Tag Archives: Recipe

Strawberry Shortcakes for July 4th Weekend!

It’s time to start thinking about what to enjoy for dessert this July 4th weekend.  I decided to focus on desserts and appetizers for postings this week.  Yes, barbecued ribs, potato salad, grilled corn and coleslaw are all my favorite things to eat during the holiday weekend but sometimes the pre and post treats are what I anticipate the most.  Here is a recipe for strawberry shortcakes that uses a biscuit recipe for the shortcake.  Growing up, my Mom used Bisquick and made drop biscuits – if you have that on hand then by all means use it.  All you need for the filling are some fresh sliced strawberries and my favorite vanilla bean whipped cream.  It is a fun dessert that’s easy to pull together.

This dough is versatile and originally from my biscuits and gravy recipe. You can add cheese and herbs or sweet and savory combinations to the dough.  The biscuits can be cut out and baked on a sheet pan, or in a cast iron skillet.  And you can use a biscuit cutter or an inverted glass for bigger shortcakes.  The trick to fluffy biscuits is to keep some good chunks of butter (pea size) in the dough and not handle the dough too much (extra dough can be re-formed into a disk and cut out again).  The batter takes about ten minutes to make/roll out and they cook in just over ten minutes.  Leftover shortcakes equals a great breakfast the next morning.

The filling is easy – sliced strawberries with a no-cook simple syrup, and some freshly whipped vanilla bean cream.  It’s the same whipped cream recipe from my strawberry granita and it adds a sweet layer of flavor.  Peaches or blueberries would be a nice substitution for the fruit.  I like to have some sauce on my shortcake so the strawberries get mixed with 1/3 cup water and a little sugar.  If you have it in the house, champagne or port would also work nicely in place of the water. 

Next, some appetizer ideas to nosh on before dinner.

Have a safe and fun holiday weekend.  Eat well and share the love!

Strawberry Shortcakes with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two     
Makes 6 shortcakes/biscuits (leftovers for breakfast the next morning)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 tsp. orange zest
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup milk (1 %)
1 egg for egg wash: crack egg into small bowl or ramekin, whisk well with one teaspoon water
2 teaspoons sugar (to dust on top of shortcakes before baking)

Strawberry Glaze
10 medium strawberries
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup water (or champagne or port)
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Half of one vanilla bean, paste scraped out
2 teaspoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Cut butter into the flour with a pastry blender, your hands or with a fork until the lumps are about the size of peas.  Mix in salt, sugar, orange zest and pepper.  Add the milk and lightly mix until a dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Knead lightly two or three times, adding more flour as needed.  Roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin to ½ inch thickness and cut out biscuits with a 3 inch round cutter.  Place the biscuits on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and let rise, covered with a clean towel, for 15 minutes.

Egg wash: add one egg to a ramekin or small bowl and whisk together with 1 teaspoon water.  Brush the tops of the shortcakes with the egg wash and sprinkle each with a large pinch of sugar.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.

Fresh Strawberry Glaze
Remove the tops and cut the strawberries: cut five of the strawberries into slices and the other five into rounds.  Add to a medium bowl along with the water (or champagne or port – reduce sugar to 1 teaspoon) and sugar.  Stir well.

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
Add the whipped cream, vanilla bean paste and sugar to a large glass bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on low until soft peaks form, about 1 ½ minutes.  Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.  Can be made one day ahead.

Depending on your appetite, you can either cut one shortcake in half or use two shortcakes.  Place one shortcake on the bottom of a medium plate and drizzle with a spoon full of strawberries and juice.  Add a few dollops of whipped cream and a few more strawberries.  Top with other shortcake half and add more whipped cream, strawberries and generous ladles of the juice.  Garnish with mint.

Cupcakes for National Military Appreciation Month!

Did you know the month of May is National Military Appreciation Month?  And Armed Forces Day is the third Saturday in May, this year on May 21, 2011.  I didn’t know about either.  In 1949, Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, created Armed Forces Day to replace the separate days of observance for the armed forces which were newly unified under the Department of Defense.  General Earle G. Wheeler, Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, is quoted in 1967 as saying “Armed Forces Day, above all, honors the dedicated individuals who wear the uniforms of their country. Each serviceman, wherever he may be, whatever his task, contributes directly and importantly to the defense of the nation. The task of each one is the task of all the Armed Forces: to protect the freedoms which underlie the greatness of America.”   We all know about Memorial Day, which honors and pays tribute to those who lost their lives in military service, observed on the last Monday in May.

