Have a cold glass of milk with your Mayan Mystery Cookies

Mayan Mystery Cookies

Chocolate. Cookies. Need I say more? Okay, how about allspice, cinnamon and black pepper? These three ingredients intensify the chocolate of these delicious cookies, lending some sophisitication and mega chocolatey goodness! 

Have a cold glass of milk with your Mayan Mystery Cookies

Perfect little 2-bite chocolatey cookies with just the right hint of heat.

Mayan Mystery Cookies ingredients

You probably have these ingredients in your pantry already!


¾ c. butter

¾ c. sugar

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. finely ground black pepper

¼ tsp. ground allspice

The dough for Mayan Mystery Cookies will be crumbly, which is normal.

The dough will be crumbly and a little dry. This is normal! It will come together in the next step.

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

¾ c. cocoa powder

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Semi-sweet chocolate morsels


Roll up the dough into balls and get ready to bake the Mayan Mystery Cookies.

Roll the cookies into little balls. Fortunately, they won’t spread a lot so you can fit more onto one cookie sheet.

Cream the butter and sugar together.

Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and cocoa and add to the butter mixture.

Add egg and vanilla and mix.

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and spoon the dough, which will be crumbly, onto the plastic. With the help of the plastic wrap, gather the dough together, pressing it into a log. Wrap the log in the plastic to keep it together and chill the dough log for one hour.  

Form the dough into balls about the size of a ping pong ball, tucking 4-5 chocolate morsels into each as you mold it.

Bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sunday Baked Chicken Supper

Sunday Roast Chicken - served

Hearty, delicious and homey – Sunday Baked Chicken Supper

When I was a child, nearly every Sunday, my Grandma made a baked chicken. It just wasn’t Sunday without those delicious smells coming from the kitchen and that pageantry of presenting that big meal. As an adult, Sundays felt a little incomplete, or not really official, if I didn’t make a baked chicken. With four children, the craziness of the weekend and just inadequate planning on my part (you do have to plan for making a baked chicken), that tradition fell by the wayside. But on a chilly weekend recently, I just had a hankering and had to make a nice chicken dinner for the family. Drawing on a variety of recipes and methods I’ve collected over the years, I came up with an easy, straightforward recipe I think you’ll love.

Sunday Roast Chicken - herbs and garlic

Herbs, garlic cloves and some lemon, inside the cavity of the chicken, will lend flavor as it bakes.

Sunday Baked Chicken Supper
Serves 6 or 4 with leftovers

1 5-7 pound chicken, whole
1 onion, sliced
The cloves of one head of garlic, peeled
Roasting veggies of your choice including potatoes, carrots, beats, turnips, parsnips, celery cut into big chunks
Fresh herbs of choice but thyme and rosemary were used in this recipe
1/2 a lemon, cut in half
1 TBS butter, melted
Olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1-2 TBS flour
Salt & Pepper

Sunday Roast Chicken - raw veggies

We used turnips, beats, carrots, onion and garlic here. But you could use other root veggies of your choice like potatoes, parsnips and rutabagas. See below for why I did not cook the vegetables in the same pan as the chicken (besides space).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

1. Make sure you’ve taken out the bag of gizzards and whatnot (I call it the “bag of yuck”) from inside the chicken. Not every chicken comes this way but I didn’t check once and accidentally baked the bag right in. Don’t make that mistake!

2. Place 1/2 of the sliced onion on the bottom of your roasting pan to create a bit of a bed for the chicken. Place the other 1/2 of the onion in a separate roasting pan that will hold the vegetables (more on that in a moment).

3. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Place the fresh herbs and lemon pieces inside the bird. Brush the melted butter over the chicken, then salt and pepper the bird.

4. Place your veggies of choice in the second roasting pan. I keep the veggies separate from the chicken so that they don’t come in contact with the juices of the chicken. While the chicken and the vegetables can definitely benefit from the flavor the other yields, I like to make extra vegetables and then use them with other dishes later in the week. Because they didn’t touch the chicken, they have a longer “shelf-life” and will also go better with other dishes, like beef or pork. The only time I absolutely cook chicken and veggies together is in my Go-To One Pot Chicken and Peppers recipe  which you’ve got to try on a busy night!

5. Drizzle a little olive oil over the veggies and toss them around.

6. Put both pans in the oven, side-by-side, and put on the timer for 45 minutes. At that point, switch the pans around so they are on the other side and rotated to ensure even baking. Stick a fork in the veggies to see if they are done. If so, remove them at this point. If they are not, stir them around and put a lid, or aluminum foil over them to prevent them from drying out and to create a little steaming to hurry along the baking.

7. Depending on the size of the chicken, it will need another 45 minutes, for a total of 1 1/2 hours (maybe more). A meat thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh should read 165 degrees when it is done.

8. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the gravy.

9. Pour the drippings into a small pot and add the chicken broth. Add some herbs like dried basil, rosemary and thyme plus salt and pepper to taste. Make a slurry of the flour and a little cold water in a small bowl and whisk it in to the gravy, boiling the mixture until it thickens a little. Making the gravy is totally optional!

10. Slice the chicken and serve it with the roasted veggies and a drizzle of gravy if desired.



Sunday Roast Chicken - roast chicken

Mmmm, golden brown! You can’t believe how delicious the house smells! Well, you’ll see when you make it!

Sunday Roast Chicken - roasted veggies

Roasting brings out entirely different flavors of vegetables. Onion and garlic tie all of the flavors together.

Birch Benders Pancakes & Waffles

I have wonderful memories of my dad making pancakes on Sunday mornings. I wouldBirch Benders Pancakes .jpg wake up to the smell of butter melting in the pan. He made perfect pancakes. True, they weren’t from scratch but he did add butter, eggs and milk. I loved the flavor of those pancakes and, even though I’ve bought that particular mix as an adult, the taste is not the same. But recently, ironically on my dad’s birthday, I made a batch of pancakes from a mix by Denver’s own Birch Benders. Guess what? I was taken right back to those Sunday mornings with pancakes full of great flavor, a hint of vanilla, crispy edges and a fluffy center. It made me happy.

Using all-natural ingredients, Birch Benders’ mixes take only water. That means that even birch-benders-pancake-packageson a school day, I can make them for my family and still have everyone get out of the house on time. You can make waffles with the mix too. Besides the ease and the flavor, what really drew me to want to try Birch Benders was that they account for modern dietary needs and culinary wishes. Varieties include Paleo, Gluten Free, and Protein, and the brand offers an all-natural twist on traditional favorites such as Classic, Chocolate Chip, Six Grain Cinnamon, and more. For the holiday season, Birch Benders created Sweet Potato, Pumpkin Spice, Gingerbread Spice, and Double Chocolate Peppermint flavors that make every morning feel festive.

What’s behind the name, Birch Benders? It’s an American tradition of climbing slender, supple birch trees that bend down and return you to the ground when you climb them. The founder, Matt, grew up in Maine and recalls happy times birch bending.

You can buy Birch Benders at Sprout’s, Natural Grocers, and People’s Market. Check out their recipes on their charming website too – they even have savory things to make like Paleo Pizza! 


Autumn Muffins

One of our most popular recipes in this blog, and in my house, is for Harvest Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins.  We make them every year around this time. And, when my kids were little, I’d stock up on cans of pumpkin in the fall so that I could make these muffins when it was my turn to bring snack to school or for a soccer game. This year, I’m proud to say one of my daughters came up with a variation on my muffins that is delicious and very pretty! They’d be wonderful to make for holiday brunches or to give as gifts.

My daughter used my recipe but instead of putting the full 1 cup of chocolate chips, she used 1/2 cup chips and 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cranberries. She also recommended throwing in 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

You could also experiment with an orange glaze on top, made of powdered sugar with some orange juice. If you do this, apply it immediately after taking the muffins out of the oven, while they are still in the muffin tin so that the glaze melts and seeps into the fresh muffins.Orange goes great with both chocolate and cranberries but if you prefer one over the other with an orange glaze, just stick to 1 cup of either chocolate chips or cranberries. Mmmm, that would smell so good!


Cake for Everyone!

We were having a family gathering and my daughter offered to make a cake for dessert. Great! I’m always open for some help in the kitchen. What she presented at the table was a wonderful surprise and something that pleased everyone. Plus,  it was so simple!

