There’s something simply irresistible about the smell of warm cinnamon and buttery pecans emanating from the oven.  And with that thought in mind, this weekend I made my first foray into the world of sweet rolls from scratch, making a homemade, self-kneaded yeast-based dough.  The result was an delightfully soft roll — golden crusted outside, warm fluffy inside — filled with cinnamon, brown sugar, and pecans.

Surprisingly, this recipe took less than three hours from start to finish, including rising and baking time. And it was a lot of fun in the process. I followed this recipe, from the Pecan St. Bakery & Cafe in Blanco, Texas, care of a 1999 Bon Appetit. I modified it slightly, using 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar instead of all white sugar, and I also used a smaller baking dish, 16×9 glass.  Finally, I topped mine off with a little homemade vanilla icing for a creamy kick.


I haven’t been a big fan of Bon Appetit since it took over my subscription from the now-defunct Gourmet last year. But they get props for this incredible brownie recipe, featured on the cover of February’s edition.

What puts these over the top is the brown butter, which is new to me but not hard to prepare. You melt unsalted butter over medium heat and allow the milk solids to separate and sink to the bottom of the pan and brown.  It adds a rich, nutty flavor to the mix that complements the walnuts and earthy unsweetened cocoa powder.  And the texture is perfect: rich and chewy on the inside, slightly crispy on top.

Minestrone Soup

‘Tis the season for soups and chilis! I’ve been experimenting with a bunch of new recipes this winter, and this one turned out great.  Lots of hearty “stuff” in here to make a big bowl a satisfying meal for lunch or light weeknight dinner. And, it’s super healthy.  The red pepper flakes give this a bit of a kick, so be sure to sprinkle those in to your taste.

Minestrone Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion minced

2 cloves garlic minced

2 celery stalks, plus celery leaves, chopped

1 large carrot diced

1 cup each, diced yellow squash/diced zucchini

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon marjoram

dried red pepper flakes to taste

1 10-oz package frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans)

4 cups chicken broth

1 can diced tomatoes

2 oz whole-wheat linguini broken into small pieces

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

(1) Saute onion, garlic, celery, carrot in the olive oil over medium heat  for 3-5 minutes; then, add zucchini and squash and cook until slightly softened.

(2) Add basil and marjoram plus the frozen mixed vegetables and cook until thawed, about 3 minutes.  Then add broth and bring to simmer.

(3) After 20 minutes, toss in linguine and beans and cook until al dente.


Picture the perfect chocolate chip cookie… For me, it’s thin with a slightly crisp bottom and softer top; a balanced mix of chips and nuts; and, a buttery not-too-sweet richness overall.

And after many rounds of trial and error in my kitchen, I can honestly say these might come closest to the mark. They are without doubt the best I’ve made in over a year. Hat-tip to my fabulous colleague and talented baker Susan James for this recipe, circa 1979!

Her secret is to use about a half cup less flour and sugar each than a standard cookie recipe calls for — keeping all other quantities the same — yielding a softer and wetter batter that bakes down thin to irresistible, chewy/crunchy goodness.

Susan James’ Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup oats

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Unsweetened coconut, nuts and chocolate chips to taste

*Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, but watch them carefully in your oven to make sure they don’t burn.


This is a fabulous dish to start off the New Year in the kitchen.  Lemon juice and zest add a tangy brightness to the fresh asparagus and sweet shrimp.  There’s a little bit of grated parmesan cheese and butter for creamy richness. And, the white wine and minced onion yield a great depth of flavor.  The recipe, from the venerated archives of Gourmet Magazine, gives a good reminder: “the rice should be creamy and tender but still al dente — like the consistency of a thick soup.”   Solid guidance that led to a perfect outcome this time around!

These two recipes produce fantastic muffins — and both use buttermilk!, one of my favorite ingredients and the “after” in the title of this blog.   The oatmeal blueberry are actually quite healthy, using whole wheat flour, oat bran and wheat germ or flaxseed meal.  The rhubarb are super moist and tangy, topped with a crunchy sweet streusel.

Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

2 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons oat bran

2 tablespoons wheat germ or flaxseed meal

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup canola oil

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup boiling water

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

(1) Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl. Then, add buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla.  Whisk all together.

(2) Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes (to cook the oats a little bit).

(3) Fold in blueberries.  Then, divide the batter between muffin cups.

(4) Bake at 375 for 20-28 minutes.

*Adapted from Tazzaria in Visalia, Calif., via Bon Appetit

Rhubarb Muffins with Streusel Topping

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup melted butter or oil

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups finely cut rhubarb

1/2 cups chopped walnuts

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

Topping: 1 teaspoon melted butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

(1) Combine sugar, melted butter, egg and vanilla and mix well in large bowl.  In separate bowl, sift flour and baking powder.

(2) Stir the baking soda into the buttermilk in a small bowl or measuring cup.

(3) To the sugar/butter mix, alternate flour and buttermilk, stirring well.   Then fold in rhubarb and nuts. Divide between muffin cups.

(4) Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of muffins before baking at 350 for 20 minutes.

*An Aunt Mary Klehr family recipe from Jordan, Minn.