Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Sarah Kieffer’s cookie recipes are great. We made her pan banging chocolate chip cookies several times. These chocolate sugar cookies are just about perfect – crunchy, chewy and chocolatey.

Sarah Kieffer

  • 2 cups (284 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup (100 grams) for rolling
  • large egg plus 1 large yolk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line three sheet pans with parchment paper.
  • In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) of the sugar, and beat again until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla, and beat on low speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat again on low speed until combined.
  • Place the remaining 1/2 cup (100 grams) of sugar in a medium bowl.
  • Scoop the dough into 1 1/2-ounce (45-gram) portions (2 tablespoons). Roll each ball in the sugar. Place 8 cookies on each sheet pan.
  • Bake one pan at a time, rotating halfway through baking. Bake until the sides are set and the top begins to crackle, 12 to 14 minutes.
  • Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the pan, then remove the cookies and let them cool completely on the wire rack. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
  • PJH comments: I make 40 gram portions as 45 grams seemed to big, I rolled in raw turbino sugar and cooked them for 13 minutes and they come out perfectly.

Butternut Bisque

Betsy Mitchell via Kathryn Purcell

  • 2-2.5 lb butternut squash
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 potatoes chopped (I usually use 1 big sweet potato)
  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1.5 teaspoon curry
  • Pinch ginger
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Pinch salt and pepper (to taste)
  • (I usually add an apple too if I have one, but not on the original recipe)

Peel, seed and chop squash. Melt butter in a big soup pot. Saute squash, carrots, celery, onion until soft. Add potatoes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for 40 minutes. Add spices. Puree in a blender in batches and serve hot. (I use an immersion blender).

The added benefit to this easy and tasty soup is it lends itself to awesome topping options. Want to add fun colors, try dried cranberries, chopped pecans and blue cheese crumbles. Want to add a crunch? Try croutons or pumpkin seeds. Maybe sour cream, apples, bacon? Can be served with toppings or without!

Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard and Garlic

Gina Depalma via Secrets of the Best Chefs via Smitten Kitchen via Kathryn Purcell

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 large links (about 8 ounces) of sweet Italian sausage [can use more or less, up to you how much meat you want]
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced or diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)
  • Kosher salt
  • A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 cups shredded or thinly ribboned Swiss chard leaves or kale
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese to finish

On the stove: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil (enough to generously coat the bottom of the pot) in a large pot on medium to medium-high heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrots, first two garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and if you like your soup spicy, a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook with the sausage until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, water (6 cups is, conveniently, a little less than 2 empty 28-ounce cans, so you can get any tomato pulp you missed), more salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. (It might be necessary to add more water if the soup gets too thick, though we preferred ours on the thick side.)

When the lentils are cooked, add the chard and cook until the leaves are tender, just a few minutes more. Discard the bay leaves.

In an InstantPot or electric multi cooker: Proceed as written above, using the sauté function on high (I find this to be like medium-high on a stove) to cook the sausage and then vegetables. Once you’ve added the remaining ingredients, including dried lentils, lock the lid and set to high pressure for 15 minutes. Let it naturally release for at least 10 minutes (or longer, if you have time), to help keep the vegetables intact. You can manually release the rest. Use the sauté function on high again to bring it back to a simmer (this should take no time at all) and add the greens; cook until wilted.

Both methods: To finish, divide soup among bowls, then add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves to a small skillet (on the stove) and heat over medium until the garlic softens and hisses. Drizzle this over soup bowls, and top with fresh Romano, passing more at the table. Leftovers will keep for several days in the fridge.

***I usually use spinach instead of chard.***

Corn and Sausage Chowder

Karen Carroll via Kathryn Purcell

  • 1 lb. ground pork sausage (I use breakfast sausage)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
  • 4 cups peeled and cubed (1/2 inch) potatoes (I often use sweet potatoes or a mix of
  • regular and sweet, sometimes I throw carrots in for the hell of it)
  • 1/2 t. dried marjoram (can skip this)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. black pepper (can skip this)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can (17 oz.) cream style corn
  • 1 can (17 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained (I have never in my life found 17 oz. cans, I think they are 15.5 oz.–doesn’t matter, throw in some fresh corn or frozen corn if you want some more)
  • 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk

***I like the combination of hot breakfast sausage and sweet potatoes with this recipe….but you can use whatever you choose.***

In a stockpot over medium heat, cook sausage and onions until sausage is brown and onions are tender. Drain sausage and onions. Return sausage and onions to stockpot with potatoes, marjoram, salt, pepper and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes (takes a little longer with sweet potatoes). Add cream style corn, whole kernel corn, and evaporated milk. Heat through (do not let soup boil) and serve immediately.

