Saturday, June 15, 2013


hazelnut mini chcakes (2)

Mini desserts are popular, especially with the older folks who might just want a “taste” of something rather than a super-sized version.  This is my own recipe, and it was a big hit with my taste testers who said the mini cheesecakes were “to die for.”   The hazelnut flavor really comes through, thanks to hazelnut liqueur, hazelnut flavoring from Spices, etc., hazelnut paste and toasted hazelnuts.

The cooled cheesecakes are topped with Nutella.
hazelnut mini chcakes (3)

Then sweetened whipped cream is piped around the Nutella.  hazelnut mini chcakes

Hazelnut Mini Cheesecakes with Chocolate-Hazelnut Crust and Nutella Topping
Rating:  10 out of 10


CRUST: 1/2 cup hazelnut meal or almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill)
3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
2 tsp. butter
2 Tbsp. hazelnut paste, purchased or homemade (recipe follows)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. natural unsweetened cocoa powder

Pulse all ingredients in food processor to combine.  Press about 1/2 Tbsp. onto bottoms of 24 paper-lined mini muffin pan cups.  Refrigerate.

Hazelnut Paste – If you cannot find hazelnut paste, here is a recipe to make it:
1  cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. hazelnut liqueur
1 small to medium egg white

Heat oven to 350F.  Roast nuts 8-10 minutes till skins are dark brown and nuts are aromatic; immediately wrap nuts tightly in clean kitchen towel and place in warm place, such as your microwave oven, turned off, of course, 5-7 minutes to steam.  Rub nuts vigorously in the towel to remove as many of the skins as possible.  Transfer skinned nuts to quart-size plastic storage bag and pound with meat mallet till well crushed and pulverized.  (You can put the whole nuts right in your food processor, but crushing them first is easier on blades.)  Process crushed nuts in food processor till almost turned into hazelnut butter, scraping sides and bottom of work bowl as needed.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse till smooth and well combined.  Store in refrigerator up to two weeks.  Do not eat raw, use only in baked products.  Yield:  about 3/4 cup paste

8 oz. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, or Neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup hazelnut paste
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 large egg 
1/2 tsp. hazelnut flavoring (Spices, etc. online)
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. hazelnut liqueur
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Heat oven to 325F.  In work bowl of food processor, pulse cream cheese, hazelnut paste and sugar till smooth.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl; add egg, flavorings and liqueur and pulse till again smooth.  Add cream and pulse just till combined.  Spoon about 1 Tbsp. filling over each chilled crust.  Bake 15-17 minutes, or till cheesecake is just set.  Cool 5 minutes in pan, then turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.

Nutella or Jif Chocolate-Hazelnut spread
Sweetened whipped cream

Spoon or pipe about 1 tsp. Nutella in the center of each cheesecake.  Pipe sweetened whip cream around edges.  Refrigerate.  Yield:  24 mini cheesecakes

Saturday, June 8, 2013


intense dark hazelnut heaven cupcakes (4)

No, these are not chocolate cupcakes.  Rather, they’re sumptuous vanilla cupcakes laced with a grated dark chocolate-hazelnut bar. 
intense dark hazelnut heaven cupcakes (3)
The frosting uses cocoa and the remaining chocolate bar.   You should get 18 moist, light and tender standard cupcakes (or 12 cupcakes plus 24 mini cupcakes) if you fill each well about 2/3 full.  For best results, measure carefully, use the proper ingredients and follow directions as written.
intense dark hazelnut heaven cupcakes

Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven Cupcakes with Chocolate Hazelnut Frosting
Rating:  9.5 out of 10


1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked then lightly spooned and leveled
1 cup sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cool room temperature, pliable, cut into cubes
1/2 cup whole milk minus 1 Tbsp. + 1/4 cup whole milk minus 1-1/2 tsp., divided use
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp. hazelnut flavor (I used Spices, etc., available online)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 (3.5 oz.) bar Ghiradelli Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven, grated, divided use

Line cupcake tins with paper liners.  Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Combine on stir speed about 30 seconds.  Add butter, 1/2 cup milk minus 1 Tbsp., vanilla and hazelnut flavorings.  Combine on stir speed, then beat on low 1-1/2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating each on low speed till combined.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with spatula.  Using stir speed, add remaining 1/4 cup minus 1-1/2 tsp. milk.  Beat 1 minute on low speed. 

