Kefir Coffee Cake

Click here to view recipe.

The Most Delicious Coffee Cake

I need another coffee cake recipe like I need a hole in my head. However, if you read my last post,  you have learned by now that my need to bake every day has become a full-blown sickness.   I read this recipe for coffee cake in the Food Section of the Seattle Times where it was presented by a 14-year-old aspiring chef as an option for Father’s Day.  How could I turn away?

What tempted me most was the use of oil in lieu of butter – especially since my butter stash was running low and I was not due for my COVID Grocery Store foray for a few days. Plus it was 6:30 am – my favorite time to bake. This cake required just a medium and a large bowl and a little elbow grease to make (no mixer needed). I had every ingredient in the house to boot!

I did not have buttermilk but I had kefir, which worked well.  I used avocado oil in place of corn oil, dark brown sugar in place of light brown sugar – and I was quite happy with the result The cake looks different (darker) than my usual sour cream coffee cake and I actually appreciated having a non-sour cream-yet-still-moist option. It didn’t taste quite as overwhelmingly rich to me.  

My recipe-tasting husband loved the breakfast cake, the cleaning woman for our condo gave it a thumbs up and a large chunk will go to my pregnant-with-twins daughter-in-law and my overly busy daughter and family.  

Hot Out of the Oven

Kefir Coffee Cake



  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea  salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (DIVIDED)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup avocado oil
  • 1 cup raw chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup plain kefir, shake well before measuring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 12 x 2-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, brown sugar, white sugar, and oil. Remove three-quarters of a cup of this mixture and put it in the small bowl. Into this smaller bowl, also add the nuts and remaining teaspoon of cinnamon. Set aside for the topping

To the remaining mixture in the large bowl, add the baking powder, baking soda, egg, and kefir to the flour mixture and stir everything together. It’s OK if you have a few small lumps. Pour this mixture into the greased pan.

Sprinkle the nut mixture from the smaller bowl evenly over the top of the batter. I kind of pressed down lightly on the topping so it wouldn’t immediately crumble off while eating.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry and free of wet batter.

Cool on a rack for an hour-the cover tightly with foil or saran.  You can also freeze this cake for up to a month.  Enjoy!!

Posted in Breads | Tagged | 3 Comments

Huge Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Click here to view recipe.

Seriously – The BEST!

I came home on a “rescue” flight from Guatemala in late May, just as the president was locking down the country.  Truly locking it down – as in no one was allowed to be outside for four days each week—which meant no shopping, no walking, nada.  Nisht.  I encountered these rules the weekend before we were to leave as our flight was canceled. But that is another story for another day. I’m just relieved to be home!

My mornings in Seattle begins around 6:30 am.  My barista (aka husband) makes me a mug of cappuccino so I can start my engine.  I then start putting my flour, sugar, yeast, vanilla, and everything I need for baking on the counter.  This morning, which is already three weeks since I’ve been back, he remarked that I was a sick individual with a severe baking addiction.  I cannot argue that point.  Every single day I make bread, some type of pastry or pie or cake and then the ho-hum soups and good, fresh dinners. 

I know, I know, I know!  I have no reason to have yet another oatmeal cookie recipe but come on…my daughter Rachel stocked our kitchen before we returned and quarantined with too much bread flour, white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, bittersweet chocolate, and other baking (and cooking) stuff. So bake, I must.

I can also blame this insanity on my sisters.  We Zoom every Sunday evening for 80 minutes then send flurries of texts so we compare notes on what we are cooking and baking, then recipes are sent back and forth and reviews of the food are unabashedly made.

Skeptic that I am, I don’t trust most people when they tell me a cookie recipe is really good.  But my seesters?  They have genetic taste buds like me and are baking snobs as well.  None of us would consider white chocolate or light chocolate or even semi-sweet chocolate, heaven forbid.  We are intense chocoholics after all.

