Itinerant Pieing

DSC07624Hi there. I’m back. Well, I’ve been back for over a week now, but a nasty souvenir head cold clogged the synapses with gunk, and any thought of cognitive thought was snotty at best. A souvenir you say? You went someplace? Yup, two weeks ago I made a trip two years in the making. I went back home.

I need to rephrase that. My home is wherever I am, which at the present time happens to be in the left-hand corner of the map. I went back, after a two-year absence, to the places I called home for a very long time.

Choice and circumstance kept me away for those two years. Circumstance, because to be blunt, I wasn’t making enough to afford the trip. Choice, well that’s a bit more complicated.  After doing something big and scary like picking up and going someplace you’ve never been, to do something you’ve never done, (and aren’t even quite sure you can do), it takes time to adjust. Going “back home” too soon, especially when you are knee-deep in doubt, is like waving a giant bag of jelly beans in front of a diabetic. “Screw this insanity, hell YES I’ll move back” is just too tempting. Luckily I had the occasional clarity of thought to know that. Clarity, and a crap-load of cardboard in my basement reminding me of just how much stuff I removed from the east and transported to the west. Resolution of thought and the dread of packing are powerful things.

What does all of this have to do with pie? It seems EVERYTHING I do has something to do with pie. I sell pie. I keep posting pictures of adorable little pies on the internet. Facebook, Instagram, and other assorted inter web spots are papered (screened?) in my pies. I’ve brought this upon myself, I know. I’m trying to build a business on a shoestring, butter and flour. And hate it or love it, this social media stuff is mostly free advertising. I’m all about the mostly free. Now imagine all of the folks back home following my on-line tartscapades, hitting “like”, making yummy and drooly comments, etc. Fast forward to the pie-er actually showing up in front of some of those droolers. Guess what they ask. Go ahead. “Where’s MY PIE?!” Ok, perhaps it was a little subtler than that, but picture a puppy as you are walking out the door after you’ve just said “ok now, be good, I’ll be back soon.” You know that “ok, but where’s my cookie” look? Exactly.

2015-06-08 14.56.13I truly don’t mind. I mean, I’m with the people who know me best and still love me. I love making them pie. They get a little slice of me, and a little slice of just what the hell I’ve been doing way out here. If butter, flour, fruit and sugar is the currency for the hospitality of my family and friends, so be it. Truth be told, I offer it up as much as it’s requested. It’s pretty cool to be known for something as magical as pie. Plus there isn’t much better than catching up after a long time away from the girls over a slice of flakey goodness. It answers the “so what have you been doing the past two years” question quite effectively. Call it the sisterhood of the traveling tarts if you like (on second thought, please don’t). If itinerant pieing is what I need to do when I come back for a visit, then bake on I say. Can’t think of a better way to share the love with my peeps.

And as far as sticking around here in the upper left corner? Yes I am, at least for now. I just renewed my kitchen license, the lease where that kitchen lives, and am in the process of planning new pie exploits for the CIMH Kitchen. Yet as any true itinerant pie-er knows, plans can change in a heartbeat, but you’re always welcome to set up camp wherever you go. Just remember to bring pie. ;-)

2015-06-08 15.33.41 2015-06-08 15.35.47

There really isn’t much to making a pie, especially a one-crust pie. You don’t even need a pie tin. A cookie sheet and piece of parchment is about all the equipment it takes. Heck, you don’t even need to make pie dough, although I think I’ve shown you over the many many times pie has shown up here that’s not too tough either. Making crust too daunting? Buy one, or a box of puff pastry if you prefer.   This is pretty much technique, not recipe.  Pie crust + fruit + sugar + some crumbs under the fruit to sop up juices + hot oven (400F hot) = PIE. However, since this is technically a recipe blog (kinda, sorta) here are some tips for tasty tarting  you might find helpful.

  • Terminology: Pie, crostata, tart, galette. All ways of saying pie to me. Therefore, I use them interchangeably. You want to get technical? Crostata (Italian) and galette (French) are usually freeform, without a pie tin. Tarts tend to be baked in a pan, though not always. This is way too complicated. Call it pie. Pie is good.
  • See that fancy looking crust? Not too tough either. It’s just a question of starting in one spot, and keep folding over a little bit of edge til you reach where you started. Like this:  (*NOTE: this video was made a year ago for a smaller individual pie, not the larger one I have pictures of in this post – no worries, just make smaller folds. The technique, and optional Ed Sullivan plate spinning music singing are the same.)
  • Your fruit not perfect? Sprinkle it with sugar, let it sit about 30 minutes.
  • Want a crunchy sweet crust? Sprinkle it with sugar before it goes in the oven. And don’t forget to sprinkle a teaspoon or few over the fruit before it goes in the oven too, even if you’ve let the fruit sit sugared a little.
  • How do you know when it’s done? Bubbly is a good indicator, brown crust is better. Don’t be timid. Beige is not pie crust’s friend, golden brown is. If you think it’s done, give it another 3-5 minutes (and DON’T walk away.) Trust me on this, you won’t regret it.
  • Leftovers (yeah, right…): Don’t refrigerate. Don’t wrap airtight unless you are planning to freeze. Leave on counter, lightly covered with a piece of wax paper or parchment. Airtight means soggy crust.
  • Freezing: Yes, both pre and post baking. You can bake an unbaked tart directly from freezer, just give it a bit more time in the oven. Want to bake off a bunch of small crostata and reheat as needed?Go right ahead. Make sure they have cooled completely, then put in freezer bag and stow.
  • Reheating: 350F oven, for about 15 minutes from freezer should crisp up that crust nicely. It won’t be as good as it is right out of the oven fresh, but it’s pretty damn good regardless.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

Endangered Species

I’m seriously considering printing t-shirts. SAVE THE ENDANGERED GLUTEN! I have this recurring nightmare that one morning I’ll wake to do my early bake, walk into my kitchen, and a gluten hating zombie horde, (there’s always a zombie horde in apocalyptic nightmares) has replaced all my gluten-filled flours with oat, brown rice, and, (oh my GAWD) millet. THE HORROR!!!!!

