Friday, October 31, 2008

PRODUCT REVIEW: SONY CYBERSHOT, 9.1 Megapixels, 15X Optical Zoom

Can you see any difference between these two photos? There should be a difference, because the top photo was taken with my new camera. After months of research, my hubby bought what he thinks is the next best thing to sliced bread. Since I'm not the world's best photographer, I probably goofed when I took both photos, because I can't see much of a difference. Positioning and lighting are so important, and I am so impatient. Taking more than one shot is also critical, and I'm usually too much in a hurry. I'm not sure we really needed a new camera after all, since neither of us is into photography. But we have it now. In fact, we have two cameras now.
The old camera is a SONY Cyber-shot, 4.1 megapixels, 6.1X optical zoom. It's a nice little camera, and great for idiots like me. The new camera is a SONY Cybershot, 9.1 megapixels, 15X optical zoom -- an updated version of our old one. It's slightly easier to use, but basically the same camera and is supposed to take good close-ups. True confession: I haven't read the instruction manual. Actually, I didn't read the manual for the first camera. I just point and shoot. Some day, when I have lots of time, I'll read the manual and learn more about photography.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


This is my own recipe. Guy is not big on scallops, and I love them. I don't like bay scallops -- too bitter, but the giant sea scallops are one of my faves. To make the scallops more palatable for him, I wrapped them in par-cooked bacon after first marinating them in a delightful Thai concoction. I skewered them with whole mushrooms that had also been marinated. (He said peppers would have been nice, and next time I'll add peppers for him.) Steamed broccoli and pea pods and coconut rice accompanied this deelish meal. You can see from the photo that there isn't much rice on my dish. That's because rice puts me in orbit about the way that chocolate does. Rice is high glycemic and raises blood sugar, then drops it dramatically several hours later, making you very hungry. Guy doesn't like brown rice and I don't want to eat white rice, so I compromised and made half brown and half white. We both got some of what we wanted. I started the brown rice first and cooked it for 30 minutes before adding the coconut milk and white rice. I have a neighbor who uses a rice cooker and she just puts the brown and white both in at the same time. The white gets a little overdone, but they're happy with it. Since we seldom eat rice in this house, I've never bought a rice cooker. This meal was so good and so satisfying that I know I'll be making it again.

Marinated and Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
Rating: 9 out of 10
4 tsp. chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
1/2 tsp. California hot sauce (or hot sauce of your choice)
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
6 whole mushrooms
optional: 1/2 green or red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1/2 lb. sea scallops (mine weighed .57 lb. and there were 7)
1 slice bacon for each scallop (I used 7 slices for 7 scallops)
In a small resealable sandwich bag, combine cilantro, garlic, lime juice, chili sauce, hot sauce and oil. Seal bag and massage to distribute ingredients. Transfer 2 Tbsp. of mixture to another sandwich bag and add the mushrooms (and peppers, if using). Place the scallops in the first bag. Seal both and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour or up to 6 hours.
Parcook bacon. (Here's an easy way: Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil. Place a wire rack over the tinfoil. Lay bacon strips on the rack. Bake @ 400F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.)
Lightly oil gas grill grates. Preheat gas grill to 400-425F. Wrap each of the scallops with a strip of bacon. Skewer the scallops, mushrooms and peppers. Grill for about 4 minutes each side, or till scallops are done, basting with remaining marinade throughout cooking process. Serve with coconut rice. Yield: 2 servings
(Coconut rice: 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 tsp. sea salt, 1/2 cup water, 3/4 cup lite coconut milk. Cook rice according to package directions.)

Friday, October 24, 2008


Right now, I'm in the use-up-what's-in-the-fridge mode of baking. That means recipes with cream cheese, sour cream and heavy cream.
Just so you know.

This recipe, found on Pamela Lanier's website, is very good. Pamela has recipes from bed and breakfast places around the country. And you know B&B's always serve good food. I added some vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate chips to the batter and subbed 1/2 cup pumpkin puree + 1 Tbsp. oil for the 1/3 cup oil called for. If I make these again, I'll also add some coffee syrup or coffee brandy to bring out the chocolate flavor a little more. An extra Tbsp. of cocoa would also be nice. Oh, and since I'm trying to use up my bread flour, I subbed 1/2 cup bread flour + 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour for the all-purpose flour. I'm enjoying these a lot, especially the cream cheese centers which are fluffy, soft and delicious. They're a nice surprise when you bite into the muffin. A yummy treat for breakfast, snack or dessert.

Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins, Adapted
Rating: 7 out of 10

Cheesecake Filling:
3 oz. Neufchatel cheese
2 Tbsp. sugar (I subbed some Stevia for half the sugar)
1/4 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat, or half and half)
1/2 cup sugar (Again, I subbed Stevia for half the sugar.)
3 Tbsp. cocoa (If you want these more chocolatey, make it 1/4 cup.)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips, divided (I used Nestle Chocolatier 53% cacao)
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk (I used fat-free half and half, because that's what I had.)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
optional: 1 tsp. strong coffee, coffee syrup, or coffee liqueur

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 10 muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. Have all ingredients at room temperature. In a small bowl, blend cheese, sugar and lemon juice til fluffy; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and 1/2 cup chips, mixing well to distribute ingredients evenly. In another small bowl, or in your blender, combine egg, milk, pumpkin, oil, vanilla and coffee flavor if using. Add wet ingredients all at once to dry, mixing lightly only till barely combined. Battery can be lumpy. Spoon a scant 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup, then drop 1 tsp. of cream cheese batter in centers, pressing down slightly.

