tastes of spring and summer in january

During the coldest month of the year, I often long for spring and summer, and the tastes that come with the seasons. This recipe makes me smile because growing up, we had a constant debate over which was better. Strawberry shortcake or angel food cake with strawberries. My dad preferred the strawberry shortcake (or the dry biscuits, as we called them), while the rest of us loved the light, airy sponge of angel food cake. Twenty some years later, I’ve decided to give the “biscuit” version another try.

I have to say I was very pleased!  And, a few others didn’t think these were too shabby, either.  This recipe could easily be substituted with any fruit, ie. blackberries, mangoes, blueberries, peaches. Mmm. I baked my biscuits ahead of time and warmed them up prior to serving. 

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This one, not so much.  Or, at least she’s giving it some thought.  Maybe next time.

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This recipe’s for you, Dad. Enjoy.

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Classic Strawberry Shortcake
adapted from Fine Cooking

Strawberry Topping
1 lb. ripe strawberries, hulled (about 4 cups)
2 Tbs. granulated sugar; more to taste

9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream; more for brushing
1/4 cup buttermilk

Whipped Cream
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
Prepare the strawberries
Put one-third of the berries in a medium bowl and, using a potato masher, crush them into a chunky purée. Slice the remaining berries 1/4 inch thick and stir them into the mashed berries along with the sugar. Taste the berries, adding more sugar if necessary. Let the berries sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Make the biscuits
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a large heavy-duty baking sheet with parchment.

Sift the flour, 1/3 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl.  (I don’t have a flour sifter, so I improvise.)  Stir in the salt.

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Using a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and heavy cream with a fork. Mix in the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the cream mixture. Mix with the fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just comes together; it will still look a little shaggy. Gather the dough and gently knead it three or four times. If the dough seems dry and doesn’t form a cohesive mass, work in more cream, 1 tsp. at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 3/4 -inch-thick disk. With a sharp 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, press straight down to cut the dough into rounds and lift straight up to remove (don’t twist the cutter or it will seal the sides of the biscuits and interfere with rising). Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, gently knead them together, re-roll, and cut out more biscuits until you have a total of 6.

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Lightly brush the biscuit tops with cream (about 1 Tbs.) and sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbs. sugar. Bake, rotating the baking sheet once, until the biscuit tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Let the biscuits cool slightly while you whip the cream.

Whip the cream
In a large, chilled metal bowl, whip the heavy cream and sugar to soft peaks with an electric hand mixer. (Use immediately or refrigerate, covered until ready to serve).

Assemble the shortcakes
Using a serrated knife, split the warm biscuits in half horizontally and transfer the bottoms to 6 dessert plates. Spoon about three-quarters of the macerated berries and their juice evenly over the biscuit bottoms. It’s OK if some of the berries spill out onto the plate. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and cover each with a biscuit top. Spoon more berries and cream over each shortcake and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

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black bottom cupcakes

Love these cupcakes!  And, so do the kids.  So rich and decadent.  The chocolate pairs perfectly with the cheesecake-like centers.  And chocolate frosting tops it off.  Enjoy!

Black Bottom Cupcakes
Adapted from Taste of Home

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1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt until smooth. Stir in chips; set aside.

For cupcakes, in a large bowl, beat the sugar, water, oil, egg, vinegar and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into egg mixture until blended.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups half full with chocolate batter. Drop a heaping teaspoonful of cheese mixture in center of batter of each cupcake.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

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I topped the cupcakes with a rich, chocolate espresso frosting. Could also use a prepared chocolate frosting, but this way, I was able to have lots of leftovers!  Store cupcakes in refrigerator.

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Yield: 20-24 cupcakes.  Enjoy!

elegance absent and dessert (or breakfast)

I love to cook and be in the kitchen, but I have to admit… I am not an elegant cook or baker. (Ina Garten is my personal favorite.) (And yes, she probably has a supportive team behind the scenes helping to make sure everything looks just right for the camera.) You know the kind. So calm and camera ready, always with great stories of entertaining and lively connections with food. The ones who wear aprons and never get them full of flour or grease. The ones who have mise en place mastered, with everything ready and at the tip of their fingers. The ones who have a spotless kitchen, organized cupboards and countertops clear of clutter.

