Spinach and Chicken Waldorf

You know how it is; a friend of your aunt Sally’s has a sister who won a blue ribbon with this awesome pie recipe.

Or the airline attendants brothers wife’s sister knows someone who works at the French Laundry and can get you this awesome recipe for…

Well, here is one from Hillstone’s restaurant who gave it to Bon Appetit who put it on there website, which landed as a post in my inbox because of the subscription to their magazine from my daughter…

It’s truly awesome!

I poured a little extra dressing on top. I just couldn’t get that ‘piled high’ look to it though.

After reading their article here about the Hillstone restaurant group, look online to see if they have one near you.

And while you are at it, you can get the recipe for this salad here.

Oh, wait. It’s not a salad. Its a Waldorf. Excuuuuuussse me! You better get your fancy linens on for a Waldorf. (You can tell its fancy when docs won’t let you write the word without it being capitalized.)

For those who are too lazy to click any further, or want to read my own notes on this Waldorf salad adventure, here is my  version of this wonderful Waldorf-in-a-bowl. We will certainly be having more of this come summer weather. (which around here could be tomorrow). (Where else can I fit in the word ‘Waldorf’. It’s so fun to say. (“Fran-sis-co”))

Spinach and Chicken Waldorf

Dressing (and I recommend this for any salad)

  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. horseradish mustard (who ever heard of such a thing?) or 2 Tbsp. of prepared horseradish mixed with 1 Tbsp. of Dijon mustard.
  • 41/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup walnut oil. (who’d a thunk? I actually had this in the fridge!) or more olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. crumbled bacon
  • salt and pepper

Salad and Assembly

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (or basically 3/4 cup of your favorite nuts)
  • 4 cups chopped frisee (that lacy looking lettuce that reminds me of seaweed. I didn’t have so I used some garden greens instead)
  • 4 cups curly kale (got this coming out my ears, very easy to grow it turns out).
  • 3 cups torn or diced rotisserie chicken (hello Costco! Although in this case we rotisseried an air-chilled organic chick on our own)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled bacon (which I forgot to reserve and it all went in the dressing. But it all ends up in the same place, right?)
  • 1/4 cup raisins or craisins.
  • 3-4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 large red skinned apple, which I peeled and shredded with a grater, but now I think you should just wash and grate, skip the peeling. It would make it prettier.
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 cups mature spinach leaves (about 1 large bunch) (and if your husband is kind enough to pick up what you need while he is at the store, you might want to actually add in the word mature, since there is so much baby spinach out there to confuse a person. On the other hand, the baby spinach worked too. In another week or so our own spinach may be mature.)

Whisk the vinegar, mustard and sugar in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.  Whisking constantly, to get a good emulsion, gradually add the olive and walnut oil. Add bacon and season with salt and pepper. (this can be made a day ahead of time. Try not to add all the bacon you fried up and crumbled. Set some aside for later!)

preheat oven to 350. Toast all the nuts on a parchment lined baking sheet, tossing half way through, for about 10 minutes. Let cool and then chop them up. Not too tiny or you cant see them.

Toss frisee, (not to be confused with tossing a fris-bee.) kale, chicken, bacon, raisins and nuts with dressing in a very large bowl. (they are not kidding. I should have used a cooking pot for mixing.)

Now add the chopped eggs, apple, cheddar and spinach. Toss, season with salt and pepper as needed.Now, divide onto plates and try to build up the pyramids like they do at the restaurant. I failed at this. I kept piling and it kept melting down. Maybe it was the baby spinach not knowing how to do it right. Maybe it was the lack of frisee, using sissy greens instead.  But it still tasted wonderful. I added a wallop of avocado to mine.

Here is what it could look like:

This is a photo from Bon Appetit. See how piled high it is? Perhaps its the frisee holding it all together. I see red on those apples, and they are not grated, they are diced! Hold on, that walnut doesn’t looked chopped to me! I smell Waldorf sabotage!

Enjoy, my dear ones!

Caramel Cake

Apparently caramel cake is a southern thang. I had been collecting recipes for this cake for a while, always a bit wistfully, waiting for an excuse to make it.

