Tuesday, December 22, 2015


It has been a busy December and after looking through holiday cookbooks to decide what to make for this months blog, I stumbled upon a cute snowman dessert. Leave it to Martha Stewart. A snowman made out of vanilla ice cream, rolled in shredded coconut with a marshmallow top hat and 2 eyes made out of licorice. So cute and perfect for a winter holiday dessert. I examined the recipe and decided to go for it. How hard could it be? I have most of the ingredients at home. I'm all set.

 I decided to bring the supplies I needed to make this dessert to the library so I could put it together, show everyone the masterpiece and then taste test it. I guess our freezer here was not cold enough even though I tried to turn it up. To add to the frustration, my marzipan was as hard as a rock and would not mold whatsoever. Luckily my friend had an extra tangerine so I cut the peel and used that for the nose. I did not have Sen Sen candies and decided to use some black licorice and cut into small button like pieces. A bit tricky. Another challenge was that I only had a barbecue lighter to roast my marshmallows. Consequently, putting together Mr. Snowman was quite the feat!  Maybe that is why my snowman didn't quite look like Martha's. Ok, I admit it. It wasn't even close. I was defeated. So much for the masterpiece. I tried my best but  I think if I had the perfect conditions and practiced a few times that I would eventually make one that could possibly resemble Frosty's half brother?

There is a youtube video of Martha making these on her show with 2 celebrity guests; Susan Lucci and Susan's daughter Liza Huber. Both Susan and Liza mentioned that they had a difficult time putting their snowman together. Martha makes it look so easy. I'm guessing that she has a team of people helping her, all the needed supplies,a freezer that will keep the ice cream coconut balls from melting and perfectly roasted marshmallows. I hope you have better luck than me. I suggest using this dessert as a centerpiece. Making one for each guest would be so time consuming and would take up too much space in your freezer! Just keep in mind that if you want only one snowman to divide this recipe by four. Good Luck!

COCONUT SNOWMEN - makes 4 snowmen

You will need three ice cream scoops in varied sizes. Shoestring licorice cut into pieces that can also be used for the buttons, eyes and mouth.

2 1/2 pints best-quality vanilla ice cream
2 packages sweetened shredded coconut (7 oz each)
Orange food coloring
1 Tbs. marzipan
40 Sen Sen Licorice candies
4 marshmallows
4 chocolate wafers
Sifted confectioners sugar

Line a baking pan that fits in your freezer with parchment paper. Scoop vanilla ice cream, rounding scoops as much as possible until you have 4 of each size and place in prepared baking pan. Transfer to freezer to harden 15 minutes.

Spread coconut onto a plate. Remove ice cream from freezer and roll scoops in coconut. Return to pan, then return pan to freezer. Add food coloring to marzipan until carrot color. Shape marzipan into small carrot shapes using a paring knife to make ridges. Remove one small scoop of ice cream at a time from freezer and make faces using Sen Sen for eyes and mouth and marzipan carrots for nose. Return to freezer.

Remove middle-size scoops from freezer one at a time; place Sen Sen in row down front for the buttons. Remove remaining scoops from freezer and stack to create snowmen, pressing slightly to adhere. Return snowmen to freezer.

Make top hats by roasting marshmallows on skewers over a gas burner or on a baking sheet under the broiler until browned, rotating every few seconds. Place toasted marshmallows on chocolate wafers and dust with confectioners sugar. Place hat on snowmen just before serving.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015


It is everywhere you turn. So hard to avoid but lets face it, it doesn't last long and its somewhat enticing. Flavors change with the seasons and right now pumpkin flavor is everywhere! Seems to me like it started right after Labor Day. Everywhere you look there are products with pumpkin as the main ingredient. I have seen but seldom try pumpkin flavored scones, ice cream, yogurt, ale, coffee...even peanut butter? I am not that fond of pumpkin flavored anything and although I thought I might skate by and avoid it altogether, I broke down and gave in. It didn't hurt that I had two cans of pumpkin puree that were close to expiration and since I try not to let anything go to waste, started looking for a recipe. 

