Enjoying the Simple Pleasures of Life, While Living in a Complicated World

Simple Pleasures

Making Homemade Mascarpone with Two Ingredients

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese with Two Ingredients

Afternoon teatime is a a pleasure enjoying wonderful scones, breads and other goodies with a lovely, fragrant cup of tea. When it comes to baking goodies, several of my recipes call for cream cheese; and I’ve found making my own Italian cream cheese, or mascarpone, is very easy and a wonderful addition in place of Philly. It’s also very inexpensive and makes a lovely gift for a fellow tea lover.

Sitting down to afternoon tea, snuggled on the sofa with magazines or a good book, along with a well-stocked tea tray is pure bliss and should be enjoyed as often as possible. Why not every day? Enjoy! Mariann


1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon cream of tartar


In a heavy saucpan, add whipping cream and gently heat until it reaches 200 degrees F. (I like using an instant-read thermometer for this.) Once it reaches 200 degrees, whisk in cream of tartar. Remove from heat and allow to cool, to room temperature.

While the mixture is cooling. Get out a large bowl, colander, cheesecloth or thin flour-sack towel. (I prefer to use thin flour-sack towels, which I cut in half, for cheese making.) Soak cloth in cold water and wring out, until damp.

Line colander with cloth; and place colander into large bowl for straining the liquid from the cream mixture.


When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour into the cloth.


Gather up the ends of the cloth and twist, until liquid begins to seep from the bottom of the cloth. Place cloth ‘bag’ into the colander, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for about 24 hours.


Remove from refrigerator and unwrap the cloth.


Scrape cheese into a covered container and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for about one week. Makes about one cup.

Enjoy on toast, scones, bagels and as a replacement in recipes calling for Philadelphia cream cheese.

Recipe has been adapted from The Great Holiday Baking Book, by Beatrice Ojakangas.


Almond-Blueberry Tea Cake

Remember the Almond Tea Cake recipe I posted?  Well, here is a delicious variation with the addition of blueberries. It’s sooo easy to make!  Enjoy! Annie


Almond-Blueberry Tea Cake


1/2 cup (8 tablespoons), melted butter
1/4 cup light, sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for sprinkling
2 eggs
1 1 /2 cups sifted, all-purpose four
1 pinch of salt
2 cups, fresh blueberries (washed and picked over)
2 tablespoons, flour
1 teaspoon, almond extract
1/3 cup sliced, almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate, and set aside.

In a large bowl combine: melted butter, light sour cream and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. With a whisk, beat together until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking until batter is well incorporated and smooth.

In a small bow add: flour and salt. Whisk dry ingredients together, and pour into the batter. Add almond extract. Continue whisking until batter is smooth and well incorporated.

In a small bowl, add blueberries and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour. With a spoon, lightly toss berries so flour completely coats berries. This will prevent berries from sinking to the bottom of the cake while baking. Trust me, it works! Next, add blueberries to batter and gently fold berries into the batter.

The batter will be very thick (that’s normal). Spoon batter into the pie plate. Sprinkle almonds over the batter, and top with sprinkling sugar over the almonds.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until cake is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 45 minutes to one hour. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream on the side.


Almond Tea Cake

Afternoon tea is one of those pleasant, daily rituals for tea drinkers; akin to coffee lovers, having your morning coffee. It’s a part of your day, and should you skip it…Well, your day just doesn’t feel right. Most of all, YOU don’t feel right.

On a cold, rainy, and blustery day (like today, in Minnesota) you look forward to putting a kettle of water on the stove, setting a tea tray and choosing the perfect tea. Next, you turn your attention to…Food. Begging the question: what will you be enjoying with your tea? This lovely, almond tea cake is the perfect confection to enjoy with a pot of Earl Grey Tea. This *almond tea cake-by any other name, is scrumptious. Enjoy!



Almond Tea Cake


1/2 cup (8 tablespoons), melted butter
1/4 cup light, sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for sprinkling
2 eggs
1 1 /2 cups sifted, all-purpose four
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon, almond extract
1/3 cup sliced, almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate, and set aside.

In a large bowl combine: melted butter, light sour cream and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. With a whisk, beat together until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking until batter is well incorporated and smooth.

In a small bow add: flour and salt. Whisk dry ingredients together, and pour into the batter. Add almond extract. Continue whisking until batter is smooth and well incorporated.

The batter will be very thick (that’s normal). Spoon batter into the pie plate. Sprinkle almonds over the batter, and top with sprinkling sugar over the almonds.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until cake is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 45 minutes to one hour. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream on the side.

*Recipe has been adapted from Sarah Jample’s-Almond Coffee Cake, that appeared on Food52.com




Cooking Recipes of Jacques Pepin~ Egg and Swiss Chard Gratin


Growing up, my mother and I watched cooking televisions together. Julia Child was a marvel and the one she most identified with, The Galloping Gourmet was the most entertaining (she loved his British accent) and her favorite was…Jacques Pepin. She cooked dishes very much like his, made with fresh vegetables, sauces and stock she made from scratch.