Top with remaining chocolate batter, dividing equally among muffin cups. Scatter remaining chocolate chips over tops of muffins, pressing down slightly. Bake until toothpick inserted away from cheese filling comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Yield: 10 yummy muffins

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I found this recipe on the Allrecipes website, where it was rated 5 out of 5 by 80 members. I did make some changes. Click on the above link if you want to see the original recipe. I cut the salt, garlic and onion powders in half and, instead of putting mozzarella cheese on top, I added grated Monterey Jack with Jalapeno cheese to the burger mix. These were really good. We both liked them, because they were more like a beef burger than the typical turkey burger and the flavors went well together. I served them on a bed of lettuce with slices of avocado. Our side dish was a medley of baby carrots, yellow squash and onions with chopped fresh garden herbs, done on the grill in a foil packet. It was a yummy, low-fat dinner. We ate two of the burgers and I froze two, uncooked, for another meal.
Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burgers, Adapted
Rating: 9 out of 10
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, finely chopped (I seeded it before I chopped it.)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt (If you like salt, increase this to 1 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup grated, then chopped, Monterey Jack with Jalapeno cheese (You can add another 1/2
cup if you are a cheese lover.)
1 lb. ground turkey (I used 93% lean)
lettuce leaves
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, sliced
In a large bowl, combine onion, cilantro, chile, seasonings and cheese. Mix well to distribute ingredients evenly. Add turkey and mix lightly with hands or large spoon. Do not overmix, or burgers will be tough. Divide into 4 equal portions and shape into patties. Refrigerate covered till ready to cook.
Lightly oil outdoor grill grates. Preheat gas grill to 400-425F. Spray burgers lightly with non-stick cooking spray and place on preheated grill. Cook until turkey is no longer pink in center, about 4 minutes per side. Serveas is on lettuce with avocado slices, or on whole-wheat buns with lettuce, tomato and avocado. Very yummy! Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Here's an easy recipe for baked ziti. I used penne, but any tubular pasta will work. By adding extra liquid to the pan, you can cook the pasta right with the sauce, then put the pan in the oven to finish it off. I cooked sausages with the penne, so the meat and pasta are all in the same pan. All you need is a salad for a complete meal. This is very tasty and quite easy.

One-Pan Baked Penne with Sausages
Rating 9 out of 10

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided use
1-1/2 lbs. Italian sweet sausage
3 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
1" slice onion
2 hot pepper pods, seeded (or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper)
1 Tbsp. dry red wine
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano in thick puree (I used Red Pack)
1/4 tsp. crushed anise seed
14.5 oz. can low-sodium chicken broth
10 oz. penne (or other tubular pasta, such as ziti)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

In a large heavy skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat and add the sausage, cut into 5" links, browning them on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer sausages to a plate; keep warm. Wipe skillet with paper towel; add remaining olive oil to pan; reduce heat to medium; add garlic, onion, and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring as needed. (You can remove the onion pieces when the pasta is done cooking, or you can just leave them in. You can also chop the onion if you prefer.) Add wine, tomatoes, anise seed and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 15 minutes, stirring as needed. Add sausage to pot; cover; reduce heat to simmer; cook for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 450F. Remove pan cover; raise heat to medium-high; add pasta, salt and Parmesan cheese; stir; cook for 15-18 minutes, uncovered, or till pasta tests done, stirring often to prevent bottom from burning. (Keep heat to a low boil.) Sprinkle Mozzarella over top of pasta and place in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or till cheese is bubbling and browned. Serves 4

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


As promised, I made these muffins again so I could rate them. This time, they turned out great. I used 350F as my baking temp this time, added 1/4 cup of fat-free half and half, reduced the butterscotch and white chocolate chips just slightly and increased the pumpkin to 1/2 cup from 1/4 cup. The end result was a fluffier muffin with softer sides. I really like these. First off, there is a complex flavor here from all the veggies, chips, maple syrup, toasted walnuts and whole grains. Secondly, these are satisfying, filling and, although I can't say they're healthful, they're certainly better than filling up on fat- and sugar-laden brownies or chocolate chip cookies. (Not that I wouldn't like to, mind you. There's nothing like a chocolatey brownie or good chocolate chipper to make your day a little better.) Seriously, these muffins have lots of fiber and great taste with virtually no fat -- what's not to like? Thanks, Katrina, for a great recipe, one that I will make again and again, especially when I want to avoid hip-builders like chocolate and butter.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Crumb-Nut Topping:
3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. oats
3 Tbsp. chopped toasted walnuts
1 Tbsp. butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl with a spoon, fork or spatula. Set aside.

