Monday, December 24, 2007

Chocolate Malt Cake

My love for Paula Deen knows no bounds, esp. after making this cake from her Holiday Baking 2007 magazine.

I'm a big fan of chocolate layer cake, esp. devil's food and this blows anything I've ever had or made prior-- out of the water! It is slap-yourself-silly-delicious!

Chocolate Malt Cake
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tspn baking soda
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
1 c. milk
1 c. malted milk powder
1 c. vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 tspn vanilla extract
Chocolate Malt Icing (recipe follows)
Garnish: malted milk balls (and I used silver dragees to make it more Christmas-y ;) )

  • Preheat oven to 350. Butter & flour 3, 9-inch, baking pans.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • In a small bowl, combine milk and malted milk powder, stirring to dissolve. Add milk mixture, oil and eggs to flour mixture, beating at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add sour cream and vanilla, beating just until combined.
  • Pour batter evenly into prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on racks.
  • Ice and garnish w/malted milk balls if desired

Chocolate Malt Icing
Makes 4 cups

1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. malted milk powder
5 c. powdered sugar

  • In a large bowl, beat butter and cocoa powder at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
  • In a small bowl, combine cream and malted milk powder, stirring to dissolve. Add cream mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed to combine. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lettuce Wraps

Here's one from the archives!
I started making this recipe 3 1/2 years ago when we were newly married and have tweaked it a bit here and there over time. So, here's the fruits of 3.5 years of eating for you!

Lettuce Wraps

1 c. 10 minute brown rice or reg. brown rice cooked in veggie broth
2 tsp olive oil
1 can chopped water chestnuts
1 lb lean ground turkey/chicken
¾ c. sliced scallions
4 Tbsp bottled peanut sauce
2 Tbsp lite soy sauce
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
12 large whole leaves from 2 heads boston lettuce (A nice head of iceberg will work too)
2 c. thinly sliced cucumber (I grate)
1 c. sliced radishes and shredded carrots
½ c. cilantro sprigs

Garnish: Lime Wedges

1. Cook Rice
2. Prep all veggies
3. Prep Dipping Sauce for Wraps: 3 Tbsp Peanut sauce, 1 Tbsp lite soy sauce, 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1 Tbsp water
4. Heat oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey, breaking up very small, cook 5-6 minutes.
Add ¼ c. scallions, water chestnuts, 1 Tbsp each peanut sauce & lite soy sauce and the minced garlic. Cook two minutes more, stir in rice, remove from heat.
5. To serve: I usually put the veggies(including lettuce) on fun platters, in oval bowls and serve each person their own bowl of turkey/rice and dipping sauce to make their own wraps with – YUM!

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's that time of year again..........

.........for me to lose my mind and decide to bake for friends and family. After a week of feverish slaving in the kitchen, it looks like Willy Wonka's candy factory blew up in my house. Each nite before bed, my husband and I peel off socks covered in caramel, peppermint and peanut brittle bits. And today I am free! We mailed the last 4 boxes of goodies to family and I am at last at peace.

I really don't know what drives me to such heights of foolishness. But, I guess until I come to my senses, family & friends are able to enjoy the home baked insanity that comes out of my kitchen.

I simplified my packaging this year with assorted ribbon from Michael's, shipping tags bought from Office Depot (hand stamped and written upon) and cellophane bags to contain the goodies. The cello bags were inspired by Ina Garten who used them during a holiday baking episode of Barefoot Contessa. I ordered them from Cello bags- Cheap, sturdy and convenient, they also provide a modest portion size. And to top it off, they are also an attractive vehicle through which to showcase your goodies. When thinking about the mass quantities of treats everyone would consume throughout the holiday season and how I'm trying to watch my own waistline in anticipation of a trip in March-- the cello bags were the perfect solution so that everyone could have a taste of each, but the chances of overindulging would be next to none.

Here's one of my standby, favorite Christmastime recipes-- Peanut Brittle, courtesy of Gale Gand.

Cinnamon Peanut Brittle
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand

1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups roasted salted peanuts
1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the water, sugar, cream of tartar and corn syrup in a medium-size heavy saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Bring to a boil over medium heat. After it boils, stir the mixture occasionally. Boil the mixture until it reaches 340 degrees F. The color should be deep golden brown. Remove from the heat and, working quickly, stir in the cinnamon with a wooden spoon. Stir in the butter until melted, then the peanuts and baking soda.

