Thursday, October 25, 2012


Here's a muffin to make you smile.  It's lower in fat than the original version, and whole wheat flour in the tender, crispy topping adds some whole grains to the mix.  You can make this muffin even healthier if you use a sugar substitute.  The flavors are spot on, and you'll want these for breakfast, dessert or anytime in between.  Read more....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


My hubby is a stuffed pepper snob.  He wants them a certain way -- with a moist, tender filling, not too much rice, lots of flavor, a thin sauce and a shell that's not mushy.  It had been more than 20 years since I made stuffed peppers, so it was kind of like starting over. 

My first attempt was delicious, I thought.  The flavor was outstanding, but hubby objected to my use of a red pepper instead of a green pepper.  (Red peppers, though sweeter, cook more quickly and get softer (mushier) faster.  If using a red pepper, I discovered, you must precook the meat so you can cook the pepper for a shorter time.) He also wanted a thinner sauce and less rice.

My second attempt turned out more to his liking, but he wanted even less rice and moister, more tender meat filling -- in other words, perfection.   So he presented me with a recipe from Emeril Lagasse that he thought would work.  But after reading the recipe, I found it had tons of rice, and no sauce at all -- the peppers were baked in water.  So I came up with my own recipe, and he has declared it the best stuffed pepper recipe ever.  Adding some ground pork and  tomato sauce to the meat mixture made a major difference.  Hubby said the search is over.  Read more...

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Butternut and acorn squashes are great, but do yourself a favor.  Buy some hubbard or buttercup squash when you can.  You may pay more, but the flavor difference is so worth it.  Hubbard and buttercup squashes are darker orange in color inside, and flavors are more defined and intense.


1. Caramelized Onion Winter Squash Mash  -- squash mash This has my highest rating because the flavors blend so beautifully.  The recipe yields two servings, but you can double or triple it if you have a larger family.

2. Fantastic Fennel Pumpkin SoupDSC02140 Thick and creamy, but with no cream used, it’s flavored with mushrooms and shaved Parmesan in addition to the fennel.  This is my absolute favorite pumpkin soup.

3. James Beard’s Pumpkin SoupDSC02251  Less is more with this soup.  Few ingredients are needed to bring out the creamy texture and mild taste of winter squash.  I love this soup.

4. Pumpkin Crab Soup -- pumpkin crab soup  Creamy and full of pumpkin and crab flavors, this is a delicious meal in itself.

5. Better Homes and Gardens Pumpkin Soup -- pumpkin soup_thumb[6] This one has more vegetables, just a bit of cream, and a wonderful flavor that will satisfy any pumpkin soup lover. 

6. Creamy Delicata SquashDSC00025 Flavored with nutmeg, parsley and mint, then topped with your choice of buttered crumbs or grated Parmesan, this one is a crowd pleaser that will prompt a request for the recipe.


7. Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip-Streusel Muffins -- pumpkin cc streusel muffins (2)_thumb[4] A very moist, modestly spiced, sweet pumpkin muffin studded with bittersweet chocolate chips and topped with a brown-sugar-cinnamon-pecan crumble -- in short, an over-the-top muffin that is sure to be your favorite.

8. Traditional Pumpkin Pie -- 003_thumb[1] This is one delicious pie – light, yet rich and creamy, with just enough sweetness and subtle spices to bring out the flavors of pumpkin and sweet potato.

9. Better Homes and Gardens Pumpkin Pie -- BHGPPie_thumb4 This ranks a close second to #7 above. 

And there you have it, nine of my best and highest-rated pumpkin recipes.  I’ll be adding to them throughout the coming year.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


coconut cc muffins

I took a run-of-the-mill chocolate chip muffin recipe and ramped it up with toasted coconut.  To accent the coconut flavors, I used unrefined organic coconut oil for part of the butter and added some coconut flavoring.  For flours, I used half bread flour and half White Lily (low-protein) all-purpose flour, but regular unbleached all-purpose flour will work just as well.  These muffins are very soft and tender, moist and mildly coconutty.

