Jul 212016

Chef Tip: Pepper Infused Olive Oil

Red pepper flakes turns olive oil into olive VOILA!This is something we see a lot in Europe. A few pepper flakes sprinkled into a carafe of olive oil will impart the perfect little zing of flavor that’s not at all overpowering.

We keep two carafes on the counter, one with the pepper and one without. Usually when roasting most vegetables, we’ll grab the one with the pepper flakes. Bet you will too.

Jun 042016

Beet Hummus


  • 1/2 pound roasted beets (about 4 medium size beets)
  • 2-3 tablespoons tahini sesame paste
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 small clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest from approx. 2 lemons)
  • generous pinch salt (Kosher or sea salt is preferred)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor (or you may use a blender) and pulse until smooth.
  2. Chill and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or freeze for longer storage.
  3. Enjoy with pita chips, crackers, or with sliced cucumber, celery, or carrot sticks for dipping, or spread on hearty crackers or crusty bread, add goat cheese and fresh mint for a party appetizer.
May 212016

If at first you don’t succeed – then what?

We’ve all been there. We find a recipe we think looks or sounds wonderful and we decide to make it. Only then, instead of a delicious outcome we end up with flavorless soup or muffins that resemble hockey pucks or a bitter salad. What then? Here at Garden Candy we admit we occasionally make something that just doesn’t excite us and we might not be tempted to revisit, but in the end we do think that every recipe deserves a second chance. Often the part of the recipe that isn’t working well can be tweaked and easily remedied, making the second time the charm.

Garden-Candy-Conversations-artwork-singleWhat do you do when a recipe doesn’t score a perfect 10? Do you try that recipe again? How do you fix a kitchen fail?

May 202016

How to Roast Beets

  1. Wash beets and remove the leafy greens.
  2. Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with tin foil and place the beets on it.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Fold tin foil in half to seal in the beets (pinching the sides of the foil together).
  5. Roast in a 400° oven for up to an hour.
  6. If a fork slides into one easily they are done. If not, continue and check every 10 minutes.
  7. When they’re done let them cool, then peel with a vegetable peeler and the skin should slide right off.

Garden Candy Recipe Jar orangeNote: When you’re roasting beets that vary widely in size, wrapping them individually in foil allows you to remove the smaller, faster-cooking beets while the larger ones continue to cook.

May 182016

Rhubarb Salad with Goat Cheese, Fennel & Walnuts

Chopped fresh rhubarbRhubarb is often the star of our spring and early summer desserts. (Our simpler-than-pie rhubarb pie recipe celebrates this surprisingly versatile vegetable in its more traditional form.) But here, paired with some early spring greens, goat cheese, and toasted walnuts, it gets a seat at the grown-ups table. This salad is a wonderful twist for both rhubarb, and salad. Even lifelong rhubarb detractors give this rendition thumbs up.

The honey-roasted rhubarb becomes brings a sweet tang to the flavors and pulls all of the other ingredients into place. We see this little gem appearing at a lot of our summer barbecues.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Chopping, roasting, toasting, slicing, tossing
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/ 3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 5-8 ounces of your favorite spring greens (or arugula, kale or baby spinach)
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced crosswise (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss rhubarb with honey.
  3. Roast rhubarb for about 4 minutes until it begins to soften.
  4. Remove rhubarb from oven, set aside and let cool.
  5. Spread walnuts on another rimmed baking sheet and put into oven.
  6. Toast walnuts for about 6 minutes, until fragrant. Let Cool.
  7. In a large bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add greens and fennel and toss to combine.
  9. Top with rhubarb, walnuts, and goat cheese.
May 162016

Baby Kale with Roasted Chickpeas, Lemon & Asiago

This post could be titled how to make everyone a kale lover. This is an exceptionally tasty dish with roasted chickpeas, lemon-garlic dressing, and Asiago cheese, that card-carrying kale-lovers (like Christine) will be all over, and kale protesters just might be converted by. The chickpeas add another dimension—a distinctive nutty flavor—and a bonus protein boost. (This recipe is based on one at Once Upon a Chef, a website worth visiting!)

