchego or Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated (2 1/4 cups)


  • Corn tortilla chips


Preheat oven to 350o

Cook chorizo in 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden and pieces start to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels.

Cook onion, garlic, peppers, and paprika in fat remaining in skillet, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to soften and turn golden, about 8 minutes.

Stir in 1/4 cup water and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender and almost all liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Stir in refried beans and remaining 1/4 cup water and simmer until slightly thickened and mixture is bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the can of refried beans. I know what you're thinking, so don't even say it. I was thinking it too.

But see, it looks much better once you stir it in.

Add the rinsed and drained black beans and stir them in as well.

Remove from heat and stir in reserved chorizo and half the cheese until melted.

Pour bean mixture into a shallow (2-quart) flameproof crock or baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake in the oven about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and just starting to brown.

Serve with tortilla chips.


The bean mixture, before the cheese is added, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat it on top of the stove over medium-low heat, adding additional water if necessary, then stir in half the cheese and continue with the recipe.

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Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs

This is a recipes I got off Smitten Kitchen a few weeks ago. I made it one weekend morning for the kids, and they were so excited.

Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from Betty Crocker and others

If you don’t wish to use buttermilk, you can replace it with regular milk and nix the baking soda (keeping the baking powder). I like to get the toppings ready first because they take so little time to bake, you don’t want to be scrambling to have something to dip them in.

Yield: 9 to 12 standard muffin-size puffs or 30-ish miniature ones. Try not to overfill as I did or you won’t get big domes on them.

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing muffin cups
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 12 standard size or 30 miniature muffin cups, or line cups with paper liners.

Prepare coatings: In a small saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat and continue to cook it, stirring frequently, until brown bits form on the bottom and it smells nutty and heavenly. Immediately remove from heat and set aside. In a small bowl, combine 2/3 cup sugar and cinnamon. Set aside as well.

Prepare puffs: Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Mix in 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of buttermilk, repeating again and finishing with the flour mixture. Mix only until combined.

Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling only 3/4 of the way. (If you overfill them they won’t dome up properly.) Bake standard sized muffins for 20 to 25 minutes and miniature muffins for 12 to 14 minutes. When finished, muffins will feel springy to the touch and a tester inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer them in their pan to a wire rack.

As soon as you feel you’re able to pick one up, take your first puff and roll the top and upper edges in the browned butter. Don’t be afraid to pick up the browned butter solids at the bottom of the saucepan; they’re the dreamiest part. Let any excess butter drip off for a second before gently rolling the butter-soaked cake top in cinnamon-sugar. I find if you roll too firmly, or have too much wet/not absorbed butter on top, the sugar can clump off, which is heartbreaking. Transfer puff to wire rack to set and repeat with remaining puffs. Eat warm.

For an even more indulgent, doughnut-like puff: Make an extra two tablespoons of the browned butter and roll the whole puff in it and the cinnamon sugar. (I usually have enough cinnamon sugar to fully roll the puffs.)

Do ahead: Puffs are best within hours after they are baked. They can be made it advance and stored in a freezer bag until needed, too. Simply spread them out on a baking tray and reheat them until warm in the oven.

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Warm Black Bean & Chipotle Dip

I’ve had this recipe cut out from an issue of Fine Cooking’s December, 2006 issue since it was first published. I have copies at home and in Wyoming. It’s such a great dip for a party, to bring to a pot luck, or even as a meal (that’s what we had last night). It freezes great too. Even though I’m not a big watcher of the Super Bowl, I thought it would be fun for Jim and the kids to have some Super Bowl-type foods to eat while watching the commercials, woops, I meant game, so I divided the recipe into two smaller casserole dishes and saved one to re-heat tomorrow night.

Warm Black Bean & Chipotle Dip

Recipe from Fine Cooking, December 1, 2006 issue

Serves 10 to 12

This is a great party dip that can be fully assembled up to 2 days ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to bake.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; more for the baking dish
2 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons kosher salt; more as needed
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 15-1/2 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained well
2 canned chipotles en adobo, minced (about 1 tablespoon), plus 3 tablespoons adobo sauce
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (if frozen, thaw first)
1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) grated Monterey Jack cheese
1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
Tortilla chips for serving

Heat the oven to 425ºF. Grease a 1-1/2 quart baking dish with oil and line a baking sheet with foil. (Note I made to smaller dips in two baking dishes.) Set the tomatoes in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the salt.

Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium high heat until shimmering hot. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add half of the black beans, the chipotles and adobo sauce, and ¾ cup water and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid reduces by about half, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the bean mixture to a food processor, add the vinegar, and process until smooth. Let cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a large bowl. Add the rest of the beans, the tomatoes, corn, half of each of the cheeses, and ½ cup of the cilantro. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to the prepared baking dish (I used two smaller baking dishes) and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake on the foil-lined baking sheet (to catch drips) until the cheese melts and browns around the edges, about 15 minutes (longer if refrigerated). Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and serve with the tortilla chips for dipping.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on twelve servings; Calories (kcal): 230; Fat (g): 12; Fat Calories (kcal): 110; Saturated Fat (g): 6; Protein (g): 12; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4.5; Carbohydrates (g): 19; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5; Sodium (mg): 510; Cholesterol (mg): 30; Fiber (g): 4;

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Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

My life has been so busy lately that I feel lucky if I get to eat a meal, and getting to sit down to eat it would feel extra luxurious. Except for dinner, I always with sit down with the family for that. Often I go weeks without having a moment to check out some of my favorite cooking blogs, as was the case on Monday when I finally took a moment to visit Smitten Kitchen. I’ve always loved her site, and her recipes always work. When I got on the other day, I printed out 3 of the first 4 recipes I scrolled through, and I am proud to say that less than 48 hours later, I had made all 3 and they all were terrific. I’m starting with this recipe for no particular reason.

As I was assembling the ingredients for this I realized I had a bit of a brain lapse while in the grocery store. I was standing there looking at the ground turkey that the recipe called for and was just getting so grossed out at the way it looked, that I wandered over to the ground pork and decided that, this being an asian-style recipe, using half turkey and half pork would probably be an interesting and appropriate substitution. But, when I was gathering my ingredients today I pulled my ground pork and ground beef out of the fridge — I accidentally bought ground beef instead of the ground turkey; I guess I really do have an aversion to it. So I used 50% ground pork and 50% ground beef, and they tasted great. If you’ve got a similar aversion, you can substitute the same. I’m going to write the recipe exactly as I used it, but the original recipe called for 1 pound of ground turkey. Deb had reduced the cilantro and ginger from what was originally called for. I increased mine a bit, since I adore both ginger and cilantro. You can use less if you prefer. I also reduced the dipping sauce down significantly so it would really cling to the meatballs.

Scallion Meatballs with Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Original recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Canal House Cooking, vol. 3

Note: This recipe is gluten-free if you use a soy sauce that is labeled gluten free. There were many options on the shelf at the store.

Yield: The original recipe suggest 24, Smitten Kitchen got 34, and I got a whopping 51 meatballs, but I happened to have a tiny ice cream scoop that measures exactly 1 tablespoon that I used, so my meatballs were very uniform in size.


  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup soy sauce, preferably Japanese or reduced sodium
  • ½ cup mirin (sweet rice wine), or
  • ½ cup sake with
  • ¼  cup sugar
  • ¼  cup peeled, chopped ginger  (I probably used a tad more than 1/4 cup, but that’s a lot of ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 4 whole black peppercorns (no, I did not count how many I put in there)


    • ½ pound ground pork
    • ½ pound ground beef
    • 4 large or 6 small scallions, finely chopped
    • Half bunch cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) (the cilantro-averse can use flat-leaf parsley)
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, toasted if you can find it
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Vegetable oil

Make sauce:  Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar melts completely. Reduce heat to a medium-low and add soy sauce, mirin, ginger, coriander and peppercorns. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 30 minutes, though this took me a bit longer to reduce it until it was syrupy enough that I thought it would coat, and not just dribble off the meatballs. You can keep it on a back burner, stirring it frequently, while browning the meatballs in the next step. Once it has reduced to your satisfaction, strain through a sieve (I actually chose to not strain the sauce, but go ahead and follow the recipe.)

Make meatballs:  Mix ground pork and beef (or turkey), scallions, cilantro, egg, sesame oil, soy sauce and several grindings of black pepper in a bowl. You can mix the meatballs with a fork; it seems to work the ingredients into each other well, but growing up making swedish meatballs, I always use my freshly washed hands to mix my meatballs.

Roll tablespoon-sized knobs of the mixture into balls. I used a tiny ice cream scoop that I have, and first scooped all the meatballs and then I rolled them with slightly wet hands. The mixture is pretty soft, so you can try rolling them, or gently toss the meatballs from palm to palm until they’re roundish 

In a skillet over medium-high heat, generously cover bottom of pan with vegetable oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding, place meatballs in pan and cook, turning, until browned all over and cooked inside, about 8 minutes per batch. I drained mine on a paper towel slightly before putting on a serving plate.

Arrange on a platter (a heated one will keep them warm longer), spoon a little sauce over each meatball, and serve with toothpicks. Alternatively, you can serve the glaze on the side, to dip the meatballs.

Do ahead: The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until needed. If needed, you can rewarm or keep the meatballs warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.

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Orzo and Kidney Bean Soup with Kielbasa & Bacon

I was in the mood for soup on Thursday, and found this recipe on my favorite go-to recipe site, Cook’s Illustrated. I did change quite a bit from the original recipe, but it was a great launching pad for recipe creativity. I’m not a big cabbage fan, so I substituted kale instead and doubled the called for carrots and celery. I also wanted to make it more of a meal, so in addition to increasing the bacon slightly, I also added 8 oz. of chopped kielbasa to the soup. And I don’t care what anybody says about flavor; I think that gelatinous juice that canned beans are in is nasty. I rinsed and drained mine before adding to the soup. I was afraid that the soup wouldn’t have enough flavor with just using water as the base, so I eliminated some of the water and substituted 26 oz. of chicken broth instead. I wasn’t sure what to think of the cinnamon called for, but I used it. I can’t say I tasted it, but you’re free to use it or eliminate it. Although the original recipe called for only white pepper, I also added about ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.


Serves 6 to 8 as a main course.  

Original recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, published September 1, 1999.  Recipe altered significantly by Crafty Farm Girl, January 2012.

Don’t grate your potato until just ready to add it to the soup or it will discolor quickly. Adding the pasta to the pot last, when just about ready to serve, helps it hold onto its bite.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 
ounces bacon or pancetta, diced fine
  • 8 oz. kielbasa, quartered lengthwise and sliced about 1/3” thick
  • 4 oz. chopped kale (or more to taste)
  • 1 
medium onion, diced fine
  • 2
 medium leeks, white parts only, washed thoroughly and chopped fine
  • 2
 small carrots, peeled and diced fine
  • 2
 ribs celery, diced fine
  • 1
 potato, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1
(16-ounce) can red kidney beans (red), about 1 1/2 cups, rinsed and drained
  • 1/ 4
teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4
 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • About ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 6 
ounces orzo (1 cup)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Brown the bacon in the olive oil in a large soup kettle or stockpot over medium heat. When it’s beginning to get brown add the sliced and quartered kielbasa and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the bacon has finished cooking and the kielbasa is a bit browned.

To that same pot add the chopped kale, onion, leeks, carrots and celery and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring a few times as you sauté . Add reserved potato, beans, peppers, salt, cinnamon, 1 quart hot water and 26 oz. chicken broth; bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 5 minutes to meld flavors.

Add orzo, reduce heat to low, and simmer until orzo is tender, 7 to 8 minutes. If you find soup is too thick, you can thin it with additional chicken stock or water.

Adjust seasoning with additional salt, if necessary, and serve, passing grated cheese separately.

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Pear, Apple, Fennel & Cheddar Pizza

You might have read about the amazing meal my sister and I had recently at Leon’s Full Service in Decatur, Georgia. One of the appetizers I had (that’s right folks, I had more than one), was a flatbread with apple butter, grilled fennel, apple slices and cheddar cheese. It was amazing. Sweet and savory. Unexpected. Delicious. I was worried that it would taste like anise, but the grilling must do something to the fennel, because it just gave the pizza a wonderful flavor and a little crunch.

