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May Launch

Dear Readers,

My debut novel has finally made it to the edge of publication. Looking at a late May launch date, The Last White Truffle will be found on the following sites: Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and Apple ibooks, among others.

It’s almost unbelievable how one event can change your life forever…

Jennifer Pope’s life was predictable and, at times, restless. Being a smart, attractive, and accomplished woman at the age of 32, she thought that she had everything planned out.

What she didn’t expect was that her well designed life at one of the most prestigious event venues in San Francisco is about to be interrupted as she discovers her old flame, and Executive Chef murdered right on the premises!

As Chief of Staff at Monroe Manor, she feels somewhat responsible. Now determined to find the killer, she teams up with Inspector Abigail Trent to unravel the mystery that led to murder.

But when a colleague and close friend, Matt Stewart, joins Jennifer on her crusade, things are about to get a bit steamy…

Will Jennifer manage to solve the murder? Will the spark between her and Matt turn into a flame?

Follow Jennifer as the mysterious events unravel, and her life is being changed forever in this light-hearted romantic mystery filled with twists and turns.

The Last White Truffle is a delectable and page-turning mystery romance story that will shock you, surprise you, keep you on your toes and leave you yearning for more. So what are you waiting for?

The Last White Truffle

Dear Readers,

It has been a few years since I have posted a new recipe.  When the pandemic started it seemed a bit limiting on what any of us could do, so I took to writing, and wrote a novel.  The Last White Truffle is a mystery novel with a little romance thrown in.  And since I love blogging about food, I naturally situated my novel at a catering venue, in San Francisco.  If you have a few minutes for a light read, would love to receive comments on what you think so far in this first chapter. Thanks in advance for taking the time!



The Weekend

 In less than seventy-two hours, the world as Jennifer Pope knew it would be rocked off its axis, and Monroe Manor would never seem quite the same again.

     The Independence Day Gala, which had happened every year for the last twenty-eight, depended on clear skies. But standing out on the grey cement balcony of her town house, all Jennifer could detect was the smell of imminent rain, followed by a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder. Fog had even started to roll in, and puffy white masses that resembled a mix between the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Michelin Man took over the July sky. Jennifer was fairly confident they were what meteorologists referred to as “cumulus clouds,” and she prayed they were not a sign of inclement weather for the weekend. It just couldn’t happen.

     The planned fireworks extravaganza could still go on if it rained, but the bigger dilemma was how eight hundred guests at Monroe Manor would watch it and stay dry at the same time. The rotunda in the Versailles Ballroom was set to open precisely at 10:30 p.m., so every single guest would technically have “front-row seating” as they gazed up at the exquisite spectacle lighting up the night sky.

     Jennifer’s boss had made it quite clear that the board of directors was expecting—no, demanding—absolute perfection at this year’s gala if she desired the coveted promotion to vice president. Jennifer closed her eyes and sat down on the balcony in the Cobbler’s yoga pose and took a cleansing breath while murmuring, “Flawless evening, perfection, flawless evening, perfection.” Tiny drops of rain sprinkled the deck all around her. Yoga on the balcony was over. Before moving inside, she changed her mantra to a quick prayer to Saint Jude, patron saint of the impossible. And promised she would find time to stop at St. Gabriel’s on her way home to drop off a few dollars in the poor box to seal the deal.

     Her prayers were interrupted when her phone chirped, and she read the text from her assistant, Rachel: Chef having meltdown.

     Jennifer changed out of her yoga clothes and drove to the Manor, settling in at her desk shortly before eight a.m. She fired up her computer and said good morning to the girls gathered around Rachel’s desk viewing the latest fashion trends on the Kate Spade website.

     She did a quick run-through of her email inbox and was happy to note no new emergencies had popped up. She looked at her watch and figured she could take five minutes to open the package someone had left on her desk. Inside was a beautiful crystal bowl along with a thank-you note from the mother of the bride from a wedding she organized two weeks prior. How cool, she thought, that’s such a nice touch.

     Next, Jennifer jumped into a golf cart, drove over to the master kitchen, and headed for Chef Robert’s office. At the opposite end of the kitchen was the bullpen where Chloe Dawson, administrative assistant to Chef Robert and his minions, sat.

     “Morning, Chloe,” Jennifer said. “Thought I would stop by as I heard there was a bit of an upset early this morning. Everything okay now?”

     Chloe laughed out loud. “Chef was in a snit over some missing truffles.”

     “I believe he refers to them as his ‘prize possession.’” Jennifer scoffed. 

     “You know he keeps them under lock and key in a glass jar in that little refrigerator in his office. He wants to be the only one to dole them out in the kitchen,” Chloe said.

