Friday, December 31, 2010

The Art of the Nacho

To nacho, I nacho, she nachos, we nacho, we are “nacho”ing.  We all nacho.  We love to nacho.  I call it the “art of the nacho” and it is a beautiful thing.  I know what you are thinking “Seriously Sara?  It is just chips and cheese on a plate”.  Sure that is all fine and good, and in its own right absolutely delicious, but these are serious nacho times and sometimes we are desperate for serious nacho measures.  Enter ground turkey……..

Yes I said ground turkey.  To most ground turkey can be bland and flavorless but with some special additions and a little love, ground turkey can go from boring to beautiful in mere minutes.  This is my secret recipe that I use for my burritos, my tacos, my enchiladas, and my nachos.  Shhhh don’t tell anyone, no one will ever know they are eating turkey.

The Ultimate Nacho…..


1 pound frozen ground turkey, thawed
2 8 ounce blocks of cheese, grated, I use Colby jack and Cheddar jack
1 packet of taco seasoning
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tsp salt
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce.  (I just add until it looks like the right color)
El Matador tortilla chips, (you can use what ever chip you would like, you just need to find sturdy ones.
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped avocado
Sour cream
5 hungry people

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Line a large sheet pan with foil                                  
  2. Tumble chips onto pan so there are plenty of surfaces for the cheese to cover.
  3. Sprinkle a good portion of the cheese onto the chips.  Save some of the cheese because there will be layers.
  4. Start browning the turkey meat in a non-stick skillet
  5. Once turkey is browned, or cooked through add enough water to cover the meat.
  6. This is the step you can vary if you would like.  Add the seasonings.  If you like it a little bit spicier, add more chili powder or a pinch of dried chili flakes would work nice as well.
  7. Stir until combined
  8. Simmer the mixture until the liquid is almost evaporated and a nice sauce has formed around the meat.  This should take about 20 minutes.
  9. Immediately spread the meat on the chips that have been waiting patiently.
  10. Sprinkle for cheese on top
  11. Add more chips
  12. Add more cheese
  13. Place in your oven for 6 to 8 minutes.  Don’t leave the kitchen!  Watch the cheese melt and turn oooey and gooey. 
  14. Take out of the oven and place on the table.  Call the people to the table.  They won’t be very far.  Most likely they will be crowding the kitchen begging you to move faster.
  15. Add your toppings and devour.      

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake and a New Year!

First of all, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and many blessings for the upcoming New Year.  Thank you for your continued support and I will continue to do my best to make the New Year even sweeter!  I know I have been on a kick with desserts, but that is the only thing I really have time to take pictures of right now.  Dinner has been getting things on the table as fast as I can, and before I realize it “Oops!  I forgot to get the camera!”   One of my New Year’s resolutions is to take life at a more leisurely pace and enjoy the smells that come from my kitchen along the way.

I do have one fantastic announcement!  I am going to culinary school!  I will be starting classes towards the middle of the year and I hope to take you along with me.  The school requires that some general education course be taken and once I get those under my belt the exciting classes will start.  I am nervous and terrified and excited and anxious at the same time!  I haven’t decided yet if I want to embark on a baking and pastry degree or a culinary degree… both will benefit me, but which one am I more interested in?  Did I mention how excited I am?!!!!!!

The sister's mouth is big enough for the whole thing.  Hehe
Today’s creation, I spent one month searching for.   My mother, sister, and grandmother all took part in a beautiful Christmas celebration at church.  It is annual celebrations called Christmas by Candlelight and it is an opportunity for the women and church to showcase their finest dishes and creativity.  My family has been working on our table arrangements for six months and after all the arranging and measuring the table was a work of art, except for the dessert.  I hadn’t figured that out yet.

It had to be centerpiece worthy.  It had to elegant.  It had to match the table.  It had to be out of this world delicious.  Basically it had to be perfect.  So I buried myself in my books, fussed and fretted over every detail and made myself, my mother, sister and grandmother all crazy because I couldn’t come up with anything.  Seriously, I think they almost kicked me out of the job.  I couldn’t decide on the flavor, anything chocolate would mess with the white theme of the table.  I didn’t want to do anything with nuts, just in cases there was a nut allergy and it needed to be blog worthy.  I gave up on my cookbooks and started looking to the internet for pictures of fancy desserts.  I focused on white desserts, things with sparkle, things that would match the table.  Low and behold after hours of looking, I came across a white chocolate peppermint cheesecake.