Kay and I heard about these cookies from Susan, who got the recipe from her daughter-in-law Nicole who probably made them gluten-free.  Susan sent us both her recipe and Kay made them not once but three times in the past week!  Today was my maiden voyage. And I am here to testify that these are really good and really easy. Plus – they make enough for me to give some to my two offspring who brilliantly decided to settle in Seattle so they can always have food from their mother.  And if my freezer isn’t packed I’ll have an excuse to make yet another batch of cookies or scones or breakfast bread.

“BIG ASS” (Susan’s title) Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield 24 large (4” in diameter) cookies 



  • 1 cup salted butter softened
  • 1 ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 ⅓ cup rolled oats (old-fashioned) 
  • 1 (12 oz) pkg. bittersweet chocolate chips (my bittersweet chips only had 10 oz which     Kay said was plenty, but I, of course, added two more ounces from another pack)
  • 1 ½ cup chopped toasted nuts (salted and/or smokey almonds are great I hear, but I just had pecans on hand which I toasted.  I try to go to the store no more than once a week right now.)
  • Coarse cane sugar for sprinkling on top

Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl of an electric mixer until creamy; beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, blending thoroughly.

Add oats, chocolate chips, and cooled toasted nuts; mix well by hand or quickly in the machine.

Shape each cookie by scooping into a ¼ cup measure for large cookies, six per sheet.  I then cover the balls of dough with a piece of waxed paper and flatten them evenly. Next, sprinkle a few flakes of coarse sugar on top.  

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 13-15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets for five minutes then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Cook’s notes:

  • In general, when I bake cookies, I do all the scooping at once and put the balls of dough onto a parchment-lined tray, then refrigerate until I am ready to bake.  This keeps the dough cooler and I can wash the pans and equipment while the first batch of cookies is baking.  I hate having a bunch of dishes to do at the end, truth be told. 
  • My sister Susan noted: these are “very similar to mom’s oatmeal ccc’s. Easy to make gluten-free w/substitute flour, tastes the same I swear.”
  • These freeze well up to two months, or you can freeze the dough balls and bake as needed.  
Posted in Cookies | Tagged | 2 Comments

Anti-COVID Soup

Comforting & Colorful Anti-COVID Soup

I’m writing this on March 17 from Antigua Guatemala. My husband and I are down here and were scheduled to return home to Seattle at the end of March.  Seattle, as you know, is like 9/11 Ground Zero with respect to the Coronavirus, and at first, it was very chill and relaxing to be here in Antigua, away from the constant changes related to the virus.  However, almost two weeks into our visit the panic hit (for good reason) and all flights and roads and waterways into the country were canceled.

I sat on the phone with United Airlines for three hours the other day, trying to figure out return reservations, and still, no one knows anything for sure.  Everything is closed for at least two weeks, all eat-in restaurants are closed, yoga studios and gyms are not open, stores are closed, just pharmacies and banks and the supermarket are still open for shorter hours.  No public transportation is available, no one is to be out after 4 pm, no alcohol from 6 pm until 5 am. Lots of rules, not as much panic as in Seattle – but this is just starting here.

Wayne in the Bodegona (the “supermarket” in town) loading up on staples. Plenty of TP and no hoarding!

These new regulations were announced by the president and began yesterday and we decided not to eat food that we did not personally prepare.  I have a teeny weeny kitchen in our rented apartment with three pans, one frypan and maybe 10 utensils. It is enough, really – particularly when I compare what I have to what the poor Guatemalans cook with every single day.  I mean, there is electricity in this apartment and I have soap and running water too.

This morning we got up at 5 am and walked to the one large supermarket in town to be there when it opened at 6 am.  Last night it was bustling and people’s carts were loaded, not to mention that everyone was standing shoulder to shoulder.  No thank you! I took my hand sanitizer and Chlorox wipes and an N-95 mask in case it was crowded. We watched the store unload pallets of canned fish, Coca-cola, laundry detergent and the like.  FINALLY at 6 am, we entered and within 20 minutes we had our non-perishables-lots of kinds of rice and grains, several varieties of beans, Corn Flakes (not for me, but for Wayne), eggs, boxed and canned milk to name a few things.  We came back, washed our hands for 20 seconds, cleaned all the containers with bleach and water and then realized how tired we felt.  

