Chocolate cake with Creamy Peanut Butter frosting ~

A friend's birthday inspired this dessert.  She turns 60 today and loves chocolate.  She also loves peanut butter.  So I thought this combination would do nicely as a cake to celebrate her milestone.

I've made this cake many times in the past and it's my go to chocolate cake.  It's so easy and delicious. You make it right in one bowl and turn the beaters on.  I believe it's right from the back of the box of Hershey's cocoa, at least it used to be.  I linked the chocolate cake recipe below.

But for the frosting, here is the simple recipe.

1 stick of butter
1 cup of peanut butter
2 cups of confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup cream (I used almond milk)

Cream all together in a mixer.  Easy and a great spreadable frosting.

Recipe for cake, linked here.


Laura will be here for dinner tonight and since it's a weeknight, here's my simple menu!

Spaghetti & Meatballs
Garlic Bread
Green Salad

And for dessert?  Cake, of course.  I hope you like it Laura, many happy returns.

Oh, I crushed a half of cup of peanuts and topped the cake.  I just added whole ones around the bottom edge to cover up my holidays!


Decadent chocolate dipped peanut butter cookies ~

I've been making this basic recipe for peanut butter cookies since the late 70's.  It's easy and pretty healthy.

But on Pinterest (oh how I love that place), some gal added a decadent level.... she dipped the edges in chocolate and then in finely chopped peanuts.

The thing I love about these cookies, is they are gift worthy, but are so easy to make.  And they are delicious too!


1 egg
1 cup of peanut butter (I use creamy)
1/2 cup of sugar

4 oz. melted chocolate chips (I used the microwave)
3/4 cup of finely chopped peanuts (I used Trader Joe's roasted)

Mix sugar, peanut butter and egg in a medium bowl.  Place bowl, covered with plastic wrap in refrigerator for 1/2 hr. 

Chop peanuts in food processor and set aside.

Fifteen minutes after the cookie dough is in the frige, preheat oven to 325 degree Fahrenheit.  Line a 1/2 sheet pan with parchment paper.

Take cookie dough out of the refrigerator.  Roll cookie dough by teaspoonful, into round balls.  Place 2" apart on the cookie sheet.   After all cookie balls are on sheet pan, take fork and press down to make a tic tac toe impression on top, while pressing down on dough.

Place cookies in oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove cookies from oven and place on cooling wrack.  Let cool for 1/2 hour.  Melt chocolate.  Set the bowl of chocolate and the bowl of peanuts next to each other on counter.  Take each cookie and dip one edge in chocolate and then into peanuts.  Turn cookie half way around and dip the second edge in chocolate and then into peanuts.

Place cookies back on half sheet pan with parchment paper.  When cookies are all dipped, place sheet pan in the fridge to cool cookies completely.

Store in a plastic container and store.  Makes 18 cookies.

And boy are they good!  Yum ~


Strega Prime Restaurant ~

I hardly ever go into Boston to a restaurant, even though I live about 7 miles from the the hub of things.  Strega is a pretty famous Italian restaurant in Boston's North End and now it's sister restaurant, Strega Prime opened right around the corner from me without driving into the city.  So, I thought I would give it a try. It is a bit pricey, but no driving into town or even paying extra for parking, which made it all worth it to me.  They have a pre fixe lunch and dinner special and a friend and I decided to do lunch on President's Day.

For $21 dollars, you get an appetizer, an entree and a dessert.

The appetizer choices were, lobster bisque, Caesar salad or Steak Tartare.  We both went with the salad.  I asked my server Joe to hold the croutons and bring the dressing on the side please.  He was very nice and did as I asked.

Check out the size of the popover that came steaming from the oven with our salads.  I hope you can see why I didn't want the croutons, even though they are probably fabulous.  Our salads were very fresh and the popover was amazing.

The meal choices were, a Club Sirloin, Chicken Milanese, Fish and Chips or Papardelle.  We both ordered the club sirloin that was served with rosemary salted fries.  

Dessert choices were Ricotta cheesecake or Macaroons.

We shared.  The bland looking ones were actually almond marscarpone with dark chocolate centers and were heavenly.

The space itself was lovely, ornate yet in a sophisticated, sleek design.  The linens were white, the service was excellent and we both decided we would love to come back.  Although the food wasn't excellent, it was very good.


Like Lemon? Like Coconut? You'll love these lemon coconut bars....

Two of my favorite flavors in one easy dessert.... so delicious too!

And easy to make?  Oh yes, another of my favorite things.... homemade desserts that are super easy to make and taste fabulous!