Muffins: 1/2 cup pumpkin
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup fat-free half and half
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour, lightly spooned & swept
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, lightly spooned & swept
1 cup oats pulsed in food processor (or unprocessed wheat bran, if preferred)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. powdered cloves
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/16 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup white chocolate clips
2 cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, banana, sugar and eggs; whisk till well combined. Add syrup, half and half and vanilla, whisking again till smooth and well combined.In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients, nuts and chips and whisk or stir till everything is mixed well. Add zucchini and stir with spatula till zucchini is well distributed throughout and coated with dry ingredients.Add dry ingredients to wet and stir with spatula just until moistened. Batter will be very thick and stiff. Scoop into muffin tins that have been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Top each muffin with about 1 Tbsp. crumb-nut topping, pressing in slightly so it sticks. Bake about 21 minutes, or till muffins test done: when a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn out on wire rack to finish cooling. Yield: 12 standard size muffins. (These are best when served warm.)

Monday, October 20, 2008


Every Sunday, America's Test Kitchen has a cooking show on PBS TV. America's Test Kitchen is affiliated with Cook's Illustrated Magazine, and many of the recipes illustrated in the magazine are from America's Test Kitchen. They also have a website, but recipes are only available to members.

This recipe for shrimp salad is very different from any shrimp salad you have ever made. The technique is so bazaar, I simply had to try it. Starting everything, including the shrimp, in a cold pot and heating on medium heat just to barely a simmer produces beautifully cooked tender shrimp with lots of flavor. As ATK pointed out, because the shrimp take longer to cook, they can absorb more of the flavor of the court bouillon. Smart, huh? This is a very good shrimp salad, one that I would make again. The flavor is decidely lemonny and light, a real winner.

America's Test Kitchen Shrimp Salad
Rating: 9 out of 10

Sauce: 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup celery, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 tsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. minced fresh tarragon or basil
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Mix all sauce ingredients together in small bowl. Refrigerate, covered.

1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups water
the lemon halves that you just squeezed
5 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs tarragon (I didn't have tarragon, so I subbed basil)
1 tsp. sea salt
small handful peppercorns
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 lb. extra-large shrimp, 21-25 count, peeled and deveined

Put everything in a 3-quart heavy pot, cold. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pot to keep track of the water temperature. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes, or till thermometer registers 165F, just under a simmer. The shrimp should be pink and just slightly curled.

Drain shrimp; plunge in ice bath, 3-4 minutes, to stop cooking. Drain shrimp thoroughly. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut in thirds. Add to sauce; mix well; refrigerate. Serve on avocado halves, lettuce & tomato or on rolls.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


This is a pretty easy dinner idea, and fajitas have everything you need for a balanced meal, so no need to have anything else. The marinade makes all the difference, adding special flavor to the meat. These are not hard at all. You can make the marinade a day or two ahead of time if you want, and just keep it in the fridge. Cut the veggies the night before. That doesn't leave much to do for the day of the meal. See what I mean? A snap.
And they really taste yummy. Use your favorite tortillas. (I like the low-carb tortillas.) Nowadays there are so many varieties, you really have your pick. Top the fajitas with store-bought salsa, shredded Monterey Jack Jalapeno cheese and chopped avocado or guacamole. These are a healthful and complete meal, and something you can feel good about eating. Sure beats an American cheeseburger for nutritional value.

If you haven't tried fajitas, now is your chance. It doesn't get any easier than this.

Yummy Chicken Fajitas
Rating: 9 out of 10
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. honey
2 Tbsp. water
1-1/2 Tbsp. lime juice
dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves)
dash of lite soy sauce
3/4 lb. chicken tenders, or boneless chicken breast
1 medium onion, cut in strips
1 red bell lpepper, cut in strips
1 small zucchini, cut in strips
1 cup store-bought salsa
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, chopped (or guacamole, if preffered)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Jalapeno cheese
4 tortillas

Mix all marinade ingredients in quart-size plastic resealable bag, combining well. Scoop out 1/4 cup; place in a second quart-size bag; add chicken; seal; refrigerate 1/2 hour or up to 8 hours. Add veggies to first bag; seal; refrigerate 1/2 hour or overnight.

Preheat gas grill to 425F. Drain veggies and place in aluminum foil, closing tightly to make a bag. Place on grill. Drain chicken and place directly on grill. Cook chicken about 15 - 20 minutes, or till done, turning once. Remove chicken and veggies from grill. Place tortillas directly on grill and cook about 30 seconds each side, or till grill marks show.

Slice chicken into thin strips. Divide chicken among the 4 tortillas. Add veggies, then top with cheese, salsa and avocado.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Last night we ate at the Thai Thai Seafood Restaurant here in New Bern, with friends, to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary (gulp...where did the time go?). It was the first time that Guy and I ate at Thai Thai, even though they've been here for 4 years.  Sara and Tom, our friends, eat there regularly.  Sara, who is Thai, says part of the menu is authentic Thai and other parts are Americanized.

