Pre-Season “BLT” with Tomato Jam

tomato jam BLT best 640x474 Pre Season BLT with Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam BLT

It’s summer, but the heirloom tomatoes are just not quite ready yet and I’m craving a BLT.  Using a good Heirloom Tomato Jam for a spread was the ticket today for an awesome out-of-season BLT.  Made with a soft, doughy egg bread, some arugula, and thick crispy bacon, I satisfied the BLT craving and more.

The Tomato Jam:

Here in Minnesota we don’t usually get large ripe heirloom tomatoes until August.  Because heirloom tomatoes are one of my main crops at the farm, we had plenty to freeze last year and have been making them into jam all winter.

I also grow a range of hot peppers, and smoked a lot of the jalapenos last year, giving me a large supply of chipotles.  Once the peppers are smoked and dried, they last forever, and I have found many culinary uses for them over the winter and spring.  We also pulverize the dried chipotles in a coffee grinder and use a little in HeathGlen’s Heirloom Tomato Jam, which gives it a delightful smoky kick.

I had a wonderful dinner last week at a restaurant in Minneapolis called Saffron and they used a bit of saffron (of course) in their tomato jam.  It was excellent, but I can’t grow saffron at the farm (unfortunately).  Home-smoked jalapenos, or chipotles, is something I  can grow and make however, and they add excellent flavor to a tomato jam.  Not better or worse than the saffron-infusion, but different.

Recipe for Pre-Season Tomato Jam “BLT”

tomato jam BLT 1 640x566 300x265 Pre Season BLT with Tomato Jam

Tomato Jam BLT – Deconstructed


  • 4 slices egg bread or brioche, (or your favorite bread)
  • 2-3 slices thick bacon
  • 1-2 Tbsp tomato jam
  • 4 large leaves fresh arugula
  • 1 tsp Hellmans mayonaise


  1. Get all your ingredients out so you can make the sandwich while the toast is still warm (mise en place).  Turn on your oven broiler.
  2. Generally you cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet over the stovetop, turning often, until it is as crispy as you like it.  I wanted to get the bacon to stay flat for the sandwich, so I cooked it in my Cuisinart Griddler, which has a top and bottom griddle plate similar to a panini-maker.  It worked like a charm, giving me flat but crispy bacon.  Drain the bacon on paper towels.
  3. Cut the crusts off of the bread and place the bread on a cookie sheet.  Place the cookie sheet under the broiler for a couple of minutes until it is light brown toast.  Turn and toast the other side.
  4. Assemble the sandwich.  Place a bit of mayonaise on one side of the toast and the tomato jam on the other piece of toast.  Top the mayonaise with arugula and then the bacon.  Place the other piece of toast (tomato spread side down) on the bacon toast and you have an awesome out-of-season BLT

I’ve used HeathGlen’s Heirloom Tomato Jam as the specialty spread, but you can use any good tomato jam that you can find.  Ours has a little bit of spice from our smoked jalapenos.  

Enjoy these till the real tomatoes come in!


Strawberry Salad with Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

melon strawberry salad best resized Strawberry Salad with Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

Strawberry Melon Salad with Orange Chipotle Syrup

Shrub syrups are not just for beverages.  I’ve been experimenting with a number of different ways to use the shrub syrups and have been really happy with some of the results.  Fresh fruit salads made with seasonal fruit are one of those things you can delight in as a side to a meal or a delightful dessert.  Adding a little shrub syrup to the fruit can enhance the flavor or the fruit in different ways and take it to a new level.

We grow organic strawberries on the farm and the season is so short here in Minnesota that I really rush to get the most out of these jewels.  Although watermelon is not available locally yet, it is such a good pairing with strawberries that I had to get some at the grocer.  I added a little feta cheese, but I think next time I would leave the cheese out and just enjoy the fresh fruit and syrup.

I tried this salad with the Strawberry Lavender Syrup, the Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup and the Raspberry Tarragon Syrup. My favorite was the Orange Chipotle, but I do like spice in most of my dishes.  All of the syrups would work with this……..just pick your favorite flavor.  Just remember, you don’t need to add sugar to the salad when you use the syrups.