*Do yourself and everyone else a favor and double the chickpea amounts. Yes, roast twice as much as the recipe calls for since, we’re warning you, you’re likely to snack on them while you’re cooking. And if you aren’t tempted to nibble while you work, you can store any extra in an airtight container and they’ll be ready for bag-lunches and midnight snacks. (Cook once, eat twice. That’s our favorite mantra.)

Also, don’t feel pressured. Fresh lemon juice and hand-grated cheese make this dish extra-memorable, but don’t be afraid to substitute bottled lemon juice or even container grated parmesan cheese. We’ve all been a lemon short at one time or another. It’s still a wonderful, satisfying salad.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥
Skills: roasting, shaving/grating, mincing, tossing, roasting
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


For the Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained well (see * above)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 5oz Bag or Container Baby Kale**
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese, shaved or grated


  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place the chickpeas on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and Pepper
  4. Roast for 10-12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the chickpeas are crispy.
  5. Let chickpeas cool.
  6. While chickpeas are roasting, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  7. Add the greens and toss until evenly coated.
  8. Arrange on plates and top with cheese shavings and crispy roasted chickpeas.

Garden Candy Recipe Jar orange**What? No baby kale? No worries. You can used regular, curly or Lacenato (dinosaur) kale, or even other hearty greens. If using more mature kale, slice it thinly and remove any thick stems. Let it sit in the dressing little longer before serving. You’ll still add this to your favorite side- or entrée- salad list.

May 132016

No Fail Friday: Stir-Fried Snow Peas with Carrots and Scallions

This easy stir-fry is great with rice as a meal, or as a side dish, paired with chicken or pork. If you’re growing peas and scallions in your garden this quick delicious dish will make all your efforts in weeding and tending completely worth it. You can mix up the quantities of the vegetables, and even omit the sugar if you prefer, but the sesame oil is a must for the true intended flavor.

Skill: Intermediate
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥
Skills: Slicing, stir-frying,
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


  • 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
  • 3 thin slices of ginger
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
  • 1 pound snow peas, strings removed and cut in half crosswise at a fairly steep diagonal
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into fine julienne strips about 2-1/2 inches long
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3-4 scallions, both green and white sections, first cut crosswise into 2-1/2 inch lengths and then sliced lengthwise into fine strips
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons oriental sesame oil


  1. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. When oil is hot, add the ginger and garlic. Stir and fry 10-20 seconds, pressing down on the garlic.
  3. Add the snow peas and carrot. Stir and fry for 10-20 seconds.
  4. Add the salt and sugar, stir once to combine.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and reduce heat to low, and cook 2 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender crisp.
  6. Uncover, turn the heat to medium-high, and add the scallions and sesame oil. Stir for 20-30 seconds.
May 062016

Curried Carrot Raisin Salad

Anyone who can measure and stir, can master this recipe. To make it even simpler, buy pre-shredded carrots, about 1-1/2 10 oz. bags works for the measurements in this recipe. This carrot salad will become the first choice for seconds for any curry lover and is an ideal side dish to whip up for picnics and potluck gatherings.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥
Skills: shredding, measuring, stirring
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (make your own it’s easy!)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon curry
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound carrots, shredded
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins


  1. In a large bowl, add the mayonnaise, curry, vinegar, honey, and salt. Stir to combine.
  2. Add the carrots, onions, and raisins. Stir until carrots are well coated.
  3. Let stand in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Serves 4-6

May 042016

Mexican Chopped Salad with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette

IMG_5619If you’re like us, you know the experience of ordering something at a restaurant that’s so tasty that you write down the ingredients as best as you can tell and then attempt to recreate the dish at home. Or, if you didn’t write them down, you wish you had.

This salad is one of those dishes. It is deceptively simple, but the flavors combined keep you going back for more. The vinaigrette is the finishing touch. Drizzle it on top right before serving or make enough salad for leftovers and leave the dressing on the side.

While it may not be a “traditional” dish, the south-of-the-border flavors in this colorful dish will fit right into your Cinco de Mayo celebration!


