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Cappuccino Sticks

This recipe has been a family favorite for many years. It comes from an index card taped in my oldest recipe notebook.  It is written in my sister-in-law’s pretty handwriting, from a time when we were both recently married and often shared recipes when we got together.

I don’t make as many cookies at Christmastime as I used to.  Some seasons go by without me giving a thought to these wonderful cookies, laced with some of my favorite flavors.  Others go by without me being able to remember where I keep the recipe.  This year after my husband specifically asked if I would make a batch of these and after I managed to put my hands on the recipe card he suggested I put it on my blog….for safe keeping. 

If you like buttery-brown-sugar-sweetness married to the boldness of coffee and chocolate, you’ll be glad he did!

Cappuccino Sticks
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2¼ cups flour
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon instant coffee powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup butter, at room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup finely chopped nuts, toasted

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, coffee powder, salt and baking powder. 

Add the butter and  cream.  Beat until thoroughly blended.  Cover the dough and chill, if needed, until the dough is firm enough to shape.

Preheat oven to 375F. Using a rounded teaspoonful for each, shape dough into a  3” x  ½“ logs and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. 

Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl.  Dip  one end of each cookie into the melted chocolate.  Shake off excess chocolate and dip into the chopped nuts, if desired. 

Great for dipping in coffee….


Traditional Gingerbread Cookies

My kitchen baking this holiday season seems to be all about ginger. Last week I went non-traditional with a light sugar dusted ginger cake spiced up with a dose of white pepper and drenched in a tart lemon glaze. The result was a nice change of pace.

This week I am back to doing it old-school, so old-school that my recipe is adapted from The Art of Cookery, published in London in 1760. This recipe for Ginger-Bread Cakes or Cookies came to me in a small booklet titled “Recipes from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop.” I picked it up on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg when I lived in Virginia in the 1980’s. There I was intrigued by a wonderful Gingerbread Cookie purchased from the bake shop. It had an interesting texture and a complex spiciness that made me want more. I asked about the recipe and was directed to this small book.

Inside I found a collection of delightfully authentic eighteenth-century recipes, with quantities of ingredients woven into the quaint and conversational directions. The recipe for Ginger-Bread Cakes begins with instructions to “take three pounds of flour…” then direct the reader to ‘make up the bread stiff; roll it out, and make it up into thin cakes…” before “baking them on tin plates in a slack oven.”

Fortunately each recipe is also translated into a more contemporary style using familiar terminology and quantities adapted to make them more manageable for today’s home cooks.

Remembering the taste of those hearty Williamsburg Gingerbread cookies I enjoyed so long ago I decided to dig out that recipe and try to recreate it this Christmas season. The recipe is fairly simple, as written in the book. Mixing the dough was quick and easy and used only one bowl, promising an easy clean-up. Mixing the sugar with the fresh spices I recently bought at Penzeys released a wonderful fragrance in the kitchen adding an extra festive edge to the process.

In the end I added more flour than the recipe called for and still needed to refrigerate the dough overnight before it was stiff enough for me to roll out successfully and cut into shapes. Once chilled I was able to cut out a selection of gingerbread men that were just the right size for dipping in coffee

and Ninja-bread Men that made use of the clever cookie cutters my youngest son gave me for Christmas last year.

If you prefer not to wait for the dough to chill you can instead roll or scoop it into 1-inch balls, roll the balls in course sugar and smash them slightly with a fork before baking. These cookies will be thicker and softer than those cut into shapes.

Traditional Gingerbread Cookies
adapted from Recipes from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon white pepper and/or ancho chile powder (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
½ cup evaporated milk
1 cup unsulfered molasses
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
¾ teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
4½ - 5½ cups flour (I used all-purpose white flour)

Coarse decorator sugar crystals

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl combine the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, white pepper or ancho chile powder (if desired), salt, and baking soda, mixing well.

Add the melted butter, evaporated milk and molasses. Stir in extracts, if desired.

Add the flour, 1 cup at a time. (Note: the lesser amount of flour is best for shaping cookies into balls. For a dough that is easier to roll out and shape with cookie cutters, use the greater amount of flour.)

To make Gingerbread Rounds:

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in coarse decorator sugar.

Place balls on greased cookie sheets. Mash each slightly with a fork or your thumb.

Bake at 375F for 10 - 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

To make Gingerbread Cut-outs:

Divide dough into thirds. Wrap each third in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to shape the cookies remove one section of dough at a time. Place the dough on a floured surface and roll to a ¼-inch thickness. Flour cookie cutters and cut dough into shapes.

Place shapes on Greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with coarse decorator sugar, if desired. 

Bake at 375F for 8 - 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.


White Pepper and Ginger Lemon Cake

December is here with it the fresh festive fragrances of the season. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger along with other aromatic spices star in many favorite holiday recipes as they delight our senses and stir our memories. They brighten the flavor of our favorite cakes and cookies and satisfy our appetites for warmth and comfort in the kitchen.

Of these holiday spices I think ginger is my favorite. I am already three layers deep in my first bag of Pepperidge Farm Gingerman cookies this week.  They are delicious dipped in coffee and their dark ginger flavor along with the sparkle and crunch of their coarse sugar topping sets the mood for festive homemade treats yet to come.  Soon there will be plates of Pfefferneusse, Gingerbread Biscotti and Ginger Cookie Sticks to enjoy, not to mention an Old-Fashioned Gingerbread or two.

During the holiday season I most often think of ginger as part of a festive medley of spices; dark, rich and often sweetened with molasses. Sometimes, however, I am reminded that ginger can take some interesting turns, even in December. Here it is paired with white pepper to lend a gentle clean heat to its exotic spiciness and then brightened with a fresh lemon glaze.

