Wednesday, March 30, 2016

D's Minty Double Chocolate Cookies

I guess I'm not the only one who has a to-cook list during our vacations. The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf insisted that we bake cookies tonight. He wanted to make double chocolate chip cookies with mint extract and asked me to take him to the grocery store. Okay. I'm just grateful that there's a Safeway just across the street from our timeshare.

  • 1/2 C butter
  • 2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 3/4 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 C flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t pure mint extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 C pecan pieces

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place 1 C chocolate chips and butter into a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until everything is melted and smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the egg and fold it in with a spatula. Pour in the melted chocolate-butter mixture  and the mint extract. Mix until everything is moistened.

Stir in the remaining chocolate chips and nuts. Drop the cookies by the tablespoon onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes. They will look dull. Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the sheets.

Makes approximately 30 cookies. 

D's Dairy-Free Crêpes

It's laughable, really, that I cannot make pancakes but I make a mean crêpe. If someone can please give me a no-fail pancake recipe, I would be eternally grateful.

But one upside: I've made crêpes so many times, D can make them on his own with virtually no help from me.

This morning, he bellowed from his room."Mommy, can we have crêpes for breakfast?"

Sure. Can you make them?


I still had to get up and make sure that our seriously rudimentary kitchen in this timeshare actually had everything he needed. One thing I was missing: milk. I guess we've made hot chocolate too many times already this week. So, he used almond milk.

Ingredients makes between 5 to 6 crêpes

  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 C almond milk
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • jam or jelly for serving (we had some plum jam from a local coffee shop)

Whisk everything together to form a thin batter. Heat and butter a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Pour the batter onto the pan. Tip and rotate pan to spread batter as thinly as possible. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Once the crêpe is cooked, smear it lightly with whatever jam you have on hand, roll it up, and dust it with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

{Gluten-Free} Swiss-Parsley Yogurt Biscuits

I always forget how much my boys (yes, all three of them) enjoy biscuits and gravy for breakfast! This morning, before we headed out for a day of sledding, I baked some biscuits full of Swiss cheese and fresh parsley...and they were gluten-free for Jake.

  • 2 C gluten-free flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T butter, cold and cubed
  • 3/4 C whole milk plain yogurt
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 C shredded Swiss cheese
  • milk, as needed

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine gluten-free flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine. Add butter to the dry ingredients. Gently fold the yogurt, herbs, and cheese into the dry ingredients, stirring until most of the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a shaggy ball. If the dough is too dry, add one tablespoon of milk at a time. Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting board or counter. Knead until it forms a smooth ball, approximately 10 to 15 seconds.

Pat the dough down to 1/2" thick. Cut the biscuits and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.  

I served these under a generous scoop of bacon-onion gravy. Oh, my!

Steak with Onions and Pt. Reyes Original Blue + 2011 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon

The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf has a mind like a steel trap, especially when it comes to food. "Mommy, can we go get those bleu cheese burgers with grilled onions today?" 

What are you talking about?

"Remember...we went after we went sledding the last time we were here."

Two years ago?!? That's on the completely other side of the lake from where we are. We're not going.

[insert pouty face here]

I did placate him with steak, red wine onions, and Pt. Reyes Original Blue Cheese. My kids don't get a lot in the way of expensive material things, but we do splurge on good food and good books.


  • 4 beef tenderloin steaks
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 C red wine
  • Pt. Reyes Original Blue Cheese for serving
  • fresh parsley for serving (optional)


Red Wine Onions
In a large skillet, melt 1 T butter. Place the onions in the butter.

Cook on low heat until softened and turning translucent. Pour in red wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the wine has thickened. Set aside.

Remove steaks from the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Add a splash of olive oil to a large, flat-bottom pan. Sear the meat until well-colored, approximately 4 minutes on each side. Move the steaks to an baking dish and transfer them to the oven to keep warm.

To Serve
Plate the steaks and top with red wine onions. Let the diners add blue cheese to their tastes. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.

I served these with roasted kabocha squash and cauliflower rice.

In My Glass...

Co-owned by three families - the Filipponi, the Rossi, and the Wittstrom families - the Margarita Vineyard is the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles region, tucked beneath the peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Located only fourteen miles from the Pacific Ocean, the vines enjoy a wide array of soils and one of the area's coolest growing regions.

The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon has lively aromas of pepper, oak, caramel, and spice. On the tongue I get a balance of fruit with lingering notes of chocolate. This wine took us from dinner - with the steaks - to dessert - with some chocolate-covered caramels a friend had given us for our anniversary. I love a versatile wine.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Meyer Lemon Squares for Nonna's Easter Brunch

As a second sweet for Nonna's brunch, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I made some Meyer lemon squares.

Crust Ingredients makes 2 pans of lemon squares
  • 4 C flour
  • 1 C organic powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 C butter (3 sticks)
  • 2 to 3 T cold water
  • 2 to 3 T limoncello (or more water if you don't want to use alcohol)
  • zest from 1 organic Meyer lemon
Topping Ingredients
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • zest from 2 to 3 organic Meyer lemons
  • 3/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • organic powedered sugar for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place flour and powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Rub in butter till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Alternate between water and limoncello (if using) until the mixture forms a ball. Press the dough into two baking dishes. Divide the lemon zest between the two pans and press the zest into the crust.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. In the meantime, make the topping.

To make the lemon layer, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a bowl till smooth and combined. Pour lemon mixture over the cooked base. Bake for another 25 minutes. Leave to cool. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice into squares.

Foodie Reads 2016: Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods

Spring break is great for my March Foodie Reads 2016 Challenge, actually it's been fantastic for reading in general. I read an entire book this morning while the boys played at the lake's edge. They were out, taking photos such as these, while I stayed in front of the fire.

Photo by R

When they came in, the Precise Kitchen Elf and I sat down together and read Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods: An Intrepid Eater's Digest by Andrew Zimmern* as we start prepping for the Bizarre Foods class I'm going to teach for six weeks starting toward the end of April. If you're ever seen Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel, you know who Andrew Zimmern is. He's an intrepid eater that makes me realize that I'm really not that adventurous.

I won't tip my hat as to what R and I have planned for class, but there are a few chapters that we've already explored. Well, we've cooked with cuttlefish ink, not squid ink. We've made Cuttlefish Ink Pasta; I even made Cuttlefish Ink Buns for salmon burgers.

R has made Garlic Ice Cream all by himself. I might have to figure out how we can accomplish that in a 90-minute class.

What do you think - do you consider yourself an adventurous eater? 
Why? Or why not??

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else is reading this month: March 2016 Foodie Reads Challenge.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Espresso Brownies for Nonna's Easter Brunch

Originally I had suggested a cheesecake for Nonna's Easter brunch. D countered that his apple pie was better. It's possible. But, in the end, Nonna, asked us to make "some easy."

So we went with lemon squares and brownies. For the brownies, I added in some ACME Coffee Motor City Espresso. When I dropped off the pan, my mom wrinkled her nose a little and said they looked naked.

Okay. I told her pick up some dulce de leche and coffee beans for garnish. She did!

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 C organic brown sugar
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/2 olive oil
  • 1-1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 T ground coffee beans, espresso roasted and finely ground
  • 2 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C flour 
  • 1/2 t salt
  • dulce de leche, for garnish (optional)
  • coffee beans, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square pan. In a large mixing bowl add all ingredients, except flour, and mix to combine. Add flour and stir till just moistened.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan. And bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick method. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing.

If using the garnishes, place a dollop on each square and top with a coffee bean.

The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf's Easter Sparklers

Remember when the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf criticized my menu for Nonna's Easter brunch? You can read that story: here.

Apparently she needed drink pairings. D came up with three for her. He decreed that we were going to make a trio of sparklers for her; and they had to be Easter eggs, too. From left to right: Cucumber-Beet, Lemon-Basil, Roasted Watermelon-Mint.

