Monday, March 31, 2008


Continuing on with chickpea adventures, I tried my hand at sundried tomato hummus. The original recipe was posted on, and I changed it up to suit my taste. I love hummus of all sorts, and this did not disappoint. The tomatoes and roasted peppers add a distinctive taste to the hummus. Our houseguests said this was better than the sundried tomato hummus they usually buy at Costco. Hummus is one thing that is definitely worth making at home; it's cheaper to do so, and it takes almost no time at all. Just about everyone nowadays likes and eats hummus -- that is, except for Guy. He says he can't get past the name, "hummus." Please try this and leave me a comment if you do.

Sundried Tomato Hummus
3/4 cup dry-packed sundried tomatoes, chopped and soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
15-0z. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 nice cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp. tahini
2 Tbsp. roasted red peppers
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper (or more if you like your food hot)
Good dash of sea salt and black pepper

Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid. In work bowl of food processor, add all ingredients except tomatoes and reserved liquid. Process until smooth. Add tomatoes and process again till almost smooth. Add reserved liquid, as needed, to make a smooth and creamy hummus. Yield: about 23 oz.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

3-CHIP COOKIES, adapted

Should I blame my 8 years of Catholic school training or my serious nature? I needed a recipe to use up Rice Krispies that I bought to develop a recipe for a contest. I couldn't just trash the cereal, and I don't eat it for breakfast. The Imperial Sugar people came to my rescue. Now, I ask you, do you think a recipe on a sugar company's website is going to be over-the-top sweet? They want to sell you sugar. As soon as I looked at this one, I knew I had to make some adjustments. If you want the original recipe, guaranteed to put you into a diabetic coma, go to their site, I cut the sugar almost in half and cut the chips by more than a half, and they're still sweet. Hubby Guy, who doesn't eat sweets, grabbed one from the cooling rack and gave it two thumbs up, way up. The combination of the 3 different chips with the brown sugar in the dough gives the cookie a butterscotchy flavor. They're very crispy on the edges and tender, delicate and almost -- but not quite -- cakey inside with a nice crunch from the cereal. I added an extra cup of Rice Krispies because I'm trying to get rid of them, and it didn't hurt the cookie at all. These are nice cookies that will surely please just about anyone who tastes them. And the nuns of the Sacred Heart would be proud of me for thinking of the starving people in China.

3-Chip Cookies, adapted
1 cup(2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. Stevia)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (You can cut brown sugar to 1/2 cup; it'll be plenty sweet)
2 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips (be sure cocoa butter is listed, not partially hydrogenated stuff)
1 cup butterscotch chips
3 cups krispy rice cereal

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 12x17" baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine butter and sugar in large bowl of stand mixer and mix on low speed only just till combined, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to mix on low speed for another 2 minutes, or till the eggs are incorporated. Combine baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour and add to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed till everything is combined. Do not worry if you see some small pieces of butter. Stir in the chips and cereal with the mixer on stir speed, about 30 seconds to a minute. You'll get a slightly sticky dough. Using about 2 Tbsp. of dough for each cookie, drop onto the parchment paper about 3 inches apart. You should get 3 pans of cookies, 22 in all. These only slightly spread, and the finished cookie should be 3-1/2" in diameter. Bake 13-16 minutes or until the cookies are a light golden color and are just beginning to brown around the edges. Use a toothpick inserted in center to test for doneness. When it returns clean, they are done. Let cookies cool on pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to finish cooling. They are very soft when they first come out of the oven, but as they cool, they firm up and get crispy on the edges. Try not to eat them when they're hot, because they're much better when they've cooled.

Friday, March 28, 2008


We have a bakery very close by that sells outstanding cranberry-orange scones. I've tried scones at other places, and there's just no comparison. My few feeble attempts at scone making have failed to come anywhere near the texture of our neighborhood bakery scones. But with my recent success making the Levain Bakery fabulous scone-like chocolate chip cookies, I started thinking again about trying my hand at scones. Levain Bakery has not kept their scone recipe a secret, so no need to find a copycat recipe. These girls really don't seem to like flavoring, because their recipe has no flavoring at all in it: no vanilla, no citrus zest, nothing. Since I love cranberry-orange, I decided to switch the raisins to cranberries and add some orange zest. I intended to halve the recipe, but goofed and added the sugar for a whole batch, so then I had to go with the the full recipe. I also used white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose. Oh, and I added some nuts. These aren't half bad, especially when you consider they're really a breakfast with the whole wheat flour and the oatmeal. Honestly, you feel full after eating one. They're still not like our neighborhood bakery scones, but they are the closest I've come. Still looking for that perfect scone recipe, but in the meantime, these are worth making.