Strawberry-Melon Salad with Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

melon strawberry salad resized 300x255 Strawberry Salad with Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

Strawberry-Melon Salad with Orange Chipotle Syrup


  • fresh strawberries (I used about a 1/2 pint for 1 salad)
  • 1 small watermelon, seedless if possible
  • Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup (or your favorite flavor)
  • Feta cheese, optional
  • fresh mint for garnish


  1. Rinse the strawberries, take stems out, and cut in half.  Place about 1 cup halved strawberries in small bowl.
  2. Cut the watermelon in half and use a small melon ball scoop (or spoon) to extract 1 1/2 cups watermelon balls.  Add to bowl with strawberries.
  3. Drizzle orange chipotle syrup over fruit.  I used about 1/4 cup syrup, but it all depends on how sweet you want it and how sweet the fruit is to begin with.
  4. Let the fruit sit in the syrup, refrigerated, for 1/2 hour to overnight.  When ready to serve, gently stir the fruit salad, garnish with a mint sprig and enjoy.

Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup:

syrup orange chipotle 484x650 223x300 Strawberry Salad with Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup

Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup


You can order the Orange Chipotle Shrub Syrup (or any other syrups) from our online store.

You can also make your own syrup by juicing some oranges, adding sugar over heat until dissolved, infusing the simple syrup with a cheesecloth bag of dried chipotles for 1 hour or more.  Cool and add apple cider vinegar to taste, realizing that the vinegar will taste fairly harsh at first, until it melds with the simple syrup over time.  I usually allow mine to mellow for about a month before using.  The proportions of juice to sugar to vinegar are approximately 1/3 of each.





Slider Appetizers for Slow Carb Diet

sliders SCD 1 640x586 Slider Appetizers for Slow Carb Diet

Slider Appetizers for SCD

Burger buns are not allowed on the Slow Carb Diet, not even mini buns for sliders.  That doesn’t mean however that you can’t enjoy great tasting sliders at your next cookout.  Liven up the little burgers with some salty, crispy bacon and some creamy avocados and you won’t miss the buns at all.

I have included a Blueberry White Pepper Dipping Sauce (a great product from, but the dipping sauce is not really allowed on a strict Slow Carb Diet as it includes fruit and sugar.  I met my goal weight about a year ago and have been able to maintain it for a year on what I consider a slow carb maintenance lifestyle.

Basically I no longer include a “cheat day”, but rather practice the main principles of the lifestyle (no white food and very little sugar) on a daily basis, allowing small cheats throughout the week.  The Slow Carb Diet (4-Hour Body) gave me the knowledge base to work with for a healthy low-carb lifestyle.  I just weigh myself every day and if I start to go up by more than 2-3 pounds I go back on the more restrictive diet for a couple of weeks.  It has worked well for me.  My energy level is up and my weight has been consistently at my target weight for 2 years.  So…all this to let you know I love the dipping sauce and used it sparingly, but without guilt.

IMG 7397 640x471 300x220 Slider Appetizers for Slow Carb Diet

Preparing Sliders for Slow Carb Diet

Recipe for the Slider Appetizers:


  • 1 lb. ground chuck (80% lean – 20% fat)
  • 1/2 lb bacon
  • 2 avocados
  • 15-20 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • dipping sauce


  1. Heat grill to sear (high temp).  With hands, form 15-20 hamburger patties about 1 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter.  Let patties rest without salt and pepper while you make the bacon.
  2. Fry bacon until just crisp (not so crisp that it will shatter when you break it into squares).  Drain on paper towels.
  3. Salt and pepper the patties.  Grill the burger patties to your desired degree of doneness.  They do not take very long when they are this small.  While the burgers are cooking, slice avocados, break the bacon into 1-2 inch squares, and halve the tomatoes if using grape tomatoes.  Wait until the last minute to slice avocados so they don’t turn brown.
  4. Assemble the sliders with a long pick skewering first the tomato, then the bacon squares, then the avocados and finally the burger patties.
  5. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (or alone).

Sliders are great with all kinds of frosty beverages on the balcony or deck.  Love something that you can eat with one hand, leaving the other hand free for conversation Italian-style.

I also have some great slider recipes, along with beer cocktails for those of you not on any kind of diet, at my drink and appetizer blog.

Find those recipes here.  





German Chocolate Cake via David Lebovitz

german chocolate cake best 640x488 German Chocolate Cake via David Lebovitz

The Ultimate German Chocolate Cake

One of our family’s traditions is surrounding birthdays is the “honoree” gets to dream up whatever their heart desires for their birthday dinner, and one of the other family members gets to make it.  The most recent birthday at our house was my son’s and he decided he wanted cioppino and a german chocolate cake.  Well, the cioppino was easy because I had a go-to recipe that was great and worked every time (see recipe here), but the cake was a little more intimidating.  I don’t bake that much and as I recalled, German Chocolate Cake was a bit on the fussy side.

