Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all a very happy New Year! We spent the holidays with Michael's family in Prescott Valley, AZ and it was the first time in 12 years together I'd had a chance to meet all his brothers and sisters! We had a marvelous time and ended the holiday with a trip to the Grand Canyon.

I'm looking forward to a couple weeks off from cooking and then I'll be back with some new recipes including some experiments with selections from Julia Child's classic cookbook that I received as a Christmas present from Michael.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos from our Grand Canyon trip!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Spice Drop Cookies

This afternoon I decided to crack open Charleston Receipts and see what I could find for cookies that didn't require granulated sugar or powdered sugar. I'd run out of both and wanted to do a bit more baking before Michael got home with my resupply.

As luck would have it, I ran across a recipe for "Sugarless Drop Cookies" that looked pretty interesting. Although I don't like using light corn syrup in my baking (except for candies and some icings as a binder), I decided to try out this one that used light corn syrup and honey as the sweeteners. I played around with the recipe just a bit and since I had some pecan pieces left from other projects, decided to add them too.

The result was pretty good. This turned out almost like a mock ginger snap. It has a little bite to it thanks to the spices and isn't overly sweet. I've adjusted the baking temperature a bit because, as an older recipe, the temp was pretty high for a cookie. The first batch were crisper than I really liked so dropping the temp kept them crisp but also a bit chewy in the centers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Butterscotch Blondie Cookies

The holiday baking continues with a nice recipe for a Butterscotch Blondie Cookie. This is, for the most part, a sugar cookie with butterscotch chips. Still, they're surprisingly different with the butterscotch taste. They're also pretty simple to make and this recipe makes a generous 50 cookies or so.

I found that rolling them in sugar before baking gives them a nice "Christmasy" look. This is a great cookie for those holiday gift baskets, trays, and tins since the are tasty, easy, and inexpensive to make. I'm one of those people who abhors the cliche of the Christmas tree sugar cookie and while I love gingerbread, I prefer a real soft gingerbread to the cardboard that passes for gingerbread men and women this time of year. So, something that is quick and easy but also a little different fits my requirements when I'm baking in volume for presents.


My apologies for the construction on the blog at the moment. It seems that December is the month from Hell for all things computer. I've been using a template designed by someone in exchange for links to their site. Unfortunately, they did not keep up their end of the bargain and allowed their hosting of background images and other elements to expire. So, I'm having to redo the theme for this blog. as if I don't have enough to do.

Pecan Clusters

The things you see when your laptop dies and you get bored and watch TV instead of reading newsfeeds or wasting time on Facebook. In this case it was a recipe by Paula Deen for Pecan Clusters.

Yes, I was getting my "back home" fix and watching Paula's show on Christmas Cookies and she whipped up a batch of this quick but delicious chocolate candy with pecans. In some ways it's similar to divinity but without the use of egg white and beating forever. It's also chocolate which is always a plus.

You can make this in less than 20 minutes total and have it chilling and setting up in the fridge, perfect for holiday trays or tins. In fact, this was the first candy in the rebirth of Mama's Christmas gift tins tradition. I actually got enough out of this recipe for two tins of candy with about half a dozen left over to enjoy! The recipe says it makes about 6 dozen but, of course, I make them a bigger than most of these recipe people because - I like to know I'm eating something!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review: Martha’s Noel Nut Balls

IMG_3904 Really? Noel Nut Balls? Martha, we’ve got to do better on names. Unfortunately, the title of this recipe puts me in mind of Alec Baldwin’s classic SNL sketch “Pete Scweddy’s Balls.”
Anyway, I ran across this while bored and watching Martha Stewart via cable On-Demand service. I was intrigued because the recipe seemed quite similar to Mama’s own Russian Tea Cakes as well as one of my favorite store-bought Christmas Cookies, “Cashew Nougats” by Archway.  Actually, comparing my Mama’s recipe and Martha’s recipe they are nearly identical except for the use of the bourbon and honey. 
This evening I undertook what I believe is my first Martha Stewart recipe. To be honest, I think most of her stuff is, well, over the top. I did have fun reading the comments on the site, though. Martha has quite the following and not all of them are quite up to speed on those cooking skills. One woman was complaining that she thought because these had bourbon that they were bourbon balls. She was upset they turned out to be a cookie! Of course, a cursory glance at the ingredients is going to tell you these are going to be a cookie texture!
The results were quite good. I was pleased and sure enough the texture was pretty close to my favorite “Cashew Nougat” cookies although just a touch more dense. However, that was not a detraction.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mardi Gras Cake

I had originally planned to post this for Mardi Gras, but thanks to a local storytelling group, I was asked to tell this story for their "Kitchen Confidential" series tonight.

