December 31, 2019

Dear friends,
I wonder what you were obsessed with this year. For me it was a mix of the old and the new — the clams on toast I made in September and have dreamed about every week since then; a detox smoothie from Florida; the ricotta and meat sauce-stuffed spaghetti squash I’ve made a half-dozen times since March; and as always, gingerbread, Cuban sandwiches and coconut anything.

One of my new cravings is the sauce for the Mongolian beef ribs I made last fall. I may turn it into an alligator stir fry in Florida, where I’m headed soon with Tony and the dog. Then again, I may be too busy eating Cuban sandwiches to cook.

Before we leave town, I’m sharing a recipe for the post-holiday noodle stir fry I made for Tony. I call it “post-holiday” because I haven’t felt like cooking since our duck extravaganza on Christmas Eve, and this stir fry practically assembles itself.

I adapted the recipe from Bon Appetit.


16 oz. yaki soba or 12 oz. spaghetti noodles
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cups thin-sliced napa cabbage
2 tsp. sesame oil
8 oz. ground pork
5 green onions, sliced
2 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp. (or more) red pepper flakes or (preferred) Szechuan chile oil
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1/3 cup mirin
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Chop and measure all of the ingredients before starting, as usual.

Cook noodles in boiling, salted water according to package directions. At the same time, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok and stir fry cabbage over high heat until tender and beginning to brown on the edges. Drain noodles and toss in a large bowl with the sesame oil. Add cooked cabbage and toss.

Heat remaining tablespoon vegetable oil in the same wok or skillet. Cook ground pork, over medium-high heat, breaking up with a spatula, until no longer pink. Continue cooking until meat begins to brown and crisp on one side.

Push meat to one side of pan. In the bare spot, stir fry onions, ginger and red pepper until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes or chile oil and hoisin sauce. Add noodles and cabbage and mix well over high heat. Add mirin and soy sauce and cook, folding, until meat and vegetables are glazed with the sauce.

Remove from heat and stir in sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.

What I cooked last week:
Meatloaf, potato salad; wild rice salad with pecans and oranges; roast Brussels sprouts with bacon; Szechuan duck steamed then roasted with a sesame-orange glaze; Japanese Christmas cake.

What I ate out last week:
Fried chicken, french fries, hot rice and slaw at Belgrade Garden in Barberton; grilled chicken salad and Christmas cookies at my niece, Heidi’s; a sesame-ginger chicken salad at Butcher & Sprout in Cuyahoga Falls; Italian wedding soup from Acme.


From Peggy:
Your newsletter last week inspired a Christmas Eve search for the elusive “Aldi’s salted chocolate dipped cashews.” Twenty minutes into the search at Aldi’s, we found the cashews. They were awesome!

This was the most extensive shopping of the season for two avid Amazon users. Thanks for the adventure.

Dear Peggy:
Glad to have sweetened up your Christmas Eve. Many of Aldi’s products are seasonal, so you might want to load up. I already miss the glass jars of cherries in juice I bought until a week ago to spoon over ricotta cheese.

From Virginia:
The Brie soufflé sounds wonderful and easy for our New Year’s Eve party but I don’t know what underripe Brie is. Will you please explain?

Dear Virginia:
The term momentarily puzzled me, too, when I read it in Sarah Leah Chase’s cookbook. But after grating the Brie, I realized that soft, oozy, perfectly ripe Brie would not work. No matter, because I haven’t seen any Brie like that since I vacationed in France. Any Brie you find in a store’s refrigerator case will be firm enough to use. Just make sure it is well chilled before you try to grate it. Freezing it for 15 minutes or so wouldn’t hurt, either. Then use the wide horizontal holes on one side of a box grater.

From Dawn:
I see in your Gut Check you made pumpkin custard — twice! It must be good. I love anything pumpkin. Please share.

Dear Dawn:
It is just pumpkin pie without the crust because I love pumpkin but am watching my weight. I use basically the recipe on the can but replace the sugar with 1/2 cup Splenda and the canned milk with 1 1/2 cups nonfat milk. I bake it in a sprayed pie pan at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes. One-fourth of the custard has just 115 calories.

From Christine O.:
Thank you for the past 20 years of newsletters… I have been following you since the 1990s in the Beacon Journal.

It would be fun to see how far your newsletters have spread around the country.

Dear Christine:
Yes, it would be fun. Let’s do it! If you subscribe and live outside Ohio, could you drop me a line? Just send a brief email with your location to Thanks!

