Smoked Gouda & Pepper Cheese Puffs

So I was ready for this to be an epic fail, but shockingly these little puffs turned out great! Huge crowd pleaser!

I’ve never made anything like this before and the recipe seemed very odd to me. Needless to say I was skeptical. But they sounded intriguing and well, delicious. So I gave it a go.

The recipe is on point in every way. Your arms are gonna get a good workout from stirring the dough after the addition of each egg. Don’t be surprised and/or give up faith when the dough begins to have the consistency of playdough. It is kinda weird. But eventually the dough will come together and will be pipeable (yep, I just made that word up).

These are light, cheesy, and savory. They’re best served warm but they’re still tasty at room temperature. Perfect as a side treat for a warm and cozy soup. Enjoy!

Smoked Gouda & Pepper Cheese Puffs (recipe care of Real Simple)

INGREDIENTS: 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus more for garnish), ¾ cup (1½ sticks) salted butter (cut into pieces), ½ teaspoon kosher salt, 4 ounces smoked Gouda cheese (grated) (about 1 cup packed), 5 large eggs, flaky sea salt (for garnish)

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and pepper in a medium bowl. Combine 1½ cups water, butter, and kosher salt in a large saucepan; cook over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until mixture just comes to a boil. Add flour mixture to saucepan all at once. Stir quickly using a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms and dough pulls away from sides of pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until mostly melted and smooth, about 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition, until smooth. (Batter will appear lumpy after each egg but will smooth out as you stir.) Transfer dough to a large zip-top bag with a ½-inch tip of 1 corner cut off (or a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip). Pipe 1 ½-inch mounds, spaced at least 1 inch apart, onto prepared baking sheets (about 24 per baking sheet). Flatten any pointy tips with your fingertip. Top with flaky sea salt and more pepper. Transfer any remaining batter in bag to refrigerator. Bake until puffed and golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Repeat with any remaining dough, reusing parchment paper on slightly cooled baking sheet. Keep warm in a 200°F oven. Cheese puffs can be made up to 3 hours ahead; reheat in a 225°F oven on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper until hot, about 15 minutes.

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake

Okay you know that saying, “The more the merrier?” Well, I wholeheartedly believe in that saying when it comes to cake streusels, toppings, and frostings. I often double the topping recipes for coffeecakes and muffins. Sorry, not sorry (as my wonderful cousin, JR, would say). Sometimes ya just need an overloaded baked good.

This is my go-to New Years morning coffeecake. It’s a great recipe, serves a ton, and is crazy delicious. We just eat it straight out of the pan (we’re not proud), but you can display it beautifully for guests and smother (and I do mean smother, again sorry, not sorry) it with softened, salted butter. It also has an awesome amount of filling and streusel topping. No doubling on this one.

Plus it creates a warm and lovely cinnamon smell throughout the house.

Now, I’m not gonna lie (I am incriminatingly honest on this blog). This winter break could not have been a lazier time for me. Santa Barbara rarely has rainy, have to stay inside, cozy weather but this last week we made up for it. We got 6 1/2 inches of rain which is desperately needed and allows me to slip back into my Seattle days of wrapping up in a blanket in house pants with the Christmas tree lit while watching TV for hours. I told you I was lazy!

The reason I mention my complete apathy is because this coffeecake almost didn’t happen. This is just how lazy I am… My best friend, Maddy, was coming over on Thursday evening for a visit. I knew she was going to the store first, so as I was watching Friends for the umpteenth time, I asked her to get me greek yogurt and whole milk. She asked, “What kind and non-fat, 2%, whole?” My immediate response was, “Oh I want the fat!” So my wonderful friend, picked up the two ingredients I didn’t have because I couldn’t peel my arse off the couch. Thank you Maddy!

