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Berry and Cherry Flag Pie

I have one last recipe to share from the Friday the 13th Dinner Party, but it will have to wait until next week. I’ll post that and the party wrap-up on Monday along with the full menu and recipe links.

happy memorial day

The reason it is put on hold is because I must share the recipe for the most beautiful pie in the world – in time for you to make it for the long Memorial Day Weekend.

Just in case you’re new here, you should know that I don’t enjoy baking. I’m not very good at baking. I have had and continue to have more than my fair share of baking disappointments and disasters. So much so in fact, that a while back I was contemplating changing the name of this blog to “Cooking Triumphs and Baking Failures.”  Not anymore, not after my spectacular and unexpected triumph in baking the most beautiful pie ever!

Are you ready to be blown away?  OK then, here we go….

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May 27, 2016   3 Comments

banana boat cake

This was the main dessert for the Friday the 13th Dinner Party.

banana cake with boiled brown sugar frosting

The frosting is what makes this cake special and bananas are the unlucky ingredient.

It’s crazy how many “explanations” there are for the superstition that bananas on boats bring bad luck, illness and bad fishing. Here are but a few from Snopes.com:

  • When top-heavy ships of earlier eras would sink, precious little other than the bananas they’d carried would be found floating on the surface, thereby leaving some to conclude conveyance of the fruit itself had led to these naval mishaps.
  • Spiders, snakes, and other poisonous vermin living among bananas carried in the hold would, on long haul trips, expand their horizons by infesting other parts of the ship.
  • Because the speediest sailing ships were used to get bananas to their destinations before they could spoil, those attempting to fish from them never caught anything while trolling.
  • Fisherman became ill after eating the fruit.
  • Other fruits would spoil more quickly when bananas were being shipped along with them, causing folks to deem bananas “bad luck.” (Technically, it wouldn’t have been ill fate that resulted in the spoilage of other foodstuffs, but instead the ethylene gas emitted by bananas as they ripen.)
  • Crew member injured by slipping on discarded banana peels.
  • Banana oil rubs off onto the hands of fisherman, thereby “spooking” the fish.

banana boat

Makes me wonder if Banana Boat sunscreen was named as an ode to the superstition. Anyhow, this cake was lucky for me because it turned out perfectly. One thing though, I think it tastes better the day after it is baked.

*** Note: The cake was the first of the recipes I made for the party, so don’t mind me, I thought I was being cute and clever when I placed lucky and unlucky “charms” in the photos as I made the cake. 🙂

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May 26, 2016   3 Comments

flap or bavette

Let’s say you are reading a menu at a high-end restaurant and you have the choice between ordering a Marinated Flap Steak or a Marinated Bavette Steak. Which would you order based on the name alone? My guess is that the majority of you would order the Bavette over the Flap.

Well, as you may have already guessed, based on the leading question, flap and Bavette are the same cut of beef.

flap diagram

The flap is an extension of the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks. Texture-wise, the flap is similar to a flank or skirt steak and as with those two cuts, it needs marinating first and then to be cooked over high, dry heat such as grilling. What makes is more distinct is the flavor and richness of the flap over the other two.

In our part of the country, the flap needs to be special ordered. I was able to call the butcher at A.J.’s and special order the beef I needed for my Friday the 13th Dinner Party.

flap steak bavette

I tripled the recipe so don’t be alarmed by the price of the meet in my photo.


This dish had nothing to do with the Lucky/Unlucky theme. I chose it solely based on the wish to treat my guests to something different and special.

One last party detail I wanted to share was the notion of a 14th dinner guest.


There are French socialites called Quatorziens (fourteeners), who are available to fill in as a 14th dinner guest to rescue the other 13 attendees from bad luck. Franklin Delano Roosevelt believed in this superstition and refused to have 13 guests at dinner parties.

My original intention was to have 13 but one invited guest, my dear friend Anne, wasn’t able to commit until the last-minute due to illness earlier in the week. Knowing that she may be able to come, I was planning on Anne being our Quatorzien. She did and she was and Peggy made the cute name-tag for her, even though the word wasn’t spelled quite right, everyone got the gist of it.

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May 25, 2016   2 Comments

birthday boy and lucky lentils


Today is Connor’s 25th birthday. Dave, Connor and I are celebrating at Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Los Angeles. We are having the best time! Our only wish is that our expert in all things Harry Potter could be here with us. We miss you Marissa! The photos above are from Sunday.

president connnor

Yesterday, Monday, we spent the afternoon on Hollywood Boulevard and at Warner Bros. Studio. The tour at the WB is pretty darn great. Not only do you tour the lot on a tram, but you get off and walk around all sorts of cool spots. My favorite stop was the props building and that is where we found the Oval Office set from The West Wing. Connor is very presidential!

central perk

And if your favorite sitcom of all time is Friends, then no trip to Warner Bros. is complete without a photo on the set of Central Perk.

