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crème brûlée

Jam and Raspberry covered cups ready for custard

Jam and Raspberry-covered cups ready for custard

This afternoon I taught a cooking class for 25 fifteen-year-old young ladies who belong to NCL, National Charity League. NCL is a wonderful organization that my daughter, Marissa, and I belonged to when she was in high school. It brings mothers and daughters together in philanthropic and cultural activities. For dessert, I made a super-quick and amazingly easy version of crème brûlée.  Since I made more than 30 servings, the photos are not exactly consistent – different ramekin shapes and different baking pans are pictured, so please overlook that.
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August 29, 2009   2 Comments

Lasagna Rolls

I have so much information to give you about this recipe before you even look at the recipe! So please read the important note below. First, I have a question for you. Did you know that crème brûlée was supposedly a mistake? Legend has it that nuns invented it for the occasion of a visiting bishop: originally it was supposed to be a pudding, but it came out too runny and so they sprinkled some hot caramelized sugar on top in order to hide the mistake. I figure if a cooking mistake made by nuns turns into a triumph, why can’t I do it too!

Please read this * IMPORTANT NOTE! My mistake was buying the wrong type of lasagna noodles for the recipe I wanted to make. It wasn’t until I was knee-deep in making this lasagna that I noticed the noodles I’d purchased at Trader Joe’s were the no-boil type. I very much needed the noodles to be at least semi-boiled so that they would be soft and pliable enough to roll. So I threw caution to the wind and threw the entire package of noodles into a boiling pot of water. This was mistake number two! Almost immediately, they began to stick together. No-boil noodles are large and flat, they don’t have the curly edges that lasagna noodles are famous for. I tediously lifted little piles of stuck noodles out of the boiling water and began peeling them apart. Fingers burning and much swearing ensued. As I separated them, I carefully put them, one by one, back into the water, taking great care to stir the pot to ensure they wouldn’t stick a second time. It worked! I did not cook them fully. I cooked them to the point of barely pliable and nowhere near toothsome or al dente. They will continue to cook and soften fully while in the oven with all the sauce, as intended.

All this being said, you are welcome to use traditional curly lasagna noodles, but you will get nowhere near the amount of filling on each and they are in grave danger of tearing, as traditional noodles tend to do. The no-boil noodles are stronger, nice and flat, and substantially larger, holding a lovely amount of tasty filling.

Rolled Lasagna Florentine

Ground Beef Base

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup peeled and diced carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Tomato Base

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 15-ounce carton ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12-ounce package shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Trader Joe’s brand) * important see the note above
  • 2 cups Tomato Base (from above)
  • Ground Beef Base (from above)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish
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December 8, 2022   No Comments


world's best carrot cake


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September 2, 2016   Comments Off on Desserts

San Fran, Friday – Part 3

For most people, Lombard Street would probably make the #1 spot on their list of  “The Top 5 Streets I love in San Francisco.”  For me, the top spot goes to the Great Highway. It forms the city’s western edge along the Pacific coast.  It was on our way home from our Apple, shopping, and VW repair adventure, just as we were about to get onto the Great Highway, that Connor and I decided to stop for lunch at Java Beach Cafe. And it was here that we spotted this San Francisco landmark.

Do you see it? There is the Java Beach Cafe on the far right. And a green-roofed building in the center (from here on out referred to as the “Evil Nursery”) and there on the left, above the dark SUV – yeah, that is the landmark.  Official Landmark as of 2006, no less, number 254 on THIS LIST.

He stands tall on the median strip, at the corner of Sloat and 45th Avenue. On the opposite side of the street from the Evil Nursery and the Cafe, is the entrance to the San Francisco Zoo.

I’m sure you can easily see what attracted me to him. The toque (chef’s hat). The chef’s coat. And that adorable blue polka dot bow tie! Too darn kitschy and cute!

This final photo is from Flickr and gives you the best view of the handsome fellow. So how on earth did this get to be a beloved landmark?  This first quote is from the Flickr photo site.

“The 700-pound, seven foot fiberglass dachshund head at the median strip on Sloat Boulevard at 45th Avenue has reason to smile. Thanks to Diana Scott and Joel Schechter of Ocean Beach Historical Society and other concerned citizens, the Doggie Diner head, nicknamed DD, is back on its pole after going through repairs and a paint job following a hard fall during an April 2001 storm.

Doggie Diner was a local hamburger and hot dog chain that opened in 1949. To the regret of many locals, the chain closed in 1986, but the legend lived on. Nostalgic San Francisco residents visit DD regularly and tell their children about the good old days at the burger joint, which was originally located at Sloat Boulevard at 46th Avenue.

