Make Time For Tea

There are certain days one must make time for tea. But since not all like tea, I should relent from my strong opinion! But I bet everyone reading would agree that there are certain days that one must make time for a friend. Just a few weeks back, I made time for my friend P and she made time for me. All we had was tea. We ate no cookies or cake. We simply sipped tea. It was a rich time. She brought out her glass tea pot and the jasmine bloom tea. She placed this tightly packed bulb into the pot, soaking it in the hot water. And then, tada!!  It ended up looking like this. Gah! I had never seen anything like it. It delighted P that it delighted me.

Prior to our tea time, the text message went something like this:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Secrets

I have four chocolate chip cookie secrets I want to share with you. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked, “Why are your chocolate chip cookies so good?” Then I tell them about many moons ago when I bought a cookie from the Mrs. Fields cookie store at the old Southglenn Mall.

chocolate chip cookies cooling on counter

It had to have been around 1989 or so. It was so good. A tad crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It wasn’t gooey on the inside. I don’t like gooey. But it was soft. And the cookie was rather plump, not flat. So I asked. “What makes these cookies so good?” The young gal on the other side of the counter told me the secret…four secrets actually. What generosity! What kindness.

Secret #1: Follow the Nestle toll house cookie recipe, except add 1/4 cup more flour. Be sure your flour is pressed into the measuring cups.

Secret #2: Be sure to use softened (but not too much so) Real unsalted butter and then truly cream it with the sugars. Don’t be in a hurry with this.

Secret #3: Chill the dough really well in the fridge, until the ball is almost hard.

Secret #4: Bake the cookies about 9-10 minutes until they are just starting to brown. And THEN…..drum roll please…

Take them immediately off the pan and cool on the counter.

“Cool on the counter?”

“Yes, on the counter,” she said.  “It traps in the moisture. Trust me. It makes a big difference.”

You probably already make great chocolate chip cookies. But in case you needed a little help? You’re welcome.

Crispy Tender Pork Carnitas

If you have ever eaten AMAZING pork carnitas they were probably cooked in a large vat of lard. But I bet you don’t have, nor do you want to use, a vat of lard. This recipe, created by my personal chef, avoids lard but does use a bit of bacon fat. Just a bit. And oh my, that “just a bit” keeps it on the side of healthy but takes it to a place that makes you want to sing.

There are some diverse ingredients added to this pork dish….

Gluten Free Peach Almond Crisp

Gluten free peach almond crisp is a must in our family. Why? We love peaches and we freeze peaches and we love anything crisp. Oh, and I ADORE almonds. When you make this recipe, feel free to choose your own word: crisp, crunch, cobbler. Whatever! I just like a TON of the topping. So my recipe errs on this side, the side that has more calories. Sorry. But if it matters, this recipe is gluten-free! And even if you aren’t gluten-free you will still want to make it this way. Trust me. (I say trust me a lot.)

picture of finished peach crisps alongside a bowl of almonds and a bowl of peaches

My daughter and her husband are coming to visit for Thanksgiving. She is gluten-free so we have been learning the art of baking and cooking without gluten in the Flanders family. (She doesn’t like it when I announce to people that she is gluten-free. Sorry Jenna.)

I decided to create a recipe using the gluten-free flours I already have on hand, trying it out again on a student of mine who is coming over for dinner. Both he and his wife are gluten-free. I often use my students as guinea pigs because students are hungry. Thus, they forgive me easily even if my recipe is horrible. But this recipe is WONDERFUL because 

Bacon Wrapped Apricots With Sage

When I invited my friend Priscilla to share a quick and easy appetizer recipe for this blog she sent to me one of her favorites: Bacon Wrapped Apricots With Sage.


She wrote, “People literally close their eyes and drool when they bite into these.”  I had two thoughts about her statement: (1) bacon is so good that of course this recipe makes people drool, and (2) Priscilla is the kind of person who is able to settle people, making them feel welcomed and at home in her home. They are so much at ease that they are willing to drool in front of her!! This is like

Thick Rich Apple Butter

I now LOVE thick rich apple butter. A couple of weeks ago on Facebook I said this in a post: Trying my hand at making apple butter. I’ve never made this before. It will cook for 24-36 hours. If it tastes bad, at least my house will smell like heaven. Why did I decide to make apple butter? Well, despite the blight that came to many Colorado apple trees this year, causing leaves to wither and dry, the apples were fine. In fact, it has been an bumper apple crop all over town. I have friends begging me to adopt their apples. But, I have a tree of my own. It was dropping apples like manna from heaven, leaving many to rot on the ground.

I don’t like wasting food so I worked hard to harvest them, using my new apple picker (wondering why I had waited so long to get one of these great tools). I did end up at a friend’s home grabbing another variety off her tree as well. I washed, peeled and froze a gazillion apples. I gave some away. But I still had apples left in my kitchen sink.

2010 Garden Entire Season (351)

When I decided to try making thick rich apple butter I found several recipes on the web, combining three of them into one.  Then I wrote my Facebook post about my trial, one that I thought might end in error. So I said, “If it tastes bad at least my house will smell like heaven.” Several Colorado Backyard Garden members replied with encouragement saying things like, “How can apple butter be bad?” Obviously many of you knew better than I did (one reason I started this site is so I might learn from all of you — I’m selfish that way.) In case you are wondering, my house did smell like heaven. And….drum roll please…

Apple butter can’t be bad!

BUT…in some cases, I think it can be better so you’ll have to keep reading on what I think makes it better…so read on.

Late Summer Salad

It is mid September here in Colorado.  We had some really cold weather last week, so cold I had to cover up my garden goodies two nights in a row.  But this week it has been in the low 80’s and I am finding a few gems out in my backyard garden.

Late summer salad beautifully arranged on a white plate.

Finding gems.

Late summer is a time for that.  I may think my pole beans are done, but I find a few more on the vine.  And then I peek close to the ground and see a few last cucumbers.  That one more ripe tomato makes me scream with delight.  Am I being melodramatic? Yes, I am and I don’t care.  A garden is worthy of drama.

If you are a gardener,

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

I want to give you HOPE about growing things.  Growing squash is a slow and arduous process.  Growing anything in life is like this.  And we forget that there is often a gift coming in the midst of the waiting and watching.  In this case, as I watch my squash grow (or not…and I decide to run to the farmers market instead), I think about this yummy recipe that my personal chef created back in 2010.  It truly is a bowl full of fall. The garnishes take it to OVER THE TOP goodness.  Trust me.
My brother Lee and his wife Lucy occasionally test my Personal Chef’s recipes in their New York City kitchen.  With this recipe they used a beautiful squash from their local farmer’s market in the city. To make soup with your squash, read on!

Bowl of butternut squash soup, garnished with pear and pumpkin seeds.