Cashmere Apron

Killer Key Lime Bites

Looking for a whimsical and light last minute summer dessert- perhaps for that big holiday right around the corner??? Try these individual Killer Key Lime Bites. There’s no worry about making a perfect pie crust because you use limes to hold the filling and you can whip up the key lime pie filling in a few fast steps.

I followed Ina Garten’s recipe for frozen key lime pie for the filling. Then, I substituted large, hollowed out limes to spoon the pie filling into rather than pie crust. You can make these treats ahead of time, pop them in the freezer and serve just as your guests are ready for dessert.

6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 to 5 limes)

For the Topping:
1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Thin lime wedges
Crumbled graham crackers (crumble right before serving to keep them fresh)

The first step is buying the largest limes you can find. Cut each lime in half and use a juicer to squeeze all of the juice possible out of each half. After the lime is juiced the inside should be fairly empty. You can scoop out the remainder of the lime with a sharp pairing knife or a grapefruit sectioning spoon. The only secret to this step of preparation is a little patience.

Once the inside of the lime is scooped out, place each half in an empty egg container which holds the lime upright for filling. For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Spoon the filling up to the edge of the lime. Top with fresh whipped cream and a touch of lime zest and place your filled egg carton in the freezer. When you are ready to serve the Key Lime Bites, take them out of the freezer and sprinkle fresh graham cracker crumbs on top.

I found the best serving holders for this mini dessert were circular napkin rings. The lime sits perfectly on top. Place each napkin ring on a large elevated cake plate or decorative platter and add a little more zest around the edges to complete the display.

You can also add mini-appetizer spoons to each Key Lime Bite for easy serving and easy eating.

Meyer Lemon & Raspberry Soufflé

It’s hard to beat a chocolate soufflé, period. But when I found myself with bags of Meyer Lemons (compliments of my mom’s Meyer Lemon tree that seems to be on steroids), I wanted to explore a few ways to use the citrusy fruit. I came across a Martha Stewart recipe for a lemony soufflé pudding and adapted the recipe using Meyer lemons and raspberries. The Meyer Lemon and Raspberry soufflés were not only delicious but simple to make. I’ve never made a soufflé and was dubious when I saw Martha Stewart was the “recipe headliner,” as some of her ideas/crafts/recipes, well…let’s just say the word “easy” does not come to mind. The ingredients here are minimal and uncomplicated which means I can focus on the presentation which is my favorite element of cooking. A chocolate soufflé is still hard to beat but this version offers a light and elegant treat at the end of a meal and would be a great option during the holidays when rich foods are plenty and champagne is being uncorked at every turn.


1 teaspoon unsalted butter, for the soufflé cups
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tb freshly grated Meyer lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 package fresh organic raspberries
2 Tb powdered sugar
whipped cream for garnishing
fresh rosemary for garnish
6-7, 3.5 ounce soufflé cups (World Market has an in depth online selection at chipper prices)

Gently push the fresh raspberries into the light and fluffy batter.

Gently push the fresh raspberries into the light and fluffy batter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using the teaspoon of butter, butter six to seven soufflé cups and set aside. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.

While the water is boiling, in a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. In another clean bowl, beat the egg yolks until frothy and light in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly add the sugar to the yolks while still beating. Mix in the Meyer lemon zest and juice.

Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk-lemon mixture. Pour the batter into each soufflé  cup (filling each three-quarters full). Place each soufflé cup into the roasting pan and place the pan on a flat surface near the oven. Add two to three fresh raspberries to each soufflé cup by gently pushing them into the batter. Carefully and quickly pour the boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the soufflé cups. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Don’t overcook.

Line your serving platter with slices of Meyer lemons for a bright presentation.

Line your serving platter with slices of Meyer lemons for a bright presentation

Remove the pan from the oven. Set the soufflé cups on a wire rack to cool. In the meantime, cover the bottom of a serving platter with Meyer lemon slices. To serve, set the soufflé cups on top of the Meyer lemon slices. Dust each soufflé cup with confectioners’ sugar and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish the platter with fresh rosemary. Serve warm.

I love using rosemary as a garnish and it looks so fresh against the bright yellow of the lemons

Rosemary always serves as a fragrant and sophisticated garnish

If you try this recipe and like it, let me know what you think!

Meyer Lemon Cookies with a Powdered Sugar Glaze

When a large bag of Meyer Lemons lands graciously on your front porch the question begs…what to do with Meyer Lemons? My first instinct, which was covered in my last post, was to make Meyer Lemon Limoncello. Sipping Limoncello in the warm Italian sunshine is one of my most vivid memories of a long-ago trip to Europe. The Meyer Lemon Limoncello was a success and is now on my gift giving list for the holidays. When wondering what else to do with Meyer Lemons, I decided to infuse vodka, which yielded a delicious flavor and a very gregarious cocktail hour this past Christmas day. That post is soon coming up (perhaps as part of a Mother’s Day gift guide).

After searching for all kinds of recipes about what to do with Meyer Lemons, I came across a wonderful sounding recipe for a Meyer Lemon jam. I envisioned slathering the homemade citrusy deliciousness across a rustic piece of bread with morning coffee, drizzling it onto poundcake with fresh strawberries and topping my kids’ nightly bowl of ice cream with just a dab of the zesty freshness. I sterilized my mason jars and laid them on the counter, ready to be filled. After peeling, chopping, draining, boiling and BURNING my precious lemon jam to a dark mahogany hue, I put that idea on hold until next year when perhaps my patience will be more abundant.

Among some of the other Meyer Lemon recipes I came across, this one stuck out. I found it on a beautiful blog with creative desserts called The Sugar Coated Cottage. I followed The Sugar Coated Cottage recipe to a T, and voila, one more fruitful idea for what to do with Meyer Lemons – create a light and fluffy Meyer lemon cookie with a powdered sugar glaze. The Meyer lemon adds just the slightest hint of citrus so as not to detract from the sugar cookie itself. I often get the complaint from my kids that they prefer, “Just vanilla, mom,” but I could barely glaze these babies fast enough before they flew off the counter. If a baked good sits in my home for more than two days, it’s a flop. These beautiful-to-look-at and tasty-to-taste cookies undoubtedly earn a checkmark in the make-again (and again) column.

Golden flecks of the Meyer lemon zest make for a pretty cookie

Golden flecks of the Meyer lemon zest make for a pretty cookie

For the Cookie:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tb Meyer lemon juice
2 Tb Meyer lemon zest
1 and ¼ cup all purpose flour (I always use Swan’s Down brand cake flour in my
baking. I like the light fluffy texture it yields)
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
Extra sugar for rolling

For the Meyer lemon powdered sugar glaze:
1 and ½ cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp Meyer lemon juice
2 Tbsp Meyer lemon zest

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
-Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
-Add extra sugar to shallow dish for rolling.

To make cookies:
-With mixer on medium cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
-Add in the egg, Meyer lemon juice and zest, mix to combine.
-In a separate bowl put flour, baking powder, baking soda, stir to combine.
-With mixer on low slowly add the flour mixture to butter mixture, mix until well combined.
-Roll into 1” balls and roll in sugar.
-Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
-Bake for 7-9 minutes until edges are lightly browned.
-Let cool.

To make the glaze:
-Mix all ingredients until completely combined.
-Drizzle over cooled sugar cookies.

The Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange offering a little more sweetness than regular lemons.

Arrange cookies on a vintage-looking platter surrounded by fresh lemons and mandarin oranges for a vibrant and inviting presentation.

1. This is a soft dough, if making up next cookie sheet while first one is baking place second cookie sheet with rolled cookies into refrigerator until ready for the oven.

2. If you find the dough is too soft you can refrigerate for 10 minutes to firm up.

3. If you need to store the glaze lay plastic wrap directly on the surface so it does not crust over.

4. Store cookies in airtight container

5. Watch cookies closely while baking, as soon as the edges are a light golden brown remove from oven. Press top of cookie lightly, if firm they are done. If top is soft then put in oven for 1 minute intervals until done.

The sweet citrus taste is attributed to the Meyer lemon's cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.

The light and sweet citrus essence tasted in the cookie is attributed to the Meyer lemon’s cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.

Meyer Lemon Limoncello

When my mom’s Meyer lemon tree was overflowing with glowing yellow citrus, I found myself the lucky recipient of a giant bag on my doorstep. I started researching all the delectable ways these lemons could be incorporated into recipes. It was an experiment that yielded beautiful cocktails and desserts, and one gorgeous roasted chicken.

What makes Meyer lemons so special? ’Lisbon’ and ‘Eureka’ lemons grow year-round and are most likely the lemons you select whenever you reach for them in the grocery store. The Meyer lemon, named after Frank N. Meyer who discovered it in Asia in 1908, is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. The Meyer lemon is less acidic and sweeter with a more fragrant smelling rind. The Meyer lemon is seasonal, available mainly from December through May (Costco had bags of Meyer lemons this year, which I just noticed).

Obsessed with Limoncello from my first trip to Italy, I decided to use the Meyer lemons to first make my own Meyer Lemon Limoncello. I let my peels infuse for a month and the result was delicious.
This Christmas, I plan on making Limoncello again with the Meyer lemons and giving homemade bottles as gifts during the holidays. There is so much you can do with the packaging and suggesting different ways to drink, cook and bake with Limoncello. If you want to try this recipe, any lemons will do, but take advantage of the Meyer variety if you have time.

A thick piece of lemon peel can be tied around the neck of the bottle. Create an "L" out of the lemon peel and glue to a gift tag.

A thick piece of lemon peel can be tied around the neck of the bottle. Create an “L” out of the lemon peel and glue to a gift tag.

11-12 Meyer lemons, washed and dried
1 750-ml bottle vodka (80-to-100 proof)
2 cups sugar
2, 1 quart Mason jars
Small funnel
Decorative/Sealable bottle(s) of your choice


Cover the Meyer Lemon peels with vodka

Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler being careful to avoid the pith. Divide the lemon peels equally between your two, 1-Quart Mason jars. Fill each jar to the top with vodka and seal.

Fill jar to the top, covering all peels, and seal the lid

Fill jar to the top, covering all peels, and seal the lid

Place the Mason jars in a dark, cool spot and let the vodka infuse anywhere from one week to four weeks. *The longer you infuse the vodka the more lemon flavor you will get out of your Limoncello.

Vodka being infused with Meyer Lemons

Vodka being infused with Meyer Lemons

Once you are ready, place your collander/strainer over a measuring cup that is large enough to hold at least two cups but preferably four. Strain the infused vodka through the collander/strainer. It should yield four cups of vodka approximately. Add your four cups of infused vodka to a large pitcher.

Now you will prepare a simple sugar syrup which you will add to the infused vodka (once it has cooled). Bring two cups water and two cups sugar to a boil and stir. Once all the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let the simple sugar syrup cool completely.

Once the simple sugar syrup has cooled completely, you will add it to your pitcher of infused vodka and stir. Be sure to taste it and make sure it is to your liking. I used a 1:1 ratio and thought it had the right kick.

Pour Limoncello into a decorative bottle that seals

Pour Limoncello into a decorative bottle that seals

You are ready to bottle your Limoncello. Pour into the decorative bottles you selected using a small funnel or a steady hand! I found the pretty bottles you see here at Cost Plus but am certain any variety and any size can be found online. Chill the finished Limoncello in the fridge or freezer for four to five hours before enjoying. I always keep my Limoncello in the freezer as I like to serve it cold and it will last much longer (up to a year).

Limoncello Ideas

vanilla caramel popcorn halloween cupcakes

Lead HalloweenIngredients
one dozen vanilla cupcakes (use your favorite recipe)
melting chocolate
salted caramel popcorn
caramel sauce
pastry bag or squeeze bottle
melon baller
parchment paper
Halloween cupcake liners

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients
1 lb box of C&H Pure Cane Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter (softened)

Make vanilla cupcakes and let cool on a rack.

While cupcakes are cooling, melt chocolate and add to a pastry bag (the process would be neater in a squeeze bottle but I didn’t have one on hand). On a sheet of parchment paper, pipe out chocolate spider webs. They are simple to make once you get the hang of it. I used this tutorial from the internet (the example uses white chocolate but the process is the same for dark chocolate). Once you have created your spider webs, leave them to harden on the parchment paper or pop in the fridge until you are ready to use (they harden in about 15 minutes-very quick).

Easily pipe spiderwebs onto parchment paper

Even with my hands covered in chocolate, I managed to create these cute chocolate webs

While your spider webs are setting, take your melon-baller and scoop out a hole in the top of each cupcake. Fill the hole with caramel sauce. Once all of the holes are filled, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.

Scoop out a small hole in the cupcake and fill with caramel sauce

The caramel center is a yummy surprise in almost every bite

To make frosting, add all of the frosting ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat with a mixer for approximately 2-minutes, scraping down the sides. Add frosting to a pastry bag and frost all of the cupcakes in any style you desire. I used a thicker frosting tip to cover the cupcakes thoroughly.

A tray of homemade Halloween sweets

A tray of homemade Halloween treats for every age

Once the cupcakes are frosted, cover the top with the salted caramel popcorn and insert a spider web in the middle. Arrange on a platter and serve for a fun, Halloween dessert.

*Add the popcorn to the top of the cupcakes right before serving so it doesn’t go stale from exposure to the air.

The popcorn adds a whimsical touch to the cupcake

The popcorn adds a whimsical touch and a crunch to every bite of cupcake

root beer float popsicles


Labor Day almost requires that our toes not leave the sand – summer can’t really be (almost) over, can it? Wimbledon, Fireworks and the Fourth of July had my attention just yesterday it seems. If you’re planning on celebrating and entertaining this weekend, try a fun and easy dessert that’s the epitome of summer and sunshine and kids running through the sprinklers. Below find two types of popsicles – a version for kids and adults (Root Beer float) and one for just the adults (fresh peach and Bellini). With the extra root beer, you can also make mini-root beer floats.

Mini root beer floats to go with the popsicles

Mini root beer floats to go with the popsicles

You can easily make these popsicles ahead to ease last minute rushing and preparation. Pass these popsicles around, kick your feet up and savor the last bites of summer.

4 1/2 cups A&W root beer
1/2 cup vanilla bean ice cream (softened)
1 Hershey’s milk chocolate bar
popsicle mold
cupcake liners


Slowly pour 4 1/2 cups of root beer into a large bowl. Once the fizzing has subsided, gently add 1/2 cup of softened vanilla bean ice cream to the bowl and stir slowly until melted into the root beer. Pour mixture into popsicle molds using a measuring cup with a spout (if possible).