The shortbread crust comes together very easily, just make sure the butter is really cold.  I cube it first thing and place in the freezer while I get all of the other ingredients together.

Here's the recipe, it comes from a friend Nancy, who found it on Pinterest.

For the Crust
2 cups unbleached or all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, very cold & cubed
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse for 10-20 seconds, or until the butter is pea-sized.  Mine took about 30 seconds.
Pour crust mixture into a sprayed 9" x 13" baking pan.
Place a piece of wax paper over the mixture and press until even and firm. Tip: Cover with wax paper (to keep it off your hands) and press until even and firm.
Place in a preheated 350 degrees F oven and bake for 15 minutes. Note: Crust will not be completely baked.

For the Lemon Coconut Filling
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh or concentrated lemon juice (approximately juice of 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon lemon zest (I used the zest of 2 lemons)
3/4 cups coconut (I used sweetened)

Place all ingredients, except for the coconut into a mixing bowl.
Beat on low until blended and then on medium speed for 3 minutes.
Pour the filling over the hot crust and sprinkle the bars with coconut.
Place in the preheated 350 degrees F oven and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the filling doesn't jiggle and the coconut is light golden brown.
I sprinkled with confectioners sugar.


Ribollita ~ a soup that warms the coldest days....

I love soup in the Winter.  And I love this Ribollita Soup.  It's easy to make, but it does take a lot of chopping.  So I make it when I know the weather will keep me inside for a few hours, like today.  The weather station is calling for  snow for most of the day and I am housebound.  So, I'll make the best of it ~

I first had this soup at a little Italian Restaurant in the North End, Antico Forno.  This isn't their recipe, but it comes close for me.  I read and tried lots of variations of this recipe. Some regions of Italy use bread in the soup, this one does not.  I like to thicken it with potato, which when diced really small so it disappears into the base of the soup when it's finished.

I use my immersion blender at the end to take half the chunkiness out of the ingredients.  It still is plenty chunky, but if you don't want to do it, it's great on it's own. 


1/4 lb. smoked bacon, diced
2 onions, sliced thinly
4 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 medium potato (yukon gold), diced finely (1/4 " inch thick)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can of ground tomatoes (I use Pastene)
1 15 ounce can of small white beans, drained
1 whole bunch of kale, washed and chopped
1/2 large head of savoy cabbage, chopped
6 cups of good chicken stock
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
Parmesan Cheese for sprinkling

Into a large dutch oven on medium heat, add oil and when it's hot, add bacon.  Saute bacon on low heat, until it's golden brown, remove and set aside.  Add onions, carrots, celery.  Saute on low to medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring every once in a while.  Add garlic, potatoes, reserved cooked bacon, salt and pepper.  Stir.  Cook for a couple of minutes and stir.  Add tomatoes and chicken stock and turn heat up to medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every once in awhile.  Add chopped kale and cabbage.  If you can't find savoy, just use any cabbage, except a red cabbage.  Place lid on the soup, but don't seal it.  Let simmer for another 15 minutes and add your drained beans.  Give every thing a stir and adjust your seasoning.  I like it a little kick in my soup, so I add a little extra pepper, both black and red.
Let soup simmer for about 10 minutes longer, turn off heat and let sit for a bit.  At this point,  I take my immersion blender and blend the soup so it's very chunky, not smooth.   

Serve hot with a big sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese and crusty Italian bread!


Ina Garten's French Chocolate Bark ~ adapted

It's nearing Valentine's Day and I thought this would be a nice gift for that someone special in your life.

The thing that caught my eye when I watched Ina make it, was that it is just so darn easy to make.  And with Ina Garten, I feel you can't go wrong in the flavor department.  She spares no expense with her ingredients.  Most of the time I can cut corners with her recipes, but this is one of those times I feel you cannot. 

These are fabulous chocolates, and I used whole salted cashews and papaya chunks from Whole Foods.  I don't usually buy my ingredients there, but something special like this, I broke my own rules.  And it was worth it, these chocolates are fabulous.

Ina used apricots, cranberries and cashews.  The only thing that I noticed about the recipe, is that I had a lot of nuts and papaya chunks leftover.  So, if you want to save a few dollars, you can cut back on the amounts you are buying.

I stored mine in the refrigerator overnight and they dulled just a bit.  So if you are giving them as a gift, then make them the same day, which takes all of five minutes to do.  Just store them in a cool place, but not in the refrigerator.

  • 8 ounces very good  semisweet chocolate finely chopped
  • 8 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots (I used dried papaya)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I did not use)
Melt the 2 chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a 9 by 10-inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.
Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline. Sprinkle the cashews, apricots and cranberries over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature.