Foodie Pen Pals ~ July

It’s the end of the month! You know what that means!!


This month my FABULOUS foodie pen-pal was Amy! Amy lives in a small town in Central California. As a kid, we would drive through her town on our way to my Grandma’s house! It was awesome to know exactly where she lives, because I’ve been there before!

Amy and I exchanged a few emails, sharing a little about our lives but OH.MY.GOSH. Amy completely customized her box. Wait until you see what she sent! Poor Amy said she was nervous because she’d get a “reveal post.” She had NOTHING to worry about! (I hope it doesn’t disappoint you, Amy!) I was completely blown away by the things she sent. I am not kidding, I cried! Then, I called my best foodie friend to tell her all about Amy’s sweet note and all the goodies inside her box.

It’s been all I could do to NOT share RIGHT AWAY! I’m terrible at keeping secrets, but those are the rules! Instead of being a blabber-mouth blogger (yea, minus the one phone call), I decided to cook my way through Amy’s box! Hey, it’s what I do right? A girl has to cook! 🙂 You’ve already seen a few of the goodies Amy sent. Now you know the real source: MY AMAZING FOODIE PEN PAL!!

As Amy wrote on the outside of her box: “If it fits, it ships!” and she made quite a bit fit into one little box!

Check it out: Two different olive oil blends from the town my Dad grew up in: Modesto, California! A bottle of Lemon Olive Oil because there are “lots of lemon recipes on my blog!”

Semolina flour for making pasta! We had such a great time at our pasta class and LOVE making our own pasta and ravioli. This is an AWESOME addition to my pantry! Amy really did her homework on me!

Pumpkin Risotto and Wild Rice! “A baby step on my make risotto mission!” Wild Rice is on our menu this week, so you’ll be seeing that very soon!

Spring Roll Wrappers – because Amy tried the recipe for the ones I posted after our first Raw Class! I LOVE fresh Spring Rolls.

Chicken base! Every good recipe needs a good foundation, right? I don’t know what this will turn into, but I am sure it will be delicious!

Two beautiful dish towels (red, like my hair!!), pie pop molds, a Cutie Pies cookbook and Pie Pop sticks! That’s right, Pie Pops! So excited to make these!! I’ve already made the Peach-Honey-Ricotta Cutie Pies from this cookbook and next up, are the POPS!

Not only did Amy send all this amazing stuff, she also autographed the Cutie Pie Cookbook! Is she sweet, or what? Another cookbook added to my “autograph” collection!

One of the “requirements” for Foodie Pen Pals is to include something hand-written. Amy’s note was two sides. She explained everything in her box and why she’d included it, based off my blog posts. I have used her note a bookmark in my cookbooks this month. It truly was humbling to know someone took put so much thoughtful consideration into what they sent and made it so uniquely ME.

Amy, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. This was a rough month for me and your box was a beacon of light!

Want to have your own foodie pen pal? Follow this link to get more info: Foodie Pen Pal Program

Peach, Honey and Ricotta Pie!

Summer fruits are in abundance now at the Farmers Markets. My personal love is berries, but heavy, warm, fresh peaches are a close second!

Here is a fun and unusual twist on a traditional peach pie that combines three of my favorite things: peaches, honey and homemade ricotta!

To go with summer picnics or BBQ’s, I made these small individual size pies. Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and you’ve got the perfect little sweet treat! If you make all the ingredients yourself (minus growing the peaches – unless you have a tree, in which case, see the contact tab on my page and feel free to send me a box!) these little pies can be a bit labor intensive, but they are well worth it!

Go ahead! Pull out your favorite 12 cup muffin tin and let’s get started!

First, every good pie has to have a great crust! Right? Here is my favorite recipe:

PIE CRUST (from The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories)

Easy Pie Crust

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt sugar
1/3 cup water, very cold
12 oz butter, very cold and cut into small squares

1) Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times.

2) Add the butter and pulse just until small pebbles form.

3) Add the ice water and pulse just until a crumbly dough comes together. If needed, add 1 tbsp of water at a time until the dough forms.

4) Remove from the food processor (carefully) ! and form a flat disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour (or 20 minutes in the freezer).

5) Roll your dough in a shape 2” larger than your pie pan. Using the rolling-pin, pick up and gently lay the dough into the pan. Cut, crimp or use the tines of a fork to create a decorative edge.

6)Bake blind (with pie weights and no filling) at 375º until golden on the edges, or fill according to your favorite recipe and follow its instructions.

For these mini-pies, roll out the dough in 12 (six-inch diameter) circles. Gently press a dough circle into each well of the muffin tin. Put a cupcake liner INSIDE each dough circle and fill with enough rice to cover the bottom. Blind bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden on the edges. 🙂

Now for the filling!