So, rather than wait, I'll go ahead and let you hear it too. Just in case you weren't around Hotel Congress in Tucson tonight. Bon chance, cher!

In 1988 I found myself on a trip to New Orleans with Mama. I was lucky to be the star student in my nursing program at Piedmont Technical College in South Carolina and was chosen to attend a medical seminar down there.

My brother, who was a travel agent had arranged a rental car for us to make the trip because Mama still drove a 1977 Mercury station wagon barely up to driving to the mailbox much less Louisiana. He'd also arranged for us to stay at a 5 star hotel in the French Quarter. This was no small affair because we spent most of our childhood staying in motels, if we were lucky and almost never chain ones. Many times our family vacation would consist of driving to Myrtle Beach about 4 in the morning, changing into swimsuits in the back of the car with the windows blocked by blankets and coming home when it got dark. In fact, before this trip a hotel with inside hallways was a very rare event in Mama's life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Cookie Cutters

01-107 Recently, I was browsing blogs and came across a review of some cookie cutters from Ann Clark, Ltd. The information on the company made me want to try their product since they are located in Vermont (one of my favorite places), are a small business, and still handcraft their cookie cutters rather than mass producing them in sweatshops in China.
So, I ordered four designs since free shipping was offered on orders of four or more. The designs I chose were a Saguaro cactus (because I live in Tucson), a snowflake, a butterfly, and a dog bone (because I’m making doggie treats for canine friends for Christmas).
My cookie cutters arrived in just a few days. I noticed at once that they were sharper than most you find in retail stores. They also come with a card with a recipe attached with a bow.
I couldn’t wait to try them, so decided to use the recipe for Sugar Cookies that came on the card.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Posting has slowed down recently and there are a couple reasons for that. The main reason is one I’ve mentioned in passing before: back trouble.
Back trouble, that sounds so like my grandmother. Unfortunately, this is not her Rheumatism so often afflicting her in the Winter. Over the past year I’ve dealt on and off with some pretty severe pain. When I went in for my annual physical in October I made a point of discussing the pain and how it was getting worse with my doctor. He ordered a few X-rays and off I went.
compression_fracture Fast forward to Monday when I went for my next visit. He pulled out the results and consulted them. Three, count ‘em three, fractures in my Thoracic vertebra. A number of nodes in my Lumber vertebra indicating a degenerative process. Decreased intervertebral spaces (read compressed disks) as well. Not a great report but at least we know why I hurt so bad.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

White Chocolate Pecan Cookies

IMG_3880 Yes, I’ve been very remiss in my posting and baking the past couple weeks. But, I have good excuses that I won’t go into here. Let’s just say that this afternoon I decided I wanted something with white chocolate.
I decided to do a cookie that combined white chocolate, some cocoa flavors and pecans. This cookie baked up fairly crisp and I was hoping for a more soft and cakey texture so I’ll keep working on this one. But, I think you’ll enjoy the result especially if you like a more crisp texture to your cookies. The pecans I used were salted and toasted so they give a neat counterpoint to the white chocolate! For presentation, I melted two squares of white chocolate in the microwave and just drizzled the cookies with it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Butterscotch Fudge

IMG_3876 I don’t often do candy. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I made something that could be classified as “candy". The main reason for that is that most candy recipes are fairly difficult and require any number of arcane techniques and steps – few of which I’ve ever successfully mastered.
Part of the reason is that when it comes to baking, I’m cheap. I don’t like wasting ingredients and with candies unless you’re very good there’s always a chance it will all be for naught. So, I tend to shy away from it because I loathe tossing an entire batch of something in the trash and starting over.
That said, I ran across a recipe the other day for Butterscotch Fudge that was quick and simple. It didn’t call for a lot of the usual fudge steps that could lead to disaster. So, I decided to give it a try. The results were outstanding.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chocolate Mocha Cake

IMG_3868 I was very upset over the vote on Marriage Equality in Maine. I won’t do politics on here because this is my escape from that part of my life. Let’s just say that any heartbreak calls for chocolate and lots of it!

