Category Archives: Desserts

Lemon Polenta Cake (gluten-free)


This lovely cake represents my first successful foray into gluten-free baking.  My daughter and I attempted a birthday cake for a friend earlier this year which yielded dubious results.  Now I realize the error, and on the opposite side of the coin, what it takes for successful gluten-free baking (and this theory also applies to successful vegetarian and vegan cooking):  don’t strive for an exact replica of your favorite food containing gluten, meat or dairy.  Rather embrace recipes and foods that are naturally gluten-free or meat/dairy-free.


This Lemon Polenta Cake doesn’t attempt to be a light, fluffy chiffon layer cake.  It is a dense, earthy cake with the slightly gritty polenta and the nuttiness of the almond meal.  These two ingredients are showcased – the recipe in no way attempts to transform them into something which they are not.


And that’s a typical mistake I see with vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Can’t have pork bacon?  Then eat some weird “fake-on” (FYI – that’s my word for fake bacon).  Can’t have cheese?  Have a lab-cultured cheese-like creation.  There is a bounty of delicious and amazing vegetarian and vegan foods already existing in nature – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, herbs, spices, pulses.  Feast on those rather than on some not nearly as satisfying imitation product.


Give this delicious Lemon Polenta Cake a try.  Not because it’s gluten-free, but because it is an amazingly delicious cake!


1 year ago:  Shakshuka (eggs in spicy tomato sauce)

Lemon Polenta Cake

Note:  If you don’t have or can’t find almond meal/flour, grind whole almonds or almond pieces in a food processor or Nutribullet until they make a fine powder (don’t overmix or can turn into almond butter).  This cake lasts longer than most cakes:  keeps for up to 6 days.

For the cake:

1 3/4 stick (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

2 cups (200 grams) almond meal/flour

3/4 cup (100 grams) fine polenta/cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 eggs

Zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

For the syrup:

Juice of 2 lemons

1 heaping cup (125 grams) powdered/icing sugar

Plain yogurt or créme fraîche

Fresh or frozen raspberries

Line the base of a 9″/23cm springform cake pan with parchment paper and grease its sides lightly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C).

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar until pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.  Mix together the almond meal, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour the mixture into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its pan.

For the syrup, boil together the lemon juice and powdered/icing sugar in a smallish saucepan. Once the sugar has dissolved into the juice, you’re done. Prick the top of the cake all over with a toothpick, pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its pan.

Cut cake into slices and serve with a dollop of yogurt and a few raspberries.  (The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5 to 6 days.  It can also be frozen on its lining paper as soon as cooled, wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, for up to 1 month. Thaw for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.)

Adapted from Nigella Lawson



Filed under Desserts, Vegetarian

Strawberries in Lemon Syrup with Fresh Mint


Desserts….oh, how I love them!  Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, layer cakes with buttercream frosting, chocolate walnut brownies – I could go on.


But I also love very simple, no-bake desserts, especially as summer comes around.


These strawberries fit that bill.  It is likely the simplest dessert you’ll ever make.  It’s not so much a recipe, as a simple preparation of a few good, fresh ingredients.


Use the freshest, ripest strawberries you can find and toss with fresh lemon juice and sugar.  As it sits, the strawberry juices release to form a syrup along with the lemon and sugar.


To serve, top with créme fraîche, the tang of which pairs nicely with the sweet syrup, then sprinkle with fresh herbs like mint and/or basil.

It is the perfect end to a summer barbecue, when everyone is quite full, but that sweet tooth is saying “feed me”.  And it honestly could not be any easier!


1 year ago:  Avgolemono Soup

Strawberries in Lemon Syrup with Fresh Mint (serves 4)

Note:  Fresh basil is also nice with this dish; or do a mixture of mint and basil.

14 ounces (400 grams or about 3 cups) strawberries

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons créme fraîche or sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Using a small paring knife, hull the strawberries.  That is, remove the stem and hard white core.  Quarter the strawberries or if they are small, just cut in half.