Pour the mixture onto the oiled cookie sheet with sides and spread it out a bit with the back of a wooden spoon, to about 1/4-inch thickness (it may not fill the whole pan). Let harden, uncovered, in a cool place, 30 to 45 minutes. (To wash the saucepan, soak it overnight.)
Using your hands, and wearing cotton or plastic gloves if desired to keep off any fingerprints, break the brittle into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

Update 12/2/07-- here's the pic, really nothing much to look at. But after you allow this dessert to set up in the refridgerator, you will not be able to stop eating it! So, don't say I didn't warn you! :)
These are in the oven baking right now in anticipation of Thursday.
We're having anti-Thanksgiving. Oh, we're thankful all right. Thankful our friends are whipping up a fabulous Italian feast for us!

This recipe is going to be our contribution to the party and a slight nod to the holiday at an otherwise nontraditional dinner. It sounded so decadent, I just had to splurge! I hope it's as good as it sounds! I will report back and have pics by next week (sorry, I know I've been a slacker lately!) If it's by Paula Deen and has 3 sticks of butter and two packages of cream cheese, you KNOW it has to be good! Happy eating, y'all!

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Streusel topping, recipe follows
1/2 cup caramel topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.

In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping. Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping.

Streusel Topping:(I actually mixed this up first),
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.
Yield: approximately 3 cups

Bella's Pumpkin Ribbon Bread

This is a spin off of a Cooking Light recipe just in time for the holidays!

8 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp flour
2 egg whites

1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 tbsp canola oil
1 2/3 c flour
1 1/4 c sugar
1 tspn baking soda
2 tspn pumpkin pie spice
Dash allspice
Dash cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For filling, combine first four ingredients; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat pumpkin, applesauce, egg, egg whites and oil.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda & spices in another bowl.
Add gradually while beating to pumpkin mixture.

Divide 1/2 of batter between 2 loaf pans coated w/cooking spray.
Spread each w/1/2 the filling.
Top each w/remaining 1/2 of batter (1/4 on each).
Bake 40-50 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chicken Stroganoff

This is one of my newest Fall staples.

Chicken Stroganoff

Stroganoff usually consists of thin slices of beef in a mushroom-sour cream sauce and served over noodles or rice pilaf. This version keeps the classic flavors but uses chicken in place of beef and incorporates sage for a twist. Be sure to use a large skillet(I use a dutch oven) so there's room enough to stir in the noodles at the end.

1 tablespoon butter(I use Smart Balance)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons sherry(I use white wine)
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 cups hot cooked wide egg noodles, I use whole grain (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Spoon mixture into a large bowl.

Combine 1/4 cup flour and paprika in a shallow dish. Cut each chicken breast half in half lengthwise; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Dredge chicken strips in flour mixture; shake off the excess flour mixture. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Sauté 4 minutes or until chicken is done. Add chicken to mushroom mixture.

Add broth and sherry to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low. Place sour cream in a small bowl; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour. Stir with a whisk until combined. Stir sour cream mixture and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt into broth mixture. Stir in chicken mixture; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Add noodles and parsley; stir well to combine.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups)CALORIES 427 (28% from fat); FAT 13.5g (sat 5.7g,mono 4.7g,poly 1.6g); PROTEIN 28.7g; CHOLESTEROL 101mg; CALCIUM 96mg; SODIUM 625mg; FIBER 3g; IRON 3.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 47g Cooking Light, APRIL 2007

The Ultimate Spinach/Artichoke Dip

Party season is right around the corner! And inevitably, this dip gets some major action on the buffet tables. No matter where I take it, people always ask for the recipe. And believe it or not, it's a lower fat alternative to the normal dips, but flavor-wise you'd never know the difference. If you want to use full-fat cream cheese and sour cream, knock yourself out. But, a warning, it might be so crazy delicious you lose your mind!~ :),,FOOD_9936_30493,00.html

Spinach Artichoke Dip
Recipe courtesy Juan-Carlos Cruz
Calorie Commando
Party Hearty

1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed (wring dry in a towel or ricer)
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, plus more as needed
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
Carrot sticks, celery sticks or baked tortilla strips, for serving (I use lavasch/flatbread crackers)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Squeeze all excess liquid from spinach, place in a food processor with sour cream, Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the cream cheese, garlic, pepper and hot sauce.

Process until just blended but still slightly lumpy( I add everything and blend until smooth b/c we have texture issues in this house and 'chunky' just does not fly! :) ). Add artichokes and pulse to form a chunky mixture. Place in a 1-quart baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks or baked tortilla strips.
Nutrition Information
Nutritional Analysis per serving
Calories 282
Fat 17 grams
Saturated Fat 11 grams
Carbohydrates 12 grams
Fiber 3 grams

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Miller Lite Chili

Let me preface this post by saying I never make chili the same twice. Today's happened to include lite beer, thus the name. :) I also use varying amounts of spices, these all hinge on your own tastes. So, I'll just list out the basics of what I included. Chili's pretty forgiving, so shake it up and get creative! :)

