Charles Phoenix one-on-one with the Cherpumple


I was looking for the perfect holiday dessert and reading up on the new dessert trends - yes, cupcakes are so last year - when I discovered the answer to every dessert table dilemma. 

Serve a Cherpumple, a monster cake filled with already baked pies!

This frightening baking project fascinates and repels.  My son would love it, no doubt.

In fact,  this  gi-normous pie cake - made with box mix, can frosting and pre-made pies - presents a challenge.  Could the Cherpumple be refined? Would the Cherpumple lose its kitsch appeal if it was re-invented in a more delicate fashion using better ingredients?

Take the Cerpumple challenge and let us know.

The Beekeeper's Daughter: Leeanne Goetz of Honey Ridge Farms shares recipes

Leeanne Goetz Honey Ridge Farms owner Leeanne Goetz is a beekeeper's daughter.  She's also deathly allergic to honey bees - as was her mother.

"It's a fairly common occurence among beekeeper's wives," said Goetz, who with son, Ryan, himself a fifth-generation beekeeper, keeps the family tradition going strong.

Since 2004 Honey Ridge Farms of Brush Prairie, WA, has been producing artisan honey and other honey-based products, including a Sofi award-wining Honey Balsamic vinegar. 

"My dad was a beekeeper for the majority of his working life," she said. "He inspired me.  He had a huge impact on what I do for a living and on what Ryan does for a living. Most beekeepers grow up with it. You don't go to school for it."

Goetz got her start selling her son's blueberry and blackberry honey.   She'd always been in sales, so she took on the job of one-woman sales team.

"I wasn't working at the time I started Honey Ridge Farms. If I'd known more about what I was doing, I'd probably never have tried it," she added.

Goetz  kept looking for ways to expand the business, to develop a product that would separate her from other honey producers.  She tried everything from candles to skin care.

She found her sweet spot with help from the National Honey Board product development team. During a beekeeping convention, she first heard about what they were doing with honey vinegars and she thought it seemed like a good idea.

Turns out Goetz's idea was a honey of a hunch and she dropped the other less successful ventures.

 Today, her company produces a range of honeys and honey cremes as well as gourmet glazes, vinegars, and grilling sauces.

 "It's always exciting to be the first one, but you're pioneering a new product,"  said Goetz.



Balsamic Pork Stir-Fry

adapted from a Honey Ridge Farms recipe

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic (crushed)

½ lb pork, sliced or cubed

1 red pepper, julienned

½ lb fennel, julienned

2 oz orange juice

2 oz Balsamic Honey Vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 lb baby arugula


Heat pan with garlic and oil. Add sliced pork. Sautee for 2-3 minutes. Add red bell pepper and asparagus. Continue cooking until pork has reached desired browness, about five minutes. Add orange juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Place baby arugula on a plate and arrange pork, peppers and asparagus on top. Drizzle with some of the pan sauce.

Serves four.


Brussels Sprouts with Honey-Nut Butter

For the Butter

 1/4 cups walnuts
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon honey

For the Brussels Sprouts

1/4 cup good quality-olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and a few shades darker, about 10 minutes; set aside. Finely chop the nuts when they are cool enough to handle. In a small bowl, use a spatula to combine the nuts, lemon zest, thyme, honey and salt. Set aside or refrigerate if using later.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally as the sprouts begin to brown, until all of the sprouts are golden-brown on most sides( they will still be firm), about 15 to 18 minutes. Add broth and cover the pan. Cook until broth has reduced to a few tablespoons, about 2 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high and boil off most of the remaining liquid, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the honey-walnut butter in spoonfuls; toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves four.




Chicken in Green Pipian Mole Sauce Recipe

Chicken in Green Mole  photo courtesy of CIA

Halloween is a tradition in the United States, but our neighbors south of the border, celebrate the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos, to honor their dead. 

In Mexico the fiesta is celebrated on November 1 and 2, and families gather together to prepare elaborate altars called an ofrenda in their homes and cemeteries. Although decorations vary from region to region, most altars are adorned with flowers, candles, candy, foods, drinks, alcohol, and cigars—any of the favorite things that the dearly departed preferred to welcome home the return of their souls.

It is a holiday to celebrate an intimate connection between the living and the dead and the best example of the Mestise cultural evolution blending Catholic and pre-Spanish Mexican religious holidays.

Culinary Institute of America chef and native Mexican Sergio Remolina shares a simple and delicious recipe—Green Pipian Mole Sauce—that was a favorite of both his father and grandfather. "This dish is from Mexico City, my hometown," says Chef Remolina. "Whenever a mole sauce is thickened with pumpkin seeds, it is called Pipian or Pepian. The chicken, rice, and vegetables in this dish are the accompaniments; the Pipian is the star."


