Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A 'Wicked' birthday

My dear daughter turned 30 and I took her to see "Wicked" in San Francisco for her birthday. It was a wonderful mother-daughter time in which we had a chance to share a few days in a great city and experience an entertaining play. We stayed in the heart of the theater district and absorbed our surroundings.

Back in Fresno, we had a family dinner to continue the 30th birthday celebration, and I made the cake that my daughter wants every birthday. I call it K-K's cake, and it's her favorite. It's a white cake with vanilla pudding and strawberries inside. Very tasty, very caloric. But birthday cakes aren't supposed to be healthy. They're just supposed to be delicious.

Here's the recipe:


1 Boxed white cake mix. Bake as directed on box in two 8" or 9" round pans. Cool

1 box vanilla pudding. Make as directed on box. Chill

Filling #2
1 lb. fresh sliced strawberries
1/3 cup Strawberry glaze(found in produce section)
Stir glaze in sliced strawberries. Set aside.

4 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1+1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Add a little milk to flour to form a paste and mix well until smooth. Stir in remaining milk and cook over medium heat until a thick paste forms, stirring constantly. Cover with waxed paper. Cool. Cream shortening and butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add cooled flour/milk paste and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Cut cake layers in half horizontally, making 4 layers. place one layer on plate and spread half of the pudding filling to the edges. Place next layer on top of pudding layer and spread to edges with glazed strawberries.
Place next layer and spread with remaining pudding. top with last layer. Frost with crustless frosting. Decorate with remaining strawberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 10-12

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's tomato time again

I've been a bit late in getting my tomato plants into the ground this season, but this glorious Sunday morning spurred me to plant. This season, I'm raising a couple of varieties -- Red Beefsteak, Lemon Boy and Sweet 100s.

As I blogged last year, my garden produced like crazy thanks to the 100-plus temperatures in California's San Joaquin Valley. We have had much more moderate temperatures this year, but of course it is only spring. Those 100-degree days are coming, so get your gardens ready.

I've urged my dear readers to plant backyard tomatoes because there is so much you can do with them. I like to get very creative with tomatoes, whether it is using them in salads, on sandwiches or in salsa. I especially enjoy a Caprese salad, as well as making appetizing salads in hollowed out tomatoes. The previous links will take you to some of the tomato recipes that I've used.

Don't delay another day. Get your tomatoes planted now and you'll be harvesting them this summer.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The grill of my dreams

Now that Daylight Savings Time has arrived, it's time to drag out the grill from winter hibernation. The extra daylight and warmer weather means we can even grill our dinner on weekdays. A barbecued steak or chicken, and some grilled vegetables make a perfect and easy meal. I love grilling season.

Fish, of course, is excellent on the grill, and you can couple it with vegetables. I especially like asparagus on the barbecue. The smoky flavor of the crisp grilled asparagus is hard to beat. I like to drizzle it with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, and garlic salt before grilling. When corn comes into season, it's great on the grill and you might even consider red potatoes, which can be par boiled and then finished on the grill for that smoky flavor. Yum.

But just about any vegetable can be grilled, and you can pair it with your meat choice. Toast some garlic bread on the grill, toss a fresh salad and you're done. A nice wine will finish the meal off and your family and friends will love it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who Dat sandwich?

Now that the Saints of New Orleans are the 2010 Super Bowl champs (Yippee), I’m reminded of a recipe I would like to share in the Saints' honor. It’s the Muffuletta sandwich and one of the most wonderful and flavorful sandwiches I've ever tasted. It was created in New Orleans more than 100 years ago. But, believe it or not, it's not a Creole or Cajun or French sandwich. It's completely Italian.

According to gumbopages.com, "The muffuletta sandwich was invented by Signor Lupo Salvadore, who opened the now-famous little Italian market called Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter in 1906.”

The ingredients that make this sandwich stand out is the crusty Italian bread loaf and the Italian olive salad. The bread is easy to get, but finding the olive salad is another story. I had to coerce a friend to bring some back from Southern California for me. It comes in a jar, and can be found in many Italian speciality stores. It's worth ordering some online if all else fails.


1 round loaf Italian bread (10-12 inches)
1/4 pound mortadella, thinly sliced
1/4 pound ham, thinly sliced
1/4 pound hard Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/4 pound Mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/4 pound Provolone cheese,sliced
1 cup olive salad with oil

Split loaf of Italian bread horizontally. Spread each half with equal parts of olive salad and oil. Place meats and cheeses evenly on bottom half and cover with top half of bread. Hold sandwich together with toothpicks. Tent with foil and heat in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Cut in quarters. Enjoy!

