Split Pea Soup

As I am looking out my window right now, it is snowing again, which means it is perfect soup weather, even though it is officially spring.  One of my favorites is a thick split pea soup, filled with all kinds of warmth and deliciousness.   The ham from the other day became the soup of today.  And there is nothing better than a rich, hearty soup to help warm you up from the inside out to remove all the chills.  My dad used to say that “it would warm the cockles of your heart”, and that it does.  I’ll serve this with the left over bierocks from the other day and we will have a perfect light dinner.



Hearty Split Pea Soup

I start with making the ham stock by boiling the ham bone in water, making sure I can get all the ham off the bone.

cooked ham, cut into chunks (I like bigger chunks, but cut them into whatever size you like)

onions, diced small

carrots, diced small

celery, diced small

dried split peas

frozen peas (optional)

green onions



salt & pepper to taste

ham or chicken stock

olive oil


Saute the onions, carrots and celery in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Then add the dried split peas and saute them for a couple of minutes.  Add your stock and bring to a boil.  Once the liquid has come to a rapid boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the lentils have become soft and almost mushy.  I usually cook mine down for at least an hour or more.  Feel free to add more stock as needed.  Add the ham, frozen peas (if using), oregano and thyme and continue cooking.  Top with chopped green onions right before serving.  Delicious!



Italian Cinnamon Mascarpone Rolls

A large part of how this blog came to be is through a dear friend of mine who was so impressed with how I can take a little of this and a little of that, stir my magic spoon and come up with something totally new, using leftovers that look look nothing at all like the first-overs.  I do this all the time.  I always have, but I really mastered this skill while running commercial kitchens and through my catering career.  My chef (who worked under me) and myself prided ourselves on starting with a full refrigerator on Monday and by Friday it was empty again, and whatever we had left over was turned into something completely new, but just as delicious.  This was a great skill to have in the restaurant business because it really helps your bottom line and the budget.

My Italian cinnamon mascarpone rolls are a prime example of how my magic spoon works.  When I made my bierocks and sausage rolls, I used all my filling and sausages, but still had some dough left over.  I also had some left over mascarpone mixture with cinnamon, pistachios and chocolate from my Italian mascarpone cheesecake, as well as some left over lemon glaze from my lemon-rosemary cookies.  I was trying to figure out what to do with all of them when the idea struck me to combine them all and see what I come up with.  And voila; my Italian cinnamon mascarpone rolls were created.   I also added more cinnamon and some turbinado sugar.  They were a huge hit too.   I believe the most important ingredients in any kitchen are imagination and creativity, mixed with love and passion.  Manja!





A Little Taste of Germany

My husband is German-American and tonight, I paid a little tribute to his German roots by cooking some of his favorite foods that he grew up with for our company who was visiting from California.  My mother-in-law is “famous” for her sausage rolls and bierocks, as they are known in Kansas, but they are also known as runzas or cabbage burgers  in other parts of the mid-west.  Bierocks are delicious meat pockets that look like a stuffed hamburger, with everything baked right inside the bun.  I can show you pictures, but because it is a family heirloom and treasure, and the recipe is heavily guarded, and I cannot divulge the actual recipe.

The filling – Ground beef, cabbage, onions, garlic and mushrooms.  One is vegetarian, made with vegan sausage, but otherwise the same.  One of our guests was vegetarian, so I made her some as well.  Cooking vegetarian isn’t any more difficult or challenging than  cooking non-vegetarian.


The Dough



The filled pockets, both meat and vegetarian, and the vegetarian sausage rolls as well before baking.  I used 2 types of vegetarian sausages.  One kind was a ground sausage that I used for the “meat” pockets, and then I used vegetarian sausage links for the sausage rolls.  I cooked them both the same way I cooked all the actual meat products, but of course I cooked them separately.


The finished bierocks and sausage rolls



Our welcoming spread that warmed our California guests who are not used to our wacky, unpredictable Colorado Spring weather.  Our complete meal consisted of both the bierocks and the sausage rolls; a corn, tomato, onion and basil salad; a red potato salad with a dill-mustard vinaigrette; the hazelnut brownies (you’ve seen them before); and a totally new creation for dessert (I will tell you more about that in my next post).    We also served a variety of wines and ports to round off the meal.  We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and of course, we all ate too much; again.


Spring in Colorado

As I mentioned yesterday, Spring in Colorado is really unpredictable.  We had unseasonably warm weather a couple of days ago, and today it is snowing.   We have a saying here, “if you don’t like the weather here, just wait 5 minutes, and it will change”.  This is so true too.  The way we cook here also varies just as much as our weather does.  Yesterday’s post was a Seared Ahi Tuna salad, perfect for warmer weather.  Today’s post is of a baked ham with a honey-mustard-tarragon sauce.   I needed to keep the oven on for a couple of hours to help us warm up the house, plus we also needed something a little more hardy to stick to our ribs.  I have company coming from California today, and they are not quite sure what to make of our wonderful, unpredictable weather.  I will treat them to some delicious, warming foods during their stay, and hopefully that will help them adjust a bit.  But you will have to stay tuned for that one; that is yet to come.  In fact, I am off to the kitchen to start preparing right now.