Before I give my rating on Thai Thai, let me just say that I don't eat Chinese or Japanese and I really don't favor Asian restaurants, mostly because of all the deep frying. Guy absolutely loved the place because, as he said, he couldn't taste the oil. Everything was light and crisp. I agree that there was no aftertaste, and I didn't even get indigestion from the frying oil, but just about everything is deep fried.  Thai people also tend to use a lot of sugar. For instance, their cucumber salad, that people rave over, has a lot of sugar in it.  I think I'm going to be odd man out here, because Thai Thai is very popular in New Bern, and no one seems to care that they are eating deep fried food and a lot of sugar. Don't get me wrong -- everything tasted fantastic. It's just I prefer not to eat that way.

The service at Thai Thai is outstanding. The ambience is mixed -- there is a Thai feel, but the view is of the city traffic. Still, it's a really cute place with sweet Thai people surrounding you with love and well-prepared food.

They start you off with a plate of "chips" coated with their sweet sauce. The "chips" are a very thin won-ton, deep fried, that are totally addictive. I asked them please not to bring any more, because they were just too good.

Next, we had a plate of appetizers: fried squid, shrimp inside won-ton wrappers, and, naturally, egg rolls. Everything was fresh and exquisitely prepared, and I ate with gusto, using some of the assorted sweet and hot sauces that they bring to the table.

Sara ordered a Thai salad and insisted I try some. It was delicious. It had lettuce, cellophane noodles, crumbled chicken and cilantro on it, among other things.

I found, I think, one of the very few entrees that wasn't fried:  shrimp and chicken satay. I asked for steamed broccoli instead of the too-sweet cucumber salad, and they graciously accommodated me. The owners are very accommodative towards their guests. By the time the entree arrived, however, I had filled up on everything that came before and wasn't terribly hungry.

I never order desserts at restaurants, first because I never have enough room, and second because I'm always disappointed. I find restaurant desserts in general lacking in taste, not always fresh, and too sweet. But Tom and Sara ordered an assortment of desserts to be brought to be the table, so I tried a little of each. The fried ice cream was not for me, though it is Tom's favorite dessert. On this one, I could taste the oil. It was served with a raspberry sauce, but it was hard to taste the raspberries because of all the sugar. The cheesecake was still frozen and tasted more like a frozen custard dessert with an aftertaste of sweetened condensed milk, which I don't like. Sara insisted I try the pumpkin custard. It was ok, but just not for me; it was very light, but overly sweet, which masked the pumpkin flavor.

The prices at Thai Thai are not cheap; but when you consider that the place is spotless, the food is very fresh and well prepared and the service is exemplary, you are not being short-changed.

Will I go back? Maybe, but not soon. I love all the fried stuff, but I just don't feel good about eating it, so I'll stay at home or go to my old standby, Outback, where I can get plain old lamb chops with a plain old baked potato and a plain old salad.  In New Bern, there isn't much else.

5/21/11 Update:  We've discovered some New Bern restaurants that are pretty good:  Morgan's, Persimmons, Captain Ratty's and Bella Cucina, to name a few.  There's a problem with each one, but if you order carefully, you can get a good meal.

***For more New Bern restaurant reviews, go to my New Bern blog.  Scroll down on the right hand column till you see Restaurant Reviews.

Thai Thai Rating: 4.5 out of 5


I don't know what it is about carrots, but they sit in my fridge forever. I guess I just forget about them. They're a high-glycemic veggie, and I tend to avoid them, except for making chicken stock and grating them into salads. I buy the little baby carrots, thinking I will eat them, but never do. So there I was with almost a whole bag of baby carrots not eaten. I decided to make this soup. The recipe was on one of those supermarket recipe cards that you find at the end of the aisle. Since I'm a big fan of fennel, I thought I couldn't lose. And I didn't. I cut the recipe in half and it was enough for two servings. This soup is very tasty, and reminds me of pumpkin soup. The real bonus here is that I got rid of my carrots ... that is, until I buy another bag.

Carrot-Fennel Soup, adapted for 2
Rating: 8 out of 10
1 Tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. bag baby carrots
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1-1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme + extra for garnish
pinch of sea salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4-1/3 cup fat-free half and half (Land o-Lakes recommended; it won't curdle when heated)

Heat olive oil in 2-quart heavy pot; add carrots, fennel and onion and saute' over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, till onion and fennel are cooked and carrots are crisp-tender. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add broth, thyme, salt and pepper; turn heat to high and bring to a boil; cover; reduce heat and cook 10-15 minutes to blend flavors and tenderize veggies. Process mixture in food processor or blender until smooth (or blend right in pot with an immersion blender.) Return puree to pot and heat on medium-low. Add half and half. Garnish with thyme sprigs.
Yield: 2 servings

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


You can find the original version of this recipe on the website
with all the stellar reviews. I halved it and used whole-wheat pastry flour and bread flour, instead of all-purpose. I doubled the chocolate, but used a chopped Hershey's bar with almonds instead of chocolate chips. And, lastly, I took out the oil and used my homemade applesauce instead. A little sprinkle of cocoa, cinnamon and sugar on the tops is a nice finish, not in the original version. The somewhat brownish color of the muffin is, I think, from the chopped Hershey's. (When you chop a Hershey's bar, you get some very small pieces which probably melt as the muffin bakes. Mixed with the cinnamon, it produces a brownish muffin.) Although there's fat in the Hershey's bar and, technically, some fat in the egg yolk and whole-wheat flour, the muffin is virtually fat-free with no oil or butter. And, amazingly, the muffin is still very moist. It's also tender and delicious with just a hint of cinnamon and a hint of chocolate, and it's not overly sweet -- just right, I think. This is a good recipe, one that I would make again.

