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Mr. Nicka’s Peanut Butter Oreo Pie

John makes this dessert for his top performing class every grading period. They always vote on what treat they want as a prize, and every time they vote for this one. I can’t blame them. It is delicious. It’s very rich, so just a small slice will be plenty, but if you are serving this to a whole classroom of teenagers, you’ll need to double the original quantities and use a 9 x 13 pan.

peanut butter oreo pie

3 oz. package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp milk
2 cups thawed frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip)
18 Oreos, coarsely chopped, divided
1 (9-inch) prepared Oreo pie crust (see note below if making your own)

Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until creamy.  Add peanut butter and milk; beat 2 minutes more or until smooth. Fold in whipped topping and 1 3/4 cups chopped cookies. Spread into pie crust. Sprinkle with remaining chopped cookies. Refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or overnight.

Note: To make an Oreo pie crust for a 9 x 13 pan, crush 1 pkg. Oreos in a food processor until they are crumbs. Add 5 Tbsp melted butter until combined and press into the pan. (Use half this much if you want to make your own 9-inch crust.) Refrigerate the crust until set before adding the filling (2-4 hours).

sample size

Bagels with Lemon-Dill Cream Cheese and Cucumber

I had these delicious little tea sandwiches at my bridal shower and finally decided to make them myself. For a little twist, I put the extra cream cheese and cucumber on a homemade bagel instead of squishy store-bought white bread and it was extra delicious. (And it looks just as fancy, I think.)

cucumber bagels

4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

zest and juice of 1 lemon

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

6-8 small plain bagels, sliced and toasted (or you can used white bread)

about 1/3 of an English (seedless) cucumber, sliced very thin

Mix the cream cheese, dill, lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper. Spread over bagels or bread and top with slices of cucumber. If making sandwiches, cut each into 4 pieces. Serve with tea.

cucumber tea sandwiches

(Recipe adapted from

Horchata with Milk

Horchata is traditionally made with rice milk, but rice milk doesn’t cut spiciness the same way that cows’ milk does. So, the occasional times when I’ve had horchata after spicy Mexican food, I was disappointed that my mouth was still burning. It looked so much like milk. So, while this may not be the authentic way to make horchata, I like it even better.

horchata with milk

4 cups milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup rice flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

optional: 1/2 cup dark rum

Bring milk and cinnamon stick to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the sweetened condensed milk, rice flour, vanilla and ground cinnamon. Chill until cold. Pour through a sieve and add rum if using. Serve over ice.

(Recipe from Martha Stewart via

Lentil Tacos

These were good. You wouldn’t mistake them for beef tacos, but they are definitely lighter and still tasty.

lentil tacos

1 tsp oil

1 cup  onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 cup dried lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 Tbsp chili powder

1-2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

To serve:



shredded lettuce

chopped tomatoes

lime wedges

guacamole or chopped avocado

shredded cheddar (optional)

sour cream (optional)

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet. Sauté the onion until softened and starting to brown. Add the garlic, tomato paste and spices and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the lentils and cook for a minute. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat, and cook until lentils are tender, about 30 min, stirring occasionally. Serve with your favorite taco toppings.

lentil tacos and toppings

(Recipe adapted from Taste of Home: Dinner on a Dime)

Rice Pudding with Cherries

The original recipe has raisins, but I was out of raisins and tried it with cherries this time. I like it even better this way. It’s good warm or cold.

cherry rice pudding

1 cup long-grain rice

2 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

4 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup, or more, dried cherries (or raisins)

1/4 tsp salt

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

Bring the rice, water and cinnamon stick to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 min. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the milk, sugar, cherries, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently (uncovered), stirring often, until thick (about 15-25 min). Before the pudding gets too thick, beat the egg yolks and vanilla in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the hot pudding and mix well. Stir back into hot pudding and heat for 1 min.

(Recipe adapted from Company’s Coming Home for the Holidays by Jean Paré)

Sushi (the easy way)

If you want to have sushi at home, or serve it at a party, a really easy way to do it is to have little squares of seaweed, a bowl of seasoned rice, and then whatever toppings you want all set out. Everyone makes their own with whatever toppings they want and just eats them out of hand.

You don’t need to roll them and cut them or make them ahead of time. And, as a bonus, the seaweed stays nice and crisp. I remember reading about this in Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food, but when I took a class a few months ago on how to make sushi, the instructor told us that this is something that is very common in Japan, especially if you are feeding a lot of people. It also works just as well for one…

sushi for one

Make the seasoned rice:

It’s best with sushi rice (a short-grain rice), but in a pinch, long grain rice will also work for this, since you aren’t having to roll it up and make it hold together.

I was making this for a party recently and when I opened the brand new bag of sushi rice … well, let’s just say it was … unusable. There was no time to get back to the store, so we used the only rice available — Uncle Ben’s Boil-in-a-Bag rice. And no one seemed to mind. :)

To make 4 cups rice, measure 2 cups sushi rice. Add 2 1/4 cups water.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil, reduce the heat immediately to low and cook for 15 min. Remove from the heat and let sit another 10 min. (If you use a different kind of rice, you’ll need a different amount of water and possibly cooking time, so follow the directions on the package). Or, use a rice cooker.

