Last Monday of March, a month that makes me happy for several reasons. I was born in March, Phil and I got married 15 years ago in March, and the month also welcomes the beginning of Spring.  Can you fully grasp the unmeasurable joy associated with it? It means I survived another winter, and here I am, alive and kicking to share with you one more adventure as part of The Secret Recipe Club.   You know, that event that pairs two food bloggers in secret, and then the whole group posts about their chosen dish at exactly the same time. My assignment this month was the blog Without Adornment, hosted by Bean. She has a degree in Chemical Engineering, and her hobbies are cooking/baking, and photography, so of course her blog is a perfect venue to showcase her talent.  I was thrilled by this assignment, because Bean is a very accomplished baker who must make exclusively gluten-free recipes. Those of you who have gluten allergies know how tricky it can be to try and mimic the delicious cookies, breads, pies, and muffins that rely on gluten for perfect texture and taste. Browsing her blog really opened my horizons and the list of goodies I wanted to try was extensive.  To name a few, I was inclined to bake a batch of her White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries,  then almost chose her Gluten-Free Pear Clafoutis, Another amazing option that I will bake soon: Dairy Free Creme Brulée (using coconut milk, how sweet is that?). As usual, savory stuff appeals a lot to me, so I also saved her Vegan Walnut Zucchini Crackers for final consideration. After a little bit of a mental struggle,  I went with her Raspberry Bars, in part because they use quinoa flakes and I had a box sitting in my pantry begging to come out and play.  I could not miss the opportunity…


(from Without Adornment)

1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup oats
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
3 tbsp. palm sugar
1/2 – 2/3 c. coconut oil
3 cup thawed raspberries, with as much of the liquid drained as you can.
3 – 4 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350F.

Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt. Add oats, quinoa flakes and palm sugar and mix until evenly distributed. Add in unmelted coconut oil. Using your fingers, work the coconut oil into the flour mixture until there are no lumps remaining and the mixture is crumbly.

In a separate bowl, stir together raspberries, honey and spices. Add more sweetener to reach desired sweetness. Press over half of the crumb mixture into a greased 8″ square pan. Scoop the raspberries onto the pressed bar mixture and distribute evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top of the raspberries and pat lightly.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until topping is light brown.

Cool completely before cutting into squares.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments:  I changed the recipe slightly by using a mixture of raspberries and blueberries, as the price tag on the raspberries was a little high. I don’t think it hurt anything, it just made the color of the filling darker than Bean’s concoction, and also a bit more chunky, as the blueberries retain their shape. The cute box of quinoa flakes was one of those classic impulse buys that I am often a victim of. But I knew the flakes would come in handy, and was glad to be able to use them in this recipe.


Gluten-free baking is really a huge challenge, because without gluten to provide that nice, elastic structure, baked goods tend to be dry, and much less pleasant to eat. However, using the right mixture of flours and grains, one can get close enough to the “real thing” and these bars are a perfect success story.  I took the squares to the department and did not mention they were gluten-free. Nobody seemed to notice, and they were inhaled in a little over one hour.  I call it a success story indeed.

Bean, I hope you had as much fun with your assignment as I had with mine!  And for those reading my blog, make sure to click on the blue amphibian smiling at you at the very end.  She (or he, who knows?) will take you to a new page showing all the tasty concoctions made by my virtual friends of The Secret Recipe Club.  Enjoy the collection!

ONE YEAR AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

THREE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese


Biscotti Baby ShowerToday I have a special post for you!  We are throwing a virtual baby shower for a great food blogger I got to know through the Secret Recipe Club, Tara,  from Tara’s Multicultural Table. We are all baking biscotti for this party. Why biscotti, you may ask? Well, it is her second baby, and these are twice baked cookies: a natural choice!  Wanna see what I came up with? Here they are:


I was quite excited to participate, because – believe it or not – I’d never made biscotti from scratch. But first, let me share a story. My first time enjoying biscotti was in 1991, during a visit to Italy. The best possible place to get acquainted with this delicacy, if you ask me.  I had given a seminar in a big vaccine biotech company, and they took me out for a fantastic dinner later that evening. After dinner, where vino was flowing freely, someone insisted that we should all head to a bar so that I could try biscotti dunked in grappa. I knew nothing about either entity, but quickly realized that they complement each other perfectly. The biscotti are hard, but the grappa softens it. And the sweetness of the biscotti masks quite well – maybe too well –  the alcohol in the grappa. Of course, after dunking, you’re supposed to drink the leftover grappa with the little tiny bits of biscotti that found their way to the bottom of the glass. Great food, vino, grappa, all framed by the beauty of Tuscany! Good thing I had already given my talk at that point, and was in full “dolce far niente” mode. At any rate, it was a magical evening. I remember a complete sense of awe as I walked back to my hotel under the most amazing full moon shining over the streets of Siena.  One of those perfect moments that stay with you forever. Since biscotti are so dear to my heart, I spent quite a bit of time debating which kind to bake for Tara’s baby shower. Of course, keeping it all baby-friendly, I’ll ask you to skip that dunking in grappa.  Unless there’s a full moon outside, then all bets are off… ;-)


(from Susan Russo, for NPR)

Makes about 36 biscotti

for the biscotti:
2 cups unsalted walnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing tops of loaves
3 tablespoons maple extract

for the icing:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Set aside.

In a large bowl, hand mix toasted walnuts, sugars, cinnamon, baking powder and flour. In a small bowl, whisk eggs. Add maple extract and whisk until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times. Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Shape as a ball and divide it into 4 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough, and using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 3/4 of an inch high. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with remaining three pieces of dough. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing, using a large serrated knife. Cut 3/4-inch-thick slices, using a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. Each loaf should yield 9 to 11 cookies.

Place slices on their sides back on to the baking sheets; place in the still warm oven with the temperature off and the door closed for 30 to 60 minutes. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

To make the maple icing, mix the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup in a small bowl and whisk briskly until the icing is smooth and opaque and clings to the back of a spoon. Dip a teaspoon into the icing and drizzle the spoon back-and-forth over the biscotti. Allow to dry completely before storing. Store biscotti in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I was a bit nervous about this baking adventure, because I know that biscotti can be tricky to make, and that very few things are worse than bad biscotti, right?  I fell in love with the flavors of this recipe because anything with maple makes me all warm inside, and walnuts only make it better.  I suppose most people go crazy for chocolate, but I usually opt for other flavors in sweets.  The recipe called for maple extract, because it has a more concentrated flavor, so I was “forced” to place an order for some. It smells amazing!

One of the tricky things about biscotti is slicing them after the first bake. You are supposed to wait for 20 minutes, and use a good quality serrated knife for the job. Worked great, I had no problems. By the way, I made half the recipe, and ended up with 18 biscotti, some quite small, cut from the edges. They are also called “sacrificial biscotti”. Honest. Not making that up.

I went for a double type of icing, the maple called for in the recipe, and then a drizzle of chocolate for cosmetic purposes.  But, after tasting them, I do think the chocolate drizzle did more than beautify them. The taste complements the maple and walnuts quite well.


Now that I am older, not necessarily wiser, I dunk my biscotti into a steaming hot cup of cappuccino… Great way to start any day!

Tara, I hope this virtual Baby Shower brought a big smile to your face, we certainly had a great time planning and making sure it was kept secret until today…

And here I share  the collection of biscotti from all virtual secreters who joined this party:

Biscotti Bites from Nicole at I am a Honey Bee

Blueberry Pecan Biscotti from Renee at Magnolia Days

Cinnamon Biscotti from Lauren at Sew You Think You Can Cook

Cranberry Pistachio biscotti from Stacy at Food Lust People Love

Dark Chocolate Orange Biscotti from Amy at Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Green Tea Biscotti Cookies from Rebekah at Making Miracles

Jam-Filled Mandelbrot from Kelly at Passion Kneaded

Maple Walnut Biscotti from Sally at Bewitching Kitchen

Nut-Free Anise Biscotti with Chocolate Chips from Susan at The Wimpy Vegetarian

Orange and Dark Chocolate Biscotti from Lynsey at Lynsey Lou’s

Orange, Date, and Almond Biscotti from Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories

Parmesan-Peppercorn Biscotti from Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Spa Water from of Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious

Biscotti Baby Shower

ONE YEAR AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

TWO YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

THREE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

FOUR YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

FIVE YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini



Herbed Goat Cheese Souffle
Last Monday of February, a month that used to be my favorite. Summer in Brazil, carnival (not that I was that much into it, but still, a big break from work in the height of the summer was always well-received). That all changed 23 years ago, when I first moved to France and then, a couple of years later permanently to the US.  February is now a month I do my best to survive. I count the days for it to be over to get some hope of life percolating back into my veins. ANYWAY, I am sure you are not here to read me whine and pout. Instead, you are here for the reward of a revelation: which blog was my assignment for this month’s adventure with The Secret Recipe Club: it was the The Wimpy Vegetarian!  I literally screamed with joy when I got the email notification, because as a regular reader of Susan’s blog, I felt totally at home “stalking” it.  You should visit her “About” page, but let me just say that when she decided to become a vegetarian, or as she put it “to focus more on a plant-based diet“, her husband was not exactly thrilled. He went along with it for a while, but at some point started referring to “farro” as “horse food“. No bueno, folks. But Susan fought back using all the culinary skills accumulated from her classes at Tante Marie Cooking School, and turned veggie dishes (horse food included) into concoctions her husband could not resist. She succeeded big time, and her blog is there to show us how. There were so many dishes I bookmarked as tempting possibilities, but I narrowed them down to these:  Rustic Cauliflower and Tomato Gratin, Arepas Rellenas (I even have the special flour to make them, so I must get to this recipe at some point), Skillet Baked Corn Pudding, Farinata (another recipe I’m always dreaming about), Sweet Potato Biscuit Pillows (excuse me, I need to wipe drool off the side of my mouth), Broccoli-Cheddar Quinoa Casserole Tart. Susan is a fantastic cook and often enters – and wins – cooking contests, so pretty much anything on her site feels quite special.  Pay her a visit, and become a subscriber, even if you are not a strict vegetarian.

For my assignment, I went with very elegant Herbed Goat Cheese souffles. They turned out amazing!


(from The Wimpy Vegetarian)

1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
zest from 1/2 medium lemon
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces fresh soft goat cheese
1 ounce ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup low-fat milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (I used 4)
butter for the ramekins

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prep the ramekins by smearing them with butter and sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on the bottoms and around the sides. Set aside.

Rub the dried lavender between your fingers to reduce as much as half of the buds to a powder. Combine this with the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of Parmesan, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, ricotta, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, thyme, honey, egg yolks, milk and flour together. Stir well to completely combine. Add to the reserved lavender mixture.

In a small bowl, whip the egg whites just to a firm peak. Be careful not to get them too firm, or they’ll be difficult to fold into the cheese-yolk mixture. Fold the beaten egg whites into the cheese-yolk mixture in thirds using a large spatula. It’s fine to have lumps of egg whites in the mixture – it will not be smooth. Place the ramekins in a baking dish and fill the dish with hot water one-half the way up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully spoon the cheese-egg mixture into the ramekins, filling them 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned on top and springy – firm to the touch. Remove and allow to cool in the ramekins for 15 minutes. The souffles will collapse and start to pull away from the sides of the ramekins. Run a knife around their edges and turn the ramekin upside down. The souffle should slide right out.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: What I loved the most about the recipe was the inclusion of lavender. It gave the souffle a sort of unusual component, Phil could not guess what it was, but once I told him it was lavender he could detect it. You need to add just a small amount, it is quite potent, don’t go crazy with it.  I was also surprised by the method of preparing the base, as I always make a bechamel type sauce. For this recipe, you mix it all and do not pre-cook, it goes straight into the oven, in a water-bath environment. Because I was afraid the mixture was a bit too liquid, I added double the amount of flour.  Not sure it was necessary, but they ended up with a very nice texture, and un-molded easily.


This is the type of recipe that would be perfect for entertaining, or for that special dinner for two, candlelight and all… a first date, a first year anniversary, you catch my drift.  Any meal will be special when these are part of the menu!

Susan, it was a great pleasure to indulge a little more deeply into your blog, I hope you also had a blast with your assignment this month…

For my readers, the usual reminder to poke the blue frog at the end of my post. She will take you to plenty of great recipes made by my fellow virtual friends at The Secret Recipe Club.

