Beka To Basics

Real Food Cooking

Archive for the category “Summer Cooking”


There are some days that a chocolate chip cookie is totally necessary.  Admittedly, I am not a cookie master.  In fact, I mess up tested cookie recipes over and over again.  EVEN when I make them WITH someone who is a cookie master, I manage to find a way to do something wrong.  I mean, they still TASTE good, they’re just not so chocolate chip cookie looking. Almost every direction tells you to put teaspoons of the dough on the cookie sheet and let the cookies spread out by themselves in the oven.  (Mine never spread out right, they just stay in dough-y little piles all crispity on the outside and uncooked on the inside – My friends called them cookie flavored dough balls to make me feel better about them. Like I said, good, just not so cookie like.)

I have figured out the secret. It’s in the fat.  The tried and tested recipe that I’ve been using is half butter and half veggie oil.  Well. I’m not so big on using veggie oil, so I knew that I would need a new recipe if I wanted cookie flavored dough balls again. And really, I thought I was going to be making dough balls again because if I CAN’T get cookies that are half oil to spread out, then I give up! Here’s what I used for my batch tonight. And yes, I followed it to a T, lard and all.


They were a perfect dessert for my garlic scape pesto marinated pork chops and sweet corn. Which got eaten. Before my camera came out. Oh well, C’est La Vie!


Better Than Canned Tomato Soup

Yeah, you know which kind of canned soup I’m talking about, don’t you?

Creamy Tomato Soup with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich Mmm

I love it, but something about the high fructose corn syrup and ‘flavorings’ on the label turn me off.

Then there’s the fact that I had all these tomatoes that needed to be used and honestly, what better way than to make soup? And besides, I need practice making soup for all the soup I’ll be making this winter 😉

This can be an easy recipe or a more involved one and it can be creamy or brothy, depending on what you want.  I made the more involved one since I had the time.

Tomato Soup

  • 6 ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups of milk (Creamy) or stock/water (Brothy) or a combination of both

For Roasted Tomato Soup – chop the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the over for 30 minutes.  Let them cool and puree them.

If you are running short on time, or just don’t feel like it – skip the first step and just puree the tomatoes.

Chop up the onion and garlic.  Melt the butter and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the veggies are soft.  Add the flour to make a roux.  Stir continuously for 3-5 minutes.  Add the liquid and bring it to a simmer. Stir until it starts to thicken.

If you want a less chunky soup (and have the time), let the tomato puree drain in a colander over a bowl.  You can help them drain by squishing them down into the colander.  If you don’t care about chunky soup, just use the puree.

Once your base has thickened, add the tomato juice/ puree and stir.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  I also added some Italian Seasoning, just because it’s good.

The best part about this recipe?  You can make it and freeze in canned size portions to use in all those recipes that call for canned tomato soup!

Linked up at Fight Back FridayWhat’s in the Box Link Party and Real Food Wednesday!

Vegan Eggplant

From time to time you have to try something different, like cooking something vegan. (Do you capitalize Vegan?)

I fully enjoy eating meat and dairy products (just wait until tomorrow, you’ll see just how much I enjoy them!), but sometimes it’s good to have some veggies and why not let them star in their own show?

Remember my plea for help to use all the eggplants I’ll be getting? Well, I found this one and it gave me an idea for this vegan fest.

Vegan Eggplant Patties and Squash Noodle Spaghetti

Eggplant Patties

  • 1 Eggplant
  • 1 cup of Breadcrumbs
  • 1 or 2 cloves of Garlic
  • Italian Seasoning

Tomato Sauce

  • Onion
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1 or 2 cloves of Garlic
  • Basil – I used fresh

Squash Noodles

  • 1 Squash
  • Olive Oil

I started with the sauce.  Just dice the onion and saute in olive oil until they are softened a bit and season with salt and pepper.  Add the garlic and saute.  Rough chop the tomatoes and add then to the onion and garlic mixture.  They will start to break down and make a sauce as the heat through. You can help them along by mashing them with a potato masher.  Let it simmer while you make everything else.

