Sunday, July 29, 2012

Balsamic Chocolate Cake otherwise known as Guilt Free Chocolate Cake

One bite of this cake and you will be hooked! The cake is rich and moist and the Balsamic vinegar pairs up nicely with the chocolate. I used grapeseed oil which has almost no flavor of its own, is high in vitamin E, C and Omega 6. It also contains a natural chlorophyll; a lot of people say to me “why is chlorophyll good?” and the answer is that it helps to eliminate body odors. If you know someone who has smelly feet just have them take alfalfa pills from your local vitamin shop and it will help if not totally eliminate the smell. Grapeseed oil also helps to raise the good cholesterol (HDL).
Now ladies if you were paying attention I have just given you 5 reasons to feel guilt free about eating this wonderful chocolate cake! Maybe I should change the name to: Guilt Free Chocolate Cake.

Balsamic Chocolate Cake otherwise known as Guilt Free Chocolate Cake

2 cups water
2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
½ cup Grapeseed Oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened powdered chocolate
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Sift dry ingredients together.

Blend wet ingredients.

Slowly blend the wet and dry together

Bake 1 hour at 350 F

Let cool and serve with Strawberry Whipped Cream (below)

Fresh Strawberry Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups strawberries, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
12 ounces high quality, bittersweet chocolate
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Place strawberries, sugar, balsamic vinegar, vanilla bean seeds and pod into a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the strawberries break down and the mixture becomes thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, warm 1 cup of the heavy cream until steam starts rising from it. Pour the warm cream over the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth and shiny. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whip the remaining 1 1/4 cups heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Sprinkle in the powdered sugar and continue beating until medium stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the cooled strawberry syrup.

Top cake with desired amount of strawberry whipped cream.

Spoon the chocolate on the top, gently spread it to the edge of the cake so that some falls down the sides. Top with fresh-cut strawberries. Allow the chocolate to set. Keep refrigerated but allow the cake to come to room temperature before serving.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Salad with Orzo and Lemon Olive Oil

Lemon Orzo Salad
Now that the kids are on summer vacation we spend a lot of time at the beach and need some good picnic food. This salad is fun and easy to make and you can make it with any vegetables and server it warm or cold. It travels well without spoiling because it has olive oil instead of heavy mayonnaise.  The kids love it because I let them pick out the color of the orzo (red, white, green) and the vegetables that we use. One time we had spinach orzo with yellow corn and red tomatoes. Today we are having white orzo with green peas, artichoke and white beans with lemon flavored olive oil. You can add chicken or shrimp to either dish if you have some way to keep it cold until you serve it at the beach.
Enjoy the water!
1/2 pound orzo pasta
1 cup cooked fresh peas (or frozen peas if you are in a hurry to get to the beach)
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed in cold water
2 cups arugula
sea salt (try lemon or garlic flavored sea salt)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil lemon flavored
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Season the water with some salt, then cook the orzo pasta according to package directions (about 9 minutes). Drain well and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Add the peas, artichokes, white beans, and arugula on top of the orzo and season the salad with salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon olive oil.  Toss with a spoon until all the ingredients are well combined. It's ready to serve, but tastes best if made a few hours or even the night before so flavors can really develop.   Add some crumbled feta cheese or shaved parmesan if you like just before you serve it.
Here is another version that is good on its own or as a bed for a nice piece of grilled salmon.
1 cup orzo
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons freshly flavored Lemon Olive Oil
8 asparagus spears, chopped
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1/3 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges or slices, to garnish (optional)
Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Stir in orzo. Cook until tender, about 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Sauté garlic in 1 teaspoon Lemon Olive Oil over medium heat. Add asparagus pieces and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Stir in spinach. Continue cooking until the asparagus is tender and the spinach wilts.
Stir together orzo and vegetables in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with remaining teaspoon of Lemon Olive Oil. Sprinkle feta cheese over the top of the salad.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Blueberry Yogurt Cake with Lemon Glaze

Blueberry Yogurt Cake with Lemon Glaze
Adapted from Vegetarian Times
I have made a few changes with this cake to make it gluten free.  I have changed the flour to almond flour and grapeseed flour which gives it a nutty taste that goes well with the blueberries.  I am sure that your friends will not even know that it is gluten free unless you tell them. The cake is light and fluffy and is great for breakfast or after dinner as dessert.
1-1/4 cups almond flour, divided
1/4 cup grapeseed flour chardonnay
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup grape seed lemon infused oil
2 Tablespoons Cointreau liqueur (or water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
7 oz. plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Cointreau liqueur (or water)
Sift together 1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons almond flour, grapeseed flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Beat brown sugar, oil, Cointreau (or water) and vanilla in a separate bowl with electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in eggs.  Alternately add flour mixture and yogurt to egg mixture until combined.
Toss blueberries with remaining 1 Tablespoon flour and fold into batter.
Grease and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 70 minutes (mine only took 50 minutes, possibly even less but I hadn't checked on it; that's a big discrepancy to me so watch your cake starting at 45 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before flipping out of pan.
To make glaze: Whisk together all ingredients in small bowl.  Poke holes all over the top of the cake with a wooden skewer.  Brush cake with glaze.  Cool completely before serving.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pecan Stuffed Eggplant

Pecan Stuffed Eggplant
Fresh from the garden grilled eggplant is a summer favorite. We add cinnamon to it for a little extra flavor.
3 medium eggplants
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 medium onions diced
2 or 3 tomatoes diced (3 cups)
¾ cups roughly chopped pecans or walnuts
2 ¼ teaspoons ground Saigon Cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
¼ cup panko or breadcrumb or your choice
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Half eggplants lengthwise, and scoop out flesh and seeds, leaving about ½ inch thick edges on eggplant shell. Cut scooped out eggplant into ½ inch pieces and let drain. Sprinkle a little salt on eggplant to help remove moisture. Let stand about 30 minutes and rinse and pat dry.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and drop eggplant shells into water and simmer for 5 minutes or until barely tender. Place in colander to cool and dry.

In skilled heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, sauté onions until they are translucent, add eggplant pieces, tomatoes, pecans, cinnamon, oregano and ¼ cup water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 8 minutes stirring occasionally.

Turn Broiler on and brush each eggplant shell with remaining oil and place cut side up. Broil for about 5 minutes or until eggplant start to get tender and start to brown. Divide filling among eggplant shells. Sprinkle with breadcrumb and top with feta cheese. Bake on medium heat (375 in oven) for 30 minutes. Serve.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Root Beer Baked Beans

Root Beer Baked Beans

I know this is another one of those recipes that if they know what the ingredients are they will say NO WAY! But these are the best baked beans and you REALLY can’t taste the rootbeer. They have a flavor that is different and addictive.

4 slices bacon cut into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 (15 ounce) cans white kidney beans (any bean will work) rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups Root Beer
3 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ Teaspoons chili powder
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon pepper

Cook bacon in a pan over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, to remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Add onions to pan and cook until they begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic. Stir for about 1 minute. Add beans, root beer, molasses, tomato paste, mustard and seasonings, mix. Stir in bacon. Transfer to a 9 x 13 pan, bake uncovered until liquid thickens, about 30 minutes.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Peach and Homemade Mozzarella Salad

Peach and Homemade Mozzarella Salad
With the weather sooooo HOT we have been making use of the great summer fruits and vegetables. We start with our homemade mozzarella cheese (see last week’s blog and I usually sever this salad with two dressings one sweet and vinegar based.
1 fresh peach per serving
8 to 10 pieces of your favorite bread cubed
Fresh salad greens (we love spinach)
Slices of fig salami or prosciutto
Mozzarella balls or chunks

Peach and Cinnamon Dressing:
½ cup canned peach juice
½ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
1/8 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans
Mix and drizzle over salad.

