October 18, 2017

Dear friends,

Remember the cookbook I was writing? After four years of testing microwave dessert recipes in three different ovens and another year of writing descriptions, chapter intros and cautionary how-tos, I flamed out. The book is so close to the finish line that to drop it at this point would be nuts, so call me nuts. I can’t. Write. Another. Word.

The good news is that I’m left with almost 100 original, rigorously tested recipes for single-serve cakes, pies, crisps, custards, cheesecakes and bread puddings that can be made in about 5 minutes in a microwave oven.

I had to invent a few techniques to get the textures and flavors I wanted. For example, I found that microwaving the cakes on 50 percent power instead of 100 percent gives the leavening more time to work and helps eliminate the rubbery texture most other microwave mug cakes have. I haven’t seen my methods in other sources, or tasted microwave mug desserts this good, so I hate to let the recipes languish in my computer.

My solution is to share the recipes with you in this newsletter. I have shared a couple of recipes in the past and will share many more in the coming months. This week I’m offering a recipe for microwave single-serve pumpkin pie. If it is one of the two or three mug recipe I’ve printed before, forgive me. It didn’t turn up in a search of my columns, so I think I’m safe.

The microwave pumpkin custard/pie recipes I’ve tried from the Internet are awful — bland and loose-textured, like warm pumpkin from the can. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients in my recipe. They are all necessary to produce a 5-minute microwave pumpkin pie that tastes like it came from your regular oven. The measuring goes quickly, and the result is worth it.

I’m also sharing my microwave mug recipe for a moist banana cake. I found that most Internet mug cakes I tried had a rubbery texture that hardened if left overnight. If you can resist eating this banana cake hot from the oven, it will taste just as good the next day.

The size, shape and composition of your mug, along with the power of your microwave, makes a difference in the timing of the recipes. I tested the recipes in 1000-, 1100- and 1200-watt ovens, and used 12-ounce Fiesta ceramic mugs. I provide microwave times but also describe what the surface of the dessert should look like when it is done. Adjust the time if necessary.




  • 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar (preferably superfine)
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch of powdered ginger
  • Pinch of ground cloves

For the crust, place butter in a 12-ounce ceramic mug and microwave on high power for 15 to 20 seconds or until butter melts. Stir in sugar and graham crumbs. Press evenly into the bottom of the mug. Set aside.

For the filling, combine butter, pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk in a glass measuring cup. Microwave on high power for about 30 seconds, until butter has melted. Stir well. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Pour over crust in mug. Microwave on 50 percent power for 2 minutes, or until the top is mostly dry except for a dime-sized circle in the center. The filling will be loose. If eating right away, first chill in a freezer for 10 minutes to set the custard. If eating later, chill completely in the refrigerator.

Dress it up: Top chilled pie with a dollop of whipped topping and pinch of nutmeg.

Even better: Beat a half-teaspoon of Bourbon into the whipped topping.


  • 1 tbsp. softened butter
  • 1 tbsp. sugar, preferably superfine
  • 1 tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp. mashed ripe banana (1/3 to 1/2 banana)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

In a 12-ounce ceramic mug, beat butter and sugar with a fork until fluffy. Beat in corn syrup, egg yolk, banana and vanilla until thoroughly incorporated. Add flour, baking powder and salt and beat about 50 strokes, until very smooth and thick. Scrape batter off sides and smooth top.

Microwave at 50 percent power for 2 1/2 minutes in a 1000-watt oven, or 1 minute, 45 seconds in a 1100- or 1200-watt oven. Adjust time up or down for lower or higher wattage ovens. Eat directly from the mug or, if desired, immediately run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a plate.

Dress it up: Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake.

Even better: Stir a tablespoon of mini chocolate chips into the batter before baking.


What I cooked last week:
Chicken with sautéed peppers over ditalini pasta with wilted spinach and mascarpone cheese from Blue Apron; oven-roasted potatoes and green beans with leftover pot roast; two sugar-free pumpkin pies.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Delicately crunchy fried perch, coleslaw, applesauce at The Boulevard in Cuyahoga Falls; arepas with chorizo and green salsa, and a taco with duck confit, roasted red peppers, kale and goat cheese at Crave Cantina in Cuyahoga Falls.


Low-cal, high-protein ice cream is a hot category in grocery stores at the moment. The ice creams (technically frozen desserts because they don’t contain enough fat to legally be called “ice cream”) are sold in pint containers that are about 230 to 350 calories for the whole thing.

The only problem is they’re expensive. The ones I’ve seen cost about $6 a pint.

The exception is a new entry in the category, Breyers delights. The various flavors contain 20 grams of protein and range from 260 to 330 calories a pint. They cost about $4. Currently they’re available at Giant Eagle stores.

I tried two Breyers delights and they’re pretty good. Still, as I’ve pointed out before, you can make your own high-protein, low-cal ice cream by freezing a protein shake made from a low-cal protein powder such as Pure Protein. It won’t cost $4, either.