To make the patties, start by roasting the eggplant until its soft and mushy.  Pull out all the insides and mix them together with the breadcrumbs, garlic and Italian seasoning.  It is a really wet mixture, but if it won’t hold together at all, just add a few more breadcrumbs until it does.  Form the mixture into patties and fry in a bit of olive oil until they are browned a bit on both sides.  It’s already cooked, so really its just to make the outside crunchy and delicious.

Use a potato peeler to make “noodles” out of the squash.  Once the patties are done, add some more olive oil to the pan and saute the squash strips until they are cooked throuh.  It will only take a few minutes since the slices are so thin.  Add the noodles to the sauce and serve with an eggplant pattie (or two).  I might try to make the patties into “meatballs” next time so it looks like real spaghetti and meatballs. 🙂

This is one eggplant preparation that I actually like. I still have many other recipes to try and make more eggplants coming my way in the next few weeks, so I’m glad to have at least this one to fall back on in case the others don’t work for me.

Come see me and some other great recipes at Real Food Wednesday and What’s in the Box link party




Chorizo y Vino

Sometimes life needs a little vino (for me it’s often – read almost always – a Spanish red) and what goes with vino de Espana?  Yep. Chorizo.

And before we get into if Chorizo is Spanish or Mexican or Portuguese, all three have their own special, unique and yummy versions of Chorizo. There are also many other versions of Chorizo.  If you want/need to learn more, this seems like a good place to start.  Also, call me and we can make all sorts of Chorizo foods together.

(Isn’t that the cutest wine glass?  Thanks G’mA Baltimore!)

How to Pair Wine:

1) Decide what you are having for dinner

2) Consider if it will do well with a sweet, fruity light wine, or a rich, full bodied one. Perhaps a spicy wine would be appropriate with your dinner selection. There’s always the option to skip the dinner wine and just a desert wine, if the guests or occasion dictates.

3) Go to the store and hope they have a tasting so you can truly make a delicious selection

4) Realize that you have no idea how to pair wine and move on to step 5

5) Pick a bottle that you think you will like based on whatever reason you think you will like it, purchase it and go home to find out.

I did well this time 🙂

The Chorizo and Potato Hash was actually leftovers from last night, but there wasn’t quite enough left over for a really filling dinner tonight.  That’s really not a problem thought because I learned a nice trick from a good friend of mine a long time ago.  When you need to reheat left overs the next day – just throw them in a frying pan with an egg or two and fry it all up.

Works every time

Stuffed Squash

I’ve never made these before, so I was guessing the whole time I was coming up with the recipe.  Sometimes this guessing method works, sometimes its disastrous.  Happily, tonight was one of those sometimes. 😀

I admit, I had some help.  The sage pork sausage is from Mt Vernon Farms and it is absolutely wonderful. It’s sausagey, but not TOO sausagey (I think it’s because they found a good balance between fennel seed and sage).  I had it in my freezer from when I made sausage gravy and biscuits which only needed 1/2 lb of sausage.  Anyways, the filling was quite tasty, but I’m sure you could sub any ground meat or beans and it would still be good – Just know that there is something heavenly about buttery squash and rich sage pork combined (just sayin).

Pork Stuffed Squash

  • Squash
  • 1/2 Green Pepper. diced
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • Garlic, diced
  • Butter/Olive Oil
  • 1/2 lb cooked Pork Sausage (homemade or bought)
  • Cheese (I used Havarti)
  • Salt and Pepper

Cut the Squash in half, lengthwise.  Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and roast, cut side down, in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes until they are tender, but still hold together.  While the squash is roasting, make the filling.  I sauteed the Green Pepper and Onion for a few minutes in a butter and olive oil mix, seasoning them with some salt and pepper.  When they were tender, I added the Pork and heated it through.