Although I  am still making ice cream, I have cut down my flavor experimentation and consumption considerably since the fall started. I toyed with the idea of creating a pumpkin ice cream because every major manufacturer of ice cream has a limited edition seasonal pumpkin flavor of some sort. I could add a new flavor to my ice cream collection! I did some research and perused a ton of recipes in the hopes to spark a craving and motivate me but in the end, pumpkin flavored ice cream no matter what the recipe, just did not sound that appealing to me.

I have been making banana bread in its various forms pretty much once a week for as long as I can remember so this week I decided to forgo the banana and create a pumpkin quick bread instead. The results were surprisingly tasty. The bread came out moist with a delicate flavor of pumpkin enhanced with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Seasonally appropriate. It goes great with a cup of coffee or tea and a scoop of my homemade apple pie ice cream!



1 cup of pumpkin puree 
1 2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins ( I omitted since I do not like raisins, especially in my quick breads)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray

2. In a large bowl, stir pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs until well mixed. Stir in the nuts and raisins.

3. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes - 1 hour 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

4. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap tightly. Will store up to four days at room temperature or up to 10 days in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I have a confession to make. I'm obsessed with making ice cream. I think it all started when my oven broke and my baking came to a halt. It was summer and the ice cream maker had come off the shelf already but hadn't been used yet. I had added some new ice cream making books to our collection and I wanted to test them out. I also had some friends requesting that I make them peanut butter ice cream; one of my specialties and also one of my favorites. So, I started with the peanut butter, moved on to french vanilla and then never stopped! I tried coconut, heath bar, cookies and cream, banana chocolate chunk, blueberry, cherry chocolate chunk. I even made a rhubarb raspberry swirl with my leftover rhubarb from pie season. Seems like I have been making and hoarding ice cream for about two months now. Since then, my oven miraculously started working again. I'm really not sure why. I can get back to my baking now but at least I have an arsenal of ice cream flavors to get me through the winter.

All the ice cream flavors I made started out with a custard base. You can build a flavor by adding fruit, vanilla flavor or other flavorings, coconut, cookies or candy to the mixture.   First you have to whisk 6 egg yolks with sugar until it is light and fluffy. Yup...six egg yolks! I have even seen recipes for richer ice creams that call for 9 or even a dozen. Now with the price of eggs on the rise due to the Avian Flu, making home made ice cream is not easy on the pocketbook. But once you taste it, you will know why you can splurge on occasion. Or as for me...... quite often. Luckily, I have a friend that gives me fresh eggs from his farm. Using fresh eggs makes the ice cream extra scrumptious.

After heating the cream mixture, you temper the eggs by drizzling  in 1/2 the warm cream mixture and whisking. Then you return it to the original pot with cream and heat it until it gets a bit thicker and can coat the back of a wooden spoon. I pretty much have it memorized. That's what repetition can do to the brain! The following recipe will give you full details.

Vanilla Ice Cream
About 1 quart
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop 
For a richer custard, you can add up to 3 more egg yolks. For a less-rich custard, substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream, realizing that the final texture won’t be as rich or as smooth as if using cream.
  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.
2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Note: Used vanilla beans can be rinsed and dried, then stored in a bin of sugar. That sugar can be used for baking and, of course, for future ice cream making.

NOTE: I did not have a vanilla bean on hand and substituted pure vanilla extract - ( about a tablespoon.) I omit the vanilla flavor if I am adding fruit to the creamed mixture to make blueberry, raspberry, etc. 

I decided to order pint sized ice cream containers and labeled them with my flavor creation.

Here are the labels I bought. I think next time I will make personal labels on the computer and print them myself!