This white ginger cake has a complex flavor that offers a unique variation on a holiday favorite. But beware! Once you've tasted it you won't want to limit it to just one season.  Enjoy it served at a spring tea or as a worthy foil to a tropical fruit medley on a fine summer evening.

White Pepper and Ginger Lemon Cake
From newspaper, attributed to “Maida Heatters’s Book of Great American Desserts”

Lemon Glaze

1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar


Zest of 2 large lemons, finely grated
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½–ounce piece fresh ginger root (about 1 x 1.5 inch piece), grated
3 cups all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

To prepare the Lemon Glaze:

Combine the juice and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside and allow the mixture to stand while the cake is baking.

To prepare Cake:

Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare a 10 – 12 cup Bundt pan. (I used Wilton Dimensions Belle bundt pan.)

In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed beat the butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the sugar and beat for another minute. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until well incorporated after each addition.

With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 portions, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 portions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the lemon-ginger mixture just until combined.

Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt pan. Smooth the top.

Bake at 325F for 70 – 80 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let the cake rest in the pan for 5 – 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and let it rest on a wire rack over a piece of aluminum foil.

Glaze the cake while it is still warm. Stir the glaze and, using a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the warm cake allowing some to drip down into the center hole. The cake should absorb all of the glaze. If some drips down onto the foil, pour it back over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.

Transfer the cooled cake to a serving plate. Serve....... or cover the cake with plastic wrap and allow the flavors to blend and mellow for a day or two.


The Best Turkey Sandwich

Thanksgiving Revisited

There were only three of us at the table this year, and we cooked on Tuesday rather than Thursday. All the same, our Thanksgiving Dinner embraced family tradition. The only departure from the expected menu was that we elected to skip the Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Pecans. Still our table was graced with The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey, Bread Stuffing, Southern Style Green Beans, Corn Salad with Pecan Dressing, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Pumpkin Yeast Braids and a Rustic Apple Pie.

The fragrance from the kitchen was delightful! Though it was 70 degrees outside that Thanksgiving scent wafted out the window and into the garden as I took a short break from the cooking. Sitting there that scent finally brought the season home. Though this past year has been one of abundant change for my family, those things that are timeless endure. We have so much to be thankful for, not the least of which is this beautiful weather, that tempting scent emanating from the kitchen and the wonderful warm memories it evokes.

Looking Forward to Leftovers

It was a delicious meal, and though the leftovers are unusually plentiful it is hard to take exception with a refrigerator full of family favorites. The challenge is to find new ways of combining those old favorites into tempting meals. That task doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes the smallest variations can lend a bright new perspective.

One welcome addition to the leftover lineup this year was one whole untouched Pumpkin Yeast Braid. It is my youngest son’s favorite but since he was not able to join us this year there was enough left to slice for sandwiches. As we prepared a picnic lunch for Wednesday's visit to the waterfront at Mud Island that’s where I started.

An Amazing Turkey Sandwich

First I gently toasted the Pumpkin Yeast Braid slices, just enough to add body and lend a slight golden color.

Then I piled on some slices from the herb roasted breast of our Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey, and few chunks of dark meat as well.

To the turkey I added bacon strips that weren’t used since we skipped the Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Pecans.

Finally I added a thick layer of Cranberry Sauce. In our house that is most often the jelled stuff from a can, my daughter’s favorite, but a heartier cranberry sauce would work just as well.

They were pretty sandwiches!

With the addition of leftover Corn Salad with Pecan Dressing, a few Mandarin Oranges and some Chocolate Chip Cookies they provided a picnic worth looking forward to.

Still it wasn’t until we got down to the riverfront that I discovered how good these sandwiches really are. That brown sugar sweetness of the golden bread slices was a perfect counterpoint to the tart cranberry relish and the salty strips of bacon. Beneath it all the abundance of sliced turkey tasted rich and satisfying while lending a delicate infusion of herbs that added charming accent notes and gave a sense of completion to the composition.

Though turkey sandwiches are one of my favorite holiday outcomes, we still have a good bit of turkey to look forward too. At my house that might mean Cashew Turkey Casserole or a turkey variation on Chicken and Dumplings made with homemade Turkey Stock.

What is your favorite way to use Thanksgiving leftovers?

Transitional Forms

Just look at this bowl... Isn’t it gorgeous?

It is a housewarming gift from a good friend in my long-time hometown. I love the simple wrapping, the fresh green bow highlighting the clean white. She surprised me with this beautiful serving piece and a few words about why she felt it was right for me.

As I admire it I am struck by its harmonious asymmetry. It is plain, wholesome and functional; a fresh palette for colorful crisp salads, the perfect foil to bright, freshly pan-roasted vegetables or a generous frame for a brothy braised entrée. At the same time it holds its own, hinting at the unexpected in its delightful departure from conventional form; the slightest bow of one corner offering to pour out and share what it cradles. I love its sly yet generous expression!

My friend also suggested she hopes to see it filled it with something delicious and featured on my blog. I realize it has been too long. This season of transition has lingered past necessity. It is time to get back to a routine and celebrate the things I carry forward.

This bowl acknowledges a new beginning. I have swept out the home I am leaving in Washington and unpacked most of its contents in Tennessee. It is time to start again, to write a new chapter, to untie that tidy bow and get back to that sometimes messy business of creating, filling and sharing the gifts I’ve been given.

See you soon!

Sweet Lamb Cinnamon Rolls

Catching Up

Spring has arrived and, true to its promise, is bursting with new life. The bones of my backyard landscape are unfurling in tender shades of green. Colorful blossoms punctuate the transition, their aroma teasing me into the yard to tend my long neglected garden.