Mexican Chopped Salad:

  • 4 cups of mixed greens (or one bag)
  • 1 cup of jicama
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can of corn, rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 small cucumber, partially peeled, seeded and diced
  • ½ cup feta, crumbled


  • ½ cup lime juice (preferably fresh)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ¾ cup cilantro (not packed)


  1. On a large platter or in a large, shallow serving dish spread the greens on the bottom and then sprinkle each ingredient over the top, in order, finishing with the feta.
  2. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a blender or food processor for a minute to blend well and pour into a small pitcher or a salad dressing bottle. Shake before serving.
Apr 252016

Indian Spiced Green Beans

We love this dish for its spicy blend of Indian flavors and how simple it is to prepare. It does require you have a variety of Indian spices on hand, but really, shouldn’t you anyway?

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥
Skills: Stir-frying, slicing


  • 3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peels and sliced into very fine slivers
  • 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Heat oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. When hot add the cumin seeds and fennel seeds. Stir for 5-10 seconds.
  3. Add shallots, garlic and ginger. Stir for a minute or until lightly browned.
  4. Add beans and stir for about two minutes.
  5. Stir in cumin, coriander, cayenne and turmeric.
  6. Add the salt ½ cup of water and heat until simmering.
  7. Stir and cover.
  8. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  9. Add tomato and cilantro, stirring to combine.
  10. Simmer for an additional 5-6 minutes or until the beans are tender.

Serves 4

Apr 242016

Guacamole Pizza. Yep, it’s that easy.

As easy-going as my husband is about food, there are still times when I don’t want it to be obvious that I am serving him hors d’oeuvres for supper yet again. (Is anyone else reminded of the Cher movie Mermaids?)

But by assembling all the ingredients of guacamole, including the tortilla, into a pizza I look like a kitchen wizard and he feels like he’s been “made dinner.” Like all Tortilla Toss Pizzas this goes together in 2 minutes and disappears from our plates just as quickly.

An added bonus is that in hot steamy weather that we happen to be “enjoying” right now you can toast these on the grill and not even turn the oven on – keeping the kitchen that much cooler.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥

Skills: cutting, slicing, baking or grilling


Simple fresh ingredients make the tastiest meals

Guacamole Pizza

Ingredients (for a single pizza):

  • 1 small whole wheat tortilla
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced, cubed or mashed
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • tablespoons goat cheese
  • 6-8 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • sprinkle of ground cumin
  • splash of lime juice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • shredded Monterey Jack or Mozzarella


  1. Rub a little olive oil on tortilla.
  2. Sprinkle with goat cheese.
  3. Add onion slices.
  4. Add avocado.
  5. Add tomatoes.
  6. Sprinkle with cumin (to taste.)
  7. Splash with a little lime juice.
  8. Sprinkle with cilantro.
  9. Top with Mozzarella,
  10. Bake in 400° oven or on a closed medium-hot grill for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted
  11. Remove from heat, let sit a minute, then cut in half or quarters
Apr 182016

Made-up (Meatless) Monday: Butternut Squash and Kale Pesto

It was another scavenging dinner. There was a lot of food in the fridge that was passing its freshness peak and I didn’t want to toss it. So, here’s what I grabbed from the fridge and what I did with it:

  • Leftover already cooked Farfalle pasta
  • Butternut squash (cut into small ¾ inch pieces) which I drizzled with olive oil and roasted with one medium onion, chopped. 425° for about 20-25 minutes.
  • Kale greens and baby spinach (made into a pesto by combining it with garlic, parmesan, olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper and walnuts—whirled it all around the food processor)
  • Toasted a handful of walnuts – 350° oven for about 8 minutes
  • Heated some water to boiling, added the cooked bowties to refresh them. Drained the pasta, reserving about ¾ cup pasta water.
  • In a large bowl mixed reserved water, pasta and some crumbled goat cheese together until the cheese melted and made a nice sauce.
  • Added 2 large tablespoons of the pesto and then added about ½ the roasted butternut squash and onions to the bowl.
  • Stirred it all up.
  • Topped with the toasted walnuts.

I now have evidence that I am genius. This was delicious. And used up a lot of ingredients that were nearing their end. Well, I did have evidence until I ate it, ALL! Chances are you’ve got your own delicious combination of ingredients in your kitchen – let us know what you put together the next time you scavenge!

Apr 112016

The Glory of the Buddha Bowl

Our new favorite dish, is a bowl. And there’s no day, good or bad, this simple and surprisingly hearty meal can’t improve. It’s perfect for a weeknight supper or a weekend gathering of friends. Spoon the vegetables atop the rice, add the sauce, and mix it up just before eating. And of course you can adjust the quantities of the vegetables to suit your liking. This a a freestyle meal!


