Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

Cranberries and Christmas - they go together like Fred and Ginger, Bacon and Eggs, Chips and Salsa, Lucy and Ricky....well, you get the picture.  

I found this recipe in a magazine and made it the other night for a holiday gathering and everyone loved it. However, I thought adding orange zest and a bit of juice to the topping (before baking) would make it even better. I am going to be BOLD and make my additions to the recipe now, not having tested it yet with those additions!  I plan on making this again, with the additional orange juice in a couple of days. If it turns out badly, I will come back to this and change it. For now.....take your chances!

SO - if you feel bold, then add the zest and juice as I note below. If you'd like to make it without the orange, as the recipe was originally printed, simply eliminate those two ingredients.  (Hope this makes sense!).

Here 'tis~
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

8 TBL unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
zest of one orange
1/4 C orange juice
1 3/4 C fresh cranberries

1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C milk


1. Preheat the oven to 350 and put the rack in the center of the oven. Coat the entire pan (8 inch round cake pan) with 2 TBL of the butter. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 C of the sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the bottom of the pan. Add cranberries, in a single layer (as much as possible) on top of the sugar mixture.  Sprinkle zest over the cranberries, then drizzle gently with the orange juice.

2. In a stand mixer, or a hand mixer, cream the remaining 6 TBL of butter with 1/2 sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla. Combine well.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  With mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk, until well combined.

3. Gently spoon batter over the cranberries, and smooth the top. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 - 35 minutes.  Let the pan cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake; invert onto a rimmed serving platter.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms (otherwise known as Pat's Mushrooms)

In my family we call these "Pat's Mushrooms" because they came from my mom's friend, Pat. We also call them delicious because they are just that! For reasons none of us can explain, they have become a holiday appetizer for our family. I included this recipe in a book I made for Christmas gifts one year....and apparently it has become a favorite of my friend, Bill Elliott, and his family. I am happy to know he includes it in his holiday celebrations as well. 

Bill Elliott (with a beard!), John Lithgow and the Lucky Stars, getting ready for our show at Carnegie Hall.

Once you taste these mushrooms, you will want them every year too - I'm sure of it.


12  oz. Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage (NO SUBSTITUTES!)
1 TBL lemon juice
3 oz. cream cheese
dash of worcestershire
minced green onion to taste (about 4 onions for me)
about 25 mushrooms, cleaned,  stems removed

Brown and drain sausage. Add lemon juice, worcestershire and cream cheese. Then add green onion. Stuff mushroom caps and bake at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes or until mushrooms are cooked through.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to you!!
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Orange Cranberry Shortbread

I needed a cookie. I didn't just want a cookie....I NEEDED a cookie. I didn't want to spend a lot of time or money on ingredients for this one......because like I said, I NEEDED a cookie. Now. 

One of my "go-to" cookie recipes is shortbread. I suspect the woman who invented the recipe for shortbread did it out of the same need as mine and frankly, I think she should win an award for it. After all, it contains the 3 basics of any cookie recipe - flour, butter, sugar. When combined, those three things create one of the most divine tastes we can experience. Simple - and delicious.

In my pantry, I also had some orange-flavored cranberries (from Trader Joes) and one orange. SO I decided to add these to my basic recipe and VOILA! Yummy, Christmas shortbread! (Hereafter called, Orange Cranberry Shortbread).


1/2 C butter, softened
1/2 C powdered sugar
2 tsp orange zest
1 C flour
1/2 C finely chopped dried cranberries 
(tip: you can chop these by hand with about a TBL of flour - or you can do this step in a processor)


1. Preheat oven to 325

2. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and orange zest. Blend until smooth.

3. Add flour and stir by hand - a heavy wooden spoon is best for this. Add cranberries. When the flour is completely mixed into the butter mixture, knead it with your hand about 5-6 times, until smooth.

4. Prepare a sheet pan with either parchment paper, or a silpat mat (if you have a shortbread pan, spray it lightly with vegetable oil spray).

5. Pat the dough into an 8 inch circle (you can also make this into a square to make sticks, but I like the wedge shape from a circle) right on the sheet pan.  You can also roll it, if you have the patience.....  You can make a fancy edge and flute it, or just leave it plain. It will still taste delicious.

