Nana’s Chili Con Carne

My paternal grandmother was the best cook! The smell of this chili cooking takes me back to my grandmother’s house! This is a very simple basic recipe but I love it. You could add anything you wanted to perk it up and/or garnish it with scallions, cheese and whatever you like!

Nana's chili con carne

1 1/2# ground beef or less as desired

2 medium onions, sliced

2 t. minced garlic

1 T. brown sugar

1 heaping T. chili powder

1 T. tomato paste

1 can kidney beans, not drained

1 14 oz. can stewed or diced tomatoes and juice

1+ stalk celery sliced ( I add 3 as I love celery)

2 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

Brown meat, onions, and garlic. Add rest of ingredients and simmer one hour. Freezes well.

Graham cracker chewy bars

This recipe comes from Julienne’s bakery in San Marino and a cookbook called Celebrating with Julienne. I got so excited about the recipe that I ordered the cookbook. The bars are in the oven but I can tell that they are going to be a showstopper! I used almost a whole box of graham crackers, crushed up in the processor, for this recipe.

Graham Cracker chewy bars


3 cups graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temp

1/4 cup sugar

2 T. flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl with a mixer, beat all of the ingredients until moist and well blended. Press firmly into the bottom and sides of a 13″ by 9″ pan.  Bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes.


2 1/2 cups brown sugar

4 extra large eggs

2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 T. vanilla extract

3/4 t. salt

1/2 t. baking powder

1 cup pecans, chopped

Prepared crust from above, baked

Powdered sugar to garnish, when cool

Indiv. graham bar

While the crust is baking, in a large bowl or mixer, whisk together the brown sugar and the eggs to blend. Add the graham cracker crumbs, vanilla, salt, baking powder until well blended. Stir in the pecans. Spread over the baked crust and bake at 350 until the top is golden brown and jiggles slightly when tapped, 20-25 minutes. Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve and store at room temperature. Cut into 24 bars.

Nostalgic China

I recently ordered two place settings of my grandmother’s china pattern, Spode Buttercup, from EBay. I was thrilled to find it and I am so excited to have it. My grandmother was a wonderful cook, gardener and nurturer and I think about her often.  I feel like I am sitting at her table eating with her when I use this china!

Nana's buttercup china pattern

Crunchy Toffee Triangles

This recipe is from Taste-Williams Sonoma blog. On Monday’s I volunteer with a group that chop vegetables for Project Angel Heart and I bring a treat of some sort-cookie, bar, cake for our group for after chopping. I made this to take today. Not all stores carry the Heath toffee pieces but I googled Hershey and found them! I put the chopped almonds right into the bar rather than on the top. Note*: I did have to cook the bars 15 minutes longer than the recipe called for. I also cut them into smaller triangles.

Crunchy Toffee Triangles


2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (11.5 oz)

1 t. baking powder

1/4 t. kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

2 large eggs

1 t. pure vanilla extract

8 oz. toffee pieces

3/4 cup whole almonds, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped (3 oz.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″by13″ oblong baking pan. Line with parchment paper, letting the paper overhang on the long side (easier said than done-do your best!).

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer cream the butter and sugars for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on low speed until egg are completely incorporated. Beating on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and continue to beat until almost incorporated. Add the toffee pieces and mix well. Spread into prepared pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with the almonds.

Bake until golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only moist crumbs attached, about 25 minutes (*see note above). Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Run a spatula around the edge and remove from pan with parchment. Cut and enjoy!


Al Forno’s Roasted Sausages and Grapes

My nephew Wilson just started his second year of college at Brown University in Providence. I have followed a restaurant in Providence called Al Forno. They have been around since the 80’s and were the first to introduce grilled pizzas. I sent Wilson some $$ to go there and he and his girlfriend loved it-he thought it was the best pizza he had ever had! I loved living through his experience but ended up getting a used copy of their cookbook, Cucina Simpatica. It is an older cookbook, came out in 1991 but has wonderful recipes for grilled pizzas, baked pastas and more. I wanted to try the Roasted Sausage and Grape recipe and it did not disappoint! Serves 6-8  I served it with Al Forno’s mashed potatoes and it was delicious!

Al Forno's Sausage and Grapes

1 1/2 # Italian hot sausage

1 1/2 # Italian sweet sausage

3 T. unsalted butter

6-7 cups  (2.5#) red or green seedless grapes, washed and stems removed

4 T. balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Parboil the sausages in water to cover for 8 minutes to rid them of excess fat. Melt butter in a large flameproof roasting pan, add the grapes and toss to coat. With tongs, transfer the sausages to the roasting pan with the grapes and push them down into the grapes. Roast in the oven, turning the sausages once until the grapes are soft and the sausages have browned, 20-25 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausages and grapes to a heated serving platter. Place the roasting pan on a burner over medium high flame and add the balsamic vinegar. Scrape up any brown bits and allow the vinegar to reduce until thick and syrupy. Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately with Al Forno’s mashed potatoes.

Al Forno’s Mashed

2# small red potatoess, quartered, skins on

1/2 cup heavy cream (or half and half or sour cream or yogurt-my substitutions)

8 T. unsalted butter, room temp

1 t. kosher salt

Place potatoes in a saucepan with enough water to cover by one inch, bring to a boil and then simmer until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to pan over low heat, coarsely mash the potatoes, gradually adding the heavy cream and butter. Stir in the salt to taste and serve piping hot.




I am very lucky to have a wonderful restaurant in Denver called The Kitchen that has the most amazing raw bar. And oysters are on the Happy Hour menu! My friend Diane and I volunteer together on Mondays and often go to The Kitchen for oysters. It is such a wonderful treat. We try different kinds and I make notes of what we like and didn’t like.  We both feel transported to another place when we eat oysters. The briny, salty taste of the sea. I highly recommend A Geography of Oysters for any oyster lover. It is a wonderful book full of great information.


Chocolate Dump-It Cake

This recipe comes from Amanda Hesser’s blog called Food 52. Amanda was the food editor for the New York Times and has written several books including Cooking For Mr. Latte, one of my favorites. This is her mothers recipe. She uses a sour cream frosting which I found a little tart so I used a ganache. You can pour the ganache over as a glaze and/or whip it as you would cream (when it has cooled). Food 52 is a wonderful blog and I had a couple of questions as I was making the frosting for the cake and Amanda answered them right away which is very impressive!!

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

Serves 10-12 easily

2 cups sugar

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate

1/4# unsalted butter (plus more for greasing the pan)

1 cup water

2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting the pan)

2 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

1 t. sea salt

1 cup milk

1 t. cider vinegar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 t. vanilla


1 cup heavy cream

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate

1 T. dark rum (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a baking sheet lined with foil on the lowest rack to catch any drips. Grease and flour a 9″ tube pan. ( I also lined it with parchment just to be sure I could remove the cake). Place the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until melted and blended. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly. Sift together the flour, b.s, b.p. and salt. In a small bowl combine the milk and vinegar. When chocolate mixture has cooled a bit and the milk mixture and the eggs.  In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and blend. Pour into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cake cool for 10-15 minutes and then remove from pan and cool on a rack. (Kind of tricky, place a piece of wax paper or parchment over the top as you invert so you have something to grab on to. Let cool completely.

Frosting: Heat up the heavy cream just to a boil and pour over chopped chocolate in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add rum. Cool slightly and pour over cake. The longer you let the ganache sit, the thicker it becomes.