Peanut Soup – Virginia (V, GF)

We admit to loving anything with peanuts. And why not? Peanuts are a good source of protein and contain vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and Vitamin E.  Virginia peanuts are

Peanut Soup - Virginia

mostly grown in southeastern Virginia but also in the Carolinas. Virginia peanuts are prized because they are bigger than other types such as Spanish, Runner, and Valencia.

Most peanut soup recipes use peanut butter and add cream — not an option if one is vegan or lactose intolerant. But then we found this recipe from the Washington Post where the peanuts are soaked overnight. It was like the answer to all of our soup prayers. This earthy soup is perfect for these chilly fall evenings or football Sundays.

Great Falls National Park is just 15 miles from Washington, DC and boasts spectacular views of the waterfalls with three overlooks. Activities include biking, boating, hiking, and fishing.

Peanut Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 45 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe credit: Washington Post


  • 2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts, covered with water and soaked overnight
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 cup apple, diced (for garnish)
  • Dash of hot sauce (optional)


Drain soaked peanuts, set aside. Place oil into large soup pot and heat over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the drained peanuts. Add celery seed and bay leaf, cook on medium for about 2 minutes. Add broth. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until the soup begins to boil. Reduce to low and continue cooking about 25 minutes or until peanuts are quite soft. Remove bay leaf and let soup cool a bit.

With an immersion or stand blender, blend soup in small batches until desired consistency is reached. Return soup to the pot and add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Heat through. Garnish with diced apple and hot sauce if desired.

Black and White Cookies – New York

The Black and White Cookie is to New York as Jambalaya is to Louisiana. Both dishes are synonymous with a place — which, come to think of it, is kind of the point of this blog. Made famous by the

Black and White Cookies - New York

Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine go to a bakery for a chocolate babka (we’ll have to do a post on that one someday), this cookie features a delectable vanilla-lemon base, iced half with chocolate and half with vanilla. Several years ago, we traveled to New York City in search of the perfect Black and White Cookie. We found a lot of terrible ones. They can’t be shrink wrapped in cellophane. They can’t be stale. The base must be more cake-like than cookie. And the icing must remain soft rather than hard and crunchy.

We found a recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen that we slightly adapted that fits the bill on all accounts. The batter for these cookies is more like cake batter. Black and White Cookie batterThe addition of cake flour and baking powder gives these cookies some loft. Because they are more cake than cookie, these will go stale quickly so we challenge you to finish them within a few days or pop them in the freezer for the next time you need a Black and White fix. As for eating them, we’re with Jerry, each bite has to have a little of both flavors. “Look to the cookie!”

NYC’s Wine and Food Festival takes place October 13-16, 2016, featuring tastings, celebrity chefs, hands-on classes, demos, and seminars.

Black and White Cookie

  • Servings: 2 dozen
  • Time: 45 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Recipe credit: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


For cookies:

  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

For icing:

  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons hot water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder


To make cookies: In a medium mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until light yellow. Add eggs, one at a time, then extracts. Add one third of the flour mixture. Beat just until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add next third, then scrape down sides of bowl. Add final third and then scrape down sides of bowl. Scoop batter onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes until tops are puffy and edges are just beginning to turn brown. Let cool completely. Place cookies in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while making icing.

To make icing: In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine confectioners sugar, corn syrup lemon juice and vanilla. Add 2 tablespoons of hot water and stir until smooth. Add additional water by the teaspoon until desired consistency is reached. The icing should be not too thin that it will run off the sides of the cookie and not too stiff that it will not be spreadable. Divide icing in half into another bowl and add cocoa powder. Add additional hot water by the teaspoon until desired consistency is reached. Spread vanilla icing first on one half of each cookie, then repeat with chocolate icing. Let icing set before transferring to an airtight container with waxed paper separating layers.

Potato Bread – Idaho

Fall is finally upon us here in the Midwest. Hooray, time to fire up the oven and get to baking again. We’ve always loved the soft texture of potato bread that comes from the grocery store, so we

Potato Bread - Idaho

decided to try our hand at recreating it at home. Oh my, this was a winner! If you have leftover mashed potatoes, they will work just as well as freshly prepared, you’ll need about one cup. We tried rising this dough overnight in the fridge and it worked wonderfully. Keep this recipe in mind the next time you have overnight guests and want to have fresh bread in the morning.

Don’t feel bad about loving potatoes. Idaho surely doesn’t. The Gem State leads the states in potato production, with 13 billion pounds harvested in 2014. Potatoes are actually high in potassium and Vitamin C — providing almost half the recommended daily value.

Potato Bread - Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is located in Arco, Idaho and is an example of relatively recent volcanic activity. The preserve has three major lava fields, five lava tube caves and over 25 volcanic cones. Hiking, camping and cave exploring await.

Potato Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Time: 2 hr. 25 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 1 medium Idaho baking potato
  • 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid from making potato
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Crisco
  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • Cooking spray


Peel potato and cut into large pieces. Place into a medium pot of water and bring to a boil. When potato is soft, drain, reserving cooking liquid. Press cooked potato through a ricer. Add warm milk, ½ cup of reserved cooking liquid, Crisco, butter, salt and sugar. Set aside until cool.

In the stand mixer bowl, combine yeast and 1/3 cup warm water. Let stand a few minutes until mixture bubbles. Add the cooled potato mixture. Add flour. Mix with dough hook on slow speed, about 6 minutes. The dough will be very sticky. Transfer to a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes (Alternatively, you can place in refrigerator and let rise overnight).

When ready to bake, punch dough down and knead 2 or 3 minutes. Divide dough in two equal parts and place in buttered rectangular bread pans. Let rise again for one hour or until doubled in size. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Buckwheat Cakes – West Virginia

For the past 74 years, Preston County has been holding its Annual Buckwheat Festival in Kingwood, West Virginia. During the later years of the Depression, buckwheat was grown in the county as an

Buckwheat cakes - West Virginia

insurance crop because its growing season was short and the quality was good.

Buckwheat is actually not a cereal grain but rather a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel. High in fiber and gluten free, buckwheat is also rich in flavonoids, and a good source of magnesium.

Buckwheat cakes have a delicate nut-like flavor and are darker than regular pancakes. This simplified version of buckwheat cakes makes a delicious breakfast, or brinner (breakfast for dinner) if you are so inclined.

This year the Preston County Buckwheat Festival takes place September 29-October 2, 2016.

Buckwheat Cakes

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 25 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or sub GF flour of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vegetable oil


In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (two flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda). In a smaller bowl, mix together the buttermilk, egg and vanilla until combined. Add buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. The batter may have some lumps. If the batter is too thick, add a bit more buttermilk.

With a skillet heated over medium-high heat, add a bit of vegetable oil to the pan. Swirl so the oil coats the bottom of pan. Pour ¼ cup pancake batter into pan. Cook until bubbles form on top, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook 1-2 minutes more. Continue until all batter is used, adding more vegetable oil when necessary.

Chicken Vesuvio – Illinois

We’ve lived in the Chicago area for almost 20 years and have come across some delicious versions of Chicken Vesuvio. Harry Caray’s makes a mean version that they assert dates back to the 1920s, as does the venerable Gene & Georgetti. Although some people argue

Chicken Vesuvio

that Chicken Vesuvio has its roots in New York, New Jersey or even southern Italy, we are swayed by the claim that this dish was invented at Vesuvio Restaurant which was located on Wacker Drive in the 1930s. That, and the fact that we never heard of this dish until we moved here.

The components of Chicken Vesuvio are pretty straightforward. Bone-in chicken pieces are pan seared. Potatoes are added, usually with a generous amount of garlic. Oregano (or some other herb, sometimes rosemary) is sprinkled throughout the dish, and a white wine sauce melds all the flavors together. Sometimes additional vegetables are added, like mushroom (like we did) or artichokes. The dish is finished in the oven and peas are added at the last moment. Where ever it came from, no one can argue that this dish is delicious at every bite.

Hurry to get your tickets for Chicago Gourmet 2016, September 24-25, 2016. This premier food festival has an impressive array of celebrity chefs, cooking demonstrations and tastings.

Chicken Vesuvio

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hr. 15 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


    • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
    • 3 potatoes, quartered and then sliced 1/4 inch thick
    • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • 3 pounds chicken pieces, bone in
    • 8-10 baby portabella mushrooms, quartered
    • 3/4 cup white wine
    • 3/4 cup chicken stock
    • 2-3 teaspoons oregano
    • 1 cup frozen peas


In a large, oven proof pan, heat ¼ cup of the cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add potatoes and garlic and cook until browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Add ¼ cup olive oil to pan. Working in batches if necessary, add chicken pieces. Cook skin side down until browned. Turn skin side up, then add mushrooms. Cook 3-4 minutes or until mushrooms are browned. Return potatoes to the pan. Add stock, wine and oregano. Cook until liquid is reduced by half.

Place pan in oven to finish, about 40 minutes. Add the frozen peas during the last five minutes of baking.

Persimmon Muffins with Sugared Pecan Topping – Indiana

If you’ve never had a persimmon you’ve been missing out. Their flavor is often described as a cross between a guava, an apricot and an avocado. Southeastern Indiana has an abundance of wild

Persimmon Muffins with Sugared Pecan Topping - Indiana

persimmon trees and if you are lucky enough to live nearby, the delicate fruit will be showing up in farmers markets and farm stands in the next few weeks. Nutritionally, persimmons are a great source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamin A and vitamin C. We did a little experimenting and used our family zucchini bread recipe but replaced the zucck with persimmons. It worked beautifully and the pecan topping lends a bit of crunchy sweetness.

Mitchell, Indiana, hosts a Persimmon Festival each year with arts and crafts, a persimmon pudding contest, entertainment and the crowning of Persimmon Festival Queen.

Persimmon Muffins with Sugared Pecan Topping

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Time: 40 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


For Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For Muffins:

  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 -3 very ripe persimmons
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


To make topping, in a small mixing bowl combine melted butter, flour, sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and ground ginger). Whisk a bit until fully mixed. Set aside.

Remove stems from the persimmons then slice into eighths. Remove any seeds. Working in 2 batches, place persimmon sections in the bowl of a Foley food mill. Process until 1 cup of pulp is extracted and only the skin remains.

To the pulp add sugar, eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla. Stir until fully incorporated. Add dry ingredients and stir just until batter is mixed, being careful not to overmix.

Add batter into lined muffin tins, filling about three quarters full. Distribute pecan topping equally over all muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

New Mexico Green Chile Breakfast Skillet

We’ve talked before about how the chile pepper is the official state vegetable of New Mexico. The Aztecs cultivated these peppers centuries ago but Spanish settlers brought the chile pepper to the region from Mexico.

New Mexico Green Chile Breakfast Skillet

Green chile sauce is usually made with Hatch peppers which are grown in the Hatch Valley. If you can’t find fresh Hatch peppers, don’t fret. We subbed in Anaheim peppers, but poblano or even cubanelle peppers will also work. This sauce tops a savory breakfast skillet that is bursting with flavor. If you are vegan or vegetarian, use soy chorizo and /or leave out the eggs.

Hatch, New Mexico, is the self-proclaimed chile capital of the world and hosts a Chile Festival September 3-4, 2016.

New Mexico Green Chili Breakfast Skillet

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 50 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


For Green Chile Sauce:

  • 2-3 green peppers (Hatch preferred, but we used Anaheim)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt

For Breakfast Skillet:

  • 2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound baby potatoes, cubed
  • 6 ounces chorizo
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 -3 eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 cup cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
  • Half an avocado, diced
  • Hot sauce (optional)


To make green chili sauce: Cut peppers in half. Flatten peppers with the heel of your hand. Roast under the broiler on a baking tray lined with foil, about 10 minutes until the skin is blistered brown. Remove from the oven and once cool enough to handle, place in a paper bag. Fold down the top of the bag and let sit for about 10 minutes. Remove peppers from bag. Remove stems, skin and seeds. Chop the peppers to ¼ inch dice. Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Saute garlic and onion until onion is translucent. Blend in flour. Add water gradually, whisking to break up any clumps. Add peppers. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Set aside (Can be made a day ahead).

To make breakfast skillet: In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, add oil. Once heated, add diced potatoes. Cook until potatoes are browned, about 15 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add chopped tomato. Cook for about 5 minutes or until tomatoes are bubbling. Add chorizo to skillet. Cook until heated through, breaking up any clumps. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add diced potatoes back to skillet, then chorizo/tomato mixture. Make a well in the mixture and crack eggs into each well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook eggs until yolk just begins to firm up, approximately 10 minutes. Uncover, top with cheese, avocado and green chili sauce. Season with hot sauce if desired.

Feeling Punchy: Picon Punch – Nevada

Picon Punch is an old libation with a long history in the Silver State. We’ve talked before about how the Basque people — those from a region in Europe about the size of Rhode Island that includes both

Picon Punch

Spain and France — immigrated to Nevada and other parts of the west during the mid-nineteenth century. Many of them were sheepherders and they set up boardinghouses across the state as way-stations for themselves. The boardinghouses that remain are now restaurants and the Picon Punch is a product of those establishments. Some lament the drink used to be better when Amer Picon was available in the United States (alas, it is only available France) so we used Torani Amer which is a common substitution. Having no frame of reference for what used-to-be, we enjoyed the caramel, orange and brandy flavors of this cocktail.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas features a 13-mile scenic loop, as well as opportunities for hiking, biking and rock climbing.

Picon Punch

  • Servings: 1 drink
  • Time: 5 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 ½ ounces Torani Amer
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine
  • 1/2 ounce brandy
  • Crushed ice
  • 1-2 ounces club soda
  • Lemon twist


Mix Torani Amer, grenadine, and brandy in a cocktail shaker. Add crushed ice to glass. Pour brandy mixture over ice. Top with club soda and a lemon twist.

Tomato Pie with Basil and Feta – Alabama

Summer, summer, summer. Ice cream cones, lazy days at the pool, catching fireflies at dusk. And tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. If you garden, this might be about the time you start wondering what to do

Tomato Pie with Bail and Feta

with your surplus of the red juicy orb. Tomato Pie is just the ticket. This very southern dish dates back to the 1830s. We gussied up the traditional version to include sautéed onions, garlic, basil and feta cheese which plays so nicely with tomatoes. One thing we dared not mess with is the mayo/cheese topping which bakes into a layer of gooey goodness. Serve with a green salad and maybe some grilled chicken sausages and you’ve got yourself a darn good meal.

Tomato Pie with Basil and Feta

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a museum and cultural center that highlights the role of the city in the civil rights movement beginning in the 1950s.

Tomato Pie with Basil and Feta

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 50 min.
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


For crust:

  • 1¼ cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • ½ cup cold water

For filling:

  • 1 ½ lbs. tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pepper
  • Basil, diced
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup mayonnaise


For crust: Place all ingredients except water in food processor and blend until fine crumbs are formed. Add water a little at a time until the dough is moist and forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use (can be made a day ahead). Roll out onto floured surface, adding a bit of flour at a time if the dough is too sticky. Gently lift into a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp edge. Set aside.

For filling: Slice tomatoes thinly and place in colander. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside for approximately 10 minutes.

In the meantime, cook onion over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Add minced garlic and continue cooking until onion is just beginning to brown and garlic is fragrant.

With a paper towel, blot tomatoes until most of liquid is removed. Combine cheeses. Reserve ¾ cup for topping. Mix this ¾ cup cheese with ½ cup of mayonnaise. Set aside.

Put one third of the cheese in the bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle with one third of the onion mixture, then one third of the tomatoes. Season tomatoes with pepper. Finish with a sprinkling of basil. Repeat this step two more times so that there are three layers. Cover top of pie with the mayo/cheese mixture. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Let pie set 10 minutes before serving or serve at room temperature.

Beat the Heat: Huckleberry Lemon Ginger Yogurt Pops – Montana

Montana is huckleberry central and late July to August is prime huckleberry season. We’ve talked before about how huckleberries are so venerated in the state that the legislature passed a law  in 2007 that made it illegal to label a product huckleberry if it contains any other fruit. A close cousin to the blueberry, this delectable fruit grows best between elevations of 3,500 and 7,000 feet, in forests with about 50 percent tree cover.

Huckleberry Lemon Ginger Yogurt Pops - MT

We decided with this hot weather that we had to make frozen yogurt pops and came up with this winning flavor combination. Don’t worry if you can’t find huckleberries, just sub in blueberries, the flavor is very similar. This recipe yields about 2 cups of batter, enough for 6 small pops, or 4 large.

Glacier National Park is one of the jewels in the country’s park system. With over 1,500 square miles, 700 lakes, and 175 mountains, the park is replete with fishing, boating, hiking and camping opportunities.

Huckleberry Lemon Ginger Yogurt Pops

  • Servings: 6 small pops
  • Time: 45 min.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 heaping cup huckleberries
  • Zest from one lemon
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt 


In a small pan, combine sugar and water. Heat over medium until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add ginger. Set aside until cool, then refrigerate. In the meantime, in the bowl of a food processor, process huckleberries until smooth. Place huckleberry puree in a sieve over a medium bowl. With a rubber spatula, press puree through the sieve, so that seeds and skin are left behind. Add lemon zest and lemon juice to the puree. When simple syrup is cold, remove from refrigerator, discarding ginger slices. Add simple syrup to puree, then add yogurt. Pour mixture into molds. Freeze for at least 4 hours or until hard.

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