Who Knew You Can Make Black Licorice?

liquorice header

A very adventurous woman I occasionally worked for wrote to me with an unusual request. She lives part of the time on her boat sailing the world, and wanted to send a friend who has everything a birthday gift of homemade black licorice, which is his favorite. She is a wonderful cook herself, but living on a ship makes it difficult to find ingredients like black food coloring and anise extract. She saw the recipe in the January 2013 issue of Saveur.

I took on the challenge and searched out the ingredients. I was able to find them all at Whole Foods, Publix and a local baking store, but they are also available through several sources on the internet (which saves gas and lots of time driving around).

I haven’t made alot of candy, not because I don’t like it, probably because I do! This challenge inspired me to try some other ideas I’ve had, and I will share my experiments on future posts.

Homemade Black Licorice Twists

8 tbs. unsalted butter, plus more
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tbs. anise extract/oil
1 tbs. black food coloring (for candy)

I highly recommend gathering all your incredients, portioning out the flour and preparing the baking sheet before beginning to make the candy on the stove. A candy thermometer is also needed for this recipe.

liquorice prep

Line a glass 8″ square baking dish with parchment paper or aluminum foil and grease it with butter. Place butter, sugar, corn syrup, milk, molasses and salt in a heavy 2 quart saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently until the temperature on the candy thermometer is 265 degrees. Remove the pan from the stove and gradually stir food coloring and extract. Add more coloring if you want a darker color. Slowly incorporate the flour, stirring it around to be certain it is all mixed in, otherwise it will stand out against the black color of the licorice.

licorice flour

Chill until firm and cool, at least 30-45 minutes. I chilled this about an hour.

Invert the pan onto a cutting board and remove the paper. It is easiest to use a pastry cutter to cut the ropes. I made them about 1/4 inch thick, twist them from each end for an authentic look. Place them on baking sheets and chill until set. This will keep longer if refrigerated.

liquorice paper

liquorice cut

The mixture is pretty sticky and thick, I initially tried to cut this with a knife, but the pastry cutter made it much easier. These can also be shaped into squares like carmels if you prefer over the skinny twists.

liquorice final

Wrap it up in a beautiful box with a high quality black satin ribbon and your gift is ready!

liquorice box


Tomato Soup, what could be better….


The holidays are in full swing, and although I sometimes miss Michigan in the wintertime, there is really nothing more beautiful than all of the Chritsmas decorations and holiday lights on palm trees, enjoyed while wearing your shorts and tank tops! Since landscaping our backyard and adding outdoor electrical outlets, we were finally able to put up some lights and they are really fun to come home to.

This recipe is a on spin one I cook at work so I have to give credit to whoever invented it, it wasn’t me. However, I did modify it for home use and made a few changes. The best part, besides the wonderful flavor is that it is easy to prepare and everyone will love it.

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Tomato Soup

Canola or olive oil 1-2 tbs.
1/2 cup chopped garlic
3 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs
15-20 basil leaves
2 bay leaves
2 cans whole tomatoes (for this I prefer centro)
2-3 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper

1. Heat enough oil in your soup pot to coat the bottom. Add the garlic, onions and celery and sweat until translucent. Season the vegetables well with salt and pepper.
2. Add the tomatoes, (I suggest placing them in a bowl and squeezing them apart with my hands before I add them to the pot) 1 can of water and herbs. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and slowly incorporate the heavy cream. More or less cream can be added depending upon your preference. More cream makes the soup more bisque like, but of course also adds calories. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the soup is thick and creamy. Stir occasionally and season to taste. It should cook at least an hour.
3. Remove thyme stems and bay leaves and allow soup to cool some before blending it in a blender in batches.

Garnish with grated parmeson, chiffonade basil or other herbs.


