Eat.Cook.Blog. 2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Cakes on a Plane!!! (And at the wedding…finally!)

If you read my most recent post Wedding Week…Love is Sweet! , you know that we had a wedding last weekend.  Yep.  Last Saturday, 7/20/13, our son Kyle and the lovely Calla Mapel got hitched!  It was just beyond amazing.  Love-filled, casual, comfortable, beautiful, personal, vintage-y, sweet…I could go on and on.  Couldn’t have been more perfect.

You may also recall that I made the wedding cake (well, wedding cakes as there were five of them).  I baked them ahead of time and froze them and transported them, via Alaska Airlines, from San Diego to Sonoma.

Thought I’d share a photo timeline of the journey…

1st step...made it through the TSA x-ray!

1st step…made it through the TSA x-ray!



Getting ready to frost the cakes in our super gorgeous gourmet kitchen at the house we rented

Getting ready to frost the cakes in our super gorgeous gourmet kitchen at the house we rented. That is my Kitchenaid that we schlepped!

One down...four to go!

One down…four to go!

All five cakes in the fridge!

All five cakes in the fridge!

Getting transported to the White Barn (wedding venue)

Getting transported to the White Barn (wedding venue)

Ally (aka florist) decorating with flowers from Oak Hill

Ally (aka floristita) decorating with flowers from Oak Hill

All decorated and in the fridge at the White Barn (the morning of the wedding)

All decorated and in the fridge at the White Barn (the morning of the wedding)

And voila!  FINALLY!!!

And voila! FINALLY!!!

And, yes, it was delicious.

And, yes, it was delicious.

Wedding Week…Love is Sweet!

Love is Sweet

Hey all! I’m not going to be posting “live” for a couple of weeks. We are heading to Sonoma tomorrow for Kyle and Calla’s wedding Saturday!! Kyle and Calla’s wedding. THIS Saturday! I can hardly stand it. I’m so excited. We just adore Calla (and her entire family). Honestly, we couldn’t ask for a better life partner for our son. The fact that she comes with a wonderful family is just icing on the cake.


Kyle and Calla

And speaking of icing on the cake (Lol…I just thought of that…what a perfect segue)…lest you think there’s no cooking or baking involved for the wedding…I am making the WEDDING CAKE!

Well, technically, it’s cakes (there are five of them) and technically I’ve already baked them. They’re frozen now. Tony and I will be transporting them, frozen, as our carry-on luggage, in insulated bags, on our flight from San Diego to Santa Rosa tomorrow. Don’t even ask how many different ideas I’ve had to transport these cakes…should Ally drive them? No. They’re hiking for three days prior. Should I ship them? Ha ha. Trust someone else with this precious cargo? Should I pack them with dry ice and check them on the plane? Even bigger ha ha ha. Will I need dry ice or frozen gel packs to keep them frozen if I carry them on? TSA says only 4.4 lbs of dry ice(and a whole list of other rules) per passenger for carry-on and frozen gel packs must be 100% solid or they will consider it liquid and you have to follow the whole 3-1-1 rule…just sayin’. But the very nice and extremely helpful ladies at Do it With Icing assure me the cakes will be perfectly fine with no ice or anything for the short one-hour flight. And guess what? Then we will have CAKES ON A PLANE! Ah…hahahahhaha!

We’ve rented a house through VRBO, so I’ll have a full kitchen once we’re there. Ally (and her boyfriend Jackson) have my KitchenAid stand mixer (and a lot of other wedding-related paraphernalia) in the back of my car that is at this moment in Big Sur, being driven to Sonoma. So I’ll be making the frosting and decorate the cakes there.

What kind of cake you ask? Well, we’re not doing a traditional tiered cake. We’re calling it a “deconstructed” cake. It will be five separate 2-layer cakes on five lovely vintage cake pedestals that I’ve collected. And they will be decorated with fresh flowers from the wildflower farm on site at the wedding venue (The White Barn at Oak Hil Farm).

cake plates

Cake pedestal collection

The cakes are all the same flavor – a Sour Cream Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd Cream Cheese Frosting. It is amazingly delicious. And it only took three “experimental” cake recipes to get it right (my coworkers thoroughly enjoyed the “experiments”, btw.) Thank you to my expert baker friend Dale Brent for discovering the recipe and helping to zest and segment all the lemons!!!! Cake recipe here. The frosting is from a Bon Appétit recipe that I actually used once almost 20 years ago when Tony and I renewed our vows (for our 10th anniversary) and I made a cake for the occasion. It is so good that honestly, I could spread it on a pair of sneakers and it would make it taste good. Frosting recipe follows.


