Christmas Gingerbread Men

I found a tin of gingerbread men from last Christmas. I pulverized them and topped them with dark chocolate. Then I ate them. They didn't stand a chance.

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust

Bon Appetit
Serves 10


  • 8 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 32 cookies), coarsely broken
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
For crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind gingersnap cookies in processor (yielding 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cups). Add melted butter and salt; process until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.
For filling:
Combine finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and heavy whipping cream in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat. Whisk egg yolks, egg, sugar, flour, ground black pepper, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Very gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crust.
Bake chocolate tart until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack. Sprinkle chopped crystallized ginger over top. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart pan sides and cool tart completely. DO AHEAD: Chocolate tart can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tart and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Cut tart into thin wedges and serve. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Crummy Tortilla Chips

Don't throw out those crumbs from the bottom of the tortilla chip bag. Make something yummy. Of course we excel at crummy around here. The 14-month old sees to it that the chip bag gets flung around enough to make a boatload of crumbs. Thanks to J for the idea and saving the bag of chips. Would it be cheesy to say yummy crummy?

Nacho Bowl

Tortilla chips, broken up
Shredded cheese
Fresh salsa
Sour cream

Place broken chips in a bowl. Top with cheese and microwave until cheese is melted. Top with desired remaining ingredients. Eat with a spoon.

Dry Peppermint Bark

Nothing says Christmas like peppermint bark and nothing says Valentine's Day like leftover from Christmas peppermint bark cookies. Here are a couple of recipes.
Peppermint Bark Cookies

1 cup of butter
3/4 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup of peppermint bark, broken into little chip size pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cream the butter and sugars together for about two minutes at medium speed or until well incorporated and light in color.

Add the egg and the vanilla extract until well incorporated, about a minute. Be sure to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl halfway through.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Add to the butter mixture slowly, and beating at medium speed, stopping once all of it is incorporated (do not overmix).

Fold in the peppermint bark chips.

Take small spoonfuls of the dough and roll into one inch sized balls and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Whole Wheat Peppermint Bark Cookies

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 cup non-alkalized cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups peppermint bark, roughly chopped
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Position the racks in the middle of the oven, and line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the sugar until it is the consistency of a thick frosting. beat in the eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next and scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Stir in the vanilla until evenly incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in 3 increments, stirring between each addition. At this point you should have a moist uniform dough. Stir in the peppermint bark, and optional chocolate chips by hand, mixing only until evenly distributed. Reserve a bit of the bark to sprinkle on top of the cookies after you have dropped them onto the baking sheets.

Drop a heaping tablespoon of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart and bake for about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
Makes 2 to 3 dozen medium-large cookies

Happy Valentine's Day

Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Which fruits and veggies are safe? When to buy organic? Don't know? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has analyzed fruits and veggies data thoroughly and has taken the guess work out of it.

From their site:

EWG's computer analysis has found that consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80 percent by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest.

If consumers get their USDA-recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables from the 15 most contaminated, they could consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest less than 2 pesticides daily.

The Shopper’s Guide is a must-have for expectant mothers and parents of young children. While the government ponders pesticide risks, parents need to know which fruits or vegetables might expose their child to a handful of toxic pesticides and which will not.”

EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides

The Dirty Dozen

47-67 pesticides per serving

Buy organic to avoid these

1. Celery (worst)

2. Peaches

3. Strawberries

4. Apples

5. Blueberries (domestic)

6. Nectarines

7. Sweet bell peppers

8. Spinach

9. Cherries

10. Kale/collard greens

11. Potatoes

12. Grapes (imported)

The Clean Fifteen

1. Onions (best)

2. Avocado

3. Sweet corn (frozen)

4. Pineapple

5. Mango (subtropical and tropical)

6. Sweet peas (frozen)

7. Asparagus

8. Kiwi fruit (subtropical and tropical)

9. Cabbage

10. Eggplant

11. Cantaloupe (domestic)

12. Watermelon

13. Grapefruit

14. Sweet potatoes

15. Honeydew melon

For the full list go here.

Here is a great substitution list and tips from

.....Produce with Highest Levels of Pesticide Residue....



Bell Peppers

Spinach, Lettuce

Cherries (US)

Peaches, Nectarines





Green Beans

Grapes (Chile)



Winter Squash (US)

Potatoes (US)


Vitamin C

Vitamin C
Vitamins A, C

Vitamins A, C, Folic acid

Vitamins A, C

Vitamins A, C, E, Potassium


Vitamins A, C, Potassium

Vitamins A, C, Potassium


Vitamin C, Potassium

Vitamin A, Potassium

Vitamins A, C, Folic acid

Vitamins A, C. Folic acid


Vitamin C, Folic acid

Substitutions (approx. nutritional equivalent)

Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, orange, cantaloupe

Green peas, broccoli, romaine lettuce
Carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, romaine lettuce

Grapefruit, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, orange

Canned peaches, cantaloupe (US), tangerine, grapefruit, watermelon

Raspberries, raisins, red currant, huckleberries

Carrots, broccoli, radishes, romaine lettuce

Oranges, banana, kiwi, watermelon, tangerine, mango

Cantaloupe (US), watermelon, tangerines, grapefruit

Green peas, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus

Grapes (US), in season

Carrots, romaine lettuce, broccoli, radishes

Canned pears, canned peaches, oranges

Winter squash (Honduras, Mexico), sweet potatoes (US)

Sweet potatoes (US), carrots, winter squash (Honduras, Mexico)

.....Produce with Lowest Levels of Pesticide Residue.....

- vitamins A, C, folic acid

Sweet Corn (frozen)- carotenoids, folic acid

Onions - trace vitamins, carotenoids

Cabbage - vitamin C, potassium

Cauliflower - vitamin C, potassium

Brussels Sprouts - folic acid, vitamins A, C

Eggplant - vitamins A, C, folic acid

Mangoes - beta carotene, vitamin C

Grapefruit - vitamins A, C, calcium

Bananas - potassium, vitamin C

Kiwi Fruit - vitamin C

Asparagrus - folic acid, vitamins A, C

Watermelon - potassium, vitamins A, C

Broccoli - potassium, vitamins A, C

Cantaloupe (US) - vitamin A, C, calcium

Sweet Peas (frozen) - beta carotene, niacin

How to Make Produce Safer

Buy Organic
Produce which is "Certified Organic" will cost more, but is your best assurance of pesticide-free status. Although the chart above is useful, it is not 100% accurate; growing methods can change, and country-of-origin considerations make it more difficult to know exactly what you're buying. For example, the US exports annually 100 - 150 million lbs. of banned (in the US) pesticides, and then imports fruit which may be grown using these pesticides. Buying organic, in-season produce from your local market is the best assurance of pesticide-free produce. If you are on a limited budget, look for organic choices for the produce your family eats the most.

Vegetable and Fruit Washes
Commercial vegetable and fruit washes are available which are formulated to remove chemical residue from produce. Examples are Environné and Vitanet, available online or at your local health food stores and some supermarkets. You can also make your own produce wash using a very diluted solution of mild dishwashing detergent (1 tsp detergent per gallon, or 4 liters, water).
grapes, strawberries, green beans, and leafy vegetables, swirl the foods in a dilute solution of dish detergent and water at room temperature for 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse with slightly warm water.
For the
other fruits and vegetables, use a soft brush to scrub the food with the solution for about 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse again with slightly warm water.

Not all pesticides can be washed off fruits and vegetables. Although some pesticides are found on the surface of foods, other pesticides may be taken up through the roots and into the plant and cannot be removed.

Peel Fruits with Higher Residue Levels
Peeling fruits, especially peaches, pears and apples, will help remove residues. Be sure to keep the peelings out of the compost. Some pesticides permeate the skin of the fruit, so this method does not guarantee residual free produce in all cases.


