Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee

Round about 8 years ago we traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to meet the parents of the young man whom Erin would marry. While we were visiting Tim’s parents; Tim was right then flying to Europe to surprise Erin with a proposal and a ring.

Erin had graduated with her degree in nursing at 18 and then had been working in hospitals for a few years and had decided it was time for a little sabbatical. So she bought a ticket and  plunked down in Madrid where she knew absolutely no one and went to language school.

Meanwhile, Aileen and Caitlin were staying in Germany with my sister and took a quick little plane trip over to visit Erin. Tim conferred with Aileen and Caitlin now back in Germany about the surprise visit having seen the lay of the land, so that one day when Erin thought she was meeting up with some new found friends at a lake; Tim snuck up from behind and surprised her to death.

There we were meanwhile perchance with Tim’s parents and Cindy was teaching me the delectable results of browned butter in mashed potatoes, my little sabbatical too. The nutty richness is sublime.

So, when this recipe called for browning butter and sugar until amber colored, it made all the sense in the world to me; I’d learned from Cindy the heavenlies to which butter can ascend. Honestly, even if you were to leave off with spreading the chocolate chips on top, just the butter and sugar cooked to a burnished brown would be enough deliciousness to be called a treat. You could maybe just sprinkle a little Maldon salt on it.

This is another recipe of wonderful simplicity from Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread & Wine:

Chocolate Salted Toffee

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1 cup chocolate chips

1 tsp coarse sea salt

In saucepan, combine butter and sugar, and bring to a boil. Over medium-high heat, keep stirring until it turns a deep amber color.

Remove from heat and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper,. refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or until cool and solid to the touch.

Melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water. When the chocolate is smooth, pour it over the toffee and spread with a spatula. Sprinkle sea salt, and then refrigerate until cooled and solid. Break into irregular pieces.

Just THREE ingredients! (four if you count the salt. Make it Maldon)

Just THREE ingredients! (four if you count the salt. Make it Maldon)


This made me nervous, the butter and sugar for awhile resemble raw sugar cookie dough, but just keep patiently cooking over a medium high heat and it will begin to turn.


As it starts to turn golden- just before you think it is really, really done; remove from heat. The residual heat will make it continue to brown a bit more. If you don’t like the depth of color return it briefly to the heat.


Quickly spread on already prepared pan- WITH PARCHMENT PAPER- it will set up fast.


Done and delicious.

Simplest Chocolate Mousse


Frosty Massachusetts Sunday evenings were set aside for the Wonderful World of Disney. One of those evenings my mom came in bearing bowls of snowy vanilla goodness. It was such a simple thing- fresh snow mixed with sugar and vanilla. It was exquisite.

No matter how many times after that I would scoop the softer, cleaner snow from beneath the upper crust, rush in and mix it with sugar and vanilla; never again did it taste the way it did in the cozy 60’s den of our ranch home with Walt Disney himself telling us what a great movie we were about to see.

That is the way it is with food, the event, the people lift the ordinary into a realm of memorable delight; the recipes can be replicated but it never tastes quite as good.

Shauna Niequist has written, Bread and Wine: A love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, it is similar to Ruth Reichl’s, Tender at the Bone, where the short chapters lead to the food that makes the event memorable.

So on this snowy Washington Saturday when for the first time in a long time we have no overnight guests and no one coming for dinner, on this afternoon I wanted to make the simplest chocolate mousse with Taite. And we will eat them, not snarfing them down, but sitting at the table just the five of us with a little cup of coffee and a lot of conversation.

P1000293 P1000298

Photos by Taite

Photos by Taite


 Simplest Chocolate Mousse

2 Cups chilled heavy cream- divided

1 1/2 Cups (12oz.) semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 Cup honey

In a small sauce pan pour 3/4 cup cream, 1/4 cup honey, and 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Cook on very low heat until chips are melted, stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, beat 3/4 cup cream until soft peaks form. Fold cream into chocolate mixture.

