Sunday, January 29, 2012


When my hubby brought home the scrawny-looking lemon plant almost two years ago, I laughed at the thought that we might grow lemons in North Carolina.  Our winters in New Bern are mild, but nighttime temps can go well below freezing.  Guy babied this lemon tree and moved it up to a larger pot twice.  In December, we picked our first two lemons.  Read more......

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


grandpa's sauerkraut & kielbasa (3)

I don’t know what made me buy a package of kielbasa.  It’s not something I cook or eat.  But there it was in my fridge, waiting to be used.  Since my hubby would be the one eating it, I decided to get his opinion on which internet recipe sounded the best.  He picked this one, and it’s a winner.  It’s so good, in fact, that when I took a bite to taste-test it, I went back for more.  It’s so good that I’m going to buy more kielbasa and make it again. 

The Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce was adapted from Aaron McCargo, Jr., and it’s the perfect accompaniment to this dish.

Grandpa’s Sauerkraut and Kielbasa with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce, adapted          
Sources: and Food Network
Rating:  10 out of 10

3 Tbsp. butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated on a microplane grater
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
3/4 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage, or 1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (Yukon Gold are recommended)
1 (16-oz.) bag refrigerated sauerkraut, including juices
1 lb. beef kielbasa, cut into 1/2” pieces (I used Hillshire Farms)

Heat oven to 225F.  Put cold butter in a large, heavy oven-proof skillet.  Add onion and cook on medium-low heat about 10 minutes, or  till onions are transparent.  Add garlic and sauté 2 more minutes.  Add thyme, sage, black pepper, potatoes, sauerkraut with juices and kielbasa.  Cook on medium-high till heated through.  Cover loosely with foil and bake for 3 hours.  Yield:  3-4 servings   Serve with mustard sauce, recipe below.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce:
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1/4 cup honey Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1-1/2 tsp. hot horseradish
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of black pepper

Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl till well combined.
grandpa's sauerkraut & kielbasa

Monday, January 23, 2012


rum sour cream pecan poundcake

Pound cake is quintessentially Southern.  It is a versatile cake that lends itself to many interpretations and uses.  When made properly, pound cake is light and airy and a delight to eat.  I’ve made this Southern Living recipe twice:  once with white sugar and once with a combo of white and brown sugar.  Both versions were good, but the one with brown sugar had a caramel undertone that I particularly liked.  SL’s recipe is a plain pound cake.  The pecans and rum flavoring are mine. 

Orange-Glazed Pecan Sour Cream Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Elvis Presley’s Favorite Pound Cake are two pound cakes that I rate slightly higher.

Sour Cream-Rum-Pecan Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Southern Living Magazine
Rating:  9 out of 10


1 cup broken pecans
8 oz. sour cream, regular or light
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter, soft
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt or table salt
1 tsp. vanilla (I used my homemade vanilla extract.)
1 Tbsp. rum + 1/4 cup rum for brushing on cake

Grease and flour a tube pan or bundt pan.  Sprinkle pecans evenly over bottom. 
Scream pecan poundcake (7)

Stir baking soda into sour cream; set aside.  In bowl of stand mixer, beat sugar and butter at low speed 6 minutes.  Beat at medium speed till light and fluffy, about 4 additional minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed.  Sift together flour and salt; add alternately with sour cream, on low speed, beginning and ending with flour.  Stir in vanilla and 1 Tbsp. rum.  Spoon batter carefully over pecans. 
Scream pecan poundcake 
Run a knife through the batter to dissolve air bubbles, and rap bottom of pan on counter twice.  Place pan in cold oven.  Bake at 325F for 1 hour, 30 minutes, or till a wooden pick inserted in center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn cake out onto wire rack to finish cooling. 
Scream pecan poundcake (5) 
Brush warm cake, top and sides, with remaining 1/4 cup rum. 
Scream pecan poundcake (6) 
Drizzle or cover with chocolate ganache.  The ganache below is made with a Chocolove Orange Peel in Dark Chocolate bar.  The chunks in the ganache are bits of orange peel.
Scream pecan poundcake (4)
To make ganache, heat 1/4 cup heavy cream over medium heat till steaming.  Off heat and add 1 cup chopped  bittersweet chocolate.  Stir till smooth and use immediately.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