He made the syrups and Nonna needed to mix them at the table. He told her 1 C of the syrup starter to 5 or 6 C sparkling water.  Here's a photo one of her guests sent me.

For all of these, D prepared the sparkler starters, placing them in a mason jar. Then he poured the hot simple syrup over the other ingredients and let the flavors meld. 

Simple Syrup
makes one sparkler starter, double or triple as needed 
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 C water

Place sugar and water together in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let simmer for 1 minute. For a thicker syrup, cook it longer. We prefer ours thin. 

Cucumber-Beet Sparkler Starter
  • 1/4 C roasted beet puree (roasted in a 350 degree F oven for an hour, then pushed through a mesh strainer)
  • 1 seedless Persian cucumber, quartered and cut into 2" lengths
  • 1 C simple syrup

Lemon-Basil Sparkler Starter
  • 2 T zest from organic lemons (D used Meyer lemons from our tree)
  • 10 to 12 organic basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • 1 C simple syrup

Roasted Watermelon-Mint Sparkler Starter
  • 1 C roasted watermelon puree (roasted in a 350 degree F oven for an hour, then pushed through a mesh strainer)
  • 12 to 15 organic mint leaves, slightly bruised
  • 1 C simple syrup

Foodie Reads 2016: Delicious Probiotic Drinks

Spring break is great for my March Foodie Reads 2016 Challenge. After Jake and I swapped driving duties, I read through Delicious Probiotic Drinks by Julia Mueller* from cover to cover. Then I read through it again, reading aloud and mentioning to him what we were going to have to try as soon as we get home. He was inspired, too.

The benefits of probiotics are no secret and is something we wholeheartedly already embrace. We lacto-ferment our own veggies. And Jake has been brewing his own kombucha for a few months now though I have yet to write a post about it.

We learned that if we brew kombucha with honey - instead of sugar - it's called a 'jun' and renders the drink a little bit creamy. Hmmm...I'm intrigued!

With clear step-by-step directions, stunning photographs, and nearly eighty recipes this book is going to take our probiotic drink production to a whole new level. Stay tuned for our versions of beet kvass, sage lacto-fermented lemonade, sarsaparilla water kefir, and kanji. 

And, in case you're interested in trying your hand at homemade fermented drinks, this is a must read.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else is reading this month: March 2016 Foodie Reads Challenge.

Gorilla Poop Cookies

"Mommy, can you please make gorilla poop cookies again?"

What are you talking about?

"You made gorilla poop cookies a long time ago. I want you to make those again, please. You didn't have to bake them. And they have peanut butter and oats and chocolate."

That does not sound familiar...and definitely doesn't sound like something I would make.

"You did. Can you look up a recipe?"


I made them today...and D was ecstatic. Apparently everyone in the house remembers when I made these before. Really?!? And they were all excited that I made them again. "Take a photo," commanded Jake. "Mom actually made the same thing twice." 

Very funny.

Though I still doubt that I ever made these, a quick search rendered lots of variations of the recipe. I mixed and matched based on what D remembers them to be.

  • 3 C rolled oats
  • 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 C organic chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1-1/2 C organic granulated sugar
  • 5 T unsweetened cocoa powder

Place oats, chocolate chunks, and peanut butter together in a large mixing bowl. Place butter, milk, sugar, and cocoa powder together in a medium sauce pan. Over medium heat, whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture smooth. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute.

Pour the butter mixture into the mixing bowl and toss to coat. Spoon tablespoon-sized mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let cool to set.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

{Gluten-Free} Mussels Casino + 2013 La Folette Pinot Noir

Most people go on vacation and go out to eat. Not me. I always make sure I have a full kitchen because vacation is a time when I get to catch up on my cooking to-do list. Tonight, after five hours on the road, I opened a bottle of La Folette Pinot Noir and made a gluten-free mussels casino.

"You can't go wrong with bacon, Mom," noted the Precise Kitchen Elf.

Yep. You're right. Bacon, shallots, and parmesan cheese are a magical combination.

