Gluten free and Dairy free dessert, the ultimate challenge

June 30, 2012

I recently received a request for a Gluten free, dairy free chocolate cake for an event.   After much research and some trial and error, I created this one.  It has a rich tasting chocolate frosting, a moist chocolatey interior and a filling of raspberry between the layers.  It was well received and I have received a second order for another.


3 Minute Chocolate “Cup” Cake

February 15, 2012

OK. I apologize for not posting a picture. I must say that this is such a quick and yummy recipe, I got carried away. Peter and I tore into it warm from the microwave with a bit of fresh whipped cream on top and it was amazing. I saw the recipe on Michael Symon’s Symon’s Suppers on the Cooking Channel and I just had to try it for Valentine’s day. So easy, so simple, so so good.

Total Time: 10 min

Prep:5 min

Cook:5 min

Yield:4 to 6 servings



8 ounces room-temperature butter, cubed

8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 pint ice cream, such as salted caramel flavor, for serving

Good quality maraschino cherries, such as Luxardo, for serving



Melt the butter and chocolate together in a glass bowl set over a double boiler, or for 60 seconds in the microwave.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, orange zest, salt and eggs. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture. Divide the batter among 4 large or 6 medium coffee cups.

Microwave for 50 seconds to 2 minutes on high, depending on the number of cakes, the power of your microwave and how molten you like your cakes. Let cool for 30 seconds. Top with the ice cream and cherries, and serve.


Boiled Water

December 21, 2011

Here is a recipe for the novice who wants to embark on the road to creative cuisine but may think they lack the skills to do so. This is best taken with a grain of salt (or two). Happy Holidays!

Boiling water is essential to many recipes. If you have never cooked before, don’t worry. It is not as difficult as it may appear. This recipe will guide you through the process, even if you have never set foot in a kitchen.

Special equipment: 12-quart stockpot


Open your cupboard or wherever it is you store your cookware.

Locate a 12-quart stockpot. If you do not have a 12-quart stockpot, you may use whatever size pot you have; in that event, keep in mind that serving size here is 1 cup and there are 4 cups in a quart. Do the math.

Place your pot in the sink under the tap. If you have never used a sink before, it is the large depression in your counter top. (If you live with someone else, they may have filled it with dirty dishes; in this case, wash them or simply remove them from the sink and place them in the oven — someone else will eventually discover them there and wash them.)

Turn the cold-water knob to the “on” position. Some people (like my dad) prefer to let the water run a little bit. This is optional but encouraged — if it’s a hot day or someone has previously used the “hot” water knob, the warmer water will eventually be replaced by truly cold water.

Fill stockpot to within a couple inches of the rim.

Lift stockpot from sink and transfer to stove. (Although appearances may vary, the stove is the thing with 4 or more circular metal bands on top of it; alternately, it may be a completely flat black glass surface. If you are unsure, ask your family, roommate, or neighbor for guidance.)

Find knob on stove that corresponds to the “burner” you have placed your pot on. In addition to words like “Right Front” or “Left Rear,” there are usually little pictures near the knobs to indicate position.

Turn knob to “High” and wait until water boils. Depending on strength of your stove and amount of water, the boiling time may vary. Note: DO NOT WATCH THE POT; it will never boil in the event that you do.

Boiled water may be used for any number of applications. Serve hot but do not drink. Serves 48, cooking time 5 minutes, total time varies.

Alternate methods
Depending on water application, you may want to salt the water. Do this after the water has come to a boil.

Placing a lid on the pot will help it boil faster, with the additional benefit of blocking water from your line of sight, which, as stated above, inhibits the boiling process.

Poinsettia Cookies

December 20, 2011

These are super easy to make and you can use just about any sugar cookie recipe you like. Just make your recipe and chill over night. Then divide the dough into portions to color the dough as you like with food colors. Gel colors make the brightest colors but you can use the liquid ones from your local grocery if that is all you have available.

Take about two teaspoons for each petal and leaf. Use just small balls of yellow for the centers. They turn out so cute!

I have also used this method to make Christmas packages. It’s a good way to use up small amounts of left over colors.

Just change up the colors to make what you like. Roll out the dough and cut into rectangles or squares and decorate as you wish. Just let your creativity flow and have some holiday fun.

Pistachio Raspberry Cookies

December 20, 2011

These cookies are very easy to make and are lovely for holiday entertaining or gift giving. You can make the dough the first day and refrigerate overnight and then bake them the next day. I used semi-sweet chocolate for half of the cookies and white chocolate melts for the other half.


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons Spice Islands® pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 9 drops green food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios
  • 9 drops red food coloring
  • 3 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • Additional chopped pistachios, optional


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and extracts. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Divide dough in half. Stir green food coloring, milk and nuts into one portion; mix well. Add red food coloring and jam to the other half.
  • Between two pieces of waxed paper, shape each portion into an 8-in. x 6-in. rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise. Place one green rectangle on a piece of plastic wrap. Top with one pink rectangle; press together lightly. Repeat, forming a second stack. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  • Remove one stack from the refrigerator at a time. Unwrap dough; cut in half lengthwise. Return one portion to the refrigerator. Cut remaining portion into 1/8-in. slices. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 7-9 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • Drizzle cooled cookies with melted chocolate. Sprinkle with additional pistachios if desired. Yield: 6-1/2 dozen.



Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 84 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 12 mg cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein.

Beef Braised in Red Wine with Chinese Mushrooms

October 31, 2011

This is an amazing recipe for use with beef.  It can be sirloin, chuck or rump, as long as the cut is one large piece and not slices.  The dried Chinese mushrooms add umami to the dish and it becomes something incredibly luscious and satisfying. 

I made this on a cold Cleveland evening for dinner and served it with polenta to soak up the wonderful gravy that it makes. You could also use potatoes or rice is that is your preference. This is a dish that is best made on the weekend because it requires marinating in the frig for a couple of hours and then it is cooked low and slow to break it down into meat that nearly melts in the mouth.

About 2 lb. of beef
2 c. red wine
12 large dried Chinese black mushrooms or more if small
3 T. soy sauce
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 fresh thyme sprigs
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the beef and the wine in a bowl that will hold them comfortable. Place the mushrooms in a 1 cup measuring cup and fill with boiling water. Allow to steep 10 minutes to rehydrate them. Transfer the mushrooms, along with the mushroom liquid that has be strained, into the bowl with the beef. Stir in the soy sauce. Cover and marinate in the frig for two to three hours.

Heat the oen to 300 degrees. Transfer the meat to several sheets of paper towels and pat it dry. Heat the oil in a cast iron pan on medium-high and lightly brown the beef. Remove and lower the heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add the thyme, the marinade and the mushrooms and cook on high 8 to 10 minutes until reduced by half. Return the beef to the pan, cover and bake about 2 1/2 hours or until fork-tender.

Remove the beef from the pan. Add the remaining vegetables and broth to a blender and blend until smooth. If it is too thick, add a bit of water to bring it to gravy consistency.







Taza on West 6th in Cleveland

October 25, 2011

Taza is a new spot, recently opened in the Warehouse district of Cleveland.  It is in the spot where Crop was located before Steve Schimoler moved it to Ohio City.  It has gotten a nice redo to give it a Middle Eastern vive.  Walls and ceiling are draped with gauzy fabrics and the lighting is softly covered with lengths of fabric and beads which give an intimate feel to it.

Taza is part of the Cleveland-based Aladdin’s restaurant chain (which has locations in Chicago, Charlotte, Raleigh, Toledo, Detroit, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Arlington and San Antonio!), Taza is known for its wide variety of traditional mezza (Lebanese for ‘tapas,’ or appetizers).    Her twin sister is located in Woodmere.    The menu says that Taza uses no sulfites or any type of preservatives in the food and only the freshest vegetables and meats.  The freshness was apparent in the foods we were served.

I was there is week as part of a group who came on the recommendation of one of my husband’s  co-workers, Tom R., who had eaten there once and said it was really good.  It turns out that “really good”  was a bit of an understatement.  The food rocked!

The menu has a nice assortment of fresh, healthy choices including many vegetarian dishes.  Here a vegetarian does not have to settle for only a couple of salad choices for a meal.

We ordered assorted  entrées and this is a review of those seated around me.  With a bit of encouragement, I took some photos which I would love to share.

The server brought out some warm puffy pita bread with Zaatar (an ancient Middle Eastern herb) and olive oil, sprinkled with sesame seeds, for dipping which was really good.  Some of the bread was puffed and some was traditional flat pita.  I don’t know if they go by different names but it was all good.  I particularly liked the warm puffs of bread which I tore and dipped into the oil.

Upon the recommendation of Tom, I ordered the “Tour of Lebanon” which gave a nice variety of things to sample.  I was a large serving of  Shawarma (shaved beef that has been skewered and cooked for hours) with grilled onions,  Shish Tawook  (grilled chicken (marinated in a yogurt puree over couscous),  Lebanese Salata ( a mixture of chopped tomato, green pepper, cucumber, onions, olives and feta in a lemon-herb dressing),  Hummos ( a puree of chickpeas, tahini and lemon)  and Baba, short for  baba ghanoush (char-grilled eggplant with tahini and lemon).  Everything was spot on for flavors.  The serving was quite ample and I took half of it home for lunch the next day.

My husband had the falafel which came with chopped tomatoes and onions in a lemon herb dressing along with the Shawarma plate which had rice.  He offered me a taste of the falafel, which had a crispy outer layer with a flavorful soft center.   His loved the Shawarma as did I.