But…a birthday dinner is not to be messed with, so I went to one of the tried and true masters of elegant pastries…David Lebovitz.  The recipe required some steps I was not that familiar with (like cutting two cakes in half evenly for stacking) and the recipe definitely required close attention to detail, but I was baking with love.  And I gave myself the whole day so as not to be rushed.  It was miraculous!  It was a visual delight and the taste was out of this world.

I was so relieved and proud as a peacock (yes I basked in the oohs and ahs), but I have no idea if I could duplicate it again.  The most I can say about this recipe is

  • take your time;
  • read the directions a couple of times and pay attention to detail;
  • if it doesn’t look perfect, you can be guaranteed it is going to taste great
  • if there is any left, if freezes really well (my son had to go back to college, so I froze it and I’ve been portioning out a bit at a time for my cheat days, which is a great thing to look forward to!)

Recipe for the Ultimate German Chocolate Cake

(very slightly adapted from David Lebovitz)


For the Cake:

  • 2 ounces bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate, shredded with a cheese grater
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cup + ¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted (I couldn’t find unsweetened so used sweetened and it was fine)

For the Rum Syrup:

1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum (like Meyers rum)

For the Chocolate Icing:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated with cheese grater or chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.
  2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave.  I used a microwave on 50% for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Stir until smooth, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until combined.  Then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Over low speed, beat half of the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) into the creamed butter mixture until just combined.  Mix in the buttermilk and the vanilla extract until combined and then beat in the rest of the flour mixture.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar (slowly) and beat until they hold stiff, glossy peaks.
  7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.
  8. Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool cake layers completely.  While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

To make the filling:

  1. Put the butter, salt, toasted coconut, and toasted pecan pieces in a large bowl and set aside.  Mix together the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan.
  2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)
  3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)

To make the rum syrup:

In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted and dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.  Set aside.

To make the icing:

  1. Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and the 3 tablespoons of butter.
  2. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature.
  3. Once the filling and icing are both cooled to room temperature, refrigerate for 1 hour.

To assemble the cake:

Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife (some bakers cut cakes in half with a string pulled taut, but the knife worked well for me.  Just keep your eye on it so you are cutting it evenly).  You will now have 4 cake layers.

Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush the top of this layer well with the rum syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.

Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top layer.

Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping (I used a plastic ziplock bag with a hole cut out and just squirted dabs around the edges.  While not as professional, it worked fine for a non-baker).

(It may seem like a lot of chocolate icing, but use it all. It is very, very good).

IMG 7352 640x485 300x227 German Chocolate Cake via David Lebovitz

Side view of German Chocolate Cake


That’s it!  Whew!  So worth it though.





Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Supper: SCD Recipe

basque chorizo partial 640x480 Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Supper: SCD Recipe

Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Saute

My daughter was fortunate enough to do a study abroad program in Spain, and her parents were fortunate enough to visit her and eat the wonderful dishes of the Basque region.  This dish brought me back to that trip and if you don’t include the rice or potatoes that often accompanied it in Spain, it is compliant with the Slow Carb Diet.  I used canned tomatoes, canned roasted peppers and bottled artichokes because it is still too early in Minnesota for fresh vegetables, and also because I am time-starved (like most of us).  It didn’t seem to take away from the deliciousness of this dish.

basque chorizo top 640x453 300x212 Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Supper: SCD Recipe

Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Dinner

Recipe:  Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Dinner

Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Supper: SCD Recipe


  • 6 oz. chorizo, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
  • 3 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1 inch)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 12 oz. jar of roasted peppers
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can black olives, drained and chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 9 oz artichoke hearts, frozen & thawed or bottled in water, quartered


  1. Over medium-high heat, heat up a large skillet with deep sides. Add the chorizo to the skillet and lightly brown them for 3-5 minutes, rendering the fat. Transfer chorizo to a plate, leaving the fat in the skillet.
  2. Keeping the skillet at medium-high, add the grapeseed oil and the chicken pieces to the skillet and cook, stirring or turning occasionally until just softened (about 5 minutes). Remove the chicken pieces to the plate with the chorizo.
  3. Add the roasted peppers and sliced onions and cook until onions are translucent (about 3-5 minutes). Add the garlic, tomatoes, olives, dry sherry, paprika and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits from the pan.
  4. Return the chicken and chorizo to the skillet, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Add the quartered artichoke hearts, raise the heat to medium and cook uncovered until the sauce is slightly thickened (5-10 minutes).
  6. If not on the SCD, serve with crusty french bread.
 Basque Chicken and Chorizo Skillet Supper: SCD Recipe

Enjoy and please share if you like this kind of content.



Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes