Grace’s Peach Cake

When I was just 13 years old, my family visited Grace, a friend of my Nana’s in upstate New York.  Grace, a very warm and charming lady, prepared a tasty dinner from scratch for all of us.  I truly do not remember the dinner, but I do remember the dessert!

After dinner, she stood in her kitchen for several moments pondering a dessert idea for her guests.  I followed her outside to her backyard, where beautiful plum trees stood full of fruit.  She filled her apron with plums, carried them into the house, and, in about 10 minutes flat, put together the most wonderful and memorable plum cake.  I wrote the recipe down as best as I could since she did not use any measuring cups or measuring spoons.  Grace informed me that I could use any fresh summer fruit, such as peaches or blueberries for this quick cake.

Peach CakeI’ve been making this peach and blueberry rendition ever since and want to share this delicious memory with all of you.  Here is her cake, just as she put it together, and then below, I have provided some guidelines to create a just as delicious “gluten free” version.

Thank you, Grace.  Thank you, Nana.  Each time I bake this cake, I am 13 years old standing in a beautiful arbor of fruit trees and surrounded by many people who love me.  Good reason to bake this cake over and over again!!!


3 medium ripe peaches
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups flour   ***gluten free tips below
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 whole eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or to taste
Butter flavored Spray Margarine


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10 inch deep dish pie plate with cooking spray.  Slice peaches, leaving skin on.  Toss with lemon juice and set aside.  Wash and drain blueberries and set aside.  Mix flour with baking powder and set aside.

In a large bowl, use electric mixer at low speed to beat butter and 1/2 sugar together.  Add eggs and beat until light and creamy. Add milk,  flour mixture, and vanilla; mix at low speed for one minute, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange peaches and blueberries on top in decorative design.  Sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon.  Dot the top of the cake with pieces of butter.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  When cool, cut into 10 servings.  Yummy served warm with vanilla ice cream.

***Gluten Free Modifications:  I use a good gluten free yellow cake mix, such as Pamela’s or Gluten Free Pantry.  Cream butter in bowl, the add eggs and vanilla.  Pamela’s uses some water.  Then pour batter into deep dish pie plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray and proceed with rest of recipe.  The house will smell heavenly!

Why I Love January

Pink lemon slice from our tree

Pink lemons from our tree

It is a brisk and sunny  Sunday afternoon in Orlando.  I am sitting on my patio dressed in a sweater. These are the days I savor.  I must say that January, February and March are my favorite months of the year here in Florida.  Those living in the North right now would beg to differ with me, but geographically, these months come bearing a plethora of  lovely gifts from Mother Nature.  It’s not too hot. It’s not too cold.  Spring is tangible. I can envision my lawn coming back to life. I look forward to planting new pots of herbs with my husband, Wayne, to replace what the harsh cold has taken.img_2597

So why do I love January? Because January here is Summer up North with it’s horn of plenty of  locally grown fruits and vegetables.  I visited my favorite produce stand, Clemons, last week and was greeted by more than 20 varieties of locally grown produce and fruit. Of course, citrus is plentiful right now. But rarely, does one think of Florida as a “garden state”. The Florida connotation is usually beaches, palm trees, and Disney World.  Surprisingly, however we grow a lot of wonderful produce in the winter months.  I  bought fresh Romaine, cucumbers, and beefsteak tomatoes all grown just an hour or two from my door. Clemons is one of the only places I know that brings the produce from farmer to your door without the middle man.

img_2606The salad pictured here is one I made for Wayne and I for lunch yesterday. It is Florida fresh. It tasted fresh and perhaps, it is my imagination, but it looks a lot fresher as well.  It thrills me to know that I am eating something that did not travel very far to reach my plate. And the lemon pictured here is from our lemon tree in the back of our house.

The breeze just kicked up as I sit on the patio on this wondrous January afternoon.  I love the combination of the  warmth of the sun on my skin and the cool breeze on my face.   I suppose, in many ways,  I share the same sentiments as my optimistic Northern friends who peer out the window at the snow piled high and hold onto their dreams of  the first harbingers of Spring.  January arrives with its counterpart of a new year and a unique joy from thoughts of  rebirth and renewal and fresh starts. January fills our hearts with new perspectives and new attitudes.  January is one of those months that grabs your attention in the moment, but at the same time, taps you on the shoulder to remind you of all the things your heart will be rejoicing about…..very, very soon.

Summer: Comfort Food

Most people think “winter” when it comes to comfort foods.  Everyone just feels all fuzzy inside at the thought of a big pot of simmering soup on the stove or the smell of freshly baked apple pie in the oven on a chilly winter afternoon.  Those foods comfort us.  They bring us back to the loving memories of Mom, Grandma and our favorite Aunt.  She cooked.  She baked. She hugged us.  The simmering soup was overflowing with love.  I like those foods and memories as well.

However, I must admit that I find great comfort in Summer’s bounty!  I was washing some red chard this evening for dinner, and immediately I was transported back to New Jersey and those wonderful vegetable stands on every road and every corner in the summer months.  Your car would automatically brake for vegetable stands!  Summer’s bounty in New Jersey is a cherished memory engraved forever in my heart and on my palate.  I remember my Mom getting all excited about fresh zucchini and huge bunches of basil.  I see her standing at the sink, as I did this evening, with her hands washing the chard, transferring the beautiful leaves from one side of the sink to the other to rinse off all the sand.

I remember a dear friend of my grandmother’s, Grace.  She had a plum tree in her backyard.  We went to visit her when I was just 13 years old.  She took me outside and picked plums fresh off the tree. She piled them in her apron like a carrying sack.  Then in just 10 minutes flat, she made the most amazing plum coffee cake you have ever seen.  The smell was heavenly.  I can still see her standing there in her apron filled with fresh plums and a big smile on her face.  She was a summer Kodak moment.

I bought this wonderful red chard from a produce market down the road from me called Clemons. It is a family run business. There is a real Mr. Clemons too.  It is nothing fancy, but they have the freshest produce starting this time of year.

Consalo Farms Chard

My chard happened to be from New Jersey, where else?  The tag attached to it said, ‘Consalo Farms’.  No wonder my mind took me on a trip back to my roots.

I love living in Florida.  I love Ruskin tomatoes.  Better than Ruskins, I love a tomato from Immokalee, Florida. I love Florida corn. It’s all good.  Clemons is ten times better than the supermarket, and as close as I can get to Jersey fresh.

But I must admit I am faithful to the Jersey tomato. There is nothing on the planet like a Jersey Beefsteak tomato!  I miss them so much.  When the heat of summer makes your steering wheel so hot  you can’t touch it here in the South, I find myself longing for Jersey’s Summer bounty and all the deep down comforting feelings that go along with it.

The entire memory just reels me in like the giant arms of Mother Earth embracing me.  Winding country roads with gardens everywhere.  A small stand offering you green beans, squash, cucumbers that were just picked that very morning.  My Mom’s hands cleaning the garlic and washing the vegetables. The smile of  farmer when he hands you your purchase.  So comforting.  Indeed, so comforting.

Yet, I find myself a little jealous right now, and I am not a jealous person.  Some special someone gets to eat a Jersey tomato this Summer, and it won’t be me.

I’m Back with Lucy’s Cookies

I’M BACK!  I apologize that I have been away for a long time now and haven’t been blogging or visiting your blogs. I missed all of you!  Thank you for all of your wonderful comments and interest in my blog.

Lucy’s Gluten Free Cookies are my latest great find.  Once you taste them, you will want to tell the world. I stumbled upon them one evening on the way home from work at Starbucks.  Yes, Starbucks!  I am happy to say that Starbucks offers a nice little assortment of “gluten free snacks” for the so inclined.  A Starbucks latte is my little reward at the end of my work week.  As I near home after my hour long drive, I pass a Starbucks and my car is on autopilot for a coffee treat.  As I waited for my latte to be prepared, I checked out a basket next to the register filled with snacks, and it was then that I discovered Lucy’s Cinnamon Thins.

I had no expectations.  I opened the small package. It contained 4 small thin cookies with a light fragrance of cinnamon.  I bit into one and it was at that moment that I fell in love.  They melt in your mouth!  I am hooked.

Turns out that these delectable cookies were formulated by a doctor and mother named Dr. Lucy Gibney.  She came up with these cookie recipes for her child who has serious food allergies.  Check out her website:  They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but in this case this wonderful, loving mother was inspired to invention.

Thank you, Dr. Lucy!

Osteria St. Ana, Roma

Me, Alex, and me Osteria St. Ana

There are many, many restaurants in Rome.  Every street has a variety of osterias, trattorias, bars (where you can have a coffee, cappucino, or a snack) and sometimes even a pizzaria.  However, Osteria St. Ana is not just a restaurant, but an experience that one does not forget.  So many restaurants have delicious food that you will swoon over, but it is the combination of ambience, staff. and food that leaves an lasting impression.

For months before our trip, I enjoyed researching places to eat.  I also emailed many restaurants inquiring as to their capabilities of preparing gluten free pasta.  I found this restaurant close to where we stayed in Rome, so that on the first day of arrival, it would be convenient to find and enjoy a good meal.  I emailed the owner asking for gluten free pasta, and he replied that he could provide it, so I went ahead with the reservation.  When we arrived, he led us in to seat us and commented that I was the reservation that had requested gluten free pasta.  I was very impressed that he remembered!

The food is amazing, prepared with love and many years of experience.  You can dine al fresco or downstairs in their romantic lamp lit and candlelit dining room.  The walls are covered with pictures of the owners (two brothers) and many celebrities and lesser known patrons.

For appetizers, we shFresh fish Osteria St. Anaared smoked mozzarella and prosciutto with melon. Yummy!  Wayne, my husband, had a fresh baked tuna steak with pomodoro and olives.  I ordered Spaghetti with Vongole (clam sauce), pictured here.  It was heavenly.  I was so happy to be eating gluten free pasta in Rome!  My son, Alex, had Pasta Amatriciana (tomato sauce prepared with pancetta).  I tasted the sauce, and it was scrumptious.  He followed with an entree of grilled Scampi (what Italians call langostinos).Gluten Free Spaghetti with Clam Sauce

I don’t know where we found the room, but Alex and I ordered three desserts:  creme caramel, fresh strawberries and cannoli.  I was unable to eat the cannoli, but my creme caramel and strawberries were sublime!

We were fussed over.  We were made to feel like family.  We were not rushed.  They did not care if we sat there all evening.  The waiters scurried around and we watched as they just could not be more accommodating to all!

This gem of a Rome restaurant, Osteria St. Ana, on a street just off Piazza Popolo, made us feel so very special.  Many generations of the same family have run this restaurant, and therefore, the food is unmistakeably cooked and served with much pride and love.

I shall never forget our evening at Osteria St. Ana.   It was and will continue to be a loving and lasting memory of my husband, my son, and I in beautiful Rome with delcious food, laughter, affection, and an ambiance of family tradition.

And thank you, Roberto, for remembering my gluten free pasta! Grazie mille!

Grilled Scampi


Gluten Free Spaghetti with Fresh Sardines

Just inside the city limits of the foothills of Florence, one finds this unique trattoria (informal Italian restaurant) run by chef-owner Benedetta Vitali.  The 14C bus will drop you off practically right in front of the restaurant which is right off the Piazza di Carregi. The latter piece of advice actually came from Benedetta herself after I emailed her telling her that most likely we would not be visiting her restaurant, as I was told that the taxi ride cost over 50 euro round trip.

From the outside, Zibbibo looks like the front of an every day bar, but step inside, and it becomes a very beautiful dining area overlooking the Tuscan landscape.  Benedetta, herself, will
lead you to your table, explain the menu and even serve you many of the dishes.
She runs a cooking school out of the same kitchen.  Each dish is made to order, so be
prepared for long pauses to reflect on the goodness of  the dish that you had just

We told Benedetta that we were celebrating Alex’s college graduation, and at the
same time, Alex asked to be surprised, so Benedetta picked out each course that he
ate, and he loved them all.  Admittedly, they became better and better as the
evening progressed.  In Italy, you have an appetizer (antipasto), then a first course,
primi patti, and then a second course (secundo patti), a side dish such as a vegetable
(contorno), and if you have space in your stomach, dolce (dessert) and cafe or coffee.

Alex loved his octopus appetizer and black ink pappardelle with squid.  He has been emailing all of his friends about it.  Wayne and I shared a gluten free spaghetti dish of fresh sardines pictured here).   It was very delicious and I plan on trying my hand at this dish when I get home.  Benedetta was supposed to share the recipe, but the restaurant became busy as we left, and we both inadvertently forgot about the promise.  From what I could discern myself, this dish is a savory mixture of  sardines, olive oil, pine nuts, sultana raisins, and just a hint of fresh fennel.

Unfortunately, Benedetta said that she was out of gluten free bread, and admittedly, I was disappointed.  I have not encountered any gluten free Italian bread since arriving in Italy just one week ago.  Most servers are quite familiar with “gluten free” pasta (pasta senza glutino), but the bread is hard to come by.  We are now in Rome and I remain optimistic that I may finally get to taste gluten free bread in Italy.

I was thinking about emailing Benedetta for the sardine recipe, but better yet, I do believe that I will take the creative approach and try my hand at it with my own personal improvisations.  Recipe to follow on this blog.

Viva Zibbibo Firenze!  Thank you Benedetta.

Benedetta Vitali

Al Tranvai Restaurant-Florence, Italy

Gluten free Taglitelli with Mushrooms

Beans with shrimp appetizer-Al Tranvai Trattoria, FlorencePinch me. Here I am with my son and husband in beautiful Florence.  This evening, we dined at a tiny trattoria that went through the trouble of cooking me an amazing and very memorable gluten free meal.  This is not just any restaurant.  This is a tiny place with about 7 tables and all the locals come, feast, chat a lot, and laugh a lot. The walls resound with the fullness of life.  The chef pictured here with our wonderful server was so very proud to prepare for me Taglitelle (gluten free) with a rich mushroom sauce.  Spectacular and so very delicous.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention the appetizer of fagioli with shrimp, vibrant with flavor and fresh herbs.  It is a dish that I have never had before.  My son took his bread and scraped up everylast bit of sauce.  My husband also had the fagioli and then followed with penne pasta with sausage and wine sauce.

Al Tranvai Chef and AssistantThe chef himself came out to serve me my “gluten free” pasta dish.  He smiled and
winked at me, and we silently acknowledged the understanding that he was happy
to create this special dish for me and that I was so very grateful for the effort and
culinary love he put into it.

It was an evening never to be forgotten.  Delicious.  Happy.  Being in the moment.
Alex, my son, my husband, Wayne, and me together across the globe from home.

I highly recommend Al Tranvai.  In fact, we shall return Friday evening, just before
we go on to Rome, to celebrate the flavors of this gem hidden away in a residential

neighborhood of Florence.  And the best part-they love you gluten free and all!

My son, Alex, and me-Al Tranvai Trattoria, Florence

Outside sign

To Rice Chex or Not to Rice Chex, That is the Question

Gluten free cornflakes with blueberries

Being gluten intolerant, I have not indulged in breakfast cereal in a long time.  Most of the gluten free ones are like eating Styrofoam floating in milk, so I had humbly crossed that option off my breakfast choices.  I must admit, however, that I missed cereal now and then, because it is so refreshing in the morning with some cold milk, and also, I missed the fact that here was a wonderful way to get some “fiber” into my diet.  Then I recently read about Rice Chex becoming gluten free.  Like every other gluten free person, I became very excited about this.  I don’t know whether I was excited about that fact that they had become gluten free, or that I could actually walk down the regular cereal aisle in the supermarket (and it is a big one at that), and find a gluten free cereal choice.

So, during my next food shopping excursion, I perused the cereal aisle, and lo and behold, there they were, Gluten Free Rice Chex. I picked up the box and read all the ingredients and nutritional value box.  I was a bit disappointed, as this product clearly lacks fiber and has added refined sugar as well as the preservative, BHT.  I walked over to the Greenwise section of my market (Publix has a separate area for natural and organic foods), and discovered Nature’s Path Organic Corn Flakes.  They offered 2 grams of  fiber per serving as well as organic ingredients with no preservatives and the promise of organic.

Natures Path Gluten Free Cornflakes Box

Now in my heart, I just knew, even without tasting them, that the Rice Chex were going to taste good.  I was taking a gamble with the corn flakes. You, being gluten free, are quite familiar with being at this crossroads.   I did not dare say to myself,  “How bad can they be”?  I urged myself to be optimistic.  I brushed out of my mind the usual little balloon over my head that would have imagined a bowl of tasteless wood chips floating in cold milk.

This morning, I poured myself a bowl of Natures Path Gluten Free Corn Flakes.  I topped it with fresh blueberries.  I used Almond Milk and just a teaspoon of Half and Half cream in lieu of milk.  I just love the unsweetened Almond Milk.  It is gluten free and makes some awesome smoothies.   Yes, the corn flakes are delicious.  They are crisp and full of flavor, and they clearly lack that odd preservative flavor.  They are a hit and I am as excited, if not more excited, than everyone else who became excited about the Rice Chex.  I proceeded to visit the Nature’s Path website, and they do offer many other cereals that are gluten free, including some “rice” versions.  Will have to try some of those too.

In retrospect, it is truly a matter of choice and taste based on so many variables.  I am sure you will agree.  As for me, I could use some extra fiber in my life and I don’t need a lot of BHT, so I suppose I won’t be “chexing” any time soon.

And it you haven’t already, “chex” out some Natures Path cereals.

Easter 2009 – A Most Beautiful Day


Ham, I know,  is traditional for the Easter celebration.  However, my Dad, the Chief, requested a Porterhouse steak on the grill.  So I worked the menu around the steak.  Of course there was the harbinger of Spring, asparagus.  It is a sight for sore eyes, especially for Northerners.  I quite understand the pining of Spring when you live up North, as the North and its long, bone chilling winters are my roots.  Suddenly, there is asparagus in the supermarket and you breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Spring and its warm breezes, daffodils and forsythia are not far off.Freshly steamed asparagus

My menu included mushrooms, which I sauteed with butter, olive oil, garlic, shallots, fresh chopped parsley, oregano, and Marsala wine. Delectable and most excellent with steak.  I also found those wonderful miniature Yukon golds again.  This time I gave them a light coating of olive oil and salt, wrapped them in tin foil, and placed them on the grill to cook. My Dad had rave reviews for them.  Actually, he had rave reviews for the whole meal, which makes me smile inside and want to cook more.    Miniature Yukon Golds

And as for the salad, I make my Mom’s traditional “rub the bowl with garlic” version that has been handed down through 4 Italian generations in my family.  This time I added in asparagus which I had lightly steamed and chilled.

It is Easter and it is Spring.  It is a season of rebirth and renewal.  The earth rejoices with new life.  It has most certainly been and continues to be a blessing of a day in every way.

Please do try this salad and tell me how you like it.  My dear friend, Agi, has been making it ever since I served it to her over 10 years ago.


Happy Easter to All!

Peeking through the flowers on the dinner table

Rub the Bowl with Garlic Salad

1-Clean a few cloves of fresh garlic (This does NOT work with garlic powder)

2-Sprinkle a small amout of sea salt into a wooden salad bowl

3-Rub the cut side of the garlic with the salt all over the bowl.  The salt releases the essential juices from the garlic.

4-Add in your favorite fresh salad greens.  We like red leaf lettuce, Romaine, ripe tomato, and for Easter, I added in the fresh steamed and chilled asparagus.

5-Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

Always delicious!

My Mini Flower Arrangement for the Easter Dinner (from my garden)

Mom’s Ultra Thin Home Fries


Tonight we sort of had a breakfast and brunch type of food for dinner.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and I must say that the best meals evolve from whatever one happens to have left over around the house.  I had some sauteed pepper and onions left from a couple of days ago.  I heated them in my small skillet, added a handful of diced mozzarella, and then whipped up two eggs, poured it over the top, covered and lowered the heat, and voila, it turned out to be a delcious frittata.

I had found some amazing miniature Yukon Golds at my local green market on Saturday.  I had made a fish fry and baked them as an accompaniment.  About a dozen were left over just sitting in a bowl in the fridge.  I decided to make my Mom’s famous ultra thin and crispy home fries.  My husband, Wayne, absolutely loves anything potato, and if it is a home fry, well that just sends him home.

My mother’s method for these is so simple, yet delectably mouth watering.  The secret is the “chilled potato”.  Take out a nice large skillet that you are very familiar with and absolutely know that no sticking will occur.  Pour in about 1/4 inch of olive oil and when it is good and hot, drop in your thinly sliced, chilled potatoes.  You are blessed if you can find these small Yukon Golds.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and just a dash of garlic powder.

Let the potatoes brown on one side for a minute or two, and then flip them over to crisp up on the other side.  Repeat this over and over, until you have a pan full of the best in town crispy home fries ever!!!!

We ate every morsel. Even the tiny crispy pieces clinging to the side of the pan.  Now that’s a potato worth writing about.  (Thank you again, Mom.  I know she is smiling down on me.)