We NEVER went out to eat in restaurants and when McDonald’s opened a fast-food place in town, she was perplexed at the thought of “fast food”.  She cooked every meal with what she had on hand from a menu she created from weekly sales posted in the newspaper or what was featured at the butcher’s. She could poach eggs perfectly (my favorite) and even though her kitchen was very simple, without the latest gadgetry (we didn’t have a dishwasher or a microwave; toaster ovens and food processors hadn’t been invented yet) she turned out wonderful food . Her goulash, salads, ice box cookies, dressing, and hamburgers are still talked about…and those are just a few of her recipes she became well-known for in our family. Every fall, I crave her vegetable stew and yams sweetened with maple syrup.

I’ve continued watching cooking programs on PBS and Jacques Pepin is still MY favorite. His new series, “Jacques Pepin Heart & Soul” is an intimate look into his career in the kitchen, special moments in his life and family all wrapped up in his final series. I’m looking forward to more episodes and purchasing his book.

This recipe featured in the Episode ‘Recipes at Le Pelican’ was inspiring! So much so, I immediately went out and bought the ingredients I didn’t have on hand, and made it the next day! It’s very easy to make and it’s layered with marvelous flavors. I added diced, smoked country ham and  it complemented the dish perfectly!  This recipe is recreated from my notes…

I miss you, Mom.


Eggs and Swiss Chard Gratin

Recipe adapted from Jacques Pepin’s book: “Heart & Soul”

A bunch of Swiss Chard (I used rainbow Swiss chard)

1 cup mushrooms, washed and sliced

1 1/2 cups smoked country ham, diced in small cubes

8 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled (2 eggs per person) and sliced

1 1/2 cups Swiss cheesse, grated

Salt and pepper

Béchamel Sauce

1 tablespoon, flour

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup milk

Pinch of salt and pepper.

In a sauce pan melted 1 tablespoon of butter, add 1 tablespoon of flour and stirring with a whisk stir flour mixture for several minutes, add milk, salt and pepper. Stir continually until sauce is thickened. 


Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly butter casserrole dish. Wash and slice mushrooms. Peel (under cool, running water) and slice, hard-boiled eggs.

Preheat a large pan on the stove over medium heat. Wash  (do not dry) Swiss chard and chop into 2-inch segments. Place wet chard in pan and a pinch of salt; reduce heat to low, cover and steam. Check often so it doesn’t burn. Note: It may appear to be a lot of chard, but it drastically cooks down to a small amount. Place witled chard in bottom of casserole. Return pan to heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter. When melted add sliced mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Assemble casserole

Place chard on the bottom as the first layer. Followed by a layer of cooked, sliced mushrooms, then layer country ham. Arrange  sliced, hard boiled eggs over the ham. Ladle bechamel sauce over layers and top with  grated, Swiss cheese.

Bake at 350-degrees until cheese is completely melted and lightly browned. Serve.

Late Summer Pear Tart

The natural sweetness of pears makes for scrumptious desserts, especially easy to make cobblers and tarts. In my quest to make healthier desserts… this recipe is filled with summer goodness and wholesome ingredients. Fresh ripe pears have so much to offer this time of year. This tart so very easy to make (no crust) and if you don’t have pears on hand, any ripe fruit will do. Enjoy!~ Annie

Late Summer Pear Tart

4 ripe pears
2/3 cup flour
Zest of one lemon
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter-melted
1/2 cup milk (I use 2%)
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a large, glass pie plate (mine: 11.5-inches).
In a large bowl combine: flour, lemon zest, sugar and salt. Whisk together until well-blended.
In a medium sized bowl blend together with a whisk, stirring until well combined:  eggs, butter milk and lemon juice.
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Slowly, add all the wet ingredients: whisking all the while until the batter just comes together and is smooth.

Once you have the batter prepared, core pears and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place in the bottom of glass pan. Pour the batter over the pears. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until it is set in the middle. Let cool, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with a mint sprig. If you can resist temptation… Chill overnight in the refrigerator, and allow the flavors to deepen and blend together. It’s absolutely scrumptious!!

WC Pear tart on blue spode plate


Pour the batter over the sliced pears

Bake until the batter is set in the middle

It’s irresistible!!


This is a wonderful confection- perfectly light, lemony and filled with summer goodness.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy! ~ Annie

Almond Pear Tea Bread

It’s mid-September and pears are abundantly available for canning or baking luscious confections to share with family and friends!  I’m partial to making tea breads with seasonal fruit. Here’s a wonderful tea cake using fresh, fragrant and perfectly ripened pears, almonds and cardamon giving this tea bread a lovely depth of flavor.


Almond Pear Tea Bread
Makes one large loaf.


1 cup freshly pureed ripe pears (2 medium pears-peeled and cored)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Lemon Cardamon Glaze:
In a medium mixing bowl:  With a whisk, combine ingredients and whisk until smooth.
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray 9 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ loaf pan. I also like to line the loaf with parchment paper so the loaf doesn’t stick to sides or bottom. Parchment paper also makes it easy to remove the loaf from the pan when it’s finished baking.