Peaches and Honey

It’s peach season and what better time to create some beautiful meals using them. This dish is delicious and also versatile, it is equally good with fish, or ice cream or as a treat by itself. The peaches can also be made ahead and re-heated at mealtime. I recommend using peaches that are fairly firm (not hard) otherwise they won’t hold together when cooked.

peaches salmon

4-5 firm peaches
1 small piece of ginger, minced
1/2 cup honey
Juice of 1 lemon

Pit and slice the peaches into 8 pieces each. Peel the ginger and dice it into small minced pieces. Heat 1 tbs. of canola oil in a saute pan add the ginger and cook for about 1 minute add the peaches, honey and lemon juice. Saute for several minutes until the peaches begin to soften. Place the pan in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the peaches have softened and the sauce has thickened. Serve immediately or reserve and re-heat prior to serving.


I thought the idea of incorporating peaches into a cocktail would be really fun. I’m not a cocktail person, usually, when I have a drink I stick to wine, or beer. However, this seemed light and summery. It’s easy to make and would be a great accompaniment to a summer barbecue.

Peach Sangria with Rasberry

3-4 peaches (off season use frozen fruit)
1 tsp ginger (optional)
1 pint rasberries
1/2 cup peach schnapps
1/4 cup simple syrup
1/2 cup sparkling water or club soda
1 bottle sparkling white wine, chilled

Peel and dice the peaches into segments, set aside 10 peach slices to incorporate in the sangria. Mince the ginger and lightly saute it in olive oil for 1-2 minutes. In a blender, puree the peaches, ginger and simple syrup. Place in a pitcher or bowl and chill. When you’re ready to serve add wine, club soda and fruit. If you desire, add sliced lemons and limes to make this a little fruitier.

Quick and Easy Angel Food Cake

I love to cook and don’t mind spending hours in the kitchen, but sometimes it’s fun just to make something quick and tasty for a family treat or an afternoon barbecue on the fly. I made about 60 of these working in the banquet kitchen at work the other day and while doing and I thought what a great idea to pass along.

I used a purchased angel food cake from Publix, if you can’t find one, an angel food cake mix is also easy to make.

To start, cut a piece of parchment paper about a foot long and then cut it into 3 equal size pieces. Place them around the edges of a plate, I used a favorite dinner plate. Gently remove the cake from the package and place on top of the parchment strips.


The topping can be homemade whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping of your choice. Cool Whip comes in every combination now, fat-free, low-fat, regular. I used whipped cream which is also a good choice, but it doesn’t hold as long. Chill your mixing bowl in the fridge until its very cold. Mix the whipped cream, 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract and a few tbs. of sugar in a blender using a blender and the whisk attachment until stiff peaks are formed.

It’s best to frost the cake in two coats. Using a spatula, coat the cake with the whip cream lightly, this is called a crumb coat. Wipe any crumbs off the spatula, and coat the cake again, much more generously. Carefully remove the parchment paper strips and the plate will be clean. The cake can be decorated with berries for a more formal look, or sprinkles, chocolate, m & m’s, use your imagination!


Happy Spring!

Spinach Lasagna

Life continues to be busy; I have been working 6 days a week along with some 10-12 hour days. Palm Beach is having a good season which hopefully speaks well for the economy. I am adjusting my schedule though, and hoping to have regular posts over the coming months, so please don’t give up on me. In the meantime, here is a great little recipe to try.


I found this recipe in one of my favorite cooking magazines, Cooks Illustrated, in the annual review of best recipes edition. I made some changes. It will be easy to make, and is low calories for a lasagna, only 350 per serving, and really delicious. Also, I should mention that it’s also inexpensive and I made it after work; it doesn’t take a lot of time or preparation.

1 onion small dice
1 tsp canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low-fat milk
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tbs. cornstarch
2 10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, dried
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 box lasagna noodles, cooked using package directions. Toss in oil when done to keep noodles from sticking together until you are ready to use them.

8 oz. whole-milk cottage cheese
1 large egg
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups fontina cheese, shredded; it is easier to grate this cheese if you freeze it for 30 minutes first.

1. In a large saute pan, cook the onion in the canola oil very slowly until softened, add the garlic and continue to cook for about a minute. Stir in 2 3/4 cups of the milk, the bay leaves and the nutmeg, and bring to a simmer.
2. Whisk the cornstarch into the milk and whisk it into the pot. Whisk frequently until the mixture thickens, 5 minutes or more. Meanwhile, thaw the spinach and dry it very well. This can be done by placing it in a colander and then putting another pot on top to weight it down and get the water out. Add the spinach to the sauce and stir in 1/2 cup parmesan. Set the mixture aside.