     “Yes, I heard that too. Guess they’re a bit expensive.”

     “Like two thousand dollars a pound, I was told.” Chloe rolled her eyes.

     Jennifer paused. “So maybe there is some justification for his tantrum this morning.”

     “He was told that today was his last truffle purchase for at least a year, and I think that sent him over the edge.”  Chloe turned her back and pulled out the invoice from her printer and handed it to Jennifer.

     She looked at it and saw the bright red PAID stamped across the invoice. “How odd. He’s famous for his dishes with truffles, why take them away from him?” Jennifer said.

     “Rumor has it, someone high up in the company made cuts to his food budget when they were slashing dollars to finance Chef’s kitchen renovation,” Chloe said.

     “That explains it. No wonder he’s in a snit.”

     Chloe surveyed her immediate area in the kitchen, checking that no one else was around. She leaned in toward Jennifer. “Lately, he’s been zero tolerance about any change in the kitchen, and he always ends up having a tantrum. He goes berserk, Jennifer. Earlier this morning, he threw an entire pot of marinara sauce—only, it hit one of the dishwashers and burned his arm. Course, Alexi never said a word to anyone and just cleaned it all up. Come to think of it, it happened right after Tom left Chef’s office.”

      Jennifer nodded her head. “Tom Stone from finance?”

    “Yes. Chef gets a little crazy sometimes, Jennifer, really scary.”

     “I hear you. Think it’s time to address his outbursts once and for all. Talk to you later.”

     “And, Jennifer, please don’t ever let Chef and his cronies know I implied it’s anything but heaven to work here in his kitchen. Otherwise, those guys will make my life a living hell.” 

     “My lips are sealed.” She swiftly moved her fingers across her lips in a zipping motion and smiled.

     Jennifer meandered her way through the kitchen and noticed the incredible amount of activity. The crew was busy preparing appetizers and side dishes for a wedding the Friday before the gala. Staff were focused, heads down busy at work, bodies rhythmically moving back and forth in time with the music blasting from the CD player.

     She passed the refrigerator section, turned the corner, and headed toward Chef’s office. As she got close, she heard shouts coming from inside about missing truffles and filet mignon, so she continued to walk straight ahead as if that had been her intention. The blinds to his office were closed halfway, but out of the corner of her eye, she could see a visitor dressed in a white coat and wearing a black baseball cap with the company logo on it. 

     She made a quick circle of a few of the changing rooms, which were mostly used by brides before wedding receptions, then spoke with members of the banquets staff, stalling for time. She returned to the kitchen and saw Alexi Petrov over by the deep sinks with his right arm wrapped in layers of gauze from his wrist to his elbow.

     “Alexi, you got a minute?”

     “Yes, ma’am, what’s up?” He squinted his eyes, turned sideways to Jennifer and dropped the blackened pot back in the sink

     “I heard there was a problem this morning and you burned your arm. Want to talk about it?”

     “Nothing to say.” His head twitched to the left, and he scrunched up his mouth. “A minor burn from a pot of sauce, nothing more.”

     “Rumor has it, Chef threw the pot at you.”

     Alexi stepped back a bit and stared directly at Jennifer, raising his eyebrows. “No. He threw the pot against the wall, and some sauce splashed back on me and Chef. It was an accident, and nothing more.”

     “Okay. Thanks for clearing that up.”

     Jennifer saw Chef’s office door was now fully open. She headed back over, then knocked quickly and poked her head inside.

      Chef Robert looked up and smiled when he saw Jennifer.

     “Bobby, how’s your morning going?” Jennifer asked.

     “Look who’s here, my best neophyte cook.” He chuckled.

     “You wound me, sir. I think of myself as intermediate, at least, after all your culinary tutoring,” she teased back.

     “Bite?” He held up a spoonful of glop toward her face. The smell alone was off-putting.

     “Good Lord, what is it?” She reeled backward from the smell.


     “I thought it was banned in the US years ago.”

     “Right, you can’t import it from Scotland. That’s not to say you can’t make it on your own. Chef friend of mine makes it once a year on his wedding anniversary.” Robert picked up papers on his desk and started opening all his drawers, one by one.

     “I’ll pass. I tried stopping by earlier, but I heard arguing. Is everything okay with you?”  Jennifer picked up the stapler off his desk and handed it to him.

     He laughed. “I forgot you could read my mind. Anyway, everything is fine. just a little misunderstanding. I’m handling it,” he said, wadding up a piece of paper and tossing it into the wastebasket as if he were an NBA star shooting hoops. He missed.

