Cold Cucumber Dill Soup

cucumber
Serves 6

1-1/2 tablespoons margarine
1 cup chopped onions
4 cucumbers, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
1 (8-ounce) russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3-1/2 cups low-salt pareve chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 large fresh dill sprigs plus 6 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 teaspoon (or more) salt
½ cup Tofutti sour cream

Melt margarine in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add cucumbers and potato; stir 1 minute. Add broth, dill sprigs, and 1 teaspoon salt. Increase heat and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until cucumbers and potato are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. With an immersion blender, puree soup in until smooth. Return to pot. Cool 15 minutes. Whisk in tofutti sour cream and 4 tablespoons minced dill. Cover and chill until cold, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.) Taste soup, adding more salt if desired. Garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons minced dill.

Fresh Tomato and Avocado Soup

tomato-avocado-soup-deServes 4

1 pound,(about 4 tomatoes) tomatoes, chopped with their juices
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup seedless cucumber, chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 avocados, diced (about 2 cups)

Combine all ingredients except avocado in a large bowl. Mash lightly with a potato masher, stir in 1 cup water, cover, and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 6. Stir in the avocado and serve immediately.

A Few Summer Must-Haves

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Strawberry Huller $7.95 from Williams-Sonoma.com
Cute to look at, and perfect for summer salads, smoothies, fruit platters, shortcake, and stuffed strawberries. This fun kitchen tool quickly removes the leaves and stem from a strawberry.

Citrus Zeel-Peel $5.95 from Williams-Sonoma.com
Designed for best citrus peel removal, no bitter pith! It removes the peel in three simple steps. Just score your fruit with the peeler’s sharp hook, lift the skin with the tapered corner, then slip the peel through the round opening. Quickly and neatly peels whole citrus fruits. Ideal for grapefruits and oranges. Great for using the peels in iced tea, couscous salad, and sangria!

Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Chocolate Espresso Cookie

Makes 3 dozen

3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder
1 box Dark Chocolate Premium Brownie Mix
1 egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1⁄2 cups dark chocolate pieces, semi sweet chocolate pieces
and/or white chocolate pieces (combined into the 1 1⁄2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a small bowl combine water and espresso powder, stir until dissolved; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine brownie mix, egg, oil, cinnamon, and the espresso mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, scraping sides. Stir in chocolate pieces by hand, using a spatula or wooden spoon. Drop dough by rounded tsp. onto prepared cookie sheet.
Bake about 6-8 minutes or until edges are just set. (Centers may appear doughy). Do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. If desired place a chocolate candy kiss or a caramel chocolate candy kiss into center of cookie immediately after removing from oven as a garnish.

Chocolate Raspberry Bars with Almonds and Icing

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Makes 16 bars

2/3 cup raspberry jam
1 (21-ounce) box Chewy Fudge brownie mix (recommended: Duncan
Hines Chewy Fudge)
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup chopped salted almonds or other nuts of your choice

Position a baking rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.
In a small saucepan, stir the jam constantly over low heat until pourable, about 1 minute. Set aside.
In a large bowl, blend together the brownie mix, eggs, vegetable oil, and water. Using an electric hand mixer beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the jam over the top of the brownie batter. Using a small spatula, swirl jam into the brownie batter. Bake for 27 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted about 1-inch from the edge of the pan comes out clean. Spread with the melted chocolate and sprinkle with salted almonds. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Cut into 16 bars and store airtight in a plastic container for up to 1 week.

How to Order a Great Bottle of Wine Every Time

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Ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant and not sure what to choose? We spoke to our friends at Royal Wine Corp., creator and owners of Herzog Cellars  and distributors for so many amazing wine labels, about this problem and got some expert advise and fast tricks for getting a great bottle every time.