You can see one of my assistants, Lucie, in the background.  She is supervising, desperately hoping I drop some on the floor for her to clean up.  She is such a big help!



Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

When I make a salad, I really make a salad.  I like all different colors and textures mixed in with my salads.  I use a lot of different vegetables and nuts, seeds, or tortilla strips to add to the variety.  Most of the time, I make my own dressings too.  As the weather gets warmer, we eat more and more salads.  We eat the heavier foods when the weather gets colder.  Spring is just getting started though and right now our weather is hitting all four seasons in any given day.  So a salad today and maybe something cooked in the oven tomorrow.  Who knows?  This is Spring in Colorado and it is always very unpredictable.


Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

Seared ahi tuna, leaving the center nice and pink and tender

chopped romaine lettuce

shredded red cabbage

shredded carrot

cucumber slices

hard boiled egg

red onion, sliced very thin

cooked asparagus

red bell pepper strips

sliced avocado

green onions

fried tortilla strips (optional)


Today, I used my cherry vinaigrette, which paired nicely with the tuna and was very tasty.  My husband likes cheese on everything, but hates avocado.   Be creative.  Use what you like.  By adding a lot of color and texture, you are not only getting a lot of variety, but you are also getting a lot of nutrients from various sources, as well as getting in your servings of at least 5 fruits or vegetables.  Eat healthy and enjoy (especially after my indulgence of the decadent hazelnut brownie earlier).





Decadently Delicious Hazelnut Brownies

We all love brownies, and it seems the more ooey and gooey they are, the better we like them.  These brownies definitely fit the bill of being ooey and gooey and they are most definitely delicious.  These are eat with a fork or spoon brownies.  Counting calories is completely obsolete so don’t even bother.  All I can say is I am glad I am having salad for dinner tonight.  I think I blew my calorie count for the day, or maybe even possibly the week,  with my first bite.  Oh well.  Life is short.  Eat the brownies, walk on the wild side.

I cannot take credit for creating these decadent treats, but I would most definitely like to meet Ms. Candace Braun Davison, the creator of these treats and thank her.  I found the recipe on delish.

Before baking, I layered the brownies, starting with the brownie mix, then the hazelnut spread, and topped them off with more brownie mix.


The finished, melt-in-your-mouth brownie.  They are both Heaven sent and decadent at the same time.


Hazelnut Brownies

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup flour

1 cup cocoa powder

4 large eggs

1 13 oz jar of hazelnut spread or Nutella

Ferrero Rocher candies,  crumbled


Preheat oven to 350*F.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and the sugar.  Remove from the heat and add the flour, salt, cocoa powder and mix together.  Then whisk in the eggs.

Spray your baking pan with cooking spray.  I used a 9×13 pan, but if you want them even more decadent, use a smaller pan.  That will make them thicker.  Spoon 1/2 the brownie mix into the pan, then add your hazelnut spread with a spoon and gently spread over the chocolate mixture.  Gently spoon the rest of the chocolate mixture over the hazelnut layer and bake  for about 25-30 minutes.  You do not want to over bake the brownies.  The desired result is to have them soft and ooey-gooey.

Let them cool for at least 20 or so minutes before adding another layer of hazelnut spread.  Crumble some Ferrero Rocher candies on top, and be prepared for a few bites of pure bliss.

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas are potatoes that are pan fried and served in a spicy tomato sauce.   They are a traditional Spanish dish that can be served on their own as part of a tapas menu or as a side dish.  You can even use them as a breakfast dish.   They are full of the flavors, colors and spices of Spain and the Spanish way of life.  There are as many different variations as there are provinces in Spain.   Make them how you like them.  No matter how you fix them, they are mui delicioso!

If you are eating these on their own, or as part of a tapas menu, I would serve with a good Spanish Temperanillo, but if you are serving them as a side dish, then I would pair the wine with whatever the main dish is.



Patatas Bravas

potatoes, peeled and cut in a medium to large dice

olive oil

1 large shallot, diced fine,

garlic, minced

chipotle chiles and sauce, minced, to taste (it just depends on how spicy you like them)

dried, minced achiote chiles (optional, again, it depends on how spicy you like them)

sherry vinegar

tomatoes, chopped in a medium dice

salt & pepper to taste



fresh parsley, chopped


Boil the potatoes until just tender, then drain and set aside.  In small pan, heat the olive oil and cook the garlic and shallots until soft, or about 2 minutes.  Then add the sherry vinegar and cook down for about 1 more minute before adding the rest of the ingredients (except the parsley).  Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the pan, or use a separate pan.  Fry the potatoes in more olive oil until they are golden brown on all sides, stirring frequently.  Once the potatoes are done, mix in the tomato mixture and top with chopped parsley.  These can be served hot or at room temperature.   !Desfruitas!


