Perfect Plum Breakfast or Lunch or Dinner Cake

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Perfect Plum Cake

Perfect Plum Cake (photo courtesy of Rachel Weissman)


I enjoy but do not love baking cakes.  I do not love it like I love making soups and interesting salads.  First of all, baking is more about chemistry — there is a formula for how much flour absorbs how much liquid, the ways in which different flours and sugars react, etc., etc., etc. Just so much precision.  Most baking that I do is old school stuff – recipes I know well – like rugelach, mandelbread, or brown butter chocolate chip cookies.

BUT hold your horses.   Starting a couple of weeks ago I started spotting loads of Italian plum-laden trees and Italian plums that had fallen from said trees.  And, from past experience, I know Italian plums will continue to fall from their trees for at least another month. So I have been collecting these beautiful, purple, oblong delicacies. And first I made some plum jam. Jars and jars of it.  And then I remembered an old recipe from an ancient issue of The New York Times for a plum torte that I love.  I recalled it was easy to make.  It turns out various food bloggers have written about it. And suddenly, I yearned for the no-so-sweet cake base that envelopes the soft, gooey plums.

Back in my kitchen, I knew that I had the ingredients on hand for this baking project.  Of course I made some changes from the original recipe… I decreased the amount of sugar, subbed some flour with fine cornmeal to give the cake more texture and a nutty flavor, added grated lemon rind and lemon juice, eliminated sifting the flower, subbed salted butter, used turbinado sugar (again for texture), lowered the amount of cinnamon and sugar topping, and baked it in a regular cake pan instead of a springform since my springform pan was in the garage and I was too lazy to fetch it. You know, just a few minor tweaks.

So far I have made five of these cakes in two days – two  for my daughter’s family, and three for the two adults who live in this house who love this and ate an entire cake each day.  Thank goodness I have genes that allow me to eat whatever I want!  Oh, and the cake freezes well too.  But I store mine in the fridge. For easy access.

Not much left!

Not much left!

There are three ways we eat this cake:

  1. After it is baked and still a tad bit warmish, I slice some and top it with full fat Greek yogurt that I whisk a bit – adding a bit of sifted powdered sugar isn’t a bad thing since the cake isn’t sweet to begin with.
  2. The next morning, the texture of this cake is much denser and “wet” because the plums continue to shed their juices into the cake part.  I’d call it more of a plum pudding cake.  The cake is gooey and oh-so-good slightly warmed up with coffee or milk for breakfast.
  3. My husband and kids love what we have named “SOP” which in our household means anything bready or cakey (think cinnamon rolls or sponge cake or this) put into a saucer and surrounded by a moat of milk.  Soggy bread.  Incidentally, I never got into the SOP mode but the rest of my family certainly loves this.

And now, ladies and gentlemen I present:  

Perfect Plum Breakfast or Lunch or Dinner Cake!

Makes one cake to serve 8-10 slices, depending on how big you like your pieces



  •   ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  •   1 stick salted butter, room temperature
  •    3/4  cup unbleached flour
  •    1/4 cup fine cornmeal
  •   1 teaspoon baking powder
  •   2 eggs – room temperature
  •   12 Italian purple plums, sliced in half lengthwise and remove pits (24 halves)
  •   1 Tbsp Turbinado sugar
  •   ½ tsp cinnamon
  •   1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  •   1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle of the oven.   Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 8, 9 or 10-inch round cake pan (spring form if available).

Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl for five minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, mix another minute.

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and add half at a time to the batter until combined.  The batter is very thick and pasty.

Spoon the batter into the pan. The batter is thick and must be spread with a spatula to even it out.  Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. I do this starting with one half in the center of the pan, then make another small circle of seven and put 16 around the perimeter.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Mix sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top of the cake, and finally sprinkle lemon juice on top of the plums.  

Bake approximately 40-45 minutes until the top browns and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a baking rack until room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped yogurt or cream.


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Deconstructed Vietnamese Spring Roll Salad

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Bright & Colorful Vietnamese Salad

Bright & Colorful Vietnamese Salad

I heart Spring Rolls… the fresh, Vietnamese type that are not fried. These little gems are one of my ever enduring favorites for a hot, summer day.  When I think about Vietnamese Spring Rolls, I picture fat, sausage-like rolls stuffed with rice noodles and lettuce, tofu, sliced beef or shrimp, shredded vegetables and herbs…all tightly wrapped like a burrito and then dipped in peanut sauce.  So….drum roll…what about making this into a salad and coming up with a tangy, fish sauce-infused dressing? Genius.

