Saturday, June 23, 2012


Yes, it’s that time again.  Blueberries are everywhere and they’re luscious and dark blue and full of antioxidants.  Besides that, they taste good.  Eat them raw:  toss them in salads, put them on your breakfast cereal, use them to make smoothies.  If you have any left over for baking, try some of my best blueberry desserts. 

Lemon Blueberry Cheese Tart is a perfect make-ahead company-for-dinner dessert.  Fresh blueberries are a must for the topping, but frozen can be used for the puree.001_thumb[3]
Blueberry Swirl-Lemon Shortbread bars are a bit of work, but well worth the trouble.  They freeze beautifully and make a wonderful snack or dessert.  They’re also great to tote to a pot-luck.blueberry swirl bars (4)_thumb[3]

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars, adapted from Kraft, are fast, easy and super delicious.027

Cooks Illustrated Blueberry Pie is one of the best blueberry pies I’ve tasted.  My adaptation makes it a bit easier than CI’s overly complicated recipe.CI blueberry pie (10)

Bon Appetit's Blueberry Sour Cream Pie, with a crumb topping, is another to-die-for dessert.IMG_4973

If you like mixing berries, try my Blueberry-Raspberry Crumb Pie.  This one is really, really goodDSC00258

My Wholegrain Blueberry Cobbler got my highest rating.  It’s that good.  DSC02023

Don’t forget muffins.  Blueberry-Coconut Muffins with Pecan Streusel Topping is one of my top faves.007_thumb[4]

America's Test Kitchen Blueberry Muffins are the ultimate, even though they’re a bit of work.  Homemade blueberry jam and fresh blueberries really pack an intense blueberry flavor, and the lemon-sugar topping takes these over the top.

King Arthur Flour's Classic Blueberry Muffins are easier than CI's, but have intense blueberry flavor.KA classic blueberry muffins_thumb[1]

If you want just a regular blueberry muffin with no bells and whistles, try Joy of Baking’s Buttermilk Berry Muffins.  Great texture, loaded with blueberries, and fast and easy recipe.  buttermilk berry muffins

There's only 1-1/4 cups of blueberries in this Limoncello Apple-Blueberry Pie, but they won't be in the background.  Apples and blueberries are great partners, and this is one delicious pie.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


collosal pb cookies (3)

I’ve been experimenting again.  This time, I took a recipe for a phenomenally crisp cookie with chewy insides and made it with unadulturated natural peanut butter, partially whole wheat flour and some coffee flavoring.   The whole wheat flour softened the edges, and the cookies desperately needed some more salt and sugar.  Not to be dismayed, I covered them in chocolate ganache and sprinkled them with coarse sea salt.  The cookies totally came to life and were amazing!  Adding the sea salt to the tops makes up for the deficiency of salt in the cookie, itself.  Of course, you could also increase the salt in the cookie batter if, for some insane reason, you didn't want chocolate ganache.  (Is there really anyone who would opt out of chocolate ganache?)
I used Crazy Richard's peanut butter that I bought at my local Harris Teeter grocery store.  It's just roasted, ground peanuts with no salt, sugar or partially hydrogenated oils added.  For the ganache, I used Callebaut dark chocolate blocks that I bought at The Fresh Market in Greenville for a good price.

These cookies are large, sturdy and extremely satisfying, and I highly recommend this recipe.  Even though I’m not usually a fan of soft cookies, these are the bomb and I’ll definitely make them again and again.  Be warned, though:  these are hip huggers, so don't overindulge.

Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter-Milk Chocolate Toffee Chunk Cookies with Salted Chocolate Ganache
Rating:  10 out of 10


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt or table salt 
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 oz.) unsalted butter
1 cup natural unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp. Nu Naturals Stevia) 
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. coffee liqueur mixed with 1/4 tsp. instant coffee
2 (3.5 oz. each) Ghiradelli chocolate luxe milk toffee bars, chopped, (or other milk chocolate of choice) (about 1-1/3 cups)
Chocolate ganache (recipe follows)
1-1/2 tsp. or more coarse sea salt or flake kosher salt for tops

CHOCOLATE GANACHE: 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups chopped good-quality dark chocolate

colossal PB toffee cookies (3)
In medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In the bowl of a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat butter and peanut butter at medium speed till smooth.  Gradually beat in sugars, then eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Beat in coffee flavoring.  At low speed, gradually beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped milk chocolate.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30-45 minutes, till dough has firmed up. 

(You can also form the dough balls, using 1/4 cup batter for each, freeze them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 2 hours, then place them in a freezer bag.  You can either bake the whole batch at once, or take out however many dough balls as you want at a time.  You can bake them frozen for about 15 minutes, or thaw and bake following instructions below.) colossal PB toffee cookies

Heat the oven to 350F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or ice cream scoop, form dough into balls, then slightly flatten into 2-1/2” disks.  Bake on center rack of oven about 18-20 minutes. or till golden around edges but still soft in center.  they will firm up as they cool, and they’re much better when slightly underdone.  (You can also test with a toothpick for doneness, removing cookies when toothpick inserted near center returns with some crumbs.)  

When cookies cool, place them in freezer while making ganache.  (Having the cookies partially or completely frozen will enable the ganche to set up much more quickly.)  In a 1-quart saucepan, heat the heavy cream till steaming.  Remove from heat; stir in the chopped chocolate until smooth.  Cool slightly, then, using desired amount for each cookie, spread some ganache over tops.  Sprinkle with salt.  Let ganache set up.  (These cookies freeze well.  Any leftover ganache can be refrigerated for future use.) 
Yield:  about 21 large cookies 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


In honor of Caleb Bradham's creation of "Brad's Drink,", now known as Pepsi,  I've developed a recipe for barbecued chicken and ribs using Pepsi.  The BBQ sauce is sweet and spicy with vinegar undertones and a perfect balance of flavors.  It pairs nicely with my rub to make a succulent BBQ dinner that's perfect for the 4th of July, or any backyard barbecue event.  Read more....

Monday, June 18, 2012


OF devils food cake (4)
If you’ve ever watched Alton Brown’s segment on Devil’s Food cake, then you know that there’s an interesting history behind it, and it’s tied to Angel Food and Red Velvet cakes.  This is NOT Alton Brown’s recipe, but his is definitely on my queue.  This one is made with a mixture of unbleached all-purpose flour and white whole wheat flour, and it’s a denser but very enjoyable creation, especially when it’s frosted with chocolate ganache, then trimmed with coconut swiss buttercream frosting and toasted unsweetened coconut chips.  (You can also use just unbleached all-purpose flour for a lighter cake.)

I loved this cake, and I felt just a little bit better about eating it because of the partial whole grains.  Let’s not talk about the sugar and fat content, or I’ll start feeling guilty again.

And, P. S., if you haven’t tried the unsweetened coconut chips, do yourself a favor and get some.  I found mine at The Fresh Market.

(Since my cake pans were the old kind with only 1-1/2” sides, I had extra batter that I baked in a small ramekin.  Below is the little cake, decorated.)
OF devils food cake (2)
Cocoa Devil’s Food Cake with Chocolate Ganache 
Adapted from McCall’s Book of Cakes and Pies
Rating:  8 out of 10

1/2 cup sifted cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting pans
1 cup hot coffee
1-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt, or table salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine (I used Smart Balance 50/50 blend) 
2 cups sugar (I used 1-1/2 cups sugar + 2 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia) 
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used homemade vanilla.) 
1/4 tsp. coconut flavoring
1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt + enough water to make 1/2 cup 

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease two 8” x 2” pans.  Line with double thicknesses of wax paper cut to fit; grease top paper.  Dust with cocoa powder.

In small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and coffee.  Allow to cool.

Whisk all-purpose flour, then sift onto wax paper before measuring.  Transfer to medium bowl.  Repeat with whole wheat flour (if using).  Add baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Sift flour(s), baking soda, baking powder and salt together over wax paper and return to bowl.

In large bowl, on high speed, beat butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and coconut flavors till light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  On low speed, blend in 1/4 of flour mixture.  In small bowl, whisk together yogurt and cocoa mixture, then blend in 1/3 to large bowl.  Repeat, ending with flour mixture.  Scrape bottom and sides of bowl as needed.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pans 10 minutes.  Remove from pans; peel off wax paper from bottom of cake layers.  Cool thoroughly on wire racks.  Frost with chocolate ganache (recipe follows) or as desired.  (Swiss buttercream frosting makes a nice filling and topping for this cake.) 

Chocolate Ganache:
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces good-quality chocolate, chopped into small pieces
In small pot, heat heavy cream over medium heat till very hot and beginning to bubble.  Place chocolate in a medium bowl and pour hot cream over.  Stir with spoon or spatula till smooth and creamy.  Allow to cool before frosting cake.
OF devils food cake 

Friday, June 15, 2012


Pam Anderson's CCC
Pam Anderson worked hard to develop this recipe for a perfect chocolate chip cookie, one that she claims is puffy, chewy, crispy and chocolaty.  In an effort to give the best possible review, I made  these cookies twice and got the same results both times.  The “chew” is really a soft, almost cakey, inside.  The crisp is very slight, almost unnoticeable.  And the puff is too much, so I wound up depressing thawed dough to get a better result.  The top photo shows a cookie (on the left) baked from a frozen dough ball.  It browned too much and never spread, but the edges were slightly crispy.  The cookie on the right was baked from a thawed dough ball, then depressed lightly with my fingers, and the edges were just slightly crispy.  It was also baked on two baking sheets to protect the bottoms from burning, something that I had to figure out myself since it wasn’t in the recipe.
I enjoyed eating these flavorful cookies, but the recipe is overly complicated and, frankly, I’ve made easier recipes with better results.  So I won’t be returning to this recipe anytime soon.  If you do decide to make these, please share your results with me.

Puffy, Chewy, Crispy, Chocolaty Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted slightly from Pam Anderson
Rating:  8.0 out of 10
2-1/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. salt
14 Tbsp. butter (2 sticks minus 2 Tbsp.), cut into chunks
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips or chunks, (or 1 cup chocolate + 1 cup toasted nuts)
Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.  Mix eggs, vanilla and salt in a small bowl; set aside.  Microwave butter on high power until just melted but not hot, 30-45 seconds; set aside.  Mix sugars in large bowl.  Add butter and oil; stir till smooth.  Add egg mixture and stir till smooth and creamy.  Add dry ingredients and stir till smooth.  Stir in chocolate and nuts, if using.  Using a 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbsp.) ice cream scoop, spoon 16 dough balls, flattened slightly, onto a pan that will fit in your freezer.  Freeze till dough is hard, about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 400F.  Working in half batches, place 8 frozen dough balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Bake till set, but not brown, 8-10 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 350F.   Continue to bake till cookies are golden-brown around edges and lightly brown on the top, about 10 minutes longer.  Let cookies cool on cookie sheet completely.  Repeat, preheating oven to 400F again before baking second batch.  Yield:  16 large cookies

Here are links to some of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes:  NY Times (Jacques Torres), Yockelson’s Large and Luscious Two-Chip Oatmeal Cookies, Chocolate Gingerbread Drops, Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip CookiesPrize-Winning Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, Blue Ribbon Fair Cookies

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Coming from the Northeast, I had heard of whoopie pies (origin Pennsylvania, or perhaps New England, depending on which story you believe).  Moon pies, though, were a new one on me.  Southern Living's February 2012 issue brought me up to speed on one of the South's most beloved sweet treats.  But they decided to put their own S'more's twist on moon pies, by making a tender graham cracker cookie sandwiched with marshmallow filling, then dipped in melted chocolate and special toppings.  The photo (above) looked so inviting -- so "swoon" worthy -- that I decided to make them.   Read more....

