Thursday, June 1, 2023

Uncommon Kitchens, A Revolutionary Approach to the Most Popular Room in the House

Some people might say that I’m curious, I’m going to call it exactly what it is, nosy. I love looking into other people’s homes to see how they live. A home can tell you so much about a person. In fact, a quick glance can tell me if I want to be friends with that person or not. A neighbor once insisted that I come see her home. Clearly, she was proud of it, so I agreed. She took me from room to room explaining every detail. The problem is, it was like walking into a void. The home had no life. It looked as though no one was living there. There were no books. There were no plants. There was nothing at all unique or specific to that person. Nothing was out of place. The iPad was on a stand on a bedside table. Pictures had been hung in groupings with mathematical precision. Kitchen counters were devoid of any and all kitchen equipment. Frankly, it made me uncomfortable.

On the other hand, family friend Betty, sadly now gone, whom I had known all my life, had an imperfect home. Plants, dog, books that had to be moved off of chairs so that visitors could sit down, craft projects, art supplies, kitchen equipment, souvenirs from her travels, everything in her home gave off such a welcoming vibe. Once I entered, I felt no need to ever leave, unlike the previously described home where all I could think of was bolting for the door.I mention this because Abrams Books recently released a wonderful volume called Uncommon Kitchens, A Revolutionary Approach to the Most Popular Room in the House, that is an absolute delight. I consider my own kitchen to be rather uncommon, what with a giant stained glass window from a local pub perched high above the cabinets, as well as a huge Gothic arch mounted over the pantry door that once hung over my parents’ stone fireplace, so this book really spoke to me.

Edited by Sophie Donelson former editor-in-chief of House Beautiful magazine, with contributions from numerous design experts -- Justine Blakeney, a personal favorite -- among them, this book takes you where you have never been before by way of kitchen makeovers both large and small. It encourages you to work with what you have to update your kitchen even if you have virtually no budget in which to do so. There are ways to make improvements without making big sacrifices. Essentially, it’s less about new appliances and granite countertops than it is about innovation and personality.

Think about it. As we get older, we update our clothes and make up. Sure, some of us may want to shore up parts of us that have seriously headed south, but lacking that, there are ways to make exceptional changes in the most positive of fashions that will add intrigue and attractiveness, while making ourselves feel so much better. That same principle has been applied in this book. Think outside the box. Bring some of your favorite treasures, artwork, and colors into the kitchen. We spend a good bit of our lives in the kitchen. Why shouldn’t it contain the things that we love the most?

At the heart of it, this book is bold! You are going to see things that you like, you are going to see things that you don't like, and you are going to see things that you REALLY like. The great thing about this book is that it is going to make you feel good about your own personal style. Take this book and run with it. Be brave, be bold, but most of all be you. Let your house reflect who you really are. After all, that's what home is.

 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Abrams Books as a participant in their Abrams Dinner Party Program for 2022-2023.  


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Chocolate Oreo Icebox Cake


This is a recipe that I have wanted to try for a long time, but never so much as after I tried the new Java Chip Oreos. If you haven’t tried those, you absolutely must! They are so good. The chocolate cookie with java filling and crunchy toffee bits is cookie perfection. Naturally, you can make this recipe as originally written, with plain Oreos, but why would you do it when Java Chip Oreos are available?

Chocolate Oreo Icebox Cake

Slightly adapted from


8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1½ c. heavy whipping cream

1 t. vanilla extract

1 c. powdered sugar

2 T. cocoa powder

1 t. espresso powder

24 Java Chip Oreos, crushed

1 box (14.4 oz) chocolate graham crackers


1¾ c. heavy whipping cream

1¼ c. powdered sugar

Hershey’s Syrup, for drizzle

6 Java Chip Oreos, crushed

 Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Align the chocolate graham crackers in the bottom of the pan, cutting crackers as needed to fit, but the more large/whole pieces you have, the better structure they will provide.

 Place the Oreos in a large Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin or another heavy object to crush, not pulverize, the Oreos; set aside.

 Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese for 2 to 3 minutes until it is completely smooth. Add ¼ cup of the heavy whipping cream and beat until the cream cheese resembles a liquid mixture. Then add remaining heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract and beat on medium-high speed. Once the mixture reach soft peaks. Then add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the crushed Oreos to the chocolate mousse until well incorporated.

 Divide the chocolate Oreo mousse in half. Spread half of the mousse over the bottom layer of graham crackers. It helps if you hold the graham crackers in place with your fingers if they are sliding around. Next, add a second layer of graham crackers and spread the remaining mousse. Finally, add the third and final layer of the graham crackers.


Place the mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to chill. Pour the heavy whipping cream into the chilled bowl and use an electric mixer to beat the heavy cream at medium-high speed until soft peaks start to form. Slowly add the powdered sugar and continue beating at high speed until stiff peaks form. Frost the top with a thin layer of whipping cream, and then pipe a border around the outside edge.

 Cover this with aluminum foil and freeze for 2 to 4 hours or you can choose to keep this in the refrigerator, but allow at least 4 hours for the graham crackers to soften.

