Sugar bombs.

I was introduced to cake pops recently, when a friend brought a dozen to a party.  They are an excellent sweet treat.   This weekend I took a stab at making a batch myself.    Here’s how they turned out:


I did a little research beforehand, googling a few recipes and how-tos.   This is the one I picked to guide me, and pretty much followed it exactly.   I made one modification – I detest frosting-in-a-can, as its main ingredient is partially hydrogenated fat.   I bought a powder mix instead – which was basically powdered sugar, really.   I just had to add butter and a bit of milk.  And it worked great for the frosting.  I mixed up half a box (i.e., about as much frosting to cover half a cake), on the advice of the how-to that I was following.   And it worked fine.

I bought pure white Wilton candy chips, and added food coloring.  I have to say that the “dipping” phase is still a mystery to me.  No matter what I tried, the candy coating was always the consistency of frosting.  I tried both the microwave method, as well as the double boiler method.   It was still very thick.    So I couldn’t really “dip” the pops.  I spun them through the coating and had to smooth with a knife most of the time.   No matter, though, they turned out fine.

Some people recommend buying floral arrangement foam to use as a stand to hold your cake pops.  I asked Monte to make me a few stands with wood scrap he had laying around in the shop.  They worked great.

Good for what ails you. 

I brought a head cold back with me from Seattle.   For dinner tonight Monte suggested chicken soup, and it was just the ticket!   We already had 1 1/2 quarts of homemade chicken broth in the fridge.  And a grilled chicken breast leftover from last night.  I just had to add a cup each of chopped onion, celery & carrots; a sprinkle of salt & pepper.   At the end I threw in a few ounces of pasta.  And voila!

Delicious!  I feel better already.  


Bringing back the bread machine. 

We received an awesome Breadman Ultimate breadmaker for a wedding gift way back when.  And I used it for several years but stopped for some reason.   I was probably traveling a lot at the time.

A couple weeks ago I was cleaning out the pantry, and rediscovered it.  I have since stocked up on wheat flour, gluten and other ingredients and am back in the bread making groove.  The 1.5 lb loaves are perfect for the two of us for several days.

The light whole wheat bread loaf is delicious.

This one’s hot out of the machine:

And this is a link to 100+ page PDF for the bread machine with many recipes.

Beef burgundy. 

Today winter seems to have relaxed its grip.  Temps were in the 50s for most of the day.  Monte and I headed outside and trimmed, pruned, tilled and sowed.   A great day. 

I’ve dug out my crock pot recently and have been making recipes from way back when.   Tonight I made Beef Burgandy.  And Monte made homemade noodles to go with.  Oh my.  Delicious!

Beef burgundy ala crockpot:

– 2-lb beef round steak, cut in 3/4″ cubes

– 1/4 c flour

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 3 Tbsp butter

– 2 c red wine, Bordeaux or burgandy

– 1 c beef broth

– 1 c chopped onion

– 6 oz white mushrooms, rinsed dried & quartered

– 2 bay leaves

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Coat beef with flour and salt mixture.   Melt butter in skillet.  Add beef and brown on all sides.  Transfer browned meat to crock pot.  Deglaze hot skillet with a little bit of wine and put those tasty bits in the crockpot, too.  Combine all other ingredients in crock pot and stir. 

Cover.  Cook on high for 2 hours, then reduce to low for another 2 -3 hours, until meat is tender. 

Before serving, remove 1 c of liquid, heat over medium on stove; bring to a low boil.  Wisk in 1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in  2 Tbsp cold water,  until  thickened.  Pour back into crockpot and stir. 

Remove bay leaves.  Serve over noodles. 

How sweet it is.

It’s a beautiful Saturday. Temps in the high 60s for a change. We are anchoring out in our cove.
We have the place to ourselves.

Tutti a tavola e mangiare!

And for dessert: HOT BUTTERED RUM!

We tried Emeril’s recipe and it was just right!

Literary inspiration.

I recently read Ernest Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream. I enjoyed it – set in the Caribbean, full of sea and salt and many an alcoholic beverage.
One of the favorite drinks of the main character in the book, Thomas Hudson, was a gin drink with coconut water, lime juice and bitters. It sounded interesting enough to me to concoct one and try it. And it was pretty good! We call it a “Tom Hudson.” There wasn’t a recipe in the novel, so the individual quantities are up to the bartender’s discretion. But here’s how I like them:

Tom Hudson
– 2 oz gin
– 4 oz coconut water
– juice of 1 lime
– a few (or many) drops of bitters
– serve on the rocks

Cheers, Ernest!


Crabby patties.

Francine brought over a humongous bowl of dungeness crabmeat from their haul over the weekend – ginormous hunks of claw meat already cleaned and ready to eat. So, I made crab cakes tonight for the first time, and I think they turned out excellent.
Spongebob would be proud. :)

Here is the recipe I used:

– 2 cups dungeness crabmeat, flaked
– 1/3 c crushed cracker crumbs
– 2 Tblspoons mayo
– 1 egg
– 1 tsp mustard powder
– 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
– 1/4 tsp garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp kosher salt
– Juice of 1/2 lemon
– 2 green onions sliced and diced thinly
– 1/2 green pepper diced finely
– Black pepper to taste

1) Mix all of the above together well in a bowl.

2) Form into cakes (6 or so) and dust each with:


3) Heat in large skillet on med high:

– 1/4 c olive oil

4) add crab cakes to pan and cook 4-5 mins, then flip and cook another 3-4 mins.

5) remove and place on paper towel.

Plate with lemon and Dijon mustard remoulade.

Wine me, Marge!

Happy National Drink Wine Day!!! Of course, I obliged:

For dinner, I made a side dish I’ve been wanting to try for a while.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower
– 1 cauliflower head, cut into bite size pieces
– 1 tsp lemon zest
– 1 T curry powder
– 1 t garlic powder
– 1/2 t tumeric
– 1/4 t sumac
– 3 T olive oil
– 1 T coconut oil
– kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 F. Combine spices and oil in large bowl. Toss cauliflower florets in spice mixture. Turn out onto jelly roll pan. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring and turning at halfway point.

There’s nothing better than homemade pasta.

Tonight Monte made pasta. I “helped” by hovering over the stove while he was making a light white wine sage cream sauce repeating how hungry I was.
Homemade pasta is nothing short of amazingly delicious. We have pasta roller and pasta cutter attachments for our KitchenAid mixer that make the prep pretty easy.

He used Mario Batali’s recipe for basic pasta dough. You can find a version of the recipe here. He made a smaller batch (3 eggs and 2.5c flour) and kneaded it for 10 mins, letting it rest for 30 mins before rolling & cutting. Here’s the finished product. We cut it fettuccine size. Yummmmmmmm


Applebuttery goodness.

I have had a hankering for apple butter lately.   My HEB has a poor selection.   The only one they stock was full of multi-syllable chemical ingredients, and high fructose corn syrup.  I couldn’t bring myself to put it in my cart.    When I was a kid, apple butter was one of the many delicious things my mom would make and I would help her with the cooking and canning.   So, i decided to make my own apple butter.

There were many different recipes online.   I wasn’t looking to go the whole canning route, as I just wanted to make a small batch.    Some recipes started with apple sauce.   But I wanted to go as close to the good old fashioned way as possible.   I found a recipe that sounded minimalistic and simple.   I halved the original recipe, and it yielded 2 pint jars (i recycled some Bonne Maman 13 oz jam jars) of applebutter, which have a fridge life of about 2 weeks.  Or could be frozen up to a month.

I’ll start with a picture of the result, to get your mouth watering, and follow with the recipe:


You’ll need a crock-pot and an immersion blender.   Here’s the before:


You may want to use a variety of apples.   I used mostly gala, which are on the sweet side, and mixed in a few red delicious which are less sweet.   I also have one of these awesome contraptions, which makes peeling/coring/slicing the apples a breeze:


Crock-pot Applebutter    (yields 2 pints)

3 1/4 lbs apples, peeled, cored & sliced
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 T ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 T vanilla extract

Place apple slices in crock pot.   In medium bowl, mix sugars, and spices.  Sprinkle dry mix over the apples and stir gently to coat apples and combine.


Cook on low, covered, for 12 hours.

Stir in vanilla extract and puree with immersion blender until smooth.  For thicker applebutter, can cook on low another hour with lid ajar.

Cool and place in jars.  Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Imitation is the finest form of flattery.

We love to make homemade pizza at the house.  Monte has longed to have a wood-fired pizza oven of our own.  We opted out of one when we remodeled the kitchen a few years back.  For Christmas this year I got him a Kettle Pizza kit for making pizza outdoors, on the grill.  It had great reviews and seemed to be worth checking out.

We also love the pizza from our local Brick Oven pizza restaurant.  We like to call it the second best pizza in town – next to ours. :)

There is one pizza they make that is fantastic and we have always wanted to try making it ourselves: the Tuscan Truffle.

So…tonight we fired up the kettle and gave it a go.  And…. We NAILED IT!
Here is a shot if our first try in the kettle:


Tuscan Truffle pizza

The “sauce” is a mushroom pesto – made out of sautéed mushrooms, parmesan cheese and truffle oil puréed in a food processor. The toppings are prosciutto and mozzarella cheese (just a little, not much of either).  It only took about 5 minutes in the kettle pizza oven.  After removing,  add arugula and grated asiago cheese on top to wilt / melt from the heat of the pizza.  Drizzle a little more truffle oil on top and VOILA!  Delicious.


Hump day.

Colleen arrived today for a visit. Tonight we cooked a delicious dinner at the house. Julie joined us. On the menu: prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe appetizer, grilled chicken, risotto Milanese, sautéed brussels sprouts and homemade lime sorbet for dessert. Oh. My.

We add wet applewood chips to the charcoal briquettes while the chicken’s on the grill, which adds a mouthwatering smoky note. Colleen called it “bacon flavored chicken.”
High praise from a bacon-o-phile. :)

Prosciutto & Cantaloupe Appies

These aren’t pretty, but they’re delicious.

1 ripe cantaloupe
8 oz prosciutto di Parma, sliced thin
Melon baller tool

Halve and remove seeds from cantaloupe. Scoop out melon balls. Wrap with prosciutto, Skewer with toothpick.



Let the baking begin.

Fall means baking!   I made a loaf of banana bread this morning.  Yumm!

I used a variation on a recipe from Monte’s America’s Test Kitchen cookbook.

Banana Bread

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas, mashed well
1/4 c plain yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 c pecans, chopped coarse and toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toast pecans on baking sheet in oven while preheating, 5-10 mins.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl.

In separate bowl, mash bananas with hand masher, then add yogurt, eggs, melted butter and vanilla and stir by hand to mix.

Fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with spatula until just combined.   Fold in pecans.  Turn into greased and floured 9 1/2″ loaf pan and smooth.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.  Then test for doneness with toothpick.  If still too moist inside, put back in for 5 minutes and try again.   When done, cool in pan for 5 mins and then turn out onto wire rack.

Saturday nom noms.

Dinner time rolled around tonight and risotto and grilled salmon were on the menu. The before shot of the risotto:


And the before shot of the salmon fillet, rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and ground pepper, sitting skin-down on a cedar plank that has been soaking in water for about 4 hours:

We cook it on a weber charcoal grill over direct heat for about 30 mins (this fillet was 2 pounds). The plank burns on the bottom, but infuses the salmon with a delicious smoked flavor. Be careful taking the plank off, it will burn anything you set it on. I use a cookie sheet. It’s not pretty, but it does the trick.
And after:

We watched the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup final, but it was disappointing as both boats had problems and they postponed the second race. Later, the Seahawks preseason game 2 was on the NFL Network, and i got to watch them cream the broncos, so that made up for it.
Have I mentioned that I love weekends?!