Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies

Let the kids grab the showy frosted cookies or the chocolate bombs. The adults will love these Mexican Wedding Cake cookies, snowballs of nuts, butter and powder sugar. Delicious!

This recipe was originally published in the New York Times. What is particularly nice here is using the food processor to combine the nuts and butter.


1/2 cup pecan halves
2 1/2 cups powder sugar
a pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup AP flour

Using your food processor, pulse together the nuts, salt, and 1 cup of the sugar until the nuts are finely ground. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the processor as the machine is running. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla. Add the flour and pulse to combine.

Place the dough in a bowl, tightly cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop the dough with a spoon and form 1 inch balls. This looks small, but the cookies will spread when they bake! Place the balls 1 1/2 inch apart on parchment covered cookies sheets.

Bake 15 minutes or until the cookies begin to brown. Allow the cookies cool on the pan for 2 minutes. Then, using large spoons and working one cookie at a time, carefully nudge a cookie onto a spoon and then roll it in the remaining powder sugar.


Lil Bitty Shortbread Bites

I found this recipe at the Land O Lakes web site. It makes fun and tasty little cookies for the holiday or any time you want a little treat


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp. multi colored nonpareils

Line an 8x8 inch pan with plastic wrap, leaving overhang to use as a handle.

Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour and salt and mix until well combined. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the nonpareils.

Pat the dough into your prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of nonpareils evenly over the dough; pat them in lightly. Cover the dough and refrigerate the dough overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the dough from the pan by using the plastic wrap handles. Cut the dough into squares of about 1/2 inch. Place the squares on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies just begin to brown.


Pictured here are Lil Bitty Shortbread Bites and Mexican Wedding Cakes. Yum!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Game Day Gumbo

Gumbo traditionally uses andouille sausage. I use kielbasa, however, as it is easier for me to find in the store. Use whatever you prefer. What's great about this gumbo, which is adapted from a recipe found at Food & Wine, is that it uses only a small amount of flour in the roux; so many gumbo recipes call for a whole cup. Finally, if you have a Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven, use it for this recipe - it works great!

Gumbo is typically served over rice. While the gumbo is cooking, make four servings of your favorite rice. When you are ready to serve, put some in each bowl and pour the prepared gumbo over the rice.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Ingredients for the Gumbo

3 Tbs. canola oil
3 Tbs. all purpose flour
1 green pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 package frozen okra pieces
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound kielbasa, cut into bite-sized pieces (first cut the sausage in half along its length, the cut the halves into smaller pieces)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 cups chicken stock


In a large pot, heat the canola oil over medium setting. Add the flour and whisk together. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly. The flour will start to brown. Add the pepper, onion and celery cook over medium low for about 6 - 8 minutes until the veggies begin softening. To the pot add the okra, cayenne, pepper, salt, oregano, thyme and bay leaf, then cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and kielbasa and bring to a boil. Lower the heat sufficiently so the gumbo holds a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Finally, add the chicken and cook until done, about 5 minutes.

Make the rice, take the bay leaf out of the gumbo, and you are ready to serve!


Meatballs! Having meatballs in the freezer means that there is always something available to eat. I like this easy recipe. Baking the meatballs on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet allows any fat to drip off and away.


1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
1/4 c milk
1/3 c Betty Crocker Potato Buds
1 large egg
1 Tbs Worcestershire
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder


Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place a cooling rack over the foil lined cookie sheet. Spritz the cooling rack with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the potato buds, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and Worcestershire. In a large bowl, combine the beef and sausage. Add to the meat the remaining ingredients and combine together thoroughly.

Lightly shape the mixture into 1-1/4" balls and set the on the rack. Try to keep the meatballs the same size so that they bake evenly.

Bake until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, about 20 minutes, but be sure to check with a thermometer.


Flax Bread

I try to minimize the about of flour I eat: white, wheat, rye, all of it.  For the most part this has been easy. However, it has been challenging at breakfast.  Fortunately, I came across a terrific recipe for flax bread and that has solved the breakfast problem. The recipe is adapted from Laura Dolson at

2 cups organic golden flaxseed meal
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 beaten eggs
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
Sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Oil a 9 x 9 pan and line with parchment.

Toast the sesame seeds in a small fry pan over medium low heat.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and mix well. Pour into prepared pan and top with toasted sesame seeds. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes.

When the bread is done, allow to cool in the pan for five minutes. Remove from pan and finish cooling on a rack.

Paella for Two

I made paella for the first time yesterday. It tasted great and was fun to make. Although describing the number of steps involved in preparing paella make it sound laborious, it was actually easy to do. Give it a try! Serving it with some Spanish cava makes the dinner even more festive.

1 pinch saffron threads (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 skinless boneless chicken breast
1 medium onion
1 ripe tomato
2 garlic cloves
16 fresh mussels
olive oil
1 cup long grain rice
3 cups hot chicken stock
A cup of water for deglazing the pan, as needed
8 good-sized shrimp
Pitted kalamata olives
Lemon wedges and parsley for garnish


At least one hour before you start cooking, sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with paprika and oregano leaf.  Scrub and clean the mussels. Peel and clean the shrimp.

Heat a small fry pan over medium/medium low. Toast the saffron in the pan for a minute or two. Off the heat, crush the saffron in the pan using the back of a spoon. Soak the saffron in 1 tablespoon hot water.

Cut the chicken int 1/2 inch cubes or little-finger sized strips.

Cut the onion in half around its center. Grate the onion through the largest holes of a box grater. Cut the tomato around its center and grate the halves all the way down to the skin.

In a 12-inch fry pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium. Add the chicken and saute for a minute or two, until the chicken is no longer pink. Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate.

Add two more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.

Over medium-low heat, saute the grated onion for about 4 minutes.

Add tomato, garlic, pinch of salt and pinch of paprika. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until dark, red and thick. Deglaze the pan as needed.

Add the rice, increase the heat to medium, and stir constantly for 1 - 2 minutes. Spread the rice evenly around the pan.

Slowly add 2 1/2 cups of hot chicken stock and the saffron with its soaking water. No more stirring after this point.

Bring to a boil and simmer vigorously for 8 minutes, and the rice appears at the level of the broth.

Add the mussels and last 1/2 cup stock. Lower heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and chicken and  simmer another 5 minutes.

Cover the pan if necessary to cook the shrimp.

Remove from heat. Add some kalamata olives. Cover the pan with a dish towel and let the dish rest 5 minutes.

Garnish the dish with parsley and lemon wedges. To serve, set the pan on the center of the table and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Strawberry Pie Filling

After you've made your favorite graham cracker pie crust, try this strawberry filling:

3 pounds of hulled strawberries, divided:

  • 3 C quartered berries
  • 4.5 C berries with the large berries cut into eighths and any small berries left whole
3/4 C sugar

1/4 C cornstarch

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 C cold water


Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium sauce pan. Add the cold water. To this, add the 3 cups of quartered berries. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil while continuously stirring and mashing the berries. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.

When cooled to room temperature, carefully add the remaining 4.5 cups of berries to the mixture. Pour everything into the previously prepared graham cracker pie crust. Refrigerate several hours before serving.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Italian Sausage and Kale Soup

This delicious, flavorful soup makes a terrific lunch on a cool fall day. Serve it with some crusty bread and olive oil for dipping.

Italian Sausage and Kale Soup

2 Tbs olive oil
3/4 cup of each of the following:

  • finely diced onion
  • thinly sliced leeks
  • peeled, finely cut carrot

1 clove chopped garlic (about a teaspoon)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 ounces Italian sausage (I prefer hot sausage)
2 Tbs polenta
5 cups chicken stock
4 packed cups of stemmed, coarsely torn kale

In a soup pot, saute the onion, leeks, carrot, salt and pepper in the olive oil for about 8 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for two more minutes. Next, add the sausage and cook for about 5 minutes, breaking up the meat into small pieces as it cooks. When the meat is no longer pink, drain off excess oil from the pot.

Next, combine the cornmeal with the sausage and vegetables, and then add the stock. Bring everything to a boil while stirring continuously. When the soup is at a boil, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes. As it simmers, check the soup occasionally and give it a stir.

When 30 minutes have passed, add the kale to the pot and simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Serve the soup topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sandwich Loaf with Fresh Herbs

If your herb garden is going crazy like mine is, put some into this bread. For this loaf, I used 50% bread  flour and 50% white-whole wheat. I think this will be perfect for tomato sandwiches.

Sandwich Loaf with Fresh Herbs

2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
1 tsp sugar

6 to 6 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbs salt
2 Tbs olive oil
1 3/4 cup very warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
3 Tbs chopped fresh chives
3 Tbs chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 loaf pans 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2, greased on the sides and bottoms.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the yeast, warm water and sugar. Let ferment for 15 minutes.

Add to the yeast mixture 3 1/2 cups of very warm water, the salt, and olive oil. Combine well. Add the remainder of the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes together. Knead for 10 minutes.

Place the kneaded dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 40 to 60 minutes, or until double.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Punch down the dough and divide it into two. Shape each piece into a rectangle that is as wide as the baking pan is long. Fold the dough like an envelope, pinch the seam together and tuck the ends under. Place it into the pan. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Brush the loaves with olive oil.

Cover the loaves and let rise until double, about 35 to 50 minutes.

When the dough is risen, bake the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes. The loaves are done when well browned with an internal temperature of about 190 - 200 degrees.

Remove the baked loaves from the pans and cool the bread on a wire rack.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Faster Chicken Stock

Although nothing beats the flavor of homemade chicken stock, I don't always have the time (or inclination) to make it. When homemade isn't on hand, I follow this simple procedure, adapted from a cook book by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, to improve the taste of broth purchased at the grocery store. This is easy, it takes little time to do, and dramatically improves the flavor of boxed chicken broth. I urge you to try it!

This recipe makes 12 cups of stock. I divide it into two freezer containers. When I am ready to make soup, I just pull one of the containers out of the freezer and I'm ready to go.

Faster Chicken Stock 


3 medium onions
1 and 1/2 large celery stalk
1 and 1/2 medium carrot
6 garlic cloves
3 whole, canned tomatoes
6 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 and 1/2 cup dry white wine
Three 32-ounce boxes of Swanson Organic chicken

Slice the onions in half. Place the onion halves under the broiler and broil until dark brown. This step adds wonderful color and flavor to the broth.

Coarsely chop the celery and carrot and crush the garlic cloves. Combine these vegetables with the broiled onion and the remainder of the ingredients in large pot. Bring to a simmer, partially cover, cook 30 minutes. Pour through a strainer for beautiful broth.