A note about coconut extracts/flavorings:  They vary greatly, in strength, price and flavor.  Sauer's and McCormick's, purchased in grocery stores, tend to be stronger, so use very sparingly to avoid a too-strong flavor.  Spices, etc., recommended by Cook's Illustrated and accessed through the internet, has a wonderful, mild, natural-tasting coconut flavoring, but it's very pricey and shelf life is only one year.  I've tried all of the above.  I've even made my own coconut extract (also with a shelf life of one year).  LorAnn Oils in Michigan is on my list of coconut extracts to try.

Readers, please weigh in:  Tell us about your coconut extract.

Toasted Coconut-Chocolate Chip Muffins
Rating:  9 out of 10


1 cup bread flour + 1 cup 2 Tbsp. White Lily all-purpose (or 2 cups unbleached all-purpose)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1 cup toasted dried sweetened coconut
1 cup chocolate chips (I used Nestle Dark) 
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted + 1/4 cup organic unrefined coconut oil (or just 1/2 c butter) 
1/3 cup light brown sugar 
1/3 cup white sugar (I used 4 tsp. NuNaturals stevia) 
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used homemade vanilla
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. coconut extract, depending on brand used (I used 1/2 tsp. Spices, etc.)

Heat oven to 425F.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper baking cups and spray inside of cups.  Whisk flour(s) before measuring, then sift flour(s), baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.  Stir in coconut and chocolate chips; set aside.

Whisk butter, and coconut oil if using, with sugars till well combined.  (Mixture may not be smooth, especially if room is cold.)  Whisk in eggs, then milk and extracts.  Pour over dry ingredients and mix lightly with spoon or spatula till just barely combined.  Do not overmix, or muffins will be tough.  Spoon into muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup per cup.  Place in oven, close door, and immediately reduce heat to 325F.  Bake on center rack about 15 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Enjoy warm or room temperature.  Yield:  12 muffins

Monday, October 15, 2012


wine braised mshrms (2)

If you have red wine in your cupboard, this is a great way to use it.  Leftover red wine in the fridge works, too.  If your family is small, like mine, you can freeze serving-size portions to use later.  They  thaw quickly and reheat easily.  When it comes to steaks or burgers, there is no better accompaniment than wine-braised mushrooms, but, honestly, these are so good they can stand alone.

Wine-Braised Mushrooms
Adapted from Good Housekeeping Magazine Rating:  10 out of 10

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 large sage leaves, finely chopped
1 cup dry red wine, drinking quality
1/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 lb. white or cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, halved 
In 10-inch skillet or saute pan, heat oil on medium.  Add shallot and sage leaves; cook 2-3 minutes, till shallot softens.  Raise heat to high; add wine, salt and pepper.  Boil 1 minute on high.  Stir in mushrooms; reduce heat to medium.  Cover; cook 5 minutes.  Uncover, cook 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, till mushrooms are tender and liquid is reduced.  Yield:  4-6 servings

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Southern macaroni salad, I have learned, is different.  Like other Southern salads, hard-boiled eggs and sweet pickle relish are ingredients.  Too much sweet pickle relish can ruin a dish, this coming from my Yankee perspective.  But the amount of relish in this macaroni salad is perfect, and that's because you don't really know it's there, except that it rounds out the flavors.  And, speaking of flavors, this salad has plenty.  Perfect for game day during colder months, or for summertime picnics, or just about any time, this one is a real crowd pleaser.  Get the recipe...

Monday, October 8, 2012


It's apple time, and I've put together my ten favorite apple recipes.  Some are simple, some are complex, all are wonderful.  Most are adapted lower-fat, lower-sugar versions, but I think you'll find these recipes are plenty sweet.  Please enjoy.

1. Biltmore House Restaurant Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie  -- This one is a lot of work, but it’s a show stopper, and uber-delicious.  I did reduce the sugar though, because it was just over the top for me.  And it’s still plenty sweet.  Worth making for a special occasion.
Biltmore car ap ch pie

2. Kraft Apple Pecan Cheesecake – My adapted version of this easy dessert has a whole wheat-oatmeal crust and is baked in a springform pan rather than a 9x12 pan.  The brown sugar in the filling lends a caramel tone that goes well with the other ingredients. 007_thumb[6]

3. Apple Cobbler – This is a small cobbler for four people using a Williams Sonoma cobbler crust recipe.

4. Apple-Almond Gallette will serve four to six people who will thank you many times.  This is a wonderful, rustic, delicious dessert.
If you want a smaller tart, try my Apple Frangipane Tarts for Four.