Post-shopping — not a soul on the streets!

My yoga teacher here did an online (Zoom) yoga class that I followed virtually. I had to manage on our tile floor, but it was just what I needed.  Meanwhile, I heard a lot of cupboard doors banging, a lot of chopping, water running, the fridge opening. When I finished my virtual class, Wayne was almost done making chicken soup using the bones and a little meat from a rotisserie chicken along with leftover white beans, fresh carrots, fresh corn kernels from two ears of corn and tomatoes and cilantro and lime and tiny new potatoes and and and.  We now have a large pot of this soup – really more of a stew – and I made some couscous to add alongside. What is left of the couscous will turn into a couscous salad with diced veggies, lime and olive oil.

We decided after eating a couple of bowls of the soup that every week that we are self-isolated, we will come up with a different version of vegetable soup.  It will be simple, it will not be gourmet, but it will be comforting and nourishing and hopefully keep us healthy until we can fly back to Seattle.

The “recipe” here isn’t really a recipe, but here is how it happened.  First, take any bones from a previously cooked chicken and cover them with water by two inches.  Add about one tablespoon of water and one teaspoon of pepper. Simmer 45 minutes, and strain. Next, add about two huge peeled and sliced carrots, two cups of diced potatoes (I like mine abut ¾ inch in diameter), three sliced tomatoes (don’t bother to seed and peel-this is a rustic soup), about two cups of trimmed green beans, a cup of fresh corn kernels, two cups of leftover beans if you have them, and a handful of chopped cilantro.  Add and simmer another 20 minutes and season with more salt or pepper or cilantro to taste. Make some couscous or rice or barley to add to the soup when you serve it.

Wayne’s mise en place (perched on the table that doubles as our counter).

Stay healthy and stay safe!

Posted in Central America, Soups | Tagged | 2 Comments

Carrot Cake – Again!

A Girl and Her Cake

When my granddaughter speaks, I listen. She – and everyone else in my family if I’m being honest – tells me that my carrot cake is better than any other.  So I figured I’d remind you all about this amazing recipe.

I cooked this up for her 4th birthday, grinding up the nuts (the kids don’t like them big) and adding sprinkles and princesses on top, per my granddaughter’s request.


Old School Carrot Cake

Click here to view recipe.

My Very Favorite Carrot Cake

My Very Favorite Carrot Cake

The other day I was in a cleaning frenzy and decided to tackle my cookbook shelves – arranging the books from large to small and determining if any of my very old cookbooks could be gifted, sold or donated.  I stumbled upon a cookbook my daughter’s class produced in her early elementary school – 30 plus years ago!  Actually, Rachel recently connected with a former classmate from this second grade class – both of them are now almost 38-years old, and the friend told Rachel she still makes the carrot cake published in this cookbook – my very own recipe with my handwriting and all! At this point, I have no recollection of who passed this recipe on to me – but I am eternally grateful.

The Sweetest Recipe Book Ever

The Sweetest Recipe Book Ever

My Chicken Scratch

My Chicken Scratch









Gazing at the worn spiral bound book, I realized it was a precursor of how Rachel would turn out as an adult.  She was an early adapter and defender of the recent Supreme Court Ruling – way before everyone put a rainbow background on their facebook profile page, she was coloring rainbows and hearts.  And it never occurred to me back then how talented and artistic my 7-year old daughter would become.

Here is a toast to old recipes, to not abandoning butter and sugar and flour and…to carrot cake.  This is still one of my favorites to put together and to eat.    It’s a great recipe to make with kids, too.  And here is a bigger toast to daughters who become mothers and who teach their mothers about creativity, and who always stay in touch with past friends.