Fat-Free Zucchini-Chocolate Chip Muffins
Rating: 7 out of 10
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
big pinch ginger
1 tsp. sugar
In small cup or dish, combine all ingredients, mixing well. Set aside.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1/4 cup bread flour + 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour)
1/4 + 1/8 cup sugar (I used 3/4 tsp. Stevia for the 1/8 cup sugar)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used 1/4 cup chopped Hershey's with almonds)
2 Tbsp. toasted chopped pecans
1/2 cup shredded, then finely chopped, zucchini, packed
1/2 large egg (separate white and yolk and measure half of each)
1/4 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp. milk
1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. pure vanila extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 6-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk first 5 ingredients together (dry ingredients) till well combined. Add chocolate, pecans and zucchini and whisk till well distributed.
In small bowl, whisk remaining ingredients till well combined and smooth. Stir into dry ingredients with spatula or spoon, mixing only till barely combined. Distribute batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin top with some of the topping. Bake 18-22 minutes, or till toothpick inserted near center returns clean. Cool in pans 5 minutes, then turn muffins out onto wire rack to finish cooling., or serve immediately. Yield: 6 muffins.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I am so excited! I have found you the most wonderful recipe. It's been in my recipe file for a year because it certainly sounded different, but the question was: would it be good? Well, it is -- and then some. Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens for this gem of a recipe. If it sounds weird, just work through it because you must -- you absolutely must -- try this. I cut the recipe in half to make 6 muffins, using 1/2 large Bartlett pear. I suggest you make the whole recipe, because you will eat these right up. And this, coming from a not-so-enthusiastic gingerbread person. Gingerbread and ginger muffins are usually last -- dead last -- on my list of things to make. And pears are not high on my list either. But these are different. Is it the soft, sweet pear -- or is it the moist, spicy, flavorful, light muffin -- or maybe the melted dark chocolate on top? How about all of the above. These are on my A list of best muffins. Click on the link below to get the full recipe. Here's the half batch recipe that I made. Follow directions closely, especially cooling time in the muffin pan. If you try to take these out early, they'll break apart. And don't overfill the muffin cups, like I did. Only fill them 2/3 full because when you put the pear wedges in, they'll fill up more.
Gingerbread Pear Muffins, Half Batch
Source: Better Homes & Gardens (Click the link for the full recipe)
Rating: 10 out of 10
3/4 cup flour (I used 1/4 cup bread flour + 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. sea salt
scant 2 Tbsp. butter
scant 1/3 cup molasses
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (I used 3/4 tsp. Stevia)
1/2 large egg (separate white from yolk and measure half of each)
3 Tbsp. boiling water
1/2 large pear, cut into 6 wedges
1.5 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
optional: raw sugar for topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 6-cup muffin tin with flour-added nonstick cooking spray. For best results, use a 2-1/2 inch muffin cup. (I used a 2-1/4" cup pan and had too much batter, making it even more difficult to get the muffins out.)
In a medium bowl, combine first 6 ingredients (dry ingredients), whisking till well combined.
In a small microwaveable bowl, microwave the butter till melted. Add molasses, brown sugar and egg and whisk till well combined. Whisk in boiling water. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full; add pear wedge to each muffin cup; press lightly. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. (Mine took 17 minutes.) If using raw sugar, sprinkle it over tops now, then add chocolate pieces to tops of muffins.
Cool in pan on rack for a full 10 minutes. Use a table knife to smooth melted chocolate over tops of muffins. Remove from cups and finish cooling on rack. Yield: 6 muffins
Here's what happens if you take them out of the pans too soon: they just break apart. But even then they're delicious. I ate all the crumbs that dropped through the wire rack. And all the chocolate drippings as well. These muffins have wrecked my diet!

Sunday, October 12, 2008


It's apple time, and I am an apple lover. My favorite apples for pie are Winesap and Rome. For applesauce, I like to mix the apples, using half MacIntosh, half Granny Smith. Applesauce may seem like a boring dish to make, but homemade applesauce just can't be beat for flavor and texture. It can be served as an accompaniment to pork chops, as a dessert, with morning oatmeal, by itself or with cottage or Ricotta cheese for lunch or snack. It has so many uses, and without cane sugar added, it's somewhat healthful.

Applesauce is very easy to make. You don't need a food mill -- that is one way to make it; but try it my way and you'll find it quite simple. This applesauce has a very deep apple flavor, and a wonderful texture with a few soft chunks here and there.