     “Okay, but HR is here to help if you need advice. Olivia can even handle matters without your presence, if that makes you feel more comfortable. And, of course, you can always count on me if you need to vent.”

     “I get it and appreciate that, but it’s really unnecessary. I can handle this on my own.”

     “I heard they eliminated your famous truffle dishes from the menu. What’s going on?”

     “Ask your friend Matt. Tom, that penny-pinching account man, cut the expenditure, so today was my last order. My Truffle Chive Fettuccine is a draw, and we all know it.” He paused and narrowed his eyes. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking people won’t notice the change on the menu. It’s embarrassing and I’m really pissed about it,” he said as he threw a wad of menus with large red X’s across them on top of the credenza behind him.

     “I can tell you’re pissed. Sorry.”

     “We just won our second Michelin star, so now’s not the time to go cheap on me. And that frickin’ idiot told your boyfriend we could save over a hundred thousand dollars annually by eliminating the truffles.” Robert drummed his index finger on his desk with every word he spoke. 

     “Matt is not my boyfriend, and you know it, so don’t start,” she warned.

     Matt Stewart was the VP of operations at Monroe Manor and a close friend to Jennifer. They had formed a good working relationship on many projects at the Manor. But their close personal friendship was sealed when the two of them collaborated twenty-four seven for six days straight on setting up the strategy and promotional efforts to win another Michelin star. They worked seamlessly together day and night; she had become the yin to his yang.

     “Hit a nerve, did I? My apologies,” Robert teased. He stroked his beard and put on his black framed glasses.

     “Not at all. And that’s megabucks for mushrooms, I might add.”

     “Pocket change. And don’t call them mushrooms, Jennifer, your ignorance is showing,” he said, squinting his eyes and nodding his head thoughtfully.

     “What I don’t understand is, why are they so expensive?”

     “Mainly because they are so hard to locate. White truffles are predominantly found in Italy,” Chef said.

     “And pigs sniff them out, right?”

     “Some places, yes. But more likely, they use specially trained dogs now, as they don’t try to eat the truffles the way pigs do.”

     “Okay, I get it, but how does that drive up the price so much?”

     “Simple as the fact they are scarce to find and a delicacy. Some experts even say truffles have a reputation as an aphrodisiac. But, bottom line, they just taste so darn good.”

     “You’re right they do.” Jennifer let out a big laugh, putting her hand in front of her mouth, an old habit from her teen years.

     “I always did love your laugh. You laugh and then a little giggle smoothly slides down your throat, all the way to your pretty painted toes,” he said.

     Jennifer smiled, and a slight pang lurched in her heart. When Chef’s charming, there’s nothing like it, she thought. Nothing can compare. She took a deep breath and realized now was not the time to talk with him about his “temper.” Jennifer remembered the days when she and Bobby were a couple and he could be charming and fun. But then a mere few hours could pass, and he would turn morose with feelings of hopelessness. That was long before he was diagnosed as bipolar. Once he found out the reasons for his feelings, he got on board with therapy and started to enjoy the benefits of change.

     Bobby offered Jennifer a seat on the couch so they could spread out the menus for the gala on the coffee table. The gala and two wedding receptions for the weekend accounted for the forty-plus people already busy at work. It was going to be quite a memorable holiday weekend.


The Sequel is Almost Here!!!

The sequel to my debut novel, The Last White Truffle is finally complete and will be in the marketplace in about two weeks. SEVEN IS HER NUMBER, follows private detectives extraordinaire Jennifer Pope and Abigail Trent as they track down the killer of Carlotta Chan, famed San Francisco plastic surgeon and wife to Yukon Chan, celebrity TV chef.

Jennifer and Abigail are on a deadline to solve the mystery of who committed this heinous crime before their client’ s status goes from ‘Husband of the Victim’ to ‘Person of Interest’.

The pair tirelessly follow lead after lead, only to find themselves in a never-ending chase to discover the killer and determine why Carlotta was targeted in the first place. With twists and turns at every corner, you’ll find yourself breathless as you go along Pope and Trent’s journey. Secrets that never end, a mysterious map from hundreds of years ago, and a special number that keeps popping up at every turn. A real mystery with a little romance thrown in for good measure.

Get lost in this mystery-filled world and be hooked on every page turn.

Following is the prologue to Seven Is Her Number…

It was the “first day of spring,” the very words literally equaling sixteen in numerology. If you added the one and the six together, you got seven, Carlotta Chan’s lucky number. She was born July 7, 1977, and was a sucker for anything that embraced the number seven, with unparalleled exuberance. Carlotta was to have good luck all day long today, according to her numerologist, who’d read her forecast for the coming days at last night’s mahjong game.