This recipe and others can be found in
 The Perfect Scoop 
by David Lebovitz

After you get the hang of it, you can experiment with flavors
like I do. My latest flavor inspiration came to me not only when I realized that summer is actually over and fall is in full swing but also when a friend gave me a bushel of organic apples. Apple Pie Ice Cream ! Maybe it will become a new fall favorite?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


There is a science to creating delicious food. One measure of a superior chef is to see if they can demonstrate their ability to combine and balance flavors.You might be familiar with some of the new game shows like Chopped, America's Top Chef and Iron Chef to name a few. Each show has a bit of a different twist but the challenge is for the chef to use mismatched and sometimes uncommon ingredients to test the chef's ability to work with and combine foods and spices to produce a wonderful end product. It takes skill, experience,confidence and creativity to build a mouthwatering masterpiece. I enjoy cooking but seldom have the extra time to experiment with unusual flavors. Typically, it is easier for me to rely on ingredients that are known to compliment each other. That's why for this month's post I decided to go with a flavor combination that is not only representative of summer but has proven to work well together: Pineapple and coconut.

Buttercream Dreams: small cakes, big scoops and sweet treats by Jeff Martin.



2 1/2  cups all -purpose flour

1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

3 large eggs

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup sour cream

1 1/2  cups canned crushed pineapple, drained slightly

1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside

3.  In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and granulated sugar on medium speed until
     slightly thickened and a light cream color, about 2 minutes. On low speed, mix the oil and vanilla
     until blended.

4. Add the sour cream and pineapple and gently mix until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture
    mix until just combined and smooth.

5. Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full of batter. Bake for 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into     the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

6.  To make the coconut-cream cheese frosting, in a large bowl using a hand mixer beat the butter
      until smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until well combined, about 30 seconds.

7.  Add the vanilla and coconut extract. Add the confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time and blend on
      low speed until combined. Raise the speed to medium and beat until the batter begins to get
8.  Slowly add the heavy cream and the rum (if using) Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

9.  Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe a swirl of frosting on top of            each cupcake. Top with a few sprinkles of toasted coconut. Store in an airtight container in the            refrigerator for up to 3 days.


1 stick unsalted butter

1 ( 8 oz package of cream cheese)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract

4 cups confectioner' sugar

1 Tablespoon heavy cream

1 Tablespoon dark rum (optional)

Toasted coconut for garnish

The icing is on the sweet side. If you don't care for super sweet icing you can 1/2 the recipe or add confectioners' sugar a little at a time and test for sweetness. In addition, you can omit the heavy cream and substitute it with pineapple juice.

Friday, July 3, 2015


I don't know about you but when the weather gets hot, I don't care to put my oven on very much. Even though the air conditioning helps make it bearable, most of my dinners are on the grill. Its quick, easy and cleanup is a breeze. Summer isn't here for long, so might as well spend less time slaving in the kitchen and more time outdoors.

July 4th is quickly approaching, so this month's blog I decided to focus on burgers. What better way to celebrate this country's independence by grilling some thick, hot, juicy burgers.  Not only are hamburgers a summer fare but they are truly all American!  

Over the years the traditional American burger has evolved.  There are so many new variations on this classic beef patty with American cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun. The other day I went to a popular family restaurant chain and had an Asian inspired burger with chile sauce and pineapple.To some, that might be a bit unusual but I have to tell you, it was fabulous! 

So with that in mind, I think you should take a look at BOBBY FLAY'S GRILL IT!  He says he's a burger man, plain and simple but has explored the possibility of  transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. He suggests using the 80/20 combo cheaper ground beef (with some exceptions) because the higher fat content gives the burgers the juiciest, tastiest flavor. I will be making the Texas Burger but you can also try green chile cheeseburgers, blue cheese sirloin burger with red wine-onion jam, nacho burgers, buffalo burgers and many others.



1 1/4 cups BBQ Sauce (recipe follows but I chose my own store bought sauce just to make it easier you'll see why)
2 lbs ground chuck  (80% lean) 
2 Tbs canola oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
4 hamburger buns
Dill pickles, thinly sliced


3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 small white onion, grated
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp celery seed
3 Tbs apple-cider vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small head of cabbage, cored, finely shredded
1 large carrot, finely shredded

1. To make coleslaw, whisk together the mayonnaise, onion, sugar, celery seed, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add the cabbage and carrot and stir to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving. 