ONE YEAR AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

TWO YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

FIVE YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo (one of the best breads I ever made!)




It seems like FOREVER since we’ve had a Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club, but finally here we are, having the greatest time together…  My assigned blog for the first month of 2015 has such a cute name, makes me smile:  A Calculated Whisk… Becky, the cook behind the blog is a teacher of English to young Spanish-speaking kids, and next year will be starting to work on her master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology. Impressive!  Her site focuses on Paleo-friendly recipes, but is  not restricted to them. For those interested in the Paleo life-style,  I recommend reading her series of posts starting in January 1st, 2014, in which she shares her experience doing the Whole30 thing and blogging daily about it. That is endurance on several levels!  ;-)   Becky has two incredibly cute cats, Cupcake (a butter-addict) and Furpaws (prefers to hang inside the kitchen sink hoping for a sip of water straight from the faucet).  I say we pet lovers have our share of idiosyncratic creatures to deal with…    I am quite fond of Paleo recipes because they are usually moderate in carbs and high in protein, which is my preferred way to eat, so I had no problem finding stuff in her blog that pleased me. In fact, I intend to enjoy in the near future her Chicken Meatballs with Garlic Kale Marinara, her Chickpea Mushroom Spread (this one not Paleo), her Pumpkin and Pecorino Souffle (pretty intriguing gluten-free version), and her Spicy Cocoa Chili.  But this recipe won my heart to share with you today: Mini-Quiches with Duxelles and Broccoli.  As I expected, they were cute and absolutely delicious!


(slightly adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

makes 12 mini-quiches

for the duxelles:
2 tablespoons ghee
1 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup minced mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

for the mini quiches:
2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
4 whole eggs
2 egg whites
1/2 cup coconut milk, full fat
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil, for greasing the pan

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease a 12-cup muffin pan with olive oil.

To make the duxelles, melt the ghee in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and raise the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and most of it is gone, about 10 minutes. Season the duxelles liberally with salt and pepper, then set aside on a plate to cool.

Return the skillet to medium and add the chopped broccoli. Cook, stirring frequently, until bright green and crisp tender, about five minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Stir in the duxelles and broccoli. Divide the mixture among the 12 greased muffin cups, filling each one about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until just set in the middle.

Gently run a knife around the edge of each quiche, and carefully scoop them out with a spoon. Enjoy hot or warm. Leftover quiches can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheated.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I turned this recipe into a Neolithic version by adding feta cheese, my apologies to all modern cave men out there.  But some pieces of leftover feta were staring at me from the fridge JUST as I was grabbing the eggs, and they actually screamed when left behind: “Please, take us, take us!”. I could not ignore them, I’m sure Becky will forgive me for the tweak.  Those of you on a strict Paleo kick, simply omit the feta, but adjust the salt accordingly.

These were so tasty and convenient both as a side-dish at dinner or as a snack. Of course, you can think of all types of goodies to add to the mixture, keeping it Paleo with diced roasted butternut squash, shredded zucchini, or stretching a bit its limits with a little Roquefort or other yummy cheese.  However, this version joining broccoli with mushrooms is going to be hard to beat.


Becky, as soon as this post is public, I am going to subscribe to your blog, as I don’t want to miss any of your future recipes. I truly enjoyed secretively exploring your site, and look forward to more…

As usual, my readers are all invited to go poke a blue frog. There is one waiting for you at the end of the post, and once poked, you will be able to see what all my fellow Secreters have been up to in the first month of 2015! And if you are curious about who had my blog, take a look at this beautiful post by Tara.  She made brigadeiros!  Clever girl!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quinoa and Sweet Potato Cakes

TWO YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Bolo de Fuba’ Cremoso

THREE YEARS AGO: Citrus-crusted Tilapia Filets

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, not just for Hippies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Flourless Chocolate Cake



