Cookbook Corner – Food Swap

Lots of you have been asking for more of my “Cookbook Corner” reviews, so here we go…

“Food Swap” By: Emily Paster

I can’t think of anything better than a “food swap” with your family, friends and community. And what a perfect time with the local Farmer’s Markets popping up everywhere. Fun fun fun! This cookbook is fabulous! It gives food swap ideas – packaging, labels, tips and tricks of the trade, recipes, georgeous photos and more! I can’t talk highly enough about this book – which is so much more than a cookbook I can’t find myself in honesty to call it just a “cookbook”. 

Emily Paster has done a great job with this book and I’m recommending it to all of my friends and family members – especially those who are in the Farmer’s Market communities. Emily is the creator of the popular website “West of the Loop”, co-founder of the Chicago Food Swap, teacher, writer and recipe developer. In all – she’s a genius.

This book even contains tags, labels and cursors that you can use in your next food swap! The book even helps you organize a food swap in your own community! 

I recently had my own version of a food swap. What happened was I was testing and developing recipes, so I was sharing with my friends and family. They decided to bake some goodies as well, and we all ended up having our own food swap party and it was great! 

This book contains recipes for such delicious goodies as, “Vanilla Rum Caramels” (page 92), “Mexican Hot Chocolate Truffles” (page 98), “Lavender Shortbread” (page 105 and my personal favorite), “Chocolate-Zucchini Mini Bundt Cakes with Chocolate Ganache” (page 110), “Whoopie Pies” (page 114), “Focaccia” (page 122), “Butternut Squash and Apple Soup” (page 133), “Cold Pea Soup with Mint” (page 140), “Sweet and Spicy Peach Barbecue Sauce” (page 148), “Roasted Cashew Butter” (page 164), “Sour Cherry Syrup” (page 171), “Flavored Salts” (page 192) and “Preserved Lemons” (page 202). 

Plus a ton of other recipes that are just as equally delicious. 

I highly recommend this book to those in the foodie world who would love to have a book on not just delicious recipes, but fun and fabulous gift ideas.

As I mentioned earlier the “Lavender Shortbread” (page 105) is one of my favorite recipes – and guess what!? With special permission, I got the ok to publish it here – and share it with all of you! Check out this cookie for a fun and “calming” twist on the original. Highly recommend these – 

“Lavender Shortbread”
(page 105)

This elegant cookie appeals to sophisticated palates. Shortbread makes a great swap item, because it keeps for several days without going stale. The rice flour gives the shortbread a melt-in-your-mouth texture. 

Be restrained when baking with lavender, or you will feel like you are eating soap. Here, dried lavender is mixed with sugar to add a subtle floral note to the dough; then the cookies are garnished with a few blossoms for visual appeal. The lavender sugar, by the way, makes a charming, easy-to-prepare swap item in its own right. 

2 cups (4 sticks) butter at room temperature
3/4 cup lavender sugar (see recipe, page 195)
3/4 cup caster or powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup turbinado or other course sugar
1 egg white
1 tablespoon dried lavender

1. Cream the butter, lavender sugar, and caster/powdered sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer just until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt. 

2. Combine the all-purpose and rice flours and gradually add in batches, mixing until just combined. The dough will be still and crumbly. 

3. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a log approximately 12 inches long, and wrap the logs in parchment or waxed paper. Refrigerate dough overnight or for at least 2 hours. 

4. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350-degrees F (175 C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper of silicone baking liners. Spread the turbinado sugar on a piece of waxed paper. Paint the outside of each log of dough with egg white and roll in the sugar until well coated. 

5. Slice the log into cookies 1/4 inch thick and place them on the baking sheet, leaving ample room between them, for they will spread. (You should get a dozen a sheet). Poke each cookie with the tines of a fork several times to create holes. Sprinkle 5 or 6 lavender blossoms on each cookie and gently press in. (If you have trouble getting your lavender blossoms to stay on, try baking the cookies for 2 minutes before adding them). 

6. Bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes until the center is firm to the touch and the outside is browned. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. 

Packaging – Pacakge the cookies by the dozen in a cellophane bag or small box. A decorative sprig of dried lavender tied to the label is a nice touch. 

Excerpted from Food Swap (c) Emily Paster. Photograph by (c) Michael Piazza Photography. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

To buy this book, click here –

Food Swap

The personal views and reviews of this blog are mine and mine alone. Any opinion or thought expressed are strictly my own. Shout out and special thanks to Storey Publishing for this opportunity. More information can be found by emailing me your questions.


Cookbook Corner – Cravings 

Can I just say how much I LOVE this cookbook!? 

“Cravings” By: Chrissy Teigen 

I’ve been using it and cooking out of it for so long – that I almost forgot to post the actual review! It just dawned on me last week, that – hey! – I haven’t even posted my review! Let’s not waste anymore time – and let’s dive in!

First of all – some of you may be thinking “Chrissy Teigen” – really? But – YES! Chrissy graces the cover – and many of the photographs inside – in fabulous form as usual – but what’s even more fabulous is the FOOD! Step in Adeena Sussman – she’s a genius!

