Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Roasted chicken on a Sunday is so fitting, don't you think? Instead of potatoes I roasted a whole onion. Those almost burnt caramelized edges were so sweet and tasted just right speared with the bites of chicken.

I served with fresh asparagus, also roasted (for last 15 minutes), with nothing but its sweet goodness.

Super easy, as most roast chickens are. Here is what I did:

1 chicken
1 onion- sliced
1 lemon - quartered
olive oil (I used blood orange olive oil but any olive oil will do)
salt and pepper

Rinse the chicken, pat it dry, and stuff insides with the lemon quarters. Rub a bit of olive oil on the outside of chicken and douse with salt and pepper.

Place sliced onions at the bottom of a heavy pot and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add chicken on top of the sliced onions and cook at 425 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until done. Remove from oven, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes for chicken to reabsorb juices.

Friday, April 23, 2010

APRIL 2010 READING - Book Review

I re-read (or actually listened to) a great Lord Peter Wimsey book. Seriously, I love this man. Dorothy Sayers did a superb job creating this brilliant and elegant (and wealthy) whodunit expert. Listening to it on tape is a real treat since the reader, Nadia May (aka Donada Peters and Wanda McCaddon), is English-born and has that perfect diction of to-the-manor born.

Have you any idea how difficult it would be to write a murder mystery? There is a lot of psychology involved, one would need to be very clever (and devious), a wordsmith, and of course a flat-out great story teller. Sayers has all this in spades. I can appreciate the skills it would take to write not just one great murder mystery but a whole series.

Sayers' writing is never dull and in, Whose Body, having the killer write pages and pages of why and how he/she did it was riveting. Written in 1923, this is Sayer's first Lord Peter Wimsey novel. So it is a good one to read if you haven't had the pleasure of reading any Wimsey novels before. My favorites are the Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane books--Vane is his true love. But really, any Wimsey book will do.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a French novel translated into English. Written by Muriel Barbery, a professor of philosophy, the story takes place in current times, in an upscale Paris apartment house. It is told from the perspective of two narrators: Renee, the 54-year old widowed concierge who works for the residences of the apartment, and Paloma, the intelligent 12 year old daughter of one of the wealthy families.

Renee works hard to hide the fact (hence the title) that she is an intellectual and Paloma is brilliantly working toward her goal of setting fire to the building and then committing suicide. I promise you it is not as bleak as it sounds. Things change when a new resident arrives. Basically, it is a lovely (and a bit of a tearjerker) story of three people who briefly tap into each others lives and make a difference. I very much enjoyed this book.

I quickly read Game Change about the 2008 Presidential elections--a bit of a downer given the behind the scene stories which unfortunately rang true.

I did enjoy Tough Choices by Carly Fiorina, former head of Hewlett-Packard and now a candidate for US Senator against Barbara Boxer in California. After reading her story, she's definitely tough enough to run against Boxer.

What are you reading?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

CHOCOLATE SHEET CAKE - Pioneer Woman Cooks

I love a thin layer of chocolate cake with chocolate icing. So a cake baked in a jelly roll pan is perfect for that thin layer of sheet cake. My friend, Jill, gave me the book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, for my birthday. I noticed this recipe right away and made it for a bridal shower I was hosting--it was a hit. And the icing is to die for (well, that's a bit dramatic but it is really, really good).

This recipe makes one 18 x 13 x 1 inch cake.



2 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
¼ teaspoon Salt
4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
2 sticks Butter
1 cup Boiling Water
½ cup Buttermilk
2 whole Eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla

½ cup Finely Chopped Pecans
1-¾ stick Butter
4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
6 Tablespoons Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 pound (minus 1/2 Cup) Powdered Sugar

Preparation Instructions

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.
Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into an 18 x 13 jelly roll pan (baking sheet with sides) and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I wish you could smell these Freesias. The strong fragrance of these little darlings is found in a lot of perfumes and lotions. They make great cut flowers for your home as they last a good week.
The flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, and the humming birds are stopping by for a little sip of nectar. April in Arizona is the best.

As you can see in the pic above, Tammy's Sweet Peas are climbing and blooming.

And the 100 bulbs Tammy, Ellie, and the twins planted are breaking free.

This striped tulip was a surprise. Isn't it odd that tulips don't have any scent?

Ranunculus' intertwined with the Sweet Peas.

As my niece, Ellie, says, "Kipling is always very involved". No kidding.

Heaps of homemade compost filled-up the garden boxes. Don't know what I'm planting, yet.

The Mid-Pride Peach tree we planted last year didn't make it. So we bought another one and we're keeping our fingers crossed that peaches will appear in a few years. At least it is leafing out nicely.

And our little Anna apple trees have leafed-out. We held our breath since we had pulled off all of its leaves in February. Of course, Jill was right.

What are you planting this Summer?

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Aren't real, genuine mashed potatoes the best! It's been so long since I had the real thing that I almost forgot what they tasted like. Of course, the Barefoot Contessa had a twist on the classic mashed--substituting olive oil for butter. I will tell you that I couldn't bring myself to add the full cup the recipe calls for but we couldn't tell the difference (I used 2/3rds cup of olive oil). And instead of 3 pounds of the naturally creamy Yukon Gold I added 4 pounds. So more potatoes and less olive oil--but, boy were these babies delish. And they were a nice fit with the Cascabel Chile Honey Glazed Pork on Easter Sunday.


