Friday, September 25, 2020

Mexican Hot Chocolate Muffins

Hot from the oven and bursting with chocolate and warm spices these Mexican Hot Chocolate Muffins will have you easing in to Fall!

Sometime I feel like the world is going crazy.  We have fires all around us here.  You can smell the smoke in the air and the sky looks pink/orange.  We had a heat wave a week ago where we reached a new record of 121 degrees.  All in the middle of a pandemic.  What more could happen?  Oh I know....we had an earthquake too!

Regardless of all that is going on I'm still baking on the weekends, and the weather is definitely changing as the nights are much cooler and the leaves are starting to fall.  Looks like our Indian summer may not last this year as Fall is on it's way.  To get in the mood I made you some muffins!


Not just any plain old muffins, ones that remind me of cozy nights and something warm to drink.  One of my favorite drinks is Mexican Hot Chocolate.  I just love the feeling you get when you drink it.  all the warmth from the spices and the wonderful chocolate. Yum!  So I decided to put those flavors in a muffin.  These will not disappoint!  

Pull these bad boys straight out of the oven and dig in!  They are filled with chocolaty goodness, vanilla, cinnamon and a hint of heat from some cayenne pepper.  You will need 100% unsweetened cocoa, good cinnamon, and pure vanilla extract or Mexican vanilla extract for more depth of flavor.  I chose cayenne pepper instead of the usual chili powder as I wanted to add a touch of heat, just so you feel it on your lips after you take a big bite.  It's not too much, very little in fact, but you can leave this out if you would like.  The recipe can be easily doubled which you may consider doing because these babies will go fast!

Enjoy a touch of Fall!

Items I used to make these muffins:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Muffins

Yield: 6 muffins

1 egg
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract (or Mexican vanilla extract)
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl add the egg, milk and canola oil and whisk until light. Add in all the dry ingredients. Mix batter just until incorporated. Do not over mix. Batter should be thick.  

Using a large ice cream scoop, divide batter among the wells of a muffin pan sprayed with cooking spray. 

Bake for 18-20 minutes until tops are puffed and you don't see any wet areas. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Shaved Summer Squash Salad

Ribbons of squash laced with a lemon basil vinaigrette sit atop a jazzed up Greek yogurt to make one of the lightest summer salads around!

We're still late summer eating around here but there is a definite change in the air.  The days are warm and the nights are now getting cool.  Autumn is on it's way.

While we can, we are still enjoying summer's bounty of produce and eating light and healthy.  Today's dish can definitely qualify as part of the Mediterranean diet and is very healthy, yet full of flavor.  Today we are serving up a light salad.  One that's part salad, and one that's part dip.  This combination is equally stunning and unique and one that you are sure to enjoy!


Ribbons of zucchini and summer squash are the star of the dish and are laced in a delicate lemon basil vinaigrette.  The base of the salad is Greek yogurt that is jazzed up with garlic and lemon juice and thinned out with some heavenly olive oil to make this a more spreadable base that serves as a dip for the squash.  The squash salad is piled high on the yogurt and topped with some chopped almonds for crunch and red pepper flakes for a little heat.  This is one winner of a salad!

This dish goes perfectly with my Paprika Potato and Tomato Tarts for a light dinner or lunch.  You could also serve this as a side dish with any grilled chicken, beef, pork or fish.  It's a versatile dish that is light and fresh and utterly scrumptious.


Shaved Summer Squash Salad

serves 6-8

1 lb zucchini, ends trimmed
1 lb yellow summer squash, end trimmed
3 tsp salt, divided
5 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup toasted almonds, rough chopped
Garnish: fresh basil leaves, crushed red pepper flakes

Use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler or a mandoline to shave zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise into very thin ribbons.  Place them in a colander and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Toss to coast and allow to stand for 10 minutes to pull out any excess moisture in the squash.  Rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.

In a large bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, the chopped basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add zucchini and squash and toss to combine.  

In a medium bowl mix together the yogurt, garlic, 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Using the back of a large spoon spread the yogurt onto a serving platter.  Arrange the squash mixture (draining of any excess moisture) over the yogurt.  Top with chopped almonds.  Garnish with basil leaves and red pepper flakes if desired.  Serve immediately.

source:  Entertain & Celebrate Summer 2020


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Late Summer Tomatoes: Paprika Potato and Tomato Tarts

Puff pastry slathered with an herby cheese, topped with potatoes, tomatoes, and shallots, spiced just right and baked until golden and flaky. Yum!

