Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Chocolate and zucchini is a combination that works suprisingly well. I've seen a lot of recipes for chocolate zucchini cakes and brownies. But since my friend, Kathy, had great success with this recipe I decided to make this one. She also told me it is good without the frosting (but, really, why would I not put this yummy frosting on top?)

The fam enjoyed--even little kids likes them and didn't notice the shards of zucchini. So give it a try--I think they would freeze well, too.


* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 1 1/2 cups white sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups shredded zucchini
* 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
* 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup butter
* 2 cups confectioners' sugar
* 1/4 cup milk
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the zucchini and walnuts. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until brownies spring back when gently touched. To make the frosting, melt together the 6 tablespoons of cocoa and margarine; set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, blend together the confectioners' sugar, milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies before cutting into squares.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I haven't made potato salad in years. This is the first recipe in Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life and sounded flavorful and basic. I don't really like fancy potato salad, if there is such a thing. The addition of the Ranch dressing seemed odd but it works. Next time I will add chopped celery--I like the crunch. But this was a hit at our July 4th luncheon which included the peach-lacquered chicken, beans, and a frozen limeade pie that was a hit.


1 3/4 pounds red waxy potatoes, scrubbed

4 large eggs

8 scallions (white and pale green parts) thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon salt


3/4 cup mayonnaise

4 tablespoons bottled Ranch dressing (preferably Hidden Valley)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

1 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)

Put the potatoes in a dutch oven or large saucepan and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add a generous dash of salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a small, thin knife, about 15 minutes. Drain them into a colander, rinse with cold water, and set aside to cool. When the potatoes are cool, cut them into rough 1-inch chunks. For the smaller potatoes, halve them; for the bigger ones cut into quarters or eights. Put them in a large bowl.

Cook the eggs placing them in a small saucepan, and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and let it sit for exactly 12 minutes. Immediately pour off the hot water and run plenty of cold water over the eggs. When the eggs are cool, peel them, chop them coarsely, and add them to the bowl of potatoes. Add the scallions, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss to mix.

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, Ranch dressing, dill, and caraway seeds (if using). Pour the dressing over the potato mixture, and stir to evenly coat. Taste, and adjust the salt as needed. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Aren't these just the prettiest flowers? We planted these "Teddy Bear" and "Honey Bear" Sunflower seeds back in May and have had fresh flowers on the kitchen window sill for several weeks now. They are super easy to grow and last a good week before they start to turn. I'm going to plant lots more next summer, in both the front yard and backyard (usually I like Sunflowers just in the backyard).

The most you can hope for in July in the Arizona desert is to just get through it. The same for gardens, too. Up until now we've had a profusion of zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupe, hot (killer hot) red peppers and tomatoes. We've had a few red bell peppers and around six crookneck squash. We also planted the classic American Giant Sunflower (see above) but I don't love those so they won't be back next summer (they tend to start looking a little too much like something out of "Little Shop of Horrors" ).

Have you ever seen an eggplant in the "garden way"? That's it above. I love that it looks like purple Christmas balls in the garden (not that I decorate with purple Christmas balls, just so you know). The eggplant is just now coming in and I've got several on the vine. I have a beach umbrella firmly planted in the soil next to the eggplant to protect it from the blazing sun.

That's the herb box above--not a great pic but it's the best I could do in the AM and it's too hot to take photos after 7:00 am. The basil is gorgeous, and the lavender and oregano were thick and healthy. The bedraggled flower garden behind the herb box is being prepared to be solarized. Just couldn't pull out those sweet Sunflowers yet.

Had to show you the root from ONE tomato plant--impressive, huh? No wonder the tomatoe plants are so sturdy! Next year I'm going to plant the tiny Sun Gold tomatoes. They are so sweet and Jill had great success with them.

Monday, July 20, 2009


The minute I saw the cover of the July issue of Cooking Light Magazine I wanted to make this dish. I love fruit desserts, especially fruit cobblers. And with the abundance of fresh blueberries and blackberries in the store right now (and on sale) you should consider making this yummy dessert soon.