I love this recipe – I changed it from what is in the book by toasting the walnuts and reducing the frosting by one half.  I mean, how much frosting is really necessary in one serving?   I love this cake so much that I never, ever order carrot cake at a restaurant.  I’ve tried it at various places and it always falls short of this old, tried and true recipe.  And what you see here, the rectangular sheet cake rather than a beautiful round layer cake, is the result of my need to freeze this for future family gatherings.  Yes, it freezes so beautifully.

My Carrot Cake



Cake Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups (yes one and one half!) cooking oil
  • 1 ¾ cups white granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp soda
  • 2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ tsp table salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • ¾  cups chopped walnuts, toasted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350.

Whisk together the first four ingredients, oil through vanilla.  Sift together all dry ingredients and incorporate this into the egg/oil mix.  Finally stir in the shredded carrots and toasted nuts.  Put everything into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan or two round 9-inch cake pans.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a rack and then frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with toasted nuts.  NOTE: I cut the frosting called for by half, so if you are into frosting  you might want to make double the recipe here!

Frosting Ingredients
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • ¼ pound powdered sugar (looks like a little over a cup)
  • To top the frosting if you’d like: ¼ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
Frosting Instructions

Mix cream cheese and butter and vanilla until smooth, then slowly add powdered sugar and enough milk to make a thick but spreadable frosting.

Refrigerate or freeze the frosted cake and eat with a tall glass of milk.  This tastes great for up to a week, but it never stays around my kitchen that long.

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Not Your Grandma’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

This post was originally published over three years ago! It’s so comforting – such an oldy-AND-a-goody – that I couldn’t resist posting it again. Some days – nothing can beat the food mom used to make.


Click here to view recipe.

Tasty Tuna Noodle Casserole - A Modern Twist

Tasty Tuna Noodle Casserole – A Modern Twist

If any of you were born in the mid 1900’s (THAT sounds old!) you will absolutely know what tuna noodle casserole is.  This comfort food graced every table in my youth in some form – usually that of canned tuna (not line caught, not wild), elbow macaroni or thin egg noodles (certainly not penne made from fine Semonlina flour) and cream of mushroom soup (from a can, naturally).  School cafeterias served this, some called this “end of paycheck casserole” and it was kind of a go-to meal for many families.  Oh, and some lucky kids had it served with crumbled potato chips on top!

At my house, my mom must have prepared this from time to time.  For sure it was an option for hot school lunches.  Believe it or not, I sometimes get a hankering for the taste of mushrooms, tuna and noodles.  But I’m happy to report that today, I have what I believe is a much better version.  I even tried it out on my grandkids when they were in town. The verdict? Huge hit! Of course.

Basically, this is an easy dinner with leftovers to boot.  You make a white sauce, stir in sauteed veggies and spices, then fold this into cooked bowtie pasta along with high quality canned tuna and frozen peas.  Crispy panko crumbs (available in most grocery stores in the Asian section) which have been sauteed in butter are added as topping during the final part of baking.  Oh, and because my grandsons pick cooked mushrooms out of foods, my daughter had the brilliant idea for me to put the mushrooms in my Nutribullet and chop them to almost a mushroom paste.  In other words, you end up with a mushroom taste without the visual look and texture of mushrooms.  In other, other words, the perfect way to fool your kids (or adult sons, not that I am naming names…Daniel) who THINK they don’t like mushrooms.

Not Your Grandma’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 6-8 (at least)

  • 2 cups 2% milk (heat in microwave or saucepan until hot)
  • 8 oz bowtie pasta-egg noodles or whole wheat if you can find them 
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • ½ large onion, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • ⅓ c red or orange or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cups sliced brown mushrooms (If you have kids, put these in the food processor or nutribullet so they become mushroom mush and are not identifiable as mushrooms.)
  • ¼ cup unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas
  • 3-5 ounce cans of water packed tuna – drained (15 ounces total)
  • ½ tsp dried dill or 1 ½ tsp fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 20 grinds black pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko which was crunchy and good)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter (for breadcrumbs)

Butter or oil a 9 x 13 pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 with the rack in the middle.

