valentine’s day

February 18th, 2013 | Posted by admin in UPDATES - (0 Comments)

How lucky am I?  My hubby brought me two dozen roses in a beautiful shade of pink and orange (my favorite!).  He remembered where I go for wholesale flowers, how perfect!  I am beyond happy as the fragrance is amazing and so are the flowers.

As for our dinner plans… he made steak and lobster with a twice-baked potato and sugar snap peas.  The potato is courtesy of “Foodstuffs”.  It was delicious and so nice to have him cook for me.  For dessert I made a Banana Tarte Tatin.  I melted about 1/3 stick of salted butter with ¾ cup of brown sugar in an iron skillet.  Added about 5 medium sliced bananas and cooked for another minute.  Then I rolled out a sheet of puff pastry dough that I had defrosted in the fridge and covered the banana mixture.  I cooked for approx. 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Then I inverted the pastry onto a plate and served with vanilla ice cream.  It was delicious. You could try this with pears, peaches, or apples.  Easy!  I’m sorry we ate it so fast I forgot to take many pictures.  Enjoy!



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I have made these luscious brownie bite cookies without filling and cut out in many different shapes.  The recipe was from the blog cookbook by Deb Perlman “The Smitten Kitchen”.  Since Valentines Day is approaching I cut out hearts.  Then I noticed the cover of Martha Stewart magazine covered in a variety of colorful sandwich cookies.  I took the brownie cookie recipe and filled them with Martha’s cream filling.  It’s a wonderful treat to make for family or to drop off for friends.  Enjoy!


• 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for counter
• 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
• ¾ teaspoon table salt
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• 16 tablespoons butter, softened
• 1 ½ cups sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla


• Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl, and set aside.

• Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until fluffy.

• Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl.  Mix in vanilla.  Gradually mix in the dry ingredients.

• Wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 1 hour.

• Roll out the cookie dough on a floured counter.  Cut into desires shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top.  (It does disappear once baked, though; so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.)


• Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies), until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.

• Transfer to a wire rack to cool.


• ½ stick unsalted butter, softened
• 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
• ¼ cup granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk, if needed


• Beat butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

• Reduce speed to low, and gradually add sugars, beating until thoroughly combined.

• Beat in vanilla.

• If filling is too thick to spread, beat in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until spreadable.

• Build the sandwiches with one cookie on bottom, cream filling in the middle, and another cookie on top.


NOTE: You can sprinkle powdered sugar on cookies or just leave them as is.  If you make a big batch you can always wrap a few up for gifts!



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Now that’s a mouthful! Yes, pun intended. Let’s go to the southern hemisphere for a change in order to recommend another special holiday wine which represents a great value. Casa Lapostolle, located in the Colchagua valley of Chile has a 150+ year history of making wine and spirits. You’ve probably heard of Grand Marnier cognac liqueur, well this is the same family who now makes excellent wines.

Their flagship wine is called Clos Apalta ($85), a blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, which has won previous “wine of the year” awards.

The Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet is can be found for around $20-$25. Currently, Total Wine carries it for $22. This beautiful Cab received 92 points from the Wine Spectator and made into their top 100 wines of the year list.

A perfect Cab for a standing rib roast, it is dark, smoky, and fully bodied, carrying fine tannins, which lead to a long finish. It’s ready to drink now and can be enjoyed for the next 6-8 years. Don’t wait too long to get some, there were only 10,700 cases made. A value like this won’t stay on the shelves very long.



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Australia is best known for its big shirazes, but certain areas are well suited for other varietals. The Limestone Coast is one area that does very well with cabernet.

Australian cabernet is a very different style than California cabernet, which always brings us back to the dirt or terroir as the French like to say. Many Aussie cabs are ready to drink young and this one is definitely ready now.

This cab is smooth, velvety and carries the typical up front fruit profile of Australian red wines. But is still has a solid structure and a clean finish. We recently had this with filet mignon covered with gorgonzola cheese sauce and it was outstanding.

The Wine Spectator rated it 90 points last April. I found it at Total Wine for $15. I was surprised to find it because there were only 2000 cases produced. I hope I can get there again before its gone, maybe you can too!



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This is a recipe from Smitten Kitchen’s new cookbook.  I found the dough a bit thick but the flavors excellent.  The next time I make this I may try using the “DuFour” puff pastry dough instead.  This is a perfect winter lunch, appetizer or dinner!  Enjoy!


• 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup ice water

• 1 small butternut squash (about one pound)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter (if you have only non-stick, the smaller amount will do)
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
• 1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
¾ cup fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated or cut into small bits
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves



• Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

• Prepare squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

• Caramelize onions: While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

• Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.

• Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

• Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.




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The best pinot noirs are elegant, graceful, and balanced. Here is a pinot that is dark, rich, and flamboyant in style. Belle Glos is the winery and they are known for producing outstanding single vineyard pinot noirs under their Belle Glos label which fall in the $45-$50 price range.

However, the Meiomi label which has only been around for a few vintages can be found in the $16-$20 price range and is well worth the few extra dollars beyond my normally under $15 value wines. I found it in Costco for $17.99. Since this is the holiday season I wanted to suggest a few special wines that are still very reasonable for what they deliver.