Roanoke,VA; Asheville,NC and Great Smokey Mountains, TN

April 23-April 28, 2021

We started our “yeay we’re vaccinated” spring trip with a visit with Dan and Emily in Roanoke, VA. We brought some wine along with us from the Wine Spot and did a virtual wine tasting in their beautiful back yard along with some tasty takeout from one of their local spots.
We ended the evening with a slightly drunken Catan game 🙂
Went for a hike the next morning at a beautiful spot.
Stopped at Parkway Brewery on the way back for a beer and listened to the band.
Obviously a Donald Trump voter.
On our way to Asheville the next day we stopped at Chris’s place in Johnson City, TN and had a nice lunch enjoying his great view.
Made it to Asheville late afternoon and were very happy with our Airbnb up in the woods…
…with an awesome hot tub. Especially at sunrise.
Started our day in Asheville the next day at the North Carolina Arboretum.
Went on a nice hike through the woods…
…and enjoyed the late spring blooms.
next stop: Biltmore
We started by walking around the beautiful, huge grounds.
There we lots and lots of azaleas that were on their last legs
So happy to be outside and in the sunshine.
Inside the greenhouse with a plant material Biltmore model.
We climbed up a hill way in the back of the property…
…that led to a great view of the house…
…and the perfect picnic spot for the picnic that we smuggled in.
Beautiful views everywhere
hundred year old wisteria vines in the Italian garden next to the house
the famous circular staircase from the outside
I didn’t take many pictures inside the house – which was amazing of course – but I liked this little display that was tucked away in one of the rooms
more beautiful views
stopped at New Belgium Brewing after for a few cold ones in their lovely beer garden
Started the next day with a sunrise hot tub dip
We spent the morning driving north on the Blue Ridge parkway.
Beautiful scenery on a beautiful spring morning
We stopped and hiked at different points
craggy gardens path
Stopped at Forestry Camp in Asheville that evening for cocktails
And had dinner at Hillman brewery. Lots and lots of good breweries in Asheville.
We left Asheville the next morning heading south on the Parkway towards the Smokey Mountains.
We took our time, taking the long route and stopping along the way.
we made it to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park early afternoon and saw an elk wading through the river
Stopped at Clingman’s Dome and walked way up to get to this observation area.
Our airbnb was not as nice as the Asheville one but did have a great view
Hiked the Elkmont trail the next day which was one of the nicest hikes we’ve ever done
Abandoned cabins with just the remaining chimney were dotted around the area.
The porch on one of the buildings from an old camp that was being restored
picnicked at chimney’s picnic area which was another amazing spot
Had a nice dinner on our last night at Red Oak Bistro to cap off a great trip

Las Vegas, March 2021

Wednesday, March 10th 2021

Courtney, Claire, Corey and I spent a long weekend in Las Vegas visiting Grace and having a real vacation. We took off from our house bright and early as our flight was at 0700. Flight was no problem – kind of a pain to wear a mask for the entire time – the flight was 99% full also – but we made it with no troubles. We rented a really nice car at the airport and immediately took off for the Grand Canyon. We’ve never been to the Grand Canyon and its always been on our bucket list so we were excited to finally be going. We stopped at a Target to stock up on some road trip supplies and after a few stops for pregnancy related emergencies we were on our way. It was about a 4 hour drive from the airport and after taking in two different time changes it was about 4:00PM when we got there. We went to the south rim of the canyon and stayed at one of the lodges there – Bright Angel Lodge which was a 1940’s era lodge smack on the edge of the canyon. Courtney and I had a little cottage that you literally walked out the front door and you were at the edge of the canyon. It was really nice. After quickly unpacking we went on a short hike around the rim trail. It truly is an amazing sight. Picture don’t do it justice. We had a dinner reservation at El Tovar which was a fancier hotel just a short walk way. It was a very nice place with great canyon views. It was nice to sit, relax, have a cocktail and have a really nice dinner. We were very tired after dinner after a long day of travel so were happy to go right to bed.