I can’t wait to return to Crave Cantina and work my way through the menu. The Cuyahoga Falls restaurant is the brainchild of Aaron Herve, the chef who owns Crave in downtown Akron. He calls the food globally inspired Latin fare so as not to pigeonhole it too narrowly. Tacos are the main event, but nothing you’ll find in Mexico. The imaginative fillings range from buttermilk fried chicken with kimchi, Korean bbq, Japanese mayo and house-made pickles, to smoked brisket with fried potatoes, pickled red onion, white Cheddar, horseradish and pasilla pepper pesto. The 13 taco varieties are $3 and $4.

The menu also includes salads, sandwiches, a handful of entrees (paella Cubano with mussels, scallops and shrimp is $19), seven kinds of guacamole and nine appetizers. I loved the arepas, although the unstuffed cornmeal disks were unlike any I’ve had before. For the next trip, I have my eye on the Latin poutine (yucca fries, chorizo, queso fresco, pickled chilies and cumin veal gravy, $9) and the Jamaican curried chicken empanadas, $8.

The restaurant is at 2097 Front Street, in the middle of an ongoing street construction project that makes getting to the place a challenge. I suggest you park behind the restaurant in one of lots on Riverfront Parkway and enter through the back door. The Cantina is open evenings only.


From Rebecca R., Senecaville:

Is the Stray Dog (last week’s newsletter) like the Hot Dog Shoppe in East Liverpool? Have not stopped there in a few months. Also, the last time we were in Wilmot we stopped at Bee Bobs. The burgers were really good and the fries and onion rings are all hand-cut and fried to order. We will stop there again but hubby and I will split our order next time, it is that large. You may want to check it out when you are in that area.

Dear Rebecca: You bet I will. The Stray Dog is a hip restaurant with contemporary, global food — good, but nothing like our beloved Hot Dog Shoppe.

From Linda C.:
Your soup (last week’s newsletter) sounds yummy. I’m a vegetarian so I would leave out the chicken and use a clear veggie broth. It reminds me of a fave Crock Pot dinner with sauerkraut, potatoes and apples (we used to add kielbasa but now add vegan hot dogs at the end). I love sauerkraut. Thanks!

Dear Linda: Thanks for telling folks how to make my soup recipe vegetarian-friendly.

From Marlene H.
Re: your review of meal kits — I’ve been using Home Chef for a few months, and overall have been pleased. On the “steak” dishes, the meat has not been the tenderest. I’ve been really busy at work and this is a nice alternative as I get tired of eating out, which is the easy way out after an extended work day. Have been amazed at the flavor you get with just a few ingredients. It’s also nice to have it delivered and mostly prepped.

From Cynthia P.: I prefer Blue Apron. Fresher veggies. Much better packaging. More spices . More layers of flavor. Better directions. Healthier food overall. I didn’t like that Hello Fresh used chicken base in recipes and less olive oil. And now I have more choices on  Blue Apron. After a few weeks of Hello Fresh it got boring. I switched back and forth but will do more Blue Apron.

From Janis T.:
Just read about your experiences with meal delivery kits. I also recently became interested in this service. I don’t mind cooking at all, it is the meal planning and shopping that I consider to be a chore. There are only so many hours at the end of a work day and I would prefer to use the extra ones on other things.

I started with Hello Fresh, too, and was pleased with the whole experience. I love that I can come home and pull out all the ingredients for a meal in one handy package, rather than running circles around the kitchen from the fridge to the pantry collecting all ingredients. I also like that I don’t need to purchase a whole jar or bottle of an ingredient I may or may not use again. We were very pleased with the quality and taste of the Hello Fresh meals.

However, I recently stumbled onto SunBasket. It’s a little more expensive than Hello Fresh at about $12 per serving (they also charge for shipping) but the draw for me is the recipes. They have so many more meals that are “paleo” protein/vegetable combos, rather than including a starch such as rice, noodles, etc. This was very appealing, and as it turns out, delicious, too! Plus, I’m cooking meals that I would not have considered had I needed to start from a recipe. We are on our fifth week with SunBasket and have not been disappointed in a meal yet.

From Pam M.:
Seriously Jane? Peanut butter and sliced tomato on toast?

Dear Pam: Sadly, yes.



  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped apples

Make a syrup by combining sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine salt, flour and baking powder; pulse to mix. Cut shortening into bits and add to the flour mixture, pulsing until bits of fat are the size of peas. Drizzle in enough milk, pulsing, to form a soft dough. Dough also may be made by hand by cutting the shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, and tossing with a fork while adding the milk in a drizzle. Gather dough into a ball and chill.

Roll or pat dough into an 11-by-15-inch rectangle. Spread apples over dough. Beginning at a long edge, roll up jelly-roll fashion. Pinch seams to seal.

Cut pastry log into 1-inch slices. Place in a buttered, 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Pour syrup over all. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 12 servings.

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