Paige’s Genius Cake

Alternate title: No Bake Chocolate Cake with Nutella Whipped Cream Frosting
Nutella Cake
And because Paige is a Chicago girl now, the Suggested Pairing is for her: (music to cook by): The Blues Brothers: Original Soundtrack Recording, especially the Sweet Home Chicago track.

When I invented my version of Nutella whipped cream for her (see Bonus Recipe below), she returned the favor by suggesting this masterpiece. Most people who know my daughter think of her as a sciencey-type, so this is food genius put it into a scientific formula:

Scientific formula

Ingredients: (three – count ’em)

  • 1 C Nutella
  • 3 C heavy cream
  • 1 package Famous Chocolate Wafers

Put the Nutella in a large mixing bowl that you will later use to whip the icing. (Tip – I coat the measuring cup with some heavy cream first to make it easier to un-measure it into bowl.)  Gradually whisk in heavy cream, fully incorporating before you add more. Chill very well. Whip mixture until stiff:

Nutella Whipped Cream
Then, slather the cookie wafers with the whipped cream and stack them on their sides (as you would for a Famous Chocolate Wafer refrigerator cake – recipe on side of box). Once all the cookies have been stacked, use the remaining icing to completely coat the sides:

Iced cake

Refrigerate for hours – I prefer overnight.  The point to this cake is that the moisture from the whipped cream is absorbed by the crisp cookies, turning them into chocolate cake.
It’s magic! It’s science! Mostly though, it’s delicious.
For the purposes of this photo op, I set aside one cookie, smushed it to crumbs and sprinkled them on top.

Credits: Paige’s genius. Her suggested title: Paige is My Favorite Child and Everything She’s Ever Done Has Been a Pure Work of Art Cake.
Love you Sweet Pea.

Bonus Recipe – Cupcakes with Nutella Whipped Cream Icing

  • 1 package white cake mix, plus
  • 3 eggs
  • oil to make according to package directions BUT
  • ADD: 1 teaspoon almond extract

Bake and cool cupcakes.
Ice with Nutella whipped cream. (You will have too much icing if you use the proportions above. Hand out spoons to anyone under 30.)


Nutella cupcakes

Tonight, we are celebrating.

With – my favorite drink.  A big favorite with a few of my Texas friends as well, this is not technically a copycat recipe since I got it straight from the bartender at a place that shall remain nameless. However, it starts with a “C” and rhymes with “huy’s.”
It is called a Texas martini some places, a Mexican martini at others, but is basically a margarita on the rocks, shaken, not stirred.

Extremely Similar to a Chuy’s Texas Martini
Pour over a cocktail shaker full of ice – if it is a decent sized shaker, then 1 portion can equal 1/8 cup, or use a shot glass:

  • 2 portions Codorniz Tequila – or any variety of cheap (as in inexpensive, not rot-gut) tequila, with no aftertaste. This is not the place to go with a high-end tequila.
  • 1 portion Cointreau
  • 3 portions fresh-squeezed lime juice (absolutely, positively, has to be fresh-squeezed or it will not taste right – I have tried every bottled out there…).
  • 3 portions simple syrup. To make easy simple syrup: take a dry measured jug with sealable lid. Add, for example, sugar up to the 1 cup mark.  Add your hottest tap water until the sugar is soaked through and the water level reaches 2 cups.  Shake well until sugar dissolves, then refrigerate.  Basically, dry sugar to volume for the first portion, then fill with hot water to the second portion.  This will keep forever in the frig & is great for adding to ice tea.
  • Jalapeno-stuffed olive – optional (I don’t even own the olives to take a picture of them, but be my guest. If you want to ruin a nice margarita.)

The 2-1 ratio of tequila to Cointreau stays the same.  Taste and tweak the lime juice & syrup to your preference.
Shake well and pour into a salted glass.
As I do NOT prefer a mouthful of salt, I have taken to asking for “half salt” on the rim, so I can get exactly as much as I’d like.

I’d write more, but I’ve waited as long as I possibly can to drink that one in the picture above – cheers y’all!

Simplest. Soup. Ever.

Potato Ham Chowder 
Suggested Pairing (music to cook by): Remember the Titans Soundtrack (try the Listen to Samples link)

Four ingredients and 40 minutes. Tops.
It tastes like a potato ham au gratin, but in a soup. Perfect cold weather food. Very healthy – I should send it to Paula Deen!
And only FOUR ingredients. Did I mention that already? If you want to get chowdery (yes, that’s a word – now), I’ve suggested a couple more. But trust me, I’ve tried doctoring this up and it isn’t as good – start with the basic recipe before you go tweaking.


  • splash of olive oil or butter (and by a splash, I mean I use 1-2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, diced (I use russets)
  • 1 lb. ham steak, diced
  • 32 oz. carton chicken stock
  • 1 C frozen corn (optional)
  • 1/2 C whole milk or Half & Half. Or cream. (optional)           (Skim milk?  It’s like you don’t even know me.)
  • black pepper
  • (If you don’t mind double starches, dinner rolls to go with soup. See below.)

Heat the olive oil/butter, add onion, and cover pot to soften. Dice the potatoes meanwhile.
When onions are translucent, add potatoes and chicken stock.  Be sure the stock covers all the potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are just done.  How long will depend on the size of your dice, so keep checking.
I like to serve this soup with hot rolls and lately I’ve been using Pepperidge Farm Artisan rolls. Heat your oven and bake them now to be ready when the soup is.
Add the chopped ham steak and cook on low/medium until heated through.  Add your frozen corn here too, if using. Add ground pepper. Don’t let it boil now, or you may turn your meat tough.
If you want it really chowdery, add the milk or Half & Half, or even cream if you wish.

