Flan with Chocolate Cake

I saw this recipe on Cook’s Country and it was so beautiful I decided I had to try it.  My family was skeptical about the flan portion but they loved it.  It’s a perfect combination of creamy flan and a brownie like chocolate cake.  Plan ahead, this cake takes at least 12 hours from start to finish, best to make it the night before.

Flan with Chocolate Cake


1/2 c. caramel sauce

1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/3 c. cocoa powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/8 t. salt

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

6 T. unsalted butter

1/2 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. sugar

2 large eggs

1 t. vanilla



2 (14oz) cans sweetened condensed milk

2 1/2 c. whole milk

6 oz. cream cheese

6 large eggs plus 4 large yolks

1 t. vanilla



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup nonstick bundt pan.  Microwave caramel until it can be easily poured.  Pour it into the bundt pan and coat the bottom.    Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.  Melt butter and sugar over low heat in a medium saucepan.  Remove from heat and whisk buttermilk, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture until just combined.  Pour batter over caramel in bundt pan.

For the flan, put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor (may have to blend 1/2 at a time).  Gently pour the batter into the bundt pan,  Fill almost to the top (I had some extra that didn’t fit).  Place the cake gently into a roasting pan and fill with warm water till it comes halfway up the bundt pan.  Bake for 75 – 90 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean and the flan registers 180 degrees.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 2 hours then chill completely in fridge for at least 8 hours.

When you go to serve it, place bottom of bundt pan in warm water to gently melt the caramel.  Place platter over cake and invert.  Slowly remove the pan allowing the caramel to drizzle over the cake.  Serve.


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Curried Peanut Soup

I gave a party awhile ago where the guest of honor was vegetarian and I wanted to serve a soup that was vegetarian and that was outstanding.  So I asked my friend Eileen who loves good food and is also a vegetarian. This Curried Peanut Soup is one of her family’s favorites and now one of ours too!

Curried Peanut Soup

3 T. olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. curry powder

2 t. salt

1/2 t. black pepper

2 c. carrots, chopped (about 3 carrots)

1 c. celery, chopped (about 2 stalks)

6 c. vegetable stock (or chicken if you don’t need it to be vegetarian)

3/4 c. smooth peanut butter, not freshly ground

4 cups cooked long grain white rice

3 c. fresh chopped roma tomatoes

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium low heat until tender and translucent (about 15 – 20 min.).  Add curry powder, carrots, celery, and cook 15 more minutes.  Add vegetable stock, increase heat slightly and cook 10 minutes or until vegetable are tender.  Add salt and pepper.  Add peanut butter and stir until smooth.  Mix in rice and tomatoes.

If the soup is too thick you can thin it with some more stock or water.


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Caramel Apple Cake

This Caramel Apple Cake is a rich, decadent bundt cake with a nice fruity tang that lightens it a bit.  I make this every fall when the apples are just harvested.

Caramel Apple Cake


2 c. sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 c. vegetable oil

2 t. fresh lemon juice

3 c. all purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

1 T. ground cinnamon

1 T. vanilla extract

3 c. granny smith apples, peeled and finely chopped

1 c. sweetened shredded coconut

1 c. chopped pecans

Caramel Sauce:

1/2 c. butter

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. buttermilk

1/2 t. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a bundt cake pan.

In a large bowl combine the sugar, eggs, oil, lemon juice, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract.  Mix well.  Fold in the apples, coconut and pecan into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the tester comes out clean, about  1 1/2 hours.

Shortly before the cake is done, make the sauce.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the sugar, buttermilk, and baking soda.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for 1 minute.  Pour the sauce over the warm cake slowly (I put the cake on cooling rack over a cookie pan to catch any extras that spill over).  Cool for one hour before turning on to a rack to finish cooling.

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Classic Potato Gratin

I wanted something to go with our ham for Christmas dinner and thought that a potato gratin would be good and something the kids would like.  I talked to a few people and looked at various recipes and this is what I came up with.

Classic Potato Gratin

2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled

1 1/2 c. whole milk (though I have used 1% and it was still great)

1 1/2 c. heavy cream

1 t. kosher salt

1/4 t. freshly ground pepper

1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

2 t. chopped garlic

1 c. shredded cheese, I like sharp cheddar, gruyere or Beecher’s Flagship

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

With a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch slices.

Place the slices in a heavy saucepan with the milk, cream, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, while gently stirring occasionally.

When it boils, pour the mixture into a 3 quart baking dish.  Sprinkle the potatoes with 1/2 c. cheese, gently fold the cheese into the potatoes.  Then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 c. cheese over the top of the potatoes.

Bake in the oven about 30 -40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the top is a deep golden brown.  Remove from oven and let it sit for about 15 until the liquid has time to thicken.



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Pazzelli Cookies

Every year we make Pazzelli cookies for Christmas.  They are light, crisp and slightly sweet.  You can add anise seed if you like but my kids like it without.  Both options are in the recipe.


6 eggs

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 c. butter melted and cooled butter

4 c. flour

1 T. vanilla

2 T. anise seed (optional)

Beat eggs till frothy.  Gradually add sugar, beat until fluffy.  Add melted butter.  Then add the flour 1 cup at a time.  Add vanilla and anise seed if desired.

Preheat pazzelli iron.  Place 1 oz. batter in the center of each cookie press, close and hold tightly closed for about 1 minute, give or take 10 seconds.  Cool on paper towels or a cookie rack.

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White Chicken Chili

2 chicken breasts

2 T. olive oil

1/2 c chopped onion

32 oz. chicken stock

8 oz. chopped green chilis

2 cans white beans, undrained

1 1/2 t. garlic powder

1 1/2 t. cumin

1 t. oregano

1/2 t. cayenne pepper

Bake chicken in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  Cool slightly and shred.

While chicken is baking, in a large stock pot, heat olive oil and saute onions till tender.

Add chicken stock, green chilies and spices.  Bring to a boil and simmer 30 min. till somewhat reduced.

Add shredded chicken and undrained white beans and simmer for 10 min.

Serve with hot, crusty bread.


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Roasted Winter Root Vegetables

When I was at a benefit dinner the other night, one of the side dishes was a carrot puree with a distinctive cumin flavor.  It was delicious!  But when I tried to recreate it I realized it was more than just carrots in it, there were other root vegetables that balanced the sweetness of the carrot.  Here is my version of Roasted Winter Root Vegetables.

Roasted Winter Root Vegetables

1 1/2 c. carrots, peeled and roughly chopped in 3/4 in. pieces

1 1/2 c. parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped in 3/4 in. pieces

1/2 c. turnip, peeled and roughly chopped in 3/4 in. pieces

1/2 sweet onion, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 1/2 t. cumin

2 T. olive oil

2 t. salt

1 t. pepper

1/2 -3/4 c. warmed chicken stock

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl toss all ingredients except the chicken stock until evenly coated.  Pour onto sided cookie sheet and bake in oven for 30-40 min.  You will know they are done when you can easily pierce all the vegetables and they are starting to brown.

When vegetables are done, immediately put in food processor and while processing add warmed chicken stock till you get a creamy puree.  Before you serve, check the seasonings, you may want more salt or cumin depending on how smoky you like it.




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Chicken Lettuce Wraps

We went to a friend’s house for dinner awhile ago and she served these Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  Together we were 4 adults and 6 kids (she doubled the recipe of course!) and it was the perfect combo of a meal being delicious and kid-friendly at the same time.  I made it for our dinner guests last night and it was a hit.  Definitely one to add to the blog!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Lettuce Wraps


2 – 3 heads butter lettuce or 1 heads iceberg lettuce (butter folds better but iceberg is crunchier)

2 T. olive oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 by 1/4 inch thick pieces

1 cup finely sliced fresh shitake mushrooms

1 T. finely chopped, fresh ginger

2 T. finely chopped garlic

1/2 c. finely sliced green onion, about one bunch

1 c. finely chopped water chestnuts

1/4 c. hoisin sauce (Chinese sweet-spicy sauce)

2 T. plum sauce (Chinese duck sauce)

2 t. rice wine vinegar

3/4 c. pine nuts, toasted

2 T. chopped fresh cilantro


Clean and separate lettuce leaves.  Pick through leaves, using those that will hold two heaping tablespoons of chicken filling.  Place leaves on a serving platter.

Heat a large sauce pan over med-high heat. Add olive oil and then the chicken.  Cook chicken till no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms, cook for 4 minutes or until mushrooms have softened.

Add ginger, garlic and green onions.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Add water chestnuts, hoisin sauce, plum sauce and vinegar.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Add pine nuts and cilantro, stir, and remove from heat.

To serve, place two heaping tablespoons of chicken mixture in one leaf of lettuce, roll up and eat.

(This meal can also be prepared in a wok, change cook time to about one minute per step because of the higher cooking temp and larger cooking surface)


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Wild Rice Salad

My friend, Cinnamon, brought this Wild Rice Salad over for an event at our house the other day, and I knew I had to add it to my website for summer entertaining.  It is hearty enough to be a main dish with the chicken or you can leave the chicken out and it would be a great side dish.

Wild Rice Salad


1/2 c. wild rice

1 1/2 c. water

salt to taste

2 c. diced cooked chicken

1 c. blanched and diced green beans

1 c. halved cherry tomatoes

1/2 c. thinly sliced green onions

1/2 c. chopped Italian parsley

1/2 c. torn basil leaves

1/2 c. chopped toasted almonds


1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. canola oil

1/4 c. white wine vinegar

1 t. salt

1 t. freshly ground pepper


In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil, add a little salt, then stir in the rice.  Bring back to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for  30-40 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Fluff the rice with a fork and add chicken, beans, tomatoes, onions, parsley, basil and almonds.  Toss to mix.

Whisk the olive oil and canola oil with the vinegar, then whisk in the salt and pepper.  I like to use small jam jars with lids to shake my dressings, they also work well for traveling with the dressing without fear of leaking.

Pour small amounts of dressing over salad till you get the desired amount.

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Quinoa Pilaf with Shallots and Crimini Mushrooms

We love quinoa!  It’s easy to make and healthy to eat.  You can add all different herbs and veggies to it to make a different meal every day of the week.  I tried this quinoa pilaf the other night and the whole family loved it.  We know you will too!

Quinoa Pilaf with Shallots and Crimini Mushrooms

Quinoa Pilaf with Shallots and Crimini Mushrooms

Quinoa Pilaf with Shallots and Crimini Mushrooms

1 T. olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and finely diced

1 c. crimini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

1 1/2 c. quinoa

1/2 t. fresh thyme leaves removed from their stems

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 t. kosher salt

freshly ground pepper

3 c. chicken or vegetable stock or water

Place a saucepan on med-high heat.  Add olive oil and heat till shimmering.  Add the shallot and cook till translucent.  Then add the crimini mushrooms and cook until brown.  Add the quinoa, thyme leaves, bay leaf, kosher salt and black pepper to the pan.  Stir and heat for about one minute until fragrent.

Slowly add the stock, it will splatter.  When it comes to a full boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove from heat, fluff the quinoa and replace the lid and let sit for 10 minutes.

Taste and then adjust seasoning if needed.

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