I set out to re-create this while on vacation in Wyoming with Amanda’s help. I decided I wanted to try a pear butter instead of an apple butter. This was purely aesthetics on my part; I didn’t like the dark brown colors of the apple butter I was finding at the stores, but I came across a beautiful pear butter.

Of course when I went to make it here at home for this post I couldn’t find any pear butter, so I had to make my own. It was easy and really delicious. I put the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean in a heavy, non-reactive pot with some seeded, roughly chopped peeled ripe pears and a little apple cider and reduced, mashed, reduced, and reduced some more until almost all of the liquid evaporated. I did not add any sugar as it was for this savory pizza and my pears were nice and ripe, but if I were making it to preserve it, I would have added some sugar. I would only make your own if you can’t find it in the stores ready-made or if you’re planning on making a bunch to can at the same time.

Now the dough was interesting. I found the recipe from Bobby Flay on Food Network’s website. Lots of the people that left comments noted that the dough was very wet. When I made the dough in Wyoming (altitude of 6329 feet), and I made it twice, the dough was absolutely perfect; not too wet at all. When I made the dough in Connecticut (sea level), the dough was almost too dry and hard. It was fine after it rose, but I did consider adding some liquid back into it when I first finished it. My point here is pay attention when you’re making it. It was a lovely dough though and easy to work with and roll out. I’d recommend it for any pizza or flatbread recipe.


Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay

Prep Time: 15 min, Inactive Prep Time: 4 hr

Serves:  4 individual flatbreads or 1 large flatbread

1 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, plus more for bowl

Mix water and yeast in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes to proof. Gradually pour in 2 cups of the flour and stir to incorporate. Mix for about 1 minute to form a sponge. Let stand, covered, for at least 1 hour.

Put sponge in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, add the salt and oil, then add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to form a dough. Remove from bowl and knead. Place in a clean oiled bowl and let rise, slowly, about 2 1/2 hours. Divide dough into 4 balls, let rise again for 1/2 hour, and then roll out as desired.

Pear, Apple, Fennel & Cheddar Pizza

Recipe by Crafty Farm Girl, January, 2012

1 recipe flatbread dough
pear butter, either store-bought or home-made
1 large, crisp apple, peeled, cored & thinly sliced (I used Honeycrisp)
Fennel bulb, cleaned, outer leaf removed if necessary, thinly sliced & grilled
Some tender ends of fennel stalks
chopped walnuts
sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (don’t get extra-sharp)
cornmeal (to dust pizza pan with)

Mis en Place. I, of course, forgot the walnuts.

You can cook your pizza on a pizza stone if you have one (put it in the oven before you pre-heat your oven), or on a metal pizza pan, or just on a baking sheet as I did. Dust the pan lightly with cornmeal to prevent sticking. If you are using a pizza stone, then turn a baking sheet over and dust the underside of the pan with the cornmeal. You can easily slide the pizza off the back of the pan onto the heated pizza stone from there. Preheat the oven to 475o F. Allow oven to preheat completely before putting pizza in.

Once your flatbread dough is ready, and depending on whether you want two large flatbreads or 4 smaller ones, (or you can save and freeze some of the dough to use another time), divide your dough. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough until thin. Move dough to prepared pizza pan.

Spread a thin later of the pear butter over the entire pizza crust using an offset spatula, leaving the edges clear.

Evenly distribute grilled fennel around pizza.

Now of course I forgot the walnuts this time, but don’t you forget them, because they add an important flavor to the pizza! I have a picture of that part from one of the Wyoming pizzas.

Then evenly distribute the apple slices around the pizza.

Sprinkle the cheddar cheese around just short of the edge of the pizza.

And finally add some of the tender fennel greens around on top of the cheese.

Put pizza into preheated oven (or slide off pan onto pizza stone), and bake until cheese is just beginning to brown a little, about 6-12 minutes. This time will vary a lot on pan or pizza stone and individual ovens.

Pear, Apple, Fennel & Cheddar Pizza

Slice using pizza wheel or large knife and serve immediately.

If you’re in the mood to try something a little different, you’ll be pleasantly pleased with the outcome of this pizza.

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