Quick Chocolate Pots de Creme

Ok, everyone!  Here is the dessert for any, and I do mean ANY occasion.  It works for a group.  It works for adults.  Kids love it. It is fancy. It is casual. It is quick. It is easy. You can even make fantastic variations with virtually no risk. And, it is entirely possible you have all of the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator right this minute. 

What is this magic, you ask?  I present to you…Chocolate Pots de Creme.

Chocolate Pots de Creme

What?  That’s just chocolate pudding, isn’t it?  Not at all! A Pots de Creme is a smooth, super-dense, intensely flavored dessert.  Not too sweet, just the way I love it.  While the ingredients are the same as a pudding, this recipe is even easier than making a homemade pudding.  Just heat some milk to the simmer point.  Toss everything else in the blender.  Blend.  Pour the hot milk in.  Blend again. Pour into dishes.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.  Serve.  Could anything be easier?  Exactly.  You need to try this.  Today.  

The key to making this as delicious as possible is using your favorite chocolate.  Since there are few other ingredients, the flavor of the chocolate is important.  I like bittersweet chocolate (72% cacao or more), but feel free to choose semi-sweet if you prefer. Several companies make delicious bittersweet (60%) chips.  You can use chocolate chips, bars, or a combination of the two.

You can also add flavor, for example, almond or mint extract, or a liqueur such as Grand Marnier. These variations are all delicious. So give these Quick Pots de Creme a try!  Enjoy!


Chocolate Pots de Creme


(Adapted from Rachael Ray, Food Network)


1 1/3 c whole milk

2 eggs

1/4 c sugar

1/4 t salt

9-10 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or bars, about 2 c when chopped

1 t vanilla extract (optional:  any other extract, such as mint or orange)

Optional:  3 T liqueur, such as Frangelico, Amaretto or Grand Marnier

1 c whipping cream + 1 T sugar


In a small pan, heat milk until it is steaming and bubbling at the sides of the pan.  Into a blender, place the chocolate, sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla and/or liqueur if using.  Blend until combined and thick.

A quick blend, then add the hot milk

With the motor running, slowly pour in the hot milk.  Blend an additional minute.

Pour into 6-8 small dishes or ramekins.  Chill at least 30 minutes, up to 2 days.

Whip cream and 1T sugar.  Top Pots de Creme and serve.



Ina Garten’s Lemon Squares

When I was a kid, we so rarely ate any cookies or desserts that were not homemade.  My mom was an especially good baker.  We would come home from school and just detect the faint aromas of baking still in the air. That would be our signal to run to the cookie jar in hopes it was full of sweet treats.  Occasionally, it was empty.  Huh?  But we smell them, Mom!   Where are they?  To our pleasant surprise, they were bar cookies, ones not to be stored in the regular old cookie jar. One of our favorite bar-type cookies were Lemon Squares, which our mom made with a bottle of Reallemon Lemon Juice. Because, really, with 6 kids, who had time to squeeze several lemons?

So lemon-y!

These luscious bars have been taken up a notch or two by the incomparable Ina Garten, aka, Barefoot Contessa.  They are all at once tangy, sweet, scrumptious.   Crispy, buttery shortbread crust on the bottom, ooooey-gooey smooth lemony goodness inside, a dusting of powdered sugar over an ever-so-slightly crisp top.  These are the perfect snack or dessert (or breakfast!) for this time of year. And the beautiful golden-yellow sunshine-y color just invites a bite or two…or three…

Ina Garten’s Lemon Bars

With this recipe, I made two batches, since I needed to take them to two different events.  So, I thought I would use that as a little experiment to learn about two different things I’ve been wondering.  First, I have two 9×13 baking pans.  One is light-colored, the other a darker, nonstick-type pan.  I wondered if using the dark nonstick pan would make a difference in the look or flavor of what was baked.  And, not surprisingly, the edges an bottoms of the bars were darker, toastier, and crispier.  All benefits in my  book!  So I do like the bars from this batch better.

Secondly, whenever a recipe says “mix until just combined” I often mix only until the ingredients are uniformly incorporated, and not until it comes together into a ball of dough.  This is because I’ve somehow been lead to believe it is easy to over mix, thus making a tough crust. So this time, I thought that with the second batch, I would continue mixing until it not only is combined, but actually forms a ball of dough.  To my surprise, but possibly no on else’s, “mix until just combined”  really means mix until a nice beautiful dough is formed.  Who knew?