- First, remember the basics, when in doubt, order a red wine with meat and white wine with fish.
- Ask the maitre de what they recommend. In fine restaurants the waiters should also be knowledgeable and worth asking.
- When you are asked what type of wine you like, don’t use words like “dry” or “sweet”, because too many wines fall in these categories, i.e. most red wine is dry. Use regions, like Napa Valley, or Spanish wines, or adjectives that are more specific, bold, or fruity, light, or tannic.
- Look at the menu online before arriving. Upscale restaurants will include their wine lists online. Check the reviews and tasting notes before you go.
- Take a photo of wines you like. Share them with the waiter to find a similar bottle to what you already know and love.
Lastly, ask this question, “DO YOU HAVE ANYTING OPEN THAT’S NOT ON YOUR BY THE GLASS LIST?” Sometimes, restaurants open better bottles for special customers and you can be lucky enough to enjoy some of that bottle. Or the restaurant is tasting or testing some new wines and happen to be able to offer it if you ask. I’ve had good luck with this and have tasted some incredible wines with this trick.

And most importantly, order wine with dinner. Make the evening a special night, an experience and wine makes every meal decadent, memorable and more enjoyable…just my two cents ☺

Silicone Zone Baking Mat

Silicone-Zone-Blossom-Baking-Mat-300x300 for $15.00
I’m crazy for silpat mats and use them regularly for cookie baking. They have come a long way in style recently. These 11 x 17 non-stick (no more greasing the pans needed and super easy cleanup too!), also serve as a handy guide for spacing cookie dough and look a bit better than the earlier versions. The mat is oven-safe, dishwasher, freezer and microwave safe too.

Available at lecookeryusa.com

Too busy to bake?

Try these semi-homemade recipes and save some time and still wow your guests.

Sometimes, just sometimes, even the most gourmet cooks must take a break. For some, that means going out to eat at a restaurant or refraining from having guests for a week or two. But for others it means taking a short cut and making items that cheat a little. You know, like Duck Sauce Chicken, or Good Seasons Italian Dressing or store bought dessert. This week, I have a few cheater cookie recipes for you that will remain in your repertoire whether you have all the time in the world or just a few short minutes to pull something together. The cookies taste like they are from scratch but each starts with a little help from a cake mix. Don’t throw tomatoes at me for sharing these with all of you proud cooks! Just try them and then you will appreciate it and use the extra time for other things you enjoy.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies
Luscious Lemon Cookies
Chocolate Raspberry Bars with Almonds and Icing
Anything in The Pantry Cookies

Anything In the Pantry Cookies

Brown-Butter-Pretzel-MM-Cookies-23

Makes 3 dozen

1 box cake mix (I use yellow), any flavor
8 ounces pareve or dairy cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons margarine, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips, or other chips or nuts or dried fruit (or coconut, butterscotch chips, M&M’s, pretzels, or anything crunchy and yummy for cookies)

2 cups chocolate chips, or other chips or nuts or dried fruit (or coconut, butterscotch chips, M&M’s, pretzels, or anything crunchy and yummy for cookies)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixer beat cream cheese and margarine until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; mix until well blended. Stir in cake mix a little at a time until it’s all blended and then add any chips, candy or nuts, as you like.
Spoon large tablespoons full of dough onto cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until edges are brown.

Luscious Lemon Cookies

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Makes 3 dozen

1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest (zest from about 1 lemon)
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil, lemon extract and lemon zest until well blended. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners’ sugar. Roll them around until they’re lightly covered. Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes in the preheated oven. They should look crackled on top and moist in the center.

How to Create a Herb Garden

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Summer fruits, barbeques and fresh herbs, the dynamic and spectacular trio that scream summertime is here. Last week I started on barbeque essentials and marinades (much more to come on that), and seasonal summer fruit and vegetables, are coming soon, so today, I’m sharing a few simple steps and tricks to making an outdoor or indoor herb garden. I love cooking with fresh herbs. They are pungent, fragrant and add tremendous flavor to any dish, from salads, stews, vegetables to even ice cream. They are so easy to grow at home and I love experimenting with different varieties like lemon basil, wild rosemary, and Long Island dill. My basil and rosemary grow wild outside amongst the peonies, petunias, and gerandiums. Here’s a pic.
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The best way to start using fresh herbs is to create a garden of herbs, its beautiful and fragrant. Here is what you need:
- fresh herb plants from the nursery or seeds (select varieties that you like, I suggest, basil, parsley, dill, rosemary, tarragon, sage, cilantro, chives…okay anything you like) MOST grow best in full or partial sun
- container with drainage
- potting soil
- water
- shovel

Select a Container and Provide Drainage
Based on the number of herbs you want to include in the container (plan the tall ones in the back and shorter in the front) and the spacing required, determine the size of the garden’s container. The container needs to have drainage so water won’t collect in the base. Cut or drill a hole in the bottom of the container if it does not have one.