CI coconut cake cupcakes

This is possibly the best recipe for coconut cake/cupcakes ever.  Don’t just take my word for it.  My taste testers all agreed that it was.  That includes my picky hubby who raved for days afterward.  You’ll need to buy cream of coconut for the cupcakes and the frosting.  Try the Asian section of your supermarket.   Sometimes it’s called coconut cream.
CI coconut cake cupcakes (4)
Swiss buttercream is amazingly easy to make and there is just no substitute for its silky smooth texture.  Don’t, please don’t, make cream cheese frosting for these.  It just won’t be the same.CI coconut cake cupcakes (2)
Coconut Cupcakes 
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Coconut Cake
Rating:  10 out of 10
3.5 oz. (about 1 cup + 2 Tbsp.) cake flour (I used White Lily all-purpose low-protein flour)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. Morton kosher salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, soft but still cool, cut in 1 Tbsp. pcs.
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 large egg yolk (3/4 Tbsp.)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla.)
1/2 tsp. coconut extract (I used my homemade coconut extract.)
6 Tbsp. cream of coconut
2 Tbsp. water
Coconut Swiss Buttercream Frosting
Toasted coconut

Heat oven to 325F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups.  In bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment on stir speed, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  On low speed, add, one at a time, butter pieces that have been softened but are still waxy and cool.  Mix till butter is like coarse meal with no particles bigger than a pea. 

In a small bowl, whisk together egg whites, yolk, vanilla and coconut extracts, cream of coconut and water.  Add about 1/2 of this mixture to the flour mixture.  Mix on low speed to combine, then increase speed to medium high for about 45 seconds.  With mixer still on, add remaining half of liquid slowly on medium high.  Mix for another 45 seconds.  Divide batter evenly among paper cups, filling each about 1/2 full.  Bake 16-18 minutes, or till a wooden pick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pans 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack.   Frost cupcakes with Coconut Swiss Buttercream Frosting and garnish with toasted coconut.
CI coconut cake cupcakes (3)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


CI coconut cake cupcakes
Swiss buttercream frosting has a bad rap.   Many home cooks are intimidated by its ultra-silky, smooth texture and buttery, creamy taste.  I know.  I was one of the intimidated.  Not anymore – I’m now the #1 fan of Swiss buttercream.  There is no frosting like it.  It just kind of melts in your mouth as you savor its amazing richness without the uber-sweetness of most frostings.  Surprisingly, it’s not hard to make, just more involved than a simple buttercream, because the Swiss version requires you to start the process by cooking egg whites with sugar.  Adding coconut flavor makes this frosting perfect for coconut cake or cupcakes, but it’s also a good complement for vanilla or chocolate cakes/cupcakes. 

CI coconut cake cupcakes (3)
Coconut Swiss Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Rating:  10 out of 10


4 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp.)
1 lb. unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pcs., soft, not mushy, still waxy, not melting in hand
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/4 cup cream of coconut

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer placed over hot, simmering water, occasionally whisk egg whites, sugar and salt till sugar is dissolved completely and thermometer registers 120F, about 5-6 minutes.  (Transfer bowl to stand mixer with whisk attachment.  Beat at high speed 7-8 minutes, or till mixture doubles and looks like marshmallow cream with glossy peaks.  Check temperature.  It should be cooled to 80F.  (With mixer turned off, stick your finger in the middle to see if mixture has cooled enough so that butter won’t melt.)  Stop mixer and change whisk attachment to paddle attachment. 

Using low speed, add butter, about 8 Tbsp. at a time, mixing for about 1 minute after each addition.  When all butter is added, gradually increase mixer speed to medium high and beat till smooth, light and fluffy.  (If mixture curdles after butter is added, do not panic, just keep beating till it comes back together and smoothes out. )

Stop the mixer.  Scrape the bowl sides and bottom.  Add vanilla and coconut extracts and cream of coconut and beat briefly (about 1 minute) on low speed,  till mixture is well combined, then increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat for an additional minute.

