Pistachio Bars

I'll tell you right off the bat that these are not kid-friendly dessert. I tested on my four kids and they all gave me a polite "It's OK, mom" and that's fine with me, I am happy that they always give whatever I make a try. But Wednesday lunch crowd and I loved these chewy pistachio bars. A flavor of toasted pistachios with tart dried cherries and cranberries were great. And so pretty, don't you think?

Toasting the nuts in oven releases the oil and makes nuts, any nuts more fragrant.

Press the short cake mixture onto the foiled lined pans.

Chop dried cherries and cranberries.

Mix nuts, dried fruit, and coconut with egg and maple syrup mixture.

Spread mixture over cool crust.

After baking drizzle melted white chocolate. Cool before cutting into wedges.

Print This Recipe!

Pistachio Bars
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen bars

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 5 pieces and chilled
1 large egg
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pistachios , toasted and chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 ounces white chocolate , chopped

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 8-inch square baking pan with foil, allowing excess foil to hang over pan edges. Grease foil. Process 1 cup flour and 2 tablespoons sugar in food processor until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and pulse until only pea-sized pieces remain. Press mixture into prepared pan and bake until light golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

2. Whisk egg, syrup, extracts, salt, remaining flour, and remaining sugar in large bowl. Fold in pistachios, cranberries, cherries, and coconut, then spread mixture evenly over cooled crust. Bake until topping is golden and begins to pull away from sides of pan, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.

3. Using foil overhang, lift cookies out of pan. Cut into 2½-inch squares and cut each square diagonally into 2 triangles. Microwave white chocolate in small bowl, stirring occasionally, until melted, 30 to 60 seconds. Put melted chocolate in a zip lock baggie. Cut a small opening in the corner of the bag and drizzle over the bars. Place on wire rack until chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.

Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in air tight containers.


Chocolate Chewies with Chocolate-Mint Glaze

You will absolutely love these Chocolate Chewies with chocolate-mint glaze. The cookies reminded me of Gottlieb's Bakery version, Savannah's well-known and beloved bakery which sadly closed back in 1995. Refreshing mint-chocolate frosting added a wonderful twist to these chewies.

Melt brown sugar, butter, and water in a large sauce pan.

Off the heat, add chocolate chips and stir to melt.

After cooling chocolate mixture for about 10 minutes, add eggs and flour mixture. Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator or freezer until firm.
Shape the dough into golf ball size and place on parchment paper.

Look at those beautiful crackles! The cookies are soft at this point but hardens at they cool.

Chop chocolate bark or milk chocolate chips can be used. Melt the chocolate with a teaspoon of vegetable shortening in double boiler, add Peppermint flavoring.

Put melted minted chocolate in Zip-lock baggie, cut a small opening and use it for a quick drizzle.

Chocolate Chewies with Chocolate-Mint Glaze.......oh, yeah. They were yummy.

Chocolate Chewies with Chocolate-Mint Glaze
Makes about 6 1/2 dozens

3 cups packed brown sugar (21 oz)
1 1/2 cup butter, cubed (12 oz)
5 Tablespoons water
4 Cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (24 oz)
4 Eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour (25 oz)
2 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 oz or more chocolate bark or milk chocolate chips, or more
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
1 Tablespoon Peppermint extract

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, set it aside.

In a large heavy sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, butter, and water in medium heat. Heat and stir until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat; stir in chocolate chips until melted.

Transfer to a large bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes until slightly cooled. With a hand mixer on medium-high speed, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and beating on low until just blended. Do not over beat.

Cover and refrigerate until somewhat firm, about 2 hours, or in freezer for an hour.

Roll the dough into generous 1-inch balls, size of golf balls. Place 3 inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 11-13 minutes, until the edges are set and tops are crackled and puffy.

While the cookies are cooling on the baking sheets, melt chocolate bars in a double boiler with a teaspoon of vegetable shortening. Add peppermint extract. Put melted chocolate in a Ziplock bag to drizzle the melted chocolate, or use a table spoon to drizzle. Let stand 1-2 minutes before moving to wire racks and cool completely before serving.

