Plum Up the Jam..with These Oatmeal Bars

Plum Up the Jam..with These Oatmeal Bars

My friend, Jenny (the one who loves to can the food she grows in her Napa garden) brought me a jar of her plum preserves, along with a jar of her calamondin jam. Plums you know about. Calamondins are tiny orange-looking fruits. They are citrusy tasting, but not necessarily sweet like an orange. To make calamondin marmalade, Jenny has to seed each little globe, cut them into quarters, and fill a huge soup pot. She saves the seeds and ties them in cheesecloth. These, too, go into the pot with sugar and other secret ingredients! The seeds create the pectin that gives the marmalade its viscous texture.

In case you’re curious, here’s a collection of homegrown calamondins!

I switched up between a spoonful of plum jam, and a spoonful of calamondin marmalade on my toast each morning…and then it happened! While sipping coffee and gaining consciousness, I accidentally put both the jam and the marmalade on one single piece of toast. Strike up the brass band and fireworks! The taste was delicious” a merging of tart and sweet with a twangy aftertaste. It was phenomenal.

I came across an old cookie bar recipe that called for strawberry jam and said to myself,

“‘Self, what the heck… let’s get this fusion of flavors going!”

And here it is a recipe for an oatmeal bar, filled with both calamondin marmalade and plum jam. It’s pretty delish!! Now, if Jenny is not your friend, you might just have to go to the store to look for the proper filling. There are plenty of marmalades and jams on the shelves of your local grocer. If you venture to your local farmer’s market, you’ll find even more varieties. The lesson here is to experiment with new flavors in your traditional recipes to create a new, fresh taste. You can’t go wrong!!

Oatmeal Bars With Jam Filling

Yield about 16 (2-inch) bars

45 Minute Cuisine

Plum Up the Jam..with These Oatmeal Bars

Simple to make and crumbly to eat, these bars are the perfect after-school snack or grab and go breakfast for that picky little eater.

1 cup butter, cut into pieces, 2 sticks

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups your favorite jam

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with vegetable oil spray and line with parchment paper.

Place the butter, flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarse crumbs form and the dough begins to clump together, about 3 to 4 minutes of pulsing.

Spread half of the dough into the bottom of the pan, pressing down to form a layer. Spread the jam over the top. Place the rest of the dough onto the top of the jam. Press down lightly.

Bake until the bars are golden brown on the top, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool to room temperature, and cut into squares.

Americanized Paella: Heaven in a Pan

Americanized Paella: Heaven in a Pan



My recipe for Chili Roasted Beef Short Ribs is published in my book Sunday Best Dishes; A Cookbook for Passionate Cooks. Bone-in beef ribs are browned and then bathed in a braising sauce of red wine, beef broth, tomato paste and chili sauce. A dice of veggies (onion, celery, carrots, peppers and garlic) add flavor, and cinnamon sticks and an ancho pepper (or two) tucked into the mix make all the difference.

Yes, these ribs are a meal unto their own, but what if you take them to the next level? Let’s create a dish that uses braised short ribs to Americanize an international staple; traditional Spanish paella.

Paella comes from the word paella, which is French for pan. The one thing all types of paella have in common is the pan. It’s usually large, round and shallow – perfect for cooking the rice commonly found in paella dishes. Most often the dish is cooked over an open fire. What varies are the other ingredients, which include chicken and sausage, shellfish, rabbit, duck and sometimes snails! (My short rib paella is sounding better and better… right!)

To create the paella, remove the short rib meat from the bones in big chunks. Place rice into the bottom of a paella pan (or shallow baking dish). Layer the meat on top of the rice. Place slices of Portobello mushrooms on top of the beef. Sprinkle with peas. Pour the sauce from the braised short ribs over everything. At this point you can also add beef broth. You want everything to be a little soupy. Bake the dish at 300° for thirty minutes, or until the rice is plumped. Bring the pan to the table and dig in!

Chili Roasted Beef Short Ribs


Prepare these ribs in the morning and slow roast in the oven while you enjoy your Sunday afternoon. It’s melt in your mouth comfort with just a hint of heat. 

8 beef short ribs, about 3 to 4 pounds (choose ribs that are thick and meaty)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 cup (or more) unbleached all-purpose flour for dredging

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, diced, about 1 cup

2 large carrots, diced, about 1 cup

2 medium celery ribs, diced, about 1 cup

6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced, about ¼ cup

2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and deveined, diced, about 2 tablespoons

1 750ml bottle red wine

1 quart homemade beef broth, or low sodium beef broth

1 cup tomato paste

1 cup chili sauce

1 large chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and diced, about 2 tablespoons

2 cinnamon sticks

Chopped, fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 250°. Season the ribs with chili powder, salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or large roasting pan) over medium high heat. Dredge each rib in flour, shaking off the excess. Place each rib into the oil and brown on all sides. Remove the ribs to a platter. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and jalapeno to the pan. Cook until the veggies are soft.

Pour in the wine and beef broth. Stir in the tomato paste and chili sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil. Return the ribs and any juices on the platter to the pan. Bury the cinnamon sticks in the sauce.

Cover the Dutch oven with the lid (or place aluminum foil over the pan). Place the pan into the oven and cook until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone, about 6 to 7 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the cover. Place the ribs onto a platter and spoon the sauce over top. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Best Garlic Bread…. Evah!

Best Garlic Bread…. Evah!