December 24, 2019

Dear friends,
You are either knee-deep in latkes or about to dig into the Christmas pudding. Time for me to think about New Year’s Eve.

Throughout my career I have celebrated every holiday, food-wise, one week early in order to create and photograph recipes in time to get them into print. That’s why Tony, my friend, Marty, and I feasted on a Brie soufflé last week. It is the perfect nosh for a New Year’s Eve party, and even better the next day, sliced and plated, for brunch.

I found the recipe in “The Sliver Palate Cookbook,” a classic that has enjoyed a renaissance lately as publications mark its 40th anniversary. I remember interviewing the authors, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I remember making many of the recipes, from the lime mousse and flourless chocolate cake to the carrot-orange soup and caviar roulade. But until now, not the Brie soufflé.

Yikes, is it rich. Did we really, back then, consider a quarter pound of Brie and a quarter stick of butter, not to mention milk and eggs, one serving? I made the recipe by the book, then remade it with a few tweaks so it’s not quite as sinful. It’s still delicious, although it is not a souffle.

When it’s hot from the oven, it’s like a fondue; no trace of the bread is apparent, just molten strands of cheese. When it cools, it’s like a strata — the bread gives it enough structure to be cut into slices or wedges and eaten with a fork.

So serve the hot soufflé (really, it barely puffs) surrounded by things to dip such as crackers and raw vegetables. Then slice and serve the chilled leftovers the next day for brunch. I liked it both ways, and think it’s even better with a few slices of torn prosciutto added to each layer.


4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 slices good-quality sandwich bread, crusts removed
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
Dash of Tabasco
3 eggs
1 lb. slightly underripe Brie, very cold, rind removed
(6 slices prosciutto, torn, Jane’s addition)

Butter a 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish. Butter one side of the bread slices and cut each slice into thirds. Whisk together the milk, salt, Tabasco and eggs. Coarsely grate the Brie. (To grate the Brie, I used the horizontal slits on one side of a box grater.)

Arrange half the bread, buttered side up, on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle evenly with half the prosciutto and half the Brie. Repeat, using remaining bread, prosciutto and Brie. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the casserole. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden. Makes 4 to 6 (or more) servings.

(Jane’s suggestion: Surround with crackers and crudities when hot. Or cool, then refrigerate and serve later at room temperature, sliced, as a brunch dish.)


I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve been writing this newsletter. At least 20. It began as Second Helpings when I worked at the Beacon Journal and continues as See Jane Cook under the aegis of Mimi Vanderhaven and my friend, Mitch Allen, who support the blog financially and provide staff to handle the copy, manage the subscriber list and wrangle the website. I am so grateful to them, and if you know anyone who would like to advertise in the newsletter, I’m sure Mimi would appreciate it.

Lately, several of you have sent emails thanking me for continuing to write the newsletter. I would like to thank all of you for reading it. I think I’d be lost without it and the connection it gives me to our food community and the friendships — many without ever meeting — we have forged.

Especially now, when there’s so much misunderstanding and plain meanness afoot, I treasure this place we can come together and agree on something, even if it’s just a tub of Aldi’s salted chocolate-dipped cashews. Is there anyone who doesn’t love them? I didn’t think so.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Here’s to another 20 years. Well, at least five.

What I cooked last week:
Corned beef hash with potatoes, carrots, daikon radish, onions, thyme and poached eggs; potato and greens soup; pumpkin custard (twice); stir-fried noodles with pork; cauliflower-coconut soup; pan-grilled pork chops.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Miso ramen with pork, chicken and egg rice bowl and a California roll at/from Tensuke Express and Market in Columbus; chicken and waffles, sweet potato fries, coleslaw, corn and lemon-rosemary cookies at Twisted Grill & Grind in Copley; a Puebla Wrap (chicken, corn salsa, avocado, pico de gallo) and coffee at Musketeer’s in Richfield; chicken curry and hot tea at Chin’s Place in Akron.

From Ellen M.:
Regarding the question about West Point Market’s cheese spreads, I just went to Mustard Seed Market and they have the spread recipes from West Point. The man who made them at West Point makes them there. However, they only make the Bar None and The Other Spread.

Dear Ellen:
Thanks for the great information. Maybe eventually he’ll resurrect Coyote, a mouth burner but so good.

From Kay, Santa Fe.:
Help! Your penne recipe sounds beyond fantastic but my daughter is a vegetarian. Any way of getting around the ground beef?

Dear Kay:
Several people asked if they could leave out the meat to accommodate vegetarians. Yes, you may. Sautéed mushrooms would be a good swap. But there’s no way to omit the cheese, milk and eggs, which also are off-limits for many vegetarians. Before serving the penne to a mixed crowd, you might want to ask whether dairy products are OK.

From Carolyn V.:
My niece did Thanksgiving turkey breast sous vide. She first browned them and sous vided them for 14 hours. Then she oven-browned them for a very brief time at high heat The meat sliced beautifully and was very moist and tasty. The best part was that the leftover meat stayed moist and juicy even after being reheated.

Dear Carolyn:
Oh, boy. Gotta try turkey and chicken.

From Carol P.:
Apparently you can sous vide in your InstantPot. I am researching this idea because I am curious about the technique, too.

Dear Carol:
Do let us know how that turns out. Has anyone else used the appliance for sous vide?

December 18, 2019

Dear friends,
I have always wanted to go to an Italian family’s Christmas dinner. I have written about the traditional Christmas Eve feast of the seven fishes and printed recipes for Italian cookies and desserts but never actually participated. The closest I’ll come to an Italian holiday meal is probably the baked penne I made last week for Tony.

I could do a lot worse than share the creamy, walnut-studded pasta with my family. A LOT worse, given my family’s penchant for serving potato salad and meatloaf on the holiday (hence my desire to be adopted by an Italian family).

I made the pasta to share with you, though, not them. I figured maybe you could use a recipe for a make-ahead, luxurious dish large enough for a crowd. In the days before and after Christmas, if you’re lucky, your house will be filled with loved ones. This pasta is an easy way to feed them.

The recipe is a riff on one I found in Sarah Leah Chase’s “Cold Weather Cooking.” I changed the seasonings and a few other ingredients. In my version, cooked penne pasta is tossed in a casserole with cream, eggs, walnuts and a simple but deeply flavored tomato sauce quickly made in a skillet. Gruyere cheese is folded in, and the whole thing is scented with nutmeg, recalling the Northern Italian meat sauces that I love. It is baked until melty and bubbly and is absolutely delicious.

Buon Natale. And if you’re Italian and need a taste tester next week, give me a call.


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 tbsp. herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Salt, pepper
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes in puree
1 lb. penne pasta
2 eggs
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup broken walnut pieces
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded gruyere cheese (or Baby Swiss or mozzarella)
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in olive oil. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent. Crumble in ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat with the edge of a spoon. Stir in herbes de Provence, nutmeg and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir in crushed tomatoes and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. In a casserole or deep oblong baking dish that holds 3 quarts, whisk together eggs and cream. When sauce and pasta are done, stir pasta into the dish with the cream and eggs, rapidly folding to coat pasta evenly. Stir in the walnuts and tomato sauce. Stir in all but one-half cup of the shredded gruyere, folding to distribute evenly.

Sprinkle remaining cheeses over top of casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and edges begin to brown. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Pass coarse sea salt at the table (it’s hard to get the seasoning right when cooking). The salt will bring out the flavor.


OK, I am a fan. I sous vide-ed last week and the contraption is still in my kitchen, unlike the InstantPot that I banished to the basement after two lackluster meals.

I decided to give sous vide a whirl when I saw the immersion cookers on sale for $49.99 at Aldi. The one I bought looks like an immersion blender but fatter and heavier, with a readout on top of the handle and a clip on the side for attaching it to a pan filled with water.

The directions were easy to follow: Fill a deep pan with warm water, punch in the desired time and temperature and, after the water heats, lower in a sealed package of meat. I used a corned beef brisket I had sealed in plastic with my Seal-A-Meal. If you don’t own a vacuum sealer, you’ll have to buy one to use the immersion cooker.

My corned beef brisket cooked for eight hours at 170 degrees, and was juicy and perfectly cooked. Although sketchy time-and-temperature data came with my sous vide cooker, I used a more detailed chart I found on the Internet. I also scoured sites for the lowdown on sous vide and food safety, given that meat is cooked for a long time at a fairly low temperature. No problem. Although variables such as length of cooking time vs. temperature vs. thickness of meat come into play, my settings were safe for a whole brisket.

I am interested to hear about the favorite cuts others cook by the sous vide method. Must steaks be thick? What time and temperature do you use, and how long can you hold the steak at that temperature before it overcooks? Is there any point in cooking vegetables in this manner?

