Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ras El Hanout Lentil Soup













Ras El Hanout Lentil Soup

A couple of weekends ago while visiting my son up at the University, I found at a local store an aromatic spice blend called Ras El Hanout.  I never heard of Ras El Hanout before until I read the recipe for “Fatima’s Lentils with Spiced Cured Pork Shoulder” at one of my favorite food blogs called Cooking in Sens.  I did a bit of poking around the web and found that Ras El Hanout is of North African origin (Moroccan) and literally means “top of the shop”.  I also learned that there are hundreds of variations of Ras El Hanout and there is really no one original recipe.  The Ras El Hanout that I purchased is a blend of ginger, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, nutmeg, allspice and cloves.  I am fairly confident that it wont take me long to figure out how to make a similar spice mix myself for use at a later date…

A couple of months back I promised my son I would post recipes using a slow cooker.  If you don’t already know, using a slow cooker for meal preparation is perfect for busy college students.  Just toss in the ingredients, turn on low, go study, come back about 7 hours later and dish up.  My son G (that really is his nickname) loves Indian and Asian inspired dishes and I am sure that he will like this simple recipe.   This easy slow cooker soup is made with lentils, carrots, onion, celery, tomatoes, garlic, chicken stock and the wonderfully exotic Ras El Hanout spice blend.   Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1 cup dried lentils (picked over and washed well)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (12.5 ounce)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbls. Ras El Hanout
  • 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

Begin by picking over and washing the lentils well.  Place all ingredients in the slow cooker.  Put on low for 7-8 hours or 4 hours on high.  Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve with your favorite naan or flat bread.  Makes about 2 quarts soup.

Herb Rolls













Herb Rolls

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year.  It is without a doubt the perfect excuse to spend quality time with family and friends.  This year were invited to spend the Thanksgiving holiday at my brother in law’s parents home.  We always love going to Jim and Kathy’s house.  It seems like nearly everyone in the house is an amazing cook and it’s always fun to see what dishes others have to contribute.  This year we had both turkey and ham, stuffing, potatoes, yams, ginger carrots, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, chicken livers, bruschetta, pumpkin pies, apple pie, cookies, whipped cream, cheeses, and so much more.  Their house is noisy with dishes clanking, champagne bottles popping, people laughing and the sound of football on the TV.  There was so much food that I think I gained 5 pounds yesterday…

One of my contributions to this year’s  great feast was my fresh baked herb rolls.  I’ve been making these savory little herb rolls for nearly 25 years.  I’ve baked them for countless holiday dinners and it’s to the point that no dinner is quite complete without them.  What makes these rolls so special is that I like to use fresh herbs snipped directly from my garden.  I have planted rosemary, parsley and chives next to the back door specifically for this purpose.  I would love to take complete credit for this fabulous recipe but I can’t.   This recipe was originally adapted from my Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook.


4 1/2 cups flour
1/3 c. baking sugar
2 packages quick rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. nonfat milk
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
2 eggs
1/4 c. finely chopped mixed herbs  (parsley, rosemary and chives)

1 egg beaten with 1 Tbls. nonfat milk for the glaze

In a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl, add your sugar, yeast, salt and 1 1/2 c. flour.  Put the milk and butter in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave about 1 minute until milk is very warm and butter is melted.   Add the milk and butter to mixing bowl.  Using a dough hook on your mixer, slowly mix for about 3 minutes, meanwhile scraping the side of the bowl.  Add another 1/2 c. of flour and the eggs.  Keep mixing for about 2 more minutes.  Add the remaining flour.  Mix for another 8 minutes or until the dough is mixed well and elastic.

On a lightly floured surface add the dough from the bowl.   Flatten dough with your hands and knead the fresh herbs into the dough for about 2 more minutes.  Turn the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.  Punch down the dough and let rest for about 10 – 15 minutes.  Separate dough into 24 even sized pieces (1 1/2 ounces each).  Roll into balls.  Place on silpat lined or greased cookie sheet and cover with a cloth.  Let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Uncover the rolls and brush with the egg glaze.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden.  When the herb rolls are done, pull from oven and let cool for a bit on wire racks.  Serve warm with fresh cream butter.  Makes about 24 herb gems.

Persimmon Cookies

 Persimmon Cookies

Fall in Southern Oregon brings a bounty of locally grown fruits and vegetables.  Yesterday, when I stopped at one of my favorite produce stands, I found some gorgeous hachiya persimmons.  Hachiya persimmons are fist sized heart shaped fruits that have a beautiful deep orange color.  You have to know that in my opinion, persimmons don’t get a lot of credit and are often overlooked by those who don’t know what they are or how to use them.

Hachiya persimmons must be fully ripened before you consume them.  With this fruit, fully ripe means seriously mushy.  Whenever I get a bunch of unripe persimmons, I prefer to set them on the kitchen counter and use them as they ripen naturally or as I just learned today, toss the unripe persimmons in the freezer and use them the very next day.  I obtained that helpful hint from an elderly produce man who obviously spent his entire career working with fruits and vegetables.  Pretty smart eh?













Hachiya Persimmons

My recipe for Persimmon Cookies was handed down to me from my Aunt Eunice.  I gotta tell you, Eunice was such a character.  She never learned to drive a car, loved to wear bright pumpkin colored lipstick,  and walked everywhere she needed to go.  As long as I knew her she always had an orange cat and no matter how many cats she had, the cat was always named Lucky.  She had at least 3 cats named Lucky that I knew of in my lifetime…

Aunt Eunice’s original persimmon cookie recipe included 1 cup of raisins and 1 up of walnuts. However, I changed up the recipe a bit, eliminated the raisins and walnuts, and added sweet dried Oregon cranberries.  I never did care for raisins and I am unfortunately allergic to the walnuts.   Add them if you like, especially if you want to get the flavor of the original recipe.

If you have access to hachiya persimmons, without a doubt you gotta make these cookies.  They are moist, cakey and have a wonderful spiciness to them.  Thank you Aunt Eunice!  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1 cup persimmon pulp or puree
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • or omit the cranberries and add 1 cup each of raisins and walnuts for the taste of the original recipe.

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixing bowl cream together the persimmon pulp, sugar, egg and shortening.  In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.  Add the vanilla extract and cranberries until well blended.  Drop by teaspoon or using a small cookie scoop on a silicone lined or greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden.  Remove from cookie sheet and let cool on a wire rack.  Store tightly covered.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Pepita Basil Pesto













Pepita Basil Pesto

I don’t know about you but I hate food allergies.  I love to cook and try new foods but I always have to ask the question “Are there any nuts in that?”  Unfortunately, I found out the hard way about ten years ago that I am allergic to tree nuts.  You can only imagine my reaction to the bad news. I thought to myself really?  You mean I got to carry around an EpiPen?  Seriously? Tree nuts?  For those who may not know exactly what tree nuts are they include nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamias, brazil nuts, and the list goes on.  Fortunately, I can still eat peanuts (they don’t grow on trees, but, I still have to be careful!).  Anyone who has a food allergy or has a friend or family member who has one knows exactly what I am talking about.  You learn quickly that when you have a food allergy your scope of food choices just got severely limited.

Well, in the meantime, I ain’t dead yet and I have learned to adapt.  For the past several years I have worked on creating some of my favorite recipes using pepitas as a nut substitute.  Pepitas are little green pumpkin seeds that are similar to nuts in texture and crunch.  I love to use them in my pesto.  My Pepita Basil Pesto is a vibrant green basil pesto with olive oil, garlic, fresh shaved Parmesan cheese and crunchy little pepitas.  Use it as you would use any pesto. Put it on crostini, toss it in some pasta, or spread it on a sandwich.  Make this Pepita Basil Pesto and you will change your pesto making ways.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shelled unsalted pepitas
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Let’s begin by washing the fresh basil leaves, removing stems and flower buds. Lightly pack into 2 cups.  Add the olive oil, pepitas, garlic, lemon juice and salt to food processor. Blend until it is a thick paste, scraping sides of processor with a spatula.  Add basil leaves and parmesan cheese.  Blend until basil is well incorporated.  Keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator.  Can be frozen.  Makes about one cup.




Who doesn’t love a Snickerdoodle?  Snickerdoodles are easy to make cookies that are delicately sweet, light and buttery, and with just the right amount of spicy cinnamon.   Not to mention that a batch of these tasty cookies make the BEST thank you gift ever.  These Snickerdoodles were baked as a big thank you to a coworker who so generously offered to share his office space with a person from my department.  Thanks again Bob, I hope that you enjoyed the cookies! – Tessa


  • 2 3/4 cups white flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt (I like pink Himalayan salt)
  • 1 cup salted butter (room temp)
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbls. turbinado (coarse) sugar
  • 1 Tbls white sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of coarse salt

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size mixing bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for about a minute more.   Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients until well mixed.

In a small bowl, mix together the turbinado sugar, white sugar, cinnamon and a big pinch of the coarse salt.  Using a cookie scoop, shape dough into 48 – one inch balls.  Roll each ball in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Place on a parchment paper or silicone mat lined cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool on a wire rack, and enjoy!  Makes 48 cookies.


