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Mon, April 22

Recipes to please guests - and yourself

Since most of us have guests from time to time who come to enjoy this beautiful area, here are some easy meals to prepare for them. The first is a coffee cake to take advantage of fresh blueberries right now. The others are side dishes to use with your favorite grilled meat. Most could be cut in half, but I have used the original so you have plenty of food and maybe some leftovers.

BLUEBERRY CREAM CHEESE COFFEE CAKE

1 cup fresh or frozen blue

berries (rinsed if fresh)

1/4 cup apple juice

1 tsp. cornstarch

2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into chunks, plus more for buttering the pan

1/2 tsp. each baking powder and baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. grated lemon peel

1/4 - 3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 large eggs

6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350. In 1-2 qt. pan over medium heat, bring blueberries and apple juice to boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until blueberries have released their juices - about 3 minutes. In small bowl, blend cornstarch and 2 tsp. water. Add to blueberry mixture, stir until it simmers and thickens, about 1 minute. Let cool to room temperature.

In bowl or food processor, mix or whirl flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Add butter to flour mixture. Cut in with pastry blender or pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 cup; pour remaining into a large bowl and stir in baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon peel.

In bowl, mix yogurt, vanilla and 1 egg until blended; stir into flour-baking powder mixture until incorporated. Spread batter in a buttered 9-inch round pan with a removable rim.

In a bowl or food processor (no need to wash from step 2), beat with an electric mixer on high speed or whirl cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, remaining egg, and lemon juice until smooth. Spread over batter in pan, leaving a 1/2 inch border bare. Gently spread blueberry mixture over cream cheese mixture, leaving some cream cheese visible.

Stir almonds into reserved flour mixture and sprinkle over cake, concentrating most around edge of batter. Bake until center of cake barely jiggles when pan is gently shaken and top of cake is golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove pan rim. Serve warm or room temperature. Serves 10-12.

CRUNCHY NAPA CABBAGE SLAW

This is a popular side salad for barbecues, etc., but this has a few twists.

2/3 cup slivered almonds

8 cups (about 1 lb.) coarsely shredded napa cabbage

12 oz. snow peas, strings removed, rinsed and thinly sliced

1 1/3 cups each thinly sliced radishes, thinly

sliced green onions (including tops) and lightly packed rinsed fresh cilantro leaves.

CREAMY SOY DRESSING

Preheat oven to 350. Place almonds in 9-inch cake pan. Bake until golden, shaking pan once, about 7 minutes. In large bowl, combine cabbage, snow peas, radishes, green onions and cilantro. Add dressing and almonds to cabbage mixture; mix gently to coat. Pour into serving bowl.

In a small bowl, combine 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 3 tbsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 peeled and minced garlic clove, 1/2 tsp. sesame oil, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger and 1/4 tsp. cayenne; stir until sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk in 1 cup mayonnaise, stirring until blended.

PINQUITO BEANS

For a little history, these beans are grown and harvested in the Central Coast area of California and are native to that area, dating back to the early settlers who served them with the famous tri-tip barbecues still served today on nearly every street comer on weekends.

They are a tasty, unique treat, especially with good cuts of grilled beef. Look for a small, cocoa-colored round bean labeled pinquito beans. This calls for canned, but I urge you to try the dry beans you cook for a real taste treat. You should be able to find them in some grocery stores and in our coming Trader Joe's.

6 oz. sliced bacon, chopped

3 onions (1 1/2 lbs. total) coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed in garlic press

1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 1/4 cup red enchilada sauce

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard

5 cans (15 oz. each) undrained pinquito beans or substitute pinto beans if unavailable.

In 5-6 qt. pan over high heat, frequently stir bacon until crisp, about 4 minutes. Lift out with slotted spoon and drain on towels. Discard all but 1 tbsp. of drippings from pan. Add onions and garlic to pan. Stir often until onion is lightly browned about 5 minutes. Add green pepper, enchilada sauce, tomato paste, sugar, mustard, beans and bacon. Stir often until boiling, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors blend, 10 minutes. Pour into serving bowl. Serves 10-14.

SOUTHWEST CORNBREAD

Again, this is a popular, often-seen recipe, but this one has great flavor and texture.

1 cup each all-purpose flour and yellow cornmeal

1/3 plus 1 tbsp. sugar

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

About 1/4 cup cooled melted butter

1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilis

1/4 cup (3 oz.) coarsely shredded jack cheese

1 tbsp. chili powder

Preheat oven to 400. In bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, 1/3 cup sugar, the baking powder and the salt. In another bowl, beat eggs to blend with buttermilk and 1/4 cup butter. Stir in chiles and cheese. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir just until evenly moistened. Scrape batter into buttered 8- or 9-inch square pan, spread level. In bowl, mix remaining 1 tbsp. sugar and chili powder; sprinkle over batter. Bake until bread springs back when lightly pressed in center and begins to pull from sides 20-25 minutes. May serve hot or room temperature. About 9 servings.

Enjoy the beauty of summer with outdoor gatherings of families and friends eating tasty foods.

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