We've have wonderful summer tomatoes this year and I've been using them in so many dishes this summer such as Tomato Avocado & Grilled Corn Salad, Simple Mediterranean Salad, or even my Green Bean, Chicken & Tomato Stir Fry.  Tomato Pie is a long standing southern dish that is completely scrumptious with fresh summer tomatoes, and today's recipe is a variation of that.  Here's a way to use some of those sweet dainty grape tomatoes while creating a light vegetarian dish that can be a main entree or served as a side dish.


I served this as a light dinner along with a squash salad (recipe coming soon) since we've been having so much heat.  While this does require the oven, the amount of time to cook is relatively short which helped to keep the heat in the kitchen down.  

Light puff pastry is slathered with an herby delicate cheese and topped with thinly sliced potatoes, tomatoes, and shallots, spiced just right and baked until golden and flaky.  

Look how elegant these look!  They are really easy to put together and turn out wonderfully delicious.  They have such an outstanding presence they will make a splash when serving to family or guests.  Cut these into even smaller squares and enjoy as an appetizer at a cocktail party.  They are certainly versitile.

I hope you will enjoy these, they are quite a treat!


KITCHEN TIP:  Use a mandoline to get wonderful thin sliced potatoes.  Be sure to use a guard or a cut resistant glove to keep your finders safe!  I use this one.  

Paprika Potato and Tomato Tarts

Makes 6 servings

1/2 pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/3 c. Boursin garlic and fine herbs cheese
1/4 lb small gold potatoes, but into very thin round slices
1 1/2 tsp thyme
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
6-8 grape tomatoes
1/2 shallot, thinly slice lengthwise
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Dust a service area lightly with flour and unfold the puff pastry.  Cut the pastry into 6 equal rectangles by cutting one horizontally down the middle, and then vertically cutting 1/3 of the way and then 2/3 of the length.  Score each of the rectangles along the edge to make a 1/2" border.  Do not cut completely through the dough.  Transfer the squares to a sheetpan.  Using an offset spatula divide the cheese among the rectangles, spreading with the scored border. 

In a medium bowl toss the potatoes, thyme, oil salt, and paprika together to coat.  Place potatoes over the cheese on the pastry.  Using a serrated knife cut the grape tomatoes into thirds lengthwise.  Arrange over the tomatoes.  Top with shallots.  Use a pastry brush to brush the borders with the egg wash.

Bake until pasty is golden brown and potatoes are tender, 15 - 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Summer Fresh Recipe Series: Tangerine Salad

A light, crisp, and fresh Tangerine Salad that's perfect to enjoy during the end of summer days.

Well it's been quite a summer and I made it to my 20th installment of my Summer Fresh Recipe Series where we talk about quick and easy meals that use summer's fresh produce.  Today I'm bringing you a wonderful fresh salad and it goes perfect with my last post of the Italian Layered Picnic Sandwich, as well as about anything else as a main dish.

Today's recipe is all about using fresh greens along with citrus to make a light summer salad.  Green leaf lettuce, green onions, and tangerines are mixed and topped with almonds for crunch, then doused with a light cider vinaigrette for a salad that is perfection!

I have a thing about tangerines in salads.  They remind me of my favorite salad growing up, which was a Chinese Chicken Salad.  There is something about little juicy tangerines that just make the salad special to me.  The sweetness of the tangerines lend a light and bright feeling to the salad and provide a wonderful pop of flavor.  No wonder I keep a can of mandarin oranges or tangerines in my pantry at all times!

You really will enjoy this salad.  It's light, crisp, and fresh and perfect to enjoy in the warm summer months.  A few more post to come with some end of summer favorites so stayed tuned.


Summer Fresh Recipe Series

Tangerine Salad

serves 6

1 11 oz. can of mandarin oranges or tangerines, drained
6 cups of green leaf lettuce
3 green onions, sliced, dark and light green parts only
1/2 cup almonds, rough chopped
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

On a large platter place lettuce and top with green onions, and tangerines.  Sprinkle with almonds.  In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper.  Pour over salad and toss to coat.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Summer Fresh Recipe Series: Italian Layered Picnic Sandwich

This BIG sandwich is layered with all sorts of flavor bursting ingredients making for one heck of a meal!

Here's something light and easy that requires no cooking for my 19th installment of my Summer Fresh Recipe Series.  We're making sandwiches!

Inspired by a sandwich we had down in Santa Monica at the famous "Bay Cities Italian Deli" this huge sandwich is layered to the brim with all kinds of goodies.  You can't beat a good sandwich for a light supper, lunchtime, picnic, or as a potluck item.  This sandwich is my variation of an Italian layered submarine sandwich and it is packed with flavor!

Using an uncut loaf of French bread as the starting point, you can make this sandwich ahead and take it along with you, then cut it as you serve.  Perfect for a block party or a small family reunion.  We made this one hot summer evening when it was even too hot to grill outside.  I served this with a wonderful Tangerine Salad (recipe coming) and it made a wonderful dinner.