Honey Peach Ricotta Pies
(Modified from Cutie Pies)

4 medium size peaches, cut into 1-inch pieces. Leave the skin ON! Set aside 1/4 cup for garnish!
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese – follow the link and make your own!
1 egg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 TBLS honey, plus more for drizzling!
1/4 tsp salt
Whip cream or vanilla bean ice cream for topping!

In a large bowl, combine cut peaches and ricotta.
In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the egg, then add the spices, vanilla, sugar, honey and salt.
Combine the egg mixture over the peach and ricotta mixture, and stir to combine thoroughly.
Divide the filling evenly among the pie shells.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Cool.
Top with whip cream, remaining peach pieces and drizzle with extra honey!

I really have to make these again, if for no other reason that to get better pictures! These were gone so quickly there was hardly time to snap pictures! (I guess that means they must have been good!) For now you’ll have to take my word on how wonderful they taste! Better yet, give them a try yourself and let me know what you think!

Until next time! Enjoy my friends!

North Woods Inn Cabbage Salad

For years now, my husband and I had a running joke about a small restaurant chain here in California called “Clearman’s North Woods Inn.” We’d never been there before and I’ve always wanted to go. Steve kept saying he’d take me and it just never happened. It became funny! This year, for our anniversary, guess where we went for dinner? 🙂

North Woods Inn is one of those places where you can get a steak the size of your head, you throw peanut shells on the floor and the decor is something straight out of the early 40’s. The interior is full of dark wood, low lights and a dusty old stuffed bear in the lobby. Their marinated cabbage salad with blue cheese dressing however, is the stuff of legends!

A closely guarded secret, our waiter would say no more, other than there were a lot of ingredients and it took days to make. Hmmmm… Lucky for us, he did let one specific ingredient slip.

I was on my iPhone looking up recipes as soon as we were done eating. (Who is a foodie? Yeahhh…) None of the copy cat recipes mentioned the secret ingredient from our waiter. And trust me, there are a lot of copy cat recipes out there! Finally, we stumbled across a link to a recipe containing this mystery ingredient… BINGO!

I could hardly wait to get home, print the recipe and try it ourselves!

They say good things come to those who wait… and I waited four days for this salad!

Worth. Every. Minute.

The cabbage is tangy and sweet, all at the same time. It does take four days to marinade, so plan accordingly! Use red cabbage and a good quality olive oil for best results. Add the olive oil the last day because otherwise the oil protects the cabbage from the vinegar and will slow down the marinade process!

Here is the recipe I found, straight from Jim In Montana!


1 head red cabbage
3/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp salt
1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 and 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 extra large zip-lock bag
1/2 cup olive oil


Split the cabbage head in half. Cut out and remove the tough core of the cabbage — discard.
Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. The slicing disc on your food processor will help. Go back through the sliced cabbage and cut the longer parts into smaller pieces — discard thick/white parts. Place cabbage in a large zip-lock bag. You can use a large bowl if needful, but is harder to marinate that way — and takes up fridge space.

Mix together all of the other ingredients, except the oil. Pour into the cabbage and mix it up – purge the bag of air and then smush the bag to get the vinegar mixture all through the cabbage.
Twice a day (or more often) — for the next several days — smush the bag around and get the marinade all over the cabbage. The red cabbage will soften quite a bit and the marinade will become deep purple. The flavors will meld over the next few days and the cabbage will soften and seem to shrink. Continue to purge air from the bag as the cabbage softens and the air pockets collapse.

The day you plan to serve the salad, add the olive oil and smush it around. Try to give it at least an hour or more before serving.

Serve in a small bowl at the table so the juice does not turn other items red. Use a slotted spoon to drain well — or use the colander. If using the colander, save the liquid and put the excess cabbage and the liquid back into the bag for another time.

We served this delicious salad on top of lettuce wedges, with blue cheese dressing!

If you have ever been to North Woods Inn, this is a very close version of their delicious salad. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Till next time!

XOXOX ~ Sara

Zucchini and Potato Pancakes

Oh my goodness!

I LOVE my readers!! It’s amazing what a photo can do! I posted this teaser-picture on Facebook and got such a tremendous response, I find myself typing the recipe on my lunch break at work so you can have it ASAP! See, I told you I love you! 🙂

They look good, right? Let me tell you, they were better than good! They were amazing!

The original recipe is from Joy The Baker’s cookbook – 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.” Go HERE to buy it yourself!! You won’t be sorry!

I made the original version first and they were good! I ended up changing them just a bit after reading the recommendations in my Sunday’s with Joy group. I added bacon (does that really need an explanation?), more yellow onions and included some green onions too! I also added salt and pepper to the pancakes when they were cooking. Some other suggestions were to include jalapeño peppers. I think diced green chiles would be great too.

They are simple to make and with zucchini in season right now, it’s a great recipe to have on hand! I can see these becoming a summer favorite!

