Parmesan Rosemary Sourdough Crackers

Parmesan Rosemary Sourdough Crackers

Things have gotten a little bit sour around here.  If you haven't noticed, I've recently made a sourdough starter (this is the recipe I used to start it), and I'm going a little bit crazy with it.

But lest you think I am some June Cleaver-like goddess of domesticity because I'm making all the baked goods, let's be clear about something.  This is the FOURTH starter that I've had.  I've killed the rest through...

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Italian Chicken Couscous Skillet

Italian Chicken Couscous Skillet

If I had my way, everything that came out of my kitchen would be some sort of pastry, cake, or cookie.  If I had my way, every meal would be dessert and involve some kind of chocolate or berry.  But occasionally (read:every few hours) the other people who live at my house demand "real" food of me.  And if I'm being honest...

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Chocolate Funfetti Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Funfetti Sugar Cookies

Is there anything better than sprinkles? The answer is yes.  Chocolate and sprinkles is definitely better.  One of my all-time favorite cookie recipes is Joy the Baker's Vanilla Bean Confetti Cookies.  They're light-hearted, chewy, and perfectly sweet. Kids are also pretty into them, so they get my full support as a mom…

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Chicken & Apple Salad

I'm posting a salad recipe on my birthday.  What is wrong  with me?  Maybe I'm subconsciously making up for the birthday cake from last week?

Apple Chicken Salad2.jpg

When I was a kid, eating out was a rare luxury.  In a family of 12 (yes, you read that right) even the simplest of food added up quickly.  Which means that Chick-fil-a was a staple and a treat, and Panera Bread?  That was pretty much fine dining.

One of their favorite menu items has always been the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad.  The dressing is the best part for me-- sweet, but with a nice kick of vinegar that doesn't set your teeth on edge.  And the apple chips.  Oh how I love them.  I made my own apple chips for inspiration's sake, but probably wouldn't bother again because it just wasn't worth it.  But they really do take the salad to the next level.  

Apple Chicken Salad4.jpg

Don't let the ingredient list fool you-- this goes together quickly, and most of the work can be done ahead of time.  Marinade the chicken one day, while it's baking make the dressing, and all you have to do at meal time is toss it all together.  Toast a little sourdough or set out a few muffins, and dinner is served!

Apple Chicken Salad1.jpg
print recipe
Fuji Apple Salad
  • 2-2.5 lbs. chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2/3 cup apple juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. golden balsamic
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large clamshell of spring greens
  • 1 cup, plus more for garnish on top apple chips
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
In a gallon sized zipper bag combine 1/2 cup olive oil, white wine vinegar, 1 1/2 Tbsp. honey, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tsp. salt, basil, and oregano. Pound or butterfly (slice horizontally so that they are thin) the chicken breasts and add to the bag. Marinade for 3-4 hours, or overnight.Preheat the oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with foil. Place the chicken on the sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until it registers 165° on an internal thermometer. Allow to cool, then slice thinly.In a blender, combine the apple juice concentrate, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. honey, golden balsamic vinegar, ground mustard, 1/2 tsp. salt, white pepper, and whole garlic clove. Blend until smooth.To serve, place the spring greens in a large serving bowl and toss with chicken, blueberries, 1 cup of apple chips, and almonds if using. Sprinkle the remaining blueberries and apples on the top, and serve with the dressing on the side.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 Servings

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

Like Mr. Darcy loved Elizabeth.  Like Gilbert loved Anne. Like Johnny loved June, and Mr. Rochester loves Jane.

That's how I feel about strawberries and chocolate.  


They just go together, you know? Like Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox.  Meant to be.


So when the strawberries and the chocolate got together to make me a birthday cake, what was I supposed to do?  Can't say no, and don't really want to.

