Vanilla Simple Syrup

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I am a vanilla fiend.  It’s my favorite flavor of ice cream and I add vanilla syrup to coffee and tea with disturbing regularity.  Apparently, the fact that vanilla is my favorite ice cream flavor means that I am a “colorful, dramatic risk taker who relies more on intuition than logic; emotionally expressive and idealistic, [I] tend to set high goals for [myself], and push [myself] to meet and exceed them.”  Apparently I also enjoy close family relationships, am gregarious and live a hectic life, as well as being easily suggestible, expressive, and idealistic, and a private person. Read more

Pasta alla Norcina alla Madness of Joy (U.B.C. – Day 27)

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Traditional pasta alla norcina is a dish that combines flavorful pork sausage in a light cream sauce. I loved this type of a dish as a child, however, since making the decision to keep a vegetarian diet, I’ve been trying to rework many of my old favorites. Because a large number of standbys are so dependent on meat, I’ve ended up creating entirely new recipes, and the one below is no different. Read more

Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip (U.B.C. – Day 25)

A perennial favorite in my house, it always gets gobbled right up.  I could eat a batch of this by myself for dinner.

This recipe makes 10-12 servings.  Although I call for Parmesan or Romano cheeses, you can use just about any type of cheese you want.  Cheddar always makes a good dip, and Fontina makes a really mild dip that goes well with lighter flavored crackers.  I use white pepper in all my recipes, as it provides the flavor without so much of the bitter taste so common in peppery recipes, but it’s all a matter of taste.  Make it your own! Read more

National Jelly Bean Day (U.B.C. – Day 22)


Today is National Jelly Bean Day (NJBD).  Who knew there was such a thing?!  According to the National Confectioners Association, there are a plethora of fun candy holidays throughout the year, including one I’m quite sad to have missed back on January 8th:  National English Toffee Day. Read more

Artichoke Squares (U.B.C. – Day 17)

I reverse engineered this recipe from something I had at a Halloween party ten or so years ago.  It was my only option as I never could find out who had made them … a hazard of attending party at which the only people I knew were my sister and her friend.  Little squares of artichoke and cheese heaven.  My cobbled together version tastes a little different than the original, but pretty good nevertheless.  It’s also easy to double the recipe for larger groups. Read more

National Pecan Day (U.B.C. – Day 14)


Apparently April 14 is National Pecan Day.  With that in mind, I thought I’d share two of my favorites from my pecan recipe stash.  I do not know the origin of these recipes, only that they likely came from my mother and that they are written down on index cards in my little recipe box.

The first recipe is for Cinnamon-Suger Candied Pecans.  This recipe makes 1 pound, and it is easy to double if you need an extra large batch.  If you’re not a pecan fan, try this with your favorite kind of nuts instead. Prep time is about five minutes and you cook the nuts for an hour.


1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites

2 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound pecan halves

Cooking Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (Farenheit).

2.  Line a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) with parchment paper; put aside.  You will cook the pecans on this sheet.  If you don’t have parchment paper, wax paper works, as well.

3.  In a large zip-top bag, combine the sugar, cinnamon and salt; put aside.  The bag must be large enough to hold all of the pecans.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water and vanilla extract. Add the pecans to the bowl and stir them into the egg white mixture with a rubber spatula, making sure they are all moistened.

5.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pecans from the egg white mixture and drop them into the bag containing the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Once all of the pecans are added, seal the bag, and shake it until all the pecans are coated with the sugar mixture.

6.  Using a clean slotted spoon, remove the pecans from the bag and place onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 1 hour, stirring/turning them every 15 minutes.

7.  Remove the sheet from the oven and place on a cooling rack.  Cool the nuts to room temperature.

The pecans can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


The second recipe is for Pecan Upside Down Cake.  Prep time for this is about 20-30 minutes depending on how fast you are in the kitchen, and total cooking time is about 30-35 minutes.


1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup chopped pecans (you can use up to 1/2 cup if you like more nuts and less gooey stuff)

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon Baking Spice blend (I really like Penzeys spices but any mixture of cinnamon and allspice will do)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

Cooking Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Farenheit).

2.  You can either melt the butter in the 9″ round baking pan by placing it into the preheating oven or you can melt it in a saucepan on the stove-top over a low flame.

3.  Once butter is melted, transfer it to the banking pan if necessary, then sprinkle all of the brown sugar evenly into the butter, followed by ¼ cup of the pecans.

4.  In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and spice blend.

5.  Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and beat until smooth (you can use a hand mixer to speed up the process).

6.  Pour the batter into the baking pan on top of the butter/pecan mixture and spread the batter to the edges, taking care to keep the toppings at the bottom of the pan.

7.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

8.  Run a knife or metal spatula around the edge of the baking pan to loosen the cake, then cover the pan with a plate and flip over to remove the cake.

9.  Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before serving to allow the pecan mixture to settle.


I’ve seen recipes for this cake using coconut or pineapple, but I am a bit of a pecan purist, so I don’t add anything. Enjoy!