What I cooked last week:
Brie soufflé; corned beef; baked penne with ground beef and walnuts in tomato cream sauce.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Half of a spicy Asian salad and a cup of chili (yuck) at Panera; wonton soup and my favorite chili pork wontons at House of Hunan in Fairlawn; a hamburger with grilled onions, mustard and pickles at Bob’s Hamburg in Akron (as good as ever); shrimp lettuce wraps with pickled cauliflower at Portage Country Club in Akron.


From L.R.:
Help! All of my local honey is crystalizing. I heated it as directed and it was OK for awhile but now it has crystalized again!! Am I doing something wrong?

Dear L.R.:
You aren’t doing anything wrong. As I understand it (from a quick chemistry lesson on a honey site), how fast/slow it crystalizes varies between types of honey. The process has to do with the ratio of glucose to fructose, the two types of sugar in honey, and this varies depending on the type of bee. Age can play a role, too. I have a jar that does this and it is annoying. Sorry, but just keep heating.

From Donna G.:
If you are ever in North Royalton, you need to stop in to Kavanna Social Kitchen.Their motto is “Taste. sip. share. repeat.” The food is fantastic and shareable. They are only open evenings Tuesdays through Saturdays. Check them out on Facebook. I have probably been there 20 + times. Varied menu including such delicacies as frog legs! You won’t be disappointed!

Dear Donna:
Thanks for the tip. I have been puzzled about the burgeoning “Social” phenomenon. In Cleveland, there’s the Twist Social Club and Prosperity Social Club. There’s the Social 8 in Akron’s Merriman Valley and Leo’s Italian Social in Cuyahoga Falls. When did “social” start serving as shorthand for “restaurant” and why?

The trend has been surging in California (naturally) for at least half a decade. The owner of a “social” there in 2015 described it in the San Francisco Chronicle as “Not quite a restaurant and not quite a bar … something in between.”

The online Urban Dictionary defines the Social as “Generally people eating, drinking, talking, laughing in a shared environment. A place to find Community.”

Legally, a non-profit social club is tax-exempt, but I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here. I think the term is used to evoke a friendly neighborhood place where everyone knows your name. Appleby’s tried that and the chain is about as “neighborhood” as Walmart.

If you want to visit a REAL Social, go to spaghetti night at the Carovillese Club or the Italian Club in the North Hill area of Akron, or the fish fry on Friday night at the Polish Club. Just type in “ethnic club” on a search engine to discover exactly what these polished restaurants are trying to evoke. If you merely want a friendly neighborhood restaurant, you could go to one that’s been in business for decades such as the great Dontino’s in Cuyahoga Falls, whose patina is real. Like, 69 years real.

I’m not against new restaurants, just artifice. And, of course, chains. That said, there’s always room on my dance card for a new locally owned restaurant, which Kavana Social Kitchen definitely is.

From Kathy K.:
I was hoping you could help me locate a recipe that featured a favorite dish of the late pro baseball player, Thurman Munson. It featured beef tenderloin and I believe shrimp and possibly additional seafood. My family would like me to make it again for Christmas Eve dinner. Sadly, I can’t find the recipe. I would greatly appreciate any help or suggestions that you can offer.

Dear Kathy:
I’ve never heard of that recipe. Was it served at the former Bill Crocker’s Restaurant? I remember Frog Legs Thurman Munson but not beef tenderloin. Can anyone help?

December 11, 2019

Dear friends,
Busy much? If so, you might want to buy some of your holiday cookies this year. If you choose the bakery carefully you may be glad you didn’t turn on your oven.

One of the best bakeries in the Akron area for cookies — or anything, really — is Vincent’s Bakery in Cuyahoga Falls. The small mom and pop operation is the kind of bakery where traditions are born. Vincent Massoli started the business in the 1950s with Italian cakes and tea cookies so tender they almost dissolve on your tongue. His son, Nick, who for years now has run the place, still bakes everything from scratch with the family’s time-tested recipes.

The shop’s countertops are stacked with luscious-looking cookie trays that begin with Vincent Massoli’s buttery tea cookie recipe — emphasis on the butter. Real butter, not margarine or tinted shortening. The dough is shaped by hand into candy canes and Christmas trees, or nuts are added or rounds of dough are indented and filled with jam for thumbprints. Flavors are added to some of the dough, toppings are sprinkled on other batches. In all, the tender dough is the basis of 45 varieties of cookies.