Make ahead tips:

All dry and other ingredients can be measured and stored until ready to make the dough.

The cookie dough can be made and make into 1-inch balls. Cover well and refrigerate up to 3 days before baking.


Summer Gazpacho

One of my best friends went through a routine surgery several weeks ago, but something terribly went wrong and she slipped into coma for 9 days. It was the most excruciating and agonizing days for her family and all of us who know and love her dearly.

But God heard our cries and answered our fervent prayers and woke my friend up. And we all cried again but with joy and gratitude this time. Several days after waking up, my dear friend was able to eat diced foods and I was so thankful to be able to make something she can enjoy!

Instead of savory tomato soup, I hoped she could taste my love and care. And family and friends are all rejoicing at the great progress she is making each day. Thank You, Lord......

Red bell peppers, cucumber, and ripe tomatoes are coarsely chopped in a food processor. Leave them chunky for texture. I reduced the garlic and onion for my friend.

3 cups of tomato juice....

And just a small dollop of chili garlic sauce to brighten up the flavor.

Print This Recipe!

Summer Gazpacho
Makes 4-6 servings
Adapted from Ina Garten's Recipe

1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
1 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1/4 red onion, more if desired
1 garlic clove, minced, more if desired
23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon or more of Garlic chili sauce
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, garlic chili sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Garnish with sliced cucumbers and serve.


Savannah Tomato Sandwiches

In past 16 years of catering parties and events, I can't tell you how many of these delectable sandwiches I've made; thousands of them? Not sure. But one thing for sure, they are delicious! Simple and so Southern, and they'll brighten up any gathering.

Using a biscuit cutter, about the same diameter as the tomatoes, cut bread rounds. You can use white, wheat, rye, or any types of bread you would like. I usually use white and wheat for color variations. These can be done a few weeks ahead. Put a plastic wrap between each layer to avoid bread rounds sticking, cover well and freeze. **Use the bread remnants for fresh bread crumbs, bread pudding, or my chickens love these as snacks!

A proper Southern lady would never get caught having tomato skin stuck to their teeth, so we are going to take a few extra minutes to take the skins off the tomatoes.

Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Using a paring knife, score "x" on the smooth side of tomatoes. Gently drop the tomatoes in boiling water, be careful of splashing! Blanch tomatoes for 30 seconds or so until you see tomato skin begin to peel. Do not over blanch.

Immediately plunge tomatoes in ice water to stop from cooking. Do you see how the skins are cracked and ready for peeling? The skins should come right off or use the paring knife to peel.

Slice the tomatoes and let drain on several layers of paper towels. Cover and store in fridge until ready to assemble (can be prepped a day head).

Keep bread rounds frozen until ready to assemble. Do not thaw; it is much easier to handle the rounds when assembling. Use extra paper towels and dab extra tomato juice before assembling sandwiches. Plastic storage bag can be used as a piping bag to put sauce on quickly.

Tomato Sandwiches can be made up to three hours ahead. Cover well with plastic wrap so bread rounds won't dry out. So beautiful and delicious!

Savannah Tomato Sandwiches with Basil Aioli
Yields 16 Sandwiches

4 Medium size vine ripe tomatoes
16 Slices of white bread
16 Slices of wheat bread (or other bread slices of your choice)
1 cup Basil Aioli Sauce (see recipe below)

1. Using a biscuit cutter, about the same diameter as the tomatoes, cut bread rounds. Put plastic wrap between layers and store in freezer until ready to assemble.

2. Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Prepare a large bowl of ice water, set it aside. Using a paring knife, score "x" on the smooth side of tomatoes. Gently put tomatoes in boiling water; be careful of splashing hot water! Blanch tomatoes for 30 seconds or so until you see tomato skin begin to peel. Do not over blanch.

3. Using a slotted spoon, take tomatoes out and immediately plunge tomatoes in ice water to stop from cooking. Peel the skin using a paring knife, if necessary.

