Tag Archives: Cooking

Conversation Heart Cupcakes

My husband’s 30th birthday is coming up this weekend. I was reminiscing about past birthdays in anticipation of this one and I thought I would share what I did for him a few years ago.  There was a short period when I had to fill in and be the pastry department at work.  I was leaving the house at hours previously unknown to me and I was not going to see Patrick at all on his birthday.  I decided to make conversation heart cupcakes so that they could cheerfully greet him that morning in my absence.  These would, of course, be the perfect addition to any Valentine’s Day party or even as a treat in a loved one’s lunch box. It’s a creative and yummy way to say “I love You.”



1 box of Cake Mix, your favorite flavor (look, these cupcakes are somewhat labor intensive in the decorating department, there is no need to go overboard and make a cake from scratch unless you have several hours to kill).

Eggs, as specified on box of Cake Mix

Oil, as specified on box of Cake Mix

Water, as specified on box of Cake Mix


1/2 cup Butter, softened

4 cups Powdered Sugar

2 teaspoon Vanilla

4 tablespoons Milk

4 pack of Food Coloring


4 ounces White Chocolate Chips

Special Equipment:

Silicone Heart Shaped Cupcake “Pan” (such as one sold by Wilton at craft stores)

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Mac ‘n’ Cheese

The Mac that Smiles Back

I thought this unique topping for mac ‘n’ cheese from the Garden Grill Restaurant at Walt Disney World was just the cutest thing I’d ever seen. I had to imitate it and add it to my own kid friendly recipe for macaroni and cheese. The addition of Goldfish crackers makes for the perfect presentation for both the young and the young at heart. I hope this meal brings some smiles to your kitchen table.


Goldfish Topping:

1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

1 1/3 cup Parmesan Flavored Goldfish, divided

1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

2 tablespoons Butter, melted

Macaroni and Cheese:

1/2 pound Shell Pasta (or whatever shape you prefer)

6 quarts Water

2 tablespoons Butter

1/2 cup White Onion, finely diced

1 clove Garlic, minced

3 tablespoons Flour

1 pint Whole Milk

1 heaping cup Sharp White Cheddar (4 ounces by weight), grated

3/4 cup Gruyere, grated

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

1/2 teaspoon Mustard Powder

1 1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon Pepper

Dash of Nutmeg

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Cranberry Fig Chutney

Cranberry Fig Chutney

When it comes to cranberries there are many ways to jazz them up. This recipe allows for a bit of an exotic twist. Chutneys, hailing originally from India, are a happy marriage between sweet and sour. Just in time for the holidays, here is a unique take on the classic Thanksgiving side dish that may just become the star of the meal.


1 cup fresh Cranberries

1/2 cup Dried Figs, diced

2/3 cup Yellow Onion, small diced

1 clove Garlic, minced

1/3 cup packed Brown Sugar

1/2 tablespoon Orange Zest

1/3 cup fresh Orange Juice (about 1 orange)

1/2 cup Cider Vinegar

1/2 teaspoon grated Ginger Root

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

1/2 stick of Cinnamon

1/2 Star Anise

2 Cloves

1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds

1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg, freshly grated

1/4 teaspoon Salt

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Madras curry powder is filled with the warmth of coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, along a host of other spices.  This soup pairs the subtle heat of the curry with the savory fall flavors of butternut squash and crisp, tart apple.  Top that off with a touch of sweetness and you have a fabulous fall soup that’s just a little bit out of the ordinary.


2 cups Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed

1 cup Granny Smith Apple, peeled, seeded, and cubed

2/3 cup diced Yellow Onion

2 cloves Garlic, minced

2 cups Chicken Stock

1/2 to 1 tablespoon Madras Curry Powder (the amount depends on how potent you want your soup)

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated Ginger Root

2 tablespoons real Maple Syrup

1 tablespoon Butter

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 tablespoon Salt

1 teaspoon Pepper

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Pan Seared Salmon with Jumbled Couscous

Salmon with Jumbled Couscous

I like clean, fresh flavors.  I think the food should speak for itself.  I don’t think that you need to have a sauce to make a meal, I don’t think everything needs to be cooked in butter (but don’t mistake me, I love butter), and I don’t think there is anything wrong with cooking a meal that’s easy. When I cook, chances are good that I am cooking for two. Chances are also good that my husband is whining like a five-year-old that he’s hungry.  Now, before I go giving him an undeserved reputation, I should note that he is perfectly capable of cooking for himself, but most of his cooking is throwing whatever is available into the nearest pan.  My cooking isn’t quite that easy, but it is close.  One of my favorite go-to meals is pan seared salmon with cous cous.  It is simple and effective.