We flew on Spirt which was super cheap – and just fine.
Welcome to Las Vegas
We stopped in Kingman, Arizona on Route 66 on the way to the Grand Canyon for lunch. We had a nice lunch at one of the local bars.
This was the cute little cabin we stayed in for the night at the Grand Canyon. You walked down this path…
…and you were right at the edge of the canyon. It was really cool.
vacation selfie
amazing views wherever you look

Thursday March 11, 2021

We woke up early as we were still on eastern time but we planned on going to one of the lookouts to watch the sun rise so we were happy to be up early. We were surprised to see snow on the ground when we woke up. We met Claire and Corey and then took the shuttle bus that was right around the corner farther down the trail and got there in perfect time to see the sun come up over the canyon. Although it was cold out – it was beautiful out and a blessing as there was pretty much no one around – we had the whole place to ourselves. We walked for an hour or two down the trail taking in all the beautiful views. We shuttled back to the lodge, grabbed some coffee and pastries from the diner there and had breakfast in our cottage. We walked around some of the buildings and studios in the village, packed up, checked out and then drove to the main visitor area where we walked around a bit and then took the shuttle to another area a few miles down the road. We hiked again for about an hour back to where we were parked and then it was time to start the trek back to Vegas. I wish we had a bit more time to explore – but it was worth it to make the trip. We hit the road back to Vegas about noon and stopped on Rt 66 again for lunch at a mom and pop place that turned out to be really good – taking home some banana cream pie and carrot cake that looked too good to resist. We stopped at the Hoover Dam on the way back – driving over the Dam to the Arizona side, parking the car and then walking across the dam. I was there a few years ago so I have seen it before but it is quite an amazing thing to see. We then drove the last 45 minutes back to Vegas. Courtney and I stayed at the Mandalay Bay which was nice and we had a really nice room. After settling in we drove to Grace’s place which was just a 15 minute drive. It was good to see Grace and her new apartment. We went to dinner at Pinches Tacos which was right around the corner and had a good dinner of tacos and margaritas. Claire and Corey were staying at Grace’s and we took off back to our hotel room and stayed up and gambled all night…. ha ha… went back to our hotel room and promptly fell dead asleep.

I loved all the weather beaten trees
checking out the Hoover Dam
the huge bridge on the other side of the dam
lots of art deco details
scary bathroom break place… the actually didn’t go in as it was too sketchy
view from our hotel room looking down the strip…. where’s the sun??

Friday, March 12th, 2021

We slept well and didn’t get up too too early on Pacific time. I went downstairs to the casino in search of coffee and found the Starbucks with about 30 people in line. I found another bakery kind of place with a shorter line and grabbed coffee, fruit and pastries and we had breakfast in our room. The weather looked like it was finally starting to clear a bit so we took off mid-morning to hike down the strip. Mandalay Bay is at the very southern end of the strip so we walked north going through all the casinos – always interesting people watching and seeing how the casinos are trying to reel you in. There were not a lot of people out and about which was nice – but it was still early. All the casinos were open but it looked like about 50% of the food places were closed and all the shows due due the pandemic. We stopped at the Eataly in Park MGM for some more coffee and pastries. Note to self: stay at Park MGM next time as there is no smoking there. We continued down the strip as the sun came out and it thankfully got warmer and warmer. We met up with the kids at Fashion Show and did a bit of shopping and then looked for a place to lunch. We ended up at Virgil’s, a BBQ place in the LINQ promenade. We got a table outside and had beers and BBQ and watched the increasing larger crowds walk by. We took off walking back towards Mandalay Bay and the kids went to explore some more. We took a nice rest and then got ready for a night on the town. We drove down to Old Las Vegas around 5:00, got a beer on Fremont street, walked around a bit and then met everyone at Circa – the new casino on Fremont street that just opened this year. We had a reservation at The Legacy Club, their bougie bar way up on the 60th floor. We met Grace’s boyfriend Thomas and had a nice cocktail hour checking out the view and enjoying our pricy cocktails. We had dinner at 8 East, a pan-asian place that was also in the Circa. We had a great meal in our own little room sharing dumplings, pork belly bao, brisket fried rice and other things. Everything was great. We joined the growing crowds on Fremont street and made our way to El Cortez where we played black jack for awhile. No more $5 tables… just $10. I came ahead $40 playing just for 1/2 hour which is all I gambled the whole trip. We left the kids there – still going at it – and we made our way back to Mandalay Bay where we hung out in one of their bars for one more beer and then hit the hay after a long, fun day.

