Getting Through Life One Recipe at a Time

Tag: delicious (page 1 of 2)

Harry Potter’s Favorite Treacle Tart

I’d been having trouble writing. Big transitions can do that. Distractions, adjustments, change. And, in all (though good to very good) recent life modifications – the risk of getting lost in another. The fear of forgetting what I’m about.

To maintain a firm sense of self, it helps me to go back to the basics of the things I like, the things I love.

Back to history.

Back to Harry.

I’ll do both here.

Each time I reread Harry Potter and The Whichever, I am always surprised to find or, perhaps, remember things I had forgotten. As a food blogger and Potter fanatic, I am thrilled by any food reference, of which there are many – Hagrid’s Rock Cakes, Petunia’s Pudding, Dumbledore’s affection for Lemon Drops and one I recently rediscovered – Harry’s favorite – Treacle Tart.

Naturally, I had to know its history. What’s a treacle? How do you make one? What’s so great about it, that it would be the Chosen One’s chosen one?

Here are my findings:

As it turns out, “treacle” is a general term used to describe any syrupy byproduct that is the result of grinding sugar. Perhaps the most famous treacle (and the one I used in my recipe) is Lyle’s Golden Syrup. So let’s start with him.

In 1881, Scotsmans Abram Lyle and his five sons started a sugar refinery business in London. In those days, part of the process was beating the heck out of large mounds of sugar cane rendering a more manageable sugar situation. A byproduct of the sugar smack down was a thick, sweet syrup. An entrepreneurial man, Lyle refined the syrup and sold it, at first to his workers and later, as the product grew in popularity, to England at large. In 1883 Lyle’s Golden Syrup was packaged in its signature tin with Samson’s bee-filled lion as its mascot. Missing the biblical reference? Don’t worry, the whole thing was lost on Samson’s friends and family as well in the Old Testament.

“And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.” Judges 14:14. 

Apparently, Samson killed a lion, some bees made a hive in that lion, and Samson gathered their sweet nectar. Weird, I know…

What’s even weirder is the multitude of “treacle tart” recipes that look nothing alike. Though they all involve some form of “treacle,” that’s about the only common ground. Dried fruits, spices, bread crumbs, lemon, cream, black treacle, corn syrup (an American abomination…I mean interpretation), molasses – the varieties for filling are seemingly endless.

Though, the most commonly referenced and, more importantly, referenced by British cooking authority Heston Blumenthal is the “tart of bread.” In this rendition, a pastry crust is filled with a mixture of treacle (only Lyle’s Golden will do), breadcrumbs, heavy cream, egg, and lemon.

The result? An intensely sweet, crunchy crusted, gooey interior-ed tart that I think Potter would definitely pig out on or at least find some solace in as he does with this treat in Order of the Phoenix.

I hope you will too.

Here’s my recipe:

First get your crust ingredients out. It’s the usual suspects for pie crust with a few razzle-dazzles.

Place the flour, confectioners sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the cold, cubed butter.

Pulse 12 – 15 times until the butter is the size of peas.

Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients. Run the motor until the mixture comes together in a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and pat into a disc. Wrap with plastic and place in the fridge to chill for an hour.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface. It should be slightly larger than a 9 inch tart pan.

Press the dough into your tart pan and prick all over with a fork. Blind bake the tart shell by placing a sheet of buttered parchment (butter side down)  in the tart and filling it with pie weights or dried beans. Place in a 375°F oven and bake for 20 minutes until the crust starts to brown.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk together the golden syrup, bread crumbs, cream, egg, and lemon zest.

After 20 minutes, take the crust out of the oven and remove the parchment and pie weights.  Fill with the treacle filling and return to the oven.

Bake for an additional 30 minutes until the crust is a deep brown color and the filling has set. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Cozy up with your favorite Harry Potter book. Mine is the Sorcerer’s Stone…oh, and The Camber of Secrets. Or is it Prisoner of Azkaban? It’s definitely Goblet of Fire. Unless it’s Order of the Phoenix. I’m pretty sure it’s Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows read simultaneously – one in my hand and one as an audio book. Is it overkill to have the movies in the background?

If you can put your book down for a second, enjoy Harry’s favorite treat. Maybe it’ll become yours too!

Harry's Favorite Treacle Tart

  • Difficulty: easy
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For the crust:
1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 stick of butter, cold and cubed
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

For the filling:
1 cup of Lyle’s Golden Syrup (I bought it on Amazon)
6 tablespoons of plain bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1 egg
the zest of 1 lemon


To make the crust, place the flour, powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add the cubed butter and pulse 12 – 15 times until the butter is the size of peas.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, heavy cream and vanilla.

