New York Times Original Plum (or any other fruit) Torte


As I mentioned we’ve had a few birthdays around here lately. Birthdays always involve lots of cooking and baking of new recipes and old recipes. This one here is apparently an old recipe that is new to me.

I needed a simple cake to serve on my daughter’s “real” birthday, which fell on a weeknight, which meant I did not have time to create an extravagant cake per usual. This recipe has RAVE reviews on NYT and seemed so simple I couldn’t resist giving it a shot. Well, it had RAVE reviews in my kitchen as well. Family described it as, “A delicious giant biscuit” and “crispy on the outside but so crumbly on the inside.” Everyone demanded the recipe.

Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of it after it was baked but I did manage to capture the photo above pre-oven. (I am just trying to get my head back into blogging!) As you can see I used strawberries instead of plums, as they are the birthday girl’s favorite. Any stone fruit would work well. Also, commenters in the original NYT article suggested raspberries and blueberries. While I served ours after dinner topped with creamy vanilla ice cream, it can certainly be eaten as a coffee cake alongside a cup of hot tea or at breakfast.

I made one substitution by using gluten free rice flour (from Trader Joe’s) instead of white flour. This was the first time of done that. No one seemed to notice! Gluten free flour in birthday cake for the win!

Enjoy, my friends.

New York Ties Plum (or any other fruit) Torte:

  •  cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup flour (I used Gluten Free Rice Flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •  Pinch of salt 
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums or as many sliced strawberries as you’d like
  •  Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.

Spoon the batter into a springform pan of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves (or other fruit) skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Bake 45 minutes , approximately. Remove and cool. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Adapted from recipe found here on




Brownie Garden for Spring or Easter


I fell in love with these sweet little garden brownie bites from the moment I came across them on Party Pinching. How cute are they? Start with your favorite brownie recipe, brownie cupcake recipe, boxed brownie mix, or Entenmann’s Little Brownie Bites. Top each with your favorite chocolate frosting recipe (or buy a can of pre-made frosting) and crushed Oreo cookies (for “dirt”). Then use the following items to decorate:

Mini Cabbages

Mini Carrots

  • Orange Mike & Ikes
  • Melted green candy melts
  • Clover shaped candy sprinkles (or the extra cabbage leaves–Frosted Flakes sprayed green with the Wilton color mist)


  • Wilton sugar flowers


Original recipe found here on Party Pinching.


Barn Birthday Cake


This post has been in my draft folder for a year! Not sure why it never published! Better late than never 😉

For our little girl’s second birthday we hosted an apple picking party at a farm. I was excited for the opportunity to make a barn cake, and barn cake I made! Unfortunately, there were some structural issues and by morning the cake had already begun folding in on itself. A long car ride to the farm finished the job and by party time, the cake was a pile of frosting and fondant with a few barnyard animals poking through.

Below is the barn made using a 9 x 13 cake cut into triangles. I placed this on top of a double layer 9 x 13 cake and I think it was just too heavy. In retrospect,I think I needed a dowel to hold the barn onto the double sheet cake.

Because I spent so much time decorating the cake (cakes are truly a gift of time and love!) you might think I would be upset about serving guests a heap of smashed cake. I wasn’t really. Here’s the reason. Our little girl LOVED the cake! When she came down in the morning and saw it sitting on the table she circled it repeatedly saying, “Mommy made cake for me! Daddy, look! Daddy, look! Look at this cake! Mommy made it for me!” She delighted in poking her little fingers through the fencing to point out the different animals and sugared daisies. She was SO excited!

The above photo was taken the evening before the party. (I had full intention of capturing a gorgeous natural light photos on the day of the party but,  ah well. You win some you lose some! Sigh.)

At least the most important guest appreciated her Mama’s work! That’s really all that matters!

Barn cake!


At least the barn yard animal backpack favors were cute!

Have you ever had a major cake fail?

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

Ina Garten has been my favorite celebrity chef for a while now. There is such tranquility about her. I admire how she relies on solid ingredients and lets the food speak for itself. She creates hearty, satisfying, and delicious meals and she entertains with such ease. Her show is peaceful and calming as opposed to others on the same channel that are so frenetic. And her recipes are reliable. I have made several over the years including Maple Baked Beans and Soba Noodle Salad. She doesn’t disappoint!

Here is another one to add to the list! This Middle Eastern salad is perfect to make at the start of the week and scoop out each day for lunch. The chickpeas make it hearty and satisfying, the feta and lemon juice give it some punch, and the cucumber and herbs provide serious freshness. Mother Nature is not kidding around with the flavor in this dish!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad:

  • 10 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded, cored, and 1/2-inch-diced
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and 1/2-inch-diced
  • 1 can or jar (12 to 16 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, 1/2-inch-diced
  • Toasted pita bread, for serving

Place the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, mint, and basil in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing gently to coat all the vegetables. Add the feta, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss gently. Serve the salad with the toasted pita bread.

Middle Eastern Salad found here on also in Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Folks, before you read this recipe I need you to promise me you will not look at the nutritional info on this one. This is one of those “holiday indulgences” where you savor every bite and don’t think twice. It is rich + creamy + salty + sweet: a formula for heaven if you ask me.  Bring this to a holiday party and you will be the most popular guest.

