Category Archives: recipes

Presidents Day Dessert

I just put a cherry cobbler in the oven—yes, I know it's not even
lunchtime here yet, but I've learned that if I don't cook early in the
day, I won't cook at all—and I thought that in honor of Presidents Day,
I'd reprise this old post which contains a very  nice cobbler recipe, if you can wade through all my nonsense to find it.


Breakfast of Champions

Originally posted November 2005

I have just polished off—with considerable help from children doing
their finest ravenous-baby-bird impersonations—the remnants of the
cherry cobbler I baked for teatime last week. We will pause here while
people who know me well digest this news. Yes. I BAKED. From scratch.
Well, the cherries were canned but I did actually have to crack an egg.
And measure things. And—are you ready for this?—"cut in butter." Oh
sure, most of you out there probably cut butter into a flour mixture as
easily as breathing, but SOME of us find these things a lot more
complicated than, say, writing novels or using HTML code. To be fair, I
must disclose that Jane did most of the actual cutting-in. But I put
the cobbler in the oven and took it out when it was done. Not burned.
Not still gooey in places. Really truly perfectly done. Also, I whipped cream. (Gasps arise from my friends.)

Anyway, I have decided that cherry cobbler is the world's most perfect food. (Well, right after dark-chocolate-and-marzipan bars.
And my mom's fried okra.) The cherries, not too tart, not too sweet,
bursting with antioxidants, so the can assures me. The biscuity cobbler
topping, only slightly sweet, with a lovely cake-like texture. And then
of course the whipped cream, which, now that I think about it, really
might be God's most awesome invention. And so foolproof that even I
can't mess it up.

I have informed my children that we're going to be eating lots and
lots of cobbler from now on. They appear to be amenable to this plan. I
will now share the recipe so you know what to serve for dessert next
time you have me over.

Fruit Cobbler for the Incompetent Cook


1 can cherry pie filling (or blueberry, apple, whatever)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional–I didn't use it)
3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400. Dump pie filling in an ungreased 8×8 baking
dish and stick in oven to warm up while you mix the topping. (Cookbook
will prattle on about how to make fruit filling from scratch, but you
know your limits.)

In bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and if desired, cinnamon.
Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Do not panic if
you have no idea what that means. Google can offer a ready explanation.
Or ask your oldest child, who seems to have an innate knack for these
things. Better yet, let her do it. You can still claim credit with your
friends because after all, YOU made her.

In another bowl, combine egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just to moisten.

Take baking dish out of oven. Drop topping into 6 mounds atop
filling. Do not forget that the baking dish is HOT. When you do forget,
drop spoon into filling and rush to sink to put burned hand under cold
water. Allow oldest child to gingerly fish spoon out of filling and
resume dropping mounds of topping into dish (which child will not
forget is hot, because 1) you are yowling at sink and 2) she has more
than half a brain). Assure younger children that your burn is not
serious. Resolve to yowl under your breath next time, so as not to
alarm small children.

Turn off cold water, dry burned hand, stifling scream when towel
touches burned part, and resume impersonation of capable, domestically
skilled mother. Start to pick up baking dish and thank children for
alerting you with frantic shrieks that you are about to touch hot dish
once again. Pick up potholders, which are lying on counter right next
to hot baking dish and which were custom-made for you on a potholder
loom in colors so bright it is surprising that you failed to notice
them when you reached for the scalding-hot dish in the first place.
USING POTHOLDERS, place dish in oven. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25
minutes or until toothpick inserted in topping comes out clean.
Possibly entrust this task to your oldest child, as you are sure to
burn yourself again if you attempt it.

Serve warm with freshly made whipped cream, which (thank heavens) even you cannot mess up.

To celebrate, eat three servings. But save enough for tomorrow's breakfast.

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy.

A New Departure in Flavorings

"Anne Shirley!" she exclaimed, "what on earth did you put into
that cake?"

"Nothing but what the recipe said, Marilla," cried Anne with a
look of anguish.  "Oh, isn’t it all right?"

"All right!  It’s simply horrible.  Mr. Allan, don’t try to eat
it.  Anne, taste it yourself.  What flavoring did you use?"

Vanilla," said Anne, her face scarlet with mortification after
tasting the cake.  "Only vanilla.  Oh, Marilla, it must have been
the baking powder.  I had my suspicions of that bak—"

"Baking powder fiddlesticks!  Go and bring me the bottle of
vanilla you used."

Anne fled to the pantry and returned with a small bottle
partially filled with a brown liquid and labeled yellowly,
"Best Vanilla."

Marilla took it, uncorked it, smelled it.