I know that once you try this recipe, it will become your go-to lemon bar.  (For extra crispness bake in a dark pan!) I know Mom would approve, too. Enjoy!



(From Ina Garten, as seen on Food Network.com)


For the crust:

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 c granulated sugar

2 c AP flour

1/4 t salt

For the filling:

7 large eggs (Ina calls for 6 extra-large)

3 c granulated sugar

2 T grated lemon zest (3 large or 4-6 regular lemons worth)

1 c freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 c AP flour

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


Prepare the crust.  First, cream the butter and sugar until light an fluffy.  Mix together the flour and salt.  With mixer on low, add to the butter mixture until it forms a smooth dough.  Flour your hands well and gather the dough into a ball. Press into a 9×13 baking pan to form a crust that extends about a half inch up the sides of the pan. Chill 30 minutes, while oven preheats to 350F.


Pat crust into 13×9 pan

Bake crust 15-20 minutes until light golden brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling, leaving the oven on.

While crust is baking, prepare the filling.  In a large bowl, whisk eggs.  Then add the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour.  Pour the filling into the slightly cooled crust.  It will likely over-fill the crust.  This is perfectly fine. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the filling is set.

Cool on a wire rack.  Once completely cool, sprinkle confectioners’ sugar, using a sifter.  Cut in squares. Enjoy!



Pakistani Lamb Stew

I love spices.  I love everything about them – their rich colors, their incredible aromas, they way they make a dish that can transform a simple meat or vegetable into a memory of a favorite vacation or a visit to somewhere you’ve never been.  Magical. I love Thai spices, Mexican, Cuban, Indian, Cajun, you name the spice, I love it! And I will cook with it.

Pakistani Lamb Stew

Teresa and I often cook Indian food.  One of the staples of food from this region of the world is Garam Masala.  Garam Masala is a fantastic blend of various spices, including (but not necessarily limited to) cumin, cardamom, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, anise and nutmeg. What attracted me to this particular recipe was the opportunity to make my own Garam Masala.  So worth it.  The homemade mixture was so beautiful, fragrant and richly colored I couldn’t wait to taste it in the stew. If you don’t have a spice grinder, feel free to use already ground versions of the spices, or just use 5-6 Tablespoons of prepared Garam Masala.  

The other thing that I love about this recipe is that it is made with lamb shank.  I have to say, I’ve truly never met a lamb that I didn’t love.  


The resulting stew is rich, teeming with exquisitely tender, juicy lamb and a flavorful gravy.  Served with bits of each of the garnishes, it tastes like heaven!  Wrapped in a bit of naan, dipped in the gravy, Mmmmm.  Mmmmm.  

Definitely making this again.


Garnishes: naan, crispy onions, sliced chile pepper, julienned ginger, cilantro, lemon wedges


(Inspired by and adapted from Saveur, posted 10/21/14)


For the garam masala:

2T poppy seeds

1 t coriander seeds

1 t cumin seeds

1 t fennel seeds

1/2 t black peppercorns

1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg

5 whole cloves

1 t ground cardamom

1 whole star anise

1 stick cinnamon

For the stew:

1 c canola oil

1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin

3 lamb shanks

1 1/2 t cayenne pepper

2 garlic cloves, mashed into a paste

3 inches ginger, divided into 1″ mashed, an 2″ julienned

1/4 c flour

2 T ghee or olive oil

Garnishes:  cilantro, lemon wedges, thin-sliced Thai chile or jalapeño, naan


Make the garam masala.  In a spice grinder (I use an old coffee grinder), first grind the poppy seeds along with 1T water, into a paste.  Place in a bowl.  Next, grind remaining garam masala ingredient into fine powder.  Mix with the poppy seed paste. Set aside.

In the pan of a pressure cooker, heat the canola oil and sliced onion.  Cook over medium-low heat until onion is carmellized and crispy.  This takes 25-40 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions to a bowl. Discard most of remaining oil, leaving 1/4 cup in bottom of pan.