Add Potting Soil
Fill container halfway with potting soil.

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Arrange and Plant
Arrange the plants in a pleasing composition according to their spacing requirements — take into consideration their mature size. Place taller plants in the back and shorter varieties in the front.

Top Off the Container
After all the herbs are in place, fill the rest of the container with potting soil to about an inch below the rim.

Pack Soil
Pack down the potting soil with the back of the shovel or your fingers.

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Water
Water the newly planted herbs liberally.

Label (Optional)
Add labels to your herb garden so you can keep track of what’s growing. Place the container outside in a sunny spot or in the windowsill with direct sunlight coming through.

Cut your herbs and use them in these great recipes:
Corn and Black Bean Salad with Basil Lime Vinaigrette
Chicken Breasts in Rosemary Apricot Sauce
Crunchy Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Coffee Rubbed Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce
Herb Marinated Turkey Roast
Salmon with Green Herbs and Lemon
Lemon Basil Sorbet
Chocolate Rosemary Truffles

Salmon with Green Herbs and Lemon

herbed-salmon
Serves 6

This is an adapted recipe from Ina Garten. The herbs add flavor and the lemon gives it freshness. I added Dijon mustard and lemon zest to her original recipe. I also added the roasted lemons and squeeze the juice over the cooked salmon. Roasted sweet lemon is delicious.

1 (2- to 2 1/2-pound) salmon fillet, skin removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (4 scallions)
1/2 cup minced fresh dill
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, cut in half
1 teaspoon sugar
Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the salmon fillet in an oven-proof dish and season it generously with salt and pepper. Whisk together the Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle the mixture evenly over the salmon. Let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the scallions, dill, and parsley. Scatter the herb mixture over the salmon fillet. Sprinkle the lemon zest all over the herbs. Pour the wine around the fish fillet. Dip the cut lemon (each half) in the sugar. Place in the pan next to the fish.

Roast the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes, until almost cooked in the center at the thickest part. The center will be firm with just a line of uncooked salmon in the very center. (I peek by inserting the tip of a small knife.) Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Cut the salmon crosswise into serving pieces and serve hot with squeezed sugared lemon on top.

Lemon Basil Sorbet

Lemon-Basil-Sorbet1
Makes 2 cups

2-1/2
 cups water
2 
cups granulated sugar
3
 lemons, rind peeled into long strips
1
 cup packed fresh basil leaves
5
 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine water, sugar and lemon rind. Bring to a boil over high, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; add basil leaves. Set aside until cool, about 30 minutes. Strain lemon-basil syrup; discard solids. Stir in lemon juice. Pour syrup into an ice cream maker; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions

Chocolate Rosemary Truffles

rosemary_chocolate_truffles

Makes 12 servings

1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1/4 cup almond butter (creamy roasted)
1/4 cup agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (minced)

In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, coconut oil, margarine, almond butter, and agave nectar.
Stir ingredients until well combined
Place bowl in freezer for 10-15 minutes until chocolate reaches cold, firm consistency
Remove from freezer and roll into 1 inch balls
Place walnuts and rosemary in a bowl and roll each truffle in mixture to coat
Serve
Be sure to store in refrigerator.

Grill Daddy Pro, Best Grill Cleaner

bbq
Perfect for Dad on Father’s Day, Grill Daddy Pro, Best Grill Cleaner

Just add water to the handle, turn it on and the heat from the grill creates steam that cleans the grill grates in seconds. No more scrubbing and scraping. The stainless steel brush is safe on hot grills and this tool has made grilling and grill clean up so quick and easy. I’ve been bringing it to all BBQ’s and it’s a big hit.

Amazon.com has the best price, at $15.99, it’s a great gift for dad or for anyone who likes to grill.