So, I cracked open MY bible, Charleston Receipts and found a lovely recipe for a Chocolate Cake with Mocha frosting. What the heck? It sounded delicious and chocolate on chocolate was just what the doctor ordered!

This is one of those cakes the Realtors should bake when they’re showing houses. The smell of warm chocolate permeating the house at 4 in the morning was to die for! The cake itself is a lovely dark color and the frosting that uses a bit of coffee as well as cocoa is heavenly. I think you’ll really enjoy this one.

I didn’t tamper with this recipe it at all, although a little voice in the back of my head kept screaming, “Do THREE layers and make the middle white chocolate!” Alas, little voice, not today. But, I’m keeping it in mind for the future. In fact, I’ve been thinking of doing a double chocolate marbled cake with white and dark chocolate swirls. But, we’ll save that for later.

Anyway, this turned out nicely and I just had to figure out the layering to disguise the fact that one of my cake pans was slightly smaller (not quite 9” but bigger than 8” – where the heck did I find that?). So, with a little creativity we made it work. Note: I am NOT a cake decorator, it is a skill I do not possess and all attempts to educate me in that art form have failed miserably!

So, here is the Chocolate Mocha Cake. Enjoy it with love…


1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup sour milk*
1 tsp Soda dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp Vanilla
2 cups Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
2 oz. (2 squares) chocolate melted (I use semi-sweet)


Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, milk, vanilla and beat until smooth. Sift together flour and baking powder. Alternate flour mixture with milk beating until incorporated and smooth. Melt chocolate in microwave or double broiler. Allow to cool slightly and add to mixture beating until well mixed. Pour batter into two 9” round pans and bake for 30 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

Mocha Frosting:

3 tbls. butter (softened) 
3-6 tbls. cold strong coffee
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. Vanilla
6 tsp. Powdered Cocoa

Cream together the powdered sugar and butter adding the cooled coffee as needed to help with creaming. Add vanilla and cocoa and beat or whip until smooth and a good consistency to frost cake. If frosting is too stiff add a bit more of the coffee.

*To make Sour Milk add a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to the milk and allow to stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

IMG_3855 I ran across a recipe for Nutella cupcakes at Baking Bites. It sounded delicious but I didn’t have Nutella and was in no mood to go shopping so late. So, I thought, “Why not use peanut butter?”

So, I toyed with the recipe a bit and used Peanut Butter in place of Nutella. It’s not as pretty and it’s a bit tricky because unless you get the peanut butter swirled in really good, it tends to center itself and sink during baking. In fact, I think it might make sense to actually beat in the peanut butter before putting in the cups since it doesn’t really create a “swirl” pattern like in the Nutella recipe.

So, here’s my take on this recipe:

IMG_3853 2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tblsp powdered cocoa
3 tblsp Cream (or milk)
About 1/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
Cream together butter and sugar until light. Add in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until batter is uniform and no flour remains. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin liner with batter until they’re about 3/4 full. Top each a heaping teaspoon of Peanut Butter. Swirl Peanut Butter in with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of batter up over the top. Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Appearing at Odyssey in December

I’m honored and flattered that Odyssey Storytelling has invited me to their December event to tell one of my “Mama Stories” about food and cooking!

The group has been holding events at Club Congress for several years and they’re very popular. Each month stories are grouped around a theme. In December, the theme is “Kitchen Confidential” with stories about food and cooking.

For more information, check out the website and if you happen to be around Tucson on December 3, drop by the Congress hotel and hear a story about Mama, a 5 Star hotel, and swapping recipes. I think you’ll enjoy it.

The folks at Odyssey believe that “everyone has stories from their lives that they love to tell. The act of sharing stories about our journey connects us to other people and in this way, the audience is a vital part of the event. Odyssey Storytelling provides the container to bring together a collection of diverse tellers.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sugar Donut Muffins