Lemon and Vinegar Dressing:
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Mix and drizzle over salad

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Suprise

Avocado Chocolate Truffle
Super easy truffle that will keep you coming back for more.  This is another one of those recipes that I just don’t say what is in it until after they tell me if they liked it. Even my own Dad who loves avocados turned his nose up to this one based on the name only the first time I offered them to the family.  So the next time I made them, I changed the color sugar coating, and just said they were chocolate truffles. They were a HIT!  So if you are BRAVE enough to try this recipe you will be hooked after the first bite. You can even play a game with them to see if they can guess the secret ingredient.

½ cup butter
1 large very ripe avocado, peeled and pit removed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
3 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
Sugars for rolling

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter, remove from heat and set to the side.

In food processor or blender, puree the avocado until a smooth consistency (add a little of the melted butter if needed to make sure it is a smooth consistency with no chunks)

Add avocado puree, vanilla, powdered sugar into sauce pan with butter. Mix well and then place in refrigerator until it hardens.

Once this mix is firm scoop and roll into balls about ¾ inch in size.  If mixture starts to get too soft to form balls place in freezer for a few minutes.  Place balls on a cookie sheet lined with a piece of paper.  Place balls in refrigerator until firm.

This time roll balls into either powdered sugar or colored sugar to coat outside.  Store in refrigerator until a few minutes before you want to serve.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


For those of you who know me, you know that I am a strong supporter of sustainable, cruelty free food sources, a part of the slow food movement and in love with anything Artisan. Last night I did a taste test with my friends. I made some of my favorite appetizers and did a little switch.  In the past whenever I tried to get my partner to eat vegetables her exact words “you mean green stuff…NO way” so to say a dish is vegan is the kiss of death with her. I was also amazed to learn that a lot of my friends felt the same way. So last night was an ALL VEGAN night of appetizers by surprise. They all thought that they were eating caviar. They were a hit and everyone truly loved them. The best part is that Cavi-art is made with seaweed that looks and tastes like lumpfish caviar, will not discolor my dishes like real caviar, can be served hot or cold, is cholesterol free, low fat and salt, and has no AZO colors and best of all it is fish friendly and good for the environment! I know this sounds like an advertisement but I know how hard it is to get some of my friends to try something that is vegan. For my vegan friends I know you will love these.

As always enjoy!
Avocados and Pastry Puffs
2 avocados
2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons black Cavi-art
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt and pepper
Mash avocados and mix with the other ingredients. Fill precooked pastry shells and your done!
Stuffed Avocados
2 avocados
2 tablespoons salmon Cavi-art
1 & ½ tablespoons orange red Cavi-art
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 pinch grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon mild chili sauce
Soy Protein:
¼ cup soy protein strips
2 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt (I used chili flavored)
2 tablespoons beet juice (optional)
1 tablespoon algae (optional)
¼ cup soymilk
½ tablespoon mustard
½ cup grapeseed oil
1 pinch sea salt
¼ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Bring water with beet juice, salt and algae to a boil, add soy strips, let simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool and press out most liquid. Cut into smaller pieces.

In a blender mix soymilk, mustard and salt while blender is running add oil little by little then the vinegar and lemon juice. Mix the mayo with Cavi-art, dill, lemon peel, chili sauce and soy strips. Put the mixture in the fridge for an hour.

To serve, cut avocados in half, take out the pit and a little of the avocado meat to make more room for the filling. Fill with mayo mixture, garnish with salmon Cavi-art, dill sprigs and a lemon slice.

Credit to Nina Andersson, for recipes

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Maple Sugar Pie vs Maple Syrup Pudding Cake

Maple Sugar Pie (Canadian favorite)
The intense maple pie has few ingredients and is very sweet. I cut the pie into 12 to 14 petite servings and serve warm with ice cream and whipped cream.

