Carrot Pineapple Muffins

I recently returned from a trip to the Hawaiian island of Kauai and was so inspired by the tropical flavors I experienced there, that I created these Carrot Pineapple Muffins that are topped with macadamia nuts and a pineapple glaze.

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

This trip however, wasn’t just about food, it was really so much more. Kauai is an island that speaks to my soul. Of all the Hawaiian islands I’ve been to, Kauai is the least populated and most underdeveloped. You immediately become very aware of the clouds that billow and hang heavy over the green and lush mountainsides. The island seems almost prehistoric. It was peaceful and welcoming.

But, you know I’m all about the food, so… You can find a McDonald’s or a Subway if you really try, but what you WILL find lining all the roads and small towns of this paradise, are these very cool family owned business that may not be much more than a trailer or a wooden shack and they sell the most amazing local food. The entire time we were there, we never had a bad meal. I was in awe of the amazing array of fresh fish, homemade poke, and locally grown fruits and vegetables. One of my prized acquisitions was the Hawaiian Red Salt from the Red Salt Restaurant in The Koa Kea Hotel. (http://www.koakea.com). I use it on everything, as well as the Kauai Pie Coffee from Lapperts. (https://www.lappertshawaii.com)  It’s flavored with coconut, chocolate and macadamia and I can’t wait to get up every morning to drink it.  Heaven!

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

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Carrot Pineapple Muffins

Carrot Pineapple Muffins

Recipe: Easy

 
 

Baked Apples

As soon as summer turns into autumn, my favorite dessert to celebrate the change of seasons is Baked Apples…and I’ll tell you why.

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

I was remembering back on a trip we took one autumn to western Washington State several years ago. Coming from Southern California where in September the hillsides become crispy and brown, I was quite taken by the almost prehistoric forests that seem to be everywhere. The surroundings were lush and green, and the air was clean and crisp even in the early fall. And apples…there seemed to be apples everywhere we went.

As with all my travels, it seems what I remember most though is the food, and usually it’s one dish that stands out and sears itself into my memory. On one particularly misty afternoon we stopped at a small roadside cafe owned by an elderly woman and her son who also had an apple stand next to their restaurant.  They insisted that after lunch we try their baked apples for dessert.

I can only equate those apples to a thick, cozy Ralph Lauren cable knit sweater (in off-white) that engulfed you in its warmth and simpleness. The apple dessert was stuffed with an earthy filling of oats, fruits and nuts and then drizzled with an apple cider reduction that I would have licked up off the plate if no one was watching. But, people were watching.

Anyway, when I returned from the trip that autumn, I tried to duplicate the old woman’s version in my own home.  It’s just not the same in 80 degree weather surrounded by palm trees, but pretty darn good none the less!

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

Baked Apples 

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Mama’s Tips: 

Not all apples are good for baking. I would not advise using Red Delicious apples as they tend to be very mushy. My favorites apples would be Macintosh, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Fuji. Always try to choose a crisp, firm apple.

Make sure you drain all the liquid from the baking dish into a small pot. It will have some of the brown sugar, oats and fruits in it. Let the pot come to a steady simmer, and let the liquid reduce by half until it becomes like a thin syrup. I encourage you to top your apple with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, and then drizzle the syrup over top. It’s simply pure perfection.

Ingredients for Baked Apple topping

Ingredients for Baked Apple topping

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Baked Apples

Baked Apples

Recipe: Easy

 
 

Peanut Butter Pie

I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that 9 out of 10 people love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate. So, I’m sharing with you one of the easiest recipes in the world for a Peanut Butter Pie that I’ve been making for years.

Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

For me, there is no better pairing than this creamy peanut buttery filling with the crunchy chocolate cookie crust. I do however, like to kick it up another notch or two by adding a generous drizzle of melted chocolate, freshly whipped cream, and of course some chopped nuts. Just make sure to chill this pie real good, about 4 hours. That is, if you can wait that long…I couldn’t.

Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

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Mama’s Tips:

When whipping heavy cream, make sure it’s always really cold. Don’t take it out of the fridge until you’re ready to use it. I usually whip the cream in a metal bowl that I place in the freezer before using.