Bella's Miller Lite Chili

1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 28 oz can crushed tomatos
1 28 oz can tomato sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 bottle beer (dark beer makes for yummy flavor as well, today I used Miller lite b/c that's what was in the fridge!)
1 small can diced tomatos w/juice
4 cans beans of your choice (I used black and pinto today)
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tspn Chipotle Chili powder (or I would use 1 chopped chile in adobo and 1 tbsp adobo sauce)
Chili powder
Garlic Powder
Crushed Red Pepper
2 tspn Cumin
Fresh chopped parsley

Sour Cream
Cheddar Cheese
Sliced scallions

Heat olive oil over medium heat in dutch oven. Add onions and garlic, sweat until translucent, approx 5 minutes. Add ground poultry, cook 'til done, add S&P and a few spices while cooking.

Add beer, let simmer for a minute or two. Then, add tomatos, paste, beans & rest of spices. Bring to a boil, cut to a simmer. Leave lid on for thinner chili, lid off for thicker. Stew on low as long as you like (on Sundays I leave it for a few hours w/the lid on, weeknites, 1/2 an hour w/the lid off).

Leftovers always taste better! :)

PS-- I'm also serving with a side of beer bread today. I'd love to share the recipe, but it was a mix a friend made and gave me. All I had to do was add beer, stir and top with butter! Gotta love that! :)

The Queen's Beans....

With the holidays around the corner, inevitably there will be miles of green bean casserole at the ready. And I must confess, I absolutely hate this dish. With a passion. Anything with cream of mushroom in it is on my "Do Not Eat" list, actually.

So, I was thrilled to see this recipe in the latest copy of Saveur, promoting a fresh made green bean casserole. I haven't tried it yet, but wanted to put it out there for anyone looking for a fresher alternative. This seems like something I would actually eat! :)

Here's the accompanying article:

Green Bean Casserole
SERVES 6 – 8
This recipe is an adaptation of the one developed in the 1950s by the Campbell's Soup Company.

3 cups Chicken Stock
1⁄2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
Kosher salt, to taste
2 lbs. green beans, cut into 2" pieces
Canola oil
1 1⁄4 cups flour
2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
5 tbsp. butter
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring stock to a boil in a small pot. Remove from heat; add mushrooms. Cover; let soften for 20 minutes. Strain; reserve broth. Thinly slice mushrooms; set aside. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans; cook until tender, 6–7 minutes. Chill beans in an ice bath; drain and pat dry.
2. Pour oil into a large pot to a depth of 2". Heat over medium-high heat until oil registers 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Put 1 cup flour into a bowl. Working in batches, toss onions in flour; shake off excess and fry until golden brown, 3–4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and season with salt.
3. Heat oven to 375°. Grease an 8" × 8" casserole with 1 tbsp. butter; set aside. Melt remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in remaining flour; cook for 1 minute. Pour in reserved broth while whisking; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 15–20 minutes. Whisk in cream and combine with beans, half the onions, and salt and pepper in a bowl; transfer to casserole. Top with remaining onions; bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.
First published in Saveur, Issue #106

Chicken Tetrazzini

Whenever I'm sick, feeling blue or there's a rainy day, nothing is better than homemade chicken or turkey tetrazzini. I used to pick some up from a little deli, but now since I've moved, I can't find anyone who makes it how I like it. So, I was forced to find the "Perfect" Tetrazzini recipe :) I really love this one b/c it's healthy without sacrificing any flavour. Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe, March 2003.

Chicken Tetrazzini
This classic dish, created and named for 19th-century opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, is a great way to use leftover cooked chicken or turkey. The thin pasta soaks up the sauce, forming a casserole that you can cut with a fork. To make it easier to toss the pasta and sauce, break the vermicelli in half before cooking.

1 tablespoon butter(Smart Balance)
Cooking spray
1 cup finely chopped onion (I use the food processor to make it really fine)
2/3 cup finely chopped celery(Also in FP)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 3 (8-ounce) packages presliced mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 (14.5-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
7 cups hot cooked whole grain linguini (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)
4 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 (1-ounce) slice white bread
Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in large stockpot coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, pepper, salt, and mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add sherry; cook 1 minute.

Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup; level with a knife. Gradually add flour to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly (mixture will be thick) with a whisk. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Add 1 3/4 cups Parmesan cheese and cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until cream cheese melts. Add the pasta and chicken, and stir until blended. Pour pasta mixture in 9x13 baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Place bread in food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs form. Combine breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese; sprinkle evenly over pasta mixture.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove casserole from oven; let stand 15 minutes.

To freeze unbaked casserole: Prepare through Step 5. Cool completely in refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.

To prepare frozen unbaked casserole: Thaw casserole completely in refrigerator (about 24 hours). Preheat oven to 350º. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover casserole with reserved foil; bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 1 hour or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes.