Chicken in Green Pipian Mole Sauce

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds, divided use
  • 1 pound (8) tomatillos, peeled, rinsed well, and cut into quarters
  • 2 epazote leaves
  • 1 hojasanta (root beer leaf) leaf
  • 2 leaves of romaine lettuce
  • 8 sprigs cilantro
  • 2 serrano chiles, chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups chayote or zucchini, steamed
  • 2 cups green beans, steamed
  • 4 poached chicken breasts
  1. Toast the pumpkins seeds in a sauté pan. Put them into a small bowl and allow them to cool to room temperature.
  2. Place tomatillos, epazote, hojasanta, lettuce, cilantro, serrano chiles, white onion, garlic, and cumin in that order into a blender. Blend until you make a thick paste. If all of the contents are not reaching the blades, turn off the blender and use a spatula to push the contents down into the blender.
  3. Place 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a deep skillet and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the contents of the blender and fry it in the oil until approximately 15 minutes stirring consistently. If the mixture becomes too thick, add broth or water to get a sauce consistency. Remove from heat.
  4. Reserve 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds for garnish. Place the remaining seeds into the blender and add enough vegetable stock to cover one inch over the seeds. Blend until the seeds become a smooth purée.
  5. Making sure the saucepan is not on any heat, add the pumpkin seed sauce to the mixture in the saucepan and stir until mixture is completely combined, then season with salt to taste.
  6. Place two large spoonfuls of rice, three chayotes, some green beans, and one piece of poached chicken onto a plate. Completely cover the chicken with the Green Pipian Mole sauce. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve.

Chef's Note: The above recipe makes about 6 cups. Leftover Green Pipian Mole Sauce can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days in the refrigerator or, if frozen properly, up to 6 months. Enjoy it over enchiladas or fried eggs.

Nutrition analysis for Green Pipian Mole Sauce one-ounce serving: 35 calories, 1g protein, 3g carbohydrate, 2.5g fat, 190mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, less than 1g fiber.

Cake for breakfast Banana Chocolate Chip muffin recipe

Banana chocolate chip muffins! photo by Mary MacRae Warren

Muffins are the best excuse I know of to eat cake for breakfast. This Banana Chocolate Chip recipe is utterly sinful.  For extra decadence,  I added an almond butter glaze.

In the interest of making them healthier, we use organic and natural ingredients, substituting coconut milk for cow's milk because dairy doesn't like yours truly. 

The recipe was modified from one I found at, a trusted and beloved resource. These muffins look awesome, taste even better, and everyone loves them.

Try them yourself next Sunday morning.

Breakfast epiphany: fresh fruit-filled pancakes recipe

The boy digs The last few days have been cooler and kinder. 

After the searing heat of August and early September, it's finally nice to sit outside on the patio again.  To celebrate the more temperate days, we decided to have breakfast out doors where we could enjoy soft golden sun and the winds whispering through the still green oaks and maples.

We did a quick early morning shop for fresh fruits and berries to make pancakes with maple syrup.  I'd seen a photograph recently of some really gorgeous pancakes, a sliver of carmelized banana running through the perfectly browned orb and I had to make some of my own. Sometimes a photograph inspires me as much as the recipe or the market.

I wanted blueberries but there were none organic, so I settled for peaches and bananas, with raspberries for garnish.

What I love about this breakfast is how astonishingly easy it is to prepare and how absolutely beautiful it looks and tastes. You don't need to be an expert at anything here.

Organic fruit-filled pancakes Fresh, fruity and good for ya

yields approximately 6 pancakes

3/4 cup multi-grain pancake mix

1/2 cup vanilla soy milk

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 banana, halved & sliced length-wise into thirds

1/2 peach, peeled & sliced into thin quarters

1/4 cup raspberries, washed & drainec

warmed or room temperature maple syrup

room temperature butter

In a medium-size prep bowl, mix together with a whisk the pancake mix, soy milk and coconut mix. Beat batter until just smooth and free of lumps. While preparing the fruits, allow batter sit for about 5 minutes. 

In a skillet, heat the canola oil to medium heat, being careful to avoid smoking the oil.

Ladle about a quarter cup of batter into the center of the skillet. Arrange banana and peaches in a pleasing pattern and cook fruit side up until air bubbles show in the surface of the pancake. 

Carefully flip the pancake over, fruit side down, to carmelize the fruits.  Continue cooking until golden, about 2-3 minutes.

Serve warm with maple syrup and butter. Garnish with raspberries.

Iron Chef Bobby Flay Turkey Reuben Sandwich recipe


The other day my son politely announced his school lunches sucked.

Was it the baby carrots? I rely heavily on baby carrots. They're so cute and so good for you!

Although he could do with fewer baby carrots, thank you, it was the same old, same old that was bringing him down.

My son, who has a pretty wide palate, was bored. Boring lunches are easy, but

brown bag lunches don't have to be boring.

With some help from chef restaurateur Bobby Flay, you can pack a lunch that your kid's friends will fight over.

Chef Flay, who's been associated with Hellmann's for three years, uses the mayonnaise to create flavor and interest in his signature sandwiches.

“I use Hellman’s to build layers of flavor. I love Hellman’s because it’s real simple food made from three ingredients – eggs, oil and vinegar.  I use it as a building block to create lots of flavor,” said Flay.