Prior to serving, remove the icebox cake from the freezer and allow it to thaw for 20 minutes. Crush 6 Oreos and sprinkle over top of the cake. Drizzle Hershey’s Syrup over the Oreos.

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Monday, May 29, 2023

Ruth's Chris Chopped Salad Copycat

I have never had the pleasure of eating at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to; it’s just that the opportunity never arose. Truth be told, the late Mr. O-P used to be quite the steak maker, and often when we dined at area steakhouses, we would return home disappointed. I do like to keep my eye out for copycat recipes, though, and this one intrigued me. First of all, I love a chopped salad. I know it’s old school, but I don’t care. There’s just something simple, homey, crunchy, and delicious about a chopped salad, not to mention the fact that it’s easy to get onto a fork and into your mouth rather than, as has happened with some of those froufrou salads, wear it like a chest plate. Second, I love the way this is served. Ruth’s Chris garnishes with two halves of a cherry tomato. I didn’t have any, so I just left it as is.

 If you’ve never used a ring mold, let me tell you it is the simplest thing ever. Just put it on your serving plate, fill it with salad, and tamp it down, and slowly lift up the ring and there is your beautiful salad. It also works quite well with rice.

 This is an exceptionally good combination of ingredients. Make it fancy, serve it simply, or enjoy it as a main dish. Don’t let this one get by without giving it a try.

Ruth's Chris Chopped Salad Copycat

As seen on

 Salad Dressing

½ c. sour cream

2 fresh lemons, juiced

1 t. kosher salt

½ t. garlic powder

1 c. finely chopped fresh basil


½ head Iceberg lettuce chopped

6 slices bacon cooked and chopped

1 small radicchio, chopped

1 c. croutons, chopped

½ c. green olives, chopped

½ c. Melissa’s heart of palm, chopped

2/3 c. blue cheese, crumbled

4 medium mushrooms, chopped

2 boiled eggs, chopped

½ red onion, minced

Topping & garnish

1 c. crunchy fried onions

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

 Salad Dressing

Mix all the salad dressing ingredients together and set aside.


Gently mix all of the ingredients together except for the crispy fried onions and cherry tomatoes.

 Pour salad dressing over the salad and mix together until thoroughly combined.

 Divide salad between 4 plates and top with crispy fried onions and garnish with cherry tomatoes.

 OR place the metal salad ring mold on the salad plate and fill it with salad. Then with the bottom of a glass, gently tap the salad down to compress it. This will help it keep its shape.

Remove the glass and top the salad with crispy onions. Then using the bottom of the glass again to keep the salad on the plate, bring the ring up, and remove the ring.

 Garnish with tomatoes.

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Friday, May 26, 2023

Starbuck’s Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte Copycat

There’s an old movie from 1966 starring Cary Grant, Jim Hutton, and Samantha Eggar, called “Walk, Don’t Run.”  It takes place during the summer Olympic Games in 1964 and focuses on the housing shortage. Two men, Grant and Hutton, are forced to share a small apartment in Tokyo with the innocent and lovely Eggar. In one scene that I remember to this day, Cary Grant is making coffee, because it became obvious to him early on that neither Hutton nor Eggar could do it well enough to suit him. This was in the days of percolators (remember those?), Grant opens up a can of coffee grounds, pours it into the basket of the percolator filling it up, and levels it off with his index finger. Later, when he drinks this hearty brew he says, “That’s what I call coffee.” I have to agree.
My methods are a bit more modern and sophisticated than were his, but I want coffee strong enough to stand a spoon up in it. That’s why I never go to coffee houses. They never make the coffee strong enough to suit me, and I always question the cleanliness of their equipment.

Despite that, I must say that I am fascinated by some of their concoctions. Because drinking cold brew every afternoon at 3 PM has become as much a part of my lifestyle as waking up in the morning, I was eager to try a copycat recipe that I found on the web for Starbuck’s Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte. It’s simple enough, just add a tablespoon (I use more) of cinnamon syrup to cold brew coffee, top it off with a splash of cream, and you have a wonderful, refreshing beverage. I drink cold brew all through the winter, outside temperatures don’t dictate whether I drink coffee or not. If you only drink it during the summer, you'll need to add this one to your repertoire. It’s really good.

Starbuck’s Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte Copycat

 1/3 c. water

1/3 c. brown sugarpacked

   2 t. vanilla extract

1 t. cinnamon

Double shot espresso


¼ c. whole milk

 In a small saucepan, combine the water, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Cook for 3-5 minutes until it comes to a simmer. Remove the syrup from the pot into an airtight container.

 Fill your favorite glass with ice. Add espresso and 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar syrup. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour in milk and enjoy.

