Food, NYC, recipe, Sweets

Lavender Lemon Bars

I love lemon bars, but they are anything but healthy.  I decided to make a lightened up version based off Gina’s Honey Lemon Bar recipe from her Skinnytaste blog.  I wanted to incorporate my culinary lavender as I knew it would pair well with the lemon and shine through this simple dessert without messing up the consistency or bake.  The only downside was the use of so many lemons!

Honey Lemon Bars *adapted from Skinnytaste

For the crust:

  • 6 tbsp white whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 6 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (not packed)
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits and chilled
  • 1 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp white whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar, for dusting on top


Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Prepare an 8-inch square pan by lightly spraying the inside of the pan with baking spray before lining it with 2 long sheets of aluminum foil folded to fit inside and placed perpendicular to each other in the pan.  This is so you can get the bars out after they are cooked, so don’t skip this step.

Simmer honey with 1T of culinary lavender for 30 minutes before straining solids.

Cut the sheets long enough to hang over the sides to use as handles to lift out the baked lemon bars before cutting into squares.  Spray the inside of the foil lined pan with baking spray.

For the crust: In a food processor combine the flours, brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, baking powder and salt and process until well combined.  Add the butter and yogurt to the flour mixture at once and pulse at least a dozen times before turning out into the prepared pan and pressing into an even layer.

Bake until evenly browned about 20-22 minutes.  Cool the crust on a metal rack for at least 15 – 20 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Prepare the filling by whisking together the eggs, honey, lemon zest, flour and the salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and pour over the cooled crust.  Bake until filling is set, about 22 minutes.  Cool completely before lifting the bars out of the pan with the foil.  Cut into 9 squares and dust with confectioners sugar. *Note be prepared for the sugar to “disappear” if refrigerated overnight.  Do not dust until bars are cooled and are ready to be served.

Food, Fun, NYC, recipe, Sweets

Easiest Anyfruit Cake

Easiest Strawberry Cake

peach version on the left

peach version on the left

I was inspired by the Great British Bake Off which recently debuted in America.  After running across a great strawberry cake recipe, I knew I had to whip it up since I can still find great fresh berries.  I had all the other needed ingredients as it is a fairly simple vanilla batter.  I realize I could have replaced the strawberries with another fruit or even frozen, but I have always been a fan of fresh strawberries and had a hankering for them after gawking over the picture on where I found the recipe (although it was originally published in Martha Stewart).  I made a second cake using fresh farmers market peaches and brought it to the cooking club.  Since the fruit shrinks a bit while cooking I recommend packing the top with more fruit than you think is possible.

I followed the recipe exactly (using almond milk of course)






  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk (low fat is fine)
  • About 3/4 pound strawberries, hulled and halved






Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a 9-inch deep dish pie pan or 9-inch square cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, and beat on low speed until smooth. (Note: the batter will be very thick.)

Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula (if you use a square cake pan, the batter will only come about 3/4-inch up the sides of the pan — that’s ok). Arrange the strawberries on top, cut side down, so that they completely cover the batter (the recipe calls for approximately 3/4 pound of strawberries; use more or less if necessary). Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the strawberries.

Bake for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F and bake until the cake is lightly golden and a tester comes out clean, about an hour. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack. Serve with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Note: Cake can be stored at room temperature for several days, loosely covered.

best with whip!

best with whip!


Food, recipe, savory

Sur La Table’s Cold Noodle Salad

Cold Vietnamese Noodle Salad 

Fancy cooking club prepping

Fancy cooking club prepping

I am so excited to share the first recipe taken to the fancy cooking club we started my apartment building.  One of my favorite ways to spend a cold or rainy afternoon is in a cooking class.  I am lucky enough to have a Sur La Table on the same street and when classes are on sale for 50% off… I am first to sign up.  The latest class prepared a cold vermicelli (or rice noodle) salad for summer.  When I reviewed the recipe, it showed a few differences which I wanted to try to take advantage of.

My changes:I used soy sauce instead of fish sauce (although I made it with fish sauce the second time around), brown rice noodles which I have never seen before, I spiralized my cucumber which I highly recommend, and I used red pepper flakes as I couldn’t locate pickled bird chiles, I subbed white wine vinegar for rice wine vinegar, and I added 2 garlic cloves to the vinaigrette.  The second time making the dish, I ended up buying fish sauce and rice vinegar which enhanced the flavors dramatically.


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and remove from heat.  Add 1/2 package rice noodles (6oz) and let sit 6 minutes before draining.  Toss in 2t sesame oil and salt/pepper.  Set in fridge.

Whisk together 1-2T water with 1-2T brown sugar (2nd time I used honey) until dissolved.  Add 2T fish sauce (or soy), 2T rice wine vinegar, 2T fresh minced ginger, 4T lime juice, 1/2t red pepper flakes, and 2 minced garlic cloves.

Combine the salad ingredients which can be altered according to taste.  I used 1 spiralized cucumber, 2 shredded carrots, 1 diced red pepper, 1/3-1/2C of basil, cilantro and mint.  mix in vinaigrette.

For combining the salad.  lay several bibb lettuce leaves on a platter or bowl.   Top with noodles, then the dressed veggies, and finally 3/4C chopped salted peanuts.IMG_3180

Review: This recipe includes a lot of ingredients and is a very delicate dish that cannot be frozen or stay out too long.  The flavors are great and I would recommend topping it with a protein to make a complete dish but it is definitely one to try.  I like that I didn’t need to use the oven and very little on the stovetop.  It also presents itself well.

Food, Fun, recipe, Sweets

Skinny Pumpkin Bars

This is a simple recipe that can be used without needing too many kitchen appliances and is actually pretty light with the addition of unsweetened almond milk, pumpkin, and coconut oil.  Sweet and simple with the addition of cinnamon sugar to the top makes this a great bar cake for a crowd.  Nutritionally about 140calories per 1X1 in slice


•2 cups flour

•1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar

•2 teaspoons baking powder

•1/2 teaspoon baking soda

•2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice mix or 1 tsp each cinnamon & ginger and 1/2 tsp each nutmeg & allspice and a pinch of clove

•pinch of mineral salt

•1- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

•1/3 cup water or unsweetened almond milk (at room temp)

•1/3 cup coconut oil (melted), or vegetable oil of choice 

•1 can (15oz) 100% pumpkin puree


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. In a small bowl, combine oil, sugar, water/milk and vanilla. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture along with the pumpkin puree and mix well. Don’t over mix but be sure there is no flour clumps. Mine was very thick.  Taste batter adjusting flavor or sweetness to your liking. Pour batter into a lightly greased loaf pan. Bake for 55 – 60 minutes. I used an 8X8 pan and cooked about 30 minutes.  IMG_1540 IMG_1539

Once done, remove from oven, let cool slightly before serving. Let cool completely before storing.

Food, Fun, NYC, Ohio, recipe, savory

Balls 1- Crockpot Turkey Italian

I have been putting this one off for a while as I was not so impressed in my first meatball attempt.  One thing I knew would turn out perfect is Lidia’s “rich man’s pasta” which I have been making by hand for years.  It uses up 9 egg yolks and only two whites (it is my favorite way to use up egg yolks as they are often thrown out).  Below are her three variations


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 9 egg yolks form large eggs (2/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 large whole eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Then I decided to make use of another resource I do not have in the 6by6 kitchen, the crockpot.  I decided to make Italian turkey meatballs, but even after a day of simmering in the aromatic tomato sauce, they came out awfully dry.  I am blaming it on the extra lean meat.  Regardless here is the recipe and the results compliments of Skinnytaste.



  • • 20 oz (1.3 lb) ground turkey breast 93% lean
  • • 1/4 cup whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs
  • • 1/4 cup Reggiano Parmigiano cheese, grated
  • • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • • 1 egg
  • • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • • 1 tsp kosher salt + fresh pepper
  • For the sauce:
  • • 1 tsp olive oil
  • • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • • 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • • 1 bay leaf
  • • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley


1. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, garlic and cheese. Using clean hands, mix all the ingredients and form small meatballs, about 1/8th cup each.