By the way, I could not be more proud of myself! At midnight last night (we were already well tucked into bed) I sprang from the bed, ran to the kitchen, and took the butter out to soften. I NEVER remember to do that. None of the other ingredients that are supposed to be at “room temperature” were. But hey, at least I remembered the butter!

2021 was a rough year for me and for many. But 2022 is gonna be AMAZING with so many wonderful possibilities. May you all have a very happy start to this year and let it bring you love, health, and happiness!

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake (recipe care of


Topping: 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter), 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 6 tablespoons butter (melted)

Filling: 1 cup dark brown sugar or light brown sugar (packed), 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-process or natural)

Cake: 12 tablespoons butter (at room temperature), 1 teaspoon salt (1 1/4 teaspoons if you use unsalted butter), 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup light brown sugar or dark brown sugar (packed), 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3 large eggs (at room temperature), 3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (at room temperature), 1 1/4 cups milk (anything from skim to whole, at room temperature), 3 3/4 cups (450g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan, or two 9″ round cake pans. Make the topping by whisking together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter, stirring until well combined. Set the topping aside. Make the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Note that the cocoa powder is used strictly for color, not flavor; leave it out if you like. Set it aside. To make the cake, in a large bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt and milk till well combined. You don’t need to whisk out all the lumps. Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk/sour cream mixture, beating gently to combine. Pour/spread half the batter (a scant 3 cups) into the prepared pan(s), spreading all the way to the edges. If you’re using two 9″ round pans, spread 1 1/3 cups batter in each pan. Sprinkle the filling evenly on the batter. Spread the remaining batter atop the filling. Use a table knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter, as though you were making a marble cake. Don’t combine filling and batter thoroughly; just swirl the filling through the batter. Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan. Bake the cake until it’s a dark golden brown around the edges; medium-golden with no light patches showing on top, and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes for the 9″ x 13″ pan, 50 to 55 minutes for the 9″ round pans. When pressed gently in the middle, the cake should spring back. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve cake right from the pan.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Brownies

Oh man! This poor recipe didn’t stand a chance against my scatterbrained/absentmindedness/disorganized self. If ya can’t tell by my previous statement, I was not prepared this morning.

So usually our weekly routine is to grocery shopping on Saturday mornings after I go to yoga. Yesterday we weren’t able to hit the store so I ever so smugly and quite proudly told Paul that when he made his coffee run this morning, I needed him to get a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (mainly because we ate about 3/4 of the bag throughout the week for dessert, don’t judge me). I was even amazed with myself because as soon as I got up I remembered to take out the cream cheese to soften. Oh the over-confidence!

Of course, Paul pulled through with his latte, breakfast sandwich, and chocolate chips. Once I started following the recipe I figured out that I didn’t buy enough dark chocolate (damn 6 oz. package) so I just tossed in the 1/4 cup left of our dessert chocolate chips from the week prior. I then realized we needed 5 eggs. 5 eggs! Holy crap! Oh, and I only had half a cup of brown sugar, not a full cup. So Paul stepped up once again and headed off to the store. While he was gone, I also realized I didn’t have enough cocoa powder. I didn’t have the heart to text him so I just threw in what I had.

The fact that I was this completely unprepared speaks volumes to the strength of this recipe. It actually turned out great! Rich, decadent, and delicious! Perfect holiday treat, even for the non-sweet believers. Happy holidays!!!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Brownies (recipe care of

INGREDIENTS: 1 cup butter (two 4-oz. sticks), 7 ounces dark chocolate (chopped), 1 cup packed light brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon hazelnut extract or vanilla, 5 eggs, 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, ¼ cup cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process), 1 eight ounce package cream cheese (at room temperature), ½ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread, 1 cup roasted salted hazelnuts (chopped), ¼ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 13×9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl combine butter and chocolate. Microwave until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Whisk sugars, 1 tsp. salt, and the hazelnut extract into chocolate mixture. Slowly whisk in four of the eggs until just incorporated. Sift together 1 cup of the flour and the cocoa powder; add to melted chocolate mixture. Gently stir until just incorporated. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining egg and 1 Tbsp. flour. Stir in cream cheese and chocolate-hazelnut spread until smooth and uniform. Drop spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture on batter. Using a skewer or the tip of a knife, swirl mixtures together. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and chocolate chips. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until slightly puffed, corners have darkened, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few fudgy crumbs and no wet batter. Cool completely. Makes 24 brownies.

