Comfort Foods and Indulgences

plumcakeI love this cake. I think of it as a dessert for a minor event, like when a couple of girlfriends come over for dinner or I’m celebrating an insignificant birthday, say, turning forty-three. (Okay, fine, so that happened a while ago.)

This recipe is easy and vey forgiving. I am a crabby cook, which is to say that after preparing a couple of courses I am often in a high state of irritability when faced with creating a third, as in dessert.

Once, when making this cake in a fit of impatience, I threw all the wet ingredients in a food processor, even the milk, which actually requires a more gentle, gradual entry. After I hurled in the flour mixture, the batter looked like something you use to make sidewalks but it all turned out beautifully.

I made this one with plums (which I bought way too many of at the Farmer’s Market) but you can use other fruit—peaches, pears, whatever. And if you have any patience left (I didn’t), make some whipped cream to go with it.

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mushroomleekpuddingIf you make anything new this Fall season, make sure it's this. It would also be an amazing addition to the holiday table because it is so dang fantastic. No one is going to be able to keep their fork out of it.

This dish is so good, my twelve year old requested leftovers for breakfast. Go figure. It's just one of those lingering tastes that leaves you wanting more. It's earthy and decadent and received rave, RAVE reviews from my family.

This recipe came from Food Network's Magazine this month (I love this magazine), but I did change a few things. I used a little more bread, regular butter, bacon instead of pancetta, sage instead of tarragon, white wine instead of sherry and more cheese of course. It was perfect, just perfect.


Cremini mushrooms are also a nice choice for this dish. They are a little firmer than the white mushroom, so they hold up better. And, they have a fuller flavor.

I placed the hot mushroom mixture on top of the dried bread cubes to cool slightly before tossing with the egg mixture.

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milkalmond.jpgNot too long ago I was a bittersweet chocolate snob. I would only eat chocolate bars with a very high percentage of cacao, the higher the better. But I've discovered some milk chocolate recently that I really love. If you only eat high percentage cacao, I urge you to try some of the more exquisite milk chocolates on the market. They may surprise you. They certainly surprised me.

Milk chocolate has milk powder or condensed milk as an ingredient and generally has much lower percentages of cacao. Having tasted lots of chocolate, I am still very fussy about what I like and what I don't like. Regardless of the cacao content, good chocolate has to have clean flavors, it can't be too sweet, too salty or overwhelmed by flavorings such as vanilla. It should melt smoothly without a hint of graininess. It should be so good that even a little bit satisfies.

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ImageSo this isn't just broccoli with Cheetos crushed over the top, that would be silly. This is broccoli with a garnish of Cheetos served on top of a rich, garlic-shallot infused sauce made from Gouda and Parmesan cheeses. Perfection.

Now, when I placed this on the dinner table, my kids looked at me like I was half-cracked or had lost my mind. But at the same time they were cheering because Cheetos were going to be a part of dinner. Score.

Apparently this dish is all the rage at Park Avenue Winter, a New York City restaurant that serves this dish up as a side dish on their regular menu. The Cheetos-loving chef, Craig Koketsu, claims this dish sells better than the French fries on the menu. I believe him.

The sauce has depth and complexity and the Cheetos change up the texture in a nice way. It just rocks.

Everyone ate their broccoli last night. First time ever.

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ImageThere must be as many ways to make chili as there are shades of Sherwin-Williams paints. There’s no right or wrong way to make chili. It’s all about what pleases your taste buds. And, I’m always willing to give a new twist to a pot of chili.

Dennis Weimann, News Director/Anchor of Lakeland News at Lakeland Public Television sent me an email the other day and shared a chili recipe he had developed. He was planning to make a pot that day. Maybe he’s getting ready for the next United Way Chili Cook-off in Bemidji. I examined the list of ingredients. First, I noticed it had beans and meat. That’s important to me. I can eat a chili with beans and meat or with beans only. I don’t mean to make any of my Texas friends shudder, but I just can’t call it chili if there is only meat with no beans in the pot.

As my eyes moved further down the list of ingredients, I began to see a side of Dennis Weimann that amazed me. I had no idea he was a spice guy. A chili head. A lover of heat.

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