April 2012

PICK ME! PICK ME! So pleaded the bottle of blood orange juice as I spied it in Stop & Shop.

I had my eye on this persuasive (!) blood orange juice last time I was in the produce aisle, but found it especially irresistible when I read its side panel–Sicilian Delight!

Ooh, get in the cart, baby! You’re about to become even more delightful!

Last week, I tried X-Rated Fusion Liqueur in a lychee cocktail and decided I had to experiment at home. Made from blood oranges, mangoes and passion fruit, X-Rated Fusion might possibly be even betta with blood orange juice than lychee. Someone had to figure it out. And it was gonna be me!

So, as luck would have it, I found (file under “Who knew?”) right here in the Land of Steady Habits, Westford Hill Distillers is crankin’ out Rime Organic Vodka. Of course, I had to try it and it’s excellent!

But together: equal parts Rime organic vodka, Noble blood orange juice and X-Rated Fusion liqueur? Why, we’ve got X-Rated Sicilian Delight! And on a sunshine day, it sure goes down easy. CENT’ANNI! Happy weekend, amici!

Yesterday was a perfect day for baking here in the Land of Steady Habits–chilly with desperately needed pouring rain. What better time to let the oven help warm the house with something sweet and delicious?

When my #1 taster says, “That’s a keeper!” I know I’m onto something. This blueberry almond cream cake is a riff on my own favorite muffin recipe, but with blueberries, a layer of almond cream and a streusel topping. Whether you call it breakfast or dessert, I hope you might call it a keeper, too.


Streusel Topping
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold butter*

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl; cut in butter with a knife–or fork together. Set aside.

*I made my streusel with softened butter the second time and melted butter the first. It was the consistency of wet sand both times. Though it was rather Zen-like dropping pieces of streusel over the top of the cake, doing it properly with cold butter is probably a better bet. Hmm, a better butter bet!

Almond Cream
4 oz. cream cheese, softened (Neufchâtel is fine)
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ cup powdered sugar

In a separate bowl, beat all ingredients until smooth. Set aside.

The Cake
½ cup butter, softened
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons orange juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 oz. fresh blueberries

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla and almond extracts; mix till smooth. Add sour cream and orange juice. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture gradually–I do so in 4 or 5 separate additions–till moistened.

Butter a 9″ pan. Layer half of the cake batter in pan. Top/spoon with almond cream…

Then top with blueberries…

Smooth remaining cake batter over blueberries…

Then sprinkle streusel evenly over the top…

Bake at 400 degrees F for 35 minutesor till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Like this!

I snagged the first corner piece while it was still piping hot. Please note the NOM NOM NOM factor of the melted brown sugar!

I love the pretty blues and purples. Kinda reminds me of a killer sunset I caught last week.

Wishing you a week filled with pretty colors–both in the kitchen and outside your windows!

Growing up, holidays were all about tradition. Remember dressing up for dinner? It wasn’t till high school I figured out EVERYONE didn’t start a holiday meal with lasagna, then turkey and all the trimmings. You mean you didn’t eat like that? You must not be Italian. 🙂

We would all gather in the kitchen until the man in the apron (that’s Uncle Al, next to Nanny) could no longer get things done with everyone underfoot. “Would you get the hell outta my kitchen?!!!”

But sometimes, the holiday gatherings of old just don’t materialize, and you find yourself…inviting your uncle to join you for something completely UNtraditional. Tacos! Yes, we did!

I’ve wanted to talk to you about tacos for some time now, knowing so many really good home cooks only make them with “the packet.” Long ago, my Aunt Pegi taught me how to make ’em–just meat, tomato sauce and seasonings. It’s that easy! Over time, I’ve added my own twists to her original recipe, but it’s really the same idea. You can add and subtract from it as you like.