Fill standard cups with 1-1/2 Tbsp. batter, then sprinkle with about 1 Tbsp. grated chocolate bar and top with 1-1/2 Tbsp. batter.  This should fill the cups to about 2/3 full.  For mini cupcakes, use 2 tsp. batter, 1 tsp. grated chocolate, 2 tsp. batter.  Bake standard cupcakes 15-18 minutes and minis 9-11 minutes, or till cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.  Cool cupcakes in tins 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool for at least one hour.  Yield:  18 standard cupcakes or 12 standard and 24 mini cupcakes

Remaining grated chocolate hazelnut bar
1 cup + 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, divided use
3 Tbsp. unsweetened natural cocoa
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cool room temperature, pliable
1/8 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
3-4 Tbsp. whole milk or cream
1 Tbsp. hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelica
1/2 tsp. hazelnut flavor

Microwave remaining chocolate bar in small microwaveable bowl on high in 25-second increments until just melted.  Stir, set aside.  Sift together into small bowl or onto wax paper 1 cup confectioner’s sugar and cocoa; set aside.

Cream butter and salt on medium speed of electric mixer.  Gradually add remaining 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, beating until smooth after each addition.  Combine milk (or cream), liqueur and hazelnut flavor in small cup.  Alternately add milk mixture and cocoa-sugar mixture to the creamed butter mixture, beating until smooth after each addition.   On low speed, beat in the melted chocolate hazelnut bar.  Frost cupcakes as desired with this delicious but very rich frosting.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


red chili rubbed baby back ribs

I found my new favorite rib recipe, from the June 2010 Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  Their recipe used 3 slabs of baby back ribs, though, and for just hubby and me this was too much.  So I tweaked the ingredient amounts for 1 slab, enough for us for two meals.  The number of servings will vary according to what you’re serving with the ribs and how big your appetites are. 
I love the perfectly balanced, just-sweet-enough, just-hot-enough flavors in the rub and glaze and the smokiness from the wood chips. 
red chili rubbed baby back ribs (2)
The recipe is specific in the chile type:  ancho.  If you don’t have ancho chile powder and can’t find it, you can substitute another chile, but you’ll need to know where the other chile places on the heat scale of chiles.  For instance, if you substitute chipotle chiles, you’ll need less because chipotles are hotter than anchos.  I didn’t have ancho chile powder, but I did have some dried ancho chiles that I washed, seeded, chopped and ground in my spice grinder.  I probably should have left the seeds in, because anchos are fairly mild anyway.  If you use the ingredients as they’re listed in the recipe, you’ll have fairly mild ribs.  If you want heat, add some chipotle chile powder. 

Red Chile-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs with Fresh Ginger Glaze
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, June 2010
Rating:  10 out of 10


1-1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
3/4 tsp. paprika
3/4 tsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. granulated garlic
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1 slab meaty baby back ribs, about 2-1/2 lbs.
3-4 handfuls of hickory wood chips, soaked in water at least 30 minutes

2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp. ketchup
1-1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

Make the glaze:  In small saucepan over medium heat, combine the glaze ingredients.  Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Prepare the ribs:  With mortar and pestle, or spice grinder, grind together chile powder, paprika, sugar, salt, cumin, garlic and black pepper.  Using a dull dinner knife, slide the tip under the membrane covering the back of ribs.  Lift and loosen membrane until it breaks loose from the meat.  Using paper towels to grip, pull membrane off.  Season ribs all over with the spice rub.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate three hours or up to overnight.  Remove ribs from fridge 1/2 hour before grilling. 

Prepare grill for indirect cooking over low (275F - 300F) heat.  For a 3-burner grill, this means firing up the left and right burners and leaving the middle burner off.  Just before grilling ribs, drain 2 handfuls of wood chips and place them on coals or in smoker box of a gas grill.  Position the chips so the smoke will permeate the ribs.  For us, that meant placing the smoker box on the left rear grate.  When the chips begin to smoke, remove plastic wrap and place ribs over the unlit burner.  Close lid.  Cook about 45 minutes, periodically checking the grill thermostat without  opening the lid, to be sure temperature stays at 300F.  After 45 minutes, add some water to chips and rotate the ribs for even cooking.  Close lid.  Cook another 45 minutes.  Remove chips.  Lay ribs on sheet of foil.  Brush lightly with glaze on both sides.  Wrap foil tightly and place again on unlit burner.  Close lid.  Cook 30-45 minutes, or  till ribs are tender.
Yield:  2-4 servings

TIP:  Have rub and glaze left over?  Try it on chicken – delicioso!

Friday, May 17, 2013


001 Want to make a man happy?  Just give him peanut butter and chocolate.  These cupcakes made my man and his friends ecstatic.   None of these health-food-averse creatures suspected that there were whole grains and a sugar substitute in their treat.   (The cupcake was adapted from Beantown Baker’s blog and from Flour, a well-known Boston bakery.  The frosting is my own.  Next time, I’ll work on reducing the fat content, too.)