Officially a wedding cake baker

Just one of the practice cakes

Just one of the practice cakes

I’m so anxious to see how the cakes will actually look, all decorated and on the pretty plates inside the Barn! I know for sure they will taste delicious!!! This has indeed been a labor of love.

Oh, and we’re also having a “Baked Goods Bar”…Calla and Kyle have asked friends and family to contribute goodies. I made my all-time favorite Margarita Cookies and Mexican Wedding Cookies (called Cashew Butter Balls on the blog…just substituted pecans for cashews). We’ll be carrying those on too. (Sure hope I don’t exceed TSA’s “baked goods allowance” Ha ha! Well, I’m not above stooping to bribery…cookies anyone?)

Margarita Cookies and Mexican Wedding Cookies...ready to go!

Margarita Cookies and Mexican Wedding Cookies…ready to go!

So that’s if for now folks. Absolutely there will be photos to follow the big day. I couldn’t be happier…I’ve been wearing a permanent ear-to-ear grin for about five days now and I’m sure it will last for a long time to come.

Love is indeed sweet.

Lemon Curd Cream Cheese Frosting


12 ounces (1-1/2 sticks) cream cheese, softened

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1-1/4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup lemon curd (I used Trader Joe’s lemon curd)


Make sure butter and cream cheese are at room temp – butter takes longer!

Cream butter for 2 minutes until fluffy. Add cream cheese. Beat until fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Gradually add cream, beating just until blended. Add lemon curd and beat just until combined. Cover and chill until very cold and spreadable, at least 8 hours or up to one day.

An explosion of recipes for the Fourth!

Get it…explosion?  Fireworks…Fourth of July?!?!?  Ha ha.

So I had a completely different post ready to go for today, but then thought I might just re-post some of my blog favorites…a few easy appetizers, side dishes and desserts that would make excellent addition(s) to your July Fourth burgers & dogs.

OMG.  They are all sooooo good!

Here goes…

Slow Roasted Tomato & Herb Goat Cheese Appetizer


Avocado-Cilantro Hummus

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Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs


Broccoli Slaw


Gramma Lulu’s Potato Salad

Gramma Lulu's potato salad

Double Chocolate Brownies


Lemon Bars
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Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats


Muchas recipes for Cinco de Mayo

So we already know that Cinco de Mayo is this Sunday (you’ve seen all the Corona beer displays in the grocery stores, right?). I posted the recipe for Cilantro Limoncello Margaritas this morning and that got me thinking…I’ve got quite a few Mexican-inspired recipes on here. (Hey, we live in San Diego, we eat lots of Mexican food!)

And because I like you all so much and I’m feeling a little extra generous today, I’ll put a few of them here, all in one place, to make it easy on you. You might just want to try uno or dos or tres. Have at it.


Fiesta Chicken Salad w/Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette

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Arnie’s Avocado Cilantro Hummus

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Avocado & Hearts of Palm Chop Chop Salad


Chipotle Chicken Tostadas

margarita cookies

Margarita Cookies


Croissant Bread Pudding with Mexican Chocolate and Almonds

My Birthday Wish


The Viking. From Extraordinary Desserts. Oh my my! What? You think I’m going to bake myself a cake?

It’s almost my birthday and you know what I’d like most?  (Well, of course, besides world peace, no more prejudice or poverty and a big piece of land where Tony & me and both of our kids and their future families can build houses….kind of like a Bruser Compound.  Oh, and a cute leather jacket.  Besides all that?)  I’d like each and every one of you to make just one recipe from this blog!

