Almond Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Almonds; Coffee Cake; Cream CheeseOur typical Sunday morning: I wake up and go downstairs to workout. Ben wakes up, and then works out his brain. By Sunday afternoon, I am doing errands or meeting up with friends, while Ben is…still working out his brain.

This Sunday, however, I decided to keep him company at home.  So, what did I do? Kitchen Aid: Cream Cheese Coffee CakeKitchen Aid; Coffee Cake; Almond; Lemon Well, I obviously baked a coffee cake for his new PBL group.

Nope, PBL does not stand for “Playdate: Bring Love” or “Playing Ball and Laughing.” Almond; Cream Cheese; Coffee CakeInstead, it stands for “Problem Based Learning.”

And while these smart kids know that eating a hunk of this seriously moist, rich, tangy, and surprisingly bright- tasting cream cheese coffee cake isn’t necessarily the very best thing for your arteries, they also know 1)all things in moderation and 2)the brain needs fuel.

So, while I pack his lunch for tomorrow (not kidding) and write a note reminding him to take this gorgeous coffee cake with him to school tomorrow (also not kidding), I’d like to take a moment to say, “Honey, Happy Anniversary. Hope you have a great day at school tomorrow! Love you!”

Go get ’em, tiger.Almond, Cream Cheese, Coffee Cake, Sunday morning

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Posted in Brunch, Budget-Friendly, Cake, Dessert, Pantry Baking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Make-Ahead Chicken Tagine

Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, Spices, Dinner, Make-AheadWe didn’t want to go out to eat on a workday, but we did have one of our best friends coming over for dinner. Being a best friend, he would have been happy with grilled cheese. But being his best friend, I wanted to feed his tummy as well as his soul.

Life can be tough sometimes, as it’s often playing games to keep you on your toes.  It goes without saying that if the changes are in your court, it’s much easier to be slight-of-foot. But as we all know, life, for some gosh-darned reason, just doesn’t always want to play nice. So if you find yourself with unsure footing, I’d at least like to help by keeping you fed.

Enter this homey, delicious, budget friendly supper: my Make-Ahead Chicken Tagine with sweet potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, and spices. You can make this stellar Chicken Tagine supper a few days ahead of time and store the entire dish in the fridge (just keep everything in the pot). When your best friend walks in your door, carefully take the sweet potatoes and chicken out of the pot and warm them up in a covered pyrex in the oven. Reduce the sauce as you are making a grain side-dish, and you’re set. It’s really so easy. Plus, the sauce is great days later (I recommend making extra!) over whole-wheat pasta.

Make-Ahead Chicken Tagine (serves 4)


  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 lbs chicken breasts or tenders
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup white wine if you have a bottle open
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger + 3 slices ginger
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch medallions
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft (7 minutes).
  • Add the chicken to the pot and sear each side. Season again with salt and pepper.
  • Once the chicken is lightly seared, add the white wine, chicken broth, adobo sauce, ground ginger, and spices.
  • Place the sweet potatoes on top of the chicken mixture. Add the diced tomatoes. Finally, top the entire mixture with the minced garlic. Season once more with salt and pepper.
  • Simmer for 50 minutes on medium to medium-low.
  • If serving immediately, remove chicken and sweet potatoes and reduce sauce (see below).
  • If making ahead, allow to cool and place in fridge. Please note that you’ll need to reheat the chicken and potatoes in the oven (keep them covered so they don’t dry out) while you reduce the sauce.
  • To reduce the sauce:  Add slivered ginger and additional spices to taste. Heat the sauce to a boil, then simmer until it thickens. Remove bay leaf and slivered ginger; serve over the chicken and potatoes.  Make it a complete meal with curried balsamic rice!
Posted in Budget-Friendly, Chicken, Dinner, Do Ahead, Sweet Potato | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauce

Jar, Hot Fudge, Peanut ButterOh happiness.

Happiness can come in many forms. A new job (yipee!), a joke (What did zero say to eight? “I like your belt!”), a sneaky “I love you!” written on someone’s (guess whose?) very thorough To-Do List, a hug, a high-five, a thoughtful comment… really, happiness is…

Who are we kidding?

Happiness is chocolate. And double happiness is chocolate and peanut butter. And triple happiness is warm chocolate and peanut butter.Hot Fudge; Peanut Butter; Sundaes

The salty goodness of peanut butter meets the smooth richness of chocolate–this is a marriage that will last a lifetime.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Sauce (adapted from Nigella Lawson)

(Serves 4-8; it all depends on how much you love your chocolate sauce!)


  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1-3 tablespoons of boiling water


  • Put the milk, chocolate chips, and peanut butter into a saucepan; heat on medium
  • Stir occasionally until melted
  • Add 1-3 tablespoons of boiling water to thin the sauce
  • Enjoy with a smile (on ice-cream, with fruit, etc.)

[Note: I pre-made this sauce and then heated it up in the microwave with some additional water. I had no complaints.]

Posted in Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Dessert, Do Ahead, Minimal Work, Peanut Butter | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greek Turkey Burgers and Grilled Sweet Potato Fries

Turkey, Burger, Grilled, Dinner, Fries, Potato
Good morning, Spring!

On the very last night of winter (it doesn’t mean it won’t snow anymore, but cross your fingers for me, will you?), we had some friends over for dinner. We wanted to make something fresh, fast, and festive. What better way to celebrate the change of seasons and the love of good friends than with big, juicy, succulent burgers? But because someone (ahem, yours truly) doesn’t eat red meat, we needed to do something a little different. Hence, the Greek Turkey Burger was created.

It’s incredibly simple, but oh-so-incredibly scrumptious.