Pie crust (homemade or store bought)
1 cup maple sugar or light brown sugar
¼ cup flour
¼ cup maple syrup
¾ cup heavy cream
Whipped cream (optional) and Ice Cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375
Fit the pastry dough into a standard pie dish or tart pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely.
Gently whisk together sugar and flour until mixture is smooth.
Once the flour sugar mixture is smooth, add the maple syrup and heavy cream. Whisk until it is completely smooth. This mixture will be watery, pour into prebaked pie shell and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees (325 for dark metal pans)

Allow the pie to cool completely before serving it with whipped cream and ice cream.

Maple Sugar Pudding Cake

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

Beat butter until it is light and fluffy, gradually add the sugar and eggs alternating one egg, a little sugar and beat for 3 minutes.  In a different bowl mix flour, baking powder  and salt.  Mix flour mixture and milk again alternating milk with flour, at very end mix in vanilla. Fill muffin cups ¾ full and  Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden and the inside is cooked (insert a clean toothpick and if it comes out clean it is done)

Make topping just before serving
3/4 cups water
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour

Mix all ingredients, place over low heat, stirring until the brown sugar has melted, pour into serving bowls and add cake.

Please send me an email and let me know which was your favorite.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Zaatar Meatballs with Tzarziki Dip

Zaatar Meatballs
Traditionally, zaatar is mixed with olive oil and baked on a flat bread for breakfast in the Middle East.  Zaatar is believed to help keep the mind alert and the body strong.  I have made party meat balls and served it with a Greek cucumber yogurt dip called Tzarziki.

Zaatar is a spice mix which includes a mixture of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, some mixes also include marjoram, oregano, coriander, fennel and cumin.  Zaatar is not a strong spice but has a nice lemon tang from the sumac.  Zaatar Meatballs served either warm or room temperature with the Greek yogurt dip called tzarziki make a nice summer party appetizer.  Zaatar is not a strong spice, but it has a nice tang from the sumac.

1 pound ground lamb (can substitute ground turkey or beef)
1 egg
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 teaspoons zaatar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients and mix gently. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or longer) to allow flavors to meld. Make small meatballs about 1” in diameter. Heat ½ cup water in deep saucepan and gently place meatballs in pan, cook until water is evaporated, turning meatballs after a few minutes to color all sides. While meatballs are cooking heat oil in a skillet, remove meatballs from water and brown and cook through in hot oil.
For a fancy party skewer a fresh mint leave and meatball and arrange on platter around a bowl of tzatziki sauce to use for dipping.
Tzatzki Dipping sauce (make in the morning or day before)
4 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely grated
4 cloves of garlic crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon dill weed

Place a piece of cheesecloth in a colander and pour in the yogurt, allow to drain for several hours. Mix in grated cucumber and allow to drain for a few more hours. Mix in garlic, olive oil and dill and refrigerate until needed. This will keep well for 2 or 3 days if stored in a covered dish in the refrigerator.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chili Maple Pork Chops

Chili Maple Pork Chops

While at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, DC the other day I met with a young company who sold Maple Syrup products. I very impressed and wanted to work with the company when she told me that a portion of all sales went into funding climate research, local farming efforts and sustainable forest stewardship.  All of these things are important to me when I choose which Artisan products I want to work with. And while I was not looking to add maple syrup to my store I did change my mind and you will soon be seeing a line of GREAT maple syrup products. In the meantime here is a great combination of chili and maple syrup.

6 – I inch thick pork chops
¼ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 and ½ teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In large fraying pan lightly brown pork chops.  Arrange in flat baking dish which has a cover or cover with foil to bake.  Mix together onion, vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce, salt, chili powder, pepper, maple syrup and water, pour over pork chops cover and bake 45 minutes. Basting occasionally. Uncover and bake 15 more minutes.  Remove pork chops to a plate. Pour sauce back into frying pan and thicken with flour, making a gravy. Pour over pork chops and serve.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

All things Bacom

All things BACON!