What I like about this cupcake recipe is its simplicity.  Just mix the batter with a whisk, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to three days.  It took me two days to get to it.  By then, the batter that started out thin had become thick and spongy and was easy to scoop into the cupcake tins.  To divide the batter equally among 12 cups, you’ll use less than 1/4 cup though.  The cupcakes rise up and crown nicely, and they’re sturdy, though a tad crumbly.  The temptation here is to use a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop and just make fewer cupcakes, probably about 10 or 11.  Don’t do that, because you’ll get those ugly wide rims from too much batter.  You can use an ice cream scoop, but remove about a tablespoonful of batter before filling the liner.  You can make your own peanut butter filling, but why bother when Peanut Butter & Co. makes the divine White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter.  It’s perfect for a filling.

Here are some more chocolate cupcake recipes that I’ve rated highly:  Chocolate Banana Cupcakes, Dairy-Free Cocoa Cupcakes, 100% Whole Wheat Chocolate Cupcakes, and Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes.

Overnight Whole-Wheat Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting
Rating:  9.5 out of 10


1/2 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp. NuNaturals white stevia powder OR 1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cut in 8 pieces
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/3 cup water
2 oz. (2 squares) Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. chocolate flavor (from Spices, etc. online – optional but nice)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour OR 1 cup AP flour 
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

About 1/2 cup Peanut Butter & Co. White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter*

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, soft
1/3 cup Peanut Butter & Co. White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter
1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch or natural
2-3 Tbsp. mild-tasting plain Greek yogurt, such as Fage
1 Tbsp. Kahlua or coffee
1-1/2 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted, cooled slightly

GARNISH:  About 1/3 cup honey-roasted peanuts, chopped or crushed

*Peanut Butter & Co.’s line of delicious flavored peanut butters can be found at Wal-Mart and many grocery stores and also online.

Make the cupcakes:  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the sugar, butter, salt and water, stirring as needed.  Place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl; pour the butter mixture over and whisk till the mixture is smooth.  Whisk milk, egg, yolk, vanilla and chocolate flavor (if using) into chocolate mixture till combined. 

In medium bowl, whisk together flours, stevia, baking powder and baking soda; add to chocolate mixture and whisk till smooth.  Let batter sit at room temperature for 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate for up to three days. 

When ready to bake cupcakes, remove batter from fridge and set oven to 350F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.  Use about 3 Tbsp. batter for each cup.  Bake about 17-22 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with a few crumbs.  (My cupcakes took 19 minutes.)  Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Make the frosting:  In medium bowl, beat butter and peanut butter on low speed to smooth and well combined.  Sift sugar and cocoa powder together.  Gradually add to butter mixture with the yogurt, mixing on low, then on medium speed after each addition till mixture is again smooth.  Add Kahlua (or coffee if using).   If frosting is too thin at this point, add up to 1/2 cup additional sifted sugar to bring it to frosting consistency.  Add melted chocolate, and beat mixture on medium-high till smooth and well combined.  Yield:  enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes. 

Assemble the cupcakes:  Scoop the centers of the cupcakes with a serrated spoon or Cuisipro cupcake corer.  Use discarded cupcake pieces for snacks.  Transfer peanut butter to a resealable sandwich bag.  Snip end of one corner to make a 1/2” – 3/4” hole through which you will pipe the peanut butter into the cupcake cavity.  Frost cupcake with swirls using a Wilton 1M or 2D decorating tip, or apply frosting with a knife.  Garnish with crushed honey-roasted peanuts, if desired. 

TIP:  Don’t discard the egg white!  Add it to your scrambled eggs, or freeze it to use for marshmallow frosting  or Swiss Buttercream frosting.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


hummingbird cupcakes (2)

Hummingbird cupcakes are appropriate for any time of the year, but are particularly nice for Spring.  The flavors of pineapple, bananas and pecans wake up your tastebuds and make you feel as if Spring has arrived.  I made these for Easter dinner with friends, one of whom is severely lactose intolerant.  While these cupcakes are dairy-free, the frosting and malted milk balls are not.  So, in case he didn’t want to scrape off the frosting, I also made Dairy-Free Cocoa Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling and Marshmallow Frosting. 

The Hummingbird cupcakes were adapted from a recipe on the Food Network website by The Neelys.  Theirs is made with butter which I switched out for oil.  I increased the butter in the frosting and decreased the sugar.  These are decorated for Spring, but they can also be served with cream cheese frosting garnished with chopped nuts instead of the nest effect of toasted coconut topped with malted milk eggs.  Though these were very tasty and well received, my favorite recipe is a Southern Living recipe for a Hummingbird cake that I adapted to cupcakes.

hummingbird cupcakes (3)

Hummingbird Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Rating:  9.5 out of 10


1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked then lightly spooned and leveled
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/2 cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup crushed pineapple packed in juice
2/3 cup mashed very ripe bananas (about 2 large)

Heat oven to 350F.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.  In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In large bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer till light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing just till incorporated and adding vanilla with last egg.  On low speed, add flour mixture gradually, beating only till just incorporated and being careful not to over mix.  Stir in pecans, undrained pineapple and bananas using a spoon or spatula. 