4. Slice the tomatoes (one tomato yields about 4 nice, thick slices) and let drain on several layers of paper towels. Cover and store in fridge until ready to assemble (can be prepped a day head).

5. When ready to assemble, lay frozen bread rounds, spoon or pipe sauce on, pat excess juice out of tomato slices with paper towels before laying on top of sauce, then top it with second bread round. Finish assembling and cover well with plastic until serving time.

Basil Aioli Sauce:

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream (or softened cream cheese)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon salt, or more

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, season well with salt. Set aside or refrigerate in a plastic storage bag until ready to assemble sandwiches.

Make Ahead Tips:

Up to two weeks prior: Cut bread rounds, cover well and freeze

Up to 3 days prior: Make Basil Aioli, store in zip lock bag, refrigerate

1 Day before: blanch tomatoes, peel skins, slice, cover well and store in refrigerator.

4 hours prior to event: begin assembling sandwiches, cover well with plastic wrap; can be stored in refrigerator or room temperature.


Afternoon Tea at Amy's

Celebration had begun hours before the Live Event with Ms. Paula Deen and RWoP last Thursday for the Philly Ladies. And our ultimate Southern Belle, Amy Hughes hosted the most beautiful Afternoon Tea I have ever attended. Proseco with crystallized hibiscus flowers, anyone? Oh, my! She went all out with the most amazing foods and drinks for us all. Here is just a peek at what we enjoyed at Amy's beautiful home in Isle of Hope.

Iced Emperor's Bride Tea was served in a punch bowl nestled in a boat! Ha, who would have thought. Many thanks to her best friend, Peggy Lee, who did a marvelous job decorating the tables.

Beautiful Shrimp Mold...

Pineapple-Carrot Ginger Cupcakes...

Strawberry Heaven Cream Cheese Cupcakes, Chocolate Cupcakes, Red Velvet Cupcakes...Amy loves to bake, can you tell?

Beautiful veggie crudites with local heirloom vegetables.

Pimento Cheese Sandwiches...

Assorted Greek Olives...

Salmon Cakes with Creamy Dill Sauce.

And THESE! Sushi Stacks with smoked salmon! Aren't these beautiful? And delicious as well.

With all her best silver and crystal out, we truly felt pampered and loved.

Thank you, Amy, for your most gracious hospitality! We are thankful to know you and call you our friends. And hope for many more exciting cooking ventures with you, my new cooking buddy!

To view Amy's recipes on Youtube, click here.


Philly Ladies' Cooking Across America

Georgia Peach Cobbler Bites by Claudia

Happy 4th!! What an incredible privilege we have to live in this wonderful country! As a naturalized citizen of United States, I must tell you, there is no other country like this anywhere in the world!

I have so much to share with you....I don't even know where to start! Last two weeks have been quite crazy with so many fun activities. Many blog posts comin' but here are some photos from Cooking Across America, Savannah! This was organized by Claudia Signal-Leon, an ardent Philly Lady at Real Women of Philadelphia community. I was privileged to be part of this experience to cook with seven other fantastic cooks at Ms. Paula Deen's condo in downtown Savannah. This was a wonderful prelude to attending the RWoP Live Event this past Thursday.

Savannah Tomato Sandwiches with Basil Aioli by Kay

Various Salsas by Amy

Oven Fried Chicken with Garlic Sauce by Coleen

Shrimp and Cheese Grits by Kay

Shrimp Macaroni Salad by Kristin

Peach and Raspberry Melba Stack by Kim

Carrot-Ginger Hoe Cakes by Marty

Kristin's Pecan Encrusted Pork

Kristin's Mandarin Orange Cake

Beautiful Aryen and Amy sampling

Whew....we were so full after tasting all these wonderful dishes!

I was not chosen to be one of the 16 finalists on RWoP casting competition, however, I had the time of my life cooking and getting to know these Philly ladies! Thank you Claudia, Marty, Amy, Kristin, Coleen, Kim, and Aryen, for a fantastic time!

And here is a video clip done by Claudia:

Stay tuned for blog post on a fantastic Afternoon Tea hosted by Amy Hughes.....