Rocky Road Style Chocolate Valentine Hearts

Obey your Heart…Chocolate Rules!

Obey your Heart…Chocolate Rules!


Makes 16 hearts

  1. Partially melt chocolate in microwave (or over hot water).
  2. Remove from heat and beat with wooden spoon till smooth.
  3. Stir in marshmallows and nuts.
  4. Spread the chocolate mixture into the heart molds.
  5. Chill until firm, turn the hearts out and wrap.


And for a spicy Chocolate favorite of mine try these South of the Border Chocolate Cookies



Happy Valentines!



Parsnip Bread shaped for a Muffuletta

Parsnip Muffuletta

Perfect party food!

This is the time of year we have abundance of garden fresh parsnip and I wanted to do something different = shaping my parsnip bread Muffuletta style to make sandwiches for a party we were hosting. The recipe I used is an adaptation of a bread by Cooking Light, 2003, that I have made for a few years; I love this bread, the parsnips add moisture, sweetness and texture, no additional fat or sugar is needed but I like to add a little malt extract.

The Muffuletta is a popular sandwich originating among Italian immigrants in New Orleans; it is traditionally made with a large round of Sicillian sesame bread that is cut horizontally, yes, right through the middle, filled with Italian cold cuts, cheeses, olive salad, and then sliced into quarters. A very large sandwich!

Sticking with my idea, I shaped and baked my parsnip dough, Muffuletta style. Once the loaf was cooled I cut through the middle, hollowed both the top and bottom, slightly, then liberally added onto both sides, Olive Tapenade, before layering onto the bottom half of the bread – pepperoncini, turkey, ham, mozzarella, Genoa salami and provolone. I completed the sandwich by pressing it all together with the top half.

Note: The filling ingredients are not the exact, traditional cold cuts generally used; I kept this Muffuletta on a lighter side. I bought a half pound of everything, had a little left over.

Anyway, “parsnip bread” shaped Muffuletta style and this filling is not traditional by ingredients, but it is by its looks!


Makes one 10 inch Muffuletta bread, ready for slicing and filling


  • 1 pkg. instant dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dry powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon dry barley malt extract (optional)
  • 1/4 cup white-whole wheat flour – I like King Arthurs
  • 1-1/4 cups, raw, peeled and grated parsnip
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the powdered milk, and if using, barley malt extract, in warm water, add the yeast and let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Add the ¼ cup flour and grated parsnip to the yeast mixture; stir well to form a sponge.
  3. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the bread ingredients, below, together.
  5. Note: here is a link to the malt extract I use:
parsnip sponge



  • 2 cups bread flour – plus 1/4 cup extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Buttery cooking spray
  • Plastic wrap for covering the rising dough
  1. To the sponge add the bread flour mixture; stir until a shaggy dough forms.

    shaggy dough

    Shaggy dough

  2. At this point, it can all be done by hand, but I like to use a stand mixer with dough hook to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes; knead until the dough starts to look less shaggy. Let rest, covered, for 5 minutes, and then let the mixer knead the dough between 3-5 minutes, just until the dough starts to become smooth and hold together.

    holding together smoothly

    Dough starts to hold together

  3. Turn the dough out and knead by hand until smooth and elastic; if needed, add enough of the remaining bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent dough from sticking to hands (at this point the dough will feel soft and slightly sticky).
  4. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turn it from top to bottom to coat both sides. Cover and let rise in warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled.
  5. Punch dough down; if needed, lightly spray the dough with cooking spray. Cover and let rise a second time, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  6. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.
  7. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, let sit until needed. Shape dough into a flat 10-inch disk and place onto the baking sheet; lightly spray surface of the dough with buttery cooking spray.
  8. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or doubled in size.

    bread rising

    The last rise before baking

  9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  10. Bake between 20-25 minutes – until the bread is browned on the bottom and sounds hollow when tapped.

    bread in the oven

    In the oven

  11. Place on a wire rack to cool, I like to give it one more spritz with buttery cooking spray.
  12. After cooled, cut the bread horizontally through the middle and layer with your sandwich ingredients as described above. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until ready to slice and serve.
  13. Muffuletta can be made hours in advance, travels easily, it’s perfect party food.
    Parsnip Bread for Muffuletta  Sandwich

    One giant sandwich!