Use a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop to fill paper liners 3/4 full.  Bake 16-18 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.  Yield:  12 cupcakes

4 oz. cream cheese, soft
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, soft
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, using medium speed of electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter till smooth.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating till again smooth after each addition, and adding vanilla with last addition.  Continue to beat after all sugar has been added and frosting is fluffy and light.  Yield:  enough frosting for 12 cupcakes

Monday, May 6, 2013


Perfect pillow = perfect sleep.  Well, not always.  It's more complicated than that.  Speaking as a long-time insomnia sufferer, sleep can be affected in a variety of ways.  I had fixed all the major causes of my insomnia (copper poisoning, carb overload, magnesium deficiency, lack of exercise).  Once I got all that under control, I was left with the pillow problem.  I just couldn't find one that didn't give me a pain in the neck, literally.
A 1979 car wreck left me with a neck problem.  After trying all the pillows out there, I decided to give up looking and just hold on to my old, flattened shred of a pillow that was no longer a pillow.  There was no loft left, no softness, no comfort.  In short, I was miserable.  I was able to get a night's sleep, but I wanted a new pillow and couldn't find one.

Then my hubby, a bored retiree who has discovered the internet, who also needed a new pillow, found Sweet Spot Pillow.  He ordered a queen-size pillow with regular support and loved it from day 1.  Soon he was telling everyone about his new pillow, and others were purchasing it and loving it as well.  Skeptically, I decided to try his and was surprised at how comfortable it was.  So I decided to order one.

The Sweet Spot Pillow is available in different sizes and different support models so you can customize your pillow to your needs.  The website has "The Pillow Advisor" to help you make your selection, but because of what I'd been through with my neck, I needed more help.  So I contacted customer service.  The end result is that I now have a low-profile standard pillow, and I've never been happier.  I can rest easy because my neck does not hurt when I go to bed.  In fact, I'm so happy with this pillow, I just had to give Sweet Spot Pillow a shout-out.  If you need a new pillow, try them out.

Full disclosure:  I have not been compensated in any way for this endorsement.  I was not asked to make this endorsement, it was completely my idea, just sharing the love.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


The winner of the Friendship Dairies $75 gift bag is bluang3lbby.  

Congratulations to the winner.  Please email me your name and mailing address by
midnight Sunday, April 5.  If I do not hear from you by then, another winner will be selected.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


cr cheese eggs & tomatoes
Looking for ways to up that tub of soft cream cheese?  Please don't try to bake with it, because the results won't be good.  Instead, add some to eggs with some chopped parsley or spinach, salt and pepper for a delicious scrambled egg breakfast.  Saute some halved sweet grape tomatoes alongside the eggs and you will have already eaten one of your veggies for the day.

Or you could make this prize-winning appetizer that also makes a great snack:
avocadopestostuffedtomatoes_thumb1 It’s a simple recipe – avocado, pesto, cream cheese and a dash of lemon juice, but that one bite is memorable.  Avocado-Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes are good year round but especially nice at Christmas time.

You could also make these incredibly scrumptuous Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs that are great as a crowd-pleasing appetizer, but could also make a filling afternoon snack.
And, lastly, one of my favorite ways to use up soft cream cheese:  Spread on crostini and top with smoked salmon.  How easy is that? 

Don’t have crostini?  Just use whatever rolls you have on hand or in the freezer.  Even hot dog rolls will work.  Slice them into rounds about 1/4 thick.  Place rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Pour some olive oil in a small cup; add a little salt, pepper and crushed basil or Italian herbs.  Stir, then brush lightly on top side of rounds.  Bake at 400F till lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, turn rounds over and brush other sides with herbed oil.  Bake another 5-10 minutes, or till lightly browned.  Cool and store in tightly-sealed container at room temperature.

You’ll be using up that tub of cream cheese in no time with these ideas.  Happy eating!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Hey, readers, listen up because I have a great giveaway to tell you about. 

To celebrate their upcoming food truck tour*, Friendship Dairies is giving away to one lucky reader the following:
Tote Branded Friendship cloth grocery bag ($15 value)

$15 iTunes gift card (to create a mix for your workouts)
BritaBottleImage Brita Filtered water bottle ($10 value)

Rocco Now Eat This
Rocco DiSpirito’s new cookbook: “Now Eat This! Italian: Favorite Dishes from the Real Mamas of Italy--All Under 350 Calories” ($26.99 retail)

There will also be two Coupons for FREE Friendship Dairies products ($8 value)

This contest is limited to US entries only, including Alaska and Hawaii residents. 

HERE’S HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:  Leave me a comment telling me which item of the giveaway is your favorite.

1.  Tell your friends on Facebook about this giveaway, and link back to this post.
2.  Leave me a comment that you told your friends on Facebook about this giveaway and that you linked back to this post.