Start a large pot of water to boil the pasta – add a half a teaspoon salt.  When it is boiling, add bow tie noodles and cook until al dente but not totally soft.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, (noodles can be cooking away) melt butter and sauté the diced onion, celery, pepper and mushrooms or mushroom moosh.  When everything is soft, sprinkle with flour.  Stir and cook about three minutes. Continue stirring then add heated milk slowly until it makes a thick sauce.  Cook another minute.  Turn off the heat and add the  dill, drained tuna, and frozen peas, salt and pepper  Stir to combine and taste to see whether you might need additional salt or pepper.

Scrape everything into the prepared baking pan and bake uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes.  

While the tuna casserole is baking, heat the 1 ½ Tbsp of butter in a small fry pan on medium heat, add panko crumbs and stir until they get a little brown. Remove from the heat.

After 20 minutes pass, remove the baking pan from the oven and top with browned panko crumbs and bake an additional ten minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, let it rest about ten minutes and serve with a nice fresh fruit salad and green salad.

Leftovers reheat well!

Cook’s note:  this is also good if you prefer leftover or canned salmon or even cubed chicken/turkey in lieu of tuna.  


Posted in Fish & Seafood, Pasta | Tagged | Leave a comment

Apricot Whole Wheat Scones

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The Most Amazing Apricot Scone

I know, I know, I have told a lot of people that I am not a pastry person, that I could easily live without doughnuts or cakes or scones or breakfast breads.  This is actually true if you are talking about commercial bakery items. But I must come clean. I accidentally found a scone that is so good, so geared to my funny, odd taste buds… this scone is so sublime that I cannot stop making and eating these.  

I make these without any machinery, instead, I use a pastry cutter for the butter and a spatula to mix everything together.  In the end, I knead the dough six times then make the circle of dough right on the cookie sheet, cut it there and spread out the wedges.  Fewer dishes to wash!

It doesn’t happen often, though it’s happened before — I land upon some type of food that I really love and I repeatedly eat it over and over and over and over, often until I simply cannot eat another one. I’ll let you know when that happens!

BEST EVER Apricot Whole Wheat Scones

Yield 8 nice sized scones (6 if you make them big)



  • ¾ cup regular unbleached flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch of fine sea  salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Orange rind grated from ½ of a large naval orange
  • 2 heaping tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cold salted butter, diced into ¼ inch cubes
  • ½ cup (or a bit more) dry apricots (chopped in ¼ inch pieces)
  • ½ cup 2% milk-save 1/2 tsp for topping before baking
  • 2 Tbsp whole Greek yogurt Or kefir
  • 1 tbsp raw Turbinado sugar for the topping 

Set a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Whisk to blend well. Add the orange rind and brown sugar, whisking again, and then add the pieces of butter. Using a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour mixture until there are no lumps of butter bigger than the size of a pea. Stir in the dried apricots.   Add about three-quarters of the milk , and using a fork, stir it into the dry ingredients. If it seems too dry and crumbly, add more milk as needed, but start sparingly, so that the dough doesn’t wind up sticky. Once the dough is coming together, put down the fork and finish bringing it together with your hands, pressing it and turning it to incorporate all the flour. 

Turn the dough out onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet and pat dough into an 8-inch circle.  Brush the top with the reserved milk mixture (or extra milk if you needed the entire milk/yogurt mix for the dough) and sprinkle the top with raw sugar, pressing lightly to be sure it sticks.   Cut into eight even triangles like a pie and arrange on the same cookie sheet.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden. Cool on a rack.  Serve warm – or, if eating later, reheat gently before eating. 

So so so good. These stay in the freezer once cooled and wrapped for up to three months.  As if!