Chicken Pomodoro

I have been busy reorganizing my recipe stores and wanted to post a few favorites that have come back into my line of sight lately. One of these being Chicken Pomodoro. So easy, yet amazingly delicious.

Chicken Pomodoro
4 boneless chicken breasts. pounded evenly thin(or use scallopini)
2 T. oil
1/4 c. vodka
1/2 c chicken broth
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 c chopped tomatos
2 T. heavy cream
1/3 c scallions

Season chicken w S&P, then dust with flour.
Saute chicken in oil, tranfer to a plate and pour fat off from pan.
Away from heat, pour in vodka to deglaze pan and cook until vodka is nearly gone. Add broth and lemon juice, return chicken to pan and cook each side for 1 minute.
Transfer chicken back to plate.
Finish sauce w/tomatos, cream and scallions.
Heat through and pour over cutlets.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry

This is a great recipe to "play by ear" as far as ingredients.
For instance, you could add mushrooms, carrots etc. in with the broccoli.

1/3 c. Tamari/soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tspn fresh chopped ginger
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 c water
1 1/2 lbs chicken, cut in small pieces
1 tbsp oil (I use canola)
1 bunch fresh broccoli, chopped into small florets
4-6 scallion, chopped

1 can water chestnuts

Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl, mixing well.
Marinate for approx 10 minutes or longer.

Drain chicken, reserve marinade.
Heat oil in wok or large skillet.
Add 1/2 the chicken, stir fry until cooked thru.
Add second batch, cook thru as well.

Add broccoli, scallions and water chestnuts to hot wok/skillet.
Stir fry for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of water, cover and steam for 2-3 minutes or until veggies are tender-crisp.

Return chicken to wok/skillet, adding marinade, heat through, stirring constantly. Serve over Rice.

4 servings
Tip of the Day:

Rice- We typically stick with brown rice b/c we consider it a healthy alternative to white.
Combine 1 1/3 cups of veggie broth, a tbsp of olive oil and 1 cup of brown rice in a deep pot. Bring it all to a boil, cover, turn heat on low and cook for approx 30 minutes (Uncle Ben's long grain). The veggie broth gives it great flavor and the olive oil keeps the rice moist.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Virginia Garlic & Wine Fest 2007

Garlic Fest 2007 has come and gone in a blur. This year, the weather was incredibly perfect, sunny and cool. Saturday, when we attended, there was a flurry of activity and a mad crush of people. It's nice to know that it's caught on after all of these years. Rebec really deserves more love & accolades than it seems to get for hosting such a wonderful event.

If you're looking at this wondering how you get in on the action next year-- just bookmark You can actually buy your tickets in advance online when next year's festival rolls around.

We went strolling around the booths to check all of the crafts, food vendors and jewelry. There was a quite a variety as far as home grown herbs and garlic for sale. Food varied from crabcake sandwiches to egg rolls. They pretty much had anything you could want including BBQ and philly cheese steak sandwiches.

The overall theme this year, we thought, was the "cowboy" hat. :) Either tons of vendors were selling them or folks showed up with their own! I blame Bret Michaels and the Rock of Love for this sudden resurgance of the rock-n-roll cowboy hat which I thought died (or should've died) 3 years ago! :)

I have a top three for you from the day:
1. Rebec's Reisling-- light, crisp, lovely polished finish
2. Red Rocker Cashew Brittle-- I could've eaten my weight's worth! They're not lying on the label when they say, "It's really, really good!" LOL!
You can order yours online at
3. Cornerstone Farm's Garlic Powder-- I buy a ton every year and somehow always manage to run out. I seriously can NOT make chili without it. And not to mention the family that runs this farm are nicest folk you'd want to meet. They have a website, but it's not set up for e-commerce:

But, I found out this year you can call and they will ship you more! :)
1249 Tate Road, Reidsville, NC 27320

We had a prime spot this year in front of the sumo wrestling mat(
Between the reisling and the wrestling, I had perma-grin. So, in all, it was a great day. But, I do recommend going on Sunday if you can help it-- it's always much more lowkey and relaxed than Saturday.