When the rice is done, pour over it 1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar. (If you have plain rice vinegar, mix it with 1/4 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar until dissolved.) Stir gently until the rice is evenly coated and let it cool a little before using.

Some toppings you might want to have are:

crab sticks, cut small

crab salad

cooked shrimp

smoked salmon

(if you really want to serve raw fish, make sure you get sashimi grade, which has been processed for eating raw; don’t use just any raw fish)

little cubes of cream cheese

cucumber, cut in small sticks

diced avocado

roasted sweet potato sticks (sweet potato fries would work)

roasted green beans with sesame oil and chili flakes (I used this recipe for technique and this one for seasoning)

maybe little pieces of diced mango or pineapple

or even cooked asparagus and thin strips of cooked beef (I had sushi like that once and it was delicious)

the sky’s the limit!

Also, you’ll want:

soy sauce (a must)


sriracha mayo (mix mayo with sriracha to taste and add a few drops of toasted sesame oil), put in a squeeze bottle, or lacking that, a zip lock bag with a little corner snipped off will work

sesame seeds

and maybe some pickled ginger


Ginger and Dried Cherry Scones

This recipe makes a lot of scones (16), and since they don’t keep very well, you might want to cut the recipe in half. They can also be frozen, but they taste best warm from the oven. With a warm cup of Irish tea with milk.

scone and tea

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups rye flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp coarse salt (or 1/2 tsp regular salt)

3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

1 cup crystalized ginger, finely chopped (spread a bunch of sugar on the cutting board to keep the ginger from sticking to the knife)

1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the top

3/4 cup buttermilk

grated lemon zest, from one lemon

course sugar, for topping

butter, for serving

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add cherries and ginger and toss to coat. In another bowl combine the cream, buttermilk and zest, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until flour is just moistened.

Kneed until the mixture comes together (4 to 6 turns). Divide in 2. Pat each portion into a circle or square about an inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut into wedges or squares and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush tops with cream (or milk) and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake until tops are browned, 30-35 min, rotating the pan halfway through. Remove scones to a rack to cool. Serve with butter or clotted cream.


(Recipe from Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass Region Feb/Mar 2014)


Classic rich, meaty, cheesy lasagna to serve a crowd. So, so good.

If you are serving a smaller number, you could also divide the recipe among 4 loaf pans, freeze them for when you want them and get 2 (large) to 4 (modest) servings out of each one. Or divide it between two 8 x 8 pans … or just eat a lot of lasagna. I don’t think anyone will mind.


1-½ pound ground beef
1 pound hot breakfast sausage (hot bulk pork sausage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can tomatoes
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
2 Tbsp dried parsley
2 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
3 cups lowfat cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
½ cups grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 lb. sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package (10 oz.) lasagna noodles (8 noodles)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt. Cook the lasagna noodles until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or saucepan, cook the ground beef, sausage, and garlic. Drain half the fat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 Tbsp parsley, basil and 1 tsp salt. Simmer for 45 min.

In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, beaten eggs, parmesan, parsley, and salt.

Arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles and spread evenly. Cover cottage cheese with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spoon a little less than half the meat sauce mixture over the top. Repeat, ending with meat sauce mixture. Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 min, or until top is hot and bubbly. You can also make it ahead and refrigerate for up to two days, or freeze it. It will take longer to cook of course -probably an hour or more if frozen.

(Recipe from

Poppy-Raspberry Kolachkes

I was surprised at how good these cookies were. I’ll definitely have to make them again! They are easy to make and freeze very well too.

poppy raspberry kolachkes

1/2  cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
1/3 cup raspberry jam


1/2 cup icing sugar
4 to 5 teaspoons half and half or milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a large bowl, beat butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add flour and poppy seeds and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms. Working with half the dough at a time,  roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Cut, using a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, and place circles on a parchment-lined or ungreased cookie sheet. Spoon 1/4 tsp raspberry jam onto each circle. Fold the circle in half over the jam and press the edges with a fork dipped in flour to seal.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the edges are light golden brown. Cool completely. Mix the ingredients for the glaze until smooth and drizzle over the cookies. Let the glaze dry completely before storing.

(Recipe from Cookies!)

Cacio e Pepe (Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano, Lemon, and Pepper)

I could eat noodles with just butter and be very happy. Adding cheese and lemon is even more delicious. You can cut this recipe in half to make a quick lunch for one.

cacio e pepe

8 oz. thick spaghetti


4 Tbsp butter, cut into 4 pieces

3 oz. Grana Padano cheese, grated (1 cup)

fresh coarsely ground black pepper

3/4 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/4 cup)

lemon zest from one lemon

fresh lemon juice

extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt and the pasta. Cook 2 min. less than called for on the package. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining.

Transfer the drained pasta to a large nonstick frying pan. Add butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano and pepper. Toss the pasta with tongs thoroughly to coat it with the sauce. Keep at a gentle simmer until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens slightly.

Remove from heat and add in Pecorino Romano and lemon zest. Toss with a bit more pasta water if it looks dry. Divide between 2 warm bowls and drizzle each with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Serve immediately.

(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Magazine)