Nope, that’s not me! As much as I strive to be, my husband will be the first to admit that I am more chaos than elegance in the kitchen. But, I am ok with that. It’s how I roll. My iPhone gets full of flour as I’m searching for recipes, my batter sometimes flies across the room and often, I am pushing my piles of paper aside to make room for cooking. However, I do have support in the kitchen. My husband, who washes the countless dishes that I dirty in my cooking adventures. Or, who picks up the kitchen and countertops in the midst of my chaos. My kids, who love to taste and see. It’s all good!

A new year and new year’s resolutions for 2013.


A simple list – Be healthy.  Be happy.  Be thankful.  And, a new dessert recipe for the family, which uh… incorporates all three resolutions. Be healthy (well, not so much with this recipe. Although, chocolate does have some healthy qualities.) Be happy – always…with family and chocolate. Be thankful – for good dessert, and seconds.  King Arthur Flour’s Fudge Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce.  I’ve swapped the words in the recipe to call it Chocolate Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Fudge, which fits better with the end product.  A chocolatey waffle dotted with semisweet chocolate chips, topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate fudge sauce.  Amazing.  My favorite part of the recipe is the fudge sauce.  Served warm, it’s runny and easy to drizzle –  more like Hershey’s chocolate syrup, but once on top of the ice cream, the sauce thickens to a fudge consistency.  So delicious! I could seriously eat it by the spoonfuls right out of the refrigerator.

The kids loved this dessert. Thank you King Arthur Flour!  What’s not to love?  Chocolate waffles?!  Breakfast for dessert?!  Chocolate and Fudge?!  Ice cream and waffles?!  We did have some leftovers, so we served up some chocolate waffles for breakfast the next morning.

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Chocolate Waffles with Ice Cream and Chocolate Fudge
adapted from King Arthur Flour’s recipe

2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk (I substituted with 1 cup of milk and 1 tbsp lemon juice.)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, butter and vanilla, and beat until light, about 2 minutes. Blend in buttermilk, then flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Gently fold in chocolate chips.

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Bake waffles in a preheated well-greased waffle iron until done (following directions for your own waffle iron). Serve with the ice cream of your choice and chocolate sauce (recipe follows). Waffles can be served immediately, or wrapped in plastic wrap and served the next day. Warm them in a toaster oven if you wish.

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Chocolate Fudge Sauce

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup and milk or half-and-half. Stir to blend. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and add butter and vanilla, stirring until butter melts. Cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup.

Serve warm or at room temperature; this sauce reheats easily in a glass cup in your microwave.


kaiserschmarrn with peaches & blackberries

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have an intense love of any kind of fresh fruit. In fact, it’s very rare that I serve a meal without some sort of fruit. My favorites are the berries – strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries.

Kaiserschmarrn. Traditionally prepared as an Austrian dessert, but also great for a lazy Sunday breakfast. A light pancake made from sweet batter and browned in a large skillet. Cut into bite-size pieces and finish by caramelizing with butter, sugar and confectioner’s sugar.

OK, I won’t lie on this one… it’s a little bit challenging. And, I’m not sure we mastered it. I say we because I had to borrow my husband to help with the “flipping” of the kaiserschmarrn. In the end, it was a success, and made for a fabulous Sunday brunch. I think for now, the kids still prefer their traditional pancakes and maple syrup. However, I’m sold on this one. It just takes a bit more effort.

Loved the modest tart of the lemon zest paired with the blackberries and ever-so-slight caramelized nectarines (which I subbed for the peaches). All that tossed with the sweet, tender pancake was perfect.

Kaiserschmarrn with Peaches & Blackberries

Adapted from Food & Wine / Alice Waters
Serves 6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 firm, ripe medium peaches—peeled, quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

4 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

1 pint blackberries

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add the peaches, 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar and the lemon juice and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the peaches to a plate and clean the skillet.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, milk, egg yolks, zest and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar until smooth. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar until the whites are glossy. Fold the whites into the batter until no streaks remain.

