flanJune, folks. We are in June. That means half of this amazing year is pretty much over.  Carpe diem. The months always end on a nice note for me, because the last Monday brings Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club.  I was paired this month with Dena from Oh! You Cook!”. Dena describes herself as a librarian by day, recipe blogger by night, except on nights in which she works as a librarian…  Not only she works around books, but she is an author herself, having published last year “The Everything Kosher Slowcooker Cookbook”.  Check it out here.  Reading her blog is a lot of fun! She is quite witty, and often opens her articles with remarks that will bring a smile to your face.  For instance, the recipe I chose, carrot flan, is under a post entitled “Go Forth on the Fourth…”  I quote straight from her blog:

Go Forth on the Fourth…  and barbecue, of course! 

Steaks… check!

Skewered chicken… check!  

Carrot flan… huh?   🙂

So there you go. Whether you are making this dish as a side for a barbecue or as a light meal, it will turn your day into something unique. Elegant, light, sophisticated, and the best part: it’s actually quite simple to make.


(adapted from “Oh! You Cook!”)

Makes 6 individual servings.

for the flans:
12 ounces carrots (enough to make 2 1/2 cups of chopped pieces)
4 eggs
4 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of grated nutmeg

for the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon honey

Make the flans: Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter 6 ramekins (3/4-cup size). Cook the pieces of carrots in boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth, and let cool slightly.

Whisk the pureed carrots together with the eggs, heavy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Divide the mixture among the buttered ramekins, and place the ramekins in a baking pan. Add enough hot water to the baking pan so that the water goes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pain with foil and bake until the custards are set and a knife inserted near the middle of one comes out clean. (In my pathetic oven it took almost 1 hour, but you should start checking it at 40 minutes, normally it should take around 45 minutes). Remove the ramekins from the baking dish and let cool slightly before unmolding.

For the vinaigrette:  whisk together the lemon juice, lemon peel, mustard, and honey. Stream in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until an emulsion forms. Season well with salt and pepper,  and store in the refrigerator.

Final assembly of the dish:  Place a handful of salad greens of your choice for each serving of flan in a large bowl. Drizzle some vinaigrette over the greens, season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss to dress. Run a knife around the inside of the ramekins to loosen the flans, then invert them over a plate to unmold. Serve the flans with the salad  and an additional drizzle of the vinaigrette.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This might be a bold statement, but I’ll go ahead with it: I think this was my favorite recipe of all the “Secret Ones” I’ve made in the year and a half participating in the event.  Phil raved about it from the first bite, and said that these flans could be served on the best bistrots of Paris. How’s that for a compliment?  The leftover flans were warmed in a microwave for 40 seconds, and they unmolded perfectly then.  So, this recipe is a wonderful option for a dinner party.

tiediePolishing off the meal with non-stop compliments: Nice! Wearing a tie-die shirt with more colors than the dinner plate? Optional, but so very cool… 😉

If you want to see what my friends from Group D cooked up for this Reveal Day, click on the blue frog at the bottom of the post…. have fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars

TWO YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

THREE YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes


Not sure how we made it so fast to the end of May, but here we are!  And the last Monday of the month brings with it the Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club.  Bloggers are paired in secret, stalk each other’s site for a nice recipe, and blog about it on the same day.  This month I was paired with Erin, from The Spiffy Cookie.  She is a graduate student working on her PhD in Microbiology and that immediately puts us both in a similar page.  Granted, I probably had my PhD before she was born, but still… I know what it takes and how frustrating it can be to get there.   As I always say to the students in the lab, “science is not for sissies“.  But, I digress.   I spent quite a bit of time on her site, tempted by many of her recipes. A few examples for you:  Chicken Burgers with Garlic & Rosemary Yogurt, Apple Oatmeal Breakfast MuffinsNutella Mousse (that almost made my final cut), and Nutella-Swirled Banana Bread Snack Cake (do I need to say anything more?).  But, in the end, my heart was set on Penne with Trapanese Pesto, because it seemed like the type of recipe Phil and I would love.  Plus, the almonds in the sauce take me to a Persian aura that is quite welcome in our kitchen these days. So, without further ado, my contribution to the SRC this month…

Sally(photo kindly optimized by an angel called Sawsan…)

(slightly adapted from The Spiffy Cookie)

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup almonds, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic
12 basil leaves
1-2 anchovies filets (or to taste)
2 tsp capers
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, almonds, garlic, basil, anchovies, capers, crushed red pepper, cheese, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to get it going. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin stream. Taste it. Add a little more salt if needed.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pot.  Pour the pesto over the pasta and toss to combine.  Store whatever is left in a sealed container in the fridge for a week. Serve  with more cheese and basil.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I made two small modifications in the recipe, adding capers and anchovies to the pesto. Now, for those who personally know me, it will be shocking to learn I added anchovies were anchovies were not called for.  Yes, indeed, I don’t like anchovies, but have been working on improving our relationship.  For one of those virtual coincidences, a food blog I recently fell in love with (Chef Mimi Blog) had a post on Trapanese Pesto, and she added anchovies.  Being a certified anchovy-wimp, I added only 1 small filet, carrying it with the tip of the fork, arm extended as far as I could to avoid its pungent aroma…   🙂  Capers seemed like a natural partner for all other ingredients,  so into the pesto they went.