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Giant Blueberry Frittata

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Fabulous Blueberry Frittata

I love making pancakes, although standing at the stove pouring, flipping and then trying to keep everything warm and fresh isn’t much fun.  I spotted this recipe online this summer and tried it the following week.

Can I just say… Wowza!  This is quick, easy and I probably made it five times during blueberry season. This fall I tried making these with out-of-season blueberries.  Not as good. There’s just really nothing like fresh berries although I am sure fresh frozen ones would work as well.  

Hot out of the oven

It’s so simple! You just mix up the batter, let it cook a bit on the stovetop, then shove it into the oven to finish.  The entire pancake/frittata is flipped onto a plate, bottom side up and then sliced and served, much like a skinny cake.  Easy, but oh so good. This is adapted from a recent summertime Bon Appetit recipe.

Giant Blueberry Frittata

Serves 4-6



  • 1 cup unbleached flour (I am sure this would work with ⅓ whole wheat and ⅔ plain flour)
  • ⅓ cup medium or fine grind cornmeal
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups plain unsweetened kefir or plain buttermilk, divided
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter, melted 
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (I used about ¼ cup more!) tossed with 1 tsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter
  • Pure maple syrup to serve

Preheat your oven to 375.  

Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, soda, and cornmeal together in a small bowl.  

Whisk eggs, kefir or buttermilk, and two tablespoons melted butter together and gently combine with dry ingredients. Be careful not to overmix – nothing wrong with a few lumps here and there.  Fold in blueberries.

Heat oil and remaining 2 Tbsp butter together in a large (at least 10 inches in diameter), oven-safe, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.  When the foaming subsides, scrape in the batter and spread it to the edges. Reduce heat to medium and gently rock the pan back and forth so it will come out of the pan easily at the end.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface – about six minutes when the edges might be a little brown.

Transfer the entire pan to the oven and cook another ten minutes until puffed and set.  Invert onto a large plate. Cut into wedges like a pie and serve with butter and syrup or plain yogurt and jam.  Leftovers (if there are any!) can be refrigerated and reheated and are pretty darned good.


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Cauliflower Burritos

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Colorful Cauliflower Burritos

I’ve said it before, but cooking is my “art form.”  I love to eat, I have no rules or diets I have ever, ever followed.  I adore the colors, the textures, the creativity of food I prepare. What does this have to do with Cauliflower Burritos? Allow me to explain…

It was a Monday at the end of July.  Meatless Monday. It happened to be my shopping day at the grocery store day as well.  I only go food shopping when I have over 15 things on the list, and before I go I have a general idea of which meals I am going to prepare – based on when we might be eating away from home, who might drop over for dinner or lunch.  My point is, shopping for food is not random for me. I go with a list, click off each item, and get through the store quickly (I even arrange my grocery list according to the aisles of the store. Don’t knock it, it’s super-efficient). The checkers at the cash register always ask me what I am making and sometimes I even bring them leftover food.  Last week I dropped off some potato salad to Rena, for example.

In case you were wondering, my meals that week included miso-marinated chicken stir-fried with fresh green and yellow beans and tons of fresh herbs, tuna noodle casserole, grilled bruschettas, tuna/bean salad, spaghetti with homemade, basil-laden tomato sauce, and CAULIFLOWER BURRITOS.

Now, I did not have a recipe for said burritos.  I had an idea and a plan, and everything went seamlessly and exceeded my expectations.  It was easy, and we stuffed ourselves to the gills. We ate every morsel on the serving platter along with a fair amount of wild rice pilaf I made.

Clean Plate Club

Here you go, and you are most welcome.

Cauliflower Burritos

Serves two famished eaters (Each of us had two whole burritos.  Honestly one would have sufficed but they were so darned good we just kept going.)



