Monthly Archives: October 2015



  “Winds in the East.  There’s a mist comin’ in.  Like something’s a brewin’.  ’bout to come in.”  That quote from Mary Poppins just reminded me of today.  It’s been a dreary, misty, cool fall day which has become a cool, rainy night.  In other words, a good day for something to warm your cockles like a bowl of chili (find my recipe here) and some ccc-cornbread.  Ccc-cornbread.  No, I’m not stuttering.  The c’s stand for some tasty added ingredients to traditional corn bread.  I’ve added cheddar cheese, corn and  (green) chiles.  This is some cornbread to sink your teeth into.  It’s sooooo good.  I cut it in half, put a little butter on it, placed it in the bottom of my bowl and spooned my chili on top.  YUM!

1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup yellow corn meal

1/4  cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup milk

1/4  cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

1/4 cup green chiles (from a can, drained)

1/2 cup whole kernel corn (from a can, drained)

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a square 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.  Combine the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl.  Stir to mix ingredients.  Measure the milk and then the oil into a 2 cup measuring cup. Add the egg.  Whisk with a fork until combined.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a spoon until just combined. Add in the chiles, corn and cheese.  Once again stir until just combined.  Pour mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown and a tooth pick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the bread.  Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,



Pots de Creme


  We had our nice new neighbor over for dinner last night.  We ate, talked, laughed and just had a wonderful time enjoying each others’ company.  We had salad, lasagna (made with homemade ricotta!), garlic bread, some wine and finally these pots de creme.  What’s pot de creme?  It’s French for the creamiest, richest, most chocolate pudding you can eat.  They are a win/win proposition no matter how you look at it.  They’re elegant, scrumptious and easy to make.  I used the Pioneer Woman’s recipe found here.  Top them off with homemade whipped cream and grated chocolate.  They look like you spent hours making them but, in fact, you only spent minutes.  If you don’t have espresso powder, use strong, freshly brewed coffee instead.  I guarantee once you taste this you’ll never buy that little box of instant pudding ever again.

Pots de Creme

Makes 5 servings

12 oz. bag semi -sweet chocolate chips

2 tsp. vanilla

pinch of salt

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 Tbs. instant espresso powder

1 cup boiling water

1 cup cold heavy cream

2 Tbs. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

chocolate for grating over top of the whipped cream (I just used a few semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Mix the espresso powder with the boiling water.  Set aside.  Place the chocolate chips, vanilla, salt and eggs in a blender. Pulse a few times to break up the chocolate a bit.  Turn the blender on to low.  Leaving the lid on but opening the hole in the top of the lid, pour the espresso into the blender in a steady stream.  Blend for 2-3 minutes until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Pour into small dessert dishes, wine glasses or on the rocks glasses.  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until pudding is set.  Just before serving make the whipped cream by adding the cream, sugar and vanilla bean paste to a small mixing bowl.  Beat on low with a hand held electric mixer, slowly increasing the speed to high until the cream holds stiff peaks.  Pipe or spoon the whipped cream on the pots de creme.  Use a microplane grater to grate the chocolate over the whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Homemade Ricotta Cheese


Oh my good golly am I ever excited!  Cheese guys, I just made cheese!!  CHEESE!!!!!  I saw a recipe from Epicurious for homemade ricotta cheese which you’ll find here.  I couldn’t resist giving it a try.  It was so easy!   It took a while for the milk mixture to come to a boil so it takes patience.  I did stir it quite often because I didn’t want it to scorch.  I’m going to use it in my homemade lasagna tomorrow.  You can find that recipe here.  I took some pictures of the process to show each step. Let me tell you this ricotta is some kind of wonderful too.  It is delicious and tastes so fresh because it is so fresh.  I just made it!

Place a colander or sieve in a large bowl.  Line the colander with 2 layers of cheesecloth.

Place milk, cream and salt in a Dutch oven.  Heat on medium heat until it becomes foamy and starts to boil.

When the milk mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low and add the lemon juice.
  The whey is starting to separate.

Stir and cook for 2-4 minutes or until curds form.  Pour into the waiting colander lined with cheese cloth.

Allow to drain for 10-15 minutes.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  It should stay fresh for about a week in the fridge. Beautiful and very tasty ricotta cheese.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

8 cups (1/2 gallon) whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1  1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Place a colander in a large bowl.  Line the colander with a double layer of cheesecloth.  Set aside.  Place the milk, cream and salt in a Dutch oven.  Heat on medium heat until it is foamy and starts to boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Continue to cook and stir for 2-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and carefully pour into the lined colander.  Allow to drain for 10-15 minutes.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Enjoy!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Lemon Surprise Cupcakes 


  Aren’t these cute little cuppiecakes?  I didn’t notice until I was staging these two for the picture but they kind of look like candy corn.  Do you like candy corn?  I think it’s one of those either you love it or you hate it things.  Sorry all you candy corn lovers, but I am a hater.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s cute and it definitely is one of the things that comes to mind when I think of fall, but I sure don’t want to eat it.  No thanks.