My friend Christine and her two little guys (Grant and Will) came to dinner Saturday night so after eating Leslie's Balsamic Chicken Bow Tie Pasta (to be posted soon) we finished the evening with cobbler and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Lovely on a hot July night.

This recipe calls for turbinado sugar which is raw, crystallized sugar. I don't know how easy it is to find since I had a box that I had purchased in Paris after taking the baking class. I've already used it more than I thought I would, though. Note: Trader Joe's carries Turbinado sugar for $2.99.


  • Filling:
  • 3 (6-ounce) packages fresh blueberries
  • 3 (5.6-ounce) packages fresh blackberries
  • 3 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • Topping:
  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (raw, crystallized sugar)
    1 tablespoon egg white


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare filling, combine blueberries, blackberries, and peaches in a 13 x 9–inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, juice, and 1/8 teaspoon salt over fruit; toss gently to combine.

3. To prepare topping, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, stirring well. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add half-and-half; gently knead dough just until moistened. Drop dough by spoonfuls evenly over top of filling. Combine almonds, turbinado sugar, and egg white; sprinkle over top. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until topping is browned. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream (reduced fat, of course).

Friday, July 17, 2009


Do you ever re-read a book? If so, why? I do not but I'm always intrigued why others do. Sometimes I will re-read a favorite passage but never do I start from page one and read on until the end.

Kind of sort of finished Richard and John: Kings at War. A bit too detailed even for me. And since I'm partial to Queen Eleanor I naturally always take the side of Richard, the Lionheart. So I read the first 100 pages and the conclusion and I'm done.

Listened to Striding Folly on CD, a Lord Peter Wimsey grouping of short stories. I want to be his wife, Harriet Vane, who is a smart writter with an excellent vocabulary and married to Peter who loves her madly. Of course, having the title Lord and Lady is also a plus (I do love his wit but he would need to be a tad more masculine to be the perfect mate).

My French Life is the dreamiest book. Just lovely to look at and the writing really reflects Vicki Archer's personality (although I haven't met her I'm assuming her writing reflects her, if not she is a mighty good fake.)

Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness wasn't as enjoyable as I anticipated. The writer, Willard Spiegelman, shares seven favorite activities that bring simple happiness: reading, walking, looking, swimming, listening, dancing, and writing. I skipped the swimming and dancing chapters. For some reason I didn't connect with this book although I do agree that happiness can come from very simple activities. I was a bit irritated by his comment about viewing artwork--that it seemed to him most people just raced through museums not stopping long enough to look at the paintings. I am one who sometimes zips through a museum to get to the one painting I want to immerse myself in. How do any of us know, based on the art patrons we see in a museum room, just how art is viewed and absorbed? But I did enjoy his chapters on reading, walking, and listening.

The Wildwater Walking Club is an easy read. A cute premise of three neighborhood women who become friends by forming a walking club. No huge plot or mystery, so far just a nice little story (haven't finished yet). This referral came from Mary's Library--a good book blog.

The next two are books that have been sitting on my nightstand for a while, Dorothy Dunnett's The Game of Kings and The Brothers Karamazov. But, first, I need to finish Middlemarch.

Are you reading anything interesting?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


This was the perfect dessert for July 4th. Refreshing, tart, cold, it was a family hit. Very easy to make and I even made the graham cracker crust--nice and thick. And instead of the candied lime peel that's called for in the recipe, I grated lime zest on top. Mmmm, good.


2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
7 tablespoons butter, melted
Limeade filling:
1 (12-ounce) container whipped topping, thawed
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
1 (6-ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate, defrosted
1 tablespoon lime zest
Candied lime peels, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In medium bowl, combine cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press firmly on bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 7 minutes and let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, add whipped topping and gently fold in condensed milk. Add limeade and zest and gently fold to combine. Do not let the mixture become soupy. Pour mixture into the pie crust and freeze overnight. Garnish with candied lime peels when ready to serve.

Recipe from Down Home with the Neelys

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Muffins in July? Is that odd? Since I have an abundance of zucchini I thought this would use up at least one of the little darlings.