This was a delicious meal! For my taste, Trapanese pesto beats the Genovese by a long shot.  Less oily, less pungent.  The recipe made more sauce than needed for our pasta dinner, leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Erin, it was great to stalk your blog for recipes and get to know your site better (although I’ve visited your blog many times before) through this month’s adventure with SRC.  For those who want to see the full collection of recipes posted by members of our group, click on the funky frog and have fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Superman

TWO YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

THREE YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango



Mondays keep coming, rushing over me, but the toughest day in the week is made brighter when it’s…. Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club!  This club is getting more and more interesting, as new food bloggers join in. I heard the waiting list is huge, so if you have any interest in this type of group event, get yourself in line!    This month I was paired with the blog Everyday Insanity. The name describes my days quite closely… 😉  I also love her tag line: Tackling life, one brownie recipe at a time!  Everyday Insanity is hosted by Cindy, and her choice of name for the blog might be due to her having 6 kids and 14 grandchildren!  My life all of a sudden feels like a walk at the park. Seriously.  Her blog is full of tasty recipes, not only sweets.  I was very tempted to make her Thai Coconut Chicken soup, but these bars won me over. Plus, the timing was perfect: I brought them to our department on Valentine’s Day!

(from Everyday Insanity)

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1+1/4 cup light brown sugar, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt + 1 pinch, divided
10 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 + 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 egg

Heat your oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8 inch square baker with aluminum foil, allowing excess to hang over the edges of the pan.  Grease foil; set pan aside.

Combine the oats, 1 cup of brown sugar, ¾ cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and a pinch of salt.  Stir together in a bowl to combine.  Melt 8 Tbsp butter and stir into the oat mixture until combined.  Reserve ¾ cup of the mixture for the topping.  Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan and press into an even layer.  Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Combine the remaining ¼ cup flour, the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar, and the remaining  ¼ tsp salt in a bowl.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate chips and the remaining 2 Tbsp butter in a large bowl, microwaving at 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each.  Let cool slightly.  Add the egg and whisk until combined.  Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.

Pour the chocolate filling over the cooled crust and sprinkle with the remaining oatmeal mixture.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.  Using the foil overhang, lift the bars from the pan and cut into squares.  Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Valentine’s Day this year fell on a Thursday, so I bravely decided to tackle this recipe the evening before. After work. After dinner. Not a smart move.  I completely overlooked the instruction to “reserve part of the mixture for the topping”, and of course got into full-blast panic mode when I noticed my mistake.  By then the base of the bar was already in the oven.   I rushed to make a little more topping, calculating proportions of all ingredients quickly in my mind, hoping for the best.  Probably due to my level of stress, the chocolate seized in the microwave, prompting me to throw one of those fits that brings Phil back into the kitchen, already holding a box of Kleenex.  To make a long story short, without him, there would be no bars.  Unbearable thought.

So, when you make these absolutely delicious bars, do yourself a favor and follow the recipe as written.  That way the base of your bar will the thinner, and the crumb topping will be lighter, as intended.

Cindy, it was wonderful to get to “meet” you through this baking adventure!  Thanks to you (and also to the imperturbable man I married), I could take a platter full of sweetness to work on the sweetest day of the year!


To see what others in my group prepared for Reveal Day, click on the funky little frog smiling at the end of the post. Do you want to know who got my blog and what she cook from it?   Jane, from The Healthy Beehive picked a favorite recipe of mine, check it out by clicking here

ONE  YEAR AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

TWO YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

THREE YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini


Drum roll please…..     This is my first anniversary as a member of The Secret Recipe Club!   One year!  Obviously, I was counting the days for this Reveal Day, and jumped on my assigned blog the very minute I got the email notification.  This month I am cooking from Loving Life, a fun blog hosted by Kirstin, the super busy Mom of two teenage daughters, who also home schools them.  I get tired just thinking about it.  The mystery is how does she find the time to cook and blog?   Superpowers?  Probably. I chose a recipe from her blog quite quickly, because it is one of the favorite dishes we used to order at a place called BJ’s in Oklahoma.  Light, refreshing, flavorful,  Phil and I would share that as an appetizer almost every single time, but I had never made it at home.  Great opportunity, which I grabbed right away!  😉

(adapted from Loving Life)

for teriyaki sauce:
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. Sesame oil

for chicken:
3/4 lb. chicken breast or tenders, diced in small pieces
6 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced baby-bella mushrooms
3/4 cup chopped cashews
1 tsp. soy sauce
canola oil
6-8 butter lettuce leaves

for topping:
2 carrots, peeled & julienned
1/2 Tbs. Sesame Seeds

Mix all sauce ingredients, making sure the brown sugar dissolves.