This combo really is perfect for my palate.  I recently made this salad with my girlfriend Toby.  We had a cooking date on a Monday in July and both of us agreed we were craving something salty and rice noodley and refreshing.  My upstairs garden pots were  bursting with various types of lettuce, mint, basil…and I already had everything in my kitchen to whip up this salad – so it was meant to be.  We made this together and divided everything into half.  I came home with a bag of rice noodles and grilled shrimp, a bag of lettuce with shredded carrot, daikon, and cucumber, a jar of dressing, a bag of peanuts to garnish.  This provided me with a delicious dinner and lunch for two the following day.  

I’ll be making this again soon, and suggest you try it this summer while all these ingredients are fresh and bursting with summer flavors.  I love this almost as much as I adore chocolate, and that is saying a LOT!

Deconstructed Vietnamese Salad

Serves 3



Dressing Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (I like Red Boat brand)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water (room temperature)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced by hand
Salad Ingredients
  • 4 ounces vermicelli rice noodles, see directions below
  • 2 cups mixed greens (or thinly sliced napa cabbage)
  • ⅓ cup shredded cucumbers
  • ⅓ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup sliced red bell peppers
  • 2 Tbsp each fresh mint, basil and cilantro leaves (whole leaves picked off the stem, not chopped.  I do tear the basil pieces so they match the mint and cilantro leaf size.)
  • 6-8 ounces shredded cooked chicken, shrimp, sliced cooked steak, or marinated tofu, sliced
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts to garnish if you wish (I do!)

In a small jar shake together lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, water and garlic Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain and cool. Set aside.  Note: to cook them I covered the dry noodles  in a large bowl with boiling water until they became barely soft (about three minutes) and then rinsed with cold water and dried by shaking the strainer.  I then mixed in a teaspoon of olive oil so they wouldn’t stick together in the fridge.

Mix your cabbage or lettuce with the shredded and sliced vegetables. Note about the cucumbers – I  peel mine then shred and dry them well by squeezing them in a paper towel so they don’t make the salad soggy.  I make thin slices with this peeler – made by Titan – which I HIGHLY recommend. I also use this for the carrots.

The BEST Peeler Ever

The BEST Peeler Ever

When you are ready to eat:  divide the salad greens and cooked noodles between three bowls. Arrange chicken, steak, shrimp, pork or tofu, cucumbers, carrots and red pepper slices on top. Garnish with the fresh herb leaves, peanuts and lime wedges. Drizzle to taste with sauce and serve immediately.  Eat.  Repeat.


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Winner Winner Lemon-Tarragon Chicken Dinner

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Yes ... it tastes as good as it looks!

Yes … it tastes as good as it looks!

Lemons are some of my best friends, and in my eyes lemon heightens the flavor of almost everything: baked goods, melon, papaya, chicken, fish…I could go on and on but you get the picture.  So when I spotted a recipe for Lemon Chicken on the blog The View from Great Island, I had to try it.

From the start I streamlined and made the original recipe much simpler.  I dried off the chicken thighs* and cut away any extra fat, then rubbed the seasoning into the skin.  I next eliminated brushing the chicken with oil because after all, the chicken thighs (and breasts if you use them) are baked with their skin on.  Hello?! The fat from the skin renders out and creates a moist yet crisp crusty crunchy layer.

I patted salt, pepper and added some smoked paprika onto the skin mainly to give the chicken color but also because it gave another dimension to the finished dish.   Ever interested in simplifying – I didn’t baste the chicken as suggested either. Rather when it was finished I took my kitchen tongs and flipped the individual pieces over a few times to coat them with the chicken fat (aka shmaltz).  I used tarragon instead of thyme, mostly because I am not a thyme fan yet I have a lot of fresh tarragon at the moment on my rooftop garden and I looooooove tarragon (not as much as lemon, but almost as much).  And I made a bit less of the lemon sauce, mainly because I don’t like things floating in sauce.  You could go back to the original recipe which makes a quarter more sauce and put the extra in a gravy boat to pass and pour on top of the chicken before digging in.