2. Heat your grill on high. Divide the BBQ sauce between 2 bowls, one to use while grilling and one to use when the meat is cooked.

3. Form the meat into 4 burgers, each 1 inch thick. Brush with the oil and season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Place on the grill until golden brown and slightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes. Brush with half of the barbecue sauce, turn the burgers over and continue cooking to medium, about 4 minutes longer.

4. Place the burgers on the bun bottoms and spoon barbecue sauce over the burgers. Top with some of the coleslaw, a few pickles and the bun tops and serve immediately.


2 Tbs canola oil
1 large Spanish onion, couasely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
2 cups canned plum tomatoes and juices, pureed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbs Dijon mustard
3 Tbs dark brown sugar
2 Tbs honey
1/4 cup molasses
3 Tbs ancho chile powder
3 Tbs pasilla chile powder
2 to 4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, pureed to taste
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, brown sugar, honey, molasses, both chile powders and the chipotles and simmer, stirring occasionally for an additional 30-40 minutes, until thickened. 

2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. The sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.

There's a lot more than just burger recipes in this fully illustrated grilling book. It covers, beef, chicken, shrimp, fish and marinades. Included is a guide to the types of grills, how to stock a perfect pantry and a resource guide for supplies, accessories and ingredients. 

Monday, June 8, 2015


Every year around this time, a friend gives me rhubarb from his garden so I can make him a pie. It is a hardy perennial that emerges in the spring through early summer and resembles celery but pink in color. A couple of years ago, knowing that I liked to bake, he asked me if I made rhubarb pie. At the time, I did not know much about rhubarb, if I liked it or if I even knew how to make a pie. My baking experience mostly encompassed cakes, cookies and brownies but I decided to take on the pie challenge. To me, the pie dough is the most time consuming part of making a pie since most fruit pies are mainly fruit and sugar.

Rhubarb is a very old plant. It dates back to 2700 BC and grew on the banks of the Volga River near the Ukraine and Russia and in China. It is documented to be used for medicinal purposes in Asia around 206 BC. For centuries, it was only used for this purpose. It took a while to travel to the United States. By the late 18th century it was found in Maine when a gardener brought back seeds from Europe. Its popularity grew and by 1822 it was sold in produce markets. Today's varieties are simply for cooking and is most often used in desserts although you can find it in some Middle Eastern cuisine.

Rhubarb resembles celery but has long green or pink stalks and large glossy leaves. It has a distinct tart taste is mainly cut up and stewed or used in pies, crumbles, tarts and jams. At times it is paired with a sweet fruit such as strawberries to cut the tart flavor. The leaves are poisonous so only the stalks are edible. Botanically rhubarb is a vegetable but in 1947 it was classified as a fruit by a U.S. Customs Court in Buffalo, N.Y. because it is mainly used as a fruit. At the time this ruling was significant because there was a higher tax on vegetables. 

I made this pie twice. The first time I had the patience and the time, so I made the fresh pie dough. It was super light and flaky and it really was not that hard to do at all. The second time I made this pie, I cheated and used store bought pie dough. Not a bad choice if you are in a rush and don't have the time or want to deal with the cleanup. I have to say that it comes a close second to home-made.


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
5 cups rhubarb (about 2 lbs) chopped 1 inch per slice
1 Tbs butter
1 beaten egg to brush on crust


1 Stick butter - chilled and cut into large chunks
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
2 1/2 cups flour, plus at least 1/2 cup extra for rolling
Ice water (fill a cup but only use enough to moisten dough)

In a deep, large bowl, work the butter and shortening into the flour and salt with your hands until you have almond and pea sized lumps of butter. Then drizzle ice water in a little at a time. Toss the water around with your fingers to get the dough. When the dough holds together on its own and doesn't fall apart you can stop adding water. Divide the dough into two balls and form into a disc shape. Sprinkle flour on the rolling surface and on the top of the dough. Roll to a thinness where the dough almost seems transparent. Lift the pie dough into the plate and trim excess dough. (For a more detailed version of dough recipe instructions, consult with the book: Ms. American Pie by Beth M. Howard)

Now it is time to fill the pie.

