Cinnamon Crumb Cake

Crunchy crumbs straight out of the oven with tender fluffy cake on the bottom, but, wait!  You’ll want to wait about an hour to eat this cake.  It was a pleasure to eat warm with the light, flaky crumbs melting under my bite.  Sweet cinnamon cake and a good cup of coffee, that’s a match made in heaven.

Cinnamon Crumb Cake
makes 1 – 8×8 inch baking dish

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup butter, soft, 8 Tablespoons
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream (+1 TBSP, roughly)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Crumb Topping:
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
6 Tablespoons butter, soft

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Sift dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Combine dry ingredients with the wet.  Pour  batter into well-buttered baking dish.  Combine crumb mixture in a small bowl.  Top cake batter with thick crumbs of the mixture.

Bake at 325 degrees F for 60-63 min in 8×8 inch baking dish

Very nice rise and light golden brown edges, this is going to be a new favorite…

We’re sure of it.

Trader Joe’s Cocoa Brownie

It’s really amazing just how much you can cut back on the butter and still end up with a rich and chocolate-y brownie.  This version has exactly half of the butter as the original recipe.  At 45 minutes, the center is still gooey (like a molten chocolate cake).  But, if you let it continue to bake, the center puffs up and turns into a brownie.

This is adapted from Hershey’s Best Cocoa Brownie recipe.  The main difference?  This version has half of the butter, 1/2 cup less sugar and one less egg.

Trader Joe’s Cocoa Brownie
makes 1 8×8 inch baking dish
(or 1 9×7 inch baking dish)

8 Tablespoons butter, 1 stick, soft and melty
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup Trader Joe’s (or Hershey’s) cocoa
1 cup AP flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter, sugar, salt, eggs and vanilla.  Add cocoa.  Stir.  Add flour.  Stir to combine.  Pour into buttered 8×8 inch baking dish (or 1 – 9×7 inch baking dish).

Bake at 350 degrees F in 8×8 inch baking dish for 50-52 min.

Coconut Raisin Granola

Why would you ever buy granola?  It’s the perfect kitchen sink recipe.  Throw in all your favorite healthy treats.  I love coconut.  So, I go crazy with it.  The whole thing whips up in about 2 minutes.  It bakes up golden and delicious in exactly 20 minutes.  Then, just let it cool on the stove top and fill your house with the scent of sweet golden oats.  Next time, I’ll be adding a splash of maple syrup and pecan chunks.

This one batch is breakfast for a week… at least.  Or, after baking your granola, toss in some chocolate chips for a mostly healthy and delicious granola trail mix.

Coconut Raisin Granola
makes over 4 cups

4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup flour
2 cups oats, thick rolled

1 cup raisins, heaping
1 cup coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl.  Melt butter.  Add sugar, salt, cinnamon, and honey.  Stir to combine.  Then, add oats and flour.  Stir briefly.  Add raisins, coconut, and a splash of water.  (The water helps if you like big chunks.  I do!!)  Stir again.  Press into a buttered 9×13 inch baking dish.  Then, bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes.  Stir once very gently.  Return to oven for 5 minutes, if needed.  Let cool for at least 1 – 2 hours before packaging.

Love raisins?  Add more!

Favorite Sandwich Of The Year (So Far)

Candied Lemon And Walnut Bread With Chicken & Tomatoes

A sandwich made with love can be a great meal.

Perfectly ripe black krim tomatoes make every sandwich better?  So, yes, those definitely added to the savory richness of this sandwich.  Buttery bread with candied lemon peel and hefty dose of walnuts added another layer of flavor.  The sweet-tart acidic bite of candied lemon brought a bright and perky lightness that balanced the richness.  When all the players bring their game to the party, it’s a recipe for success.  That’s definitely the case here.  I will definitely be attempting a home-made version of this bread some time soon.

Another version of this sandwich included slices of Whole Food’s smoked turkey breast and a nutty Austrian cheese (A version of Swiss style cheese found at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market) that’s a new favorite of mine.  Smoked turkey and tomatoes are a marriage made in heaven.

Don’t forget those tomatoes!

Lemon Walnut Bread With Chicken & Tomato
makes 1 sandwich

2 slices candied lemon & walnut bread
1 roasted chicken breast, no skin, shredded
sandwich spread (see below)
ripe tomato slices
black pepper, freshly ground
fine sea salt

Combine chicken with sandwich spread.  Refrigerate for about 1 hour.  Toast bread.  Top one slice of bread with chicken mixture and tomato slices.  Sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper and fine sea salt.  Slice.  And…

It’s lunchtime!

Sandwich Spread
makes 2 sandwiches

1 generous Tablespoon mayonaise
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
splash of Tabasco
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
grind or two of black pepper

Combine all.  Brush bread (toasted or otherwise) lightly with the spread.  There should be enough to lightly cover 4 slices of sandwich bread.

Psst… This also makes two seriously good tomato sandwiches!

Masa Real — Version Two

This version is a bit more tender, soft, and fluffier than a traditional Masa Real.  I love both versions.  But, I must confess, this version is my current favorite.

Masa Real

8 Tablespoons butter, soft
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

guava paste or jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter, eggs, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Set aside.  Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Add to creamed mixture.  Stir to combine.  Pour into very well buttered baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.  Let cool briefly.  Remove from pan.  Then, let cool thoroughly.  Carefully slice cake down the middle.  Spread with guava jam or spreadable paste mixture.  Place  top layer of cake on top.  Cover and chill for about an hour before cutting into pieces.  This allows easier slicing.

Spreadable Guava Paste:

For paste, melt in saucepan with a splash of water and a couple tablespoons butter.  (Psst, here’s a top secret tip.  This makes a great topping for biscuits, bagels, toast, and/or a slice of pound cake.)

Herb Topped Sourdough Loaf

Topped with Dill, Fennel, Marjoram, & Sea Salt

This blend of herbs mingled nicely with the sour dough.  And, it filled the house with the most delicious scent of freshly baked sour dough bread.

Herb Topped Sourdough Loaf
makes 1 loaf

1 cup sour dough starter, room temperature
1/2 cup warm, filtered water
3 cups bread flour, or as needed to form a moist dough
1 teaspoon yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Combine all.  Let sit for 1 hour.  Knead.  Form Loaf.  Sprinkle with herb and salt mixture.  Let rise for 1 hour, or as needed to rise properly.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 55-60 minutes.

Herb Mix

1/2 teaspoon fennel, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Peanut Banana Oat Dog Treats

Can you eat them too?  Sure.  But, they’re more than a little bit on the bland side.

Our dog is a spoiled little monster.  She’s not a fan of any dog food.  Left to her own devices, she’d choose to starve to death rather than eat actual dog food.  Since we sort of love our evil little gremlin (and she seems knows this and use it against us), she requires a daily bribe to eat her puppy nuggets.  One treat before each meal seems to be enough to get her stomach rumbling.

(She’s an active runner and quite a muscular little gremlin.  So, we don’t have to worry about her daily intake of extra calories.)

Peanut Butter Banana Dog Treats
makes about 22 small treats

1 banana, over ripe
4 Tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup AP flour
1 cup rolled oats
additional oats for rolling, if desired

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl.  If desired, roll in additional oats to make flattening treats easier.  Roll dough into balls.  Place on parchment and flatten with your fingers.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Let cool in hot oven.  After 40 minutes, they are crispy on the outside with a moist center.  For hard, crispy cookies, leave them in the oven overnight.  Then, place in airtight tin.

Portia Approved!

She’s devouring them on a daily basis.

What perks up those ears?  “Treat!”

Peanut Banana Butter

This great little spread does it all.  It can be a snack, a meal or a sweet.  Just vary your portion to fit your hunger level.  It’s great straight off the spoon, too.  For a healthier treat, omit the sugar and add 1 tablespoon of honey (or no honey at all).  Here, I’m having a bit of a sweet treat with a spoonful on a piece of candied lemon and walnut bread.

Peanut Banana Butter
makes just under 1 cup

1 over-ripe banana
1 Tablespoons sugar, or to your taste
4 Tablespoons of your favorite peanut butter

In a measuring cup, combine banana and sugar.  Stir roughly with a spoon until the banana reaches the state of a puree.  (This takes about 5 seconds.  It’s so easy.)  Then, add peanut butter to your taste.  Place in jam jar and use immediately.  Or, refrigerate and use within the day.

Serve on toast, a cookie, or straight off the spoon and into your mouth.  (Yes, that’s a fresh clean spoon with each taste.)  One tablespoon on toast makes a very hearty snack or small breakfast.

Note:  You could easily add peanut butter to reach 1 full cup.  But, I prefer the smooth, creamy consistency with about 4 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter.

15 seconds in the microwave turned the candied lemon into a soft, sweet treat

Four Raspberries

Three in the picture, one in my mouth…

I grew these!

So, it took three long years of patience.  But, now the raspberry sprouts are really filling in nicely.  We’ll be fighting the squirrels and birds for one heaping pint of raspberries.  These were a little small, but very sweet and warm from the sun.  Raspberries have never tasted so good.

What’s eating my raspberries?  Once the berries show even a hint of red, they get eaten.  Sadly, we don’t mean by us.  On the bright side, every day we see a new sprout pop out of the ground.  We’re thrilled the vines are so healthy this year!  It’s about time.

As you can imagine with all of this nonstop rain, the dampness will cause even more berries to rot.  So, out of the heaping pint or two we were hoping to see ripen on the vines, we’re guessing a third or less of that will become ripe berries.

Two types of mint, sage, Greek oregano, scallions, parsley, basil (self-sprouted), and dill (self-sprouted) manage to thrive with zero effort on my part.  We haven’t even set up the watering systems this year.  A broken fountain took up a couple hours last week.  But, we’re pretty sure it’s given up its fight for life.  We’ll try to repurpose and relocate the fountain behind the wall. ( if we don’t break it in the relocation process)  It should add height and interest.  And, it’ll motivate us to spend some time adding more life into the tree-lined hill.

Some of those flower boxes are sprouting berry vines, too.  We’re not sure which type of berry.  So, we may or may not replant those in the bare spots at the end of the season.  Fountain on the far left? Maybe?  We’ll see.

My Recipe Of The Week?

Place warm, sun-ripened berry on your tongue and let it melt.


Nothing beats picking berries in your own back yard.

The Roses Are Gone

We missed most of the full blooming roses this year.  But, we were able to enjoy the buds and some of the full flowers.  The fragrance was nothing short of heavenly in the back yard.

The alpine strawberries have been sprouting nicely.  But, something is eating the tender little sprouts.  Originally, we saw a few dozen sprouts.  Now, we’re down to just a tiny handful.  We’re hoping some will make it through the summer.  If they don’t make it, I think I’ll plant another rosemary in the far corner.  And, we’ll let the blackberries slowly fill in the rest of the space.  We also found a tiny patch of wild strawberries growing along the fence line.  The handful of berries that we’ve seen are very very tiny.  If the Alpine strawberries make it, they should actually be slightly bigger than the wild berries.

After dinner this weekend, we’ll each be sipping one of these (in lieu of dessert).

Current Favorite Late Night Cocktail:

The Revolver
makes 2

4 ounces bourbon (or rye)
1 generous ounce of Tia Maria
two splash of orange bitters
two pieces of orange zest, no pith

Combine bourbon, Tia Maria and orange bitters in a mixing glass with ice.  Stir to combine.  Divide between two chilled rocks glasses.


At the corner of the wall, you can see a dark green blueberry bush and some of the blackberries sprouting over the planter boxes.  This location works well.  The shade of the trees keeps the blackberries from taking over.  We just nip anything that hangs over the wall.