The mixture will fizz a little bit more when poured into the molds due to the carbonation in the root beer. Once the fizzing has stopped, drop a few very small pieces of Hershey’s milk chocolate into each popsicle mold. The chocolate will float to the bottom and be in the first bite once these tasty treats are served.

Before removing frozen popsicles from their mold, cut a tiny hole in the bottom of the cupcake liners. Once the popsicles are out of the mold, push the popsicle stick through the cupcake liner to add a mini “drip tray.”

Arrange popsicles in a decorative ice bucket filled with ice and serve immediately. You can also place the popsicles on wax paper on a large dinner plate, stacking them into a few layers with wax paper between each layer and put into the freezer until you are ready to serve.



Also easy to make ahead – scoop vanilla bean ice cream into small mason jars and freeze. Load them on a tray when ready to serve and add the root beer and whipped cream.

fresh peach and bellini popsicles

2-3 large peaches, peeled and diced
2 cups+2Tb cranberry juice
1, 8 1/2 ounce bottle of prepared Bellini (find in your grocery store’s chilled spirits section)
fresh mint leaves
popsicle mold

A hint of mint

A hint of mint

Place peaches in a blender and add 1-2 Tb of cranberry juice. Blend until the peaches are pureed into a liquid – 30 seconds to one minute. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the 8 1/2 ounces of prepared Bellini and 2 cups of cranberry juice and mix with a large spoon.

Pour mixture into popsicle molds slowly using a measuring cup with a spout (if possible). Add a few fresh leaves of mint to every popsicle. The mint will float on the top but once the popsicle stick is inserted, the mint will be pushed further into the popsicle mold.

Freeze popsicles. Before removing frozen popsicles from their mold, cut a tiny hole in the bottom of cupcake liners. Once the popsicles are out of the mold, push the popsicle stick through the cupcake liner to add a mini “drip tray.”

Labor Day poolside dessert

Labor Day poolside dessert

Arrange popsicles in a decorative ice bucket filled with ice or pass around on a large tray with fresh mint leaves decorating the platter. Serve immediately. You can also place the popsicles on wax paper on a large dinner plate, stacking them into a few layers with wax paper between each layer and put into the freezer until you are ready to serve.

Garnish with fresh mint and serve on a large platter or in an ice bucket

Garnish with fresh mint and serve on a large platter or in an ice bucket

s’mores ice cream pie

My kids LOVE Oreo ice cream pie. This wasn’t on the day’s TO-DO list but when I saw the “Limited Edition” S’mores Oreos staring me down at the end of the grocery aisle, I couldn’t help picture an ice cream pie using these cookies. And, of course, Dreyer’s just happened to have S’Mores ice cream when I checked the ice cream section. It was fate. My kids were meant to be pumped full of S’mores today, in some form or another. Happy Tuesday Treats!


2, 10 ounce packages of S’mores Oreos (limited edition)
1, 1.5 liter container of Dreyer’s S’Mores light ice cream
1, 8 ounce container of Cool Whip, slightly defrosted but not runny
Hershey’s syrup
1 Tb butter

Limited edition S'mores Oreos

Limited edition S’mores Oreos



Crushed Oreos make a yummy ice cream pie crust

1. Leave ice cream out to thaw for 45 minutes.
2. Take one 10 ounce package of Oreos and crush in a large mixing bowl, reserve 1/4 cup.
3. Once crushed to your liking, add 1 Tb of melted butter and mix.
4. Butter the bottom of a 9″ pie pan.
5. Press the crushed Oreos into the bottom of the pie pan with the back of a tablespoon, making sure to push down firmly.
6. When ice cream is somewhat melted, pour the container on top of the crust and spread with a baking spatula until it is evenly layered across the pie pan.
7. Squeeze Hershey’s syrup across the top of the ice cream.
8. Spread defrosted Cool Whip across the top of the syrup and ice cream. The ingredients will be a little runny so move the Cool Whip gently with the spatula.
9. Take the second package of Oreos and form a border around the pie.
10. Take the reserved 1/4 cup of crushed Oreos and sprinkle across the top of the pie.
11. Top pie with a S’More, toasted marshmallows or shaved chocolate for decoration.
12. Place pie  in the freezer on an even surface and let harden for two to three hours.
13. When pie is firm, slice and enjoy.

Once the melted ice cream is spread across the cookie crust, drizzle with Hershey's syrup and top with Cool Whip

Once the melted ice cream is spread across the cookie crust, drizzle with Hershey’s syrup and top with Cool Whip

Use Oreos to create a cookie border, top with crushed Oreos and decorate

Use Oreos to create a cookie border, top with crushed Oreos and decorate

mexican chocolate doughnuts

LeadDoughnutRaise your hand if you’ve heard this familiar refrain, “Mom, don’t forget I need [insert food item here] for class [insert urgent date here]. I admit that my son did give me the weekend to prepare, although he had a basketball tournament on Saturday and Mother’s Day was yesterday (Sunday). Timing, eh?

My son needed to bring in a Mexican food item to share with 16 kids in his Spanish class. There are tons of things that can be made BUT transport was my main concern. A 16-year old boy transporting handmade, hard-labored over food to school without getting crushed, smushed or dropped was tantamount to my plan.

I originally had visions of making Churros that were delicately wrapped in wax paper, light and fluffy with the perfect coating of cinnamon and sugar. I also had a glaringly opposing vision of me sweating over my electric skillet, oil flying everywhere only to be left with soggy and sad looking pastry sticks somewhat resembling churros (all the recipes make them sound so easy to make). So I went with my gut and chose this delicious recipe for Mexican Chocolate Doughnuts. They are easy to make and they are BAKED not fried.

I did a test batch of the doughnuts and brought them to Mother’s Day brunch at my sister’s house. The number one food critic in our home, my son, gave me a thumbs up. When other people said they were “so good,” I knew I made the right choice. I still want to try making Churros but not when someone’s grade is dependent upon it.

The Mexican Chocolate Doughnuts would be a fun item at holiday time served with a side of cinnamon whipped cream and Mexican hot chocolate or wrapped in a crisp white box and brought as a hostess gift with a pretty recipe card or served as an easy brunch item the next time there’s a sleepover. Thanks to the talented ladies at Garnish With Lemon for solving my dilemma and creating a recipe that will be used over and over, especially in times of “crisis.” Hopefully, my son will flawlessly dictate in Spanish how to make these delicious morsels and “WE” will get an A.

Doughnut batter
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1¼ cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Chocolate Glaze
5 T unsalted butter
⅓ cup chocolate chips
2 T milk
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325.

For the doughnuts
1. Mix buttermilk, brown sugar and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer until thoroughly combined.
2. Add the melted chocolate and butter and mix until incorporated. Add the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined.
3. Pipe mixture using a frosting bag into greased doughnut pan and fill each well ¾ of the way full.
4. Bake at 325 for 12-14 min. Let set in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire
rack to cool. I found that if I let the doughnuts sit a bit longer and cool they were easier to pull out of the doughnut well with my fingertips.

For the glaze:
In a medium saucepan mix the butter, chocolate chips and milk. Heat over med low heat until melted. Add cinnamon and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts into glaze and set on drying rack to set. Serve.






