Almond Mocha Brownies

Hey all- Do you have an absolute favorite flavor of ice cream??  Mine is Jamocha Almond Fudge.  I usually  intend to try a different flavor, but when it comes down to it, I pretty much always end up with JAF.

So here is the best ice cream translated into brownies–  Mocha flavored brownies topped with rich creamy almond studded cream cheese frosting.  I’m embarrassed to say how many of these I ate!


1 family size brownie mix (for a 9″x 13″ pan size)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 tab. instant coffee (about one small instant coffee packet)

1/4 cup butter, melted (1/2 stick)
2 tab. unsweetened cocoa*
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 box)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tab. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whole roasted almonds, cut in half

Mix up the brownies according to the instructions on the box (mine used 1/2 cup oil, 1/3 cup water and 2 eggs).  Stir in the instant coffee until it’s all blended in.

Spoon the brownie batter into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake it up at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let the brownies cool before you add the frosting.

To make the frosting, use an electric mixer to combine the melted butter and the unsweetened cocoa.  Then use the mixer to beat in the cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla.  (Start the mixer on low so you don’t send all the powdered sugar flying!)

Then stir in the almonds and spoon the frosting over the cooled brownies.  Enjoy!

*I like Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa

Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

Hello Cookie Eating Friends–  You know there are some foods that just belong together– peanut butter & jelly,  peaches & cream,  bacon & eggs…  What’s your favorite pair??  Mine is chocolate & almonds!  When the occasional box of See’s candy comes in our door, I search the box for the little mound of perfectly chocolate coated almonds.  Heavenly!

So here’s a great little chocolatey almond cookie.  I made a big batch for an evening with friends and am sorry to say I ate almost I ate almost all the leftover cookies!!  Not too sweet, rich and buttery.  I think you’d like them as much as I do!!

1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature*
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tab. amaretto** (or vanilla)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup mini chocolate chips

With an electric mixer (start on low so ingredients don’t fly out of the bowl!), beat together the softened butter, powdered sugar, amaretto, flour and salt– until it is a bowl of coarse crumbs.  Be patient.  It takes 3 or 4 minutes to combine the butter and flour.

Then add in the almonds and mini chocolate chips and beat it with the electric mixer until the dough all sticks together.

Spread a thin layer of flour on the counter and roll out the dough until it is about 1/4″ thick.  If it sticks to the rolling pin, flour a tiny bit on top as well.

Use your favorite cookie cutter shape to cut them out and lay them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 12 to 13 minutes until they are golden around the edges. Enjoy!!

*If you’re pulling it out of the fridge (like I did), just give the butter 15 seconds in the microwave.
**I use amaretto because it gives the almond flavor, but at a fraction of the cost of almond extract.  The recipe I worked from used vanilla instead, so that would be great too!

Muesli (with yogurt & cherries)

Hi friends– The first time I met muesli was on a road trip with our kids years ago when we lived in Spain.  Some friends in Austria offered to let us stay in their apartment while they were away– as long as we would feed their rabbit and feel free to help ourselves to anything.  That’s where we found the muesli– in their kitchen cupboard!  And loved it from the start.

So here’s my current version, sweetened with maple syrup and full of lovely crunch.  With yogurt and summer cherries, it’s perfect!

3 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup coconut
2 tab. sesame seeds
3 tab. olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. sea salt*
also– serve with yogurt & fruit (like cherries!)

Stir together all the ingredients in a mixing bowl until the oats are thoroughly coasted.  Spread the muesli evenly onto two baking sheets that have been lined with foil.

Bake the muesli at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, taking it out mid-way to stir it up and spread it back out over the pans.  Let it cool and then heap it onto a bowl of yogurt & fruit!

Mandarin Pomegranate Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing



Hi all–  A couple weeks ago we had friends in for a wintery night dinner.  There was honey crusted pork loin, wild rice and Brussel spouts– and this bright sweet salad to start us off.

The real hit of the evening was after dinner, when our friend Mark pulled out his little bag of tricks and did an amazing magic show!  How did the nine of hearts jump from that stack of cards to the other?? Or the coin go right through the table??  You had us totally mystified Mark.


4 cups of your favorite greens*
3 mandarin oranges
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1 avocado, cut to neat chunks
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. orange vinegar**
2 tab. honey
1 tab. poppy seeds
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Peel and break the mandarin oranges into neat segments.  Then layer the greens, mandarin segements, pomegranate seeds, avocado and almonds onto a pretty platter.

In a container with a tight fitting lid, shake together the oil, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds. salt & pepper until they are thoroughly blended.  Pour over the salad when you are ready to serve it up.

*I used baby arugula– spinach, green leaf lettuce, bib lettuce are all great.
** Love love Trader Joe’s Orange Champagne Vinegar, but red wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar would be terrific too.



Pork & Butternut Squash in Maple Glaze



Hi all-  My sis Lulu and I were snooping around the mall and wandered into the William Sonoma store (one of our favorite window shopping stops).  The clerk there was giving out sample of stewed chicken and veggies cooked in their bottled maple bourbon sauce.  It was delish– and set me to thinking about dinner at home.

So I chunked up a pork loin and roasted squash to stir up in my own simple version of a maple glaze.  It turned out just fine– enjoyed it with my sister and her husband sitting at the table with us.  That makes every meal good!

1 1/2 pound (or a little more) pork loin
3 tab. olive oil
1 small butternut squash (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper, chopped to small bits
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 green onions, cut to bits-green part only

3/4 cup water
3 tab. soy sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tab. cornstarch

Cut the butternut squash in two halves the long way, and scoop out the seeds the stringy part of the squash.  Put it cut side down on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the the squash is tender and slices easily with a paring knife. When it cools a bit, peel off the skin with a knife and cut it into small chunks.

To get the sauce ready, put the water, soy sauce, maple syrup and cornstarch in a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake it heartily until it’s all well blended and set aside.

Cut the pork into smallish chunks.  Heat a large skillet with the 3 tab. of olive oil on medium high.  Drop in the pork and cook 8 to 10 minutes until the pork is browned and cooked through, but still tender. Remove the pork from the pan, but leave on the heat.

Put the butternut squash and bell pepper in the hot pan for two or three minutes to absorb the juices in the pan.  Add the pork back in.  Then give the sauce a few more shakes to make sure it’s all blended and then stir it in to the pan until the sauce thickens, 2 or 3 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve it up, stir the almonds into the pork mixture.  Serve it with rice or farro or noodles on a large platter and garnish the top with the green onions.  Rich and delicious!



Crunchy Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing



Hi all–  I like this bright friendly salad– All that sturdy kale, hearty farro and those crunchy almonds.  But the real star is the dressing!  So much flavor from the cilantro, tahini, cumin, garlic…

Actually I had the tahini in the fridge, because I got it for a humus recipe that was grand failure (lumpy, bumpy and bland).  Add that to the list of not so great cooking attempts that never made it to be blog posts!!   But happily, the tahini was just what I needed when I came across a version of this salad (thanks Pinterest!). I think you might like it as much as we did…


1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. red wine vinegar
2 tab. cilantro, chopped fine
2 tab. tahini
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
several grinds of freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup farro, uncooked
5 cups, kale, chopped to bits
1 carrot, shredded to strips
5 radishes, sliced thin
1 avocado, cut to small pieces
1/4 cup toasted almonds

Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients until they are thoroughly blended, set aside.

Cook the farro according to the package directions– mine said boil with 1  1/2 cups slightly salted water for 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve and rinse with cold water to be cool enough for the salad.

Then layer up the kale, farro, carrots, avocado, radishes and almonds.  Pour on the dressing when you are ready to serve it up.  Crunchy good!


Almond Carrot Cake


Hello there– Here’s my problem.  I made 2 of these carrot cakes for the group of fun young adults who show up at our house on Thursday nights.  But they left too much behind.  So this morning I had a carrot cake breakfast and have been nibbling on leftovers all day. Aren’t carrots healthy???

But I do love this version of carrot cake topped with super crunchy almonds and amaretto laced cream cheese frosting.  I think you’d love it too, but not for breakfast!


2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
2 tsp. amaretto*
3 cups grated carrot (about 6 carrots)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound box powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cup)
2 tsp. amaretto
1 to 2 tab. milk or cream

Almonds on top:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sliced almonds


Peel the carrots removing the top & bottom tips.  Grate them to get about 3 cups.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Then mix in the oil, eggs and amaretto.  Finally fold in the grated carrot.  The batter will be heavy!

Spoon the batter into two 9″ inch cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  And pop them into a 350 degree over for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden and beautiful.  Let the cake cool completely before you put on the frosting.


To make the frosting, mix the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until they are all blended.  then beat in the powdered sugar and amaretto.  If the batter seems too stiff, add a tablespoon of milk or two.  Be careful, too much milk will make soupy frosting!!

To make the candied almonds, put the 1/2 cup sugar and the almonds into a nonstick skillet.  Turn the heat to medium and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts and turns to a a lovely caramel color.  Keep stirring until all the almonds are coated.  Then turn them out onto a piece of foil to cool.

You can layer the two cakes with the frosting for a tall two-layer cake, but I just made 2 one layer cakes because sometimes people just want a little piece of cake.  Top with the sugared almonds.  Beautiful.