Duncan Hines Retro Sock-It-to-Me Cake

Duncan Hines Retro Sock-It-to-Me Cake

This retro recipe from the 70’s was regularly printed on the back of a Duncan Hines yellow cake mix box. You can still make it with a yellow cake mix, but it’s important to add a few extra ingredients to give it a more “from scratch” taste. Sour cream, toasted pecans, and vanilla give the cake mix a needed flavor boost. The cake is fine on its own, or you can drizzle a little cream cheese glaze to make it even more decadent.


2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ cup pecans, toasted


1 Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix (15.25 ounces)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup sour cream, room temperature

1/3 cup vegetable oil

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 ½ cups Confectioners' sugar (6 ounces)

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch table salt

  1. Make Streusel: Process flour, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecans in food processor until finely ground. Set aside
  2. Make batter: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or use baking spray) a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan or tube pan. In bowl of stand mixer combine cake mix, flour, sugar, sour cream, oil, water, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for 1 minute to combine ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.
  3. Layer and bake: Pour half of batter into prepared pan and top with streusel mixture. Cover with remaining batter, using rubber spatula to smooth surface. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool cake in pan 20 minutes. Turn cake out onto wire rack to cool.
  4. Glaze: While cake is cooling, Mix all the ingredients together until smooth, then let sit until thickened, about 25 minutes. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake after it has completely cooled, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides. Let the glaze set for about 10 minutes before serving.

Grandma Moore’s Easy Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Grandma Moores Easy Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

I posted this vintage recipe 9 years ago, and thought it was worth re-posting in case you are running low on eggs, or just trying to conserve. This moist chocolate cake was popular during the Great Depression, when people had limited access to eggs and oil. Brands like Hellman’s (Best Foods on the west coast) made it famous when they added the recipe to the jar label. This was my grandmother’s recipe, so it’s well tested and was a family staple in our house. Enjoy with a dusting of powdered sugar, a dollop of whipped cream, or frost with your favorite buttercream.

Download Grandma-moores-easy-chocolate-mayonnaise-cake-recipe

1/3 cup Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa

1 cup boiling water

11/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup mayonnaise

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and adjust racks to middle position. Grease and flour 9x9” square or use baking spray.
  2. Whisk together cocoa and boiling water in a medium bowl until smooth and cool to room temperature. When cool, whisk in vanilla and mayonnaise.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, soda and salt. Add chocolate mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute until smooth.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 23-26 minutes or until tooth pick inserted comes out clean and cake springs back when lightly pressed.
  5. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack, 1 to 2 hours. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, cut into squares, and serve straight from the pan; or turn cake out onto serving platter and dust with confectioners’ sugar or frost with favorite vanilla buttercream or cream cheese frosting.

Quick Easy Penne alla Vodka

20190821_135806 Penne all vodka

According to Saveur magazine, the origin of this popular Italian dish in still in question – “whether or not this dish of tube-shaped penne pasta lavished with a peppery, vodka-laced cream and tomato sauce was created in Italy is a matter of heated debate in some quarters; some say it was the result of aggressive marketing on the part of vodka importers. Whatever the case, it has become firmly entrenched as an Italian American classic.” This recipe, adapted with minor changes from Cook’s Illustrated, is quick to make and absolutely delicious. It all comes together rather quickly, so have everything prepped and ready to go before you begin the recipe.

Download Quick Easy Penne alla Vodka recipe


1 (28 ounce) can best quality crushed tomatoes (see list here Best Canned Tomatoes)

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ small onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press

½-1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Table salt

⅓ cup vodka

½ cup heavy cream

1 pound penne pasta

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. While the water heats up, add olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat and heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around edges, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
  3. While the sauce is simmering, add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add penne pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente (about 9-10 minutes), then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven. Add sauce to pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta absorbs some of sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.


No Fuss, No Sugar Banana Ice Cream

No Fuss No Sugar Banana Ice Cream

If you’re looking for a refreshing summer treat that big on flavor and low on sugar -this recipe is for you. America’s Test Kitchen has a wonderful cookbook called Naturally Sweet that is loaded with innovative desserts with 50% less sugar. This banana ice cream hits the spot when you want to indulge with a little less guilt – it’s rich, creamy, and delicious.

Download No Fuss No Sugar Banana Ice Cream recipe

6 very ripe bananas

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Peel bananas, place in large zipper-lock bag and press out excess air. Freeze bananas until solid, at least 8 hours.
  2. Let bananas sit at room temperature to soften slightly, about 15 minutes. Slice into ½-inch thick rounds and place in food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth, about 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  3. Transfer mixture to airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

Strawberry, Lime, and Mint Pavlova with Whipped Cream

Strawberry Mint Pavlova

After a long winter, where even Southern California has had its share of cold temperatures, it’s nice to transition to brighter, fresher, springtime recipes. Pavlova is a perfect example - light, airy, elegant – it’s a whimsical dessert that combines crisp meringue with a “marsmallow-y” center, lightly sweetened whipped cream, and macerated fresh fruit that provides beautiful color and texture.

There’s been a long-running argument between Australia and New Zealand over who invented the pavlova which was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in the 1920s. While Australians and New Zealanders agree on that, there is still no consensus on who invented it.

Regardless of where it was created, this recipe, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, is easy to make and perfect for spring holidays like Easter and Passover. By following a few simple techniques, the recipe delivers a nearly foolproof showstopper for your spring celebration. 

Download Strawberry Lime and Mint Pavlova with Whipped Cream recipe


For the Meringue:

1 ½ cups (10½ ounces) sugar

¾ cup (6 ounces) egg whites (5 to 7 large eggs)

1 ½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch (use potato starch for Passover recipe)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Fruit Topping:

2 pounds strawberries, hulled and quartered (5 cups)

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1½ teaspoons juice

Pinch  salt

⅓ cup chopped fresh mint (or basil), plus 10 small leaves, divided

For the Whipped Cream:

2 cups heavy cream, chilled

2 tablespoons sugar


*Note: Because eggs can vary in size, measuring the egg whites by weight or volume is essential to ensure that you are working with the correct ratio of egg whites to sugar. While baking, open the oven door as infrequently as possible while the meringue is inside. Don't worry if the meringue cracks; it is part of the dessert's charm. The inside of the meringue will remain soft. Do not substitute frozen strawberries for fresh here.

Total Time: 1½ to 2 hours, plus 1¾ hours cooling

  1. For the Meringue: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Using pencil, draw 10-inch circle in center of 18 by 13-inch piece of parchment paper.
  2. Combine sugar and egg whites in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, making sure that water does not touch bottom of bowl. Whisking gently but constantly, heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 160 to 165 degrees, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Fit a stand mixer with whisk attachment and whip mixture on high speed until meringue forms stiff peaks, is smooth and creamy, and is bright white with sheen, about 4 minutes (bowl may still be slightly warm to touch). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with spatula. Add vinegar, cornstarch (or potato starch), and vanilla and whip on high speed until combined, about 10 seconds.
  4. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon meringue onto each corner of rimmed baking sheet. Press parchment, marked side down, onto sheet to secure. Pile meringue in center of circle on parchment. Using the marked circle as guide, spread and smooth meringue with back of spoon or spatula from center outward, building 10-inch disk that is slightly higher around edges. Finished disk should measure about 1 inch high with ¼-inch depression in center.
  5. Bake meringue until exterior is dry and crisp and meringue releases cleanly from parchment when gently lifted at edge with thin metal spatula, 1 to 1½ hours. Meringue should be quite pale (a hint of creamy color is OK). Turn off oven, prop door open with wooden spoon, and let meringue cool in oven for 1½ hours. Remove from oven and let cool completely before topping, about 15 minutes. (Cooled meringue can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 week.)
  6. For the Topping: Toss strawberries with sugar, lime zest and juice, and salt in large bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  7. For the Whipped Cream: Before serving, stir chopped mint (or basil) into strawberry mixture. Whip cream and sugar in chilled bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and whip until whisk leaves trail, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue to whip until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume, about 20 seconds longer for soft peaks. If necessary, finish whipping by hand to adjust consistency.
  8. Carefully peel meringue away from parchment and place on large serving platter. Spoon whipped cream into center of meringue. Using slotted spoon, spoon topping in even layer over whipped cream. Garnish with mint (or basil) leaves. Let stand for at least 5 minutes or up to 1 hour. Slice and serve, drizzling pavlova slices with any juice from bowl.

