Red Sangria

Are you ready for summer and parties? I’m ready. I’m ready for the smell of grilling meat, good friends, my garden aglow with white twinkling lights, and bowls of guacamole on the table. I’m ready for Citronella candles; their flame lazily dancing while chatting with my friends. I’m ready to be barefoot. With a glass of sangria in my hand. I’m ready for warm summer breezes and the sound of laughter from children as they run around my yard. With a glass of sangria in my hand. I’m ready for a full blown fiesta. With a glass of sangria in my hand. Invite some friends over, make some sangria (lots of it) and have a par-tay. Invite over some new friends, maybe some neighbors you’ve been too lazy to get to know.

I dare ya. I double dog dare ya.

If you do- just make sure to hand them a glass of this conversation starter; smile and you’re all set. It’s really all you need. Okay, maybe a couple more bowls of guac and you’re good to go and scoops; don’t forget the scoops. Sangria, guacamole and scoops. Does it get better than that?

Red Sangria

(makes about 10 cups)

2 bottles red wine (merlot, zinfandel- what ever you like)

3/4 Cup brandy

1/2 Cup triple sec

Two large oranges; squeezed

3/4 Cup simple syrup* (see recipe below)

One large orange sliced; then cut into smaller pieces

One red apple chopped (gala, fuji; something not too sweet)

1. Make the simple syrup: In a glass measuring cup place 3/4 Cup water and 3/4 cup granulated sugar; heat on high in the microwave for one minute until sugar dissolves. Let cool. You will have some leftover. Simple syrup is great for sweetening ice tea or other beverages etc. Store in fridge.

2. In a large glass pitcher; place all the ingredients and stir to combine well. Chill for 2 hours or longer. It gets better with age! Serve chilled.

Mini Strawberry Tarte Tatins

I just bought a strawberry plant. I’m hopeful but cautious at the same time. It’s a known fact that I do not have a green thumb. The Husband will be quick to vouch for this-the fact that I kill plants. When we were first married he had this crazy-God knows what it was-leafy plant. He was so proud that he had this plant for years and it had thrived with gentle watering and sweet talking. Then I came along. It died. Ever since this I have tried to grow various plants. I’m good with herbs; no problem. Plants are a different story. Thirteen years later since killing The Husband’s plant, I am still trying. I could not resist the cute strawberry plant at Home Depot. There it was just beckoning me. I know, I know…but I had to buy it. The dark green leaves, the tiny little strawberry buds, the delicate little white flowers. The entire plant housed in a perfect basket for hanging. I am determined not to kill this plant. In the meantime, while I am awaiting the outcome of my berry bliss, I am lucky to find plump sweet California berries in my local market; perfect for mini tart tatins.

Mini Strawberry Tarte Tatins

(yield: 12 mini tarte tatins)

recipe adapted from Donna Hay

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 Cup caster (superfine) sugar

3 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste

fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half

frozen puff pastry, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. In a small nonstick pan combine the butter, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla bean paste.

2. Prepare a muffin tin by spraying the wells lightly with non-stick spray. Place about 3 small berries in the bottom of the wells with the rounded side down and cut side up. Pour about 2 tsp. of caramel over the berries. Using a round cutter place a cut piece of puff pastry that is about 1/2 inch bigger than the muffin tin. Tuck the pastry over the berries and tuck down into the wells slightly.

3. Bake the tatins for about 20 minutes or the pastry is golden. Let the tatins rest for about 10 minutes. Carefully invert by placing a sheet pan over the muffin tins and invert. Spoon any syrup over the tatins. Serve with creme fraiche or ice cream if desired.

Happy Baking,


Goat Cheese Ice Cream With Roasted Cherries

When I was a little girl growing up in Michigan, my brother, sister and I used to walk home from school taking a short cut through the back yard of a particular house. I did not know the people who owned the house and we were always careful to walk along the border of their property in singular file. There was one thing that was strange and equally intriguing at that same time about that back yard. The owners had a goat. The goat kind of scared me but fascinated me at the same time. He would stop eating the grass just long enough to stare at us with this blank stare as if to say, “Who do you think you are, traipsing through my yard”? Sometimes I would stop just for a minute and stare into his eyes; trying to figure out why someone would have a goat in their yard. Was he a pet, was he there for milk? I was young, so I couldn’t quite figure it out. My sister would catch me staring down this goat and grab me by my jacket and yank me back into formation. Yep, he scared me. To this day, I don’t know the scoop on that goat but one thing is for sure- I know I LOVE goat cheese! Thank God for the beautiful intriguing goat.

Goat Cheese Ice Cream With Roasted Cherries

Recipe: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Yield: 1 generous quart

2 Cups whole milk

1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch

1/2 Cup fresh goat cheese (4 oz.)

3 Tbsp. cream cheese (1 1/2 oz.) softened

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1  1/4 Cups heavy cream

2/3 Cup sugar

1/4 Cup light corn syrup

Roasted Cherry Sauce: (see recipe below)

Make the Roasted Cherry Sauce and chill until ice cream is ready.

1. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the goat cheese, cream cheese, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

2. Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 3-4 quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

3. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freeze bag and submerge the sealed bag into the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

4. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, alternating it with layers of the roasted cherry sauce and ending with a spoonful of the cherries. Do not mix. Press a sheet of parchment directly onto the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Roasted Cherry Sauce

Roasting fruit may seem a little strange, but it brings out the flavors even more by concentrating the sugars in the fruit. This simple cherry sauce can be used to spoon over pancakes, cheesecake, crepes, waffles or stirred into tangy greek yogurt. The sauce would be divine in making a yogurt and granola parfait with layering greek yogurt, sauce and granola. Click here for my recipe for homemade granola.

Roasted Cherry Sauce 

(Recipe: Jeni’s splendid ice creams at home)

(makes about 1  1/4 Cup) 

2 Cups frozen organic sweet cherries

2/3 Cup sugar

2 tsp. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400° F. In a 9 inch baking dish or shallow casserole dish combine the frozen (not thawed) cherries, sugar and cornstarch, tossing to mix. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the juices are thickened and bubbly, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator.

Mini Mojito Tea Cakes


Just saying the word makes me smile.

Mojito. See, there it is again; it makes me smile every time.

The word alone conjures up images: cabana boy, hammock, white sand beaches. Mojito.


Mint, lime, sugar and rum. What’s not to love? One of my favorite drinks is the mojito. For some reason though; I never make them at home; it’s one of those things you order when you’re out with friends, but I can’t say as I bust out the fresh mint (which is at the foot of my mailbox) and rum and make one. The Husband for sure is not the mojito type. I bet a million dollars if I go ask him right now, he’ll be like, huh? what? “What’s a mojito?”  Some things are just better when someone makes it for you. Like I said, cabana boy, hammock, mojito. Smile….Well, I can’t go jetting off to the tropics right now so I’m going to settle with making a mini mojito but in cake form. This for sure will make me smile. Bad day? Mojito cake.  Bad week? Mojito cake. Bad hair day? who gives a fig; you’ve got mojito cake. You must have fresh mint though; that is key. Wander over to the neighbor’s yard and steal a few sprigs; It’s okay…I won’t tell. I give you permission. If you don’t have a minty neighbor it will only cost you about a buck at the store. The original recipe for this calls for a 6 cup Bundt pan but even the little bundtlettes would be good. I’m using a tea cake pan but you could also use a mini muffin pan as well.

Mini Mojito Cakes

(recipe adapted from “Cake Simple” by Christie Matheson)

Yield: (~ 40 mini tea cakes)

1  1/2 Cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Cup whole milk yogurt

1 Cup granulated sugar

3 Lg. eggs

zest of 4 limes

3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 Tbsp. white rum

1/2 vegetable oil

Mojito simple syrup (see recipe below)

Mint-Lime sugar (see recipe below)

1. Make the mojito simple syrup: In a small saucepan combine 1/2 Cup sugar, 3 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves. Mash the mint leaves and sugar together to release the oils. Add 1/3 Cup water and 2 Tbsp. white rum. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat; simmer for 3 minutes. Let the syrup sit for 10 minutes then strain.

2. Make the mint-lime sugar: In a mortar and pestle combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp. fresh lime zest and 6 mint leaves that have been minced fine. Grind the mixture together.

3. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a tea cake pan with non-stick spray. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the yogurt with the sugar on low-speed until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs, lime zest, lime juice and rum and whisk until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture and whisk until combined. Turn off the mixer and stir in the oil by hand with a spatula.

5. Pour the batter into the tea cake pan and bake for ~ 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cakes cool about 5 minutes on a wire rack and using a bamboo skewer; carefully lift out each cake and place on a wire rack. Turn over each cake and dunk each cake into the syrup to cover all but the bottom. Let the cakes sit for about 2 minutes then roll each cake into the mint-lime sugar. Serve at room temperature.