Here is my version of Joy’s Zucchini and Potato Pancakes:

Zucchini and Potato Pancakes
6 TBLS olive oil, divided
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups peeled and grated potato (I used red potatoes!)
6 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
4 TBLS green onion, diced – use the green tops only
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided in thirds
fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 large eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

For serving:
Sour cream
Paprika and ground cumin, for dusting

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. You’ll need a baking pan with a rack, so you can keep the pancakes warm.

Combine the shredded zucchini and potatoes together in a bowl with 1/2 tsp salt. Let sit for 10 minutes and then drain completely, squeezing them to get out the excess water. This is important as you don’t want your batter to be runny later!

While the zucchini and potatoes are hanging out, in a medium sauté pan, cook the yellow onions in 2 TBLS oil, over medium heat. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Take them off the heat and set aside.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the eggs, then add flour, baking powder and the second 1/2 tsp salt. To the bowl, add the cooked onions and garlic, bacon, green onion, and the drained zucchini and potatoes. Stir until well combined.

In the same pan you used to cook the onions and garlic, heat an additional 2 TBLS oil over medium heat. NOTE: the remaining 2 TBLS of oil will be used as you cook through the batches. I found I needed additional oil to fry the pancakes. Just be sure to heat the oil up again before adding your next batch to the pan.

Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons in the oil. Flatten gently to form a pancake shape! Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook about 2-3 minutes, then gently flip them over cooking for another 2-3 minutes or until they are a beautiful golden brown. Put them on the rack on your baking sheet pan in the oven while you finish the rest. They’ll stay nice and warm until you’re ready to eat them.

Serve lightly dusted with paprika and ground cumin with a side of sour cream. Serve warm!

I know you’ll be making these soon, so let me know how they come out!

XOXOX ~ Sara

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

We’ve loved these Buffalo Turkey Burgers since we first saw them in Rachel Ray’s 365 Days No Repeats Cookbook. Over time, we’ve modified them to fit our tastes, but they’re still our hands-down favorite way to make turkey burgers!

Simple ingredients make the taste of the turkey shine through. It’s like Buffalo Wings on a bun! One taste and you’ll be hooked too!

Start with a pound of ground turkey meat, some diced shallots, finely diced celery and a little ground nutmeg. Shhhhh, it’s the secret ingredient! It adds that “this is good, but I can’t quite place the flavor” element.

Yep, that’s it. Just four ingredients for these fabulous burgers! Shape them into patties. A pound will make four nice patties. We only made three this time. I won’t do that again, they were just too big!

We season them with McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning and grill five minutes per side.

Now, the not-so-healthy part of this equation. Melt equal parts butter and Franks Buffalo Wing sauce in a small pan over low heat. Once everything is melted, take the cooked burgers and coat them in the hot sauce mixture. Alternately, you could grill the burgers and simple top them with Franks Hot Sauce, leaving out the butter, but really… why would you do that? Butter makes the world better.

The toppings are simple too! A bit of blue cheese dressing on the bun, lettuce and red onion. It’s a Buffalo Turkey Burger after all. I think blue cheese dressing is a requirement!

Serve them with a side salad or cut up carrots and celery! Perfect for a summer night when you’re craving something spicy and a plate of hot wings just won’t do it.

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

1 lb. ground Turkey (I used Jenni-O)
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 stalk of celery – with the leafy tops – finely diced
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 tsp McCormick Montreal Grill Seasoning
4 TBLS butter
4 TBLS Franks Red Hot (or Buffalo Wing) Sauce

Mix the first four ingredients together in a bowl and shape into patties.

Sprinkle seasoning mix over the burgers and grill over medium heat for five minutes per side.

While the burgers are cooking, melt the butter and hot sauce together in a pan. When the burgers are finished, coat them in the hot sauce mixture.

Serve on whole wheat buns with blue cheese dressing, lettuce and red onion slices.


Lemon Rosemary Tea Cookies

I made these cookies the first time back in April for the LA Food Bloggers Bake Sale. Being a lemon lover, I think these are perfect cookies. They go perfectly with a nice cup of tea! Be warned, these are fairly tart and the rosemary gives them an unusual herbal tone.

As an extra bonus, they are icebox cookies, so you can always have some on hand when guests pop over!

Lemon Rosemary Tea Cookies


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBLS fresh lemon juice (please do not use the fake stuff! Buy a lemon! It will make all the difference in this cookie! Plus, you’ll need the real thing for the next ingredient.)
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
4 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp salt


Heat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the lemon juice, zest and extract.

Combine the flour, rosemary and salt, then gradually add to the creamed sugar mixture. Mix well.

Shape dough into two, 12 inch rolls. Wrap each one in parchment paper and then plastic wrap. Freeze 30 minutes or until firm. Unwrap and cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Place 2 in. apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Cool for two minutes before removing to a wire rack. Store in airtight containers.

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