IMG_3851 I was looking around for something to bake this afternoon while Michael was teaching his music students. Cakes came to mind but, honestly, I wasn’t up to doing a cake today. The past week or so with back pain has left me still feeling drained. (Note: diagnosis is several compressed disks.)
I thought about Beignets but would have to wait for the dough to rise and chill before I could do it. I could also tell by the time I did that the mood would have passed and I’d just want to lie down and rest. So, what to do?
A few days ago I ran across a recipe thanks to Stumbleupon for a donut inspired muffin. It seemed pretty easy and quick so thought I’d try it out.
The end result was very good. It has a very light taste and texture and when combined with a sugared topping takes similar to a cake donut. The perfect treat on a cool day.
I can see this base recipe lending itself to some other experimentation and maybe even combining it with a sugar glaze like on Krispy-Kreme donuts.
The only real tweaks I made to this recipe was utilizing 1/2 cup of Almond milk with 1/4 cup of cream instead of the milk called for in the recipe. I also added cinnamon to the sugar mixture for the topping because, well… I love cinnamon sugar!
I think you’ll enjoy this one. It’s easy and quick so makes a great compliment to morning or evening coffee.
Sugar Donut Muffins
Recipe from Nicole at
Baking Bites
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tblsp. Cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray or vegetable oil.
In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg until light in color.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Pour into egg mixture and stir to combine. Pour in vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract.
Divide batter evenly into muffin cups or tins, filling each about 3/4 full.
Bake for 15-18 minutes for standard-sized muffins or 11-12 minutes for mini-muffins, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. (Note: I used my jumbo muffin tins and found I had enough batter for about 5 total.)
While muffins are baking, melt butter and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl.
When muffins are done, lightly brush the top of each with some melted butter, remove from the pan and roll in sugar. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Corn Muffins

IMG_3839 Since I haven’t made any cornbread lately, I decided this afternoon to do some corn muffins using a recipe from Colonial Williamsburg. These are excellent muffins with just a bit of sweetness.

Of course, I measured out all the ingredients and sifted my dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. When I reached for the eggs there were none to be found. Undoubtedly, Michael had used the last but hadn’t replaced them. So, there I was with a mixing bowl of ingredients all ready to go. Luckily, he stopped by the store on the way home from work for some other things and got some eggs too. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like baking again until later. (Note: back pain is one of the worst and most annoying pains I’ve ever had!)

Finally, about 9:00 I decided to get up from my comfy chair and get the muffins ready to go. This recipe is included in the Recipes from the Raleigh Tavern Bakery cookbook published by Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Of course, it also includes an original 18th Century version of the “Indian Slapjack” as well. I'll also include it since I think you’ll get a chuckle out of the quantities and how its was prepared:

Indian Slapjacks

One quart of milk, one pint of Indian Meal , 4 eggs, 4 spoons of flour, little salt beat together, baked on griddles or fry in a dry pan, or baked in a pan that has been rubbed with a little suet, lard, or butter.

Now, here’s a more modern version (BTW: Notice that sugar is missing in that original. That is important considering that it is a form of cornbread and true Southern cornbread is still made without sugar.)

Indian Corn Muffins
(Recipes from the Raleigh Tavern Bakery)

1 cup cornmeal (recipe calls for white but I use yellow)
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Salt
3 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tbls. Sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk (may substitute buttermilk)
3 tbls. butter, melted


Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin tins. Sift cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar together. Combine eggs, milk, and butter and add to dry ingredients. Mix until just blended. Be sure not to over mix. Spoon into muffin tins to the top of each cup. Bake for 20 minutes or until done.

Corn Muffins on Foodista

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake

IMG_3832 As promised, I decided to try my hand at the Chocolate Marble Cheesecake featured on the Food Network site. The recipe submitter there is Gale Gand and the end result tastes great. It’s creamy and slightly tart thanks to the sour cream.

I decided to follow the recipe to a T instead of doing an adaptation which is what I’d normally do because (gasp!) I’ve never done a cheesecake before. In fact, it was only a couple years ago that I actually began to eat cheesecake. It had never particularly looked or sounded appealing to me. Then on a lark I tried a piece in a restaurant (it happened to be a marble cheesecake) and really liked it.

So, for the Wondertwins Horror Fest on Saturday I decide to make this Chocolate Marble Cheesecake. I only had one problem with it and that was it cracked a bit on one side. I think the oven temperature called for in the recipe might be a little high. I think dropping that temperature to 375° might work a bit better, so keep that in mind as I’m reproducing the recipe verbatim.

For a topping (and to slightly disguise the cracked area) I used a chocolate whipped cream. Made with a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder, heavy whipping cream, and powdered sugar.