This is going in my “Things I Love” folder because it is so darned good and it looks so pretty and most important, it tastes delicious.  I served this with barely steamed string beans (green and purple, although the purple lost a little of it’s color in the process).  And I had some leftover sweet potato wedges on the side.  For dessert?  I ate an insane amount of fresh raspberries – yet another fave.

I am a happy camper, and you will be too if you try this!  Next I’m making this lemon sauce for  grilled or baked fish.  Heavenly. And – easy peasy lemon squeezy (pun intended).

(*I like thighs more than the breasts so I will do only thighs next time. If you choose to use some chicken breasts with skin and bone on, I’d wait for the thighs to roast ten minutes before adding the breast pieces to the tray.)

Winner Winner Lemon-Tarragon Chicken

Serves 4



  • 6 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on (trim any extra skin that hangs off the thigh)
  • Salt, ground black pepper and smoked paprika (be generous with the seasoning)
  • 3 large egg yolks, room temperature Important!
  • 6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • ⅓ cup black olives, oil cured
  • Fresh tarragon leaves (1 ½ Tbsp chopped) and some tarragon sprigs to garnish
  • Extra lemon slices to garnish

Preheat oven to 425, line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and place the dried thighs on the foil lined pan with the skin up.  Pat the salt, pepper and paprika into the skin so it stays put.  Bake about 35-40 minutes.

When you are ten minutes away from the chicken being finished, whisk the yolks and add the lemon juice in a bowl.  Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan until it boils, and slowly pour this into the yolk/juice mixture while whisking vigorously.  Pour the yolk/juice/stock mix back into the saucepan and gently heat on medium low just until it gets a little thicker – you have to whisk constantly here so nothing curdles.  Don’t let the mixture simmer or boil at all. When it is a little thick (this took very little time for me) , take it off the heat.

Cover a platter (one with a bit of a rim so the sauce doesn’t drip of) with the lemon sauce.

Remove the chicken pieces from the roasting tray and use tongs turn them over a few times so they are glistening with the drippings.  Place the pieces, skin side up, on top of the sauce.  Scatter the olives about, and sprinkle the chicken with chopped tarragon.  

Serve with a large seasonal salad and steamed green beans or broccoli.  Enjoy!

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Asian-Inspired Summer Zucchini Pancakes

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Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes (photo by Susan – who is far more patient with the camera than I)

This June I went back to “The Ranch” with my sisters Susan and Kay, and we three attended a cooking class with visiting chef Meadow Linn.  Last year we experienced different cuisine and I posted another zucchini recipe: a raw zucchini vegetable dish that I continue to make and enjoy.  But last year, if I recall correctly, Kay had a nagging back injury so she spent the class lying on the floor.  This year?  Kay’s back is healthy and not only did she make it through class upright, she was able to hike further, exercise, dance and definitely stand longer than me.  Go figure… though I do need to point out that she IS is almost five years younger.  I’m just sayin’…

Three sisters touring the organic farm - viewing all the produce used at the ranch and in this class!

Three sisters touring the organic farm – viewing all the produce used at the ranch and in this class!

But back to the class. During the instruction portion, stations were set up and Kay and I partnered to make spring rolls with dipping sauce…and we were a machine, filling, rolling and completing this dish faster than you can even imagine.  We Klass girls have good hands in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Susan singlehandedly mixed, scooped and baked 60 gluten free, coconut chocolate chip cookies. Delicious.

Chef Meadow Linn explaining all the dishes on the buffet before we ate.

Chef Meadow Linn explaining all the dishes on the buffet before we ate.

At the end of the two hours, all the dishes we made were assembled on a buffet and we enjoyed eating every last bite.  The zucchini pancakes I’m featuring today were one of my favorite items – they were lighter than most vegetable pancakes and a lot more flavorful too.   Though I have made similar pancakes in the past, I must admit that this recipe tasted better.  The dipping sauce was an especially nice addition.

No matter where you are this summer, I know you can grow or buy zucchini.  Try these!  You’ll like them. And, in case you’re interested, these are gluten and dairy free.