Connor, I love you, adore you and could not be more proud of you and the loving, kind and generous man you are. xoxo

Getting back to the Friday the 13th Dinner Party – we are nearing the end. Tomorrow will be the main course and then only dessert remains.

The lucky ingredient in today’s dish is lentils. The legumes are considered lucky because of their coin-like appearance. Additionally, when cooked, lentils plump, symbolizing growing wealth.

lentil salad with mushrooms and onions

Lentil Salad with Wild Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds fresh mushrooms; mixture of white, crimini, oyster, shiitake, etc.
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup dry black lentils
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 bag baby arugula
  • 1 cup fresh pomegranate arils (seeds)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill


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May 24, 2016   3 Comments

lucky long noodles with jalapeño

I faced my usual challenge while trying to balance having fun with my guests and taking photos to use for this site during my Friday the 13th Dinner Party.

So in place of the usual photos of the cooking process, how about photos of the guests?

lucky 13

Above you see everyone hanging out in-between dinner and dessert, enjoying each other and the beautiful evening in Linda Land, as Tram and Steve so sweetly have dubbed my backyard.

blondes vs brunettes

Here are The Blondes, Amy and Anne vs. The Brunettes, Peggy and Tram, posing in front of the red wine selections.

the girls

Eventually, the were able to pull me out of the kitchen for a quick snapshot.

scott and amy

Adorable Scott and Amy. Scott with his lucky grapes and Amy holding the fun Texas Boot Scraper they brought me as a hostess gift. They found it at Sweet Salvage and thought I’d love it because of my Texas connection. They were right, of course! OK, on today’s recipe.


This dish was chosen because of the superstition that it is unlucky to cut a noodle before eating and the unlucky connection between hot peppers and friendship.

Cutting Noodles: While noodles are thought to bring good fortune and a long life in Chinese culture, cutting those same noodles brings about a different fortune. Cutting noodles (especially those served on the New Year and at parties) causes bad luck and a shortened lifespan.

Hot Peppers and Friendship: Many people believe that hot peppers can bring discontent among friends. One version of the superstition says that spilling pepper can cause disagreements between friends. And when working in the kitchen, handing a hot chili pepper directly to a friend will cause disagreements in your relationship. However, the bad luck can be avoided by putting the hot pepper down on a surface and allowing said friend to pick it up as a separate action.

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May 23, 2016   3 Comments

garlic confit

It has taken all week, but we are finally finishing up with the appetizers from the Friday the 13th Dinner Party.

Next week – Dinner and Dessert recipes.


The Lucky ingredient in this recipe is garlic. There are too many superstitions surrounding garlic to list, here are but a few:

Dreaming that there is “garlic in the house” is supposedly lucky; to dream about eating garlic means you will discover hidden secrets.

European folklore gives garlic the ability to ward off the “evil eye”. Central European folks believe garlic is a powerful ward against devils, werewolves, and vampires.

It became custom for Greek midwives to hang garlic cloves in birthing rooms to keep the evil spirits away. As the centuries passed, this ancient custom became commonplace in most European homes.

Putting a garlic clove under a child’s pillow while he/she sleeps is believed to protect him/her from evil.

And the list goes on…


garlic and cheese

Garlic Confit & Chèvre on Toasts

Garlic Confit

  • 3 large or 5 small heads of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Water
  • 2 tablespoons high-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crush in the palm of your hand before using
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed in the palm of your hand


  • 1 sourdough baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Olive oil

5 to 6-ounce log Chèvre (goat cheese), room temperature

separate cloves

Garlic Confit in a Balsamic Reduction: Lightly tap each head of garlic with the side of a chef’s knife or a meat-pounder to separate the cloves.

Remove the peels by using one of these two methods:

boil to remove peels

Place cloves in a small saucepan. Cover completely with boiling water, place over medium-high heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
Drain and then immediately place in a bowl of ice-cold water for 2 minutes. Drain and then peel the cloves, the peels should slide right off.


into bowl

Place the cloves in a metal bowl.

bowl on top

Place another metal bowl of the same size over the top and shake the “bowl ball” you have created like crazy. When you think you have shaken enough, shake some more. This is a good workout, so keep shaking! Do you feel your muscles building and burning? Keep shaking, it will be worth it!


Take a peek and see if you need to keep going or not. Pick out the peeled garlic cloves and discard the loose skins.

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May 20, 2016   1 Comment

zucchini crostini

zucchini marcona crostini

Before I made this light and easy appetizer for the Friday the 13th Dinner Party, I’d made it the Wednesday before as part of my “Summer Entertaining” cooking class menu at Les Gourmettes Cooking School.