Both of my parents were in the Navy and my father retired after a 20-year career.  His duty took us to numerous cities in the U.S. (yes, we moved every two years) and even to Morocco, Africa in the 1970’s.  That was probably where my love of food was kindled, with new and unique flavors that we didn’t have in the States.  I also experienced the sometimes scary reality of being in an unsettled foreign country – we were there during an attempted coup to overthrow the government.  Watching a line of military tanks go through the city and sensing my parent’s fear told me that it was a serious time, even though I was too young to understand the impact of what was happening around me.  In retrospect, all the experiences of being in a military family made me very adaptable and resilient as an adult.  My nephew, Mark (married to my sister’s daughter Elyse), is currently serving in the Navy as a Fire Controlman, or FC.  We live in different times now and I have a tremendous respect for all the service men and women who have dedicated their lives so we can enjoy the liberties we have in this country.  So you ask, why cupcakes for National Military Appreciation Month?   First of all, everyone loves cupcakes and they always make people smile.  It’s one of those food pleasures that take you away from your worries for just a bit – they are pure fun and happiness in my book.  My food soul gets warmed when I eat a cupcake.

And second, cupcakes are what we made for dessert at Elyse’s wedding shower last year.  She and Mark were married last June and he has been deployed most of the time since then.  I had the crazy idea of making all the food for her shower – don’t tell anyone, but after I offered to plan the menu and make the food I was worried that I had over-committed myself.  The shower was only for about 25 people but I had to plan it from out-of-town and then pull it off a few days after I arrived in Phoenix.  My Mom and sister probably thought I was a slave master because I had daily task lists for each of us, with no room for missing any food prep duties.  We served some scrumptious appetizers, gourmet sandwiches, homemade potato chips, quiches, spinach salad and Elyse’s favorite type of cupcake, carrot cupcakes.

As you know, baking is not my forte because I prefer the more creative and imprecise aspects of cooking.   For the wedding shower cupcakes, we used the recipe from one of my favorite TV chefs, Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa; I have to say I agree with most of the reader reviews that the recipe is a tough one to pull off.   The cupcakes tasted great but were greasy, fell in the middle and needed lots of frosting to cover up the uneven tops.  Speaking of icing, the night before the shower we had just finished a big batch of frosting for 40-some cupcakes when a wine glass was knocked over and shattered near the frosting!  We were all so tired and just sighed – we couldn’t take any chances of having glass fragments in the frosting.  So the morning of the shower we stopped by the store for more ingredients and re-made the frosting.   It all went off without a hitch and everyone left the shower happy.  For this post, I decided to use the recipe from TheJoyofBaking.com and it was easy-peasy to make with excellent results.   It calls for grated apple (used Pink Lady) which is different twist.  The apples add moistness and density to the cupcakes.  The only changes I made (not reflected in recipe below) were ½ cup less raisins, 1 extra tablespoon pecans, the convection setting on my oven and turning the muffin pans halfway through the cooking process.  I also found the best cupcake papers at my local grocery store that are foil-lined and don’t get greasy like the regular paper ones. 

Now whenever I eat cupcakes, especially carrot cupcakes, I smile and silently thank all the men and women serving in the armed forces who protect our country.   And we can’t forget the family members who stay behind to take care of the family and households while loved ones are deployed.  So to all of them, I send a heartfelt thanks for their service, sacrifices and for keeping our country safe.  Here is a picture of Elyse and Mark on their wedding day.

Peace to all.  Eat well and share the love!