Note: the recipe below was adapted from The Mystic Cookbook by Denise and Meadow Linn (You’ll recall that Meadow was our teacher).

Summer Zucchini Pancakes with Asian Dipping Sauce

Dipping Sauce Ingredients

Makes around a cup

  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • ⅓ cup tamari
  • ¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Mirin
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 bunch white onions, white parts only – sliced very thin
  • ½ tsp chili flakes or to taste (be sure to add slowly and taste since they make the sauce very spicy)
Pancake Ingredients

Makes about 10 pancakes (3-4 inches in diameter)

  • 6 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 ½ lbs zucchini)
  • ¾ cup grated sweet white onion (1 small onion)
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (I use a ginger grater for this)
  • 5-6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sweet rice flour (purchase in Asian grocery store or natural food stores)
  • Vegetable oil to fry the pancakes
Dipping Sauce Instructions

Stir sugar, tamari, vinegar, mirin and sesame oil together.  Add chopped garlic, sesame seeds and onions, then slowly add chili flakes to taste.  Set aside.  The sesame seeds float on top of the sauce.

Pancake Instructions

Cut off both ends of the zucchini and grate (either with a food processor – using the shredding disc – or by hand with a box shredder.  Put the shredded zucchini in a tea towel in batches and squeeze the liquid out so it is dry.  Use a lot of muscle power or the pancakes will be soggy and fall apart.  This is messy and easiest to do over the sink.  

Put the dry shredded zucchini in a large bowl.  Using the same disc and food processor, grate the onion.  Use a ginger grater for the ginger but if  you see fibrous, unchewable pieces of ginger remove them.  Mix these three things together.

Heat a 12-inch skillet or griddle, then add two tablespoons vegetable until hot.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs with a whisk and pour over the zucchini mixture, add the sweet rice flour and mix until fully combined.

Scoop about ½ cup of batter and flatten the pancakes with a spatula on the hot pan or griddle.  Don’t crowd the pan – I make 4-5 per pan.  Cook until golden on one side, then carefully turn over and cook until golden and crispy.  Remove to a towel-lined plate.  Add more oil and repeat.  
Serve with the dipping sauce. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Almond Biscotti

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Right out of the oven

Right out of the oven!

I know I’ve already posted my recipe for our favorite dark chocolate chip biscookies, but truth be told, I prefer these chocolate almond biscotti.  They taste chocolaty, my fave, and not too sweet so they pair well with coffee, tea or even simple hot water with lemon.

I have been making these for as long as I can remember – at least ten years.  This recipe is straightforward, easy and the finished cookies freeze for up to six months.  Needless to say, you can root around in my home freezer and almost always find a stash I’ve hidden away.  I often pack these for an airplane ride in case I need a chocolate fix, too.

I’ve made these with pecans or walnuts, but almonds are my favorite – there’s just no nut quite as crunchy IMHO.  By all means, you can substitute any nut of your choosing.  And I’ve been partial to Scharffenberger cocoa powder but I’m sure this would work well with any high end type of chocolate.  So without further ado, I present to you….

Chocolate logs - just baked

Chocolate logs – just baked

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Makes 30-ish



  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup Scharffenberger cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ tsp ground black pepper (You can omit this if you have eaters who don’t like extra pepper.  I love the zing it adds but some of my family prefer the cookies without)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ stick melted salted butter 
  • 1 ¼ cups toasted chopped almonds or hazelnuts or pecans or walnuts (I chop and toast these the day before)

Put rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Line an unrimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Melt butter over low heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, soda, salt and pepper.

In another bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Add cooled, melted butter and continue whisking.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in your bowl and add the liquid mixture, then stir in the nuts.

With barely floured hands, (some may prefer damp hands) roll two 14-inch logs on a floured surface (I use my handy dandy silicone mat) and space evenly on your baking sheet.  Make sure the rolls are even on the sides on on top.

Bake the dough for 25 minutes, until firm.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes on a rack.  Slice on the diagonal width into ½ inch slices with serrated knife (I use my electric knife) and arrange on the parchment lined sheet on their bottoms with both cut sides exposed.   Bake another 20 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheet from oven and let the cookies cool and store at room temperature in a jar for up to two weeks.   Or store in the freezer for up to six months – but believe me, they will never last that long!


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Cauliflower Pilaf

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Colorful Cauliflower Pilaf

Colorful Cauliflower Pilaf

Truth be told, most new recipes or foods I try in my kitchen are inspired by restaurants or food trucks that serve something I eat and then hope to replicate.  Often I do a little online investigating then devise a formula that is similar to what I have in mind, then I start and tweak until I am satisfied that I have created something delicious.  

Not this time.  I truly concocted this pilaf in my head – simply basing it on what I had in the refrigerator at the time and CA CHING!  I hit the jackpot.  I was on a mission to incorporate additional vegetables and lentils into my diet too so I was doubly pleased.

Just to be sure I wasn’t delusional, I made this shortly thereafter for two of my kids on separate occasions without a lot of explanation and they both LOVED it.  Of course they asked me how I made the pilaf… how much of this and that … and of course I didn’t know at the time because I cook with my eyes. Regardless, I’ve made it almost daily now as part of my lunch, followed by a homemade salted chocolate chunk cookie. Perfection.

As it turns out, this is vegan, gluten free, dairy free..not anything I started out to do but hey, it’s tasty and easy.  What I do is keep the chopped cauliflower and cooked beluga lentils (It could have been beans too) and cut-off-the-cob sweet corn ready and waiting, and it literally takes me minutes until I am chowing down.  I pretty much always have cherry tomatoes and tahina and lemons and cilantro in my house too. After all, I cook daily.

I don’t know that this recipe is that exact.  I plan to change out things depending on what I have around too: today I’ll add sliced asparagus spears, diced red pepper, diced sugar snap peas and yellow cherry tomatoes for example.  Use your imagination!

Cauliflower “Pilaf”

Serves 1



Salad Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cauliflower “rice”  (cut cauliflower in flowerettes and whirl to make it rice – like in the food processor.  Easy instructions are explained well here. Alternately, you can buy this at Trader Joe’s.)
  • ½ cup cooked and drained black or regular lentils (Garbanzo beans are a good substitution)
  • ½ cup sweet corn kernels, uncooked
  • Chopped cilantro if desired
Dressing Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp tahina (Soom is the best!)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbsp water to thin the sauce
  • Dash of curry powder or cumin if you like
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a 10-inch fry pan, add the olive oil, and when it is hot dump in the cauliflower “rice”, lentils and corn.  Saute for a few minutes until the cauliflower is cooked a bit.  

Whisk together the dressing ingredients, taste and add more water/lemon juice as needed.  Stir this into the cauliflower mix, top with fresh herbs and serve.  

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Simply Rhubarb

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Rhubarb Sauce

Spring means rhubarb, and just that word RHUBARB conjures all kinds of memories for me.  In Iowa where I grew up, we had stalks of rhubarb that grew abundantly without tending in our yard.  My mother simply stewed it or served it fairly plain.  My Aunt Esther, however, made THE most delicious rhubarb pie on the face of the earth; even though I have her supposedly authentic recipe, my pie never tastes the same as hers did…  I love pie, but it takes a lot of forethought and a bit more effort than my simple rhubarb dessert.  My family has left the nest so an entire pie doesn’t work for us unless we have company.

So, I’ve concocted a simple stewed, reduced rhubarb sauce that I serve topped with sweetened, rich, full fat (YAY) Greek yogurt.  Ellenos yogurt is king – or should I say queen – at our house in Seattle.  It’s a local company and they have a counter at my fish market, Uwajimaya.  I make the trek there weekly not only to purchase fish but to replenish yogurt and I prefer the plain, unsweetened variety so I can add pureed fruit or honey or vanilla myself.

This recipe begins with a simple, honey-sweetened, stewed rhubarb – reduced to thicken it a bit.  I refrigerate the thickened sauce and later add some lemon juice and pomegranate molasses.  

When ready to serve, I whisk some plain, unsweetened yogurt with a bit of powdered sugar – another sweetener would make it beige and I like the white color.   I don’t make it too sweet.   I’m ready to use this whisked, sweetened yogurt for my crisps and pies as well.

For some reason the play of the tart rhubarb against the creamy, not-too-sweet yogurt is perfect for me.  I often slice fresh seasonal strawberries on top, add a mint leaf and VOILA. This is my kind of dessert: not too sweet, not too rich, but just right.   Trust me, this is better than a scoop of ice cream.