~ Although apples rank high in pesticide residue, apple juice ranks low. Apple juice is a good substitute for non-organic apples.

The residue levels in canned peaches are drastically lower than for fresh peaches. The processing requires vigorous washing which removes most residues from the skin. Also, different varieties of peaches are grown for canning, which require less pesticide to grow.

Sprouts are easy to grow in the home, very inexpensive and highly nutritious. Sprouts may be the simplest source of organic produce for you and your family.

Some of the fruits and vegetables which rank low on the pesticide residue scale may have higher rates of pesticide residue if they come from certain countries. Ask the produce manager in your local supermarket for country-of-origin information.

Cherries from the US are three times more contaminated than their imported counterparts, which are among the cleanest fruits and vegetables analyzed. Cherries contain a compound known as ellagic acid which counteracts carcinogens, so it's worthwhile to seek out a source of imported cherries if you live in the US or Canada.

Are pesticide residues less of a problem in canned and frozen fruits and vegetables? Probably, although most of the research has been done by the food industry. The washing and blanching to prepare fruits and vegetables for canning or freezing removes or destroys approximately 80-90% of pesticide residues, according to the U.S. based National Food Processors Association.

Although one should use caution when buying produce, it is most important to note that the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks associated with pesticide residue.

Aren't These Beautiful?

This is from last fall. They don't look so much like this now. I have bags of apples in my extra refrigerator so I could enjoy fresh crisp apples all year. However recently, I changed my mind. (Does it work any better?-Mae West) I now have bags of apples in my extra refrigerator so I can enjoy fresh applesauce all year. Yeah, that's it.

Fresh Applesauce

Apples, peeled, cored and sliced
Anti-browning agent like Fruit Fresh or lemon juice

Fill a large bowl with water and add 1 T. Fruit Fresh or a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice. As you prepare the apples, place them in the water to keep them from browning.

Add some water to a large saucepan or pot, enough to cover the bottom, about 2 cups. Add prepared and drained apple slices. Bring to boil on high heat, stirring occasionally. Be sure to scrape the bottom. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and breaking up apples. Mash with a potato masher. Firmer apples will result in chunky applesauce while softer ones will yield a more creamy applesauce. Serve warm. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

I won an award!

Someone appreciates my efforts even if my family doesn't. And I thank her. It was so exciting to receive. I think I will celebrate by digging into some freezer burned ice cream. I can probably find some chocolate sauce from the last decade with which to top it.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

Just like you get in Florida

Serves 8

1 (9 inch-I use 10 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
3 cups sweetened condensed milk (about 2 1/2 cans)
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup key lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime rind. Mix well and pour into graham cracker crust.
Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 16 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. DO NOT BROWN! Chill pie thoroughly before serving. Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream if desired.

Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving Calories: 554 | Total Fat: 20.5g | Cholesterol: 45mg

Nabisco Classic Graham Cracker Crust
8 whole graham crackers, finely crushed (about 1-1/4 cups crumbs)-use a food processor.
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all ingredients in food processor until well blended. Press firmly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool completely.  

Moutarde de France

I used a select mustard from my collection for this recipe, a premium stone ground French mustard, 1997. I brought it back from France that year because apparently the USA doesn't have mustard. Good thing I did given the new carry on rules and there would be no way I would put it in my checked luggage. It might get stolen being such a rare priceless item.
Maple Glazed Chicken Tenders
From Tyson Chicken
4 servings

1/2 of a 25.5 oz pkg. breaded chicken breast tenders (I used some grilled chicken tenders I was trying to recycle)
1 T. butter
2 T. onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 T. coarse ground mustard

Bake chicken according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in medium skillet. Add onion and cook until soft. Blend in syrup and mustard. Cook to a simmer. Cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat.

Add chicken tenders to skillet and stir to coat. Spread glazed chicken on baking sheet; bake 5-8 minutes longer until sauce is set.

I added my grilled chicken to the skillet and cooked it in the pan, stirring occasionally until sauce was reduced and thickened. Probably not a good idea if using breaded chicken.