Caribbean Rum Coconut Pie

I have been absent from this blog (but not from the kitchen) for a few months. There have been many recipes that haven’t made it from the kitchen to the computer – other priorities beckoned. I just returned from St. Croix and enjoyed many delicious fresh coconut dishes. The one thing I was craving was coconut cream pie – but there was none to be found on the island (I checked)  Here’s a great recipe I created today that is short on prep time and big on taste.



1 ready to bake rolled pie crust, brought to room temperature
1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups half and half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla bean paste or extract

2 tablespoons dark rum

1 cup tru whip or cool whip, thawed


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Carefully roll out pie crust onto 9 inch pie plate, using  pie weights to help keep shape. Bake 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool.

Decrease oven temperature to 230 degrees F.
Spread the coconut out evenly on a baking sheet and bake it, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 -10 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half, eggs, sugar, flour and salt and mix well. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Add rum and continue stirring consistently for 1 minite more. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the toasted coconut and the vanilla extract.
Pour the filling into the pie shell and chill until firm, about 3-4 hours.
top with whipped topping and with the remaining coconut. Store leftovers lightly covered in the refrigerator.


Fresh Cherry Clafouti



Okay here it is….spring roadside fruit stand menu part deux…..

I pretty much could live off of fresh berries and fruit this time of year. I am a sucker for every sign on the side of the road whether it is fresh cherries, blueberries, strawberries…the taste is just so much better than what you can buy in the store. My favorite dessert to make with fresh black cherries is also one of the easiest to make…the simple but elegant clafouti.

Clafoutis (pronounced “kla-foo-TEE”) is a rustic French dessert originally from Limousin, in southern France. This region is best known for its sweet black cherries which are traditionally baked in a sweet custard filling. This dessert is super easy to make – the filling is similar to a crepe, but is more thick and pudding like texture – actually it is more like a cross between a cake and a pudding. As it bakes, the batter forms a golden crust and the cherries burst, forming puddles of thick syrup… it should look something like this. The bonus – it is really easy to make but looks like something you spent hours creating..


If it is long past cherry season, plums or even peaches will work just as well with this amazing batter…


3 tablespoons sliced almonds

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup all purpose flour

2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

2 large pints fresh black cherries, stemmed and pitted (about 4 cups)

1/4 cup kirsh or brandy (optional)

1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cherries in a medium bowl stir in liqueur and macerate for 30 minutes. Place sliced almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.

Use butter to grease bottom and sides of 9 X 9 by 2 inch pan. Place flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt and almonds in a food processor, and pulse until mixture is finely ground. In a seperate medium bowl, add eggs, egg yolks, 3/4 cup of the cream, vanilla and lemon zest. Blend with a wire whisk until blended, then add flour mixture. Whisk thoroughly to combine and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes to rest.


Pour cherries into bottom of pan and spread evenly over bottom. Pour batter over cherries and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle remaining sugar over top of dish and bake an additional 15 – 20 minutes until top is golden brown and bubbling. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Sprinkle sifted confectioners sugar over top of each serving.  Whip  remaning 1/2 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Serve clafouti warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped cream.

Try this with plums too and let me know which one you like better…




Strawberry Cottage Pudding Shortcake


I was driving down Highway 65 today and I saw the first “fresh strawberries” sign of the spring by the road. I tried not to spin too much gravel as I quickly did a U turn and pulled off to the side of the road.  Let me tell you, if you have never had fresh-picked-that-morning strawberries from the farmer who grew them, then you are missing out on a foodie flavor treat that simply cannot be replicated. The strawberries that are grown commercially are much sturdier and firmer since they have to travel well and stay fresh for at least 10 days in the store. They are usually picked greener too. Its like the difference between a home grown tomato and the ones you get in the produce section of Safeway. This is a wonderful shortcake recipe that is a variation of  the original Cottage Pudding Cake that was featured in the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook” published in 1966. The original Fannie Farmer Cookbook was published in 1896 (wow) and it has been updated and revised over the years. I am not sure why the cake was called Cottage Pudding Cake – maybe someone knows that story and you will share with me.  I found the recipe and I have been experimenting with the basic recipe. This shortcake is like a big sweet biscuit with a wonderful buttery vanilla flavor and a little bit of almond that really brings out the flavor of the berries. If you don’t want to buy buttermilk just for this recipe, then you can just substitute all milk instead of 1/2 and 1/2. I ran out of milk last time and I used all buttermilk and it turned out wonderfully! It is really important to macerate the berries for a few hours if you can on the countertop.  To macerate strawberries, all you have to do is sprinkle sugar on them, which draws out their juices so they become soft and sweet and deliciously saucy. This is the secret to the perfect deliciousness that is this strawberry shortcake recipe!


2 cups minus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 egg

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (you can substitute good vanilla extract)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch round layer cake pan with flour based nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl; set aside. Beat the shortening and sugar on medium speed with an electric stand mixer until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this step – it takes 3-5 minutes to get the right consistency. Add the egg, almond extract and vanilla bean paste and combine. Pour in the flour mixture alternatively with the milks, mixing on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. This is a lightly browned, buttery sugary shortbread that is ready for your fresh berries!


Clean, de stem and slice 2 quarts of fresh strawberries. Place in bowl with 1/8 cup water and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. Let sit on countertop, stirring occasionally, for a few hours to macerate. To assemble, slice one 3″ piece of cake and split in half lengthwise. add 3/4 cup berries and top with your favorite whipped cream. I saw another farm stand on the way home and the cherries are ripe now for the whole month of May. Stay tuned for the most amazing cherry cloufiti recipe ever…..

Easy Bisquick Cinnamon Rolls


Happy April – I’m back! I am overdue for a post – and I have been thinking about what my first April recipe should be. I am always working on healthy and seasonal recipes and am working towards cooking and baking with only what is in season. That is my plan for this spring – no excuse when I live in Northern California and there is an abundance of local fresh fruits and veggies.  In my role as a non profit event manager (I haven’t yet figured out how to pay the bills blogging – ideas, anyone?) the last six weeks or so I have been planning for my first two events of the season (back to back weekends) so this is the first weekend that I have time to write. We are spending the weekend at our family cabin on the west shore of Lake Tahoe and  I brought along a couple of books I have been wanting to read – Anna Quindlen’s “Still Life with Bread Crumbs” is on the top of the stack.  This recipe is nether locally sourced or healthy – but for a holiday weekend brunch it is perfect! Sometimes you just need some comfort food and a good book to recharge your batteries…. and yes we are going on a long bike ride later this afternoon to burn up all of the carbs!


4 cups Bisquick dry mix

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans

3 tablespoons melted butter, divided

3/4 cup butter melted and cooled


2 cups powdered sugar

4-5 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


In a large bowl, combine Bisquick, buttermilk and 4 tablespoons sugar, using a fork and just combining until a dough is formed. In a separate medium bowl, combine brown sugar, remaining granulated sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, stir to mix thoroughly and set aside.

Generously flour rolling surface, then turn dough onto surface and using floured hands. Pat into rectangular shape. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out dough to approx 3/4 inch thickness. Pour remaining melted butter onto dough, using a pastry brush to spread evenly. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over dough. Start rolling dough from long end, away from you , jellyroll style until completely rolled. Slice roll into approximately 1 inch slices, using a wire pastry cutter or a large sharp floured knife. Arrange rolls side by side in a  9 X 13 glass or shiny metal plan, sprayed with a flour nonstick cooking spray or generously buttered. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until tops of rolls are just lightly browned. Make glaze and thin with additional milk to desired consistency. Remove rolls from pan individually, drizzling each with glaze before serving.


Here are the rolls ready to go into the oven. Don’t worry they don’t have to be perfect – they will taste amazing!

Oreo Double Chocolate Cheesecake


I have been incredibly busy this month with the non profit fundraising season in full swing. I work a lot of nights and weekends and sometimes just don’t have enough left in the tank to create something amazing, original and delicious for dinner or dessert during the week. I will slack off for a whole week if I am feeling overscheduled but this week I was asked to make a special dessert and the deadline was fast approaching so I had to get it going!

This recipie needs to have its own category – called “the most bang for the buck” – literally.  I have made it two years in a row for the school fundraiser and both times it raised over $200 (did I mention that alcohol is served at this event?) This looks and tastes absolutely decadent but does not take a lot of time to prepare – just a little planning ahead.


24 Oreo cookies, crushed

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

32  ounces cream cheese (4 eight ounce packages ), softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

9 ounces good semi sweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli)

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup fresh blueberries or 8 additional oreo cookies, for garnish

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat over to 325 degrees.

Combine crushed oreos and butter, press into bottom and up sides of a 9 inch springform pan (an easy way to do it is to use the bottom of a measuring cup.) Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven, leave oven on. Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla bean paste with mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Add eggs slowly, mixing on low speed, until just blended into batter. Pour over crust and smooth top evenly. Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour or until center is almost set. Run rounded spatula or knife around rim of pan to loosen, then cool completely before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours (preferably overnight) before serving. Garnish with berries and powdered sugar or cookies just before serving.

To kick it up a notch add 2 tablespoons of hazelnut liqueur when adding eggs. This makes it taste even better!

Vanilla Cocoa Swirl Pound Cake


So wine week didn’t exactly go as planned – sometimes things happen. I was going to follow up cooking with wine week with updates to my wines page, but this weekend we are getting some much needed rain here in northern California.  It has been raining for two days and it looks like the whole weekend will be rainy and soggy so my thoughts turned to comfort food instead – specifically updating some classic recipes that I have used for many years with some of the great new ingredients that are available today with a few clicks of the mouse.

This blog is named berries and cocoa because they are my two favorite ingredients to bake with. I am always searching for better quality ingredients to improve upon old favorites. Twenty years ago Hershey’s baking cocoa was most readily available to the home cook in the supermarket, and most home cooks used it –  but professional chefs had their secrets. I found one on Amazon this month: Rodelle Dutch Process Dark Cocoa.


The new dutch process dark cocoas today are amazing – and this is just one of them. Try this the next time you are baking – along with the pure vanilla bean paste I told you about in November – I think you will notice a definite difference in your recipies.

Traditionally pound cake was made with a pound of each of these four ingredients: flour, butter, eggs and sugar. The first recorded recipie dates back to Northern Europe in the late 1700’s, but the basic recipe can be found in cookbooks in France, Germany, Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela. This recipe is most popular in the American South in its tradidtional form, but there are literally hundreds of variations with sour cream and lemon being the most popular. I’ve also added a few tips to make your cake even better:

* when you cream the sugar and butter, beat until very light and fluffy – it takes a good five minutes to get the right consistency. Make sure the butter is at room temperature for best results.

*to “marbleize”,   use a large metal spoon to cut through the batters in a wide zigzag – go around only once so the batters won’t mix.



2 cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour

1 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons double acting baking powder

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup dutch process dark cocoa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 10 inch tube pan with nonstick flour based spray. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, mix sugar and butter until well blended. Beat on high speed for five minutes until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add all remaining ingredients except cocoa powder. Beat until thoroughly blended, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Increase speed to high and beat 4-5 minutes longer, mixing thoroughly.

Remove a scant three cups of the batter and transfer to a small bowl. Using a wire whisk, beat cocoa into batter until well blended. Spoon a 1 inch layer of the vanilla batter onto bottom of the cake pan, then drop dollops of the chocolate batter over top, as shown. Repeat with another layer of the vanilla, then use the remaining chocolate batter to drop chocolate dollops over top of vanilla batter. With a large metal spoon, cut and twist through batter in a zigzag pattern only once to achieve the marbled effect.

Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Use a spatula or icing knife to loosen cake from pan. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack. This makes a really big cake so you can freeze half – but it is so good that it usually disappears in a couple of days.

Bananas Foster Aloha


This was meant to be a week of sharing recipes that are made with wine- but it was a busy week at work, and its already Friday – so in keeping with the theme (and the sign in my kitchen) I am instead sharing a recipe made with rum. (its all alcohol, right?) This is a twist on a classic bananas foster recipe that I made while I was in Kauai using some great local ingredients – macadamia nut ice cream and coconut flavored rum in place of the vanilla ice cream and dark rum traditionally used.


I did not think it was possible to improve on bananas foster, but this gives it a really special flavor and kick.

The pictures aren’t that great –  sorry but the lighting in the rental condo wasn’t the best – but this dessert tastes at least 20 times better than it looks!


6 ounces butter

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

juice of 1/2 blood orange

3 bananas

2 ounces coconut rum

macadamia nut ice cream

Melt butter over medium heat then add brown sugar and orange juice, stirring constantly. The sauce will carmelize and be the consistency of maple syrup. Slice bananas in half, then split in half lengthwise. Add to sauce and coat well. Now comes the fun part -the first time I saw this I was probably 10 or 12 and I was so impressed!  Pour the rum over the sauce and light it up — you will get a gorgeous flambé! Keep shaking the pan back and forth until the flame goes out. If you are having a dinner party (or just cooking for a special date) this is very impressive!


Serve immediately over a couple of scoops of ice cream. Enjoy!

TIP: When I am having more than one or two people and making a larger batch, I pre scoop and freeze the ice cream in individual bowls. This also helps keep the ice cream from melting too fast while you are serving everyone.