Yield:  enough frosting to generously cover a 9” cake, including filling.  Leftover frosting may be stored in fridge for about 3 weeks, or in freezer for about 3 months.  Bring to room temperature and rewhip before using.
CI coconut cake cupcakes (2)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I hope you're in the habit of buying fresh beets.  They are wonderful when they're roasted, and so easy to do.  Just cut the beets away from the beet greens, scrub, wrap in foil and bake at 400F for about 40 minutes, or till tender when pierced with a fork.  Peeled and sliced, they're a great addition to a tossed salad, and equally good as a snack.  But what about those greens? Don't throw them out.  Get more bang for your buck by using them just like spinach.  In fact, that's pretty much what they taste like because they are a "cousin" of spinach.  Read more....

Monday, January 16, 2012


meaty pea soup

This is a delicious pea soup, rich with the flavors and ingredients that men love.  Though the broth is thin, the addition of beef stock gives the soup a beefy heaviness.  If you like your pea soup thick, use 3 cups of chicken broth.  Add more, a little at a time, till you get the soup to the consistency you want.  Hubby lapped this soup up while holding up one thumb.  I much prefer the lighter taste and texture of fresh pea soup

Meaty Pea Soup
Rating:  9 out of 10

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, rinsed and chopped
1/2 large celery stalk, peeled, rinsed and chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
1 meaty ham bone, meat removed and chopped to provide about 2 cups of ham
8 oz. split peas, rinsed, picked over and drained
1-1/4 quarts low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

In Dutch oven, heat oil on medium-high heat.  Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring, until veggies are soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and ham bone and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add peas and broth.  Tie thyme sprigs and bay leaves together with kitchen twine and drop into pot.  
meaty pea soup (6) 
Cook about 1-1/2 hours, or till peas and other veggies are cooked through and soft.  meaty pea soup (8) 
Remove thyme and bay leaves.  If desired, puree veggies, or mash with potato masher. 

Add potatoes, pepper and parsley.   (No salt is necessary, as broth and ham provide sufficient saltiness to this soup.) Cook 10-15 minutes, or till potatoes are fork tender.  Add in reserved chopped ham.  Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches or pizza, if desired.  Yield:  About 2-1/2 quarts of soup.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


WW choc cinnamon swirl SC coffee cake (10)

A rich, buttery cake is filled with chocolate chips, cinnamon, sugar and cocoa, then toped with  a crunchy, buttery pecan-chocolate chip streusel.  I found this dessert to be heavenly and I savored each and every bite.  Hubby thought it was heavy.  When it comes to cakes, he likes super-light textures.  He was alone in his critique, however.  All others who tasted it loved it.

The recipe was adapted from Baked.  While the cake is not 100% whole wheat, the streusel is, and it also has some coconut flour for additional fiber.  Does this make the dessert healthy?  Unfortunately, no.  But to make it a little less harmful, you could use a sugar substitute for some or all of the sugar, as I did.   And, P. S., the cake freezes beautifully.  Just wrap wedges in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag or other freezer container, and they’ll keep for several months.  Leave wrapped wedges out at room temperature for about 1/2 hour before eating. 

WW choc cinnamon swirl SC coffee cake (9)

Whole-Wheat Chocolate-Cinnamon Swirl-Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Rating:  9 out of 10


Chocolate Chip-Pecan Streusel:
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. Bob’s Red Mill coconut flour (you may substitute 2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt or Morton kosher salt
1/3 cup toasted pecans
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter cut into 1” cubes

In work bowl of food processor, briefly pulse flours, sugar and salt to combine.  Add pecans and chocolate chips; pulse till chips are finely chopped. 
WW choc cinnamon swirl SC coffee cake (3) 
Add butter; pulse till combined using quick short pulses.  Refrigerate.

Chocolate-Cinnamon Swirl:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. unsweetened natural cocoa
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In small bowl, combine all ingredients; set aside.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake:
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked then lightly spooned and swept
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour, whisked then lightly spooned and swept
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt or Morton kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) soft but cool unsweetened butter, cut into 8 pieces
1-1/8 cups granulated sugar (I used 6 Tbsp. sugar + 2 Tbsp. NuNaturals stevia)
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (regular or light)
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used my homemade.)
cinnamon sugar for dusting baking pan

Heat oven to 350F.  Position oven rack in center position.  Grease an 8” springform pan.  Dust with cinnamon sugar on bottom and sides.

Sift together flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.  (You may not want to do this, but please do it anyway.  It aerates the dry ingredients.)

In large bowl, using medium-high speed of electric mixer, cream butter and sugar till smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. 
WW choc cinnamon swirl SC coffee cake 
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add 1/3 of flour mixture using lowest speed of mixer, mixing only till barely combined.  Add 1/2 of sour cream, again mixing only till barely combined.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl.  Repeat process, ending with the flour mixture. 
WW choc cinnamon swirl SC coffee cake (2) 
Stir with spatula to be sure everything is mixed, then pour 1/3 of batter into the prepared pan, spreading to edges with spatula.  Sprinkle half of chocolate-cinnamon swirl over batter. 
WW choc cinnamon swirl SC coffee cake (6)
Repeat process.  Spread last third of batter, then top with streusel. 

Bake about 1 hour 10 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  (If pick returns with melted chocolate, reinsert until you find a chocolate-free area.)  Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes, then run a knife around edges of pan and remove sides. 
WW choc cinnamon swirl SC coffee cake (5)
Cut into wedges and serve warm or room temperature.  Yield:  8-10 servings

Friday, January 13, 2012


Ever since our dinner at Taverna Mythos in Morehead City, I've been dreaming about Greek food.  So when I found this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  It's a simple recipe with few ingredients and it goes together quickly.  Perfect for a cold winter's day, the potatoes and chicken are nicely flavored and provide a comfort-food meal that will warm your innards.  Adjust the garlic down if it's not your favorite, and the classic tastes of lemon and oregano will still make this dish uniquely Greek.  Get the easy recipe...

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I'm not a big fan of commercially made coconut extract, so I was excited to find this recipe from Alton Brown.  The coconut flavor of this extract is not strong and overpowering like some extracts can be.  Instead,  the flavor is subtle and mild, and that's okay with me.  I keep it in the fridge.

Homemade Coconut Extract
Source:  Alton Brown, Food Network
Rating:  8.5 out of 10


1-1/2 ounces freshly grated coconut, approximately 1/3 cup
4 ounces vodka

Place 1 1/2 ounces of the grated coconut into a 1-cup glass jar with lid and pour the vodka over it. Seal and shake to combine. Place in a cool dark place for 5 to 7 days, shaking to combine every day. Strain the coconut and discard. Return the vodka to a clean jar or to its original bottle and store in a cool place for up to a year. Reserve the remaining coconut for another use.

To open a coconut: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place the coconut onto a folded towel set down in a large bowl.  Find the 3 eyes on 1 end of the coconut and using a nail or screwdriver and hammer or meat mallet, hammer holes into 2 of the eyes. Turn the coconut upside down over a container and drain the water from the coconut. Store the water in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place the coconut onto a 1/2 sheet pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. The coconut should have cracked in several places. Using an oyster knife or other dull blade, separate the hard shell from the brown husk. Using a serrated vegetable peeler, peel the brown husk from the coconut meat. Rinse the coconut meat under cool water and pat dry. Break the meat into 2 to 3-inch pieces. With the grater disk attached to a food processor, grate the coconut.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012



The January 2012 edition of Bon Appetit magazine highlighted Canadian sugar shacks, along with creative Montreal chef Martin Picard and some of the recipes from his new cookbook, “Sugar Shack Au Pied de Cochon.”  (The cookbook will be available next month through the shack’s web site.  To enter for a chance to win a copy, go to”