  • 4 dried figs, sliced
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large carrot, shredded, raw
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • green onion, sliced (optional)
  • 4 cups rice, cooked


  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350 ̊F (175 ̊C).

  1. Place the sweet potato, figs oil and salt in a baking dish.
  2. Stir to coat.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes
  4. Meanwhile, place garlic and ginger, a pinch of salt in a mortar (see note below) and crush with pestle until it forms a chunky paste.
  5. Add soy sauce, lemon juice, vegetable oil, maple syrup and tahini.
  6. Stir until well blended. Set aside.
  7. Spoon rice into the bottom of each bowl, filling no more than half.
  8. On top add separate spoonfuls of figs and sweet potatoes, carrots, avocado slices.
  9. Sprinkle green onions on top.
  10. Serve with sauce.
  11. Mix everything in the bowl together before eating.
  12. Serves 2-3

Garden Candy Recipe Jar orangeNote: If you don’t have a mortar and pestle you can add all the sauce ingredients into a blender and blend.

Apr 082016

Comfort Food: Cabbage, Onion, Noodles

Some days become noticeably better by simply adding a belly-filling, heart-warming, bowl of cabbage and noodles. This is a recipe that my grandmother often made—calling it peasant food—as she retold stories of my great- and great-great-grandparents’ lives while coming to The United States from Poland and Czechoslovakia. The sugar and onions caramelize a tiny bit during the low temp cooking. And what’s not to love about that!

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Chopping, boiling, sautéing, simmering
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!

Ingredients: halushki

  • 4 cups wide egg noodles
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 cups onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 6 cups cabbage, (about a half large head) sliced thinly
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pepper


  1. Cook egg noodles according to package directions, strain, and set aside.
  2. While noodles are cooking, melt butter in large, deep skillet over medium-low heat.
  3. Add onion and sprinkle in brown sugar. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes or until softened and beginning to turn golden.
  4. Add cabbage to pan, stir well to incorporate with onion.
  5. Sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Increase heat to medium, add cooked noodles, salt and pepper, and stir well until noodles are heated through.

Serves 6

Mar 242016

5 Ingredient Sweet Potato Brownies

With only five ingredients these gooey brownie stand-ins whip up in no time. And can also make great sweet use of leftover sweet potatoes. It doesn’t make a ton of batter so bake it in bread loaf pan or similar small pan and it will work great.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Mixing, measuring, baking
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!

Sweet Potato Brownie RecipeA couple of days ago this recipe was “liked” by one of my Facebook pals and when I checked it out, it looked intriguing. Having a leftover baked sweet potato in the fridge, the four other ingredients on hand, AND miraculously, an unassigned hour before dinner, today I decided to give it a try.

I took it as an optimistic sign that I was licking the bowl clean with my fingers as I started clean-up. Once the brownies were baked and out of the oven, I waited until they were well cooled before cutting into them, as the recipe suggests. And then waited until I had a proper dinner before trying them.

They were good! Very cocoa-y. Dense. Gooey like fudge brownies. They were not overly sweet but definitely would qualify as dessert in most households.

I cut mine small (getting 18 from the pan,) so if my math is close, I figure each one is only about 50 calories, plus they carry the nutritional benefits of sweet potato. If you’re looking for a quick brownie alternative, don’t overlook this one. For another possible brownie treat, check out our zucchini brownie too.

Sweet Potato Brownies


  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • ½ cup smooth nut butter of choice (I used almond butter)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • Handful of carob chips (optional; I used a half-handful)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a small cake/loaf pan
  2. On the stove, melt nut butter with maple syrup
  3. In a large bowl add the mashed sweet potato, melted nut butter and maple syrup, and cocoa powder and mix well
  4. Fold in chocolate chips
  5. Pour mixture into greased pan and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before slicing and refrigerating

These brownies are best when cooled completely. Store in fridge or freezer.

Jan 252016

Freezing and Freezing. Pumpkin Chili

We know, another bean recipe. But this is just too delicious to keep to ourselves. Pop over to Thriving Home to get this Pumpkin Chili Recipe.