Thyme Biscuits

So I’m making a lentil sausage stew that Paul was all excited about today. It looks hearty and warm, perfect for a fall/winter evening. I haven’t made it yet so I can’t share the recipe. But if it’s good, I’ll share. Promise.

I wanted to make a savory biscuit to dunk into the lovely, thick soup and found this recipe. I was immediately intrigued… lemon-lime soda??? Seriously, like 7-up or Sprite? That seems a little whacky. But I’m a bit of a whack-a-doodle so I’ll roll with it.

Now, I never buy soda. Ever. I used to love sodas; Mountain Dew was my jam. But now when I take a sip of any soda I make a ridiculous squinted-up face and gag. I’m not proud, this is just my natural reaction to sodas these days. In truth, the only carbonated beverages we have in our refrigerator are Prosecco and Perrier. Dear Lord that sounds so flipping pretentious, but I promise I’m not that irritating, obnoxious person. Our Prosecco is usually from Costco… the Kirkland brand is delicious! And we order Perrier cans from Amazon because we drink sparkling water like it’s going out of style. So please forgive that refrigerator description.

These biscuits are just okay. I wished they had a bit more pizazz to them, like maybe minced garlic or a mild, shredded cheese like mozzarella. Although maybe they would drown out the very subtle thyme flavor. Regardless, I ran my knife through the thyme leaves for two reasons. One, the flavor releases more from the leaves when you cut them. And two, I didn’t want someone to bite into a huge chunk of thyme in one biscuit bite.

If you do decide to make them, slather them with softened butter. Anything slathered with softened butter is delectable.

*** Revising note… Paul tried one and liked the subtle thyme flavor, then dipped it into the soup as it was simmering and loved it. So apparently this is a great accompaniment to a soup or stew. ***

Thyme Biscuits (recipe care of Hearst Specials)

INGREDIENTS: 3 cups self rising flour (I just make it rather than buying special flour… 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 salt, adjust to desired amount), two tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 3/4 cup lemon-lime soda, 3/4 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a lager bowl, combine the flour, thyme, and pepper. Make a well in the center. Using a fork, gently stir in the soda and cream, mixing until just incorporate (do not over mix). (I hate this comment because I never know if I’ve over mixed.). Drop heaping tablespoons (you should have 16 total according to the recipe, I made 20) onto the prepared sheet. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve the biscuits warm or at room temperature.

Holiday Veggie Dishes

First of all happy Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, etc. I feel like I need to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season because I have so very much to be grateful for this year. The love and appreciation I felt from family and friends as I battled breast cancer was overwhelming, and the fact that I was blessed not to face radiation or chemo was breathtaking. Literally.

Yes, this all sounds very cheesy. But in truth, I’m probably one of the cheesiest people you will ever know. Plus, I’m listening to Bing Crosby’s holiday station while having a glass of wine and tearing up with nostalgia. So forgive me for my sentimentality.

Okay, this post is a bit deceptive. I’m including two recipes but one picture that has only one of the dishes. The second dish in the picture (the background caramelized vegetable bowl) did not turn out well so why bother. I’m sharing these two recipes from Barefoot Contessa (whom I have a slight admiration crush on) that will guarantee you success with any crowd.

For Thanksgiving, I made her roasted butternut squash salad which was a HUGE crowd pleaser and I would make over and over and over again. I also made her sautéed carrots which are requested every year and are pretty much the easiest thing to make in the world.