    Special Note: Click on the following link to see my original Parsnip Bread posting:

Zucchini Noodles with Walnut Pesto

Zucchini Noodle Salad

Looks like a bowl full of pasta noodles, NOT; it’s julienned zucchini noodles made with a cool OXO gadget found at Bed Bath and Beyond. Note: There are other gadgets you can use to make these noodles as well. Here is a link to the gadget I use:

This year I have seasoned the zucchini noodles a few ways a favorite was with Walnut Pesto:

Walnut Pesto alone

Walnut Pesto



INGREDIENTS – amounts depend on how many you are planning for

  • Zucchini
  • Cherry tomato or small Roma
  • Pitted Kalamata olives
  • Walnut Pesto – recipe link above



  1. Place the zucchini noodles in a serving bowl.
  2. Add the pesto in small amount at a time, toss until noodles are coated.
  3. Add the tomatoes and kalamata olives. Lightly toss.
  4. Serve within an hour of tossing.

zucchini in the garden

Olive Tapenade

olive tapenade medium coarse

Olive Tapenade coarse chopped

When I first started making olive tapenade, a few years back, I used a basic recipe by Ina Garden; this is my version, full of modifications tested over time.

Tapenade is very versatile, it can be made with your favorite flavoring, or chopped finer. And, there are endless uses; I like to spread on sandwiches rather mayonnaise, shown in the photo below.

I use a food processor and generally like tapenade medium coarse chopped, really depends on what I am using it for. If you don’t have a food processor then you can chop by hand, see *note below.


Makes between 1-3/4 to 2 cups


  • For the Olives: One 6 oz. can, pitted large black olives, 4 oz. green olives with pimento, 4 oz. pitted kalamata
  • 1-1/4 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons capers preserved in vinegar, well drained
  • 3 tablespoons best quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Put the olives into a food processor fitted with the metal blade.
  2. Add the anchovy paste, garlic, capers, vinegar and olive oil and a few turns of the pepper mill.
  3. Pulse with on/off switch to blend the ingredients together all at once.
  4. To store the Tapenade, pack it in small jars (preferably glass).
  5. Cover jars tightly and refrigerate – as long as 2 months.

*NOTE – No food processor:

  1. Put olives, capers and the smashed garlic on a cutting surface and then smash and chop into medium coarse pieces.
  2. Place the olive mixture to a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to incorporate.
  3. Store, as described above.
Olive tapenade in a sandwich

Tapenade used as condiment in place of mayo, etc.

Pesto di Noce (Walnut Pesto) just a Hint of Basil

Walnut Pesto

Once upon a time, California Walnuts chose my recipe, Glazed Walnuts, Mushrooms and Greens on a Phyllo Tart Shell, as top contender in a contest they paired up with on Food52. California Walnuts awarded me, and others, a pound of beautiful walnuts, and I’ve been having fun with them ever since.

My mind started scheming to make pesto primarily with walnuts as the main ingredient, just a hint of basil, because I am not a big basil fan. And because I don’t allow “kitchen police” to tell me what the heck I should be doing, I am happy breaking culinary rules, in this case = pesto is a sauce made especially of fresh basil, garlic, oil, pine nuts, and grated cheese. And so, this recipe came to be.

This pesto adds a rich earthiness to pasta and is a flavorful condiment, too: spread a little on sandwiches, use as a bruschetta topping , add a spoonful on top of fish, chicken, my favorite, lately, is to toss some in with julienned zucchini noodles

Have fun finding your favorite.

Note: The ingredient amounts listed below are as close as I can remember using, because I tend to throw things together.



  • 3/4 cup walnuts – toasted preferred
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons finely grated pecorino
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • 2 large garlic cloves crushed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil – extra if you think it needs it
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Add the walnuts, basil, pecorino, parmesan and garlic in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. With motor running, add oil in a steady stream and process to a coarse purée.
  2. Stir in the lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Note: Do not add salt until the pesto has been processed – the pecorino cheese usually adds enough, for me it’s perfect without additional salt.
  3. To store and use later, scrape it into a small jar or container. Refrigerate for a couple weeks; warm to room temperature before using.

Walnut Pesto alone

Pie starring Molly Delicious Apples

Cut Molly Delicious

After moving to our current residence we ordered a few small fruit trees from an online nursery in the state of Georgia; a few of the apple varieties, one of which, the Molly Delicious, beckoned us to order outside of our state, Washington, said to be the Apple capital of the world centered in the Wenatchee valley!