Why is it that gluten has suddenly become the bad guy? I’m half expecting to see its face on a poster in the Post Office as culinary public enemy number one, knocking carbohydrates off the top of the list. Menus, magazines, celebrity doc talk shows all preach the gluten-abstinence gospel, and ex-gluties will proudly tell you how they kicked the habit, then describe in detail the awful things gluten does to you as you stand in line waiting for your coffee and killer wheat breakfast. What did poor gluten do to deserve this?

Look, everyone is entitled to feed their body as they see fit. And I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate gluten allergy sufferers out there. I personally know those who’ve had to eschew all flakey doughy bliss for diagnosed health reasons, and my heart goes out to them. To be faced with the fate of no more crispy baguette, chewy soft pretzels, heavenly pasta and, gasp, BAGELS is a sentence I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But I have a sneaking suspicion the genetically glutenless are a lot fewer than would appear based upon all the coverage “gluten-free” is getting. Actually, I know it for a fact.

I’ve been behind the apron when the request came in for gluten-free. And after making an entire separate menu to accommodate these 3 out of a party of 30 guests for 3 days, discovered that no, they weren’t medically mandated. They were on the gluten-free bandwagon and decided they’d give it a try. Yup. Gluten-less posers. These are the folks who give the legitimately gluten-free a bad name. And the irony is if I asked my medically gluten-free friends, not a one would choose to ban gluten if they didn’t have to! The problem as I see it is that we’ve become overrun with food faddists and evangelists. You’ve seen them before. The low carbers, paleo dieters, zoners, juicers, raw fooders, green fooders, raw green fooders! Every year another new way to eat comes along. And every year folks looking for a new fix become evangelized and go forth preaching their diet.

Hey, if it works for you, have at it. As for me, I think I’ll just stick to my old diet of loving food, all of it. Food isn’t evil or scary or “bad”, and providing you haven’t an allergy, food loves those who love it. Now I’d like my coffee and killer bagel please. And can I get a little extra gluten with that, on the side?;-)

2015-05-14 14.19.42So, why would I give you a recipe for something with no gluten in a post dedicated to saving the gluten? Well, two reasons. First, because I love my gluten-free gentle readers too, and second, this is just an awesome dessert and perfect for the holiday weekend. So hush up now and pay attention. Pavlova has been around for almost 100 years, and was first made in Australia or New Zealand (both claim it) in honor of a visit from the famous prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Basically it’s a big meringue, crunchy on the outside, marshmallowy on the inside and topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. I recently made it, topped with roasted rhubarb and fresh raspberries for my cooking class at the Hawks Ridge Assisted Living Facility, and not only did they love it, one of the women had actually seen Anna Pavlova perform when she was a little girl! So here’s Pavlova with Roasted Rhubarb. And for the gluten lovers out there, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. Here’s something I’ll be making on the grill this Memorial Day – Feta Stuffed Flatbread.

Pavlova with Roasted Rhubarb – (Adapted from The Kitchn and  Martha Stewart Living)

Makes one Pavlova that will easily serve 10

For the meringue base:2015-05-13 19.14.54

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

For the topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the fruit:

  • 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced on the bias into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 pint raspberries

2015-05-13 19.51.21Move rack to lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 400 °F. Combine rhubarb,water,  3/4cup sugar, tablespoon lemon juice, and a pinch of salt in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Bake until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes, spooning juices over halfway through. Carefully transfer rhubarb pieces (they will be very soft) to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with a spatula; reserve juices. Let cool completely.

Turn down oven to 275°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Trace a 9″ circle on the parchment using a cake pan or dinner plate as a guide. Flip the parchment over. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Mix the vanilla and white vinegar together in a separate bowl.

Make sure your mixing bowl and beaters are very clean with no residual fat or grease. Pour the egg whites in to the bowl and begin beating at low speed. Gradually increase the speed to medium. When the egg whites have reached soft peak consistency and the beaters leave trails in the whipped whites, begin adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time, waiting a few seconds between each addition. While doing this, gradually increase the speed so that you are at maximum speed once all the sugar has been added.

2015-05-13 18.55.37Continue whipping until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Stop the mixer and sprinkle the vanilla and vinegar over the meringue. Beat for another 20 seconds to fully mix. Use a spatula to scrape all the meringue onto the parchment in the center of the circle. Working from the inside out, spread the meringue to fill the circle. Smooth the sides if desired or leave it in billowy lumps.

2015-05-13 18.59.40 Put the meringue in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 250°F. Make for 60-70 minutes. The pavlovas are done when the outsides are dry to the touch, are very slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped. It’s 2015-05-13 19.39.31fine if cracks form in the crust.

Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova inside with the oven door ajar. Let sit until the pavlova is completely cooled, or overnight. At this point, the pavlova can be wrapped in plastic or sealed in an airtight container and kept for several days unless your house gets very humid (in which case, eat your pavlova right away!).

2015-05-14 14.21.52Just before you’re ready to serve, make the whipped cream. Combine the cream, vanilla, and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until stiff peaks are formed. Spread the whipped cream over the pavlova, leaving a little bit of an edge. Top with fruit and serve within an hour or two. (Do not refrigerate; the meringue will quickly soften.)

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, and please give a thought of thanks to those this holiday is about.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

Real Gourmet

DSC07902I’m a good, sometimes great cook, and my heart cockles warm when I overhear someone I’ve fed call me that. But please, pretty please, don’t call me a “gourmet cook”. I honestly hate that term. I don’t know if it’s because it brings to mind visions of snooty elites and $100 entrees, or that I just have no idea what a “gourmet cook” is. Either way it’s one of those phrases that just pisses me off.

According to wiki-whatever, the word means “refined, elite, a higher degree of sophistication” and other hoity words you’d suspect. As if a gourmet’s palate has specially adapted taste buds that look down upon the lower, classless buds living on the other side of the tongue. To me, food should be far more democratic than that. I’m a culinary socialist with a palate of the people. Sure I love layered flavors, unique ingredients, creative cooking and top quality tasty things. I just don’t think those things should be elevated over a really good street dog with the works, a perfectly baked potato, or even a late-night plate of stoner nachos. If it tastes great at the time you’re tasting, right on! Who’s to say noshes that would send a self-defined gourmet screaming into the night aren’t gourmet to someone else? After all, one mouth’s trash is another mouth’s treasure, right?