She started with a cake mix and premade frosting, but it’s how she topped and decorated the cake that was special. Knowing that some in the family like toffee, others like peanut butter cups and others like white chocolate, she bought those candies, broke them up and topped the cake with the candy bits, in marked off wedges. She even left one section blank for those who usually don’t want anything to get in the way of their cake and frosting experience.

Everyone loved the dessert and enjoyed getting exactly what they wanted on their cake. Try this handy trick on your next cake. What will you add? Gummy worms? Skittles? Chocolate chips? Potato chips?

Cake with Candy Toppings

Easy Dessert – Nutella Torte

One night, I was feeling super-ambitious and decided I was going to make crepes. What’s more, I was going to spread Nutella on them and have a little bit of heaven on a plate. As I made the crepes (which were a whole lot easier than I thought they’d be) and was stacking them between layers of wax paper, I realized that the stack looked like a multi-layered cake. That gave me the idea of spreading a thin layer of Nutella between each crepe to make a torte.

Nutella Torte - Slice

It looks like it took a very long time but this dessert comes together in about 15 minutes and requires no baking.

The family was so impressed by this pretty dessert that I decided to keep it in my repertoire of desserts to pull together in a pinch, but that look like I gave a lot of thought, time and attention to. Now it’s our little secret!

Don’t Tell Them It Was This Easy Nutella Torte

1 1/2 cups flour
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
2 TBS butter

1 jar Nutella hazelnut spread at room temperature
Berries, Sliced fruit, toasted nuts (optional)

Variations: Nutella and jam flavor of choice or orange marmalade, alternating layers of chocolate and jam/marmalade.

For the crepes, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Beat the eggs and milk until well-mixed and add to dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.

Melt 1/2 tsp butter in preheated (medium high) crepe pan or flat-bottomed thick pan. Pour 1/4 cup batter in the pan, swirling it quickly to evenly spread the batter around. (Note – it you are using a pan that is more than 8 inches, be careful how much you spread it. Without the limitations of the size of the pan, you could get unevenly-sized crepes which would mess with the look of a layer cake.)

Cook crepes one minute on each side. Immediately place each one on the serving plate, spreading it with the Nutella, not quite to the edge. Make the next crepe and place it on top of the other one, again spreading the Nutella. Repeat, layer after layer. While it’s helpful to have one person make the crepes while the other spreads Nutella, it isn’t necessary. Just move fast!

Nutella Torte - making

A torte in the making, layer by layer. The Nutella spreads beautifully over the warm crepes. Don’t extend the spread to the edges because, as the warm layers build, it will spread out a little more.

Finish off the top crepe with more Nutella or leave that off and dust with powdered sugar. Because this is so sweet, a pretty and nice foil is fruit, such as Clementine slices or berries. Toasted hazelnuts would also be delicious and add texture. Because the crepes are somewhat bland, think of them as a blank canvas between which you layer whatever sounds good!

Use a sharp knife to cut torte wedges like you would a layer cake. If you knife isn’t sharp though, it will just press down and make everything squish and slide – not pretty! The torte is even better the next day and is even good chilled.



An Easier Thanksgiving (or any holiday meal)

After more than a decade of being the maker of the Thanksgiving feast, I MP900386628finally figured some things out this year that made life a lot easier!  I’m calling them my Thanksgiving Lessons Learned. These tips can be helpful for any holiday or party preparation.