2. In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, being careful not to burn.

3. Pour crushed tomatoes into the crock pot with bay leaf. Add garlic and oil.

4. Drop meatballs into the sauce, cover and set crock pot to low, 4 to 6 hours. When meatballs are ready, adjust salt and pepper to taste and add fresh chopped basil or parsley.


Dining, Food, Fun, NYC, recipe, savory, Sullivan

The Waldorf- Illinois Style

Well I am starting to really miss my NYC life, so as a toast to home I made a Waldorf(ish) salad based off the things I have in my Illinois Cabinet.  I was craving it again today so I repeated the recipe for a second day in a row.  The salad is also mentioned in Cole Porter’s song “You’re the Top” from the musical Anything Goes which I am currently performing in!


The Waldorf salad claims to have been invented in the 1890s in New York City.  It contained Apples, Celery, and walnuts dressed in mayonnaise.  The walnuts were not originally a part of the salad.

IMG_2141 IMG_2142

My Salad

Many current versions contain grapes, chicken, and a yogurt/ mayonnaise mixture along with vinegar and lemon for added flavor.  I took all these thoughts into consideration as well as what I had in stock in my pantry.




  • Grapes
  • Chicken
  • Apples
  • Cucumber
  • Lemon Juice
  • Light Mayonnaise
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Salt/Pepper
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Dijon Mustard

By no means were all of the ingredients necessary, but it tasted amazing! I have no measurements because I eyeballed it all.  My thoughts behind the cucumber was that I did not have celery and I thought neither contribute taste wise but rather are there for the crunch factor.  I cooked the chicken in some of the extra dressing then poured the hot chicken on the cold salad.  This gave me sweet/salty, hot/cold, AND crispy/ chewy tastes.


Fun Fact: the salad at the Waldorf on Park Ave is still on the lunch menu at $19 each!


Food, Fun, NYC, Sullivan, Sweets

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cream Pie

IMG_2016 IMG_2017

I finally had the day off on Monday, so I went to a local garden and picked up some fresh Kale with my “adopted” theater parents.  They also gave me some homemade pie crust to use up.  Now I will never go back to the store bought crap because this crust is killer.  It is pretty much all crisco and flour, but so flaky and tasty in comparison to the premade frozen stuff I usually buy out of convenience.


After having some fun in the sun it was time to bake in the kitchen.

The ingredients in this dessert is best described in the title.  My first thoughts were a berry pie, which are my favorite, but I wanted to do something more creative.  Mandy and I did a lot of searching and thinking about this one so we were able to create a pie off of no recipe.  Some may call it cheating as it is “semi”homemade, but we just wanted it to turn out well so we figured the more premade ingredients we bought, the better.  We came up with four layers starting with the thickest on the bottom.  

  1. Pie crust
  2. Peanut butter
  3. banana
  4. Chocolate mousse

I did not have a proper pie pan so I used a simple round dish and found a recipe online to bake the crust.  In order for it not to puff up, I poked the raw dough with a fork and covered it in foil and weighed it with dried beans.  

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cream Pie

Pie crust

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup vanilla almond milk 

2-3 ripe bananas

chocolate pudding

whipped cream (light or regular)


IMG_2021 IMG_2022

I want to say 425 degrees for 10 minutes before lowering the temperature and removing the weight to cook another 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until the edges were just golden.

While that was cooking we combined the peanut butter, almond milk, and powdered sugar and a splash of extra vanilla until it tasted sweet.  We layered it on the pie crust while hot because it was easier to spread.


Then lined the whole thing with bananas.

Finally this is my cheat.  I thought I should make homemade chocolate pudding, but that would have been a lot of ingredients to buy and if it turned out too runny, the whole pie would be ruined.  To avoid any problems, we combined two “snack packs” of chocolate pudding with about a cup of whipped cream to lighten it up and covered over the bananas.


Then we wanted to top it off to make it pretty because we figured it would be very messy to plate…

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Lucky us, after refrigerating about an hour, the slices came out perfectly!


Look at that layering! Mmmm it was gone very quickly so it is time to think of a new recipe to share with those who missed out.