Place in a medium bowl and gently stir with the sugar and lemon juice.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Spoon strawberries and syrup in four small bowls.  Top each with a dollop of creme fraiche (about 1 tablespoon per bowl) and sprinkle with fresh mint (about 1/2 tablespoon per bowl).

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Filed under Desserts

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


Happy Friday!  I’m taking the day off and my 10-year-old daughter, Molly, is guest blogging today.  Enjoy!


I am Katie’s daughter Molly and I picked to guest blog on my moms website because i love baking sweets and i make the best chocolate chip cookies in my family :).  This recipe is very easy and i have made it with many of my friends.


However while living in the UK it has been hard to find decent chocolate chips at the shops – they come in really tiny packages and are expensive.  So it is the reason for many emergency Costco trips because they have nice, large packages that make lots of cookies!


My mom and I have experimented with different types of flour: First, we tried all-purpose (plain, white) flour which turned into slightly hard cookies. Then, we tried the recipe below that uses bread flour and makes yummy, chewy, soft cookies. If you want to use plain flour you can but i like using bread flour better.


If you live in London then you would probably say chocolate chip biscuits, but because this is an American recipe, we call it chocolate chip cookies.  But whatever you call them, they’re the best!


1 year ago:  Maple Pecan Scones, Perfect Green Salad Vinaigrette

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 2 dozen cookies)

Note:  The combination of bread flour and more brown sugar than granulated sugar, plus refrigerating the dough, are the keys to perfectly crisp yet chewy chocolate chips cookies.  Bread flour makes the cookies less cakey and more dense and chewy; brown sugar makes it chewier.  Refrigerating the dough ensures the cookies stay a bit thick rather than flattening out, and getting to thin and crisp.

2 1/4 cups (340 grams) bread (strong) flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 sticks (225 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (though still liquid – do not let it harden)

1/4 cup (60 grams) granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups (225 grams) light brown sugar

12 ounces (340 grams) semisweet chocolate chips

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugars on medium speed for 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add the egg mix.  Mix thoroughly until combined, about 30 seconds.  Slowly add the flour mix, stopping a few times to scrape down sides of bowl. Once flour is incorporated decrease the speed and add the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (160º C).  Using an ice cream scoop, scoop 1 1/2 ounces (40g) portions – about the size of a golf ball – onto a cookie sheet lined with baking (parchment) paper, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 15 minutes, rotating halfway.  If dough is refrigerated for longer than an hour, it may need to sit at room temperature for a few minutes until it’s soft enough to scoop (but make sure it’s still chilled – don’t want it to return to room temperature).

Adapted from Alton Brown


Filed under Desserts

Chocolate-Caramel Matzo Brittle


This week is Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights.  Candles on the menorah are lit nightly, presents are exchanged and lots of goodies are consumed.  This is one of my favorite Chanukah sweets, brought to you by my lovely daughter and guest blogger, Libby Walter.

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Chanukah is under way so it’s time to load up on matzo crackers! Matzo brittle is something I’ve been making for a few years now.  Every time I bring this to parties everyone asks how I make it and they are always surprised at how easy it is!


My Grandma Honey has made this recipe for me since I was born, so I got this recipe from her.  Once you taste a piece of this chocolate-caramel delight, you won’t stop eating it!  This is also a great use for leftover matzos.  Happy Chanukah!!


1 year ago: Pomegranate Mint CrostiniLemony Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Chocolate-Caramel Matzo Brittle (makes about 4 cups of brittle)

5-6 pieces matzo crackers

1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, firmly packed

12 tablespoons (170 grams) butter

3/4 cup (130 grams) chocolate chips

First, preheat your oven to 375º F (190º C) . Line two baking trays with baking paper and foil (to make sure no sticky caramel gets on the tray itself, trust me it’s hard to get off).  Place the matzo crackers on the lined trays.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a small or medium saucepan. Cook this on medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Then, pour it over the matzo and spread it so all the matzos are fully covered.