1. I found my Wilton Doughnut pan at Bed Bath & Beyond.
2. Instead of spooning the mixture into the doughnut pan well, I piped it in using a frosting bag without a tip. I cut a bit of a larger hole and it worked perfectly and easily.


lemon-thyme cake

FullSizeRenderIsn’t it annoying when a recipe calls for a few sprigs of a particular fresh herb and you are essentially left with the full amount? In my case, the culprit was thyme, whose two sprigs capped off my perfect pot roast. Rather than toss the bunch, I decided to try a few different recipes and really max out the versatility of the herb. One such recipe is this scrumptious cake that popped up as soon as I Googled “lemon-thyme cake.” The talented ladies from the blog Spoon Fork Bacon published the original recipe in 2014 and it is a winner.

No one in my family could pass the cake stand without breaking off pieces of the light fluffly deliciousness. We chipped away diligently until all that remained was a smattering of crumbs.

The Lemon-Thyme cake will debut at my sister’s house on Mother’s Day; one cake wrapped for my sister as a thank you for hosting and another cake as an “I Love You” to my mom. I’m picking up white cake boxes and wrapping each one in soft yellow ribbon with sprigs of thyme on top. Personally, I think it’s a gift everyone will enjoy and it comes straight from the heart (and, of course, will be accompanied by a bottle of champagne).

This piece might seem big, until you take a BITE.

This piece might seem big, until you take a BITE.

Makes 2 (8”) cakes

Cake Ingredients
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (I used C&H pure granulated sugar and it was fine)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh minced thyme

Frosting Ingredients
I strayed from the SFB frosting and made a lemon buttercream which was easy and divine, especially with the hint of lemon subtly popping through.

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 to 6 Tb lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon peel

Cake Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl.
3. Place sugar, butter and eggs into another mixing bowl and whisk together. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk together until very thick and combined.
4. Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the zest and thyme, until fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.
5. Gently fold in the zest and thyme until just combined.
6. Pour the batter into two prepared cake pans (bottoms lined with parchment and lightly greased) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
7. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from pans and letting them cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions
1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.
2. Beat in the confectioners sugar, vanilla and lemon juice
3. Beat until well-blended.
4. Fold in the lemon peel just until mixed.
5. Frost each cake layer when cool and assemble.
6. Decorate the top with a few leaves of thyme and a lemon wheel

Beautiful on the outside and tasty on the inside

Beautiful on the outside and tasty on the inside

love bites

Love Bites CollageIf there is any chance of denying your kids are growing up right before your eyes, it only takes a holiday or two to make it clear that there has been a shift.

My “babies” are only 16 and 12 but gone is the Valentine’s Day frenzy of candy grams, homemade treats for the class and finding the perfect Valentine’s cards for the big exchange. Perhaps its denial but I refuse to “go gently into that good night,” when it comes to my maturing babes and ANY holiday. When they are grown with families of their own, I want them to remember their childhood home as a place of tradition and celebration – no matter their age.

So for the past few years, I have made them their own Valentine’s Day celebration replete with decorations and a decadent amount of treats and sweets. I call this little party, “Love Bites,” because each morsel is filled with love (and of course, you can’t overlook the fact that sometimes, love DOES bite).

Love Bites Menu

The first year I created “Love Bites,” it was a wild-haired idea that came to me about an hour before school pick-up. I dashed to the store and bought heart-shaped cookies, nuts, conversation hearts, caramels, strawberries and whipped cream. It wasn’t a fancy display but I knew from the looks on their faces, it wasn’t about the fancy, it was about making an unexpected and special gesture just for them. Don’t think over the top if you create your own Love Bites table, just keep it simple and real – for whoever you’re loving.

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Click HERE for recipe

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts


White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Click HERE for recipe

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles


Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings


Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies


Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint


Food alone won't fill your table - pay attention to the special touches

Food alone won’t fill your table – pay attention to the special touches

Happy Valentine’s Day!

white chocolate peanut butter krispies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Perfect for any holiday or special occasion, these White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies are highly addictive. A friend gave us some after her annual family cookie baking session in early December. Everything she gave us was yummy but my kids went wild for these delicious morsels. They are soooooooooo easy to make that I gave them out for teacher gifts at holiday time (I was asked for the recipe by several teachers).

For Valentine’s Day, I followed the recipe below and added conversation hearts and pink sprinkles for a little Valentine’s Day flair.

2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup creamy peanut butter
*2 pounds white melting chocolate =  (2, 12-oz packages plus 1 1/3 cup)
**I used Ghirardelli White Chocolate Melting Chips (NOT chocolate chip morsels)
**You can also use vanilla CandiQuik

Conversation Hearts and Pink Sprinkles add a Valentine's Day Flair

Conversation Hearts and Pink Sprinkles add a Valentine’s Day Flair

In a large bowl, combine cereal, peanuts and marshmallows. In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate and peanut butter on high for 1 minute and then in 30 second intervals until fully melted. Stir chocolate into cereal mixture. Mixture will be slightly runny. Drop by tablespoon onto waxed paper. Add sprinkles (conversation hearts) at this point if desired. Let set until firm, 2 hours. Store in airtight container.
One batch makes between 20 and 30 pieces depending upon how big you drop them onto the wax paper.

mini strawberry layer cakes with fresh cream

IMG_6842The perfect little dessert for any occasion, these cakes are tailored for Valentine’s Day with bright red strawberries, fresh cream, chocolate zest and mint.

Use your favorite vanilla/white cake recipe
Add 1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
Add 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Large 6-well cupcake pan

Fresh Whipped Cream
8 ounces heavy whipping cream
1 Tb pure granulated sugar
1 Tb vanilla extract

Cleaned and sliced strawberries
Dark chocolate zest
Fresh mint leaves

Make cake batter according to your recipe, adding the additional ingredients listed above (lemon zest, cinnamon and vanilla extract). Pour each cupcake well 3/4 full of cake batter and bake according to directions. Once finished, let cool.

In a blender, mix together the heavy cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract. Blend on medium-high until stiff peaks form.

Using a perforated knife, cut each oversized cupcake into three layers.

Layer cupcakes with whipping cream, strawberries and mint. Repeat. Once the top layer is finished, zest dark chocolate over the whipped cream and top with a strawberry or two and a fresh mint leaf.

Place mini cakes on a heart shaped doilie on a cake stand. Place fresh mint leaves all around to fill white space.

Place mini cakes on a heart shaped doilie on a cake stand. Place fresh mint leaves all around to fill white space.

pistachio torte

This year in particular, it seemed like “pumpkin fever” took hold before I could finish licking the Labor Day barbecue sauce off my fingers. If an item wasn’t pumpkin flavored, it was pumpkin infused, laced or scented from bagels to pudding to chocolate and beer.

If you happen to be on pumpkin overload and want an alternative for your Thanksgiving dessert table, try the Torta Di Pistacchio. This particular recipe is from a cooking class at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, Canaletto Ristorante Veneto. And by “cooking class,” I mean that we sat at a beautifully set table and watched two talented and highly entertaining chefs whip up three delicious courses. Our job was to drink wine, converse and eat. The chefs always finish the meal with a dessert and an appertif sized-glass of homemade limoncello, an Italian liquer.