Molly Delicious was introduced from New Jersey in 1966. It’s some what similar to the Red Delicious in appearance and flavor yet unrelated to all other Delicious varieties. They are ready to eat a whole month earlier, ripen late August into early September. The skin has a yellow background with half the apple being blushed with red.

The Molly Delicious has a flavorful sweet-tart taste, is ideal for cooking, and in fact, is my favorite apple to make a pie with!

Molly Delicious Apples


  • 1 deep dish pie plate
  • 4 quart Dutch oven


  • 5 cups apples washed, cored and cut in thin slices
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon instant tapioca
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • Double pie crust – homemade or Trader Joe’s frozen=my favorite store bought
  • 3/4 cup corn flakes (optional)
  • Egg wash = lightly beaten egg w/1 tablespoon cold water


  1. Combine the apples and lemon juice in a 4 qt Dutch oven.
  2. Combine sugar and tapioca, and then add to the apples. Stir and let sit 15-20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile prepare bottom crust; lay crust into the deep dish plate, brush a light coat of egg wash and scatter the cornflakes evenly.
  4. After apples mixture has sit, give them a stir and then spoon the apples only, into the bottom crust. Arrange the apples evenly and place in the refrigerator until needed.
  5. Heat the remaining juice in the bottom of the Dutch oven with 2 tablespoons butter; bring to a slow simmer, stirring now and then.
  6. When the juice begins to thicken take off the heat and stir in the cream, stir to incorporate; take the apples out of refrigeration and evenly pour in the thickened juice.
  7. Add the top crust, flute edges, brush with egg wash, poke with air vent holes, and optional sprinkle sugar evenly over the top.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes @ 400° turn oven down to 375° and bake 35-45 more minutes, until crust is golden. Let pie cool on a rack at least couple hours before slicing…I prefer 4-5 hours.

Molly Delicious

Italian Plum & Himalayan Blackberry Butter

Plum & Blackberry Butter

Fruits on the stove top all ready to process!

Most summers I make some kind of “fruit butter” and/or freezer jam with our blackberries, apples or the sometime bounty of plums. This year we had a lot of Italian plums and this recipe is the result of one (of many) summer projects happening in my kitchen.

In the past I’ve mostly used store bought Pectin, when called for, but making your own all-natural pectin for jams, jellies, marmalades and butters is easy to do. This recipe uses a few tart apples with blackberries and plums and fresh squeezed lemon juice to achieve a concentrated spread for my “butter.”

Pectin is a naturally occurring carbohydrate in the fruit’s skin and core. When cooked, it solidifies to a gel, causing fruit preserves to set. Acid (such as lemon juice) helps to draw even more Pectin out of fruit when heated.

Unripe fruit has more Pectin than ripe fruit; just under ripe or just ripe will contain the highest level of Pectin, past that, the Pectin levels decrease.

Some fruits high in Pectin include Apples, Blackberries, Crab Apples, Cranberries, Gooseberries, Grapes, Plums and Quince.

Plum Blackberry Butter 1

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 8 cups

  • 4 pounds washed, unpeeled Italian plums, pitted and chopped into halves or quarters.
  • 4 cups rinsed blackberries
  • 3 tart, green apples, washed, quartered, NOT cored or peeled.
  • Note: tart, green apples (like Granny Smith), or small, green, immature apples of most varieties works. Generally the riper the fruit is, the lower the pectin levels are.
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
foodmill plum blackberry butter

Pass the fruit through a food mill into a large bowl to remove skins and apple seeds


  1. Combine plums, blackberries, apples, apple cider, lemon juice and vanilla in a large heavy-bottomed, non reactive Dutch oven.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring. Cover and boil gently, stir occasionally, until the fruit is softened and is becoming juicy, 15-20 minutes.
  3. Uncover and boil gently, stir occasionally, until the fruit is completely soft, about 20 minutes. (Adjust heat if needed to maintain a gentle boil.)
  4. Pass the fruit through a food mill into a large bowl to remove skins and apple seeds.
  5. Return the strained fruit mixture to the Dutch oven.
  6. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and then add it to the strained fruit.
  7. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, cook until it is thick enough to spread or until thick enough to round up on a spoon.
  8. Note: the “butter” is cooked slowly until it is concentrated and deep plum colored; this took between 2-3 hours.
  9. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 months OR freeze.
  10. For longer storage, process the butter in a boiling-water bath; refer to home canning instructions.
italian plums

Italian Plums – fresh picked


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