Which brings me to Mormon Funeral Potatoes and a moment of enlightenment. This most tasty and decidedly not (by Wiki standard) gourmet fare falls into the culinary category of hot dish or casserole. You know, one of those wonderful concoctions shared at potlucks and hospitality hours, or brought over to nourish the grieving and guests (hence the name). In its most traditional form, a can of condensed soup, cheese and corn flakes aren’t far from the ingredient list. About a week ago, I tasted a version that can only be described as bar food nirvana.


The best bar food EVER, courtesy of The Garage on Beck (and Josh).

That Mormon Funeral Potatoes would enter my life had been foretold to me about a month or two earlier. After receiving instructions to “google it”, I had a vision of what might unfold from this potato and cheese prophesy. But it wasn’t until I landed in Salt Lake City a few months later that the full extent of my culinary awakening was clear.

My prophet escorted me into a temple of MFP worship called The Garage on Beck. Our minister Josh handed us prayer menus and we took our place on stools, ready to receive our tater testimony.  Sacramental PBRs were poured, and the reason I was there was placed in front of me. One bite of the revelatory nugget and I knew my life would be forever changed by this bar nosh of trashy greatness. Am I gushing? Perhaps. But if you’d tasted a perfect creamy combination of cheese, bacon and potato wrapped in a perfect deep fry crunch and washed it down with a cold beer, you’d be gushing from steeple-top too. This, my brothers and sisters, this right here, is real gourmet food. AMEN!

IMG_2018 The manager of The Garage on Beck, Josh, is terrific guy. I have a complimentary shot glass to prove it. Unfortunately, Josh was a bit hesitant to ask the cook when when I inquired about the recipe for bar nosh nirvana. I get that. When you’ve perfected something so wonderful, you want to keep it close. Luckily, he was able to give me a  really good visual on what went into the mix, so I figured I could play around a little when I got home. What I found out after some more research is that I wasn’t the first to ask for the recipe. Sunset Magazine had beat me to it, and published it when they featured Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes as one of their Chefs’ Favorite Restaurant Dishes in March 2013. So that’s the recipe I’ll share with you. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t play around a little with it, since that’s kinda what I do.

At The Garage, MFP are served with a ranch dressing dipping sauce. But my mormon funeral potato missionary and I thought there might be a better way. With the original recipe from Sunset, I’ve included two suggestions for dipping sauces. The first, Wasabi Ranch, and the second Horseradish Honey Mustard both gave a really nice bite of heat and sweet, but if you’d like to stick with ranch I can testify that it was really tasty too. And if you come up with another saucy suggestion, please share in the comments. What good is finding wonderful noshes of trashy goodness if you can’t spread the word! ;-)

Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes (From Sunset Magazine, February 2013) 

Makes 20

These little nuggets from The Garage restaurant, in Salt Lake City, are based on Mormon funeral potatoes, a crunchy, cheesy, creamy casserole dish that is served at just about any big function in that town. Rolled into balls and deep-fried, they are totally over the top.

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups defrosted frozen shredded hash browns
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely ground corn flakes, divided
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Whirl bacon, cream cheese, onion, jalapeños, green onion, and sour cream in a food processor, about 1 minute. Place in a large mixing bowl. Stir hash browns, cheddar, flour, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and 3 tbsp. ground corn flakes into bacon mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of potato mixture and roll into a ball. Drop ball into a bowl filled with 3/4 cup corn flakes and roll to coat (mixture will firm up once coated). Place on sheet and repeat with remaining mixture. Chill until ready to cook. Heat 2 in. oil in a medium pot until it registers 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry potato balls, a few at a time, until golden, 5 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.

Wasabi Ranch Dip/Dressing Makes about 1/2 cup, and can be doubled/tripled easily Whisk together the following ingredients. Chill until ready to use. (This is also pretty awesome on a steak sandwich!)

  • 5 TBSP sour cream
  • 2-3 TBSP buttermilk (depending upon how thin you want dip)
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp prepared wasabi (depending on taste and heat tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Lowry’s Season Salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 tsp – 1 TBSP mayonnaise
  • Squirt of lemon

Horseradish Honey Mustard Whisk together the following and chill until ready to use.

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp honey

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

Little Balls of Love

DSC03536_2Stop snickering and pay attention (especially you, over there…I know who you are.)  Have you ever noticed that some of the best, most comforting culinary representations of love are round and often filled with something wonderful? I’m talking about dumplings. Dumplings = love. Tasty, comforting love. Call them knödel,  samosas, gyoza, ha gao, pierogi, gnocchi, gnudi, kreplach, matzoh balls, I don’t care. Just call me, because I’ve never met a dumpling I didn’t like. I’ve never researched this, but my guess is the dumpling in its myriad forms evolved from love. Love, and economy. Take flour, maybe some sort of fat and probably leftovers or fruit past its glamour shot prime and you’ve got it.  Or maybe no filling at all, just glorious gravy to sop up. Cheap, usually easy and always delicious. Yup, dumplings are pretty genius, whether as a means to nourish while using up things, make something special out of nothing, or just be a love-filled comfort carrying sponge. So why all the dumpling gushing? I recently had occasion to bake a version I’d never tried before. I do a monthly recipe demo/class at a lovely assisted living facility in my town. I love my Hawk’s Ridge gals, and when I do my planning I usually try to bring them something that’s easy enough to demo in about 30 minutes and uses familiar ingredients, perhaps even something they made themselves for their family. Apple and Pear Dumplings did the trick last week. The fruit was readily available, and since I make pastries weekly for a local cafe, so was extra pie dough. 2015-04-17 21.01.14I discovered apple dumplings back in my heel and suit wearing days, when I had the chance to visit Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market while attending a business convention. Reading Market is an amazing indoor market filled with food, food and more food. I happily ate my way through over the course of the week, sampling treats from practically all over the globe. A highlight was the Amish stand. Fresh made cheeses, sausages, and OH MY the apple dumplings!  I have no idea why I never made them before last week, but MAN am I happy I do now.  Easy, flakey, sweet and giddy comfort, all in the palm of my hand. Come here my little ball of sweet sweet love…. FullSizeRenderApple or Pear Dumplings This is one of those “technique” recipes, rather than precise measured ingredients. Staying true to the “dumpling ethos”, my recipe was originally created because I had pie dough scraps and some small apples and pears I needed to use up. It’s also highly adaptable, though I’d be careful using fruit that is highly juicy, since it gets a pastry wrapping, and soggy is not pie dough’s friend. I’ve adapted the recipe below for one pie crust, which should make about 4 dumplings.

  • 1 pie crust, rolled out to a little larger than 12″ x 12″ square. If you have a pre-rolled crust, you’ll want to roll it out a little more so you can get four squares or circles that measure about 5 1/2 inches each.
  • 4 small (about 2 1/2″ diameter) apples, or pears, or two of each
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts
  • sugar for sprinkling

You don’t have to peel the fruit but could if you like. I don’t and just wash and dry it well. Cut the apple in half horizontally, then take a melon baller and scoop out the core and seeds, leaving a little fruit on the bottom so you have a hole you can fill. If you are using pears, cut them the same way, core the bottom half, (and snack on the top.) In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, zest, salt, butter and cinnamon. Using a fork, mix well so you wind up with something similar to streusel. Roll out the dough, then cut into four 5 1/2 inch squares (or circles), saving a little dough to make 4 small leaves. Sprinkle the center of each dough square with a quarter of the chopped nuts. Place the fruit on top of the nuts, then fill the hole you made with a fourth of the sugar/butter mix. Wet a finger with water, and paint a border around the edges of the dough square (this will help it stick together.) Take opposite corners of the dough and bring up over the fruit making a triangle. Pinch the dough together. If it doesn’t quite reach, carefully pat out the dough a little larger. Do the same with the opposite corners. You should now have something that looks a little like a 4 point star. Wet the tip of each point with a little water, then wrap each point clockwise around the dumpling and press to the dough to stick. 2015-04-26 11.42.06If you cut out circles instead of squares, gather up around the fruit and pinch together like a pouch so everything is sealed. Cut 4 leaf shapes (or whatever shape you like) out of the little bit of dough you reserved, wet the back, and stick on top of each dumpling, pressing to seal.  Sprinkle a little white sugar on top. Bake at 375ºF for 20-30 minutes, until the dough is golden and puffed a little. Let sit 10 minutes before taking a bite! These can be formed ahead and kept in the fridge up to a day before baking too. Preheat oven, then bake them right from the fridge, adding about 5 minutes time if needed.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  


I like to think of it as being efficient. I’m the gal with a bag slung over shoulder, laptop case dangling on wrist, gripping three grocery bags in one hand while the other hand is balancing a full cup of lava-hot coffee and simultaneously turning key in lock, shoving my knee into the ajar door, flinging it open (one-legged), and bolting inside before it slams shut. Efficient, right? Lazy would be another description. Too lazy to be bothered with making two trips from the car, thus avoiding the high probability of flipping cup and contents and the resulting 2nd degree scorching as I watch my airborne laptop hit the pavement. Today however, my early morning episode of “Beat the Clock” was successful.

Efficiency, as defined in the dictionary in my brain doesn’t necessarily mean the best, most effective, or even fastest way to do something well. It’s more like how many layers I can cram into one action and still end up with the result I was aiming for. Well, close to aiming for, kinda… If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, this should not surprise you. Why do I bring this up? The other day I baked what I think is the culinary equivalent of efficiency. Or maybe it was just the most efficient delivery system of ‘HOLY CRAP THAT’S GOOD’ food, ever. A teeny bit overstatement perhaps, but MAN this package of tasty wrapped in pastry was good, quite effectively delivered a remarkable number of favorite food groups in one slice, feeds an army and keeps belly full and happy for a very long time. Surely food efficiency defined.

I discovered Torta Pasqualina about 20 years ago when I was working as a temp for a family of HVAC contractors. The job was just a job, something to pay the bills while trying to find the next step in my somewhat winding career path. But the people, and more importantly, the people watching was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in an office setting. Everyone was related, I mean everyone. If you weren’t in some degree born into the family you were married into it. Which made for pretty interesting overheard conversation, especially if you were the only unrelated one in the office. The good news was despite my lack of genetic or marital affiliation, I was still treated like family. Even better, I was fed like family too. This clan was old-school Italian with a fully equipped kitchen in the back of the building, and a fully equipped mama cooking in it daily. Since I was (between the hours of 9-5) family, I had a hot lunch every day. And if I remembered to bring some empty containers with me, I went home with dinner too, a bona-fide member on the family meal plan!  Which brings me back to the torta.

While I only worked there for a few months, those months fell over Easter, one of the BEST holidays to be Italian. As the holiday grew closer I started to hear about this thing called ‘Torta Pasqualina’. I asked what that meant and was told it was Easter pie. Pie? I LOVE pie! I still had no idea what was in it, but knew based upon all the hubbub surrounding its arrival, I wanted it badly. A few days later I got my chance. A “test torta” was brought in for lunch and I was invited to sample. The “pie” was made in a springform so taller than I had imagined, filled with layers of good stuff inside, and weighing what seemed about 10 pounds. I’m not kidding, I was asked to carry it in from the car. The crust was made up of layers of olive-oil based pastry dough and inside was a base of sautéed chard and buttery onions, followed by a layer of ricotta mixed with ample parmesan and a few beaten eggs. Then, imbedded in the layer of cheese,  perfectly hard-cooked golden egg yolks, followed by a bit more parmesan and topped by another few layers of pastry. A fully encased meal in one efficient package. My ample slice kept me full for lunch and dinner, and the leftovers became breakfast the next day. In other words, Torta Pasqualina was good hot, warm, or even cold!

2015-04-04 19.26.58I considered making one myself that year, but when I looked at the recipe mama gave me, it seemed WAY too complicated. So it became just another fond food memory. That is, until I saw a recipe a few weeks ago. Now a bit older (ok, more than a bit), and definitely culinarily wiser, I figured why not! If every family that ever made one had their own variation, I  could too, and still cram in every ounce of the goodness of the original. So here is it – my version of Torta Pasqualina. Based upon the reaction of the eager mouths I served, it was efficient, and delicious!

Torta Pasqualina (adapted from many Nonna and non-Nonna sources, including Food52 and Epicurious)

Makes One 10 or 12″ springform-sized torta, which can feed a small army or large family (and a friend)

Recipe Notes:  When I started to research this recipe, I discovered that some of the more traditional versions called for using 31 layers of pastry, one for each year of Jesus’ life. I also found many that stated this interesting fact, and then said, “but I only make 4 layers”. See…efficiency.  I took it a step further. I decided since I was already making pie dough for my weekly bake for clients, I may as well make some more and use that. And it worked out very well. You could also use bought all-butter puff pastry, or phyllo. It’s a great recipe to make any time of the year, and the perfect bring-along for picnics since it feeds a ton and can be eaten hot, room temperature, or even cold.