As the sap is rising in my backyard landscape, I can feel new strength in my healing arm. Gardening is both pleasure and exercise as I stretch my fingers in the warming earth and trim away the disfigured brush left from last autumn. Herbs leaf out under spent seedheads, their fragrance making my work an even greater joy.

The Joy of Saved Steps

Not only have I fallen behind in the yard, plans for a festive Easter celebration have been neglected too. Still I am looking forward to the celebration of Jesus' victory over death. A feast doesn’t have to require extensive preparation. It only needs a few special elements and a joyful state of mind to lift the presentation from ordinary to memorable.

I often make a homemade yeast bread for Easter morning. It is delicious and worth the extra effort when there is time available for preparation. This year, however, I am saving time and steps by making a different Easter morning sweet roll. This year I will be relying on canned breakfast quick breads for our morning meal. Still I would like to dress them up for the occasion.

This simply adorned breakfast confection was fun to make. I started with my recipe for Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls, and with a few extra ingredients ended up with a wooly-lamb-shaped breakfast cake that fits right into the season.

Sweet Lamb Cinnamon Rolls

1 recipe of Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls, prepared as directed through slicing
1 can of large refrigerated biscuits (I used Grands)
2 raisins or chocolate chips
1 dried cranberry

Prepare the Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls as directed up to the step where you cut each can of the rolled dough. Cut each section into 14 instead of 18 pieces. Arrange the sliced cinnamon rolls on an unglazed baking stone or other baking sheet. Begin with a grid that is four rolls by four rolls, leaving a space of ¼-inch or so between rolls.

Cut three of the large unbaked biscuits in half lengthwise. Position two half pieces on either side of one whole large unbaked biscuit, settling the straight cut side of the biscuit pieces against the whole biscuit to form ears. Dot the biscuit with two raisins (or chocolate chips) for eyes and the dried cranberry for a mouth. Position the assembled biscuit pieces to the upper right of the cinnamon rolls to represent a head.

Place another cut cinnamon roll beneath the head and next to the other cinnamon rolls. Now position the other two halved pieces of biscuit dough to either side of the lower row of cinnamon rolls to form legs. Place the remaining cut cinnamon rolls over the “head” and around the left side of the body of the lamb as desired. Place one more biscuit half to the left of the cinnamon rolls to form a tail.

Top the cinnamon rolls with any remaining melted butter and/or cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven.

Prepare glaze as directed for Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls. Drizzle the glaze over the cinnamon roll portion of the lamb. Serve warm.

Happy Easter!

Simple White Beans

Seasonal Adaptation

In just a few short days it will be Easter. Lent is drawing to a close and another season of simplicity and fasting will give way to abundance and feasting.

This year the reality of my life has been unusually in tune with the season. On Ash Wednesday I had surgery to reassemble a broken wrist. While the healing has been remarkable it is a process that takes time. Throughout Lent I have had to approach even ordinary tasks with special care. I have had to give up some of my usual activities and take other things more slowly. Cooking has been a particular challenge, especially where any chopping or knife work is required.

Adapting has been a challenge, but not a painful one. I have relied on help from friends and family, explored new convenience products, taken advantage of some prepackaged items and fallen back on an ongoing quest for simplicity.

Welcoming Old Friends

Sometimes limitations invite us to become reacquainted with old friends. The first dinner I cooked after my accident was actually an old favorite and perfect for Lent. With my arm still in a massive splint I carefully poured a bag of dry white beans into a large pot and covered them with water. The next day I slowly drained them, added more water, maneuvered the pot onto the stove and stirred in a spoonful of bouillon. There the beans simmered until they were tender and silky.

These beans are delicious straight from the cooking pot. We also like them paired with a simple rice pilaf and garnished with a drizzle of Sriraicha and a few flakes of shaved Parmesan.

Simple White Beans

1 lb. bag of dried white beans
1 Tablespoon vegetable base (I use Better Than Bouillon)

Rinse the beans in a colander. Sort through them carefully to remove any dark beans, small stones or other debris.

Place the rinsed beans in a 4-quart cooking pot. Add water to a level several inches above the top of the beans. Cover and set aside to soak overnight (or for eight hours or so).

Drain the soaked beans and return them to the same pot. Add clean water to a level 2-3 inches above the top of the beans and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms on the top of the water.

Reduce the heat and stir in the vegetable base. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender (1-2 hours). Adjust seasoning to taste, adding a little salt and/or pepper as you like.

Serve and enjoy!

Oreo Streusel Ribbon Cake

Overcoming Challenges

After a challenging month it is time to count my blessings! I want to celebrate friends and family, people who have gone out of their way to help me figure out how to overcome limitations and provide for the necessities. I am repeatedly amazed by the power of encouragement and prayer along with the faithfulness of those who have offered both and contributed to my comfort and progress in healing.

I am also eager to celebrate the doctor and other health care professionals who had the knowledge and ability to repair my crushed forearm and get me out of a confining splint and back to a significant use of my left hand within a few short weeks. I simply never imagined that was possible and am so thankful for what has been accomplished on my behalf since I broke me radius in several places a few short weeks ago.

More Reasons to Celebrate

What's more, this past week has marked the 100th birthday of Oreo Cookies. It would also have been my Aunt Hen's 98th birthday. More compelling reasons and further inspiration for a cake to mark the occasion and contribute to the celebration!

When you have a reason to celebrate but are facing limitations, whether in time, ability, energy or resources, a coffee cake makes a wonderful choice. Not only does a coffee cake require fewer steps but, in my family anyway, it is often more fondly greeted as well as more quickly and appreciatively consumed.

My family loves coffee cakes and this one is no exception. It consists of sweet buttery cake layered with an Oreo cookie and cream cheese ribbon and topped with an Oreo crumb streusal. No more explanation is needed to recommend it. Simply try it and savor the sweet results!

Oreo Streusel Ribbon Cake

Oreo Streusel Topping
10 Oreo cookies
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
¼ cup butter

Place Oreos in a quart sized Ziploc freezer bag. Squeeze out the air and seal the top, Crush the Oreos using a rolling pin. 10 crushed Oreos should equal approximately 1 cup of crumbs.

In a small bowl, combine the crushed Oreo crumbs with the sugar and flour. Add the butter in several slices and mix to a crumbly streusel with your fingertips or with a fork, if you prefer. Set aside.

Oreo Cream Cheese Ribbon
10 Oreos, diced
6 ounces cream cheese
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon flour

In a small bowl, using an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese until softened. Add the egg and sugar and continue beating until smooth. Add the flour, beating until well combined. Stir in the diced Oreos.

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt with a wire whisk.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the white sugar and melted butter blending until smooth.

Add the milk and vanilla, whisking until well combined.

With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until smooth and well combined.

Pour half (or a little more) of the batter into a prepared 9-inch baking pan. Spoon the Oreo Cream Cheese Ribbon on top avoiding the edge of the pan. Cut it in to the batter slightly using a butter knife. Pour the rest of the batter on top of the ribbon carefully smoothing the batter over the top as much as possible. Scatter the Oreo Streusel topping crumbs on top of the batter.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degree for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the cake tests done.

Cool on a wire rack.

When cake is cooled, top with a powdered sugar icing made from 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and enough water (2 to 3 teaspoons) to make a drizzling consistency.


Eat the cake while warm from the oven.


Chicken Enchi-lottas

These past few weeks have been an interesting journey in relying on family and friends and learning new ways of accomplishing the most common routines. With my writing hand in a big splint following surgery my activities as well as my writing have been limited. Luckily I have been blessed with an understanding family and generous friends. One of those friends (who made an earlier contribution on My Own Sweet Thyme with his recipe for Swedish Pancakes) even offered not only to bring my family a wonderful meal but to write a guest post about it too....


Hi. Just so there is no confusion out there, I am not Lisa. She has been indisposed recently and unable to blog or cook, so my wife and I have occasionally been filling in on the cooking front, and after my last effort I was invited to share the results with you too.

One of the things that I enjoy cooking are enchiladas. They are a filling dish, flavorful, and one that is easy to share with others; just the perfect recipe for a friend in need. As I thought about making them, I imagined that my wife's Crock Pot Chicken would make a wonderful starting point. Chicken that is cooked all day in an Italian salad dressing marinade is tender, and very tasty. My mouth waters just thinking about it. The rest of the ingredients I could cull from the pantry and a few other recipes. The result was well worth sharing. I hope you'll agree!

Chicken Enchi-Lottas

Part 1: The Chicken

1-1/2 lbs of frozen chicken breast (About 3 large pieces)
1 bottle Italian salad dressing

First thing in the morning put the chicken in the crock pot and pour the contents of the salad dressing over them. Turn the crock pot on "Medium" and go on about your day. (Hint: The chicken will be absolutely wonderful all by itself. You can shred it, or slice it; the texture will be perfect. It is so good you might find yourself wanting a sandwich out of it the next day. If there is room in the pot for an extra piece of chicken I would recommend tossing one in. You'll find something to do with it even if it is just nibbling on it as an appetizer while you put the rest of dinner together.)

Part 2: The Filling

When the aromas emanating from the crock pot fills the house, it is time to make the filing. Take the chicken out of the crock pot and set it aside on some paper towels to cool. While the chicken is cooling, collect the rest of the supplies needed for the filling.

1 Onion
1 small can of chopped olives
1 small can of chopped green chili peppers
1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese
3 small peppers, various colors
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes

Chop and saute the onion in a frying pan. While it is cooking, dice the multi-colored peppers and toss those in the frying pan, too. Add the chopped olives. Finely chop the sun dried tomatoes and mix those in with the onion as well. When the mixture has been cooked the way you like it, transfer the onions, et al, to a large mixing bowl.

Now would be a good time to shred or chop the chicken up into bite-size bits. I prefer it chopped. (For the engineers in the crowd, a 'bite size bit' specs out as a cube 0.375 inches per side, +/- 0.015 inches.) Toss the chopped chicken into the mixing bowl as well.

Blend the chicken and sautéed ingredients. Add the diced tomatoes, and the green chili peppers. Add about 3/4 of the grated mozzarella (approximately 3 cups). Mix again.

The filling is now ready!

Part 3: Assembly

We are now ready to add the final ingredients and assemble into a delicious meal.

1 bag tortillas, corn or flour
1 can enchilada sauce (pick your heat; mild, medium or hot)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Back to the stove, sprinkle some oil in the frying pan and turn the heat on medium-low. Place a tortilla in the pan to warm. Open the can of enchilada sauce, and then lifting the tortilla in the pan, place another one underneath it. Splash a dash of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a baking dish (about 9" x 12" or thereabouts). Lift both tortillas and add a third underneath to warm. Prepare a dinner plate with another splash of enchilada sauce in the middle. Add a fourth tortilla to the pan to warm.

When you have a stack of four tortillas warming in the frying pan (you will have to add oil every now and then), take the top one off, add another on the bottom of the stack, and put the hot tortilla on the plate with the enchilada sauce on it. Now flip it over so that it is coated on both sides, and scoop out about 1/3 cup (well rounded!) of filling and place it on the tortilla. Roll the tortilla up like a big home made cigar and gently transfer it to the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat as needed until the baking dish is full of stuffed tortillas. Depending on how you make them, you'll get 8 or 9 to fit in the dish.

Ladle out the rest of the enchilada sauce over the stuffed tortillas and sprinkle the whole lot with the rest of the grated cheese (approximately 1 cup).

Part 4: Cooking

Put the baking dish in the oven and bake at 350F until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese nicely melted. 20 to 30 minutes should do it. If you like your enchiladas tender, cover the baking dish with foil for the first 10 to 15 minutes. Uncover for the remainder of the cooking time.

Part 5: Presentation

After the kitchen is mostly cleaned up, and before the enchiladas come out of the oven, take a handful of cilantro, and wash and chop it up for a garnish. Having some sour cream on hand also makes a nice topping. Serve with a salad, chips and salsa, or Spanish rice and beans if you like. Yum!

After you try these, you will understand why I called them "enchi-lottas." I'm pretty sure you won't want to eat just one. You'll want a-lotta!

Care for a bite?


Homemade Chicken Pot Pies

Slow Motion

Finishing up a few things last Wednesday evening I took an inelegant dive off a chair I was standing on. Falling was like slow motion as I grew in my realization that this was not going to end well.

When I hit the floor I knew something was broken. As it turned out I snapped my radius and spent the wee hours of Thursday morning discovering how finger traps, a set-up resembling a medieval torture device, can actually help realign the bone to prevent further injury until surgery. This Wednesday the doctor plans to fit my radius with a plate and some screws that will hold it all together again.

Meanwhile, my left arm is splinted and my left hand (yes, I am left-handed) is virtually useless except as a shelf on which to prop up my iPhone.

A Recipe of Comfort

While my time is passing in slow motion life goes on. My boys were on their way to Dallas to visit colleges. Thankfully my daughter, Kerrin of Brie My Love, was able to come home for the weekend to help out.

The list of what I needed help with this weekend was long and daunting. It could be discouraging but, as so often happens, time invested in the kitchen brought comfort. Kerrin found a recipe for Homemade Chicken Pot Pie. Then she dug through my cabinets till she produced a set of individual pie-sized ramekins. Before long she was stirring the filling and then a smooth sauce. After topping them with a pastry crust and some cute pastry cutouts she put them in the oven.

As the pot pies steamed invitingly, Kerrin put on Finding Neverland, and we watched Johnny Depp's sweet portrayal of J. M. Barrie and the relationship that inspired the classic tale of Peter Pan. Watching a compelling drama while waiting to dine on a fragrant pie filled with wholesome chunks of chicken and vegetables, bathed in a creamy sauce with the savor of onion and thyme and topped with a flaky butterfly shaped crust, a girl could almost forget her troubles; at least until she tries to awkwardly dig in... wrong-handed. Luckily Kerrin set my place with an oversized serving spoon, perfect for overcoming my challenges and scooping up every last delicious bite.

Homemade Chicken Pot Pies
Adapted from allrecipes.com

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup frozen green peas
½ cup celery, sliced
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground
¼ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1¾ cups chicken broth, plus more for cooking the first step, if desired
2/3 cup milk
2 unbaked pie crusts

Preheat oven to 425F.

1. In a large saucepan combine chicken, carrots, peas and celery. Add enough water (you can use chicken or vegetable broth instead, if desired) to cover the contents. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

2. Using the same large saucepan, melt the butter. Over medium heat, cook the onions in the butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, celery seed and thyme until smooth and bubbly, Slowly stir in 1¾ cups chicken broth and the milk. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

3. Divide the chicken mixture evenly between six 10 or 12 ounce ramekins. Pour the hot sauce mixture evenly over the chicken mixture.

4. Cut six circles from the pie crust, each a little larger than the ramekin it will top. Cover the chicken mixture in each ramekin with a circle of dough, fitting the dough down onto the warm filling and pressing the edge decoratively against the side of the dish. Prick through each crust with a fork several times to vent. From remaining scraps of dough, cut decorative shapes with cookie cutters or a knife, if desired. Apply the shapes to the top crusts. Place the ramikins evenly on a sturdy baking sheet.

5. Bake at 425F for 30 – 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Allow pies to cool for 10 minutes before serving.


A Shared Cornish Hen with Red Fruit and Orange Bourbon Sauce

Company and Creativity

Sometimes I am asked, “What's the best thing to serve for a Valentine’s Day dinner?” I love the question. There are so many good answers. Of course it depends. It depends on your own personal preferences, on what you have time for, on who you plan to share the meal with.

The answer might be a carefully choreographed seven-course menu. It might be a thoughtfully prepared entrée with a simple salad and dessert. It might be a loaf of crusty bread with cheese and olives picked up at your favorite deli followed by champagne and chocolates. More than the menu, the perfect Valentine's Day dinner is about the company you keep and the creativity you bring to the table.

I think a Valentine’s Day dinner shines when it includes a little hands-on involvement. That can take the form of a home-cooked meal or a handwritten Valentine. It can be shared in a carefully set table or given voice through a thoughtfully selected playlist. It can also take expression in an invitation to dig-in with all of your senses as dinner is served.

Grappling with Dinner

I like an invitation to grapple with my food. Think of lobster or crab legs, fondue or fried chicken, unpeeled oranges or unshelled nuts. I like breaking apart fortune cookies to find out what’s inside or dipping into a bowl of chocolate ganache to roll truffles with a friend. It can be fun to work at uncovering your meal, bite by bite. While it makes dinner more of a challenge it tends to prolong and expand the experience, making it more of an event to linger over and enjoy.

Another hands on dish I enjoy is a Cornish hen. A Cornish hen is a perfect size for sharing with a significant dinner partner while still saving plenty of room for dessert. You can cut a roasted Cornish hen in half in the kitchen, serving each half on a separate bed of rice. I think it is more fun, though, to serve it whole, one hen plated to be shared with your Valentine.

Add a hearty appetizer to the menu, to optimize patience with the main course. Serve it with an easily enjoyed side dish; roasted potatoes or root vegetables, for example. Then cozy up with your Valentine, side by side or across a small intimate table, and savor your entrée together... saving at least a little room for a special dessert.

Roast Cornish Hens 
with Red Fruit and Orange Bourbon Sauce

1 Cornish hen, rinsed and patted dry
½ clementine or lemon
several sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
½ Tablespoon flour
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup orange juice concentrate
2 Tablespoons bourbon
¼ cup dried cherries and/or cranberries (soaked in 1 Tablespoon bourbon or orange juice)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Rub a bit of oil on the inside of a small roasting pan.

Rub the hen with a halved clementine or lemon, inside and out. Season the cavity with salt and pepper and tuck the citrus rind inside the cavity along with several springs of fresh thyme.

Place the chicken in the prepared roasting pan breast side up tucking it into shape. (I don't bother to tie it or truss it.)

Rub about 1 Tablespoon of butter all over the skin of the chicken. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Separate the skin from the chicken breast with your fingers, creating a pocket. Tuck several leaves of thyme, rosemary or sage into the pocket over each breast, if desired.

Place the roasting pan in the middle of a hot oven and roast the chicken, uncovered, at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 170 - 180 degrees, or until juices run clear when cut between a leg and thigh, approximately 30 minutes more.

Remove from oven, tent with foil, and let the chicken rest for 10 or 15 minutes.


Blend 1 Tablespoon butter with ½ Tablespoon flour in a small bowl.

Heat chicken broth and orange juice concentrate in a small skillet or saucepan. Boil for several minutes to reduce the liquid and blend flavors.

Add the bourbon and simmer for another minute.

Whisk in the flour mixture and the soaked cherries and/or cranberries. Simmer sauce, stirring often, until it begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.

Spoon sauce over the Cornish hen.

Serve with a rice pilaf or Roasted Potatoes.

Share with a friend.


Spicy Hot Brie

There is no cheese more perfect for Valentine’s Day than Brie. Brie is smooth and sexy, silken soft and full of potential. Alone it is rich and mildly tangy spread on a crusty slice of baguette or eaten with fruit. As an ingredient it provides a dramatic canvas for a great variety of flavors both sweet and savory.

Brie can be dressed up or down, baked with mustard and pepper, mango chutney or apricot jam. It can be wrapped in a buttery crisp robe of puff pastry or baked into a quiche. It can also be turned inside out and sprinkled with spicy hot pepper flakes, herbs and spices.

This recipe for Spicy Hot Brie is gleaned from the December issue of Sunset. There it is suggested as part of a cocktail party menu. The simplicity of it caught my eye and the flavorful herbs and spices urged me to try it with a wedge of brie leftover from an earlier celebration.

Easy to put together, this tasty appetizer is ready to serve after just a few minutes in a hot oven. Simply sprinkle the herbs and spices over the brie before baking. Or, for a touch of drama, crack whole peppercorns with a pestle, then add the cumin seed and red pepper flakes to the mortar for a few quick grinds to blend the flavors and release the fragrance as guests arrive. Finally, snip the rosemary into the mortar and give the mixture one last grind before scattering it over the brie and tucking the cheese into a warm oven. In less than ten minutes the edges will begin to bubble and the cheese will be ready to share and savor.

Spicy Hot Brie
from the December 2011 issue of Sunset

12 ounces brie cheese
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, according to taste
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, snipped
rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Split the brie horizontally,  evenly through the soft center of the cheese.

Arrange the cheese in a pretty baking dish with the soft centers facing up.

Combine the cracked peppercorns, cumin seeds, red pepper flakes and rosemary. Grind briefly with a mortar and pestle to blend and release fragrance, if desired. (It will release more flavor from the spices.)

Sprinkle the herb and spice mixture over the brie.

Bake at 350 degrees until the edges of the cheese begin to melt and bubble, approximately 5 - 10 minutes.

Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired.

Serve with crackers, breadsticks or slices of baguette.


Inside-Out Oreo Truffle Bites

Football Food

The Super Bowl is Sunday and it's time to indulge in that whole fan experience; choosing sides, wearing the colors, planning the munchies. Which team are you rooting for?

I have to admit, I'm more excited about the food than the football. While we might not agree on which team we favor, Patriots or Giants, I bet we can agree on Super Bowl snack favorites. Mine tend to have a retro bent; Bourbon Sauced Cocktail Wieners, Ro-tel Queso Dip, burgers and hot wings, chips and don't forget the Oreos.

Are you an Oreo fan? Whether you first loved the sweet creamy frosting or the crisp chocolate cookie, whether you dunk them in milk or lift the lid and eat the inner frosting first, it seems that almost everyone has a fond light in their eyes at the thought of Oreo cookies.

Maybe that's why I was drawn to these limited edition football-shaped Oreos. Aren't they cute? When I saw them at the supermarket they were suddenly a must have for this year's Super Bowl spread.


Not only are football shaped Oreo cookies a great addition to a Super Bowl extravaganza but Oreos also mix and match well, making them a welcome ingredient in other snacks and desserts. They go especially well with cream cheese and I have posted about a big ganache covered Oreo Cookies and Cream Cheesecake and tiny cupcake-sized Oreo Crusted Cheesecakes.

I finally tried these little Inside-Out Oreo Truffle Bites which are all over the Internet these days. They are even a smaller version of "cheesecake," and arguably simpler to make. You just mix together crushed Oreos and softened cream cheese, then dip bite sized portions in a white candy coating. Top with a halved mini-Oreo for more cute product drama. True fans are bound to love them! And if you aren't into football, they make a sweet confection for Valentine's Day as well.

Inside-Out Oreo Truffle Bites

1 package of Oreo cookies, crushed
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 package of white baking chips or almond bark
Several Tablespoons of powdered sugar
Mini-oreo cookies, for garnish, if desired

In a large bowl, mix together the crushed Oreo cookies and cream cheese until well blended.

Scoop the mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. (I use a 1¼-inch batter scoop that holds about 2 teaspoons to make rounded balls approximately 1-inch in diameter.)

Place the cookie sheet in the freezer until the dough is firm.

Place several Tablespoons of powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Take the cookie sheet from the freezer. Roll each portion of dough in your hands to form a smooth ball. Roll each ball in a dish of powdered sugar to coat. Place the balls back on the baking sheet and return to the freezer.

When firm prepare the white baking chips or almond bark for dipping or transfer the balls to a Ziploc freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to dip.


Melt the white baking chips or almond bark in the microwave or in a double boiler, according to package directions. When smooth and melted take the truffle balls from the freezer.

Using a round toothpick stuck into the frozen dough as a handle, dip the truffle into the melted candy coating, shaking gently to help the excess drip back into the pan before placing the finished truffle on a parchment lined baking sheet. Remove the toothpick and garnish by placing a mini-Oreo half over the toothpick mark.

Repeat with all remaining truffles. Allow to cool until the candy coating is firm.

Serve and enjoy!

Chicken Breasts with Champagne Sauce

We are in the heart of champagne season. From New Year’s Eve through Valentine’s Day when the evenings are long and the conditions are perfect for romantic dinners for two there always seems to be an occasion close at hand for sharing a glass of sparkling wine.

Over twenty years ago I cut the menu for a Champagne Dinner for Two from the pages of Southern Living. It featured an elegant but simple meal of chicken breasts in a velvety mushroom sauce, a  flavorful pilaf of wild rice, bright steamed vegetables and pretty green salad with luscious amaretto-spiked chocolate mousse for dessert. Of course the dinner was complemented by a bottle of champagne, sipped with the meal and laced through the sauce.

I prepared the menu exactly as suggested for Valentine’s Day. As promised, preparation was not complicated, leaving time to set a pretty table and put some flowers in a vase. The meal came together seamlessly and the flavors blended in a perfect harmony. The dinner was a success in every way.

Since then I have served Chicken Breasts with Champagne Sauce on many occasions. It has long been one of my favorite "For Company" dishes. It is simple enough to serve on late notice and elegant enough to impress.

I have modified the recipe somewhat over the years to reliably balance the consistency of the sauce and lower the fat content. As with many recipes, nonfat Greek yogurt makes an excellent substitute for the commercial sour cream called for in the original recipe.

Chicken Breasts with Champagne Sauce
adapted from a recipe in an old issue of Southern Living

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup champagne
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Yield: 2 servings.

In a medium skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add chicken breast halves and brown on both sides.

Reserving the drippings in the skillet,remove chicken breast pieces to a 1-quart baking dish. Add mushroom slices to the skillet and sauté until mushrooms are browned. Remove the mushrooms to a small dish and set aside.

Stir champagne into drippings in the skillet. Simmer until heated through and reduced slightly, stirring occasionally to release browned bits from the skillet. Pour warmed champagne evenly over chicken pieces.

Cover chicken and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove chicken pieces to a platter, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add yogurt, salt and pepper to the reserved liquid, whisking until smooth. Pour sauce over chicken and top with browned mushrooms.

Note: If you are reluctant to open a bottle of champagne for this recipe, white wine or even chicken broth can be used instead with good result.


Sweet and Sassy Cinnamon Roll Waffles

A Clever Idea

Once the year end holiday rush subsides and the new year begins to find its rhythm, my thoughts turn to those little kitchen treasures that might warm the heart for Valentine’s Day. I begin to sample ideas that are simple and sweet especially when they include flavor notes of chocolate or cinnamon. Elements of surprise and thoughtfulness trump elegance and complex preparation, especially for this weekday holiday that remains a matter of personal observation and is not recognized by the government or employers as a legitimate reason to skip work.

With these criteria in mind I realized I had already made my first Valentine discovery before the dawn of the New Year. A waffle maker made its way under the family Christmas tree on Christmas morning and within hours we had discovered a clever post from A Hen’s Nest on Pinterest. It combined the ease of canned cinnamon rolls with the quick application of a waffle maker to produce tasty Waffled Cinnamon Rolls in two and half minutes or less!

Quick Cinnamon Sweetness

Personally I think it is a stroke of genius! My children have always liked canned cinnamon rolls as a weekend treat they can cook and enjoy warm whenever they decide it is time to get out of bed. Having discovered that the cinnaom rolls can be “baked” in the waffle iron in just a couple of minutes makes that ready-when-you-are quality even more appealing. What’s more my boys associated the process with one of their favorite episodes from “The Office” adding a sense of quirky humor to breakfast.