Take the squash out of the oven and when they have cooled a little, cut a little off the back so they will sit flat when you turn them over to stuff them.  On the cut side of the squash, use a fork to pull some of the squash insides out, so it looks like a little canoe.  I mixed the squash insides back into my filling cause I didn’t want to throw them away.  Fill the canoe with the pork filling, top with a bit of cheese and bake until the cheese is melty.

Come see many other recipes and tips at Fat Tuesday!

How to make a fish cake

I haven’t bought fish in months. I know, fish is really good for you and its really tasty.  I’m not afraid of cooking fish, I know sometimes that’s what keeps people from buying fish.  Fish is actually really easy, and fast.  I haven’t bought it recently because I’ve been so enthralled with cooking other meats that I haven’t cooked with before.  Like Pork Belly, Denver Ribs, Boston Butt, Beef Suet, and Pork Back Fat. Who wouldn’t be distracted by all the new and different cuts of meat that I never even knew about. So, I saw this cod for sale and it made me realize just how long it’s been since I cooked fish.  So, I got it. And I cooked it. With the tomatillo sauce like my friend told me to try. And you know what?

I overcooked it. It was kind of gross.

I know how to cook fish. I know that you take it out at least a minute before you think it’s done and let it sit and then test it to make sure its flaky and cooked through.  Not this time.  I did a visual check and decided it needed 5 more minutes (5 more minutes for fish is like 30 more minutes for anything else, seriously don’t know what I was thinking).  It was dry, rubbery, and not tasty.


And a fail that involved having an extra overcooked, rubbery and not tasty fillet left over.  I was not excited about suffering through another gross dinner.

What to do?  Yep. Fish Cake.  My gift to everyone else 😉 When you make fish that you don’t want to finish, turn it into this and people will actually request that you make it again.

Fish Cakes

  • Fillet or two of cooked fish, flaked. You could also use chopped shrimp or crab
  • Egg (or 2, depending on how much fish you have)
  • Breadcrumbs, or crushed croutons which I used cause that was all I had
  • clove of garlic
  • parsley
  • mashed potatoes
  • salt and pepper

I have 1 fillet, so I shredded it and added 1 whisked egg along with about a tsp of parsley, some salt and pepper, about half a cup of crushed croutons and about a half cup of mashed potatoes.  You want to have a sticky mixture, but you also want it to hold together.  Preheat a pan and some fat (oil, butter, or lard work well), just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Put the patties in the pan and let cook for about 5 minutes, and then flip.  5 more minutes and the on to the dinner plate.

Serve with a salad or steamed broccoli with cheese (or both!) and call it a night!

Food Art

This is my kitchen bar counter.  A lot of the vegetables I get need to be stored at room temperature, or slightly below.  The fridge is too cold, so they spoil quickly if I put them in there.  The squash should probably be somewhere like a root cellar, but the counter will have to do.  They seem to keep just fine as long as I use them in a few days.

I’ve started to call the bar area of my kitchen, my still life counter.  On Fridays, after I pick up new veggies and arrange them on my counter, I feel like I should get an easel and paintbrush out and get to work. 😉

It’ really satisfying to use them up one by one and see my still life painting be depleted of all its subjects, and then refilled the next week with different ones. This week I plan to make, Lamb over potatoes with a basil balsamic sauce, Squash stuffed with sage pork ragu (is it still a ragu without the pasta?), Pork BBQ hash and Potato Leek Soup (yes, I know it’s July).  I’ll try to post recipes, the problem is remembering to write down what I do as I’m doing it.

Now, where are my oil paints?


And Squash, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Tomatillos, Onion, Garlic Scapes

This is what came in my CSA box last week.  While we’re on that note, I am wondering if other people actually get boxes with food in it when they join a CSA?  I need to take pictures of mine because there aren’t any boxes.

He gave everyone a tote bag and when we arrive on the day we said we would pick up veggies, he’s there, in his van full o good stuff.  He pulls crates of various veggies out of said van and puts them in a row on the ground.  Then he looks at what he has and takes out his chalk board and writes the name and number of veggies you get depending on how many shares you signed up for.  He offers 1, 2 and 4 person shares. We fill our tote bags with however many veggies our share gets that week.  I have to admit, it was what I was expecting at all.  I kept hearing about boxes and shares and I imagined meeting him each week and getting a box all neatly packed and putting it in my car and taking home to open it like it’s a Christmas present.