  • 2 recipes pate brisee, or two all-butter pie crusts (**you could also use puff pastry or phyllo dough. If you use phyllo, use about 4 sheets on bottom and top, brushing each layer with olive oil before placing the next on top.)
  • 500 grams or a pound of baby spinach/kale/chard mix (3-4 bags – you can get these in the salad section of the market, or just use spinach or chard.)
  • A generous 1/2 cup caramelized onions (about a cup to cup and a half raw chopped onions, cooked in olive oil over medium low heat until they are golden.)
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2-3 TBSP toasted pine nuts
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
  • Salt & pepper
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Prepare the greens layer:

Steam the greens with a tablespoon or two of water, good pinch of salt, a few grinds black pepper and the marjoram in a covered pan until tender – about 5 minutes. Drain off the water, let cool slightly, then put the greens on several layers of paper towels, roll up and squeeze to remove as much water as possible (too much liquid will create a soggy base). Finely chop the greens, add to a bowl with the 1/2 cup caramelized onions. Mix well, taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add in the raisins, pine nuts, and a third of the parmesan and set aside to cool completely.

 Prepare the ricotta layer:

In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 beaten eggs, a third of the Parmesan, pinch nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Beat until combined. Set aside in the fridge until needed.

2015-04-04 17.45.27To assemble the torta:

Spray or brush the inside of the springform with olive oil. Roll out one sheet of dough so it is large enough to line the springform bottom and sides with a little more than an inch overhang.

Fill the pie base with the greens mixture, smoothing over the top with the back of a spoon. Next, layer over the ricotta 2015-04-04 17.47.03mixture and smooth into an even layer. Using the back of a spoon, make 6 round indents over the surface of the ricotta that are big enough to fit an egg yolk in each. Crack an egg over a bowl to separate the white, leaving yolk. Carefully place the yolk in one of the indents in the ricotta. Repeat until all of the divots are filled. Whisk the whites together with a fork and pour just enough of the whites to make an even layer that just covers the ricotta. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan.

Roll out the top crust  so it is about an inch larger than the top of the pan. Gently lay it over the top of the pie. Trim any overhanging bottom dough so it is about the size of the top, then roll the bottom and top dough together so you have a 1/2″ rolled crust around the inside of the pan. Using your left thumb (or right thumb if you are left-handed), tuck it between the edge of pan and rolled crust. Using your other hand, gently pinch the rolled crust around your thumb to make a scalloped edge and seal the crust around the pie. If you have leftover trimmings, roll out and make leaves, branches, whatever makes you happy. Think of it as edible playdough. Use a little of the leftover egg white to paste the decorations to the top of the crust.2015-04-04 18.04.24

Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt (I like to use flake salt like Maldon for this), and place the pan on a parchment-lined backing sheet. This will make it easier to move in and out of oven and catch anything if torta bottom seeps a little (it might, mine did, but I just kept baking.)

Bake for about an hour to 1 1/2 hours or until the top is a nice golden brown.  Remove the pie from the oven and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the tin and cutting into it. If once you remove the sides of the pan the sides bow out a little don’t worry – they will firm up as it cools. I made this the evening before I served it, so it was room temperature when cut into and all the flavors had a chance to get to know each other a bit. Delizioso! :-)

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!  

Tasty Science

DSC03536_2I used to be a scientist. Didn’t know that one, did you? Yup, racks of test tubes, bubbling beakers hovering over bunsen burners, teeny critters swimming around microscope slides, white lab coat. Well actually, no. More like hip-waders, knee-deep in icy low-tide water, turning over rocks to see the squishy things underneath, and dreams of a red knitted cap on my head. Or, more often, scooping belly up freshwater guppies out of tanks in an effort to acclimate them to saltwater  — which apparently, they didn’t. Regardless of the setting, a scientist I was. At least one in training. And after I was handed my sheepskin and sent out into the world filled with my Cousteau-esque aspirations, those lab-coated days pretty much ended. That is, until a few years ago.

Right before I threw everything I owned in boxes and headed west, I was approached by a friend who asked if I was interested in becoming a recipe developer. Naturally, I said yes. Then I figured I’d better find out what exactly a recipe developer was. What I discovered is a profession, wherein someone was wiling to pay me to be a mad scientist in my own kitchen. Ok, so there’s a little bit more to it than that, but since I was already writing recipes for free several times a month, I figured how hard could it be?

Turns out, it’s not as easy as it seems. But then again, no mad scientist has an easy go of it.  Look at Dr. Frankenstein. Cobbling together his creature, then his creature’s bride was no walk in the park. First he had to find the brain, then those dead body parts, stitch it all together, and wait for a lightning-filled dark stormy night. Not to mention he had to do it all in black & white in a drafty damp castle. Luckily I have it better than Dr. F. My lab is my sunny, technicolor kitchen, Pandora mixes blasting out of the computer, apron and flip-flops instead of lab coat. It’s a pretty sweet setup, though I wouldn’t mind having Igor around to do the washing up. And maybe that steel contraption with the lightning and sparks. That thing is pretty cool.

FullSizeRenderAnyway, back to that recipe developer thing. Know what I get to create in my laboratory? COCKTAILS!! No, seriously — I get paid to develop and taste cocktails. Hey, someone has to do it. Actually, I develop cocktail mixers for one of my clients, a swanky caterer in NYC. The mixers are based upon the signature cocktails he serves at his events. Sure it’s a lot of fun, but it can also be pretty challenging, especially when I’m trying to figure out how to make something that can live in a bottle on a shelf, based upon something made fresh on the spot. However, I’ve discovered a trick in my laboratory that makes the challenge a little easier to overcome.

FullSizeRender - Version 2If the goal is to to get the essence of fresh ingredients into a mix, try creating an infused syrup. There’s really nothing new about this -Cocktail Scientists (bartenders) have known about it for years. Just about any flavor can be added to a simple syrup if you let it hot steep for a while. So at your next party, BBQ or homebound happy hour, make up a few of these and add to your bar. Who knows what tasty creations you’ll bring to life!