For my part I thought these waffles were fun and relatively tasty. There is nothing particularly wholesome about them but they are warm and cinnamon-y and show a spark of adventure…not a bad combination for a special Tuesday-morning-Valentine’s-Day-breakfast-treat, or anytime you crave a quick bite of cinnamon sweetness.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles
from A Hen’s Nest

1 can (8 count) refrigerated cinnamon rolls (I used Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, regular size, not Grands)
powdered sugar or maple syrup, if desired

Preheat the waffle maker according to manufacturer’s directions. (I used a Cooks Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker set to a medium heat setting)

Meanwhile open the can of cinnamon rolls, separate them and arrange them on a plate so they are ready to go.

When the waffle maker is hot place four of the cinnamon rolls on the cooking plate with one roll centered in each quadrant.

Close the waffle maker and lock.

Cook the cinnamon roll waffles for approximately 2 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Carefully remove waffles from the waffle maker. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, drizzle with maple syrup or place the icing that came in the cinnamon roll package in a small side dish for dipping.

Makes 8 small waffles.

Note: Leftover waffles can be frozen and reheated in a toaster when desired.


Another Cake for Twelfth Night - Galette des Rois

Twelfth Night

It’s the 5th of January, the last day of the Christmas season. It has been Twelve Days since Christmas Eve when we celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus. Now we celebrate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem to give gifts to the Newborn King, as told in Matthew 2.

Over the years my family has celebrated Twelfth Night and Epiphany (January 6) in a variety of ways. Our celebration has adapted to the size and age of our family, the day of the week the holiday falls on and the parts of the tradition that seem most meaningful to us that year.

When my children were small the focus seemed to be on the gifts of the season. They set out special bags on Twelfth Night where they would find small gifts in the morning from the three kings, left as they passed on their journey. We also sang seasonal songs about gifts; “We Three Kings…” and "The Twelve Days of Christmas", as we gathered the kings and their camels from around the house, where they had been wandering since we put out our nativity set during Advent, and placed them near the manger where the baby Jesus lay.

Changing Focus

In time our focus on Twelfth Night seemed to shift from gifting to celebrating. We set a pretty table with Christmas Crackers (those pretty tube shaped favors with a “snap” and a surprise inside) at each place and shared a favorite family dinner with a King Cake for dessert. The King Cake always has a “baby” inside, often represented by a whole nut or piece of chocolate. I have posted several recipes for King Cake over the years.

There are many types of Twelfth Night Cakes served in different parts of the world. Most often my family has enjoyed a New Orleans style King Cake, made like a filled coffee cake of braided yeast bread drizzled with icing and sprinkled with colored sugar. One year I made a Twelfth Night Cake from a recipe for Eggnog Pound Cake in a elegant bundt pan. When rushed we simply bake a Cinnamon Coffee Cake, a quick family specialty with one whole pecan stirred in. Whoever is served the slice containing the “baby” wins a small gift, often a star shaped ornament or other trinket.

King Cake, French Style

This year I wanted to try another King Cake I have read about, a Galette des Rois, a French version of the cake. It is fairly simple to prepare using frozen puff pastry and an almond filling with a single whole almond in the cream for the “baby”. Traditionally these cakes are topped with a paper crown but since I couldn’t find one I topped mine with a circlet of wide gold ribbon left from the holiday wrapping. I cut points in the top and stapled the ends together for a simple shiny crown.

The Galette des Rois was pretty and delicious. It was rich and buttery but the filling was only lightly sweet, a good thing in my opinion. That sweetness is easily adjusted by the amount of powdered sugar sprinkled on top or, if you prefer, by adding up to an additional ¼ cup of sugar to the filling.

Is it too late to make this cake for Twelfth Night? Don’t despair. It is perfectly appropriate to enjoy a King Cake throughout the month of January and all the way through Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. That gives you plenty of time to taste and share this appealing recipe.

Galette des Rois

½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup ground almonds (I used almond meal from TJ's)
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
1 whole shelled almond (or other “baby”)

In a medium bowl, beat the butter until soft and smooth. Add the ground almonds and sugar, mixing until well combined. Reserve about 1 Tablespoon of the beaten eggs in a small cup. Add the rest to the almond mixture and continue beating until smooth. Cover and set the mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Thaw the frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator, according to package directions. When ready, unfold one sheet of puff pastry and cut an 8” – 9” circle from the center using a round plate, bowl or pan as a template. (I used a 9–inch tart pan for my template. It worked just like a big cookie cutter and even had a decorative fluted edge.) Place this circle of dough on a baking stone or greased cookie sheet.

Take the almond mixture from the refrigerator and spread it evenly in the center of the puff pastry circle to within about 1-inch of the edge.

Place the almond or “baby” somewhere near the edge of the almond cream.

Using the reserved beaten egg, lightly brush the top edge of the pastry with the egg, being careful not to go over the edge.

Cut another circle from the second sheet of puff pastry using the same method. Place this circle over the top of the almond filling gently, matching the edges. Smooth the pastry lightly from the center to the edges and press the edges together firmly using a fork to seal the edges tightly. (For an idea of what happens when you don't, read on.)

Using a knife, gently score a design into the top of the pastry, being very careful not to cut all of the way through. (I used a simple diamond criss-cross design. Had a looked at some of the links above first, I might have tried for a more intricate effect.)

Brush the remaining egg over the top of the puff pastry, avoiding the edge with the fork marks.

At this point the galette can be placed in the refrigerator until ready to bake. (I opted to go ahead and bake mine.)

When ready, place the Galette des Rois in the center of the oven, preheated to 375F.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

This is what happens when, despite best efforts, the edge is not sealed tightly enough. When this happens, simply scrape away the spilled portion and continue as directed.

Cool on a wire rack.

Dust the top with powdered sugar, if desired.

Oh, and don't forget to place a gold crown on top (paper, ribbon or whatever kind you come up with!)

Share with friends and family.