Information Sources:
U.S. Department of Defense/Armed Forces Day
National Military Appreciation Month
Wikipeida – Definition of Fire Controlman
Wikipedia – Armed Forces Day
Wikipedia – Memorial Day

Carrot Cupcakes
Recipe: TheJoyofBaking.com
Yield:  20 muffins

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white
1 cup (240 ml) safflower, corn, or canola oil
2 cups (210 grams) finely grated raw carrots
1 cup grated apple (approximately 2 large)
1/2 cup (55 grams) pecans, coarsely chopped
1 cup (100 grams) raisins or currants
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups (330 grams) confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Carrot Cupcakes:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Place paper liners in 20 muffin cups.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon.  In another large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, and oil until slightly thickened. Fold in the flour mixture until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula fold in the grated carrots, grated apple, chopped nuts, and raisins. Evenly divide the batter between the 20 muffin cups and bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  

Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frosting:  In the bowl of your electric, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until very smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until fully incorporated and smooth.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

Pipe or with a knife or small metal spatula spread the cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake. Cover and refrigerate the cupcakes until serving time.

Makes 20 cupcakes.

Happy Hour: Cinco de Mayo

¡Cinco feliz de Mayonesa! or Happy Cinco de Mayo!

A happy hour is in order to honor the day.  Last week I shared with you my recipe for carne seca (along with some interesting history behind the celebration) and today I have the perfect cocktail and appetizer to enjoy before dinner.  Beer margaritas and homemade guacamole are on the menu.   We have made these margaritas for over 20 years (hard to believe it’s been that long!) and first starting making them at our infamous Halloween parties.  Unfortunately, we can’t remember where the recipe came from (no, it’s not because we’re old and forgetful…..I wasn’t obsessing as much about food back then) and fondly call them the Schenker Margaritas.  I know it sounds weird to have beer in margaritas but it gives them a unique and tasty flavor, and it makes them quite memorable.  It also has the normal ingredients: limeade and tequila, which balances out the beer flavor.  The recipe is super easy to make so start chilling your glasses.

As for the guacamole, fresh ingredients are the way to go in my opinion.  I add onions, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, chipotle pepper powder (dried jalapenos) and salt and pepper.  I love chipotle pepper powder because it has a wonderful earthy flavor that adds a little zing in the background.  I forgot to add tortillas chips to my store list so I just cut some fresh corn tortillas into wedges and baked them in a 400F degree oven for about 8 minutes until crispy. 

Cheers!  If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my earlier post which gives you some historical significance about Cinco de Mayo and a delicious slow-cooked recipe for one of my favorite Mexican meals: Carne Seca.

Eat well and share the love!

Schenker Margaritas
Recipe: David Schenker/Foodie for Two
Makes a half pitcher for two foodies

6 ounces limeade (half of can)
6 ounces light beer (half of bottle)
4 ounces tequila (1/2 cup)
1 ¼ cups crushed ice
Lime wedges for garnish

Add all ingredients to blender, cover the top with a towel to catch any spills, and puree until smooth.  Serve in chilled glasses with a lime wedge.

  • No crushed ice on hand?  Place ice cubes in a large Ziploc bag and smash with a rolling pin or mallet

Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

2 ripe avocados
3 tablespoons diced white onion
3 tablespoons diced tomato
1 teaspoon diced jalapeno
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of chipotle pepper powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Slice avocados in half and remove seed.  Add avocado to a bowl and mash slightly with a fork and add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well and serve with tortilla chips.

  • If you don’t have any tortilla chips: Heat oven to 400F degrees.  Cut 6 to 7 corn tortillas into 8 wedges, spread out on an ungreased sheet pan and sprinkle with salt.  Bake in oven for 8 to 10 minutes until golden and crispy.  Turn tortillas wedges over halfway through cooking time.  Let cool and serve with guacamole.
  • Tip for easily getting avocado out from skin: after halving, simply squeeze skin in half with fingertips to remove the avocado.

Cinco de Mayo: Slow-cooked Carne Seca

For Cinco de Mayo I wanted to highlight one of my favorite Mexican meals, Carne Seca, as a tribute to the Mexican culture and my roots in Tucson.   But first, there is historical significance to the celebration:  Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, commemorates the day in 1862 when the Mexicans triumphed over the French army – a powerful international military force at the time – in the southern Mexican capital city of Puebla, of the state of Puebla.  The Mexican government could not pay their international debts and asked for a short reprieve from its debtors; all but the French government agreed.  They were already occupying parts of Mexico and attacked the city of Puebla to gain more control.  Outnumbered by over half the soldiers, the Mexican forces defeated the French (they recaptured it a year later and left about three years after that).  It was a political and military battle that also affected the United States.  Lincoln was president at the time and dealing with the American Civil War; France was backing the Confederates.  We didn’t have the resources to fight another battle and wanted to stay somewhat neutral, even though it was critical to keep the French forces from overtaking Mexico and possibly the United States.  Historian Donald W. Miles considers the Mexican victory a turning point for the U.S. because it diminished the French support of the confederates.  The holiday is widely celebrated in the United States and in the Mexican city of Puebla; it is not a national Mexican holiday.  Not only does Cinco de Mayo celebrate liberty and freedom, it honors the Mexican culture and heritage.  The holiday is another celebration with food and traditions.

