Valentine’s Day cookies spread the love, too

Toffee Bars, Almond Roca Bars

Almond Roca Bars or Toffee Bars are a sweet way to show the love. Photo by Laura Groch

December was a bit of an unsettled month for us. A death in the family meant our Christmas celebrations were low-key.

Homebaked cookies are my usual contribution to holiday cheer. But I didn’t bake for myself, or friends, or family. Missed the annual cookie exchange, too.

But we did have some very nice homemade cookies at the funeral reception, Continue reading

Pumpkin mac and cheese needs some pumping up

Pumpkin Macaroni And Cheese

Pumpkin Macaroni And Cheese is colorful, but needs a bit more punch than fontina cheese can offer. A few frozen peas add a bit of color contrast. Photo by Laura Groch

It’s pumpkin’s season to shine, and why not? Full of nutrients, fiber and beta-carotene, it’s always a winner in the kitchen.

But sometimes it needs a little help.

I clipped a recipe recently for a Butternut Squash Macaroni And Cheese from Dr. Oz’s Continue reading

Berry simple, summery dessert (and gluten-free)

Sugar-and-liqueur-soaked fruit is an easy topper to cake or companion to ice cream. Photo by Laura Groch

Sugar-and-liqueur-soaked fruit is an easy topper to cake or companion to ice cream. Photo by Laura Groch

I recently brought this cool and easy fruit dessert to a warm-weather dinner party, where, I was happy to see, it was polished off, except for the “polite” spoonful left in the serving dish.

With berries and stone fruits in season now, this is a versatile option, especially if some of the guests, as in our group, must avoid gluten.

The dish started as a trifle — layers of liqueur-soaked pound cake, pudding, fruit — but I Continue reading

Save your green with easy-to-mix salad dressing

Inexpensive ingredients for a delicious salad dressing are already in your pantry. Photo by Laura Groch

Inexpensive ingredients for a delicious salad dressing are already in your pantry. All you need is a simple recipe like this one. Photo by Laura Groch

If you’ve been checking out my posts, you know I keep returning to certain themes: Thrift in the kitchen. Eating real food. Preparing food yourself so you know what’s in it.

So in this season of salads and cold dishes — and especially for the picnic-happy holiday that is July 4 — I wanted to bring you a recipe that hits all those notes.

It’s a simple recipe for an oil- and vinegar-based salad dressing (not the kind of white Continue reading

It’s spring, so let’s eat some flowers!

Tofu Lettuce Tacos With Cilantro And Mint

Tofu Lettuce Tacos With Cilantro And Mint from “Edible Flowers” by Kitty Morse. Photo by Mike Pawlenty.

I’ve been smelling the delicious scents of just-opening flowers on our evening walks with the dogs. Spring really is in the air!

So this is the perfect time for me to tell you that “Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion” by Vista cookbook author, teacher and expert Kitty Morse is in its second edition, published by Chefs Press. Kitty graciously let me share some of the recipes (and photos) from the new book. (Also, these two are vegetarian recipes, please note.)

All her books, by the way, feature beautiful photos to go with the recipes. And if you are at Continue reading

Pancakes: Squaring the circle

baked pancakes

Who says pancakes have to be round? Baking them on a cookie sheet makes the job go twice as fast, too. (Photo by Laura Groch)

Oooh, pancakes! What a fun breakfast treat! And yet what a pain in the neck they can be for us cooks, who have to keep working while everyone is eating, and while trying to eat our own pancakes, which invariably grow cold while we are tending the griddle.

Even for the two of us, making pancakes seems always to be a major production. So I tested a different way of making them that lets everyone eat together: Bake them in a flat Continue reading

Easy, hearty shepherd’s pie takes the edge off winter

shepherd's pie

A scoop of piping-hot shepherd’s pie will warm you on a cold evening. Photo by Laura Groch

Wet, wintry weather makes me want hearty, hot meals. Soups and stews come to mind, warming the kitchen as they cook and warming the body as we eat.

The humble but sturdy shepherd’s pie also fills the bill. This is an easy-to-make, forgiving dish that can be as economical or as extravagant as your budget allows.

It’s also extremely flexible: You can use whatever’s at hand without having to rigidly adhere to a list of ingredients, which freaks out some cooks.

(And p.s., looking ahead to Super Bowl feeds, this would be just as bowl-worthy as chili for your crew.)

My pie — baked in a casserole dish, not necessarily a pie plate (see? flexible) — Continue reading