1/2 cup garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 head)

•1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I used 2/3rds cup)
•3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered (I added 4 pounds)
•Kosher salt
•1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
•1/4 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, or creme fraiche
In a small saucepan, bring the garlic and oil to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cook uncovered for 5 minutes, or until the garlic is lightly browned. Turn off the heat and set aside. The garlic will continue to cook in the oil.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender. With a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes from the water, reserving the cooking water, and remove the garlic from the oil, reserving the oil.

Process the potatoes and garlic through a food mill fitted with the medium disk. (I do not have a food mill, so I just used an old-fashioned masher--we also like our potatoes with a bit of texture to them). Add the reserved olive oil, 2 teaspoons of salt, the pepper, cream, and 3/4 cup of the cooking water to the potatoes and mix with a wooden spoon. Add more cooking water, if necessary, until the potatoes are creamy but still firm. Season, to taste,and serve hot.

Also sharing the stage with the pork and potatoes were Belinda's homemade Rosemary dinner rolls. If you live in Mesa, do yourself a favor and order these little darlings from Belinda Smith of Belinda's Kitchen (4301 E. McKellips, Mesa, AZ, 480-203-4626).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe before. It is one of my family's favorite dishes and I make it almost every Easter (except for last Easter which no one in my family can remember what I made). This glaze is sweet and rich and comes from Vincen'ts cookbook. Vincent Guerithalt is a local French chef with a great little restaurant in Phoenix. I especially like his tiny Market Bistro which serves terrific lunches in a setting that feels as if you are in Paris. And the prices are great (I promise).

Back to the glaze: you don't need much because there is so much flavor. I buy the dried Cascabel chiles at Penzey's but you can pick them up at a Mexican market super cheap.

I prepare the pork tenderloin one of two ways: either on the grill or roast in the oven. Either way I rub the tenderloin's (usually 3 pounds) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. If roasting, I set the oven at 350 degrees and roast for 50 minutes.
Brush the tenderloin with the glaze the last 5 minutes and then warm up the remaining glaze and serve with the tenderloin. You will love it!

Cascabel Chile And Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin

4 Cascabel Chiles (found in Mexican markets or at Penzeys Spice in Scottsdale)
One cup Honey
1/2 cup Chicken stock
3 T Tomato puree
1 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Ground cumin

Rehydrate the cascabel chiles by soaking them in warm water for about 2 hours before using them.

Drain the chiles and place them with the honey, chicken stock, tomato puree, paprika, and cumin in a saucepan and simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pure the mixture in a blender.

Brush on grilled pork tenderloin or grilled chicken.

Note: if jalapenos are used, roast them and peel, seed, and dice them before simmering them with the rest of the ingredients.

Sunday, April 4, 2010



A while ago I made Lemon Mini Cheesecakes and they were a hit. And although I love lemon-flavored anything, the orange blossoms that are filling the Valley of the Sun with its fragrance lured me into hunting down a recipe for orange-flavored mini cheesecakes. I found one on Pinch My Salt blog. No hint of tartness but a lovely sweet orange undertone. Just right for a recent bridal shower I hosted for my friend, Sharon.

You will need a mini-cheesecake pan (which I've used more times than I thought I would). These are super easy to make.

Instead of a graham cracker crust I used ginger snaps. The ginger snaps have far more flavor than the graham crackers and the combination of the light ginger taste with the orange zest fits just right.

The recipe for the whipped cream calls for Grand Marnier but I substituted orange juice instead.

1 C. graham cracker crumbs (I substituted ginger snaps for graham crackers)
2 T. brown sugar
1/3 stick melted butter

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 C. sour cream
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/3 C. sugar
finely grated zest of one orange

1 C. heavy cream
1 T. Grand Marnier (I used orange juice)
2 T. powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter with a fork until well combined.
3. Divide crumb mixture evenly between the 12 cups of your mini-cheesecake pan. Using your fingers or the back of a tablespoon, press crumbs firmly onto the bottom and partially up the sides of each cup; set aside.
4. Combine sugar and orange zest in a mini food processor and process until orange zest has been incorporated and sugar is fine (I mixed together with a fork and it turned out fine).
5. Using an electric mixer, blend softened cream cheese, sour cream, egg, and orange sugar together in a medium bowl. (if you skipped step 4, add both the sugar and orange zest in step 5)
6. Spoon cream cheese mixture into the twelve cups, trying to divide the mixture as evenly as possible.
7. Bake for 14 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven.
8. Remove from oven and place on rack to cool for 20 minutes then carefully remove cheesecakes from pan and let cool completely on rack.
9. Put cheesecakes in refrigerator and chill until ready to use.
10. Just before serving, combine cream (make sure it’s very cold), grand marnier and sugar in a mixing bowl and whip, using a hand whisk or electric mixer with whisk attachment, until soft peaks form.
11. Top mini cheesecakes with dollops of grand marnier cream and serve.