Apple Pie in a Bag

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


For those who may have missed this on my LJ blog, I’m posting the video of my Apple Pie in a Bag.  Perfect for fall!

Apple Pie in a Bag ~Recipe

I made a few changes in the recipe.  I used 6 large Golden Delicious apples.  I also brushed butter and a mixture of cinnamon and sugar to the top crust.  I also added 1/4 cup brown sugar to the 1/2 cup white sugar. 

The pie tasted amazing!  I would love to make this again in the fall with fresh Washington State apples.

Yes!  It really is baked in a bag.  

I made this a playful challenge with a blogger buddy– Freddy.  I made the following video for the challenge:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

After ripping open the bag, it looks like this….

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


Goodbye Summer


I can’t believe how fast summer flew by.

I feel so unprepared.  Everybody is decorating for fall. 


Giovanni will miss the warm summer days the most.

(His dress belonged to one of Olivia’s girls, and somehow it was passed on to Giovanni.  He doesn’t mind.   He’s very metrosexual.)

Fall has arrived.

My sugar pumpkins are bright orange. 

I’ve cleared the last of the red and orange tomatoes.

The hens are fat and pretty.  They grew up, and they’re giving eggs.

They cackle when they hear my back slider open.  They know I’ll be bringing chunks of squash, cooked oatmeal, and whatever other fresh veggies we have leftover.

The air is cool and crisp.

I painted one of the benches pink and white.  I’m not quite ready to let go of pretty summer flower color.

Soon we’ll have to cover the old Italian fountain and protect it from the wet weather.

My Quinalt everbearing strawberries have not stopped producing yet.    The photo was take a few days back and those berries are ripe and red now.

My raspberries are still in a giving mood too.

It’s time to start moving indoors.  

Mark and I have plenty of hot tea on hand. 

I welcome the fall with all of its shadows and mystery.

Ready or not, fall has arrived.

Italian Almond/Amaretto (or Anisette) Cookies w/ Icing

I’ve been pretty busy this week, but I made time to squeeze in a batch of cookies.  These are almost like little cakes.

Italian Cookies YAY!

These have become one of my very favorite cookies!

Italian Almond Cookies w/ Icing and Sprinkles


½ cup butter, softened

½ cup sugar

3 large eggs

2 tsp almond extract

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

2-3 Tbsp milk


2 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 Tbsp milk

1/2 tsp almond extract



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or non-stick liners

For Cookies:

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add almond extract.

Blend flour and baking powder. Start by adding a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture, then add 1 Tbsp milk. Add another third of the flour mixture and another tablespoon of milk.. Finally, mix in enough of the remaining flour mixture until your dough is like a brownie batter (it should be softer than a drop cookie dough).

Use a small cookie scooper to make simple round drop cookies–use wet fingers to pat any rough edges.

Bake cookies 10-12 minutes–they won’t be brown but the insides will be soft and cake like.

For Icing:

Mix sugar, milk and extract to make a sugar glaze. Hold cookie in your hand and paint with finger–cover entire cookie with glaze and sit on a baking rack with wax paper underneath to catch any drippings. Immediately top with sprinkles before glaze dries.

Allow icing to harden overnight; then store in air tight containers or freeze.

These freeze well!

NOTES:  You can use anisette instead of almond extract in these cookies.  Substitute the almond extract to anisette extract in the cookie, and cut the amount of anisette to 1/8- 1/4 tsp. anisette flavoring in the glaze

Homemade Yogurt –Better Tasting and Better Health!

Strawberry Jam and Pecan Yogurt

Strawberry Jam and Pecan Yogurt

I used to have an aversion to yogurt.  I found many brands to be either too sour or too sweet.
Homemade yogurt, however, allows me to add my own flavoring and sweetness to suit my taste.
I use Organic milk and (usually) organic yogurt.  I couldn’t find organic yogurt for this particular batch.
I will be shopping at our new local PCC for the organic plain yogurt with live cultures for my next batch.   If money is an issue when buying organic, let me assure you, buying yogurt in separate small containers are still more costly than the yogurt you make at home, and usually they have a lot of unhealthy ingredients.  I made 6 cups of yogurt at a cost of 25 cents each.  Cost is less after you make your first batch because you take a few tablespoons from one of your homemade yogurts and no longer need to buy yogurt . 
I add my own strawberry preserves, pecans, honey, maple syrup, etc.  But these are very small amounts, and I make my own preserves, so it’s all good.
Yogurt with Honey

Yogurt with Honey

 The texture of this yogurt is much smoother than store brands that may add gelatin and other fillers.