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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Egg Salad with Herbs, Capers, and Black Olives

I love olives. Stuffed or plain, pitted or un-, green or black, I love them all. I have cooked with them, I have baked with them, I have altered them, there is no way that I don’t enjoy them. My favorite cocktail is a dirty martini, so I even enjoy the juice. What I’m trying to say here is that, for me, olive shopping is a thing, and many times (way too many times) I get a little over enthusiastic. When I do, I am looking for ways to make use of them. Today I got the idea to put them in egg salad, something that I have been craving. What a delicious difference! There are so many tasty ingredients in this egg salad that it is loaded with flavor. Add this recipe to your egg salad rotation. You cannot help but love it.
 Egg Salad with Herbs, Capers, and Black Olives

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 heaping T.
Duke’s mayonnaise
1 T. sour cream
1/3 c.
sliced black olives
1 rib celery, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1 T. chopped
Melissa’s pickled jalapeños
1 T. chopped capers
1 T. chopped parsley
1 T. chopped dill
1 t. fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients into a medium bowl and gently fold together until thoroughly blended. Refrigerate, covered, for at least an hour in order to meld flavors.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Tartar Sauce

Over the years I really never gave much thought to tartar sauce, most probably because I found the name repellent, and refused to eat it as a youth. It wasn’t until we were living in England, and regularly having fish and chips, that I decided to give it a try. Once I did, and realized what a lovely enhancement it was to a nice piece of fried haddock, I decided to make it on my own. I have been doing that for many years now, totally ignorant to the fact that there are more recipes than just one.
 I recently had the opportunity to get an advanced look at The Hog Island Book of Fish and Seafood (Released TODAY!), and the first thing I did was to try the recipe for tartar sauce. It was unique to my experience for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it included a hard-boiled egg. Wow! What a difference an egg makes; this is so good that it nearly stands on its own. It would be a wonderful dip for crudités, or even spread on a cracker. That said, I did use it, as intended, when I had fish and chips and absolutely loved it. This is but one of many delicious sounding and unique recipes in this book. Make the tartar sauce; buy the book.

Tartar Sauce
From The Hog Island Book of Fish and Seafood by John Ash
Makes about 2 cups

1 c.
1 large hard boiled egg, chopped
1 T. sweet pickle relish
2 t. drained
capers, chopped
1 T.
Dijon mustard
1 T. finely chopped fresh chives
1 T. finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, gently stir the mayonnaise, egg, relish, capers, mustard, chives, and parsley together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least one hour before using. Store refrigerated for up to three weeks.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

  Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Abrams Books as a member of their Abrams Dinner Party 2022-2023.  

Monday, May 22, 2023

Pesto Lasagna

 One of the things that I really enjoy about summer is growing basil. It’s easy to grow, super easy to propagate, the smell is fresh, heady, and wonderful, and I am a sucker for good pesto. I like it so much that I could eat it with a spoon and, just between you and me, I have.

When I saw this recipe for pesto lasagna, I knew that I had to give it a try. I had pesto in the freezer from last summer, and was saving it for something special, and this was it. I altered this recipe slightly, because I am not about to boil lasagna noodles. The first time I ever made lasagna, it was a total disaster, and the noodles were to blame. Once bitten, twice shy. Now I am a fan of the no boil variety, and use them in every kind of lasagna that I make. I do tend to make it a day ahead of time, cover it, and stick it in the fridge, so that the noodles get a good opportunity to soften up. You don’t have to, that’s just my preference.

If you’re looking for a wonderful main dish for meatless Monday, this is it. Cheesy, light, and delicious, I do believe this is one that the whole family will enjoy.

Pesto Lasagna

Slightly adapted from

 Béchamel Pesto Sauce

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

3 c. whole milk

½ t. salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

Few gratings fresh nutmeg

1½ c. basil pesto*

Cheese Mixture

15 oz. ricotta cheese

⅓ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 large egg

½ T. dried basil or 2 T. fresh, chopped

½ t. garlic powder

½ t. salt

½ t. freshly ground black pepper


6 No Boil Lasagna Noodles (approximately)

3 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

6 T. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 Make the Pesto Béchamel Sauce

In a medium or large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When melted, add the flour and stir to combine. Cook 30-60 seconds. Whisk in the milk, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce slightly thickens, approximately 7-10 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat. Add the pesto and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

 Prepare Cheese Mixture

In a medium bowl, combine all of the cheese mixture ingredients. Season to taste with salt, basil, and pepper.


When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F.

Spread ½ cup of the pesto sauce across the bottom of a 9” x 9” baking dish.

 Lay three strips across the bottom of the dish, slightly overlapping. Break noodles in thin strips to fill in the edges. Dollop 1 cup of the cheese mixture over the noodles, and gently spread across the noodles. Sprinkle 1 cup of shredded mozzarella on top of the cheese mixture, followed by 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan. Scoop and gently spread 1 cup of the pesto sauce across the cheeses.

 Repeat another layer of noodles, cheese mixture, mozzarella, Parmesan, and pesto sauce. You should be out of the ricotta cheese mixture at this time.

 Prepare the top layer by laying out the third layer of noodles. Top with the remaining pesto sauce, approximately 1.5 cups (unless you want to save some for serving).

 Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella and 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan.

 Cover with foil and bake for approximately 50 minutes. The edges of the dish should be bubbling and the top cheese melted. Remove the foil and finish baking 10-15 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. (Want a darker top? Remove the cover earlier or turn on the broiler for a few minutes).

 Remove from oven and let sit 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

 *Homemade is best, but this one is decent in a pinch.

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