I’ve posted many rhubarb recipes in the past – mini gallettes, rhubarb salad dressing, even rhubarb “crack”, but this recipe is the easiest yet!

Stewed Rhubarb with Yogurt and Berries

Serves 8



  • 4 cups of rhubarb (discard the leaves) chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp of water
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup full-fat plain unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, add slowly to taste
  • Fresh berries of your choice

In a medium saucepan, stir together the rhubarb, honey and water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat.  Stir every five minutes until the rhubarb softens for a total of about 10 to 15 minutes.

Uncover the pan and cook for 10 more minutes, until the sauce is thick.  Transfer the rhubarb to a glass bowl, cover it  and refrigerate until it is cold.

Before serving (you can do this the day ahead) dump the yogurt in a medium bowl, and quickly whisk while slowly adding powdered sugar.  Stop and taste it so it is to your liking – a little sweet but not cloying. You can add more powdered sugar if you like it on the sweeter side.

When ready to serve, add the pomegranate molasses and lemon juice to the refrigerated  rhubarb.  

Spoon a half cup of the rhubarb into the bottom of a saucer, top with a half cup of the whipped, sweetened yogurt and top with sliced berries and garnish with mint leaves if desired.

PS: I recently read that yogurt can be frozen and I tried it out the last time I left for a long trip.  By Jimminy, it was thawed and stirred and consumed and tasted as good as the fresh.  Useful information I just had to pass along!

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Kal’s Spicy Chicken Chili

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Chicken Chili

Comforting Chicken Chili

I have already published a fantastic traditional meat chili, but I have been meaning to write about Chicken Chili too because A) it’s quite different and B) it’s the chili we always have before Thanksgiving at my brother Kal’s cabin and C) said chili always always disappears.  

To me, a chili recipe is a template and this one is no different.  The basic ingredients are good, but you can change the flavor and texture of the formula below by adding in some corn kernels, or topping the finished dish with some full fat plain yogurt, chopped cilantro and possibly even some pickled purple onion.  The possibilities are endless!

Cooking away...

Cooking away…

I make this chili several times a year now, and I always always double the recipe, reserving a huge tub for my freezer.  Because I am somewhat of a food snob, I use my freshly cooked beans along with their cooking liquid in place of those from a can.  I realize most of you aren’t making beans from scratch, so cans work as well, but please, rinse the beans.  Go for it!

Kal’s Chicken Chili



Prep time:        30 minutes

Cooking time:  1 hour

Servings:         10-12

(Kal always starts his recipes with the prep time, cooking time, and number of servings.  He’s more top of his game than I am!)

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded then finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and diced ⅓ inch
  • 2 poblano peppers, diced (when I made this recently the poblanos were almost as big as my hand so I used just one)
  • 1 large brown skinned onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 15-ounce cans of cooked beans such as garbanzo, pinto or kidney.  Rinse and drain. OR 3 ½ cups freshly cooked beans in their cooking liquid.
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato juice
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

Toppings you might like for the chili: chopped cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese, pickled onion, hot sauce — the sky’s the limit.


In a large soup pot, heat oil, brown chipotle peppers whole for three minutes, turning them over halfway through.  After the time is up remove them and discard the chilis but leave the oil and any brown stuff on the bottom of the pan.

Before you cut or seed the fresh peppers, put on disposable kitchen gloves or you’ll get nailed if your hands accidentally touch your eyes.  You do NOT want that to happen.

I cheated here and coarsely chopped then put the garlic, onion, and all the peppers in my Nutribullet in two separate batches to pulse instead of chopping them by hand.  Really, it turned out fine and saved me tears and time.   Add the chopped garlic, onion, chopped peppers and raw ground chicken and cook, stirring, until chicken is browned.  Reduce heat to medium, add salt, cumin, and chili powder, stirring until soft, about six minutes.  Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato juice and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  Taste the chili and add more salt and chili powder if you like – I always do.  

Ladle into bowls, garnish as you wish and enjoy.  Homemade corn bread drizzled with honey is a wonderful accompaniment to this chili…just sayin’.