This recipe comes from the June issue of Cooking Light magazine. I added walnuts since I like a little crunch in my muffins, and zucchini and walnuts are a good combination. I also mixed in the little tiny bits of walnut dust with the cinnamon and sugar sprinkling it on top of the unbaked muffins. Mmmm, good.

Can't tell you if they freeze well since they didn't last long.

4.75 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine whole-wheat flour and next 6 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine zucchini, milk, oil, honey, and egg in a small bowl; stir until blended. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add milk mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.
3. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle over tops of muffins. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


These are some of the sights that I love in New York. Grand Central Terminal is gorgeous. The picture in the header above is part of the ceiling in this classic-looking train station. The aquamarine color is original and a nice departure from the typical white.

My sister, Tammy, and I were in NYC in May. We hit it spot-on arriving the week following six straight days of rain. We had three cloudy days and three bright blue sky days. Lucky us!

For my last few trips to New York, I have used Dial 7 (212-777-7777), for service between Newark Airport and Manhattan. It is great because for a flat fee (plus tolls) you get a clean non-smoking car, no waiting in line for a taxi, and no extra costs for rush-hour traffic. It ends up being almost the same price as a taxi if not cheaper if traffic is an issue.

Dinner our first night was at Osteria al Doge in the theatre district. Recommended by my friend Sharon, it is now one of my favorite restaurants. Also at her recommendation I ordered the TAGLIOLINI ALLA CHITARRA, homemade pasta with veal ragu and wild mushrooms--perfection. Tammy had the TORTELLONI AL SALMONE, homemade tortelloni with salmon and she loved it. All very reasonably priced and I highly recommend it for your next visit.

I have always wanted to tour the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club Decorator Show House (pic below) but my timing was never right until this year. Two favorite designers were in attendance: Charlotte Moss and Bunny Williams. I loved studying their work up close. It was also a great place to people-watch. Clothing styles: flats, tunics, short belted light-weight coats, and lots of patent leather bags.

Six floors of well-designed rooms including a large kitchen in the walk-out basement. Sounds odd but it worked with floor to ceiling window giving abundant light. Wish I could post all the gorgeous rooms but no photos were allowed. Click here for pics of a few rooms shown in House Beautiful magazine.

We then stopped at a new favorite lunch place, Corrado Bread & Pastry at 70th Street and Lexington. More fun people-watching.

Then we house-gawked. Loved this townhouse on the Upper East Side. The embellishments are just right. I so badly wanted to tap on the door for a peak inside ("really, if you knew us you would like us, please let us in". This door is attached to the house (see below) on the left side of the photo.

Tammy and I loved these two townhouses and couldn't decide which one we liked best. We stood out in front staring and taking pictures I'm surprised security wasn't called.

When we first arrived, after checking-in at our hotel, we promptly walked over to Gray's Papaya for its Recession special: two hot dogs and a papaya drink for $4.75. They're not exactly J Dawgs (best hot dogs ever), but for a quick, cheap lunch in NYC, Gray's Papaya was good enough.

Wednesdays are free at the New York Botanical Garden. We took a 20-minute train for $5 each way north up to the Bronx. It was one of the three bright blue sky days I mentioned so we hit it just right.

No changing trains just get off at the Botanical Garden Station and cross the street--you can see this sign (above) from your window seat.

This is a gem of a place. We took the 20-minute tram ride around the Garden to get an overview and then walked and walked. Loads of perfectly formed flowers. Bright colors massed together. Obelisks, urns, a gorgeous Victorian conservatory, all those precious gardening-enhancements everywhere. But, oh the flowers.

We came across a few deals on this trip--Botanical Garden free on Wednesdays; the Morgan Library and Study free on Tuesdays from 3-5 and Fridays 7-9. And a great dinner special at one of David Burke's restaurants, a little cafe at Bloomingdales. He has a three course meal for $20.09 that is delicious. Our third course was his famous cheesecake lollipops (below). Excellent!