Paul and I had a beautifully relaxing Thanksgiving which included a hike (that kicked my out of shape arse), lounging in pajamas (a.k.a. house pants), cooking just a bit, and a warm and love filled dinner with 27 people. It’s kinda ridiculous when you combine two large, local families. But man it was a blast!

So regardless of any holiday plans, these two recipes are amazing! Sending y’all love and happiness!

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette Dressing (recipe care of Barefoot Contessa)

INGREDIENTS: 1 (1 ½-pound) butternut squash (peeled and 3/4-inch diced), good olive oil, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, 3 tablespoons dried cranberries, 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons minced shallots, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, 4 ounces baby arugula (washed and spun dry), 1/2 cup walnut halves (toasted), 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes. While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about ¼ cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, ½ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten, and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Sautéed Carrots (recipe care of Barefoot Contessa)

INGREDIENTS: 2 pounds carrots, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS: Peel the carrots and cut them diagonally in 1/4-inch slices. You should have about 6 cups of carrots. Place the carrots, 1/3 cup water, the salt, and pepper in a large (10- to 12-inch) saute pan and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until the carrots are just cooked through. Add the butter and sauté for another minute, until the water evaporates and the carrots are coated with butter. Off the heat, toss with the dill or parsley. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Banana Bread with Salted Peanut Streusel

As always on a Sunday morning, Paul went to get his double latte and I snuggled into bed just a touch more. When he returned from his coffee expedition, I dragged my lazy arse out of bed, threw my hair into a messy ponytail, and splashed my face with water. I am ridiculously slow on Sunday mornings.

This morning brought such a feeling of love to my heart. In the midst of mixing all of today’s ingredients, Nana called. Paul’s mom, “Nana,” is just a love bug/sugar muffin all around. She called and chatted with me for about 10 minutes in which I didn’t speak at all. She dominated the conversation, but that’s just understood when you chat with Nana.

She called because she wanted a recipe I made years ago, “Bonuts.” Her brother, Uncle Ron, will be visiting next Saturday and she will be gathering the family for dinner. Uncle Ron will be killing it with the family history stories.

In prepping for Uncle Ron’s visit, Nana has already grocery shopped for every ingredient, accoutrement, and beverage you can imagine. She has her menu planned: burgers, German potato salad, and dessert. Dessert, hence why she called me.

In our conversation this morning, Nana shared with me that when I made “bonuts” years ago, she was reminded of her sudo-grandmother. Her mother, “Granny,” was an orphan who survived the Spanish Flu and was taken in by an “Old Maid” care giver. This woman was the only grandmother figure that Nana knew. She used to make donuts and so when I made “bonuts,” they reminded Nana of her “grandmother.” I had no idea, but I learned that this morning and it just touched my heart.

None of that has anything to do with today’s recipe, but I just loved that I learned that Darga family story while baking in my little Darga kitchen. Family history is extraordinarily important.

This recipe is fabulous!!! Well, the streusel is fabulous while the banana bread is just hum drum. Okay, I should be honest. I didn’t have the over ripe bananas that any banana bread recipe calls for, but being the “bad news bears” of a baker that I am I just went with it. The bananas that Paul mashed wither ripe, almost unripe, but he mashed away. Oh and I used the bottom of the barrel of my brown sugar container because I stupidly didn’t check my sugar levels. Maybe don’t listen to any advice I give when I bake.

Even with all of my mistakes, this is a delicious banana bread. The salted peanut streusel is crazy awesome! In truth, the banana bread is a little average compared to the sweet & savory streusel. The minute that you get past the streusel, you will be bored with the banana bread. To elevate the bread, I would mix mini milk chocolate chips into the batter. Semisweet would be too strong of a chocolate, but milk chocolate would be delightful.

Definitely give this recipe a go!