Everyone in my house loves bacon.  We have made chocolate with candied bacon. We even add some chili powder to give it a little bite.  We have made praline bacon, bacon ice cream, bacon butter, bacon jam and the list goes on.

I know that the war on bacon is good for you or bad for you it still on going, which over the last few years bacon is about 30% leaner now than it used to be.  Then cooking removes another 30% and a crispy slice of bacon is now about 30 to 40 calories per slice.  However, we are treating bacon as an ingredient in a VERY sweet dish today and we are not going to count the calories! Then there is the warning about bacon and cancer.  Bacon is considered a red meat, it is processed (smoked) and it is fatty all the reasons why you should avoid it. But it TASTES so good that a little snack now and then won’t hurt you.

So here are two of my favorite bacon recipes enjoy! (Eat in moderation if you can )
Chocolate chili covered candied bacon
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced applewood smoked Bacon
  • 1 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 1/2 pound of chocolate melting chips (Pure Belgian Chocolate or any other of your choice)
** Note your amounts will vary depending on how many chocolates you wish to make.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper (you really need this)

Lay your bacon strips out making sure not to overlap them. Layer each strip of bacon with a thick coating of brown sugar, rubbing it into the bacon.

Place bacon into preheated oven for 10 minutes. Flip bacon and cover new side with syrup and juices. Cook 10 more minutes.

Allow bacon to cool on wire rack. For easy cleanup, place the wire rack over the parchment paper the bacon was cooked on.

Once bacon has cooled, is brittle and tastes oh-so-yummy, crumble or roughly chop the bacon and place a sprinkling of bacon bits in each mold.

In the meantime, prepare a double boiler using a pot and metal bowl. Fill the pot with water, place the bowl in the pot - the bowl should not touch the water. Heat on low-medium heat.

Once bowl is heated place chocolate discs inside to begin melting. Stir often to avoid burning or seizing. Once chocolate has melted, pour into each mold, being sure to tap the molds after each is filled (to knock out any air bubbles). Sprinkle in some more bacon bits, press them into the mixture and place in the fridge to cool.

Bacon Ice Cream
For the ice cream custard:
3 tablespoons salted butter
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar, light or dark (you can use either)
2¾ cup half-and-half
5 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons dark rum or whiskey
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Use candied bacon made earlier  Once crisp and cool, chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice.

To make the ice cream custard, melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half. Pour the remaining half-and-half into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm brown sugar mixture to them, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool. Add liquor, vanilla and cinnamon, if using.

Refrigerate the mixture. Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning, or stir them in when you remove the ice cream from the machine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The other day was my Birthday, so my wife decided to cook! Okay I know this is going to sound a chauvinistic, but she REALLY can’t cook, and she thinks a plain hot dog (no ketchup nothing…bun and dog) is a gourmet meal. So she tried to make one of the kids favorites, profiteroles.
Hers                                                Mine
The kids ate them and told her how good they were and  while they did not look like profiteroles they tasted wonderful. (Said with a smile) Next we moved on to the fish which she had already sealed in a foil pouch and all I did was stick in on the grill.  Well when we went to serve it, it was stuck to the foil and while I am pointing at the flaw in the recipe she used (should have  buttered the foil before placing fish on it) she comes up with…”oh the recipe did say to do that, I just did not think it was important so I didn’t do it.”

All of this got me to thinking that there must be lots of people who can use a helping hand, pre mixed breads where you add water and add a little garnish might be a hit. So coming soon to will be pre-made bread mixes where you just add water, mix and bake. The first series will be Italian regional breads like Focaccia, Pane Sardo, Pane Calabrese and more.

One of my first mixes will be Focaccia which is a flat oven baked Italian bread which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients.  It is similar in style and texture to pizza but not the same.  My basic recipe is below for those who still like to cook from scratch and coming soon to the store will be pre-mix packages.  Visit the shop and mention "blog" in the coupon code when checking out to receive free shipping.


  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 dash ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl. Let proof for 10 minutes (until bubbles begin to form).

In large bowl, stir together flour, salt, sugar, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil, and black pepper.

Add the yeast mix and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and combine.

When dough has pulled together, turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl, and turn to coat with oil.

Cover with damp cloth and let rise in warm place 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Punch dough down, place on greased baking sheet.

Pat dough into 1/2-inch thick rectangle (doesn't have to be perfect).

Using your knuckle, make indentations in the dough about 1/2-inch apart, then prick dough with fork.

Brush top with olive oil, then sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Press cherry tomatoes into dough.

Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Salmon With Pink Peppercorn Citrus Sauce

Salmon With Pink Peppercorn Citrus Sauce
This light main course is elegant yet easy. The fish can be poached, baked or grilled (see VARIATION, below) and served warm, cold or at room temperature. The recipe doubles easily; wrap each side of salmon separately. With all the spices this one is also good for you. Check out my blog on cayenne pepper and a healthy heart at

The pinks of peppercorns and pomegranate seeds add a beautiful touch to the presentation. Although pomegranates are not always in season, the seeds are sold separately in vacuum packaging.
MAKE AHEAD: The citrus can be prepped and refrigerated; the vinaigrette can be prepared and refrigerated 2 days in advance. The fish can be baked 1 day in advance. Combine the fruits with the vinaigrette just before serving/spooning over the fish.
8 servings
For the fish
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 4- to 5-pound side of skinless salmon, bones removed
  • Peel of 1 medium lime, removed in long strips
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1-inch piece peeled ginger root, freshly grated (2 to 3 teaspoons)
For the vinaigrette
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate juice
  • 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns
  • 3/4-inch piece peeled ginger root, cut into julienne (2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced (optional; 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
For assembly
  • Leaves from 2 to 3 stems cilantro, cut into chiffonade (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 medium lemon, sectioned and cut into medium dice (see NOTE)
  • 1 medium lime, sectioned and cut into medium dice
  • 1 medium orange, sectioned and cut into medium dice
  • 1 large Texas ruby red grapefruit, sectioned and cut into medium dice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pomegranate seeds, for garnish (see headnote)

For the fish: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Tear off a large piece of aluminum foil that is 4 inches longer than the length of the salmon.

Use the butter to grease the shiny side of the foil, then place the fish in the center of the foil (with what would have been skin side down).

Cut the strips of lime into very thin strips (julienne); place them in a small glass dish. Cover with water and microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds to soften.

Season the fish lightly with the cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the ginger over the fish, then scatter the julienne of lime zest on top.

Bring the long edges of the foil together, folding them 2 times to seal tightly; leave a little headspace for steam that will rise from the fish. Fold the ends as you would the ends of a present, then over twice to seal the edges.

Place the foil packet on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 16 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately open the foil or the fish will continue to cook. If the salmon looks undercooked in spots, re-seal the foil loosely and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

While the fish is cooking, make the vinaigrette: Combine the sherry vinegar, pomegranate juice, pink peppercorns, fresh and ground ginger, salt, celery seed and jalapeno pepper, if using, in a medium bowl. 

Whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream to form an emulsified vinaigrette.

If serving the fish immediately, combine the cilantro and fruits with the vinaigrette and the sauce over the salmon fillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If serving the fish at room temperature, do not combine the fruit with the vinaigrette until just before you serve the fish. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.

VARIATION: The salmon may be brushed with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and then grilled over the direct heat of a charcoal or gas grill for 10 minutes per inch of the fish's thickness. This method is good for smaller pieces of fish if you are planning to turn the fish over during grilling.