So, between now and December 11, pick one thing. I don’t care what it is.  What sounds best to you?  Nacho Mac or Potato Chip Cookies or Fiesta Chicken Salad or Broccoli Slaw or  Everyday Granola or Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Olives? Oh, wait.  Those are my favorites…Lol.  Just make something.  Share with your family and friends.  And then tell me about it.  You’ve got ten days.  And then on the 11th, if you want, share a picture of what you made on the EatCookBlog Facebook page.  Or you can just comment here. That would make me very happy.  After all, the main reason I started this blog was to share my love of cooking with you so that it would inspire you to do a little cooking yourself!

It’s kind of like a gift for me and for you!

Pumpkin Roll

Chocolate and Mixed Nut Tart in a Cookie Crust, Cranberry-Pecan Bread Pudding w/Bourbon-Caramel Sauce and Pumpkin Roll

Okay, I’ve told you before that I love pumpkin desserts (see Pumpkin Snickerdoodles), but what I REALLY love are pumpkin desserts when a little sweetened cream cheese frosting (or filling) is involved.  I recently made Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting from Smitten Kitchen for a cake decorating contest at work.  Okay, so I didn’t win the decorating contest (there were some very cleverly decorated cakes and cupcakes, much better than mine), but they weren’t judged on taste, so whatever.  They were really delicious.

I’ve been making a Pumpkin Roll for Thanksgiving for a few years now.  There was a woman, when my kids were in elementary school, who would make pumpkin rolls for the Halloween Carnival bake sale and everyone would flip out.  She then started taking orders,  making a bunch, freezing them and selling them to those who pre-ordered.  I think I may have even bought one from her once.

I remember thinking they’d be great for Thanksgiving, so I decided I’d have to try making one myself.  It actually sounds a lot more intimidating than it is.  And, you can make it a few days ahead OR even freeze them for a couple weeks before.

It’s really delicious and so impressive when you cut into it and serve a beautiful little slice swirled with cream cheese inside.  This recipe is from Libby’s (the canned pumpkin people) website.  They suggest adding walnuts as an option.  I like to use Heath Bits (little crushed up bits of Heath bar toffee…in the chocolate chip section of the supermarket).

Pumpkin Roll



1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin


1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup cup walnuts, chopped OR Heath Bits (optional)


Powdered sugar (optional for decoration)

Chopped walnuts or Heath Bits (optional for decoration)


For Cake:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper (or parchment paper). Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

For Filling:
Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Stir in nuts or Heath Bits.  Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and additional chopped walnuts or Heath Bits before serving, if desired.

Cooking tip:
Be sure to put enough powdered sugar on the towel when rolling up the cake so it will not stick.

Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce

Okay, so this dish has been made probably more often than any other in the Bruser recipe lineup.  Saucy Pasta…formerly known as Kyle’s Favorite Pasta.  It’s actually called Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce, but really it should be called Everyone’s Favorite Pasta.  When the kids were in high school, any time any of their friends would come for dinner, they’d ask me to make Saucy Pasta.  And I’m not even sure why we started calling it Saucy Pasta…maybe one of the kids thought I said saucy instead of sausage?  Whatever you call it…its one of our favorites.  A little spicy (or saucy?) from the hot Italian sausage and a lot creamy from the thickened whipped cream and Parmesan.

The recipe is from the Bonnie Stern CKFM Cookbook.   What? You’ve never heard of the Bonnie Stern CKFM Cookbook?  That’s because it’s at least 25 years old and Bonnie Stern is (or was?) quite the celebrity food person in Toronto, Canada. I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law Cheryl (from Vancouver) bought me the book.  In fact, I think probably back when Tony & I were first married and  visiting Vancouver, we were having dinner at Cheryl’s, she made it and I was like, “this is the best thing ever…what is it?” and then she sent me a copy (autographed, no less) of the cookbook.

So there you go.  The history of Saucy Pasta/Kyle’s Favorite Pasta/Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce.  It’s definitely a keeper.

Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce


3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. hot Italian sausages

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 lb. penne

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped


Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Add the sausage, breaking it into pieces and crumbling it with a wooden spoon while it cooks.  Add the garlic.  Cook sausage until all traces of pink disappear.

Add the whipping cream and nutmeg and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the cream reduces and the sauce thickens somewhat.

Meanwhile, cook the penne according to package directions.  Drain the pasta, but do not rinse.

Toss the drained pasta back into the sauce.  Stir in the cheese and basil and toss until the cheese is melted and warmed though.