Summertime Aperol Flip

Summertime Aperol Flip

I’ve never been much of an expert in “mixology”, but when I saw this cocktail recipe posted by Cook’s Illustrated’s Editor-in-Chief Dan Souza for an Aperol Flip, I was determined to master it. I was already a fan of Aperol, the brightly colored Italian aperitif that features hints of rhubarb, bitter herbs and burnt orange, and is the star ingredient of their famous summertime Aperol Spritz. “The Flip” was less familiar to me.

A flip is a class of mixed drinks, which uses an egg in the list of ingredients. According to Wikipedia, “the first bar guide to feature a flip was Jerry Thomas's 1862 How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon-Vivant's Companion. In this work, Thomas declares that, ‘The essential in flips of all sorts is to produce the smoothness by repeated pouring back and forward between two vessels and beating up the eggs well in the first instance the sweetening and spices according to taste."

This is an impressive cocktail to serve friends this spring and summer. Egg whites freeze well, so I store them whenever I have leftovers. For the greatest flexibility, pour each white into separate compartments of an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid and then transfer the egg white cubes to a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag. That way you’ll be able to reach for the exact amount you need. The frozen egg in this recipe creates a smooth creamy topping that forms as the drink separates in the glass after vigorously shaking. (While the instance of salmonella in raw egg whites is low, if you are at all concerned feel free to use pasteurized eggs)

Download Summertime Aperol Flip recipe

1½ fluid ounces (3 tablespoons) gin

1 frozen egg white cube (about 1 ounce) *a fresh egg white will work as well

¾ fluid ounce (4 teaspoons) lemon juice

½ fluid ounce (1 tablespoon) Aperol

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

3 dashes orange bitters

1 pinch kosher salt

1 cup ice cubes

  1. Combine gin, egg white, lemon juice, Aperol, sugar, bitters, and salt in cocktail shaker and vigorously shake until egg white has melted and drink is very foamy, 60 to 90 seconds.
  2. Add ice to cocktail shaker and vigorously shake for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled coupe or rocks glass and serve.


Crispy Homemade Tortilla Chips

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Crispy Homemade Tortilla Chips

Years ago my friend Robert’s mother was visiting from Mexico and taught me how to make her famous fruit filled guacamole (Anita Kass Guacamole recipe), but it came with a warning, “don’t make this if you’re going to use store bought tortilla chips” – they simply were not worthy of her spectacular guacamole. So, whenever I do make guacamole, hers or traditional, I always make these quick and easy homemade chips, the taste is worlds apart from bagged chips at the supermarket. 

Download Crispy Homemade Tortilla Chips recipe 

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

5 cups peanut oil for frying

Kosher salt

For the best results, use fresh, locally made tortillas (the thinnest available). Peanut oil is preferred for deep frying because of its high smoke point, but vegetable or corn oil will also work.


  1. Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges. Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.


  1. Add half of tortillas and fry until golden and crispy around edges, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer chips to prepared sheets, sprinkle lightly with salt, and let cool. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Serve. (Cooled chips can be stored in zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 4 days.)



Cauliflower Topped Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Cauliflower Topped Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

A modern twist on a comfort food classic. The incredibly delicious pureed cauliflower mash is rich, creamy, pairs perfectly with the flavorful sauce and ground turkey. Another winning recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s Super Foods magazine

Download Cauliflower Topped Turkey Shepherd’s Pie recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower (3 pounds) cored and cut into ½-inch pieces

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons water

Salt and pepper, as needed

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1 pound 93% lean ground turkey (don’t use 99%)

¼ teaspoon baking soda

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ cup low sodium chicken broth

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 large zipper lock bag (for piping cauliflower mash)