  1. Know exactly what you’re making and have the timing and oven and stove top usage planned and also the pots and pans you’ll be using. You want them clean, located and ready to go when you need them.
  2. Before you start cooking, get out everything you need. I used a cooking class tip of putting everything except the turkey (but including all herbs and spices) on a cookie sheet, like a cooking “kit,” the kitchen pros call this mise en place.
  3. I made sure the salt and pepper shakers used for cooking were filled, the oven-mitts were by the stove, trivets on the counter for when I took things out of the oven and I even made sure I filled the hand soap container at the sink. I didn’t want to have to search for, or refill anything on the fly!
  4. While the turkey roasted, I got out the serving dishes and utensils I wanted to use and even wrote what was to go in each with a sticky note. With people helping you (as they should), it’s easier to say “hand me the dish that says ‘cranberries'” than to say “that one, with the little flowers and the do-hickey on it.”
  5. I broke with tradition and didn’t make mashed potatoes. With all the peeling, cubing, boiling, draining, mashing, etc., they can be a real pain only to get cold almost immediately! Instead, I combined a variety of vegetables and placed them ALL on a lined baking sheet, drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper over everything and roasted them at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes while the turkey sat after its roasting time. The veggies stayed hot throughout the meal, were a whole lot healthier than butter-and-cream-laden mashed potatoes and have been great for leftovers. Doing all of the vegetables this way, on ONE pan at the SAME time was a huge time- and stress-saver.

    On the right, I roasted halved baby potatoes, Brussels sprouts, garlic cloves and a little bacon, mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper. On the left, I sliced and seeded an acorn squash, dressed it the same way but sprinkled a little brown sugar mixed with some cardamom in the last few minutes. I did this all on one baking sheet, at 375 degrees, for about 20 minutes (turning everything over twice) while the turkey rested and the gravy was being made. Next year, I'll also add baby carrots for additional color and flavor. See? Another lesson learned!

    On the right, I roasted halved baby potatoes, Brussels sprouts, garlic cloves and a little bacon, mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper. On the left, I sliced and seeded an acorn squash, dressed it the same way but sprinkled a little brown sugar mixed with some cardamom in the last few minutes. I did this all on one baking sheet, at 375 degrees, for about 20 minutes (turning everything over twice) while the turkey rested and the gravy was being made. Next year, I’ll also add baby carrots for additional color and flavor. See? Another lesson learned!

  6. For the turkey, I mixed softened butter with salt, pepper and snipped rosemary needles and spread half the butter under the breast skin, placing a couple of sage leaves under the skin on each breast for flavor and looks. I then spread the rest of the butter mixture on the outside of the bird.
  7. To roast the bird, I played off of a lucky mistake I’d made the year before. After placing the bird on a rack and pouring about 1 cup of water in the pan, instead of making a loose, aluminum foil tent over the bird, I covered it completely, wrapping the ends of the foil over the edges of the roasting pan. I cooked it this way, basically steaming it, for the first half of the time suggested on the wrapping (for my 14.5 lb. bird, I was supposed to roast it for 4 hours). Then I completely uncovered the bird for the remainder of the time. THIS CUTS 1 HOUR OFF THE RECOMMENDED COOKING TIME (mine was done in 3 hours instead of 4)! And it makes for a moist, flavorful, beautifully-browned turkey that practically falls off the bone. To know it was done, I relied on the pop-out needle that came with the turkey but I also checked the internal temperature at the thigh with a reliable thermometer. I could hardly believe it cut the time down so much but it did!
  8. In addition to making a bread stuffing (my husband would have rebelled had I not), I also made a unique rice stuffing my Grandmother used to make with her roast chicken for Sunday suppers. See that recipe below.

This year’s Thanksgiving meal was quicker, easier and better than any I’ve made before. With some planning but also some variations on the usual, I wasn’t exhausted, overheated or cranky by the time we were ready to serve. That’s something to be thankful for!

Easy and Exotic Rice Dressing

2 cups rice
4 cups water (or low sodium chicken stock)
2 bouillion cubes if not using chicken stock
1/4 cup pinion nuts
1 TBS butter
Approximately 1 tsp. Cinnamon
Approximately 1/2 tsp. Allspice

Melt the butter over medium heat, swirling the pan around so the butter spreads out. Brown the pinion nuts in the butter until they are golden and toasty but watch them because they go from perfect to burned in a split second!.

Quickly pour in the rice and stir the grains and pinion nuts around to get the nuts off the bottom of the pan and to also spread the butter around on the rice.

Add the bouillion or water and spices and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and let it sit about 20 minutes until the water is absorbed.

Taste the rice to see if you want to add more cinnamon and/or allspice. Neither should be the predominant flavor but they should enhance the rice and add a slightly exotic but homey flavor. Even though the rice is cooked, you can still add the spices but make sure you distribute them throughout the rice before serving.