Ok, so we’ve taken care of that – The veggies have been amazing. I forgot how DIRTY veggies straight from the ground are.  Believe me, I slapped myself in the head when I realized I was thinking that, so no one else has to. Of course they’re dirty, they were living there until a few hours ago.  I had to pick caterpillars out of my cauliflower. I’m probably not making this CSA thing sound very good, but I have to tell you I’ve been loving it.  I’m going to guess that if you knew me, you might not pick me out as someone who enjoys getting dirty and picking caterpillars off veggies.  Well, Surprise!

Back to veggies.  I made a really good onion and squash saute to be a side for the BLTs we had for dinner.  We also had some pretty tasty tomatillo salsa that I put on eggs and hot dogs (separate times, of course).  I heard it would be good on fish.  I’ll have to try that next time. I also made these broccoli cheese bites that were really really amazing.

There were many successes – and one massive failure. Eggplant. What do you do with eggplant that makes it good? It was soo bad, I tried to eat it fried, sauteed, with other veggies, alone, in eggs (gross). I am probably going to get at least one eggplant per week for the next few months, so someone, please help me.








Come check me any many others out at What’s in the Box? Link Party 🙂

Barbeque and Brie

Yes. I know, it’s weird.  But it was actually really good.  The one improvement I could have made was to my barbeque sauce.  Other than that, it was really good.  I can forgive myself for the barbeque sauce though since it was my first attempt at homemade.  I used tomatoes, mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey, and instead of garlic, the garlic scapes.  Acceptable, but not impressive.  I’ll have to try again.

This strange combination came about because of the Boston Butt I made a few weeks ago.  I had split it up and frozen a lot of it since I obviously can’t eat 4 pounds of meat before it goes bad.  I also had brie that needed to be used up.  So, what better way than to put it on a pizza.

Any suggestions for the barbeque sauce?

Take me Camping

And this is what you get…

My friends came to visit this past weekend and we decided to go tubing camping.  Of course, I said I would bring the food.  You can’t go camping without good food, but you don’t want to cook over a hot fire if its already over 100 outside.  Since we were only going for one night, I cooked all of the food before leaving my house.  Totally worth it.

The Strudel idea was borrowed from a friend who brought over almost the exact same dish as the one I made, he just didn’t braid the top or make the crust.  Its so very easy, and so very delicious.  You either buy or make a pie crust and fill it with whatever you’d like.  This time I filled it with roast beef, sauteed onions, peppers and garlic and this farmer’s cheese I got from the farmer’s market.  I think it’s hard to go wrong with fillings in this dish – if it’s good on a sandwich, it’ll be good in a strudel.

The Strawberry Shortcake was beyond amazing after a hot day.  I used this recipe for the whipped cream and strawberries and my own biscuit recipe.  These were the best, best, BEST biscuits I have ever made in my life and I plan on making them over and over and over again.  I usually like to add whole wheat, at least a little, to just about everything I make.  BUT every now and then, an entirely white flour biscuit is a good treat and totally worth it for the perfection of this strawberry shortcake.

The best part about the weekend?  SANGRIA SATURDAY!

I don’t have a picture, because we drank it all very quickly, but it was so pretty! And so easy!

  • Bottle of red wine
  • a cup or so of rum
  • juice (I used pineapple because I had it)
  • Fruit (I used cherries, peaches, an orange, and a lemon)
  • 2 cans/12 oz bottles of Ginger Ale

Mix it all, except for the soda, together in a big jar and refrigerate for a few hours.  Pour a little ginger ale in a glass and top with the rest of the mixture, or mix the ginger ale right in with the rest of it if there’s room.

I think camping is my favorite, even with the million bug bites I’m dealing with now.


This Post is featured on Fat Tuesday, come check it out!

Post Navigation