"Mercy on us, Anne, you’ve flavored that cake with
liniment.  I broke the liniment bottle last week and poured what
was left into an old empty vanilla bottle.  I suppose it’s partly
my fault—I should have warned you—but for pity’s sake why
couldn’t you have smelled it?"

—Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery

You remember how excited I was to make that tortilla soup. I checked the pantry for ingredients yesterday and thought about it all night. Mmm. Now, astonishingly, I was out of diced tomatoes. Diced tomatoes are my little-old-lady-stockpile item. I usually have half a dozen cans. I buy them every time I shop; it’s a compulsion; I can’t explain it—and yet today? Out.

But I found a carton of Trader Joe’s roasted tomato and red pepper soup: this seemed like a tasty substitute. And I had some pollo asada, which promised to make a delicious-sounding recipe absolutely stunning.

For what happened next, I believe I shall blame Alice. It’s her fault for being so engaging on the phone. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

We were chatting, and I was merrily assembling my soup. Sauteed the onions and the chicken: smelled good already. Added the tomato/red pepper soup, half the carton. Frozen corn, a can of black beans, lots of garlic, a can of green chilis. Mmm. I rummaged in the fridge to see if there was a carton of chicken broth open already. There was, almost full. I poured it in, added pepper and cumin.

It looked delicious. My mouth was watering. I had to taste it.

I was expecting that savory, spicy, cumin-and-chili tang. You may imagine, therefore, my bewilderment at what was unmistakably a sweet flavor. And what was that, nutmeg? Cloves? What on earth?

In a sudden panic I checked the tomato-pepper soup ingredients. What if Trader Joe had served up a nutmeg-spiced soup? Had I blown it, mixing this into my spicy Latino dish?

But no, the ingredients reassured me. Tomatoes, peppers, no nutmeg, no cloves. I tasted the soup again. Odd. So very sweet! Really pretty horrible. Definitely a strong taste of—what? Ginger? Cinnamon?

And that’s when I noticed the little yellow teacup on the golden carton of chicken broth. A teacup? On broth?

Oh, no.


Oh yes.


"Break from the everyday" indeed. Black tea, vanilla, spices (nutmeg! cinnamon!), and honey. Just add milk! And tomato soup! And onions, garlic, chicken, and green chili!

Oh, I am a brilliant cook. My recipes? You will not find the like of them anywhere. Food Network keeps ringing my phone off the hook. I’m sorry, I tell them. I already have a job. Three or four of them, actually. I cannot be your next Food Network Star. Yes, "Melissa’s Melting Pot" is a fabulous name for my unique and eclectic kind of culinary fusion. But I’m sorry. You’ll have to get by without me. Tell you what, you may give my recipe for Tortilla Chai Soup to Rachael Ray, with my compliments. I’m pretty sure Alton Brown could get some good mileage out of it as well. There must certainly have been some interesting chemical reactions happening in my stew pot.

Well, the Food Network may be heartbroken, but my story, like Anne’s, has a fairly happy ending. I am glad to say I saved the soup. I sieved it and rinsed off all the vanilla tea broth. Saved the good stuff, the chicken, beans, veggies. Tried again with the rest of the tomato-pepper soup, some salsa, and, yes, actual chicken broth made from chickens. Not from a fancy tea concentrate Scott bought me as a present, and which it causes him great pain to know was poured down the drain. I am sorry, babe. But the soup turned out to be pretty good, didn’t it?

I think it was that hint of nutmeg beneath the cumin.

Our Traditional Birthday Breakfast

…my dad’s family recipe. Biscuits with chocolate gravy. Mmm. There is nothing finer, let me tell you. Hot biscuits dripping with butter and covered with a thick, warm, rich chocolate sauce. Just cocoa, flour, milk, and sugar* brought to a boil over low heat. So good.

The picture does not do it justice.


Now back to my birthday boys.

(*Thanks, Dad, for permission to share the recipe. 1/4 cup cocoa, 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup sugar (hush), 1 1/2 cups milk. Mix dry ingredients first, right in your saucepan, then stir in the milk. Heat slowly, stirring constantly. You want to bring it just to a bubble but you don’t want to let it scorch. Take it off the heat, keep stirring. It will thicken upon standing. Spoon over hot buttery biscuits. The butter is vital—the magic of this dish is in the delectable combination of warm chocolate and melted butter. Trust me.)

(As I understand it, this was an inexpensive way to fill little bellies in times when cash was tight.)

(And yes, we are starting the day with my dad’s chocolate gravy and finishing with my mom’s famous cake. Two birthdays = double pigging out.)