Vanilla Pots de Creme

These darling little pots de cremes are Sabrina’s new favorite dessert. And, I must admit she has really impressed me with her inspired creativity on how to prepare them.

The first time she ate one, she had it topped with a little fruit. The next time, she sprinkled on a few mini chocolate chips, and declared it even better. Emboldened, she rummaged through the spice cabinet and topped the next one with what she thought was cinnamon sugar. The first spoonful quickly brought to light the fact that it was granulated garlic powder – not sugar. After becoming thoroughly disgusted with her error, she silently wept as she threw it away. I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair.

She was not amused.

Fortunately, there was one jar left, so she topped it (correctly) with the cinnamon sugar mixture. And while that was good, the next day she decided to take it one step further, and used my nifty blow torch to burn the cinnamon sugar into a brulee-type crispy shell.


With or without a topping (and preferably not the savory kind..), these are super simple to make and a perfect little sweet to end the day.

Vanilla Pots de Creme – adapted from NY Times

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  •  cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and cream just to simmer. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light in color, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk/cream mixture, whisking constantly until well blended. Stir in the vanilla extract. Strain the mixture into a large measuring cup, then pour the mixture into 4 6 ounce jars or ramekins. Place the jars into a large casserole or baking pan, and fill the pan halfway with hot tap water.

Place the pan in the oven, and bake the cremes for 45 minutes, or until the center is just a bit wobbly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Mini Fruit Crisps

I woke up this morning with the strangest sense of deja vu. It took me a minute to figure out why, and then it hit me.

  1. I have to commence packing again, as we will be moving out in 30 days or less. I’m really hoping for the less part…. I am super pleased about it this time though, because I will be able to unpack all of our things once and for all in the new house – there’s room for everything (and then some…). And no Mom, that’s not a direct subtle hint about that beautiful hall piece you have. You know, the green one, with the wine storage? Yeah, not that one.

2.  And in what could be considered a scene from the movie Groundhog Day, my hair dryer went out on me yesterday (that’s the second hair dryer in 15 months). My ability to blow up appliances is consistent and unfailing. I should congratulate myself, especially on the fact that my hair didn’t catch fire from the sparks emanating out the front of the dryer. And so we bid farewell to another hard working appliance…….

So in betwixt and between all this activity, I’m savoring the last bits of my summer produce stash with these mini crisps. They are perfectly sized, and would you think poorly of me if I confessed to eating them for breakfast?


Topped with Greek yogurt, they make a mighty fine start to the day.

Mini Fruit Crisps – adapted from Epicurious

  • 1 1/2 quarts assorted fruits – trimmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from about 1/2 a lemon)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place six ramekins or mini jars on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the fruit, sugar, and lemon zest and let rest for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and butter. Using your hands or a spoon, gently toss to blend the ingredients and then rub the mixture together to work the butter into walnut-size lumps. Divide the fruit between the ramekins, gently packing it down. Divide the oat topping between the ramekins, packing a hearty mound on top of each. Bake the fruit crisps until the streusel is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.


Steak Pizzaiola

I’ll tell you something – things are changing around here faster than a speeding Dachshund.


Why does she always look guilty? Oh I know – because she usually IS! 

So while change is good and inevitable in life, somedays, when things get thrown at you at all once, you have to stop, take a deep breath, and focus. Which I did several times this morning. And I’m sure that will be my mantra repeated with increasing frequency. With the impending closure on the new house, and the rental we are currently in going up for sale tomorrow, I’m definitely balancing a fine line of needing/wanting to pack and keeping this house looking presentable. Challenging, but doable.

Another facet to the changing times is that Alexander started his new job yesterday. Plus side? He loves his place of employment. The very minor downside? He is no longer home for dinner. It’s troubling him more than me, as evidenced by his comment to me yesterday afternoon, “Mom, I feel so bad, you’re alone because everyone is working! Doesn’t it bother you that no one is home for dinner at the same time anymore?”

Bother me? Not in the least. All it requires is strategic planning of dinners that can be prepared and reheated as necessary.

