Broccoli and Blue Cheese Tart

I was asked to post this recipe by a friend who enjoyed it at my home and wanted to make it himself  This is a very simple dish to prepare and is perfect with a salad to create a full meal or as a side to round out a meal. 

It is a convenient way to quickly throw together a meal. Basically it is a version of a traditional quiche, but with different ingredients than the typical French treatment.


1 Piecrust, either home made or store bought
8 oz of Broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ cup and 2 Tbsp of Heavy Cream, or Whipping Cream
4 Eggs
5 oz of Blue Cheese, Pt Reyes Blue, Maytag Blue, or Stilton, cubed into ½ inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Parchment Paper
Dried beans, approx 2 cups

Begin by blind baking the crust. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, use a fork to gently prick the crust on the bottom and on the sides.

Cut a piece of parchment paper so it overlaps the crust slightly and lay it onto the unbaked crust, and fill with dried beans. Push them so you have more beans on the sides and less in the middle. Then bake for 10-15 minutes.

After baking, remove the crust and lift of the parchment paper and allow the crust to cool. The beans can be stored and reused. They will be hot when they come out, so handle with care.

Set the oven to 375 degrees. Quickly blanch the broccoli in boiling water, for maybe 2-3 minutes max and then shock in an ice water bath. Drain the broccoli while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Beat the eggs together with the cream and salt and pepper the mixture.

Arrange the broccoli in the piecrust and intersperse with the cubed blue cheese. Once it is fully packed, gently pour the egg mixture, until it just reaches the top of the crust. Do not overfill, or it will spill over during cooking.

Put tart into the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes. You can start checking for doneness after 25 minutes by looking at the surface and also by gently shaking the tart. When it is just set, remove and allow to cool before serving. After cooling, it will keep in the refrigerator, but I think it is best the day it is made.

Serve with a salad or as part of a mixed dish meal.

Makes 8 slices, or one tart

Vanilla Extract-How to make your own-Update- Day 12

Okay, we are now on 12 days since we began making the vanilla extract. The extract is changing color rapidly. I\’d say it\’s the color of light maple syrup at this point, and it has a very strong vanilla aroma, with clear under tones of the different beans. The Tonga beans are clearly more fig and earthy, while the Tahitian beans definitely have a floral and fruity aroma. I\’ll keep you updated.

For those of you who haven\’t had a chance to read the Best of 2010 post yet, here is an excerpt.

Vanilla Bean Sugar– This is one of those simple things you can do to vastly improve you baking. Take a bag of pure cane sugar and fill a glass container half way. Add two whole vanilla beans and then fill with the other half of the sugar. In two days, you will have the most wonderfully flavored vanilla sugar and when you need a bean, you can just reach into your sugar and use one. You can find a vast selection of high quality vanilla beans at

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

This is one of those dishes that is a perfect example of comfort food. It is almost a national dish and will instantly remind you of sunny Spain. It is also my niece and nephews favorite dish, so it must be good!

There are so many variations on this dish, each reflecting the unique regional produce. I thoroughly enjoy this one and feel it is unique enough to be worth mentioning.

There are a few ingredients here that I feel are indispensable. One is the smoked sweet paprika and the other is the green olives. Both of these ingredients add something that can’t really be substituted.


8 Chicken thighs or one whole roaster cut up
6 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves of Garlic, sliced
One Large Onion, chopped
One Red Pepper, chopped
2 cups of medium grain Rice, a Spanish arroz or paella rice is perfect as well.
4 cups of Chicken stock, warmed
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tbsp of smoked sweet Paprika
2 dried whole Chilies, if desired.
Juice of one Lemon, ends cut off and reserved
¼ cup of Madeira
1 small jar of pimento stuffed Manzanilla green olives
1/2 cup Peas, Optional

Place the olive oil in a cast iron casserole (Le Cruset is perfect) or some pot with a cover that can go from stove top to oven. Over medium heat bring the oil up to temperature, and then brown the chicken. Remove from oil and set aside.

Now add sliced garlic, chopped onion and chopped red pepper, and cook until onions are brown and soft. Add all spices and combine well.

Add juice of lemon, careful not to get any seeds, and then the ends of the lemon and the Madeira and allow the alcohol to cook away. Then add the rice and coat thoroughly with oil. Add warmed stock, mix well and then add back the chicken and the olives and bring to a slight boil.

Cover and put into a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven, stir and then recover and allow to rest on stove top for 5 minutes. 

Serve with a salad and white wine. Albarino (Spanish white wine) is a good match as is a Rose’ or a Vinho Verde.  

Serves 4 – 6.

Kung Pao Chicken – A Chinese classic

Kung Pao Chicken 

This is a wonderful dish, which combines the smoky flavor of dark soy sauce, the freshness of green onion and the crunch of peanuts.

It is a fusion dish, as it often shows up on Szechwan menus, but is actually a dish from the Beijing region. Always a favorite of mine from Chinese take away, I finally worked out the recipe to make it at home.


1.5 lbs of boneless Chicken Breast, cut into cubes
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 Egg White
1 Tbsp Rice Wine, or dry Sherry

Mix all ingredients together and marinade in refrigerator for at least one hour prior to cooking.

Prepare the sauce mixture just before beginning to cook and set it aside.

Sauce Mixture:

2 Tbsp of Rice Wine or dry Sherry
2 Tbsp of Dark Soy Sauce
2 tsp of Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp of Light Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp of Water
1 Tbsp of Cornstarch

4 cloves of Garlic, roughly chopped
6-8 dried whole red Chilies
1 inch piece Ginger Root, peeled and chopped. 
1 Red Pepper, chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 bunch of Green Onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces
½ cup of Peanuts, unsalted
Oil for cooking

Begin by preheating the wok or pan to a high heat, then add the oil to cover the bottom of the wok. This will be approx. 3 to 4 Tbsp.

When very hot, carefully add the dry chillies, garlic and ginger and quickly sauté, but do not brown. Add the chicken mixture to the pan and cook until I it takes on a velvety texture and is slightly brown. Remove it from the wok with a slotted spoon or your wok strainer.

Now add the red pepper and cook until almost done, then add the chicken back and let it finish cooking and finally add the sauce mixture and green onions and cook until it thickens. 

At the very end, stir in the peanuts and serve immediately with steamed Chinese rice.

Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie

On a trip down to our farm in Southern Virginia, I bought some sweet potato fried pies from a woman at a summer fair out at the elementary school.

As we walked and looked at all the booths, we finished them off and they were so good that we came back and bought all she had. 

A great day for her and certainly a diet buster for us. This is the larger pie version of her recipe.


1 1/2 pound of white Sweet Potatoes or Yams cooked until tender but not mushy
6 Tbsp. of Butter
1 cup of Sugar
1 tsp. Nutmeg
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup evaporated Milk
 2 Eggs beaten well

After the potatoes are cooked until just tender, drain them and transfer them to a large bowl and blend well with the butter using a  potato masher. 

Add  the remaining ingredients except the eggs and allow the mixture to cool. When sufficiently cool , add the eggs and blend well and pour into a 9 inch deep dish pie crust and bake at 350 for 45 to 55 minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly before serving and in fact this pie tastes better the next day.

Note: This yields one deep dish pie, and there is always a little left over, so you can make a little baby tart, or pour the extra into a ramekin and cook it in a water bath. It will take a lot less time than the full size pie.

Cheese in the US

I adore cheese and I enjoy finding new cheeses and trying out new types.

Certainly some areas in the world are known for making world famous cheeses, and of course I will talk about those in future posts.

However, to start,  I wanted to stay in tune with my strong belief in supporting local farmers and artisans and want to help you discover some of the wonderful cheeses we have in our own backyard.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and books could be and probably have been written on this subject alone. However, I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

Cypress Grove Chevre
Arcata CA

This cheeses are some of my absolute favorites and so unique and really reflect their terroir (derived from French for earth, meaning distinctly reflecting attributes from where that come).

·        Humboldt Fog, a ripened goat’s cheese with a layer of ash and perfectly tangy. Quintessential chevre (Goat’s Cheese) with ash.

·        Purple Haze, a fresh chevre with lavender and fennel pollen which gives this cheese a sweet flavor, still giving you the chevre tang on the finish.

These are just a few of their amazing cheeses, enjoy their site

Point Reyes Blue, from Northern CA (Pt. Reyes Station). This lovely blue is aged 5-6 months. It’s a tangy and sharp blue, but all finesse on the palate.

Maytag Blue, from Newton, Iowa have been making blue cheese since 1941. This is a top notch blue which is cave aged with sweetness and perfect balance. You can order directly from their website.

Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese
Modesto, CA

After returning from the UK, I really missed the amazing cheeses. I was thrilled with the grassy and earthly cheddars made all around the UK. I never thought I would find anything close until I tried the Vintage Bandage Wrapped Cheddar.

All I can say is wow! This award winning cheddar is just perfect. I would have to say this is very close to Montgomery’s Cheddar in the UK, which is one of my favorites and one of the best cheddars to be found anywhere.

Ages for 24 months and in 60 pound wheel, this is the real deal. They make many stunning cheeses, but this cheddar is on of the best the US has to offer.

Carmody, from Bellwether Farms in Sonoma CA. It is a soft cheese which is mild, creamy and very buttery. Really unique and 100% hand made. Take a look at their site and try some of their other interesting cheeses. 

Rouge et Noir Camembert, from Marin Country CA, is the oldest cheese maker in the US, but make an amazing variety of fabulous cheeses. I am particularly fond of their Camembert, which is just outstanding. Check them out,

Prairie Fruits Farm, IL

This is a wonderful example of a local producer making interesting and exciting cheeses.

·        Little Bloom on the Prairie, is a cut curd camembert-style, with a dense creamy core and gooey exterior.  It is aged close to four weeks. Taste the earthy rind and slightly tangy yet creamy interior.

·        Moonglo, is a raw milk tomme-style cheese (round shape, gray brown rind) with a washed rind. In addition to ripening cultures,  they wash the rind with a “tea” made from Moonglo Pear leaves.  Aged for three to four months, it is slightly tangy and nutty with notes of ripe fruits and truffles.

If you are up for doing some additional research, here are a few more artisan cheese makers which produce fantastic and exciting cheeses.

\”Red Hawk\”


\”Barely Buzzed\”


Jalapeno and Sweet Corn Bread

Jalapeno and Sweet Corn Bread
This is one of my favorite sides to have with either chili or fried chicken. It is great and quick. You can adjust the heat by seeding the jalapenos or not, as desired.

You may bake this as individual muffins or as a pan of cornbread. Follow the directions for the corn bread mix, but probably it\’s a good idea to grease the pans with some vegetable oil.

2 boxes of Corn Bread mix, follow the instructions on the box.
1 can of yellow Corn, drained well
Jalapenos to taste, about one half a cup chopped is about right for most spice hounds.

Mix together the corn bread mixture omitting ¼ of the wet ingredients (in other words, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of milk, then only use ¾ of a cup). 

Then mix in the corn and jalapenos and bake as recommended. You may need to increase your baking time slightly, due to the whole corn in the mix.

Roadhouse Chili – The perfect way to use your new chili powder.

“Roadhouse Chili”

This is one of many chili recipes I have tested, and I have refined it until I believe it’s just right. 

It’s made with chicken, but could just as easily be made with any meat you desire. It is also really good with beef.

I like it because it is different, and doesn’t taste like your “run of the mill” chili.  As you will notice, it has no beans, and rightfully so. 

Real chili does not have beans, just meat, as any Texan will tell you. Of course, if your not from Texas, you can feel free to add beans.


1 lb. Chicken Thighs, cubed or 1 lb cubed Beef
4 cloves Garlic chopped
1 large Onion, chopped
1 large Red Pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
2-4  Tbsp. Chili Powder
1  Tbsp. Ground Cumin, only if you have not made your own chili powder.
1 Tsp. Ground Coriander
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 can of Tomato Paste 
¼ cup Cider Vinegar
1 bottle Beer
2 Tbsp. Tequila, optional
1 cup of strong chicken stock or beef stock if using beef.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, add the onions and peppers, then the garlic and finally the dry spices. stir well and add meat and continue until just slightly browned. Add Worcestershire, vinegar, beer, tequila, Tomato paste and stock. 

Cook over a slow simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Serve with corn tortillas, biscuits or Jalapeno Sweet Corn Bread.

How to make you own Chili Powder

By chili powder, I mean a powder to make chili or add a Mexican flavor to chicken, a roast or blackened dishes. Really, the options are endless. This is not a super spicy cayenne type product.

I have found that trying to buy chili powder is expensive and unless you buy the same type every time, you get all sorts of different mixes and the flavor is completely different. In addition, most of them are ground in bulk, so they are not fresh and the flavor has long since faded.

I think making your own is much preferable and you can adjust the powder to your own taste. Here is my recipe for a medium heat chili powder.

You will need a spice grinder, which is just a small coffee grinder, but one reserved just for grinding spices. I can promise you that you will not want to use the same one for coffee and spices! Krups makes a good one, which is sturdy and not expensive.

You will need to buy the dried chilies and I have the perfect place, The Spice House in Chicago.


4 oz whole Guajillo Chili Peppers 
4 oz of Ancho Chili Peppers
2 oz Pasilla Negro Chili Peppers
4 Tbsp freshly ground whole cumin seeds, just order a 4oz bag
2 Morita Red Chipotle Chilis, just order a 1 oz bag

Once you have assembled all of the chilies. you will need to cut off the hard stems, as you do not want them in the chili powder. A good pair of kitchen scissors is perfect for this.

Once the chilies have all been prepped. Add the Guajillo, Ancho, Pasilla and Chipotle into a large food processor and grind them thoroughly. 

Step two, you will transfer the ground chilies in small batches to the spice grinder and grind them down to a powder. 

Step three, grind the cumin seeds until they are completely powdered.

Now just combine all of the ingredients into an airtight jar and you have your own chili powder. Remember, you can adjust the heat by adding in Chilies de Arbol or more Moritas.

It really doesn\’t take that long once all of the ingredients are assembled and remember you are making a lot of chili powder, so it will last you quite a while. 

Notice that I have not included garlic powder or salt, as almost all other prepared chili powders do, so you will need to add fresh garlic and of course salt to whatever dish you are making. 

I leave out the garlic powder, because I find it bitter and that it tastes too processed. I leave out the salt, because I want to control the level of salt without having to limit how I use the chili powder.

Jansson\’s Temptation -Potatoes in Cream

Jansson’s Temptation

This is a dish that I first tried in Sweden at a traditional Swedish Christmas table. Leading up to Christmas, restaurants and homes all over Sweden create these amazing tables filled with food of every description; however, this is one dish that you will find on almost every one.

It is rich, indulgent and just fabulous as a side dish. I know that many people are not fond of anchovies, but it honestly doesn’t taste the same without them. 

Since it\’s a cream base, the flavor is wonderful and it\’s not fishy, so no one will even know there are anchovies in it, unless you tell them.


2 ¼ lbs. of Potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced. This is the perfect time to get out the mandoline. I particularly like Yukon Gold for this recipe
2 large Onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. of Butter
150 gr. tin of Anchovies in oil
13.5oz. of Cream
2 Tbsp. of Breadcrumbs

In a shallow oven proof-baking dish, arrange alternating layers of potatoes, onions, anchovies and butter. 

After completing the layering, pour the cream over the dish, and then sprinkle the breadcrumbs over and cover with aluminum foil and put into the preheated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes. Then remove the foil, and continue cooking and browning for 10 additional minutes.

Allow to set uncovered for 5 to 10 min. and serve.