Translated as dried beef, carne seca is a slow cooked meat that originated in Northern Mexico and is their version of beef jerky.  I first tasted it at the renowned Tucson restaurant, El Charro Café.  There are many variations of the recipe, some boil the meat and others call for a dehydrator.  I cook mine for about 6 hours in a 250F degree oven.  When cooked, the meat is shredded and then mixed with a sauce – it’s an all day affair (most of the work is done in the oven) and perfect for a weekend meal or party.   As a reference for how to cook the meat, I first went to the cookbook “Purple Sage” from the Tucson Junior League.  Over the years, I found London Broil to be the best cut of meat because it has great flavor and just enough fat to keep it moist and flavorful throughout the cooking process.  I make it three or four times a year and look for the meat on sale in the “Manager’s Section” of the meat department and just keep in the freezer to use later.  El Charro’s Carne Seca always had a great crispy texture so to get the same effect, I put the shredded meat under the broiler.   The meat gets slightly crispy and then reconstituted in the sauce to absorb all the delicious flavors.

To me, the sauce is as important as the meat because it adds that layer of flavor that I’m always talking about.  It consists of Poblano peppers, jalapenos, onions, garlic and tomatoes.  I found canned tomatoes work best for me because they add flavorful liquid and body to the sauce.  My favorite is canned fire-roasted crushed tomatoes.  I’ve tried just using fresh tomatoes but it was missing the flavor that the fire-roasted tomatoes have.

There are so many ways you can enjoy carne seca – in tacos, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas or on cheese crisps.  In the top photo I used flour tortillas for tacos and garnished them with jalapenos, avocado, cilantro, limes and a quick salsa fresca (fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, lime zest, olive oil and salt and pepper).  Carne Seca can be frozen for up to a month if you have any leftovers.  It takes a while to make but is worth the effort.

Eat well and share the love!   Peace to all.


Carne Seca
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies plus leftovers
(250F degrees/Meat: 6 hours cooking time; 1 hour cool & shred meat/Sauce: 45 minutes prep & cook)

   3 ½ to 4 pound piece of London Broil
   Olive oil or vegetable oil
   6 cups water (will yield 2 cups meat juices from pan)
   4 to 5 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
   3 medium Poblano (pasilla) peppers, diced (remove seeds and stems)
   1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
   1 medium yellow onion, diced
   1 medium clove garlic, minced
   1 ½ cups canned crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
   2 cups meat juices from pan

Cook the Meat:  Heat oven to 250F degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Place a baking sheet rack in a sheet pan.  Add a light drizzle of oil to both sides of meat and season well with salt and pepper.  Place meat on baking rack and put sheet pan on middle rack of oven.

Bake the beef in the oven for 6 hours, turning every 1 ½ hours, until the meat is dry and can be easily pulled apart with a fork.  Beef should dry out completely and slowly.  After 2 hours of cooking, add 3 cups of water to bottom of pan to create a sauce.  When the pan is deglazed about 30 to 45 minutes later (if needed, scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula to get cooked bits), pour off liquid into a measuring cup and return sheet pan to oven.  Another hour later, add 3 more cups of water to pan and let cook for an hour and pour off juices.  When meat is done, remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Shred meat by hand or with two forks.  Return to sheet pan (without the rack) and broil on high for of 5 to 8 minutes. Set timer for 2 minute increments, stir meat and repeat process two to three more times or until the meat pieces are slightly crispy.

Make the Sauce:  While the meat is cooking, get all the vegetables prepped and store on cutting board or in bowls, covered with damp paper towels.  Start sautéing the peppers when halfway done shredding the meat. 
Heat a large skillet over medium heat with 3 tablespoons olive oil.  When hot, add the diced Poblano peppers, diced jalapeno, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Stir well and sauté for about 10 minutes until peppers just start to soften.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add the onions along with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Continue to sauté, stirring often until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper, all the meat juices and stir well.  Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer while finishing the meat. 