Credits: Thanks, um, to my nieces, who pointed out that my kick-off post (Bacon Cornbread Cupcakes) didn’t seem exactly “simple” to them.
But I did get points for bacon in that recipe…


Leaf Pile

Leaf Pile Holly Cookie Wreath Suggested pairing (music to cook by – sorry no Sample button!): Shrek – Music From the Original Motion Picture I made these cookies for Thanksgiving (because what goes better with pie than cookies?!) – really because they are so much fun to ice. I used my family recipe for the cookies – a little different because of the almond flavor, but my personal favorite. See a Halloween sample here. (Warning – zombies included.) Our family name for the recipe, & for which I have no explanation, is: Little Mirror Cookies Cream together:

  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2  C butter

Mix in:

  • 1 egg yolk (save the white for the icing, below)
  • 2 Tablespoons cream
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract


  • 2 C flour

This makes a very stiff dough and a stand mixer is recommended if you can get your hands on one.  If you are going to have a cookie-icing party, I suggest doubling or tripling the recipe. Cover and chill for at least an hour. (The dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and frozen at this point.) Preheat oven to 375.  Roll out thinly, cut, and bake 8-10 minutes. Use this on your baking sheets – it makes life so much easier: reusable parchment paper.  Watch for browning around the edges. Perfectionists take note!  I have been doing this for 30 years, and I never get them rolled out evenly or cut out perfectly: Remember that there is ALWAYS someone who loves the burnt edges. And as my friend Tina says, “It’s not the Magna Carta!”  (Insert personal perfection reference here – Sistine Chapel, Taj Mahal, Cary Grant…) Icing:

  • 1 egg white, whisked until a little foamy & a little ribbony (I’m sure there’s a technical term for that somewhere)

Whisk in:

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Gradually whisk in:

  • 3/4 C powdered sugar, sifted

Divide into small bowls or ramekins and mix with food coloring choices. Grocery store color will do in a pinch, but you will be much happier with the results if you go for the good stuff: Wilton Icing Colors Ice thinly. Experiment with spreader knives, toothpicks, craft bottles, to get the look you want. If you paint on a base coat then add another color you can spread it around. If you want a discreet line or design, wait until the base coat has dried completely. (Note – this icing is not very tasty wet – it’s great when it’s dried & part of the cookie – I promise.) Disclaimer: this icing uses raw egg whites. Please use fresh eggs. That said, my family has been using this recipe for many years & I don’t know of a single person that has gotten sick from it. Please don’t be the first one.

Bacon Cornbread Cupcakes with Green Chili Icing and Chive Sprinkles

Suggested Pairing (music to cook by):

Today, by Raul Malo (try the Listen to Samples button)

While watching Cupcake Wars, hiking on the treadmill, and listening to Lady Gaga (don’t judge me!), I couldn’t help but think the cupcakes could be somehow… better.
And how does one make anything better?  ADD BACON!
So to kick off my blog, I’ve invented the following recipe:


  • 12 ounces bacon, cooked & chopped
  • 1 C chopped green chilis (roasted Hatch chilis – if you have ’em,
    use ’em), divided. (1/2 C well-drained for cupcakes, the rest for the icing.)
  • 1/2 C butter + extra for pan
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C buttermilk (I’m not sure I could tell the difference if regular milk was used.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 C cornmeal
  • 1 C flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Chives (My store sells a 0.75 oz package – I use half for icing & half for sprinkles.)
  • 6 ounces whipped cream cheese (Or sub regular & thin with milk/cream.)

Suggested tools:
ziploc bag
mini muffin tin
mini food processor


Preheat oven to 375.
Combine cornmeal, flour, & salt in large mixing bowl.
Melt butter in medium bowl in microwave. Mix sugar into butter, add eggs & beat well.
Whisk baking soda into buttermilk, then mix in to butter mixture.
Pour liquid mixture into dry, stir a couple of times, add bacon & green chilis & stir just until mixed.

Using a mini muffin tin, put a tiny dab of butter into each cup. Place tin in oven for a few minutes to get hot, but be careful not to burn the butter. (I have gotten the butter dark golden brown & used it with no problem.) Remove tin from oven & quickly fill with cornbread batter. If you fill to the top, it will make a high crown & about 24 mini cupcakes. I prefer to fill them halfway so that they are only 2-3 bites big, & I throw the batter that won’t fit in the 24 mini pan into another pan. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the top of the muffin is firm. Cool.


Wash & dry the chives very well. Chop half of them fine. Do not try to skip this step and throw them into the mini food processor, because they will just stick to the sides in strings and say, “Ha! I laugh at your whirling blades!” in a voice that sounds suspiciously like John Cleese doing a bad French accent. Into the food processor, do put the green chilis, lifted out of any liquid, & the finely chopped chives (if using here). Puree. Add a couple big spoonfuls of cream cheese & process. Add all the rest of the cream cheese & process until smooth and yummy. Put into a ziploc bag and refrigerate.

Sprinkles: Take the rest of the chives and chop into
sprinkle-sized pieces.

Before serving, cut a small corner off of the ziploc bag & squeeze icing onto the cupcakes. Sprinkle with chives. Send me feedback!

Credits: I modified this recipe for the cornbread:
Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread
And many thanks to Jeanne & Steve Stearns for hosting their Chile 101 Party (NOT political, but hey there’s an idea…) & all the folks who taste-tested.