While the sauce is cooking, add the cottage cheese and egg to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Spray the bottom of the baking dish with cooking spray. Spread a layer of the sauce on the bottom, then layer the noodles next. Add another layer of sauce and some of the parmesan cheese, then another layer of noodles. Continue until you have 3 layers of sauce and noodles, top with the cottage cheese mixture and then the grated fontina cheese. Cover with foil.

Cook at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until a cake tester indicated the inside is hot. In my oven this took about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and place under the broiler until the top is brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and cover with foil. Wait about 15-20 minutes before serving, to allow it to set up.

I decided to include a picture of our new tree. It’s called a clusia tree. They are originally from Hawaii, and it is nicknamed an autograph tree. The leaves are waxy, a shiney green, and you can write an autograph on them that will remain for years to come. The other photo is my peanut gallery: Stuart and Riley are wearing coats after a cold Florida morning, Cooper is tougher and doesn’t need a coat. I will think of that freezing morning this summer when every day for four months it is 90 degrees morning, noon, and night.



Winter in Palm Beach

It has been awhile since my last post, the season in Palm Beach is a little nuts in this business. I have been working on some posts though, and although this one is somewhat dated, I think the recipes and sentiment are still relevant. Before the holidays, my daughter Abbie and her husband Punky came down to celebrate with us in West Palm Beach. The holiday lights were beautiful this year and it’s our first year in our new home. After living in Florida for almost 4 years, we’ve adjusted to decorated palm trees and boat parades instead of snow and cold. Although we live just across the bridge from Palm Beach Island, and I work in Palm Beach, we don’t really go there for everyday errands, but the newly renovated Worth Avenue is beautiful and a great place to take a walk and admire all the via’s and courtyards that have been updated over the summer. Abbie and I also checked out the West Palm Beach Greenmarket at the new downtown waterfront for some fresh vegetables. We are lucky enough that is within walking distance to our home.


We had some great friends over for a holiday dinner of Abbie’s famous deviled eggs, mussels, a cheese plate, Beef Bolognese, and a caprese salad with Mauricio’s burratto from Amici Market and basil from my garden.

For dessert we had poached pears and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

It was a delightful evening and we can hardly wait to see the kids again when they come down to Ft. Lauderdale by-the Sea to visit the Buhr’s in January. Given the weather in Chicago this winter, I know they are looking forward to the visit as well.

Abbie’s Deviled Eggs
1 dozen eggs
dijon mustard
chopped chives
Salt and Pepper

1. Place eggs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to boil and cook for 8 minutes. Turn off heat and let eggs sit in the water an additional 5 minutes. Place pot in sink and slowly cool by running the water over the eggs until they are cool. Peel carefully.
2. Cut the eggs in half and scoop out the yolks. Add mayo and dijon to yolk until reaching a nice, smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle paprika on top.

Mussels with White Wine, Shallots and Garlic
Mussels may seem intimidating but they are actually really easy to cook, and not very expensive. Be sure and buy them from a good market. Rinse them off in cool water and inspect each one. Pull off the beard (the little piece that sticks out of the shell), and discard any mussels that are opened.

1-2 lb. of mussels (1 lb. should feed about 4-5 people)
1 shallot julienned
1 clove garlic minced
red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper
Chopped herbs

In a large saute pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat. Add the shallot, garlic and saute about 1 minute. Add the mussels, seasoning, a dash of red pepper flakes and about 1 cup of white wine. Cover the pan and cook the mussels until they have opened, giving it an occasional shake to coat them thoroughly with the wine.
Pour the cooked mussels into a bowl, top with the herbs and serve. Discard any mussels that don’t open.