Crispy onions

Return heat to medium and brown the lamb shanks on all sides in the remaining oil, around 3 minutes per side.  Remove to plate. Into the hot oil, place the reserved Garam Masala, cayenne pepper, garlic and ginger pastes and salt.  Stir and cook 2-3 minutes until very fragrant. Add 3-4 c hot water to the pan, stir to distribute spices.  Place the lamb shanks into the pan, making sure they are about 2/3 submerged in the broth. Place the top on the pressure cooker and seal.  With pressure regulator rocking slowly, cook for 1 hour.  Let pressure drop on its own accord. (An alternative would be to roast 5 1/2 – 6 hours at 300F or simmer stovetop for 6 hours.) At this point, the meat should simply fall off the bones.

Remove the shanks from the broth.  Make a slurry out of the 1/4 c flour, ghee and 1/4 c water. Pour into broth, and cook 10-15 minutes until thickened.  Shred the lamb, to top with the thickened gravy. 

Serve the lamb stew with the garnishes. 


Pakistani Lamb Stew in spiced gravy

Neapolitan Cake

Neapolitan flavor apparently has its roots in my favorite country (that I’ve visited so far) in the world – Italy. I can’t even hear the word Italy without swooning I love it so much.  Neapolitan refers to desserts brought to the US by Neapolitans, the residents of Naples, in Southern Italy. These desserts were layered, often frozen, with flavors easily found in Italy – Cherry, Vanilla and Pistaschio, representing colors of the Italian flag. In the US, the flavors morphed into popular American flavors:  Strawberry, Vanilla and Chocolate. Neapolitan is a popular flavor of ice cream for kids who can’t decide which they want. Or maybe they want everything.  I can relate to that! I loved it as a child, but am often less fond of it as an adult.  Until now….

Neapolitan Cake

As a mother of a son who faces the same life-altering flavor choice at each birthday (I once made him a “rainbow” cake) I have come to appreciate Neapolitan once again.  When he couldn’t choose what kind of birthday cake he might want, I suggested Neapolitan, admittedly ignorant of just how difficult a cake it is to put together.  Most recipes call for preparation of 3 separate batters. Uggghhh! What had I gotten myself into?  

Fortunately, with a bit more searching, I found this Taste of the South Magazine recipe that involves preparation of a single white cake batter, separating out portions which, with a couple extra ingredients, become the strawberry and chocolate layers. And this same plan works for the frosting, too, if you want 3 different flavors there, too. I used my all-time favorite frosting recipe, Leslie Mackie’s White Chocolate Frosting from The Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. It is a white chocolate-cream cheese frosting that is simple to make.  I cannot think of a single cake, cookie, cracker or fruit that I wouldn’t top with this delectable stuff.  

And, let me tell you – this cake is so flavorful with a brilliant moist texture, it will satisfy both the Neapolitan lover and skeptic (that was me!). 

So the next time you are facing indecision over flavor choice, consider Neapolitan.  It is definitely a people pleaser! Enjoy!



(Cake recipe from Taste of the South Magazine and frosting adapted from The Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook)


For the cake:

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 c sugar

3 lg eggs

2 3/4 c cake flour

1/2 c AP flour, divided 

1 T baking powder

1 t salt

1 c whole milk

1 t pure vanilla extract

1/2 strawberry jam, preserves or jelly

8 drops red food coloring

1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 c boiling water

1/2 t baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare 3-9″ baking pans.  Butter (or spray) the bottom an sides of each pan.  Top with 9″ round of parchment paper, then butter (or spray) paper, then flour.

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  You will need to scrape the bowl down several times. It is ready when you can feel with you scraper that the mixture is “light” an looks fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Add vanilla, mix in.

In a separate bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, 1/4 c AP flour and salt.  With mixer on low, alternate additions of the flour mixture and the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until combined.

Ready for the oven. Note different textures of each batter!

Place 2 c batter into one of the baking pans. Divide remaining batter into two medium bowls.  Into one bowl, add strawberry jam and red food coloring.  Mix or beat until well combined.  Pour into second baking pan.

Into the third pan, add cocoa, baking soda and boiling water.  Beat or mix until combined, then place into the third baking pan. Bake cakes 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then invert on wire racks and cool completely.  While cakes cool, prepare frosting.