Put the trays in the oven to warm them up, carefully watching so that they don’t burn. As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the matzos. The chocolate chips don’t need to cover the whole thing because we are going to spread them out later. Next, after  the chips have melted, use a spatula to spread the chocolate using a back and forth motion.

After that just pop them in the fridge for a few hours and then break them up into small, odd shaped pieces!


Filed under Desserts, Holidays

Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs


Christmas countdown is under way.  Advent calendars are being ticked off (and chocolates eaten) daily; the Elf on the Shelf (Elfie McJingles, in our house) is keeping an eye on the girls sometimes from a new place each morning, sometimes not – I tried explaining to the girls that he broke his leg in a horrible accident and therefore must remain in one place the entire Christmas season but they didn’t buy it:); decorations are up (since we’re going back to the States there’s no tree, so decorating took a record 30 minutes!); and holiday baking has begun.

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Last year I posted a longtime favorite cookie, Double Chocolate Mint Meltaways.  This year I’m back with a new favorite – Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs.  They are like little bites of rich, chocolatey brownies!!  They’re chock full of ground pecans plus a hint of coffee really accentuates the chocolate flavor (it’s the secret ingredient in my brownies), enough to transport any chocolate lover to their happy place.


Kids can easily help out with this recipe as well by measuring flour or sugar, grinding the nuts and/or dipping the snowballs in powdered sugar.  My girls especially like grinding the nuts with my Grandma Hallie’s nut grinder from the 1940’s and it makes me so happy.  She would love seeing us baking together.


Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs make really nice Christmas gifts as well; they look a bit like truffles.  Put a dozen in a small cellophane bag tied with a decorative ribbon and you’ve got a lovely gift for a teacher, neighbor or hostess.  So crank up the holiday tunes, turn on the twinkling lights and bake something delicious.

1 year ago:  Barbecue Roasted Salmon, Orzo Pea & Feta Salad

Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs (makes 4 dozen)

2 sticks (225 grams) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups (220 grams) plain, all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant espresso/coffee powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups (200 grams) finely chopped pecans

Powdered/icing sugar for coating

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Mix in the flour, cocoa, espresso powder and salt until most flour has been incorporated.  Mix in the pecans and continue mixing until all ingredients have been incorporated.  Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days (if refrigerating for more than an hour, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften slightly before proceeding).

Preheat oven to 325º F (160º C).  Roll dough into small balls about 1″/2.5cm in diameter, using about 1 tablespoon of dough (if you have a scale and are as anal as I am, 12 grams is a good size per cookie).  Place the balls about 2″/5cm apart on a greased cookie sheet or alternately line it with baking (parchment) paper.  Bake for 15 minutes or until tops are dry and have cracked slightly.  Let cookies cool for about 5 minutes on the tray, then remove to a wire rack or a piece of baking paper on a flat surface.

Once cookies have fully cooled, roll them in the powdered/icing sugar, then gently shake off excess.

Adapted from Food & Wine


Filed under Desserts

Beat-the-Clock Banana Bread


Don’t schlep to the store next time you crave a baked good or something sweet; or are in need of an after-school snack for the kids or a breakfast treat.  Rather make Beat-the-Clock Banana Bread.  It literally takes 10 minutes to assemble (plus baking time – but who counts that?) and only requires one bowl and no electric mixer.



I’ve tried heaps of banana bread recipes over the years and always come back to this one.  It’s a bit odd in that it uses baking soda dissolved in water – don’t see that a lot – but it works.  And did I mention it’s super easy?


Now is the part of the blog where I share two important tips for making banana bread:

#1 – The riper the banana the better.  I save overripe bananas in the freezer then either let them sit out for an hour or so before using or defrost in the microwave.

#2 – Stir the batter as little as possible.  There can even be some flour visible.  The less you mix it the moister, softer it will be.  Overmix and it will be tough.


Feel free to dress is up with chocolate and toasted walnuts or leave it plain.  I typically just leave it plain, as I don’t always have chocolate chips and walnuts on hand, whereas all the other ingredients are always in the pantry.  But for a special treat – like for this blog post – I load it up.

