Kick start your day with a good breakfast

DIY Dog Treats

A friend whose father was a professional baker told me he makes his mini-dachshund Zelda her own dog biscuits. In that wonderful way the Universe has of listening in and offering just what you need at the right time, I was reviewing an upcoming cookbook by Julia Turshen called Small Victories, turned a page, and voila! Hope & Winky’s Dog Cookies! What’s good enough for Zellie is good enough for Grace, so I made a special trip to the supermarket for Peter Pan creamy peanut butter. Mixed with olive oil, chicken broth, rolled oats, cornmeal, and a dash of salt and baked until toasty with a crackly top,  I’m tempted to steal a couple of these for myself.


Perfect snack: cookies and milk!

Grace would like to thank Zelda and her dad Ricky for waking me up–FINALLY!–to homebaked snacks.

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Sweet Revenge

vintage rolling pin

When I’m pissed off at the world (or maybe just one person in it), I bake. Baking instructions are delicious double-entendres: beat well; whip for two minutes; chop nuts.

By the time this batch of chocolate oatmeal cookies is cooling on the racks, I’ll be chill.


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It can be as sophisticated as Gabrielle Hamilton’s NYC restaurant and her new cookbook, both lauded by foodies everywhere.

54 East 1st Street, NYC

54 East 1st Street, NYC


Or it can be as humble as a Reduced-fat Cocoa Muffin.


Here’s the muffin recipe, but it’s up to you: sophisticated or simple. Why choose? There’s room in this life for both.

Reduced-fat Cocoa Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

nonstick cooking spray

1/2 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

3/8 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk or lowfat plain yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray

2. Place the prunes in a small saucepan and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the prunes to a food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Transfer the prune puree to a small bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

3. Combine the flour , cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

4. Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk or yogurt, and prune puree in a large mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until all the ingredients are moistened.

5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.

These will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

(adapted from Mom’s Big Book of Baking Copyright (c) by Lauren Chattman 2001)

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Spice of Life

This morning, I’m meeting Ian Hemphill, author of The Herb & Spice Bible, at my club, the Cos (our nickname for The Cosmopolitan Club, started for governesses on their days’ off over a hundred years ago and today a sisterhood of women in the arts and business).


It’s a terrific reference, very comprehensive on growing, drying, grinding, roasting, cooking with and the history of these essential flavor enhancers. But that’s not all of it. It’s very entertaining, too, with Ian’s “Travels in the Spice Trade” stories throughout. I look forward to asking him how the upheavals around the world influence his work, his words of advice for anyone dying to throw over a corporate life to start an herb farm, and how a relatively unsophisticated cook (errrr, that’d be me) can start to use more exotic herbs and spices.

I began with the basic: cinnamon in an apple tea cake recipe Ian’s daughter Kate contributed to the book. Beginner’s luck!

Moist on top with a feather light crumb, this is not too sweet and not too spicy.

Moist on top with a feather light crumb, this is not too sweet and not too spicy.


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Small-Batch Baking

I’ve finally found a muffin recipe that I can reduce from twelve to six to three and have the smallest batch taste as moist and delicious as the largest!

I substituted pineapple for the apple in this since I still had the buy-$20-worth-of-Chinese-food-and-get-something-free pineapple chunks left over from the other night’s take-out. Thank you, Six Happiness!


Easy Morning Glory Muffins

from Debbie Clarke courtesy of AllRecipes.com

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup and 1 tablespoon white sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

½ cup shredded carrot (about half of a thick-ish carrot)

⅛ cup raisins

⅛ cup and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

⅓ cup chopped pineapple

⅛ cup flaked coconut

1 egg

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease three muffin cups (put a little water in the other cups in the tin to keep them from burning)

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the carrot, raisins, nuts, coconut, and pineapple.

In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir egg mixture into the carrot/flour mixture, just until moistened. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Copyright © 2013 AllRecipes.com

Here’s hoping you too will have a glorious morning!