Place some canola oil in a non-stick pan and cook chicken till cooked through and lightly browned. Add green onions, mushrooms, cashews and 1 tsp. soy sauce. Cook until mushrooms soften. Add teriyaki sauce. Cook stirring often on medim-high heat until sauce began to caramelize a bit on the chicken. Lower heat to “low” and continue to cook a bit longer or until your desired consistency is reached.
Serve on lettuce cups, adding julienned carrots and sesame seeds on top.

to print the recipe, click here

We absolutely loved this recipe!  Next time I might just up the amount of sauce a little bit, but other than that, no changes…    This post gives me the opportunity to share with you a very special gift we received from our friend Cindy.  She probably got tired of me complaining about the electric stove in our new home, and one day I got this box delivered with an induction-type single burner cooktop!  Not only it works great, but it is a life-saver for me, due to another small problem in our kitchen: no ventilation. I had pretty much given up on frying or sauteing fish or meat.   With this cooktop, I was able to install a cooking area on our patio, and voila’: no more offensive odors!  Plus, it’s is such a nice setting, don’t you agree?

Cindy, thanks so much for such a thoughtful gift!

For the full round-up on the Secret Recipe Club, click on the cute blue frog. To see which recipe was chosen from my blog this month click here to visit Lindsay’s blog…

Kirstin, nice to “meet” your blog!  Have fun with today’s reveal day!

ONE YEAR AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

TWO YEARS AGO: Panmarino

THREE YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken


Last Monday of the month = Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club!  I could not be happier with my matching blog for this month:  Beautiful Disasters, hosted by Casey, the coolest girl in the whole blogosphere.  I first got to “meet” her when she made a flourless chocolate cake from my blog,  and that was the most popular recipe of our SRC that month!  How awesome is that?   Casey is a hard working high school student, athletic, witty, and keeps a blog that is always fun to visit.  I was thrilled to cook from her site.   Being a young runner with a high metabolism and all, she’s got a ton of sweets to share, but  I wanted to go for something savory. The weather is cooling down (Sally grabs the box of Kleenex), so I searched for a comforting soup.  My first click on the index was for corn chowder.  She starts her post with “Do you wish you had an accent?”   Casey, you got me right there!  I simply HAD to make your chowda.. 😉

(adapted from Beautiful Disasters)

2 cups corn kernels
2 Tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons thyme
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
a few fresh basil leaves
scant 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4   cups water
8 baby Yukon gold potatoes, cut in pieces
¾   cup half-and-half
1/2 Tablespoon white sugar

Heat the butter in a large pan.  Let it melt, then add the shallots, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the shallot is soft and starting to get some golden color. Add the flour and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually add the water, keep stirring. Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the corn kernels and potatoes. Bring the chowder to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Transfer a little less than 2 cups of the chowder and the basil leaves to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir the puree back into the pan. Add the half-and-half then return the chowder to a simmer.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and mix in the sugar.


to print the recipe, click here

Delicious chowder, creamy, luscious, even if I took a few shortcuts with the recipe.  Full disclosure: Casey did not use frozen corn.  I am sure it would be even better with fresh corn and getting all that juicy corn milk, but I had to simplify the preparation to accommodate my schedule.

Now, back to the fascinating topic of accents.  As any immigrant, I am often reminded that I have an accent.   I don’t mind it that much, but I certainly wish I didn’t get in other types of trouble.

Allow me to share a quick story.  Day one of  lab move: I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off,  asking our secretary, one of the moving guys, and a  student “I need the doily.  Have you seen the doily around?”   All of a sudden, Phil gently grabs grabs my arm,  takes me to the side and whispers “Sally, darling, you are looking for the dolly, not the doily“.  That’s when  I understood their small delay in answering my question with a sheepish “I don’t know where it is”.   (sigh)

Casey, I hope you had a blast with your assignment too!
And for all my readers, don’t forget to click on the blue frog below to see the full list of posts by the members of Group D, the group that closes each month with a golden key!  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Oven-broiled Salmon over Saucy Spinach

TWO YEARS AGO: Butterscotch Brownies

THREE YEARS AGO: First Soup of the Year