Chocolate Lessons

I still do it to this day…and, as much as you might hate to admit it, you probably have caught yourself doing it once or twice as well.

All the ingredients are in the mixing bowl and I’m waiting for the chocolate to finish melting in the double boiler… Oh, the sheen of it… the tantalizing, seductive color…

The craving is too strong and my finger swipes just a little for a quick encounter. And then I remember, just as it hits my tongue…unsweetened chocolate! Will I never learn?

Start your own adventures with chocolate this September, with the release of my next cookbook, Chocolate Desserts to Die For! In fact, pre-order it at this special pre-release price!

Lemon Lessons

Storage: keep lemons at room temperature for about 1 week or refrigerate in the produce drawer for longer storage

Zesting: when I call for lemon "zest" I mean the finely grated yellow peel of the lemon (without the white pith, which is bitter); rubbing the lemon along a Microplane grater is the best way to zest it (an average lemon yields 2 to 3 teaspoons of zest)

Juicing: room temperature lemons yield the most juice; before juicing a lemon, soften it by using the palm of your hand to firmly roll it on the countertop (an average lemon yields 2 to 3 Tablespoons of juice)

Top 25 Spices Every Kitchen Must Have

  1. ALLSPICE ground
  2. BASIL sweet
  3. BAY leaves
  4. CAYENNE pepper
  5. CHILI powder
  6. CINNAMON ground
  7. CLOVES ground
  8. CUMIN whole and ground
  9. CURRY powder
  10. FENNEL seeds
  11. GARLIC powder
  12. GINGER root powder
  13. NUTMEG whole
  14. ONION powder
  16. PAPRIKA sweet Hungarian
  17. PEPPERCORNS whole black [invest in a peppermill]
  18. RED PEPPER flakes
  20. SAGE dried
  21. SEA SALT
  22. THYME leaf
  24. VANILLA extract, pure [if you can only find imitation ~ skip it!]
  25. YELLOW (dry) MUSTARD powder
A collection of fresh herbs is also a welcome addition
to any kitchen!

"There's Nothing Like a Good Pea" – Greg Perrone

Although the spelling is debatable, that was a joke my Dad often told at dinner (and could be why, to this day, I'm not fond of peas!).

You acquire many habits from your family, and one of mine is my sense of humor.

This photo, from the back of my cookbook No Reservations Required always elicits fun comments.

If you're just dying to write a caption for it, please email it to me and I'll post some of the best!

Caption contributions:
Oh no! I'm cooked!
from Barbara in Ohio

Delicious Food in Alaska

File this under "what I ate on my summer vacation!" Had two very notable meals in Alaska this past summer; here's one you won't want to miss if you're traveling to Alaska! More information and photos to share...

A local favorite in Homer, Alaska with an emphasis on local seafood with a fusion flair and an extensive wine list......

The Homestead Restaurant, owned by Sharlene and Rick Cline is indeed "worth walking to if necessary" according to National Geographic Traveler Magazine. The menu changes weekly and they locally source their ingredients as much as possible.

The restaurant has received both the Wine Spectator Restaurant Award and the Wine Enthusiast Award of Unique Distinction.

How can anyone resist a bouillabaisse this scrumptious!

(Photo by John R. Shaffer ~ Copyright 2007)

Mile 8.2 East End Road in Homer, Alaska....make reservations on-line before you go at!

Ingredients, ingredients, ingredients!

Ingredients. I talk about them constantly in my books, columns and when I teach cooking classes and demos. So if you want to love your food, follow me on my adventure, my quest for great ingredients!

Flours are one of the keys to the ultimate baked goods, and one of my favorite brands is
Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, Inc.. Stone Ground Whole Grain Products "The Old Fashioned Way." A little info about the company – Bob's Red Mill represents one of the most unusual segments of American history, dedicated to the manufacturing of natural foods in the natural way.

Here's some info from their website:

"With all the sophisticated knowledge of recent times, no machinery has yet been developed that grinds grains into flour quite as well as our flint-hard quartz millstones quarried in France and used by discriminating millers since early Roman times.

Our well-dressed (sharpened) sets of millstones turn the highest quality wheat into a finer, better baking bread flour than all the hammer mills, steel roller mills, steel buhr mills or pulverizers ever built!

These slow turning millstones grind the bran, endosperm and germ (containing its nutritious wheat germ oil) into flour in a cool natural way, creating a more assimilable food.

We stone grind all common and most uncommon grains into flours and meals on our over one-hundred-year-old mills.

We mix them into an astounding array of unique cereals, pancake and waffle mixes, machine and hand-made bread mixes, quick bread mixes, gluten free mixes, and specialty grain products. We add to this list continually, making our product line of natural whole grain foods the most complete in the industry. We market these fine products in several small prepackaged sizes as well as in 25 and 50-pound bulk sizes."

Any way you spin it, I think their flours are the best anywhere! I especially love their unbleached white, their whole wheat and their white whole wheat. For more information visit them at

View, download and bake one of my recipes from their website: my Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Bars can be viewed at Bob's Red Mill. Yum!