Levain Bakery Oatmeal Raisin Scones, Adapted
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup Craisins
3 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour
2-1/2 cups 1-minute quick oats
3/4 cup white sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. Stevia + 1/4 cup sugar)
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. orange zest
12 oz. sweet butter, cold and diced small (It's easier if you grate the butter)
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
1-1/4 cups half and half (I used Land O'Lakes fat-free H&H)

DIRECTIONS: In microwaveable 2 cup bowl, heat orange juice on high till very hot, about 45 seconds. Add craisins; cover and let sit about 1/2 hour.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Drain craisins, reserving liquid in a 2-cup measuring container. Combine all ingredients except reserved orange liquid and H&H in a large bowl. The key word is combine, do not cream, do not overmix. Add enough H&H to the reserved orange liquid to equal 1-1/4 cups. Quickly pour in all of this liquid while mixing on low speed. If the dough appears at all dry add additional H&H by tablespoonful until just combined. Again, do not overmix.

I took about 1/4 cup of dough and with wet hands, roughly shaped it into a ball, flattened it slightly and put it on the baking pan. I did weigh the dough balls to try to get them uniform, and if I remember, they were roughly 4 oz. each. The Levain instructions follow, and are different from what I did: Turn the dough out onto a very well floured surface. If the dough is very sticky, flour the top of the dough also. Pat the mixture into a layer, 3/4 to 1" thick. Using a 2-inch diameter round cutter, cut out the scones, dipping the cutter into flour each time between cuts. Place each scone, as cut, onto lined baking pan leaving 2-3" between each scone. This should make 12 round scones. (You can also form dough into rectangular shape and cut with a knife into 12 square or triangle scones.)

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until light golden brown on both the top and bottom of scones. (I used a toothpick inserted in center to test for doneness.) Yield: 12 scones

A simple glaze of orange juice, melted butter and 10X sugar drizzled over the warm scones is a nice addition.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Betty Crocker has a cookie recipe contest every year. They pick 15 finalists and then publish the 15 recipes online, where the public can vote for their favorite. Unfortunately, it isn't really a "vote for the best recipe" contest; it becomes a "who knows the most people they can get to vote for them" contest. Well, the recipes are online, and I am one of the finalists this year.

My recipe is "pumpkin streusel cheesecake bars." If you would like to vote, here is the info:

1. Go to
2. Scroll down till you see the yellow cupcake. There is a square to the left of it that is for
Bake Life Sweeter voting. Click on the link.
3. Register (if you aren't already registered). It only takes a few minutes and it doesn't cost
anything. Once you've registered, the recipes will come up and you can vote.
4. If you don't see the Bake Life Sweeter voting square, it might be because of your anti-virus
program. You will have to temporarily disable it, then put it back on after you've finished.
5. You can vote once per day until April 16.

I never expected to be a finalist, so I'm certainly not expecting to win. I do appreciate any votes I may receive and I hope some of you will try making this recipe. Pumpkin and cheesecake are two of my favorites, and this recipe is easy and delicious. It also freezes well and will keep in the freezer for several months. I'm off to try my hand at some scones now that I will hopefully post later.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


YYou can thank the nice Land O'Lakes people for this super-easy, super-good recipe. The only problem with these bars is that you want to just have one more since they're so small.... Land O'Lakes says the yield is 25 bars, but I don't know how they got 25. I got 16 (4 across, 4 down) and they're not big; and I used a 9" pan. Other than that, this recipe is great, especially if you like milk chocolate. I'm a milk chocolate lover, but I mixed semi-sweet chips in and I'm glad I did. I don't think I would want this to be all milk chocolate. Remember, when you're baking, you're the boss. Put whatever chips in you like. If you don't like peanuts, change the nuts to what you like. Custom make your treat. These bars are crunchy from the nuts, and chewy from the marshmallows and caramel. What else can I say? These are prize winners in my book.

Blue Ribbon Rocky Road Caramel Bars
Prep time: 15 min.; Baking time: 30 minutes; Cooling Time: 2 hours
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur whole wheat flour)
3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. Stevia + 1 tsp. molasses)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts (I used honey-roasted peanuts)

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts (again, I used honey-roasted peanuts)
1-1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 of a 7-oz. milk chocolate bar, cut into chunks (I used 3 oz. of a Hershey's Symphony bar and a nice handful of Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips)

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all crust ingredients except peanuts in large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup peanuts. Reserve 3/4 cup crumb mixture.

Press remaining crumb mixture onto bottom of well-greased 8 or 9-inch square baking pan. Bake for about 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Meanwhile, place ice cream topping in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high until warm (about 1 minute). Drizzle topping over hot, partially baked crust. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup peanuts, marshmallows and chocolate chunks. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Continue baking for 15-20 minutes or until marshmallows are lightly browned. Cool completely. Cut into bars. These are yummmmy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


When I cook eggs for breakfast, any leftover veggies are game. Yesterday I made grilled sweet and white potatoes with onions, and there was a lot left over. Guy prefers using the white potatoes with eggs, and I like the sweet potatoes. There is no real recipe here. It's just cut up some zucchini and start that sauteeing in a little bit of Smart Balance buttery spread or extra-virgin olive oil; then add the left-over cut up sweet potatoes and onions. Whisk your eggs slightly with some salt and pepper before pouring them over the veggies. Put the lid on the pan, wait a couple of minutes, then carefully flip the frittata. If it breaks when you flip it, don't fret; it will still taste good. If you're a cheese lover, add it after you flip and put the lid back on to melt it. After the flip, the eggs are about done, so don't overcook them. A minute is probably all you'll need after the flip to melt the cheese and finish off the eggs. (I didn't add cheese, because this is great as is; the sweet potatoes really add something to the eggs. See, I've already had two servings of veggies today.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008


My kitchen scale arrived this week, so I had what I needed to try the Levain Bakery CC cookies again. And this time, I succeeded. These cookies are the bomb! When they came out of the oven, they felt heavy and I was worried that they would be heavy tasting. They're not. They're light as a feather, crispy outside and soft and delicate inside. They stayed as high as when they went in -- maybe even went up a bit -- and never came down -- there was no problem with spreading. They were scone-like in looks. I've had time to do some research and read other baker comments. What I learned while waiting for my scale to arrive was:
1. Don't beat the dough above low speed because it creates air and air collapses, causing a flatter cookie. It also heats up the dough when you mix on a higher speed.
2. Don't overmix the ingredients because that creates a tough cookie.
3. In the south, it usually is necessary to add extra flour to recipes.
4. Blonde Ambition ( put it well: make a stiff and thick dough.)
5. Definitely underbake these cookies a little for best taste and texture.
6. Have all your ingredients cold.

There's been quite a discussion going on about the lack of vanilla in the Levain cookie. I personally agree that vanilla doesn't do much for a CCC. I much prefer a coffee flavor, which doesn't taste like coffee at all in a cookie, it somehow just enhances everything in it. So I made a coffee "syrup," by adding instant coffee granules to coffee brandy. After stirring it well, I extracted 1 tsp. for the dough, which turned out to be the perfect flavoring for a half batch.

Some have wondered about the flour. I was also thinking that the Levain girls may have used at least some bread flour since they started their bakery with artisan breads, and since Jacques Torres uses a mix of bread and pastry flours for his CCC. I haven't experimented with it, and probably won't, because the cookies I made today are just about the most perfect little confections I have tasted -- no need to search further. For me, this is the ultimate CCC. Oh, one more thing: I will never make a 6 oz. cookie. I will leave that to Levain. For me, 2 oz. was enough. And my lovely new scale helped me form uniform 2 oz. portions, so that the cookies baked evenly. One batch was baked at 375F and one batch at 350F. I prefer the lower baking temp. The cookies were not as browned, but I liked them just a tad better. These are also, at least for me, better when slightly underbaked. Problem is, I could eat all of them easily, they're so good. My little camera did not take such great photos, but hopefully you will get the idea --

If you want to get in on the blog discussion at other sites,, and all have some version of this recipe with blogger comments. sugoodsweets has the most comments; it's almost like reading a book. One of the bloggers, Lisa, came up with the recipe I used, except for the flavoring which is mine. I used pecans with the walnuts because it's what I had. The cookies on the top shelf were baked at 350F. The ones on the bottom were baked at 375F. They are both great, but I like the ones baked at 350F just a tad better, maybe because they are just a tad more underbaked. One of the keys to this cookie is underbaking; the other key is using enough flour to make a somewhat stiff dough.
Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies (half recipe)
Rating: 10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS: 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup sugar (half brown, half white)I used about 1/3 cup brown and about 2 tsp. Stevia
1 large egg, cold
1 tsp. coffee syrup (see note above)
1-3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept (Note: this is just a guide.   You will need to find the correct amount of flour for your particular locale.  Flour amounts are affected by altitude and humidity and probably some other variables.  Humidity and pressure can change from day to day, so that the correct amount today may be the wrong amount tomorrow.) 
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder (double acting)
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used half Hershey's Special Dark, half Ghirdadelli Milk)
1/2 cup toasted whole nuts (I used 1/4 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup pecans) If you don't like nuts in your CC cookies, leave them out; these are YOUR cookies, make them the way you like them.

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugars on low speed and mix just till somewhat combined, not creamed, and not fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and flavoring and continue to mix on low for about another minute, till they are incorporated. Fold in the dry ingredients and the nuts which you have first measured and mixed together. Continue mixing on low speed for about 1-2 minutes, or till flour is incorporated and  you have a stiff and thick dough. Add chips and mix another 30 seconds. Measure out 2 oz. dough for each cookie (or more if you want them bigger). Bake for 11-13 minutes, or till toothpick inserted near center returns with a few crumbs. Transfer immediately to wire rack to cool. Yield: 11(2-oz.) melt-in-your mouth cookies. These are not what I call chewy. They are soft and delicate inside with a crispy outside. Absolutely wonderful. The coffee flavoring is perfect. Please let me know if you like them. Leave a comment rather than an email. An email will not show up on the blog, but a comment will.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


A friend gave Guy some scrap flooring. He decided to make cutting boards with it. He saved 3 boards for us and gave the rest away. I'm not sure how many cutting boards he has given away over the years, probably more than 25. Here are the 3 he saved for us --
Here are some more cutting boards that Guy has made for us---
We bought a cutting board with a strainer for our prep sink, but it didn't fit. Guy fixed it so it fits the sink.
Here's the sink without the cutting board --
Guy also built the fireplace wall for our new house -- the TV on the left pulls out on a swivel base. The doors on the right have shelves for storage --
He also made the wooden seats for our ice cream parlor chairs --
And he built an outdoor storage cabinet for our patio --

His most favorite thing that he made is the crab plate. He hand painted the crab on each wooden plate, made holes for the crab mallet, and we use them when we have crab parties. Everyone loves them; they are practical as well as adorable. This year, he is going to use crab paper instead of plain brown paper. (Guy sells crab plates; he loves making them -- they are made with non-toxic paint. Click on "items for sale" on this blog for details.)

Guy also built this side table and finished it -- the front two legs are hand carved --
And he built cabinets for over our washer and dryer --
And he built and finished this wonderful cabinet out of curly maple wood, a very rare and beautiful wood. He learned how to produce an antique finish from a man who manufactured antique reproductions out of his barn. He made this cabinet many years ago to house our 36" TV. We no longer have that TV, and our new one doesn't fit. We wanted a fireplace wall in our new house anyway; so we bought an inexpensive computer cabinet and put it inside this cabinet. It works great. We just close the doors when we want the room to look presentable.
Guy loves to work with wood. He loves creating things. He's made and given away lots of bird houses. He builds decks, sunrooms and whatever else he can think of. I love that he loves wood. He's my guy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I didn't bake today. It's a busy week -- dentist appointments, landscape planning, and meeting with news journalists. The local newspaper is doing a centerpiece article on me, scheduled for the Sunday after Easter. This morning consisted of making the house presentable, answering questions for the reporter, and posing for the photographer. After lunch, I brought peanut butter cookies and the rocky road squares that I just made to the dentist office and made some nice people happy. The dentist, however, did not make me happy -- I have to go back for some serious work on a tooth that's been nagging me. I'll think about it tomorrow. After I returned home, my landscaper came by to discuss the plan for tomorrow and I gave him some goodies. He called me from his cell phone after he left, to tell me "that was the best cookie I have ever put into my mouth." He made some points with me, for sure. I guess I'll have to make egg sandwiches for him and his men tomorrow.

Here's a recipe that I submitted to the Betty Crocker Bake Life Sweeter contest. It didn't make the fiinals, but I thought they tasted pretty good. The Nutella has to be very room temperature, but can't be heated. If you've ever tried to heat up Nutella, you know it doesn't work. Interestingly, you can heat up chocolate peanut butter (Chocolate Dreams). I am very skeptical of Nutella's ingredients, and don't use it much, but I know how popular it is -- more so in Europe than here. Giada uses it a lot. I don't want to sound like an alarmist, but I think Nutella is very, very unhealthful stuff. That said, here is my recipe:

Chocolate Hazelnut Bars with Krispy Chocolate Hazelnut Topping
COOKIE BASE: 1 pouch (17.5 oz.) Betty Crocker Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped or broken hazelnuts
3 Tbsp. hazelnut liqueur, or water
1 egg
1 container (7 oz.) marshmallow creme

KRISPY CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT TOPPING: 1-1/2 cups Nutella room temp
1-1/4 cups Krispy rice cereal