Caprese Salad

Heirloom Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella (burratta if you want to splurge, even for half)
Basil chiffonade
Balsamic Glaze
Salt and Pepper

Burratta is a very creamy cows milk mozzarella. It is not always easy to find, but it is really terrific and worth the splurge once in a while. In West Palm Beach, it is often sold at Amici Market, on Palm Beach Island, where I work part-time a few nights a week.

Slice the tomatoes into large slices. Roll the basil leaves up into tubes and slice them across. Layer the mozzarella and the tomatoes, top with the basil and sprinkle with balsamic, good quality olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Beef Bolognese with Fettuccine
This dish is a favorite of most people and everyone has a recipe. Abbie requested this dish for a holiday meal. It’s easy to make ahead and even the pasta can be par cooked ahead to save time. It also makes terrific leftovers.

1 lb. each ground beef, veal and pork
1 can whole tomatoes in sauce
1 large onion, very small dice
1 cup carrots, very small dice
1 cup celery, very small dice
4-5 cloves garlic minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup white wine
canola oil and butter

Heat canola oil and 2-3 tbs. butter large pot, add onion and cook until translucent. Add the carrot and celery and saute 2-3 minutes more add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add meats, season well with salt and pepper and saute until it is just no longer red. Add heavy cream and cook slowly until it is reduced away, stir frequently and completely break the meat up so it is not clumped together. Season with a pinch of nutmeg. Add the wine and simmer until it is evaporated. Add the tomatoes and break them up completely with your hands or a fork. Cook very slowly stirring occasionally for at least 2 hours. Add water occasionally if the sauce becomes dry. The key to a great sauce is the long slow cooking time. It is fine to turn this sauce off and go run errands etc. and finish it when you get home.
When sauce is done, toss with cooked pasta of your choice and serve with grated parmesan.

Poached Pears

6 small ripe pears
Port Wine
Red wine, such as burgundy
Star anise, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf

Poached pears seems like an intimidating dish, but it is really easy to prepare, looks great and is healthy as well. I used small ripe pears from the market, any type of pear will work though. I also use port wine from the grocery store, about $7.00 a bottle. If I still need more wine to cover the pears, I add some red wine as well.

Peel the pears carefully leaving the stem end for a nice presentation.
Combine port wine and 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon sticks, bay leaf and star anise in a sauce pot , large enough to hold the number of pears you want to cook, cook until sugar is dissolved. Add the pears and cover with a piece of parchment paper to keep them submerged in the poaching liquid. Slowly simmer until pears are soft when a cake tester is inserted. If you don’t have a cake tester use a paper clip that is extended, or a sharp paring knife. Remove them from the heat and let them cool in the poaching liquid. They can remain in the poaching liquid until ready to serve, and even several days in the refrigerator.

We served these with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

I hope you enjoyed the post, I will be posting again very soon.


Chicago Dinner Party

A few weeks ago we visited our daughter and son-in-law, Abbie and Punky Buhr, at their new home in Chicago (Abbie not pictured as usual b/c she is taking the photo). They have a great place in the neighborhood of Old Town that happens to be about five times the size of any of their previous New York apartments. Old Town is also the home of Second City, which is right by Abbie’s place. Two doors down from Abbie’s place is a wonderful and popular bar, Margie’s Still, which was John Belushi’s and Dan Akroyd’s favorite late hour hang-out after performing at Second City.

zooWe had a really cool visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo, with a personal tour of the gorilla house by Abbie’s new friend Jill, who is an animal trainer. The zoo is free and part of the park, and you just get to walk right in. The apes were so cute, also, big and a little scary, but it’s incredible to watch Jill work with them. Jill introduced us to a 450 pound papa gorilla who could touch the top of his head with his hand and bend over for inspection, upon command.

On Saturday, we had a dinner party at Abbie and Punky’s. The menu was a Cheese Plate Appetizer, Goat Cheese Tarts, and Lobster Mac and Cheese, accompanied by a Spinach Arugula Salad with Sweet Sherry Vinaigrette. For dessert we had an Ice Cream Sundae Bar. We finally got to use some of those great wedding gifts to serve all the food. This sounds like a lot, but this is a menu that can be put together quickly and some of it can easily be prepared ahead of time.