Serving suggestions for the leftovers:

  • Combine chili with frozen peas and corn and carrots, and top with mashed potatoes for a sort of shepherd’s pie.
  • Try a poached egg on top!
  • I love making twice baked potatoes, scooping out some of the potato and replacing it with chili
  • Use chili to fill omelettes
  • And so forth and so on!
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Addicting Granola Bars

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Gratifying Granola Bars

Gratifying Granola Bars

I’m starting a “Granola Bars Anonymous” organization of which I will be president.  To join, you must be unwilling to eliminate granola bars from your household, ever.  HA!  

My original granola bar recipe from King Arthur Flour was one of those concoctions I tried on a whim. I expected them to be better than average but not anything I would make every three days for more time than I can recall.  And yet…my husband and my daughter became hooked on them and I now feel obliged to bake a batch every few days, place them in the freezer, and remove a few every morning for that day’s consumption.  My family has declared that these rather bland-looking bars are their new favorite food. Every morning I put them inside a decorative jar on my kitchen island, where they have become known as “island food” and quickly disappear.

Of course I didn’t leave the recipe as it was written.  I played around with the nuts, seeds, and other add ons to get what I thought tasted best. No, I did not add chocolate of any kind to these.  You could do so, but a few in my family do not like mixing fruit and chocolate.  Personally, I decided that there is enough chocolate in my life. Plus, I pack these bars “to go” so filling them with fruit, seeds and nuts rather than gooey chocolate just makes sense. Honestly – I think they are perfect. And I happily added them to my “Things I Love” folder.

Beautiful Bars ... but they go so fast!

Beautiful Bars … but they go so fast!

Bukkah’s* Granola Bars

Makes 16 pretty substantial bars that you could cut in half again, but trust me you’ll eat an entire bar!



  • 1 ⅔ cups old fashioned oats – divided one cup and ⅔ cups
  • ⅓  cup raw turbinado sugar (I prefer this more granular sugar for texture)
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 oz dried cherries or dried cranberries
  • 6 large pitted and chopped medjool dates
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • Scant cup of finely chopped pecans (I put whole pecans in the Nutribullet for a few seconds to really chop them finely but you can do this by hand too)
  • ¼ cup untoasted white sesame seeds
  • ⅓ cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ⅓ cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • ⅓ cup chunky peanut butter or sunflower butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 6 tablespoons melted salted butter (cool briefly)
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease then line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ brownie pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Place one cup of the oats in a mixing bowl. Place the other ⅔ cup in a blender or Nutribullet and whirl them briefly to make oatmeal flour.  Then add this to the bowl with the other oats.   Add in all the other dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts, and stir well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, peanut butter, honey and water. With your hands or wearing disposable gloves, mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  The raw mix will be like thick, wet oatmeal.

Spread in the prepared pan, pressing down firmly all over, into the corner too, to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. I use the flat part of a  bench scraper and really push hard to pack the bars.

Bake the bars for 35 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges and top. They’ll still seem soft in the center of the pan but will firm up when cooling.  I press everything down firmly again in five minutes after they sit on the counter in the pan. Again, I use my palms. After you push the bars down, go around the perimeter with a knife to loosen.

In 30  minutes, cover the pan with a cutting board and flip it over so the bottom side of the bars face up.  The parchment will keep them from sticking.  Peel the parchment paper off the top and put the cutting board and bars into the fridge for another half hour.

Once the bars are totally cold, use a  serrated knife to cut the bars into 16 squares. Do this carefully so they don’t crumble apart.

To store, I put the cut bars in glass or plastic airtight covered containers and I usually keep mine in the fridge or freezer.

It surprises me that my grandkids,  who are highly discriminating eaters,  didn’t really think these were worth ooing and ahhhhing over.  Fine, more for us.  In a scientific controlled study of 25 Seattle and San Francisco relatives and friends, 100% of participants were crazy about these bars.

For me, it’s going to be a recipe I rotate through on a weekly basis until I get overdosed.  When I’m starving  or in a plane, these are fantastic.  And they are hands down superior to commercial granola bars with a long shelf life that come in tiny plastic bags with words like food coloring and high fructose corn syrup high up on the ingredient list.