The problem is that we're a small family, and big cakes are just too, well, big.  So the strawberries and the chocolate, when they got together, they took care of this problem.  They made me a little 6 inch one, so I can have my cake and eat it too.  Happy birthday to moi!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

Based on King Arthur's Chocolate Fudge Cake
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
    • 6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. soft butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate chocolate 
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 4 strawberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate

For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350° and grease two 6" round cake pans very well. Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add in the eggs, oil, and vanilla, and beat for two minutes on medium speed.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then stir in the water.   The batter will be thin.

Pour half of the batter into each cake pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and carefully tip out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.  With a sharp knife, cut off the rounded to of the cake to flatten it, then carefully cut the layers in half horizontally.  

For the Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar.  Place a small pot with about an inch of water on a burner over low heat and place the mixer bowl over it.  Whisk the egg whites and sugar continuously until the mixture reaches 160°.

Place on the mixer and beat on medium high until the mixture reaches stiff peaks.  Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, mixing until each addition is completely incorporated.  Add the vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated.

For the Filling: Place 3/4 cup of frosting in a bowl, and stir in the strawberry preserves.  

To Assemble Cake: Place one layer of the cake on a cake plate, then place 1/3 of the filling mixture on it.  Repeat with the rest of the cake layers and filling, finishing with the bottom of a cake layer on the top.  This gives you a finished edge to frost.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream on the cake and place it in the fridge to harden.  This is called the crumb coat, and should trap any crumbs and keep them from getting into the outer layer of frosting.  

Once the crumb coat has hardened, put a final, thicker coat of frosting on the cake, smoothing it evenly.  Reserve some for the decorations on top.  Allow the final layer to chill in the fridge.

To Decorate the cake: To decorate the cake, make a ganache.  Heat the whipping cream until simmering, then pour over 1/2 cup of chopped chocolate.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then stir until it becomes cohesive and pourable.  Carefully pour over the top of the cake, allowing some to drip down over the sides (you may not need to use all of it).  Return to fridge to chill the ganache.

To make the chocolate covered strawberries, melt 1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolate either over a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring it every 10-15 seconds until smooth and melted.  Wash and completely dry the strawberries, then dip them in the chocolate while holding by the leaves.  Make sure that all sides are covered, then allow any excess chocolate to drip off.  Place on a baking tray in the refrigerator and allow to harden.  Place them on the cake, tips pointing towards the edge on each quarter of the cake.

Optional: Place the reserved buttercream icing in a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe a rosette (swirl) between each strawberry.  Pipe a large rosette in the middle.


Chocolate Orange French Toast Bake

This is brunch done right-- simple, indulgent, and ever so slightly fancy.


If I'm being honest, I usually dislike French Toast casseroles and bread puddings.  They just seem a bit soggy and bland.  Why would I eat mushy bread for breakfast on the weekend when I can have pretty much any other carb known to man and enjoy it infinitely more?

But this one has changed my mind.  I think because it's not as moist as most, and when you stack the whole bread slices in the dish rather than cutting them into cubes, the top gets nice and crusty.  Not to mention the crunchy sugar on top.  Can we talk about that for a minute?

That sugar is THE best part of this entire scenario, with it's bright orange-y-ness contrasting with the bittersweet chocolate.  On top of the crusty upper edge of the bread. On top of the chocolatey, custardy bread middle.  GAH.

But waitwaitwait.  Before we actually stop, let's talk about bread.  I used the BEST sourdough bread for this, because my husband had a connecting flight through SFO and brought me some.  That man speaks my love language.  The sourdough gives a nice tang and has a great crust, but you could also use a high quality challah or French bread.  Just make sure it's not sandwich bread, because that won't work.  Just...don't.  Trust me here. 

Also, this gets bonus points for being a make ahead breakfast.  Let it soak overnight, then bake it when you get up.  The oven can preheat while you brush your teeth, and it bakes while you shower.  You get an amazing breakfast and a head start on all that weekend relaxing you had planned.  Could life get any better?  I think not.

print recipe
Chocolate Orange French Toast Bake
  • 6-7 slices high-quality bread
  • 5 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coarse sugar (turbinado, sugar in the raw, zulka, etc.)
  • Zest of one large orange, about 1 Tbsp.
  • 3 oz. high quality chocolate bar (60% or higher)
Let your bread slices sit out for a couple of hours until they are slightly dried. In a small bowl, combine the turbinado and orange zest and rub them together until frangrant. Break 2 oz. of the chocolate bar into small pieces about the size of a quarter, then chop the rest into small pieces. Whisk together the eggs, milk, orange juice, vanilla, and one tablespoon of the orange sugar. Melt the butter in a 5"x9" baking pan (a large loaf pan would also work well), then dip each slice of bread in it. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of orange sugar on each slice, then arrange in the baking dish by laying them at an angle and overlapping. Tuck 2-3 pieces of chocolate in between each piece of bread, then pour the egg, milk, and juice mixture over it. {Alternatively, you can cut the bread into 1" cubes and toss in the butter. Spread half in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle about two tablespoons of orange sugar over them, then lay the chocolate pieces on top. Spread the rest of the bread cubes over, then pour on the egg, milk, and juice mixture.} Cover the pan with foil and put in the fridge overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the foil and sprinkle with the remaining orange sugar, then replace the foil and bake for 20-25 minutes, of until the chocolate begins to look melted and the custard is set. Remove the foil, sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the top, and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Serve warm, with or without syrup.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 Servings

Viennese Whirls

I have a very important question.  You know that hit bit of Brit telly, with a grandmotherly female judge and a strangely likable yet somehow not so lovable dude judge? Yeah, that one.

Do you call it The Great British Bake Off, or The Great British Baking Show?


Me, I personally go with the first. It may have something to do with the fact that I watch it on the British schedule (YouTube is life, baby), and it could have something with the fact that I think Baking Show just sounds kinda... lame.  The only reason the didn't call it Bake Off in the US of A is because Pillsbury actually had the gall to copyright that phrase.  And I'm like "Really, Pillsbury? REALLY?!"  So I rebel and call it Bake Off.

Oh, and the other thing?  Mary Berry is really the only judge for me-- she makes you feel like she puts such love and care into every little thing she bakes.  Not to mention that NAME! I might try petitioning my husband to change our last name to Berry, because can you think of anything better than that? I can't.


Anyway, fangirling aside, these are Mary Berry's Viennese Whirls, but I converted the recipe to volume measurements.  Because letsbereal, Americans like their cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons.  They may not be as exact as a scale (or as expensive), but they sure as anything are easy to work with.  

If you aren't GBBO obsessed, 1) these are featured on Netflix season 4, episode 2, 2)What is WRONG with you?, and 3) here are a few pointers:

  1. get that butter SOFT.  This dough is going to be piped, and your hands don't need any of that stiff dough nonsense to deal with.
  2. You can't do the whole Ziploc bag for piping thing-- you need a real piping bag with a coupler and star tip.  They're all pretty cheap (WalMart usually has a decent selection, and so do Michaels and Hobby Lobby.), and the dough won't be popping holes in that bag.
  3. The cookies and buttercream freeze incredibly well separately, so all you have to do is pull them out, fill them, and eat.

Light, buttery, and only slightly sweet, the cookies are perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the buttercream and the tartness of the jam.  Traditionally, raspberry jam is used, but I used Bonne Maman's Four Fruits Preserves because I love love  LOVE all of their flavors, but that one is pretty much the best of all worlds.  Really though, you could pick any flavor you wanted so long as it's bright and colorful and pretty.  Because pretty food tastes even better, right? 


Mary Berry's Viennese Whirls

  • 1 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. All Purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 cup powder sugar
  • 1 cup of very soft butter
  • 2 cups powder sugar
  • 7 Tbsp. of very soft butter
  • 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam, or any other flavor that you prefer

Cookies: Preheat your oven to 375° and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.  You can use a round cutter to trace 2 inch circles onto the bottom side of the parchment, or you can freehand the circles when you pipe them on.

In a mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together the cup of butter with the 1/2 cup of powder sugar until light and fluffy.  Sift in the flour and cornstarch, then beat until fully incorporated.  

Fit a piping bag with the coupler and a large star tip (like this) and fill with the dough.  Pipe 2" rounds onto the parchment paper.  If the dough is extremely soft, refrigerate it for 15 minutes to help the dough maintain it's shape in the oven, then bake for 12-15 minutes or until they are golden and very lightly browned around the edges.  

Filling: Beat together the 2 cups of powdered sugar, 7 Tbsp. butter, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Spoon into another piping bag fitted with coupler and star tip.  Pipe the buttercream onto the flat side of half of the cookies, and spread about 1/2 tsp. of jam onto the other half.  Sandwich them together and refrigerate until the buttercream is firm.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.


Pomegranate Swirl Cheesecake

I feel like winter fruits don't get as much press as their spring, summer, and even fall counterparts.  Sure, there are plenty of citrus and pomegranate recipes out there, but they don't get nearly the same amount of attention as the berries, stone fruits, apples and (of all things) pumpkins.


I will admit to being as guilty as the next food lover, since strawberries would pretty much be my theoretical last meal if I had to choose.  Maybe with a side of chocolate.  It's my last meal, who said it had to be balanced?

But I feel like pomegranate needs a little bit more loving.  They're unique.  They're gorgeous.  They taste like they probably were around back in Eden.  Plus they have a boatload of antioxidants, so HEALTHY! Though I think that the sugar in this cheesecake may undo some of their health benefits, if I'm being honest. That is no good reason to not eat it though. 


A few little things you should know before you start this.  It's a commitment.  The added moisture of the pomegranate swirl means that there's extra moisture, and therefore extra cooking time.  But the long, slow bake?  That means that this will be the creamiest, smoothest cheesecake you've ever encountered.  I dare you to prove me wrong.


Happy baking, and more importantly, happy eating!

Pomegranate Swirl Cheesecake

Based on Martha Stewart's Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
Serves 12
Prep time: 45 minutes
Baking time: 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 32 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
  •  1 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups pomegranate juice
  • 2 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350° F and tightly wrap the bottom of a 10" springform pan in foil.  In a bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and melted butter until thoroughly combined.  Pat the cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan in an even layer and bake for ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely

In a small pan whisk together pomegranate juice, 2 tbsp. sugar and cornstarch until completely blended. Cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened but is still pourable. Set aside to cool, but do not chill.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed with the paddle attachment for about 3 minutes or until smooth and light.  Turn the mixer speed down to low and slowly pour in the 1 1/2 cups of sugar, then salt and and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add eggs one at a time and stir until just combined.  Do not overmix.

Pour a quarter of the cream cheese mixture over the crust, then drizzle about 3 Tbsp. of the pomegranate sauce over it.  Carefully spoon another quarter of the cream cheese over it, then another layer of pomegranate sauce.  For the third layer, use up the remaining cream cheese mixture, being sure to cover up the last layer of pomegranate sauce.  Now comes the fun part. Drizzle another 3-4 Tbsp. of the pomegranate sauce on the top .  Using a thin bladed knife or a thin skewer, swirl the sauce around to create swirls in any pattern (or as randomly as) you choose.  You will have pomegranate sauce left.

Place the cheesecake in a pan at least 11" across and set on a rack placed in the middle of the oven.  Pour warm water into the bottom of the pan, and carefully close the door.  Bake for 45 minutes, then cover with foil to prevent the top from browning and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 325° and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, or until all but about 2 inches in the middle are completely set.  Check it frequently to make sure that it's not getting over done.

When the cheesecake is finished, open the oven door and let it cool for ten minutes before taking it out.  Allow it to cool completely to room temperature before refrigerating, then chill completely.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan before releasing.  Slice it with the same knife, cleaning the blade between each cut.  Serve with the leftover pomegranate sauce.  Cheesecake will keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator if covered in plastic wrap.

Note: If your pomegranate sauce becomes too thick after refrigerating, put it in the microwave for 10 second intervals, stirring each time.  You may need to thin it slightly with more pomegranate juice.