Later on in the evening, we found ourselves at Bull Branch for dinner. It's a local, eclectic dining spot that seems to be popular with the 30-something, hipster crowd in Lynchburg, VA. I swear they read my blog and stole my goat cheese/marinara dip! They also make a killer hummus. It was here that I found my second Reisling/wine gem of the day-- Dr. Loosens Reisling. ( It's excellent and I highly recommend you getting your hands on some! It's everything I want a Reisling to be-- slightly on the dry side, with a fruity bouquet/smell and a nice, well-rounded finish. Don't worry if you didn't follow all of that, all you need to know is that you'll be nodding your head in agreement once you have some of this.That's our trip in a nutshell. Wanted to leave you with a picture of the most gorgeous and catlike of Whippets on the planet, Zell. She is part of the lovely family that hosted us for Garlic Fest and introduced us to Bull Branch. You know who you are, we love you guys!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Salmon en Papillote with Dill-Yogurt Sauce

Tonite's dinner was an exercise in restraint and discipline. After the week and specifically the day I've had today, all I wanted was a big fat Dijourno frozen pepperoni pizza with a side of Cheetos. You girls know where I'm at, right? ;)

But, alas, I had already taken out Salmon to thaw, so I forged ahead with our healthy meal. Plus, I figured if we ate like this tonite, it gives us a few more "free calories" for the Garlic Fest this weekend.

So, here we go, one more Salmon recipe for you:

Salmon en Papillote with Dill-Yogurt Sauce
Use a dry white wine if you don't have vermouth on hand. (which I did)
Serve with a salad. (which I did as well as wild/brown rice)

Yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup grated seeded peeled cucumber
3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Remaining ingredients:
2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup thinly sliced leek (about 1 small)
2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skinned
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry vermouth
Chopped fresh dill (optional)

To prepare yogurt sauce, place grated cucumber on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Combine cucumber, yogurt, and next 3 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Cut 4 (15 x 24-inch) pieces of parchment paper.
Fold in half crosswise.
Draw a large heart half on each piece, with the fold of the paper being the center of the heart. Cut out the heart, and open.
Place about 1/2 cup fennel near fold of each piece of parchment.
Top each serving with 2 tablespoons leek and 1/2 teaspoon oil.
Sprinkle salmon evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Place 1 fillet on each serving.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon vermouth over each serving.
Starting at the top of the heart, fold edges of parchment, sealing edges with narrow folds.
Twist the end tip to secure tightly.
Place packets on a baking sheet.
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, and let stand 5 minutes.
Place on plates; cut open.
Garnish with chopped fresh dill, if desired.
Serve immediately with yogurt sauce.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 packet and about 1/3 cup yogurt sauce)CALORIES 358 (41% from fat); FAT 16.2g (sat 3.9g,mono 7.5g,poly 3.4g); PROTEIN 39.7g; CHOLESTEROL 90mg; CALCIUM 144mg; SODIUM 675mg; FIBER 2.2g; IRON 1.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9.9g Cooking Light, APRIL 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Goat Cheese Chocolate Truffles

Ok, you're gonna love this story. Inspired by the recipe below, I melted approx 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute (stirring at 30 seconds). I then mixed it w/2 oz fresh goat cheese that had recently been gifted to me by dear, thoughtful friends. I squeezed barely a drop or two of fresh lemon juice and mixed it all together with a spoon.

I proceeded to use a small scoop to make the truffles. Rolled them in cocoa powder and stuck them in the freezer while I ran to the gym. Yes, you read that right.....they set up and were ready and waiting for me after a hard workout :)

I'm sure the actual recipe below is even better, but these tonite were pretty darn tasty!

Goat Cheese Chocolate Truffles

Gourmet October 1993
Makes about 25 truffles.

6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted, for coating the truffles

In a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the chocolate, stirring until it is smooth, remove the bowl from the pan, and let the chocolate cool slightly. In a bowl whisk together the goat cheese, the confectioners' sugar, the vanilla, and the lemon extract until the mixture is light and fluffy, whisk in the chocolate until the mixture is combined well, and chill the mixture, covered, for 1 hour, or until it is firm. Form heaping teaspoons of the mixture into balls and roll the balls in the cocoa powder. Chill the truffles on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper for 30 minutes, or until they are firm. The truffles keep in an airtight container, chilled, for 3 days.

Steamed Trout/Flounder w/Chive-Tarragon Butter

I don't know about you, but in anticipation of pigging out at the holidays, we're trying to take it light right about now. And this is a great recipe to help us on the lighter side of things.

Steamed Trout with Chive-Tarragon Butter
Substitute fresh thyme or rosemary for the tarragon, if you wish.
(I used Flounder in place of the Trout)

1 1/2 tablespoons butter (I use Smart Balance)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/8 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 (8-ounce) dressed whole trout fillets
4 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 30 seconds. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; stir to combine. Set aside.

Cut 4 (15 x 24-inch) pieces of parchment paper. Fold in half crosswise. Draw a large heart half on each piece, with the fold of the paper being the center of the heart. Cut out the heart, and open. Place 1 fillet near the fold of each piece of parchment. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over each fillet. Brush butter mixture evenly over fillets; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Starting at the top of the heart, fold edges of parchment, sealing edges with narrow folds.
Twist the end tip to secure tightly. Place packets on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Place on plates; cut open. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 packet)CALORIES 358 (34% from fat); FAT 13.6g (sat 7g,mono 3.6g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 58.4g; CHOLESTEROL 143mg; CALCIUM 34mg; SODIUM 436mg; FIBER 0.1g; IRON 4.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 0.9g Cooking Light, APRIL 2007

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tomato & Garlic Stuffed Chicken

If you want something simple for your weeknight dinner to rock your socks that's also good enough for company, this recipe is it! Clipped it out of the most recent Gourmet on a whim and boy am I glad I did!