5.  Maple Tarte Tartin sounds sophisticated and difficult, but it's actually rustic and easy -- and absolutely delicious.

6. Mix and Match Fruit Crumbles for Eight – An easy but delicious dessert.

7. No-Sugar Double Apple Applesauce – So not boring, with a deep apple flavor and wonderful apple sweetness because it’s made with apple juice concentrate instead of sugar.

8. Coconut-Apple-Cranberry-Pecan-Oat Crumble Muffins – Wow, what a mouthful!  But these are especially good muffins, even if the ingredient list is a bit long.
apple coconut muffins (2)_thumb[3]

9. Salted Caramel Apple Dumplings – Pastry-wrapped apples are  golden brown on top while the bottom becomes like a warm apple-caramel pudding.  Outrageous!

10. Caramel Apple Crumb Pie – Inspired by Linda Hundt, a multiple prize winner in the Crisco National Pie Contest.  A crispy, crunchy, sweet crumb topping over slightly sweet and tangy apple filling, topped with rich and sweet caramel sauce.  One of my new faves.
Caramel Apple Pie (4)_thumb[3]

Saturday, October 6, 2012



Truth is stranger than fiction, and Mother Nature’s paintbrush reigns supreme.  The last of our frying peppers came forth in perfectly delineated green and red.  Perhaps a tribute to the Italian gardener who planted the seeds?  Go, Guy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


With crabmeat left over from our last crab party that I froze and thawed, and some big shrimp that caught my eye at the fish market, I made a dinner for two with plenty of leftovers for the next day's big game.  We liked the flavorings in this recipe.  There's just a background suggestion of heat and it's not too salty.  A squeeze of lemon juice is all we added at the table.  Get the recipe....

Monday, October 1, 2012


mary's stuffed peppers (3)

Our friend, Mary, sends stuffed peppers to Guy occasionally, so I asked her for her recipe.  Trouble is, Mary doesn’t have a recipe.  She’s one of those spontaneous cooks that I admire greatly.  She did her best, though, to write a recipe down for me, but some of the ingredients were a bit obscure, like “seasonings such as those used in meatloaf.”  After I made these and plated them, we both realized that Mary’s peppers do not have slices of tomatoes in the broth.  Maybe she purees the tomato slices from the canned stewed tomatoes and adds them to the meat mixture.  Well, no matter, these were still delicious, and we enjoyed them.  Guy got his thin sauce, and he liked these better than my first attempt.

What I like about this recipe is that the peppers are cooked on top of the stove rather than in the oven.  Any time I can save electricity by keeping the oven off, I gladly do it (our electric rates are ridiculously high.) Mary's recipe is for 6 peppers but I only had 5 peppers, so I did some quick math to adapt ingredient amounts.

Mary’s Stuffed Peppers, adapted
Rating:  9 out of 10

5 large green peppers, tops, membranes and seeds removed
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion (3/4 to 1 cup), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic (1 tsp.), grated or minced
1-1/4 lbs. ground beef
1 tsp. Morton kosher salt
2/3 cup cooked Jasmine rice
2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 (14.5 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz.) can low-sodium beef broth
Enough tomato juice to almost cover peppers
1/3 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/3 cup coarsely chopped green pepper (from tops)

Rinse peppers and place, upside down, on paper towels to drain.   In large saute pan, cook onion in oil over medium heat till onion is transparent and wilted, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Cool; set aside.

When onions are cool, add ground beef, salt, rice and herbs.  (If desired, remove slices of tomatoes from can of stewed tomatoes, and puree or smash with fingers or fork, then add to meat mixture.)  Mix lightly but thoroughly.  Stuff peppers but do not pack tightly.

In soup pot or dutch oven, combine stewed tomatoes and broth.  Add peppers and enough tomato juice to almost cover them.  Sprinkle with pieces of onion and pepper. 
mary's stuffed peppers (2) 
Cook over medium—high heat till liquids boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 45 minutes, or till meat mixture registers 135-140F.  Do not overcook or peppers will be mushy.   Remove peppers from liquid and place in serving bowls.  Ladle liquid over and around peppers.  Yield:  5 servings