Sunday, June 10, 2012


ponzu ginger salmon (3)
I've been trying to get this recipe posted for a few weeks.  First, a repetitive stress injury flared up, making computer work impossible.  Then I sliced my finger by accident and the bandage was so large, I couldn't type.  The bandage is off, but my shoulder and neck are still acting up, so I'm not sure how much typing I'll be doing this summer.  (Before you all start telling me how to treat this RSI, please know that I have a chiropractor, massage therapist and a physiatrist all working on it.  And I alternate cold packs with moist heat.  I also use Biofreeze.)

This is my own recipe, one that I’ve developed through trial and error.  I like it a lot.  The marinade has a citrus-y, lightly sweet flavor with spicy heat. 

Of course, you can cook the salmon inside in a skillet, in the oven, or under the broiler instead of outside on the grill.  I always make sure I have enough for leftovers, because it’s great the next day, cold and cut up in a tossed salad.  Let me know what you think.

Grilled Sesame Ginger Salmon
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. grated fresh garlic
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice 
3 Tbsp. Ponzu citrus-seasoned dressing and sauce
big pinch of crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/2- 3/4 lb. Alaskan wild-caught salmon fillet, center cut
additional 1/4 tsp. kosher salt and 1/8 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. freshly chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds (or more if desired)

Combine marinade ingredients in resealable plastic bag, reserving about 1 Tbsp. for basting. Add fish; seal bag.  Marinate 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.  Remove fish from marinade; sprinkle with additional 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. white pepper.  Grill, skin side down, on hot (400-425F) grill, 8-10 minutes, or till red in center, basting with reserved  marinade if desired.  Transfer to plate and keep warm for 5-6 minutes.  (I put mine in the microwave, turned off, of course.) 
Before serving, garnish each piece of salmon with parsley and sesame seeds.  Yield:  2-3 servings

Friday, June 1, 2012


SL healthier carrot cake (2)

Southern Living has got religion.  Their reduced-fat “healthier” take on traditional carrot cake uses only 1/4 cup of oil, proving that austerity works.  The frosting, though, was uber sweet for me, so I did halve the sugar.  And I sprinkled chopped toasted walnuts on top, adding some fat back in.  (Walnuts are “good” fats versus unhealthy over-processed vegetable and canola oils which convert to trans-fats when heated.)

I was surprised at how good this cake was, and my hat is off yet again to Southern Living for its wonderful recipes. 

However, my two favorite carrot cakes remain Pillsbury’s Carrot Cake with Creamy Supreme Frosting and  Cook’s Illustrated’s 2003 Simple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese FrostingBoth are light, moist and full of flavor, and both are reduced-fat versions. 

Layered Carrot Cake
Adapted from Southern Living, April 2011 

Rating:  8.5 out of 10

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia) 2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained (I had fresh, so I used it.) 1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla.) 3 cups grated carrots
Vegetable cooking spray

6 oz.  (3/4 of an 8 oz. pkg.) Neufchatel (1/3 less fat) cheese
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla powder or vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

PREPARE BATTER:  Heat oven to 350F.  Combine flour, sugar, soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl;  make a well in center of mixture.  Whisk (don’t beat) together pineapple, oil, eggs, egg whites and vanilla; add pineapple mixture to flour mixture, stirring just till dry ingredients are moistened.  Fold in carrots.  Spoon batter into two (8-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray.

Bake 22-25 minutes or till a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes.  Remove from pans to a wire rack; cool completely (about 1 hour).

PREPARE FROSTING:  In medium bowl, beat Neufchatel, butter and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually add powdered sugar to butter mixture; beat at low speed just till blended.  Do not overbeat.  Beat in lemon juice. 

ASSEMBLE:  Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 2/3 cup frosting and top with remaining cake layer.  Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. 
Yield:  10-12 servings
SL healthier carrot cake (3)