An Apple A Day Coffee Cake

Honeycrisps. Jonagolds. Pink Ladies.

There were a few different kinds of apples just sitting in my refrigerator.

And with some down time and an urge for something sweet, I thought, let’s see what I can make with these.

After searching the web for about 45 minutes, looking at various recipes, I decided to wing it.  The worst that could happen is an awful tasting mess that I would unceremoniously toss. The best? Heaven with a cup of tea!

The best apple cake I ever had used applesauce, so I started there.

Applesauce, IMHO, should never be bought, only made at home. It’s so easy and you can control just how sweet it is because you can add as little or as much sugar as you wish.

As for me, I chopped up 6 of those apples into little pieces, squeezed the juice of a whole lemon over them, then added a half cup of light brown sugar, a half cup of orange juice, two teaspoons of cinnamon, a healthy pinch of salt, and grated some nutmeg over it all…

I put the pan on the stove and turned up the heat to medium, using a big wooden spoon to toss them around a bit. About 10 minutes into it, I added about 1/2 cup of water…just to keep them from getting too sticky while they continued to cook down.  10 minutes later, after mashing down the softened apples, I had a delicious homemade applesauce.

Then in a bowl I mixed together:

  • 1 1/2 cup of regular all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon

In another bowl I added the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 generous tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup of cinnamon chips

Then I simply mixed the contents of the two bowls together. With a few tosses of the spatula, it looked like oatmeal!

I then greased and floured a baking pan. Added the batter and topped it with some sliced apples. Then I thought — Juliana would kill me if I didn’t make a crumb topping! So in another bowl I tossed together

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 of a stick) of butter cut into small pieces

I mixed that up with my hands to form a nice crumbly topping and spread that on top of the cake mixture.

Into the oven at 350 for 40 minutes it went.

The intoxicating scent of apples and cinnamon — mmmmm….  so good!

And with a cup of tea, a slice of heaven appeared on our plates. Just like that.

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Le Turkey Trot

Yeah, it’s Saturday.

That leftover turkey that we didn’t eat on Friday because we had enough on Thursday and didn’t want to look at it again, was looking right at me when I opened up the fridge looking for lunch.

What to do with it?

No, I didn’t  want to head back to the store. Not for the nth time this week.

So I rummaged around to find a few things to riff with…let’s see…

Mashed potatoes & ricotta with shaved parmesan an egg, salt and flour make a lovely gnocchi dough. Dumplings would be lovely on a grey day like today.

In the past, I have looked up a zillion recipes, but in the end I wind up estimating because I rarely plan to make it, I just make it with what I have. Today, I used

  • about 16 oz of ricotta
  • an egg
  • a cup and a half of AP flour
  • 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes
  • teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

I mixed it up in a bowl. It’s a sticky, wet dough. I decided not to get fussy. I just wanted to eat, not win a pasta making contest. So I rolled it out onto a tray that I had covered in a dusting of flour.

From there, I created ropes with my hands and then and cut off little pillow shapes approximately the same size and shape.  To cook them, I added them to a big pot of boiling, salted water and waited for them to float. That was all there was to it.

When they were all cooked I added them to a dish that I could put into the oven.



Even dogs sleep after turkey.

I took my leftover turkey and shredded it by hand, adding it to the dish and giving Ozzie (the very patient dog, sitting at my feet, staring up at me, intently with those beautiful brown eyes) what I didn’t want to put in the casserole. Rummaging further in the freezer, I found a 1/2 a bag of frozen peas — so I threw that in. I was looking for the classic Turkey Tettrazini cheat — Cream of Mushroom Soup — but we don’t have that in the house. However, I did find — way in the back —  a can of some Broccoli Cheese soup that I must have purchased for some recipe and never used. Carpe diem?!

I poured that into the pot right over the dumplings and shredded turkey and peas and added a little left over cream (from the mashed potatoes earlier in the week.) Popped it into the oven at 400 degrees while I cleaned up the dishes. It took about a half  hour to get all hot and bubbly.  It came out smelling divine. I shredded a little bit of fresh parma on top and served it for lunch.

The verdict? My son, who loves to eat around the vegetables even at 15 — ate the whole thing. Almost licked the bowl! My daughter, the vegetarian — ate some unadorned gnocchi/dumplings that I left on the side with a little vegan butter and shredded parm.

Not bad for a Saturday leftover riff, eh?

What’s in your fridge?