Divide among 6 ramekins. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Before serving, whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream to firm peaks. Spoon onto top of each mousse. Garnish as you’d like with a few berries, shaved chocolate, etc.

Soft Pretzels

I made these last year for our Oktoberfest party. Let me just say, hay bales in your living room should be a once in a lifetime event- but do do it once! The especially great thing is that I was able to make these pretzels ahead, freeze them and they tasted great even after freezing.

Soft Pretzels

Heaping Tablespoon yeast                     1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar                                       1 Tablespoon oil

1 1/3 Cups warm water (110˚)

¼ cup baking soda

5 cups flour                                                  2 cups hot water

½  cup sugar                                                 ¼ cup coarse salt

In a small bowl place teaspoon sugar and pour 1 1/3 cups warm water over it. Sprinkle yeast on top and slightly mix it so the yeast gets wet.

In a large bowl mix the flour, ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon salt and mix together.

In the center of the flour mixture add the oil and yeast mixture.

Mix together thoroughly, adding a bit more water if needed.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Then place in a greased bowl and cover with towel for about an hour.

When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape.

Place baking soda in a pie pan or 9 X 9 cake pan and add hot water.

Dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake in 400˚ oven for 8 minutes, until browned.


It All Starts with a Glass of Wine at G & E’s!

We are so happy that our daughters, everyone of them, have married into the most wonderful families. We love their in-laws! We love them so much that we look forward to seeing them when we can. We even plan vacations so that we can pop in and visit.

This Thanksgiving we will be at Aileen’s in-laws. Aileen and Ellen have come up with a mouthwatering menu- not just for the big feast, but for the whole visit.

Last year we all dressed up 80’s style for bowling night- wherein Ellen looked like Farrah Fawcett and I looked like Temple Grandin (google image them). It’s true. This year we are switching it up and instead of bowling we are going to cheer on the Wenatchee hockey team!

Same as last year, we will all head to the woods for Christmas trees. I am packing some delectables to eat in the snowy wonderland- smoked salmon, pickled asparagus, boursin, and Taite has made her famous chocolate chip cookies.


Wednesday:  Welcome Everyone!!


     Glass of Wine   *(at G and E’s house)


Breakfast:  when we get up – *At G + E’s house

            Aileen’s Cinnamon Rolls (A)             Boiled Eggs (E)          Fruit (T)


            Appetizers:           Mid-day – *At G + E’s house

                        Smoked Salmon roll-ups      Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus Puffs (A)

                        Candied Nuts (A)      Bruschetta w/Goat cheese (E) and Tomato Jam (A)

                                                Sparkly Drinks!

            Main Meal:  Between 3;30 pm and 4 pm – *At G + E’s house

                        Turkey with Chorizo-Chestnut Dressing/Gravy  (E)

                        Classic Delicious Stuffing (T)          Brussel Sprouts w/Bacon (T)

                        Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows/Brown Sugar (E)

Green Salad w/Goat Cheese, Toasted Pecans, and Cranberry Vinaigrette (A)

Roasted Butternut Squash w/Apples, Butter, Brown Sugar (A)

Pretzel Rolls (A)        Wine:  Pinot/ Chardonnay (T)

Rest our tummies…….then….


Salted Caramel Tart (E)       Walnut Crumb Apple Pie  (E)

                 Pumpkin Crumble Topped Pie (A)

           Thanksgiving 2012 –  Cont’d



Breakfast:  when we get up – *At G + E’s house

            Oatmeal with fruit/yogurt/granola (E)

            Pumpkin Smoothies (E)


Christmas Tree Hunting in the Hills!!


            Lunch:  Feast in the snow!


            Early Dinner:   Before GAME!!!    **At  J + A’s house


5 PM – Costco Pizza 





            Breakfast:  when we get up – **At  J + A’s house

                        Breakfast Burritos (A)  w/ Chorizo (E)

                        Fruit tray


Comfort Food Dinner (Of Course It’s Easy!)

Cooler evenings are when I start thinking of soups and other comfort foods. Taite counts pot pie as one of her all time favorite dinners. I always think twice about making it because of the crust. I came up with a delicious solution that turns it into an easy last minute meal because I had a little phyllo dough left over from another recipe.


Yes! Phyllo dough straight from your grocer’s freezer turns this into a breeze to make.

My turkey or chicken pot pie is really an iron chef sort of affair- whatever is on hand is what gets thrown in, but basically it goes like this:

Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie

* Chop chicken or turkey into good sized chunks and place in a bowl.

* Chop up whatever vegetables you have on hand, here are some ideas:

carrots, celery, onions, green onion, peas, corn, beans, a little bit of spinach, mushrooms.. you get the idea. Hard vegetables like carrots and celery need to be cooked before adding to the turkey. Soft ones like peas and corn can simply be tossed in. When ready add to the turkey.

* Season with salt and pepper.

* Take one can of cream of something soup- mushroom, chicken… add to bowl.

* Fill the empty soup can about half full of milk, cream, or half and half. Add to bowl. Stir around until the soup and milk are mixed in.

* Dump that mixture into a deep dish pie pan or individual ramekins

* Now here is the great part- simply lay phyllo dough on top of the mixture and brush with melted butter. Gently press the edges and tuck the edges down.

* Bake at 350˚ for about 30- 45 minutes. 

* Meanwhile make a bit of rice.

Done! A comfort food dinner is ready to eat.

nothing to see here kids, just move along

I am an addict. If I had a bumper sticker on my car it would be, “I Brake for Kettle Corn.”

I love it when a fruit and vegetable stand also happens to sell kettle corn. Oh sure, I buy a piece or two of fruit, but it is the kettle corn I’m after- biggest bag, please. If anyone notices my purchase when I get home, I simply tell them, “nothing to see here kids, just move along.”

I have to mark my three foot long tubular bag with black lines down to where I can eat each day or I would finish the whole thing in one sitting. It is so easy to justify. It’s corn- that’s a good breakfast; it’s corn- that would be an acceptable lunch.

A friend of mine has perfected the art of kettle corn making and she has helped set me up for making my own. There is no help for me now. I am out of control.

This is the link she sent me. 

It is a good recipe. Very unfortunately.

If you have a movie night planned this weekend and if you are crazy about kettle corn; you will want to make a batch of this. Share if you must.

Pig in a Snuggie

Guess who’s coming to dinner.

Yep, four little grandchildren.

I reviewed Kitchenability 101. It is a cook book for the college student who has a toaster oven and a few other kitchen items to survive on for the school year. Taite has made a meal from it and the recipes are easy to follow and simple. I grew up calling this Pigs in a Blanket; the college cook book calls it Pig in a Snuggie.Grandchildren are the perfect excuse to make these. I think we all must have those super simple but reminiscent food from childhood that you know you shouldn’t still like. But do.

With simple instructions and basic ingredients, I think this book would be great for a young beginner cook as well.

A few of the recipes are a little “duh” like the double-decker PBJ: three pieces of bread instead of two and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or the peanut butter/ fluffernutter sandwich- yep, two slices of bread spread with peanut butter and fluffernutter/marshmallow spread and you’ve got yourself a… sandwich!

Most of her recipes, though are great; great because with just a few simple ingredients you can have a really clever and delicious meal. For example, Greek Salad with Lemon:
1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 large cucumber, 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, juice of 1/2 a lemon, 3 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 Cup crumbled feta- all combined for a delicious salad.

Or another tasty one: Rosemary Potatoes- red potatoes cut in wedges and sprinkled with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper roasted in toaster oven for 15- 20 minutes.

Kitchenability 101




Because sometimes we want it all…

a busy, busy day… and dinner… ready in minutes… and  delicious.

Sometimes life is just plain hectic and the thought of dinner makes me want to pretend that I didn’t know it was dinner time already. Oops. And just give up and say I have absolutely no plan for dinner.

This recipe is for that night.

Honey Mustard Chicken

1/2 C honey         1 Tbsp mustard powder

1/4 C. butter            few splashes of soy sauce

1 Tbsp curry          Chicken cut into strips or bite sized pieces

Melt the butter. Add the honey, mustard powder, soy sauce and curry.

Mix well and pour over prepared chicken in a suitable size pan for your chicken.

(I used this quantity of sauce for 4 chicken breasts cut in bite size pieces)

Bake 1 hour at 350˚

If you remember, baste it occasionally. Salt to taste.

Serve over rice.

Just 5 ingredients plus chicken.


With a salad this makes a fast delicious meal.

Fresh Blueberry Bars

This past weekend my mother in law brought a large box of blueberries down from Pennsylvania for me.  I look forward to the blueberries coming into season each year because it is the only time when I can eat them with abandon, shoving handful after handful into my mouth. Plus, when it’s a good batch these ones taste a thousand times better than the small, anemic, sour-ish or flabby, flat, flavorless ones you get at the store the rest of the year.  These are HUGE and bursting with flavor, tangy sweet and almost floral. My goal is to eat as  many fresh berries as possible until the remaining ones absolutely have to go into the freezer before they go bad.  In a last ditch effort to use them before freezing I found this recipe a couple of years ago and was completely enamored.  I have tried it with frozen berries and it just isn’t the same- use fresh if at all possible!


What you end up with is a breakfast or dessert (lunch, in my case) that tastes the way you always wished a blueberry muffin would.  The smell of blueberry muffins lies and promises a mouthful of tangy, juicy, sweet blueberries and buttery muffin, and all I ever get is a spongy amalgamation of muffin and berry together, the flavor pretty flat and sweet.  Toss out the muffin recipes!  These are better by far.  Buttery, flaky, cookie-like crust, that’s dense- almost gooey toward the center, crumbly on top,  with a tangy, sweet, flavorful berry center.

You must try them!

Hale, Caesar

No pressure. Just two amazing cooks and spouses coming to my house for dinner. Caesar salad sounded good for a first course.

Jarrett went to a cooking class for boys when he was about 11. When I picked him up, I asked what he’d made.

He said, “Seizure salad; why would you want to call your salad ‘seizure salad?'”

The dressing:

    • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
    • 1 tablespoon dry mustard or  Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic  vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
    • 1 whole lemon, juiced
    • 1 cup olive oil
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
    • 1 dash salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Place the anchovy paste into a  food processor. Add in the Dijon mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic and lemon juice. Pulse the processor or blend on low speed for several seconds. Scrape down the sides.With the food processor on, drizzle the olive oil into the mixture in a small stream. Scrape down the sides. Add the Parmesan, salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate the dressing for a few hours before using it on the salad.


I hate to say this but I found this anchovy paste at... Walmart. It is made in Spain and we also add a little squirt of it to homemade spaghetti sauce.

Fresh squeezed lemon













It takes a little more time, but we switched from the bottled diced garlic to fresh a few years ago

Adding the lemon juice














Then on to the fresh made croutons:

Slice half a loaf of French bread into thick slices and cut them into 1-inch cubes.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in fry pan over low heat.

Crush-but don’t chop-two garlic cloves and add them to the oil. Use a spoon to move the garlic around in the pan. After 3 to 5 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the garlic from the pan.

Slowly drizzle the olive oil over the bread cubes. Mix together. Toss and cook in the pan until golden brown and crisp. (I add a tablespoon of butter for more flavor)

Smashed not diced garlic slowly browned in 1/4 olive oil adds great flavor


Remove the garlic and add the cubed bread, toasting until golden














Use romaine lettuce. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Add the croutons. Drizzle on the dressing and you are done.

A little chicken thrown in would make it a dinner.

Mad Hungry

I don’t really get the name of Lucinda Scala Quinn’s TV show, Mad Hungry, but I’m intrigued. This woman cooks the way I like to cook, she uses ingredients that I actually buy , she creates good and beautiful food to be eaten as a family around a dinner table.

I was sick the other day (here’s a test, find out your greatest love by identifying the one thing you will drag your  rear out of bed after a few aspirins and a good nose blow to do. I discovered I still wanted to make a really tasty, lovely meal even though I felt like I’d been hit by a train that day. Stirring the polenta between sips of tea I realized, “Wow, I just really like to cook.” It brightened my day.) and wandered onto Youtube to watch some Mad Hungry videos. (Check this out, a chocolate cake made in one dish!) I was kind of hooked and then got to work creating one of her meals to see how it panned out.  I’d found it in Martha Stewart magazine and  had all the ingredients waiting in the fridge so didn’t want to put it off another night.

Pork chops with roasted peppers and capers served on cheesy polenta with collard greens

It was fabulous. Give it a try. Here’s the recipe, and don’t forget to serve it over the cheesy polenta with collard greens.

Oh and one more thing, I discovered that you can cut nice thick pork chops from a far less expensive pork tenderloin! You probably already knew this, but I didn’t and was pretty thrilled to be enlightened.


Summertime Sundae Sauces

I just returned from a little trip to Las Vegas, of all places! Aileen had a heavy duty conference to attend and I toured about all day. One evening we ate a fabulous meal at the Bellagio. For dessert we had a little cake thing, a small ball of ice cream on the side topped with super salty butterscotch sauce. It so much reminded me of this sauce. Tasted without the vanilla ice cream, it is too salty; with the ice cream- pure heaven! So do not fear when you give a taste to a spoonful and think, “oh my, way too much salt;” it will be perfect in your bowl drizzled over ice cream.

Three super easy home made toppings.


Best Butterscotch Sauce

1 stick butter (8 oz)

1 Cup brown sugar

1 cup whipping cream

1  tsp. salt

1 Tbsp vanilla

Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat.

Add sugar, cream and salt. Mix together.

Bring to a continuous gentle boil for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add vanilla. TaDa! Done!

Makes not quite 2 cups.


Just plain old vanilla ice cream and all the toppings you can dream up for a deliciously simple dessert.

I made butterscotch, marshmallow and fudge sauce. And if you know me, the recipes are the easiest you will find.

Just five ingredients and you have the best butterscotch sauce around.

Gentle boil for five minutes














Cooked in the microwave, this takes just four minutes














Marshmallow Ice Cream Topping

1/4 Cup white sugar

1 1/2 tsp corn syrup

2 Tbsp  milk

4 oz. marshmallows

1 Tbsp water

1?2 tsp vanilla

In a large (4 cup) microwaveable bowl put sugar, corn syrup, milk, water in and stir.

Add marshmallows.

Cook for 2 minutes at 70% power. Stir.

Cook an additional 1-2 minutes at 70% power. Stir until marshmallows are melted in.

Add vanilla. Stir. Done!

Makes a whopping 2 Cups.

You already have my favorite Fudge Sauce.

I think it's time for a party.

Care to share your favorite sundae topping? pecans? maraschino cherries? maybe whipped cream?

Lobster Roll Perfection


I could not wait to get to Massachusetts last fall and order a lobster roll. It was everything I’d hoped for when I finally ordered one. Since then I’ve dreamed of having another.

Andrew and I were home alone Mother’s Day weekend and so it seemed the perfect time to try doing a lobster roll.

I explained to Andrew that we needed hot dog bun- plain old hot dog buns- preferably a top loader. Don’t try and get fancy and use some nicer bread- this is about the lobster and the hot dog bun holds the lobster without trying to one up it. Turns out you can not buy top loader hot dog buns in the northwest so I settled for a side loader.

Usually I am sous-chef at dinner but this night I was top-chef- actually solo chef while Andrew sat outside and waited for dinner, “You know what you’re doing, you just make it.”  The pressure was on.


For two lobster rolls I used four tails boiled them for about 4-5 minutes. Cool a bit and then removed all the meat.

Meanwhile chop 1/2 a stalk of celery and 1 green onion.

Combine celery, green onion and lobster in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons mayo, a slight dash of Tobasco, a slight dash of lime juice. Gently mix and set in fridge to chill.

Take a plain old hotdog bun, butter the roll on the inside and fry open face in a pan.

plain old hot dog bun grill








Lay a piece of lettuce on the bun and then mound on the lobster. It's all about the lobster so don't add other spices and stuff.


We enjoyed our lobster roll with a 2005 Tagaris Meritage.


Tasted like the best from the best places in Massachusetts!


Heavenly Chicken Sandwich

With just a little bit of chicken on hand- not enough for a big old piece per person I thought, maybe we’d do stir fry. Boring! I always do stir fry with a little bit of chicken on hand. And then surfing about on the internet I saw a rendition of what I came up with. Heading into the weekend, this would make a terrific Friday or Saturday night with a movie meal; a switch from the standard pizza & a movie.

This was a wonderful change from the regular meal medley for us. And I’ve mentioned it before, you know, me the one who hates gadgets-  a panini grill makes a plain old sandwich into dinner.


Festival of Fried Foods

Andrew started this little tradition years ago. It began with a craving for fatty fried food of some sort and ended by way of frying every last thing for dinner. It is goodness extraordinaire- and not for the faint of heart about weight watching and such.

Twenty years ago I came into possession of the fat fryer that had been my grandfather’s. The cord was frayed, Andrew fixed it and it has been frying ever since. But it was pretty small so this time after seeing Paula Deen just use a plain old pot on the stove, Andrew decided to give that a try.

Festival of Fried Foods is pretty much a very family affair- we eat a lot of the food as it comes out of the oil, never making it to the table.

We used to do the frying outdoors and the neighborhood kids would start smelling this fried goodness and begin filtering in to our back yard to enjoy the feast with us. In that case we never did sit down to the meal, we all just stood around and dared to burn our fingers to get a piece seconds from coming out of the fryer.

Little bit of splattered grease everywhere is a small price to pay for amazing fried food.

This night we fried cod, but we have done chicken as well.

Of course we have to do French fries as well. We have a contraption especially for that (remember how I hate gadgets).

Then rooting around in the fridge, I found a few asparagus. When the fish was fried, we added the asparagus to the batter bowl and swirled it around, then fried those too. Eat no food except fried this night! Then roll into bed and skip breakfast in the morning.

Fried asparagus smothered in a sauce of mayo and ketchup is wonderful!

This sort of fat fried meal is so totally worth it once a year... but we've got all this good oil we need to use again.

This is Paula Deen’s recipe from Food Network:

Beer Batter:

  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
  • 1 1/2 pounds cod fillets, skinned with bones removed, and fish cut diagonally into 1-inch-wide strips (5 to 6-inches long)


In a Dutch oven, heat oil to 375 degrees F.

Fry potatoes until golden brown, roughly 10 minutes removing with a slotted spoon or spider. Hold in low oven to keep warm while cooking the fish.

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F,


In a large bowl, pour in 1 bottle of beer. Sift 1 1/2 cups flour into the bowl, whisking in gently until just combined, stir in House Seasoning. Pat fish dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper and coat the fish in the beer batter. Dredge the pieces of fish in 1/2 cup of remaining flour and slide into oil as coated. Fry fish, turning over frequently, until deep golden and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Fry remaining fish in batches, returning oil to 375 degrees F between batches.

Serve fish with French fries.

House Seasoning:

1 cup salt

1/4 cup black pepper

1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

I don’t think I could be accused of being a hoarder or collector– any more. But there has been this one thing that I could not give up. It is the most unlikely of things and were I to tell you of it, you would immediately think, “hoarder,” because it is nonsensical and of less than no value.

When we moved three years ago, I wrapped it all around against breakage and unpacked it on the other end. There it sat on my shelf, until last week. I felt like I had to let it go.

My dad died in February 2000- on Taite’s birthday really. Though he was kept on life support a few days more, giving me time to make my way the three thousand miles to say my last good-bye. Years later, I discovered the jar of Bing cherries I had canned that last summer he was ever at our house. And that visit was just sitting in that bottled-up jar of cherries. I always carefully slid it to the side and chose something else.

That summer when my parents were visiting was a great year for cherries and we bought bags and bags from our neighbor. We bought so many, we could not eat them all though we would all be sick trying. My dad was diabetic and shouldn’t have but they were so good.  I decided to save the rest and set up the kitchen for canning. Today I can still picture my dad sneaking into the kitchen for one more small handful of Bings. It was a good visit.

And there was just something in me that could not let go of that last vivid memory. The cherries were off limits.

Last week I took that ancient jar off the pantry shelf, popped the lid and made cherry clafoutis. With seventeen year old cherries. I know. You don’t ever want to eat at my house, ever again. But I wouldn’t do that to you. And I wouldn’t share them. But I had to pop the lid. It was time to let it go.

You might think that I sat and bawled as I ate the clafouti. But I did not. My dad came to life and kept stealing into the kitchen to try and get a forkful.

seventeen year old Bings. Don't archeologists sample food from newly discovered ancient Egyptian tombs?

I give you this recipe for clafouti from You can use fresh cherries, pitted and halved.

Cherry Clafouti

Traditional clafoutis recipes call for using cherries with their pits still in, which are supposed to lend some almond flavor to the dish. In this recipe the pits are removed, making the clafouti easier to eat, but you can do it either way.


  • 2 cups of fresh sweet cherries, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons of Amaretto -or- 3/4 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar for dusting


1 Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour a 9X9 or 10X7 baking dish. Toss in the cherries and slivered almonds.

2 Whisk the eggs, sugars, salt, and flour together until smooth.

3 Add the milk, Amaretto (or almond extract, if using), and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. Pour into the baking dish.

4 Bake for 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When you pull it put of the oven it will wiggle a bit which is normal. Place on a wire rack to cool. The clafoutis will have puffed up quite a bit and will deflate while cooling. When cool dust the clafoutis with powdered sugar. Serve.

Serves 6.




We are giving away two copies of Simplified Dinners!

Every now and then I get a call from one of my daughters and it goes something like this:

“I have some hamburger and a few potatoes on hand, what should I make for dinner?”

“Do you have a couple carrots?”


“Oh, I’d make a shepherd’s pie with that.”

Kind of like Iron Chef but with more basic ingredients and the goal of the game is twofold- 1. not have to run to the store for anything and 2. create something delicious.

When Mystie Winckler asked us to take a look at her endeavor, I knew she had a winner with us. I have taught my daughters to not slavishly follow recipes but rather to use recipes as a guide. This is what Mystie has done and it is now available to you.

Simplified Dinnersis not so much to provide recipes as to give reminders of the
general method of certain standard family dinners. So often I find I don’t really need a recipe for pizza or
stir-fry; I simply need a reminder about the steps involved and what I usually add. Thus, this book was
born, though it went through a three-year gestation.”

I gave it a try. I had a chuck roast on hand so I went to the slow-cooker roasts page and scanned the suggestions for what to do with this meat- Barbecue Pork, Savory Beef Roast, Cranberry Wine Roast and then my eye fell upon Balsamic Roast. And it was this simple:

1. Brown roast on all sides in hot skillet with oil.

2. Over the roast sprinkle 2t. each thyme, rosemary and parsley. Pour in 1/2 C. balsamic vinegar.

3. Cooked at 200˚ for about 5 hours.

Perfection! Since Mystie is only making suggestions and I didn’t have thyme, I left it out. I added garlic and a whole onion sliced.

Have some chicken on hand? How about quick Orange Honey Chicken?

1. Mix equal parts orange juice and honey or brown sugar with a squirt of ketchup. Pour over chicken.

2. There you go! Cook in slow-cooker on low for 5-6 hours.

Simplified Dinners includes a Master Pantry List which I would recommend copying off a bajillion times so you can post it in the kitchen to tick off things you need to restock and then take it with you to the store.

This very handy  book is available in pdf form. If you have a Kindle you can transfer it to your Kindle easily by dragging and dropping the file onto your Kindle hooked up to your computer. Alternatively, you can store it on your computer or as I did, print out a hard copy.

Simplified Pantry: simplify your meal planning


Mystie is giving away two Simplified Dinners here.

1. Leave a comment to enter- Clicking “like” won’t be enough

2. Post to Facebook for a double shot. (tell us you did)

Winners to be announced next Monday.

If you simply can not wait and would like to order now, put pinkpeppers in the discount code box in the shopping cart when checking out, $4 will be deducted from your total, bringing the cost to $5.99. That code will remain valid through the month of March.

Mystie also has a blog that you can check out. It uses the recipes in her book. If you are still undecided, she has a free download so you can check it out.

My Madras Lentils

A while back I posted a recipe I made up based off of something my Aunt Doris would make called Honey Baked Lentils because it’s a perfect short-on-time-and-ingredients dinner that also seems healthy.  Several people since have told me how much they like it and use the recipe, so I decided to post one that I made up after trying some madras lentils sold pre-made at Costco.

Here’s the recipe, I hope you find it as useful:

1 lg can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted are best)
1 small can tomato paste
1 can beans (pinto if you have them)
1 package lentils (1lb)
1/2 an onion diced (or 1 very small onion)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger grated (I keep a root of this in my freezer in a plastic bag)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tablespoon curry

Water to cover the lentils (add more if it appears to be drying out too much as it cooks)


I like to serve this on a bed of arugula with fried/grilled sausages. So what I usually do is fry the sausages in a dutch oven on the stove top, remove the sausages, leave all the drippings in the pot and then just add my lentil ingredients to it so that the flavors of the sausage mix with the lentils.  Cook these until they are stew consistency with some soft but intact lentils, adding water as needed.  As usual, these amounts are approximate because I don’t really measure as I make it, so feel free to improvise!

Monkey Bread

We have a terrific give-away starting on Monday that you will want to check out.  This one will have FIVE lucky winners!! 


In the meantime, I think you should make some Monkey Bread with the kids.  It’s fun and easy and really, really tasty.

This is a great do ahead breakfast for Sunday morning.  To make Monkey Bread super simple, start with Rhodes frozen unbaked dinner rolls.

Cut the almost still frozen rolls into quarters.

Melt butter in one bowl and have ready, cinnamon sugar in the other. For 25 rolls we used just over a stick of butter.

Dip the pieces in the melted butter and then roll around until coated in the cinnamon sugar. This is where kids could have fun dipping and rolling the dough.

Place the coated pieces in a bundt pan that has been greased or sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, take out of the fridge about an hour before baking.  Sunday morning I wander down the hall pull it out, set it on the counter and return to bed.

Bake at 350until done which will vary depending upon how many rolls you used.  Check it after 20 minutes and go from there.  Using 28 rolls I baked mine for 35 minutes.

Snow Day

It just so happens that we have snow over here and quite a bit too.  I love it.  I would be happy if we had snow all the way till spring.  Alas, we don’t get it that often but when we do I think it’s so cosy.  We have been listening to lots of Harry Potter infront of the fireplace.  Eric and I have been watching Bleak House on Netfix.  I would highly recommend it.  And eating plenty of brownies, the soft dense kind with plenty of walnuts and butter.  Here is the brownie recipe incase you should want to join in on the eating.

Best Cocoa Brownies:

10T. butter

1 1/4c. sugar

3/4c.+2T. cocoa

1/4t. salt

1/2t. vanilla

2 eggs

1/2c. flour

2/3c. walnuts

Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Heat mixture till combined and melted and you want to remove your finger quickly.  Set aside till just warm.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients until just mixed.  Bake in an 8×8 pan at 325 for about 30 minutes.