I was intrigued by the article.  It surprised me to learn that Canada supplies 80% of the world’s supply of maple syrup, and that affordable gut-busting feasts are available at sugar shacks during the usual March 1 through April 30 season when sap runs from the trees.  There is no counterpart in the states, with apologies to Vermont.  Reservations must be made well in advance, because the lines are long to take part in this maple syrup celebration.  You’ll not only eat, you’ll also dance.  Cabane a Sucre Au Pied de Cochon takes reservations; just be sure to email well in advance:  

As one could almost anticipate, Chef Picard has his own twist on the classic French dessert, tarte Tatin (the famous tarte named for its namesake hotel owners and originators, the Tatin sisters).  You guessed it:  he incorporates Canada’s beloved maple syrup into the caramel.  In spite of the fact that the apples are bathed in sweet syrup for the entire cooking process, sweetness levels are  just about perfect for hubby and me.   The apples are amazingly tender, not mushy, and infused with the decadent maple caramel flavor.  Being an apple purist, I loved tasting apple and not spices and other flavorings that are normal to, and dominate,  most apple desserts.

Selecting apples of uniform size will make the best presentation, though you probably will have to quarter some to fill in gaps.

Maple Tarte Tartin
Adapted from “Sugar Shack Au Pied de Cochon” and Bon Appetit
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

1/2 of 14 oz. pkg. of puff pastry (preferably all butter, but Pepperidge Farm will work), thawed in fridge
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. frozen apple juice concentrate
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3 large Stayman, Fuji, Pink Lady or Honeycrisp apples (about 2 lbs.), peeled, cored, halved
Maple syrup-sweetened whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or creme fraiche

Unfold thawed puff pastry on a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap.  Using an upside-down 8” cast-iron or  heavy skillet as a guide, cut pastry into a 9” circle.  Refrigerate pastry circle while making filling.

Heat oven to 425F.  Combine butter, syrup and apple juice concentrate in 8” cast-iron pan or heavy skillet.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, swirling mixture rather than stirring, until butter melts.  (To swirl, just pick up pan by handle and rotate slightly so mixture “swirls.”)
Add apples, cut-side down, cramming in as many apples as possible.  Cut halves in half to fill in gaps.  Notice how the apples don’t quite fit when they first go in the pan.  They will shrink as they cook.
Increase heat to medium-high and cook until sugar melts, occasionally swirling apples in pan, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, continuing to swirl apples in pan, about 5 minutes longer.  Flip apples to rounded side down and cook, swirling apples occasionally, until syrup is somewhat thick and light golden brown, 5-10 minutes longer. 
Cover apples with chilled pastry round, tucking in edges of pastry. 
Bake until pastry is light golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375F; bake till pastry is puffed and deep golden, about 20 minutes longer.  (I had to cover my pastry loosely with foil about 10 minutes after oven heat was reduced because it was browning too quickly.)

Let tarte cool for 15 minutes.  Invert a serving plate over the skillet.  Using oven mitts, firmly hold plate and skillet and invert tarte onto plate.  Remove skillet; rearrange apples if needed and scrape any caramel left in skillet over the tarte.  Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream lightly sweetened with maple syrup, as I did, or creme fraiche as the French do, or with plain vanilla ice cream.  Yield:  6 – 8 servings

Kitchen Tip:  If you don’t have an apple corer, all is not lost.  Easily core an apple with a grapefruit spoon.

Another Kitchen Tip:   Save pastry scraps to cover two ramekins filled with apples that have been cooked in the same caramel mixture.   Bake these at 375F for about 20 minutes, till pastry is puffed and golden. 

Monday, January 9, 2012


Senate bean soup

My subscription to Food Network Magazine has expired, and I decided not to renew.  Though the mag is filled with beautiful photos and lots of recipes, I decided to branch out in other areas.   (My current subscriptions include Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Garden and Gun, Good Housekeeping and Eating Well -- and I love each one.)  

Before my Food Network Magazine (FNM) subscription expired, this recipe for Senate bean soup caught my eye.  According to FNM, this is the original recipe.  Perfect for a cold day, this soup will warm your innards.  Don't leave out the mashed potatoes.  They really make this simple but satisfying soup special.

Senate bean soup (2)

Food Network Magazine’s Senate Bean Soup
Rating:  8.5 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  1 lb. dried navy beans, picked over
1 lb. ham (I used a meaty ham bone left from a spiral-cut ham)
1 large russet potato, peeled and quartered*
Sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup milk*
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
freshly ground pepper (I used 1/4 tsp. white pepper)

Put beans in a large bowl and cover with about 3 times their volume of cold water.  Soak overnight in a cool place.  (I placed beans and water in a large pot over high heat and brought to a boil, then covered, turned heat off and let beans sit for 1 hour.)

Drain beans and transfer to large pot or Dutch oven.  Add 10 cups water and ham bone.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook till beans are tender, about 1 hour, 30 minutes.  Transfer ham to a plate to cool slightly, then remove the bone, if used, and dice the meat.  Return meat to pot.

Meanwhile, cover potato with water in a saucepan and season with salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until potato is fork tender, 20-25 minutes.  Drain potato; transfer to a bowl with milk and mash with potato masher or fork until smooth.  Add to bean soup and stir until combined.  (*I took a shortcut here and used 1-1/4 cups of leftover mashed potatoes.  Since the mashed potatoes already contained milk, I left both the potato and the milk out this time.)

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, garlic and parsley and cook till veggies are translucent, 7-10 minutes.  Add veggie mixture to soup, reduce heat to low and cook 1 hour, adding up to 2 more cups water if soup is too thick.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Yield:  8 servings  (Leftovers freeze beautifully.)

Saturday, January 7, 2012


pumpkin rum raisin muffins (3)

One of the first muffins that I made as a new blogger in 2007 was a Pumpkin Rum-Raisin Muffin with Rum-Spice Glaze.  The muffin was light with a dense crumb and luscious with rum-soaked raisins.  The glaze, made with the drained juices of the plumped raisins, was to die for. 
pumpkin rum raisin muffins

I resurrected that recipe, halved it to make 12 standard-size muffins, and made it with half white whole wheat flour, a partial sugar substitute, and pumpkin butter in place of applesauce.  For the 2 Tbsp. of oil, I used extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil, but any oil will work.  The result is an even healthier version of the original, but just as light and delicious.  I’ll be making this one again, for sure.

Low-Fat Whole-Wheat Pumpkin-Rum Raisin Muffins with Rum-Spice Glaze
Rating:  9.0 out of 10

1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup rum (or juice, or water)
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour, whisked, then lightly spooned and swept
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked, then lightly spooned and swept
7 Tbsp. granulated sugar + 2 Tbsp. Nu Naturals Stevia (or 1 cup sugar, if preferred)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt or Morton kosher salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp. powdered cloves
3/4 cup pumpkin, freshly roasted or canned
1/2 cup pumpkin butter, commercial or homemade
1 large egg + 1 large egg white
2 Tbsp. oil (I used extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil)
1 Tbsp. molasses

Bring rum to a boil in a 1-quart pot. Add raisins. Cover. Remove from heat and let raisins plump for at least a half hour or longer. Drain raisins over a measuring cup or bowl, reserving drained juice. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by greasing and flouring, or use flour-added non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt.  Add the well-drained raisins and stir to combine.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk pumpkin and pumpkin butter together till combined.  Whisk in eggs, oil, molasses and all but 2 Tbsp. of the reserved rum/raisin juice.  (The 2 Tbsp. of reserved juice will be used for the glaze.)

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquids all at once. Carefully mix with spoon or spatula till just barely combined.  Fill each muffin well with a scant 1/4 cup batter.  Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 350 degrees F.  Bake  for 16-19 minutes.  Muffins are done when a wooden pick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool pans on counter 5 minutes. Transfer muffins to wire rack to finish cooling.

While muffins are cooling, prepare glaze:   Heat reserved 2 Tbsp. rum-raisin juice and 1 Tbsp. butter on high in small microwaveable bowl in microwave till butter is almost melted, about 30 seconds. Stir till butter is dissolved.  Whisk in 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice and 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar.  Drizzle over muffins.  Yield:  12 standard-size muffins

Friday, January 6, 2012


wheat 4
Wheat --the staff of life for so many cultures.  Yet, more and more people in America are opting out of wheat consumption. 