This starts with a doctored up lemon cake mix.  Then comes the surprise in the middle.  It’s filled with a blueberry cream. YUM!  It’s frosted with a lemon cream cheese frosting.  I swear that frosting is dangerous.  It’s the kind that one, meaning me, could eat out of the bowl with a spoon.  I didn’t have enough blueberry preserves to give the filling enough blueberry flavor for me, so I crushed some dehydrated blueberries I had in the pantry to give it a little oomph.  Don’t t buy these just for the little bit you’d use in this recipe.  Increase the amount of blueberry preserves to 1/2-3/4 cup until it tastes blueberry enough for you.  I thought I had another jar of blueberry preserves in the pantry but it turned out to be blackberry.  I contemplated adding it, but I had my mind set on blueberry.
.                                           Here is the surprise.  They’re filled with yummy blueberry cream.
 Lemon Surprise Cupcakes


16.5 oz. lemon cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)

4 eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup milk

zest and juice from 1 large lemon

Blueberry Filling:

4 oz. (1/2 brick) cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup blueberry preserves*

1/8 cup dehydrated blueberries, crushed*

1 Tbs. sugar


8 oz. cream cheese (1 brick), at room temperature

8 Tbs. unsalted butter (I stick), at room temperature

zest and juice from 2 large lemons

5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 muffin pans with cupcake liners.  Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed 3-4 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add the cake mix, milk, lemon zest and juice and beat until just combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until batter is well combined.  Use an ice cream scoop to scoop the batter into each of the 24 liners.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a cupcake.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove cupcake from the pan to cool completely.

In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric hand mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add the blueberry preserves, dehydrated blueberries (if using) and the whipping cream.  Begin beating on low speed and slowly increase to high as the mixture begins to thicken.  Mix 3-4 minutes or until stiff peaks form.  Place the cream in a zip top plastic bag.  Cut a small piece off of one corner.  Using a paring knife or a cupcake corer, core out the center of the cake, reserving the tops.  Squeeze the cream into the centers of each cupcake.  Replace the top to each, covering the cream.

In the bowl to a stand mixer, add the cream cheese and the butter.  With the whisk attachment, beat 3-5 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the lemon zest, juice and powdered sugar.  Beat on low until the sugar is combined.  Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, creamy and smooth.  Place the frosting in a pastry bag or a zip top plastic fitted with a large star tip.  Frost the cupcakes.  Enjoy!

*I used the dehydrated blueberries because I didn’t have enough blueberry preserves.  Omit them and instead of 1/3 cup preserves, add 1/2-3/4 cups to taste.

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Lemon Chicken Rice Soup


Another day, another bowl of soup.  My green-eyed Irish guy loves lemon rice soup.  I hadn’t even heard of it until we first started dating and would go out to eat in Northwest Indiana.  Every restaurant on the other side of the state served it.  It was as if it was on tap.  I envisioned tanker trucks filled with lemon rice soup pulling up to the restaurants and filling their storage tanks. It’s actually the Greek soup avgolemono.  Some recipes add chicken, some use rice and some use orzo but two things are consistent making this soup-lemon and eggs.  I tried many, many recipes but was never quite satisfied with the results.  I found one that was quick and easy using canned soups and doctoring it up.  It worked but… I was always trying to make it better.  Am I ever glad I kept trying.  This soup is so dang good.  It has lemon zest and fresh lemon juice in it.  I made a white sauce to help the eggs with the thickening.  I did add diced chicken breast to it, but I prefer it without.  We love to have a grilled cheese sandwich with it for dunking.  Grab a bowl, clink spoons CHEERS! and let’s share some soup.
   Lemon Chicken Rice Soup

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 lb. chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces

salt and pepper

3 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/4 cup onion, diced finely

1/4 cup celery, diced finely

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. fresh thyme

1 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped finely

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups milk

32 oz. carton chicken broth

1 chicken bouillon cube

pinch of nutmeg

zest and juice from one lemon

2 eggs

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. pepper

3 cups cooked rice

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Place the olive oil in a Dutch oven and heat on medium until hot.  Add the seasoned chicken to the pot and cook 8-10 minutes or until no longer pink on the outside.  Remove the chicken and juices from the pan into a small bowl and set aside.  Melt the butter on medium heat in the same pot.  Add the onion, celery, thyme and parsley.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Pour in the milk and stir until smooth.  Add the chicken broth and bouillon cube, cook and stir 3-5 minutes until it starts to thicken.  Turn heat down to low.  Add the nutmeg, lemon zest and juice, rice and the reserved chicken and juices.  Beat the eggs in a small bowl.  Stir in a spoon of the hot soup to the eggs to temper them so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.  Add another 2 spoons of the hot soup to the eggs and stir. Slowly stir the egg mixture into the soup.  Continue stirring and add the salt and pepper.  Taste to see if the seasoning is correct.  Adjust if necessary.  Remove from heat and ladle into bowls.  I usually serve this with a grilled cheese sandwich.  Enjoy!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Apple Pie Cookies


