Mason Jar Rice Puddings with Caramelized Pineapple and Roasted Coconut


Serving dessert in Mason jars is on trend and makes for a fun presentation with a dash of nostalgia.  For my husband’s recent birthday I made him one of his favorite desserts, a creamy rice pudding.  To kick it up a notch and make it  festive, I  served it parfait-style with layers of caramelized pineapple and a topping of shaved coconut in Mason jars.   The dessert was a hit.  Portions served in these jars  tend to be on the large side. Mason or Ball jars are readily available at supermarkets, hardware or general department stores for a song.


MASON JAR RICE PUDDINGs with CARAMELIZED PINEAPPLE and ROASTED COCONUT      (Makes 8 pint size Mason jar servings or 12 smaller servings)


8 c whole milk

1 stick of unsalted butter

1 c sugar

1 1/2 c arborio rice

1 large egg

1 c heavy cream

1 t vanilla bean paste or extract

Bring the milk, butter and sugar to a gentle boil.  Add the rice.  Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring often.  Mix together the egg, cream and vanilla.  Add to rice mixture and assess creaminess/thickness.  If it appears too runny as mine did, return to boil, stirring constantly, for a few more minutes, until Desired consistency is achieved.  The pudding will thicken slightly as it cools.   Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl  and cool in refrigerator at least 2 hours or overnight..


Sprinkle 4 c of fresh pineapple cut in bite-size chunks with some brown sugar and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Broil for 5-7 minutes until caramelized. Watch  closely so the pineapple does not burn. Cool.


Toasted coconut chips (Trader Joe) and dollops of whipped creamimage


Place a layer of pineapple in your jar.  Spoon on  a layer of rice pudding.  Repeat.  When ready to serve, top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of the  coconut chips.imageimageimageimage



For presentation, the filled jars are placed  in a garden wire mesh caddy. Another Mason jar is filled with cutlery. The orchid and pineapple are a nod to the tropical flavours of the dessert.


If you can find them, these roasted coconut chips are really delicous with a nice crunch. You could toast regular coconut as a substitute.


Dig in!!!

Dig in!!!







Awaiting Easter: Front Porch Welcome


“Is the spring coming?” he said.  ” What’s it like?” “It is the sun shining on the rain, and  the rain falling on the sunshine.”  Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

One of the most wondrous discoveries when I left my childhood home in Northern Canada to study at university was how amazing spring could be.  Up north, spring was gray, cold and all about melting the snow accumulation.  Now living even further south in Pennsylvania, spring is just magical for me.  With a spectacular spring snow storm less than a week ago, I almost felt I was back in Canada.  Almost. The nurseries cautiously had a few cold hardy spring flowers for sale this week and I was optimistically seduced into bringing them home.  The planters on the front porch were filled with tulips, pansies, daffodils, pussy willow branches and favorite spring and Easter décor.  Join me in welcoming Spring and Easter on the front porch.

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Mediterranean Chicken Couscous Salad


Calling this dish a salad is a bit of a misnomer. It is more of a substantial meal in a bowl,  bursting  with flavors and textures.  I first enjoyed it at my friend Jodi’s, where every bite surprised and delighted,  prompting me  and to ask for the recipe.  Why did it take me several years then, to try making it?   Well, there are a lot of ingredients in the recipe and one has to plan accordingly before making it.   It can’t just be thrown together.  The lemony basil  dressing is marvellous and it makes the dish.  Although it will seem laborious to execute, just think of it as a salad that will need baked chicken, roasted tomatoes, a steamed grain, that incredible homemade dressing and some toasted nuts to finish.  Once you have the components ready, the salad is easy to toss together. Because it feeds a crowd and holds up well, it is a great choice to take to a party.  If you are in need of a salad makeover, this dish will shake up the old school chicken salad, delight your guests and have them teying to guess what makes it so tasty.



4 lemons

2 packages of basil leaves

1 package of chives

5-8 boneless chicken breasts

2 green onions or chives, chopped, for the chicken

2 packages of grape tomatoes

1 c chopped kalamata olives

1/2 c capers

1 c currants

1 box of couscous or farro or quinoa

1 bag of pine nuts, about 8 oz

1 big bag of lettuce greens or 2 small bags

1 shallot

Dijon, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper

First came the chicken:

Season 5-8 chicken breasts with olive oil, sea salt and fresh chopped chives or green onions.  Bake 20 minutes at 425F.  Cool, shred with your hands into bite size pieces. Can be made a couple of days ahead.


Roast those tomatoes:

Wash and  dry 2 packages of grape tomatoes, toss with olive oil and sea salt.  Lay out on a sheet pan and broil until charred and the flesh is popping open.  Save all those delicious juices.  Just looking at those gorgeous orbs, you know how great they are going to taste!