I loved the bright colors and freshness of it then and I loved it on the appetizer table for the dinner party just as much. It has no special powers or meaning in the “lucky/unlucky” aspect of the party, but it was a popular dish, none the less.

zucchini basil almond crostini

Zucchini-Basil Crostini

  • 1 sourdough baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound zucchini, washed and dried well
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup chiffonade basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup Marcona almonds, toasted and finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush each slice of baguette with olive oil on both sides and toast for about 5 minutes on one side, turn the bread and toast for about 4 minutes more on the second side, or until golden brown. Let cool.

shred zucchini

Using a box grater, coarsely grate the zucchini. Place the shredded zucchini in the center of a clean kitchen towel and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons of salt.

wrap in kitchen towel

Let sit for 5 minutes and then wrap the towel up and squeeze the towel to remove excess moisture from the zucchini.

squeeze out liquid

Repeat until as much liquid as possible has been released; then transfer the zucchini to a medium bowl.

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May 19, 2016   5 Comments

Hummus wannabe

Is it really hummus if it doesn’t have chickpeas/garbanzo beans?

black eye pea hummus

I vote yes! Especially when you’re subbing them out for good reason, such as, for LUCK!

for hummus and salsa

This is the second appetizer and the second recipe using black-eyed peas for the Friday the 13th Dinner Party.  As a reminder, 1-pound of dried black-eyed peas makes enough cooked peas for both this hummus and the salsa.

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May 18, 2016   1 Comment

Lucky Salsa


I cooked up ten different recipes for the Friday the 13th Dinner Party and this appetizer was one of the favorites. At least half of the guests asked if it was on the blog. I assured them it would be posted this week, so we might as well start off the week(s) worth of recipes with it.

12 grapes

I had hoped to serve 13 items, but I could only get to 12 before I ran out of time and energy to pull off the last one. In addition to the ten I actually made, I also served grapes, 12 per person for luck, and put out purchased fortune cookies on the dessert table.

add herbsjpg

The base for this salsa recipe is black-eyed peas. For many southerners, consuming this inexpensive legume on the first day of the new year is believed to bring wealth.

According to Wikipedia: “Two popular explanations for the South’s association with the peas and good luck dates back to the Civil War. The first is associated with Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union Army’s March to the Sea, during which they pillaged the food supplies of the Confederates. Stories say peas and salted pork were said to be left untouched because of the belief that they were animal food and not fit for human consumption. Southerners considered themselves lucky to be left with some supplies to help them survive the winter, and black-eyed peas evolved into a representation of good luck. In other traditions, it was a symbol of emancipation for African-Americans who had previously been enslaved before the civil war who became free officially on New Years Day.”

black eye pea salsa

Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups cooked black-eyed peas (see note)
  • 3 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 2 ripe but still firm avocados, diced
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • Tortilla chips, for serving

oil vinegar mix

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon zest and juice, honey, garlic and oregano. Whisk in the olive oil, taste and season with salt and pepper.

hold out avocado

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, except the avocado and cilantro, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours. Thirty minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the avocado and cilantro and then bring back to room temperature for 30 minutes and toss just before serving.

black eyed pea salsa

Serve with tortilla chips.

12 servings

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May 17, 2016   2 Comments

Party Theme & Decor: Friday the 13th

Our Friday the 13th Dinner Party was so much fun!

Everyone arrived relaxed and into the theme of “superstitious, lucky, unlucky, cursed” … the whole shebang!

13th table

I sent a text message to all attendees, letting them know what to expect:

Our Friday the 13th Dinner Party will be a feverish mix of good and bad luck. You may want to play it safe and wear an article of your clothing (seen or not) backwards or inside out.
The belief that backwards or inside out clothing brings good luck is widespread — from children wearing their pajamas inside out in hopes of a snow day to baseball players and fans turning their caps backwards during important games.
Do you know why?
Wearing clothing backwards confuses the grim reaper, who is not only the harbinger of death, but also brings bad luck. He follows you – so if your clothes are on backwards it makes him think that you are walking toward him so he goes around you to get behind you and instead gets in front of you. He gets confused and gives up taking his bad tidings elsewhere.
You may also want to bone up on various superstitions, lucky and unlucky beliefs and traditions. There will be games and prizes involved!
Can’t wait to have a fun and delicious evening with y’all!
xoxo Linda

All of my sweet and awesome guests arrived with hostess gifts in hand, some of them were very theme-worthy.

dice 8 ball

Jonathan, Lori and Kylie Vento arrived with Lucky Dice and a Lucky 8 Ball.

tram lucky charms

Tram gifted me with a box of Lucky Charms and a bottle of Lucky Star wine. But that wasn’t all… Tram’s other-half, Steve, had a special gift for everyone up his sleeve! In the middle of the party, while I was giving out prizes for the Superstitious Trivia Game, this happened!


Yeah, Steve/Jason was lurking in the dark (in the very dark area behind the fire-pit, near the back wall) ready to attack!  Too much Fun!

OK, let’s go back to the beginning, with how I build a party around a theme. Usually I need just one thing to get the creative juices flowing. For this party, it was these four sets of typography letters.

letters numbers [

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May 16, 2016   4 Comments