Suzanne L., seated next to me, had Makanek (baby sausages made with spiced beef and lamb, sautéed in a lemon-pomegranate sauce.  She offered me a taste of the sauce on some pita and it was well balanced and tasty.  She also got a salad with was huge and she took half of it to go.

We finished the meal with Baklawa (a thin, phyllo dough desert, sweetened with syrup and dusted with pistachio dust).  It had a nice buttery flavor and was not overly sweet.

Our server was great in making suggestions for us to try if we were unsure of something.  She was attentive without being annoying.

While we were eating, the owner, Fady Chamoun, checked frequently to see that we were all pleased with our meals.  He showed us his new, soon to be finished private party room which promises to be quite lovely.  We all left with satisfied smiles on our faces.  We must go back again soon.

Escargot Pops

September 15, 2011

I was watching an episode of The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Television and saw a truck in San Francisco that did French food. They were offering an escargot pop which was basically a snail wrapped in puff pastry on a stick. This gave me the idea of trying this at home for my friend, Charlotte, who was coming from out of town for a visit.

Since I was offering them as a first course for dinner, I did not put a stick in them but this could easily be done if you want them “to go”.

I like to use puff pastry from Trader Joe’s if I am not taking the time to make it from scratch. I like theirs because it only contains real ingredients that you will recognize.

A hot oven is necessary to get the pastry to really puff up. Gruyère has a lovely nutty flavor and will add a lot to your dish.

To make the snail butter, just add some fresh minced garlic and parsley to softened butter.

If you want them in the form of a pop, then use two sheets of puff pastry and cut into larger squares so you can completely encase the filling so it won’t leak out.

Here is the recipe that I developed to give you the classic flavors of escargot that usually comes swimming in melted garlic butter along with a large chunk of bread for soaking up all the butter, but with a lot fewer calories and fat.

1 sheet of puff pastry
1 can of jumbo snails
2 oz. of Gruyère, cut into small pieces
Small amount of snail butter

Cut the pastry into squares to pair with the number of snails you have.

Place a small piece of Gruyère in the middle of each square and place in a mini muffin tin that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Place a snail on top of Gruyère and then finish with a small amount of the butter.

Pinch the corners of the pastry together just at the tip. They will open and puff up beautifully in the oven and that is what you want.

Bake in a 450 degree preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden and puffed.

Black and Blue Mojito

June 3, 2011

This is a great drink for a warm summer’s day. I tried it a couple of weeks ago and can’t resist them now. Grab some fresh berries at the farmer’s market and some limes and try it.

4 blueberries plus one for garnish
10 blackberries plus one for garnish
10 mint leaves plus one sprig for garnish
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. rum
Crushed ice

Muddle the berries, mint, lime juice and simple syrup in a rocks or old-fashioned glass.

Add the rum and ice. Stir gently.
Garnish with berries and mint sprig

Basic White Bread

April 13, 2011

I have been spending the last couple of months baking bread every few days and have gotten quite spoiled by it. The house smells amazing on baking day and you can hardly wait to tear into a fresh loaf.

This is a recipe based on one from James Beard. I have made a couple of changes to suit our tastes. It is great for sandwiches as it has a fine crumb and is very tender.

4 c. all purpose flour
1 T. salt
1 package of dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
10 oz. water

Start by mixing 1/2 c. of warm water, the yeast and sugar together. Let it set in a warm place for about 15 minutes until it is really foamy. This way you know your yeast is active and ready to have fun.

Place about 3 3/4 c. in a bowl and add the bubbly yeast, salt, 3/4 c. of warm water and knead for about 10 minutes. If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook, you can use that instead. Slowly add another 1/4 to 1/2 c. of flour while kneading. Poke it with a finger and see how it depresses and feels to your touch. The dough should be soft but not sticky. It can vary depending on the temperature of the room and the humidity so you have to go by feel. If it is sticky, add a bit more flour and knead a couple of minutes and check again. Roll into a nice round ball.

Spray a bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in it and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap. Let set about 2 hours in a warm place and let rise until double in size.

Check after 1 1/2 hours as sometimes it will rise faster and sometimes slower.

Punch it down. This means to push on dough and it will deflate. Knead a couple of times with your hands and roll into a nice smooth rectangle. Place in a bread pan that has been sprayed with pan spray.

Let rise again until about 1 inch above the pan. This usually takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Brush your bread with cold water and place in oven and bake for 35 minutes or until it reaches about 200 degrees inside with an instant read thermometer. If you want a crisper crust on bottom of loaf, remove from pan and let bake another 5 minutes just sitting on the oven rack.

Remove and place on cake rack to cool. This is really the hardest part because the bread smells so good and you just want to cut into it but waiting is the thing to do.