It had everything I was looking for!  Elegance, sparkle and the taste of Christmas!  Of course white chocolate, how come I didn’t think of that sooner!  So the baking commenced!  It was creamy, light, and fluffy and it had a refreshing hint of peppermint.  Everything was perfect, except for the fact that it turned pink. 

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

     8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
     2 cups finely crushed graham crackers
     ½ cup butter, melted
      2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
      1 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
      1 8 ounce container mascarpone cheese
      ¾ cups sugar
       ¼ teaspoon salt
       ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  3 eggs
¾ cups finely crushed peppermint candies or candy canes

  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  1. In a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water (double boiler) gently melt the chopped white chocolate until smooth.
  2. Mix the melted butter and the crushed graham crackers and press into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form cake pan.
  3. Bake crust for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar, salt with an electric mixer until combined.
  5. Beat in white chocolate and peppermint
  6. Beat in eggs, one at a time until combined.
  7. Pour batter onto crust.  It should come up to the top of the pan. 
I baked the cheesecake in a water bath to prohibit any cracking on top.  I put the cheesecake in my large roasting pan and filled with water to halfway up the sides of the cheesecake.  Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and until there is a one inch visible ring of doneness.  Let cheesecake cool in pan for half-an-hour and use a knife to run around the pan and the cheesecake.  Gently remove sides of pan and let cheesecake cook completely before storing in the refrigerator for 8 hours.  The cake will set more as it chills. 

For the decoration, I covered the cake with the rest of the white baking chocolate I had.  I melted it and painted the cake.  I needed to hide the pink.  It formed a delicious crust and crunch.  I then sprinkled the cake with silver and clear sprinkles.  It was a success.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crepes with Kids!

Sometimes it is so nice to wake up in the morning and realize that you have no place to be.  The car can sit in the driveway all day.  Children don't have to be brought to school at an ungodly hour and you can stay in your pajamas for as long as you want.  No one is coming over, because no one else has to be anywhere and your house is definitely not a destination.  That happened yesterday.  The planets aligned and my alarm clock didn't go off.  It was a perfect day for a hot warm filling breakfast from my kitchen.

My newest acquisition in my kitchen is a new crepe pan.  The idea of crepes has always fascinated me.  I love that they are thin, not too sweet and can be filled with anything.  Last year when my husband and I took our annual mecca to Traverse City I fell in love with crepes.  We went to a small French bakery and they served crepes fill with smoked salmon, capers, creme fraiche, onions, field greens and dill.  It was probably the best breakfast I ever had.  So I decided to introduce my children to the world of crepes.  One mangled, non-circular crepe at a time.

Crepes take talent.  A lot of talent.  Crepes take patience.  A lot of patience.  Crepes take practice.  A lot of practice.  There also is the timing, temperature of the pan and the speed that you put the batter in the pan.  Half of our first batch went into the garbage or the dog (one was happier than the other).  After the talent, the patience and practice you soon get to see some crepes appearing.  It does get easier.  I promise.

There are a million crepe recipes out there.  I found one that was easy to prepare, did not require a wait time and can be made with ingredients that can be found at home.  A lot of recipes for crepes require the recipe to refrigerate for an hour or more.  I will attempt that at some point, but when you have hungry kids, time is of the essence.  Speaking of the hungry kids, they decided they wanted something sweet to put inside of the crepes.  What better than warm homemade applesauce and some fresh whipped cream!



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
  3. Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chocolate Makes Everything Better

As I promised!  Chocolate!!!!!!  A rich, chocolate, fudge cake that will definitely take care of what ails you.  This recipe came from the newest addition to my collection.  Paula Deen’s, “The Lady & Sons Just Desserts”; I won a copy of this book at a wonderful auction to benefit the elementary school two of my children attend.  The book was one of many prizes I could have chosen, but of course the cookbook naturally ends up in my hand.  I tell you, I am deadly in Barnes and Noble. 

Back to the issue of chocolate, this recipe entitled, “Chocolate Fudge Ripple Cake”, is loaded with the delicious stuff.  It starts with a boxed cake mix then you add two boxes of instant chocolate pudding.  The base of the cake is very, very dense and thick.   The thickness of the batter did make it a little difficult to spread into the cake pan and when the directions called to pour the sweetened condensed milk mixture on top of the next layer it was hard to pat the second layer of cake down.  I just had to spread it around the pan the best I could. 

The cake smelled fantastic baking in the oven, (yes I have my oven back and yes, I am in love with him again).  The directions call to let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  That may not have been long enough.  When I tipped the cake out onto a rack some of the sweetened condensed milk mix, that had pooled on the bottom of the cake (when I flipped it out it was the top) stuck to the pan.   There also is a glaze that went on the cake.  I didn’t have a chance to make it so we enjoyed this cake naked, (the cake, sillies not the family) You are welcome to enjoy it naked if you wish, but make sure you close the blinds. Not the prettiest cake in the world, but it was delicious. 

Chocolate Fudge Ribbon Cake


1 18.25oz box fudge cake mix
1 3.9oz box instant chocolate pudding
½ cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon cornstarch         
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


2 1-oz square semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Mix together cake mix, chocolate pudding, milk, eggs, oil and vanilla in a large bowl
Beat for around 2 minutes using an electric mixer (the batter will get really thick).

Fold in the chopped nuts at this point.
Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.

In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and cornstarch together.

Slowly add the condensed milk.

Pour mixture evenly into pan containing half of the batter.

Pour other half of batter on top.

Bake for one hour.

Invert onto a cake plake and allow to cool completely.

While it cools prepare the glaze.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt together chocolate, butter, and water.

Stir until melted.
Add milk and mix well.
Remove from heat.
Stir in sugar and vanilla, and continue stirring until smooth.

Drizzle over cooled cake.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For you, my friend......

At work they call me the Food Network Prodigy.  When someone doesn’t know what an ingredient is they come to me.  When questions are asked on how to prepare or bake something, I am the first one people go to.  When people are hungry, I get asked when the next thing I am going to be baking is, and if they are scheduled to come in that day.  I enjoy answering questions and sharing my knowledge.  It is what I do.  I also love it when my dear friends ask me to bake something for them and I never turn them down. 

My dear friend, Kelly, recently found a recipe that was right up my alley.  She is a lover of sweet potatoes and I love to cook with them.  They are healthy, delicious and can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.  I like my sweet potatoes with a pat of butter and salt, but I won’t turn them down if they show up in a cake.  Kelly found this recipe in a newspaper she was reading and I was honored to be the one she thought of to bake it.

Sweet Potato and Chocolate Cake, just the name of the recipe alone, perks up the curiosity in people.  What an interesting combination.  So, I had to try it.  I told her that I would bake the cake for her, if it would be alright with one piece missing out of it.  I told her I had to take pictures of it for educational purposes.  (Let’s be honest, I devoured it).  The recipe calls for a can of pureed sweet potatoes.  I unfortunately could not find them in my local grocery store.  I could find sweet potato pie filling, but that has sugar and cinnamon already in it.  No problem, it was easy enough to bake sweet potatoes in the oven.  Plus it made the house smell fantastic!  I delivered the cake to Kelly as promised, by-passing work entirely, (if it had gone to work, she wouldn’t have gotten any of it) and it was met with rave revues.  Smiles are my greatest reward.   

Sweet Potato and Chocolate Cake

  • I baked 4 large sweet potatoes in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.  I just put them in and sort of forgot about them.  Just break the skin open and scraped out the potato meat inside.  It made more than two cups, but I can eat the leftovers for lunch.
  • The only liquid in this recipe is a ¼ cup of vegetable oil.  The batter will be extremely thick.  Spread the batter in the cake pan with a spatula and make sure it is even.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 cups canned sweet potatoes (if you can find them) or bake your own.
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon orange zest (I used lemon)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2.  Grease and flour a Bundt baking pan.

3. Put sweet potatoes in a bowl and blend until mostly mashed and soft.

4.  Add all the ingredients except the chocolate chips.

5.  Mix on medium power for two minutes
6.  Add the chocolate chips and fold into the batter.

7.  Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared pan.

8.  Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

* For extra chocolate flavor, melt the rest of the bag of chocolate chips and spread over cake.  Put the cake in the refrigerator and allow to set.  The cake forms a delicious chocolate shell.  It looks like a giant chocolate donut.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sticky Date and Coconut Cake

So my oven didn’t like the letter I wrote him last week.  Two days after I posted the blog he decided to blow up.  Yes, I said blow up.  I pushed the preheat button and he started to get warm.  Things started to spark and sputter and long and short of it smoke started coming out of his back side.  My poor oven is now getting fixed and I have a loaner in his place.  I don’t know what happened or how it happened, but I know it should not have happened.   (That was my angry voice).