With Blizzard Jonas devouring much of the east coast over the weekend bring snow, freezing temperatures and biting winds, we were looking for something to warm us up. This Pumpkin Chili did it, deliciously! It’s got a nice even peppery heat and just a hint of pumpkin sweetness.

What so great about this dish, besides being tasty, filling, vegetarian, and so easy to make using just one pot, is that it’s freezable. We froze about half and enjoyed the rest—three generous entree-size servings—for dinner, with some crusty bread.

In our version we used one tablespoon of Ancho Chili powder and about 3/4 tablespoon of regular chili pepper. For beans we just grabbed what was in the cabinet, one can each: pinto, garbanzo, black and cannellini. And we forgot the bay leaf. Hey, it happens. In all other ways we pretty much followed the recipe.

If you can open cans and measure spices you can triumph with this dish. Everyone loved it. Even our one non-pumpkin-loving carnivore loved this chili, and had seconds. And when we need a quick dinner to warm us up this season we’re going to love it again out of the freezer.

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥♥
Skills: Chopping, sautéing, mixing, simmering,
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


Jan 222016

No Fail Friday: Freestyle Three Bean Salad

Talk about “no fail.” This is one of those recipes that is barely a recipe at all it’s so simple. If you can open a can this will become your favorite go-to recipe for a delicious side dish or a quick mid-week meal because you can always have the main ingredients on hand in the cupboard AND it takes all of five minutes to make.

As long as you have beans and olive oil on hand you’re all set. No parmesan? No worries. Skip it or add a different grated cheese. Don’t like arugula? Spring mix or baby spinach works just as well. Are you a vegetarian? Then skip the pancetta. And if it’s not filling enough for you, serve it over rice instead. But for me, it’s all about the Sriracha!

Skill: Easy
Cost: $$$$
Nutrition: ♥♥♥♥
Skills: Frying, draining,
Garden Candy Basics - fundamental vegucation for everybody!


  • olive oil
  • ½ pound of pancetta, cubed (or crumbled bacon) (both optional)
  • 3 cans of beans – black, kidney, cannellini, pinto, etc (I mix it up to add color to the dish)
  • sriracha sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • arugula (or whatever greens you have on hand)
  • parmesan cheese, shaved or grated (to garnish)


  1. Drizzle olive oil in a frying pan and heat on medium.
  2. Cook pancetta cubes until just crisp.
  3. Drain beans, rinse and shake excess water off and add to frying pan.
  4. Heat on medium-low adding salt and pepper to season.
  5. When beans are just hot, add 2 tablespoons sriracha and stir. Taste and add more to your liking.
  6. In the meantime, line a medium sized serving dish with arugula (or other greens).
  7. When the beans are hot, lay them on the greens, sprinkle with the shaved cheese and serve.
  8. For a cold salad let the beans cool completely before adding to the greens.
Nov 202015

No Fail Friday: It’s Not You.

It’s your oven.An oven thermometer is a great way to accurately set you oven temperature.

If, no matter how carefully you follow a recipe, your baked goods or oven dishes seem to regularly fail—they’re often either burnt or not fully cooked—it might not be you. In fact it probably isn’t. Your oven might be the one sabotaging your relationship with cooking.

Oven temperatures can wander very far from where they’re set, especially on older models. Take my 1950’s GE luxury liner of a stove. When I set it to preheat to 375° it, easily finds it’s way to about 410°-415°. Set it for 400°? Say hello to 450°.

I began suspecting that my oven ran hot very early in our courtship, but just how hot wasn’t clear until I finally thought to get an oven thermometer. That’s when I learned, scientifically, that my oven’s temperature varied by nearly fifty degrees, especially at high temps. Yes, five-zero! Fifty degrees is the difference between baking and roasting. A fifty degree difference will ruin the outcome of most recipes.

Once I removed the guesswork out of preheating my oven, cooking was fun. I was still free to meet cooking disaster in other ways, which I did (and still do), but at least it wasn’t wasn’t because the oven wasn’t at the proper temperature.

Oven thermometers are inexpensive and might be essential to your success. Knowing whether your oven runs hot or cold can really improve your cooking experience. Check yours. And report back…we’d love to know if yours is accurate or not.

Oct 212015

Chef Tip: Preheat that roasting pan!

