Wednesday, December 29, 2010


My New Year’s resolution:  to eat more healthfully and exercise more.  Instead of cookies or cake for dessert, it’s muffins for me.  Especially these.  Made with extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil, coconut  and whole wheat pastry flours and antioxidant-rich blueberries, these are not only good for you, they’re delicious to boot!  I buy Bob's Red Mill Organic High Fiber Coconut Flour, available in most grocery stores, and keep it in the freezer with my other whole-grain flours. 
Made from the meat of coconuts after the milk has been removed, coconut flour is loaded with nutrients that offer numerous health benefits.   It’s gluten free, and doesn’t trigger an inflammatory response within the body.  Containing almost double the amount of fiber found in wheat bran and as much protein as wheat, coconut flour helps to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease and diabetes. 

I guarantee that this will be one of the best blueberry muffins you have ever eaten.  Moist, light and tender with an outstanding flavor, this muffin is very satisfying because of the high fiber content.  And to encourage you to make these, Bob’s Red Mill will send a one-lb. package of their organic high-fiber coconut flour  and a 24-oz. package of their whole wheat pastry flour to three of my US/Canadian readers.   My apologies to readers who live outside the US and Canada.

To be entered into this giveaway, do the following:

:  Follow this blog.  Leave a comment saying that you follow.  (If you already are a follower, leave a comment saying that.)

1. Follow my other blog, The Bear Cupboard.  Leave a separate comment saying that you follow.
2. Follow me on TWITTER.  Leave a separate comment saying that you follow.
3. Follow me on FACEBOOK.  Leave a separate comment saying that you follow.

Remember, you must leave separate comments if you want each one to count as an entry.
Deadline for entries is Friday, January 7.

Oh, and here's the recipe --

Coconut –Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Crumble Topping
Source:  Judy’s Kitchen
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

1/4 cup organic extra-virgin coconut oil
2/3 cup sugar ((or sugar substitute)
1 large egg
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided use

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Heat oven to 425F.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper cups.  In large bowl, whisk together oil and sugar.  Add egg, milk and vanilla and whisk till smooth.

In small bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir in 3/4 cup blueberries, then fold this mixture into the wet ingredients.  Do not over mix.  Spoon batter into prepared pan, using about 1/4 cup batter for each muffin.  Press remaining blueberries onto tops of muffins, pushing in slightly.

In small bowl, combine topping ingredients with fork or fingers.  Sprinkle over muffin tops.
Place muffins in oven.   Reduce heat to 350F.  Bake about 20 minutes, or till a wooden pick inserted in center of muffins returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pans 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.  Yield:  12 standard-size muffins

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


orange muffin 3
My mouth was watering for an orange-raisin-nut muffin made with orange marmalade.  I had a jar of real English marmalade in the fridge that I bought to make Nigella Lawson's marmalade glaze.  Real English marmalade is made with Seville oranges that are bitter, producing the characteristic bitter-sweetness that it’s known for.   Dundee Three Fruits Marmalade is made with lemons, grapefruit and Seville oranges, for a more complex bitter-sweetness that is quite pleasing.  (American-made marmalades, by contrast, use regular sweet oranges, producing marmalades that taste nothing  like the real thing.)1st orange muffins
I started experimenting.  My first muffin, made with oil, was absolutely delicious.  I rated it a 9 out of 10.  It was tender, nicely sweet, and had a wonderful albeit indescribable flavor.  But how could I call it a marmalade muffin when there was no discernible marmalade flavor?   I tried again, using more marmalade and more nuts and raisins.  The flavor of this second muffin was great, but there were too many nuts and raisins, the texture was coarser, and the muffins did not crown as nicely as the first. 
My third try, however, was magic!  Using butter for the fat, more orange zest, less nuts and raisins and some white whole wheat flour produced a muffin with a slightly crisp crust, moist and tender but sturdy crumb and a hint of marmalade flavor.  Brushing some of the marmalade butter onto the hot muffin tops accented the marmalade flavor.   But when the marmalade butter is spread on these muffins, they really come alive.  The sweetness of the muffin complements the bitterness of the marmalade, making one delicious muffin that you will want more of.  This one is definitely a keeper.
orange muffin 3 (4)
Marvelous Marmalade Muffins with Marmalade Butter
Source:  Judy’s Kitchen
Rating:  10 out of 10
1/3 cup raisins (or dried fruit of choice) 
1 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate + 1 Tbsp. water
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. English marmalade, divided use
3/4 cup soft butter + 1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 Tbsp. orange zest
2/3 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup sugar + 1/4 tsp. NuStevia) 
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp. Greek yogurt

In small saucepan, heat the raisins with the orange juice concentrate and water.  Bring to a boil; off heat; cover.  Let raisins steep for 1/2 hour.   In the meantime, make the marmalade butter.  Mix together 3/4 cup each of room temperature marmalade and soft butter. 

Heat oven to 425F.  Grease a 6-cup muffin tin.  In large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir in pecans.

In medium bowl, whisk together remaining 2 Tbsp. marmalade, orange zest, sugar, 1/4 cup cooled melted butter and vanilla till smooth.  Whisk in egg, milk and yogurt till smooth.  Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and mix lightly with a spoon or spatula till barely combined.  Stir in drained raisins..  Spoon mixture into prepared muffin cups, dividing batter equally. 
orange muffin 3 (2) 
Place in oven; close door; reduce heat to 375F; bake for 19-22 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs.   Immediately brush each muffin top twice with some of the marmalade butter.  Cool in pan for 5 muffin 3 (3) 
Spread hot or warm muffins with some marmalade butter.   Yield:  6 muffins 
orange muffin 3 (5)

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Bobs Red Mill apple frangipane tarts
Since it was just the two of us for Thanksgiving at home this year, I wanted to make a dessert without a lot of leftovers.  I chose this recipe from the back of a package of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal, and it was perfect.  Using one sheet of puff pastry, if you position your 6” circles just right, you will have two rectangular pieces left, after you trim the dough, enabling you to make two more gallettes which are absolutely delicious cold the next day. 

While this recipe is not my #1 favorite for apple frangipane,  (Click here for my #1 fave ) it was easy and it definitely hit the spot.  A dollop of caramel sauce on the side and a pouf of Redi-Whip sprinkled with cinnamon on top finished this dessert.

Apple Frangipane Galette for Two
Source:  Bob’s Red Mill
Rating:  8 out of 10
INGREDIENTS:  2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. almond meal
1-1/2 tsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg, divided use
1/16 tsp. almond extract
1/2 pkg. puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator overnight
1 medium tart apple, peeled, cored, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. melted butter, divided

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.  Heat oven to 375F.  In medium bowl, beat butter and confectioner’s sugar by hand or with electric mixer till light and fluffy.  Add almond meal and flour and beat till well mixed.  Stir in 1/2 egg and extract, reserving other  half of egg for egg wash. 

Roll puff pastry on floured surface to 1/8”.  Cut 2 (6”) circles; transfer to parchment.  If you cut strategically, you should have enough pastry left to cut two small rectangles.  Transfer those to the parchment also.  Top each of the pastries with about 2-3 Tbsp. almond mix, spreading to within 1” of edges.  Brush edges with reserved egg, beaten.
Bobs Red Mill apple frangipane tarts (2) 
Arrange apple slices over tops of almond mix.  Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over apples.  Drizzle melted butter over apples.  Bobs Red Mill apple frangipane tarts (3)
Refrigerate 15 minutes.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or till golden brown and pastry is puffed.

Friday, December 17, 2010


My non-cooking hubby continually surprises me.  He played chef to his football buddies with these delicious sandwiches.

The gravy was outstanding.  I was two thumbs up, way up, along with the Sunday afternoon armchair quarterbacks.  Get the recipe for Guy's Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


CI carrot cake
Now that I am an official carrot cake junkie, my quest is to find the very best carrot cake recipe.  I fell in love with carrot cake after making my first (Sam's Famous Carrot Cake) in November. 

Cook’s Illustrated published a carrot cake recipe in 1998 to mixed reviews.  The recipe used an abundance of carrots (about 7 cups), that were sugared to drain excess liquid out.  Instead of using oil for the fat in their 1998 cake, CI browned butter for a deeper flavor.  In March, 2003, Bridget Lancaster (America’s Test Kitchen) developed an easier recipe using fewer carrots, but, surprisingly, went back to oil.  After making Sam’s Famous Carrot Cake, I realized that it is possible to substitute buttermilk for half the oil.  It reduces the fat content of the cake, and also tenderizes the crumb while adding a nice flavor.  So I’ve decided I’ll be doing that for all my carrot cakes – I mean, why not?  With today’s recipe, you have the option of adding nuts and raisins, if desired.  I decided to add nuts and chopped fresh pineapple instead of raisins.  Also, since I was experimenting, I cut the recipe in half and made it in an 8x8 pan.