1 – 1 ½  lbs. ground chicken (AP used ground turkey, feel free to use ground beef if you prefer)
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
beer (or water)–1/2 tomato sauce can–the rest is for the cook!
1 tablespoon chili powder* (mine is Penzey’s medium hot)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon epazote (optional)
1 teaspoon cilantro (optional)
add salt to taste

*Or use Katty’s magic formula: 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon chipotle, 1 teaspoon ancho

Grab a large skillet, add some olive oil and ground chicken (or whatever meat you choose) with a teaspoon of adobo sprinkled over the meat. Break the meat into small pieces with your spatula and cook till there’s no pink. Drain juices.

Lower heat to medium, add can of tomato sauce. What better way to rinse the extra tomato sauce outta the can than with a little beer? A little beer for the tacos, a little beer for the cook. Cheers to that!

Then add all the spices–most of them should be in your spice rack already. The only exceptions are the epazote and cilantro. Nice to add if you have them on hand–no big deal if not.

The tomato sauce and beer will cook down and look like this.

I put together a QUICK GUACAMOLE, too:
one avocado, cubed
handful of grape tomatoes, quartered
a couple of slices of sweet onion, diced
a couple of slices of lemon, squeezed (lime is traditional, lemon is what the kat had in the kitchen!)
a bit of adobo sauce (from chipotles in adobo)–I usually use sriracha–any hot sauce will do

Mix and serve. It’s tasty as a snack before the tacos are ready, or as a topping once they’re out of the oven!

But back to the taco meat…you can stuff taco shells, top them with shredded cheddar and bake them, as we did…

Or you can make nachos…or even taco salad…

Don’t forget–taco meat over cheesy eggs for breakfast the next day is always a treat.

Be sure to have lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and sour cream on hand–whatever toppings you like–for your tacos. Olives, anyone?

While not the feast of childhood days with my family, we had a great meal and a nice time together…right down to when my uncle’s phone rang, playing this Skynyrd song, and it took me waaaay back! Turn it up!

So, speaking of Skynyrd, here we are: Skynyrd and I in front of the garage on 216. Was it 1981, maybe? Older and wiser now, for sure, but still that same girl inside.

It’s now officially Easter because I woke up today and baked THESE COOKIES.

I’ve shared Nanny’s oatmeal cookies previously, only to realize when I looked at my handwritten recipe, it’s not EXACTLY the same as what’s on the Quaker site now. So, to be sure we have it documented properly, here we go. I’m pretty sure Nanny’s recipe originated from the Quaker oats canister, but then recipes change over time, so let’s get it right for old times’ sake. And for Nanny!

Now, a reminder about my grandmother and one of the many things that made her so cool. Nanny put M&Ms in her oatmeal cookies. And every holiday, she’d head down here with Poppy and a giant platter of them for my cousins and me. She must have made AT LEAST two or three batches, because in my mind’s eye, I can still see those cookies piled high. All of us kids (and my uncles) still remember them fondly–and I’m proud to carry on her holiday baking tradition in her memory.

This year, I wanted to try a Mounds variation just to be a little different. If you love chocolate and coconut together, these will rock your world. If not, stick to Nanny’s original recipe and add a cup of M&Ms instead. I only use 1/2 a cup, but that’s just because Nanny was a whole lot cooler than I am.


3/4 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups quick oats, (quick, 1-minute oats–can’t you picture them hurrying somewhere?) uncooked
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped (Valrhona in my house)
1/2 cup tender flake coconut (sweetened)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat butter, sugars, egg, water and vanilla together until creamy.

Sift together flour, salt and soda. Add to creamed mixture, blend well. Add oats and blend. Then add coconut and blend…then add chopped chocolate (and do what? that’s right), blend.

Original recipe calls for dropping by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. I used my trusty Zeroll Universal EZ Disher scoop (#60, pink).

I love and highly recommend this scoop for perfect portioning!

Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees F…in my house, 13.5 minutes is the magic number, but could be anywhere from 12-15 minutes at yours. I find letting the cookies rest on the baking sheet a few minutes makes it easier to move them from sheet to rack.

Makes 5 dozen, except in my kitchen because (block your eyes, Nanny!) I  love to eat the dough raw and always must ensure quality control, once baked, before sharing with others! MOO.

Happy Easter!