We had lunch at the famous Balthalzar's where celebrity sightings are frequent. As we walked in Brooke Shields was walking out. It is a very French bistro. The highlight were the profiteroles (below) with warm bittersweet chocolate syrup poured by the waiter when it is served.

And in my family, every trip to New York includes a Butterscotch Sundae at Serendipity's.

Another must-do for us is a stop at the Union Square Green Market. Masses of flowers, fruits, vegetables, cheese from local farms, and other edible goodies fill Union Square.

These buckets of Wisteria sold for $6 a bunch--and the bunch was huge. Union Square is just around the corner from one of our favorite shops, ABC Carpet and Home (odd name, I know, but very cool store).

Bagels are a staple in New York and we tried three popular places: Ess-a-Bagel, Murray's, and Zabars. Ess-a is our usual place and we love it but its competition is Murray's, which we had to try. I love a toasted bagel and Murray's won't toast--they say a good bagel doesn't need toasting. They are right. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. What we didn't like was the neighborhood so Ess-a is the winner for us.

Eating bagels at Zabars sitting at a communal table on a very rushed Friday morning, we felt very New York. A long-standing staple on the Upper West Side, Zabars is an eclectic grocery store that is worth wandering through.

The cheese shop alone is fascinating. Downstairs it's all speciality food items and upstairs it's all kitchen items. Next door is the bagel shop we tried. Lots of action, lots of loud New York voices, and we loved it.

Churchill Square in Greenwich Village--a nice respite in the middle of the ever-buzzing city. After walking and walking through Greenwich and SoHo we stopped a bit in this sweet little park.

We did see two plays, Mary Stuart (my favorite), and Round and Round the Garden (part of the Norman Conquests trilogy). Both plays that orginated in London and brought its original London casts. Mary Stuart had two brilliant actresses, Janet McTeer and Harriet Walters. Round and Round the Garden was very funny British humor and very clever. Loved Mary Stuart and really enjoyed Round and Round.

New York is always great fun especially when you can take the time to roam around the great little neighborhoods. If you've been to NYC, what's your favorite place?

Sunday, July 5, 2009


One lonely over-ripe banana sat on the counter and since I had enough of them in the freezer I needed to do something with it. Very few recipes call for just one banana. But, I was in luck. The July issue of Cooking Light magazine had a yummy looking recipe submitted by Cathy Brixen from Phoenix, Arizona--being from Phoenix I thought it was a good sign.

I also like that this recipe makes just 2 dozen cookies--sometimes that's all I want to make--just a couple of batches. And while they are not the most attractive cookies, they are good enough to bake again. My friend, Kirstin, and her family loved them so enjoy!

1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
5.6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat well.
3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until golden. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

SWEDISH APPLE CAKE - Dorie Greenspan

This is the easiest, yummiest, prettiest cake--you've got to make it. It makes 6 servings and there were 5 of us. It was so good I had to divvy up the 6th piece into 5 thin slices. Usually someone takes a pass on seconds but not this time.

I used Fuji apples from Jill's trees but I think just about any type of apple would work. This weekend I'm trying another apple cake recipe (to compare, of course) using the apples from Leslie's tree. I will report back.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 extra-large egg or 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 to 1 1/2 apples (I used Fujis), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
Apple, quince or ginger jelly or preserves, for glazing the cake (optional)
Note: I used Quince preserves for glazing, perfect

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or a similar sized cast-iron skillet. Note: I used a 9 inch springform pan

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt

3. Working in a mixing bowl with the whisk, beat the egg(s) and sugar together until thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla, if you’re using it, and then the melted butter. The mixture will be smooth and shiny. Stir in the dry ingredients and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Top with the apples, making a spiral pattern. Leave some space between each slice, so the batter can puff up between the wedges – it looks much nicer with the puffs.

4. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack.

5. If you want to glaze the cake, warm a few spoonfuls of jelly and a splash of water in a microwave oven (or a saucepan) until the jelly liquefies. Brush the jelly over the hot cake.

6. Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes, or wait until it reaches room temperature, before you cut it into wedges to serve.

Storing: Cooled and covered, the cake will keep overnight at room temperature, but it’s best served shortly after it’s baked.