The method I like best for melting chocolate is to place a glass bowl with the chopped chocolate over a pot of lightly simmering water. Chocolate will burn easily, so don’t let it get in close contact with the heat. Just stir it with a wooden spoon until all the lumps have dissipated and you have a smooth drizzling consistency. Also, be sure not to get any water into the chocolate as it will make the chocolate seize.

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Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Recipe: Easy

 
 

Roasted Cauliflower

I love dishes that are easy to make yet taste really good, and Roasted Cauliflower is both of those things.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

I’ve noticed the past year or so that every LA hipster restaurant I go into these days is serving Roasted Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts. There was a time when those vegetables were things your mother forced you to eat. Well this mama doesn’t have to force anybody to eat these veggies.

Roasting the cauliflower brings out it’s natural goodness. Tossed with some good quality olive oil, a little garlic, pine nuts and thyme and you have yourself an easy to make, awesomely good side dish. For parties I’ll roast a large pan of cauliflower and serve it with a tangy yogurt sauce. If the hipster restaurants can do it, so can I.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower 

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Mama’s Tips:

Cauliflower comes in white, purple and orange. Try mixing up the colors to make the dish more visually appealing.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

 

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

Recipe: Easy 

 
 

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Whenever a summer crowd gathers, I make sure to have these Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches on hand.

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

It may not officially be summer yet, but here in Southern California and in my backyard in particular, we are in full summer mode. Now, for the next four months, it’s nothing but shorts, t-shirts and flip flops for us.

When I gather my entourage together for our weekly Sunday barbecues, my husband is the master of the grill, and I am the diva of dessert. For those hot California nights throughout the summer my gang usually demands these Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches.  Made with homemade crunchy, crumbly peanut cookies and a huge dollop of your favorite ice cream, these are a summer treat that will make you a real hero.

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches 

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Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Recipe: Easy

 
 

Blueberry and Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry and Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry and Yogurt Parfait

The past couple of weeks I have been somewhat obsessed with this blueberry compote I’ve been making. Especially in Southern California now, there has been an abundance of fresh blueberries everywhere, and I can’t seem to get enough of them.  Anyway, I’ve been whipping up this tasty little concoction and pouring it over vanilla ice cream, waffles and pancakes. I can sometimes be found at midnight, standing over my sink with a spoon and eating it straight from the container.

This past weekend I had the whole family over for brunch and I made these Blueberry and Yogurt Parfaits in tiny shot glasses. They were a big hit.

Blueberry and Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry and Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry and Yogurt Parfait

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Blueberry Compote

Blueberry Compote

Mama’s Tips:

This is a great compote to use over ice cream, waffles, pancakes, cottage cheese as well as yogurt. Just store in the refrigerator in an air-proof container. It should last about 2 days.

You can make this compote the day before you make the parfaits, just assemble the parfait at the last minute.

These are perfect when you’re having the whole gang over for brunch. Use 3 ounce shot glasses and make parfait shots. It a nice way to start off any brunch.

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry yogurt Parfait

Blueberry and Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry and Yogurt Parfait

Recipe: Easy 

 
 

S’mores Mini Cheesecakes

S'mores Mini Cheesecakes

S’mores Mini Cheesecakes

My foray into the ranks of the Girl Scouts of America was a brief and un-momentous part of my life as I entered the fourth grade. All the girls in my class were joining, so naturally I wanted to be part of this elite service-oriented group. I mean, they got to wear an array of brightly colored embroidered badges on a banner across their chests, who wouldn’t want to do that. And so I did what any red-blooded American elementary schooler would do, and I enlisted.

I knew immediately this might be a decision that I would regret. Being the fashionista that I was, even in the fourth grade, my heart sank as soon as I tried on that green, military-style scouting dress. Oh no, this was bad. There was apparently no way to doll this outfit up. The deal breaking moment came when we had a camping weekend out in the woods and  to my horror there were no proper “facilities”. I called my mother and had her rescue me from this terrible fate.

But there is a silver lining in all our life’s experiences. It was in the Girl Scouts (yet ever so briefly) that I was introduced to that heavenly concoction they call s’mores. In life, what could be better than graham crackers with melted chocolate and marshmallows. Bless the Girl Scouts. That snack was the inspiration for these S’mores Mini Cheesecakes. You don’t need to be a scout to enjoy them.