  Take a look at these cutie pies!  Cutie pie cookies?  It’s the best of both worlds.  They’re individual apple pies that you can hold in your hand and eat like a cookie.  I just couldn’t get over how cute they are.  I think they kind of look like little sand dollars.   Don’t like apple pie?  Use any fruit filling you’d like but only about a tablespoon per cookie.  You don’t want to overfill them otherwise you won’t be able to seal them.  A little of the filling does ooze out of some of them, but that just makes them better.  They are simple enough to have the kids help make them.  They’ll have so much fun and so will you.  So grab the kids, get in the kitchen and bake up some good times.
  Topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.  YUM! Apple Pie Cookies

Makes 16 cookies

1 box refrigerated pie crusts (2  nine inch crusts per box)

21 oz. can apple pie filling

1 large egg

1 Tbs. water

cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top-optional

caramel sauce to drizzle over cookies-optional

Remove the pie crusts from the box but leave them in their plastic sleeves.  Set on the counter for 15-20 minutes to come to room temperature per package directions.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay a piece of parchment paper on your counter work area.  Sprinkle parchment lightly with flour.  Rub some flour on your rolling pin.  Roll out the first crust to about 11-12 inches.  Using a 3 inch biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter and cut out circles (mine made 12 the first time).  Re-roll scraps and cut out more circles (mine made 3 this time).  Roll out the scraps one more time  and cut out 1 more circle.  Repeat with the second pie crust making 16 three inch circles.  Cut three or four small slits into the second batch of 16 to allow steam to escape.  Place 8 circles on each baking sheet.  Cut the apple pie filing into small pieces. Spoon about a tablespoon of the pie filling onto each of the 16 circles. Place the egg in a small bowl and add the water.  Beat with a fork until white and yolk are fully incorporated.  Brush the edges of the circles with the egg wash.  Place a pie crust circle on top of each of the filled circles.  Carefully press and seal the edges together using the tines of a fork.  Brush the tops with egg wash.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if desired.  Bake at 375 degrees for 14-18 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Drizzle with caramel sauce if desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,


Cheeseburger Soup


  This soup is absolutely delicious.  It has my green-eyed Irish guy’s seal of approval.  He calls it potato soup on steroids. What’s not to like in it though?  It’s packed with ground beef, potatoes and cheese.  There’s a wonderful white sauce that thickens it to this creamy, dreamy, thick and cheesy consistency.  It’s what the doctor ordered for a cool night’s dinner.

Speaking of cool nights, our weather forecast calls for a low temp of 32 on Saturday night. There’s even a frost advisory. Wow!  I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet.  Oh well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  It’s perfect baking weather.  I’m sure my kitchen will be the warm spot in the house.  It’s also perfect snuggling weather so grab your honey, cuddle and cook something up together.      Cheeseburger Soup

1 lb. ground beef (I wouldn’t use less than an 80/20 blend or ground chuck)

3/4 cup chopped onion

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

3/4 cup shredded carrot

3/4 cup diced celery

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried parsley flakes

4 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided

32 oz. chicken broth

4 cups peeled and diced potatoes

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

pinch of nutmeg

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided

1 1/2  tsp. pepper, divided

1/4 cup sour cream

In a large Dutch oven, brown the ground beef.  Drain, remove to a bowl and set aside.  In the same Dutch oven, melt 1 Tbs. butter on medium heat.  Add the onion, celery,and carrots.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic, basil and parsley.  Cook and stir another minute or 2.  Add the broth and the potatoes to the pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer for 12-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Turn the heat down to low.  In a small sauce pan melt the remaining 3 Tbs. butter on medium heat and then add the flour.  Cook and whisk this for 3-5 minutes.  Add the milk, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper and pinch of nutmeg and whisk until smooth.  Continue whisking 3-5 minutes more until mixture thickens.  Add this white sauce and the reserved beef to the Dutch oven and turn the heat up to medium high.  Bring to a boil.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to low.  Stir in the cheese, remaining salt and pepper.  Cook and stir until cheese has melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  Garnish with a little shredded cheese.  Enjoy!

Wishing you love, laughter and cake,