A Birthday Wish & Dinner Around the World

just a sliver

just a sliver

When it comes to our children isn’t there just one wish when the candles are blown out? Just one toast when the glass is raised? Just one blessing as hands fold in prayer? “To a long, happy and healthy life.” If you are a parent, that’s it.

Wedding Day photo by Campli Photography

Wedding Day photo by Campli Photography

This week we raised a glass or two to Sam and celebrated him with a most delicious birthday dinner. Sam is a real good egg. He has brought great joy to our family, not only because he loves my daughter, but also because he encourages what I like to call “my crazy”. He’s fun and just goes with the flow with any goofy thing I want to do. He also likes my cooking and that makes me very happy. He is willing to try anything including my foodie experiments, so I gave him a little culinary trip around the world in honor of his 29th! Here is the menu:

Mediterranean 7-layer dip

Mediterranean 7-layer dip with pita chips

Then……

Asian short ribs with shitakes, pickled daikon/carrot, golden Carolia rice and haricot vert

Asian beef short ribs with shitakes, pickled daikon/carrot, golden Carolina rice and haricot vert

Bring on the birthday candles……and my award winning Peanut Butter Turtle Torte. Sam loves chocolate and peanut butter, so this was an easy choice .

Happy birthday dear Sam and many, many more

Happy birthday dear Sam and many, many more

In 2005 I became a finalist in the Southern Living Recipe Contest with this heavenly rich dessert. While I wished to be the grand champion that day some things in life don’t turn out as planned. Still we pick ourselves up and keep going. We adapt. I have changed up the recipe a bit because my original version had such a thick layer of chocolate on the bottom that it was tough to cut through. For ease of cutting warm up your knife by dipping it in a glass of hot tap water and then wipe it dry before slicing.

the layering of ingredients

the layering of ingredients

Peanut Butter Turtle Torte

18 chocolate wafers finely crushed

3 tablespoons butter, melted, divided

16 chocolate wafers

4 ounces chopped dark or semisweet chocolate

1¾ cups whipping cream

1 cup halved pecans toasted

1/3 cup caramel topping

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

1-cup creamy peanut butter

1 1/4  cups confectioners’ sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

Combine crushed chocolate cookies and 2 tablespoons melted butter; press mixture on bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Stand 16 cookies around edge of pan, slightly overlapping and pressing into crumb mixture on bottom of pan. Bake chocolate cookie crust at 350″ for 5 minutes; cool. Stir together chocolate, 1/4 cup whipping cream, and 1 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove 2 tablespoons chocolate mixture, and place in a small zip-top plastic bag (or squeeze bottle). Pour remaining chocolate mixture evenly over cookie crust in pan. Arrange pecans in an even layer on chocolate layer in pan. Spread butterscotch-caramel topping evenly over pecans, starting from center, leaving a 1-inch border around outer edge of crust. (Be sure to leave this border; if not, the caramel will ooze out of the torte.) Beat cream cheese, peanut butter, confectioners sugar and vanilla at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Decrease speed to low, and gradually add remaining 1 1/2 cups cream. When cream is incorporated increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute or until mixture is thick and creamy. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over caramel layer. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of chocolate-filled zip-top plastic bag, and drizzle chocolate over mixture in pan. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving remove pan sides. For easy slicing use a warm knife.

looks like me, doesn't it?

looks like me, doesn’t it? Sam thought so!

American Sniper & Shooters

liberty allows you to garnish these beauties any way your heart desires

liberty allows you to garnish these beauties any way your heart desires

And the Oscar goes to: Clint Eastwood (love him), Bradley Cooper (love him) and American Sniper (loved it)! Bet you are not surprised considering I am the proud mom of a US Navy Corpsman who was attached to a scout sniper platoon. Many of my family members were surprised I went to see the movie and asked, “Did you cry?” No tears. In fact, I left the theater feeling more proud than ever and thankful for men like my son and Chris Kyle.

making dinner in the dirt

making dinner in the dirt

Truthfully, I was hoping the movie would provide some clarity as to why William chose to extend his stay in the military. Why do the scout sniper training and why deploy again? What makes a man want to go back to a place where he is fired upon and where he risks being blown up? When your military obligation is complete why not come home?

the seat William was sitting in when this vehicle triggered an IED (improvised explosive device)

the seat William was sitting in when this vehicle triggered an IED (improvised explosive device)

These men have some kind of higher calling to defend and protect our freedom and there is no fighting that. They have a job to do and for whatever the reasons their job isn’t finished until they say so. What is sad is that these marines, sailors and soldiers can go through all of that terror only to come home to the good old USA and die in some inexplicable way. We need to take better care of our veterans. American Sniper, the movie, makes that perfectly clear.

on patrol

on patrol in Afghanistan

potato leek soup shooters

thank a Vet for your liberty to call this soup whatever you want

I really do hope the movie wins some awards, but in the meantime I have a winner of a recipe for you to try. It comes from my sweet friend, Mary. Mary was the first neighbor to greet us when we arrived in our new home. She always comes bearing delicious homemade gifts and this soup is no exception. I have adapted it only slightly from the cookbook, The Governor’s Table. A lady named Roma Reuther is credited as contributing the recipe to the book.

4 leeks

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

3 medium potatoes, peeled, sliced

3 cups chicken broth

1 ½ teaspoons salt

white pepper to taste

2 tablespoons flour or 1 tablespoon cornstarch

1-quart skim milk, divided

Garnishes: finely chopped chives, crisp cooked bacon, shredded cheddar cheese.

Trim leek roots and trim tops leaving about 2 1/2-inches of green. Cut a cross through root end and thoroughly wash removing any sand/dirt. Slice leeks finely. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add leeks and onion, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and taking on a golden color. Add potatoes, broth, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Puree in a blender or food processor; return to pot. Whisk flour or cornstarch with ½ cup of milk. Add to pot with remaining milk, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Strain soup through a fine sieve to insure a super smooth texture, if desired. Soup can be served warm or chilled topped with garnishes. Serves 6 or many more as shooters. To easily fill shot glasses pour soup from a measuring cup or other vessel with a spout.

Remind Me & Red Miso Marinated Steak

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

Losing you

Reminds me

Don’t wait

For a holiday

To tell someone

You love them

I love you always and forever

I love you always and forever

I will also remind you that you don’t need one more chocolate recipe this week. The truth is what your Valentine really wants is a delicious “sizzling hot” steak. Nothing says, “I love you” like a juicy piece of beef with beautiful grill marks. A porterhouse is the perfect steak for sharing with your sweetheart. It includes both a large t-bone (for him) and a smaller tenderloin filet(for her)…at least that’s how we do it.

miso marinated porterhouse steak

miso marinated porterhouse steak

You will find red miso paste in the refrigerated section of your local Asian market or Whole Foods store. The miso penetrates the meat and gives it that luxurious “aged” quality usually found in high end steak houses. Hope you love it! It sure beats chocolate.

you know you want it

you know you want it

Red Miso Marinated Steak

¼ cup red miso paste

¼ cup mirin

3 tablespoons sake or dry sherry

2 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Porterhouse steak is my favorite but any steak will work

Place steaks in a zippered plastic bag. In bowl, whisk miso, mirin, sugar, sake, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and pepper; pour the marinade over steaks. Seal bag and marinate steak at room temperature for 30 minutes or as long as 2 days in the refrigerator. Remove steaks from marinade; blot dry with paper towels. Grill or broil, turning, to desired doneness.