Illustrator Harold Bachman designed the doggie head in the 1960’s and says he is still surprised that people are enamored with DD. He designed it simply because he thought it would help sell hamburgers. Although DD is officially known to be the last doggie standing, rumor has it that doggie siblings are spotted around the Bay Area from time to time.”

…and from [Tim Timberlake, 07/16/2001]

“The Doggie Diner opposite the San Francisco Zoo on Sloat Avenue has been a favorite eating and Dog Head viewing place for years (since the 1960’s). Recently this last remaining Dog Head has been under threat. The nursery next door bought the site and wanted to remove the Dog Head. Dog Head lovers from all over protested and the Dog Head was saved. Mother Nature then took action and toppled the Dog Head on its fiberglass nose during a windstorm.

The City of San Francisco went to work using other salvaged (saved) Dog Heads, owned by a fellow in Emeryville, as patterns. The Sloat Avenue Dog Head has been restored and placed back on his pedestal across from the zoo and next to the evil nursery.”

You can check out THIS, or THIS, or THIS to learn even more. And there you go, more than you ever wanted or needed to know about The Doggie Diner head. Oh, and by the way, the sandwiches at Java Beach Cafe were excellent.

After lunch, we took the Great Highway back to Marissa’s house and I fixed the toilet and did a few other things around the house. Then we hopped back in the car and drove back to San Mateo to pick her up from work.

How cute is she??!!

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August 3, 2012   2 Comments

Tip Time

Weekly Tip #10

I think I may have missed a week of “tip time”.  We did have “game time” last week though. To make it up to you, an extra tip this week.

Holiday Baking Special Edition

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December 16, 2011   3 Comments

eating out in Jupiter

Chef Tim Lipman in the Leftovers kitchen

While in Jupiter, Florida last week, Chris and Kathy took me to their favorite “sister” restaurants, Food Shack and Leftovers.  The food was some of the most creative, seasonal, colorful, and flavorful I’ve ever had- especially at Leftovers.

We had the privilege of sitting at the bar that looks directly into the kitchen and catching up with the Leftovers chef, Tim Lipman. What a cool guy! I would love for him to come to Les Gourmettes next spring and share his unique creativity and philosophy.  And of course, he’d need to bring all that wonderful fish at his disposal, along too. Barb, we need to talk!

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August 15, 2011   4 Comments

Complete Recipe Index

smoked salmon spread


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January 20, 2011   No Comments

pistachios and olives


To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Dave and I went out to the Queen Creek Olive Mill for their special “Olive Affair” lunch in the olive grove. The Mill offered three different packages, we chose their “Ciao Bella” (Antipasto), which included roasted vegetables, sausage, roasted garlic, artichoke, sun-dried tomato tapenades, a French baguette, tuxedo strawberries, candied pistachios, pistachio bark, a bottle of Chianti and more. It all came beautifully packed in a lovely “Olive You” bag with a corkscrew, high-quality clear plastic stemless wine glasses and plates plus a cute red-heart tablecloth. They had live music, it was a gorgeous day outside, and the place was packed! I highly recommend you treat yourself and your loved one next year. Until then, I’ll treat you to recipes for candied pistachios and pistachio bark. I decided to use the candied pistachios in the bark, but plain pistachios may be used instead.

The candied pistachios call for an ingredient you may not be familiar with, Turbinado sugar. The first pressing of the sugar cane yields Turbinado sugar, which is considered to be healthier since it receives less processing than granulated sugar. One teaspoon of Turbinado sugar contains 11 calories, while granulated sugar contains 16 calories. Because of its higher levels of moister, it should be stored like brown sugar, in an airtight container. One of the most popular and easy-to-find brands of Turbinado sugar  is “Sugar In The Raw.” A fabulous use for Turbinado sugar is on crème brûlée because it melts and caramelizes easier than granulated sugar.

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February 15, 2010   No Comments

pomegranate molasses


This is one of my favorite recipes of all time. I have served it as an appetizer (using the leg of lamb cubes for little kebabs) and as a main course, as here with lamb chops, to literally hundreds of people and there has never been even one person who didn’t love it.

People who had given up on lamb saying that they found it too “gamey” ask for the recipe! The pomegranate juice truly transforms the lamb into the most delicious meat imaginable.

Pomegranate molasses can be found bottled in many Middle East markets, but it could not be easier to make yourself. You can see the 3 ingredients in the photo above.