No-Sugar Double-Apple Applesauce
4 cups apples, peeled, cored, chopped (half MacIntosh, half Granny Smith)
6 oz. container frozen apple juice concentrate
2-3 whole cinnamon sticks
optional: 1/2 cup raisins or craisins

In a 2 quart heavy saucepan, place all ingredients over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring with a spoon or spatula. Lower heat to a low boil and cook about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, stirring as needed, till sauce thickens and liquid is almost evaporated. The apples will take on a golden amber color. Taste for sweetness, adding more concentrate if necessary. (You can add raisins or craisins, if desired, during last fifteen minutes of cooking, for additional taste and texture -- they will also absorb some of the liquid.) Remove from heat and cool, leaving cinnamon sticks in. Serve warm; refrigerate leftovers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Trenton, New Jersey; New York and Chicago, Illinois all have something in common: Italian sections where you can get, among other things, great sausage. (There are other cities, as well, that have Italian sections.) My husband grew up in Trenton, New Jersey; and sausage and peppers were part of his tradition. I'd like to make sausage and peppers with turkey sausage, but he would never eat it. So, when we go to Trenton, we visit Porfirio's and bring back some of the best sausage you could ever eat. It's fairly lean, as pork sausage goes. Porfirio's (in the Chambersburg section of Trenton) makes it fresh every day. We take it home packed in dry ice and regular ice, then freeze it in 1-1/2 lb. packages. Some of it goes into our homemade spaghetti sauce (a secret recipe from Guy's aunt, who owned restaurants and cooked for Dean Martin when she lived in Las Vegas.)
Some of it gets cooked on the grill, and some in a skillet with sausage and peppers. Sometimes I add potatoes to the peppers and onions, and sometimes I add fennel. The other item we buy when we go to Trenton, is Italian rolls from Italian People's Bakery. There is no other roll on earth that can compare. These are very lightly crispy on the outside and light as a feather inside. It's very easy to eat too many of these, because they go down so easily, kind of like Dunkin' Donuts. In our little town of New Bern, North Carolina, we've tried every Italian sausage that is made, and Guy just won't eat any of them. Our local Harris Teeter, however, has started to carry some nice rolls. While they can't compare with Italian People's, they do hold sausage and peppers quite nicely. So, right now, when we still have sausage in the freezer, but no more Italian People's rolls, Guy can have his sausage in a decent roll. I eat the sausage and peppers sans roll.

Here is how I make sausage and peppers.

Cut approx. 1-1/2 lbs. Italian pork or turkey sausage into links, about 4" each, or the size to fit your roll. Pour about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in 10" or 12" skillet, tilting to coat bottom, and heat on medium-high heat. Add sausage when oil is hot and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove sausage from pan; drain on paper towels; keep warm. (Porfirio's sausage does not give off a lot of fat; if the sausage you are using does, you might want to wipe out the skillet and add a little olive oil before adding the veggies.) Slice 1 large onion and 1 large pepper (green or red, or mixture) and add to skillet. Salt and pepper to taste (I go lightly because the sausage is salty, and because I tend to undersalt.) Saute` the onions and peppers about 5 minutes, then add the sausage. Sprinkle about 1-2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar) over all, and stir. Cook till veggies are crisp-tender, sausage is thoroughly cooked but not overdone, and liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Serve as is or on rolls. (We had this for dinner the other night, no rolls, with homemade tomato soup for a filling and satisfying meal. Guy eats the leftovers for lunch with roll.)

There are a lot of variations on this theme: add sweet potatoes or white potatoes to the peppers and onions; add fennel; add tomato paste and sauce to the skillet, or fresh cut-up tomatoes; add beans. You can also add any herbs you want -- typically, basil and oregano are herbs of choice. Some people add crushed red pepper. Adding potatoes or beans would not be authentic Italian. But then, speaking as a German-Hungarian, who cares what's authentic? If you like the way it tastes, that's all that counts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Another great recipe from
This is a thick batter, and it's loaded with berries. I used frozen and the results were great. I love the texture and flavor of this muffin and love all the berries. Moist, tender and flavorful -- this one's a keeper!
Buttermilk Berry Muffins, Adapted
Rating: 10 out of 10
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half bread flour + half whole-wheat pastry flour)
3/4 cup sugar + 1-1/2 tsp. sugar for topping
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt (I used sea salt)
zest of 1 orange (I used 1 packet True Lemon; 2 packets True Orange; 2 tsp. orange zest + 2 tsp. lemon zest)
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided use
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk (I used 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk + 1/4 cup vanilla nonfat yogurt)
2/3 cup canola oil (I used 1/2 cup applesauce + enough oil to make 2/3 cup)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon and orange zests till well combined. Stir in 1 cup of blueberries and 1 cup of raspberries, mixing till they are well coated with the flour mixture.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, buttermilk, applesauce, oil and vanilla till smooth and well combined. With a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring only until they are just barely combined. Do not overmix. A few lumps are ok. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin cup almost full of batter.

