Friday, November 25, 2016


I discovered this recipe in the November 2016 issue of Sunset magazine on Thanksgiving Eve. Made the bacon bites the next morning to take to a Thanksgiving meal where they were a hit, served as an appetizer. They are a cinch to make, so this is a good recipe for beginning cooks. Just make sure to line those baking sheets with foil and be sure that you use rimmed baking sheets.

Brown-Sugar Bacon Bites
Serves 4

20 thick slices of smoked bacon, about 30 ounces,
cut into 2-inch pieces

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seed

  1. 1.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil. This step is essential to avoid great difficulty cleaning pans.

  2. 2.  Set wire rack in each pan. Then arrange 2-inch bacon pieces on racks in single layer.

  3. 3.  Mix together brown sugar, black pepper, and ground fennel.
  4. 4.  Sprinkle brown-sugar mixture over bacon.

  5. 5.  Bake in 400°F. oven until bacon is crisp, about 30 minutes, rotating pans after 15 minutes.

  6. 6.  Let bacon cool to room temperature so that sugar will harden.

  7. 7.  Arrange pieces in airy heap in several small bowls. Serve as appetizer. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


The worst aspect of this recipe may be that it is scaled to make only eight muffins. However, the recipe can be doubled easily, and I recommend that you do double it if you are baking for more than one. Another option is to use the recipe as-is to make about 26 bite-sized muffins; those take about 10 minutes to bake.

I make a single batch for just myself. Typically, I eat three muffins the first day and finish the batch over the next couple of days. I eat the muffins warm or at room temperature. I eat them without butter or jam. However, I have eaten them with a slice of Cheddar cheese.

This is a good recipe for kids to try and, if they like the results, to add to their personal cookbook of recipes kept in a binder.

Wendy’s  Bran  Muffins
Makes 8

1 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, if desired
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together bran, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. 
2. If desired, add walnuts and then stir.
3. In a small bowl, beat egg.
4. Add buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract to beaten egg; beat well.
5. Make well in dry ingredients and pour combined wet ingredients into well.
6. Stir gently only enough to moisten dry ingredients.
7. Divide batter evenly among eight greased or paper-lined regular-sized muffin tins.
8. Bake in 375°F. oven for 12 to 14 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

NOTE: To go fancy, add a half walnut to the top of each uncooked muffin.

Unbaked mini-muffins
Baked full-sized "fancy" muffin
Baked mini-muffins

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Homemade vanilla extract can be made with different types of vanilla beans and different types of alcohol. However, when you're making your first batch, it's nice to have everything spelled out for you. That's what I try to do here.

Decanted in bottles of 2, 4, or 8 ounces, labeled, with a ribbon or twine around the neck of the bottle, homemade vanilla extract makes a fine gift for the bakers you love.

Vanilla  Extract
Makes 3 cups

16 Grade B Madagascar vanilla beans (I paid $16 for Grade A)
750 milliliters Wild Turkey 101 bourbon whiskey (I paid $20)

1. Uncork bourbon. Pour out an ounce or two of bourbon and place in small jar.
2. Use dull knife to flatten and smooth out beans.
3. Split beans lengthwise, leaving an inch uncut at one end.
4. Insert beans into neck of bourbon bottle.
5. Replace cork and shake. Push down vanilla beans with a chopstick if necessary.
6. Add enough of the reserved bourbon to cover vanilla beans.
7. Place bourbon bottle and reserved jar of bourbon in cool, dark place
8. For four to six months, shake bourbon bottle every day or two, adding reserved bourbon as necessary to keep vanilla beans covered. If reserved bourbon runs out, any bourbon may be used to top off the bottle.
9. Vanilla extract can be decanted into smaller bottles, using a funnel. Vanilla beans can be removed if desired. Vanilla extract can be filtered through a coffee filter to remove vanilla seeds.

NOTE: Madagascar vanilla beans give a classic, robust flavor. Tahitian vanilla beans give a subtly fruity and floral flavor. Mexican vanilla beans give a smooth and somewhat spicy flavor.

Vanilla beans can be ordered on Beanilla Trading Company is another source; their beans are distributed by Spice Jungle.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


Whole-milk ricotta is my new favorite baking ingredient. It makes for such moist baked goods. This is a glazed cake, baked in a loaf pan. Enjoy!

Lemon  Ricotta  Cake
Serves 10

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 regular or Meyer lemons (zest and juice)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta at room temperature
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 cup powdered sugar

1. Butter 8 ½­inch by 4 ½­inch loaf pan. Then line it with parchment paper, letting paper overhang on long sides and leaving short sides without paper.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In large bowl, combine granulated sugar and lemon zest from lemons. Use your clean fingers to rub zest into sugar until the sugar is texture of wet sand.
4. Add ¼ cup of freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice and stir.
5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Then whisk in cooled butter and vanilla.
6. In small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, combine ricotta and half-and-half. Stir until smooth.
7. To egg mixture, gently stir in one-third of dry ingredients just until combined. Stir in half of ricotta mixture. Repeat, ending with dry ingredients and never overstirring.
8. Pour cake batter into prepared pan and bake in middle of 350°F. oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until cake tests done.
9. Let cake cool 10 minutes before running a knife around its edges and then using parchment paper as handles to lift cake out pan. Allow cake to cool on wire rack.
10. When cake is cooled, make glaze by sifting powdered sugar into medium-sized bowl.
11. Whisk in 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make thick glaze that is pourable.

12. Pour glaze over cooled cake, allowing glaze to dribble down sides of cake. Serve thick slices, perhaps with a few fresh berries on the side.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


This dessert sauce is easy to make. Children and adults will have fun watching the sugar melt and transform. Sauce is great over ice cream or other desserts.

Salted  Caramel  Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 pieces
½ cup regular or heavy whipping cream at room temperature
½ to ¾ teaspoon salt

1. Heat granulated sugar in heavy 1-quart or 1.5-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high-heat-resistant rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and then melt into a thick, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir.
2. As soon as sugar is completely melted, add pieces of butter. Be careful, because caramel will bubble vigorously as butter is added.
3. Stir butter until it is completely melted, about 2 minutes.
4. Very slowly and carefully drizzle cream into pan while stirring. Expect mixture to rapidly boil and possibly splatter at this stage.
5. Allow mixture to boil only 1 minute. It will rise in pan as it boils.

6. Remove from heat and stir in salt. Allow to cool somewhat before using. Pour into leftovers into jar and refrigerate.

Make several batches if necessary rather than doubling recipe.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


This is a terrific potluck dish. It can be made ahead, is healthy, and is inexpensive. Just make sure to allow for plenty of time for the beans to soak and cook.

Championship  Beans
Serves 12

1 pound dried pinto beans

¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapeƱo chiles, seeded, pithed, and minced
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ½ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
Sour cream and tortilla chips

1. Rinse beans with cold water. Transfer to heavy large pot. Add enough water to cover by several inches. Let soak overnight. Drain beans. Rinse again in cold water.
2. Combine beans with water to cover by several inches in heavy large pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer until tender, adding hot water as necessary, about 1 to 3 hours. Drain beans thoroughly.
3. Rinse and dry heavy large pot used for beans and use to heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is soft, about 8 minutes.
4. Stir in chiles, entire can of tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, oregano rubbed between palms of your hands, and some salt. Increase heat to high and stir until liquid mostly evaporates.
5. Stir in drained beans. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Place half of bean mixture in 3-quart casserole dish. Top with Jack cheese. Add remaining bean mixture. Top with Cheddar cheese.
7. Bake in 375°F. about 30 minutes or until heated throughout.

8. Serve sour cream and tortilla chips alongside beans.
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