For the frosting:

12 oz white chocolate chips

6 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature

2-8oz. Blocks cream cheese, at room temperature

2T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 t strawberry or raspberry extract

4 drops red food coloring

1 T cocoa powder

Place white chocolate chips in a metal bowl.  Place bowl 2″ above simmering water on a stovetop.  While simmering, stir occasionally until chocolate is melted an smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar.  Mix with paddle attachment at medium-high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Add cream cheese and resume mixing for 5 more minutes until there are no visible lumps and mixture is smooth.  Add lemon juice, mix in. Lastly, add the chocolate, continue to mix on medium to medium-high for about 2 minutes.  During this time, frosting should visibly become smooth and light in texture.  

At this point, divide the frosting into 3 separate bowls.  You will need to divide it roughly 40%-40%-20%.  The first 40% bowl will be white frosting.  To the second 40% bowl, add strawberry extract and red food coloring. Stir until combined.  In the 20% bowl, sift the cocoa powder, stir until well combined.

Frost with white frosting between the layers

If the frosting seems thin at this point, refrigerate 15-20 minutes until it is spreadable.

Place chocolate cake layer on serving plate. Top with layer of white frosting.  Add white cake layer, then another layer of white frosting, then the strawberry cake.

Frost sides of the chocolate layer with chocolate frosting, white layer with white, and the stawberry (top) layer with the strawberry frosting.  You can be as fancy as you like, or just make the frosting smooth.  Either way, it is delicious! Enjoy.



Chicken with Mustard (Poulet a la Moutarde)

Or, So Much FLAVOR!

THIS is about the most flavorful, delicious chicken I have ever had!  A real keeper! I found this recipe in David Lebovitz’ My Paris Kitchen, a most excellent cookbook Teresa gave me for Christmas.  I love David Lebovitz.  I am a fan of his blog, http://www.davidlebovitz.com, which contains many wonderful recipes and interesting stories about his life in Paris.  I even made another recipe of his a few months ago, Salted Butter Caramel-Chocolate Mousse, about the most perfect dessert imaginable.  You must make both of these dishes. And, get this cookbook.  I’m just getting started with it, you can be sure!

Chicken with Mustard

The flavors of this dish are some you might not think of combining:  plenty, and I do mean, PLENTY, of Dijon mustard, thick cut bacon (ok, how could anything with bacon go wrong?), smoky paprika, and a touch of cream.  De. Liscious.  You will need some bread or noodles (or a spoon) to sop up the brilliant sauce.   You can make it on the stovetop, all in one big pot. So dang good.  I can’t stop saying it.  So! Dang! Good!

Now I don’t know if it is better with the Dijon that is grainier, or smoother.  I had the grainy type on hand, so used that.  I might try it with the smoother type next time, just because I think it might look better.  I can’t imagine it would taste much different, it would just look less grainy and more saucy, if that makes any sense.

We served it with some pan-roasted potatoes and green beans and a crusty bread.  Enjoy!

Chicken with Mustard


(Adapted from David Lebovitz’ My Paris Kitchen)


4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken legs

1/2 c plus 3 T Dijon mustard

1/4 t smoked paprika

3/4 t salt

1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

4 oz. thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4″ squares

1 small onion, finely diced

1 t fresh thyme leaves

1 c white wine

1 T whole mustard seeds

3 T heavy cream

Chopped chives for garnish


In a bowl, mix the 1/2 c Dijon, paprika, salt and pepper.  Place the chicken pieces on top, then with your hands, rub mustard mixture over the chicken pieces, getting it between the flesh and skin as possible. 

Heat a large, heavy pan such as an enamel-coated cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, then add bacon pieces.  The heat should be medium to medium-high. Cook until just brown.  Remove to paper towel. Leave about 1 T bacon fat in the skillet, discarding the rest.  


Add the diced onion, cooking until soft and beginning to become translucent. Add the thyme leaves, stir into onions.  Cook 2 minutes, then place onion mixture into a bowl. 

If the pan is dry, add a Tablespoon or two of olive oil.  My pan had enough bacon fat and didn’t need oil.  Place chicken pieces skin-side down in pan, placing them far enough apart so they don’t steam. Brown the chicken on both sides, adding oil in between if necessary.