She thrust wide the bedroom window and inhaled the clean smell of fresh air and wet earth from raindrops on the lawn and cement sidewalk from the previous night’s thunderstorm. What a glorious day, she thought.

Carlotta was a prominent plastic surgeon with a vast caseload of clients that included everyone from the local celebrities of her hometown, San Francisco, to the famous, illustrious Hollywood jet set.

Winston, her bulldog, was curled up and snuggled in his comfy dog bed beneath the window, snoring vigorously. As the last one left in the house that morning, Carlotta jumped when she heard a thud echo somewhere downstairs. Naomi was likely making breakfast. Then she remembered, Naomi had traded her day off. Perhaps her husband had returned.

“Yukon, did you forget something?” she hollered down from the second-story landing. Silence. Another loud noise resounded throughout the house as if someone were rummaging through her pots and pans. She came back into the bedroom in time to see her chandelier sway ever so slightly, then flicker once or twice, and finally, the lights totally cut out. Carlotta looked out the window—no wind, not even a slight breeze, and both neighbors’ homes appeared to be fully lit. Something clattered again in her kitchen, and Carlotta became skittish just as Winston abruptly woke up and started growling at what sounded like a frying pan reverberating and bouncing across the stone tile floor.

“It’s okay, Winston, I’ll find out what’s happening.”

Carlotta tucked her cell phone in her skirt pocket so it would be close at hand. She was somewhat concerned but knew things were fine as the silent alarm had not been triggered—otherwise, the security company would have called within one minute. But no such call came. Carlotta had insisted to Yukon they keep their landline in case the hospital couldn’t reach her on her cell phone and felt comfort in having it as a backup. She reached for the bedside phone and lifted the receiver. No dial tone. She looked down, squatted, and struggled, pushing the cord firmly into the phone socket before picking it up again, merely to find dead air. Carlotta grabbed her cell and dialed 911, only to see the spiraling circle spinning around and around right after dialing the final numeral as the screen went black. Her battery was dead. Then she remembered she had not charged it overnight, even though she had seen the low-battery message right before getting into bed.

Her heart pounded, and her breathing quickened. The rough bile on her tongue started to accumulate while the tangy acidic taste came forward as small pools of saliva swelled in her mouth, to the point of choking.

The stairs halfway up the staircase squeaked as someone ascended. Carlotta rushed toward the French doors to shut and lock them. She gasped as she saw two intruders slowly and methodically taking each step as they came up the stairs. They were dressed in black, head to toe. The frightening part was the ski masks, which sent a chill down her spine and triggered the knowledge that she was in serious trouble. Together, the prowlers glided swiftly and lithely, and she glimpsed the silver gleam of the blade on what looked like a butcher knife gripped tightly in one hand.

“Oh my God,” she screamed, trying unsuccessfully to close the two doors. A foot wedged in the doorway and effortlessly pushed it open halfway. Carlotta kicked a shin, gaining her a few seconds to shut the doors. She reached up to turn the lock, but the intruders kept slamming hard against her before she could get the bolt to click into position. Carlotta turned her back to the French doors, pushing them closed with all her strength. The doorknob dug into her back every time they bumped it. Then, suddenly, the pressure ceased.

Carlotta took a heavy breath and regained her composure. She pulled aside the shirred curtain on the door and peeked to see what was happening on the other side. No one was standing outside the door any longer, not even on the staircase. She turned and rested her body against the bolted doors. Who were these people? And why wasn’t the alarm screaming throughout the house, instead of the eerie silence that permeated the bedroom?

She momentarily relaxed and moved toward her bedroom window, which had a small terrace attached to a skinny spiral cement staircase; she actually had never descended in the twenty years she had lived there. As she approached the window, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the glass shatter on her French doors as a body came crashing through them, so strong both doors became unhinged from the frame.

They burst into the bedroom and ran toward Carlotta, who dashed for the bathroom. An arm appeared around her waist and picked her up like a sack of flour, then threw her down on the king-size bed. Immediately, she was in fight-or-flight mode as she scrambled across to the opposite side. It took mere seconds before her intruders blocked her escape.

“What do you want?” Carlotta shouted.

They didn’t respond.

She turned to face the window and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Help me, call the police,” only to be drowned out by the roaring buzz of the leaf blower down below in her front yard.

“I have money. We have a safe. If not enough, I can go to the bank. Just tell me what you want.”

Her eyes widened as the glint of the morning sun bounced off the knife blade while the taller intruder stared at her, not moving a muscle, and the other one ransacked her dresser drawers. She kept her eyes locked in position, never wavering from the sight of the knife as it worked its way down toward her chest in exaggerated slow motion, resting mere inches above her heart.