Prepare the filling: Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and mix with the dry ingredients. Mix in about 5 cups of rhubarb and pour into the pie shell. Place a pat of butter on top then cover with the top crust. Be sure to trim the crust and flute the edges. Brush with a beaten egg.

Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes and then turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees and bake for another 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling. 

**** To avoid a sticky rhubarb mess, line a pan with foil and set the pie on the pan before baking. Good luck and enjoy!

Still not convinced to try rhubarb? Ms. American Pie by Beth Howard has other delicious recipes like toffee pecan, blueberry, black raspberry, apple and more! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


I have been craving Thai food lately. I don't know what it is but it seems like I have to order Thai at least once a week now. There are not many Thai restaurants around and I have pretty much tried all of them within a 10 mile radius of home and work! I guess it's my latest food obsession. So much so, that I decided to make one of my favorite appetizers at home: Thai Summer Rolls. These rolls are like eating fresh vegetables and shrimp with a hint of mint all wrapped up into a rice paper wrapper. They are not fried but eaten fresh. Its kind of like a salad wrapped up in a light blanket. They are super healthy and low calorie. Don't feel bound to the recipe either. I changed a couple of things to make it more convenient for me. I have seen similar recipes that call for cabbage, cilantro, tofu, cucumber ....so feel free to change it up a bit.

I found a book in our collection: EVERYDAY THAI COOKING  by Katie Chin. It was perfect since I do not know much about Thai food; only what I have tried at restaurants and believe me, I am only getting started! This book was a great help in introducing me to Thai cuisine, It provides the tips, tools and techniques to make Thai cuisine in your own home! Try it, its a nice change from the boring and ordinary.


2 oz dried rice vermicelli
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dark sesame oil
16 medium sized raw shrimp
1 package of 12 in round rice paper wrappers
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1 cup carrots cut into matchsticks
4 Tbs of fresh mint leaves
4 Tbs of fresh basil leaves (I substituted cilantro and scallions and it was delish!)
8 large or 16 small red-leaf lettuce leaves, cut in half lengthwise

Place the rice vermicelli in a large bowl. Pour enough hot water over them to cover. Let stand until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Toss with 1 tsp of sesame oil. ( I omitted the noodles since I did not have any on hand)

Add the shrimp to boiling water; reduce heat to medium. Cook shrimp until it turns pink, about 2-3 minutes. Drain. When cool, remove the shells. Cut each shrimp in half lengthwise, and set aside.

I put out all the ingredients to fill the rolls on paper plates for easy cleanup and to have it organized so I can make the rolls without hassle.

Now fill a large, flat bowl with warm water, making sure it is large enough to fit the rice paper wrappers. Lay a clean towel on the workspace in front of you. Carefully dip a round wrapper into the water, just to get it wet all over, trying not to crack it. It will still be slightly hard. Remove it from the water and lay it onto the clean towel where it will continue to soften.

Layer a small amount of each of the ingredients on the bottom 1/3 of the wrap. Start with a lettuce leaf, then about 1 Tbs of bean sprouts, 2-3 pieces of shrimp, some noodles, followed by some shreds of carrot and then top with 2 leaves of basil and mint. Fold up the bottom 1/3, fold in the sides and roll up the rest of the length to make an egg roll shape. Set aside and continue with the rest of the ingredients until all of the rice wrappers are used. Serve with Hoisin Peanut Sauce for dipping.


1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 Tbs creamy peanut butter
2 Tbs water 
1 Tbs rice or white vinegar
Crushed roasted peanuts for garnish

Bring hoisin sauce, peanut butter, water and vinegar to a boil in a saucepan over moderately high heat. Immediately remove from heat. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Garnish sauce with crushed peanuts.