The layers include salami, mortadella, turkey, and even chicken deli meats.  The addition of fresh basil, marinated artichokes, spinach, fresh mozzarella, and onion all add tremendous flavor and take this sandwich to new heights!  

Kids as well as adults will all love this sandwich, and the best part is there is NO COOKING involved! Gotta love that when it's even too hot to grill. So go pick up a fresh loaf of french bread, some deli items and sit back and relax with a big filing slice of heaven.


Summer Fresh Recipe Series

Italian Layered Picnic Sandwich

serves: 8-10 depending on the size of the loaf

1 un-sliced loaf of French Bread
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 lb cotto or hard salami, thinly sliced
6 slices fresh mozzarella
8-10 fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 lb mortadella
1 6 1/2 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered if whole
spinach greens
1/4 lb turkey slices
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 lb chicken slices
kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Cut loaf in half horizontally.  Pull out some of the bread filling from the tops and bottoms.  Combine the olive oil and the garlic in a small bowl.  Brush tops and bottoms with oil mixture.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  

Layer bottom loaf with 1/2 of each:  salami, mozarella, basil, tomatoes, mortadella, artichokes, spinach, turkey onion and chicken.  Repeat layers.  Season with salt & pepper.  Place bread tops on top.  Slice into good sized wedges.  Serve.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Summer Fresh Recipe Series: Spicy Grilled Eggplant

Grilled eggplant graced with just the perfect amount of lime and spicy heat makes this a side dish that's hard to resist.

Well it's September and we're having a heat wave in Los Angeles, breaking temperature records all over the place.  It was 118 degrees yesterday so it's safe to say that summer's not over by a long shot.  So we are grilling out hearts out trying to keep the meals simple and the house cool.

Labor day is tomorrow and today's recipe is a wonderful summer side dish.  As my 18th installment of my Summer Fresh Recipe Series (which is soon coming to a close), this features eggplant as the star of the dish.   Eggplant is a great vegetable that can be cooked in a variety of ways.  Today we are prepping it with a spicy rub and grilling it for outstanding flavor!

This would be the perfect side dish for any grilled meat, and would go great with the Grilled Ranch Chicken Burgers for a nice Labor day cookout.  Eggplants are perfect for grilling.  Their skin becomes soft once cooked and the flesh inside is meaty and tender.  We used lime juice and Cajun seasoning which adds the right amount of flavor and heat. 

You can't beat this as a side dish, one that everyone will be choosing over all the others.


Summer Fresh Recipe Series

Spicy Grilled Eggplant

serves 8

1 large or 2 small eggplants, cut into 1/2" rounds
1/4 c olive oil
2 Tbsp lime juice
3 tsp Cajun seasoning

Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil.  Drizzle with lime juice and sprinkle on the Cajun seasoning. Grill over medium high heat for 4-5 minutes per side.

source:  Taste of Home American Summer Cookbook

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Labor Day Bash: Grilled Ranch Chicken Burgers

Hot off the grill, juicy chicken burgers filled with zesty ranch, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and Worcestershire sauce. Man, these burgers are good! 

Can you believe that it is September already?  Where did the month of August go?  But this brings us to another holiday and Labor Day is approaching quickly.  Let's get that grill out and make something scrumptious to eat!

Burgers and hot dogs are standard but let's amp it up a bit and try a variation on a burger.  We're going to make Grilled Ranch Chicken Burgers!  Who doesn't love ranch dressing on salads or as a dip?  So believe me when I say that it doesn't disappoint in this this burger either!


I'm a beef burger lover and MGG loves his turkey burgers, but today we decided to mix it up and make a burger using ground chicken.  Yes, they make great burgers too, but they do tend to be a bit bland and a little dry.  To correct that I added some flavor pops to the mix such as garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan cheese, and ranch dressing!  Yum Yum! These Grilled Ranch Chicken Burgers are bursting with flavor. 

These burgers are so easy to customize as well.  Not only do I use ranch dressing in the patty but I also use it as a spread on the bun.  Double the flavor!  


Grilled Ranch Chicken Burgers

serves 4

1 lb ground chicken
1/4 c ranch dressing
1/4 c panko bread crumbs
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp.  Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 hamburger buns, split 

In a medium bowl add the ground chicken and the next 7 ingredients (through the black pepper).  Gently and lightly mix to combine.  Do not handle the meat too much.  Divide in to 4 sections and form 4 patties.  Place on a tray.  Brush olive oil on each patty, both side.  Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up.

Grill burgers over medium heat 5-6 minutes per side, turning once until meat is cooked through.   Grill buns to toast.  Serve on buns with desired toppings.


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