Banana Bread with Salted Peanut Streusel (recipe care of


For the Streusel: 2 tbsp. unsalted butter (melted) plus more for pan, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts, pinch kosher salt

For the Bread: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, 3 large (very ripe) bananas (mashed), 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 4 tbsp.  unsalted butter, (melted), 2 large eggs

DIRECTIONS: Make streusel: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on long sides. Whisk together flour and brown sugar in a bowl combined. Add butter, peanuts, and salt. Stir with a fork until clumps form; chill. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together bananas, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs until combined in a second bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until mixture is combined. Transfer to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with streusel. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, then use overhangs to remove from pan and transfer to rack; cool completely.

Spinach and Feta Quick Bread

Okay, the picture makes this look like a hot mess (which I’m not gonna lie, it kinda was). However this is a crazy good, flavorful quick bread. Gotta love the no yeast aspect (thank you!).

So I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love greek flavors. When I was in Greece I could’ve smothered myself in tzaiki sauce and scooped it off with fresh pita bread. Again, I’m not proud. I also learned a lot about simple yet flavorful cooking when I was in Greece.

This is the simple, healthy equivalent of spanakopita. I think I overdid it with both the feta and spinach (shocker) so it was a bit soft. But dear Lord the flavors were on point!

Spinach and Feta Quick Bread (recipe care of

INGREDIENTS: cooking spray, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 6 ounces crumbled feta (about 1 cup), 6 ounces frozen cut crumbled spinach (about 2 cups), 1/2 cups canola oil, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 large eggs

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on long sides. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add feta and spinach; toss to coat. Whisk together oil, buttermilk, and eggs in a second bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, then use overhangs to remove from pan and transfer to rack; cool completely.

Lemon-Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

Apparently I’m on a rosemary kick and didn’t know it. These are two recipes in a row that include rosemary, but what the heck. I’m a wild, and crazy kinda baker so I’ll run with it.

My incredibly sweet mother-in-law, Nana, loves to share her various magazines with me throughout the year because she knows I love to cook. This week, while in line to check out at the grocery store, she bought me a Country Living recipe magazine. You know the ones that have no articles or advertisements and have recipes alone? I love these magazines and get sucked into them all of the time! Thank you Nana!

I don’t know if you’ve experienced an olive oil cake or bread, but the olive oil makes it extremely moist. But on top of that, you will pour the rosemary syrup over the bread which is crazy amazing!

This is a sweet, herby, lemony bread that could be a part of brunch, tea with the Queen (yes I went there), or just a lovely snack. Enjoy it completely!

Lemon-Rosemary Olive Oil Bread (recipe care of


For the Bread: cooking spray, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled 1 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoons baking powder, 2 large eggs, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup olive oil 

For the Rosemary Syrup: 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 sprig fresh rosemary, 1 strip lemon zest

DIRECTIONS: Make cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8 1/2-by- 4 1/2-inch loaf pan; line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on long sides. Whisk together flour, sugar, rosemary, lemon zest, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add milk, oil, eggs, and lemon juice and whisk to combine. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. Meanwhile, make syrup: Combine sugar, 1/4 cup water, rosemary, and lemon zest in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, 2 to 4 minutes. Poke holes all over top of cake with a thin wooden skewer or toothpick. Pour syrup over cake. Cool cake completely in pan.

Parmesan, Rosemary and Thyme Shortbread

Okay, this is a day late. Oops!

So I kinda love how this picture turned out. I tried to be all fancy by pressing fresh rosemary leaves into the uncooked shortbread, but apparently I didn’t press hard enough. Again, oops! But with that said, I kinda love the curlicues that showed up. They’re so cute!

The rich, warm aroma of parmesan cheese baking filled our house for hours. The funny thing was I was making a chicken, tortellini soup in the slow cooker at the same time, so between the parmesan, Italian herbs, and the garlic you woulda thought you were sitting in a warm, Italian grandmother’s kitchen as she was wiping her hands on her apron, encouraging you to eat more, telling you you’re too skinny (all with a wonderfully expressive Italian accent).