1.  Tweet about this giveaway, linking to this post.
2.  Leave me a comment that you tweeted about this giveaway and that you linked to this post.

DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES IS TUESDAY, APRIL 30, MIDNIGHT, DST.  Winner will be announced no later than Saturday, May 4.  Good luck!

*Friendship Dairies will be having a food truck tour with celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito that will be passing through the New York Metro area this May.  The mobile mixer truck will be serving free 5-ounce Friendship Fit to Go™ 1% Low Fat, 1% Low Fat Pineapple, and 4% Regular cottage cheese samples with innovative mix-in options.  Check out the Friendship Dairies website to find where you can purchase their products in your area, to follow the food truck and to get recipes.  (Friendship Dairies products are predominantly distributed along the East Coast of the US with limited distribution in other states.)

Monday, April 22, 2013


GF brownies

I won a basket of goodies from Bob’s Red Mill when I entered a giveaway on Muy Bueno Cookbook’s website.  It was a really good prize:  an apron, a Chicago Metallic baking pan, spatula, French whisk, 4 boxes of gluten-free brownie mix and a $50 gift certificate.  I loved everything, but was conflicted about the brownie mix because I’m not a fan of mixes.  However, I am a fan of Bob’s Red Mill and regularly purchase their products, so I decided to give the mix a try. 
GF brownies (3)
I used fresh-brewed coffee in place of the water to amp up the chocolate flavor, and also added chocolate flavoring that I bought from Spices, etc.  Just for fun, I threw in 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Then I topped the cooled brownies with a divine chocolate-peanut butter frosting and sprinkled the frosting with honey-roasted peanuts. 
GF brownies (2)
I could hardly believe these brownies were gluten free.  Though the package says the brownies are cake-like, I did not find them overly so, maybe because I didn’t overbake them.  Moist, chocolatey and fudgy, these were just too good – I had to get them out of the house quickly.  The lucky recipients thanked me profusely, as I tried not to think about how good those brownies tasted. 

I’m not done experimenting.  Next time, I might try using some peanut butter in place of some of the butter.  I might even use coconut milk in place of the water and coconut oil instead of butter.  Who knows what I might do with the other three packages.  My thanks to Bob’s Red Mill and Muy Bueno Cookbook for a great giveaway.

Gluten-Free Brownies with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting
Rating:  10 out of 10


1 package Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Brownie Mix
1 large egg, room temperature
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
scant 3/4 cup warm coffee
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. chocolate flavoring (optional, but nice)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350F.  Spray a 9x12" baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Combine all ingredients in medium bowl, stirring with spatula till barely combined.  Spoon mixture into pan.  Bake 19-22 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool completely before frosting.

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, soft
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup smooth Peanut Butter (I used Jif Natural)
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. chocolate flavoring (optional but nice)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips, melted
3-4 Tbsp. heavy cream, half and half or milk
1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped honey-roasted peanuts

In medium bowl, on low speed of mixer, combine butter, cocoa powder and peanut butter till smooth.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar, flavorings and cream, mixing on low speed until again smooth.  Add melted chocolate chips and beat on low then increase speed gradually to medium-high and beat till frosting is smooth.  Do not overbeat.  Spread frosting over cooled brownies and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Fussy hubby is not a big fan of chicken, but he’ll gobble this dish up whenever I make it.  Sauteeing the chicken with mushrooms, onion, wine and chicken broth develops complex flavors that we both appreciate, and serving it with parslied noodles or spaghetti makes this dish a real winner.  Hubby’s my sous chef – he chops all the veggies and herbs which cuts my kitchen time and gets us to the table faster.  This is a dish for four people, and we are only two.  The leftovers are reheated a few nights later and taste even better.

Chicken and Wine over Parslied Pasta
Rating:  9.5 out of 10


1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt + 1/4 tsp. + 1/4 tsp.
1/4 tsp. white pepper + 1/8 tsp.
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika 
3 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour + 1-1/2 Tbsp.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 lb. pasta of choice*
1-1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter + 1 Tbsp. + 1-1/2 Tbsp.
1 medium onion (about 1 cup), finely chopped
1-2 tsp. minced garlic, according to taste
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine, drinking quality
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth + additional broth if needed for gravy consistency
1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

*If you are big pasta eaters, you may want to increase the amount.

Combine 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. white pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika and 3 Tbsp. flour on a sheet of wax paper or a paper plate.  Dredge chicken in flour mixture.  Set aside.   Start a large pot of  lightly salted water on high heat.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, saute chicken in 1-1/2 Tbsp. butter, 2-3 minutes each side.  Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.   Add 1 Tbsp. butter, 1/4 tsp. salt, onions and mushrooms to pan and cook, stirring, 5 minutes, till beginning to brown.  Add garlic and saute 30 seconds.   Stir in 1-1/2 Tbsp. flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper.  Add wine, let it bubble up, then stir up any brown bits at bottom of pan.  Add chicken broth and lemon juice.  Cook 3-4 minutes, or till gravy consistency is reached, adding additional broth if needed.  Put chicken back in pan, reduce heat, cover and simmer on low. 