Serves 2 as main course or 4-6 as appetizers.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Brie at last, brie at last

It's party time again and I offered to bring an appetizer. It's always challenging for me to come up with new ideas for appetizers. I was looking for something that would be easy to transport, was warm, and didn't require the use of the hostess' oven when I arrived. At last, after searching long and hard, I found a fun little recipe that met my criteria.

Brie en Croute is a wheel of brie cheese wrapped in puff pastry and baked to a golden brown. The beauty of it was it has to set for an hour after it bakes before serving it. This was perfect because it allowed me to bake it at home and transport it easily. By the time I got to the party an hour had passed and it was ready to be devoured. If you cut into it too soon the cheese is too runny and flows everywhere.

I found several recipes for Brie en Croute on www.puffpastry.com. This one is filled with dried cherries and pecans and was just different enough to interest me. Some other fillings that would be yummy are almonds and parsley, caramelized onions and thyme, or cranberries and walnuts. The possibilities are endless.


1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup dried cherries, softened*
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves OR 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 (13.2 ounces) Brie cheese round
1 package (26 ounces) Pepperidge Farm® Entertaining Quartet Distinctive Crackers

Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature for 40 minutes or until it's easy to handle. Heat the oven to 400°F. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 14-inch square. Stir the cherries, pecans, honey and rosemary in a small bowl. Spread the cherry mixture into the center of the pastry square. Top with the cheese round. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg mixture.

Fold two opposite sides of the pastry over the cheese.Trim the remaining two sides of the pastry square to 2-inches from the edge of the cheese. Fold the sides up onto the cheese and press the edges to seal. Place the pastry-wrapped cheese seam-side down onto a baking sheet. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture
Decorate the top with pastry scraps cut with coolie cutters, or additional rosemary, if desired. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden brown. Let stand for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve with the crackers.

*To soften cherries, mix the cherries and 1/2 cup hot water in a small bowl. Let stand for 1 minute. Drain and pat the cherries dry.

** I had a hard time finding a 13 ounce wheel of brie cheese ( it's easier to find during the holiday months). I did find a 19 ounce wheel at Costco, so I just rolled the puff pastry a little thinner so it would fit over the wheel. I didn't have as much dough left over to decorate with, but it still worked.

If you would like to view a three minute video of step-by-step preparation, go to: www.puffpastry.com and click on watch video next to the picture.

Monday, February 1, 2010

When life hands you too many lemons...

I have lemons coming out of my ears. This happens about this time every year. I can't bake fast enough to use them all, my friends only want so many, and it's against Mother Nature to just throw them away.

So, one way I have found to get more use out of them is to juice them and freeze the juice. I pour the squeezed juice to ice cube trays and freeze it. The next day I pop the frozen lemon cubes out of the trays and put them in a Ziploc freezer bag for easier storage and to prevent them from picking up freezer odors and frost. Now I have easy access to pre-measured cubes of semi-fresh-squeezed lemon juice to use throughout the year.

If I want to add more lemony flavor, I sometimes will grate some lemon zest in the lemon juice before freezing it. Each frozen lemon cube is equal to about two tablespoons. Don't forget to put a date on the freezer bag so you know how old the juice is.

While I'm on the lemon kick, let me tell you about my all-time favorite kitchen gadget. It's called a citrus trumpet. All you do is screw the trumpet into the end of a lemon or lime and squeeze out the juice. You can store the trumpet while still attached to the lemon in the refrigerator for a few days if you don't use all the juice.

Another nifty little kitchen gadget is the citrus juicer shown below. This is the tool to use if you aren't juicing enough lemons to get out the electric juicer, but too many lemons for the citrus trumpet. It's designed to prevent the seeds from being expressed with the juice.

Now, what can you do with all of the juiced lemon peels? Throw several of them in the garbage disposal and turn it on. This not only cleans the disposal, it fills the kitchen with the fragrance of lemony goodness.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kindness never tasted so good

I haven't felt like cooking lately so I've been lax on posting recipes. But today I was given an easy solution to my laziness and lack of motivation. The solution: Post food someone else prepared!

In our office we have many thoughtful and generous patients that we are especially fond of. Today one of my very favorite patients, Gail, brought in lunch for our whole team. I asked her why she was so good to us, and she said, "Just cause I enjoy it." I wish I had a heart that loving and giving. But since I don't I'm glad to be on the receiving end of the ones that do.

This amazing woman brought in Caravan rolls, fruit salad, Japanese salad, a vegetable tray, and assorted sweets, crackers, nuts, and chocolates. It was lovely, thoughtful, and Oh, so delicious.