Sprinkle each muffin top with about 1/8 tsp. sugar. Evenly divide the remaining 1/2 cup of blueberries -- place on top of muffins, pressing in slightly. Bake in center of oven 15-20 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs. Cool in pans 5 minutes, then turn out onto rack to finish cooling. Yield: 12 standard-size muffins. These are yummy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I've never been much of pear enthusiast. But I recently made a peach frangipane tart, and had an extra round of pastry dough and the remaining half of the frangipane in my freezer. And pears were on sale. So I thought, why not? I have to say that a pear frangipane tart is a real show stopper. The beautiful design of the sliced, fanned-out pear halves over the top of the tart makes an eye-catching dessert. I tasted the pears before I cooked them, and they pears. Juicy, sweet and mild-flavored Bartlett pears. I made this dessert for a party we went to Saturday night. It was well received, and there were no leftovers. One person went back for seconds and, at last encounter, was still raving about the tart. I, however, was totally underwhelmed. Give me a peach frangipane tart any day. But keep the pears. There's just not enough flavor. So I'll stick to peaches, and probably apples, but I'll skip the pears from now on. That being said, if you are a pear lover, then this is your dessert. And, like I said before, I'm not a pear person.

Pear Frangipane Tart
Rating: 6 out of 10


Gallette Dough:
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, very cold or frozen, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. ice water

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, and salt, pulsing briefly till mixed. Add butter and pulse at intervals until mixture is like coarse meal, with the butter in tiny pieces no bigger than small peas. Add 1/4 cup ice water and pulse till mixture forms into a ball. If needed, add the extra Tbsp. water, but be sure you really need it. If you add too much the mixture will be too sticky. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes, or overnight. You will need almost all of this for the tart pan. The piece that is left over can be frozen or used for an individual tart. Roll out about 3/4 of the dough to an 11" circle on a floured board. Fit into a removable-bottom tart pan, pressing dough up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate.

Frangipane: (enough for 2 tarts -- you can freeze one half)
1/4 cup butter, very soft
1/2 cup confectioner's (10X) sugar
3/4 cup almond meal flour
1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg

Beat together the butter and sugar till fluffy and light in a medium bowl. Add almond meal and AP flour and beat till smooth. Beat in the egg till everything is mixed well. Spread half of the frangipane over the bottom of the pastry crust; refrigerate. Freeze remaining half, or use it for another frangipane tart within 2 days.

Pear Filling:
1 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup almond liqueur
3 Tbsp. water
3 medium-large Bartlett pears, peeled, halved, cored and stems removed

Melt butter in large heavy skillet. Add sugar, lemon juice, liqueur and water and cook over medium heat till mixture starts to bubble. Add pears and cook about 3 minutes; carefully turn pears over and cook another 3 minutes, till just barely soft. Transfer pears to a pie plate in a single row to cool. The syrup remaining in pan should have cooked down. Set skillet aside to cool, about 30-45 minutes.

Assembly: Preheat oven to 400F. Slice the cooled pears lengthwise, starting at the wide tops and going to the narrow bottoms, but do not slice all the way through. This will give a fan effect. The pears are soft, so you must work gently. (See top photos for example.) You will use 4 pear halves for the main design, placing the narrow ends towards the center of the tart, and letting the pears fan out on the outside edges. Fill in the center and between the pear halves with slices of pear. You will have 1 pear half and some pieces left over that you can enjoy as a snack or dessert with creme fraiche, yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream. Once you have the pears arranged, spoon the cooled syrup over the pears evenly. If it has congealed too much, simply put it back on the burner and heat it briefly just to liquefy it. Then brush or spoon it over the pears. Bake 40-50 minutes or till filling is bubbly, crust is browned, and any moisture from the pears has evaporated. You will see juice come out of the pears, but don't worry, the juice will evaporate as the tart bakes. (If crust browns too quickly on edges, cover with foil.) Let tart cool for about 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate. Serve cold with creme fraiche, ice cream or whipped cream. Yield: 8 servings

Monday, October 6, 2008


Janice Christofferson, Eagle River, Wisconsin, submitted her original recipe for Jumbo Pumpkin Pecan Muffins to Taste of Home Magazine and had it printed in their October/November 2008 issue. I thought the crunchy topping was a neat idea and decided to try these. I did make some changes. I incorporated some whole wheat flour in the mix, used bread flour for the remainder, subbed some Stevia for part of the sugar, added raisins and modified the baking temperatures slightly. Oh, yes, and I made standard-size muffins. The muffins are very tender and moist, and the topping is nice, but I'd like a bit more spice. They're not terribly sweet, which is ok by me. I like them a lot, it's just that I like my pumpkin muffins a little spicier. If I make them again, I'll double the spice and cut the buttermilk in half. Check out my recipe for Pumpkin Spice Rum Raisin Muffins also.

Jumbo Pumpkin Pecan Muffins, Adapted Half Recipe
Rating: 8 out of 10
1 Tbsp. melted butter
3 Tbsp. finely chopped pecans
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. whole wheat flour

Stir topping ingredients together in a small bowl; set aside.