There is More to Avocados than Just Guacamole

I grew up in Southern California, and I remember the days when people were begging you to take bags and bags of avocados that had fallen from their trees before these delicious fruits went bad.  You needed to use them right away too because they were so ripe.  I miss those days.  Today, especially here in Colorado, avocados are not falling from any nearby trees, so I have to buy them.  And though they are plentiful, and can be found everywhere, they can also be a bit pricey.  So I always try to be as creative with them as I can.  I love avocados.  I could easily eat them every day.  They are so tasty and so healthy too.

For Easter, one of the dishes I made was avocado bruschetta.   The avocado mixture is very similar to guacamole, but different enough to give it a new and refreshing twist.


For the crostinis, I used baguettes, sliced them at an angle and brushed both sides with olive oil.  Bake at 350* F for about 10-12 minutes per side, or until slightly browned and crisp on each side.

Avocado Mixture

fresh avocados, cut in chunks

garlic, minced

red onion, small dice

green onion, sliced very thin.

red pepper flakes to taste

lime juice

salt & pepper to taste




olive oil

Carefully mix all the ingredients together and chill.  Then serve on top of the toasted crostini.   Top with cilantro.



Although the avocado bruschetta was a huge success, because we had so much food, there was some left over.   So for a quick and light lunch, I made an open faced crab melt, using some of the left over avocado mixture.

Avocado Crab Melt

Use whatever type of bread and cheese you like.   I used sliced Rustic Pugliese.

Pugliese bread sliced to a medium thickness


jalapeno jack cheese


avocado mixture from above

Butter the bread on the bottom.  Add the cheese and toast in a toaster oven or a skillet to melt the cheese.  In a skillet, with just a little olive oil, brown up the crab.  Spoon the crab onto the toasted bread and top with the avocado mixture.  Voila!  A quick, healthy and tasty lunch or snack.



Easter Celebrations and Festivities

Easter is a time for new beginnings and celebrating the wonders of Spring.  It’s about getting together with loved ones and sharing with others.  It’s about rejoicing and being thankful and grateful for what we have.  And, it’s is also about food.  Lots of it.  One of the reasons for so much food at Easter is people are coming off their fast from Lent and can now eat all those things they gave up.  I did all of the above.  My dear friend Priscilla, whom I have known all my life,  and I co-hosted our Easter festivities, bringing together friends, both new and old, to help us celebrate the day.  Between the two of us, we created a very festive feast that was enjoyed by all.  We all ate too much, but thoroughly enjoyed all the great food and even better company.

I hope a good, Happy Easter or Passover was shared by all.

I prepared a chicken, asparagus, mushroom quiche; avocado bruschetta; patatas bravas; my Italian mascarpone cheese cake; and the glazed lemon-rosemary drops.



Priscilla’s very elegant table setting.  This was the “grown-up table”.  We also had one other table for the “under 30” crowd that was just as beautiful and elegant.



The main attractions, consisting of Priscilla’s Spring salad, a honey-baked ham, smoked turkey, stuffed French toast, patatas bravas, avocado bruschetta and chicken, asparagus and mushroom quiche.




Our dessert table





Cassata Alla Siciliana or Italian Mascarpone Cake with Toasted Almonds

This cake is a labor of love, but definitely worth the effort.  It is one of my favorite cakes, if not the favorite one.  Don’t bother counting calories for this one either.   Fortunately for my waistline, I don’t make this one too often.


Layering the cake and filling it with Mascarpone, pistachio, chocolate filling.


The cake is layered and ready to set in the fridge over night.


The piece de resistance.


The Sponge Cake

2 cups cake flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

8 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup melted butter


Preheat the oven to 350* F.  Prepare (2) 8 1/2 ” cake pans and line with parchment paper.

Sift all the dry ingredients together and set aside.   Mix all the egg yolks and sugar together, for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is light yellow.  Add the vanilla and melted butter and mix well.  Fold in the dry mixture.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites, with a pinch of salt until they form firm peaks.  Fold in egg whites with other mixture, and pour half of the batter into each of the prepared caked pans.  Bake until golden brown, for about 45 minutes.

Remove and let cool completely.


Rum Syrup

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup cold water

1/2 cup of rum.

Put everything together into a sauce pan and over a medium flame, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Set aside and let cool.

Once the cake is completely cooled, cut each cake in 1/2, making 4 pieces.  Brush the rum syrup over one piece, then fill with the mascarpone filling, and continue until you have your last piece of cake on the top.  Generously brush the rum syrup over the top of the cake.  Once the cake is layered, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but I usually leave mine in overnight.


Mascarpone Filling

3-4 oz mini chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate shavings

3/4 cup pistachios, chopped fine

3 cups mascarpone cheese, or soft cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp orange zest

Mix the mascarpone, powdered sugar and cinnamon in a mixer until well mixed, then add the chocolate and pistachios and mix until just blended.


Icing and Finishing Touches

2 cups powdered sugar

1 large egg white

2 TBSP water

1/2 tsp almond extract

toasted almond slivers

Clementine orange slices (optional); sometimes I also use pomegranates


Mix the first 4 ingredients together and spread over the sides and the top of the cake.  With your hand, pat the almonds along the sides of the cake.  Top with orange slices, then chill again for another 3-4 hours.

The results is pure deliciousness.  Enjoy!




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