I love making shortbread. It’s so easy (this took about 10 minutes to prep) and yet your audience (even if it’s just you) will lather on the praise for your brilliant baking abilities.

One thing about this version is that it is extremely parmesan strong. So strong to the point that you might feel like you’re diving into a wheel of parmesan. I couldn’t really taste the rosemary or thyme, and although they’re really good I would have preferred a balance of the herbs and parmesan.

Parmesan, Rosemary, and Thyme Shortbread (recipe care of

INGREDIENTS: 4 ounces unsalted butter (room temperature), 3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 cups; grate it yourself for the best flavor), 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, 6 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour (approximately 1 1/4 cups), 1 tablespoon water

DIRECTIONS: Place the butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-low speed until creamy. Add the parmesan, salt, pepper, herbs and flour one at a time until evenly combined. Last, add 1 tablespoon of water to help bring the dough together. Flatten the dough and wrap in plastic film. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.  While the dough is chilling, place a rack on the center shelf and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured surface (or between two sheets of parchment paper), roll the dough to approximately 1/4-inch thick. Use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make small crackers, re-rolling the dough as needed. (An alternative method is to chill the dough in the shape of a log and then slice it, but the rounds might not be as uniform). Place the crackers on the prepared sheet pan (they shouldn’t spread much, but leave a bit of room to be safe). Chill for 15 minutes, then bake until lightly golden on the bottom, 16-21 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.  Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. 

White Bean and Hominy Chili

So this is neither baking, nor is it related to baking in any way.

However, I am a master manipulator (when it comes to connecting and justifying things). So I am connecting this recipe to my earlier blog, “Emma’s Cornbread.” Which actually was planned all along. So maybe I’m not the master manipulator I thought I was. Especially because I mentioned both as our dinner plans for tonight. Hmm?

Damn, I thought I was pulling off the Austin Powers, awkwardly confident spy (manipulation) expertise. Turns out, not so much.

I am not a fan of chili; not at all, not even a little bit. I’ve kinda hated it since I was a little girl.

However this chili is so amazingly delicious, it’s kinda crazy. It’s special. As Paul and I made this together tonight (adding ingredients at the right time, letting the flavors melt into each other as they cooked) we both said how much we’ve missed this chili and the coziness it creates. We easily agreed that it’ll be in our repertoire throughout the fall season.

This chili is warm and lovely and inviting. Perfect to kick off the 2021 NFL season.

A Few Notes: I did not use the meatless, chipotle Mexican sausage that is called for in this recipe. Nor did I use water when called for. As I always say, you do you. Neither Paul nor I are vegetarians nor vegans, so we use spicy chicken sausage (2 links). And rather than “watering” things down, we kick it up a notch by using chicken broth/stock instead of water.

Oh, and I add a large container of raw spinach over the cooking chili (with a few last minutes are left while it’s over the flame). The spinach does not intrude on the chili flavors at all. Truly, the spinach does not add any flavor at all. It simply adds a very healthy addition to the chili… calcium, vitamin c, etc.

Giving the chili time to cook lets all of the amazing flavors combine. It will be better tomorrow as leftovers.

White Bean and Hominy Chili (recipe care of or

INGREDIENTS: 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans or other white beans (rinsed, drained, and divided), 1 tablespoon olive oil , 1 (4-ounce) meatless Mexican chipotle sausage (finely chopped),  1 ½ cups chopped white onion, 3 garlic cloves (minced), 2 poblano chiles (seeded and chopped), 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 ½ cups water, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco), ½ teaspoon salt, 1 (15.5-ounce) can white hominy ( rinsed and drained), 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 8 lime wedges

DIRECTIONS: Mash 2/3 cup beans with a fork. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sausage, and sauté for 4 minutes. Add onion, garlic, and poblanos; sauté 6 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add mashed beans, whole beans, 1 1/2 cups water, and the next 4 ingredients (through hominy). Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in green onions and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.