NOTE: To section citrus, use a large chef's knife to slice off both ends of the fruit. Stand the fruit on 1 end and slice downward along the curve of the fruit, cutting away both the peel and pith but leaving as much of the fruit as possible. Using a paring knife, cut between the sections to detach each section of fruit from its surrounding membrane.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pink Peppercorn Profiteroles with Parmesan Cheese

Let me share a secret with you…. Pink peppercorns aren’t really peppercorns! Pepper is hard, and spicy.  Pink peppercorns are bright happy little pops of color that are crunchy, subtle and delicate, in flavor and texture.  They are picked and freeze-dried, they crumble at the slightest pressure. They are in the pepper family and they do have a little bit of feisty in them but are great additions to many dishes.  If you think of the black peppercorn as the tall, strong father figure of the family then the pink peppercorn is the little sister of the family.

These are a family favorite which I serve warm right from the oven and usually have to make twice the basic recipe to keep everyone happy.

Pink Peppercorn Profiteroles with Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Stir in flour, salt and sugar until the mixture forms a ball.
  3. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon (lots of elbow grease) or stand mixer, beat in all the eggs at once and mix on med speed for 2-3 minutes (until the dough becomes tacky and sticks to the side of the bowl).
  4. At the very end stir in parmesan cheese and pink peppercorns until just incorporated into dough.
  5. Drop by tablespoons onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
  7. Using a bamboo skewer poke a small hole in the side of each puff to allow the steam to escape so they don’t get soggy.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mayan Chocolate Cake with cinnamon and chili

YES there really is a Goddess of Chocolate! Her origins are Mayan and her name is Ixcacao, she was an ancient fertility goddess, an earth goddess in a matriarchal society where gathering crops and seeing to it that everyone was fed was woman’s work.
Here is her story:
Banishing hunger and providing for the safety and security of the people was her divine responsibility.  The creation myths told of a great flood, devastating droughts and earthquakes that destroyed the gods’ four previous attempts to create a race of humans who, like them could think and speak, creatures who would be grateful to them, and honor and praise the gods for giving them their lives.
The Goddess of Chocolate seldom walked among the Mayans, but she was loved by them because of her compassionate nature, she understood their suffering and fear of starvation, and gave them the knowledge and tools they needed to not only survive but craft a life of abundance for themselves.  She also shared her knowledge of the exquisite taste of chocolate and the energy it would give them to keep working.
As with all myths there was much fighting, many bloody sacrifices, the land was in an uproar and the farm lands devastated and no one was paying honor to the gods.  One of the Goddesses came up with a plan to teach the kings a lesson.  She taught them to ferment corn into liquor and make it intoxicating. She even told them that with the chocolate it was a powerful aphrodisiac.
It became a time of unbridled gluttony and warfare, Emperor Montezuma was even reported to drink 40 to 50 goblets a day.  One thing led to another. Kingdoms rose and fell.  The Mayans were defeated by Aztecs who even incorporated the Goddess into their own.
Soon all the land lay in ruin.  The land was either a battle field or the workers were all fighting and no one was watching out for the people. The Gods all got together and let the Goddess of Chocolate return.  The Goddess of Love and Pleasure worked with the Goddess of Chocolate and a time of peace was restored.
It was a time of fairness…no work without rest…no work without time for family, and friends and time for music and dance and above all…NO MORE WORK WITHOUT LOVE.
And what better way to share your love than with a chocolate cake!
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup butter milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  1. 1 Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. 2 Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, butter milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. 3 Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.CHOCOLATE CINNAMON BUTTER CREAM FROSTING1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
    2/3 cup cocoa powder
    3 cups powdered sugar
    1/3 cup milk
    1 teaspoon cinnamonMelt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
    Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in cinnamon. About 2 cups frosting.
Sprinkle with coarse sea salt to finish it off.
Now for the less romantic of you some believe that the cocoa bean was first found by monkeys! I prefer the Goddess story and believe that she is looking over and blessing my endeavors in the chocolate.
Enjoy and spread the Goddess of Chocolates love!