Today's feature recipe is the Japanese salad. She said her girls grew up on this salad, and they still ask her to make it for gatherings.


2 bags of shredded cabbage (or one head cabbage shredded)
2 bunches green onions, chopped
2 or 3 pkgs Top Ramen (use only the noodles) crush slightly
1 cup sunflower seeds
½ to 1 cup sliced of slivered almonds

Saute the seeds and almonds in a skillet with a little vegetable oil until golden brown, stirring often. Let cool.

1 cup vegetable oil
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 tsp. Salt
6 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (I use Nakano Brand “Original” flavor)

Mix all salad ingredients together at serving time and pour dressing over and toss.

SERVES: A crowd of ten or more.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sweet, tart for sweet hearts

My dad has a lemon tree in his backyard that’s abundant with fruit this time of year. Every winter I try to find as many ways as possible to use them. I frequently make lemon meringue pie, lemon cookies, lemon cake, and lemon sauces for fish and vegetables, but I’m especially fond of lemon bars.

If you are looking for a dessert for Valentine's Day that's not chocolate, you can stop looking. Lemon bars have a crisp buttery cookie-like crust, and a filling with enough tart to wake up your tastebuds and enough sugar to satisfy that sweet tooth. Your sweetheart will love them.


For the crust:

1/2 pound butter (2 cubes)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour

For the filling:

6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pulse the butter, flour and powdered sugar in food processor until it is the consistency of corn meal. Pour into 9 X13 X 2 inch pan and press evenly into bottom, building a ½ inch edge on all sides.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.

Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from oven and lightly dust with confectioners' sugar. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into rectangles or triangles and lightly dust again with confectioners' sugar.

Makes approximately 25 bars.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sweet, sweet, the desserts that you gave to me

We are already well into January of a new year and most of us have been busy with chores that we put off during the holidays. During this time, your faithful correspondent has been thinking up recipes to make 2010 fun and exciting for your dinner parties or quiet evenings at home.

We have many options during the winter months, from dishes that warm your souls and fill your stomachs to sweet, sweet desserts that are pleasurable to view as well as to taste. We’ll explore all these possibilities. But I’ve decided to offer up a dessert.

This dessert is a coconut cheesecake. I found the recipe in the Fresno Bee in 1996, but it took me 14 years to get around to baking it. I decided to try it for one of our Christmas Day desserts this season and was very pleasantly suprised. I wasn't sure I would like the texture of coconut in a cheesecake (which is suppose to be smooth and creamy) but was delicious.

This recipe was submitted from Joanne Harland when Harland's Restaurant was at its peak. I'm so glad I hung onto it all these years. So were the cheesecake lovers in the family.


1 package macaroon cookies, crushed
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Combine crumbs and butter and press into the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan, which has been sprayed with cooking spray. Chill the crust while preparing the filling.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 (15 ounce) can cream of coconut
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Beat first 4 ingredients until well blended, add cream of coconut, cream and coconut. Beat just until blended. Pour into crust. Bake until puffed and golden, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven, cool completely. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cookie sheet dinner

Not every meal has to be a fancy feast. Cooking takes creativity and sometimes I don’t feel like being creative. If I’ve had a long day at the office or if I’m cooking for one, I want something I can throw together in under 5 minutes and be done with it.

Well, that’s how I feel tonight… tired, all alone, and hungry for something quick. Tonight the little voice inside of me is screaming, "Cookie sheet dinner."

1. A cookie sheet.
2. Miscellaneous frozen/refrigerator foods.
3.A piece of foil sprayed with Pam.
4. An oven.
5. A fork.
6. A glass of your favorite wine.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place foil over cookie sheet spray with Pam. Spread miscellaneous frozen foods over the foil. Choose foods that cook in about the same amount of time. Bake in oven until cooked or heated through.

Remove cookie sheet from oven and place it on a trivet on the table. Use the cookie sheet as your plate, just don't burn yourself on it. Add seasoning or sauces from refrigerator to food as desired. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your meal.

Wad up used foil when finished eating and toss in trash. Put clean cookie sheet away.

1. You get to clean out the freezer/refrigerator of all those mostly-emptied bags of food that you’re never going to use anyway.
2. You get to eat in 15-20 minutes.
3. You get to drink a glass of wine.
4. The cookie sheet serves as a hot plate and a dinner plate.
5. There is only one thing to wash when you are done, a fork. The wine glass won’t need to be washed yet because you should have refilled it by now.

SERVES 1. (You could double the food and make it a romantic dinner for two. Just put the cookie sheet between the two of you and dig in.)

Dinner doesn’t get any easier than this.