starting our journey down the strip inside The Luxor.
New York, New York
an excellent croissant and a teeny tiny lemon tart at Eataly
Heading up to Aria
Bellagio fountains
outside Caesars Palace
it was getting warm out finally
wow my hair was long… shaved it all off a week later
having lunch on the Linq promenade
Grace and Claire
taking in the Fremont street craziness
cocktail hour view at the top of Circa
amazing patio
all masked up and ready to go
Love El Cortez

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

We drove to Grace’s in the morning and had bagels and donuts for breakfast and then drove to Red Rock Canyon park which was just a short drive away. Red Rock is a beautiful place – we did the loop around stopping at several spots but didn’t go on any lengthy walks as it was still pretty chilly and we weren’t dressed very appropriately. I don’t remember what we did for lunch…. mmmhhhmm? The ladies went out in the afternoon to get their nails done and Corey and I went to the grocery store and to search for bean bags. We spent cocktail hour playing bean bags and soaking in the sun. We grilled steaks and vegetables for dinner at Grace’s nice set up and enjoyed a quiet evening relaxing.

a little more blue sky today
Red Rock Canyon
Grace has a built in bean bag court with cement boards outside her door
Found some nice bean bags… Happy Birthday Grace!

Sunday March 14th, 2021

We were taking the red eye home tonight at 11:00 so we relaxed in our room in the morning, packed things up, checked out of the hotel and met the kids for brunch at ARIA. We went to a french bistro called Bardot Brasserie and it was fabulous – best meal of the week. We all had bloody marys, mimosas and Corey had a morning manhattan. Everyones food was first rate but the french toast I had was truly a work of art. After brunch we walked around the strip enjoying, finally, some warm sunny weather. We stopped at Momofuku milk bar in the Cosmopolitan for some treats, walked through the spring exhibits at the Bellagio and people watched at the growing crowds of Vegas humanity. We made our way back to Grace’s where we chilled, sat by the pool, and played some more bean bags. Thomas came over later and we got burgers and fries from In & Out. We packed up around 8ish, not looking forward to the flight home. We made it the airport, turned in the car with no problems and all survived the red eye back to CLE.

real blue skies this morning
Courtney and I walked around for awhile before meeting for brunch – enjoying the blue skies and interesting angles
brunching it
My french toast was half a loaf of brioche bread, almond brittle, some kind of buttery creamy goodness and almond syrup… one of the best things ever.
Inside the Bellagio
outside the Bellagio
cereal milk ice cream at the Milk Bar.
relaxing by the pool
more posing

Montana Brownies

This is my Mom’s brownie recipe that she has used for years and years. Kirsten is the official brownie maker these days.

  • 1 cup margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 7 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (we usually skip)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs, cocoa powder, flour and salt. With electric mixer at medium speed beet for three minutes.. Stir in vanilla and nuts. Bake in greased 9 x 13 pan at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Clambake 2020

a few pics from last weekends clambake. I quit Instagram, Facebook and Twitter so have to put them somewhere.

Sophia and I put together some nice looking cheeseboards
It turned out to be a nice afternoon – chilly but nice and sunny
Rosie came too
Sophia and Aidan
Connor and girlfriend
Only cool people wore turtlenecks
fire pit

Thanks Mom and Dad for another great clambake.

Clambakes from the past: some things never change… THANK GOODNESS:

Clambake 2019

Clambake 2015

Clambake 2014

Clambake 2013

Clambake 2012

Clambake 2011 – not sure what happened to the picutres from these old ones??

Grayton Beach, April 2017

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

  • Courtney, Claire, Sophia and I left Euclid around 6:30AM. Easy drive to Decatur Alabama arriving around 5:30 PM.
  • Listened to the entire S-Town podcast for 8 hours straight.  Fantastic!!  Save it for your next long drive if you haven’t listened to it yet.
  • Stayed at Doubletree along the river; Nice but kind of weird.
  • f064088d11f69bd6257a166de18d9a16Sat outside soaking in the sun in the 80 degree sunny weather and then went to dinner at local BBQ spot: Big Bob Gibsons BBQ which was as good as advertised.  Great BBQ and pie and super cheap.  Went for a walk along the river after on a beautiful night.

