Light Iced Martini Cocktails

A refreshing and light cocktail.

Light Iced Martini Cocktails

A refreshing and light cocktail.

2        cups chilled vodka  (I like to freeze it to make it extra cold.)

1        cup chilled seltzer

¼ (one fourth) cup dry vermouth

         Ice cubes, with olives already frozen in them

         Cucumber or lemon slices, cut thin for garnish

         In a martini pitcher, gently stir together vodka, seltzer, and vermouth. Pour into  half ice-filled martini glasses. Garnish with olives, lemons, or cucumbers.

         I like to pre-freeze my ice cubes with the pimento olives for an added touch.


Jalapeno Peppers with Scallions-Olives and Cream Cheese

Makes 32 halves

1                    8 ounce package cream cheese, softened

3                    tablespoons sour cream

1/4  (one fourth) cup finely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives

1-2     scallions, light parts only, finely chopped       

16      large jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded and ribbed

         Prepare jalapeno peppers by slicing them in half lengthwise and removing the seeds and ribs for a less hot and spicy taste.

                     In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, chopped olives and scallions, and

sour cream. Spoon about 2-teaspoons of mixture into each jalapeno half and place on

serving platter, cover to refrigerate.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Helpful Hint: Wear disposable gloves when preparing jalapeno peppers; the oils can burn skin. Avoid touching your face.


Texas Chili

Submitted by Jack Swann, Hampstead

3        pounds cubed beef

1        tablespoon paprika

1        tablespoon onion powder

½ (one half) teaspoon cayenne powder

2        teaspoons, beef bullion

1        teaspoon chicken bullion

1        8-ounce can tomato sauce

4        teaspoons ground cumin

1        teaspoon garlic powder

½ (one half)  teaspoon ground back pepper

6        tablespoons chili powder


         Briefly sear meat and add paprika, onion powder, cayenne, bullion, tomato sauce, and water to cover.  Simmer covered for 1 ½ (one and one half) hours or so.  Add cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, and chili powder.  Cook for another 30 minutes or until meat is tender.  Serve with cheese and onions, put it on tortillas.


Tort Rose

Submitted by Paul Skolnick, Wilmington, NC

1        pound sweet Italian sausage

1        large sweet onion, diced small

2        tablespoons fresh chopped garlic

½ (one half) pound fresh mushrooms sliced

1        quart heavy cream

4        ounces tomato sauce

1        cup grated Asiago cheese

1        bag loose spinach

6        quarts water

2        pounds tortellini

         Sauté sausage in a large saucepan until meat is brown.  Break sausage up as it cooks.  Remove the meat from the pan.  Reserve liquid from sausage in pan.  Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Cook the liquid out, 8-10 minutes, over medium heat.  Add the sausage back into the mixture.  Add cream and stir it until it comes to a boil.  Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring frequently to make sure nothing sticks.  Continue cooking to reduce the sauce by one third.  Add tomato sauce and stir.  Add the Asiago cheese and spinach and bring sauce to a simmer.  Stir until blended.  Remove from heat and pour over tortellini.

         In a separate pot, bring water to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook to al dente.  Drain tortellini and put in a serving bowl.  Pour sauce over tortellini, mix quickly to coat and serve.

         This recipe is easily cut in half, but leave the mushrooms at one half pound.  The addition of some diced tomatoes gives it a nice texture.


Maryland Crab Cakes

2                    pounds large-size fresh crabmeat, such as jumbo lump or backfin

1/3  (one third) cup light mayonnaise

1/2  (one half) cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1/4 (one fourth) cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

1                    large egg

2-3     teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

                     kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1                    cup fine saltine crumbs ( about 30 crackers)

4                    tablespoons butter, melted

                     lemon wedges for garnish

                     tartar sauce

Pre-heat broiler, with rack 4 inches from heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside. Turn out crabmeat onto paper towels; pick through to remove any shells or cartilage.

In a large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, chopped parsley, lemon juice, egg, Old Bay seasoning,  salt and  pepper, to taste.

Add crumbs and crabmeat to mayonnaise mixture; stir well to combine.  Dividing evenly, form mixture into 8 cakes. (To make ahead: Arrange cakes in a parchment paper-lined container so they do not touch; separate layers with additional parchment. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.)

Place crab cakes on prepared baking sheet; drizzle with melted butter. Broil until golden brown and warmed throughout, 12 to 15 minutes (move to lower shelf if tops brown too quickly). Serve with tarter sauce and lemon wedges.

Helpful Hint: Arrange cakes in a parchment paper-lined container so they do not touch; separate layers with additional parchment. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 day


Raspberry Cheesecake Squares

12      graham crackers, finely crushed

3                    tablespoons granulated sugar

                     pinch of salt

1/2  (one half)            cup (1 stick)  butter, melted

¾ (three fourths)  cup           seedless raspberry jam

2        8 –ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

¾ (three fourths) cup granulated sugar

1/2  (one half) cup sour cream or Greek yogurt, room temperature

½ (one half)  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2        large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender or food processor, process graham crackers, 2 tablespoons sugar, and pinch of salt until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in melted butter until crumbs are moistened. With your fingers press crumbs evenly into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake until crust is firm about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Reduce heat to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sour cream on medium until smooth and creamy. Add 3/4  (three fourths) cup sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla and pinch of salt;  beat to combine. Add eggs and beat until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed. Pour cream-cheese mixture onto cooled crust and smooth top.

Randomly drop small spoonfuls of raspberry jam on cream-cheese mixture. With a  thin-bladed knife, gently swirl raspberry jam. Bake just until set, about 25-28  minutes. Let cool slightly in pan on rack, then refrigerate until chilled and firm before cutting into squares, about 2-3 hours.

Cheesecake can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap or foil, up to 2 days.


Blondie Squares with Chocolate Chips, Pecans and Peanut Butter

8                    tablespoons (1 stick)  butter, melted, plus more for pan

1/2  (one half) cup packed light-brown sugar

1/3  (one third) cup granulated sugar

1                    large egg, room temperature

1                    teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1                    cup all-purpose flour

                     pinch of salt

¼ (one fourth)  cup creamy peanut butter

1                    cup semisweet chocolate chips

1                    cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush an 8-inch square baking pan with butter; line pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter paper.

In a large bowl, whisk butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in egg, peanut butter, and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix just until moistened (do not over-mix). Fold in 1/2  (one half) cup each chocolate chips and walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and walnuts.

Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Using parchment overhang, lift cake from pan and transfer to a cutting board; cut into 16 squares.  Store blondies in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 2 days.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.