Jumbled Couscous:

1/2 cup Couscous

3/4 cups Water

1 1/2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided

2 teaspoons Salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup each Craisins, Golden Raisins, and Cocktail Peanuts

3 or 4 Cherry Tomatoes

1 Scallion

5 leaves Basil

5 leaves Mint

2 Radishes

1 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 tablespoon fresh Lime Juice


2 (7 oz) Salmon Filets

1 1/2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon Lime or Lemon Juice

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Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato basil soup is my go to comfort food. Admittedly this is not a tomato soup that screams tomato flavor, it is a cream based soup and therefore has a certain subtlety.  It is good for a dinner party soup course, it is good for cold, crisp autumn days, it is great for when you are under the weather, particularly because this is the easiest soup you will ever make.


1 (28 oz) can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes

12 oz Tomato Juice

1 stick of Butter

8 oz Cream

12 Basil Leaves

1 tablespoon Salt

1 teaspoon Pepper

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It’s just one of those days…

I believe the adage goes “You want to make God laugh?  Tell him about your plans.”  There have been a lot of changes and uncertainties in my life recently.  Some are good, some are bad, and most are completely beyond my control.  For me this a a recipe for sleepless nights, high emotion, and introspection.  It’s hard for a control freak to just go with the flow, and while I can tell myself a million cliches about closing doors and opening windows and things that are meant to be, it’s just not always that easy to take a step back and breath.  This is where comfort food comes in.  I am not the type of person who eats when upset, on the contrary I tend not to eat when I am upset, but once I am convinced to eat (either by a concerned loved one or sheer biological need) there are just certain foods that make it a little bit better.  Luckily they are generally high in calories which makes up for the not eating part of the equation.  Things that I find to be particularly good when I am feeling down include tomato basil soup (cream based, of course), macaroni and cheese, chai tea, and chocolate.  I find it amazing how food can play a role in transforming a mood and lifting your spirit.  It’s a fabulous profession to be in where you can have such an immediate affect on the people you serve.

What is your favorite comfort food?

Cumberland Sauce

Cumberland Sauce is a great condiment to use in the Fall.  It goes well with almost any cold meat from turkey to pork loin.  It’s a great way to jazz up your holiday party left overs or even to add some interest to your holiday party meat and cheese platter (warning: it does not pair well with parmesan style cheeses, it does, however, go well with a bleu such as Maytag).

Cumberland Sauce

Cumberland Sauce with Smoked Duck and Bleu Cheese


2 Oranges

1 Lemon

1 medium Shallot

1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil

6 1/4 teaspoon of finely minced Ginger

1/2 cup of Ruby Port

6 oz Red Current Jelly

2 teaspoons Coleman’s English Mustard

1 teaspoon Salt

1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

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Harvest Festival Cookies


Harvest Festival Cookies


1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup of crisco (you can use all butter if you so desire)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup tightly packed brown sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 cups of rolled oats (not quick oats)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup pecan pieces (you could substitute walnuts for a more earthy taste)

3/4 cup craisins

1/2 cup brandy or bourbon (such as Jack Daniels), optional.

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Confessions of an OCD Chef

My recipe filing system

My System of Organization

As I have already indicated, I am a very structured person.  Having a personality such as this comes with certain, shall we say, lifestyle expectations.  Everyone automatically assumes that because I can’t stand for anything to be out of place my house must look like it belongs to Martha Stewart.  I would like to publicly debunk that myth.  My house, while certainly not a “mess” by most people’s standards, is not nearly as neat and tidy as it would be if I didn’t have anything better to do with my time (such as watch 6 hour marathons of Law and Order: SVU or check for the latest facebook post that I can throw my 2 cents into).  My bed is rarely made, there are piles of mail on my kitchen counters (though they are categorized piles) and while my closet may be color coordinated, there is a basket of laundry that is sitting at my feet that has been in the same spot for 4 days.  Another thing that is horribly disorganized are my recipe files (see above) which consist of a decade’s worth of newspaper clippings, computer print outs, sticky notes, and recipe cards.  All of these items are carelessly shoved into a photo album that once held about 2 dozen very neatly written and alphabetized recipe cards that I copied from my mother’s cookbooks before I went to college.  Somewhere along the way I gave up (I think it was when I was unable to get more recipe cards in the same style and thus I felt the entire cause was lost).  My husband tells me if I just sit down and type them all out (ha!) that he will be more than happy to create a cross referenced computer file for me.  That, my friends, is not likely to happen this century.  And while the system is not ideal, I do know more or less what is in that album and I can almost always find it (given 20 minutes or so to look).  The good news for this blog, however, is that it almost forces me to be a little random in my recipe posts and that, I believe, will be a good thing.