Sweet & Simple Valentine’s Day Pie

Someone gave us some beautiful raspberries. They were a bit over-ripe, so they needed to be cooked. I found a recipe that was a winner with The Saxophone Player and me, and I thought you might like it, too. It requires very few ingredients, and is substitution-friendly. It would make a lovely dessert for any day, but with the bright, red raspberries and Valentine’s Day right around the corner? It’s a good match!

This is the recipe from Taste of Home.: LINK

– I used a store-bought, graham cracker crust.
– I thought a cup of sugar would be too sweet, so I used 1/3 cup.
– Since I used a third of the sugar, I also used a third of the cornstarch.
– I had some old blueberries, and tossed those in with the raspberries.
– I did not use orange liqueur.
– I added sweetened whipped cream as a garnish.

– Make sure cream cheese is room temperature, or texture will not be smooth.
– Be sure fruit compote is cooled completely, before putting it on the pie
– I used a small, offset spatula to make the top flat, so the compote would stay put.
– Keep piping bags on hand. They are so useful, cheap, and versatile.

However you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, I hope you know you are truly loved by the One who so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son to pay the price for your sins, and give you eternal life.

God bless you all!

Gluten-Free Shortbread and My Make-Believe Cottage

I love to bake. Shortbread cookies are probably my favorite cookie of all the cookies. For a million years I used the recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook, then began to experiment and made a few changes that I thought made it the best shortbread ever.

And, then, I learned that wheat and my body weren’t friends, anymore. I made a couple attempts at GF shortbread, but they were too disappointing. I just gave them up.

Until Columbus Day 2018. (Cue the angelic chorus.)

I was looking for a Ricotta Pie recipe and the recipe I settled on suggested a cookie crust. I did a quick search, and found a recipe that read like a winner. It sounded almost exactly like my own. I did not follow her ingredients exactly, though I did use her instructions.  I will give you the link to the original recipe, and post my ingredients here.

I tell you, the cookie was so good it resurrected an old dream in my make-believe world, where I live in a cottage on a rocky seacoast somewhere, and bake shortbread cookies for the world.

The Best Gluten-Free Shortbread

Here is the original recipe: How to Make the Best Gluten-Free Shortbread. Her tips are very good, so be sure to read the whole thing.

Here is my ingredient list:

  • 1 1/3 + 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch cup cornstarch (2 ounces/ 56 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 14 tablespoons butter, softened (7 ounces; 198 grams)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 1/4 ounces; 148 grams)

The finished product was beautiful.

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Next time, I will try some flavor variations. I know shortbread isn’t for everyone, but to me there’s just nothing better.

My Make-Believe Cottage

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I found this pictures over 20 years ago at a yard sale in Whittier, California. It was love at first sight. You can see it’s decrepit—the frame is barely holding together, and the paper image is worn and dirty. I’m sure I paid more than it was ever worth—I think five dollars—but I wanted that little cottage. I had to make it my own. When I look at this picture, I’m right there. The Saxophone Player is on the porch with a cup of coffee, and the zinnias in the back yard are doing beautifully.

Do you have a make-believe cottage?

Easy Chocolate Shell Recipe

Now, when I say this is easy, I mean you can make this recipe with one hand tied behind your back and your eyes closed. It’s really easy!

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 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips  
 1 level tablespoon refined coconut oil 

1) Place chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe container.
2) Heat on high for 20 seconds.
3) Stir.
4) Repeat steps 2 and 3, until smooth and combined.
5) Store in the refrigerator a small canning jar, or other microwave-safe container. Reheat as above, 20 seconds at a time.

I’ve only made this once, but it came out really well. Even the Saxophone Player liked it. I like the fact it uses coconut oil, instead of shortening. I think that pretty much makes it health food, right? 😉 

FYI: This is an adaptation of the recipe in the video below, which uses dark chocolate. I didn’t have dark chocolate on hand, so I used milk chocolate. Knowing milk chocolate has a higher fat content, I adjusted the chocolate to oil ratio. If you like the coconut smell, you can use unrefined coconut oil. 


Mexican Cornbread Pie

After being sick, I was craving comfort food. Mexican Cornbread Pie, to be specific. I found this recipe in a women’s magazine very early in my marriage, and I have probably made it hundreds of times—maybe, a thousand times. I know. It’s ridiculous to imagine someone making and eating the same dish so many times, but it was an early favorite. The Saxophone Player is very fond of casseroles. And, I’m a pretty boring cook.

It’s also just a great recipe. It adapts easily, is very affordable, and makes great lunch leftovers. A garden salad is a perfect complement.

I’ve added a few notes at the end, but the recipe as written is just perfect. This is exactly how I made it for years.

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1. Any ground meat works, or a ground meat substitute.
2. I saute the protein in about a tablespoon of olive oil, and do not drain it.
3. I add half the dry seasoning to the meat as it cooks, and the rest with the onions and peppers. (Yes, definitely, saute the peppers.)
4. Once onions are translucent, I add the tomatoes and let them cook down a bit.
5. Be sure you simmer it with the lid off, as that allows excess liquid to evaporate. You want there to be a sauce, just not too much.

1. If you don’t have a bell pepper, celery work. Or, use both. Maybe, half a pepper with two stalks of celery. That way you stretch your pepper, and add nutritious celery.
2. If you don’t have frozen corn, canned kernel corn is just fine. If you don’t like corn, add something else. Kale, zucchini, or summer squash come to mind. I would be sure to saute them with the tomatoes, before adding the broth. Might need to adjust seasonings, too.
3. No fresh tomatoes? Use canned, but drain well.
4. No Worcestershire? Use 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
5. No broth? Use water.

C O R N B R E A D  N O T E S
We have used a variety of cornbread recipes for the topping over the years—mixes, too. Anything works, so pick your favorite. Our favorite happens to be a different recipe. It’s not as simple to prepare as this, but we prefer it. If you want the recipe, let me know.

A B O U T  T H O S E  T O M A T O E S
Do everyone a favor and peel your tomatoes. If you have never mastered this kitchen skill, click here for my tutorial. I kept my instructions super simple, because I think simple is a good thing. Or course, there are countless other tutorials online, too, by people who can actually educate on the process. I’m just a hack. 🙂

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“All I have to say is, you really need to make
this more often, because I love it.”
The Saxophone Player

Picadillo is a Cuban dish of deliciousness! I would imagine that every real Cuban cook has their own variation of the dish, but I’m not a real Cuban cook—just a wannabe.  Each time I’ve made my versions in the past, they were fine, but they rarely evoked memories of my Mother’s. So, when I recently decided to try this dish again, I looked for a recipe.

Now, my first go-to for Cuban recipes is my sister, Jill. She is a real Cuban cook, and her version of this dish is wonderful (click), but I didn’t have all of her ingredients on hand. So, I went to my next go-to for Cuban recipes, Three Guys from Miami (click). I trust them, because I’ve made many of their recipes and they most often taste just like Mother’s. That’s always my goal when I make Cuban food.


The primary ingredients for Picadillo are pretty typical for Cuban food—garlic, onion, bell pepper, and tomato. Ground beef is the star. Yes, I suggest grass-fed. If you can find it on sale, it’s worth it—especially in this dish.

To that foundation, you add more very Cuban flavors: olive oil, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.

TIP: if a recipe calls for a pre-made spice blend, don’t do it. They have their place, but not in Picadillo. This may be a “hash,” but it’s a carefully seasoned dish. Also, use fresh garlic.  It’s worth the effort.

The next group of ingredients in Picadillo are not commonly included in American, savory dishes, yet they play a very important role in this recipe. Personally, the Spanish olives and raisins weren’t a surprise to me, but the cinnamon and cloves were unexpected.  I don’t know that my Mother used them in her version, but I’m very glad I included them. Their impact was subtle, but notable.

TIP: I don’t recall if the recipe says to chop the raisins, but I suggest it—unless you really like hot, juicy raisins. That is not something I enjoy. I also just think their flavor blends into the meat better, when they are chopped.

TIP: allowing the dish to stew on a really low heat for a bit helps those flavors to really blend.


I like Picadillo with white rice. You can add a green salad, tostones, or black beans. The Saxophone Player like his with a fried egg. That’s a very traditional way to eat the dish.

If you make Picadillo, please let me know how you liked it. It’s a pretty simple to make, and it’s something you could make ahead and reheat on a busy night, or double and freeze half for a really busy night.



Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies That Taste Like REAL Cookies!


The Saxophone Player doesn’t like many sweets, but he loves chocolate chip cookies. Tonight, I have found the best gluten free, chocolate chip cookie recipe, yet.  They taste like real cookies with that wonderful “chew” of gluten, but without the awful side effects.

The recipe was inspired by a recipe from this terrific recipe website, Cooking a la Mel.  You can see the original recipe here: CLICK.  Melinda Novak has many great recipes on her website—I encourage you to check it out.  Below, is my version, with  cooking instructions that match exactly what I did for my oven and my cookie sheets. The goal is to not over bake.

Hey, if you try this recipe, let me know.  Doug says it’s an 8 on his scale from 1 to 10, so I’ll have to keep looking. For now, though, it’s a lot better than no cookies.



1 1/4 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350° F
2. In medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, and soda together. Set aside
3. In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together. Add vanilla and egg and combine well. I used my mixer, so I scraped down the sides a few times during this process.
4. Add the flour and mix well. I added the flour in four parts, scraping down the sides each time.
5. Scoop dough onto cookie sheet. I used a teaspoon-sized scoop and an insulated baking sheet lined with parchment. I highly suggest you use parchment, too. It helps keep moisture in the cookie, which is important with GF baking.
6. Bake 11 minutes at 350° F. That is what worked for my oven. I suggest you check them at the 10-minute mark. You just want to be sure the cookies tops look dry.
7. Let the cookies sit on baking sheet for one or two minutes. The longer they sit, the more they will dry out, but if you remove them too soon they do not have a chance to set. Gently remove to a cooling rack.

This made 36 cookies, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.


Monday’s Menu: Spanish Pork Chops

I clipped this recipe a million years ago!

I think it was my first year of marriage. Made it regularly, but then it fell out of rotation for about 20 years. I have been reviving our old favorites lately, so I pulled this one out. It was great! Definitely, keeping it on the menu.