Nick and his wife, Tina, generously shared the recipe with me in 2000 for a Beacon Journal article. I’m printing it again for those who want to bake like an Italian grandma this Christmas. Or just let Nick do it. The shop is at 2038 Bailey Road in Cuyahoga Falls. The phone is 330-923-8217.

Is it too early to think about New Year’s get-togethers? In celebration of the bakery’s 63rd year, Nick is offering plain 7-inch Italian cakes for $16 on Dec. 30 and 31 only. Orders must be placed by Dec. 28. The cakes are classic: three layers of sponge cake, a layer of vanilla custard and a layer of chocolate custard, all covered with whipped cream.

“We make our own custard, we make our own sponge cakes,” Nick says. “It’s the way my dad always did it. We haven’t changed anything.”


3 lbs. butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 lbs. powdered sugar
8 cups unsifted cake flour, divided
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 cup egg whites (4 whites)
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp. vanilla

Beat butter with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. In another bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, 6 cups of the cake flour, dry milk and salt. Add to the creamed butter a little at a time, beating well. Add egg whites to mixture and beat for one minute on medium speed.

Sift remaining cake flour and add to mixture alternately with water and vanilla to form a soft dough. The dough may be divided into portions and tinted with food coloring to pipe into canes, trees, etc.

Spoon dough into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe batter into 1-inch rounds, crescents or other desired shapes onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes, or until light brown. Remove from trays and cool. The recipe may be cut in half.

Makes several dozen, depending on size.


Merry Muttmas!
If you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Festivus with a beloved pooch, get yourself and your furry friend to Morty’s Munchies, a wonderful new dog bakery in Akron’s Merriman Valley. In a small shop across from Papa Joe’s and two doors down from Michael’s A.M., owner Nicole bakes and sells her own wares along with other treats and gifts I haven’t seen in chain stores.

I bought some pizza-flavored biscuits and a lick mat, among many other things, for Oscar’s stocking. Nicole named the shop after one of her three dogs. If you live in the Akron area, this is a great chance to shop local.

No-Pudge Eggnog
I gave up eggnog years ago when the calories (just kill me) were first printed on the carton. I devised low-cal versions but they never tasted as rich. Now I’ve found a substitute: Almond milk eggnog.

I know, nut milks taste like a graphite pencil, but after seeing the fairly low calorie count, I decided to give Ajoyo Almond Nog a try. It is richer than my homemade skim-milk eggnog thickened with sugar-free instant pudding. It actually tastes pretty good and has just 100 calories per cup.

My new holiday drink is a half-cup of coffee, a half cup Ajoyo nog, a teaspoon of Splenda and a shot of Bourbon. Heat it up and sip it by the light of a twinkling tree.

The only interesting things I made last week were a couple of peanut butter and banana sandwiches and turkey-chickpea soup with coconut milk. I heated up frozen Thai chicken in a coconut curry sauce from Aldi’s and it was pretty good. Buy some (look in the freezer case) if you’re a Thai food lover. I had it over steamed cauliflower rice for a flavorful yet virtuous dinner.

Lunch out was boffo last week. I discovered Sonnet’s Espresso Bar & Restaurant in Wadsworth (late to the party, I know) and you should, too. It’s a coffee house with craft beers on tap and a real chef in the kitchen.

The waiter/bartender (owner? chef?) told me the place smokes its own briskets and pork and makes all the salad dressings. I think he was being modest because everything I tasted was from scratch.

An interesting chalkboard list of side dishes included roasted Brussels sprouts loaded with bacon in a portion so generous I could have stopped there. But I also got the 1814 sandwich, a pile of crisp pastrami, brisket, melted provolone, coleslaw and “magic mustard” on a pretzel bun. I took most of it home, and my husband and I split the leftovers for supper (truth in advertising: he also had turkey soup and later, ramen).

My friend had creamy mushroom soup and cubed roast sweet potatoes with bacon. There’s a breakfast menu (I want to try the black bean cakes with pico de gallo, egg and sour cream. I will definitely get the optional pork green chili). The lunch/dinner menu includes a lot of entree salads that can be turned into wraps, and many fabulous-sounding sandwiches.

The atmosphere tends more toward hip but comfy coffee house than family restaurant, which is the flavor of Alexandris around the corner. That restaurant is one of Tony’s favorites and the reason I haven’t visited Sonnets until now. The next time we dine in Wadsworth, it may be in separate restaurants.

For more info, go to


From Cindy W.:
Perfect timing on the new cookie glaze, as my holiday baking frenzy is about to begin. But…is it “2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted”, or “2 1/4 sifted cups confectioners’ sugar”?

And while I’m writing, I think you may have experienced something like my newest kitchen issue and have some idea of what to do about it. Several of my “pretty” cookbooks were displayed on a shelf above my gas stove for eons and rarely used. I’ve brought them to Florida to display and actually use, but they’ve collected the typical coating of kitchen grease and dust. Cleaning the dust jackets is easy, but how do I clean the page edges without damaging them? Your suggestions would be very much appreciated!

Dear Cindy:
The recipe as written is measure, then sift. Many recipe writers don’t know the difference between putting “sifted” before or after the ingredient so I don’t trust them when it is written “flour, sifted.” But I am 99% sure King Arthur does. So in this case, measure the confectioners’ sugar and then sift.

I can’t answer your book-cleaning question. My books are far from the stove so I don’t have that problem. The wall clock, chef photos of Tony, writing mementos …. all coated with grease and cleaned periodically. But not books. Can anyone help Cindy?

From Martha:
Guinness and chocolate is a long-standing pairing. Although adding ginger is pretty fantastic, too. Here’s a delicious recipe I made for my family:
Chocolate Guinness cake

Guinness makes great BBQ sauce too:

Dear Martha:
I think you should make that cake for me sometime. Maybe we can have a cake fest with Guinness to wash it all down.

From Julie B.:
I have another chef you would love to follow. His name is Pasquale Sciarappa and he posts videos on facebook all the time. His Italian recipes are very similar to the ones from my grandma and he is a lot of fun to watch.

I hope you have a great holiday!

Dear Julie:
Thanks! Always room on my watch list for someone with a sense of humor.

From Molly C.:
I’ve frequented Stan’s Bakery a time or two as it is in my neck of the woods. I love walking in there as smells exactly as a bakery should. In addition to their sweet treats, they offer homemade pierogis. I’ve ordered custom-decorated cookies on separate occasions, and have always been so pleased. Leslie is a true artist.

You can subscribe to Stan’s Bakery online to stay up to date on what is available. They have a Facebook page too.

I will be rooting for Leslie to win when I watch her compete on the Food Network!

Dear Molly:
You are lucky — or is it cursed? — to live close to a great bakery. Thanks for writing.

From Mary D.:
My curiosity is piqued! I googled “Knock you Naked cookies” assuming it’s a bakery in the Akron area. The search returned various “Knock you Naked” recipes — from brownies to bars to party punch. I searched “what is knock you naked” but couldn’t find the origin, just recipes. What is the craze and where did it start?

Dear Mary:
Let’s catch others up on your reference. It is to my item a few weeks ago about the variety of dishes I judged at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church Men Who Cook fund-raiser. Since this is cookie week, I’ll print the recipe for Larry Crocket’s entry. I have no idea where the trend started and my guess is we will never know. Remember Better Than Sex Cake? Same thing.

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Caramel Sauce:
5 oz. evaporated milk
1 bag (14 oz.) caramels
1/2 cup peanut butter

For the bars: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla with a mixer until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread half of dough in the prepared pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

While the dough bakes, melt caramels with evaporated milk in a double boiler. Add peanut butter after caramels are melted. Melt thoroughly and stir well. Spread over baked cookie dough base.

Drop remaining cookie dough by spoonfuls on top of the caramel mixture. Return to oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

December 4, 2019

Dear friends,
I never met a gingerbread I didn’t like. So when a friend mentioned she had just made a gingerbread cake with dark beer and chocolate, I reacted like a deer in the headlights. I was stunned. Beer! Ginger! Chocolate!

I don’t usually eat desserts, so I had to invent an excuse to make Pennie’s gingerbread. It didn’t take a lot of thinking. Any old event would do. I made it last weekend, after smoking my backup Thanksgiving turkey (that was delicious). Then I sent the cake on a hunting trip with Tony to share with his friends, but not before I carved out a piece for myself.

The gingerbread lived up to my mental hype. It is made with not only beer and chocolate but grated fresh ginger, crystalized ginger and molasses. It is very moist and spicy. A dusting of confectioners’ sugar is all the gilding it needs.