I’m calling it the “Turkey Trot” but you can call it delicious. 


Breakfast Muffins — oh YEAH!

Breakfast Muffin

Bisquick + eggs + sausage + cheese + scallions + mushrooms. AMAZING.

Delicious? Simple to make? Transportable in a napkin?

Yes, yes, and OH YES!

You don’t need pictures to know how to make this. It’s THAT easy.

1. Set your oven to 350

2. Take 4 eggs and crack them into a bowl.

3. Add 1 cup of Bisquick.

4. Add 1/3- 1/4 cup of half & half (or milk, cream, whatever you have)

That’s the basic recipe. Now you start riffing by adding what you like. Mine was pretty darned good so I’ll share my concoction.

I took a few (6) sausage links and cooked them in my frying pan until they were no longer frozen and a little browned. (I used the vegan option as my daughter, Jules won’t touch pork anymore!) When they were done, I chopped them up into little pieces and added them to my batter.

Next, I put a little swirl of EVOO into that pan and added some chopped oyster mushrooms & scallions. Lately, I am in love with oyster mushrooms as they have that meaty, mushroomy flavor that white buttons don’t ever have. But I would eat any mushroom that crossed my path!

I grated about 1/4-1/2 cup of cheddar cheese into the batter. Then added a pinch of kosher salt.

I simply mixed it up “real good” — greased my muffin pan (I used a little Pam in mine) and filled each cup no more than halfway. Baked for 25-30 minutes (@ 350 degrees.)

Two on your plate with a cup of hot joe and — voila! You have made a delicious, easy breakfast that your husband and son can grab in a napkin and take on the way to father/son bowling on a Sunday morning.

Bori Bori Soup – from Paraguay

Watching Anthony Bourdain in Paraguay — want to make this soup!


bori bori soup from Paraguay

My son is a big laddu fan. So much so that I have gained expertise in turning anything into the laddu-ball shape to entice him to eat it. Typical paruppu-saadam urundai (small balls of dal/lentil and rice) are passé. Fruit balls made with the melon baller, cooked vegetables and rice balls, pulao balls (yes, I’ve made those too!), milk and biscuit balls (those were before he started eating ‘bikki’), roti-sabzi balls – you name it, and I’ve made it all! Funnily enough, you know how he eats the actual boondi laddu? He crumbles the entire laddu, smashes it up even more and then puts each tiny bit by tiny bit into his mouth!

So, if your son is anything like mine or if he likes cheese (anyone who doesn’t?) then this soup will really speak to you. This funny sounding soup looks very interesting and tastes simply wow. It has…

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Baked Tofu & Quinoa with Chickpeas and Spinach — Koko Likes

Bought tofu, pressed it for two hours last night and soaked it overnight in a Teriyaki Ginger Sauce… following this recipe. Will take some pictures and share if we like it!

Baked Tofu & Quinoa with Chickpeas and Spinach — Koko Likes.

via Baked Tofu & Quinoa with Chickpeas and Spinach — Koko Likes.

Crêpes ala Nectarines

What is the difference between a peach and a nectarine? Fuzz! Yes, it’s true. A nectarine is a peach that through a genetic mutation produces no “hair” or fuzz. Smooth skin, juicy, sweet flesh and no fuzz…what’s not to love?

I was feeling the love when I saw them at Wegmans and put a bag in my cart with the full intent of eating them one at a time.  But despite the beautiful golden orange appearance — and the words on the bag “ready to eat” — the flesh felt hard when pressed and I couldn’t catch a whiff of the fruit so I knew they weren’t quite ripe. I put them into a paper bag and let them sit for a few days on the counter until I smelled the sweet scent so recognizable at its peak softness. I took a bite. It was juicy, but not as sweet as I would have liked.

brown sugar, butter, pinch of salt and sliced nectarines... yum!

brown sugar, butter, pinch of salt and sliced nectarines… yum!

Hmmm…what to do?

I put a few tablespoons of  butter, brown sugar, and a pinch salt at the bottom of a skillet  — and as that heated and melted, I cut up 6 nectarines into thin slices right into the pan. I turned the heat down to low and added a lid and let the fruit cook down into a sweet, juicy filling.

Pankcakes? Waffles? Both are delicious, but I wanted something lighter. So I made crêpes.

Crepes might seem a little intimidating but I think once you get the hang of them, they are fairly easy to make. Alton Brown has a great recipe on his site, so does my bible — Joy of Cooking.