While the aesthetics of my first cheesecake try were less than spectacular the taste was a hit! In fact, we only had two slices left!

So, here we go, my very first cheesecake!

For the crust:

4 ounces chocolate cookie crumbs (I chose Oreos)
2 tablespoons melted butter

For the filling:

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 yolks
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sour cream, plus 1/4 cup
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled


Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a 10-inch spring form pan.


If needed, use a rolling pin with the cookie crumbs in a sealable plastic bag to crush them. Blend the cookie crumbs with the melted butter, press it into the bottom of the pan, and chill.

In a mixer with a whisk attachment, place the softened cream cheese and whip it. Add the sugar and continue to mix until blended. Add the flour and salt and blend. Add the yolks and eggs gradually, scraping in between then add the vanilla. Add 3/4 cup of the sour cream and mix in. Take off 2 cups of the mixture and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup sour cream with the cooled melted chocolate then whisk it into the reserved 2 cups of filling. Pour a layer of the vanilla filling into the bottom of the pan about 1-inch thick. By large spoonfuls, alternate the 2 fillings to fill the spring form pan. Using the flat face of an icing spatula, swirl the 2 batters slightly to marbleize it.

Bake at 450°F for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 250°F and bake for 1 more hour. Then, turn the oven off and let it cool in the oven 1 hour. The cake will still shimmy, but it is done, it will set up as it chills. Refrigerate the cake overnight. Remove from the spring form pan, slice with a hot, dry knife, and serve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recipe Roundup #1

sugarpies_roundup Coming up on Friday will be a Chocolate Marble Cheesecake I’m making for the “Wondertwins Horror Fest” on Saturday. The WHF is an annual horror movie marathon that Sandy and I started last year the week before Halloween. We love horror movies and get together for an entire day of classic horror on DVD. This year we’ll be having a couple other friends over for the day so it will be loads of fun!

In the meantime, let’s do a little link love and look at some recipes that I’ve run across recently that I think are fabulous.

Over at Annie’s Eats, I came across a Reese’s Cup Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake that took my breath away! Not only is this thing gorgeous but it sounds absolutely beyond belief. I can’t wait to try this cake in the future. This one features a peanut butter icing (I’m weak in the knees right there) as well as mini Reese’s Cups for decoration. Yum!

Want to impress your friends and family? Try this beautiful Chocolate and Caramel Tart from Lottie + Doof. Completely sinful with a chocolate dough bottom, a caramel filling made with crème frâiche and a chocolate ganache topping. Beautiful presentation and you must visit this link for the photos of this dessert alone!

I’ve never been one to bake breads. Somehow the process of kneading dough, beating it down, and hoping it doesn’t end up like a brick was just too daunting. However, I have made Sally Lunn Bread, which is more like a cake than a bread. In a similar vein over at Sleeping Kitten-Dancing Dog is Theresa’s “Doughs Brioche” which is a similarly light and sweeter bread. This looks fairly easy to do and is a beautiful end product. BTW: Did you know that it is thought Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake!” when told the people had no bread, but really said “Let them eat Brioche!”

It’s been a touch cooler here in the desert the past couple days and being from “back East” that puts me in mind of fairs and fair food. Over at Cooking with Annie, Annie brings us a recipe for homemade Funnel Cakes. If you’ve never had Funnel Cakes you are either a terrible snob or have been criminally deprived of sinful junk food! Funnel Cakes are fried dough poured out in thin streams to create a latticework treat. They can be topped with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, apples, strawberries or just about anything. Easy, fun, and delicious!

Punitions… that’s French for punishments. I can’t imagine such delightful little cookies would be punishment though! The basic recipe for these gorgeous little French cookies is very similar to a shortbread, but the end result (being French) is not only pretty but delicate. I can imagine these with a touch of lemon or orange. Over at Smitten Kitchen, there is a lovely recipe for Punitions and a suggestion to try them as a sandwich cookie with a filling. Trés bon!

Let’s end the roundup with some lovely Caramel Truffles from Flagrante Delicía. The recipe is really quite simple and they are beautiful. I can certainly see making tins of these for Christmas presents this year!

Eat well, laugh often and love joyfully! Bon appétit!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies

IMG_3822 Obviously I overbought when I got coconut a couple weeks ago. I’d envisioned coconut macaroons and coconut cake. The macaroons didn’t get done but the coconut cake did. Still, I have way too much coconut in the pantry.

