November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Turkey

thanksgiving turkey

how I cook my turkey

Moist and flavorful turkey covered in a rich pan dripping gravy is essential for the American Thanksgiving table.  After years of cooking Thanksgiving turkeys with okay to mediocre and dry results, this recipe delivers a turkey worthy of a Rockwell painting.  For years I cooked a turkey in the cellophane turkey bag, waiting for that button to pop up in the turkey, that turned out dry and disappointing. Then I turned to brining which added an additional time constraint and took up loads of space and resulted in salty and strangely textured turkey.  After that I smoked turkey for a couple years that turned out delicious but lacked the Thanksgiving flavor.  I heard a friend mention salt pork and moist turkey and I was intrigued and decided to give it a try.  This method of roasting turkey changed everything – with minimal effort you are able to produce a show stopping, moist, golden brown turkey.  Watch the temperatures carefully.

Roast Turkey with Cheesecloth

1 cheesecloth package, new
4 cups water
1 12 to 15 pound turkey
1 pound salt pork sliced into ¼” strips
5 celery sticks cut into chunks
7 carrot sticks cut into large pieces
2 onions cut into wedges
1 to 2 cups chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack placed on the lowest position.
Remove all of the packages of giblets and neck from the cavities of the turkey.
Fold the cheesecloth into an 18 inch square, place in in a large bowl, and cover with the four cups of water.
Poke several holes in the breast and leg skin with a roasting fork careful not pierce the meat, lifting the skin as necessary.
Place turkey in a heavy duty roasting pan on a rack.
Add the celery, carrots, and onions to the cavity and bottom of the pan (these can be omitted if desired).
Cover the turkey with the strips of salt pork and cover with the wet cheese cloth (do not wring it out).
Add three cups of water to the roasting pan.
Cover the entire the roasting pan with heavy duty foil, making sure to seal it tight.
Roast until the breast reaches 140°F (2 ½ to 3 ½ hours).
Remove and discard the foil, cheesecloth, and salt.
Add the additional chicken broth to boost your pan drippings gravy.
Increase the oven temperature to 425°F and roast until the spot between the breast and thigh reaches 160°F (45 minutes to 1 hour).

When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, place it on a carving board, and tent it with foil for 30 minutes to an hour to rest.

thanksgiving plate

October 17, 2017

Triple Ginger Dairy-Free Gingersnap Cookies

triple ginger ginger cookies

Triple Ginger Dairy-free Gingersnap Cookies

Ginger cookies are my favorite cookies. Gingery, spicy, sweet, crunchy aromatic and pleasing crackled rounds – these cookies appeal to all the senses. My parents treated me to a lovely dinner last summer at Arethusa Farm's dairy to table restaurant, Al Tavolo. The dinner was delicious and the service impeccable! The chef sent out a complimentary dessert of gingersnaps and fresh milk from the Arethusa dairy. While I did not drink the milk, the small gingersnap was spectacular that sent me on a yearlong journey to recreate that one bite cookie. These triple ginger cookies are spicy and sweet with a wonderful snap! I make my own crystallized ginger (recipe below) but store bought works well too.

Triple Ginger Dairy-Free Gingersnap Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda *corrected 12/3
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
¼ to ½ cup crystallized or candied ginger depending on the amount of zing you prefer (recipe below)
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canola oil (any neutral flavored oil will work)
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
¼ cup natural cane sugar or turbinado sugar if you like extra crunchy texture for coating cookies

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat the oil and sugar until well combined.
Add egg, molasses, and fresh ginger and mix until combined.
On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just blended.
Add the candied or crystallized ginger and mix to combine.
Scoop cookies with 1 inch cookie scoop and roll into sugar.
Place balls on a parchment lined baking sheet about 3 inches apart.
Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until well browned (8 minutes for convection oven, 12 for conventional oven, generally).
Remove cookies from oven using a metal spatula, remove cookies from cookie sheet and place on a wire rack.
Cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

triple ginger dairy-free gingersnap cookies and cappuccino

Triple Ginger Dairy-free Gingersnap Cookies

crystallizing ginger

Candied or Crystallized Ginger

8 ounces fresh ginger peeled and sliced thin (1/8 inch thick)
2 ½ cups water
Granulated sugar

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, put sliced ginger and water and set over medium-high heat.
Cover and cook until the ginger is tender, about 30 minutes.
Drain the ginger in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar.
Return the ginger and the 1/4 cup of reserved cooking liquid to the pan and add the sugar.
Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar syrup looks dry, has almost evaporated and begins to recrystallize, approximately 20 minutes.
Transfer the ginger immediately to the cooling rack and spread to separate the individual pieces.

Cool completely then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


October 1, 2017

Dairy Free Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies



I have been on a long 2 year journey after being poisoned by listeria and relearning how to eat.  I no longer am able to tolerate dairy - dairy as defined by anything made from cow's milk.  Now I am vigilant about the products I consume and I am searching for a baking substitute for butter that does not use bunch of chemicals.  Butter has that smooth, sweet, slight nutty flavor that is ever so subtle but once butter is not available for use, a person notices.  I have tried several varieties of vegan buttery sticks, preferring the Melts brand despite the coconut aftertaste.  It is better to eat a cookie with a tinge of coconut versus the tinge of fish that comes off the Earth Balance buttery sticks.  Once dairy is off the table, flavor must compromise.  I have read many a blog eschewing the wonders of coconut oil whose fat content is close to that of butter but it doesn't sit like butter on the palate or the stomach - it is strangely heavy.   

This chocolate chip cookie has the same texture and crumb as a butter based chocolate chip cookie.  The flavor of your olive oil comes through in a subtle and surprising way that is nice.

Dairy Free Olive Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 ½  cups light brown sugar sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1 stick (4 ounces) buttery sticks* softened
*Note:  I prefer the Melts brand buttery sticks or when I can’t find the Melts I use the Earth Balance brand Soy-free buttery sticks – their other buttery sticks give baked goods a noticeable fishy flavor from the flax oil used in them.
½ cup flavorful olive oil
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 - 12 ounces dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts to dip the top of cookies in (I use this method to make some cookies with nuts and some without) or add the nuts with chocolate chips. 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside.
In an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream your brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil and buttery stick on medium speed.
Add the eggs one at time and mix until incorporated after each addition at medium speed.
Add vanilla and mix until well blended.
Scrape the bowl.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients on low speed.
Add the chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed, about 10-20 seconds
Use a cookie scoop of your preference or two teaspoons to scoop walnut size balls on your baking sheets.
Dip tops of cookies in nuts if using.
Bake the cookies on silpat or parchment lined pans for about 7-11 minutes depending on the top of oven you use.


smokey coming to tea

March 7, 2017

Mango Salsa

peach mango salsa

mango salsa

Mango Salsa is tangy, sweet and spicy. It is a fresh and easy to prepare. Serve it with tortilla chips, on a flour tortilla with grilled chicken and rice, or my favorite way, serve with a French lentil salad.  This salsa is easily adaptable to ingredients you have on hand, add a chopped peach, tomato or nectarine or use lemon juice instead of the lime juice.  Make it your own.

Mango Salsa

3 ripe mangoes
1 medium red bell pepper
½ chopped red onion
½ cup packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
½ to 1 jalapeño depending on your heat tolerance
1 large lime, juiced 
Salt to taste

Dice mangoes into ½ inch cubes carefully cutting around large seed.
Chop red pepper and onion into a small dice.
Chop jalapeño into a fine dice.
Rough chop parsley or cilantro.
In a large bowl, combine the chopped mango, bell pepper, onion, cilantro and jalapeño.
Add the lime juice and mix the salsa.
Salt to taste.

Let rest for 30 minutes.

February 21, 2017

Hi Hat Cupcakes

dipped hi-hat cupcakes


Many versions of this cupcake are seen with chocolate cupcakes, but I desired my delicious vanilla cupcake recipe.  These are fun cupcake that are impressive.

Hi Hat Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

I recipe vanilla cupcakes
1 recipe marshmallow frosting
1 recipe chocolate dipping sauce

Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 12

3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups of cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter at room temperature
1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit
Line or grease muffin tin.
Whisk eggs, vanilla in medium bowl to blend.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl with whisk.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter.
Scrape sides and add the egg mixture mixing until blended.
Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk in two additions each.
Bake for 25 minutes or until done with a cake tester no longer has crumbs when inserted into a cupcake.

Marshmallow Frosting

1 3/4 cups sugar
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large heatproof bowl, combine sugar, 1/4 cup of water, egg whites, and cream of tartar.
Use a handheld electric mixer, your stand mixer, beat on high speed until foamy, about 1 minute.
Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
Beat with the electric mixer or a hand mix until frosting registers 160° Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer.
Move bowl to stand mixer and whisk until stiff peaks form. 
If using the hand mixer, continue over the double boiler until stiff peaks are formed about 14 minutes.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract, and beat for 2 minutes more until frosting thickens.
Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain pastry tip.
Leaving a 1/8-inch border on each cupcake, pipe a spiral of frosting into a 2-inch-high cone shape, using about 1/2 cup of frosting per cupcake.
Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet, and refrigerate while preparing the chocolate coating.

Chocolate Coating

2 cups chopped (about 12 ounces) semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Combine chocolate and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl set over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water; stir until melted and smooth.
Transfer to a small bowl, and let cool about 15 minutes.


Hold each cupcake by the bottom, and then dip cupcake in the chocolate to coat frosting.
Quickly allow excess to drip off.
Transfer to a wire rack.
Let cupcakes stand at room temperature 15 minutes.
Set chocolate coating in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours more.

Cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

hi hat cupcake birthday cupcakes before the dip


February 8, 2017

Apple Pie

malus domestica


It is easy to appreciate that the low round pie shape of modern apple pie comes from the frugal Pilgrims settlers looking for a way to stretch ingredients and survive.  Pie is a delicious way to deliver cooked fruit or meat to the table. The idea of a bowl of cooked fruit is not as appealing as the balance of the fruit to crust ratio of a pie.  Yet, the frugal Pilgrims' version was too much for me as I have not always been a fan of cooked fruit encased in a delicious crust.  I remember not liking a fast food hot apple pie as a child or my grandmother’s frozen boxed pies served for dessert.  I remember my mom making apple pie just the way I like it, now, not too sweet and syrupy but sadly I don’t remember eating her apple pie except as a vehicle to eat whipped cream and crust with the sweet filling squeezed out.  Thank goodness things have changed, I love the smell, taste, and texture of, especially, apple pie. 

I always double this recipe (apples only).  I make an apple pie for the table and one to freeze for later.  In a foil and plastic wrap lined pie plate add in the apple mixture, wrap and freeze.  When ready to bake the frozen pie, prepare crust, add the frozen unwrapped pie in the crust, cover with second crust and proceed as below.  Bake for 10 – 15 minutes longer until done.  Do not thaw the apples.  This is a beautiful way to have a dessert on hand for nearly any occasion.

Apple Pie
makes 1 pie

7-8 tart apples such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Gala or a mix
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Pie pastry for 2 crusts (see below).

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Peel and slice apples thin. (I use a spiral apple peeler).
Place peeled apples in a large bowl of with lemon juice from a lemon squeezed into the water until all apples are peeled.
In a bowl toss the well-drained apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg, flour sugar, and salt.
Roll out crust and line a 9 inch pie plate.
Empty the filling into the crust lined pie plate and top with butter.
Roll out second crust and carefully place on top of pie.
Press edges together and trim edges to 1 inch.
Crimp edges with thumb and index finger of one hand, gently press dough against knuckle of other hand; continue around pie making deep indentations.
Chill pie for 30 minutes.
Place on a foil lined baking sheet.
Bake for 50 minutes until done.

If the edges began to darken, cover with foil.

Pie Crust Pastry
Makes top and bottom

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup ice water without cubes

In a food processor:
Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined.
Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.
With the machine running, add water in a slow, steady stream until mixture just begins to hold together.
Shape dough into 2 disks. Wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate 1 hour to 2 days (or freeze for up to 1 month; thaw in refrigerator before using).

Apple Pie

apple peeler a gift from mom


apple pie ready for the oven

red delicious apples

February 6, 2017

Kale Pesto


kale pesto

The reputation of kale is so big and so wonderful that it is surprising that cities are not named after it!  Kale is packed with nutrients, said to improve the health of eyes, skin, hair, bones and digestion.  It improves eye and heart health.  It is an antioxidant.  “Eat More Kale” is the phrase of the brain health community.  I appreciate that kale is so wonderful but I simply like to eat kale – it tastes good.  I like to lay chopped kale at the bottom of my soup bowl before I ladle soup in, add it to salads, make kale chips (I can easily eat a whole head of kale in the kale chip form), and now I like it as a delicious pesto.  It is tasty and hearty.  Add another star to kale because the pesto did not turn black when refrigerated like basil pesto.

I used the pesto as an addition to a quick bean soup but you can toss your pasta with it or spread it on a cracker or bread.  Who knows maybe there will be a town named for kale – Kale, California?

Kale Pesto
2 cups packed torn kale leaves, stems removed
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup toasted walnuts
3-4 cloves garlic
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a food processor, combine the kale leaves, basil leaves, and salt pulsing until the kale is chopped up. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil.
Scrape down the sides of the processor.
Add the walnuts and garlic and process until a smooth paste is formed.

Add the cheese and pulse to combine. 

quick bean soup with kale pesto

October 12, 2016

Vegan Potato Galette with Rosemary, Thyme and Caraway

olive oil and rosemary potato galette


The flow of life is generally steady, the course is chosen and followed and down that path surprises or stumbling blocks  show up.  Over the past year I was stricken with a sudden and swift dairy and nut allergy.  It literally showed up overnight but it took me a whole year to realize that I must be dairy free.  My beloved butter has been the last to go. So now I am on a quest to find creamy goodness without dairy or everything tasting like a coconut as many vegan recipes rely heavily on the coconut.  

This is a simple, crisp and delicious recipe.  For a non-vegetarian version swap out 2 tablespoons of the olive oil for 2 tablespoons of rendered and melted bacon fat.

If you prefer butter and a cast iron pan, see this recipe.

Vegan Potato Galette with Rosemary, Thyme, Caraway and Onions

¼ cup (4 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter like Earth Balance
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon (or more) kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 1/8'-thick slices with a mandolin slicer
1 small thinly sliced sweet onion

Preheat to 425°.
Arrange a rack in middle of oven.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat rated for 425°.
Set the ring portion of your 9 inch spring form pan on the paper.
Toast caraway in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute and let cool slightly.
Crush in with mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin or meat mallet.
In a large bowl toss to coat potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed caraway seeds.
Arrange 1/4 of potatoes in an even layer inside ring on baking sheet to create a solid overlapping base.
Toss onion in a large bowl with 1 Tbsp. melted dairy-free butter, or regular butter if using.
Arrange 1/3 of onion over potatoes.
Repeat layers two more times for a total of 3 potato and 2 onion layers.
Finish with a layer of potatoes.
Carefully remove ring.
Bake until potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes.
Dot the top of the galette with small bits of the remaining tablespoon of butter (vegan or regular).
Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until edges of potatoes are deep golden and top is crisp
Run a thin spatula under galette to loosen from foil and move to a serving dish.

Season the galette with salt and pepper.

July 15, 2016

Cranberry Walnut and White Chocolate Chip Cookies



Homemade chocolate chip cookies are a staple in my house.  I make them at least two times a month and I am always looking for a creative way to change the basic cookie.  The Cranberry Walnut and White Chocolate Chip Cookie is a twist on the traditional chocolate chip cookie.  Add your favorite nuts or seeds and dried fruits.  I like to give my cranberries a chop for a more even distribution throughout the cookie.

Cranberry Walnut and White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen 2 inch round cookies

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2-3/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
3/4 cup best quality white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/2  cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a medium size bowl combine with a whisk flour and baking soda and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl cream butter, white and brown sugars until creamy.
Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture and mix until combined.
Mix in on low speed nuts, chips and cranberries until just combined.
Scoop dough using tablespoon cookie scoop or two teaspoons and drop 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool on wire racks.

walnut cranberry white chocolate chip cookies


January 30, 2016

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake and My Sister's Cocoa Frosting




I am so grateful for chocolate cake.  Sometimes I crave chocolate cake with a rich chocolate frosting.  There was a time when I thought box chocolate cake was the best cake (my grandmother’s specialty was Duncan Hines chocolate cake baked in a sheet pan and frosted with white frosting made with Crisco and then covered liberally with festive rainbow sprinkles).  I have vastly improved my grandmother’s cake that I loved as a child.  Today, I have the benefit of a wide range of available products plus instant access to videos and thousands of recipes to compare that helps me inject the same love and care into my cakes like my grandmother.  One of my favorite recipes is my Mom’s Chocolate Cake recipe, a delicious moist, fudgy and chocolaty recipe.  This buttermilk cake has its own character -  a slight tang and tenderness from the buttermilk with full chocolate flavor especially if you use your best quality cocoa powder.  I use Ghiradelli, or Droste.  I have used Hershey’s and it a good chocolate cake, but the extra fine cocoa makes the chocolate flavor stand out.  A single layer easy cake to make is this Chocolate Fudge Cake.

My sister’s chocolate frosting is so simple yet so delicious.  The best quality cocoa powder is a real standout here.  When she makes this recipe she uses 2-3 cups of powdered sugar and 6 tablespoons of milk.  I use the 5 cups for a stiffer and sweeter frosting.

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

1 ¾  cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
¾ cups best quality cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Butter two 8-inch inch round cake pans or 1 9 x13-inch pan.
Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.
In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
Using the paddle attachment, with the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.
With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

My Sister’s Cocoa Frosting

½ cup plus two tablespoons of softened butter
5 cups powdered sugar – my sister uses 2-3 cups
8 tablespoons of milk
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened, best quality, cocoa powder
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla

Beat butter until smooth and creamy.
Gradually add powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla.
Add cocoa powder and mix until smooth and creamy

Add additional milk or powdered sugar as needed to reach the desired spreadable consistency.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting.
Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
Or frost the top of the 9 x 13-inch cake in pan or removed from pan, as desired.