My Calling Card

In the days before the telephone, ladies would make calls to one another, actual face-to-face visits! She would leave behind, even if she’d had a chat with her friend, a calling card.

calling card

When I went to see my friend and neighbor Shirley, who’s recovering at the local rehab hospital, I left a little something.

Oatmeal scone with cinnamon-sugar topping

Oatmeal scone with cinnamon-sugar topping

Because you can’t nibble a calling card when you have a cup of tea.


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Saturday Morning Biscuits



May I admit something sacreligeous? I think Southerners are close to ruining biscuits. They’re easy, people! Our friends from Down South want us to believe they’ve got the special touch, the secret, the last word on the subject. But Yankees know biscuit-baking, too! Just see how simple this recipe from The Yankee Magazine Cookbook is and you’ll never despair that you weren’t born with a box of White Lily flour in one hand and a bottle of buttermilk in the other.

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons butter

¼ to 1 cup cold milk or water

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives. Stir in liquid to form a stiff dough. Turn out on floured board and knead briefly. Pat out to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with floured biscuit cutter. Place close together on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes in 400° oven, until tops are lightly browned. Serve piping hot with lots of butter.

Makes about 12.

Copyright © 1981 by Yankee Magazine. Harper & Row Publishers, New York

I made mine with half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose white and it took 3/4 of a cup of milk to get the right consistency. A wine glass works perfectly well for a biscuit cutter–and that’s a real Yankee touch!





Ew–and so delicious

DSC02096 It’s a banana muffin morning (and will be all week!). My husband loves bananas, so they don’t usually last long enough to go all black and mushy, but I snagged one of these ugly-wuglies for myself. Last night, I mixed one cup of all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, and a quarter-teaspoon of salt in one container. I put a half-stick of butter and a little more than one-quarter cup of sugar in another. I measured out a half-cup of chopped walnuts. This morning, I whizzed up the butter (nicely softened) and sugar and added one egg, my mashed-up banana, and a half a teaspoon of vanilla. In went the flour and the nuts, in went the batter into my greased six-cup muffin pan, and after 22 minutes at 350° F, out came breakfast. Yes, we have no bananas…we have six moist, fresh-from-the-oven, oh-so-tasty banana muffins today.

What a transformation!

What a transformation!

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William Morrow, 2013

William Morrow, 2013

Sometimes a romance novel does your heart good. I needed a complete rest from work, from contentious world affairs, from issues like loss and grief, bullying and life’s unfairness, so I picked up Sarah-Kate Lynch’s The Wedding Bees.

A young beekeeper moves to NYC’s Lower East Side where she and her bees and their honey make the cynical, distrusting world around them a much sweeter place. Could’ve loved it more if there were recipes included for all the mouthwatering treats she makes and shares: honey loaf, lemon honey cookies, and honey roasted chicken, to name a few.

Now that I have a jones for honey cookies, I found an enticing, quick recipe for One-Pot Honey-Oatmeal Drop Cookies in Nancy Baggett’s Simply Sensational Cookies .

simply sensational cookies

I’ll make a batch (40-45 2″ cookies) to take down to North Carolina this Thursday as a thank-you gift to my Airbnb host and energy for my nephew and his housemates as they run from one graduation event to the next. And they’ll make the perfect quick bite for breakfast on my way to the airport, a place nowadays that could always use a sweetener!


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Tiny Pie

There is an adorable children’s book written by Mark Bailey and Michael Oatman, illustrated by Edward Hemingway called Tiny Pie. 

tiny pie

That little elephant discovers a tiny TV studio inside the walls of her house in which that mouse is hosting a cooking show. Alice Waters provided an apple pie recipe for the book. It’s for anyone with a pie fixation, from six to sixty.

While this is not Alice Waters’ recipe, I made a tiny apple pie in my muffin tie of which I am inordinately proud!


Pastry from Ms. American Pie and apple filling from Mom’s Big Book of Baking. Looks luscious, no? In all humility, it was.


I’m seeing peaches, cherries, blueberries, and more inside that crust–a whole summer’s worth of goodness.

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