These follow my own food rules: they contain whole foods, lots of seeds, nuts and whole grains, and dried unsweetened fruit.  Perfect?  Of course not. They contain sugar and honey and butter.   But in my world when I start with mostly whole foods and make something that has a freezer life and is so satisfying when I’m on the run, I’m happy.  

* In case you’re wondering … Bukkah is the name my grandkids all call me.  My daughter Rachel came up with it – it’s what she called her grandmother. No “grandma” or “Bubbie” in our family. Bukkah all the way!

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Hail Caesar!

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Caesar Salad - Simple & Satisfying

Caesar Salad – Simple & Satisfying

I’ve been on a Caesar Salad binge for about a month now…crispy heads of Romaine, salty homemade croutons, and creamy dressing: what could be bad about this?  I have all the fixins prepared ahead of time, and most days I indulge shamelessly and consume a nice amount of Caesar.  Lettuce counts as a vegetable in my eyes.

From what I can remember, Caesar salad has been around as long as I’ve been an adult – in other words for a long, long time.  Other salad trends come and go, but Caesar is a staple and beloved by so many young and old.  And it seems like everyone has a favorite Caesar salad recipe.  Many cooks love the drama and flash involved with making this tableside with a wood bowl, a whisk and elbow grease.  But me?  I’ve never been a showman, I should say show-woman.  All I care about is that the final creation I make brings joy to me and to those I am feeding   

This is one of my recipes I made by the gallon back in my catering life.  Everyone asked about our Caesar, and ironically I landed a few jobs just because of this simple salad.  While I was a business person, I never dared divulge my tried and true catering recipes.  And now?  If you ask me for a recipe, I’ll gladly share with you!  

I simplified my catering recipe even further since I now own a Nutribullet – although a blender works just dandy too.  I don’t even bother to grate the parmesan cheese, but weight out what I need and let the blender do all the work.  And everything goes in at once, making this a breeze. The version I’m sharing has anchovy paste because I love the salty flavor, but if this doesn’t float your boat just skip the anchovy and add Worcestershire sauce.  

It's all about the dressing...

It’s all about the dressing…

Blender Caesar Dressing

Makes 1 ¼ cups dressing



  • 1 whole egg (supposed to be coddled for a minute – I used a pasteurized egg instead but you can read how to do this here:
  • ½ cup high quality grated Italian Parmesan/Reggiano cheese-eyeball it or if you have a kitchen scale,r simply weigh out a  2 ounce chunk of cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon + add unseasoned rice vinegar if you don’t have quite enough juice from one large lemon)
  • ½ teaspoon anchovy paste (If you don’t like anchovy, use one teaspoon Worcestershire sauce)
  • 2 whole cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp fresh black pepper ground
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup salad oil (not olive oil – I use canola oil)

To begin with – HAVE EVERYTHING (eggs, lemon, cheese and anchovy paste)  AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!  If the ingredients aren’t at room temp, you’ll have to slowly drizzle in the oil at the end.

Add all the ingredients including the oil to a Nutribullet or whirl using a blender, run the motor until everything is smooth.  This takes me about 20 seconds.      

Pour into a glass container and refrigerate at least an hour or up to a week.  Let stand at room temp 15 minutes before serving.

To compose the salad, use chopped or whole leaves of Romaine lettuce and fresh croutons too.  

Cook’s notes:  

Be sure to make homemade croutons! Just cube up a denser (usually leftover) baguette bread into ¾ inch pieces (I use a small loaf from Macrina bakery from my beloved neighborhood Metropolitan Market called “Giusseppe Roll”).  Coat the cubes with half a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then bake 325 for ten minutes – or until the cubes are brown.  Cool and store at room temperature.  I usually make a bunch of these for the week and briefly pop them in the toaster oven at 300 degrees for a few minutes to freshen them up before I toss my salad. I’ve also made the salad a bit unique by using leftover rye bread for croutons.  It’s surprisingly great.

It’s not traditional, but I often add halved cherry tomatoes and avocado to my Caesar.  Or I add cherry tomatoes  along with fresh mint and oregano.  I”m shameless.

And finally, if you aren’t into cheese, you can make this eliminating the parmesan — you’ll end up with a creamy, garlicy lemony dressing that is mighty fine.

And finally finally: my grandkids love this salad!

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