My yogurt is 4 cups of whole milk and 2Tbsp plain yogurt.

4 cups of milk


Heat it up to about 185 degrees


Yogurt with Live Cultures




Yogurt Maker

 My understanding is that you do not need a machine to make yogurt.  However, the ease of use makes it more likely that I will continue making it.  I basically heat the milk, cook it down a little, add yogurt, stir, and place it in my yogurt maker.

I scored the Donvier  above–unopened–at a thrift store.  Check out Craig’s List or Ebay.  So many people receive these for gifts and never use them.

The well-known health benefits of eating yogurt are the following:
• Enhanced lactose digestion,
• Prevention/treatment of acute rotavirus and antibiotic-induced diarrheas,
• Stimulation of intestinal immunity,
• Stabilization of Crohn’s disease,
• Improving the balance of microbial population in the intestines,
• Activity against Helicobacter Pylori,
• Improved immunity to disease,
• Inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Yogurt’s fermenting agents produce some bacteriocins which, combined with their acidity, prove beneficial for the intestinal flora,
• Improving intestinal transit.

 Yogurt also provides calcium, and some studies have shown it enhances your immune system and helps fight off pneumonia.  If you’re one of those people who are prone to illness, you might consider adding live cultured yogurt to your diet.

I’ve been eating one everyday.  Mmm, they’re so good!

Learn more aboout the benefits here.

A recipe:

Greek Cucumber and Yogurt Dip with Dill

Indian Yogurt Chicken

Salmon Cakes with Salmon Yogurt sauce


Chocolate Zucchini Cake w/ Almond Glaze

Does your kitchen counter still look like mine?  (If you think this is bad, you should see how many more I have out on the vines!) 


If so, I have a great recipe to share with you.  I posted a chocolate zucchini bread a while back, but I decided to change it up and make it more like a cake.



2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened


3 eggs

2 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups grated zucchini

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or less)

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Lightly grease and line two 9×5 inch loaf pans with parchment paper

Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl until melted–be careful not to overheat–stir

occasionally till melted

Combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla, almond extract, and melted

 chocolate.  beat well.

Stir in flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Fold in chocolate chips and pour into loaf pans.

Bake 60-70 minutes or until toothpick stuck in center of loaf comes out clean. 


powdered sugar


almond extract


Add enough milk (a tablespoon at a time) to a few cups powdered sugar to make a glaze

consistancy.  Add about 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp almond extract–or to taste. 

Whisk well and pour over top of cakes.


Weeknight Crockpot Green Chile Dinner


Fire up the crockpot! 

Okay, so maybe you don’t exactly “fire up” a crockpot, but you can certainly plug it in and set it to high. 

This crockpot meal is both flavorful (spicy) and easy.    Mark was born in New Mexico and he’s a big fan of Green Chile.  No, this is NOT authentic.  I’ll have New Mexican folks hanging me from my toes if I claim it is. 

No, this is a weeknight crockpot dinner.

It’s simply a fake and fast version of chile/soup/stew that has green chiles in it 🙂

Not Authentic Crockpot Green Chile

2 lbs ground beef

27 ounces chopped or whole green chiles (Hatches is best, but I didn’t have any and I prefer whole and chop them myself) I throw the liquid from 2 cans in with it.

1/2 onion chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 can stewed tomatoes, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

3 Tbsp chopped chipotle chiles (from a can–use most the liquid.)  NOTE: If you don’t like it hot, cut this WAY back.  Chipoltle chiles are smoked jalapenos.  Hot mamas!

2-3 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I love Trader joe’s)

3/4 Tbsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp cornstarch

Brown the ground beef, draind the fat off, throw it in the crockpot with everything else. 

Set crockpot to high and cook 5-6 hours.

Mark loves this stuff. 

Serve with tortillas chips and/or cornbread.