The ingredients are pretty standard for this fusion burger. Lean ground turkey, onion, feta, pepperoncini, pitted kalamata olives, olive oil and some spices. Since we were going the healthy (but delicious!) route, we served these babies with grilled sweet potatoes.

Here’s an extra perk:  you can prepare this dish ahead of time so that you can really relax and enjoy the evening.  Prepare the patties as directed, but instead of grilling them immediately, place them in a lightly sprayed, sealed tupperware. They can hang out in the fridge while you peel and parboil the sweet potatoes. When you’re ready to eat, slice and season the potatoes. Grill the Greek turkey burgers and the sweet potatoes until you are salivating. You’ll be ready to eat in a mere 15 minutes.

What else, you may ask? Some white wine for the table, some amazing friends, and of course, a few thousand laughs.  Plus, since I’m the cook, I give you permission to eat these great Greek turkey burgers and sweet potato fries and laugh with your mouth full. Parboiled Sweet Potatoes with SteamGrilled, Fries, Sweet Potato
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Posted in Burger, Dinner, Grilled, Ground Turkey, Sweet Potato | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Decadent Mocha Cookies

Mocha, Cocoa Powder, Cookies, Cookie, Chocolate, Chocolate Chips
When I started the Scholastic Book Clubs Facebook Page, Bob was one of our first fans. I was new to Ben’s family at the time. But yet,  here was Bob: one of the first 5 supporting fans to the page (Note, the others were my family members…hey, you have to start somewhere!).

When I started Stranded with Sugar, Bob was back and as supportive as ever. He emailed me this recipe and told me it was sure to be a hit. Man, was it ever!Chocolate, Double Chocolate, Mocha, Cookie, Cookies

This recipe is absolutely decadent.

Do not make these if you are on a diet. Do not make these if you do not have self restraint.

Do make these if you want to be gloriously indulgent, if you want to make others in your life squeal with glee, or if you want to make them for yourself and just think about how very lucky you are…

Mocha Cookies  (The Bakery)


  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (divided, 1- 1/2 & 1-1/2)
  • 1 stick butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

  • In pan over simmering water melt unsweetened chocolate, 1-1/2  cups chocolate chips and butter until smooth (You can also do this step in the microwave. Stir ever 30 seconds and do NOT burn)
  • In small bowl, stir flour, baking powder and salt
  • In another bowl, beat eggs with sugar until mixture is thick; beat in vanilla and espresso powder
  • Fold chocolate into sugar/egg mixture
  • Fold flour mixture in and stir in remaining 1-1/2 cups chocolate chips with a wooden spoon
  • Let stand for 15 minutes!!! (Do not, I repeat, Do NOT miss this step)
  • On baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, drop heaping tablespoons 2″ apart
  • Bake 8-12 minutes until puffed and shining and cracked on top
  • Let cool on baking sheet
  • Transfer to rack to cool completely

(Note: Depending on the oven temperature, the time can vary. Mine were in the oven for about 12 minutes, and still were ooey gooey. )

Posted in Chocolate, Cookie, Dessert, Mocha | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Southwest Lentil Soup with Adobo

Soutwest Lentil Soup with Adobo

I’m from the Southwest, and even though I haven’t lived there for seven years, the tastes and flavors are in my blood.  Take lentil soup for example. It’s pretty standard, right? The trinity of onions, celery and carrots, some minced garlic, chicken (or vegetable) broth, and some pureed tomatoes? Lentil Soup, Carrots, Celery, OnionLentil Soup, Cooking, Simmer

How about with some fennel seed, herbs de provence, tarragon, and cumin? Still with me? Well, what if I told you that adding a few diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce would just really, as Emeril would say, “Kick it up a notch,” make you smack your lips, and ask for seconds?

Enter my Southwest version of Lentil Soup with Adobo. It’s about 15 minutes of prep, 45 minutes of simmering, and then hours of satisfaction. Enjoy! Continue reading

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Grandpa’s Apple Pie

Grandpa’s Apple Pie

Apples, Glazed, Pie, FillingYou know when you want to really make someone smile, you’d do almost anything? Well, Ben’s grandpa is one of those people I always want to see smile. And one of his most favorite, sure-to-make-him-smile desserts is apple pie.

I had never made an apple pie prior to this one. I was excited for this excuse to try, but, full disclosure: I am a bit of a perfectionist. I’m not sure that first-time apple pie making, an A-type personality, and a blog can go together. And, I was half right.Apple, PieApple Pie

I made my very first apple pie far too early one morning, when the snow (yes, it’s March, but it’s still snowing here) was falling softly outside. I was humming along, looking at the crust, thinking, “Oh, my, doesn’t this look rather sticky!” But I thought nothing of it, put it in the fridge to come together a bit, and got to work peeling and slicing the apples. I took out the crust, only to realize that (gasp!) it was still far to wet. I read the instructions once, and then another time, only to realize that I had forgotten something fairly important: flour. Yes, I had added flour, but somewhere amidst the humming and scowling at the weather, I had neglected a cup (yes, an entire cup) of this essential ingredient. So, I did my best to add it and make it into some sort of semblance of a crust, and continued on my quest.

I added the filling and then the topping, which never looked like “course sand.” It looked like very find sand in an hourglass. But, I added it over the apples anyway, and prayed for the best.

When this sad looking apple pie came out of the oven, I was wrought with distress. So, I did what any perfectionist would do while waiting for this ugly looking pie to cool.

Apple Pie, Apple, Pie, Failure

I found another recipe and started all over again (did I mention I was a perfectionist?) and popped it right into the oven, feeling much more confident about myself.  The funny thing is, pie #1 actually tasted quite good. It just looks a bit like…well…let’s just say that the above picture is better than what it looked like in person. Pie #2, however, was a success, and is currently being enjoyed by a very smiley, very happy grandpa. Continue reading

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