  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned 
  • 2 shallots, peeled and diced
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 C gluten-free bread crumbs*
  • 1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 T fresh parsley, chopped + more for serving
  • 1-2 T olive oil + more for drizzling
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon and shallots until the fat is rendered and the shallots are caramelized. Move them to a medium mixing bowl.

Place the mussels in the same skillet with 1 C water. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, and cook for five minutes. Drain the mussels.

Add bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and parsley to the bacon-shallot mixture. Add enough oil to make the breadcrumb mixture stick together.

Spoon the breadcrumbs onto each mussel and press firmly to pack the filling into the shell. Place flat on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes - until the breadcrumbs are toasted and the cheese melted.

Serve immediately with a sprinkle of more parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

*NOTE: I used Ian's Natural Foods Gluten-Free Bread crumbs and found them a little too crunchy and hardy. I'm thinking about using a nut meal instead next time. But, if you have any suggestions on a different brand of gluten-free bread crumbs, I would love a recommendation.

The Wine

I had a bottle of Greg La Follette's 2013 Pinot Noir I've been wanting to try. This comes from two family-owned, organically-farmed vineyards in Mendocino County. This was a beguiling wine - and surprisingly delicate for a Pinot Noir. It was simultaneously sweet - think vanilla bean - and earthy - think morel mushroom. It was smooth and subtle. My only complaint: it went down a little too easily! Maybe that has something to do with me being on vacation; I wasn't shy about a second glass of wine! Cheers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

OLIVE You Cheesecake for My #SixteenCheesecakes Party

Jake and I are celebrating 16 years of marriage tomorrow. Sweet sixteen. On one hand that feels like a lifetime; on the other, it seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.

In this past sixteen years, we've had two boys, lived in two states and five different houses, and juggled probably a dozen different jobs between us. We've traveled to Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona; we've visited Italy and Costa Rica. We've SCUBA'd, zip-lined, canoed, and tangoed. It's been an amazing adventure.

But it's also been work. A lot of work. Don't let anyone tell you that marriage is easy. Maybe that is what makes the celebrations all the more sweet.

So, why cheesecakes? you ask. Well, we had seven cheesecakes at our wedding instead of a traditional wedding cake. So, it seems a fitting way to commemorate the occasion.

Last year I rallied some blogging friends to help me celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary. I was only looking for fifteen cheesecake recipes. But we posted waaaaaay more than #FifteenCheesecakes

It was such a hit and I had so much fun that I decided to see if I could get enthusiasm for another round of cheesecakes. Yep. This is an encore performance by some of my favorite foodie bloggers.

More than #SixteenCheesecakes

OLIVE You Savory Cheesecake
I wanted to try my hand at a savory cheesecake and decided I like the play on words: olive you. I love you. Okay, it's cheesy...but this is a cheesecake party. My gluten-free crust didn't hold together as well as I had hoped, but it was delicious.

makes three 4" cheesecakes

  • 1-1/4 C gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 1/2 C finely chopped pecans
  • 1/3 C butter, melted
  • 1 T crumbled bleu cheese

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces mascarpone
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 2 T gluten-free flour blend
  • 1/4 t freshly ground salt
  • 1/4 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 T olive tapenade

  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 T whiskey
  • pitted green olives for garnish

In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, pecans, and crumbled bleu cheese.

Stir in melted butter. Press onto the bottom of a greased springform pans. Place pans into freezer and make the filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone, sour cream, flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Add egg and egg yolk; beat on low speed just until combined. Fold in olive tapenade and pour on top of crusts. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until center is almost set.

While the cheesecake bakes, prepare the sour cream topping. Spoon topping over cheesecake and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Leave oven ajar and let cool for 1 hour.

Loosen edges of cheesecake from pan with a knife. Cool for another hour. Then, refrigerate for another hour.

To serve, remove rim from pan. Top cheesecake with halved olives, if desired.

Happy Anniversary, my Love!

Looking forward to trying all these cheesecakes from my blogging friends. 
Which one do you want to try first?