Chopped green chiles


Chipotles in Adobo Sauce




  If you’re canning an entire box of peaches, or you simply need a day off from the kitchen, crockpot meals can make life a lot easier.

If you think crockpot cooking is too much work, go buy a cup of noodles, pour in boiling water and knock yourself out!  

If you can’t boil water, your parents have failed you. 😦

Palmiers (Elephant Ears) by the Barefoot Contessa

Barefoot in Paris
I made this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa~ Ina Garten’s book, “Barefoot in Paris”
I highly recommend it.

If you think you cannot bake, then this is the recipe for you.  Very easy and impressive.  Of the three dishes I cooked, everybody loved these.

I  made the recipe my own, by sprinkling with lots of cinnamon before baking.

2 cups sugar

1/8 tsp kosher salt

2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted

Preheat oven to 450

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Combine the sugar and kosher salt. Pour 1 cup of the sugar/salt mixture on a flat surface such as wooden board or marble. Unfold each sheet of puff pastry onto the sugar and pour 1/2 cup of the sugar mixture on top, spreading it evenly on the puff pastry. This is not about sprinkling, it’s about an even covering of sugar. With a rolling pin, roll the dough until it’s 13 by 13-inches square and the sugar is pressed into the puff pastry on top and bottom. Fold the sides of the square towards the center so they go halfway to the middle. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold 1 half over the other half as though closing a book. You will have 6 layers. Slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place the slices, cut side up, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place the second sheet of pastry on the sugared board, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar mixture, and continue as above. (There will be quite a bit of sugar left over on the board.) Slice and arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment.
  3. Bake the cookies for 6 minutes until caramelized and brown on the bottom, then turn with a spatula and bake another 3 to 5 minutes, until caramelized on the other side. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

“Cassata di Graziella” A Sicilian Cassata ~ My Favorite Cake!

 UPDATED:  I lost my photos for most of this blog, but since this is one of my most viewed posts, I wanted to get a few back up, and I will be making this cake again next week, and hopefully I’ll have time to post the entire recipe–which consists of about 5 separate recipes.

This cake is beyond amazing.  I’ve never had another cake like this.  Layers include a lemon curd, chocolate mousse, ricotta cream with chocolate chips, whipped cream icing, and rum syrup. 


Best Sicilian Cassata recipe EVER!



Grace Pilato’s book ,”Cooking With Grace” is one of my favorite cookbooks!  I highly recommend this book to anybody who wants to cook great food.
I have made her “Graziella’s Decadent Cake” or “Cassata di Graziella”, two times now.  I would be lying if I told you this is easy.  It requires more effort than most cakes.  It’s work and it’s time consuming, but if you break parts down over  a few days, it can make the process easier, and if you put your heart into it, you may even have fun!  
First you need a sponge cake.  I have tried Grace’s recipe 3 times and did not prefer it  over the basic sponge cake recipe in Pillsbury or any basic recipe. So, I started with a homemade sponge cake.  DO NOT use a non-stick sponge cake tube pan – I made that mistake once and it couldn’t climb the edges high enough.  I use a regular tube cake pan.
There are 5 more recipes to complete for this cake and they are as follows:
 1 recipe Rum Syrup
2 Cups Mama Rosa’s Lemon Custard Cream
2 cups Chocolate Custard Cream
1 recipe Ricotta Cloud Cream 
1 recipe Whipped Cream Frosting
You may also choose to use Grace’s homemade ricotta recipe for the Ricotta CLoud Cream,  I used it one time and used store the next- both worked fine.

Completed Lemon and Chocolate Custards Mmmm




The photo above shows the cake with all 4 layers of Custards and creams, right before the WHipped Cream Frosting is added. The skewers are used to keep the cake from flopping over, but my sponge cake was too thin this time so there was some flopping, but the frosting hides all flaws well and when people take a bite, they could care less what the cake looks like.
The Ricotta Cloud Dream has mini- chocolate chips in it.  The cake is drowned in rum syrup.
Remember to drain store bought ricotta in a strainer to remove all moisture. 

I lost my photo of the fully decorated cassata, but here is another slice:


It’s worth buying the book for this cake alone!

NOTE: Original blog was posted on LJ in 2006