FullSizeRenderWhen it comes to cocktails, herbs and spices are particularly well suited to infused syrups. I like to use them when making up mixers because I don’t have to worry about powdered spices dissolving, or herbs looking like bits of lawn in the bottom of the glass. I’ve just given you a few ideas here, but there are countless more out there so I encourage you to experiment, and if you discover a great one, please share!

Equipment needed:

  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Cheese cloth
  • Mason jars

Most of the recipes below make a cup or so of flavored syrup, and can be easily doubled/tripled for a party. I buy a bunch of 8 oz ball jars to have around for my work, and they work great for storing syrups in the fridge too. Syrups keep 1 month refrigerated, if not longer. By the way, most of these are great for flavoring lemonade or ice tea too!

The technique is pretty much the same for all — Mince/Heat/Steep/Strain.

Basic Technique:

  • Mince, grate, crush flavoring.
  • Heat sugar and water until boiling, stir to dissolve sugar.
  • Pour over flavoring ingredient and steep until room temperature.
  • Strain through cheesecloth-lined strainer – when most of the liquid has drained, you can give the cheesecloth a squeeze too.
  • Keep in jar in refrigerator until using.

Herb Syrups:

Use fresh herbs, not dried, and the more finely minced the herb, the stronger the flavor it imparts. These work best for the more tender herbs, like basil, parsley, cilantro, and sorrel, and fresh lavender flowers.

Basic Herb Syrup for Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, Sorrel, Lavender

  • 1 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped herbs

Prepare using basic technique.

Suggested Cocktails:  Basil or cilantro syrup are great in margaritas, lemonade, Tom Collins, or added to ice tea. Lavender is lovely in lemonade (spiked or not) or ice tea. Sorrel has a wonderful lemony flavor, great with vodka and soda, gin or vodka tonic.

Cucumber Syrup

I recently discovered this one, and am just itching to put it with lime and tequila or vodka on the next hot day!

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup grated english cucumber (unpeeled – give a beautiful color)

Add the grated cucumber to a bowl — you want the flesh and any juice so I just grate it in a big bowl.  Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour over grated cucumber, pushing the cucumber down so it is completely covered. Steep until room temperature. Strain through cheesecloth-lined strainer. Keep refrigerated.

Spice Syrups

When making spice-infused syrups, use crushed whole spices instead of powdered.

Green Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, Coriander, Fennel or Allspice Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 oz crushed pods, berries, sticks, seeds, etc.

Prepare using basic technique.

Turmeric or Ginger Syrup

Turmeric syrup is a GORGEOUS saffron color, and with everyone all into turmeric these days, finding the fresh root in the market is getting pretty easy. This is more for color than flavor, but the syrup does have a subtle earthy flavor that is nice in citrus-based cocktails. Ginger syrup has spice and heat, and is wonderful in margaritas or other citrus-based cocktails, and is wonderful in tea or lemonade too.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 oz grated peeled root (remove the peels or you will have bitterness)

Prepare using basic technique.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!   :-)

The Expert?

2015-03-19 14.53.33I was recently invited to be a panelist at a local food conference. My fellow dias food wonks included successful specialty food company CEOs, a food scientist (yup, they exist), service providers and the like. What was I doing there? Well, according to the convener of this tasty gathering, I was the “recipe development expert”. I’ve been to my share of conferences over the years, many of which I produced during a former life in trade association management. I was most often the introducer, occasionally the moderator but very rarely the ‘expert’.

Let’s face it, ‘expert’ is a title best bestowed by others, especially if you want it reasonably believable. Self-inflicted expertise, at least in my view, seems a little narcissistic and always a bit suspect. The minute someone tells me they are an “expert”, I can’t get the vision of George Castanza standing there uttering ” the sea was very angry that day, my friends” out of my head. Being called an expert myself made me a bit uncomfortable.

Yet there I was on the dias, and as it became my time in the spotlight I could sense the audience’s anticipation of the finely honed pearls of wisdom this ‘expert’ was going to spew. Was there revelatory commentary? Earth-shattering insights inspiring frenzied note taking? Burning bush proclamations? Nope. I simply told folks what I had learned by doing the thing I was supposedly expert at. Most important, I relayed the discoveries I made through missteps and mistakes. After all, isn’t that what expertise is anyway? Something you’ve learned by getting your hands dirty, trying it, failing, and trying it again until you get it right.

I suggest the next time someone tells you they’re an expert, you ask them about their biggest mistake. If they really are expert, they’ll probably tell you, and I bet it’s the best thing they say.

2015-03-18 20.55.54This week, gentle readers,  you get two dishes for the price of one!  The first, Guinness Chocolate Cake with Whisky Glaze was the intended confection. The cake is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Guinness Chocolate Cake, and the glaze a miracle of butter, brown sugar, cream and whisky. Put the two together, and OH HELL YES!!

The second recipe is the result of a mistake that has likely happened to every baker out there. See that lovely cake in the pan at the top of the picture?  Pretty, isn’t it? It was, until it decided to fall apart when released from its pan. However, having been around this block before, and knowing full well there was no way I was going to toss an incredibly moist and wonderful pile of chocolate goodness, the Whisky Cake Trifle was born. The best things are discovered by mistake!

2015-03-18 21.32.27-1

Guinness Chocolate Cake with Whisky Glaze

(Inspired by Nigella Lawson, and a bottle of whisky)

Makes one 9-inch cake, or four 4-inch mini cakes.


  •  Butter for pan
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 10 TBSP (1 stick plus 2 TBSP) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare the pan: Butter a 9-inch springform pan, or four mini-springform pans. Since someone, somewhere decided new springforms need a waffled bottom, I always cut a piece of parchment the size of the bottom, butter it, and line the pans. Saves trying to pick cake out of all those waffled nooks and crannies. I also wrap the pans with foil just in case, having learned that one from watching batter flow out of too many springform pan bottoms.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and  Guinness together. Whisk the cocoa, sugar, and espresso powder together in a medium bowl. Once the butter melts, remove from heat, add cocoa mixture and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda and salt and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to an hour depending on your oven. Cool cakes completely before removing pans (trust me on this and learn from MY mistake.) While you are waiting for the cakes to cool, make the glaze.