Remove browned chicken and place in bowl with onions.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping the browned bits (mine were dark browned) off the bottom of the pan.  Add the chicken, onions and bacon back to the pan.  Cover and simmer, 30 minutes on simmer setting, or 15 minutes on medium-low.  Check for doneness by cutting into one of the pieces and making sure there is no pink or red next to the bone. 

Remove the pan from heat.  Add the 3T Dijon, the mustard seeds, and the cream.  Stir, adding a bit of water or stock if it needs thinning.  Garnish with chives.  Serve. Enjoy!


Chocolate Pavlova with Fresh Berries

We have all eaten meringue, right?  But have you ever had a cake made of meringue?  Called a Pavlova, after a famous ballet dancer, it is a light and delicate cake, baked until crispy on the outside while still lovely and spongey inside.  Topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, it is an outrageously beautiful and beckons to be tasted.

But this is where I have to admit that I am afraid of meringue.  I do love it, but I truly have yet to perfect it.  Early in my meringue-making days, I would just beat the heck out of the egg whites, turning them into a styrofoam-like substance, totally dry and weightless, devoid of that thick, smooth, marshmallow-y mouth feel we all love so much. Such a disappointment.  Since then, I have made meringue cookies, meringue-topped pies, and a couple of Pavlovas, each time becoming a little less intimidated by the prospect of the overbeaten egg white and the resulting chorus of “It’s not that bad, really.”  Admittedly, that chorus played only in my head, never said by any recipient of the styrofoam, er, meringue topping.

Chocolate Pavlova with Fresh Berries

This recipe, though, is an excellent way to learn just how much beating meringue can take before “styrofoaming”.  It also illustrates the usage of vinegar in the mix to stabilize the meringue to avoid it collapsing.  It is thus a good recipe to make when you are feeling patient, since it will likely take a good 10 minutes of beating to reach the desired “stiff peak” consistency the Pavlova requires.

All that aside, Pavlova is one of the most beautiful of desserts.  It is also one of the most pleasing from a textural standpoint:  Crispy on the outside, marshmallow-y, light, and almost but not quite chewy on the inside.  Topped with dense, creamy, fluffy whipped topping and fresh fruit, it is a wonder.  Most impressive. Not to even mention how it tastes.  So chocolate-y, studded with chips of dark chocolate, not too sweet. The slightly sweet and tangy whipped mascarpone cream topping provides the perfect complement to the chocolate. All topped with juicy fresh fruit.  Perfection!

And, I do admit, I didn’t whip the whites to completely stiff peaks, my impatience and my fear of styrofoam won.  Probably needed an additional minute or two.  It spread a bit more than I would have liked and was not as thick as I wanted.  Still massively delicious and lovely, though. So give this a try.  Your patience will be rewarded.  It obviously doesn’t need to be perfect to taste perfect. Enjoy!

Chocolate Pavlova with Fresh Berries


(Inspired by and adapted from  Nigella Lawson, as seen on Food Network and Martha Stewart, for her inclusion of brown sugar )


For the cake:

6 large eggs whites

1 1/4 c superfine white sugar (caster sugar)

6 T brown sugar (light or dark)

3 T cocoa powder

1/4 t salt

1 t balsamic vinegar

2 oz dark chocolate (at least 62%) chopped

For the topping:

1 c mascarpone cheese

1 1/2 c heavy cream

1/3 c sugar

1 t vanilla

1 pt fresh berries


Preheat oven to 350F.

On a sheet of parchment paper, trace the outline of a 9″ pie tin or cake pan with a pencil. Turn the paper over, so the pencil side is face down, on a 12×17 baking sheet. 

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whipping attachment, whip egg whites until foamy soft peaks have formed.  While continuing to whip, slowly add the sugar and the salt. When whites are thick and shiny, test occasionally to see if the peaks that are formed by removing the attachment are stiff and pointy.  They should not fold over upon themselves, but should remain standing and pointed.  This stage should take around 10 minutes to reach when them mixer is set at a medium-high speed.

Once the stiff peak stage is reached, sift cocoa over the meringue, add the vinegar and chopped chocolate. Gently fold in until few streaks can be seen.

Pour meringue onto parchment.  Using rubber spatula, form into dome shape an inch or two smaller than the penciled circle. The cake will spread slightly when baking.

This spreads out, so be sure it is whipped to “stiff peaks”!