S'mores Mini Cheesecakes

S’mores Mini Cheesecakes

Equipment needed:  electric mixer, mini cheesecake pan, kitchen torch

S’mores Mini Cheesecakes

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S'more Mini Cheesecakes

S’mores Mini Cheesecakes

Mama’s Tips: 

You can leave your cream cheese and eggs out overnight so that they will be room temperature. The cream cheese is so much easier to beat, and will incorporate into the batter easier when it is room temperature.

S'mores Mini Cheesecakes

S’mores Mini Cheesecakes

Recipe: Intermediate 

 
 

Apple Raisin Loaf Cake

Apple Raisin Loaf Cake

Apple Raisin Loaf Cake

Those who know me know that Mama, (that’s me) is not much of a reader. I am definitely not a reader of fiction I can tell you that.  When I’m able to harness my attention to read though, I do like a good biography or something historical. But what I really love are cookbooks. I have bookcases all over the house just filled with every kind of cookbook you can think of, though most are about desserts. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

I love cookbooks because you can go back and look at them over and over again, which is not something I would do with other kinds of books. And I love pictures! I will rarely buy a cookbook that isn’t filled with lots of tantalizing photos. One of my favorite cookbooks is “The Modern Baker” by Nick Malgieri. For those of you out there who like to bake, or if you just want to give it a shot, this should be your book. Every recipe is a winner. So many breads, cakes and cookies in this book, and not enough time to make it all. So, I’m sharing this Apple Raisin Loaf Cake recipe from the book. Hope you give it a try. I bet you’ll love it.

Apple Raisin Loaf

Apple Raisin Loaf

Mama’s Tips:

To grate my apples, I used a box grater like this.

If you line your baking pans with a piece of parchment, and lightly brush the parchment with butter, you will not have a problem with the cake sticking to the pan.

I kept this cake wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator, and it stayed fresh for 4 days.

Apple Raisin Loaf

Apple Raisin Loaf

Apple Raisin Loaf Cake

From “The Modern Baker”, by Nick Malgieri

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Parchment lined loaf pan for Apple Raisin Loaf

Parchment lined loaf pan for Apple Raisin Loaf

Apple Raisin Loaf

APPLE RAISIN LOAF

Recipe: Easy

 
 

Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

So often in life we are confronted with crucial life altering decisions. One of the most difficult for me is “Sweet or Salty”. I know you struggle with this one too. It’s not a decision that one can make lightly, and more often then not, I opt for sweet.  However, there are those times when it’s not about the sugar,  but rather that salty crunchiness.

The solution is whipping up a batch of homemade Soft Pretzels. Don’t be intimidated, you can do this. They’re really easy, and so worth the effort. The end result is salty and crunchy on the outside, and soft and doughy on the inside. They’re best right out of the oven. I serve them on family poker night with a Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce. These are so good, I usually make two batches…and there’s never any left.

Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

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Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

Mama’s Tips

To portion your dough into 8 equal pieces; cut the dough in half, then cut each half in half, then each quarter in half. Remarkably, you will end up with 8 equal pieces.

Boiling the pretzels in the baking soda bath will give the pretzels their golden color and will create the classic crunchy exterior, leaving the inside soft and doughy.

After shaping the pretzels into their signature shape, I like to place them on a sprayed cookie sheet into the fridge for about 10-15 minutes as I find this makes them easier to handle.

When adding the baking soda to the boiling water, step back and add it slowly.  Adding it all in one shot will cause the water to erupt and you could burn yourself. I learned this the hard way.

Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

Recipe: Intermediate

 
 

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

I’m a bad, bad girl. Yesterday it poured here  in Los Angeles, something it never does except maybe 5 times a year. So when it does happen, we folks here in LA become disoriented and don’t know what to do with ourselves. Above all we don’t drive because what sane person would drive in the rain? Definitely not me.

So getting back to why I’m a bad, bad girl. Since I was unable to leave the house due to the aforementioned rain, I decided the next best thing to do was to stay home and bake doughnuts. Makes sense, right?  And what better doughnut to make on a gloomy day but Toasted Coconut Doughnuts with a sweet vanilla glaze with lots of chopped macadamia nuts on top. I always say, when you can’t go out and play…make doughnuts.

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

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Toasted Coconut Doughnuts before glazing

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts before glazing

Mama’s Tips:

To make filling the wells of the doughnut pan easier, pour the batter into a spouted measuring cup.

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Toasted Coconut Doughnuts

Recipe: Easy