2015-03-18 20.40.13FOR THE GLAZE(Great on the cake, great on ice cream, great on a spoon!)

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso power
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 TBSP bourbon or your favorite whisky
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, espresso powder, and brown sugar together. Add cream and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat, and whisk in sugar and salt until smooth. Stir in the whisky and let cool.

When the cake(s) are cool, remove pans and pour glaze over the top so it covers and drips down sides. If the glaze is too thick, pop in the microwave for a few seconds to heat and thin a little. Let cakes sit on a rack until the glaze has firmed up again. You can serve immediately or make these ahead – they last a few days, if you’re let them! ;-)

2015-03-19 14.55.26Whisky Cake Trifle

(Happily created from the outcome of a mistake!) Serves 8 – 10

  • 1 recipe crumbled Guinness Chocolate Cake
  • 1 recipe Whisky Glaze
  • 1 recipe Tangy Bourbon Cream (see below) 

Tangy Bourbon Cream: Beat together the following until thick (this won’t get as stiff as regular whipped cream): 1/4 cup sour cream, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 TBSP Bourbon. Fill 8 stemmed dessert dishes or wine glasses 2/3 full with crumbled cake. Spoon some cream over the cake, and a few tablespoons of whisky glaze over the cream. Add spoon, and ENJOY!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!   :-)


You’ve figured out what that this post is about, right? No? Take a look at this: fc_pi_41735_smGet it now? How about this? photoToday is Pi day. And depending upon how sincere your commitment to mathematics, (I’m speaking to you, ex-“mathletes” and fans of William Jones), at 9:26AM today or there about, the date and time equaled the value of π. This apparently gets some people very excited. I’m not one of them, but when I was up at 5AM this morning reading the daily news (a.k.a. Facebook), I happened upon this marginally interesting factoid and immediately thought about a topic that does get me excited. Pie. To sum up…

If fc_pi_41735_sm   =   image, then pie must be consumed today.

Here are some variations from the CIMH files. I’ll also be adding a new pie recipe this week featuring another of my favorite food groups, Guinness. Check back for that in about 3.141592653 days… ;-)

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!   :-)

Time Travel

FullSizeRenderHello fellow time travelers! You do realize that just like H.G. Well’s hero, we all became time travelers over the weekend, right? Sure, we didn’t get a cool vehicle with fancy seats and all those flashy lights and knobs, we slept right through it. But forward in time we went! Aren’t you thrilled? Yeah, probably not. Unlike going back in time in the fall, we lost an hour upon awaking Sunday morning. So instead of cuddling under comforters and enjoying the arms of Morpheus a little while longer, you were up, grumpily up, on a SUNDAY!  So was I, though despite the hour and abhorrence of the thought of prying myself from my flannel cocoon, I happily discovered there is an upside to springing ahead. I’ll explain in a moment.

I find it interesting how different members of our species observe the semiannual ritual of changing the clocks. Upon further study I’ve noticed a few distinct groupings. First are the Fastidious. These are the breed that, if they haven’t already set an alarm to remind themselves of spring’s escaping hour, change their clocks the minute they hear it’s this weekend. Obviously they think they might forget, though if one is a creature who sets an alarm to remember to change their alarm, I kinda doubt it. These “clock watchers” also seem to have an internal inventory of all the time tellers in their path. Microwaves and stoves are obvious, but updating dress watches in jewelry boxes that may not see the light of day until the next wedding invite, really?

Then there are the Optimists. These are the folks who avoid changing clocks all together. Perhaps lazy is the word you would have chosen, but I see them as eternally hopeful that they will be around when time inevitably falls back, so why bother changing anything? Naturally, a Fastidious should probably not be coupled with an Optimist, but evolution often has other plans. So these two are usually together, bickering about being late, or way too early.

The final group is what I like to refer to as the Mathematicians. These are the souls who willingly have different time zones for different applications. The kitchen clock is 5 minutes fast. The car clock is about 8 minutes behind. And most importantly, the bedside clock radio is 17 minutes fast. It was supposed to be 15 minutes, maybe 20 ahead, but the physics and eyesight required to figure out how to set the damn thing wasn’t worth exploring (or finding reading glasses), so 17 it is. The point being, the Mathematician knows exactly how many minutes are required in calculations, so that when she wakes before alarm goes off,  she can calculate exactly how many minutes left before rousing. Government mandated time manipulation is not the favorite thing of the Mathematician. It’s a very delicate balance between the time zones.

You’re probably wondering which of the above creatures I ally with. I grew up in a household where the kitchen clock was always 15 minutes fast. We knew it, mom knew we knew it, but she set it that way anyway, forever hopeful that it would incite timeliness in my brother (who naturally fell into the Optimist category.) I was the Mathematician. Too lazy to focus and fix miss-set clocks, I’d wake, cracked an eye through inky bedroom darkness towards red glowing digits, and did math. I like to think I’ve evolved past this. Yet this morning when I started the car I noticed the clock on the dashboard was 50 minutes behind the time. And when the leaves turn amber again, it will be 10 minutes fast…

IMG_1073What does all this have to do with my newly discovered upside to springing ahead yesterday? Well, when time suddenly shifts from 11am to 12pm and you are in the midst of preparing what was then breakfast and is now brunch, you can add a cocktail! In honor of Daylight Savings time I give you Brunch Pizza, accompanied by the official cocktail of DST, the Blood Orange Old Fashioned!

Brunch PizzaIMG_1078

One pizza dough makes 4 mini pizzas

  • 1/2 recipe pizza dough (or one dough purchased from your favorite pizzeria or market), divided into 4 pieces.
  • 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 asparagus spears (try to find thicker ones for this), sliced into 1/2″ pieces on the diagonal.
  • 1/4 cup cooked pancetta or bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded fontina, mozzarella, or monterey jack cheese
  • About a cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Cornmeal or semolina

Preheat the oven** to 450°F. Make sure the top rack is in the center of the oven. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment.  Sprinkle cornmeal or semolina lightly on the parchment paper and set sheet aside. On a well-floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to a rough circle, about 6 1/2 – 7″ in diameter. With floured fingers, press about 1/2 inch from edges to make a bit of a crust. Place each crust on the cookie sheet, leaving a little space between.