A couple of items in the photo may look strange – allow me to explain. You ask, “What are those black sticks in your sugar jar?”

Answer: They are dried vanilla beans. You see, every time a recipe calls for a fresh vanilla bean, let’s say crème brûlée… once I’ve finished with the bean, I dry it off, and stick it in my sugar jar. The sugar takes on a hint of vanilla flavor, a bonus for just about any recipe calling for sugar.

Next question – “What is that stuff floating in the measuring cup holding the Pom juice?”

Answer: Frozen lemon juice. Living in Scottsdale, we have an abundance of citrus trees and in December – February, that citrus is coming out of our ears. My one and only lemon tree produced a plethora of lemons this year. I was zesting and juicing lemons daily for months plus giving away boxes upon boxes of citrus. It was a huge pain then, but of course, I am grateful and happy now with all the zip-locks bulging from my freezer.

To freeze the juice, I fill standard-size muffin tins to nearly the top (each muffin cup holds 1/4 cup of juice) and freeze the tins uncovered overnight. The next day, label a gallon-size zip-lock freezer bag with the date and “1/4 cup lemon juice each.” Then pop out the frozen “juice muffins” and immediately get them into the labeled zip-locks and back into the freezer. They will keep for about 1 year, just in time to start the process over again.

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August 27, 2009   3 Comments

basil & bay


Dinner has been decided upon for this lovely Sunday evening. It’s only supposed to get up to 99 degrees today! It was not decided by me, but instead by my garden. I went out this morning, while it was only 84 degrees, and noticed that if I didn’t do something about the luscious basil going wild and the very tall bay laurel tree in my garden that they would take it over.

I’m thinking about an appetizer of flatbread with basil in the dough, basil oil, and roasted tomatoes with – wait for it… basil pesto! And maybe salmon grilled on top of the bay leaves and lemon slices and also some Yukon gold potatoes braised in stock and more bay leaves.

I’ve had crème brûlée scented with fresh bay leaves, fresh from a bay tree, before, and although it was delicious, I really don’t want to stand over the hot stove in the summer “stirring constantly” (two of my least favorite words!) a steaming custard. After painting that little picture for myself, the crème brûlée is definitely OUT! So something else may be with the bay leaves for dessert – any thoughts out there? I am off to the movies…

……I am thankful no one came up with any dessert ideas because I was actually too busy to even think about dessert today! Dave and I saw Inglorious Basterds early this afternoon and LOVED it! This is from a girl who has to put her hands over her eyes during the icky parts! And there were plenty of icky parts, but I still want to go back and see it again! I’m not a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, I liked Kill Bill(s) and Pulp Fiction but this movie was just so cool, and Brad Pitt… love him even more than before, if that is possible. What about Christoph Waltz? If he isn’t nominated for an Oscar, there is something wrong in the movie biz! Enough about that, this is a “cooking/food blog” so on to the rest of that part of the day…

After the movie and a Costco run, I arrived home at about 3:00 and began making the Grand Basil-Bay Dinner. Good friends, Chris and Kathy Froggatt were to arrive at 6:00, with nice wines in hand! It was a great evening with good friends. They recounted their wonderful vacation cruise to Monaco, Italy, and Greece (ready to go tomorrow after hearing about it all!)

Amidst all the catching up and garden touring, I totally burned (we’ll call it charred!) the flatbread while grilling it. But we enjoyed it anyway because the Bay Leaf Roasted Tomatoes that topped it was still tasty and the Baileyana Chardonnay that Chris brought somehow washed away all thoughts of those nasty carcinogens we were ingesting.

Dinner itself went off much better. We had a fabulous Chasseur Pinot Noir from Sonoma and the bay laurel flavors present in the fish and potatoes were truly sublime. Kathy is not a salmon fan, so I did a “personal-size” piece of halibut for her. I think the individual size is a really nice presentation for a more formal dinner. A bit more work to individually wrap each piece of fish, but it’ll cook faster and it does look fancy!

One last note about the salmon. It is drizzled with olive oil, and any fruity olive oil will do, but I adore our own local Queen Creek Olive Mill Meyer Lemon Olive Oil. It is available locally at A.J.’s or can be ordered online HERE.

And if you are a neighbor or live close enough to drop by, just give me a call if you want to make any of the dishes with the fresh bay leaves. You can have all you’ll need, free for the taking. The salmon recipe uses way too many leaves to purchase at the store in those tiny herb packages when you can actually find it. So don’t be shy, the bay tree grows better when it is pruned, so you’ll be doing me a favor… really!

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August 23, 2009   7 Comments