She instinctively thrust her foot up near the intruder’s body and kicked hard. Only, she misjudged the distance and, instead, merely punched at an open arc of cold air, never contacting the muscular body.

The tall one chuckled and shoved her leg up over her head. She tumbled backward on the bed as her body thudded against the intricately carved koa-wood headboard, a wedding gift from her parents more than twenty years ago.

The short one walked purposefully toward the open window and quietly lowered the frame before turning back to her.

“Safe,” the other mumbled and pointed the knife toward her closet.

“Of course. Take anything you want,” she said, scurrying into the closet, trying desperately to calmly turn the safe’s dial.

It opened. They pulled plastic grocery bags from their pockets and watched as Carlotta tossed in the stacked bills, coins, jewelry, and all the papers lying at the bottom of the safe before the intruders turned and started for the French doors.

Her adrenaline spiked to an all-time high as she moved from the closet and ran to the corner on the opposite wall. Carlotta picked up the tiny crystal alarm clock with seven jagged edges off the bedside table and hid it behind her back. The taller intruder grabbed her bulldog, threw him into the closet, and closed the door.

About to leave, the smaller of the two intruders noticed her sudden movement and halted, hesitantly turned back, then came up close, placing gloved hands on her hips. She gasped and closed her eyes tightly as one of the intruders reached up, grabbed the back of her hair, and yanked downward severely, her neck cracking at the harsh motion, before they spun her around again.

“I know you, don’t I?” She momentarily felt defiant, and screamed again, only to have a gloved hand clamp down hard over her mouth, so rough, her upper lip split, crashing against her teeth, pushing her hard down onto the bed.

The intruder loomed over her, minty breath rushing from the hole in the ski mask. She grabbed it and pushed it up. Then gasped.

“Oh my God. Why would you do this?”

The intruder snickered and turned away from her.

The taller one waved a hand at the other and whispered, “C’mon, let’s get outta here.”

Carlotta recognized the voice and screamed, “You too? Why? Just tell me why?”

The two intruders looked at each other, both removing their masks. “Leave now, I’ll be down in a minute,” said one of them.

The larger one walked purposefully toward Carlotta and pushed the standing woman onto the bed.

“Spread ’em for me.”

“Go to hell,” she yelled.

The intruder tried to roughly pull her panties down her legs, and Carlotta used that moment to hit him with the clock, the edges striking directly in the outside corner of his left eye.

The unexpected slap came screaming across her face. “You bitch!” Suddenly, her body was pulled up straight as she was hit across the face a second time before having her arm forced behind her back, where it was wrenched so painfully, she thought it would break off right at the elbow. The alarm clock fell from her hand and rolled under the bed.

The second intruder slammed the drawers closed and shoved the small jewelry box sitting on top into a bag without even opening it. “Let’s go. Now!

The pair began to leave, then one turned back around and threw the bag with the contents of the safe onto the floor and strode over to the window where Carlotta was now standing. The intruder dragged her across the room and pushed her back down onto the bed.  All the while, Carlotta screaming, “No, no, no, no.” The knife appeared once again, this time elevated high into the air for leverage.

“Please don’t,” she begged, putting her hands up to protect herself from the inevitable. Tears were streaming from her eyes and pooling in her ears. She coughed. “Wait, wait,” she pleaded.

The intruder paused his knife in midair, gloved hands arched high overhead, muscular legs set wide apart, feet defiantly placed on the ground.

Carlotta scrambled and moved toward her pillow on the bed, where she grabbed her rosary, praying out loud, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…” as the knife hurtled toward her.

Thin Pork Chops with Buttermilk Gravy

Thin Pork Chops with Old Fashioned Buttermilk Gravy

We all remember eating tough pork chops as a kid since Moms would deliberately overcook them to ensure nobody got sick from undercooked meat.  Consequently the chops would be bone dry, impossible to cut even if using a steak knife, and when it came to chewing, well imagine a tiny Chihuahua trying to eat peanut butter and you get the picture.  Don’t get me wrong, my Mom was a great cook, but pork chops were every Mom’s nemesis in those days.  Thankfully times have changed and you can buy thinly sliced pork chops that turn out tender, juicy, and full of flavor if prepared the right way.  What once took 90 minutes to prep and cook, now can be done in under 20 minutes.  The perfect recipe for dinner when you don’t have tons of prep time but still want a full-flavored home cooked meal!


4 thin pork chops

Olive Oil

2 cloves garlic

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp Onion Powder

1/2 tsp paprika

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh parsley (curly)


Place pork chops in a shallow casserole dish and pour over a cup of buttermilk until well covered.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  Then remove to a plate and lightly pat off excess buttermilk.

