Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Arugula Salad

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Pecan-Crusted Chicken, Arugula Salad & Perfect Potatoes

Pecan-Crusted Chicken, Arugula Salad & Perfect Potatoes

I often rack my brain for quick dinner ideas – the kind I can shop for, cook and clean up in a flash.  Better yet, I love inspirational meals that allow me to use food I already have on hand.    And this is how I resurrected this old but wonderful dish for dinner the other night.  The last thing I wanted to do after a full day was to go grocery shopping.  So I was happy to discover that I had two chicken breast halves, some tiny, tri-colored new potatoes from the farmers market, and salad fixings.

I also found some honey mustard dressing tucked away in the fridge – similar to that I posted a while back.  And then the light went off in my brain: make the chicken breasts just a little different!  I don’t often prepare boneless skinless chicken breast; to me they are a little dry and they taste like I something I’d be eating on a low fat diet.  Nope, I prefer chicken thighs if you must know.  It’s too easy to overcook chicken breast.  But here they were, purchased on a 2-for-1 sale and just begging to be made.

This particular recipe was perfect.  I pounded the breasts to an even thickness, dipped them  in an egg wash, coated them with citrus, herbs and finely chopped pecans, then seared them on the stovetop.  The tiny potatoes were coated with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 400 degrees in my toaster oven for 10 -15 minutes.  The simple salad came together in a flash: arugula, tomato, and avocado.  Once coated with the honey mustard dressing, this went in the dish first.  The crunchy chicken breast was sliced on top and potatoes scattered alongside the entire dish.

My husband pronounced it “better than anything you could buy in a restaurant.”  And folks, that means it is a 10!

Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Arugula Salad

Makes two large or four smaller servings



Chicken Ingredients
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • ¾ cups finely chopped pecans
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • Zest of one lemon, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
Chicken Instructions

Pound the chicken breasts and cut them into four equal sized pieces.

Beat the egg with two tablespoons water.

Mix together pecans, dill, salt, pepper and lemon zest.

Dip the chicken pieces into the egg mixture and then dredge in pecan mixture.

Once coated, place the chicken pieces on a waxed paper-lined tray and allow the breasts to remain at room temperature for about 20 minutes to set the crust.  After this time you can begin cooking them.

Over a medium high flame, heat a 12-inch deep saute pan, add two tablespoons of olive oil.  When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken breasts and cook for three minutes.  Carefully turn each breast piece over, lower the heat to medium and finish sauteeing the second side for about eight minutes.  Remove to a carving board for five minutes then cut into ½ inch slices.

I usually prepare extra chicken breasts so I can have leftovers the next day to stir into risotto, for sandwiches, or pasta.

Salad Dressing

Makes ~1 cup (you will have a lot left over)

Dressing Ingredients
  • ¼ c honey
  • 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp  minced fresh shallots
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • Juice of ½ large lemon
  • ½ tsp salt and ⅛ tsp fresh ground pepper
Dressing and Salad Instructions

I put everything for the dressing together and blended it with my stick immersion blender.

For each eater, figure about 1 ½ cups of greens, 1 small tomato and ¼ avocado, cubed.

Use a few tablespoons of the dressing just to barely coat the salad and reserve the rest in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Put the dressed salad in the bottom of a shallow bowl or plate.

Top with slices of warm seared chicken breasts over the top, and scatter the warm new potatoes around too.



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Oatmeal Tehini Cherry Power Bites

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Power Balls! The Perfect Post-Workout Treat.

Power Balls! The Perfect Post-Workout Treat.

I don’t know about you, when I return home following an intense (for me) yoga class or spin class – the kind where your head sweats and you look like a drowned rat when exercise is finished – I am often absolutely famished.   It’s hard for me to come back and take the time to make a proper plate of food. So I recently began taking a couple of these little healthful balls with me for a post workout snack.

I know, some of you love Kind Bars or Larabars…but I do not.  I’m sick of dates and nuts and peanut butter and all the other “binders.”   So yesterday I made it a point to experiment with sesame seed paste, or tehini.

These little balls are simple – it’s just a matter of stirring the ingredients together.  I love that I am able to use tehini and my favorite dried cherries!  Add in old fashioned raw oats and some ground flaxseed – you could also use whole sesame seeds or ground chia seeds or even hemp seeds if you want to be new age.  The point is that now I am invested in packing two of these in my car or bag for those times when I am hungry  post workout and wish to put something in my mouth that tastes good and IS good for me.

Next up I am going to experiment with chocolate tehini, unsweetened coconut flakes and kamut flakes.  Stay tuned!

Oatmeal Tehini Cherry Power Bites

Makes ~ 16-20 balls



  • 1 ½ cup dry old fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup ground flax seed
  • 1 cup dry tart cherries
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • dash of dry nutmeg
  • dash of sea salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ -2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • ½ cup tehini (I love Soom Foods tehini)

Add dry oats, flaxseeds, dried cherries and spices to a bowl and mix to distribute evenly.

Mix the the vanilla, honey, and tehini together, combine with  the dry ingredients  and mix to form a dough that you can smash together to form balls.   I usually have to add more tehini to get it to this point.

Form into 1-inch balls, (Pack them tightly so they dot crumble apart) and place on waxed paper inside of a sealed container  and refrigerate for up to eight days.  Each ball will be two or three bites of goodness!

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Fabulous Fish Hash!

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Fresh Fish Hash!

Fresh Fish Hash!

Often I have an idea for a new dish I want to try or a recipe I hope to recreate as I’m enjoying a meal in a restaurant.  Other inspiration comes from blogs and online recipes.  But sometimes I look inside my pantry and refrigerator to see what is on hand … and then I simply begin to cook.

The other morning in Belize I biked to my favorite yoga studio, Zen Arcade, and took a pretty intense “intermediate” yoga class for 75 minutes.  After a 15 minute break and some fruit juice I stayed for a 45-minute Pilates class.  My muscles felt like Jello and I wished I could click my heels and snap my fingers to be three miles North at our house.  But no, I mounted my beach cruiser bike and pedaled back home.  Along the way I stopped, as I do most days,  to pick up fresh, hot, thick corn tortillas from a roadside stand – just 50 cents US for eight!.  And for no reason in particular I started to dream of fish hash.

Fish hash?  Kind of a crazy thought, I know, considering that I have never made or eaten fish hash.  The term hash connotes a  preparation of cooked meat or fish or poultry cut into small pieces and cooked again, often adding potatoes and other vegetables. For dinner the previous night I made fish on the grill and had extra left over… so perhaps I still had the delicious memory of charred fish in my head when I came up with this thought…  Or maybe I was reminded of the conversation Wayne and I had recently – laughing about the amount of food in the house and using this and that; he said “I wonder how long we could survive with just the food here without going to the store?”   Days?  Weeks and weeks?

I got home and rolled up my sleeves…(well, not literally because I was still wearing a sleeveless yoga top.)  But I pulled out red skinned potatoes and scrubbed them…then out came a carrot, some onion, garlic, tomato, red sweet pepper, chili powder, and a little sweet and sour sauce I had made.  I cubed the leftover snapper fish, probably two cups worth.

This dish start to finish took about 20 minutes.  In the middle of my cooking it on the stove, we had an air conditioner repairman come in to help fix the A/C and he said “Oh, somebody is cooking.  It smells good!”  Gotta love that.

Gotta Love a One "Pot" Meal!

Gotta Love a One “Pot” Meal!

We ate this hash for lunch with the fresh warm corn tortillas and a bowl of tropical fruit. Guess what?  I had enough for lunch the following day as well.  And I’m thinking that if I hadn’t had the fish this would be perfect with a poached egg on top, or with cubed cooked yams in place of new potatoes.  Spices could be changed out as well…

Fish Hash

Serves 4



  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red pepper, diced ½ inch
  • 1 medium size brown skinned onion, diced ¼ inch
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into ⅛ inch rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
  • 4 red skinned potatoes, cooked (I did this in the microwave for 5 minutes) and cubed into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups total)
  • 2 cups flaked cooked white fish, bones removed
  • 2 Tbsp sweet and sour sauce or worcestershire or anything you have around
  • 1 large tomato, diced ½ inch

Heat a 12-inch saute pan on medium high heat.  Add the oil, then add the onion, garlic, carrot, and sweet pepper and saute for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Carrots should be tender.   Add the cubed cooked potatoes and continue sautéing for another five minutes until the potatoes are brown and the onions are crispy.  Finally add the fish flakes, tomato and sauce of your choice.  Stir together, cook another two minutes then remove from the heat.  Taste to see if you need more salt, pepper or seasoning.  Buen provecho!

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Ina – Mine-a Lemon Bread

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Lovely & Luscious Lemon Bread

Lovely & Luscious Lemon Bread

When life hands you lemons, make LEMON BREAD!!!

My mother-in-law lives in Southern California, and has a huge lemon tree growing right outside her kitchen door.  If we’re lucky enough to visit during the winter time, her tree becomes laden with massive, juicy lemons.  I love to make homemade lemonade while visiting there, and when I get ready to pack up and return to Seattle I stuff as many lemons in my carry on bag as I can!

Besides being a chocoholic, I LOVE the taste of lemon … or citrus of any kind, for that matter.  If I cannot have chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth, the next best thing for me is anything with tart lemon.

Hence this cake, which originates from Ina Garten – aka The Barefoot Contessa.  I call it a loaf because it is baked in a bread pan and sliced like bread.   Many of Ina’s recipes are great but they can be a bit over the top in terms of butter, sour cream and the like.  I actually cut the amount of sugar syrup and sugary lemon glaze with this and I still love the flavors.  Ina likes this with lemon curd and raspberries; I am on board with berries but more lemon curd?  Not for me!

This is easy to make but be forewarned: it takes a lot of pots and pans and dishes!  The recipe that follows is pretty much the same as Ina’s with a few minor changes from yours truly.  I usually gift one loaf or even freeze it then take the bread out and serve this dessert when the spirit moves me.   I continue to be amazed at how perfect this cake is.  Jakey boy says this is one of the best things I make, which is a huge compliment coming from my baby boy.

Ina and Mine-a Lemon Bread

Makes 2 Loaves



  • 2 sticks salted butter
  • 2 ⅓ cups granulated sugar – divide into 2 cups and ⅓ cup
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup grated lemon zest (5 to 8  large lemons) – I grate the zest on my microplane grater
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ~¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice – divide 1/4 cup for batter, 1/3 cup for sugar syrup and 3 Tbsp for glaze
  • ¾ cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Glaze Ingredients
  • 1 ½  cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from the original ¾ cup you squeezed)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and place the baking rack in the center of the oven. Grease two 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch x 2 ½ inch bread pans.  Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pans and press onto the bottoms, then I always grease the top of the parchment too. Truth be told, I use Pam for this task.

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream the butter and two cups granulated sugar on medium high speed for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a one cup glass pyrex measuring cup combine ¼ cup lemon juice, the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, smooth the tops with a kitchen knife, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. (My loaves took 45 minutes.)

Combine ⅓ cup granulated sugar with ⅓ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, shake them gently to loosen the sides and invert them, top side up, onto a rack set over parchment paper.  If they don’t easily release from the bread pans, run a knife around the edges.  Poke the top of the loaves all over with a toothpick and brush the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow time for the syrup to absorb so you use all the sugar syrup.  Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Slowly pour over the top of the cooled cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides. I always smooth the topping all over too. Again you have to go slowly to use all the mixture although some will drip off the cake and onto the parchment.  Let the glaze harden, (I refrigerate the cakes for a few minutes to help it along) wrap the loaves in foil and freeze one loaf or gift it to someone very special!

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Nachos Grande

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Nachos For Everyone!

Nachos For Everyone!

OK people… a short while ago I posted a picture from Belize of our dinner – nachos grande.  Several of you wrote and wanted the recipe.  Recipe?  Really?!?  You actually asked me to quantify this?

Of course, I did.  Making nachos is like making a pizza, except the bottom layer is made from local, freshly baked tortilla chips instead of dough.  Here is what we did:

Nachos Grande



Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and turn on the broiler.

Layer in the following order:

  • Tortilla chips to cover the bottom – pile them on so there is almost a double layer
  • 1 ⅓  cups drained but cooked black beans
  • 2 small ripe tomatoes, diced
  • ⅓ cup diced sweet pickles
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ½ cups raw chicken sausage (taken out of the casings, torn into ¼ inch pieces)
  • ¼ cup grated Edam cheese
  • Hot (picante) sauce

Put the assembled tray of ingredients (except hot sauce) under a broiler in the oven just until the cheese is melted and the meat is cooked.

After it is cooked, I add about ½ tsp very hot (picante) sauce such as Marie Sharps – shake evenly over top


Note: you can use ground beef in place of chicken sausage, add black olives, sauteed onion…let your imagination go wild.

Leftovers can be warmed on foil in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and are darned good!


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Dukkah, Duqqa…I Almost Forgot About You

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Roasted Root Vegetables with Dukkah

Roasted Root Vegetables with Dukkah

The other week, at the last minute, I spotted a cooking class at one of my favorite haunts in Seattle, The Book Larder.  There is a new instructor/chef and he presented a vegetarian menu…a dinner class actually.  I roped a couple of friends and my girlfriend’s daughter into accompanying me too.

Kerry, Toby, me and Lauren

Kerry, Toby, me and Lauren

The “recipes” were just lists of ingredients, although we were told along the way the approximate amounts of each item that was used.  For me, I don’t mind winging it … unless I am baking, of course.   Once I know the ingredients, I can guesstimate pretty well how much or how little of each ingredient I need to use.

We made and tasted a raw vegetable salad with pomegranate syrup and walnut dressing, roasted garlic and bread soup, roasted carrot/parsnip with harissa, lime and yogurt and Bay Leaf Ice cream with spiced nuts.  A great menu, in my opinion and I’ll be trying, modifying and posting a recipe or two once I get myself in gear.

The roasted carrot and parsnip dish especially tickled my fancy, and the presentation was perfect: a shmear of whole milk plain yogurt, the roasted vegetables, harissa sauce and a sprinkle of dukkah.  Duck what, you ask?  Dukkah!  This Egyptian mix of toasted spices, nuts and seasoning transported me back to my New Zealand travels from 2006!

The chef gave us a verbal recipe which wasn’t even part of the class – and on my first try I modified it a bit but pretty much stuck to the ingredients and quantities he suggested: a cup of hazelnuts, spices and ⅓ cup of salt.  All was well until I tasted my final product…WAY too salty, even as a sprinkle on top of veggies.  WAY TOO MUCH!  Back to the drawing board… I found notes I’d taken from a winery in Napier, New Zealand — the first place I ever tasted dukkah.  My next try I hit a good, basic mix that is now in my fridge, ready for daily use.

Many dukkah recipes call for black peppercorns, roasted then pounded or processed with everything else.  Some of my family members are very sensitive to black pepper for some reason so I omitted this step – but go ahead and add this if you adore black pepper.

A Dish of Dukkah

A Dish of Dukkah


Makes 1 ½ cups



  • ½ cup whole raw almonds with skins
  • ½  cup hazelnuts, skin removed (Note: I bought some that were already roasted and skinned-I suggest you use these if you can find them)
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the hazelnuts on one baking tray (if you don’t already buy them toasted and skinned; if you get them already roasted and skinned, don’t put them in the oven at all).

Place the almonds and cumin, coriander, fennel and sesame seeds on another tray and place both trays in oven about 10 minutes or until nuts and seeds are toasted. If you had to roast the hazelnuts, transfer them to a clean tea towel and rub nuts in tea towel to remove as much of the hazelnut skin as possible; cool.

Once cooled, place all ingredients from the recipe into a food processor and pulse to form fine crumbs. Don’t overdo this or it starts to clump together.

This mixture stays in an airtight jar for a long time in the refrigerator (because of the nuts I refrigerate mine unless I plan to use it within a week).

Get a crusty rustic loaf of warm bread and a bowl of olive oil, then a dish of dukkah so you can tear pieces of bread, dip into olive oil and then coat it a bit with dukkah.  Mix some of this into bread crumbs you use to saute fish or chicken.  Use a teaspoon to top salads, to garnish roasted vegetables, or sprinkle on eggs.  In my humble opinion, dukkah should become a  staple in every kitchen!

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Rustic Carrot Soup

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Colorful Carrot Soup

Colorful Carrot Soup

Whenever I’m preparing to leave town for a length of time, one of the hardest tasks for me is to somehow cook all the produce and perishables that cannot be frozen.  I don’t like wasting fresh vegetables and fruits, or dairy products for that matter. It’s a fine dance and my meals become very creative … and often a little weird.

The other week I opened the vegetable drawer and realized I had a lot of organic, beautiful carrots that needed a home.  I also had a quart of homemade chicken stock, although you could use canned stock or even “better than bouillon” too.  It was cold outside so I immediately thought of carrot soup, more the vegetable-only, forget-the-meat variety.  But for whatever reason I did not fancy a pureed, smooth or blended soup. I wanted something more chunky – something with some texture.

And voila!  I basically took one of my pureed carrot soup recipes and took out the “blend with a stick blender” step.  This was so yummy and a little different spin on carrot soup.  FYI – I am going to try it next time with a cup of coconut milk and cilantro in lieu of dill.  You could dollop some crème fraîche or greek yogurt to serve it, but I wanted it simple and plain.

This is one of those “cannot fail” type recipes – just minimal chopping and 45 minutes on the stovetop.  The sweetness of the slowly cooked onion and carrots provide a delicate balance with the chicken broth.  My husband gave it a huge thumbs up, but don’t trust his judgment because he is a huge fan of my creations.  Go for it!

Rustic Carrot Soup

4 large servings



  • 2 tablespoons regular (salted)  butter or oil
  • 1 large onion diced ½ inch
  • 1 teaspoon dry dill weed
  • 1 ½  pounds carrots, peeled and sliced ⅛ inch
  • 1 teaspoon salt (more or less as you wish)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • A few sprigs of fresh dill or fronds of fennel to garnish

Heat a 4-quart sauce pan and add the butter. Once it melts, add the diced onions and dry dill and let them 

cook on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Add the carrots and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the chicken broth and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low simmer, add the salt, and simmer for a half hour. Leave the pot uncovered during the cooking process.

Serve with a few dill fronds or chopped herbs.  Enjoy!


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Coconut Cream Pie For Jakey Boy!

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A Sinful Slice

A Sinful Slice

My youngest son celebrated his 29th birthday at the end of February – the 21st to be exact.  Each year I ask him what kind of cake or pie he’d like.  I’ve told you before how much I adore birthdays, how loved I always felt as a child when my birthday rolled around, and so I try to make the day extra special for my kids and grandkids.  Since Jake is the only one of my three children living in Seattle right now, he gets the added bonus of a birthday dessert of his choosing.

It always tickles me to hear his requests because he’s not a chocolate fan …hardly even a sweets fan. Granted, he does like an occasional warm homemade chocolate chip cookie or a slice of lemon bread but most often he passes on dessert.  When forced to choose, Jakey Boy tends to like creamy, comforting types of pies or desserts: tapioca, banana cream pie (last year’s request) and such.  This year, he asked for a coconut cream pie fashioned after Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas’s creation.

The Perfect Pie

The Perfect Pie

So I got to it.  I started with a quick internet search and bingo…I found the transcript of a local TV cook’s show that included this recipe.  Of course I decided to make it a bit easier by eliminating anything I would have to buy for the sole purpose of the recipe;  for instance, I didn’t use large coconut shreds to garnish and I did not even consider making white chocolate curls (in my mind, white chocolate isn’t chocolate but just overly sweet goop!).  And 2½ cups of cream to whip for the topping?  That is so excessive for me. I used a lot less – with less sugar too.  By the way, the original recipe says it serves 6-8; in my world I could no more eat an entire slice of this pie than kiss the tip of my elbow.  I’d say it serves 10 easily… 10 normal eaters who don’t gorge themselves.  In case you are interested, here is the link to the original recipe I found online.

Despite the intricacies of the original, I must admit that this just wasn’t that hard to make.  The crust was easy for me – I had to practice patience by sticking around and waiting to roll it out, then wait another hour or so to bake it.  The bottom line is that I would make this coconut pie again – it’s not as time consuming as other desserts I’ve mastered. I’d put bittersweet chocolate curls on top but that wouldn’t be very authentic, would it?

And as the youngest (by 6 ½ years) of my three children, Jakey Boy tagged along to baseball games, attended high school and college graduations, fixed numerous computer glitches, and he’s been an on call babysitter and ski instructor for his nephews and niece…so it’s about time he gets what he desires.  Cheers to my Jakey Boy.  I’ll always make him the dessert of his dreams on his birthday!

Coconut Cream Pie

Original Recipe by Tom Douglas; Updated by Yours Truly

Serves 10




1 Pre-baked and cooled 9-inch Deep Dish Coconut Pie Shell (See recipe below)

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, shake well before opening
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise (substitute 1 tsp pure vanilla extract if you must)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 10 tablespoons (½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients
  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 ½ Tbsp granulated  sugar
  • ½  teaspoon vanilla extract
Garnish Ingredients
  • ¾  cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted until lightly brown in the oven  (300 degrees for 10 minutes or so.  Watch carefully!)

To make the Coconut Pastry Cream, combine milk, coconut milk and shredded coconut in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add both scrapings and pod to milk mixture. (Note if you don’t have a vanilla bean, add one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract).  Stir occasionally until mixture almost comes to a boil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and flour until well-combined. Temper eggs by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 cup) of scalded milk from the mixture you are cooking stovetop into egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until mixture is very thick, four to five minutes more.

Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard vanilla pod. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and place it over another bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until pastry cream is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools. When pastry cream is cold and you are within a few hours of eating this dessert, fill cooled pastry shell, smoothing the surface with a rubber spatula.

To prepare Whipped Cream Topping, in an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Spread on top of pastry cream, and sprinkle top with cooled toasted coconut.  Refrigerate until serving.

Cook’s Notes:

A step ahead: If not serving immediately, keep the pie refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap. The finished pie should be used within a day.

The coconut pastry cream can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap as described above.

Coconut Pie Shell Instructions

Serves 8 – 10

Note: You will need to ‘blind-bake’ the pie shell, which means bake the unfilled pastry-lined pan. Use dried beans to weight the bottom of the crust and keep it from puffing up during baking. You can store your ‘pie beans’ in a jar and use them over and over. Very cold butter will give you a flakier crust. If your butter is not very cold, you could set the diced butter in the freezer for 10 minutes before making your dough.

Baking Beans!

Baking Beans!

Pie Shell Ingredients
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
  • ½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup ice water, or more as needed

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, coconut, diced butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse to form coarse crumbs. Gradually add the water, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing each time. Use only as much water as need for the dough to hold together when gently pressed between your fingers. Don’t work the dough with your hands, just test to see if it is holding. The dough will not form a ball or even clump together in the processor, it will still be quite loose.

Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull the plastic wrap around the dough, forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.

To roll the dough, unwrap the round of coconut dough and put it on a lightly floured board. Flour the rolling pin and your hands. Roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Occasionally lift the dough with a board scraper to check that it is not sticking and add more flour if it seems like it’s about to stick. Trim to a 12 to 13-inch circle. Transfer the rolled dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Ease the dough loosely and gently into the pan. You don’t want to stretch dough at this point because it will shrink when it is baked. Trim any excess dough to a 1- to 1 ½-inch overhang. Turn the dough under along the rim of the pie pan and use your finger to flute the edge. Chill the unbaked pie shell at least an hour before baking. (This step prevents the dough from shrinking in the oven.)

Coconut Crust

Coconut Crust

When you are ready to bake the pie crust, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a piece of foil or parchment in the pie shell and fill with dried beans. (This step prevents the bottom of the shell from puffing up during baking.) Bake the pie crust for 20 minutes, or until the pastry rim is golden. Remove the pie pan from the oven. Remove the foil and beans and return the pie crust to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom of crust has golden brown patches. Remove pie crust from the oven and allow to cool. completely.

Cooks Notes:

The dough can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, or frozen for a few weeks. Also the dough can be rolled out and fitted into a pie pan, and the unbaked pie shell can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or frozen for the same amounts of time. Frozen pie shells can be baked directly out of the freezer.



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Thanksgiving in February – Mid-Winter Root Vegetable Salad

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Wintery Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Wintery Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Don’t laugh…we really did have another Thanksgiving in February… the day after Valentine’s Day if you must know.  My family in Seattle (eight adults) always attend the real Thanksgiving weekend at Kal’s Cabin.  However, we inevitably prepare for all the out of town family and never end up with enough leftover turkey and stuffing and gravy…I mean with 25 eaters all weekend, not much remains.

So it came to pass that we organized a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this month.  We all agreed we had a lot to be thankful for – so much so that celebrating our bounty once a year was simply not sufficient. My older brother arrived at our condominium Sunday morning to begin preparing  the turkey and stuffing and gravy and cranberries in my kitchen at 9:30 am!  His condo is smaller than mine and his kitchen is smaller than mine so I let him work his magic in my unit.  Yes, the room filled with smoke from the turkey fat splattering all over the inside of my oven.  Yes, the smells were incredible.  Yes, the next day I had to clean my oven and exhaust fan hood and oven racks and floors..but it was totally worth it.

I played adult and set the table with fine china and silver and real napkins, and we put everything on beautiful platters. I am going to askUncle Tim to teach the next generation how he makes his turkey, stuffing and gravy.  To round everything out, Jake brought perfect Yukon gold mashed potatoes, I provided black bottom pie, wine, spinach salad and roasted vegetables with a twist.  I must say, the food was divine.  The company was even better.

My Black Bottom Pie

My Black Bottom Pie

Kal brought the following delicious roasted yam and beet salad with a kale dressing.  Drum roll for this one.  And do feel free to make the kale-buttermilk dressing a little on the thick side and use it to dip fresh vegetables or to spread on crusty bread.

I think we’ll try for a second repeat February Thanksgiving in 2016 too.  I highly recommend replicating this special day for all of you.  Please be forewarned, however, that in February it is impossible to find pomegranates and fresh chestnuts (at least in Seattle).

Roasted Vegetables With Kale-Buttermilk Dressing



From Kal from Food and Wine Magazine and tweaked by me.

Prep time:   30 minutes

Roasting time:  45 minutes

Servings:  10

Dressing or Dip Ingredients
  • ½ bunch (4 oz) green kale, stemmed  (I use lacinato)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ small serrano or jalapeno chili with seeds, chopped-more or less to your taste
  • 1 anchovy fillet with some oil
  • ¼ cup plain unflavored yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced white onion
  • ⅛ teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup olive oil (more if you want it thinner and less if you are making this as a dip)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper 
Dressing Instructions

In a medium sauce pan, with ¼ inch water, add kale and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook until wilted and softened, 3-5 minutes.  Drain and dry the kale.  Puree this with the rest of the dressing ingredients, adding oil last of all until it’s the right consistency.  Make it thicker if you want a dip, and thin it out more if you use it as a salad dressing.

Salad Ingredients
  • 4-6 Garnet yams
  • 1 large bunch red beets with green tops
Salad Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 and adjust the rack to mid oven.

Remove the tops from the red beets and set aside.

Peel and cube beets and yams into 1-inch pieces, toss each vegetable individually with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Keeping the yams and beets separate, place onto a parchment-lined, rimmed cookie sheet at 425 degrees, for 30-45 minutes.  The beets take longer to soften, so if the yams finish cooking first,  remove them to a plate and continue roasting the beets.

Chop the beet greens and sauté over medium heat in a bit of olive oil (add spinach or chard if you want more greens). Toss with the root veggies to serve.

Everything can be served at room temperature.  I think it looks pretty spread out on a platter!  Place dressing on the side.

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Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

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Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

Oatmeal & Fruit Scones

I don’t know about you, but when I have houseguests I like to make a little extra food to have around  so I can enjoy my company and not be tied to the kitchen.  Many recipes I prepare ahead are munchy type eats, maybe some soup, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and salad stuff … and always breakfast food.  Most of my friends and family are sick of bagels and many are not into eggs or pancakes, so I end up making a batch of these scones.

They aren’t that bad for you… really.  Yes, there is some white flour but I put in whole wheat flour too, and oatmeal along with barely sweetened dried fruit, and just a titch of brown sugar.  These are barely sweet, chewy and perfect for a little something to have with a cup of coffee in the morning before a walk or heading out.

The original recipe for these scones came from an older cookbook and I switched out a lot of the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour.  I cut the scones smaller so I end up with eight perfect sized scones.  Although best an hour after baking, who has time to get up in the morning and start in  before breakfast?  Not me!  So I cool these and stick them in the freezer, then defrost and rewarm them as needed.

I don’t put butter or cream cheese on these when I eat them – I like them as is.  I think you could use dried cranberries or even dried dates or prunes cut into raisin-sized pieces and soaked as per the directions if you want to switch out the types of fruit.

Do follow the instructions of how to make this dough carefully – it’s a little unusual not to stir things together and not to work the dough, but it does make a difference.  Happy winter baking!

Oatmeal Fruit Scones

Makes eight scones



  • ⅔ cup dried sour cherries
  • 2 dried apricot halves, cut into small pieces (mine have no sulfur or sweetener added)
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated orange zest
  • 1 cup + 3 Tbsp flour (I use 1 cup white whole wheat pastry flour + the rest white flour but you can use ½ regular white flour and ½ white whole wheat pastry flour if you prefer a lighter scone)
  • 2 ½ Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbsp (½ stick) cold butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Soak fruit in hot tap water 15 minutes and then drain well.

Put buttermilk and egg in bowl, sprinkle oatmeal on top and don’t stir.  Let it sit for 15 minutes, then add the drained dried fruit.

In a food processor add flour through butter until very well blended.  Gently fold into rest of the ingredients and do not overstir.  Turn onto a floured surface and pat into a one-inch thick circle.  The dough is sticky – don’t knead and don’t stir.  Handle as little as possible. Cut eight wedges, place on the parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle the tops with one tablespoon (total) of granulated sugar. Bake them 25-30 minutes on the  middle shelf of the oven.

When cool you might want to drizzle these with a maple glaze because they are on the bland, non-sweet side. Just mix together a half cup of sifted powdered sugar with three tablespoons of maple syrup for the drizzle.

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