Black Sesame Pear Sweet Loaf

This dense sweet bread is the perfect companion to a cup of tea on Sunday afternoon. I made this recipe using a mix of black sesame seeds and nigella seeds which are like black sesame seeds but perhaps less sweet. TR and I picked up a packet of them in Ireland and found ourselves wondering what to do with them. This loaf was the delicious answer.

1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
1 cup almond meal or almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 medium firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 325℉. Butter one large or two smaller loaf pans. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, the almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a medium bowl. Grind the remaining 1/2 cup of sesame seeds in a spice grinder or a food processor to form a thick paste.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until well combined. Add sesame paste and beat until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and egg yolk, beating until pale and fluffy. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in three installments, alternating with the buttermilk in two installments. Toss the pear with 2 tablespoons flour and fold into the batter.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean: approx 1 hour, 40 minutes for a larger loaf pan, or 50 minutes for smaller pans.

Adapted from www.bonappetit.com


Doro Wat (National Dish of Ethiopia)

This spicy dish is a new favorite at our house. Serve with homemade Injera if you're feeling ambitious or basmati rice if you're not. Typically this dish is served very hot using a spice called berbere. You can make this on your own (google a recipe) or can be bought at specialty grocery stores. I picked some up at our local food co-op. This recipe is medium spicy but feel free to increase or reduce the berbere as you see fit.

Also, this recipe calls for Tej, a traditional Ethiopian honey wine. I imagine this is also available at specialty stores but you can do as I did and substitute 1/2 cup white wine with 1 ts honey mixed in. If you're using cooking wine, reduce the overall salt in the recipe to compensate.

Finally, the recipe I altered called for double the cooking times you'll see below. If you have time, you may want to simmer everything longer, but I found that the times listed below were adequate to create the flavor and texture this recipe is going for.

2.5-3 lbs chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces or 3 chicken breasts cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tb lemon juice
5 Tb butter
2 Tb olive oil
2 cups yellow onions finely minced (almost a puree) in a food processor
1 Tb minced garlic
1 Tb minced ginger
1/4 cup berbere
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 ts salt
1/2 cup Tej or honey wine
4 hard boiled eggs, shells removed, pierced all over with a fork

1) Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and soak with the lemon juice. Let it sit at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the food.

2) Heat two tablespoons of butter and the olive oil in a dutch oven style pot. Add the onions and saute, covered, over low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Add the garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon butter and continue to saute, covered for another 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

4) Add the berere and 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and saute, covered for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5) Add the chicken pieces, chicken stock, salt, and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6) Add the boiled eggs and simmer on low heat, covered, for another 7 minutes.

Serve warm with injera or rice.



2 1/4 c flour
1/2 ts baking soda
1/4 ts salt
2 Tb lebkuchengewurz (see below)
1/2 ts finely ground white pepper
1/4 c almond meal (not almond flour)
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c honey
1/4 c molasses
5 Tb unsalted butter
3 Tb milk or cream
1 large egg

For the glaze:
2 1/2 c powdered sugar
3-4 Tb hot water
anise oil or almond extract

For the lebkuchengewurz: Traditional German gingerbread spice
1 1/2 Tb ground cinnamon
2 ts ground cloves
1/2 ts ground allspice
1/2 ts ground coriander
1/2 ts ground green cardamom
1/2 ts ground ginger
1/2 ts ground star anise
1/4 ts ground mace
1/4 ts ground nutmeg

Mix the spices together and pour into a jar. You'll have some leftover after making this pfeffernusse recipe.

1) In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, lebkuchengewurz, white pepper, and almond meal. Set aside.

2) Combine the brown sugar, honey, molasses, butter, and cream or milk in a medium saucepan and heat, stirring frequently until melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes. Stir in the flour mixture. Once incorporated, stir in the egg until thoroughly combined. The dough will have a glossy sheen and be very sticky.

3) Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap, pat into a square and wrap tightly. Refrigerate at least overnight or up to two days. DON'T SKIP THIS STEP! The cookies will be a sticky mess if you try to roll them without chilling.

4) Preheat over to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and immediately roll it into two strands, each 3/4 inch think. Slice the strands into 3/4 inch thick rounds and roll each round into a ball. Work quickly while the dough is still chilled.

5) Place the cookies on a line on a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

6) To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, water (more for thinner glaze, less for thicker, what ever you prefer) and either anise or almond flavoring. If your anise is like mine, you only need a TINY bit or it will be very strong.

7) Dip each cookie in the glaze and set on wire rack to harden.




Homemade pickles that are great alone or paired with a sandwich!

1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp crushed red peppers
1 tsp thyme
2 cucumbers, sliced

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake lightly to thoroughly mix.  Let sit for at least an hour. These keep for two weeks and get better with age. Easy and quick! 

Recipe from CSJ


Gingerbread Muffins with an Orange Zing

1 small/medium ripe banana
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1/2 and orange
1 tsp orange extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400℉. Grease 12 muffin cups.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the banana  and egg together using a fork until only small lumps remain. Use a spatula to stir in the vanilla, orange zest, orange extract, spices, and salt.

Add the oil, molasses and milk, incorporating fully between each ingredient. Add the sugars and mix. Stir in the baking powder and soda. Fold in the flour just until combined. Don't over mix.

Pour into 10-12 muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes at 400℉ and then reduce temperature to 375℉ and bake for 7-9 minutes more until a toothpick comes out clean. For moister muffins, remove muffins from oven when toothpick comes out with just a bit of crumbly batter.

Cool for 5 minutes. These tasty muffins are best served warm and are delicious with butter.

Adapted from recipe from Fork Knife Swoon.


Warm Moroccan Chicken and Sweet Potato Salad

For the Chicken:
3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 lb. total)
1 tsp. mild curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt

For the Salad:
2 tsp. mild curry powder
1 Tbs. ground cumin
7 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Place the chicken in a large saucepan with the curry powder, cumin, and salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chicken is tender, 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and discard the liquid. Let the chicken cool.

When the chicken is cool, remove the meat from the bone and tear into pieces. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 375℉. Mix the curry powder, cumin, and 1/12 tsp. salt. Toss half of the spice mixture with 1 Tbs. of oil and the sweet potatoes. Spread in a baking pan and roast until tender, 30 minutes.

Toss the almonds and pumpkin seeds with the remaining spice mixture and 1 Tbs. of oil, place on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven until the almonds are seeds are golden, 10-12 minutes. Set aside.

For the dressing. whisk the vinegar, garlic, and remaining 5 Tbs. of oil.

When the potatoes are done, add the chicken pieces, almonds, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, green onions, chopped cilantro, and dressing. Mix well.

Serves 6


Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola, and Brown-Butter Pecans

10 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed (2 cups)
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb dried ear shaped pasta (the recipe I followed asked for orecchiette, but you could use medium shells)
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (walnuts will also work)
1 large shallot, minced (may substitute with a couple cloves of garlic)
1/2 cup cream or milk
1/2 cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the lower third of the over, set a heavy rimmed baking sheet on the rack and heat the oven to 500℉. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil over high heat.

In a food processor, slice the Brussels sprouts. Transfer them to a large bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss until well coated. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and spread the sprouts on it in a single layer. Roast, stirring once halfway through the cooking time, until the sprouts are tender and flecked with charred bits, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions.

In a medium heavy-duty skillet, melt 1/2 Tbs. of the butter over medium heat. Add the nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until the butter is deeply browned and the pecans are toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Melt the remaining 1/2 Tbs. butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots (or garlic) and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the cream/milk and bring to a simmer. Off the heat, add the Gorgonzola and stir until melted.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the Brussels sprouts, Gorgonzola sauce, and lemon juice and toss well.