In the skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the batter, cover and cook over moderately low heat until it is golden on the bottom and the top is beginning to set, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a large plate. Carefully invert the skillet over the pancake. Using oven mitts, flip the skillet and the plate to return the pancake to the pan. Cook until the underside of the pancake is set and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Using a wooden or heatproof plastic spatula, cut the pancake in the skillet into 2-inch squares. Dot with the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter, sprinkle with the 1/3 cup of confectioners’ sugar and top with the peaches. Cook, tossing, until the pancake is caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the blackberries and toss until they are heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer the kaiserschmarrn to a platter, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve.


pistachio & cream cheese sugar cookies

A not-too-sweet cookie, perfect with a coffee or an afternoon tea and small enough you don’t feel guilty about having more than one.  Mmm.   I’m guessing this recipe could work with almonds as well, substituting the pistachios with almonds and vanilla flavor with almond flavor.  I may just have to try that.   Oooh, the possibilities… maybe even a citrus cookie – lemon or orange flavor rolled in sugared or candied citrus peels.  Or, a kid version… perhaps, rolled in chocolate or butterscotch chips (or maybe that would turn into a melted, sticky mess.)

Pistachio-Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens All Time Favorites 2012

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 3 ounce pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp finely shredded citrus peel (optional – I didn’t add)
1/2 cup finely chopped lightly salted pistachio nuts

Combine butter and cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer on medium to high for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour and beat or use mixing spoon to combine all of the flour. If desired, add the citrus peel.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 7-8 inch long roll (1 1/2 inches in diameter). Roll each cookie roll into chopped pistachios. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap. Chill about an hour until dough is firm enough to slice.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut rolls into 1/4 inch slices. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.


Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack; cool. Makes 44 cookies.


oatmeal caramel bars

These bars may just put you in a sugar-induced trance.  The one that pulls you back for another.  And another.  Mmm.  I remember eating something similar while still living at home with my parents.  I made these for my family recently after reminiscing my way through old cookbooks.  I can’t believe this recipe takes an ENTIRE jar of caramel ice cream topping.  All that, plus chocolate chips and oats and brown sugar and butter.  The bars are indulgent and sweet and sticky  – they’re best kept chilled in the refrigerator (they tend to hold their shape a bit better than at room temp.)

Oatmeal Caramel Bars
Recipe adapted from Potluck for 33,000 New & Improved 2nd Edition – Recipes from the great Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s cookoff, a benefit for the United Way circa 1993

1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups caramel ice cream topping
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, melted
6 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup flour and caramel topping; set aside. In large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, soda, salt and butter; mix until crumbly. Press 2/3 crumbly mixture in ungreased 9x13x2 inch pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Sprinkle remaining crumbly mixture over caramel. Bake 17 to 20 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.

grandma irene’s krumkake

Check that one off my to-do list.  And, a first in 2012.  Teamwork at its best – Jeff and I in the kitchen making krumkake together.   Not bad for our first attempt.

Krumkake – a delicate, traditional Scandinavian waffle cookie, full of beautiful design and commonly made around Christmas time.  (Usually shaped in a cone or rolled.)  I remember eating these around Christmas as a kid.  I was fortunate to inherit my Grandma Irene’s krumkake iron set, a family heirloom that just shouts Norwegian.

Loved and handled with care and used many a Christmas, well before my time.  I can almost see my Grandma making them and I’m so proud to carry on the tradition with my own family.  I know this will be one of the favorites each holiday – I can’t wait to make them again.

It took some trial and error, but ultimately, we seem to have mastered the technique (at least in our eyes…)  In fact, once we got it down, we could barely make them fast enough to keep up with Brendan and Dane’s demand.  They LOVED the krumkake.  “It’s so good, Mom.  Can I have another one?”

The first couple of attempts ended in results like this:

Here’s how I so fondly remember them…


4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla

Beat eggs slightly. Add sugar to eggs and beat until light. Do not overbeat. Add vanilla. Blend in melted, cooled butter, cornstarch and flour.

Preheat iron on both sides. Iron is ready for baking when a few drops of water placed on the iron dance around. Drop about a tablespoon of dough on the center of the iron. Cover quickly and turn the iron. Bake until delicately browned. Remove from iron with a spatula or table knife. Roll quickly into cone shape (rolled diploma), using a krumkake roller or end of wooden spoon.  I actually used my hands. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.  Can also be pressed into cups to make shell forms.

*Note* – We found medium-low heat for about a minute on our gas stove worked perfectly.

Here’s my Grandma Irene’s krumkake recipe card, which was with the krumkake iron set.  (Similar to another recipe I received from my mother-in-law and other recipes online.)  Some recipes call for the addition of cardamom, but we used vanilla instead.  We may also try almond extract next time we make them.  Enjoy!

fleur de sel chocolate chip blondies

Happy New Year! Just a little something sweet to start off 2012.