I make mine like this:

In your blender,  add (in no particular order)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water (or almond breeze)
  • 2 raw eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • capful of vanilla (1/2 teaspoon)

Blend away, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender where flour may stick.

It takes no more than 2-3 minutes to get it smooth. When you are done, stick it in the refrigerator for a half-hour to rest.

Take out a small skillet and add a little fat. I often take veggie oil and melt in a tablespoon or two of butter. Then I use a basting brush and brush the bottom of my non-stick pan with the mixture before I put in some batter and swirl it around. Crepes are meant to be very thin and very light so you don’t want to have too much batter in the pan. You really have to experiment. This video shows you exactly how to make them.

The batter must be thin enough to pour to make a light pancake

The batter must be thin enough to pour to make a light pancake

I filled mine them with a little french vanilla yogurt on the bottom and the cooked nectarines inside. You can dust them with powdered sugar to give them a little extra oomph!



Strawberry Dream Biscuit

Scrumptious Strawberry Morning Dream Biscuits

Ever wake up with just one thing on your mind?


It was like that with me one morning.

I had an urge for fresh coffee and a pastry of some sort. I didn’t feel like going to the store so I looked at Joy of Cooking and saw a recipe for Cream Biscuits. I had just purchased a large container of strawberries and while I was eyeballing them in the open fridge — a thought popped into my mind. What if I combined them?

Here’s the original recipe from Joy of Cooking:

Cream Biscuits or Shortcakes

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup of heavy cream

Mix/knead/shape into biscuits.

Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes

What did I do to change it up?

I followed the basic recipe but I added a teaspoon of vanilla. (Actually, vanilla bean paste. It is thick and smells awesome and leaves little vanilla bean speckles in whatever you make. The taste is simply divine!)  Then, about 1/3 cup white sugar to the mix. I splashed in a little extra cream while mixing the dough so that I could work more easily to shape the biscuits. I cut them in half, horizontally and snuck in a layer of sugared strawberries. I painted the top of the biscuits with a little egg white and sprinkled on a tiny bit of sugar. Finally, I baked them!

The family woke up just as I was pulling them out of the oven. Devoured them in 10 minutes, flat — each and every one. I’d say they were a hit. 🙂

Sliced and sugared, ready to use.

Sliced and sugared, they macerate in their own juices.

Assembling the pastries

Split the biscuits and add a layer of sugared strawberries.


Bake until golden at 450 (about 12-15 minutes!)

Triple Treat Rice Salad

Rice Salad Redux: Triple Treat

OK, OK, I know, we talked about rice salad two months ago! But summer is the time of year where you don’t want to spend time slaving in a hot kitchen. You want to make things that can last a few days as leftovers — that you can eat on a whim.

As you know, I rarely make the same exact recipe. I vary everything depending on my mood and my desire to get in the car and supplement the ingredients I have on hand. Lazy, I know, but practical.

Well, I riffed again and this one was pretty yummy and oh, so summery that I had to share more details. I think I’ll call this one “Triple Treat.” Why? Well, there are 3 kinds of grains in this one. (And you know, if I write it down, I’ll remember that I didn’t add garlic this time and it’s still awesome!!!) Anywho…

The grains:

  • white basmati rice (about 3 cups cooked)
  • wild rice (one cup dry, about 2 cups cooked)
  • rainbow quinoa (one cup dry about 3 cups cooked)

All good rice salads start with cooked, cooled rice. I make the rice in my rice cooker (the best investment I have made over the years — I get perfect rice all the time.)  When everything stops steaming you put it in a big bowl. Then you add the eye candy. I added:

  • two big bright orange carrots chopped into tiny pieces
  • a head of celery chopped into tiny pieces
  • one half a big sweet onion chopped (tiny!)
  • a cup of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • a big handful of fresh chives from my garden, cut into tiny pieces with my scissors

Then the sweet stuff:

  • about 1/2 cup of raisins
  • about 1/2 cup of dried plums (tiny pieces — you can find them near the dried plums in a small canister)


  • about 1 cup of sunflower seeds
  • about 1 cup of chopped walnuts

Then the dressing!

This time, I wanted a sweeter taste. So, I did this to my taste, and this is where you really have to taste and adjust as you like:

  • 3/4 walnut oil
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • few shakes of peach flavored vinegar (probably 4 tablespoons?)
  • salt (teaspoon?)
  • sugar – 1/4 cup (?)
  • squeeze of lime

I mixed the dressing up and kept adding a little salt and sugar until I got the taste I was looking for. A real mix of sweet and salty. I poured my concoction  over all the other ingredients that I had assembled in a large bowl and gently mixed it through the rice.

Rice salad usually tastes better the second day you have it. Why? The flavors meld together, the dressing gets absorbed into the grains and you can then season again with a little more salt & fresh pepper when you serve it.

Try this and let me know how you like it! It’s filling, the quinoa has protein in it and the melange of flavors will have people begging for more!

This is Your Brain on Spinach

"This is your brain on spinach."

“This is your brain on spinach.”

Remember the Nancy Reagan days? The “just say no” to drugs campaigns? There was one memorable spot one that showed an egg frying in a pan. To this day, I still chuckle each time I watch my egg fry in a pan. (Of course, I also start belting out “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never ever let you forget you’re a man” ’cause who doesn’t remember the Enjoli commercial?)

Anyway, the other morning I wanted eggs. But not my brain on a plate. No, I had an urge for what Steve Martin would say — as only he can — an Omelet du Fromage — (“Those French have a different word for everything!”)

Omelets are great because you can put just about anything inside of them and they taste really good. Especially “au fromage.”  My favorite combination though is anything with cheese and mushrooms. On this particular morning, I had an urge for spinach. (Had a whole bag full, only used a handful the day before for that Blueberry-Spinach smoothie!)

Anywho… just a quick spray of olive oil in the pan, and a handful of spinach and a touch of salt made a delicious green addition to my omelet. And at the last minute, I spied a tomato that made it’s way into the pan as well. All those colors of the rainbow in one pan looked so good…and tasted pretty darned good too as I washed it down with coffee.

So — whenever you are looking for drugs, just say no, and make yourself an omelet, 🙂

(Ba dum bum.)

(Sad excuse for a post, but hey, I did share!)

Instructions for an omelet:

1. Pan on medium, spray a little olive oil and add a tidge or smidge of butter in it and let it warm for a two minutes.

2. Crack two eggs into a bowl. Take out the white stringy things if they annoy you like they do me.

3. Add two tablespoons of water, then beat the eggs into submission. 🙂

4. Add to pan and roll around to cover the bottom.

5. Add cheese. Please.

6. Riff away with anything you have in your fridge that looks appetizing.

7. When the egg appears firm on the bottom, fold one half over to make a taco-like semi-circle.

8. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan, cover with tinfoil or the pan lid. This puts steam in the pan and fluffs up your eggs while uber melting the cheese. (Tricky, eh?)

9. Remove from heat. Slide onto dish.

10. Pour coffee, grab toast, kick the cat off your chair and sit down and eat.






Purple Cabbage, Orange Carrots

I love the tastes of summer.

One of the easiest things to do is to grill some fish, chicken or burgers for dinner. But what do you make to accompany that protein? We try to follow the “eat from the rainbow” rule. You know what that is, right? Basically, try to include foods of different colors. Greens, yellows, reds, oranges, purples, blues.

An easy side dish this time of year is coleslaw. But just not any slaw will do! The Red Cabbage (which we call purple in our house because, well, it is purple, isn’t it? ) is filled with all kinds of good antioxidants which are supposedly good for you.

Anyway, this takes no time and is an easy crowd pleaser. Best done the night before, but very edible on the day of if you wish.

Simply use a serrated knife to cut your cabbage into thin slices. You can also use a grater or a food processor, but these days, I seem to appreciate the rhythm and challenge of cutting very thin slices of cabbage so I do it manually. Then pull out your julienne peeler (what? you don’t have one? It’s $11.00 and you’ll use it all the time.  Let’s order you one right now from my Pampered Chef site!) and make strips of carrots to add to your bowl.)

The dressing for this salad is ripe for riffing!

Most recipes call for a cup of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of vinegar as a base.

I make my dressing in the blender. I use about a cup of mayonnaise then add a healthy dose of whatever flavored vinegar I have in the house  (like black cherry!) then  I add fresh chives from the garden and salt, pepper, sometimes some honey mustard and celery seeds.  I blend those ingredients in my blend on the sauces setting, pour it over the cabbage/carrot mixture, mix in really well, and let it sit for a few hours. Pretty simple, and seriously delicious!

sliced thinly...

red cabbage sliced thinly…

using a julianne peeler, just add thin slices of carrots to your bowl

using a julianne peeler, just add thin slices of carrots to your bowl