Adapted from recipe in CookFresh



I learned how to make this recipe from an Indian friend of mine and it is amazingly easy and very delicious.

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
 1 cup milk
1 egg
1 Tb vegetable oil in a bowl to moisten fingers when forming bread

1. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar together.
2. Whisk milk and egg together.
3. Slowly add milk/egg mixture to dry ingredients to form a dough.  It should not be too sticky.  If so, add more flour.
4. From dough into golf size pieces.
5. Roll out dough balls thinly and cook over skillet on the stove.  Flipping after about 2 minutes.
6. Brush butter over the top, if desired, and serve.


Lemon curd

This curd is great with tea scones.  The flavor is intense and so fresh!

2 large lemons, juiced
3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 and 1/4 tsp lemon zest (from lemons above)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold butter, diced

1. In a saucepan combine the lemon zest and the sugar.
2. Whisk in the yolks and then the whole eggs.  Add salt.
3. Slowly add the lemon juice from the lemons. The mixture will be thick.
4. Put the saucepan over medium heat and stir continuously, until thickened. The mixture will physically change from just thick and light to more bubbly and thick.
5. Remove from heat and add bits of butter while whisking until all butter is added and melted.
6. Let cool and enjoy!

This recipe is simplified and based off of the recipe at cafejohsonia.


Quick Cinnamon Swirl Bread

This quick bread is perfect when you don't have time (or simply can't wait) for cinnamon rolls. Tom said it best when he told me, "Mom, you should make this more often."

2 cups flour (I like half whole wheat and half white)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk*
6 Tbsp butter, melted
1 egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tsp milk

*You can fake the buttermilk by mixing 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar and allowing the milk to "sour" for 5 minutes.

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Whisk butter and egg then buttermilk together; stir into dry ingredients just until combined. (Over mixing will result in a rubbery bread.) In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

2. Grease the bottom only of a 8"x4" loaf pan. Pour 1/3 of the batter into pan; sprinkle with almost half the cinnamon-sugar. Spoon another 1/3 of the batter and sprinkle with almost all the remaining cinnamon-sugar. Spoon last 1/3 of the batter, sprinkle with the last couple teaspoons of cinnamon-sugar; cut through batter with a knife to swirl.

3. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Combine powdered sugar and enough milk to reach desired consistency; drizzle over loaf and enjoy!


Healthier Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef (lean)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove garlic, diced)
3 tablespoons Worchestshire sauce
Salt to taste
12 oz. pasta

1. In a large pan, sauté onions in olive oil until tender. Add ground beef and brown.
2. In a sauce pan bring water to boil and cook noodles according to package instructions. 
3. Add chopped cauliflower to onions and beef and sauté for a few minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes, or until broth has thickened. 
4. Remove from heat. Add Worchestshire sauce and yogurt. Stir. Add salt as needed. 
5. Serve on top of prepared pasta. 


Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Is there anything better than a mug of hot cocoa after playing in the snow on a chilly day? Not really. And now you can make your own mix! I usually whisk up two batches of this per winter for our family. So easy and no funny ingredients. 

2 1/2 cups powdered milk*
2 cups bakers cocoa
2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 tsp kosher salt (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

* I've found that the very fine powdered milk like Argason Farms (sold in a #10 can at Walmart) works better than the granulated powdered milk.

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 5 1/2 cups of dry mix.

Mix 3-4 tablespoons hot cocoa mix with a cup of boiling water. Stir very well and enjoy! Cool with a little milk or half + half if desired.


Giant Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

ala Great Harvest... large, flat, chewy, buttery, addicting, etc.

2 to 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp molasses or honey
1 Tbsp milk
2 cups rolled oats
1 (12 ounce) pkg semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium sized bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together until well combined. Add eggs, vanilla, molasses, and milk and beat well. Add oats and mix until just incorporated. Add dry ingredients and mix until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

3. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop dough and drop about 3 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

4. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until just starting to brown around the edges. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets then remove and cool on racks.