Cauliflower Ingredients
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp of chili powder
  • ½ tsp of cumin
  • ¼ tsp of garlic powder
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 20 grinds of fresh black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  I roasted my cauliflower in my handy dandy toaster oven. Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl and place on the baking sheet.  Roast for 25 minutes, turning once with a spatula midway. Taste to be sure it is perfect, and place into a dish for serving after it is ready. The spices really punch up the flavor here.

All the fixin’s

Meanwhile, prepare a platter with: 

  • Chopped lettuce or napa cabbage (You will see I used leaf lettuce from my garden)
  • ½ large avocado, diced
  • Wedges of lime to spritz on top
  • Sliced cherry tomatoes (mine were homegrown) or diced fresh tomatoes
  • ¼ cup plain unflavored yogurt
  • Fresh DILL (I bet you thought I was going to say Cilantro!  Nope, gotta have something unexpected.)
  • Bottle of hot sauce
  • 4 large flour tortillas.  I put all 4 of ours between two damp paper towels and microwaved them for 30 seconds.  They were so perfect. You can keep them wrapped in a dish towel to keep them warm.

To serve, you can make any type of rice – I had a very non-Central American type of wild rice pilaf here.  Rice can be a side dish or go into the burrito. Put a large tortilla on each plate and let everyone fill their burrito according to their taste.  Add hot sauce if you wish. Enjoy!

PS: Fresh Fruit is great as a side to these.

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Chocolate Chip Tahini Bars

Click here to view recipe.

Crave-Inducing Chocolate Chip Tahini Bars

I am a huge tahini fan, an even huger dark chocolate fan, and I am always on the hunt for new and easy dessert type bars to make.  This recipe adapted from The Washington Post fits the bill on oh so many levels!  One bowl, one pan, easy to eat and freeze and interesting flavors.  

Chocolate Chip Tahini  Bars

Makes 12 bars 



  • ½ stick salted butter 
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar less 1 Tbsp. (140 grams if you have a scale)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup well-stirred Tahini  (Soom brand, of course)
  • ¾ cup (106 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 3 oz dark bittersweet chocolate chunks (I use Guittard and chop half a bit more, then leave the other half as is.  I toss the chocolate with about ½ tsp of flour.)
  • ~ ¼ tsp fresh ground sea salt to top the brownies
  • 2 tsp white sesame seeds to sprinkle on top before baking

This is for a brownie sized pan but can be doubled for a 9 x 12.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the oven rack in the center.  Line the square brownie pan with aluminum foil, letting there be a little extra on the lip of two opposite sides so you can lift the cookies out as they are cooling.  Spray the foil lined  brownie pan with Pam.

Place the  butter in a pyrex measuring cup and melt in the microwave. (Cover the container loosely with a napkin so it doesn’t mess up your microwave.  Or you can melt this in a sauce pan.)  Cool while you measure out everything else.

Using a rubber spatula, mix the melted butter with the brown sugar, add the egg, and keep mixing, then add the vanilla and tahini.

I dump the flour, salt and baking powder on top of the mixed batter, slightly combine it then fold it into the mix (but don’t overmix).  It is like a soft, soft dough. Fold in the chocolate. Scrape the gooey batter into the prepared pan and even it out with a greased offset spatula.  Grind some sea salt on top and sprinkle the top of the brownies lightly with sesame seeds.  

Bake mid oven for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. If you’re doubling the recipe and using a larger pan –  bake a bit longer, say 22-25 minutes. 

Let cool ten minutes in the pan, then lift the foil-wrapped brownies onto a baking rack.  Once completely cooled, cut into 12 even pieces.  

SO SO GOOD.  These freeze well for up to four months.

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Juana with my grandsons Isaiah and Asher

My husband and I have been traveling to Guatemala every other month for a year. This magical place is so different from what I pictured in my mind or what I read about the country in numerous news publications.  Our base camp is mostly in beautiful Antigua, which is the “jewel” of Guatemala – a UNESCO World Heritage Site with so many great inexpensive restaurants, yoga studios, and tourism. Clearly, Guatemala is more populated, and less modern than, say, Mexico or Belize but I really love the amount of culture everywhere and the sheer physical beauty in many spots.  Antigua is not representative of Guatemala.  Of course, there are flat, arid areas that are like the wild west too and a lot of abject poverty.!