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F. Combine cookie base ingredients, except for marshmallow creme. Pat dough into an ungreased 9x9" pan and bake 15-20 minutes, or till set. Spread marshmallow creme over top of dough and return to oven for 2 minutes with oven turned off. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Mix Nutella with cereal and drop by spoonfuls over brownies. Spread over brownies as evenly as possible. Refrigerate 1 hour or till set. Cut into bars.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


This is a recipe I've been saving, for 3 years actually. Karin Calloway, the originator, wrote about these in such a persuasive way, I was sure they would be outrageously good. You can find the original recipe, and others, at Frankly, I was underwhelmed when I first tasted these, still warm, about 2 hours after baking. I didn't like the cake part because I wanted to bite into a dense brownie; the cheesecake part tasted spongy and I thought it was because of the baking temperature and the ingredients. I was resigned to giving them all away and forgetting about this recipe. And then I chilled them overnight. What a difference! These are amazing, really, really good. Everyone who has tasted them has raved. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Rocky Road Squares
Cake Layer: 18.25-oz. Devil's Food Cake Mix (Pillsbury, pudding in the mix)
1 cup cola beverage
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and 1 Tbsp. oil)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup toasted pecans

Cream Cheese Layer: 16 oz. cream cheese (I used Neufchatel)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar (I used a scant 1/2 cup sugar + a scant Tbsp. of Stevia)
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla

Topping: 1 cup chocolate morsels
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
10.5 oz. bag miniature marshmallows
16-oz. tub chocolate frosting (Duncan Hines Milk Chocolate)

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 10x15" glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. In the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, combine the cake mix, cola, oil, eggs and whole pecans. Beat until well combined (the mixer will chop the pecans), and then fold in the applesauce. Pour into the prepared baking dish and set aside.

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Beat in the flour and sugar. Fold in the vanilla. Spread over the chocolate cake base. Place in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 40 minutes. (The cheesecake had puffed up almost to the center, so I took it out at 38 minutes.) Remove from oven and sprinkle with the chocolate morsels, nuts and marshmallows. Return to oven and bake 8 minutes more.

Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Heat the chocolate frosting in a saucepan over low heat, until softened, or heat in a microwave-safe bowl for 1 minute. Drizzle over the cake and let cool for 1 hour before serving. (Note: Cool for at least 2 hours before cutting.) Store in the refrigerator. (Note: These will slice more easily if you first wet a serrated edge knife. After each slice, rinse off the knife. This will keep the marshmallows from sticking to the knife, even though it is somewhat of a pain to keep rinsing off the knife.)

Here's the cake in the oven with the morsels, nuts and marshmallows on the top-- it fills up the whole pan and I wondered how I could ever pour frosting over this; but somehow it worked, and none spilled over the sides.

Friday, March 14, 2008


This morning I awoke at 4am with gobs of mucous coming out my nose and down my throat. Luckily, I'm stocked up on tissues because I went through quite a bit in about a half hour and then gave up trying to sleep. There's not much to do before 5am, so I searched the internet for peanut butter cookie recipes. On the Cooking Light blog, there are tons of peanut butter cookie recipes, and notes to help you decide. I halved this recipe and changed it up a bit. These cookies are deadly delicious. The only mistake I made was to add the peanut butter cups too soon. The mixer chopped them up too much. So I made a note on the recipe directions to fold them in last. Other than that, this recipe is a keeper. These cookies are crispy on the edges but soft and somewhat delicately chewy on the inside, not crumby at all. They have a very peanut-buttery taste, and the cream de cocoa and cinnamon really are perfect flavorings. My landscaper declared these the best cookies he ever put into his mouth. His helper said they were "the bomb." For me, these were the absolute best peanut butter cookies I have ever eaten; and I am rating them 10 out of 10!