Monday, March 30, 2015


With recent recalls of commercially produced dog food, consumers have been more aware of what they are feeding their four legged friends. The pet industry continues to thrive. According to the American Pet Products Association, the total U.S. Pet Industry Expenditures rose from $17 billion in 1994 to a whopping $58.04 billion in 2014 and estimated to increase to around $60 billion in 2015. This trend is only proving that our little furry friends are being treated just like one in the family. With that said, more people are turning to natural recipes and premium products to keep their family member happy and healthy.

Around 20 years ago when I had two Springer Spaniels, I  started making home-made dog bones purely for the enjoyment of pampering my two pooches. They loved them so much that I thought I was on to something. I toyed with the idea of marketing natural dog treats, possibly having a gourmet dog bakery or even better, a food truck that could travel to dog parks and provide healthy natural treats. Sounds a little crazy but I think I missed my opportunity because since then, huge warehouse size pet stores and premium natural dog foods have become the norm. There is a large demand in specialized products and services for all types of household pets.


1/2 cup mashed banana
1/3 cup peanut butter ( I used all natural)
1/2 cup oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Knead the dough enough to form into a ball. Spread some wheat flour on table surface or cutting board and roll out with a rolling pin. Cut into bone or other fun shapes. Use parchment paper on cookie sheet and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. I turned the oven off and left the biscuits in the oven for 5 minutes longer to make extra crispy. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

I enjoy baking to try new recipes but sometimes purely for the simple gratification of pleasing others. Its has always been very rewarding to hear that someone enjoyed my creation. Same goes for when you surprise your "best pal" with a home-made treat. They might not verbally express their approval but they find ways to let you know if it passed the test. I know my dogs love them just by the way they come running when I take out the box of treats. To complete the taste test, I distributed samples to all the dog owning staff members to see if their favorite pooch loved them too. Looks like they scarfed them up and are begging for more!

I decided to make these especially for Xavier on his 4th birthday.


Friday, February 13, 2015


I don't know about you but after shoveling heavy snow, scraping ice and dragging bags of rock salt, home is where  I want to be. We have had our share of snowy days, winter weather advisories and nor'easters. On days like that, I crave comfort food. Something to take away the chill in your bones after being out in the cold.

One snowy blizzard day, while stuck inside, I decided to make Ina Garten's Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons. A great recipe to use ingredients already in the pantry. Believe me, when I crave comfort food, I am serious and determined but not crazy enough to drive out in a blizzard! Having ingredients on hand is the key to survival. When most people run to the store before a predicted blizzard and buy milk, bread and eggs, I run for ingredients needed to try some new recipes and of course since its cold outside they are recipes for warm, hearty, comfort foods like stew, soups, and baked goods. Goodbye diet.....for now anyway.

I had idea for making tomato soup and the grilled cheese croutons because I had just made a fresh cheddar cheese bread with my bread maker. Instead of using the country white bread the recipe called for, I thought using cheddar cheese bread would make the croutons cheesier....and it did!


3 Tablespoons good olive oil
3 Cups yellow onions chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
4 Cups chicken stock, preferable homemade (I used store bought)
1 can crushed tomatoes, preferable San Marzano
Large pinch of saffron threads (you can omit if you do not have)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Cup orzo
1/2 Cup heavy cream

In a large pot of Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.


4  (1/2 inch thick) slices country white bread - I used cheese bread YUM!
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated   - You can use any cheese you like

Heat a panini  grill. Place the four slices of bread on cutting board and brush lightly with melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile the Gruyere on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.

Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1 inch cubes.

* If you don't have a panini press, just make them the traditional way in a frying pan.

This book is about planning a menu and coordinating everything so it all gets to the table at the same time. Ina shows you how to make a game plan so everything is served hot while you keep your cool. There are notes throughout detailing where a recipe can go wrong to keep you on track, plus tips for making recipes in advance.