Roasting vegetables in the oven? Leave your roasting pan in the oven while you pre-heat it.

Lightly coat your veggies with oil then turn them onto the hot pan, spreading them out evenly. You’ll wind up with better browned, crisper vegetables and less of them stuck to the pan when you’re done.

Do this one time, and you will do it always.


Oct 072015

Delicious (Vegan) Key Lime Pie – Really?? Really!

A few weeks ago, my son and I went into New York City for the day. We grabbed brunch, went to a museum and walked a mini marathon’s worth of miles (as we always seem to) and then decided to stop for a late lunch.

We opted to try a restaurant called Peacefood Café that he had heard about and wanted to check out. It’s a vegan restaurant, but I hate to even label it because if half the dishes were served to you without you ever having read the menu, you would just think it was good food, period, and not give a second thought to it being vegan or otherwise. It’s easy to hear vegan and think soy milk and tofu and not quite as tasty as the “real” version, but today’s vegan recipes definitely avoid that stereotype. They are delicious recipes that just happen to be made using a different list of ingredients.

I said I wasn’t hungry (and I really wasn’t) but ended up getting a plate of roasted vegetables so I wouldn’t be sitting there watching my son eat his sandwich. But of course as long as I was looking at the menu anyhow, why not order a side of chick pea fries for the “table” as well? That of course translates into putting them in between the two of us and me eating the lion’s share. I think it was the dipping sauce that did it for me, but whatever the hook, I could have eaten the entire plate.

Vegan Avocado Key Lime PieWhen we finished eating, I insisted I wasn’t getting dessert, but that I would happily take a bite (or three) of whatever he ordered. He opted for the key lime pie, which I happen to love so that was a win-win. If you’ve made key lime pie before you know that the only thing vegan about it is the limes so I looked at the menu to see what the ingredients were (as each menu item has them listed below it) and was intrigued to see that the magic ingredient in making the pie creamy and green was, of all things, avocado.

I was a little skeptical when the pie came to the table even though it looked like key lime pie, but I took a bite and honestly, it was delicious. While it was sweet, it was not overly so which I prefer and the lime flavor was amazing. And other than adding creaminess to the texture, there is nothing “avocado-y” about it at all (in case you were wondering).

Because I love to bake and cook I am forever going home and trying to recreate foods that I have had at restaurants and the internet makes this very easy. I found three other versions of this pie and after tweaking it a bit I ended up with my own version that I really love.

One of my favorite “tweaks”, hacks, cheats… whatever you want to call it, was to boil the cashews required for the filling in lieu of soaking them overnight. I think I am a really good cook, but I don’t often remember to prep things the night before. Am I the only one who sees a recipe and wants to make it NOW? I went with the assumption that soaking them was supposed to soften them and decided that boiling them would do the same thing. If that was the wrong assumption please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. The pie tasted great and the cashews became smooth. That’s all that matters to me!

This is one of those recipes that takes a little longer the first time, but then is a snap after that. Luckily for you, I did all the trial and error, so you can just whip it up and enjoy, because it really is worth making. The best part? Aside from those cashews I boiled, there is no cooking involved, just a lot of blending so get your favorite mixer out and a few spatulas at the ready and you’re good to go.

In the end, I “unveganed” the pie (I’m pretty sure that’s a word) by putting some whipped cream on the side. How you eat it is up to you!


  • 1-1/2 cups almonds
  • 1 cup of hazelnuts
  • 11 tablespoons of coconut oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup pitted dates, sliced
  • 1 cup cashews, slow boiled for 15 minutes
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2 avocados, ripe and sliced
  • 6 limes, zested and juiced


  1. Place almonds and hazelnuts in blender and pulse until finely ground (a bit coarser than graham cracker crust texture). You will need to scrape sides and bottom in between pulsing.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and pitted dates and pulse until blended and sticking together.
  3.  Empty blender contents into a 9″ pie plate and, pressing firmly on base and sides, evenly distribute the crust. Place crust in refrigerator when done to chill.
  4. Blend cashews, agave nectar and remaining coconut oil until smooth and then add the avocados, lime juice and zest until fully mixed and creamy.
  5. Pour filling into pie crust and place back into the fridge to chill for at least a few hours.

Serves 8

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