In the meantime, add pasta to water when it boils, and stir often to keep it from sticking together.  When pasta is cooked according to your taste, drain in a colander, then return to pot and toss with 1-1/2 Tbsp. butter and 1/4 cup chopped parsley.   Serve chicken with pasta, and a green salad if desired.  Yield:  4 servings

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


pecan crusted flounder (2)

Preparing flounder or other mild white fish by encrusting with nuts solves the perennial problem of imparting flavor.  Mild white fish is, well, mild and rather bland unless something is added.  Pecans, in particular, are incredibly complementary to mild-flavored fish.  While my hubby prefers his flounder prepared with salt, pepper, lemon juice, parsley and some onion, pecan-crusted flounder is my favorite way of enjoying this fish.
pecan crusted flounder

If you cook the fish in a heavy skillet, even on low heat, it is very easy to burn the crust.  So I brown one side in my cast-iron skillet, then transfer the skillet to a pre-heated oven to finish.  The only accompaniment that is needed for this very flavorable flounder is a wedge of lemon.  While fresh flounder is in abundance here in Eastern North Carolina, I see no reason why you can’t use good-quality frozen flounder if you live away from the Coast.  And remember that snapper, sole, white trout and other mild white fish are also delightful with a nut crust.

Pecan-Crusted Flounder Fillets
Rating:  10 out of 10


1/2 lemon
6 Tbsp. chopped raw pecans
2 Tbsp. Panko breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour + 2 Tbsp., divided
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch Diamond kosher salt + 1/4 tsp., divided
Pinch white pepper + 1/8 tsp., divided
1 lb. (skinned both sides) flounder fillets (or other mild white fish)
1/3 cup milk
1-1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Heat oven to 350F.  Set out a cast-iron frying pan (or other heavy pan).  Cut lemon into 4 wedges.
In mini food processor, combine pecans, Panko, 3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour, garlic powder, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper.  Pulse a few times, till ingredients are finely ground and well mixed.  Pour onto a sheet of wax paper.
Pat fish dry with paper towels.  (Fish should weigh at least 1 lb. after skinning.)  Cut into 3-4 serving pieces.  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper.  Spread 2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour onto another sheet of wax paper.   Pour milk into shallow bowl and stir in hot sauce.     Dredge fish pieces in whole wheat flour, shaking off excess, then dip both sides in milk mixture, then into nut coating.  Lay coated pieces on wax paper.
Heat skillet on medium heat.  Add oil and butter.  When oil and butter start to foam, add fish pieces.  Cook about 2-3 minutes, or till underside is golden brown; turn fish over and place skillet in oven for 3-4 minutes, or till fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork.  Serve hot with lemon wedges.  Yield:  2-4 servings

Thursday, March 21, 2013


What could be more Southern than coconut cake?  This is my own recipe and it's rich and filling, so two 8" layers go a long way.  Expect to serve 12-14 with this moist, tender and tight-crumbed cake that resembles poundcake.

The French buttercream frosting is silky smooth and ultra rich.  If you've never heard of French buttercream, it's a vintage recipe, and it's not hard to make.  Back in the 60's we used to make it with shortening, and we called it "mock whipped cream frosting," but it's so much better made with butter.  Some people call it "custard frosting," because you make a pudding first, then beat it into the whipped butter/sugar mixture.

Everyone has their own idea of what coconut cake should be.  Actually, I like them all, and I'm throwing mine in the ring as another option.  A perfect Easter dessert....I'm just sayin'.  Get the recipe....

Monday, March 11, 2013


banana nut cake (3)
An old favorite from a vintage Pillsbury cookbook, banana-nut cake would be a hit at any pot-luck you attend or at any family dinner.  Back in the day, shortening was the preferred fat in cakes, and it did produce a fluffy texture.  My current preference is to use butter, or sometimes coconut oil.  I’ve even been known to substitute applesauce for some of the fat in cakes and use some whole wheat flour to add fiber.  This time, I used the full amount of butter with regular flour.  You will love the moist, tender crumb and the full banana flavor.  The nuts add some complex notes.  Topped with chocolate buttercream, this cake is a real winner.
banana nut cake (5)
You can also make 24 cupcakes with the batter, if preferred.  Sheet cakes are so easy, I decided to take the lazy man’s approach.   I’ve included my recipe for Chocolate Buttercream below.  Of course, you can use whatever frosting you want, but, if you’ve never put chocolate frosting on banana cake, please do try it.  You may never go back.
banana nut cake
P. S.  My favorite banana cake is “Ultimate Banana Cake.”  It has my highest rating for best texture and flavor.  It’s also a sheet cake, baked at 275F, then placed in the freezer to cool for 45 minutes.  Weird, but delicious!