Lalee's Peanut Butter Cookies, Adapted
INGREDIENTS: 1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar (you can really cut it to 1/2 cup if you want, these were sweet)
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 large egg, 1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. cream de cocoa (if you don't have it, substitute 1 Tbsp. strong coffee)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour (Pillsbury)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. cinnamon (I used McCormick Saigon Cinnamon)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts (the mixer will chop them)
8 (.55 oz.) (or 4.4 oz. total) Reese's peanut butter cups, or equivalent yield, roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS: In bowl of stand mixer, using paddle attachment, briefly combine first 3 ingredients. Don't get it smooth. Just mix it for about 30 seconds to combine. Ingredients can be a little cold, it doesn't matter. Add eggs, cream de docoa and vanilla and mix again on low for about a minute. Again, don't get it totally smooth and don't beat it on medium or high. Add the flour, peanuts, salt, cream of tartar, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix on low for another minute or so till combined. Scrape down sides as necessary. Carefully fold in chips and peanut butter cups. Mixture will be just very very slightly sticky, and it will be soft. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours, or overnight if preferred.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop about 2 Tbsp. dough onto cookie sheets, leaving 3-4 inches between cookies. Dough should be like a golf ball, but don't make it smooth. See photo below.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, or till edges start to brown. I like to test mine like a cake, with a toothpick inserted about 1" from center. When it returns with just a few crumbs, they are done. These cookies are really good when just slightly underbaked. Here they are when they first went into the oven:
Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling. They are very soft when they first come out of the oven, so don't try to move them until they've cooled 5 minutes. Here they are on the rack, cooled:
You'll get 14 3-1/2" cookies from this recipe. My nose is still dripping and my throat is sore, but I had a happy day after eating two of these. Now I'm off to spread the love in the neighborhood with these dandies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Hummus made in a food processor is smooth and creamy, so I'm not understanding why this photo makes it look like a bowl of oatmeal with roasted garlic on top. You're just going to have to take my word for it: this is good stuff. Now that I've taken the leap and am making my own hummus, I'm amazed that I never did it before. I can make hummus whenever I want. It's not a big deal at all. It makes up so quickly -- just throw everything in the food processor, hit the pulse button and zip, it's done. And you can add whatever you want to it to develop your own flavor preferences.

Lemon-Roasted Garlic Hummus
INGREDIENTS: 1 head garlic
1 15 or 16-oz. can chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup tahini
3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin (I use whole seeds and crush them in a mortar and pestle)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 dashes of cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS: Place garlic head on glass pie pan (or on tinfoil or other small baking surface) and bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, till head feels soft when squeezed. Remove from oven and let cool about 1/2 hour before using.
Pull off cloves from head and slit with small sharp knife to remove the roasted clove. (Most directions say to squeeze the roasted garlic out, but I find this to be way too time consuming. It's easier to just slit the skin -- it separates easily from the clove and you can just remove the clove in one piece.) Place all cloves in work bowl of food processor along with remaining ingredients. Pulse for a minute or two, or till everything is nice and smooth and creamy. You can make this as thin or thick as you like it. For a thick hummus, add the lemon juice after you have pulsed everything else, starting with 1 Tbsp. until you achieve desired thickness. For a thinner hummus, add drained liquid from chickpeas, water or additional olive oil until mixture is as thin as you like it. If you like a hotter hummus, add more cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper. See how easy? Now just enjoy it with crackers, pita bread or veggies.

Monday, March 10, 2008


My son, David, made a chocolate turtle cheesecake Saturday -- see my previous post for recipe. He made another one yesterday for his wife Mandy to take into work today. Above photos are the cake he sent in with Mandy. I think he's getting the hang of it. Do you think he's a chip off the old block? He wants to open a bakery some day, but I'm going to have to tell him the pecans are upside down.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


My son, David, made this amazing cheesecake from an recipe he adapted.  Dave has made numerous chocolate turtle cheesecakes in an effort to duplicate the cheesecake that is being sold in a Greensboro, NC bakery. The Greensboro bakery uses a brownie crust. Dave has used graham cracker crusts and chocolate wafer crusts before. After making this recipe, he decided he likes the vanilla wafer crust the best with all the chocolate and caramel that's going on in this recipe. The only ingredient change he made to this recipe was to add chocolate ganache, chopped pecans and a caramel drizzle to the finished cheesecake to really make it decadent (like it wasn't decadent enough?). He gives this recipe his hearty endorsement, and says he likes it better than the bakery cheesecake. He has some tips, printed with the recipe below, to help you along as you make this outstanding dessert.

Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake

Crust: 2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Turtle: 14-oz. package individually wrapped caramels
5-oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup chopped pecans + 1/2 cup chopped pecans for topping

Filling:  2 (8-oz) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs (Dave recommends organic free-range eggs)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Chocolate Ganache: 1-1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 oz. evaporated milk or heavy cream

Caramel Drizzle: 12-oz. pkg. caramel bits
4 oz. evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. (Dave says to put this in the freezer while you are making the caramel sauce; this will keep the crust from separating when you pour the caramel sauce over the crust.)

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt the caramels with the evaporated milk. Heat and stir frequently until smooth. Pour caramel sauce into crust, and top with pecans. (Dave says to put this back into the freezer while you are making the filling; same reasoning as above.)