Tomato & Garlic Stuffed Chicken

1 large garlic clove, minced & mashed (I pressed)
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
1/4 c. finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4, 1/4 lb pieces chicken scallopini(flattened to 1/4"-- I sliced 2 fat chicken breasts in half for this)
1 large plum tomato (I used a vine ripe b/c that's what I had handy)cut crosswise into 8 slices, discarding ends

1. Stir together garlic, anchovy paste, parsley, 1/2 tbsp oil and 1/4 tspn pepper.

2. Pat chicken dry, spread with parsley mixture. Fold chicken in half crosswise and insert 2 slices of tomato into each "pocket." Season outside of pockets with 1/4 tspn pepper and 1/4 tspn salt (total-- don't salt too much anchovy paste is already salty)

3. Heat remaining tbsp of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken and brown 2 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Then, cook until chicken is just cooked through, 3-5 minutes more. Serve w/pan juices.

The way we eat, this just serves 2 ;)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Tomato Soup

I'm in complete denial that it's 97 degrees outside today.
It's October! It should be chilly and I should be tending enormous, steaming pots of soup. Which is exactly what I did today. Had a craving for tomato soup and grilled cheese.
Is there anything better? (Ok, maybe chicken pot pie.......)
This is a nice recipe when fresh tomato's aren't available. (Who am I kidding, I love Ina Garten's guts when she says, "Life is too short to peel a tomato!" Amen, sister!)

Tomato Soup-

1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped (same size as onion)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped (same size)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 28 oz can crushed tomatos
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatos
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 can chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1-2 c. heavy cream (I used 1 c. 1% milk and 1 c. 1/2 and 1/2 b/c that's what I had in the fridge-- I would encourage you to use all 2 c. of cream if you like a sweeter tomato soup vs. an acidic soup)

In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat and add onion, celery and carrot. Cook until tender, approx 5 minutes.

Add both cans of tomato, tomato paste, broth and bay leave. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat, add desired amount of cream. Pulse w/hand mixer until pureed or puree batches in blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade until smooth.

Serve topped w/creme fraiche and chives as a garnish or grilled cheese "croutons."

Makes 8 generous servings.


I hate to waste anything, that even goes for the little bit of tomato paste left at the bottom of the can from this recipe. So, I scoop it out in tablespoonfuls, put it in a baggie, date it and throw it in the freezer. I'll probably use it the next time I make chili.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These are my current favorite cookies to make and also the first item with which I christened my Kitchen Aid mixer!

Chocolate-Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries
1 1/4 c AP flour
1/4 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn baking soda1
1/4 c old fashioned rolled oats
1 c pecans, toasted and chopped (I also like hazelnuts)
1 c dried sour cherries, chopped coarse
4 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped into chunks about the size of choc chips
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 large egg
1 tspn vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions; preheat oven to 350. Line 2 large baking sheets w/parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, bp, bs, and salt in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, stir together oats, pecans, cherries and chocolate.

3. In stand mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture; mix until just incorporated. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

4. Divide dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup, then roll between palms into balls about 2" in diameter; stagger 8 balls on each sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using hands, gently press each dough ball to 1" thickness.Bake both baking sheets 12 minutes, rotate them front to back and top to bottom, then continue to bakeuntil cookes are medium brown and edges have begun to set, but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone and will appear raw, wet and shiny in cracks), 8-10 minutes longer. Do not overbake.

5. Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temp.Cook's Note: I make smaller cookes and bake 7 minutes and then 5 min after the rotation.

Cooks Illustrated May & June 2005

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chicken Noodle Soup & Biscuits

What better to do with leftover roast chicken than soup?

I kind of wing this, so forgive me if measurements aren't exact.
That's the great thing about soup, it's very forgiving! :)

2-3 Qts chicken broth
Leftover Roast chicken (approx 1 1/2 - 2 cups)
2 small carrots, cut on diagonal, 1/4 inch
1 whole stick celery
1 cup fresh cut broccoli florets (I cut bite size)
1 cup+ (according to preference) whole grain egg noodles
Handful fresh chopped, flat-leaf parsley
Season to taste

You can make this in 10 minutes by throwing everything in the pot and letting it simmer together. However, I put in the broth, chicken, carrots and celery stick (which I pull out before serving b/c my husband HATES celery :) ) in an hour or two ahead on super-low with the lid on.
Then, 10 minutes before serving, I take off the lid, bring up to a simmer and throw in the noodles and broccoli. (Please leave broccoli 'til last as it will get mushy, and they will be a little mushy if you eat leftovers. But, if gives this soup great flavor!)