1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup raisins
1-1/4 cups flour (I used 3/4 cup whole wheat + 1/2 cup bread flour, lightly spooned)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I would increase this to 2 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt (I use sea salt, always, because it has minerals)
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 large egg
1/2 cup pumpkin, fresh or canned
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used low-fat, and I would decrease to 1/4 cup)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl or measuring cup, add the raisins to the boiling water and let steep for at least 15 minutes, or till raisins are plumped. Drain raisins, discarding liquid. Pat dry on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 450F. Spray a 6-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt till well combined. Stir in the walnuts and the drained raisins, coating them well with the flour mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, pumpkin, buttermilk, oil and vanilla till smooth and well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once and stir with a spatula, gently and quickly, mixing only till just barely combined. A few lumps are ok. Don't overmix or you'll get tough muffins.

Scoop about 1/4 cup batter into each muffin well and sprinkle topping evenly over the muffins, ppressing in just a bit so that it sticks.

Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 375F. Bake about 17 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in center returns almost clean. Cool in pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Yield: 6 standard sized muffins.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


The October 2008 issue of Better Homes & Gardens had this interesting pumpkin soup recipe. It's not the curry that's interesting. It's the unusual orange-cranberry topper. I wasn't sure it would work, but it was worth a try. The soup itself is just ok -- that is, until you add the topper. Then it comes alive. The cranberries, orange zest and parsley somehow are the perfect complement to this soup. It's not my favorite pumpkin soup recipe, but I would make it again. It was thoroughly enjoyable. (I actually have two favorites to date: Fantastic Fennel Pumpkin Soup and James Beard's Pumpkin Soup.) Let me make it clear: I would willingly and happily eat this soup again any time, even if it's not one of my top faves.
Curry Pumpkin Soup
Rating: 8 out of 10
Orange-Cranberry Topper: 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 Tbsp. orange zest
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
In small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
Soup: 2 Tbsp. butter or Smart Balance buttery spread
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
(2) 15-oz. cans pumpkin
(2) 14-oz. cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup water
1 cup half and half or light cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
In 4-qt. Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, carrot and celery. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add curry powder and pumpkin pie spice. Cook and stir one minute. Add pumpkin, broth and water. Increase heat to medium high; bring to boiling. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Use an immersion blender to puree soup in pot; or process in blender or food processor and return to pot. Stir half and half, salt and pepper into pumpkin mixture; heat through. Sprinkle each serving with Orange-Cranberry Topper. Serves 8.
Fat-free half and half may be used. Land o'Lakes is recommended.
Freshly cooked or roasted (or frozen) butternut squash may be used instead of pumpkin.
Soup may be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 3 months. Thaw, reheat and sprinkle with topping before serving.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I found this recipe on a Canadian website, Joyce's Fine Cooking. The source is listed as Pamela Lanier's Bed & Breakfasts. So I checked it out and, sure enough, Pamela Lanier has one heck of a website, dedicated to B&B's and their recipes.

You'll have to spend some time at this site to find your recipe, though, because the recipes are categorized; but, within each category are numerous recipes in no particular order. This is one site I will be going back to. There are no reviews given, unfortunately, so you just have to hope that the recipe is printed correctly. Still, it's worth checking. This particular recipe originated from Garden Gate Get-a-Way, Millersburg, Ohio. I liked the idea of a Hershey's Kiss hidden inside of a cappuccino muffin, but I didn't have any Kisses on hand. And I didn't want to buy any just for this recipe. So I used chocolate chips, which I have plenty of at the moment. I changed the flour to whole wheat, and slightly increased the coffee, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely. Even with the increase in coffee, these muffins do not have a strong coffee flavor, just barely a hint. If you want a stronger flavor, use 3Tbsp. coffee powder. What I like about these muffins is the texture. The buttermilk makes them very moist, tender and light; and the sugar coating makes the outside crunchy and crispy. These are definitely worth making.

Cappuccino Kiss Muffins, Adapted
Rating: 8 out of 10
2-1/2 cups flour (I used 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour)
2/3 cups sugar (I used 1/3 cup sugar + 1-1/2 tsp. Stevia)
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1-1/3 cups low-fat buttermilk
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. instant coffee (Use 3 Tbsp. if you want a stronger coffee flavor)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 chocolate kiss candies (I used 1-1/4 cups Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips)

TOPPING: 3 Tbsp. sugar + 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
additional 1/4 cup chocolate chips, if not using chocolate kiss candies

Preheat oven to 450F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. If you are not using the kisses, stir in the 1-1/4 cups chocolate chips.

In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk egg, buttermilk, oil, coffee and vanilla until coffee dissolves. Add to dry ingredients all at once and stir just till barely moistened. (If using Kisses: Spoon about 2 Tbsp. batter into muffin cups. Place a kiss in the center of each, top with remaining batter.) If using chocolate chips: Spoon about 1/4 heaping cup of batter into muffin wells. Scatter the 1/4 cup chips over tops of muffin batter, pressing in slightly.

Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter. Place muffins in oven and immediately reduce heat to 400F. Bake 14-17 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center comes out with just a few crumbs. Cool for 5 minutes; then remove from pan to wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 12 standard-size muffins