6. Cut the dough into 8 wedges, leaving the circle of dough intact!

7. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 8 minutes, then cut again and loosen the wedges apart. Cool wedges on racks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken Mole

Every time I use my crock pot, I think to myself, "why don't I use this more often?".  I think the person who invented the crock pot should win an award - seriously. It is a brilliant idea - put stuff in, set the timer, eat several hours later. There is nothing easier than that - especially during the holidays!  

Lee was craving Mexican spices/flavors, and I found this recipe but decided to change a couple of things, which I think make it better. This recipe uses boneless, skinless chicken thighs - which are a flavorful, moist choice, and VERY easy on the wallet too. 

Crock Pot Chicken Mole


4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
kosher salt
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed
1 large chipotle chili, in adobo sauce
1/2 C sliced almonds toasted
1/4 C raisins
3 oz Ibarra Chocolate (this is a traditional Mexican chocolate - the flavor is unmatched! but if you can't find it you can use bittersweet chocolate), finely chopped 
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 TBL olive oil
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
fresh cilantro leaves for serving


1. Season chicken pieces with salt and place in a 5-6 quart crock pot. In a blender, puree the rest of the ingredients (tomatoes, onion, ancho and chipotle chilis, almonds, raisins, chocolate, garlic, oil, cumin and cinnamon) until smooth. 

2. Pour tomato mixture over chicken pieces in crock pot, and cover. Cook on high for 4 hours (or low for 8 hours), until chicken is tender.

Serve over plain cooked rice; sprinkle with fresh cilantro to taste. 


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Time Is Here

Christmas time is here..........
Most people in my generation grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, and for me, simply hearing this song practically makes me weep. I'm sure it's because it makes me feel like a kid again, when I had no worries or cares of life and bills, etc.  Vince Guaraldi is the composer (for those of you who may not know...) - and I think his sound and styling of this particular song single-handedly formed my love for jazz music.  Here's a link to his website: Click here for Vince Guaraldi's website

Lee Mendelson wrote the lyrics and in my opinion, they are full of the spirit of Christmas:
"Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. 
Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year".

Monday, December 5, 2011

Budgets are tight these days, and making a hearty meal that doesn't cost a lot can be challenging. Lee loves Pork in any form so he was happy when I told him I was going to make this Pork Shoulder Roast. He loves pork chops, pork ribs, bacon, pork roast, bacon (wait....I said that).  Well, you get the picture. This recipe turned out so well that we practically ate the WHOLE thing. Seriously. It was very moist and exactly how I'd hoped it would taste - roasted, smoky, tomato-ey (I know that's not a word) pork deliciousness.
The BEST part was that the roast cost about $8 and change. NICE!! 

I had some potatoes in the pantry, so I just roasted some with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, chopped parsley and rosemary during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Pork Shoulder Roast with Tomatoes

3 lbs boneless pork shoulder roast, tied and patted dry
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 TBL extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (I used my OXO mandoline)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pints cherry tomatoes
2 1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth
2 TBL red wine vinegar
4 tsp smoked paprika

1. Preheat oven to 350. Season pork with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat 1 TBL oil over medium high heat. Add pork, fat side down, and cook, turning until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate. 

Pour off fat, return pot to medium high and add 1 TBL oil. Add onion; cook until translucent, 5 minutes. 

Add garlic; cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes; season with salt and pepper to taste. Add broth and vinegar and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits. Return pork to pot with juices; sprinkle with paprika.

2. Bring mixture to boil over high heat. Cover, transfer to oven and cook 1 hour. Remove from oven, with tongs, flip pork. Return to oven, uncovered, until tender, 1 hour, basting with pork juices every 15 minutes. Transfer pork to cutting board, let rest for 15 minutes. Slice pork and serve with tomatoes and sauce.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ginger Cracks
(the best ginger cookie you will ever eat)

It's December 1st and the Christmas cookie baking season has officially begun!  I LOVE this time of year, not only because of the joy of the Season, but because it's a wonderful excuse for me to bake cookies.  I made the dough for Ginger Cracks a couple of days ago, divided it into 3 parts, froze two and made these cookies this morning. I'm going to give some to a friend who is doing a favor for me, and share the rest with Lee! (these are his personal favorites by the way).

I have had this recipe for many years and as most of my recipes go, I don't remember the source. I wish I could give credit where it is due. 

The taste of Gingerbread Cookies, I think, is completely set apart for the Christmas season. However, there is only ONE cookie I will devote the time to rolling and cutting and that is my Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies (recipe is here on my blog). Ginger Cracks give the wonderful, spicy taste of Gingerbread with the simplicity of scooping and baking. Tah-dah! EASY.

I hope you make these - I'm sure they will be a favorite of yours as well! Merry Christmas.

Ginger Cracks~

2 C plus 1 TBL unsifted all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 C vegetable shortening
4 TBL (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 C plus 2 TBL sugar
1 large egg
1/4 C plus 1 TBL mild, unsulphered molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 C chopped crystallized ginger
about 1/2 C coarse decorator sugar for
rolling (you can also use regular sugar if
you can't find this)

1. Onto waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, baking
powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

2. In a mixer, beat shortening and butter on low speed until
smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add sugar; beat on
medium speed 1 minute. Blend in egg, molasses and vanilla.
Scrape down sides of bowl frequently.

3. On low, add the flour in 2 additions, beating just until
particles of flour are absorbed. Blend in ginger. Dough will
be stiff and sticky.

4. Scrape dough onto large sheet of plastic wrap. Using a
spatula, flatten into a shallow cake. Wrap up dough and
freeze for 30 minutes before using. (Dough can be
refrigerated for up to 2 days).

5. Heat oven to 375.

6. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place
decorator sugar for rolling, in a bowl. For each cookie, shape
1 level TBL into a ball. Roll in the sugar. Place balls, 3
inches apart, on sheets, 9 per sheet. Dough will spread as it

Using a small cookie scoop makes it easy and cookies will be the same size.

Ready for the oven!

7. Bake in 375 oven for 12 minutes. As cookies bake, they will
puff up, then flatten out. Surfaces will appear crackly and
crinkly. Let stand on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to
wire racks. Let cool. Store in airtight container at room
temperature for up to 3-4 days.

These cookies never last for more than a couple of days around here....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Robin Cunningham's Virginia Peanut Soup

Robin Cunningham - Big Band singer extraordinaire! She is the reason I started this blog and it is about time I posted one of her beloved recipes! I met Robin when I was singing with the Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra. Robin's husband Tom has a fantastic band and challenged Bill Elliott to a "battle of the bands". OH what fun we had!!! We played in a restaurant in the D.C area that was shaped like a rectangle, and had bandstands set up on both ends. There was a big wall of glass on the street end of the restaurant and I remember it being completely steamed up because it was SO cold outside....but inside it was JUMPIN! Man! Between the musicians blowin and the dancers dancin and the people eating, we were generating some heat!!  It was a great night and I only wish we could do it again. Robin is a fantastic singer and it is my pleasure to call her my friend.

So....I asked her for one of her favorite recipes and she responded with this. She said she makes it every year at Thanksgiving, and because we just celebrated Thanksgiving, I decided to make it too. It is Rich and Creamy, and Delicious!  Not sweet, but savory - a perfect soup starter for a Fall meal.

That's Robin on the far left with the boa! 

Thank you Robin....for this recipe and for your beloved friendship.

2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small to medium onion, chopped
1/2 stick butter (1/4 C)
2 TBS flour
2 C chicken broth
1 C milk
1 C heavy cream
(or 2 C light cream)
1 C peanut butter (unfortunately, organic does not work in this recipe - the final product comes out "grainy")
salt and pepper to taste
chopped peanuts for garnish

Lightly brown celery and onion in butter.
Add flour - cook long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste - a couple of minutes.
Stir in broth and bring to a boil to thicken. 
Add milk and cream  - reduce heat to simmer.
Blend with immersion blender (or use can use a regular blender, doing this step in batches, then return to pan)
Stir in peanut butter until smooth. 
Simmer 5 minutes; serve immediately.
Garnish with chopped peanuts.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"End of the Year Fundraiser" for Society of Singers 

Society of Singers is a non-profit organization which provides financial assistance to professional singers in times of need. Please help me give to SOS by contributing to this "End of the Year Fundraiser", by giving ANY amount to my foundation here at GiveBack! Your donations will help to provide funds for things like FOOD, RENT, UTILITIES and MEDICAL BILLS for countless singers who are in the middle of very difficult times right now.

Click on the "Donate Now" sign to give.
Thank you SO much.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Faye Elder's Upper Peninsula Pasty

I met Faye (her name was Nesbitt then) when I was singing at Knott's Berry Farm - my first professional job out of high school. It was a great time in my life - a wonderful learning experience about how challenging it can be to do 5 shows a day at a theme park, but how good it is to be employed!

Faye played the "madam" in the Calico Saloon Show. If you've never been to Knott's Berry Farm, there is an old "Ghost Town" area where there is a perfect replica of an old saloon, and on one side there is a stage. BUT....the stage is only a few feet wide AND it is on the 2nd level up. In the show there's a small band, two can can dancers, a shoot out and also a male singer (Michael Whitney in this picture). It's fantastic to be watching the show, but to be UP there, singing and moving around can be dangerous. Faye was the queen of that show and she did it beautifully. I think I got to sub in once for her....I honestly don't remember much about it except that I didn't think I was very good and I remember being really frightened of falling off the stage. 
Here's Faye (in the middle)!

Faye now lives in her beloved Michigan and has sent me this fabulous recipe for Pasty pies. She says it's a regional favorite and one she makes all the time.
This is her quote:
A favorite for generations, men working in the mine would actually put hot ones from home in their pockets during the Winter, before heading off to work. The pasty is still a beloved meal to share and especially covered in ketchup!


The crust:
1 cup lard
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk and milk to fill cup
2 cups cold water
Mix and cut together, roll out into flat football shapes appx. 6x3 in. makes appx 8 to fill with below:

Pasty ingredients:

10 lb ground beef, quarter size pinches
20 lb potatoes cubed
5 lb carrots chopped
2 rutabagas chopped
3 lb onions cut
salt and pepper

Chop and mix all ingredients together...fill half of crust, fold over and crimp end. brush top with egg white. Bake on cookie sheet at 425 for first 15 min then 350 till done. Have a cold beer as your side dish! See photos for examples but know that you really can't mess this up! No rules here in da UP!

Robin Whitmore's Cranberry Salad Family Recipe

I met Robin when I was touring with Perry Como. She has such a beautiful voice, and a spirit to match. I'm thankful for the time I had with her on the road - she's the salt of the earth. Love her.
This is a recipe she says, "was given to me by my Mother-in-law right after I got married. This was one of Marc's favorites for Thanksgiving/Christmas when he was growing up so she wanted me to have it. I have made it every year since we have been together cause I love the flavors in this. There are not many real measurements on things, so it's kind of up to the individual's tastes but it's VERY simple so it's hard to mess up no matter how much you put in. "

1 bag of fresh cranberries
1 bunch of fresh grapes (preferably green for color)
1 C of sugar
about 1/2 bag mini marshmallows
1 carton of fresh whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

The night before, you grind up the bag of cranberries in a food processor till small bite size. Put them in a small mixing bowl and add the 1 C of sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight so the cranberries absorb the sugar. The next day there will be a lot of juice, so pour most of that off. Then, halve the bunch of grapes and add to the berries. Add the mini marshmallows. Beat the whipped cream with a mixer, adding the vanilla as you go. You may not need all the cream. Fold the cream into the berries until you have the desired color of pink for the salad. It's a wonderful mixture of flavors, very easy and tastes great. Goes really good with pork, turkey or chicken."

Robin is in the dark blue on the left hand side of the picture. Ah....good times!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I love soup! and when Fall comes it's one of my favorite choices for dinner. A bowl of warm soup, a green salad and a piece of crusty bread and I'm good for the night. I wanted to find a butternut squash soup recipe and there were many that looked appealing to me, but this one CALLED to me. It was probably because of the Italian Sausage listed in the ingredients. yum. This is a recipe from Emeril Lagasse. He includes a recipe for Roasted Parsnip soup to be served WITH this, in the same bowl...a sort of half and half or yin/yang soup. However, I didn't have the patience to make both, so I just went with the Butternut. It is deeeeelish.

1 (1 1/2 lb) butternut squash, peeled seeded and rough chopped
3 TBS olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C Italian sausage, removed from the casing
1 C onion, diced small
1/2 C carrot, diced small
1/2 C celery, diced small
1/2 C leek, diced small (about 1 leek, white part only)
2 TBL minced shallots
1 TBL minced garlic
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tsp fresh chopped sage leaves

Preheat oven to 425.

Place the chopped squash in a medium bowl and drizzle with 2 TBL olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper (I used a bit more pepper because I like that). Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and place the squash on the pan. Roast the squash for 30-40 minutes or until lightly caramelized and tender.

Remove the squash fro the oven and set aside. Place a large pot over medium heat and add the remaining 1 TBL of oilive oil to the pan and render the Italian Sausage. Cook, stirring often until the meat is caramelized and has released most of it's fat, about 3 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, celery and leeks into the pan and sweat, stirring often for 5-7 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and sweat for 1 minutes stirring continuously. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and add the chicken stock. Place the squash in the pan and the maple syrup and sage.

Bring the pan to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue to cook the soup for 30 minutes or unitl the vegetables are all tender. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to a smooth consistency and velvety texture. Alternately, you can puree the soup in batches using a blender. Taste the soup and re-season if necessary with1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

Buckingham Palace Shortbread

Butter, flour and sugar. The 3 major food groups.  Wait....maybe not, but they are heaven when they all get together to make shortbread. This recipe is a bit different from others because it contains cake flour and cornstarch, which helps with the amazingly light, and sort of "melty" way this shortbread tastes when you eat it. Don't get me wrong, I love the slight crunch and crisp that a regular shortbread cookie has....but THIS takes shortbread to a whole......novah.....levoh ("whole 'nother level" - a very obscure reference to one of my favorite TV characters on a show that is no longer televised, MadTV).   

I digress. I made this recipe last night and have eaten exactly 6 pieces. IF you make this (and I know you will), be prepared to just give in to it because resistance is futile (another obscure reference - email me if you don't know that one).

The recipe for Buckingham Palace Shortbread comes from a cookbook entitled, "Holiday Baking" by Sara Perry. She says the recipe was given to her by someone who insists it is the very recipe made daily for the Queen's afternoon tea. 


Buckingham Palace Shortbread

2 C cake flour
3/4 C plus 1 TBL cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 C granulated sugar
up to 1/4 C superfine sugar for sprinkling 

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt until well blended.

2.  In a stand mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. On low speed, add the flour mixture in two or three additions until it forms a soft dough. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

...outta the bowl

...into the fridge.

3. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or leave ungreased.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 3/4 inch thick slab, about 5 X 8 inches. (I used a large frosting spatula to get the edges into shape). Transfer to the baking sheet and bake until lightly golden and firm to the touch, about 40 minutes. 

Into the oven with you.

Slip the parchment paper with the shortbread onto a hard surface. Immediately sprinkle the shortbread heavily with the superfine sugar. While still warm, use the spatula (or other straight, flat tool) and a paring knife, pointed straight down, to cut the shortbread into 1 - 1 1/2 inch pieces. Let cool completely. The shortbread tastes best at room temperature.


(Superfine sugar is also known as "Baker's Sugar" and can be found in supermarkets. For a quick substitute, simply whirl granulated sugar in a blender or food processor for about 20 seconds).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chris Flowers' Rum Cake

I met Chris when I started singing backround vocals for Andy Williams. She was in the orchestra, playing violin. In those days (not THAT long ago, really) Andy traveled with an entire orchestra which is something that no one does anymore. In fact, he probably was one of the last ones. When he decided to stop touring and built his theater in Branson, he sized down his band and began using synthesizers which mimicked the string section, and horns. 
When Andy Williams opened his theater, I did the first two Christmas seasons. So, I would go to Branson from the end of November to the end of December and because I needed a place to stay, she very generously opened her home to me. I was like the college kid who comes home and takes the old bedroom for several weeks during Christmas vacation, except I did my own laundry.  
Chris is a gorgeous and talented woman and I am pleased to call her my friend. She's also a wonderful cook and this is her much sought after recipe for Rum Cake!  Enjoy!

Chris and I (with Tish Diaz on keys) during Andy Williams Christmas Show in Branson, MO.

The lovely Chris Flowers

Heat oven to 325

Mix Together in mixer:
1 yellow cake mix (Duncan Hines)
1 large box of vanilla instant pudding (not the cook and serve)
4 eggs
½ cup water
½ cup rum
½ cup vegetable oil

Spray bundt pan with Pam Cooking Spray. Pour completely mixed batter into pan. Bake for one hour or until knife comes out clean.

In a saucepot mix:
1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of rum

Bring to a boil and boil for two minutes while stirring. Let sauce cool slightly.

While cake is in pan, make holes in cake and pour the sauce over top of cake. I make holes bigger until all the sauce has gone into the cake. Let cake sit in pan for a bit until slightly cooled…about 6-10 minutes. 

You want to make sure the cake is done, and the sauce is absorbed or the cake can get mushy.

I sometimes put sifted confectionary sugar on top of cake.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Melanie Taylor's Fall Veggie Recipes

To know Melanie is to love Melanie. Period.  I wish everyone reading this knew her like I do.  Besides being a sweetheart, and a true blue friend, she's a multi-talented singer/dancer/ songwriter. She has toured and done shows with countless people, not the least of which is Barry Manilow, Better Midler, John Mayer, as well as singing on shows like "The Voice".  But as I said, above all that, she's just a wonderful human. She and I did a few shows for Disney, back in the day. One of the shows we did was in St. Louis, under the arch. I will never forget that day because it was BLAZING hot. Here's a picture of us backstage that day...(not the best picture of either one of us but I think it's cute because we have the same hair).

Melanie is a vegetarian, so here are some of her favorite ways to eat veggies!

Kale–Toasted almonds, butter and salt or EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), balsamic, garlic and red chile flakes.

Swiss Chard–Braised in cream in a dutch oven or sautéed with EVOO, mustard, honey and white wine.

Cauliflower–Roasted in EVOO and finished with a sprinkle of balsamic and golden raisins. Or steamed and puréed with sour cream and fresh thyme.

Apples–Halved, roasted with Moroccan spices (cumin, clove and allspice) and drizzled with pomegranate molasses. Or peeled and chopped and sautéed in brown butter, sugar and toasted almonds

Fennel–Sliced and slow cooked in butter in a heavy roasting pan, and finished with a touch of cream. Or roasted with EVOO, salt and balsamic. Add goat or Parmesan cheese to finish.

Keep in mind all of these can be served hot or cold.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Foolproof Apple Cake

I love cooking seasonally, and when October rolls around I find myself wanting to bake this recipe. It is TRULY foolproof!  I recently decided to try another "apple cake" recipe and was very disappointed - there weren't enough apples - the cake was dry and bland.  But this one never fails and I want to share it with you - I hope you decide to try it.

Foolproof Apple Cake

2 C peeled, cored and chopped apples (I use 2 large Gala apples)
3/4 C sugar
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg white 
cooking spray for the pan

Preheat the oven to 350

1. Combine the apples and sugar in a bowl; let stand 10 full minutes.

Be sure to give them 10 minutes so that some juices form in the bowl!

2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt on a large bowl; stir well. Make a well in center of mixture.

3. Combine the oil, vanilla and egg white - beat until slightly frothy. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. This will be VERY dry. (There will be some moisture from the apple mixture)

The oil, vanilla and egg white, ready to mix into the flour...

VERY dry....but that's OK!

4. Add the apples and any juice that has collected at the bottom of the bowl. (it's ok to add a tsp or so of water to the mixture if it doesn't come together).

5. Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until slightly browned at edges.

Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.