When the meat is done broiling, add directly into the sauce.  Stir well and let cook over medium heat for 15 minutes to allow meat to absorb the sauce.  Serve hot.  Freeze any leftovers for up to one month.

·  Serve Carne Seca in tacos (flour or corn), tostadas, burritos, enchiladas or a topping for cheese crisps.

· Garnish with salsa fresca, avocado, jalapeno and fresh cilantro.

Easy Weeknight Meal: Gourmet Tuna Melts

I don’t know about you, but after the spring holidays I am ready for a light meal for dinner.  My go-to is typically pasta but as usual, I wanted something different that was still quick and satisfying.  Tonight, it was gourmet tuna melts for dinner.  What makes them different?  I’m all about layering of flavors, so I start with good slices of bread: raisin, cranberry and walnut bread for me and rye bread for David.  The bread slices get a light smear of herb mayonnaise along with some thin slices of cucumber and a handful of sunflower sprouts.  Then the tuna salad is layered on top and it’s finished with some grated sharp cheddar cheese.   All of this goodness gets broiled in the toaster oven (or oven broiler) until the cheese is bubbly and golden and served with some sliced “pink lady” apples.  The meal takes about 20 minutes to prepare and tastes phenomenal with all the different layers of flavor!   And how can you go wrong with melted cheese on top?

These are the ingredients you’ll need to make this simple and satisfying dinner.  I buy solid white albacore tuna packed in water, but you can use your favorite style of canned tuna.  If you really wanted to make this sandwich even more gourmet, you could use a small filet of fresh tuna, seared in a skillet, cooled and shredded with a fork.  But our mission is an easy weeknight meal so it’s canned tuna from the pantry.  I glammed up this batch by using sashimi-grade, wild-caught canned tuna packed in olive oil – a new find I had to try, and a recommended splurge.  As far as the tuna fish recipe, I like to keep it simple by using few ingredients: mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, onions, celery, parsley, salt and pepper.  The vinegar helps cut any fishy taste; you can use any white vinegar you have on hand.  I like apple cider vinegar because it is slightly sweet; rice wine vinegar is also good.  I am lucky enough to find sunflower sprouts at my local grocery store (who knew, up here in mountain suburbia) – they are meaty with a crisp, nutty taste.  If you can’t find them, you can use any large-leaf sprout, Mâche or even baby greens.

Another valuable trick I learned in the catering world is to make your sauce first – get all the seasonings right and then add your main ingredient.  This trick works for many dishes: pasta salad, egg salad, potato salad and tuna salad.  It allows you to easily get the flavors just right without having to stir (sometimes delicate ingredients) too much, which can cause the main ingredient to break into unwanted pieces. 

I am always interested in your feedback – do you have a particular topic or meal(s) that you would like to read more about here? 
Please feel free to email me with your thoughts and comments:

Look for my post later this week in celebration of Cinco de Mayo: Carne Seca, a slow-cooked meal.  Eat well and share the love!

Gourmet Tuna Melt 
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

Tuna Salad
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon diced onion
1 tablespoon diced celery
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 seven ounce can solid white albacore tuna fish,packed in water
Herb Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon dried fine herbs (parsley, tarragon, chervil & chives)
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
2 slices of your favorite good bread (recommend Raisin & Cranberry bread or Rye bread)
8 to 10 thin slices of cucumber
½ cup sunflower sprouts (or any broad-leaf sprout, Mâche or baby greens)
1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Tuna Salad – In a medium bowl, add the mayonnaise, onion, celery, parsley, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well.  Drain the tuna fish and add to the bowl.  Stir well with a fork, leaving some large chunks of tuna.

Herb Mayonnaise – Add all the ingredients to a small bowl and mix well.

Assemble Sandwiches – Very lightly toast both slices of bread.  Spread mayonnaise on both pieces of bread and layer each with the half of the cucumbers, sprouts, tuna fish and top with grated cheese.

Place under a broiler until cheese is bubbly and lightly golden.  Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.  

Serve with sliced apples or potato chips.