Done :)

Steak Pizzaiola – adapted from epicurious

  • 4 (1/2-inch-thick) top blade beef chuck steaks (1 1/4 lb total)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch- wide strips
  • 6 oz white mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbs. red wine
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced

Pat steaks dry and place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound to 1/4 inch thick with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin. Discard plastic wrap and sprinkle steaks with black pepper.Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook steaks in 2 batches, turning over once, until meat is just medium-rare, 2 minutes per batch. Transfer steaks to a platter as cooked and keep warm, loosely covered with foil. (Do not wipe skillet clean.)

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet and sauté onion and bell pepper over moderately high heat, stirring, until onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and sauté, stirring, until mushrooms are golden, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook until evaporated, about 1 minute. Add  tomatoes with their juice, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes and onion are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove lid and cook until most of liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with pepper, and  spoon vegetable sauce on top of steaks.

Chocolate Chess Pie

I’m a bundle of highly charged emotions right now, all of which (thankfully) fall into the same category:

  • Elation
  • Excitement
  • Euphoria
  • Exuberance

The reason for my exalted state of being?

Drum roll please.

We bought a house yesterday! If you’ve been reading this blog for the last year or so, that statement might not make too much sense, considering the multiple references I’ve made to our ranch and the house we were supposed to build on it. Well, the short version is this:

It isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

There are more than a few reasons for the delay, none of which carry too much importance to talk about right now. The important part of this story is that we found a perfect house, in a great location, and we are moving on up!!

…..cue The Jefferson’s theme song….

In an ideal scenario, we will be out of here in 30 days. And that made me laugh out loud this morning, since when we left Vegas, we had exactly 30 days to get out of that house because we closed so quickly.

I see a pattern forming here.

No matter though, I am so ready for this move, and have already drawn up my to-do list, complete with bullet points to prioritize my tasks. And even though we aren’t moving too far from our current location, I have begun planning dinners designed  to use up various odds and ends in the freezer and fridge.

This pie, believe it or not, was a result of that planning. I found a small can of evaporated milk in the pantry, the proverbial light bulb went off, and the rest is delicious history.

Chocolate Chess Pie – adapted from Add a Pinch

  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 4 tbs. butter, melted
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust (see below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk sugar, cocoa, and espresso powder together. Pour butter and evaporated milk into sugar and cocoa mixture and beat on high speed. Add vanilla and eggs. With mixer speed on high speed, mix for approximately 2-3 minutes to lighten.

Pour mixture into 9 inch unbaked pie shell and bake for 45-50 minutes. The center of the pie will be a bit soft. Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing. The pie will continue to set as it cools.

Pie Crust:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4-5 tablespoons ice water

Butter a 9-inch pie plate or skillet and set aside.

Pour the flour into a large bowl. Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, or use your hands (my preferred method!).

Gradually add enough ice water to the mixture while mixing with a fork until a ball of dough is formed.

Pour the dough onto a lightly floured sheet of plastic wrap and form into a disc. Lightly flour the top of the pie dough and place another sheet of plastic wrap on top. Rolling from the center, roll until the dough is about a ⅛-inch thickness. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, fold the dough over and lay across the pie plate and remove the bottom piece of plastic wrap. Press the pie dough lightly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Cover the pie plate with a piece of the plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to overnight.


Carnitas Tamale Pie

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I last posted – the past seven days have gone by in a complete and total blur. It seems as though I say that on a weekly basis, especially since we moved to Texas. I think it’s a side effect of getting older……. as Ferris Bueller says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around, you might miss something”.

It was with that exact sentiment that J and I took an incredible (albeit short) trip to Vancouver, B.C. over this past weekend. J arranged everything, from the flights (easy-peasy on United) to our hotel in downtown Burnaby (outstanding hospitality at the Hilton). Although it rained practically the entire time we were there, we enjoyed the city immensely and more importantly, thoroughly relished the quiet time together. And as nice as it was to go away, it was really nice to return home – especially to the posse. They had a beautiful birthday card for me ~ and even better, they proved, without a doubt, that they are maturing into conscientious and responsible young adults by not throwing a “Project X” style house party in our absence.