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1 year ago: Butternut Squash Soup with Tarragon

Beat-the-Clock Banana Bread (makes one loaf)

Note:  For an even more decadent treat, grill slices of banana bread until warm and slightly crusty, and slather on a bit of butter.  To toast walnuts, just heat in a small saute pan on the stove until starting to brown.

3 very ripe bananas

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup (55 grams) melted butter

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon water

2 cups (250 grams) plain, all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (85 grams) chocolate chips, optional

1/2 cup (50 grams) chopped, toasted walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350º F (175º C).

In a medium-large bowl mash bananas with a fork.  Stir in the sugar, salt and egg.  Stir in the melted butter.  Dissolve baking soda in water; add to the banana mixture.  Blend in flour, being careful not to overmix (a few streaks of flour are ok, especially if you’re adding the chocolate chips and/or walnuts).  Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour into a greased large loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3 inches or 23 x 13 x 8 cm).  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 10 minutes before turning onto a rack to cool completely…or slice up while still slightly warm.

Adapted from “To Market, To Market” by Kentucky Junior League of Owensboro

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Filed under Breakfast and Brunch, Desserts

Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins


September always brings back fond memories of Sunday drives to the apple orchard.  Growing up in Michigan we had one just down the road and a handful of others within a short drive.  Didn’t realize how spoiled I was until living in Chicago and driving over an hour (in expressway traffic, not through beautiful countryside) to visit an apple orchard….and it shut down the year after I discovered it.  Living in Boston we didn’t have them either, but at least the local farm stand sold homemade apple cider doughnuts on weekends.


And who’s kidding who…the apple orchard is really all about those apple cider doughnuts.  These apple cider sweetened cake doughnuts are fried in front of you then dusted with cinnamon sugar.  The smell is divine.  Seriously one of my favorite foods ever!!


In London I have yet to track down an apple orchard with those doughnuts, let alone pick-your-own apples or apple cider (ok, there is apple cider here but it’s alcoholic….good but not the same).

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Finding this recipe was a bit of a revelation.  These muffins have the flavor of those amazing apple cider doughnuts without the fuss of frying.  Plus I love the mini size.  I cannot stop popping just one more in my mouth. And the recipe couldn’t be easier.


So celebrate the upcoming season of fall apples, color changes and Indian summer with these warm, buttery, cinnamon muffins with a hint of apple.  No nostalgic country apple orchard required.


Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins (makes 24 mini-muffins)

Note: Apple cider in this recipe refers to a non-alcoholic beverage similar to apple juice.  The difference is that cider is typically fresher – unfiltered and unpasteurized – with a shorter shelf-life.  In the States it’s available at farm stands, apple orchards and some supermarkets.  If you can’t find cider, then use the best quality apple juice you can find.

1 cup (250 ml) apple cider (non-alcoholic) or good quality apple juice

1 large egg

3 tablespoons (40 grams) melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups (250 grams) plain, all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


4 tablespoons (55 grams) butter

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.  In a liquid measuring cup (or small bowl), whisk together the apple cider/juice, egg, butter and vanilla.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients (flour through ginger), ensuring that there are no clumps of brown sugar (I used my fingers to remove any clumps).  Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined, being careful not to overmix.  A few remaining streak of flour and a few lumps are ok – they’ll come out in the baking.  However if you overmix you’ll have a dry, hard muffin.

Spray one 24 capacity mini-muffin pan or two 12 capacity mini-muffin pans generously with nonstick spray.  Divide batter evenly.  Cook for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpicks inserted in a muffin in the center comes out clean.

While muffins are cooking, melt butter in one small dish and combine granulated sugar and cinnamon in a second small dish.

As soon as muffins are removed from the oven, gently tap them out of the pan and place them on a rack.  While they are still as hot as you can stand to handle them, dip the top of each one, first in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon sugar.  If sugar starts getting a bit clumpy towards the end, don’t worry.  As long as it sticks to the top it’ll taste fine.

Eat while still warm or store in an airtight container for a few days.

Adapted from


Filed under Breakfast and Brunch, Desserts