FullSizeRenderAdd the halved tomatoes, sliced asparagus and spinach leaves into a bowl, drizzle over the olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, and a fat pinch of salt and few grinds of pepper. Toss together. Divide in 4 portions and top each pizza. Arrange the asparagus as a circle in the middle. You want to build a sort of damn, so when you add the egg later, it stays put in the middle of the pizza.

FullSizeRenderDivide up the pancetta/bacon and cheese into 4 portions, and top each pizza. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove hot pan from oven, crack an egg in the center of each and carefully return to oven. Turn oven on broil (if your broiler unit is on the top of the oven), and cook for another 5 minutes, watching carefully. When the white is set, remove from oven. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the egg to taste.

 ** I love making individual pizzas in my toaster/convection oven, and this recipe works very well with it if you are making just one or two. For more, use a conventional oven.

Blood Orange Old Fashioned

Makes one cocktail


  • 1 TBSP Amoretti Blood Orange Syrup** (check out  next week’s post to learn how I discovered this wonderful stuff!)
  • 1 TBSP blood orange juice
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 dash bitters
  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • Ice
  • orange slices to garnish

Add the syrup, juices and bitters to a chilled cocktail shaker. Add in ice and bourbon. Shake and strain into a martini glass (or you could serve over ice in a rocks glass.) Garnish with a slice of orange. Enjoy!

Variation: Using Courvoisier instead of bourbon is great here too!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at Thanks!   :-)

Skinny Jeans

DSC03536Everyone has them, even those who claim they don’t. Doesn’t matter if you are girl or boy, somewhere in the recesses of mind and closet stands a pair of skinny jeans. And depending upon just how long it’s been since you’ve been able to raise them higher than thigh, button and zip, they are usually more a symbol of hope and achievement than fashion choice. I mean, unless it’s Halloween, you’re not likely going to sport those self-embroidered hip huggers you bought because Bobby Sherman was wearing a pair in Tiger Beat magazine. At least, please don’t.

Some have a “collection” of the svelte denim. An indigo history if you will, tracing the expanse of time (and ass). Perhaps there’s a pair you have from high school senior year, before gravity and beer worked its cruel magic. Or that pair in your “dream” size, which only fit for one glorious day in college, after a three-week bout of mono. Or the more recent pair you’re currently dieting to achieve, because you’re  determined to squeeze into them for that reunion, even though it means encasing the wobbly bits in Spanx and not breathing for a few hours. Whichever pair you have, the ultimate goal is the same — the feeling of wonderful smugness that you’ve achieved a goal, even if no one but you knows it.

Here’s something I’ve discovered about my personal skinny jean collection. As brain has gotten wiser (and body older), I realize that skinny jeans are completely subjective to the wearer. Sure, their name implies one is a wispy reed, but the wearer is the one who defines the width of that reed. In the end, all that matters is that particular pair is the one your end felt great in. The other day, after working pretty hard toward skinny-jeandom, I pulled out my pair and ventured in. While I’m not quite there yet, I’m well on my way. No, they aren’t the pair I wore at my thinnest. But they are the pair that made me feel terrific. And just the knowledge of that brings the final pounds to goal a bit closer. ;-)


You’re thinking this is a “diet food” recipe aren’t you? Something that will doubtless get those skinny jeans closer to fanny. It’s not. It is how I look at losing weight. You see, I’m a cook (uh, duh) and an avid eater. Meals are not fuel, they are something to be enjoyed. And over the years I’ve learned that denying luscious tasty things all in the name of reducing Karin isn’t going to work for very long. So, I make those yummy things, just a bit smaller, and maybe adjusting one component to lessen the amount of hiking I need to do to work it off. That’s how my Individual Crustless Quiches came about.

Ok, so something that has cream and cheese as major components doesn’t sound like a skinny-jean inducing dish. And if you have a big slab of it wrapped in all-butter crust, it wouldn’t be. But, if I take the bones of my favorite quiche recipe as a start, make it in an easy single serving size, and leave out the crust altogether, I can have my quiche and eat it too. These are also a great way to get veggies and those “super greens” in me, without having to resort to conspicuously eating kale and chard. Skinny jeans, here I come!

Individual Crustless Quiches

One recipe makes four 1/2-cup ramekin sized servings.

For the custard:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • pinch teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • pinch nutmeg
  • a pinch of cayenne or a shake or more of hot sauce (optional)

For the fillings:

This is where you can really go wild if you like. The key is not to overload the ramekins with goodies, because the point of a quiche is that luscious custard. Here are some options:

  • Chopped mixed hearty greens, like arugula, spinach, baby chard, baby kale. The “baby” greens are more tender and work better in these than the usual ones.
  • Roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, diced summer squash, etc.
  • Thinly sliced asparagus
  • 1-2 ounces diced cooked bacon, pancetta, ham, chicken
  • 2-3 ounces cheese: feta or goat are lovely, so are any cheeses that melt well, such as swiss, cheddar or jack, fontina, havarti, etc.
  • 4 tsp grated parmesan to sprinkle on top.
  • Minced fresh herbs – tarragon is particularly good with asparagus, parsley or basil are terrific too, as are chives or tender thyme leaves.


I have a convection/toaster oven, and it’s perfect for making these. Eggs are always best cooked slower in a low oven, and with the added circulation of convection, these go a little faster. Don’t worry if you don’t have one, though – they work fine in a regular oven too. (You just have to be a little patient…something I rarely am when I’m “getting into skinny jeans”-mode.)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray the ramekins with baking spray (I always have a can of olive oil spray around for this.) Beat the eggs, then add cream, milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne or hot sauce. Add in a teaspoon minced herbs if you are using, and beat until well combined. Add half the cheese and other add-ins into the custard and mix well.

Take the remaining cheese (except the parmesan) and add-ins and divide evenly between the 4 ramekins. Top each ramekin with 1/4th of the custard. Sprinkle each with a teaspoon of parmesan.

Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet or pizza pan, and bake until the custard is set, and the top is nicely browned. Since ovens vary (especially if you are using a toaster oven or convection), start with 20 minutes and go from there. When they are done, the edges of the quiche will have pulled away a little from the sides of the ramekin. Run a knife around the edges, and invert onto a plate. Serve with a green salad, and enjoy your quiche, and your skinny jeans! Calories = approximately 200 to 250 per serving, depending upon the amount of cheese and meat you add.

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