I have been a member of The Secret Recipe Club for a little over 3  years, and never get tired of it! Getting assigned a food blog every month to cook from is so much fun, because it exposes you to different styles of cooking and of course opens the horizons to new sites that could otherwise go unnoticed.  Every year,  the club takes a break for the holidays, so groups C and D do not post in December. However, instead of taking a break this year, Sarah, the club’s Owner – and Resident Saint who keeps our boats sailing smoothly – came up with a different twist: both groups would be joined in a single event, a Cookie Carnival Swap. Participation would not be mandatory, so that those who prefer to sit back and relax could do so. Me? Sitting out?  No way.  So, this month we have a huge event with 60 food bloggers! As usual, we were assigned a blog in secret, and had to pick a cookie recipe to make and blog about.  My assigned blog, Culinary Adventures with Camilla, was a ton of fun to stalk!  One of the things I loved about her site is that she designs all her recipes. Nothing from cookbooks or cooking shows. That is beyond impressive. Camilla describes herself as a “tree-hugging, veggie-crunching, jewelry-designing mean mommy who loves to cook but hates to clean”.  She is also a freelance writer and photographer for Edible Monterey Bay.  Is that cool or what?

I had a tough time deciding between three cookies: Faux-reosSalted Mayan Chocolate, and Spiced Honey-Ginger Cookies.  You must stop by and read about her Oreo Cookie experience, she was sort of challenged to make them from scratch, and admitted she had never even tried a Oreo until then. Talk about a challenge!   Still, my love for spices made me choose the last one. Plus, since the recipe called for ginger syrup, it gave me the opportunity of making it myself, something I’ve been meaning to try for years.


(slightly modified from Culinary Adventures with Camilla)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 C butter, at room temperature
1 cup raw turbinado sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup ginger syrup (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons honey (I used acacia honey)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place flour, ginger, baking soda, and spices into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Add in the sugar. Beat in the egg, honey, and ginger syrup. Mix together until a soft dough forms. Pinch off small amounts of dough,  and roll into balls. Place the balls 2″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet, flatten slightly. Bake until the tops are rounded and slightly cracked, about 13 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
to print the recipe, click here

(adapted from many sources)

4 ounces fresh ginger, unpeeled
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
pinch salt

Cut the ginger into small pieces.   Place the ginger pieces with water, sugar, and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce to a low simmer, and cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let cool, then strain the syrup through. Store the strained syrup in the refrigerator, covered. It should keep for a couple of weeks.

to print the ginger syrup recipe, click here



These cookies were absolutely delicious, and perfect for this time of the year. If you like gingersnaps, they will please you because they are similar, but the cardamon takes them in a slightly different direction. On a side note, every time I open the bottle of cardamon I get mesmerized by its intense, delicious smell. Truly addictive for me. I reduced the amount of ginger powder called for in the recipe because my syrup seemed very powerful.  Do not be alarmed by the amount of sugar in the recipe: one cup of sugar plus the syrup, and honey.  The cookies end up with a perfect balance of spice and sweetness.


I took the full batch (about 35 cookies) to our department, and once again they were a huge hit. They  seem pretty humble and harmless, but once you grab the first one it is impossible not to go back for more.

The ginger syrup was a fun culinary project that made our home smell terrific on a gray Saturday afternoon.  You will have more than you need for the cookies, so consider making homemade ginger ale: just add a little syrup to a glass with some ice cubes, squirt a little lime juice, and fill the glass with carbonated water or club soda.  If the temperature outside was not so polar-bear-friendly, I would have a glass right now.

Camilla, you have a great food blog, and I’ll be visiting you often from now on.  I hope you also had a blast with your assignment… As a note to my readers, at this time of the year cookies are in everyone’s mind, so click on the blue frog for a serious collection of goodies made by my fellow virtual friends from The Secret Recipe Club.

Sarah, thanks for organizing this event, saving me from a horrible SRC withdrawn episode!

ONE YEAR AGO: A Simple Taco to Remember

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Homemade Calzones

THREE YEARS AGO: Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

FOUR YEARS AGO: Holiday Double-Decker

FIVE YEARS AGO: New York Deli Rye



Last Monday of the month. You probably expect me to whine about the cold, but guess what?  As you read this post, I should  be far, far away in Brazil, enjoying balmy temperatures, wearing shorts, t-shirts, and recharging my batteries to face the frigid months ahead.  But the last Monday means fun, because it’s Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club! I was paired with the blog “A Day in the Life on the Farm“, hosted by Wendy. Her story is fascinating: she and her husband were police officers in a large city (which of course meant a ton of trouble in their hands…), but when they retired they moved to a tiny little town of 4,000 people, and bought a house on 12 acres of land.  They raise meat chickens, turkeys, and pigs, and Wendy – to fight her empty nest syndrome  –  decided to host foreign students in their place.  Now she works part-time for the World Heritage, placing students into homes for a year of schooling here in the US.  Being in academia and therefore often exposed to the troubles that foreign students face (plus, I was one myself), I know how important this type of work can be.  Please, stop by her about page and read more about their life on the farm, and how on top of everything she also takes care of her Mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. She actually devotes a section in her blog to talk about it, under Life with Mom. Beautiful, touching, and at times funny.

We had so much going on this past month, that I needed to jump on my assignment right away.  The recipe I set my eyes on was a drool-inducing dessert, a Caramelized Almond Apple Upside Down Cake. But, I decided against it.  Why? With Thanksgiving saying hello, then the holidays, a lot of heavy food will be popping everywhere.  I did not want to start early with the excesses, so this cake shall wait. Sorry, folks, but better safe than sorry.  Then, I almost went with her cute Pretzel Dogs. Finally it was a tough decision between Zucchini Enchiladas, or Green Rice.  As you can see, I went green.  Green is good for you, and this was one of the most flavorful rice dishes I’ve made.

Green Rice

(very slightly modified from A Day in the Life on the Farm)

2 poblano chile peppers
1 green pepper (I used half a Serrano)
1 cup long grain rice
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 cups chicken stock
1/2  teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil (I used grapeseed)
1 small shallot, minced
Dry roast the peppers in a griddle pan (or on a grill), turning frequently so the skins blacken but the flesh doesn’t burn.  Place in a strong plastic bag, seal and set aside for 20 minutes
Put the rice in a heat proof bowl, pour in boiling water to cover and let stand 20 minutes.
Drain the rice, rinse well under cold water and drain again.  Remove the peppers from the bag and peel off the skins.  Remove any stems, then slit the peppers and scrape out seeds with a sharp knife.
Put the peppers in a food processor, strip the leaves from the cilantro and parsley and add to peppers.  Pour in half the chicken stock and process until smooth.  Add remaining stock and puree again.
Heat oil in a saucepan, add the rice and minced shallot and fry for 5 minutes over med heat until the rice is golden and the shallot is translucent.  Add the salt, stir in the green puree, lower heat, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed  and the rice is just tender. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments:  Lately I’ve been quite smitten with poblano peppers.  Very little heat, but so much flavor! Our stove did a great job charring them, I don’t think I was ever able to get such a beautiful blackened skin with almost no effort.   Using a paper towel to remove the charred skin was also a great move, a tip I got from watching Marcela Valladolid in her show Mexican Made Easy.  I never liked the idea of rinsing the peppers because there’s quite a bit of flavor loss if you do that.  The paper towels removed just the skin and I could leave little bits here and there for an extra smoky flavor.   Aren’t they cute?


Adding boiling water to the rice and waiting for 20 minutes was also something I had never done, and I liked the texture of the finished product.  If you are a cilantro-hater, this rice is not for you, its flavor is obviously very prominent.  You could substitute spinach.

This was a delicious dinner!  Green rice, simple roasted carrots, and for our protein a few slices of center-cut pork chops, cooked sous-vide, and finished off on the grill.   Life is good!

Wendy, I hope you had a great time this month with your assignment!  It was wonderful to browse through your site, I read all your posts about your Mom, and am still in awe of your ability to do so much Everyday in your Life on the Farm… 

For my readers: if you want to see what my fellow Secret Friends cooked up this month, give a little click on the blue frog at the end of this post.   Normally Groups C and D would take a break in the month of December, but apparently me and Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious whined so much about withdrawal syndrome, that The Secret Recipe Club will have a little surprise reserved for both groups.  It will be awesome, so stay tuned!

ONE YEAR AGO: Potato-Crusted Italian Mini-Quiches

TWO YEARS AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

THREE YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

FOUR YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

FIVE YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread


Not sure what happened, we were waiting for Spring to arrive, I blinked twice and October is about to end. As those who follow my blog know very well by now, I look forward to the last Monday of each month, because it is Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club.  Food bloggers are paired in secret, choose a recipe to make from their assigned blog, and post about it on the exact same time.  This month I was assigned the blog hosted by Traci,  Burnt Apple.  Her choice of name for her blog gave me a huge smile – apparently she was not a very good cook, and had a tendency to burn stuff. Evidently, those are days left behind in her distant past.  Not only her site is full of great recipes, but she deals with a tricky situation as far as cooking is concerned: her husband was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when he was very young, so Traci adapts all sorts of recipes to accommodate his requirements.  I feel that I have it all so easy!  Both Phil and I can eat anything, so if I decide to bake something gluten-free, or opt for a Paleo-friendly recipe, it’s just for experimenting and for fun.  It is a totally different story when one deals with diabetes or serious food allergies.  I am in awe of her efforts, and the way she uses her blog to help others faced with the same type of problem.  Now, quoting a paragraph from her About page:

“I’ve become a master recipe manipulator. I can make anything healthier and still taste great. I’ve also learned how to eat healthy on a strict (aka teeny tiny) budget. I’ve taught what I’ve learned (and made) for stores like Whole Foods Market and Sunflower Market. I’ve even shared my creations and ideas on my local TV news programs”.

Isn’t that amazing? I was paired with a superstar!  Usually I decide on a recipe pretty quickly, but this month I went through a bit of a struggle.    I kept going back and forth, tempted by her Winter Squash Cheese Flatbread,  her Ham and Cornmeal Cakes,  her Greek Yogurt Lemon Drop Cookies,  and – this might surprise you – her Arby’s Beef and Cheddar Sandwiches.  It turns out that in one of my first road trips with Phil, we were in the middle of nowhere and stopped for a bite to eat at Arby’s.  I had never been to that fast food place, and ordered that exact sandwich.  My gosh, I loved every single bite of it, could not care less if it was fancy or not fancy, healthy or not healthy. In fact, just writing about it makes me crave one… Anyway, after a full week of indecision, I made her delicious version of boneless chicken breasts, and a tasty dressing to go with it.


(from Burnt Apple)

for chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup finely crushed pecans
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

for dressing:
1/4 cup honey
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp green onion, finely chopped (I omitted)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (or the juice of 1/2 lemon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish or use a dish with a rack to keep the pieces surrounded by air all around.

In a food processor, pulse grind the pecans, cornmeal, parmesan cheese, onion powder, rosemary, salt and pepper until fine. Pour mixture into a bowl. In another small bowl, mix together the egg and milk.

Dip the chicken pieces in the milk mixture, than into the pecan mixture, lightly coating both sides. Arrange chicken pieces in the baking dish.

Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, flipping the chicken once halfway through baking time. Make the dressing while the chicken is cooking:  whisk together all dressing ingredients until combined. Transfer dressing to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Shake before use.

Remove the chicken from the oven when the center of the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Allow the chicken to cool for several minutes before slicing.

Drizzle with honey mustard dressing when you serve it.


to print the recipe, click here


compositeComments:  This was a fun recipe to prepare, and the chicken turned out surprisingly moist for boneless pieces baked straight in a hot oven.  I guess the coating performed its beautiful magic.  I baked the pieces over a rack, and turned the pieces half way through baking time, as recommended.

The dressing went perfectly with it, at least for my taste. Phil preferred his chicken without any extra flavor, he thought that just the breading with the nuts and cheese was perfect to showcase the natural taste of the meat.  You will have to make it and decide if you side with me or him…  Of course, if you side with the hubby, this shattering blow to my ego will not affect my relationship with you. We will still be friends.  I promise.

Traci, now that the secret is out, I will be following your blog adventures, your style of cooking matches mine quite well…

For those who want to see a nice collection of recipes from my friends over at The Secret Recipe Club, click on the funky frog at the end of the post. She is funky, but nice, and loves to be poked…

ONE YEAR AGO: Bewitching Kitchen on Fire!

TWO YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

THREE YEARS AGO: Chiarello’s Chicken Cacciatore

FOUR YEARS AGO: Donna Hay’s Thai-Inspired Dinner