So…let’s break in this new bad boy.   Ok, so I have to admit something.  My cookbook collection had a few more additions added to it this weekend.  I can’t help it!  I love them.  I can sit in Barnes and Noble for hours and flip through cookbook after cookbook.  It’s an obsession.  My latest purchase is on stands right now.  It is Cooking Light’s “Quick Baking” issue.  There are so many good recipes to choose from, quick breads, muffins, pizzas, cupcakes; the list goes on and on.  Cooking Light also lists all the nutritional information with their recipes, so you know how much will go right to your thighs.

The recipe that I picked first is, Sticky Date and Coconut Cake.  The description of the cake made me drool as did the picture.  I made two cakes and brought one to work and I didn’t tell anyone what was in it.  I had them try it first.  Some people when they hear “date” or anything other than chocolate turn their noses up.  It was a hit!  The cake is so moist and delicious and it was gone in a matter of minutes.  The other cake was split between my mom’s and my grandma’s.  The cake received thumbs up from both of them.  This would be perfect at a holiday party or as a housewarming gift.  It is delicious warmed with a cup of chai tea.

Sticky Date and Coconut Cake


1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter
Dash of salt
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup flaked, sweetened coconut
2 ½ tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons skim milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Put first 5 ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes or until dates are tender.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  5. Stir in date mixture, granulated sugar, vanilla, and egg until well combined. 
  6. Pour batter into a 9-inch spring form pan coated with cooking spray.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  8. To prepare the topping, combine brown sugar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat, simmer for 1 minute.
  10. Pour over cake; bake at 350 for 13 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack.  Remove from pan and cool completely

Friday, October 8, 2010

Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue

Dear Oven,

            There comes a time in every relationship when the honeymoon period becomes the comfortable, sometimes I take you for granted period.  I know there has been a lack of communication between us.  Sometimes there are days that we don’t get to talk or hang out.  I miss those days.  I know I have been busy and I may be busier in the weeks to come.  Please understand…I think about you everyday.  I dream about our warmest memories and what the power of our relationship can become in the future. 

                                                I miss you.

                                                                        Love, me

My dream of my blog getting me into my kitchen more has been sidelined for a while.  I have been so busy that I only have been able to bake or cook dinner once a week.  I promise I will blog at least once a week and if my schedule allows, perhaps more.  I am looking forward to the harvest and the upcoming holiday season and sharing my recipes with you.  Thank-you all, for your continuing support.

 My oven and I did have a date with greatness this week.  My house is over flowing with an abundance of apples and my favorite way to eat them, besides with cheese, is in a cake.  I found this recipe, Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue in a cookbook called, “The Italian Country Table”, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.  The cookbook is filled with comfort dishes from all over Italy and stories about the home cooks that have produced them.  There are beautiful rustic dishes in the book that don’t seem that hard to make and if I had time, I definitely would. 

Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue is a show stopper.  It has so many levels of deliciousness I don’t know where to begin.  The crust has a buttery cookie flavor, the cake itself is moist and dense and sweet and lemony.  The meringue tops the cake off with a crispy, chewy shell that holds the moisture in the cake.  YUM!


Apple Cake with a Crackly Meringue
     Torta di Mele

Make 1 9-inch cake, I doubled the recipe and made 2.

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Generous pinch of salt
1 ½ sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces
¾ cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Shredded zest on 1 large lemon
2 large apples (Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Gala), peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch pieces*
1 large egg white

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375.  Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. In a large bowl, with your fingertips, rub together the 2 cups flour, the 1 ½ cups sugar, the salt, and butter until crumbly.
  3. Remove 1 cup of the crumbs and press them over the bottom of the pan and about ½ inch up the sides, make a crust about 1/8 inch thick
  4. Make a well in the remaining crumb mixture.  Add the milk, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, the remaining 3 tablespoons flour and the baking powder.
  5. With a whisk blend the mixture thoroughly without incorporating the crumbs.
  6. Then, with a wooden spoon stir in the crumbs until well blended but still a little lumpy.  Fold in the apples.
  7. Scrape the batter into the pan.
  8. In a small bowl, beat the egg white until foamy
  9. Beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until the whites barely stand in peaks.
  10. Spread over the top of the batter.
  11. Bake 65 to 75 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  12. Remove from the oven and cool 30 minutes on a wire rack.
  13. Slip off the sides of the pan and finish cooling the cake.  Serve at room temperature.

Covered in plastic wrap, the cake holds well at cool room temperature up to 2 days.  It keeps a week in refrigerator.  (If it last that long)
*I used a variety of apples for the cake.  I don’t know the names of them, but they are pictured above.