This afternoon I was trying to think of something to use up the coconut. I also had some premium 90% cocoa dark chocolate that I knew we weren’t just going to snack on. So, I decided to try combining my coconut with my chocolate.

What resulted is a Dark Chocolate Chip Coconut cookie. If you’ve ever had the coconut cookies that are in the snack aisle at the grocery store you have an idea of the base taste of these. Then I added the dark chocolate that I’d broken into chips and voila! A tasty cookie treat!

These are delightfully chewy with a rich coconut flavor. The dark chocolate provides a surprising bite of bitter chocolate flavor that nicely compliments the sweet coconut taste. If you aren’t a fan of dark chocolate you might try some bittersweet baker’s chocolate or even milk chocolate chips.

I considered drizzling these with melted dark chocolate for a better presentation but was afraid it might be too chocolaty. If you use a less powerful chocolate a drizzle would be a great visual presentation as well as tasty.

So, here we go: Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
4 oz. Dark Chocolate (75% to 90% cocoa)


Preheat oven to 350°F. If using bar chocolate, crush into chips by breaking with hands then placing in bad and crushing with a mallet. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in separate bowl.  In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together. Beat in the egg and vanilla until fluffy. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut. Fold in the crushed dark chocolate chips. Drop dough by tablespoons (or about 1 1/2 inch balls) onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Allow room for cookies to spread (about 2 to 3 inches). Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden in color. Cool on wire racks.

Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies on Foodista

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Honey Pecan Chicken

IMG_3819 No, this isn’t a dessert or sweet. But, I thought I’d share this great entree anyway. I was casting around the kitchen last night trying to think of something a little different to do with Michael’s usual chicken. I had a bunch of pecans in the pantry because I’d planned to do Russian Tea Cakes but hadn’t gotten around to them. So, I began to think about doing a pecan encrusted chicken breast.

I looked around for some ideas for recipes and finally cobbled together based on one I found at I toyed with a bit to add my own spin. Hope you enjoy it!


2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ground pecans
handful of crushed tortilla chips
1 large egg
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground tellicherry pepper (or black pepper)


Marinate chicken in salt water in refrigerator for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grind pecans and tortilla chips into a meal. Beat cream with honey, then add beaten egg, salt and fresh ground pepper. Put egg wash in one shallow bowl, and pecan/tortilla meal in another. Dip each chicken breast in the egg wash, then into the pecan meal and pat the meal into the breast to form a crust. Place the breasts in a shallow baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray, and bake for 35 minutes at 375F, or until the breasts are done.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chocolate Marble Cake


This has been a busy few days! On Saturday, Tucson held its annual Pride celebration in Reid Park. Of course, I worked the Marriage Equality USA booth for the event. It was a long and tiring day but we had loads of fun and got to share information on the fight for equal marriage and civil rights with hundreds of people. I also had a chance to spend the afternoon with some of the folks from the movie and TV series “Sordid Lives.” Del Shores and Rosemary and Newell Alexander were our guests at the MEUSA booth.

If you haven’t had a chance to see “Sordid Lives” rent it today. It’s a hilarious look at a fictional white trash family in Texas. The Alexanders and Del are some the nicest people you’d ever want to meet and Del kept us in stitches all afternoon with his stories and quips.

3996437595_124bcbea14 Of course, that left me with little time for blogging or baking this weekend as I spent the day on Sunday recovering and resting! In fact, I’d almost forgot that Sunday was National Coming Out Day. On this day each year people are encouraged to come out to family and friends and have conversations about what it means to be a LGBT American and the challenges we face because of religious and social bigotry. So, in case you were wondering: Yes, I am gay. If you’d like to read more about the challenges we face as couples, please take a look at the article on me and Michael that appeared in the Tucson Weekly last week. As luck would have it, late on National Coming Out Day I came across the perfect cupcake… a rainbow lemon drop cupcake! It’s a gorgeous treat and certainly one that I’ll be making next year for both Pride and NCOD!

Finally, yesterday afternoon, I roused myself from my lethargy and decided to do a bit of baking. I wanted something a little different so I decided to adapt an absolutely delicious Kentucky Butter Cake recipe by Annie at Half Hour Meals. Since I still had some milk chocolate chips I thought I’d try adapting it as a Chocolate Marble Cake.

The results were mixed. The cake is delicious. In fact, Michael declared it the best cake I’ve ever done. However, it did not rise as fully as I’d hoped. There could be a couple reasons for that. The chocolate might have been a bit heavy and instead of folding it into the batter I might have done better to whisk it giving it more air. I also stopped in the midst of assembling the batter to answer a phone call from my pharmacy and could well have mismeasured the soda or baking powder. However, despite all that, the more dense texture actually seemed to make the cake better!

IMG_3816 I considered using a ganache or chocolate frosting, but in the end decided against it. I’m glad I did as it really needed nothing extra. The chocolate and vanilla flavors balance wonderfully and a frosting would have overpowered the interplay of tastes. If you want to use some sort of icing, I’d suggest simply drizzling with some caramel or a very lightly flavored vanilla glaze. Honestly, though, it isn’t necessary.

This is a wonderful cake with coffee for brunch or breakfast or for a dessert. I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how it turns out for you.


1 cup butter
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Milk Chocolate Chips


Cream butter gradually adding sugar. Blend in eggs, one at a time. Combine flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Combine buttermilk with vanilla. Add milk and flour mixtures alternately to creamed mixture, ending with dry mixture. Mix well. Separate batter placing 1/3 into separate bowl. Melt 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips in microwave or over double broiler. Allow to cool slightly and fold into 1/3 of batter.  Grease a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan. Place a layer of plain batter in pan then add the chocolate batter and top with remainder of plain batter. Bake at 325° for 60 to 65 minutes. Allow to cool just slightly in pan then turn onto wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mango-Orange Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Coconut Rum Ganache

OK, there's got to be a better name for this, but I wanted to be fancy and make sure I kept that "ganache" in there!

Ganache, doesn't that sound decadent? Mama would have rolled her eyes expecting some complicated French thing with all sorts of arcane directions. "Too fancy!" I can hear her say.

Actually, ganache is very simple. It's just chocolate and cream and perhaps a bit of flavoring (in my case a bit of coconut rum). Super simple to make but it will impress people who aren't privy to our little baking secrets.

So, here's the Mango-Orange Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Coconut Rum Ganache. Or, maybe MOCMICH CRUG? I don't know. Leave some suggestions in the comments!


2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup Simply Mango Orange Juice (or 1/2 cup OJ & 1/2 cup mango juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs


Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix together dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add shortening, juice, and vanilla and beat for about 1 minute on medium speed. Add eggs and beat for another minute. Scrape down bowl and beat on high speed for 1 1/2 minutes until blended nicely and batter is smooth. (This batter is fairly wet and makes very moist cupcakes.)

Line muffin pan with paper cups and spoon batter into each cup until about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out smooth.

Cool for 5 minutes in pan then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Milk Chocolate Coconut Rum Ganache

9 ounces Milk Chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbls. Coconut flavored rum
Toasted flaked coconut for garnish

Using a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until just boiling. Watch closely, as cream will boil over quickly and scorch!

Pour cream over milk chocolate chips in small bowl. Allow milk to begin to melt chocolate for a moment then whisk mixture until smooth. Stir in coconut rum.

Allow ganache to cool just slightly in bowl. Dip each of the cupcakes into the ganache covering the top of the cupcake but being careful not to dip the paper liner or sides into the chocolate ganache. Sprinkle top of cupcake with a bit of flaked toasted coconut. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Orange Ooze Cupcakes on Foodista

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I'd like to introduce a new guest blogger here at Sugar Pies. My dear friend and "wondertwin" Sandra Senecal has kindly agreed to post some of her favorite recipes from time to time. I'm sure you'll love her great recipes. To kick things off she's decided to post her recipe for Sopapillas.

Sopapillas are a fried dough Mexican dish that remind me of beignets. Unfortunately, it's hard to get real sopapillas in many Mexican restaurants back east as they prefer to use a flour tortilla with some honey and cinnamon-sugar spread on it. A REAL Sopapilla involves a light fluffy dough!

So, let's welcome Sandy!

Fresh ingredients are the key. I buy all new ones for this because here in Arizona baking powder, soda and flour really lose their "oomph" quickly.


