It Starts Here

May 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

My Granny is my food inspiration.  I spent most of my early years in the kitchen with her as she did with her Mother.  My Great-Grandmother was hotel chef in Detroit, Michigan.  It doesn’t hurt having a tad bite of French in my blood.

I have a busy life (who doesn’t)…full-time working Mom (Mother of the Year, I am not).  But I have a need for making things special for the people I love.  Food is love to me whether it is a hosting grand holiday celebration with family, dinner out with close friends, decorating Christmas cookies with my kids or making a casserole for a friend with a new baby.

I like to make things from scratch, so I know what’s really in it.  My husband really enjoys muffins or coffee cake for breakfast during the week, so I’m usually whipping up some baked delight on Sunday.

Today, I made Deep Chocolate Sour Cherry Muffins from Totally Muffins By Helene Siegel and Karen Gillingham.

Chocolate Sour Cherry Muffins


These are so rich and chocolatey you can get away with serving them as cupcakes for children’s party. Dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar for special occasions.

  • 3/4 cup dried sour cherries
  • 1/4 cup kirsch
  • 1 stick butter
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease muffin tins or line with paper cups.

Combine dried cherries and kirsch in small saucepan. Cook over low heat until liquid is absorbed. Set aside to cool.

In medium heavy saucepan, combine butter and chocolate. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until both are melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.

With electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream. Then pour in chocolate mixture and stir to combine.

In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and soda. Add to the chocolate mixture and mix just until flour disappears. Gently stir in cherries and fill muffin cups to top. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until tester comes out clean.

Makes 12- but I made 6 jumbo muffins, so it took about 29 minutes to bake.

Next up, I prepared a French Chocolate Bark for a friend’s birthday.  I used a recipe from Ina Garten, but adjusted due to dietary restrictions.  I wasn’t able to use dried fruit or the crystalized ginger.  My friend is following Dr. Gundry’s diet and can’t have anything that tastes sweet- if it’s sweet retreat.  Instead I used raw toasted nuts- walnuts, pecans, pine nuts and some course sea salt for a salted chocolate taste. The chocolate I used was 72% cocoa.  The recipe below is from the Food Network, but in Ina’s Back to Basics Cookbook she uses dried cherries and crystalized ginger. The beauty is that you can add anything you like, even spices such as chilis or fresh rosemary infused nuts.  What a great gift idea.

French Chocolate Bark

2007, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved

24 pieces


  • 8 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries


Melt the 2 chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a 9 by 10-inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.

Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline. Sprinkle the cashews, apricots and cranberries over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature.

For lunch I’m preparing a baked egg casserole.  Found this one on Pinterest.

Emeril Lagasse’s Breakfast Casserole with Broccoli, Ham, and Cheese


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, plus more to season
  • 6 cups broccoli florets (from about 2 pounds broccoli heads)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 ¼ cups (about 8 ounces) finely chopped ham
  • 3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 8 cups cubed crusty bread such as French or Italian (1-inch cubes)
  • 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or scallions (white and tender green parts)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • To assemble the casserole: Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Fill a large pot three-fourths full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Season the water with salt, add the broccoli florets, and blanch until bright green and barely tender, about 1 minute. Using a skimmer, transfer the broccoli to the ice bath to halt the cooking. When the broccoli is fully chilled, drain well, pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.
  • In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a couple of pinches of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cooled onions, ham, Cheddar cheese, and bread cubes. Toss gently to combine, then transfer to the prepared baking dish, spreading the mixture in an even layer.
  • Using the same bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, chives, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper until thoroughly mixed. Pour over the broccoli mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. About 30 minutes before baking, remove the casserole from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
  • To bake the casserole: Preheat the oven to 375° F. Remove the plastic wrap from the baking dish and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Return the casserole, uncovered, to the oven, and continue baking until the top is golden brown and puffed and the casserole is cooked through when tested with a knife, about 15 minutes longer.
  • Transfer the casserole to a rack and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Cut into squares to serve.

Serves 6 – 8

For dinner tonight, grilled pizza with arugula and perhaps some chicken sausage.  Enjoying a hot May-day.

Enjoy the many unexpected (or expected) gifts of the coming week and let’s do it all again!




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