Flay spoke with me recently to mark the relaunch of Hellmann’s virtual Sandwich Swap ‘n’ Share on  Facebook.  Through its Facebook game, Hellmann’s is donating  $75,000 to Share Our Strength to stop childhood hunger

If you visit the site, you’ll see all kinds of ingredient choices, fillings and spreads to help you think about creating a sandwich and you'll get to support a great cause.

Flay's favorite sandwich is turkey and daughter, Sophie, loves his Turkey Reuben recipe.

"I love leftover turkey. For the holidays I’ll make a turkey for Thanksgiving and one for  the leftovers," Flay said.  "I take room temperature  turkey leftovers, make a cranberry mayonnaise.  It makes a fantastic next day sandwich."

Bobby Flay's Turkey Reuben

Turkey reubenPrep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise, divided

1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickle

2 Tbsp. ketchup

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 cups coleslaw mix

8 slices rye bread

8 slices Swiss cheese

1 lb. sliced cooked turkey

Combine 1/4 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise, pickle, ketchup, vinegar and mustard with wire whisk in medium bowl. Season, if desired, with salt and pepper. Stir in coleslaw mix; set aside.

Top 4 bread slices with cheese, turkey, coleslaw mixture, then remaining bread slice.

Evenly spread outside of sandwiches with remaining 1/4 cup Mayonnaise.

Cook sandwiches, in batches, in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, turning once, 8 minutes or until golden brown.

Quick & easy no cook ice cream recipe


I love bargain shopping - so much so that I can't resist kitchen appliances that will let me make products I could more easily buy.

There was the fresh pasta maker I bought when a chain cooking store closed out. More recently, there was the tabletop ice cream freezer I bought for a whopping 50 percent off.

Today I broke that little ice cream churning machine in with a batch of no cook Mango ice cream. I modified a recipe for Vanilla ice cream that I found at the Eagle Brand website.

What a creamy, dreamy frozen treat!

Easy no cook mango ice cream

  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 2 very ripe mangoes, peeled & pitted
  • 1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk

Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Pour into the mixing canister of an electric ice cream freezer. Churn for 20-40 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved. Remove from canister and freeze well before serving.

I love lemon bars!

Lemon bars lighter than air Fitness magazine proves less is indeed lusciously more with these lemon bars.

The recipe makes sixteen 100-calorie bars for a light and refreshing summer dessert that won't wreck your diet.

According to Kerry Neville, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, the butter used in this recipe is better in flavor and health benefits than margarine. 

Additionally, Neville says this recipe uses far fewer eggs for a lighter, healthier bar.

For the recipe, go to Slim Lemon Bars at

Spicy turkey burgers with guacomole - low fat summer recipe


Summer time means firing up the grill and slapping the meat over the flames.

Meat is king here at Casa Maria.

But I want to cut the fat a little, make my summer meals on the grill a little lighter and healthier.

I can't do without a burger, but I can make it a bit easier on the system. Amazingly,  I don't have to give up flavor while I'm cutting the fat.

Bye-bye beef and hello ground turkey!  Hasta la vista mayonnaise and hola, guacamole!  These two simple swaps are flavorful - especially when you put a strategic few add-ins in the ground turkey mixture.

Ground turkey is significantly lower in fat, nearly half of the 24 grams of fat and one-third fewer calories than the 300 calories found in four ounces of cooked lean ground beef.

Guacamole is far less evil than mayonnaise when it comes to condiments - and it packs in some terrific nutrients every body can use. One tablesppon of mayonnaise has a whopping 90 calories and adds 10 grams of fat with zero nutritional value while a similar size serving of guacamole contains roughly half the calories and fat while providing a source for Vitamins, B,C, and E.

My stomach feels flatter already!

This meal is quick, easy and bursting with flavor.  Add a side of sweet Silver Queen corn and life is nearly perfect.

Spicy Turkey Burgers with Guacamole


  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons chipoltle salsa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. In a large bowl, mix ground turkey, seasoned bread crumbs, onion, egg whites, parsley, garlic, chipoltle salsa, salt, and pepper. Form into 12 patties.
  2. Cook the patties in a medium skillet over medium heat, turning once, to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F (85 degrees C).
Serve on toasted rolls (I like Challah rolls) with guacamole and grated Asadero cheese or substitute Muenster, Fontina or Monterey Jack.

Bring on the figs with homemade ricotta!

This recipe combines three of my favorite tastes treats - figs, honey and cheese.  Ah!

Ricotta with honey roasted figs recipe - photo courtesy of Zabar's Zabar's recipe blogs present food fans opportunities to cook with some of the best recipes around, featuring chefs Lidia Bastianich and Edward Brown as well as food experts Ina Garten and Mark Bittman.

Today's featured recipe comes from Timeless Entertaining: Four Generations of Creative Kosher Cuisine.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to live near the fantastic food emporium, Zabar's, but thanks to technology, you can bring a bit of Zabar's into your home kitchen every day.