Add onion powder, paprika, salt/pepper to flour and dredge the pork chops.  Add olive oil to non-stick frying pan and when smoking add the pork chops.  Brown on one side for 3 minutes then turn down heat to medium and flip the pork chops and brown the other side.  When fully browned remove to a plate and cover with foil.

Add 3 Tbl of the remaining flour to the pan and make a roux.  Add half the chicken broth and whisk till smooth and no lumps.  Turn heat down to medium and continue to whisk in broth. Finely chop the 2 cloves of garlic and add to the gravy, before slowly adding 3/4 cup of buttermilk – whisk vigorously while bringing it to a boil.

Add pork chops on top of gravy – cover pan and turn heat down to low for 3 minutes.

Pork Chops

Pork Chops

Chop parsley.  Remove pork chops from pan and top with gravy.  Sprinkle parsley on top and serve.

Servings: 4




Chicken with Cognac and Mushroom

Sunday dinner features chicken more often than not.  This afternoon I watched The Hundred-Foot Journey, a movie starring Manish Dayal which tells the story of an East Indian start-up restaurant right across the street (exactly One Hundred Feet) from a Michelin-starred French restaurant owned and operated by Helen Mirren.  A cute movie that made me want to cook some delicious Indian food right then, even though I don’t have a clue how to do it, nor do I have their amazing spices.  It did motivate me enough to get off the couch and make something traditional and tasty for Sunday dinner.  And yet….I have a feeling there will be Indian cooking lessons in my future!


4 whole legs (leg and thigh)

12 large cremini mushrooms, sliced

3 Tbls Cognac

3 Tbls unsalted butter

1 Tbl flour

1 Tbl olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper

1.5 cups chicken broth (low sodium)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  1. On medium high heat, add olive oil to non-stick frying pan and place the chicken backside down first with fleshy part upright.  Lightly salt and pepper the chicken while in the pan.   Brown and turn chicken over and brown on other side after 4 minutes.
  2. Once  fully browned, remove to a plate and cover with tin foil.  Add 1 Tbl of butter to pan.  Trim and clean mushrooms; slice and add to frying pan along with minced garlic.  Over medium heat, brown the mushrooms – about 8 minutes.  Turn up heat to high and add the chicken stock – bring to boil and then turn back down to medium heat.  Mix 1 Tbl of soft butter and 1 Tbl of flour (called a slurry) and add slurry to the sauce (whisk so no lumps form).  Add a smidge of salt to the sauce.
  3. Take sauce off the burner and add the Cognac – blend into the sauce. Place chicken on top of sauce and put in oven for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken reaches 180 degrees.  Remove from oven and add 1 Tbl of butter on top of dish for richness – Serve!

Chicken with Cognac and Mushrooms

Chicken with Cognac and Mushrooms

Servings:  4


New Year Resolutions for my kitchen

I haven’t made a list of resolutions for the New Year in a very long time (like 25 years!).  Not all resolutions have to be aimed toward deprivation or total elimination of a food or a habit to be successful.  I have created a list that I intend to focus on for the first quarter of 2016.  Then each quarter I will revise/cut as needed –  my list is only 6 items long but feel they are manageable, which is important for my success.

Here goes..

  1. Use more fresh vegetables and fruits in every meal – (move the canned goods out to the garage and place in my disaster kit.)  And a good time to rotate the bottled water into the house to use and buy a fresh supply of bottled water for the kit.
  2. Grow and use my own herbs – I hate spending $4 every time I need a little fresh rosemary or thyme in a recipe. This is my new herb garden that I started in mid-November (a great investment).  See here on Amazon to order.
  3. Cut way back on the use of refined sugar.  I have gathered all my cake mixes, puddings, brownie mix (hate giving this one up!) etc., and boxed them up to bring to the local food bank.  Even so, I know that I will still consume sugar but at least a valiant effort will be made towards reduction!
  4. Create my own trail mix using only the nuts, berries, and seeds that I like and not someone else’s pickings (including Asian party mix).  Scoop them up in snack size baggies and take to work (no more potato chips at 3pm for me). Run over to Heather Christo’s blog and check-out her recipe for Homemade Party Snack Mix – looks delicious!
  5. Eat more vegetables and less beef – limit meat to once or twice a week.
  6. Follow the My Plate concept of meal preparation.  Fill one half of your plate with vegetables (or you can combine vegetables and fruits).   One quarter has protein (fish, chicken, lean meat) and the other quarter is a good carbohydrate (brown rice, whole grain breads, legumes). This one could be the biggest challenge yet!

