Browsing Category


Fruit, Snack

Goals and Granola

Breakfast for a new year – Goals and Granola!

On the first of January I found myself making broad resolutions for 2016. You know – write more blogs each week, clean out my kitchen cabinets, learn how to use Adobe Lightroom, read several news outlets daily…

My husband reminds me that, to work, goals need to be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.


I really dislike this process and its catchy little acronyms, but he is right. I’m getting out my kitchen timer (see Favorite Kitchen Tool #4 blog) and setting it for 30 minutes to get going on my SMART goals. What are your goals for 2016?

Let’s start at the very beginning. Ok, no more Sound of Music specials.

The fun goal: discussing food! I am done with refined sugar for a while. No more Christmas cake for breakfast. No more cookies and chocolate bourbon balls on the kitchen table.

I love breakfast. That first cup of tea or coffee needs to be hot, not warm, along with something that is flavorful and nurturing. It has to be easy and quick, with minimal clean up. Usually I like a great deal of variety in what I eat, except for weekday breakfasts. I go back and forth between a poached egg on toast, and yogurt with granola that has fruit and occasionally oatmeal, when I remember to start it the night before.

My favorite breakfast or afternoon treat right now is yogurt with granola and berries. I have two favorite granolas: Out of the Blue and Purely Elizabeth. Both have no refined sugar and a fresh balance of whole grains and natural sweeteners.

My favorite Purely Elizabeth granola is the pumpkin, fig, quinoa, amaranth and chia flavor. Pumpkin and fig add a fresh sweetness and depth of flavor that speaks of autumn richness. This is what I grab when I want something sweet in the afternoon.

Out of the Blue is a granola with a cause. The granola is handmade by the women at the Blue Monarch non-profit program in the Tennessee Valley. Sales of the granola supports a successful program that helps women to recover and lead useful lives who have been abused, have addictions or have been in jail. The program has a success rate impressively near 100% for women who complete the program. In each bag of granola you’ll find the story of one of the women who baked it. My favorite, Honey and Oats, is packed with flavor and can be ordered online or found at Whole Foods in Nashville or Chattanooga.

A friend of mine introduced me to this particular combination:

Goals and Granola

serves 1


1/3c           granola – try Out of the Blue or Simply Elizabeth

4oz             yogurt – my current favorite is Siggi’s ginger and orange

1/4 c          raspberries and blueberries


I often drizzle honey on top…Enjoy!



Cookies, Desserts, Great Gift Ideas, Snack, Treats

Gingerbread Snow Flake Cookies

gingerbread cookie 20151209-_MG_3332.CR2
Gingerbread Snow Flake with Royal Icing. Bring on the Yuletide Spirit!

I’ve started baking for the holidays. It is 70F outside so it is not feeling like the Yuletide inside. I figure making some gingerbread snowflake cookies and chocolate Grand Marnier bites will make the house smell of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and orange.  My Christmas tree is up and friends are coming over to help me decorate it. I may even turn on the AC and light a fire, Texas-style. That should get the holiday feel started.

My first project is to bake a really great gingerbread cookie.  I want it spicy and a little hot on the tongue.  I really don’t bake a lot of cookies so I went to Fine Cooking and looked at several recipes.  What I came up with is one of the best doughs I’ve tasted! Decorating these cookies is fun but you don’t have to – the cookies are great on their own.

Don’t be discouraged by the long text. Read through it. It is very simple. Make the dough a few days before you bake and it is a cinch!


Gingerbread Snow Flake Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen



3½ c          All Purpose flour (You’ll need more when you roll out the dough)

1t               baking soda

1t               cinnamon (I use the Vietnamese cinnamon which is strong)

3t               ginger powder

¼ t             cloves ground

1/8 t           pepper, finely ground

¼ t             salt

¾ c            light brown sugar, hard backed

1½ c          butter, softened

¾ c            molasses or trecal

1                large egg

1½ T          orange zest


2c              confectioners’ sugar

2t               powdered egg whites or meringue powder

¼ t            cream of tarter (optional)

4-5T          water


Mixer with a medium or large bowl and a paddle attachment; scraping spatula; measuring cups and spoons; medium bowl; wooden spoon; fine grater; two cookie sheets lined with parchment; plastic wrap; rolling pin (or a wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin); flour scraper; cookie cutters; racks for cooling (if your stove has removable burner covers, you can use those – you just want air to flow around the cookies to cool them quicker); several small plastic bags sized for sandwiches.


Put the flour, baking soda, spices and salt and pepper in the medium bowl and stir.

Nutmeg pod with the nutmeg seed you cook with. The nutmeg is from Grenada.

Nutmeg pod with the nutmeg seed you cook with. The nutmeg is from Grenada.

In your mixer at medium speed, cream the butter and brown sugar until it is light and fluffy. It really will look different towards the end so be patient. Add the egg and a tablespoon of the flour mixture. The flour keeps the egg from curdling the sugar mixture. If it curdles, don’t worry, just keep going.  Add the molasses and orange zest and beat until the mixture is smooth. Remember to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Add the dry ingredients, either by lowering the speed of your mixer or by stirring them in with a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until just incorporated. It will be stiff and sticky.

Put a piece of plastic wrap on your counter and turn the dough out onto it. Pat the dough into a circle about 1” thick. Wrap in the plastic wrap and freeze for an hour or a few days. This allows the gluten to relax so your cookies will be tender.

 To bake the cookies:

Preheat your oven to 350F. Put one rack in the lower third of the oven and one in the upper third.

Take the gingerbread dough out of the freezer and cut into 4 pieces. Put one piece on a floured work surface and put the rest back in the freezer.