I finally tried it out for our church bake sale, selling it by the slice. It became my new BFF and I even made it myself for my birthday last November. (I couldn’t trust anyone else to get the frosting just right, don’t ya’ know.) And if I am deadnburied, feel free to make this on my birthday and remember me with fondness, while biting in to the soft caramely goodness.

here it is with a few slices left to it. Enough for me and you.

This particular version came from Americas Test Kitchen book, “Best-Ever Recipes, special collectors edition”. This one recipe was worth the magazine itself. Hubby has a habit of picking  up any baking magazine he finds that looks promising. He will even rifle through the pages, seeing if it looks like something that would make my skirts fly up, or my boat float or whatever. He knows me that well.

I will share the recipe here with you. It is, in a nutshell, a vanilla cake with a warm, caramel icing, which  you have to keep scooping up onto the cake until it hardens enough. Or perhaps I don’t wait long enough for the icing to cool before frosting…



  • 1/2  cup buttermilk, room temp. (good chance to use your homemade stuff)
  • 4 large eggs, room temp.
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups )(11 1/4 oz) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt (really? Can’t just round it to 1 tsp. Well, I do.)
  • 16 tbsp. butter, softened and cut into 16 pieces.


  • 2 cups (14 oz) dark brown sugar
  • 12 tbsp butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces, (divided)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 0z) powdered sugar

For the cake:

  1. preheat your oven to 350. grease and line with parchment, 2 8″ or 9″ round cake pans. (calls for 9″. Mine are 8″)
  2. Whisk buttermilk, eggs and vanilla together and set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Using a hand mixer, beat in the softened butter, a few tbsp. at a time until pea size pieces remain. Yes, this is an unusual practice, you are not reading this wrong.
  4. Add half the buttermilk mixture and beat about 1 minute, until light and fluffy. Slowly add the remaining buttermilk mixture and beat in for about 15 seconds, until incorporated in. Use a silicon spatula or spoon to scrape the sides down and give a final stir. Pour into the prepared pans.
  5. At this point, if you have them, pin the cake strips around the pans. I like to put the pans on a larger baking sheet and place them both in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Mine took a little longer because I was using smaller pans. I check them with a straw thing to make sure they are done.
  6. At this point, I like to pop them into the freezer while I make the frosting for 2 reasons. First, being so cold, it firms up the icing faster. Then it is easier to frost a cold, firm cake as opposed to a softer one that tears easier and makes crumbs.I freeze them right in the pans, just covering with plastic wrap or slipping them into bags. Then when ready, I slide a knife around the perimeter, turn it upside down, tap it and out it comes!



  1. Heat the brown sugar, 8 tbsp. (1 cube) of the butter (saving the rest for later. Don’t forget and use it all like I did once), and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan, supposedly around 4-8 minutes. Mine never took longer than 4 minutes. Perhaps my medium heat is higher than theirs.
  2. Whisk in the cream and heat until the bubbles reappear, about 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  3. Transfer this hot frosting to a mixing bowl and, using a hand held mixer at low speed (really? Yours has a low speed? Mine only has fast and faster), slowly add in the powdered sugar. Beat the dickens out of it, about 5 minutes, so you better time it, until it is light brown and only just warm, not hot.
  4. NOW you can add in that last bit of butter, the 4 tbsp. that has been quietly waiting its turn. Beat it in, 1 tbsp at a time, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  5. If your cakes have been chillin’ in the freezer, get them out.
  6. Place one of the cakes on plate or platter (making sure you have removed the wax paper or parchment) and pour  3/4 cup of frosting over the top. Spread it out and top with the second cake. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Easier said than done, but stick with it. I put it on the sides with upsweeping motion and then keep going around scooping it up from the puddles it is trying to form on the platter and reapplying it to the sides.

The writer said she/he had trouble with the icing hardening before they could get it frosted, so they kept tweaking the recipe until they got it right. I have never had that problem, so I guess they did get it right. I probably should let it cool a little more before applying. Some day I may not be in such a rush to get a cake frosted and might try that idea out.

I think this will be a big hit at your next party or special occasion. (Such as “Hey, its Downton Abby night tonight, lets bake a cake!”)

caramel cake
Here is an older picture of one of my previous caramel cakes. I think my phone has more pictures of food than family, sad to say. But they come in handy sometimes, don’t they?

Cake Strips

Just a quick note for you cake maker out there, or cake makers to be.