If you are wondering why I chose a photo of Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory for this post, it’s because no matter how I do on the above resolutions, I will keep my sense of humor throughout – cuz that is my Number One resolution for 2016:  to laugh at lot and do it often!

How about you?  What New Year Resolutions have you made and want to share?

Creamy Hash Browns

Happy New Year Friends!  Am just finishing up a lovely break of 10 days off before returning to work tomorrow.  Breakfast had to be special this morning so I made a batch of Creamy Hash Browns.  You start with fresh shredded potatoes in a pan on the stove and finish in the oven.  Add whatever spices/herbs you like – I used fresh parsley and chives as I now have an herb garden in my kitchen and these herbs were plentiful.  To finish this dish you add a baked egg and small spoonful of black caviar.  A great way to start 2016!

2 russet potatoes, shredded
2 whole eggs
3 Tbl heavy cream
1 Tbl chopped chives
1 Tbl chopped parsley
1/2 tsp black caviar
Kosher Salt

Shred the potatoes or use packaged shredded hash browns from the store (usually found near the eggs.)  Add potatoes to a bowl and add cream, chives, pinch of salt, parsley.  Mix and pour into a non-stick pan.  Brown on one side, flip and brown the other side – you are just getting potatoes crispy on each side, so 5 minute maximum on the stove.

Split potato mixture between 2 ramekins and put in 400 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Creamy Hash Browns

Creamy Hash Browns

Remove from oven and crack an egg into each ramekin (I crack into a small measuring cup first and then transfer, to avoid any shells falling into the potatoes.)  Add a touch of paprika on top of egg and put back in oven for another 6-7 minutes (I check it every 2 minutes as I don’t want the egg yolk to become overcooked and hard, yet want my egg whites to be firm and well cooked.)


When at desired consistency remove from oven and add a small bit of black caviar on top – serve!

Serves:  Two

Creamy Hash Browns

Creamy Hash Browns



Goat Cheese and Kalamata Olive Crostini

When I think of Weekend Football, hearty appetizers come to mind.  To me a good-sized piece of crostini is like eating a mini sandwich.  Except you get to see what you are eating and I fill up quickly on just 3 or 4 of these – okay maybe 5 or 6, cuz I like them.

I have a reputation for not being able to keep anything green alive (although green happens to be my favorite color).  I purchased one of those bags of fresh “living” basil that has roots and dirt attached and sits in a plastic bag.  This I knew would not be difficult to keep alive so quickly brought it home and placed it in a tall glass on my kitchen window ledge.  Needless to say I was pretty self-satisfied that I had a “live” plant that I could count on being around for a couple of months or so.  I didn’t realize I was supposed to take it out of the plastic and water it weekly. I went to get some fresh basil this week to make pesto, and found the leaves had turned black.  Imagine that!  Thursday was garbage day – and the basil found itself a new home. So in making this recipe I went to buy basil leaves in one of those sleek packs of pre-picked basil, but instead found a little container of “lightly” dried basil, that you keep in the fridge once you have opened it – and it keep for about 4 weeks.  My kind of gardening!

Baguette cut into think slices, on cookie sheet, with a little olive oil drizzled on top.

Baguette cut into thin slices, on cookie sheet, with a little olive oil drizzled on top.

A handy-size container of freeze dried basil so I have it when I need it.

A handy-size container of “lightly” dried basil so I have it when I need it.


1 french bread baguette

4 oz Cream Cheese

4 oz Goat Cheese

3/4 cup Grape Tomatoes

3/4 cup greek pitted Kalamata Olives

1/2 tsp Greek Honey

Olive Oil

1 Garlic Clove, cut in half

Basil (fresh or lightly dried)

True Lime (this is a pulverized dried lime)

Italian Greco Crostini

Goat Cheese and Kalamata Olive Crostini


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1.  Slice baguette into 24 thin slices. Place on cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil over the bread.  Put in oven and bake for about 10 minutes till golden brown.

2. Mix softened cream cheese and goat cheese with a fork in small bowl, till creamy.

3. Remove toasts from oven and rub cut garlic clove across them.

4. Rough chop the olives and tomatoes (drain tomatoes as you chop).  Add both to a bowl and pour small amount of olive oil, the Greek honey, and mix well.  The honey will cut some of the brininess of the Kalamata olives.

5. Spread cheese mixture on the toasts, and top with heaping spoonful of tomato/olive mixture on top.  Sprinkle chopped basil on top and teeny amount of True Lime, and serve.