Tangelo-Tangerine Pudding, Vanilla Pudding

Today-I’m channeling my inner child. With pudding. Pudding was a big thing in my house growing up. We always had a box of pudding mix in the cupboard. Now that I’m older, my love of a good pudding has not changed; although now I make it from scratch. It really is not hard to crank out a quick pudding from scratch. You should not let it scare you; most ingredients you need you probably already have on hand. I’m having child hood flashbacks and I might have to make pudding more often. Another child hood flashback is the beloved creamsickle. Oh as a child, how many creamsickles I would consume during summer. Icy, tart orange with creamy vanilla; a classic flavor combo. I found this recipe for tangelo-tangerine pudding in Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison, and I thought it would be fun to make a creamsickle inspired pudding parfait by making a vanilla pudding as well. Channel your inner child. Enjoy.

Tangelo-Tangerine Pudding

yield: 4 servings

(recipe adapated from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison)

2 tsp. tangelo or tangerine zest

2  1/2  Tbsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Cups fresh tangelo or tangerine juice (~10-12 tangelo’s)

tiny pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. orange flower water or 1/2 tsp. orange extract

1. Smash the tangerine zest with the sugar to moisten the sugar and release the aromatic oils. Transfer to a saucepan along with the cornstarch, juice and salt. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch.

2. Over medium high heat; bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring until the juice has thickened; this will take about 4 minutes. Let the mixture boil about 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter and orange-flower water or orange extract. If you are making a layered parfait, pour into a container and chill or divide into juice or champagne glasses and chill. It will take about 2 hours to chill until set.

Vanilla Pudding

yield: 4 servings

2  1/2 Cups whole milk, divided

1/2 Cup sugar

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1  1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. In a small to medium bowl whisk the cornstarch along with 1/2 Cup of the milk. Add the yolks and whisk to combine; set aside.

2. Place the remaining 2 cups milk in a saucepan along with the sugar and salt. Bring to a boil; then slowly pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the bowl with the cornstarch mixture to temper the mixture. Pour that back into the saucepan and bring the pudding to a boil over medium high heat while stirring with a rubber spatula. Let the mixture boil for about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Pour the pudding into a container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding. Let the pudding chill. If you are not making a parfait; you can pour the pudding into 4 containers.

Parfait assembly:

Layer the puddings in a glass or decorative cups; alternating the two puddings. Top with whipped cream if desired or creme fraiche. Serve chilled.

Brownie Cookies With Toffee

You ever have one of those weeks where nothing seems to go right? Everywhere you turn you seem to find trouble. The car breaks down, you ruin your favorite pair of pants in the wash, you drop an entire container of blueberries [that you just bought] on the kitchen floor- at like midnight when you’re half awake. I’m just sayin’…You swear something happened and you feel like you lost your mojo. Or maybe you’re just plain cranky and you need some chocolate. One of my friends at work has this magnet at her desk that says “Just give the bitch her chocolate”. Enough said, right? It makes me laugh every time. Let’s face it, chocolate is comfort. Sometimes you need a little chocolate therapy. It’s like one of those cheesy commercials where the lady closes her eyes and eats her tiny little chocolate square in slow motion. Forget the tiny chocolate square. We’re talkin’ big chewy, indulgent, fudgy cookie with surprises of crunchy toffee chunks inside. This is the type of cookie you make when you’ve had a hard time and you need serious chocolate therapy.

Brownie Cookies With Toffee

(yield: 24 cookies)

1/2 Cup All-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

4 Lg. eggs

1  1/3 Cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

16 oz. (2 2/3 Cup) Bittersweet chocolate; chopped

1/2 stick butter (4 Tbsp.)

1/2 Cup milk chocolate chips

3 Heath candy bars, chopped into ~ 1/2 inch pieces


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

4.  Melt the chocolate along with the butter in a bowl set over a double boiler.

5. Slowly add the chocolate/butter mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the dry ingredients. Stir in the toffee chunks and chocolate chips. The batter will be thin, but it will thicken upon sitting. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes before scooping.

6. Scoop 2 Tbsp. of cookie dough onto prepared sheets. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the tops no longer look wet. Do NOT overbake; they will firm up once cooled and you want to achieve a chewy fudgy cookie, so resist the urge to overbake. Let cookies cool completely on the sheets.

p.s. I have also made these with dried sour cherries as well; instead of the toffee.