Place into oven. Immediately lower temperature to 300F.  Bake 60-70 minutes.  Cake should be crispy on the outside and give slightly in the middle when touched. Turn off heat and leave cake in oven until both reach room temperature.

Whip the first 4 topping ingredients together.

When ready to serve, top cake with whipped topping, then add fresh berries. Serve.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Pavlova with Fresh Berries


Best Brussels Sprouts

Or, Everything’s Better with Bacon!

I remember the first time I ever had Brussels Sprouts.  Those brownish-green, soggy, sour, fowl-smelling things at least looked interesting and different from anything I had ever eaten before. But as I lifted the fork to my mouth, I began to have doubts.  Reasonable doubts. Ewwwww! They tasted like a punishment!  I decided right then and there I would never, ever, ever, eat another one as long as I lived. But my parents seemed to like them. I figured they were pretending to like them for our benefit. I’m pretty sure they were neve presented at the family table again.

My, how times have changed!

Best Brussels Sprouts

These Brussels Sprouts were requested,…. yes! requested by my lovely oldest daughter for Christmas Dinner.  They are that amazingly delicious. Fresh, crunchy, tender, savory, smoky and sweet. A far cry from the Brussels Sprouts of my childhood. Actually a whole other world from my childhood. I’ve totally changed my mind.  I eat these as often as I can, especially on holidays!

Truth be told, there are many reasons these are not the Sprouts of old.  First, you start with FRESH sprouts.  They don’t come in a can or a little box from the freezer.  Also they are roasted with BACON.  Has there ever been a dish that has bacon and is anything less than delicious? Further, they are finished with reduced balsamic vinegar.  Ok just go back two sentences and replace the word bacon with the words “reduced balsamic vinegar”.  Enough said. 

Like so many other of my favorite dishes, these are quite simple to make. Just assemble a baking pan of sprouts and bacon, drizzle with a little olive oil, season and roast in the oven.  Then reduce some balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the entire plate.  Enjoy!  (And make again ASAP)


Best Brussels Sprouts



1 1/2 lb fresh Brussels Sprouts

4 oz. bacon (3-5 slices, depending upon thickness)

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 t Kosher salt

1/2 t freshly ground pepper

1/3 c balsamic vinegar


Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut medium and large Brussels Sprouts in half, leaving smaller ones whole.  Spread sprouts on a 12×18 baking sheet.

Cut bacon into 1/4″ squares.  Scatter over sprouts. 

So easy to assemble. Ready for oven!

Pour olive oil onto sprouts and bacon.  Mix altogether with hands or a large spoon.  Add salt and pepper. Mix again.  Place in oven.

Roast 30 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes.

Done roasting!

In a small saucepan, reduce balsamic vinegar over medium-low heat until syrupy. Pour warm syrup over sprouts.  Enjoy!



Lemon Chicken with Croutons

How many fantastic food combinations can you think of? Meatloaf and mashed potatoes?  Burgers and fries? Macaroni and cheese?  What about chicken an croutons?  Didn’t make your list?  Well, after trying this recipe, I’m pretty sure this will be a new favorite combination.  It certainly is in my house. Plus, it’s from one of my all-time favorites, Ina Garten, a.k.a. Barefoot Contessa.  Everything she cooks and bakes is simply flawless! 

Don’t let the burned look fool you, those onions are perfect!

This chicken is so savory and delicious, perfectly juicy with a hint of lemon.  As good as the chicken is, the croutons are where the real magic happens.  They are crunchy on the outside, wonderfully chewy on the inside, and when combined with the carmellized onions and juices from the chicken, my goodness, you may never again roast a chicken without croutons!

This recipe is not only a terrific family dinner, but would also be a memorable date night dinner.  It is easy to prepare, beautiful, and delicious.  It has absolutely become a go-to Sunday dinner those days our creative juices are running a bit slowly or we just want a comforting meal we know everyone will love. We just call it “Ina’s Chicken”.

I have adapted Ina’s recipe to my family’s tastes just a bit.  One lemon instead of two, for no overtly lemony flavor.  

Enjoy a new flavor combination!

Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Croutons


(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa, as seen on Food Network)


1 5-6 lb chicken

1 lemon, cut into quarters or eighths

1 very large or 2 medium yellow onions

1 loaf crusty bread (I like sourdough, you could also use a baguette)

2 T butter

Olive oil

Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425F.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season the inside of the chicken cavity well with salt and pepper. Stuff the inside with the pieces of lemon. If you wish, tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Peel and slice the onion(s) very thin. Put the sliced onions in a roasting pan. Pour 2 T olive oil over the onions, and stir (I use my hands) to distribute evenly.  Lightly salt and pepper the onions.  Place the chicken on top the onions.  Rub the butter over the chicken skin.  Salt and Pepper generously.

Place the prepared chicken and onions into the oven.  Roast for 90 minutes or until juices run clear, and skin is golden. Onions will look burnt at this point, but trust, they are fantastic!  Let chicken rest while you prepare croutons.

Cut bread into 3/4-1″ cubes.  Heat a large sauté pan on the stove.  Pour in 2-3 T olive oil.  When oil shimmers, add bread cubes. Crisp the cubes in the pan for 8-10 minutes, adding more oil as necessary. I usually add about 2 additional Tablespoons when the pan is dry and the cubes begin to blacken a bit.


Pour cubes into serving dish.  Place the carmellized onions on top. 

Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Croutons

Slice the chicken and place atop the onions.  Pour pan juices over the whole dish.  There shouldn’t be more than 1/2-3/4 c of juices.  But they are necessary. 


Chocolate-Gingerbread Trifle

It was just about 6 weeks ago that I promised a second recipe, one that is so scrumptious, it would be worth saving and freezing the leftovers of my tasty Chocolate-Gingerbread Cake.  This cake is the perfect base for an impressive Holiday Trifle. I had just over half of the cake tucked away in the freezer,  just waiting for the perfect occasion. The perfect occasion is one which you don’t necessarily have a lot of time to carefully construct a “perfect” dessert but want something both delicious and impressive.


Chocolate-Gingerbread Trifle

The best trifle has a variety of flavors an textures.  Mine includes layers of the aforementioned cake, smooth, decadent chocolate custard, chewy tart dried cherries, crunchy roasted and salted pecans, an fluffy whipped cream. A few hours or overnight in the refrigerator, and you have an amazing dessert that everyone will adore! 

You can make it super-impressive by layering it in a Trifle dish, or like me, in individual jars for a more casual look.

You can also vary the ingredient depending on how much time you have or how much work you want to do.  For instance, feel free to use a pre-made container of chocolate pudding (Trader Joe’s has a good one), or perhaps pre-made whipped cream if you don’t have the time or energy to whip the cream.  Whatever works for you is what is best!

So, throw this together, and get ready for a chorus of “oohs” an “ahhs”! Enjoy!

Chocolate-Gingerbread Trifle



Some (around half or more) leftover cake, cut into 1/2″ -3/4″ cubes

1 c cream, whipped with 1-2T sugar

1/2 c chopped roasted and salted pecans

1/4 c dried cranberries or cherries

Chocolate pudding, recipe follows
Ingredients for pudding:

1 3/4 c whole milk

6 large egg yolks

3/4 c sugar

2 T cornstarch

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 t vanilla extract


Ingredients for Chocolate Pudding

To make the chocolate pudding, whisk the egg yolks of 2 minutes until thick and uniform in texture. Add the sugar, whisk in.  Add the cornstarch, continue to whisk until thick, smooth and light yellow.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk until it just simmers. When milk is simmering, remove about 1/4c of the milk and, while whisking egg mixture, slowly stream the milk into the egg mixture to temper the eggs.  When the milk is completely mixed in, slowly pour the egg mixture into the simmering milk. Turn heat up to medium.  Stirring constantly, cook mixture until boiling.  Boil 3 minutes until thick.  

Turn off heat.  Pour chopped chocolate into hot milk-egg mixture.  Stir until chocolate fully melted and mixed in, and pudding is smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour pudding into a bowl, cover its surface with plastic wrap and place into refrigerator until cold.

When pudding is cold, you are ready to assemble the trifle.

Layer the components into jars or trifle bowls.  Place a layer of cake cubes.  Top with layers of cherries, pecans, pudding, whipped cream.  Repeat until al ingredients are used an container is full.  

Refrigerate several hours or overnight.  This is a dish that improves with overnight refrigeration.