Italian Greco Crostini

Goat Cheese and Kalmata Olive Crostini

Servings:  24 crostini




French Bread Pudding Soufflé with Grand Marnier

Days of fresh fruit desserts and long hot summers are gone and Fall has definitely arrived.  Loving it!   Time to switch gears and make warm, cozy desserts and a bread pudding soufflé makes that request easy to fulfill.  You can use all types of bread for this (Challah, Italian, Brioche, or any artisan-style bread) but I prefer to use to be traditional Sour Dough French Bread which adds a more acidic and tangy taste to the desert. It also helps to make the bread pudding rise similar to a soufflé, but without all that extra work and worry associated with it.  Same flavors, but a different texture from a bread pudding recipe where you end up with a very dense, moist pudding – this is light and airy, and lovely.  Make sure whatever bread you choose, that it should be at least a day old (up to a week).  Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top, set a bowl of freshly whipped cream on the side, and you are ready for a lovely, cozy, dessert to enjoy cuddled up watching your favorite TV show, or reading that book you have meant to start.  Me?  I have just started the latest Janet Evanovich “The Scam” – along with a nice bowl of French Bread Pudding Soufflé

I soooo love Fall!!



Loaf of day old Sour Dough French bread, cut into 1″ squares

2-1/2 cups of milk

1 cup sugar

3 whole eggs

2 Tbl vanilla extract

Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

3 Tbl butter, unsalted

1/4 cup Grand Marnier


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
1. Butter the sides and bottom of a souffle dish.  Take day old bread and cut into 1″ squares and add to the souffle dish.

2 . Combine milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, spices, pinch of Kosher salt, and the Grand Marnier.  Whisk till thoroughly combined. Pour this mixture over the bread cubes and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

Remove bread mixture from the refrigerator and let sit out for about 30 minutes.

Place bread pudding in oven and cook for 30-45 minutes.  The pudding is done when it starts to rise and the top and edges get brown.  Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve with some freshly whipped cream.

Now go cuddle up in your favorite chair and start that book that has sat on your night stand for a month!




Check out these other great Bread Pudding recipes:





Steak and Pappardelle Ribbon Skillet Pie

Sundays and Comfort Food frequently go hand-in-hand, at least in my kitchen.  This skillet pie is relatively easy and only takes about 20 minutes prep time, with another 10 minutes in a hot oven so all the flavors meld together.  I prefer my steak to be medium rare, so the steak is quickly browned on the stove before adding to the pie, and then finished off in the oven.  Don’t overbake or the steak will be tough.

This is what you need to get started.

This is what you need to get started.


Olive oil

1 lemon

6 large mushrooms, sliced

1/2 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

1 cup grape tomatoes

2 cups sour cream

3 sprigs of Thyme

1 tsp Kosher salt

3 Tbl cognac

4 thin NY steaks

1 cup shredded medium cheddar cheese

1 can whole water chestnuts, cut into 1/4


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Boil water and cook noodles per package directions in salted water.  I prefer to use Pappardelle noodles, which are flat ribbons of pasta you buy either fresh or dried (I used dried).  While the noodles cook for 10 minutes, add a small amount of olive oil to a non-stick pan and add the diced onion, garlic,  salt, water chestnuts, and mushrooms.  Saute till they start to brown and add in the 3 sprigs of Thyme (gently remove the herb with a quick “whoosh” down the stem.)  Add the Thyme, lemon zest and Cognac to the mushroom mixture and cook for about one minute and then remove pan from heat and set aside.

The mushroom and onion/garlic combo smells amazing! After you add the Cognac I want to stop and pour it over french bread and eat it right then!

The mushroom and onion/garlic combo smells amazing! After you add the Cognac I want to stop and pour it over french bread and eat it right then!

Lightly salt the steaks on each side then slice into thin strips (same as if you were making Stroganoff).  Quickly brown the strips in a little olive oil in same pan.  You want to get the strips brown on outside, but still raw on the inside as you will bake the pie later.

Drain the cooked noodles and add 2/3 of the noodles to a cast iron skillet that you have added a small amount of olive oil and 1 Tbl of butter.  Brown the noodles, same as if you were making hash browns – you want to constantly turn the noodles so they are crisp, but don’t burn.

You now have your bottom “crust” of the pie and start to build the pie from here.  Place 1/2 steak strips on top of the noodles, add a layer of mushroom mixture, and the grape tomatoes (I quickly slice them into halves).

Add the remaining noodles on top, 2nd layer of steak strips, remaining mushroom mixture and then spread the sour cream on top of this layer.  Toss the shredded cheese on top of the entire pie and bake in a 400 degree for 10 minutes.


Steak Skillet Pie

Steak Skillet Pie

Serves: 6 to 8