Now back to the wine. This vintage of Meiomi recently received 92 points from the Wine Spectator. It was sourced from vineyards in Santa Barbara, Monterrey, and Sonoma. Take your time to enjoy the rich dark berry and vanilla aromas along with a very long and satisfying finish. You can drink this pinot for the next 8 years if you can hold on to it that long. This is a very versatile wine and will pair well with grilled salmon, rotisserie chicken, and even a standing rib roast.



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recipe: chicken pot pie

January 22nd, 2013 | Posted by admin in Entrées | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

I love pot pies, chicken, beef, and lobster.  This recipe is Ina garten’s but I use Dufour pastry dough for the topping.  It’s the perfect puff pastry and a pantry (freezer) staple in my house.  When it’s cold outside this is a wonderful meal to serve with a great salad and a glass of wine… maybe even in front of a warm fire.  Enjoy!


• 3 whole chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on (split)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• Kosher salt
• Fresh ground black pepper
• 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
• 2 chicken bouillon cubes
• 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
• ¾ cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup heavy cream
• 2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
• 1 (10 ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
• 1 ½ cups frozen small whole onions
• ½ cup minced fresh


• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

• Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil.

• Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

• Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through.

• Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin.

• Cut the chicken into large dice.

• In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock.

• In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.

• Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

• Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce.

• Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick.

• Add 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream.

• Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

• Use the Defour Pastry Dough… remember to defrost in the fridge for two to three hours.

• Roll out dough and cut out around your ramekin to fit, making sure it hangs over the edge.

• Use an egg wash to brush on dough. (Egg wash: 1 egg & 1 tablespoon of water whisked).  You can use extra dough to cut out show flakes, leaves or hearts.

• Divide the filling equally among 4-6 ovenproof bowls.

• Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top.

• Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl.

• Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick.

• Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top.

• Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper.

• Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.



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I know it has been a while since we had an entry from “The Wine Buddy”.  I have missed him, but then I can make a call and get all my wine questions answered.  It’s a new year and every meal can be special when accompanied by a wonderful wine selection.

Calling all Chardonnay lovers!  Here’s a fantastic chardonnay for a great price, especially if you live near Costco.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, located in the Columbia Valley of Washington state is one of my favorite value based wineries, just like Columbia Crest.  They make several levels of many varietals.  The Indian Wells line is comparable to the H3 series that Columbia Crest produces.

This sleek chardonnay brings lemon, pear, and spice to the forefront and leaves a subtle intensity on the finish.  It is refreshing and offers enough complexity to keep you coming back for more. I found this for $13 at Costco, but if you can find it for $15 or under you are getting a great deal.  Another Wine Spectator outstanding selection, this received 90 points recently.

Great with light appetizers like humus, cheeses, or perfect with shellfish and light chicken dishes.  There were 20,000 cases made and it should be great for 3-5 years.  But there’s no need to hold onto it because Chateau Ste. Michelle will certainly produce similar quality year after year.



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I have made this soup many times this winter, it’s easy and delicious, the perfect combination.  I may add a bit more curry and top the soup off with toasted cashews or leeks… be creative.


• 4 cups cubed butternut squash
• 2 medium sweet onions, chopped/diced
• 4 cloves of garlic, minced
• 3 medium Granny Smith apples, cubed
• 4 tablespoons of good olive oil
• Dash of Kosher salt
• 4-5 cups of chicken stock, preferably homemade
• ½ cup heavy whipping cream
• 1 tsp of curry
• Salt & pepper to taste



• Roast the chopped apples and squash, drizzled with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, in a 400-degree oven for approximately 40 minutes or until they are tender.

• Sauté the onions and 2 tbsp of oil in a large heavy pan, cook until clear, then add garlic and cook for another minute.

• Add the roasted squash and apples with stock and cook for 5 minutes.  Emulsify the soup with an immersion blender.

• When smooth add the cream and curry.  Add more stock if needed and salt & pepper to taste.



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the joy of cooking for others

January 9th, 2013 | Posted by admin in UPDATES - (0 Comments)

I started this blog to catalog meals that I had made for my family.  Then I met an amazing client that changed my life and she had me cooking for her.  She broadened my vision of cooking in my life.  The understanding that food is more than just nourishment was not something new to me.  It has always been a source of comfort and joy sharing dinner with family and friends… but bringing that feeling to others was new.  Food, and I guess I can say my food, has allowed me to enter the lives of my clients and bring that joy into their homes.

I have been cooking for the past several months for another special client, someone who brought his food to all of us.  I originally met him back in the 60’s, a family friend.  I cannot begin to do justice to all his accomplishments, but he pioneered the fast food icon ” McDonald’s” with Ray Kroc.  I was fortunate to get to cook for him all the comfort foods we grew up eating.  I had a menu printed for each meal I would serve.  He loved a good soup, a great cut of meat, and always a special dessert.  I think his favorite meal was a piping hot chicken or beef pot pie… his eyes would light up and that smile and look of contentment I won’t easily forget.  That reaction is what makes cooking so worth the effort when you know someone is loving your food and it makes them feel good… it warmed my heart.  I printed my last menu for him this past Monday.  Fred Turner passed away surrounded by his loving family.  I will miss beyond words Fred’s smile, his clenched fist high five, his kind words about my meals, and the encouragement he gave me as a cook.  I ate my favorite meal at McDonald’s today in honor of Fred, comfort food I grew up with that will always bring good memories and a smile to my face.  Thank you, Fred.



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