With the motor running, drizzle the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until the dough comes together in a ball.

Turn the dough out on a generously floured surface (dough will be sticky!!) and pat into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

After the dough has chilled, roll it out so it is slightly larger than a 9 inch tart pan. Ease it into the pan pressing it into the fluted edge. Prick the bottom with a fork. Place a piece of buttered parchment into the tart shell and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake the tart for 20 minutes until it starts to brown.

While the tart shell is baking, make the filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the golden syrup, bread crumbs, heavy cream, egg, and lemon zest. Set aside.

When the shell has baked for 20 minutes, remove it from the oven and discard parchment and pie weights. Fill the shell with the filling and return it to the oven to bake for an additional 30 minutes until the filling is set and the tart is a deep golden brown color.

Let cool slightly before enjoying with your favorite Harry Potter book or all of them. Or the movies. Yes, definitely those.

Avada Kedavra my day’s, week’s plans, am I right? You know where to find me!

My sources:

British Food: A History – Treacle Tart

In Search of Heston – Treacle Tart 

Lala’s Sweet Potato Cake

In high school, my brother’s girlfriend Lala was like the older sister I never had, never knew I wanted, but was so happy to find.

As we’ve grown our relationship has changed. Big sister/little sister. Peers. Best Friends. And sometimes something resembling employer/employee (I say that lovingly, of course). However, the one dynamic that hasn’t changed is the eater/feeder status.

I bake. Lala eats.

Years ago for her birthday, I brought her a huge Sweet Potato Cake from the bakery where I worked. Late into the evening, we sat at her kitchen table plunging our forks deep into this behemoth. We ate, we laughed and we ate some more. We munched so much that we had to crawl on all fours to her living room where we laid on the couch rubbing our bloated bellies.

I remember feeling warm and fuzzy in a way that only best friends and cake can accomplish.

Happy to be with Lala and share a slice (a couple of slices) of nicely spiced cake with velvety cream cheese frosting.

I hope you’ll make some for the Lala in your life too.

I know that you know that you need to measure out all your ingredients.

Cream together brown sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

Add mashed sweet potato and crushed pineapple with juice.

Stir in dry ingredients.

Place in a 9×13 inch cake pan that has been greased and lined with parchment.

Bake at 350°F for 30 – 35 minutes until lightly browned around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the frosting. Cream butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar. Add vanilla. Blend with a hand mixer or stand mixer until smooth.

Spread cream cheese frosting over cooled cake.

Decorate with pecans.


Lala's Sweet Potato Cake

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 large)*
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1 rounded teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of salt
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
1 cup of dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 large eggs
1 (8oz) can of crushed pineapple

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon of vanilla


Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Line the dish with parchment and grease the parchment.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time.

Add the vanilla.

Add the mashed sweet potatoes* and pineapple with juice and beat with a hand mixer until combined.

Mix in the dry mixture until just combined.

Pour into the 9×13 inch baking dish.

Place in the preheated oven.

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until browned around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

While the cake is cooling, make the icing.

Frost the cake and decorate as you desire! I used pecans for natural flare!

Notes –

To make the sweet potatoes, wash and dry your potatoes, leaving the skin on. Prick them with a fork and microwave for 10 minutes, rotating them at the five minute mark. Scrape the meat out of the skins and mash it with a fork. Measure out 1 1/2 cups and allow to cool. You may have extra (eat it).

Blue Eyes Blueberry Ice Cream

A few summers ago I ran into my first crush. I was in our little town grocery in Maine when, suddenly, I hear my mom squeal with delight. An old friend, a boy we hadn’t seen in years. He looked just the same and when our eyes met, I was immediately transported to the summers of my youth spent nursing a not-so-secret crush. Subtlety has never been a strength of mine.

I am sure he wasn’t transported anywhere. He was probably trying to figure out why my eyes had suddenly glazed over and my mouth hung open while looking nervously at the bottle of sesame oil that threatened to fall from my slackened grasp.

The flashbacks started in. Memories of splashing about in the ocean together, a fuzzy recollection of a piggy-back ride that ended with us piled in a tangle of legs and arms on the sand-coated grass. I remember my brother and I would sneak over to meet him at his grandparents’ house to eat bowls of blueberry ice cream. His tan skin, and bright blond hair, those blue eyes – he was and IS still a knockout.

With each passing summer, the crush intensified. When I was in ninth grade, no longer be-spectacled and porky, I thought, “maybe this summer I say something. Maybe this summer I make my move. It’s time to grow a pair and do something!” But I never got my chance….

In an odd and cruel plot twist to this romantic fantasy, it turns out my blue-eyed childhood crush is actually my blue-eyed COUSIN.

Somehow, our parents discovered that my dad’s cousin is also his dad’s cousin by marriage or something. Phew…no blood. But still. BASICALLY MY COUSIN.






Sorry…I was just composing myself for a moment.

My puppy love was dashed; but, one love remained – the blueberry ice cream from his grandparents’  house. The flavor has stuck with me all these years, and seeing his handsome face and tanned skin…..(stop it!) Well anyway, seeing him again reminded me how wonderful that ice cream was.

This ice cream is crazy creamy with just the right level of sweetness. The blueberries are cooked into a jam-like consistency before they are added to a velvety vanilla ice cream base. It screams summer, it screams Maine, it cushions the blow of finding out you were in love with your cousin.

I hope you’ll make some and share it with the people you love – your friends, your family and maybe even your secret crush or cousin.


Ice cream is surprisingly simple. It has…let me count…8 ingredients. Did I do that right?

First make the blueberry swirl. Place blueberries in a sauce pot with the sugar and lemon. Stir to combine.

Cook until thick, jammy (and steamy!!). Set aside to cool while you make the vanilla base.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer, beat the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, whisk together the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.

Fold the whole milk mixture into the whipped cream gently. Be careful not to deflate the whipped cream.

Pour the vanilla base into a bread pan, alternating with the blueberry.

Once you have added all the vanilla base and blueberry, run a knife through the pan to create swirls. Place in the freezer and freeze overnight.

Take the ice cream out of the freezer five minutes before you are ready to serve.

Look at that luscious swirl! It’s dreamy.

What a looker! This cousin…I mean cone…is easy on the eyes. One bite and you’ll be in love.

Blue Eyes Blueberry Ice Cream

  • Difficulty: easy
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250 grams of frozen blueberries
juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of whole milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt


Place the blueberries, lemon juice and sugar in a small sauce pan. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes over medium-low heat while stirring occasionally.

Once the blueberries are thick and jam-like, remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.

To make the vanilla base, beat the heavy whipping cream in a large bowl until it holds stiff peaks.

In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.

Fold the whole milk mixture into the whipped cream gently. Be careful not to deflate the whipped cream.

Layer the vanilla base and blueberry mixture into a loaf pan in alternating additions.

Run a knife back and forth through the mixture to swirl it.

Wrap the pan in plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight.

Take the ice cream out to soften for five minutes before you are ready to serve.

Scoop to your heart’s desire.



Bachelorette Brownies

Plastic cups, marshmallow vodka, pink beads, and phallic-shaped party favors – The Bachelorette Party.

Technically, it was a Bachelor/Bachelorette party, as both guys and girls packed into a house on the North Carolina coastline for a weekend of frivolity.

Per usual, I felt the need to bring something. It comes with my occupation of never a bridesmaid, never a bride – oh, I mean, once a baker, always a baker or something like that.

In addition to biscuits, cookies, and morning pancakes, I decided to make Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies – something a little special for someone little and special, the bride.

I am at that age, you know it, when people start to get married, have kids, buy houses, move away, lose touch.

But she has an often forceful way of keeping us all together.

I’ve always found that brownies accomplish the same. The smell of chocolate and peanut butter manages to dominate stale beer and salty bathing suits, bringing us all to the kitchen to eat together even if only briefly.

So these are for her.

Get out your brownie making ingredients.

Whisk together butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Add eggs in one at a time.

Fold in dry ingredients.

Fold in chocolate chips. Spread brownie batter in a 9in x 13in pan that has been lightly greased and lined with parchment.

Make the peanut butter swirl. Place powdered sugar, peanut butter, melted butter, and vanilla in a bowl.

Whisk until smooth.

Dollop that peanut goop all over the brownie batter.

Use a butter knife and swirl.

Bake in a 350°F oven for 35 – 40  minutes. Let cool completely before slicing and sharing!

I may not be a bridesmaid but I am so glad to have been included in the Bachelorette Weekend. I even kept the temporary tattoos and pink beads….just in case I need to dress like Ke$ha anytime soon.

The recipe –

Bachelorette Brownies

  • Difficulty: easy
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2 sticks of butter, melted
3 cups of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of milk chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Swirl:
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1 cup of creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the brownie batter by whisking together the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time.

Fold the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the brownie batter in a 9in x13in pan that has been lightly greased and lined with parchment.

Next, make the Peanut Butter Swirl.

Whisk together the butter, peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla.

Dollop the peanut butter mixture over the brownies and use a butter knife to drag it through the batter creating the swirl.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until a toothpick come out mostly clean (maybe a few wet crumbs).

Let cool completely before slicing and serving.



Good Enough For Buddy Buttermilk Pancakes

Whenever my brother comes home, it’s like we’re hosting the royal family.

As he settles on the couch with soccer on TV and newspaper in hand, my mom bustles around the kitchen trying to figure out the coffeemaker, my dad inquires about my brother’s sleep quality, and I am in the kitchen rolling my eyes and sweating over a hot stove of bacon, eggs, and pancakes.

At this point in our lives, Bisquick won’t do. These are from scratch pancakes, lovingly measured, whisked, folded, and flipped – fit for a king called Buddy.

As grease pops dot my skin and my glasses smear with butter, I grumble and complain and say things like, “Anything else your highness?” “Did you want that maple syrup warmed?” As second-child sarcastic as I may sound, the truth is I love doing it.

My favorite kitchen memories weren’t made in culinary school or during my time as a pastry chef; but as a daughter, a friend, a sister feeding loved ones in my home. Cooking is about making people happy and pancakes always do the trick.

So here is my recipe for the fluffiest, homemade, Good Enough For Buddy Buttermilk Pancakes.

Make some for someone you love – your romantic associate, a lifelong friend, your parents, or that older brother you wish would visit more often.

Eat up!

Measure out all your stuff. Mix the dry ingredients together, mix the wet ingredients together.

Mix wet and dry together.

Butter a skillet, let that butter sizzle, pour some batter on it, wait for it to bubble, about 3 -5 minutes.

Flip dat cake. Cook for another 2 – 3 minutes until golden brown and puffed.

An all too familiar scene in my house. My brother enjoying homemade pancakes, reading the paper, watching tv, drinking coffee, and then taking a nap from a busy morning of doing nothin’.

Buddy prefers his syrup warmed… do you?

Good Enough For Buddy Buttermilk Pancakes

3 cups of all purpose flour
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
a large pinch of salt
2 1/2  cups of buttermilk
1 cup of whole milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup of butter, melted, plus more for frying.
1 tablespoon of vanilla


Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, whole milk, eggs,  melted butter, and vanilla.

Melt a tablespoon of the additional butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Just before you are ready to cook the pancakes, pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix until combined. It is okay if there are some lumps.

Using a ladle, scoop the batter onto the skillet with melted butter.

Let cook on first side until bubbles start to form around the edges, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Flip the pancake and cook for an additional 2 – 3 minutes until the pancake is nicely browned.

Remove from skillet, slather with even more butter, and serve with syrup, confectioner’s sugar, or whatever you want.

You can also add blueberries, chocolate chips, sliced banana, etc. The world is your oyster.

Graduation Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake

I’m a Spider for life. Though I only spent three years at the University of Richmond (after transferring from Chicago), that school, that town, for me, it’s home.

When I graduated, I was far from jazzed. Truthfully, I wasn’t even remotely happy. I didn’t want to leave the creepy little single dorm that had been my snug residence for two years. The thought of giving up my morning run around the lake was devastating.  More so, the reality of finally becoming an adult, of trading academic exploration for pencil pushing and rent paying, was starting to sink in and give me cold sweats. (As some of you know, I avoided adulthood by going to culinary school. Sadly, I have now run out of schools to attend but I continue to dodge being a grownup with a passion for pajama clad pizza nights in my parents’ basement and an intentional ignorance about nonsense like W-2s and health insurance.)

Not to be dramatic, but as I navigated the graduation stage with a forced smile, I died a little.

For my post-ceremony festivities, my mom and dad managed to book The Jefferson Hotel – very swanky, very special. My family gathered around a huge white cloth draped and rose adorned table, laughing, joking, all glad to have a reason to be together. Delicious dishes started to appear.

My mom had worked with the staff to create a menu highlighting all my favorites. She must have known I’d need a morale booster when she selected the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake for dessert, because with one bite all my graduation gloom disappeared. Crunchy chocolate crust, silky smooth peanut butter filling and a dreamy dark chocolate glaze. I finally felt calm, at peace. As long as I had this crew and this cheesecake nearby, I could handle adulthood – no problem.

Yeah – cheesecake. Begin by making the crust. Stir together cookie crumbs, butter, and brown sugar. Press into a lightly greased spring form pan that has had it’s bottom and sides double wrapped with aluminum. Place in the fridge and chill until ready to fill.

Next, make the filling by creaming together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Once the cream cheese + PB mixture is smooth, add the crème fraîche. Mix that in.

Next add the eggs one at a time until each is fully incorporated. Finally add the vanilla.

Make sure all ingredients are nicely combined, no streaks of peanut butter or pockets of crème fraîche – just one smooth, velvety batter.

Pour cheesecake batter into prepared crust. Place the cheesecake in a large roasting pan filled with about 2 inches of hot water. This is a water bath!

Bake at 325° F for 75 – 80 minutes. The filling should be almost completely set except for a little wiggle in the very middle. Remove the cheesecake from water bath, discard the tin foil and chill completely, about 3 hours.

Once the cheesecake has cooled, carefully remove it from the spring form pan and make the ganache topping.

Place chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until it nearly reaches a boil. Pour cream over chopped chocolate and let sit for 1 minute.

Stir cream and chocolate together until the chocolate is melted.

Glob that ganache on top of the cheesecake.

Smooth it out real nice.

“Spiders (and Peanut Butter Cheesecake) 4 lyfe.” I’ve got that tattooed on my body but I won’t say where…. or do I? Or don’t I?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake

  • Difficulty: ehh...moderate?
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For the Crust:
18 oz chocolate wafer cookies, pulverized in a food processor
2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar

2 – oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
340 grams peanut butter
1 cup of sugar
1 cup creme fraiche, room temperature
3 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla

4.5 oz of dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup of heavy cream


Wrap the bottom and sides of a spring form pan with two layers for aluminum foil. Lightly grease the pan.

Make the crust by mixing together, cookie crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Press into the prepared pan. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.

To make the filling, cream softened cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Once fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, followed by creme fraiche and vanilla. Mix until completely incorporated.

Remove crust from the fridge and fill with cheesecake filling.

Place the cheesecake into a large deep pan and fill the pan with water. The water should come up the sides of the cheesecake about 2 inches.

Bake for 75 – 80  minutes until the cheesecake is mostly set except for a little wiggle right in the center.

Remove from water bath, discard the tin foil and set on a rack to cool completely – 3 or so hours.

Right before you are about to serve, make the ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Warm the heavy cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it just reaches a boil. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Stirring to a smooth consistency. Let the ganache cool for 5 minutes before spreading over top of the cheesecake.

Slice the cheesecake and serve!

Cowboy Caviar

It was 10:40something pm and we were somewhere between Woodbridge and Charlottesville when the rain started coming down hard. I swerved and swayed, a combination of slick roads and sleepy eyes. He seemed nervous about my free-form style of driving but I tried to reassure him.

“We are fiiiine.” “Don’t worry!” “I got this.” I cooed.

All the while internally screaming , “HOLY HELL WE ARE HYDROPLANING – IT IS OVER!!!”

We had decided to take a trip to Charlottesville for a weekend with his college friends and a horse-race at Montpelier, which seemed like a big deal.

I bought a fashion-forward-floral turtle necked purple dress and tall suede boots for the occasion. Would you believe I even curled my hair? I wanted to do well by my guy; but more, I wanted to fit in with all the high society horse people in their quilted vests and long lineage. I was the new kid on the block, the initiate.

Feathered hats, tobacco pipes, the smell of horse and freshly cut grass. Rows and rows of colored tents neatly aligned, shading tailgate food and elderly women from the sun. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

A member of our party started to walk around and take bets. A dollar here, a dollar there – I was picking horses based on their names and not their stats, a strategy that was starting to bite me in the ass. I think my second horse kicked off his jockey and ran the course backwards. More crumpled 1’s hit the table.

I needed to snack, I mean shake, this one off.

Our extremely generous, bordering on overly nice, made-my-cheeks-a-little-red-with-their-unbelievable-hospitality, hosts had quite the spread. Smoked salmon and blinis, mounds of fresh fruit, sweets galore, various dips and chips for grazing, an abundance of beer. I think there was even fried chicken!  But my favorite of all the foods, the one I couldn’t stop filling my face with, was the Cowboy Caviar.

I’d never even heard of it before but apparently it’s a thing. A dip of black bean budget but caviar taste. I couldn’t get enough.

Eating, chatting, throwing a football, watching a race, betting, losing, winning, eating, eating, did I mention eating? I was happy to be with the world’s nicest people in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I didn’t want it to end.

Then suddenly, the roar of engines, the “schwwweeep” of collapsible canvas chairs being slipped into canvas bags, tupperware tops snapping shut, hugs, kisses, and goodbyes. Before I knew it, it was a perfect purple-pink-orange dusk and we were packing up to go home.

The ideal afternoon, spent with my favorite guy and his favorite people. An event I am not likely to forget and a dip I am desperate to re-create.

So I did – and here it is:

Chop all the stuff, put it in the bowl.

Add avocado last to keep it FRESH. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over top.

Get outside, get tailgating, bet on a horse, drink a beer, eat the Cowboy Caviar and love life.

Once the dip hits the table people will start to pop up. Or it’s just you and your mom doing a weird photo shoot in your yard while your dad snaps the pic from a ladder….

Cowboy Caviar

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 – 15 oz can of corn, drained and rinsed
1 – 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 – 15 oz can of northern white beans, drained and rinsed
4 tomatoes seeded and diced (I used Roma)
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
2 avocados, cubed
cilantro (as much as you like – I used 1 medium bunch)
salt and pepper

1/3 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Drain and rinse corn and both beans and add them to a large bowl.

Cut tomatoes in half and remove seeds. Small dice and add to the bowl with beans and corn.

Add chopped bell pepper, jalapeño, avocado and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Place all dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour dressing over Cowboy Caviar mixture and toss to coat.

Place in the fridge and let chill for 1 hour.


Breakfast in Bed Bars

It’s him again. The smile, the face, those perfectly formed abs.

But now there is something else.

It’s a personality. It’s a feeling. There are cute quirks. Habits. Rituals. Comforts.  I am starting to notice more than his outrageous good looks. I am growing fond.

Moments that were just moments are now becoming memories, daydreams. It’s dangerous. Thinking about him makes my skin tingle. Something somewhere on my body is throbbing. Why am I biting my lip?

I wouldn’t call it a routine – maybe a reoccurring event – but I do spy a dopp kit on my sink and an overnight bag in my hall. He comes over, we get white girl wasted, we… well… we um…yes, that, we fall asleep and wake up starving.

I never have food in the house. I’m a come-and-go kinda girl. Here one second, gone the next. Never before needing a reason for rooting. I eat neatly packaged protein-ish bars because I always seem to have them in my purse, in my car, in my bedside table next to the prophylactics, everywhere.

After a night of brain scrambling intimacy, these little treats always do the trick. I grab a few from wherever they are hiding, toss them into bed, and get going on the coffee. He cracks one open, leans back, sheets just covering him, and cheerily chews a cashew-crammed rectangle. I opt for blueberry flavor, knowing it’s sweetness will tickle my cheeks, satiate my hunger, and (I hope) mask my morning breath.

It’s not fancy. It’s not entirely romantic or unromantic. It’s a couple of kids eating sticky, cellophane wrapped, edible geometry in a tangle of sheets, trying to recover from a night of ultimate weirdness. It’s comfortable and (for now) that’s all it needs to be. It’s like the bar. Just right. Just enough. Perfect.

But what is it for you? I’m not saying you can’t get down with a sexy reddish-head too. Please! I recommend it. But maybe you’re just running late for work and need quick breakfast. Maybe you’re hiking Appalachia and require a portable snack. Maybe you’re doing what I’m doing right now – laying on my couch, grazing, mentally replaying the ESPN highlights of our last….interaction. Whatever you’re doing, whoever you are – these bars are delicious and pretty good for you! Nuts, dates, a touch of sweet – so delicious.

I hope you like him (ahem!) THEM…I mean the bars… as much as I do.

Here’s my recipe:


This recipe has so few ingredients and steps I didn’t even know what to take a picture of. That said, you’ll need: a food processor, some cashews, some dates, some vanilla, a pinch of salt, a bit of water, and a can-do attitude.


Put all the things (nuts, dates, salt, vanilla) in the food processor, and pulse until the mixture is small bits. With the motor running, add one tablespoon of water at a time until a sticky, nutty, ball forms.


Shape them however the frick you want. I make a square-ish thing, flatten with a book between two pieces of parchment, and set in the fridge to cool before slicing into bars. But you can roll the mixture in to bite-sized balls, you can make miniature-but-accurate models of Millard Filmore, really whatever suits you.


Like I said – after they’ve chilled, cut them into bars or whatever…

Holy hell that’s a lot of abs! Is it suddenly warm in here?

Breakfast in Bed Bars


For Cashew Flavor:
1/2 cup of cashews
1 1/3 cup of dates
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 – 3 tablespoons of water

For Blueberry:
1/2 cup cup of cashews
2/3 cup of dates
2/3 cup of dried blueberries
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 – 3 tablespoons of water


Put all ingredients except the water in a food processor and blend until the nuts and dates are minced. Add the water one tablespoon at a time until the mixture forms a ball.

Remove the mixture from the food processor and place between two sheets of parchment. Using a book, flatten the mix until it is 1/2 inch thick. Using a pastry scraper, form the mixture into a square. Place the square in the fridge and chill until firm. This will make it easier to cut into bars.

I do bars, but you can do anything you want! Make balls, bars, anything!

Late Night Avocado Pasta

Last spring I was in the South, the Deep South. South with a capital “S” – Jackson, Mississippi.

Why I went and how I got there – all a long story – but there I was sitting in a backyardy-feeling bar, talking to a tattooed iron worker, waiting to play corn hole, sweating my H&M-dressed ass off.

My best friend swirled around me like a flower from Fantasia. Bubbly, happy, pretty.

“We need to talk to at least two cute guys before we can go home.”

I’ve always loved how she says everything as a statement, not to be questioned or debated. Of course, two cute guys.

We clomped around the bar’s patio in higher than high heels searching for our targets.

“What about him?” I asked. “He seems alright.”

“No way! He is NOT cute!” she protested.

“Yeah – I guess he has a bit too much face, you know?”

Maybe we were being superficial, even mean, but we had every right to be choosy. We’d both been heartbroken, my friend more recently, me… well …. what had it been? Two years? Anyway, our conversation-only rebounds needed to be knockouts.

After a few hours of successful sloshed socializing and a bunch of “Oh stop!” “You’re too kind!” -ing, it was mission accomplished. Tired and tipsy, we were desperate to leave, desperate for food. Flirting is serious work! We needed something substantial enough to soak up the booze but that was still healthy – we were on the market folks – we needed to keep it tight.

Pasta was the choice fo sho, but what to top it with? Oddly, Vodka sauce (bleeeehh) didn’t seem appealing nor did Parmesan at 3:30am.

My friend suggested mashed avocado. Okay.

Maybe it was the alcohol or the high of successfully talking to two cute guys without mentioning Harry Potter or cats (damnit, there I go again) but that Late Night Avocado Pasta was the tastiest thing.

Healthy, hearty, conscious of the waistline, decadent enough to start soaking up that impending hangover, the perfect reward to share with a best friend after a few too many and an evening of calculated flirting.

And heck, you don’t have to be six sheets to the wind to enjoy it. It’s creamy and filling but light enough for a simple weeknight dinner! For a little extra somethin’ – I add a fried egg. Aren’t avocados and eggs a match made in Mississippi heaven?

As we sat in her living room, PJ clad, cheeks filled to the brim with pasta, I couldn’t help but appreciate my companion, my dearest friend. Confident, beautiful, kind, smart and happy to have a little weirdness (i.e. me) in her life. She will always be my favorite person to split a plate of pasta with.

So this one’s for her!

Make the pasta dough (or use store-bought noodles) but seriously, make the pasta dough. Mix flours and salt together in a large bowl. Create a well in the center.

Add the eggs one at a time, breaking up each egg with a fork before adding the next egg.

Once all the eggs have been added to the well and broken up, add the oil.

Using a fork, start to work the flour into the wet center in large circular motions. At some point it will start to come together into a shaggy mess. I switched to my hands to bring the dough together.

Mix the dough until a ball type thing forms. Dump out onto a floured surface.

Knead the dough with your hands until it goes from shaggy mess to a smooth, firm but elastic ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and set aside to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

Roll the dough out thin (1/8 an inch) and cut into thin strips, you know, like noodles.

Once all the pasta is cut, gather into bunches and flour the bunches so they don’t stick. Set aside to “dry” for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce and bring a pot of water to a boil.

Place the garlic, avocado, basil, salt, and lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor. Turn the processor on and puree until smooth.

With the motor running, add the olive oil and puree until emulsified. Then admire that smooth SAUCE! Set aside while you cook the pasta.

Cook the noodles in the boiling salted water. Add the noodles 2 handful size bunches at a time (don’t overcrowd!!) and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the noodles are cooked through. (Cooking time will depend on how you cut your noodles.)

Oh yeah, fry an egg or two.

To assemble, place cooked pasta in a large bowl and toss with as much or as little avocado sauce as you’d like.

Plate pasta and top with fried egg.

After a night of boozed-up flirting with southern men Avocado Pasta is the BEST reward. Carbs, jammies, 3am, your best friend – it’s basically heaven.

Late Night Avocado Pasta

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
4 eggs
1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 avocados
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 clove of garlic
1 bunch of basil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil

Eggs for frying (optional)


Make the pasta dough by placing the flours and salt in a large bowl and mixing together.

Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and crack one egg into the center of the well. Break up the egg using a fork. Repeat with remaining three eggs, adding one, breaking it up, adding the next.

Add the oil and mix with the eggs.

Using a fork, start to slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs using big circular stirring motions. Continue mixing until a shaggy mess forms.

Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the shaggy mess becomes a smooth, elastic but also firm ball. It took me about 3 – 5 minutes of kneading. Wrap in plastic and set aside to rest for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Once the dough has rested, roll out very thin (1/8 of an inch) and cut into thin noodles. Group the noodles in handful-size bunches and dust them with flour so they don’t stick. While they rest, make the sauce.

Add the avocados, lemon juice, basil, garlic, salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and puree until emulsified. Taste for seasoning, if you want to add more salt or pepper or lemon, do it now and blend until combined. Set the sauce aside.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water. Add about 2 handful-sized bunches of noodles to the water at a time and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the noodles are tender and cooked through.

Place the noodles in a large bowl and toss with as much or as little sauce as you’d like and it’s ready to serve!

My preferred topping is a fried egg. I just melt a little butter in a sauté pan, add my egg, salt and pepper and cook sunny side up or over easy. There’s something magical about runny yolk and avocado….

But top it with anything you like, grilled chicken, fresh veggies, shrimp! The options are limitless!


Aunt Petunia’s Pudding

Do I have time to list all the reasons I love Harry Potter? *checks with the guy off stage*

No? Okay they are saying no….

So let me be as brief as I can. I love Harry Potter for one zillion reasons, but as a cook, one of the things I appreciate most, is the importance and visual representations of food.

The Start of Term Feasts, the Train Trolley Snacks, Kreacher’s Onion Soup, Molly’s Snitch Cake, Pumpkin Pasties, Sugar Mice, Chocolate Frogs, SHERBET LEMON! Hermione’s rubbery mushrooms cooked in a can!

If you’ve read the books and watched the movies as frequently as I have (not likely) you’ll realize food is everywhere in these perfect stories. JK knew what she was doing.

Of all the dishes referenced in the books and imagined on screen the one I was most eager to recreate was Petunia’s Pudding from Chamber of Secrets.

In the movies, it’s this GORGEOUS but very “Petuniaesque” cake with big red cherries and delicate, sugared violets. She adorns it so carefully, so lovingly, just to have it smashed to oblivion. Well done Dobby.

So here’s my interpretation of Petunia’s Pudding and an ode to my longest, most important, and most satisfying, albeit fictional, relationship.

Long live Harry Potter. Long live cake!



Butter & sugar – together. Whisk all drys. Separate eggs. Wet and vanilla. – Got it?


Cream together butter and sugar until it is fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla – mix.


Add 1/3 of the dry.


Add 1/2 the wet. Follow with the second 1/3 of dry, last 1/2 of wet and final 1/3 of dry.


Mix until just combined. Cake batter is the world’s most beautiful unfinished product.


In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.


Fold the egg whites into the batter.


This batter is enough for two, 9-inch pans or three, 6-inch pans. I do three, 6-inch with 9oz of batter in each. See, look! Up there!


Bake in a 325° F oven for 25-30 minutes. When the cake is ready it will pull away from the sides and be buttery, golden yellow. Kinda like “Sunshine, daisies, butter, mellow, turn this stupid fat rat yellow!” – Ron.


To decorate, make two recipes of my Basic Vanilla Buttercream. Leave one recipe totally white. Split the other in half. Dye one half green and the other pale purple.


Crumb-coat it in white! Let chill for 15 minutes.


Apply second coat of white frosting – then google a picture of Aunt Petunia’s Cake – cancel all your social engagements and spend your day decorating a cake to look just like it! (Just kidding – it’s super easy – almost like magic – WOOOOAH!)


While I didn’t have a house elf to help me smash this on someone’s head – I did share it with a devastatingly handsome man.  We split a piece in the warm glow of candlelight. His birthday, a little surprise, sugared lip kisses – now that’s magic.

Aunt Petunia's Pudding

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
2 cups of sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of cake flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of buttermilk

2 recipes of vanilla buttercream


Preheat your oven to 325° F.

Butter and flour three, 6-inch cake pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand-mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Mix to combine.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix until just combined.

In yet another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Portion the cake batter into the cake pans. If you are using 6-inch pans, place 9oz of batter in each.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven.

Let cakes cool in their pans and then turn onto a wire wrack to cool completely.

Make vanilla buttercream and decorate!



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