In a small bowl:
Combine with a wire whisk: pureed pears, oil, egg, lemon peel and milk. Whisk until well blended.

In a large mixing bowl:
Add: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamon> Stir until all ingredients are well blended. Fold in pear mixture until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in almonds. Spoon dough into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the loaf tests done with a cake tester. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. If you’re using parchment paper, allow the loaf to cool about 10 minutes before removing.

While the loaf is baking, make the glaze and set it aside. When the cake has cooled, drizzle glaze over the top and sides and let it set for about 20 minutes.

This almond pear tea bread is lovely served with tea or coffee, along with sliced fresh pears and a dollop of whipped cream garnished with a sprig of mint.

Annie’s Roasted Vegetable Soup

This time of year Farmer’s Markets are teeming with fresh vegetables and herbs! Delicious goodness from local sources and finish off this soup with homemade chicken stock, you’re in store for summer goodness in a bowl. Next time you buy a rotisserie chicken, make a flavorful stock from the carcass. Here’s my recipe for Rotisserie Chicken Stock.


Roasted Vegetable Soup

1 quart of Chicken stock
3- medium red onions, rough chopped
4 large carrots, rough chopped
4 ribs celery, rough chopped
2 parsnips, rough chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
4-6 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Add all of the vegetables  in a large zip-loc bag and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season with a large pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly, ground pepper. Close bag and smush vegetables until all of the contents are well coated. Open zip-loc bag and empty veggies onto the cookie sheet. Place in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Check the last 10 minutes to be sure vegetables are thoroughly cooked and slightly caramelized. Cool and store in a container until ready to use. This is a great make ahead soup…You can roast the vegetables one day, and make the soup the next!

To Make the Soup
In a blender add a generous portion of vegetables and add chicken broth to begin pureeing mixture. Puree for 20 seconds, and add more vegetables and broth to a desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I like adding 2 tablespoons freshly minced basil from my garden. I also like to use fresh basil or basil flowers as a garnish when serving this fresh garden soup!

Optional seasonings:
1/4 teaspoon ground celery salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin with 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Recipe~ Red Velvet Cupcakes & Cream Cheese Frosting from Martha Stewart

I was looking for the best red velvet cupcake recipe and after trying many, came to the conclusion Martha Stewart’s recipe is divine! Since I’m from the school, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”, why experiment with perfection? I shot the picture and debated a very long time whether or not to post the recipe, and came to the conclusion a recipe, is a recipe, is a recipe! Enjoy!


Martha Stewart’s Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 24

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth.

Recipe~ Mediterranean Tomato Soup


This is a wonderful soup that is delicious and full of flavor. It’s also low in fat and cholesterol, and can be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth. 

Mediterranean Tomato Soup
Serves 4


3 tablespoons olive oil
28 ounce can whole tomatoes (and basil) with juice
1 large onion, diced (3/4 cup)
2 celery stalks, diced (1/2 cup)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 teaspoons fresh basil, julienned
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons tomato paste

In a large, dutch oven or large saucepan,over medium heat add 3 tablespoons of olive, onions and celery. Sweat vegetables,  until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add tomatoes (with a large spoon, break up tomatoes into small pieces), chicken broth, tomato paste, basil leaf, celery seed, basil and oregano. Stir mixture. On low heat, simmer soup mixture for 20-30 minutes. Add baking soda ( soup will slightly foam) and stir soup. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes more, add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Puree soup in a food processor. Ladle into bowls with a toasted or grilled slice of garlic french bread topped with melted mozzarella cheese. Enjoy!

Note: I’ve also used this tomato soup over pasta and added freshly, grated Parmesan cheese for a quick and easy lunch. If you prefer cream of tomato soup, add milk or half and half to taste. This is a wonderfully versatile and delicious soup, that is so easy to make!

Recipe~ Blueberry Almond French Toast Casserole

I’m always on the lookout for recipes you can make and bake later. I thought this would be a perfect blend of my love of blueberries and bread pudding. You can make it the night before, and bake in the morning! Perfect as breakfast for a bunch, brunch or for dessert served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
Enjoy! Annie

Blueberry Almond French Toast Casserole


1 (24-inch) loaf of French bread
6 large eggs
zest from 1 lemon
3 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup melted butter

Butter a 9 x 13 casserole. Slice french bread into 1-inch slices and place standing up in rows, then tilting bread so they lay stacked at an angle. To make the custard~ In a large bowl add: eggs, milk, vanilla, nutmeg, brown sugar, and lemon zest. Whisk together until well blended. Pour over french bread slices. Cover casserole with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, until custard is completely absorbed.

Next morning, remove casserole from refrigerator and check to see if custard is completely absorbed. If not, turn over bread slices into remaining custard and let stand for 20 minutes. Sprinkle blueberries over and between bread slices. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup of sliced almonds. Drizzle melted butter over bread. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place casserole in the oven and immediately turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake 45-55 minutes, until blueberries pop and bread is browned. Watch carefully the last 10 minutes for over browning.
Serve with maple syrup or Dickinson’s Blueberry Syrup. Enjoy!