The Only Brownie Recipe You’ll Ever Need

I have had this brownie recipe for a long, LONG time.  So long, in fact, it’s handwritten on an index card (a yellowed, chocolate-stained index card, I might add)!  I have no idea if someone gave it to me or if I found it and copied it from a cookbook or magazine.  These are to-die-for brownies. Double chocolate…with chocolate chips stirred in…fudgy…moist…the only brownie recipe you’ll ever need!  And easy…almost as easy as making from a box, but a zillion times better. Once you make them, you’ll never make brownies from a box again.  Please don’t make brownies from a box again.

Double Chocolate Brownies


1/3 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup sugar

1-12oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided)

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup nuts (I usually use walnuts)


Preheat oven to 325°.  Lightly grease a 9″ square pan.

In medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar and water; stir until butter melts and bring just to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Add half of the package of chocolate chips and vanilla and stir until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Add dry ingredients and stir until smooth.  Stir in remaining chocolate chips and nuts.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Let cool (if you can wait that long) and cut into squares.

Blackberry Heaven

If you follow Eat.Cook.Blog on Facebook, you know that I was in the PNW last weekend.  I was in Seattle for my sister’s oldest son’s wedding and then in Gig Harbor, visiting a dear high school friend.  If there was a theme of the weekend it was BLACKBERRIES.  At the wedding reception, my nephew and his bride decided to serve pie (Peach Blackberry pie) rather than wedding cake…how cute is that?!  I’m told that when they sampled the caterer’s pie, they weren’t crazy about it and persuaded the caterer to use my brother-in-law’s recipe.  Oh, and, btw, that’s a picture of my sister and brother-in-law on their wedding day!

So, after the wedding and related events, its on to Gig Harbor.  Gig Harbor is an adorable little town and my friend lives a few miles from the harbor, in a little house, with a gorgeous deck overlooking a lagoon/tideland area.  It’s beautiful, green and serene.  After an evening of relaxing and dinner (I made Steak with Bloody Mary Salad) and drinking wine on the deck, in the morning, she asked if I wanted blackberry pancakes for breakfast.  Of course…duh.  So she says, “okay, we’ll go pick some”.  So…we walked down the lane and we picked blackberries.  There were zillions of them!  Blackberry heaven.  And we picked a LOT of them.  We took them back to the house and she made delicious pancakes.  Talk about farm to table!  Or, I guess, more accurately, bush to table!

I was leaving the next day and, like a good houseguest, asked if I might be able to take some of the blackberry haul back to San Diego with me.  I mean, who wants a coffee mug or t-shirt as a souvenir when you can have blackberries?

I put them in a plastic container and into my carry-on bag.  (Not liquid, right, TSA, right?) Okay, so by the time I got back to San Diego, a mug or shirt would have travelled a little better.  The berries were a little worse for the wear, a little squishy and juicy, but that’s okay.

So, now, what to make with them?  Muffins?  Pie?  Cobbler?  All sounded yummy, but it was over 90 degrees at home!  Not exactly baking weather.  Ice cream?  Didn’t want to bother with that whole egg-custard-based thing.  Sherbet?  Perfect.  I Googled around and found a few recipes, a couple of them made with buttermilk and I thought that sounded interesting.  Pulled out the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid (best attachment ever, btw) and, voila, a couple hours of later had a creamy, tangy but sweet, beautifully dark purple bowl of frozen goodness!

Oh, and if you don’t have an ice cream maker, I’ve included alternative directions for freezing below. 

Blackberry Buttermilk Sherbet


2 1/2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, thaw first)

1 cup sugar

2 cups low-fat (1%) buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla or lemon juice (I used vanilla…I suppose you could use any liquor or even red wine)


In a blender or food processor, whirl the blackberries (along with any juices from thawed frozen berries) until smooth. Pour the puree into a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much puree as possible; you should have about 1-1/2 cups puree. Discard the solids.

Add the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla.

Freeze the blackberry mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm enough to scoop, about 4 hours.


Transfer puree to a 13-in. x 9-in. dish. Freeze for 1 hour or until edges begin to firm. Stir and return to freezer. Freeze 2 hours longer or until firm.

Just before serving, transfer to a food processor; cover and process for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.