The book is sectioned off into the following categories –

Breakfast All Day


Salads (For When You Need Them)

Noodles and Carbs

Thai Mom

Party Time

Sh*t on Toast

Vegetable Things

Things That Intimidate People But Shouldn’t


Liking this book already, aren’t you!? It really is a gem of a book – and some of the stories and recipes are equally mouth dropping.

If you aren’t used to how Chrissy “talks” than I suggest you follow her on Instagram. Some people may think she’s “brash” but I think she’s smart, honest and hilarious.

Just some of the mouthwatering recipes you’ll find in this wonderful book are –

Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs
(Page 23)

Pull-Apart Buttermilk Biscuits with Sausage Gravy
(Page 32)

Yellow Cake Baked Oatmeal
(Page 36)
*Yes – you use a boxed cake mix here and it is FABULOUS!

Chunky Creamy Mushroom Soup
(Page 47)

Split Pea Soup with Crispy Hot Dogs
(Page 53)

Chinese Chicken Salad with Crispy Wonton Skins
(Page 66)
*Can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this – DELICIOUS!

Dump and Done Ramen Salad
(Page 75)

Pepper’s Spicy Clams and Pasta
(Page 85)

Chrissy’s Mac and Cheese with Cheesy Garlic Bread Crumbs
(Page 90)
*One of the first recipes you need to try – absolutely amazing!

Smashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic
(Page 98)

Grilled Garlic-Soy Shrimp with Pepper’s Hot Green Pepper Sauce
(Page 112)

Shrimp Summer Rolls
(Page 126)

King’s Hawaiian BLPT’s
(Page 139)

Cheesy Guacamole
(Page 147)

TOAST (a must see)
(Page 156)

Roasted Mushrooms
(Page 165)

Charred and Garlicky Broccoli
(Page 173)

Perfect Seared Scallops with Warm Corn Salad
(Page 182)

John’s Marinated Steaks
(Page 206)

See!? And that’s not even a forth of the recipes presented in this beautifully designed and gorgeously photographed book! I’m highly recommending this book to everyone who loves FOOD!

What are you waiting for!?

Order it!

Click here for ordering information –

The personal views and reviews of this blog are mine and mine alone. Any opinion or thought expressed are strictly my own. Shout out and special thanks to Blogging for Books for this opportunity. More information can be found by emailing me your questions.


Blaise the Baker: Book Club Selections – The Cake Therapist and The Memory of Lemon

Hello everyone! I have an announcement to make – my newest “Blaise the Baker: Book Club” selection will be TWO book this time, and I’m so excited to share them both with you!

I’m highly recommending you check out – “The Cake Therapist” AND “The Memory of Lemon” By: Judith Fertig”! Both are wonderful reads, perfect for summer reading with plenty of memorable characters and storylines that will leave you thinking “what’s next!?” I really enjoyed both of these fabulous books, and I am positive you will too! For more information on these fabulous books check out –

And for a “behind the scenes” look – including a fabulous lemon pie recipe, click here –

Join us here –

Read on!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Who doesn’t love the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It’s traditional, delicious and comforting all rolled into one. I got to thinking about that, and thought – why not transform that sandwich into a dessert? I thought about peanut butter and jelly cookies (my Grandma Barbra eats jelly on top of her peanut butter cookies) but decided for it to be portable, and less messy, it would need to be a “bar” of some kind. The first time I tried these with less jelly, but in the end, decided they needed more jelly. These are absolutely perfect!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, slightly melted
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups smooth peanut butter
3 cups white all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups strawberry jam or jelly

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F and spraying a 9×13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Next, line the pan with parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray. This will ensure the bars to be easily removed when finished baking.

In a large bowl, combine the slightly melted butter and white granulated sugar until throughly mixed, light in color and creamy.

Next, add in the pure vanilla extract, large eggs and smooth peanut butter. Combine this and mix together well.

Finally, add in the white all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Stir this together just until everything is combined throughly.

Place over half of this mixture into the prepared pan, spread and push down evenly with clean fingers. You want the base to be as even as possible – this is important.

In a medium sized bowl, place the strawberry jam/jelly and stir well until it turns into a spreadable consistency.

Place the jam/jelly on top of the dough base and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon.

Crumble the remaining dough evenly over the top of the jam/jelly. Don’t worry about consistency here – just crumble as evenly over the top as you can.

Place in preheated oven for 40 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing and serving. This is best kept refrigerated.



Potato Chip Monster Cookies

I love “monster cookies”, but I grew up with my Grandma Barbra calling them “Kitchen Sink Cookies”. Whatever you call them, call them delicious. These are the perfect combination of sweet, salty and crunchy. Very addictive! Feel free to substitute the Mini Reese Pieces for chocolate chips. Also feel free to add up to 1/2 cup of your favorite nut variety.

Potato Chip Monster Cookies

1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups white all-purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup crushed plain potato chips
1 10 oz. bag Mini Reece Pieces

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your baking sheets by lining each with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the white granulated sugar, light brown sugar and solid vegetable shortening. Mix in the two large eggs, pure vanilla extract, baking powder and baking soda beat until light and fluffy.

Next add in the white all-purpose flour, and stir until combined. Stir in the quick cooking oats and stir.

Stir in the crushed potato chips.

Finally, stir in the mini Reese Pieces.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets. Roll the dough into balls, but don’t press flat. Keep dough balls about 3-4 inches from each other – giving them plenty of room to spread when baking.

Place in preheated oven for 18 minutes or until golden brown.

Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on baking sheets before enjoying.



Chew This – Chocolate Chip Cookie In A Mug

Happy “Chew This” Sunday! (And Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads!) As many of you already know, I have a food column in “The Courier-Times” on the 1st and 3rd Sunday’s each month. It’s a place where I can share my stories and recipes, and I love it! I’m always trying to think of new and different recipes to share with everyone – and this one takes the cake! Or, well, cookie! Ha! 

I spent longer than a person might think in developing this recipe, but the reward was well worth all the time, trouble and sink loads of dishes. The recipe produces a single chocolate chip cookie in less than two minutes. Two. Minutes! It’s dangerous – it’s fun – it’s addictive – it’s delicious! 

This recipe was tested in your average microwave. Don’t try and bake this in the oven – or a convection oven. If the cookie is still gooey after your 50 seconds, microwave 10 seconds longer. If too dry, microwave less. 50 seconds worked for me. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie In A Mug



Coconut Chocolate Brownies

I’m not the biggest can of coconut, but when mixed with sweetened condensed milk, topped and covered with chocolate – now maybe THIS I can do… AND the best part? It’s easy – and tastes just like that popular candy bar you can grab up by the checkout counter. 

Try these today…

Coconut Chocolate Brownies

1 package brownie mix (13×9-inch)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, (mixed with 1 tablespoon white all-purpose flour)
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
5 cups shredded coconut, divided
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tub chocolate fudge frosting

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F and lightly spraying a 13×9-inch pan with floured baking non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, prepare the brownie mix according to packaged directions. Mix in the chocolate chips and instant coffee granules. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 28 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine 4 cups of the shredded coconut with the can of sweetened condensed milk.

When the brownies finish baking, remove from the oven and immediately top with the shredded coconut mixture. Spread evenly with a knife.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, heat the remaining 1 cup shredded coconut, stirring continuously, until the coconut becomes toasted and brown.

Spread the toasted coconut out over foil or parchment paper – and allow to cool slightly.

In the microwave, place the plastic tub of frosting (remove the lid and foil wrapper) for 1 minute.

Pour the melted frosting evenly over the brownies and coconut mixture. Spread evenly with the back of a spoon.

Finally, top with the toasted coconut. Refrigerate until firm, then cut and enjoy. If cutting while warm, enjoy with caution – the coconut brownie is hot! This is also perfect served with ice cream.



Chew This – Skillet Meatballs

Happy “Chew This” Sunday! For those who already know – I have a food column in “The Courier-Times” on the 1st and 3rd Sunday’s each month. It’s a place where I share my recipes and the stories behind them. This one is fabulous, and I’m so excited to be sharing it with everyone! Do you like meatballs in your spaghetti? What about as an appetizer? What about placed inside a sub bun, and topped with shredded cheese? Me? I think all ways sound delicious, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about my “skillet meatballs”! 

Skillet Meatballs



Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Honey Frosting

I’m a huge fan of cupcakes! I love making them, eating them – but not decorating them… I am not the World’s Best Decorator by any means – I think it’s because my focus is always on the eating of the dessert – and less on how it looks. Regardless, the perfect garnish can hide some imperfections – like the sliced banana garnish I use for these!

This recipe was inspired by Martha Stewart. You can Google her version of the recipe and see what changes I made. I added more cupcakes to the total amount baked, changed some of the measurements and added some flavorful ingrediants. I am always looking on how to improve a recioe – and in this case – I’ve done it!

Instead of making banana bread next time you have some ripe bananas to use – make these moist and delicious cupcakes!

Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Honey Frosting

For the cupcakes…
1 1/2 cups white all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
4 ripe bananas, mashed 
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

For the frosting…
4 cups powdered sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
1 tablespoon pure honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt 

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 12-cup cupcake tins with cupcake liners. Lightly spray cups with non-stick cooking spray. 

In a large bowl, mix together the white all-purpose flour, white granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. 

Next, add in the melted and cooled unsalted butter, mashed bananas, large eggs and pure vanilla extract. 

Gently fold everything together, being very careful not to over mix the batter. Gently fold until all the white streaks of flour have disappeared. 

Next, divide the batter evenly between the cupcake tins. This batter makes 18 cupcakes and you need to fill them each 3/4 of the way full to the top.

Pour a small amount of water into the remaining 4 empty cupcake cavities. 

Place in preheated oven for exactly 27 minutes.

Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool while you make the frosting.

To make the frosting, combine the melted and cooled unsalted butter with the honey, ground cinnamon and salt. Add in enough powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. You’ll want a frosting that is thick, ice cream consistency, but yet easy spreadable. 

To frost the cupcakes, divide the frosting evenly between the cupcakes, and frost accordingly.