Thank goodness….

Now that we are back and settled on our home turf, our next trip is to Purdue University for Sabrina’s placement testing and tour. We are going to experience the consummate college scene for a few days, so she can get a real-time feel for the school and acclimate herself to what college life is really going to be like.

This will be interesting to say the least…..


Carnitas Tamale Pie – adapted from Pinch of Yum

  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 tbs. baking powder
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 can diced green chiles (I used 5 whole roasted chiles, and chopped them up)
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 cups leftover carnitas
  • 1 cup enchilada sauce (I used red, next time I’ll probably use green)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, and baking powder. Stir in the oil until the mixture makes soft crumbs. Whisk in the milk and egg. Add the green chiles and stir until just combined. Bake in a 9-inch square pan for 15 minutes or until set. Since it’s a tamale-like base, it won’t be completely dry like a cornbread. It’s supposed to be just a little mushy.

Poke holes in the crust with a fork. Pour the enchilada sauce over the crust. Squeeze or drain excess moisture out of the carnitas and arrange on top of the crust. Sprinkle with cheese.

Reduce oven temperature to 350. Cover with foil, return to oven, and bake for 20 minutes. When everything is heated through, remove foil and let bake for another 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Top with chopped cilantro, allow to cool for 5 minutes, and cut into slices or scoop into bowls.

Cannoli Cheesecake

So….. you *may* have seen the nifty little widget on the side of my blog advertising the fact that my birthday is just a few days away. I thought it was a nice touch, even if I don’t need to be reminded that I’m getting older.

And becoming more astute, pragmatic, a bit wiser, and better looking, too. One can only hope.

Anyway, I decided to firmly embrace my English-Italian birthright, and commence birthday celebrations starting today. Oh, you didn’t know that was a legitimate right? My parents (hence the English-Italian part of the story) are steadfast believers in not just a birth-day, but a birthday month. I like it, even if I’m waaaaaay behind in starting the party. About 16 days behind, to be exact. Eh, no worries – now that I have a free pass to indulge in all of my favorite desserts for the next few days, I’ll be caught up in no time.


I like that idea even more.

Cannoli Cheesecake – adapted from Rosie’s Country Cooking

  • 7 oz pkg cannoli shells (or graham cracker crumbs)
  • 3 tbs. unsalted butter melted
  • 2 tbs. sugar
  • 4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs. orange zest (I used the zest of one whole orange)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 inch springform pan with parchment. Crush canolli shells in a food processor, add butter and 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to pulse into crumbs. Press mixture firmly onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool.

Beat ricotta cheese, remaining sugar and flour in bowl of electric mixer on medium until well blended. Add vanilla and zest; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing just until blended after each addition. Pour over crust.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, then sprinkle top with the chocolate chips delicately, pressing chips in lightly. Continue to bake 10 more minutes or until center is almost set. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake. Cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or more. Before serving, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.  Top with whipped cream if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator, serves 10.

Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla Pie

For the last few days, I’ve had pie on my mind. Chocolate cream, vanilla bourbon, peanut butter… mmmmm peanut butter.

I suspect, though, that my current pie-mindset has something to do with the fact that I feel supremely confident in my pie-crust making ability these days. Or, it could be that I simply haven’t made one in awhile.

Option #2 is most likely the correct assumption.

At any rate, I saw this savory dinner pie recipe on and conveniently had everything in the house to make it. The kids, of course, loved it. I did too, even if I didn’t get a chance to make the actual crust….


Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla Pie – adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

  • One 10-inch flour tortilla
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a monterey jack / cheddar blend)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped Hatch chiles (or poblanos)
  • Pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Press tortilla into prepared pie plate and spray lightly with oil spray. Toss shredded chicken in bowl with 1 cup cheese, cilantro, and chiles – season with pepper, then spread into pie plate.

Whisk eggs, milk, flour, and baking powder together in bowl until smooth. Slowly pour into dish, then sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until surface is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.