Cheese Plate
cheeseplatePlating is the most important aspect of the cheese plate. Try to group the items together to give the plate more emphasis. We chose three cheeses; it’s good to try different textures and flavors and use an odd number of cheese like three or five. A soft cheese such as a brie is one good choice, and a stronger cheese, such as a blue cheese, and then add one other type, like a farm cheddar, for some variety. Many markets and grocery stores have cheese departments that can assist with a good selection. I like to add some fruit, such as berries or grapes, maybe some nuts and crackers, or a baguette sliced up. Fresh herbs also make a beautiful garnish, e.g., rosemary sprigs.

Next, I think it’s always fun to have one hot appetizer. We chose to try something new, Goat Cheese Tartlets with a port wine reduction. They are really tasty and pretty simple to prepare. I adapted this recipe from a new show on the Cooking Channel, French Food at Home.

Goat Cheese Tarts
1 cup ruby port
1 cup sugar
10-15 figs
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 log of goat cheese
1/4 c heavy cream
Toasted walnuts
1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper

1. In a saucepan bring the port and sugar to a slow boil until the sugar dissolves. Reduce this mixture until the port begins to thicken, then add the figs. Continue to reduce until the port is thickened to the consistency of a syrup. Remove the figs after 10 minutes, but continue to reduce the port if needed.
2. Cut the pastry into rounds the desired size of the tarts using a pastry cutter or use a glass and a sharp knife. If you are using frozen puff pastry allow it to thaw about 15 minutes and gently lay it out flat. Place the pastry rounds on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and lay a second baking sheet on top of it, bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. If the rounds have not browned enough, take off the sheet and bake a few minutes longer.
3. Mix the softened cheese and cream, along with minced rosemary, and season with salt and pepper
4. Spread the goat cheese on the tarts and arrange figs on top. Scatter with the nuts. Heat in the oven until the cheese is warm. Sprinkle the port sauce on top and serve.

Lobster Mac and Cheese
1 lb. pasta
6 tbs. butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c red onion, chopped
1/4 c flour
2 c whole milk
2 c heavy cream
2 c sharp shredded cheddar cheese
2 c shredded Gruyere cheese
1 tbs dijon
dash cayenne pepper
S and P
3 lobster tails
Panko (Japanese) bread crumbs

1. Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Any type of pasta that you like will work, we used cellentani (aka Cavatappi). Season the water well.
2. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter, add the garlic and onion and cook until the onion is softened. Whisk in the flour and continue to cook for a minute. Pour in the milk and cream and bring to a boil, whisking frequently until the sauce begins to simmer and thickens.
3. Turn off heat and stir in the cheese, Dijon, cayenne and seasoning. Fold this into the pasta in the baking dish.
4. To cook the lobster, boil seasoned water and place in lobster tails, cook for 6 minutes. Remove from the water, cool them and cut the back of the shell with cooking shears, pull out the cooked lobster meat. Cut the lobster into bite size pieces and incorporate into the dish.
5. Combine panko bread crumbs and 1 tbs. melted butter. Add in chopped herbs for some extra color if you have some. Sprinkle on top of the dish. Bake at 375 degrees about 30 minutes until sauce is bubbling and crust is browned.

Sweet Sherry Vinaigrette
(Credit: Chef Thomas at The Breaker’s Flagler Steak House Restaurant)
4 egg yolks
1 c vegetable oil
1/4 c sherry vinegar
1/4 c honey

In a blender, Mix the egg yolks, Slowly add the oil in a stream to make an emulsion. Turn speed of blender down and add Vinegar and honey. Season with Salt and pepper.

Arugula and Spinach Salad
In a large bowl, mix spinach, arugula, crumbled goat cheese, toasted walnuts and toss with the Sherry Vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.

We were almost too full for dessert, but we prepared an Ice Cream Sundae Bar, which basically only required you to purchase the necessary items and display them in bowls.
Ice cream
Crumbled heath bars
M & M’s
Chocolate sauce
Whipped cream

I’ll leave you with a few shots of the men-
(note that none of them are helping out with the party.)