Banana-Nut Sheet Cake with Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Rating:  9.5 out of 10


CAKE (adapted from Pillsbury):
2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked, then lightly spooned and leveled
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium-large)
1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt*
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract  (I used my homemade vanilla extract)
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans + 1/3 cup for garnish

Heat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.  Line with parchment to fit bottom.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into bowl of stand mixer.  Add butter, eggs and bananas.  Beat at lowest speed to barely combine, then beat on low for 1 minute
(1-1/2 minutes if using hand mixer).  Add buttermilk and vanilla; beat 1 minute on low (1-1/2 minutes if using hand mixer).  Stir in nuts, taking care not to overmix batter.  Turn into pan.
Bake 30-35 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool pan on wire rack 10 minutes; turn cake out onto rack.  Peel off parchment.  Cool completely, then turn cake back into pan before frosting.  Yield:  12-16 servings

1/3 cup unsalted butter, soft
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 Tbsp. Kahlua or other coffee brandy of choice (or strong coffee)
optional:  1/2 tsp. chocolate flavor
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

In medium bowl, cream butter and salt on medium speed of electric mixer.  Stir in flavorings, 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cream and beat till well blended.  Whisk cocoa powder and remaining sugar in small bowl, then gradually add to butter-sugar mixture.  Add remaining cream, 1 Tbsp. at a time, as needed to reach proper consistency.  When proper consistency is reached, beat on high about 1 minute, or till very smooth.  Frost top of cake and sprinkle with toasted chopped nuts.  Yield:  enough frosting to generously cover a 9x13 cake.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


These are possibly the best cupcakes I've ever made, no kidding.  Is it the ultra-light and tender cupcake studded with pecans that have been baked in butter, or is it the amazing salted caramel buttercream that tops them?  Both.  This is a marriage made in heaven.  Yes, this one is worth blowing your diet.  Read more...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013



Lasagne is a wonderful dish for easy entertaining.  You can make it ahead of time, even the day before, hence hassle-free dining.  If you’re a small family and prefer to keep the lasagne for yourself, you can freeze it in smaller portions and have several hassle-free meals from one recipe. 

This particular recipe has wonderful complex flavors and cuts firmly and cleanly and is a little bit easier to make than my previous post on spinach lasagne.  The noodles are moist, not dry.  The sauce recipe yields a generous 3 quarts, giving you more than enough for this recipe.  The leftover sauce can be frozen and used for raviolis or spaghetti at a later date.  Don’t be tempted to use all the sauce on the lasagne, because one of the secrets to a clean-cutting lasagne is to use less, not more, sauce.  Another is to let it sit for 20 - 30 minutes before slicing.

The yield will depend on what you serve with the lasagne and the appetite of your diners, but roughly figure on feeding 12 people.  

Spinach Lasagne with Meat Sauce 
Rating:  10 out of 10
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced fresh onion
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tsp. Morton kosher salt, divided
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. crushed anise seed
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. crushed fennel seed
1/2 tsp. dried Mediterranean or Greek oregano leaves, crushed
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

In a Dutch oven, saute onion in oil over medium heat till transparent, about 4-5 minutes.  Stir in garlic.  Add meats and 1 tsp. salt; mash with fork or wooden spoon till large clumps are smoothed out.  Continue to cook until well browned.  Pour grease off.  Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, broth, anise seed, basil, fennel seed, oregano, cayenne, parsley and remaining 1 tsp. salt.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for about 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed.  Sauce may be used immediately, refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for future use. 
Yield:  about 3 quarts

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add 1 tsp. salt (or to taste) to water and 15 lasagne noodles.  Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, or till noodles are al dente – just a bit firm to the bite but cooked through.  Drain noodles through colander; rinse with cold water to stop cooking; set aside. 

16 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese + 1/2 cup for layering
1-1/2 cups frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed of excess moisture
3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
1-1/4 cups shredded Provolone cheese 

In medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, nutmeg, parsley, salt and 1/4 cup Parmesan with spatula or spoon, mixing well; set aside.   In small bowl, stir together mozzarella and Provolone; set aside.

Heat oven to 375F.  Spray a 9” x 13” heavy Pyrex dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Make an assembly line of sauce, noodles, ricotta mixture, mozzarella mixture and Parmesan. 