My favorite part of travel always centers on getting to know the natives.  We have met some very nice ex-pat Americans, Europeans, and Canadians here as well, but I seem to gravitate to the Guatemalans I have met at the daily Mercado, in the park, and on the streets.  Life for most of them is really really difficult, particularly because so many are not able to read or write.  

Every day there are a few hundred Mayan women (and children) milling around the central park, the main tourist street, and a few touristy spots. Most are selling knick-knacks, many of which are made in China.  Most venders sell identical merchandise – scarves, table runners, plastic toys, LED lights, food for pigeons. Day after day, year after year the women come to Antigua to sell their goods to tourists.  

So it was that I got to know Juana, who lives a bus ride away from Antigua.  She is in her mid 40’s and has three sons and a husband. She is unable to do any other type of work since she does not read or write.  Her Spanish, since her main language is a Mayan tongue, is slow and easy for me to understand. She’s a smart woman, this much I know.

Just so you are aware, a lot of really poor Guatemalans hustle the foreigners and ask for money for things such as a sick Grandmother, food, or rent.  I don’t give money randomly for these requests because a lot of the stories are fabricated and I believe in helping someone help themselves. That said, I have been known to buy a nice dinner for an elderly Mayan Grandmother who was begging outside of a restaurant.  

Juana had a story about her husband Miguel needing surgery so that he could work again.  Skeptical me, I had my husband go with the family to a public, church-sponsored hospital appointment and sure enough, he badly needed an operation.  We told Juana and Miguel that we would pay for the surgery and all the tests and medications before and after which amounted to less than 400 dollars.  The surgery was performed in September and both were so grateful to us for our help. This has enabled Miguel to resume his work tilling the coffee fields.  

Juana continued to come to the park to sell her trinkets and we saw that, during the low season when there were few tourists, it was pretty futile  We asked her what else she could do to support her family, She explained that she is unable to find work even as a maid. But then she exclaimed, “I could make and sell tortillas!”  

In two days I found myself in a car en route to a nearby town to purchase a “comal” or special gas-driven griddle specifically constructed for tortilla making.  Juana bargained hard and so did I but she had a lot better Spanish and credibility. I ended up paying $120 US dollars for this huge stove. Next, we loaded the griddle in the Uber and drove to her village of about 300 families.  

Wayne, Antonio & Comal!

The narrow walkway leading up to her “house” wouldn’t accommodate a car, so my sturdy 70-plus-year-old husband and the 38-year-old Uber driver Antonio (now a friend of ours) carried the stove about six blocks uphill to her residence.  We opened the door to the corrugated metal outside and I must tell you I have rarely seen anything like this Chickens and roosters running around, no plumbing, no electricity, no running water, just a smallish room for a family of five.  To earn more money, they even rent a cot to someone who sleeps by the kitchen. Wayne set up a propane tank to the stove, we bought her oil and cornmeal and voila, she was in business.

Her youngest son made a sign for the tortillas which she now sells three times a day.  I spoke with Juana about a week later and she was so thrilled with her new business and was earning about 70 quetzales per day, or around $10.   Not bad in a country where the average wage per family is around $1.70 per day! She no longer makes the daily trek to Antigua to sell trinkets.   


I am humbled by Juana and her family. Though I know she and Miguel and their children are thankful for the things Wayne and I have done for them – I believe I am the one who is most grateful.  Just knowing that we’ve been able to make a difference in their lives – and perhaps even their children’s lives for generations to come – makes me verklempt. Best of all – Juana and her family have become our family. And I’ve got to add – she makes the best darn tortillas I’ve ever tasted!

Posted in Central America, Travel | Tagged | 7 Comments