Blondies so good, especially topped with the touch of fleur de sel.  When I initially cut into these (after letting them cool), they seemed a little on the gooey and undone side.  I think I may have cut them just a little too soon.  However, once they cooled entirely, they were perfect!  Next time, I may try them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Yum.


Fleur de Sel Chocolate Chip Blondies
Adapted from Food Network

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine sea salt, if desired
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2-3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fleur de sel

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch jelly roll pan with softened butter or cooking spray. (I used another jelly roll pan – approximately 11 by 15-inch, and reduced the baking time.)

Beat your butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the brown and granulated sugars a little bit at a time, pouring them in on the side of the bowl. While you’re adding your sugars, stop the mixer occasionally and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure that everything is fully mixed. Cream the butter and sugar mixture until it is light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. (Creaming creates air pockets in the dough, and therefore these blondies have a light and delicate texture.)

Whisk your flour, baking soda and sea salt, if using, in a bowl. (Add the salt only if desired because there is plenty on top of the finished brownies.) Set bowl of dry ingredients aside.

Add your eggs to the butter/sugar mixture 1 at a time, adding the second only after the first is fully incorporated. Once the second egg is fully incorporated, add your vanilla.

Turn your mixer down to low speed and slowly add the flour mixture. Once the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the wet ingredients, add in all those chocolate chips. Your machine will seem to be struggling to mix in the chocolate chips because there are so many of them, but don’t turn it up, leave it on low and allow it to fully mix the chips in. Spread your cookie dough into the prepared jelly roll. Evenly sprinkle the top of the dough with the fleur de sel.

Pop the blondies in the oven until they are golden brown on top and not wobbly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. (My blondies were done after about 17-20 minutes because of the larger jelly roll pan.) Allow the blondies to cool in the pan on a wire rack or on a dishtowel on your counter.

Cut the blondies, still in the pan, with a sharp knife into bars, about 48 pieces. Remove with a spatula and serve. (Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)


peppermint bark

One bite of Williams Sonoma peppermint bark and you’re hooked. Especially if you like peppermint. Mmm. So good. I was determined to recreate my own version. Here it is…


Peppermint Bark

12 ounces chocolate chips
1 lb white chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup peppermint candies, crushed (I sift out the very fine particles)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with foil, letting it hang over the sides. Spray foil. Pour the chocolate chips in an even layer on the foil. Place in oven for 5 minutes or until almost melted. Remove from oven, smooth with an offset spatula or knife. Place in refrigerator until cold and firm, about 20 minutes.

Melt white chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a metal bowl over simmering water (don’t let bottom of bowl touch water), until chocolate is almost melted. Remove bowl from water and stir until completely melted, stirring in extract. Let cool a little bit so it doesn’t melt the chocolate layer when you pour it on top. Pour this over chocolate layer, and, working quickly, spread to cover. Sprinkle with crushed candy (I pressed the candy in just a bit).

Chill until both layers are firm. Lift foil out of pan and shake off excess candy. Trim edges. Peel bark from foil and break into small pieces, 2 in x 2 in. Chill in covered container. Store in freezer or refrigerator. Makes about 2 pounds.

whitney’s oreo truffles

My brother’s girlfriend (shame on you, Whitney Jo), is known for making these addictive bites of wonder. They are best frozen, and eaten in pairs or triples. They are one of my kids’ favorite treats, and we always end up having a conversation about Whitney Jo – such a wonderful, sweet, sister-like friend. So lucky to have her in our lives! Enjoy!

Oreo Truffles
makes about 40

1 lb Oreo cookies (3 sleeves) – cookies and filling
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lb white chocolate
1/4 – 1/2 lb milk chocolate (for drizzling on top)

Using a food processor, grind cookies to a fine powder. With a mixer, blend cookie powder, cream cheese and vanilla extract until thoroughly mixed (there should be no white traces of cream cheese).
Roll into small balls and place on wax-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Line two cookie sheets with wax paper. In double-boiler, melt white chocolate. Dip balls and coat thoroughly. With slotted spoon, lift balls out of chocolate and let excess chocolate drip off. Place on wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. In separate double boiler, melt milk chocolate. Using a fork, drizzle milk chocolate over balls. Let cool. Store in airtight container, in refrigerator or freezer.