Spread a thin layer of sauce on bottom of dish (about 1/2 cup).  Arrange 3 noodles lengthwise over sauce.  Spread with 1/4 of ricotta cheese mixture;  top with 1/5 mozzarella mixture; spoon about 3/4 cup meat sauce over mozzarella; sprinkle with about 1-1/2 Tbsp. Parmesan from the remaining 1/2 cup.  Repeat 3 times.  Lay the final 3 noodles over the top; spread with 1 cup meat sauce; sprinkle remaining mozzarella mixture and Parmesan over top.  Top with foil that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to protect cheeses.  Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes.*  Remove foil; bake an additional 25 minutes, or till bubbling and very hot.  Cool for 20-30 minutes before slicing. Yield: 12 servings

*Baking time is assuming ingredients are at  room temperature.  If you refrigerate lasagne before baking, allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before placing in oven, or start in cold oven and increase baking time. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Influenza_Spoon_New_WEB__62433.1358954596.460.504 Feeling achey and feverish?  Coming down with the flu or some other nasty virus?  There is a new product to help you battle the illness:  a citrus sorbet that’s spiked with Maker’s Mark whiskey.   It’s a new take on the old-time remedy of honey, lemon and whiskey. 

Originally called Jeni’s Influenza Sorbet, the product has received so much publicity it’s been renamed to Jeni’s Hot Toddy Sorbet.  Jeni’s, located in Ohio, will ship a pint to you for $12 plus shipping, and I hear the whiskey content is not skimpy.

Even if it doesn’t work to cure your ills, we may have found a new dessert.  You can read all about it at  Type jeni’s influenza sorbet in the search bar.  Or go directly to where you can enter your zip code and find the nearest retail location where you can buy her unique products or place an online order. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Here is this year's list of favorite chocolate recipes for Valentine's Day, aka National Chocolate Day.

Frosted Cream Cheese or Goat Cheese Brownies are easier to make than you think.  You don't need a mixer, just a bowl and spoon.  If you don't want to make your own frosting, just spread the top with Nutella or canned frosting or leave these delicious brownies plain.  

Old-Fashioned Cocoa Devil's Food Cake, made with a mixture of unbleached all-purpose flour and white whole wheat flour, is a denser but very enjoyable creation, especially when it’s covered with chocolate ganache, then trimmed with coconut swiss buttercream frosting and toasted unsweetened coconut chips.  You can make it with just unbleached all-purpose flour for a lighter version.

Almost-Old-Fashioned Whoopie Pies never fail to please.  These are made with butter, not shortening, and nonfat Greek yogurt.  Light, moist and chocolatey, these will get you raves.

Chocolate-Almond Cream Pie is a dessert made in heaven.  A tender and flavorful almond graham cracker crust holds a rich and chocolatey filling with a mild almond undertone.  The whipped-cream topping is spiked with almond liqueur and sprinkled with chocolate shavings.  It has my highest rating and will make any celebration memorable.

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes:  Full of flavor, very light and moist, this one is a definite winner!  The banana flavor comes through, but in a background sort of way.  

Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding is silky smooth and creamy with a mild hazelnut flavor hiding under the chocolate. 

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies are fudgy, tender and flavorful, and hold a wonderfully light peanut butter-mallow filling that really steals the show.  These cookies are sweet, rich-tasting  and utterly delicious.

Chocolate Guinness Cake is everything you ever wanted in a chocolate cake.  The ale bumps up the chocolate flavor and delivers moistness as well.  This is one cake you’ll remember for a long time.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins are moist, chocolatey, flavorful and even have fiber and some food value.   One muffin will definitely fix your chocolate craving, and you won't blow all your calories.  They have my highest rating and they don’t taste healthy!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing are sure to please almost everyone.  Moist, tender, velvety and not-too-sweet chocolate cupcakes are topped with fluffy peanut butter frosting.  Buttermilk and sour cream make the cupcakes tender and moist; coffee and brown sugar enhance the chocolate flavor; and the peanut butter icing is creamy, sweet and delicious.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Heath Bits Cookies are delicious cookies with a nice peanut-butter flavor.  The pecans and semisweet chocolate chips tone down the almost cloying sweetness of the Heath bits.  Just enough crunch, just enough sweetness.  With crispy edges and insides that are soft and almost chewy, these are sure to become a favorite.

100% Whole-Wheat Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting are light and moist.  And no one is the wiser…..unless you tell them.  You can make these even healthier by using a sugar substitute and nonfat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.

Nutella Mascarpone Cheesecake with Chocolate Graham Cracker Crust is a rich, creamy, firm, New York-style cheesecake that delivers a subtle Nutella flavor from Nutella that is spread over the cooled crust before adding the cheesecake filling.  The filling, itself, has hazelnut liqueur added, and the cheesecake can be topped with shaved chocolate or more Nutella.  Either way, it’s absolutely delicious.

Lava Rocks are chocolatey, chewy delicious little morsels that are also low-fat.

Happy Valentine's Day to all; be sure to spread the love with or without chocolate.