WOW! Blog

Penny’s Pantry Hack #1

OK, so we are all in this sweet pastry together, right?  Hopefully, most of us are self-distancing ourselves from one another in an attempt to provide safety from Biggie V – CoronaVirus.  And, while hanging out at home is new and different and oddly, weirdly fun, there are logistical aspects of self-isolation that arise daily.  Like, what have you got in your pantry?  Have you been a perfect shopper and have one of everything edible on your pantry shelf?  NO!

Last Friday I ran out of my favorite cheese snack cracker.  Well, I couldn’t just run out to the corner store and stock up and stay safe now could I?  Solution?  Well, I am a baker after all.  So, here’s the stream of consciousness that led to blogging on pantry hacks.

Cheese crackers were all I could think about…I didn’t have any!  OK, let’s look up some recipes online.  To my favorite recipe site and voila, I found only 450 different recipes for cheese crackers.  But one in particular stood out to me.  Sesame Cheese Crackers!  Yeah!  OK!  That’s the one.

Reading through the original recipe I realized I might not have all the right ingredients!  So, let’s rummage through the pantry and see what I DO have.  The recipe calls for Cheddar Cheese; I only have Mozzarella Shreds.  The recipe calls for white sesame seeds, I only have black.  Also, who doesn’t have soy sauce in their pantry?  I DON’T!  I have Tamari!  Soooo, let’s give it a go and see what happens!  As it turns out, this is the easiest, most delicious, most exciting hack ever!  You’ll think so too!  Mixes up in about 10 minutes and makes over 70 crackers!


1 Cup all-purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
6 Tablespoons cold Butter
1 Cup finely shredded/chopped Mozzarella Cheese (Cheddar)
1/4 Cup Black Sesame Seeds – toasted (or White Sesame)
6 – 7 teaspoons ice water
1/2 teaspoon Tamari (or Soy Sauce)


1- Toast sesame seeds in a hot, dry pan for 3- 5 minutes – don’t burn!
2- In a small bowl, whisk flour, salt and cayenne; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in cheese and sesame seeds.  Combine 3 teaspoons water and tamari/soy sauce; stir into dry ingredients with a fork.  Stir in enough remaining water until dough forms a ball.  Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.
3- Preheat oven to 400°.  On a floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8″, a 14″ x 11″ rectangle.  Cut into 2″ x 1″ strips.  Place on lightly greased baking sheets.  Bake 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown, cool on wire racks.

HINT:  Initially, I think I could have rolled the dough a bit thinner, and at the recommended timing, the centers of the crackers were still soft-ish.  I turned off the oven, let it cool about 10 minutes, then set the tray of crackers back in the oven to continue crisping for 30 minutes.  Perfect!               (Recipe courtesy Taste of

What other hacks could work with this basic cracker recipe?  Well, how about blue cheese and chopped walnuts?  Oh…and goat cheese and dried fruit!  I’m on a roll now…finely chopped turkey jerky and raisins!  Ok, so maybe that one isn’t a universal hit, but think about it.  These hacks are fun!

Now, WHAT’S FOR LUNCH?  All of a sudden I had a craving for hummus….but no chick peas in the pantry!  Only a can of black beans!


  1.  Drain a can of black beans (reserve liquid for later).  Into a food processor combine the black beans, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (I like garlic), 1/4 cup Olive Oil and a Tablespoon of Italian Seasoning (dried herbs – oregano, basil, anise, etc.) Salt and Pepper (cayenne if you like it hot).  I didn’t have enough lemon, so in addition to to the juice of 1/2 lemon that I did have, I added a Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar.
  2. Spin it all up in your processor – add some liquid from beans if the hummus is too thick.   Make this a healthy treat by adding fresh veggies to dip along with the insanely crisp Sesame Cheese Crackers.  Who says you can’t eat like a Queen (or King) while self-isolating?

I’ll make you a deal….get adventurous with your pantry food!  And, I’ll think up another awesome Pantry Hack!  Bon Appetit!

Vegan Carrot, Ginger, Black Sesame Loaf

It’s Fall!  For me, the baker, the best time for exploring all the possibilities with my favorite (or nearly favorite) root vegetable.  CARROTS!
OK, who doesn’t love carrot cake?  Yeah…but all that rich icing is always a big challenge to me.  Personally, the best part of the cake….is the CAKE!
So, onto the ultimate search for a carrot cake that is so very delicious it doesn’t have to hide under a mountain of sweet dairy!
I’m not a vegan, but I’m almost a vegetarian, and just don’t do very well with a lot of dairy, so when reading this recipe there sprang a mountain of possibilities.
The most important was discovered AFTER baking this loaf.  It’s incredibly moist, amazingly dense, and the toasted sesame seeds add a savory flavor that sets off the gingery cake.  YUM-MY!


My thanks to Jessica Koslow for this sensational recipe.  Typically, I usually put a bit of my own spin on recipes, but this one deserves to live on it’s own.
Thanks also to Food 52 at food blog for sharing.

Carrot Ginger Black Sesame Loaf

1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil plus more for the pan
2 Cups All-purpose flour plus more for the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking powder
2 teaspoons Ground cinnamon
2/3 Cup Granulated sugar
2/3 Cup Packed Brown sugar
1/2 Cup Unsweetened applesauce
1/3 Cup Almond milk
1 – 2 inch pieceof Ginger, peeled & finely grated
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large Carrots (7 oz.) coarsely grated
2 tablespoons Black Sesame seed, plus more as needed

  1.  Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Brush the inside surfaces of an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan with a little oil.  Dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and cinnamon.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, almond milk, ginger, vanilla and salt.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture, followed by the carrots and finally, the oil.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds.  You want the seeds to completely cover the top of the batter.  Bake until the middle of the loaf has puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
  5. Let cool completely in the pan before slicing.  Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.


  1.  Instead of using oil and flour to prepare your pan, you may want to cut parchment to fit the pan.  There will be two pieces, one for the long side of the pan, the other for the width of the pan.  Make sure the paper is cut long enough to cover the ends or sides and bottom of pan along with 2 or 3″ more for drape over the sides.  Once you fit the paper in the pan, spray with cooking spray to coat the paper.  You’ll find that when cooled, the cake will lift out of the pan seamlessly.  Then, gently peel away the paper and you have a perfect cake.
  2. Don’t be afraid of the fresh ginger.  Use the smallest side of your grater to really grate down finely.  I love fresh ginger and used more than the recipe called for….it’s all about taste!!!
  3. Although the recipe calls for baking 1 hour 10 minutes, I found that my cake required 1 hour 25 minutes.  Remember that fresh carrots contain moisture and when really fresh are really full of liquid.  Be prepared to bake a bit longer than expected.

Peach-Almond Cake

So, what do you do with a bowl full of really ripe peaches?
Smoothies?  There’s only one of me…peaches will go bad!!!
Cobbler? Nah! Too sweet!  Muffins? Nah! Too much fat!
I’ve got it!  Peach-Almond Cake!  The best of all worlds.
Not too sweet, definitely moist, definitely delicious and fruity.

Peach-Almond Cake Slice

Around here peaches are just magnificent this year, and I’ve been eating my fill.  Sometimes, my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I fill up the fruit bowl with more than I can eat.   And I just can’t waste one single morsel of these wonderful sweet treats.  This Peach-Almond Cake is one of the easiest ever, and all you need is a few ripe peaches! Continue reading “Peach-Almond Cake”

Banana Nut Bread Made Easy!

Last week, my ‘greats’ nephews and niece spent the week with me.  Drew the oldest is eleven, Ben and Maggie, twins are 8.  Needless to say, they were a big, loveable, adventurous, energetic joy!  My little house may never be the same….but then, I’m pretty happy about that too!  So much so, that I invited them back next summer before they left for home in Tennessee.  But this blog idea started when I went to my kitchen and discovered soooo much food left over!

Banana Bread Graphic

My fault really!  Not knowing how to feed them, I just bought everything I thought they might like…and truly, cooking for them was a great pleasure.  I’ve learned that they are still little and eat small quantities of everything…so I was left with a supermarket full of foodstuffs.  But first thing first, these kids are no different than others.  Once a banana develops a brown spot on it, there was not way to entice them to eat up the bundle of yellow beauties (with a few brown spots). Continue reading “Banana Nut Bread Made Easy!”

Lemon, Honey & Thyme Sorbet

Lemon Honey & Thyme Sorbet

I’m in love with lemons!  Lemonade, lemon cookies, lemon pound cake, lemon bars, lemon in my iced tea….and the list goes on.
And when I see a great lemon recipe, I’ll print it off and look forward to whipping up a batch of lemony-goodness in some form.

Recently, I came across another food blog all the way from New Zealand (don’t you just love the internet?).  Emma Galloway and her blog My Darling Lemon Thyme offered up a fantastic Lemon, Honey & Thyme Sorbet that was calling my name.

Honestly, this recipe is about as simple as they come.  If you can boil water, you can make this delicious sorbet.
It’s intensely flavored, and if using Meyer lemons, cut the honey back to 3/4 cup.  That being said, if you have extremely tart lemons, you may want to sweeten the syrup more by adding extra honey.
Freezing will mute the taste somewhat, so sample-taste your mix before churning and freezing. Continue reading “Lemon, Honey & Thyme Sorbet”

Biscochitos para Cinco de Mayo

IMG_1761 (300x298)

Wish I could remember enough of my Spanish to compose this blog in that romantic language…alas no recuerdo!
Good thing for all of you, I do remember how to make these fantastic Mexican cookies called a Biscochito.  This cookie is the perfect union of melt-in-your-mouth, shortbread-style yumminess flavored with anise and cinnamon.  Not too sweet, not too rich….just the perfect little cookie snack.
These wonderful traditional cookies are found at almost every Latin celebration from weddings to quincenieras, religious holidays and fiestas all throughout the southern U.S.
Most Biscochitos are cut in a diamond shape, and sometimes you can find them in the shape of a fleur-de-lis, with a nod to an ancient French connection.  I’ve cut mine in the shape of flowers and butterflies to celebrate the Spring season we so desperately love here in Cleveland.
Typically served with hot chocolate, the Biscochito is perfect with any warm drink (I like tea with my cookies, thank you very much!)
And, New Mexico has made the Biscochito the state cookie.  Now, how much more authentic can you get? Continue reading “Biscochitos para Cinco de Mayo”

Iced Lemon Jumbles

My interest in cookies began many decades ago as I explored the unusual pastry recipes that were developed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Those early bakers didn’t have all the modern conveniences we now think of as commonplace.  Instead, they used their ingenuity to explore shapes and textures.

smaller jumbles file

These Iced Lemon Jumbles are a modern adaptation of just such a recipe. Nancy Baggett is my favorite pastry chef and author.  In her classic, The All-American Cookie Book, she explains the evolution of the ‘jumble’.  First, what is a “jumble“? Continue reading “Iced Lemon Jumbles”

A Deli and a Coconut Macaroon

A Deli and a Coconut Macaroon

Cleveland is a city of great ethnic diversity.  And one of the greatest treasures brought to our community from the Eastern Europeans is the classic delicatessen.  And, to find myself only a few blocks from one of the most popular delis in the city must mean I’m guided by a special star!

Of course the corned beef, pastrami, latkes and all the rest is just the best kind of heaven food.  But Corky & Lenny’s also has a sizeable bit of counter space dedicated to their fresh baked sweet treats.  Not the least are giant, fist-sized, golden coconut macaroons.  My mouth waters just thinking about them.  So, no matter how stuffed I am from one of their mountainous deli sandwiches, there’s always room for a macaroon.

Choco Dipped Macaroon Blog Photo

Now, what I’m about to share is MY favorite recipe for these tropical delights.  They are quick and easy to put together, and truly luscious all on their own, but I ALWAYS have to go one step further.  I dip them in dark chocolate!  (Yes, decadence is an appropriate adjective.)
Promise yourself to make some today….. Continue reading “A Deli and a Coconut Macaroon”

Did You Know?


  • From our first business day, March 6, 2006, we have produced our delicious cookies and brownies with only the freshest, natural ingredients.  We are very happy to brag on the fact that our sweet treats have all the same wonderful ingredients you would find in your own cupboards. AND, no trans-fats! While we don’t claim organic, we do claim ingredients with no mystery….and Oh!  BTW…handmade!

Continue reading “Did You Know?”

What? No more Downton Abbey?

For the last six years, the Crawley family and their household have been part of my Sunday evening ritual. And, for six or seven weeks of each year, I’m devoted to all things English…especially aristocratic pursuits. Certainly, you’ll not find me chasing a hound, or dining with the ton in Covent Gardens, but you may find me imagining  Carson the butler serving me a precious steaming cup of India’s finest. Amd. what does a ‘foodie’ like me serve with a cup of hot tea? Scones of course!

Not just any scones, but those made with fresh, sweet, heavy cream, just-picked blueberries and a sweet-tart lemon glaze!  (By the way, I’ve gotten a little help from my favorite chef, Tyler Florence.  This recipe was from a show he broadcast in a New England bed and breakfast.  A perfect tribute to an American-style tea party!) Truly, this is a very simple recipe to master. Because you bake this dough cold, put it together tonight for breakfast in the morning!

To quote Lady Mary, “OH, YUMMY!” Continue reading “What? No more Downton Abbey?”