Blackberry Blondies













Blackberry Blondies

Sunday is the day that I put together care packages to send up to my son who is away at college.  I always like to bake him cookies, and pack them along with items that I know that he will need while up at school.  Today, I made him a box of goodies that are very reminiscent of home.  Blondies baked with fresh Oregon blackberries…

Here in the valleys of Southern Oregon we have blackberry bushes growing all over the place.  They are found growing on roadsides, along the banks of creeks, and even in the middle of town right next to the freeway.  Some people consider them a noxious weed, but I think otherwise and consider them a gift.  I adore the sweet succulent blackberries and decided to bake them in one of my favorite blondie recipes.

The toughest part about baking these Blackberry Blondies is that I have to figure out just how many of these I will send up to G and how many I will keep here at home.  Enjoy!  Tessa


  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten lightly)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped blackberries

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.  Grab a medium sized mixing bowl and mix together the butter and brown sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together the baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Fold in the white chocolate chips.  Gently fold in the blackberries.  Be careful to not over mix the blackberries.  If you do, you won’t have blondies, you will be purplies…

Place in pan, and spread batter evenly.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool and slice into 16 – 2 inch squares.  Enjoy!



Chicken Pot Pie with Blue Cheese and Havarti













I don’t know where the time has gone…  It’s been over a week since my last post and that’s not like me.  Well, I have been under a rock lately, and it was about time that I got back in my kitchen.  It’s been a week of frozen meals and takeout dinners and I am sick of it.  I am seriously done with that.

I am happy to be back and in celebration of being back in my kitchen I cooked up this yummy treat.  It’s a Chicken Pot Pie with Blue Cheese and Havarti.  It’s a twist on a traditional chicken pot pie that is stuffed with tender chicken, sautéed carrots, onions and celery with a creamy blue cheese bechamel and buttery havarti cheese.  I even made the pie crust from scratch.  It’s good, it’s homey, it’s rich and it’s delish!  Enjoy!  Tessa


  •  4 1/2 cups cooked chicken (cubed)
  • 1 1/2 cups celery (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups onion (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots (chopped)
  • 1 Tbls. butter
  • 3 cups blue cheese bechamel  sauce (see recipe below)
  • 6 ounces havarti cheese (shredded)
  • 1 egg (beaten with a bit of water)
  • pie dough for 2 pie crusts (see recipe below)

Begin by cubing up your cooked chicken and set aside.  Buy one of those precooked chickens from the deli or store if you don’t have time to cook your own.   Chop up your vegetables and set aside.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Grab 6 oval shaped casseroles and spray with non stick spray.

In a saute pan add your butter, celery, onion, carrot, and a pinch of salt.   Cook until the onions are opaque and the carrots are barely tender.  Remove from heat.  Add your cooked chicken and cooked vegetables to the oval casserole dishes.  Add 1/2 cup of the blue cheese bechamel to each casserole.  Add your havarti cheese.

Divide your 2 pie crusts into 6 pieces.  Roll out on a floured board, pie crusts large enough to cover each casserole.  Use a fork and crimp down the sides.  Put slits in the top of each pie.  Brush with beaten egg, place on foil lined baking sheet and pop into the oven for about 45 minutes or until the tops are a golden brown.  Keep an eye on them and rotate halfway through the baking process.  Lightly cover with foil if it is browning too fast.  Pull from oven, let cool for about 5 minutes and then dig in!  Makes 6 individual casseroles.

Blue Cheese Bechamel

Grab a medium sized sauce pan or saucier.  On medium low heat whisk together 6 Tablespoons of butter and 5 Tablespoons flour.  Cook until it is nearly golden in color.  Add 3 cups milk, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried thyme and 2 ounces blue cheese.  Oh, and add a splash of dry vermouth.  Cook slowly, constantly whisking until it has thickened.  Taste it, you may not need to add salt because of the blue cheese.  Do not over cook.  Remove from heat.

Easy Pie Crust (2 crust pie)

Grab a food processor.  Add two cups all purpose flour, 3/4 cup shortening and 1/2 tsp salt.  Pulse until lightly mixed.  Add 5 – 6 Tablespoons ICE COLD water, one tablespoon at a time.  Lightly pulse until the dough sticks together and forms a ball.  You are done.  Remove from the food processor and wrap in plastic wrap.  Put pie dough in your refrigerator for about a half an hour before rolling.  Makes 2 pie crusts or 6 little crusts for the casseroles.