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla; beat well until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Melt the chocolate, and blend into cream cheese mixture. Pour chocolate batter over pecans. (Dave did not follow these instructions; instead he creamed the cheese well till it was smooth and fluffy; then he added the sugar and beat for another 3-4 minutes till sugar was well dissolved. THEN he added the vanilla and briefly combined. He next melted the chocolate by heating it in the microwave for about a minute on high and added the hot chocolate to the cream cheese mixture. THEN he added the eggs and beat on low speed till combined. He poured this chocolate mixture over the pecans.)

Bake 40-50 minutes, or until filling is set. Loosen cake from the edges of pan, but do not remove rim until cooled to prevent the top from cracking. Thoroughly cool cheesecake before refrigerating. Chill in refrigerator for 4 hours, or overnight.

When cheesecake is thoroughly chilled, prepare ganache by microwaving the chips and 3 oz. milk together on high about 1 minute. Add more milk or cream if needed to make a soft ganache. Stir till well combined and spread over cheesecake.

Make caramel drizzle: Microwave 12 oz. pkg. caramel bits with 4 oz. evaporated milk on high till bits are soft and can be stirred, about 1 minute. Stir till well combined. Drizzle over top of cheesecake. (Dave said he bought squeeze bottles in Wal-Mart for under $1 that are perfect for drizzling. He pours the hot sauce into the bottle, caps it, then just lets it drip over the cake. Be careful not to squeeze or it could explode in your face. The hot sauce forms a vacuum. Just let it drip over the cake.) Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Since I'm not baking desserts until my hips recover from chocolate onslaught, here's a recipe that I submitted to for their 2007 annual best recipe contest. It didn't win, but it was given 5 stars, their highest rating, and here's the comment they have posted on their website: "Chai latte and chocolate chips give this moist chocolate cake a distinctive flavor -- serve with a marscapone[sic] and amaretto cream sauce."

Chocolate Chai Latte Cake with Amaretto Cream

INGREDIENTS: Cake: 1 18.25 oz. pkg. devil's food cake mix
1 small pkg. chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup lite sour cream
1/2 cup brewed black tea, steeped for about 10 minutes
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1/3 cup chai latte mix
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 oz. mascarpone or cream cheese, room temperature
1-1/4 cups cold fat-free half and half
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur
1 small pkg. vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 cup confectioner's (10X) sugar
8 oz. very cold heavy whipping cream

DIRECTIONS: Cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Have all ingredients at room temperature. Grease and flour a bundt pan, or spray with flour-added nonstick cooking spray. Combine all cake ingredients except chocolate chips in large mixing bowl. Mix according to package instructions. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into bundt pan and bake for 36-40 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center of cake returns almost clean. Cool cake in pan for 10-15 minutes,, then invert onto wire rack to completely cool.
Topping: Place room temperature mascarpone in medium chilled bowl and beat till creamy. Add half and half and amaretto and beat till well combined. Sprinkle pudding mix and 10X sugar on top and beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes; refrigerate. In separate small chilled bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff. Fold into pudding mixture on slow speed with mixer or by hand with spatula or wire whip. Serve slices of cake with topping.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Yesterday was a good day. We're adding an island to the front corner of our property to help screen the traffic. The landscaper arrived early with two men, and I had 9 big fat warm-from-the-oven-chocolate chip cookies waiting for them. I'm ashamed to say how wonderful I felt when they raved over my cookies -- it never hurts when chocolate chip cookies are warm with soft chips. As he was chomping down on his second cookie, my landscaper told me that he went to culinary school in New England, and we started to talk serious food. He wants to open a restaurant in New Bern when he gets enough money saved. After listening to his creative food ideas, I told him he could count on me to come. His men finished digging the outline of the bed and went to their next job. Reluctantly, we ended our conversation.

We had topsoil delivered. Our two neighbors/friends joined with Guy and me and we shoveled and raked, moving the mounds of topsoil to create a slightly built-up island. Walking past our property was a gentleman we see walking every day. I jokingly called out to him that if he needed more exercise we had an extra shovel. Bless him, he joined us. We learned he's a retired marine and he lives in our development. With five shovels going, we finished the dirty work before the rains came. Guy set up a fence to keep the dirt out of the street, and even after heavy downpours last night, the topsoil was where it was supposed to be when we got up this morning.

I was out early this morning for blood work and dropped off more cookies to a neighbor on the way back. There's no recipe to post today -- I'm now on my way to art class to deliver the last of the cookies. My freezer is empty of cookies. I'm sad, but my hips are glad. I hope to have a recipe for you soon, stay tuned.