The recipe is from a site I’d never heard of but will revisit: The site covers all things connected to eating in Germany or like a German — where to buy products, specialties by region, German table manners, food festivals and an astounding variety of recipes, from venison with chocolate and wine jelly sauce to fourteen ways to cook German white asparagus. The site’s owner is the food importer German Foods North America.

So. The Dunkel Gingerbread is baked, tasted and out of my hair. Now on to Lemon Almond Hearts, a traditional German Christmas cookie. Damn you,


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting pan
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup dark German beer such as Becks or Warsteiner Premium Dunkel
1 cup molasses
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for coating pan
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 10-cup ring or Bundt pan, dust with flour, and shake out excess.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk together the beer, molasses and fresh ginger in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine butter, sugar and egg in a large mixer bowl and beat at medium speed with a mixer for 2 minutes, or until mixture is light and fluffy. In 3 additions, alternately beat in flour mixture and beer mixture at low speed until batter is smooth. Stir in chocolate and crystallized ginger. Spoon batter into prepared pan, smoothing top of batter.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or more (I baked it 45 minutes), until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.


The New Royal Icing
I came across this easy glaze for sugar cookies that is as hard and shiny as the egg-white version, but without the egg whites:

2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. corn syrup or honey
1 to 2 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional)

Mix together with a fork. The mixture should be thick but soft enough that it smooths out after you spread it. If the glaze is too thick, add 1/2 teaspoon of milk. Glaze one cookie. If it settles to a smooth surface within 30 seconds, bingo. If not, add a tiny bit more milk. The glaze will set up hard, so add sprinkles, etc. while it is still wet.

The recipe is from the folks at King Arthur Flour. If you bake but haven’t signed up for the company’s newsletter yet, you can correct your error at Nose around the site and eventually a box will pop up asking you to sign up.

Lights, Camera, Cookies!
Set your DVR to record the Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge” at 10 p.m. Dec. 16 or 1 a.m. Dec. 17, when a local baker is set to compete. Kent PR agent Bob Burford sets the scene:

“Leslie Srodek-Johnson has been working in her family’s Cleveland-area bakery since she was in the fifth grade. She’s seen and learned a lot over the years, but she was certainly not prepared for a phone call one day from Food Network.”

Leslie, who bakes cookies and other goodies at Stan’s Northfield Bakery with her mom, Kathie, took the call and, despite a giant case of nerves, agreed to compete in the on-air cookie contest. She was up against four other bakers in the taped episode. The challenge was to make the most dazzling cut-out cookies. She can’t divulge the outcome, but said, “I was so nervous I think I lost ten pounds…. It was harder than childbirth with no drugs!”

Thanks, Bob, for letting me know about Leslie’s star turn, and for turning me on to her family’s old-fashioned bakery, which specializes in cakes, breads, kolacky, paczki, kuchens, pierogi and, yes, decorated cookies. The bakery’s website is


Dear readers:
I was flooded with emails about Chef John of You Tube fame after I wrote last week about discovering him. I love his exacting but humorous way of demonstrating recipes, mostly French. I wrote that the guy deserves to be famous. Apparently he already is. To wit:

From Marty:
Chef John has 3.18 MILLION subscribers. What’s amazing is that we don’t have a local Fork Don’t Lie fan club. Ha!

Note from Jane:
Fork Don’t Lie is a site that sells mugs, t-shirts and phone cases emblazoned with Chef John sayings such as “Never Let the Food Win” and “Don’t Cook Scared.”

From Sandy:
Just wanted to let you know that Chef John has a ton of recipes and videos on I’ve been using his recipes and watching the videos for years!

From Kristi:
Big Chef John fan right here. I used his recipes long before I listened to a video. Then I liked him even better. Another blog you might like is Kevin is a hoot.

From Paula:
I absolutely love Chef John! I discovered him last year when my mom entered hospice a few days before Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to make things even worse for our family by giving up Thanksgiving dinner, too. It was my first time ever, but I set up my laptop in the kitchen and he walked me through the way to the best roast turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. My friends and family were so impressed and it was so easy! It feels like Chef John is right there in the kitchen letting you know everything is going to be OK.

Dear friends:
Thanks for your emails. I found a photo of chef John Mitzewich on Wikipedia, and he looks exactly as I expected him to — middle-aged, a bit chubby with a mustache and a great smile. He studied at the California Culinary Academy. After I mainline “The Crown” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” I plan to settle in with Chef John.