Rock the grains:

Cook up a box of your favorite grains.  Jodi likes couscous. I chose a tricolored quinoa.  Can be made in advance a day or so.


Dress it up:

In  a blender, combine the zest of a lemon, juice of 2 large lemons, 1 shallot, 2 T Dijon, 2 T honey, 1 c olive oil, a whole package of basil leaves.  Pulse until a creamy consistency is achieved, sort of like a Green Goddess.



The stuff that makes the salad legendary:

1 c kalamata olives, pitted and chopped; 1/2 c capers; 1 c currants; 1 package of basil leaves, chopped; 1 package of chives, chopped. Toast a  big bag of pine nuts, about 8 oz.  Reserve until the very end.


Toss the grains with the chicken, tomatoes, capers, olives, currants and chopped herbs.  Adjust salt and pepper seasoning, to taste. Add in a big bag of salad greens such as red leaf lettuce, spinach or bibb lettuces.

Toss with the dressing and top with the toasted pine nuts.  Squeeze the juice of a lemon to finish.  Not just delicious, this salad is gorgeous and ready to dazzle!  Worth the effort too!

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Garlicky Oven-Braised Beef Ragu with Red Wine and Tomatoes


My favorite kind of cooking in winter is a slow braise that  literally cooks itself in the oven and fills the house with an enticing aroma.  This dish is an adaptation of an old Gourmet magazine favorite, using a cheaper cut of beef, a rump roast. Easy to assemble, it yields the most tender and flavorful ragu which can be served over pasta.  Like all braises, this is even better on the second day, a perfect entertaining dish that you can simply reheat.  Be prepared for the compliments to the chef!



3-3 1/2 lb boneless beef rump roast

1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes

1 whole head of garlic, separated into cloves, left unpeeled

2 bay leaves

8 springs of fresh thyme or a teaspoon of dried

1 yellow onion, quartered

2 glugs of dry red wine, about 1/2 c

2 T Worcestershire or balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb of bucatini or pappardelle pasta, cooked according to directions

1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley and grated parmesan, to serve

Preheat oven to 300 F.  In a deep, oven proof 4-5 quart, heavy pot with a lid, place the roast.  Dump the tomatoes on top and with your hands or kitchen sheers, roughly break them up in chunks.  Throw in the onion, bay leaves, thyme, wine and Worcestershire.   Cover and cook for 3-4 hours.  Remove the bay leaves and thyme.  Using 2 forks, shred the beef and mash the garlic and onions. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot pasta and top with chopped parsley and grated parmesan. Enjoy with a full bodied glass of red wine, such as a Cabernet.  Brilliant!


Roast with tomatoes and bay leaves


Herbs, garlic, wine and Worcestershire added and ready to go into the oven


Braised beef, ready to shred


The ragu, ready to serve


Sharing this delectable ragu with the talented chefs at Fiesta Friday hosted by Angie@The Novice Gardener and Caroline@Caroline’s Cooking and Elaine@foodbod.






Dreaming of Spring: Front Door Basket and a Flower Show Tour


“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”

L.M. Montgomery, Ann of Avonlea

With another winter snow storm blanketing our area in white yet again today, I am longing for spring in a most impatient way.

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I had just taken down all the winter greens on the front porch and wanted to get a fresh welcome at our front door.  It seemed too soon to hang a wreath for Easter or one with any kind of flowers with all this snow still coming down.    My solution was a basket bursting with pussy willows, a sure harbinger of spring!

image image imageThe pussy willow branches were propped up by crumpled newspaper on either side which topped by reindeer moss.  A bright pink polka dot grosgrain ribbon tied around the monogrammed basket cheerfully promises spring is right around the corner.  A feather bird sits on the moss as another symbol of spring.

To escape this endless winter, I visited the flower show this week.  Philadelphia has been hosting the most magnificent Flower Show since 1829.  It is held over a week and features a different theme each year.  This year’s theme was “Celebrate the Movies”, and for this movie buff, a favorite.


The whole marquee is done in flowers!  Photo courtesy of

The whole marquee is done in flowers! Photo courtesy of

The entrance was a makeshift 1920s theatre showcasing a movie marquee made up of over 1000,000 flowers, complete with star searcher lights and a red carpet. Many of the flowers making up this display were celebrity roses, named after film stars such as the Marilyn Monroe. Once through the entrance, 3 immense chandeliers made out of flowers were suspended, dripping in crystals.


One of the floral chandeliers. Photo by Ilse Farrell

Many of the main exhibits were inspired by movies as were many of  the art and floral arrangements.  Join me on a pictorial tour of this award winning show and escape winter with me!


Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas


60 pumpkins such as this floral beauty adorned the Tim Burton’s display


Spectacular table setting in an Aladdin display.


Aladdin display


Detail Aladdin table


Frozen, of course! A 10 foot staircase made entirely of white flowers led the way up to a castle.


A floral interpretation of Rapunzel!


Cinderella’s slipper on its floral cushion


Persian carpet made out of flowers!


Floral bull’s eye from Pocahontas, detailed view below


Pocahontas homage


Wizard of Oz tornado complete with Toto’s house and Dorothy’s shoes


The breathtaking Japanese garden design celebrating Mulan, detail below.


Prince of Persia


Cinderella’s wedding with the actual slipper feom the upcoming film.


Cars movie fun


Audrey Hepburn “painting” created entirely of flower petals. Part of a whole display of similar star portraits.


A stark vignette honoring Shindler’s List

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To see more of the Philadelphia Flower Show, please visit 6ABC site:

Thank you for stopping by.   I hope you enjoyed visiting the flower show with me!

Brightening my fellow bloggers’ day at Fiesta Friday hosted by Angie@The Novice Gardener today.

Sweet Potato~Chickpea Cakes with Avocado~Tomato Salsa



Cooking Light magazine featured similar chickpea~ sweet potato cakes a couple of years ago and inspired my version.  They were an interesting and satisfying vegetarian dinner option.  We love sweet potatoes and grating them for these cakes was a new way for me to use them.  You could substitute cooked mashed sweet potato as well but the cakes would have a bit less texture.  We served them over greens with the fresh avocado-tomatoe salsa on top and extra lime wedges.  Feel free to add cilantro or parsley to the salsa and some chopped jalapeno peppers  for more flavor.  Bon appétit!


For the cakes:

1 can of unsalted garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

8 oz or 2 cups of grated sweet potato

1/2 c red onion, diced

1/4 c celery, diced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

1 t cumin

1/8 t hot pepper flakes

1/2 t salt

2 T olive oil, divided

1 egg, beaten

1/2 c panko bread crumbs

juice of 1 lime

lime wedges to serve on the side

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a pan, heat 1 T oil and sauté the onion, garlic, celery for 3 minutes.  Add the grated sweet potato, salt, cumin, hot pepper and sauté another 2 minutes.  Cool.

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, lime juice, panko, egg and sweet potato mixture and pulse until a coarse texture is achieved.  Do not overmix.   Divide in 4 and form into cakes.   Bake the cakes at 400 F for 6 minutes.  Heat remaining 1 T oil in your sauté pan and brown the cakes for a few minutes on each side, until golden.

For the salsa:

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped

1 1/2 c diced tomato

1/2 c red onion

juice of 1 lime

1/8 t red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and serve over the cakes.

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Charred Cauliflower Carbonara


For  more than 30 years I hardly went near cauliflower except for maybe a few times I made soup with it.  It was one of those vegetables that I grew up eating boiled, in rotation with other common vegetables of the era.  Then I went through phases where I thought the darker a vegetable, the better for you and just bypassed cauliflower’s pale hue.  Now cauliflower seems to be everywhere and we can’t get enough.  And we know it is a nutritional powerhouse. Cauliflower roasted at high temperature to bring out its flavor and char its edges becomes a revelation.  Yum!

When I came across Jessica Merchant’s  recipe for cauliflower carbonara last week, I knew I’d be making it.  It did not disappoint.   It is basically a classic carbonara with tons of cauliflower.  The cauliflower is roasted in bacon fat, an outrageous but  divine pairing!  We added balsamic and hot pepper flakes to the original recipe, doubled the cauliflower, and reduced the amount of bacon.  This was a perfect winter comfort dish, worthy of company.  Roasting  the cauliflower and frying the bacon ahead of time  would help ease some of the last minute assembly the dish requires. Mama Mia this is good!



12 slices of nitrate-free bacon, chopped

2 large heads of cauliflower, chopped in flowerlets, spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet

1/2 t cracked black pepper

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb box of bucatini pasta, cooked as directed in salted water

6 large eggs

3 c of freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping

1/2 c chopped flat leaf parsley

2 T balsamic vinegar

hot pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425 F.

1-  In a large deep skillet cook  the bacon until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Turn off the heat.  Take 4-6 tablesppons of the bacon fat and drizzle it over the cauliflower.  Sprinkle with black pepper.  Roast the cauliflower on the bottom rack for 20 minutes at 425F, tossing once. Drizzle with the balsamic.

2-   Start boiling the pasta. Whisk together the eggs and parmesan.  When the pasta is almost done cooking,  sauté the garlic in the reserved bacon fat, over low heat, for a minute.   Drain pasta, add to the pan and coat with the garlic and remaining bacon fat.

3-  Remove the skillet from the heat and toss the pasta with the egg mixture to coat well, mixing constantly for 3-4 minutes.  Toss in the cauliflower, bacon and a pinch of hot pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings.   Top with parsley and extra cheese and serve immediately!


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