The biscuits, I tweaked from a Sarah Moulton recipe:

Cracked Pepper & Cheese Drop Biscuits
(Original Scallion & Cheddar Biscuit recipe may be found on

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 ounces cheese, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups) -- I used colby jack I had leftover from a BBQ :)
1 Tbsp cracked pepper
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk (I used 1 Tbsp lemon juice and added enough milk to it to make one cup, let it sit for 5 minutes)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, cracked pepper and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in Cheese until lightly coated. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 18 to 20 minutes. (My oven took approx 16 minutes)

Cooking Nite Update

Well, I'm glad I took a few pics before the event, b/c I took even less during the event! This is all I saw fit to photograph of my roasted chicken. It was plump, glorious and a crispy golden brown at it's finish. I used a standard Julia Child recipe that I really recommend if you want a succulent bird that will make your home smell heavenly!

This particular recipe also came with instructions to make a sort of au jus w/the leftover pans juices from roasting. I think that's what really takes it over the edge. I served up the au jus in a little gravy boat alongside the platter of meat.

Folks brought mushroom pie, french onion soup, champagne/brie/emmenthaler fondue, a strawberry brulee dessert and a fabulous Cotes du Rhone.

I really can not recommend this wine enough! My friend did a great job in picking it out. Although these online tasting notes made me giggle a little:

* Eye : Deep and dark red. Shiny.
* Nose : Fresh fruits with red berries and spices.
* Palate : Full, round and racy. Rounded and smooth tannins. A full-bodied, rich and intensly aromatic wine.
* Overall : Full with a long finish and plenty of elegance and finesse due to the well balanced tannins and fruit

"Full, round and racy"- really? Racy? I don't know about all of that, my bottom line is that it has a gorgeous color and nice mellow finish w/plenty of punch in the middle. How's that for an amateur sommelier?
Surprisingly, the dish I got the most positive feedback was the potatos! I was thinking nothing of them really, b/c I make roasted potatos all of the time. I will admit these were a little out of the ordinary as they were tri-colored fingerling potatos (sliced in half if they were small, quartered lengthwise if they were larger). I simply roasted them at 400 for half an hour (ish) with a little olive oil, a pinch of herbes de provence and tons of kosher salt.

Sadly, we were all struggling by the time dessert rolled around. The creme brulee was a good thought, but a bit too much after the main feasting. The good news is, I have 4 leftover!

Here's the roast chicken recipe, bon apetit!

Roast Chicken
Recipe courtesy Julia Child, Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery leaves
Salt and black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Wash the chicken in hot water and dry thoroughly. Season the cavity with salt and black pepper and stuff with the onion, lemon, and celery leaves. Rub the chicken lightly with softened butter and season all over with salt and pepper. Tie the drumsticks ends together and set the chicken, breast side up, in an oiled v-shaped rack or on an oiled roasting pan in the oven.

Roast for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees, baste the chicken, and roast for 15 minutes. Add the chopped onion and carrot to the pan, basting them and the chicken. Continue roasting the chicken until the juices run clear, for a total of 45 minutes plus an additional 7 minutes for each pound. (In other words, a 3 1/2 pound chicken would take a basic 45 minutes plus an additional 25 minutes, for a total 70 minutes or 1 hour and 10 minutes of cooking time.)

Remove the chicken and spoon the fat out of the roasting pan. Into the pan, stir in the herbs and blend in the broth and, stirring constantly, boil for several minutes on the stovetop to concentrate the flavor. Correct the seasoning and strain the sauce into a warm sauceboat. Carve the chicken and serve with the warm sauce.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cooking Nite Prep

Recently I've fallen into a great group of foodies and have offered to host "Cooking Nite" at my home. The theme I chose was French-- not out of pretension or food snobbery, merely b/c I wanted an excuse to make creme brulee!

I also love any excuse to buy fresh flowers! I loaded up on buds at Fresh Market yesterday. I'm particularly pleased with these hydrangea-
I know! I know! I get a little carried away, but you would've too had you seen these hydrangea in the store! :)

I've also chosen what I think to be a decent Pinot Noir/Burgundy for the evening, I'll certainly give an update once it's consumed.

Speaking of carried away, does anyone else do this before a party? Lay out all of your dishes the nite before? Or is it just me......I'm sure it's just me ;)

I'll be sure to share my chicken roasting adventure with you all as well.
Stay tuned! :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ooo la! la! Creme Brulee

Somehow, recently I have found myself amidst a new group of folks that love food probably as much as I do! We foodies always manage to find each other!