Roll out the piece of dough until it is about 1/8” thick. Dip your cookie cutter in flour and begin to stamp out cookies. Gently move the cookies to the parchment-lined cookie pan. Place them about ½ “ apart.

Old copper cookie cutter from Old River Road
Old copper cookie cutter from Old River Road

Bake for about 10 minutes. The cookies will be lightly browned and firm. Slide the cookies onto a cooling rack, leaving them on the parchment to make this easier.

Repeat with the rest of the dough.

If you want to decorate your cookies:

Royal Icing to decorate the cookies.

King Arthur Flour has great information about making and using Royal Icing.

Attach a whisk to your mixer. Put the sugar, egg white and cream of tarter in the mixing bowl.  Start by mixing together on low speed then increase speed to medium and begin to add the water a tablespoon at a time.  Scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat till the mixture becomes smooth, glossy and thick, 6 to 7 minutes.

A test to see if the consistency is right is to put a small plop of icing on the counter.  Dip a toothpick in the plop. When you pull it away a peak should form and then gently flow back into the icing. If it is too thick, add a teaspoon of water and beat a bit more until its morale improves.

Put the icing in a bag and pipe your favorite decorations onto the cookies.  If you don’t have a bag and tips for decorating, no problem. Fill a baggie with some icing, cut a small corner off and you’ve got it. Keep unused icing covered with a damp towel or plastic wrap or it will dry out.  If it gets too stiff, just add a bit more water and beat again.



Bread, Desserts, Fruit, Great Gift Ideas, Snack, Treats

Melissa’s Banana Bread – the best!

LR final-3139-2

Melissa’s Banana Bread – the best banana bread!

I love banana bread. I’ve tried all sorts of recipes and have concluded that finding a great banana bread is hard to do. Sometimes they are too sweet and often they don’t pack a bold banana flavor. I lost my favorite banana bread recipe years ago and I’ve been looking for another one ever since.

Melissa’s Banana Bread is the best I’ve ever eaten.   Sometimes the memory of a really great meal is not just the flavor of the food but is colored by where you were and the people you were with. You’ve had that experience of trying a recipe for the second time because it was so good the first time (and the meal or party was really fun) and it just didn’t taste the same, haven’t you?

The first time I had Melissa’s Banana Bread was aboard the 28’ Beneteau, Booty-Ful, in the Harvest Moon Regatta. This annual race is from Galveston to Port Aransas and takes about 24 hours to complete. We hit the start line perfectly at 2pm. Tom, the captain, put Booty-Ful on a broad reach about a mile off the Texas coast. Just after dark the wind picked up unexpectedly so we sailed into the evening with eight foot waves crashing over the boat. Booty-Ful held her course but with the tossing and crashing of the waves, no one wanted the dinner I had prepared. Instead, we dined on Melissa’s Banana Bread because it was a perfect balance of sweet banana while being easy on the stomach. See the Harvest Moon Regatta – the Voyage of the Booty-Ful for more.

I asked for the recipe, made it, and found that it was as good as I remembered, even without the saltwater and the excitement. I tried making the recipe three ways: according to Melissa’s recipe, adding a few tablespoons of banana liquor and with fried plantains. The recipe really did not need the extras. Melissa’s Banana Bread is perfect just as is.

Tip: Grill or toast it for breakfast.

Melissa’s Banana Bread – the Best Banana Bread Ever


2 ½ c    all purpose flour

1 tsp      salt – I use Morton’s Kosher salt

2 tsp     baking powder

1 c         coconut oil

1¾ c     sugar

2 c         bananas, very ripe, mashed – about 6

4            eggs, slightly beaten

1 c       chopped pecans, coarsely chopped


2 medium loaf pans, measuring cups, measuring spoons, one small bowl, two medium bowls, a fork, a wooden spoon, and a toothpick or skewer.


Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour two medium loaf pans.

Mash the bananas with your fork in the small bowl. Beat the eggs together in a medium bowl just until the white and yolks are blended. Stir in the coconut oil, sugar, mashed bananas and pecans. Mix all the remaining dry ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until the batter is just blended.

banana bread ingredients 20115-_MG_3131.CR2

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for

55-60 minutes. Insert the skewer into the loaf. If the skewer comes out clean, your banana bread is done.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 5 minutes then turn the bread out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Snack, Treats

Donuts worth the calories

20150821 blackberry fried pie-_MG_2680Blackberry Fried Pie

Most donuts aren’t worth the calories, let alone the anticipation.  What happened to the fried, sugary confection that was so light it broke apart as you lifted it?  Close to our house in the very place that a lady from Vietnam had a Donut Palace whose donuts were light and airy, there is now an upscale store offering handmade donuts that are heavy, drowned in sugar and priced at over $3 a donut.

A few months ago I found Hypnotic Donuts on Garland Ave. in Dallas.  The name alone had me chuckling. It is a tiny store claiming to be the first craft donut store in Dallas.  With donut names like Evil Elvis, Ski Accident, and Expresso Yo Self  it is hard to pick out just one – so I don’t.  I take a friend and share several.

20150821 Evil Elvis donut-_MG_2669Evil Elvis

What else could the Evil Elvis be but a peanut-butter-stuffed, bacon-and-banana-topped donut! This is one to share.

My very favorite is the “fried pie” donut with different fruit fillings. I’m from the South, so I’ve had my share of fried pies. These are exceptional.  I think someone at Hypnotic must be a jam maker because you can taste and feel the real blackberries in their pies.

Do you have a favorite donut palace?