Limoncello pairs perfectly with the torte to finish off your meal

Limoncello pairs perfectly with the torte to finish off your meal

This Thanksgiving, if you want to forego the traditional, serve this beautiful torte with chilled Limoncello to cap off your holiday.

Ingredients (sponge cake)
7 whole eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 ounces cornstarch
1/4 Tb baking powder
1/4 Tb vanilla extract

The torte displays beautifully on any table

The torte displays beautifully on any table

Ingredients (filling and topping)
3/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate, grated finely (I used a zester)

The rich creamy filling softens the cake layers

The rich creamy filling softens the cake layers

Bagna mixture (to wet the sponge cake before frosting)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. Triple Sec
Fresh mint, if desired.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar until the mixture becomes fluffly and rises to almost double. Mix the flour, baking powder and cornstarch together in a separate bowl.

Very slowly, incorporate the flour mixture into the fluffy egg mixture until well mixed. Pour batter into a springform pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes. *The sponge cake will rise into a fluffy dome but will settle down once it cools.

Assembling the cake
Cut the sponge cake into three even layers. I used a perforated bread knife and it worked fine. Don’t worry if your layers aren’t perfect – that’s why we have filling/frosting.

Combine the water, sugar and triple sec in a glass bowl to make the Bagna. Wet the sponge cake layers with the Bagna using a pastry brush. Be sure to cover the entire surface of each layer.

Mix the heavy cream, Mascarpone cheese and sugar in a blender until firm. Gently blend in the grated chocolate until mixed. Spread the cream in equal parts on the three layers, one on top of the other and save some for the top. Finish the top of the sponge cake with the creme, pistachios and chocolate shavings. Add mint for aesthetics if desired.

Top the torte with pistachios and chocolate zest and embellish the sides with fresh mint

Top the torte with pistachios and chocolate zest and embellish the sides with fresh mint

Serves 8-10

Buon Appetito

Compliments of Chef Moises Mendoza and Antonio Guarracino

Canaletto Restaurant, Fashion Island Newport Beach, California

And if you’re curious, check out this list of best and worst pumpkin items this holiday season.

fabulous frightful frankies

Frankie Final LEADIngredients
3 Tb butter
4 cups JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows + 12 to 16 additional marshmallows to create side screws on Frankie’s head
6 cups Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® cereal
11-12 drops of green food coloring
1 package mini chocolate chips or Dolci melting chocolate
black licorice strands cut into 1” to 1/2” pieces
decorative sugar in green, gold and silver (found in the baking aisle at most major
grocery stores. I used Betty Crocker brand.)
candy eyes by Wilton

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add 4 cups marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Stir in 11-12 drops of the green food coloring until the color is “your” desired shade of green. Add Kellog’s Rice Crispies cereal. Stir until well coated. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into large rectangles to form the head of Frankenstein. *To create a thicker Frankie head, use a smaller sized pan.

When the cooled and cut Rice Krispy rectangles are ready to decorate, melt the Dolci melting chocolate or pour 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir and put back into microwave for 15 to 30 seconds. Remove and stir again until melted.Frankenstein Hair

Dip one side of Rice Krispy rectangle into the melted chocolate to add Frankie’s hairline. Add strands of black licorice to fill out the hairline and sprinkle with green decorative sugar. Set on wax paper so chocolate can harden.

To add the eyeballs, dip a wooden sandwich pick (it has a bigger flat end than a regular toothpick) into the melted chocolate. Gently place a drop on the back of the eyeball and then place (chocolate side down) onto “Frankie’s” face to create the eyes.Frankie sidescrews

To create the side screws on Frankie’s head, melt chocolate in a small, microwave proof bowl. Combine the gold and silver decorative sugar in a small bowl. With a wooden sandwich pick, dip the miniature marshmallow into the melted chocolate and then directly into the gold and silver decorative sugar. Place on wax paper and let chocolate and sugar firm up. Once firm, place a drop of the melted chocolate on the flat side of the marshmallow and press to the side of Frankie’s head until set. Let dry completely on wax paper.Lead Image Frankenstein

Arrange the Fabulous Frightful Frankies on a platter and watch them disappear like magic.

lemon cake


Ask a 14 year old what the best use of a lemon is and they may tell you it’s to squeeze on your hair, and lay in the sun to lighten your dull, dreary locks.  Ask your grandmother this same question, and she may tell you that it eases digestion, cures bad breath, and freshens the garbage disposal.  While this is all very true, my favorite thing about this magical fruit is it’s health benefits.  Nutritionally, lemon is a great source of calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, minerals and antioxidants that improve the condition and appearance of our hair, skin and nails.  Let’s face it, we all grew up serving lemonade at our neighborhood lemonade stands and squeezing a fresh lemon slice into our tea.  Below is a list of some interesting lemon facts that you may not have known:
Fun Facts About Lemons:
Heals acne and removes blackheads
Lightens dark skin spots and blemishes
Whitens teeth
Immune boosting powers
Lemon oil mixed with water and sprayed into the air, repels insects
Calms dry scalp and remedies dandruff
Offers relief to those suffering from eczema
Cleanses the face and body
Gets rid of oily skin

1-1/2 butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 Tb lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup 7-Up
Lemon-Lime Glaze (recipe to follow)
Candied Lemons (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar; beat at medium speed 3 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir in lemon zest and extracts.

Add flour to butter mixture alternately with lemon-lime soft drink, beginning and ending with four. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Pour batter into a greased (with shortening) and floured 10-inch Bundt pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. You may need to shield the cake with aluminum foil after 45 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove cake from pan to wire rack.

Spoon Lemon-Lime Glaze over the warm cake. Top cake with the Candied Lemons. Compliments: my

PicMonkey Collage

Lemon-Lime Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1-1/2 Tb fresh lemon juice
1 Tb fresh lime juice

Whisk together powdered sugar, lemon zest, 1-1/2 Tb fresh lemon juice, and lime juice in a bowl until blended and smooth.

Candied Lemons

2 medium lemons
4 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar

Cut lemons into 1/8-inch-thick slices; discard seeds. Stir together water and sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a light boil, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Add lemons; reduce heat to medium-low. Gently simmer 45 minutes or until rinds are very soft and lemons are translucent, turning every 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and place in a single layer on a wire rack. Cool completely.

leoda’s kitchen and pie shop, maui

Leodas Lead

There’s a feeling you get every time you return to a place you love – a certain familiarity and time tested traditions you rely upon. One of those places for me is the island of Maui. My parents discovered it for the first time in the early 70’s and brought us almost every summer to visit.

I remember the days of flight attendants garmented in long flowy Hawaiian dresses with leis around their necks and orchids in their high tight buns. My mom always dressed my sister and me in matching Hawaiian dresses for the flight. And as soon as we stepped off the tarmac, the overwhelming feeling of excitement was hard to temper especially with the warm tradewinds blowing, ukeleles playing and greetings of “Aloha” and friendly smiles from every person you passed. I don’t know how many times I have visited this place but it’s close to 40 I would imagine. That’s how my family is…we find something we love and we stick with it. We have explored some other wonderful places but our hearts always lead us back here. And now we have passed that love on to our own kids. Whenever they are asked about vacation spots, they always say, “We want to go to Hawaii,” and we have been fortunate enough to carry on the tradition.
Leodas Lead 2

On our way in from the airport this year we noticed that Chez Paul, a long standing landmark restaurant was gone. Replacing the landmark in tiny Olowalu town was Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop. We didn’t think anything of it UNTIL some New Yorkers we were sitting next to at lunch mentioned that we should try it. Apparently, the way we were all “scarfing” down the food (their words) made them think we would appreciate good food and good pie. And, of course, they were right.