CI carrot cake (3)

I still had two pieces of Sam’s cake in my freezer and so I taste-tested the two cakes side by side.  The comparison is apples to oranges.  Sam’s cake is fully loaded with nuts, raisins, pineapple and coconut, producing a cake that is almost like a Christmas fruitcake.  The CI 2003 cake only has nuts and pineapple.  Both cakes are phenomenal in taste and texture, but I have to give a slight edge to today’s recipe.  I love its flavor of mixed spices (compared to just cinnamon alone in Sam’s), and it has a lighter texture that is very appealing.
Cook's Illustrated 2003 "Simple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting"
Adapted half recipe
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  1-1/4 cups (6-1/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp. each, baking powder and cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. each, freshly ground nutmeg and fine sea salt
1/16 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1-1/2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup chopped, drained pineapple, fresh or canned

Adjust oven rack to center position; heat oven to 350F.  Grease an 8x8 pan; line pan with parchment.  Grease the parchment; set aside.CI carrot cake (2)
In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and cloves; stir in nuts; set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk together sugars and eggs till frothy.  Add oil and buttermilk and whisk till smooth and well combined.  Stir in carrots and pineapple, then add, all at once, to dry ingredients, stirring with a spoon or spatula until just mixed.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs.  Rotate pan halfway through baking time.  Cool cake in pan about 20 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack, remove parchment, and cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare cream cheese frosting:

With electric mixer, beat 4 oz. cream cheese, 3 Tbsp. soft butter, 1 tsp. sour cream and 1/4 tsp. vanilla till smooth.  Gradually add 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar and beat till fluffy.  Spread frosting on top of cooled cake.  Cut into squares to serve.  Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.  (This cake freezes well but cannot be microwaved to thaw because it will melt the frosting.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Our friend, Joann, sent two beautiful appetizers to the Sunday afternoon quarterbacks, and did they ever love them!  These veggie/fruit treats got gobbled up pretty fast.  What's not to love?  Crescent rolls form the base of the tree.  It's spread with Ranch dip, then topped with veggies.  The fruit tree is spread with a mix of cream cheese and fruit-flavored yogurt, then topped with fruit.  A great idea for party fare.
Get the recipe for easy peasy Crescent Roll Christmas Tree Appetizers....CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


CI holiday ham (2)
How many times I’ve followed the heating instructions on a spiral-sliced ham only to be disappointed with dried-out slices.  Well, thanks to the good folks at America’s Test Kitchen, that  will never happen again.  Reminding us that the ham is already fully cooked and can be eaten as is, they note that most people prefer it heated.  The trick is to heat the ham without drying it out.  Their fool-proof method produces  moist and delicious spiral-sliced ham.  Soaking the ham in hot tap water for 1-1/2 hours brings the internal temperature of the ham up slowly, reducing the oven time.  Baking at a low temperature (250F) for a short period (about 1-1/2 hours) ensures the ham will stay moist.  CI holiday ham
An 8.5 lb. Smithfield spiral-sliced ham was my starting point.  Instead of using the glazing packet that comes with the ham, I opted to make Nigella Lawson’s Ginger Glaze, which I’ve modified to make less pungent.  Pineapple Stuffing and Glazed Sweet Potatoes  were great side dishes that rounded out this dinner.candied sweets
pineapple stuffing (2)
The Sunday afternoon armchair quarterbacks all agreed that this was the best ham ever, and we were all still raving a week later.  Each slice was moist and delicious.  Another winning recipe from the technicians at America’s favorite test kitchen.CI holiday ham (4)
Cook’s Illustrated Holiday Ham 101
Rating:  10 out of 10
1 Smithfield spiral-sliced ham, bone in (8-12 lbs.)
1 large oven-cooking bag with tie

(adapted from Nigella Lawson)
1/2 cup English marmalade
1-1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 Tbsp. Grey Poupon mustard
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
scant 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate

Place ham, left in original packaging and netting, into large container or clean sink.  Cover with hot tap water.  Let sit 45 minutes.  Empty water and refill with hot tap water for another 45 minutes.  (Note:  I used my clean, deep sink, and the water stayed hot for 1-1/2 hours, eliminating the need to empty and refill.) 