4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons shortening
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 quarts oil for frying


1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and shortening. Stir in water; mix until dough is smooth. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.
2. Roll out on floured board until 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 3 inch squares. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375° F (190° C). Fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
3. When fresh and hot out of the fryer toss in a paper bag with granulated or powdered sugar.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Malibu® Rum Coconut Cake

A few years ago one of our nephews and his wife became frequent travelers to the Caribbean on cruises. In fact, they even got married while on a cruise. For Christmas one year they brought me and Michael wonderful rum cakes from Tortuga. One of them was a banana flavor and was scrumptious. I became hooked on Caribbean rum cakes.

A few weeks ago as I was sitting outside I thought about combining the rum cake with coconut instead of banana. Then my mind went immediately to my favorite rum, Malibu Coconut Rum!

For the past couple weeks I've been toying with the idea of a recipe for a Malibu® Coconut Rum Cake. Last night, all the stars were aligned and I was feeling a bit better (I've been having back trouble the past few days) so decided to make it.

The results were great. It's a lovely moist cake with a great coconut flavor both in the cake and the frosting. The rum and the addition of Sour Cream give it a little tartness and some orange extract adds an extra citrus note.

I think you'll enjoy this one. Consider it Summer's last gasp or a preview of a great holiday cake.


1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange extract
1/2 cup Malibu® Coconut Rum
1/4 cup sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream


Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla, beating until blended. Add orange extract, beating until blended. Gradually add rum and sour cream, beating until blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add alternately with whipping cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter until blended after each addition. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan.

Bake at 350° for 55 to 60 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on wire rack. Ice with Coconut Rum Icing.

Coconut Rum Icing


1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
1 tsp. Malibu® Rum
1/4 cup flaked coconut


Melt together butter and milk over low heat in small sauce pan. When melted stir in Rum and sugar. Whip with wire whisk until thick enough to pour over cake. If necessary add more sugar or hot water to adjust thickness of icing. Stir in flaked coconut.

Place cake on wire rack over cookie sheet (line with foil or wax paper to speed cleanup) and pour icing over cake. Use an offset spatula to smooth icing if necessary to cover cake. Sprinkle with a little flaked coconut for garnish.

Pineapple Coconut Rum Cake on Foodista

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Classic Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies

I love peanut butter. It's been one of my favorite foods/tastes/flavors since I was a kid. I'll choose a peanut butter dessert over almost any other! One of my lifelong favorite cookies are classic peanut butter cookies. I loved to come home from school and have a big peanut butter cookie and a glass of chocolate milk. In fact, it's still one of my favorite things to do!

As I was looking through an ancient copy of the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook (published in 1952), I saw a familiar old recipe for Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies. The "Crisscross" refers to a design made in the cookie by flattening it slightly with a fork.

At any rate, I had to try them! I tweaked the recipe a little bit to fit what I had in the pantry but it turned out pretty good even with my changes.


1 cup shortening (I prefer butter)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup Peanut Butter
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt


Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream together shortening (or butter) sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in peanut butter. Sift together dry ingredients and mix into creamed ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Dip a fork in flour and press cookie with a crisscross shape. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Note: I found that chilling the dough helped immensely since this dough is rather sticky. I also formed the dough into a long tube before chilling and then sliced off the amount I wanted for each cookie. Also, the original recipe calls for 2 cups of brown sugar. I didn't have brown sugar in the pantry so left it out. With the addition of the extra brown sugar the dough would be less sticky and easy to work with without chilling, I think.

Peanut Butter Cookies on Foodista

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Maple Snickerdoodles

Several people had mentioned making Snickerdoodles lately. So, this morning I decided I'd like to have some too. I didn't have a recipe at hand so started checking around the usual locations for one.

To my surprise, I found a recipe at Savor NY for a Maple Snickerdoodles. The recipe looked scrumptious and I had most of the ingredients, save some Maple Sugar. But, I thought with a few adjustments I could make this recipe work.

So, I got to work on it and sure enough the end result was fabulous. My apologies to the folks at Savor NY but I only had Vermont Maple Syrup so that just had to do!

This is a very blond cookie with little visible browning when done. The Maple taste is a nice counterpoint to the usual Cinnamon taste of a Snickerdoodle.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg

Sugar Coating:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350° F. Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup of white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and maple syrup. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients until just mixed.

In a small dish, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, and roll the balls in the sugar mixture. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies will be crackly on top and look underdone in the middle. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

Makes about 45-50 cookies.

Snickerdoodles on Foodista

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