Over 20 years ago, yes, I must have been an infant, I took a cake decorating class. I learned 2 things. One, that you really should use cake strips around your cake pans and 2, I dont like decorating cakes! I don’t like the mess of cleaning up all the random icing that gets stuck every darn where and can’t go down the sink, lest it clogs the drain. Of course, it is easier with disposable frosting bags, but still…

Cake strips, I’m not exactly sure thats what they are called, are strips of something that you soak in hot water, run between two fingers to get out some of the excess water, leaving it wet still and, using a safety pin, pin it around your cake pan.


So you dont get a huge dome for a cake.


Here we go-tops flat as a pancake. (Like most of us gals until we are 13, 14, 15 or so). If you look close, the strips are the same color as the pans. Now you can get them in cool colors. This set is very, very old. They still work great though. No domes crowning in the middle of my  cakes! Just flat plains.  This particular cake is getting ready to be made into Caramel Cake. (I will try to post this recipe for you soon. It is from a “Best of” book by Americas Test Kitchen.)

Adios amigos!

Mini Spinach Lasagne

You are going to want to run out right now and make this! Its delicious! Its easy! It’s meatless (for those meatless Friday nights, or every night for some of you.)

I have made this twice now and keep forgetting why I dont make it more often. Probably because I just plain…forget.

The only hitch is, you should be using a brownie pan. You know, those square muffin type pans used to make brownies. Like this…


They are more shallow than muffin pans and hold the square ravioili’s perfectly. I tried them in the round muffin pans and I couldn’t get them in there. You would have to use smaller ravioli’s, like some fresh ones I found at the store.

Anyway, hopefully you have one of these. If you don’t and want one, give me a call. (they are $20 bucks from Pampered Chef).

I dont have a picture of the finished product, but have a couple of the steps along the way. You can make it, take a pic and send it to me. Last night I made this for my son and his friends, then I left the house for book club. So I kind of forgot about taking a picture. They had that and the easy-cheesey-focaccia bread (without the pepperoni it was supposed to have), and a salad. Oh, and cheater cherry cobbler.

Mini Spinach Lasagna Squares

  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 oz parmesan, grated
  • 1 pkg chopped frozen spinach, 10 oz, thawed and drained. (I used slivered fresh)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 3/4 cup marinara sauce, divided
  • 24 small frozen cheese ravioli’s. (about 1 1/2″x2″)
  1. heat the oven to 350.
  2. mix 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, parmesan and spinach. Use a garlic press on the garlic and add to this. Mix with a wooden spoon or a mix n scraper.
  3. Measure out 1 tbsp. of the marinara into each well of the brownie pan. Place a frozen ravioli over it.
  4. Put a small scoop of the spinach/cheese mixture over the ravioli’s and then another ravioli on top of that. Now another spoonful of marinara.
  5. top it off with the leftover mozzarella.
  6. I put the pan on a parchment lined baking sheet, in case of spillage. Put into the oven and bake 20-22 minutes.



Look at those pretty colors!


For now you will just have to imagine them all cooked down, gooey, hot, and tender. Actually, now that I think of it, this could be a very versatile recipe, couldn’t it? How about seafood ravioli’s with a garlic cream sauce? (Like Alfredo) with maybe some chopped up bacon in between the layers. Ah ha! I think I’m on to something!


Anyway, thank you to the Pampered Chef for this great and snappy recipe. You can find it here… And it will have a picture of the done deal.


Homemade Buttermilk

If you have a heating pad lying around the house, I am about to tell you a new and useful way to use it. And it has nothing to do with buttermilk.

Because you don’t need it to make buttermilk. Making buttermilk is even easier than making yogurt. Of course, not everyone has a ‘thing’ for buttermilk like I have. And I don’t even drink it straight. I just love baking with it. Buttermilk makes bread products moister and more flavorful. It makes wonderful ranch or blue cheese dressing. How about buttermilk doughnuts? Yes, the crowd goes wild!

Well I usually just buy the yellow carton of Knudsons buttermilk at any ol’ store. (cheapest at Smart and Final). But I was at Sprouts and decided to get the Organic Valley pasture raised cows buttermilk, which cost an extra buck maybe. It was labeled ‘cultured buttermilk’ like all the other brands.