Take, for instance, Hugh Garvey, who wrote:  “I’m not eating pizza and I’m psyched.  No, I don’t have celiac disease.  Yes, I feel 300 percent better now that I’ve cut gluten out of my diet:  improved mood, even energy, and an absence of the muscle aches that plague the not entirely young (I’m 42).  Of course I miss the blissful high that comes with pasta and bread.  But once you renounce wheat worship, strange and wonderful things happen to your kitchen repertoire:  You eat more vegetables.  You pass on recipes that start with:  “On two slices of country white…”
“I’m cooking way more Mexican, Thai, Japanese, and Peruvian – cuisines that celebrate corn and rice, which are naturally gluten-free.  I’ve become a legume snob and a rice-pasta fanatic (thanks to quick-cooking pho and pad thai noodles). 
“There’s no shortage of carby gustatory transcendence in my life now that I’m making dishes like pancetta-enriched Bolognese on Tinkyada-brand brown rice penne and buttery polenta with garlicky kale and kimchi sausage. 
“Is it about dieting?  Heck, no.  It’s about feeling as good as possible, both at and away from the table.”        -- Bon Appetit, January 2012

Please note that Judy's Kitchen is not endorsing a wheat-free diet.  I eat wheat myself, though I do try to seriously limit it.  But, since I’m grain sensitive as many diabetics are, I limit other grains in my diet as well.  In case you're wondering how I can eat all the desserts posted here, be assured that I don't.  Though I do taste them for rating purposes, they are mostly given away. I’m just reporting….you decide.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


oatmeal pancakes

Since I started eating low-carb meals, pancakes went out the window along with a host of other favorite comfort foods.  Being pre-diabetic, I need a breakfast with enough protein and fiber to keep my blood sugar stable for a few hours.  And that’s just what these delightfully light and substantially filling pancakes do.  

The recipe originated on  It was a good starting point, and I changed it up a bit to suit my needs, adding more fiber and nutrition in the form of soy milk, coconut oil, coconut flour, wheat germ, flax seed and walnuts.  Instead of sugary syrup for the topping, I made my own sugar-free fruit sauce.  The above picture shows peaches that I sauteed in apple juice concentrate for about 15 minutes.  Below is a simple blueberry sauce done the same way.

oatmeal pancakes

The batter for these pancakes mixes up quickly in a blender, and it’ll make enough for two people.  You can change up the ingredients to your liking.  For instance, you can use all buttermilk or all yogurt; you can use butter or oil in place of coconut oil;  whole wheat flour instead of coconut flour; your favorite nut in place of the walnuts.  You’re going to love these, I promise.

Blender Oatmeal Pancakes
Inspired by Chickens in the Road blog
Rating:  10 out of 10

1/3 cut low-fat buttermilk (or low-fat yogurt thinned with some water or milk)
1/3 cup low-fat plain soy milk
1 large egg
2 tsp. extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup old-fashioned (5-minute) oats
2 Tbsp. coconut flour (Bob’s Red Mill organic)
1 tsp. wheat germ (I used raw wheat germ)
1 tsp.  flaxseed meal (I used Bob’s Red Mill organic golden flaxseed meal)
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
2 Tbsp. chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 tsp. baking soda
scant 3/4 tsp. baking powder

Combine all ingredients except baking soda and powder in a blender container and blend at high speed for 2 minutes.  (Set your timer and blend for the full 2 minutes; this is an important step.)  Add baking soda and powder and blend thoroughly for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Bake on moderately hot, greased griddle or cast iron skillet, turning each pancake after many bubbles appear on the surface. 

oatmeal pancakes (2)

After turning, cook another minute or so, or till pancakes are completely done in centers.  Stack pancakes and top with Smart Balance Lite buttery spread, or butter or margarine, and a homemade fruit sauce, or pure maple syrup.  Yield:  2 servings

oatmeal pancakes (2)