Monday, March 3, 2008


The March issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine is out, and my name is listed as an honor roll winner. My recipe is not in the magazine. Instead, the honor roll winners get their recipes published in their cookbooks. I don't have a photo of this dish, but I did make it twice before I sent the recipe in, and I thought it was pretty good. The category the recipe was entered under was "Frozen Fruits to the Rescue." BH&G tweaked my recipe a bit (they used chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce, and my recipe called for chipotle chile powder; and they added orange juice to the blueberry sauce). Their version is below:

Blueberry Pepper Sauce with Chipotle Chile Chicken
Nonstick cooking spray
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. honey
1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp. finely chopped chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 Tbsp. butter
2/3 cup chopped sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16-oz. pkg. frozen unsweetened blueberries
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Coat a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, honey, 1 tsp. of the oregano, the chipotle pepper, and salt. Brush both sides of chicken with chipotle mixture. Arrange chicken in prepared pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until done (170F).

2. Meanwhile, heat remaining butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in blueberries, orange juice, vinegar, remaining 1/2 tsp. oregano and black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for 12 minutes or until thickened but still saucy, stirring occasionally.

3. To serve, transfer chicken to serving platter or plates. Spoon blueberry sauce over chicken. Makes 4 servings.


The Better Homes & Gardens Prize Tested Recipe $400 winner for the month of March for Frozen Fruits to the Rescue Category is Mixed-Berry Tartlets. This is the recipe that beat out my Blueberry-Pepper Sauce with Chipotle Chile Chicken recipe. The photo in the magazine shows the fruit still plumped up and looking quite fresh, even though it had supposedly been baked in the tartlet shell. Recommended baking time was 20 minutes. At 20 minutes, my tartlets were not cooked. The pastry shells were still half raw and the fruit wasn't even hot. They needed a full 40 minutes, at which time the fruit was cooked but deflated and didn't look so pretty; but thanks to the topping and a mint sprig, the tartlet was presentable at dessert time. When the tartlets cooled, I had trouble getting them out of my nonstick pan that I had sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Only 3 shells came out intact; therefore, I would recommend that you do use the store-bought pie crusts which are sturdier and will stand up better (I used my own pie crust which is flakier and a little more fragile).

I thought the recipe needed more sugar. Tasting the fruit tartlet by itself, it was not sweet enough, and I usually undersweeten fruit desserts. However, when the topping was added, it was perfect. I didn't use the lemon curd-heavy cream topping in the original recipe, since I didn't have any lemon curd on hand and didn't feel like making any. I'll give both recipes below so you can make whichever you want. We had this dessert Sunday night with friends. Our menu started with chicken soup, then salad and that wonderful lasagna I made recently and stashed in the freezer, and finally this dessert which we all thought was a winner, even if it did beat me.

BH&G Prize-Tested Recipes Mixed-Berry Tartlets, adapted

1 15-OZ. pkg. rolled refrigerated unbaked pie crusts (2)
Non-stick cooking spray
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 12-oz. pkg. frozen mixed berries
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup purchased lemon curd
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Mint sprigs (optional)

Judy's Orange-Cream Topping:
3/4 cup very cold fat-free half and half
1-1/2 tsp. Triple Sec liqueur
1/4 tsp. orange extract
2 tsp. orange zest
1/2 pkg. instant French Vanilla pudding mix
1 cup frozen and thawed nonfat or lite whipped topping

PREPARATION: 1. Let pie crusts stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly coat 12 2-1/2" muffin cups with cooking spray. For pastry shells, unroll pie crusts. Use a 4" round cutter to cut 6 rounds from each crust. (I used the pastic top of a storage container that measured just slightly more than 4".) Press rounds into prepared muffin cups, pleating to fit.

2. For tartlet filling, in a medium bowl, combine the 2 Tbsp. sugar and the cornstarch; stir in berries and lemon juice. Spoon berry mixture into pastry shells. Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is golden. (Mine took 40 minutes to cook pastry and fruit.) Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Carefully remove tartlets from muffin cups; cool completely on wire rack.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine whipping cream, lemon curd, 1 tsp. sugar and vanilla; beat with wire whisk or with electric mixer on medium speed until cream mixture mounds and is fluffy. Spoon on tarts. Garnish each tartlet with a mint sprig.

To make Judy's orange-cream topping, pour half and half into medium narrow bowl. Add Triple Sec, orange extract, orange zest, and pudding mix and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes or till mixture starts to thicken and is well blended. Fold in 1 cup whipped topping. Refrigerate till serving time.

Note: I halved BH&G's recipe to make 6 tartlets. I used all my topping on the 6 tartlets. Depending on how much topping you want, if you make 12 tartlets, you might want to double the topping.