Then as hubby and I were walking around in the store, who should I run into but my neighbor-down-the-street, the totally organic lady with the veggie garden in her front yard and is the one who always updates me when Whole Foods has their chicken on sale. She saw the buttermilk and asked if I had heard of this other kind, the name escapes her, but it is around $7 a little bottle and tastes fabulous! Well, no, I had not heard of it and I would not pay $7 a bottle for ANY buttermilk. But she buys it by the case, because she loves to drink it, and gets a case discount!

That afternoon she came knocking on my door with a bottle of this…


Kalona SUPERNATURAL Buttermilk. (please disregard the chopped veggies waiting to me omelet-ted)

“Try it” she kept saying. Really? Drink it? I usually just bake with you ya’ know. But I buckled under the pressure and poured a little bit of my Organic Valley buttermilk and a little of the Supernatural one. With only minor nose wrinkling, I tasted them both and no, I still do not drink buttermilk. But I have to say, my buttermilk tasted very much like just tart buttermilk, kind of sour. But her tasted like…a cross between buttermilk and yogurt. Not as tart, very interesting flavor. I could definitely tell a difference in quality here.

The ingredient label actually listed the cultures used to make this, kind of like when you buy yogurt. So, if it has culture like yogurt, why cant you make it yourself, like you can yogurt? Neighbor Barb got very excited at that idea and so I went to work.

I researched. It should be easy. Just mix up a good quality milk with a good buttermilk at a ratio of 3/1. So I took a mason jar, put 1 cup of this buttermilk in it and added 3 cups of milk to it, put a lid on and shook it up a bit. Then I loosened the lid, set it aside and THAT’S IT!

If I’m going through the effort of making yogurt myself (effort, what effort? Its easier than going to the store.) I am going to make it organic.
Ready to be tucked away for brewage! brewing? Incubating?

12 to 18 hours later you have buttermilk! It tastes like it, smells like it, looks like it.

Except one thing. The first time I made it, I set it on the heating pad, like I do my yogurt now and waited the full 18 hours.

this heating pad on the table is great for brewing yogurt, (which is what is pictures here) keeping it warm while it ferments for 24 hours. It also helps sprout my little baby lettuce plants much much faster! 3-4 days instead of 10! I tried the buttermilk this way too at first.

It became something altogether different. Smelled and tasted like  a cross between yogurt and buttermilk , as I expected but with the consistency of European yogurt, thickish but still a bit pourable. Or maybe I made creme fresh. Or a little like sour cream. I just dont know. But I used it in my recipes to make buttermilk pancakes and biscuits. It still worked fabulous. I just thinned it out with a little milk. Next time I would culture it less.

Or would I? I decided yesterday to make another batch. I mixed it up in under 2 minuets and set it aside, this time on the counter. Only it was 9 am. Which means it might be ready by 9 tonight or as late as 3 am. Yikes! I had better check it at 9. I am not sure if it was thick last time because of the extra heat or the 18 hours, but I would check it at 12 hours this time.

Only thing is, I went to my book club last night. Then when I got home, my sons had friends over and, with hubby out of town, had kind of taken over the house, so I retired to my room, already tired at 930. Buttermilk? What buttermilk? I didn’t remember the buttermilk until I woke up at 2:30 am. Then I remembered it oh-boy! I went leaping out of bed and dashed to the kitchen. There is was, still brewing in its little corner. I opened the lid. Smells great. I tipped it. Sheesh, thick again!

Sigh. So I have yet to make it at its proper consistency. But that is such a small problem. A non-problem really. And I need to find out if I can get the same good results with other buttermilks. And how many generations of buttermilk culture can I get out of that first bottle? I used the last of it to make this new batch. I will make a new batch off this homemade culture. Will it still work? How about another batch after that? How long before it stops working? Usually with yogurt, you need to freshen the culture after 3 or 4 batches.

So, if you would like to get 4 times the buttermilk out of your carton of buttermilk, now you know that you can make it yourself, easier than falling off a log. And much less painful!

PS, I found out that by putting my homemade yogurt to incubate on the heating pad for 24 hours, it comes out perfect! Tart, thick-yes, thick, without adding gelatin or anything to it. See this post on making yogurt yourself.

French Kings Cake (Galette des Rois)

Epiphany. The Magi. Feasting. Cakes with little plastic babies in them. Or not.

We were invited to a friends home for a lovely Epiphany party a few days after Epiphany and I was in charge with bringing the kings cake.Which is fine and I looked up recipes. I just needed to make a sweet dough, use an almond filling, roll it up, etc.


Not even close. Nope.

What was required was a FRENCH kings cake made with puff pastry.

And so I did more research and came up with several recipes and it was fun to make. I also learned new things working with this kind of pastry.

Such as, when you do not crimp the edges, you get lots of puff, as in this…

What starts like this…
Turns into this! Mon Dieu!

While, if you crimp the edges, say with a fork, sealing the edges together, you go from this…(notice all the crimping marks on edges)


To this…


Not nearly as puffed.

It tasted the same, just looked a little different.

I did not have any baby Jesus to put in the cake, nor any fava beans, which is tradition. (Whoever gets the slice with the bean or baby in it is king/queen for the party…or has to bring the Kings cake next year, whichever tradition you like best).

I wrapped a dime in foil and inserted that into the round cake. Thats what I learned from the Greek New Years cake I made. These other countries have these great old traditions I just love, especially if it involves desserts.

Here is the recipe for kings cake. It makes 2.

Galette des Rois

  • 2 pkgs or puff pastry sheets, thawed, but cold
  • 1 cup of soft butter
  • 1 cup of ground almonds (you can grind yourself if you have them)
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of almond extract
  • pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • egg yolk mixed with water for an egg wash (I use a whole egg mixed with a tbsp of water or so)


preheat oven to 450 degrees.

with an electric mixer (I used hand mixer as opposed to my kitchen aid), mix the first 7 ingredients together. That was pretty easy, oui?

On a lightly floured cold surface (I had a marble cutting board just for this kind of thing) roll out one of the pastry sheets to about 9-10″. Now you can either cut it into a large circle and make a round cake or just make a large rectangular cake. If making a round, for instance, you will cut a round circle out of the second pastry. Each box of pastry comes with 2 sheets.

Put one of the pastry sheets on a baking pan that is lined with parchment paper. Brush the edges with the egg wash. Spread half the frangipane cream (yes, that’s what you made earlier) over the pastry dough. AT this point you might want to hide your baby/bean/coin thingy somewhere on it.

Now place the second pastry over it, either round or square or rectangle or moon shape or stars, whatever you ended up using. Press the edges together to the filling wont ooze out. I sealed the round one with a more decorative touch, which did not seal as well. Some filling oozed out, but not much. Some leaked out of the other too, so you just never know.

Now make the second one.

With the sharp edge of a small knife, I decorated just the top of the pastry puffs, not to poke through, just to barely slice a thin layer of the top.  Mine was a feather type design I saw on the web. I then brushed the egg wash over it and put them in the oven.

Bake the galette for 15 minutes, rotating the pans if baking 2. After that, reduce the oven temp to 350 and bake another 30 minutes. During the last 5, take it out, dust with powdered sugar and put back in the oven.

“Serve warm with a gold paper crown on top”.

Oh sure, I did that-NOT. Brought it to the party, sliced it up and had 2 servings. Next time I might add some apricot jam as a bottom layer under the frangipane.

Close up of the design I scratched into it.

Enjoy! Happy Epiphany, a little late…

Dear friend, always opening up your home to gobs of people, feeding them delicious and organic foods. God bless you!

Cranberry Chicken in the deep south

Sweet home Alabama! It was my annual trek to visit my aunt in the good old town of Alexander City where she currently is innkeeper for the beautiful belle of the south, the Mistletoe Bough bed and breakfast.


With the beautiful winter camellias…


and fluffer kitties.


And dapper doggies


I got to visit with Mrs. Clause…


who frequents the Inn every winter, when she is not needed at Mr. Clauses side. She is there every year for the Christmas parade, in the sleigh with Santa.


Let us pause between photos so I can give you one of my aunts super secret recipes that only she and about a million other southerns know about. I am importing it home here, already did actually and everyone loved it. So much so that I did not even get a photo. But Aunt Jo Ann makes this a lot for her luncheons at the Inn.


  • either a whole chicken cut up or selected pieces of your choosing.
  • 1 can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 envelope of onion soup mix
  • 1 bottle of French of Catalina salad dressing

Thats it. Just mix the last 3 things together in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken in a baking pan and bake in a 350 degree oven until done, about an hour for a whole chicken. While I did not do so this time, you have the option of browning in a skillet first, then putting in the pan, saucing it up and baking. My aunt baked chicken breasts and they did not need browning, just baking.