We hit Leoda’s after a rousing tennis match with our stomachs churning for food. Leoda’s did not disappoint. The place is quaint, warm and homey. Wood floors, bright white tile, soft hanging lights, a large vintage sideboard housing cups, napkins, silverware, condiments and a display of cake stands and plenty of high and low tables to sit and enjoy your food which is served in vintage pie tins. Their approach to food is this, “Our menu features hand crafted specialties made fresh daily using only Maui’s freshest ingredients. We take a unique approach to many classic or traditional favorites…we call it glorified grandma comfort food.”
Leodas Lead 3

We stood in line to order and despite the size of the line, it moved quickly, pressuring us to make a decision after looking at all the different and yummy choices on people’s plates. The various choices are hand-written on chalkboards flanked by a Daily Specials Board, a listing of local farms the food comes from and an abundantly filled display case of mini-handmade pies and pastries. Known for their sweet and savory pies and their homemade breads, we had a little bit of everything…the Chocolate Mac Nut pie, the Olowalu Lime pie and the Chicken Pot pie, and those were just the items we shared. Amongst the food we ordered was Leoda’s burger, homemade fries with a garlic aioli dipping sauce, a roasted pork hoagie smothered in onions and sauce, a cobb salad with amazing greens, a fried salad (my order) which had fresh greens topped with slim pieces of flash fried brussel sprouts in an orange vinaigrette, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made from thick pieces of Leoda’s homemade bread.

Leodas Lead 4

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop is a must visit. There’s always something new to discover in a place you love. We are planning on visiting Leoda’s again before our vacation ends. Aloha!

polka dot love cake


2 boxed white cake mixes (plus oil, water and eggs to make them according to the package)
Your favorite buttercream frosting
Sprinkles or decorations
Food dye
Cake ball maker or pans

Make one of the cakes according to the package directions. Separate the batter into different bowls and use food gels to dye it the colors you want your balls to be.

Following the directions on your cake ball maker, make cake balls in different colors using your dyed batter. When cake balls are done, set them aside to cool. Set your oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Spray 3 – 6 inch round cake pans with oil and set a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of each one.

Make the other cake mix following the directions on the box.

Spread a thin layer of cake batter in the bottom of each pan, place cake balls on top in any pattern that you choose. Divide remaining batter evenly over cake balls so that they are completely covered.

Bake cake layers at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. I used a toothpick inserted into the middle to check for doneness.

When cakes are done, flip them over onto a clean towel to cool.

Trim the cakes so that they will stack flat. Frost your completely cooled cake and decorate.

Slice your cake and sit back and listen to all the oohs and ahhs.



PicMonkey Collage


cake and cocktails, american hustle style

Lead CakeWith the People’s Choice Awards just past, the Golden Globe Awards scheduled for this Sunday, and that special man “Oscar” not far behind,  Tinseltown’s Awards Season is in high gear. And with that I say, “TIME TO ENTERTAIN.” What better excuse to host a group of friends for food and drinks. One of my personal favorites nominated for “Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical” this year is American Hustle. You can’t beat the setting, the cast or the era – 1970’s New Jersey with Bradley Cooper in perm rods, Amy Adams as the sexy mistress and cunning business partner to the bloated, side-hair parted Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence as the crazy wife and Jeremy Renner, the do-gooder politician with Mob ties.

What better way to celebrate the Golden Globe Awards than with cake and cocktails. And what better representation of the 1970s than the Harvey Wallbanger. Invented in the 1950’s but wildly popular in the 1970’s, the scrumptious base of ingredients includes orange juice, Galliano, and vodka that can be easily baked into a moist and yummy cake or shaken into a crisp cocktail. My mom was over and helped me “sample” the cocktail. We laughed as she remembered the Harvey Wallbanger era and how every hostess gift she received was a bottle of Galliano because she once mentioned that she liked it at a party. The cake was devoured by my family (it goes great with fresh berries for breakfast) and the cocktail…well, that was taken care of too!

You don’t need to always feel compelled to serve a full meal. Host a fun Golden Globe Awards party or Oscars party and do a Cake and Cocktail theme, with each person bringing an item in the theme of one of the “Best Nominated Movies of the Year.” My take on American Hustle and the 1970’s is apparent…disco and gold baby!

Cake Collage Final

Harvey Wallbanger Cake

One package yellow cake mix (16.5 ounces)
1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 fluid ounces Galliano liqueur
2 fluid ounces vodka
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 10 inch tube/bundt pan. Combine cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl. Blend in eggs, vegetable oil, 4 ounces Galliano, 1 ounce vodka, and 4 ounces orange juice. Mix batter until smooth and thick and pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove and place on cooling rack. Spoon glaze over cake while it is still warm.

To Make Glaze: Combine the remaining 1 ounce Galliano, 1 ounce vodka, and 1 ounce orange juice with the confectioner’s sugar and blend until smooth. Spoon glaze over warm cake.

Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail

Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail
3/4 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz orange juice
1/4 oz Galliano
orange slice for garnish or
maraschino cherry for garnish

Pour the vodka and orange juice into a Collins glass with ice cubes. Add the Galliano. Garnish with an orange slice or maraschino cherry.




christmas pretzel crisps


This is the most simple holiday treat that even the busiest person can make. Everyone loves chocolate covered pretzels, and I think these are the best because we used Pretzel Crisps. What could be better than a crispy, salty pretzel dipped into a sweet chocolate covering then topped with an array of embellishments? I bagged our treats in cellophane baggies, and tied them off with a pretty holiday ribbon. Don’t forget to ask your kids to get in on the fun because they will love making them along side you this holiday season.

2 bags Original Pretzel Crisps
1 package white chocolate almond bark
1 package chocolate flavored almond bark
1 small bag chopped pecans
1- 10 oz bag Andes Peppermint Baking Chips
1- 8oz bag Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee
Miniature chocolate chips
Holiday sprinkles
Parchment paper

PicMonkey Collage

Melt the almond bark on top of a double boiler or in the microwave over low heat. When the chocolate has melted, stir to make smooth. Dip one side of each pretzel crisp into the melted chocolate and sprinkle with your favorite topping. Lay each dipped pretzel onto the parchment paper to harden.

PicMonkey Collage

love this sugar-free pumpkin pie


Type 1 Diabetes has played a significant role in my family’s life. It started back in the 80’s when my 17 year old brother was diagnosed with this disease. Telling a teenage boy that he must check his blood sugar every few hours, monitor his diet and take insulin injections multiple times daily was not something that went over easily. I can remember my mom reading every book she could get her hands on regarding life with diabetes, and the frustration she went through trying to get my brother to comply to his new way of life.

I didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of my brother’s diagnosis, and what it really meant until August 17, 2000 when my baby girl was rushed to the ER, slipping into a coma with a blood sugar over 1000. Yes, my precious 17-month-old baby girl was also diagnosed with this terrible autoimmune disease. My world was rocked, and  after a week in the hospital, we were sent home with this child who now had a life threatening illness that my husband and I were in charge of managing. Imagine pricking your baby’s fingers up to 10x a day so that you know their blood sugar level,  or watching your baby have a seizure because their blood sugar has dropped dangerously low. Imagine……… insulin shots 4x a day and hugging your baby after each one because they don’t understand why a mommy and daddy who loves them so much would hurt them.

My daughter is now almost 15 years old and is healthy and completely responsible for her diabetes. Sure, my husband and I still check on her during the night, and we still take an active role in her health, but she has learned to manage her diabetes and be responsible for her own health. It has been a long road filled with many tears of frustration and sleepless nights, but she is truly a hero in our eyes. She is a straight A student, athlete, and musician who has not let diabetes hold her back. Our dream is for a CURE! Diabetes is a disease that never takes a break. It is a 24/7, 365 days a year disease.

November is National Diabetes Month, and I am sharing with you this tasty sugar-free pumpkin pie recipe that has been in my family for years. Everyone wants a piece of pumpkin pie on turkey day so why not make this for your favorite diabetic or someone that is watching their sugar intake. My family supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and appreciates their efforts in raising awareness of this fast growing disease. If you want more information on diabetes, you can visit: stop or

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground clove
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
3/4 cup Splenda granular
1- 9 inch unbaked pie shell


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all pie ingredients and pour into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 45 minutes. Cool and top with whipped cream. Serves:8

halloween mummy cake cones

Lead Mummy ConesNeed a wickedly ghoulish dessert for a Halloween party??? Welcome to Mummywood!

one box Betty Crocker cake mix (white cake used here)
one box  of  basic ice cream cones
candy eyeball decorations by Wilton
Betty Crocker vanilla whipped frosting

Other Items
decorative Halloween themed scrapbook paper
clear Avery labels
2 to 3 white paper napkins
serving tray
stretchable spider webbing
decorative dried mini pumpkins (suggestion only)
decorative fall leaves (suggestion only)
muffin tin

Final Mummy Collage

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake batter according to directions on back of box. Pour a little less than 2/3 cup of cake batter directly into ice cream cone. Repeat until all batter is used.

Place cake-batter filled ice cream cones standing up in each muffin tin well (I used a 12 serving muffin tin). Carefully place muffin tin in oven and bake cake cones for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Once cool, frost the cones with white frosting until the cake portion is entirely covered. Use a butter knife to fluff the frosting and give it some dimension. Add two candy eyeballs for the mummy eyes.

Tear or cut a long (1/2” or so in width) strip from the white paper napkin. Place a dot of frosting at the top of the ice cream cone (below the frosted cake). Wrap the napkin strip around the cone to create the mummy wrap effect. Place another dot of frosting at the bottom or beneath the cone to hold the napkin in place.

Place Mummy Cones on a silver, black or Halloween themed tray. Surround with mini pumpkins and paper leaves and stretchable spider webbing.

Lastly, cut decorative scrapbook paper into rectangles and label with whimsical mummy names. Stick a corner of the label into top of each mummy cake.




panna cotta

Lead Panna CottaI am not a fan of anything with milk. I blame it on a bad childhood experience (enough said). So when Christi showed up to our dinner party with Panna Cotta, I already knew there was no way the beautiful dessert was going to pass my lips. I mean look at some of the ingredients – skim milk and heavy cream – that was two strikes right there. But, Christi in her persuasiveness insisted the dessert was amazingly delicious. Against my better judgment and knowing I wouldn’t like it, I took the tiniest of bites. “Yes, Christi…I WAS WRONG and YOU WERE RIGHT.” No milky taste to the Panna Cotta at all – just a light and sweet fluffiness enhanced  by a touch of honey and tangy berries.

Serve this elegant dessert as the final course to complement our rustic Italian holiday menu. It can be made in advance so you can actually enjoy an evening NOT spent entirely in the kitchen.


1/3 cup skim milk
1 (.25 ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
fresh raspberries and blueberries

Panna Cotta 2

Pour milk into a small bowl and stir in the gelatin powder. Set aside.

In a saucepan, stir together the heavy cream and sugar, and place over medium heat. Bring cream and sugar to a boil, stirring slightly. Pour the gelatin and milk mixture into the cream, stirring thoroughly until completely dissolved. Cook for one minute or so, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into 5 or 6 individual ramekin dishes.

Cool the ramekins, uncovered, at room temperature. When completely cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours but, ideally, overnight before serving.

Just before serving, drizzle honey in a cross-pattern and top with fresh berries.

*Double the recipe to make 10-12 ramekins

twinkie cupcakes


Remember the Twinkie box??? It’s red, white and blue with an animated Twinkie dressed like a cowboy and the description, “Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy filling.” Having grown up in a household with yummy BUT very healthy food all the time, I loved seeing that Twinkie box in the cupboard every once in a while. My sister and I knew we had done something worthy of that kind of dessert “score.”

And when Christi visited her mom in North Carolina this summer, Twinkie news was everywhere. Our beloved Twinkies were no longer going to be sold, boxes of the delicious sponge cake were all over Ebay and it seemed like the end of an era. Well, Twinkies are back (hopefully to stay until they are pushed out again by the next dessert trend). Christi and her mom (a phenomenal baker), whipped up these Twinkie Cupcakes in honor of this delightfully delicious comfort food.

1 (18.25-ounce) package Duncan Hines Golden Butter Cake Mix
Twinkie Cream Filling (recipe follows)
Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Prepare cake mix according to package directions for cupcakes.
2. Spoon Twinkie Cream Filling into a squeeze bottle with a long narrow tip. Insert tip into the top of cupcakes and squeeze about 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each cupcake.
3. Pipe or spread Chocolate Frosting over top of cupcakes. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to three days.

Twinkie Cream Filling
1 (8-ounce) container frozen Cool Whip 
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, soft
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

In a medium bowl, beat whipped topping and cream cheese at medium speed with a mix until smooth. Beat in confectioners sugar.

Chocolate Frosting
6  (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
7 cups confectioners sugar

1. In a small saucepan, combine chocolate and cream. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Let cool for 30 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with mixer until creamy. Add cooled chocolate mixture and beat until creamy, about 4 minutes. Gradually add confectioners sugar, beating until smooth.

PicMonkey Collage





splenda, lemon and blueberry muffins


My daughter (Christi’s daughter) is a Type 1 Diabetic so I am always looking for delicious recipes that are low in sugar. As many as three million Americans have Type 1 Diabetes. Each year, more than 30,000 children and adults are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Living with this disease is a constant challenge and managing your diet and insulin needs are a 24 hour a day chore. Splenda has opened up the door for many low sugar and non sugar recipes. Let’s face it, we all love something sweet every now and then and these muffins hit the spot. I promise you won’t miss the sugar or extra calories.

1 large egg
3 Tb canola oil
1/2 cup Splenda Granular
1 8-ounce low-fat lemon yogurt
6 Tb 1% milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
1-1/2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a standard 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk egg until frothy. Add oil, Splenda, yogurt, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir. Add blueberries and lemon peel. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the yogurt mixture. Using a large spoon or spatula, stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 full. If desired, sprinkle sugar lightly over muffins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until center springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Compliments: Splenda Cookbook

*Do not substitute light or low-calorie yogurt.

Per Serving
Calories 143
Carbohydrate 23 grams

PicMonkey Collage

no-bake nutter-butter/peanut-butter pie

Nutter Butter LeadThis is a great dessert because you don’t have to heat up the kitchen to make it. The Nutter Butter cookie crust on this pie requires no baking and very few ingredients. How simple is that? I think next time I will try to lighten it up and substitute the peanut butter with Peanut Wonder. I will keep you posted on how that goes… This frozen pie was a huge hit with my family and friends and only lasted two days in my house. If you have a peanut butter lover living in your home, you will want to give this recipe a try. I find its best served with an espresso or steaming cup of coffee.

20 Nutter Butter cookies, crushed fine
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1 cup Smucker’s Hot Fudge
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tb vanilla extract
8 ounces Cool Whip, defrosted
5 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chopped up

Nutter Butter collage 2

In a medium bowl combine the crushed cookies and the butter. Press this mixture into a pie plate. Spoon the hot fudge sauce onto the crust and spread evenly. Place in the freezer.

In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese and the sugar using a hand mixer. Mix in the peanut butter and vanilla; beat until smooth. Beat in the Cool Whip until well combined.

Spoon this peanut butter mixture into prepared crust, smooth the top and sprinkle with chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Return to freezer for 4 hours or longer. To serve, drizzle additional hot fudge sauce over pie slices.

Nutter Butter final shot

This recipe can easily be lightened by using sugar -free fudge sauce, fat -free Cool Whip and lite cream cheese. Yields: 1 pie

pineapple upside-down cake


On my first visit to Oahu, Hawaii, I had a fairly short “to do list.” First on my list was to be greeted by a beautiful Hawaiian placing a fresh smelling lei around my neck, followed by surf lessons and a traditional Hawaiian luau (real pig and all!). After checking these experiences off my list and tending to my sunburned back and bruised legs from my surf lesson, I decided a nice calm trip to the Dole Pineapple Plantation was in order.

The Dole Pineapple Plantation first operated as as a fruit stand beginning in 1950 then opened to the public in 1989 as one of the most popular visitor attractions in Hawaii. The plantation offers something for all ages. There is the Pineapple Express, The Plantation Garden Tour and the Plantation Garden maze. You won’t want to miss the county store filled with pineapple themed gifts, local goods and my favorite, the pineapple ice cream. Don’t let anyone try to talk you into sharing; you will want your own. If your suitcase is big enough, you can purchase a fresh pineapple to take home. I bought one for the road but it only made it back to our room where it was carved and served poolside.

When I get to missing the “Aloha” of Hawaii, I will sometimes make this Pineapple Upside Down Cake. This cake couldn’t be easier because its base is a box of yellow cake mix. The recipe doesn’t even call for fresh pineapple so you won’t need to travel to Hawaii to make this rich and flavorful cake. It’s really simple and a show-stopper to look at on your table. Turn on some music from famed Hawaiian singer IZ, take a bite and you will think that you are “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Topping Ingredients/Directions
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1 (20-ounce) can Dole Pineapple Slices
9 maraschino cherries

Melt butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Spread brown sugar evenly over bottom of skillet. Drain pineapple, reserving  juice; set juice aside. Arrange pineapple slices in a single layer over brown sugar mixture, and place a cherry in center of each pineapple ring.

Cake directions:
Follow the directions on a Duncan Hines Golden Yellow Cake Mix but substitute 1/2 cup pineapple juice for the 1/2 cup of water. If you didn’t get a 1/2 cup of juice from your pineapple can then add enough water to make the 1/2 cup. Spoon batter over prepared pineapple slices. Bake cake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.


my favorite key lime pie


There isn’t a dessert that screams warm Florida sunshine and gorgeous beaches like key lime pie. Many travel to the Florida Keys in search of the “perfect” key lime pie experience. I traveled, I tasted and after almost 10 different “ah-ha like moments,” I chose the key lime pie from Sundowners in Key Largo to be my favorite. Many claim to be the award winner of this tangy local favorite. I tasted some made with fresh key limes, and some from a bottled concoction. I tasted gluten free key lime pie, cashew crusted key lime pie and key lime pie frozen on a stick. Although they were all delicious and unique in their presentations, I still vote my own key lime pie recipe to be the best. It’s a bit traditional in appearance  but who says this is a bad thing? My key lime pie recipe has the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors and you don’t even have to make your own crust….how easy is that? The only requirement is that you use fresh key limes. Key limes may be a little tedious to squeeze but they are the “key” to this pie. So crank the Jimmy Buffett music and get to squeezing. Who knows, you may be crowned the “Mr. or Mrs. Key Lime Pie” of your neighborhood.

4 egg yolks, beaten
2  (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
1 1/2 tsp lime zest
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
Makes 1- 9 inch pie

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Combine the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lime zest and lime juice. Mix well and pour into unbaked pie shell.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Allow pie to cool. Top pie with whipped cream and a lime slice.


To purchase your own key lime tree go to Fast Growing Trees website!

red, white and blue chocolate strawberries

PicMonkey Collage

Who says that chocolate covered strawberries have to be boring?? This is the perfect patriotic treat and so simple to make. Grab your  kiddos, they will enjoy making them with you. Hold on to the recipe ….. Christmas is 175 days away and these are just as eye catching using green sprinkles.

1 pint fresh strawberries, rinsed and dried very well
4 ounces of white chocolate (we used Wilton candy melts)
Blue sanding sugar or sprinkles

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the chocolate melts in a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl and melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Be careful as white chocolate burns very easily.

Holding a strawberry by its stem, dip about 2/3 of it into the melted chocolate. Use a spoon to help smooth the chocolate out. Place your sanding sugars or sprinkles into a small dish and dip the tip of your chocolate strawberries into this dish. Repeat until all of the strawberries are completed.

Refrigerate the tray of dipped strawberries until the chocolate is completely set. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Yield: 12 chocolate dipped strawberries


soft and chewy granola bars


Here is the perfect snack to put into your child’s summer camp lunch box or into your beach bag on your way out the door for a day of fun in the sun. Why reach for a packaged granola bar when these are so simple to make and delicious to eat. You can change up the chocolate chips to white chocolate chips or throw in a different type of nut if you like.

2-1/2 cups quick cooking, old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup plus 3 Tb mini chocolate chips

granola bars

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil. Lightly oil or spray the pan with cooking spray.

Add oats and almonds to a small baking sheet and bake 5 minutes, stir and bake another 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly toasted. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla extract and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until the butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves.

Pour the butter mixture into a bowl with toasted oats and almonds. Mix well. Let cool about 5 minute then add the cranberries and 1/4 cup of the mini chocolate chips. Stir to combine. (The chocolate chips will most likely melt a little. This is fine, they turn into a glue and help hold the bars together).

Transfer oat mixture to the lined pan and use a rubber spatula or damp finger tips to firmly press the mixture into the pan. (Press hard here, this way the bars will stay together once cooled and cut). Scatter remaining 3 Tb chocolate chips over pressed granola mixture and use the rubber spatula to gently press the chocolate chips into the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove block of granola mixture from the pan and peel away the aluminum foil. Cut into bars.

Store bars in an airtight container for up to one week. For softer bars, keep at room temperature. For slightly harder bars, store in refrigerator. Makes 12 bars. Compliments:


What else can you throw in your beach bag besides these delicious morsels. Check out this Thursday’s “Beach Bag Bash” post.