Heat oven to 250F.  Adjust oven rack to lowest position.  Remove ham from water and from packaging, remembering to remove the plastic disk covering ham bone.  Place ham inside large oven bag, making sure that the cut side is at bottom of bag.  Gather bag tightly around ham.  Secure with twist tie.  Place in large roasting pan.  Cut 4 small slits in top of bag with knife.  Bake ham until internal temperature reaches 100F (about 90 minutes, or 10 minutes per pound.) 

In the meantime, combine glaze ingredients in small saucepan; heat, stirring, until well mixed and spreadable.  Remove ham from oven; untie bag and roll down sides.  Keep juices inside bag.  Increase heat to 350F.  Slowly pour about 1/2 of glaze over ham, brushing it in as you pour.  Return to oven 10 minutes.  Repeat.  Transfer ham to cutting board.  Serve as desired.
CI holiday ham (3)

Monday, December 6, 2010


pineapple stuffing (2)
Many years ago, my friend, Poppy, served us this wonderful stuffing with a ham dinner.  So enamored with the stuffing was I that I asked her for the recipe, and she was happy to oblige.  I cut the sugar in half, and we find it plenty sweet, but feel free to add more sugar if you like things uber-sweet.  I also added slightly more pineapple, and instead of using all canned, some of it was freshly cut.  Admittedly, it’s not your usual stuffing, but it goes perfectly with ham.  And everyone -- even fussy hubby --  seems to like it.

I covered the stuffing for the first 20 minutes, then took the cover off to let the stuffing brown and crisp up.  I had no problem finding someone who would take the leftover stuffing home, and I was thereby saved from carb overload.  Surely, I would have eaten it all, it's that good.

Pineapple Stuffing
Adapted from Poppy Reynolds
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
1/2 cup (1 stick) very soft butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs, whisked lightly
1 cup crushed pineapple with juices
1 cup fresh pineapple, cut in small chunks
8 cups firm white bread, cut in cubes, baked @250F for 1/2 hour and cooled

Heat oven to 325F.  In large bowl, cream butter and sugars.  Add whisked eggs and beat well.  Fold in pineapple with juices and bread cubes.  Spoon mixture into buttered baking dish and bake, covered, for 15-20 minutes, then uncovered for an additional 25– 35 minutes, or till top is nicely crunchy and golden brown and everything is cooked through.  Serve with ham.  Yield:  8-10 servings

Friday, December 3, 2010


crispy chewy ccc (3)
Ever in search of the ultimate, perfect chocolate chip cookie, I experimented with raspberry flavors.  No, this is not the ultimate – at least not for me.  I like a slightly thicker cookie.  This one is thin with crispy edges and chewy centers.  But, while it may not be my ultimate, it comes close and is one addictive little bugger.
My experiment started with a chocolate find:  Chocolove “Raspberries in Dark Chocolate.”  The 3.2 oz. bar has 55% cocoa content.  Freeze-dried raspberry pieces are  enveloped in Belgian dark chocolate crafted from African cocoa beans.  Very yummy chocolate this is.
crispy chewy ccc (4)
I worked off a recipe I found on, a Canadian website.  Instead of using their vanilla and semi-sweet chocolate chips,  I used raspberry liqueur and a chopped up bar of Chocolove Raspberries in Dark Chocolate.   (TIP:  You can buy inexpensive “nips” at your local liquor store to use for baking.)
038 This is a great cookie, and I’m loving the raspberry flavors, even though they’re mild. 
A note about the baking temperatures:  I thought 375F was incorrect, so I baked 6 cookies at 350F and 5 cookies at 375F.  The ones baked at 375F were crispier on the edges, yet were still chewy inside.  So 375F is the correct temperature. 
Raspberry Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Inspired by
Rating:  8.5 out of 10
INGREDIENTS:  3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 (3.2 oz.) bar Chocolove Raspberries in Dark Chocolate, chunked (about 2/3 cup)
1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. raspberry liqueur
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted, cooled slightly

Heat oven to 375F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugars; stir in chocolate and walnuts.  Make a well in center. 