I found the recipe on  (my new favorite site) and I owe ShannonA in AZ a million thanks for putting it out there.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake:

  • 35 Oreo cookies
  • 4 tablespoons butter ( melted and cooled)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 24 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese ( at room temperature)
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 16 Reese’s Peanut butter cups roughly chopped +3 for garnish
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 ounces whipping cream

Prepare crust

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cover the bottom of a 10-inch spring-form pan tightly with aluminum foil. Using a food processor, finely crush all the Oreo cookies.  Add melted butter, water and sugar to the cookie crumbs and continue using processor until the mixture is well blended. Turn this cookie mixture out into the spring-form pan and using your fingers, gently work the cookie mixture until the bottom of the pan is covered with about one inch up on the sides.  Bake for only 6 or 7 minutes, no longer or the crust will be too hard.

Prepare filling

In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy. When cream cheese is fluffy, add in one egg and mix well. Add second egg and mix well. Add in sour cream and sugar. Remove electric mixture to gently fold in the chocolate chips and chopped peanut butter cups. Pour batter onto the crust and spread the mixture out from the middle to all the sides to help it bake evenly.

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place spring-form pan in middle and bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes, or until top is light brown. Transfer the cheese cake to a rack and cool while still in the spring-form pan. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the cheesecake and refrigerate (still in spring-form pan) for at least four hours or more- overnight is best.

Prepare glaze: Melt chocolate chips, butter and only 1/3 of the heavy whipping cream in a double boiler over medium heat until just at the melting stage. Remove from heat and stir mixture until smooth. While still warm, stir in remaining heavy whipping cream and mix until well blended.

Run a small sharp knife  around the edges of the spring-form pan to gently separate the cheesecake from the pan sides. Release the spring-form and remove from the cheesecake.  Place cheesecake on serving dish and pour the chocolate glaze into the shallow crater.  Garnish with remaining peanut butter cup pieces.

Refrigerate to allow the glaze to set.

Adapted from Sinful Snickers Cheesecake found here on



The very generous folks from POM Wonderful sent me several bottles of POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice.  They also sent a very informative fact sheet containing some interesting information about pomegranate juice and the health benefits of drinking it.  Here are a couple of points that I found particularly interesting:

  • “Wonderful” is actually a variety of pomegranates known for its “unique combination of superior antioxidants, delicious taste, and deep crimson color.”  I found this interesting because I thought “POM Wonderful” was just the name of the company! I had no idea it referred to a type of pomegranate.
  • Pomegranate juice is often referred to as “the most potent antioxidant in nature” and is linked to improved cardiovascular and prostate health.

POM Wonderful is 100% juice and does not contain any added sugar.  Each 8 ounce bottle contains 150 calories.  I have been sipping on these adorable little bottles of juice for a few weeks now (in fact I think I can credit them with nursing me back to health during a nasty flu virus). 

Boston weather this week was much less than desirable, but suddenly, on Friday afternoon the sun came out!  I immediately determined it was SANGRIA time. What better way to kick off a beautiful weekend than with a batch of fresh sangria!?  I had a few bottles of POM Wonderful remaining and I knew they would make the perfect addition to my concoction!   

POM-gria is not only delicious, but it is probably the most nutritious a cocktail could possibly be!  The health benefits of red wine have been bludgeoned into our heads—right?  Take that wine and add “the most potent antioxidant in nature” (POM Wonderful juice), raspberries (also touted for their high level of antioxidants), orange and peach slices (hello Vitamin C), and there you have a cocktail worthy of every sip. 

POM-gria (Sangria):

  • 1 12-ounce bottle of red wine
  • 3 oranges, sliced with skin still on
  • 2 peaches, sliced with skin still on
  • 1-2 cups raspberries, frozen or fresh
  • the juice of two limes
  • 2 8-ounce bottles of POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 liter of Pomegranate flavored seltzer (Polar is great)

Put the orange slices, peach slices, and raspberries into a pitcher or container.  Pour wine, lime juice, and POM Wonderful juice over all of the fruit.  Let it sit for at least an hour.  (Over night is best.) Just before serving add seltzer.  Serve chilled.

Eating the wine-soaked fruit is the best part!


Thai Lettuce Wraps


 This is a perfect “make Sunday and serve Monday and Tuesday” meal!  The flavors deepen as the turkey marinates so a couple of days in the fridge actually boosts the flavor.  The textures of the meat, vegetables, and nuts make these wraps satisfying to the palette.  And they are fun to eat!  I served them with a side of stir-fried vegetables.  (They would also work well as a starter course.)

Thai Lettuce Wraps:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce + 1 tablespoon
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • 4 limes, juiced
  • 1.5 tablespoons Sriacha chili sauce (available in Asian markets or Asian ingredient aisle in grocery store)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 head Boston lettuce, leaves carefully removed, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts or almonds, coarsely chopped

Brown turkey.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in a covered glass bowl and refrigerate until cool.

In another bowl, combine all ingredients (except pepper, cucumber, lettuce, and nuts).  Add to turkey and mix.  Cover and allow to marinate overnight, or at least 3-4 hours for best taste. 

Remove from fridge and allow filling to come to room temperature.  Stir turkey mixture and add one tablespoon of light soy sauce to moisten it up.  Fill each piece of lettuce with filling.  Top with dice bell pepper, cucumber, and chopped nuts. Roll up and enjoy!

Adapted from Biggest Loser Ed’s Thai Turkey Wrap Recipe.