Sophia walking the tracks along a park in Decatur

Friday, April 14th, 2017

  • Left hotel around 7:00 AM and arrived in Grayton Beach around 12:30.  Easy drive with hardly any traffic.  STILL building the road down to the beaches – may be done next year.
  • Had lunch at Red Bar, then moved into house around 2:00.  Loved the house. Perfect for our group of of 7 people.  logo-redbar-100Beautiful views of the beach and the river and a quick walk down to the beach.
  • We all went to Publix after getting settled in and stocked up for a full week.
  • Jack arrived at around 5:30 after driving for about 13 hours from Austin.  Very happy that he will be here for the whole week.
  • Steak, potatoes and salad and Publix key lime pie for dinner to make it all official.

Happy to be back on our favorite beach

Grace is here in spirit

beach selfie

Sunsets were great all week


Saturday, April 15th, 2017

  • Seaside bike ride with Sophie and Courtney in early AM.  Love my Amavida.
  • Beach in A.M.
  • Picked up Emily and Dan at airport at 2:00.  Easy 30 minute drive to Panama City airport
  • Steamed Gulf shrimp and grits for dinner.  Bought shrimp at Goatfeathers about a mile west on 30A. Fresh off the boat.  Also got their smoked tuna dip which was fantastic.  Note to self: they will steam shrimp for you and then take home and eat.

Sand castle day 1: warming up

Don’t mess with our castle punks…

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

  • Hmmm, not sure what we did today.  Ate a lot of chocolate and sat on the beach I’m sure 🙂
  • Grilled chicken, vegetables, and quinoa for dinner

This was the weather every single day.  Low 80’s and sunny. Perfect,

Monday, April 17th, 2017

  • Unusually foggy morning – cleared up by 11:00AM though and another beautiful day.
  • Seaside bike ride with Courtney, Jack, Emily and Dan.
  • late down to beach around 11:30 – hotter day.  Someone wrecked our day 1&2 castle unfortunately.  So we went modern today.
  • Dinner at Craft Bar – new place down the street they were building last year.  We sat outside on their nice covered patio.  It was 1/2 price burger night so most of us had burgers. They had a nice selection of drafts and food was good.
  • Watched Cav’s back home win their second playoff game

Day 3 castle

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

  • Beautiful sunny day all day long.  Hot in mid 80’s in afternoon.
  • Seaside bike ride in AM with Courtney and Claire
  • Beached it all day
  • Tacos for dinner after going down to beach to watch sunset and take pictures
  • Dominoes at night

our spot

Day 4 castle looking sharp






It was great to be on vacation with Emily and Dan

group shot with red solo cups



Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

  • Beach in AM – perfect weather again
  • Girls shopping at 2:00 to Destin outlets – Jack, Dan and I stayed at the beach.
  • Met the girls at Stinky’s at 5:30 where we walked in with no wait.  Definitely a first.  We had a great table on their screened in porch and had an awesome meal as usual. oysters… finally. 3c869f_e5c852e8a2ac4c919c1808bea939bfe2mv2
  • Stopped for ice cream on way home
  • Blackout at night

Everyone loves Stinky’s


another beautiful sunset on an empty beach

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

  • Seaside with Sophia for coffee and croissants
  • Beach Day all day – perfect weather
  • Drove Emily and Dan to airport at 12:30. Drove 30A back – stopped at Rosemary Beach and walked around. Interesting place – we didn’t realize the large section south of 30A.
  • Beach in PM – good castle day
  • Drove to Seaside around 6:00PM and had oysters, royal reds, fried pickles and then sat down at the pizza restaurant and had wine and pizza in their back patio area that was very nice.
  • Watched the Cavs come back from a 30 point deficit – at least everybody else did as I fell asleep.

early morning on the beach

money shot

We had a great screened in porch where we spent most of our in house time.  Jack was the backgammon champion for the week.

oysters on the shrimp shack patio

love those Royal Reds

Friday, April 21th, 2017

  • Had great scones, cinnamon rolls and GF muffins from bakery down the street.
  • Last day – spent it all on the beach
  • Went to The Perfect Pig for late lunch.
  • Packed up car after long beach day, went down to beach for one last sunset and then had all the leftovers for dinner

nice alfresco lunch at The Perfect Pig

Our day 6&7 castle was off the charts






until next time…

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

  • Left around 3:30AM and drove all the way straight through – 15 1/2 hours.  Painful – very foggy in AM and rain for most of drive – but no so bad once its all over.  Great trip and arrived to spring in bloom in CLE.