It’s been four years since I last published a recipe. But every so often, I get a notification that someone new has visited or followed the blog, or someone asks why I stopped, or I visit it myself to remember a recipe (mostly because I rarely re-make things, and I’m terrible at remembering which of my earmarked recipes I ended up using.) And then I remember that I did enjoy this little project, and I think that maybe I shouldn’t abandon it wholesale.

Today was one of those days because I had extra ricotta cheese, and I thought these pancakes would be a good idea for tomorrow morning. But I can’t leave well enough alone, and since Pinterest has come into its own in the time since I last did this blog thing, I looked for other things to do with the ricotta (specifically, things that would not require morning math or measuring.) My five year old was sitting next to me, saw a picture of blueberry muffins, and asked me to “please make those.” I had everything I needed on hand, but I also had a few tweaks I wanted to make to the recipe as I was reading it, so I was off to the races. The little one helped.

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So, when I went to to log in this afternoon, it didn’t remember me.  Yes, it’s been so long since I even checked in on the blog that I’ve been cleared by my own cache.

But much like that friend who only calls with marriage and birth announcements, here I am to say, “Hey, check this out … this is BIG.”  And by big, I mean delicious, and easy.  And able to be served either simply, as a comforting childhood favorite, or as something different and pretty to cap off a dinner with friends.

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I think this is my summer of Retro Cooking.  And, by that, I mean that I seem to be gravitating toward recipes that were at – or should have been at – all those birthday parties and barbecues we went to in the 80s.  Such recipes feature a lot of cans of things you can buy at any old grocery store, and pretty much thumb their noses at the recent (and worthwhile, for sure) ideas of eating local, eating fresh, or eating organic (I know, I know – the horror!)  But they’re also really easy and really tasty.  And that – right now, when making even one more peanut butter sandwich for The Lad’s lunch seems like too much effort – seems really smart.

I want to see people, to entertain, and do all the things that make summer summer.  But everything these days seems so last minute! I know I’m not facing a new problem: everyone is busy, and everyone is looking for something that is both delicious and easy, and that’s been true forever; and that’s why back-of-box recipes and mothers-little-helper ingredients exist, and why some of them have been passed down from one generation’s recipe box to another to another.  Sure, I’d love to have the wherewithal to make totally new, totally-from-scratch recipes all the time.  But what I’d love even more is to have a life and serve up something great at the same time.

This salsa is a perfect example – my mom had it at a friend’s party, asked for the recipe, and then made it for one of her parties, where I tasted it and had to have the recipe rightthenimmediatelythere.  And this recipe is nice because it’s not retro the way that Jello salads made with Miracle Whip and fruit cocktail are retro (that is, profoundly icky retro.)  In fact, this is a keeper because it balances convenience and freshness, and because you can make it ahead, and because your guests will be asking for the recipe that day because it is just that addictive good. And, with the exception of the “secret ingredient,” you probably could get even the canned items in organic versions, if that’s what floats your boat.  Otherwise, hit your local grocer, chop a few veggies, pop open a few cans, and enjoy.

Fiesta Salsa (makes about 4 cups – or enough for two days’ worth of light fare parties)
1 bunch scallions, including green tops, chopped fine
1 red pepper
, chopped fine
1 yellow or orange pepper, chopped fine
1 14.5-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 12-ounce can shoepeg corn, drained and rinsed*
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Try-Me Tiger sauce**

*  It must be shoepeg corn.  Regular canned corn will be gummy.  Of you prefer to use frozen corn, the same is true, and you’ll want to steam and cool the corn before using it in the recipe
**  Tiger Sauce is a cayenne-based sweet-and-spicy condiment.  Look for it where you find Tobasco and other condiments.

Combine all ingredients, mixing well.  Refrigerate overnight, though this improves with age and can keep for up to a week refrigerated in an airtight

Serve these with tortilla chips; the “scoop” kind work particularly well.

That old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is totally true.  But sometimes, they’re the wrong words.

Because, let me tell you this: the finished product of this dip is ugly.  Really, really ugly.  The kind of ugly that made me choose to just post the only-slightly-ugly uncooked phases of its origins.

But, gracious, folks, this is one of those times when the book should not be judged by its cover (or its nutritional profile.)

Here you have three simple ingredients – cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and chili.  You mix and you layer; you bake, and you reassure your friends it’s delicious, and everyone scoops it up with tortilla chips.  Read More

I don’t know if you’d ever noticed, but I have a bit of a sweet tooth.  I think it seems even more predominant on this blog, if only because sweet things tend to be more attractive.  (Really, it’s easy to style a cookie and make people’s mouths water, but it’s pretty hard to make even the world’s easiest and tastiest Cod Veracruz look like anything more than a jumbled heap of tomatoes and onions.)  Maybe one of these days I’ll find the time to do some more reading or take a real class on food styling and photography, but until then, you might just have to assume you’re getting a dessert from me.

But not today! Today, I steered wildly off course and made a savory version of a traditionally sweet dish.  Inspired by a blogger at Food52 who grew up eating savory French toast, I decided that making my own version was an ideal way to sell the breakfast-for-dinner concept to my distinctly dubious family.

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There are certain things that just change when you have small kids.  One example: you stop ordering an ice cream cone for yourself, because you can be pretty confident that your sweet, sticky child will look at you about when she reaches the cone and say: “I can’t finish this.”  And you then eat the melted, spitty dregs of your kid’s ice cream cone.  And then soggy, dripping dregs of your other kid’s ice cream cone.

But every once in a while, it’s okay to indulge in a dessert that is just yours.  And this is an ice cream that is just for grown-ups: sweet cream doused with a good shot of bourbon, swirled through with a jammy peach syrup.

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In my mind, I bake for other people.  The cookies and brownies and cakes and ice creams and tea breads – I tell myself they’re my way of treating my husband and children to something decadent, yet wholesome, and full of love.  But it’s all a charade, because I’m the one with the sweet tooth.  My children – happily, mind you – prefer apples and blueberries to brownies, and Husband has nothing resembling a sweet tooth and nearly never eats dessert.

Unless it’s sour cherry pie.

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