So, it's my turn to host "Cooking Nite" at my house. My style/ethnic choice will be, French. I've already picked up the Edith Piaf (since my tapes from the 80's are well-worn and long lost in my attic), a little burgundy as well as chicken and potatos for the roasting. So far, one other person is bringing a brie fondue- how good does that sound? What happened to my new, nutritious, leafy green, fibrous filled diet you may be asking yourself? In my defense, cooking nite was planned long before my southern saddlebag enhancing expedition ;) LOL! Ok, on to the creme brulee.....

Crème brûlée (French for "burnt cream") is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a layer of hard caramel, created by burning sugar under a grill or other intense heat source. It is usually served cold in individual ramekins. The custard base is normally flavoured with just vanilla, but it can be flavoured in a number of ways: with chocolate, a liqueur, fruit, etc.
I have a very simple recipe under my belt that I've used for so long, I have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it works, and that's all I need to know! If you've never made it before, you will be amazed at how insanely simple this rich, decadent and impressive dessert is.

My recipe (some would call this a stirred method):
8 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups cream
1 tspn vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Stir egg yolks and sugar together until sugar is dissolved and mixture is light yellow. Add cream and vanilla, stir until combined.

Pour through strainer (I use paper towels placed in a hand seive) over pitcher/bowl to remove bubbles.

Place towel in bottom of large baking dish/roasting pan. Pour cream mixture into 4-5 ramekins (depending on size) and place in baking dish on towel.

Place dish holding ramekins onto oven shelf. Pour hot water in to baking dish (I turn up a corner of the towel and pour the hot water under the towel so I don't splash the creme brulees) halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 40-50 minutes, depending on size of ramekins. Take out oven and let cool in water bath.

Chill thoroughly for at least 2 hours, up to 2 days.

If you don't have a hand torch, you can use your broiler-- just keep an eye on it! :)

I use turbinadao sugar for the caramelized tops, but I also like demerara(they are practically the same thing) when I can get my hands on it!

Bon Apetit!

I was going to post a finished product pic, but alas, this is all I have to offer. I blinked and it was gone! LOL!

Potato Soup

Returning home after my week of southern, deep-fried feasting, thoughts turn to eating more vegetables and fiber ;) I'm always game for a new potato soup recipe (served with a side of salad of course!) So, here's Cooking Light's latest potato soup recipe:

Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Applewood-Smoked Bacon.

As the name implies, fingerling potatoes have a narrow shape, similar to a finger. These baby white potatoes contain less starch than russet potatoes; waxy small red potatoes make a good stand-in.(which is what I used and they looked pretty in the soup)

2 slices applewood-smoked bacon (I used 4)
1 3/4 cups diced onion
3 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 7 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk (I used skim b/c it was what I had on hand)
1/2 cup half-and-half
8 ounces (1/4-inch-thick) rounds fingerling potato slices (I used red pot's)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used a tspn and a half)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I used a tspn)
Thyme sprigs (optional)

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp(any excuse to use your Le Creuset is a good one, dontcha think?). Remove bacon from pan; crumble.

Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Add corn, chopped thyme, and garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Stir in broth, milk, half-and-half, and potatoes; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer 2 cups potato mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth; return pureed mixture to pan.

Stir in salt and black pepper; sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired. Yield: 5 servings

(serving size: about 1 cup)CALORIES 186 (27% from fat); FAT 5.5g (sat 2.7g,mono 1.2g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 7.6g; CHOLESTEROL 18mg; CALCIUM 84mg; SODIUM 398mg; FIBER 3.4g; IRON 1.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 27.8g Cooking Light, AUGUST 2007

Back from the land o'cotton.....

...and sweet, sweet Mennonite corn......

It had been a long time since I had been in touch with my true southern roots.
So, last week I journeyed to the land of my forefathers, Arkansas. Suffice to say, all I did was eat!

Our list of vittles last week included:

Fried Chicken
Venison, smoked in pepper bacon
Porterhouse Steaks
Homemade Lasagna (not exactly southern, but kickass just the same)
Macaroni & Cheese
Fried Potatos
Mennonite Sweet Corn
Biscuits & Gravy
Sweet Tea
Salad w/grape tomatos & peppers from my grandmother's garden

I ask you-- does life get any better than that?

My contribution to the potluck was fried potatos-- made in my grandmother's very own, well-seasoned cast iron skillet! Mmmmmm.....mmmmmmm.

There really is something to the thought that food binds folks together. I spent alot of time around the table this last visit, soaking up all the old stories, surrounded by my people and busily stuffing my face. I also have in hand a cookbook that my grandmother wrote upon retirement from her bakeshop. I'll have to keep y'all posted as I go through the recipes.