I love it when a versatile recipe comes together, and practically forces you to eat something that you normally wouldn’t. I’m talking about BREAD! No other food has been so greatly loved (bread of life) and hated (it’s a white carb, for goodness sake!), than bread. I mean really, who partakes of that bread basket when you are dining out? I’ve notice lately that waiters offer you the basket before they bring it to the table and then, look at you with dismay if you actually take a piece. What lifestyle diet puts bread at the top of the list of approved foods for you to eat? None! What cooking school offers classes is bread baking? None! How many of your friends actually know what a dough hook is? None! I can go on….

However, there comes a time in dining, when bread is a NECESSARY part of the meal. I’m talking spaghetti and meatballs. Bread is a mighty part of the sauce slurping experience. It’s practically a utensil since we don’t always have an oversized spoon for twirling. And what makes the bread even better? Garlic, butter and cheese, of course.

So, when my sweet brother-in-law came to visit, and after three grueling days of mountain golf, when we decided to stay in for dinner, I made his favorite and ours, spaghetti with gravy. Luckily, I had a loaf of bread tucked into the back of the freezer (for emergency purposes – purely medicinal, I’m sure). I defrost the bread, split it in half and spread it with butter. I toast the bread in a hot oven until the edges begin to turn brown. Then I remove it from the oven and get down to business.

This is where it gets fun. For garlic bread, I mix together two kinds of cheese with mayo, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Spread this topping onto the toasted bread and place it into a hot oven until the ooze and bubble of the cheese, just a couple of minutes. Voila! Really good garlic bread. But, here’s where it gets FUN. You can mix anything into the cheese. You can use any cheese and add veggies like chopped green onion, diced sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped olives. You can mix cooked, diced chicken and hot sauce for an open-face Buffalo Cheese bread. Or leftover shredded pork and sautéed onions for a Southern-Style Cheese bread. How about chopped corn beef and sauerkraut for a Rueben Bread (with a side of Thousand Island, of course). I’ve even mixed in diced cooked shrimp for a cheesier version of Shrimp Toast!

But start with this carb-filled and oh-so delightful template. Haters gonna hate…but they gotta eat too!

Shhh! I snuck a few veggies in these fab meatballs...

Overhead view of a cheese grater with parmesan cheese on a rustic wood kitchen table. A plate of spaghetti and garlic bread on board are also shown.

Really Cheesy Garlic Bread

Serves 10

20 Minute Cuisine

Just bite into this cheesy, gooey garlicky bread and relive a childhood memory or two. It’s just that good!

12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated, about 3 cups

4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated, about 1 cup

2 ounces Parmesan Cheese, grated, about 1 cup

½ cup mayonnaise

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, about 1 cup

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 loaf crusty French bread

½ cup butter, 1 stick

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

Preheat the oven to 425°. Stir together the cheeses, mayo, green onions and salt in a bowl.

Cut loaf of bread in half horizontally, and place onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes, being careful that the garlic does not burn. Brush the garlic butter over the cut side of the bread. Place the bread into the oven and toast until just golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Spread cheese mixture on warm loaves and place back into the oven until the cheeses melt and begin to bubble, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Slice the bread into wedges and serve warm. To prepare garlicy bread in advance, simply wrap the bread in the aluminum foil and keep warm.

Fall Cooking Mag Features My Advice!

Fall Cooking Mag Features My Advice!

I made it into the pages of this glossy cooking magazine. I LOVE that. Here’s my quote — hope you’ll download the PDF and cook away the Autumn days!

“Hosting a party with family friends is a most wonderful opportunity for children to interact with others. They learn social skills, etiquette skills, are inspired to taste new foods, dress up and, more importantly, to know how they fit into the world around them.”

Here’s a link to the cooking mag!

A Perfect Day for Banana Bread

A Perfect Day for Banana Bread

Last summer I came across a YONANAS machine that turns frozen bananas into soft-serve ice cream’s next of kin. It was really FUN to work with. But, what truly amazed me was the book that came along with the machine. It has HUNDREDS of recipes for banana ice cream add-ins. Mint chocolate banana ice cream, triple berry banana ice cream, pistachio banana ice cream……

So, when I came back home, after a week-long trip, and saw the over-ripe bananas on the counter, I got inspired to make ice cream, until I remembered that my yonanas machine was not with me. The next best thing? Banana bread, of course! Inspired by my yonanas experience, I decided to kick things up a bit. After I prepared the batter, I poured half of it into the prepared pan. Then I mixed cocoa powder into the remaining half of the batter. I dolloped the chocolate onto the vanilla and swirled the two together. The bread is rich, light and perfect for an after-school treat.

Enjoy yours with a cup o’ Joe in the morning, or with a bowl of yonanas “ice cream” for dessert. It’s all good! And I’ve got pictures to prove it!

Chocolate Swirl Sour Cream Banana Bread

Serves a crowd

60 Minute Cuisine

A wonderful swirl of chocolate in a moist spiced banana bread.  Perfect with a cup of tea!

1 ½ cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ cup butter, room temperature, 1 cup

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

½ cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

¼ cup cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350°. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Whisk together the butter and sugar. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla. Whisk in the mushy bananas. Pour the flour on the top. Use a spoon or large whisk to combine all the batter ingredients. Pour half of the batter into a 9 X 9 X 2-inch baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray and dusted with flour. Stir the cocoa powder into the remaining batter. Spoon the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla batter. Use a knife to cut through the batter, swirling the chocolate into the vanilla. Bake until a tester inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pan and cut into wedges.