Another option is to thicken up the sauce when you are done and serve it on the side. Its pretty finger licken’ wonderful!



The house is all set for Christmas. This is the biggest of the trees. There are lots of them there, upstairs and down. Even little ones in the kitchen.



See that mistltoe hanging from the knob there? That came home with me (hee-hee). Ok, she actually did know about it. I came home with 3 sets of christmas salt and pepper shakers as well.


Even garlands, lights and ornaments in the kitchen! This innkeeper doesn’t miss a trick.


She did make 2 of the best darn cheesecakes I have ever, EVER had! And get this, it didn’t need a water bath!! It was not so much the kind of cheesecake. I believe they came from 2 different recipes. One was a turtle cheesecake with chopped up candy bars and I think the other was a pumpkin cheesecake. It was the cooking method that made the difference, made it the creamiest, dreamiest cheesecake ever! I will share with you, because I love you…

The bite near the point of the piece of cake is almost like a pudding, so silky. It firms up as you eat your way to the crust. Ugg, I want a piece right now!

Here is the basic cheesecake recipe. You can use your own recipe using the baking technique here too. Or play around with this recipe, add cookie dough or chocolate chips or chopped candy bars, etc.


  • 3 8oz bricks of cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 3 eggs
  • prepare a graham cracker crust in a 9″ springform pan

preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

With a hand mixer, blend the cheese, sugar, sour cream and vanilla.

1 Tbsp. at a time add the flour, mixing well, then the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well. Pour into the prepared crust and put right in the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce heat to 250 degrees and bake another 30 minutes.

After that, turn the oven off, but leave the cheesecake in the oven another 30 minutes. Remember, do not open the oven door. It will let valuable heat escape.

This makes a cheesecake with the best texture, smooth and crack free.

For other posts from Alabama see Taco Soup here, and quiche here, and my 2012 visit with baptist pound cake,   coconut pie, and amazing caramel apple upside down pie. Here is a visit to Montgomery AL. An article here about my aunts breakfast cassarole and a post there with my apple walnut bread recipe.

Enjoy all that reading and all those recipes.  I had fun looking through them again and reliving the trip. I think its time to make Taco soup here again, yes ma’am! And coconut pie. And…


Garlic Roasted Potatoes (and spepper)

I have dedicated the month of January to weeding out my cookbook stash. (Notice I didn’t say “baking book stash”. That’s a whole different collection).  I go through them one by one, rediscovering what I loved about them in the first place. I am  making lists of recipes I would like to make from each. If a particular cookbook looks like it no longer has recipes that make my skirts fly up, its time to donate it to someone else.

Some of the books have a few recipes I would maybe like to try, but is it fair to keep that book on the shelf with the other, more worthy books, taking up space for just a few recipes I may, or may not, someday make?

So here is my solution. Some books are just gone. No chance, adios amigos! Some books will never go, they warm the cockles of my heart just holding them in my hands, perhaps for sentimental reasons or because they have saved my culinary butt on more than one occasion. But a few, those few who waver between these two lands, I will write out the potential recipes, either here on my blog or on the Just a Pinch web site. They will be on standby, waiting to be made. I can then get rid of the book and when I make the recipe, all I have to do is add the picture! The recipe is ready to go. If, after an appropriate period of time has passed and I still haven’t made that recipe, then it is time to retire it altogether.

Brilliant huh?

Speaking of brilliant ideas, or accidents actually, I have another. I was going to fill the pepper shaker. It was low and I was going to fill it. That’s one of my jobs. So I got the pepper, starting filling the shaker and suddenly realized I was putting pepper in the salt shaker! Yikes! I stopped and you know how thoughts go through your  head in an instant? I was thinking, “I can fix this! I can get the pepper out from the salt.” Oh sure. And just watch me find that needle in that haystack while I’m at it. Instead of throwing it out, I took a step back, looked at it and thought, “Sure, why hasn’t anyone else thought of this? Spepper!”

I really do use it too. I use it to season meat, eggs, all kinds of stuff.

Soon it will be in everyone’s kitchen. But you saw it here first folks! SPEPPER!
Crunchy and garlicky on the outside, creamy on the inside.  This picture is after the mobs have attacked.

So, along those lines, I have decided to say good bye to the Barefoot Contessa Parties! book. But before I do, here is one of her recipes I just made last night and everyone raved. Well, I sure raved. Hubby raved. I kept going back to sneak “just one more”.

Its for Garlic roasted potatoes and couldn’t be easier.

Now I only have 9 jillion more cookbooks to go through!

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

  • 3 lbs (give or take) or small red or white skinned potatoes (or a mix of whatever you have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup of good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 6)
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley (If you have it on hand or if you feel like going out into the cold dark garden to pick it. If not, do without.)

preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Cut the potatoes in half or quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Toss until the potatoes are well coated. Dump the potatoes onto a baking sheet. I like to use the stoneware one like a bar pan from Pampered Chef. If you use a metal one, I would use parchment under it. The bar pan does not need this, keeps the heat even and keeps it warm out of the oven for a long time.

Bake them for about an hour, flipping them twice with a spatula during baking for even browning.

Remove from the oven, toss with the (imaginary) parsley, season to taste and serve.





Baked French Toast-to a new year!


Here is an oldy with versatility.  (I write this listening to some rhythm and blues Solomon Burke “Can’t nobody love you” and it is awesome, although the Zombies do a good job with it too.) This was our New Years day breakfast. I had made a loaf of cranberry cinnamon swirl bread the day before. Then I sliced it and let it sit out to get a bit stale. Stale bread works best and honestly, I think this was not stale enough this time around. French bread works, sourdough, cinnamon raisin that is perhaps a little older or baked in an oven a little bit to dry out. It is a cross between sticky buns and bread pudding, all deliciousness.



I will give you my old recipe, then some options. You make this the night before, putting the crumb topping on just before baking. Or you can make a caramel slurry for the bottom of the pan, put in the bread and egg mixture and skip the topping because you will be turning this upside down. (I’ve had this recipe for about 18 years! (Yikes)

I actually put this back in the oven after taking out a slice. It was still a bit runny in middle. It worked great.

BAKED FRENCH TOAST this is full recipe, I cut it in half and used 8×8 pan. Half recipe is in ()

  • 1 loaf sliced french bread (or bread of choice) (half loaf)
  • 8 eggs  (4 eggs)
  • 2 cups milk (1 cup)
  • 2 cups half n half (1 cup) or half milk, half cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla (1 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon plus (from pampered chef)


  • 1/2 cup butter, cold (1/4 cup plus a tbsp) cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (1/3 cup plus a tbsp)
  • 3/4 cup flour (1/3 cup plus a tbsp)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (1/4 tsp)
  • 1  cup chopped pecans or walnuts (1/2 cup)
  1. lay slices of bread in a buttered 9×13 pan. sliced that dont fit, just break up and stick in corners.
  2. in a mixing bowl (like a batter bowl) mix up the eggs,milk, well, everything else except topping and whisk together.
  3. Pour over the bread, poking bread down a bit. Cover with foil or a lid and put in the fridge until morning.
  4. Mix the topping together in a bowl and have it handy for morning.


  1. mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in the butter to little pebbles. **Add the nuts and set this all aside in a bowl or bag until morning.
  2. in the morning turn on the oven to 350, take out the casserole, spread on the topping and put in the warm oven. It is ready in 45 minutes but if you like crispier, let it bake an hour.

**alternately I sometimes mix the sugar and flour, then add the butter, melted and slightly cooled. I mix this with a fork until it is all crumbly. If it is too wet, add some flour.Too dry, add a little  more melted butter. This is my “go to” streusel. Just throwing it out there for you. Not to confuse you.

My original recipe called for covering it for half the time. BIG MISTAKE. Do not do this.

Original recipe used soft butter and corn syrup and no flour, which made a sticky topping hard to spread. This recipe is more like a streusel and we know streusel makes everything better!

You could omit the nuts, or add raisins or cranberries to it.

Serve it with some warm syrup nearby.

Below is a sticky bun slurry recipe you can use if you want. Just pour this into the bottom of the pan, add the bread over it and pour the egg mixture over it all and go on as recipe says.

Trust me, this is the best sticky bun slurry. I have done the research. I have made them all. Little butter, lots of butter, lots of cream, no cream. The corn syrup keeps the brown sugar from crystallizing or at least helps. This slurry soaks in the least, doesn’t seem to get too hard on your teeth because it stays softer. (Unless you really bake it way too long, then all bets are off on any kind of slurry). You can even make this up to pour over sticky buns after they are baked! If you did not make enough in the pan or just want it poured on fresh, just make this up and pour it on each serving of sticky buns.

Okay, back to Baked French Toast

**You don’t have to let it sit in the fridge overnight if you don’t want to. You can let is sit say, half an hour and then bake it. Since it wont be cold, it might bake faster so keep an eye.


  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn syrup, light or dark
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • pinch of salt.

Cook this all in a small saucepan until melted and gooey, just a minute or 2. Pour into your pan.

Sea Food Cioppino


Some years ago I was at a bookstore, killing some time sweetly, and found an interesting cookbook called “Carmines” based on recipes from a famous Italian restaurant that I had never heard of. But the pictures spoke to me. (and said “You need spaghetti-NOW!”)

I have made several recipes from that book and none have disappointed. Like the porterhouse steak with peppers and onions, or the halibut with seafood risotto which became a Christmas eve dinner for several years. Their meatballs transformed Italian meals here.

Well a sweet friend of ours actually went to a Carmines, both in DC and in Los Vegas and she said they make the food almost as good as mine! (Can you see why we keep her?) She, in fact, brought me back their newest cookbook and gave it to me. “Carmines Celebrates”. Mama mia it has good stuff in it! And here is what we had this last Christmas Eve for dinner. It is like a sea food stew. I took the liberty of adding a scoop of rice to the bottom of the bowls. I would add less rice next time. This was very filling and delicious!


  • 3/4 cup olive oil blend (3 parts canola to 1 part olive)
  • 1 1/2 pounds Chilean sea bass, halibut or other sturdy fish
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/8 tsp white pepper (really? Not 1/2 a teaspoon? I used the palm of my hand and eyeballed some pepper, sheesh).
  • 1/2 lb. extra large shrimp, shelled and deveined (or even cooked, as mine was)
  • 1/2 lb dry-packed scallops, side muscle removed (the what? I didn’t see any side muscle).
  • 12 littleneck clams, cleaned (wish I could have found some. Used extra shrimp instead)
  • 12 PEI or other mussels (nope, didn’t find those either)
  • 2 Tbsp thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1 cup cored and thin sliced fennel root
  • 4 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 4 tbsp flat leaf parsley (both these and basil are standards in my little herb garden.The 2 herbs I use most.)
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron
  • 1 large dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp. fennel seed
  • 3 1/4 cups clam juice
  • 1 3/4 cups canned whole peeled Italian plum tomatoes. (lets just call it 1 large can, shall we?)

This may seem like a long list, but its a simple and delicious meal. Just collect your ingredients, or improvise such as I did and have it all on stand by. Do your slicing and dicing and chopping. Get out those prep bowls. First the fish:

  1. heat 6 tbsp of the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the fish.(I usually pat it dry first). Gently slide the fish into the hot pan, browning on both sides, but not fully cooking. Then set aside on a platter for later.
  2. repeat this process with the shrimp and scallops. Set aside.
  3. add the remaining 6 tbsp oil and saute the garlic fora few seconds, then add the celery, fennel, 2 tbsp each of the basil and parsley (leave the rest for garnish), the saffron and bay leaf. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are just a bit tender and sweating. (like me sometimes;)
  4. Add the white wine and fennel seed and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
  5. add the clam juice,tomatoes, rest of the salt and pepper and bring to a boil.Add the clams and mussels and cover with a lid. Check often and, as each one opens, remove and set aside until all the clams and mussels are cooked; discard any that do not open.
  6. increase heat to high and cook until the sauce has reduced about 40%, about 15 minutes.
  7. Carefully return the sea bass or halibut or fish of choice to the sauce and gently simmer 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the fish to the serving platter. (I cut it into portions and set aside, serving each bowl up myself).
  8. Add the rest of the seafood to the sauce to heat up for 1 minute. Pour over fish and serve with basil and parsley sprinkled over the top.

As I said, I served them up in bowls. I put a scoop of rice in each bowl, then the fish, seafood and broth. I had a salad on the side and some crusty bread. Merry Christmas!