In small bowl, whisk together egg, oil, liqueur and melted butter till smooth.   Pour into well of dry ingredients.  Using a spatula or spoon, mix until dough forms.  Using an ice cream scoop, drop dough onto parchment paper, leaving several inches between each to allow for spreading.  Bake 11-13 minutes, or till cookies are browned on edges.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to completely cool.  Yield:  11 (3-1/2”) thin cookies 
crispy chewy ccc

Thursday, December 2, 2010


My Sicilian non-cooking hubby surprised me by cooking his own mussels marinara.  I would have made a big production of it.  He made it quite easy.  Since I don't eat mussels, this made me very happy.
Get the easy-peasy recipe for Guy's Mussels Marinara.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


chicken marsala
Ever since we returned from our trip to the North Carolina mountains, I’ve been thinking about how my son and DIL raved over their chicken marsala at Chef's Table in Waynesville.   Chicken Marsala is one of those classic dishes that I’ve never made, simply because I never have Marsala wine on hand.  And that’s because I really had no other use for it.  Why spend a lot of money for a wine that would  be essentially thrown out  after one use?

Then I read that authentic Tiramisu is made with Marsala.  So now I had two uses for this sweet dessert wine.  A little more research uncovered the fact that Marsala is a fortified wine, meaning that alcohol is added to preserve sweetness and prevent fermentation.  It will keep for about 6 months in the fridge after it is opened.  That allows plenty of time to make several batches of Tiramisu and Chicken Marsala.

But which brand to buy?  Our local Harris Teeter had no less than 5 brands, most American made.  Back to the computer for more research, and I found that the original Marsala, made in the Marsala region of Sicily by Florio since 1833, is generally considered the best.   Florio makes several grades and varieties.  Fine Marsala, the grade available in my local Harris Teeter, is aged less than 1 year.  Sweet Marsala can also be used like a port or sherry, as an after-dinner drink.  I was lucky to happen on a sale, and got this bottle for $10 and change.009
Next, I needed a recipe.  After checking several online, I decided to try one found on Cooking for Engineers.  Admittedly, I was nervous, because the recipe seemed way too simple with hardly any ingredients.  The chicken was not even coated in flour before frying.  But the author insisted this was the real thing and couldn’t be beat, so I thought, why not?  I followed everything to a “T,” and we weren’t disappointed.  This is a great recipe.  It’s easy, with few ingredients, and produces a dish of rich, excellent flavor.  Just be aware:  you will need to use a good-quality Marsala, because that's what shines in this recipe.

Chicken Marsala
Source:  Cooking for Engineers
Rating:  10 out of 10
INGREDIENTS:  4 cups cold water, divided use
4 Tbsp. sea salt (or kosher salt)
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 lbs.)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil + 1 tsp. unsalted butter
4 oz. thickly sliced mushrooms
1 cup sweet Marsala wine, preferably Florio
1/4 cup heavy cream 
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (my addition)

In small cup, dissolve salt in 1/4 cup hot water.  When thoroughly dissolved, pour into large resealable plastic bag and add remaining water.  Seal bag and refrigerate till thoroughly cold.
Add chicken and refrigerate 1 hour. 

Rinse breasts well with cold water; pat dry with paper towels.  Slice breasts into cutlets and pound to even out.  Lightly salt and pepper chicken.  Heat oil and butter over medium-high heat in large, heavy skillet.  Pan-fry chicken, just till done, about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.  Do not over cook.  Transfer chicken to plate; cover with foil; keep warm. 

Sauté mushrooms in same pan over medium-high heat.  Pour marsala over mushrooms and cook till wine is reduced, several minutes.  (Let it thicken slightly.)  Add cream; cook till reduced and the sauce coats the back of a metal spoon or leaves a trail at the bottom of pan when scraped.  Return chicken to pan, turning it over to coat well with sauce.  Cook till chicken is hot.  Garnish with parsley.  Yield:  4-6 servings

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Sam's carrot cake

True confession:  I had never made a carrot cake before when I decided to try this recipe.  Why I had never made a carrot cake is not a mystery.  It’s because I had never eaten carrot cake.  And that is because I didn’t think I would like it.  Those of you who are carrot cake fans or addicts are shaking your heads in wonderment.  And now, of course, so am I.

This recipe, rated 5 stars on and written by the grandson of “Sam,” was followed to a “T,” with the only exception being that I plumped the raisins in orange juice and lowered the baking temperature from 350F to 325F.  From my first bite, I was addicted to carrot cake – its moistness, rich and complex flavors from fruits, nuts and, of course, the carrots – and the creamy frosting that crowns it. 

I loved this cake, its texture and flavor are amazing, but I'm not giving it my top rating.  The reasons:  first, it’s geared to an 8x12 pan.  Who has one?  I was lucky to have in my kitchen a 7.5”x11.75” Pyrex pan, and it worked well.  Next, I think the cake needs more salt and spices.  That being said, I dreamed about this cake when I wasn’t eating it.  After I try other carrot cake recipes, I may come back and change this rating.  But, like I said, I’ve never eaten carrot cake, so I have no reference point. 

Sam’s Famous Carrot Cake
Adapted from
Rating:  9.0 out of 10
Click for printable page
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup raisins
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon (I would add 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice to this next time)
1/4 tsp. salt (I would increase this to 1/2 tsp. next time)
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk or soured milk (sour milk=3/4 cup milk + 2 tsps. cider vinegar)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained

In 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup, microwave orange juice on high till hot, about 20 seconds.  Add raisins.  Leave in microwave (turned off) for 15 minutes or longer to plump raisins.
Heat oven to 325F.  Grease and flour an 8x12 pan.  Line with 2 pieces of wax paper cut to fit bottom of pan.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.  Whisk in carrots, coconut and walnuts.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil, sugar and vanilla till smooth.  Lightly stir in pineapple and drained raisins.   Add flour mixture and stir lightly with spatula or spoon till combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan; bake 1 hour or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  
Sam's carrot cake (2)
Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack.  Remove wax paper. 

Sam's carrot cake (3)

Cool completely before frosting with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.  If desired, sprinkle additional toasted chopped walnuts over frosting. 
Sam's carrot cake (8)

Friday, November 26, 2010


I like to cut most of the turkey meat from the bones right after dinner, separating out what we'll eat in the next two days.  It's not a good idea to keep cooked turkey in the fridge past 3 days, counting the day it's cooked.  The bones get frozen if I'm not making soup in the next day or two, along with a package of the meat that will go in the soup.  I usually have two packages of bones and two packages of meat for the bones.  Additional packages of meat would be for casseroles or pot pies.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use up turkey, but note that the recipes listed might be for chicken.  Just substitute turkey, as the two are interchangeable.

Turkey or Chicken Tortelloni

Turkey or Chicken Pot Pies for Two
Favorite Turkey or Chicken Salad
Turkey or Chicken Bones Soup
Tomato-Turkey or -Chicken Vegetable Soup 

(No picture for this favorite old standby soup that is both comforting and delicious.)

I hope your Thanksgiving was a memorable one, filled with good food, friends and family.  

Monday, November 22, 2010


Recently, hubby and I took a trip to Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Orangeburg, South Carolina, and came home via Hot Springs and Waynesville, North Carolina.  It was this trip that made me realize how badly I needed a new suitcase.  

It's not that ours are shabby or anything.  It's just that I want something that's more serviceable and sturdy, yet feminine.  I fell in love with this one:

I love the magenta color and the shape of it, but also admire the sturdy wheels.  It's easier to pull a suitcase that has sturdy wheels that keep the suitcase upright as you pull.  But these wheels also "spin" in different directions, allowing you to easily change directions.  Very functional, yet so pretty and feminine.

I also like this "spinner" in more subdued yet still feminine tones:

But I am dreaming.  There isn't even a trip on the horizon, yet I can't stop thinking how I would love to have a new feminine suitcase.  How about you?

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Caramel Apple Pie (4)

Our local farmer’s market had beautiful, big Rome apples recently.  My favorite apples for pie are, in this order:  Stayman Winesap,  Stayman and Rome.  Staymans are hard to find, and Winesaps are almost nonexistent in New Bern, so Rome is my go-to apple for pies.  They become slightly more tangy when baked and hold their shape well. 
Caramel Apple Pie

The inspiration for this recipe came from Linda Hundt, a multiple prize winner in the Crisco National Pie Contest.  Linda now has her own pie/pastry shop in Michigan where people line up for her pies.  When I read the recipe for her “Grandma Ferrell’s Caramel Apple Pie,” I was put off by the amount of sugar used – 2 cups in the pie and topping plus caramel sauce.  Whew!  No way could I eat that.  Linda also thickens the apples with flour.  I decided to use the parts of her recipe that I liked and change or discard the rest.  That meant adding some whole grains, reducing sugar and replacing some with apple juice concentrate, adding some apple jack brandy and 1 dropper of liquid Vanilla stevia, and most importantly, precooking and cooling the apples before baking. 
Caramel Apple Pie (6)

Precooking apples takes a little more time, but it eliminates the need for a thickener, because all the juices flow out of the apples when cooked.  As they continue to cook, some of the apple juices are absorbed back into the apples, intensifying the apple flavor.  It makes for a really good pie.  Instead of making Linda’s homemade caramel sauce, I opted to open a jar of Smucker’s Special Recipe Butterscotch Caramel Sauce.  Because the apples in the filling are not overly sweet, the very sweet crumb topping does not overpower the apples, and a bit of caramel sauce really takes the pie over the top. 

A crispy, crunchy, sweet crumb topping over slightly sweet and tangy apple filling, topped with rich and sweet caramel sauce -- this pie is a winner, and one that I would gladly make again.

Caramel Apple Crumb Pie
Inspired by Grandma Ferrell’s Caramel Apple Pie
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
Click for Printable Page

1 (9”) deep dish pie crust, homemade or store-bought

Crumb Topping: 
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned (5-minute) oats
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix by hand or with a pastry blender until crumbly.  Set aside.

5 large Rome apples, peeled, cored, quartered, cut into wedges
1-1/4 cups frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. apple brandy
1 dropper liquid Vanilla stevia (or other liquid sweetener equal to about 1 tsp. of sugar + 1/4 tsp. vanilla)

Caramel Sauce: 
Smucker’s Special Recipe Butterscotch Caramel Sauce, or other caramel sauce of choice

Heat oven to 400F.  Combine filling ingredients in 9x12 or larger baking pan.  Bake 25-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or till apples are barely tender.  Transfer cooked apples to a sheet pan to cool.  Return pan with juices to oven and bake till light syrup forms.  (Time will depend on how juicy your apples were.)  Alternately, you can cook the apples in a large skillet, removing apple wedges as they become tender and cooking the liquid to a syrup.  Either way, scrape the syrup over the cooling apples and toss to combine.  Cool completely, at least one hour, then spoon filling into crust. 

Caramel Apple Pie (7)

Do not put crumb topping on at this time.  Bake pie in lower part of oven 30 minutes.  
Transfer to counter and spoon crumb topping over pie.  Return to oven and continue to bake an additional 30 minutes, or till pie bubbles. 
Caramel Apple Pie (2)

If crumb topping browns too quickly, loosely tent aluminum foil over pie.  Cool pie on wire rack for several hours before slicing.  Serve with a large spoonful of warm caramel sauce.


There were 34 entries in the Kikkoman Giveaway.  Each entry was assigned a number from 1-34, in the order the comments were posted.  34 numbers were entered into the random number generator.  The first number that came out was 34 (Free Recipe Site Guy).  The second number was 27 (Nutmeg Nanny).

Congratulations to the two winners!

Friday, November 19, 2010


pumpkin cc streusel muffins (2)
Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips are the perfect complement to a very moist, modestly spiced, sweet pumpkin muffin.  A brown sugar-cinnamon-pecan crumble topping brings the flavors over the top.  Now add a silky texture reminiscent of pumpkin pie, and you have the ultimate pumpkin muffin.  This very well may be my most favorite muffin of all, and you can just bet I’ll be making more.

Please try these, you won’t be disappointed!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Streusel Muffins
Inspired by The Peppered Pantry
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for Printable Page
Topping:  1-1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. toasted pecans, chopped
2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat)

In small bowl, combine all topping ingredients; set aside.

Muffin:  1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose +
3/4 cup white whole wheat) 
2-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli bittersweet 60% cacao)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar (I used 2 Tbsp. NuNatural Stevia powder)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup cooked mashed pumpkin, or canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 (3.9 oz.) cup unsweetened applesauce (about 1/2 cup)

Heat oven to 400F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper cups that have been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  In large bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips; set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk together sugars, eggs and oil till smooth.  Whisk in pumpkin, juice and applesauce until blended.  Add wet ingredients all at once to dry ingredients and stir with spatula or spoon just till barely combined.  Do not over mix, a few lumps are okay.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup for each.  
pumpkin cc streusel muffins (3)
Top with streusel. 
pumpkin cc streusel muffins (4) 
Place muffin tin in oven on center rack.  Close door and immediately reduce heat to 325F.  Bake about 20 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center of muffin returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn muffins out onto wire rack to finish cooling. 
Yield:  12 standard-size muffins