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium low heat until shimmering. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally until softened and beginning to brown, 10-12 minutes. Stir in ½ cup of water and ¾ teaspoon salt, cover and cook until cauliflower falls apart easily when poked with a fork, about 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer cauliflower and any remaining liquid to food processor bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Process until smooth, about 45 seconds. Transfer to large bowl and stir in beaten egg and chives; set aside. Meanwhile toss turkey with baking soda, 1 tablespoon water, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper in bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in broiler-safe 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring occasionally until liquid has evaporated and fond begins to form on bottom of skillet, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook until skillet is dark brown, about 2 minutes. Add broth, carrots, thyme sprigs, and Worcestershire and bring to a simmer scraping up any brown bits on pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Pinch off ½-inch piece of turkey mixture, add to skillet, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until turkey is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, stirring and breaking up meat halfway through cooking.
  4. Whisk cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water together in a small bowl, then stir mixture into filling and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Discard thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Adjust oven rack 5 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Transfer cauliflower mixture to large zipper lock bag. Using scissors, cut 1-inch off bottom of bag corner. Squeezing bag, pipe mixture in even layer over filling, covering entire surface. Smooth with the back of a spoon, then use fork to make ridges over surface. Place skillet over rimmed baking sheet and broil until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 10-15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.





Green Chicken Chili with Cornmeal Dumplings

Green Chicken Chili Cornmeal Dumplings

I found this recipe in the October / November 2018 issue of Cooks Country Magazine (loaded with great fall recipes) and it is a perfect winter comfort dish, that will satisfy any craving for Mexican food. The flavors will remind you of Enchiladas Verdes and Corn Tamales, all brought together in flavorful one-pot stew that’s quick and easy to make.  

Download Green Chicken Chili with Cornmeal Dumplings


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 poblano (or pasilla) chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

¾ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon salt

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

5 cups chicken broth

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed

1 (15-ounce) can white or yellow hominy, drained, but do not rinse

1 cup jarred Frontera green salsa 

1 (2½-pound) rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded, meat shredded into bite-size pieces (3 cups)

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro


1 ½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour

½ cup (2½ ounces) cornmeal

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk, chilled

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the chili:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, poblano, pepper, and salt and cook until vegetables have softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in broth, beans, hominy, and salsa and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.

For the dumplings:

  1. Meanwhile, whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. Stir buttermilk and melted butter together in second bowl until butter forms clumps. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir with rubber spatula until incorporated.
  2. Add chicken and cilantro to chili and stir until incorporated. Using greased ¼-cup dry measuring cup (and using spoon as needed to free dough from cup), drop 8 level scoops of dough around perimeter of pot and 1 level scoop of dough in center, spacing scoops about ½ inch apart.
  3. Bake, uncovered, until tops of dumplings are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Fluffy Fiber Rich Blueberry-Oat Pancakes

Fluffy Blueberry Oat Pancakes

Pancakes are traditionally an indulgent weekend option, but often are made with simple carbs that leave you feeling hungry in no time. I’ve tried a few multi-grain “healthy” recipes, but the pancakes were typically heavy and dense. I found this recipe in an America’s Test Kitchen magazine called “Super Food” recipes, and as usual with their recipes – perfection! Fluffy, tender, flavorful pancakes packed with fiber that tasted great. I’ve used buttermilk and clabbered milk and both work just fine. I find that the pancakes cook more evenly without the blueberries in the batter, so I generally serve the blueberries on the side.

Download Fluffy Blueberry-Oat Pancakes

2 cups buttermilk, or clabbered milk (Mix 2 cups of whole milk mixed with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and let rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken slightly)

1 cup (3 ounces) old fashioned rolled oats

1 ½ cups (4 ½ ounces) oat flour

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

7 ½ ounces blueberries ( about 1 ½ cups)


  1. Combine 1 cup of buttermilk and oats in a bowl and let sit at room temperature to soften, about 15 minutes.


  1. Whisk oat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. In separate bowl whisk eggs, 3 tablespoons oil, sugar, vanilla and remaining 1 cup of buttermilk until frothy, about 1 minute. Whisk buttermilk-egg mixture into flour mixture, just until smooth. Using rubber spatula, fold in oat-buttermilk mixture.


  1. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12 inch nonstick skillet (or griddle pan) over medium heat until shimmering, 4-5 minutes. Using papertowels, wipe out oil, leaving thin film in skillet. Using ¼-cup dry measuring cup (or large cookie scoop) portion batter into skillet; spread each portion into 4-inch round using back of spoon. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon blueberries. Cook until edges are set and first side is golden, 2-3 minutes.


  1. Flip pancakes and cook until second side is golden, 2-3 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately with maple syrup and butter. Makes about 18 pancakes. (To serve all at once, keep finished pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven on a wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet)