Carrabba’s Copycat Sogna Di Cioccolata “Chocolate Dream”

The number 1 searched recipe on this site on any given day, regardless of season, is single handedly Carrabba’s copycat Mama Mandola’s chicken soup. Hands down. I’m predicting this recipe may very well give the soup a run for it’s money, if not surpass it altogether. Plus, when I tell you, just how easy it is to make and how much it tastes just like when enjoying at the restaurant, you may find yourself doing the ultimate happy dance.


1 box Ghirardelli’s Dark Chocolate brownie mix, made per package instructions (you’ll need an egg, 1/2 cup vegetable, & 1/4 cup water)

1 1.5oz box Jell-O sugar free chocolate pudding, made per package instructions but instead of using 3 cups fat free milk, use 2 cups heavy cream & 1 cup milk

2-3 cups homemade whipped cream (place a pint of whipping cream in a bowl & beat on high until stiff peaks form then add 2 – 3 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar to get desired sweetness)

Ganache for drizzle


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a square 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper, coat the parchment paper with nonstick spray; set aside.

Make the brownie mix, per the package instructions & once oven ready, bake for 42 minutes; careful not to over bake.

While the brownies are baking, make the pudding (using heavy whipping cream & milk will create a mousse filling) & once whipped, keep in the refrigerator.

Also, while the brownies are baking, make the whipped cream & store in the refrigerator until needed.

Once the brownies are done baking, transfer to a cooling rack & allow to cool completely. Once cooled, remove the brownies & slice in the middle, creating a bottom & top layer. Place the bottom layer (sans parchment paper) back in the 8×8 pan. Evenly distribute half of the mousse mixture & then top with half of whipped cream. Add the remaining half of the brownie, & repeat layering process first with the mousse mixture, & then the whipped cream.

Drizzle with ganache.

Return to refrigerator & allow to sit for 1-2 hours before serving.


Notes: a little of this dessert goes a long way.

If you don’t want to have discernible chocolate chips in the brownies, before making the brownie batter, sift the dry ingredients to remove the chocolate chips.

Posted in Bars/ Brownies, Copycat Recipes, Desserts | Leave a comment

Brisket Topped Burgers

Just looking at this picture makes me want one of these burgers, that & I haven’t had lunch. From the power (read: suggestion) of YouTube, my husband came across this recipe & tweaked it to make it his own. This isn’t a recipe per se, but an outline of ingredients to assemble.


2 lb hamburger

Uncle Chris’s Steak Seasoning

Cheese of your choice

Onion Buns

1 lb Brisket

BBQ sauce

Condiments, per choosing


Instead of grilling, which he normally does, my husband made these burgers in a cast iron skillet. He does not shy away from using the following seasoning. For a long time, he used Montreal Steak Seasoning, which is good, but we’re on a kick of using this seasoning. He sprinkles it on before mixing it into the hamburger. He makes half lb burgers, but you do you.

We buy the brisket from a local barbecue place & they supply the sauce as well.

Once the burgers are cooked to your liking, add the patties to a toasted bun, add a slice of cheese, top with brisket & barbecue sauce. Add condiments, or don’t. You get the drift, do your own thing. Serve with homemade steak fries & chef’s kiss, you’ve got a great dinner.


Posted in Beef, Meat | 1 Comment

Coffee Cake Cookies

The high temperature was set for cold, blustery, & snowy 28 degrees today and while the closest I got to venturing outside was letting the dogs in & out, I’m fairly sure the wind chill prohibited it from getting anywhere near the projected high. In other words, it was prime baking weather.

I’ve yet to meet someone who isn’t a fan of cookies or coffee cake, so when the two worlds collide, say no more, I’m on it.


For the cookie:

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups flour

For the streusel:

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 – 1/2 cup flour *see note

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

For the icing:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp milk

Splash of vanilla extract


For the dough: beat together the butter, oil, & sugar & mix together until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg & vanilla & beat together for another few minutes. Add the remaining ingredients & mix together until just combined.

For the streusel: combine all the ingredients in a bowl & using a fork, spoon, or your fingers, work the ingredients together. *Note: start with a 1/3 cup flour. The mixture should stick together, but should also crumble when you run it through your fingers. If it isn’t crumbling, add 1 tbsp flour at a time until it does.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Using a large cookie scoop, or a 1/4 measuring cup, roll the dough into a ball. Using a spoon or fingers, make an indentation into the center of each cookie & sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of streusel.

Bake for 12 -14 minutes or until light golden color. While the cookies are cooling, assemble the icing. Once the cookies have cooled, drizzle the icing over the tops of each.



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Spicy Green Beans

What’s there to say? I love me some spicy green beans & they went perfectly with the Katsudan pork cutlet & rice bowls I made for dinner tonight.


1 1/2 lb fresh green beans, trimmed

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup peanut oil (sesame or canola works)

8 – 10 garlic cloves, minced (you can use less, but I wouldn’t)

2 – 3 inch ginger root, peeled & grated

Red pepper flakes, per taste

1/4 cup red wine vinegar


Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans & boil for 1 – 2 minutes, until the beans turn bright green. Strain them & run under cold water to stop them from cooking.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the sliced almonds & toast until golden brown, tossing frequently, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Return skillet to burner & heat to medium-high heat. Once heated, add the oil, a few pinches of salt, garlic, ginger, & pepper flakes cook just until garlic starts to brown. Add the vinegar & let cook down for 1 – 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat & toss in the beans to coat thoroughly & evenly with dressing. Stir in the toasted almonds.


Posted in Asian, Vegetables, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Easy Peasy (no knead) Peasant Bread

Winter is notorious for soup & as of late, we’ve had our fair share. And what better side to serve with a bowl of soup than some homemade fresh bread. Normally, if I know the day before I’ll be making soup, I’ll also make the crusty overnight artisan bread, but it doesn’t always go according to plan. With this recipe, you can still have it the day of in just a few hours.


4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp instant yeast

2 cups warm water


In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, & yeast. Add the water & mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients form into a ball & no streaks of flour remain.

Cover the bowl & allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Using nonstick spray, generously grease a bread loaf pan; set aside.

Using a spatula, scrap the dough away from the sides of the bowl & place into prepared bread pan. It will have a rough appearance to it & that’s okay, it’s not store bought bread.

Allow the dough to rest, uncovered in the pan for 15-20 minutes.

Bake for 15 minutes & then reduce the heat to 375 degrees & bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until golden.



Posted in Bread/ Muffins, Bread; Sides | Leave a comment

Aunt Karen’s Shepherd Pie

Forgive the picture. We’d already eaten & I’d forgotten to take a picture of it served on a plate so had to compromise & use what was left in the dish.

Shepherds Pie is one of those dishes I’ve heard of, but have never had. Until tonight. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with the selected recipe because it’s my aunt’s recipe. I like to think everyone has that one person in their life where you know the food is going to be good because it’s always good. For me, that’s aunt Karen. She will not lead you astray.


1 lb hamburger meat

2 celery stalks diced

1 onion

3 garlic cloves

S & P

1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

2 tbsp tomato paste (or ketchup)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 12oz bag of frozen mixed veggies (peas, carrots, corn, & green beans)

1 package instant mashed potatoes (I used garlic)

Shredded cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Over medium high heat, cook the hamburger meat with the celery, onion, & garlic until browned. Season with S & P. Drain grease. Add Worcestershire & tomato paste, mix together. Stir in a can of cream of mushroom soup. Add bag of mixed veggies & stir to combine. Transfer to a 9” round or square pan.

Make instant mashed potatoes (or use leftover mashed potatoes, if you have them) according to instructions. Spread evenly over meat mixture.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven, add shredded cheddar cheese to top, & return to oven for another 10 minutes. Enjoy!

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Books I Read In 2021 (and my fave five)

On occasion, people will ask me for book recommendations & while I’m willing to oblige, it’s not without slight reservation. To me, books fall into the same categories as food & music. What I like, piques my interest, or resonates within me can be vastly different than what another would find deeply satisfying & fulfilling. It’s also no different than when someone has avidly recommended a book to me, which I read only to be left wondering what was so great about that? It’s neither right or wrong & just symbolizes our differences.

This can occur within ourselves, as well. Sometimes while rereading a book I once considered life changing & profound, I’m left wanting more & missing the sense of awe & wonder, like I first experienced. Similar to trying to recreate a memory in that it simply doesn’t hold the same wonder-filled significance. Conversely, there are books that didn’t impact me so much whilst reading them, but months & sometimes years later, I find myself surprised at how often I revisit it in my thoughts.

  1. Open House, Katie Sise
  2. Like Brothers, Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass
  3. Antiracist Baby, Ibram X Kindi
  4. The Last of the Moon Girls, Barbara Davis
  5. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
  6. Hadley & Grace, Suzanne Redfearn
  7. A Widow’s Story: A Memoir, Joyce Carol Oates
  8. Love’s Executioner, Irvin Yalom
  9. Hallelujah Anyway, Anne Lamott
  10. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, Deesha Philyaw
  11. After Alice Fell, Kim Taylor Blakemore
  12. Best Friends Forever, Jennifer Weiner
  13. Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily Nagoski, PhD & Amelia Nagoski, DMA
  14. The State of Affairs, Esther Perel
  15. Shrill, Lindy West
  16. Inheritance, Dani Shapiro
  17. What Happened To You? Conversations On Trauma, Resilience, & Healing, Bruce Perry, MD, PhD & Oprah Winfrey
  18. Tears of Amber, Sofia Segovia
  19. Last Couple Standing, Matthew Norman
  20. The Problem of Alzheimer’s, Jason Karlawish, MD
  21. Mating In Captivity, Esther Perel
  22. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  23. Stories To Tell, Richard Marx
  24. Mercy, Jodi Picoult
  25. Fire Shut Up In My Bones, Charles M. Blow
  26. The Housekeeper, Natalie Barelli
  27. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
  28. Plenty: A Memoir of Food & Family, Hannah Howard
  29. The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish
  30. Beneath Devil’s Bridge, Loreth Anne White
  31. Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, Emmanuel Acho
  32. Night Road, Kristin Hannah
  33. The Seven Day Switch, Kelly Harms
  34. Apples Never Fall, Liane Moriarty
  35. Unbound, Tarana Burke
  36. Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle
  37. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  38. The Menopause Manifesto, Dr. Jen Gunter
  39. The Four Seasons of Marriage, Gary Chapman
  40. The Storyteller: Tales of Life & Music, Dave Grohl
  41. The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
  42. Somebody’s Daughter, Ashley C. Ford
  43. No Cure For Being Human: And Other Truths I Need To Hear, Kate Bowler
  44. A Familiar Sight, Brianna Labuskes

My favorite five: (In no order of favorites, but read chronologically)

Fiction: “The timing of of the thing had to be just so in order for me to become the person I am. Delay the act by an hour & you change the gene selection.”

Collection of short stories: “How do you make love to a physicist? With your whole self, quivering, lush, unafraid.”

Nonfiction: “Even if you’ve accumulated a house full of nice things & the picture of your life fits in a beautiful frame, if you’ve experienced trauma, but haven’t excavated it, the wounded parts of you will affect everything you’ve managed to build.”

Memoir: “That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people & they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.”

Memoir: “Everybody pretends that you only die once, but that’s not true. You can die to a thousand possible futures in the course of a single, stupid life.”

“It takes great courage to live. Period. There are fears and disappointments and failures every day and, in the end, the hero dies. It must be cinematic to watch us from above.”
Posted in Books | Leave a comment

World Peace Cookies

I’ve heard of these cookies for years & while I’ve never had one nor made them until now, I wish I had done it sooner. Like every year, I set out on a quest for a new Christmas cookie & these are definitely repeat worthy.

Essentially, these are a French butter cookie a la intense chocolate style. These are indulgent & decadent, but don’t be fooled, they are subtly sweet. Perfectly paired with a cup of coffee or milk.


11 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes & at room temperature

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp fine sea salt or 1/2 tsp flour de sal

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into irregular sized bits (I used Ghirardelli)


Beat butter & sugars on medium speed for three minutes, or until soft & creamy. Be sure to scrape the sides & bottom of bowl at least once. Beat in salt & vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, & baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter/ sugar mixture, stir to combine. Once combined, mix on low until thoroughly incorporated; being careful not to over mix.

Divide the dough in half. With each half, roll into a 1 1/2 inch diameter log. Wrap each log in plastic wrap & freeze for 2 hours or chill in refrigerator for 3 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut log into 1/2 inch-thick rounds. Place on baking sheets & leave 2 inches between them. Keep one sheet with cut rounds in refrigerator while the other is baking.

Bake for 12 minutes. Do not open the door, just let them bake. At the end of the 12 minutes, they won’t look done, nor firm but remove from oven anyway. Transfer to a cooling rack.



Posted in Christmas Cookies, Cookies | Leave a comment

French Vanilla Sables

‘Tis the season where the big blue tin of assorted butter cookies makes an appearance; unless, you find a recipe & opt to make them yourself. The latter is always a win in my book.


1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes & at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling


Beat together the butter, sugars, & salt for 3 minutes, stopping at least twice to scrape the sides & bottom of the bowl. Add egg yolks one at a time, add vanilla extract, & beat on low. Add the flour, stir to incorporate; then mix on low until thoroughly combined, being careful not to over mix.

Divide the dough into two halves. Place each half onto a piece of parchment paper & top with another. From there, roll out dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Repeat the process with the other half. Transfer sandwiched dough to a large baking sheet & freeze for 1 hour, or refrigerate for 2 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees & grease two 12 nonstick muffin tins. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds, place in muffin tins, & top dough with turbinado sugar. With remaining scraps of dough, re-roll, & refreeze. Repeat process until dough is gone.

Bake for 10 minutes in the center of the oven, rotate pans, & bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Allow tins to cook for 10 minutes on wire racks before transferring to cool completely.



Posted in Christmas Cookies, Cookies | Leave a comment

Classic Bran Muffins

I recently listened to an audiobook on women’s health by a doctor who reported how most women don’t typically consume the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber of 25 – 30 grams per day. Truth be told, I’ve never stopped to consider if I’m reaching that recommendation & as I think of my meals over the last few days the answer is an underperforming, resounding no.

I started to get curious about my go to choices, or the ones I use in heavy rotation. For instance, fruits are typically apples (large with skin on 5.4 grams), bananas (medium size 3.1 grams), blueberries (1 cup 3.6 grams), blackberries (1 cup 7.6 grams), raspberries (1 cup 8 grams), strawberries (1 cup 3.5 grams), 1/2 an avocado or 68 grams of an avocado (4.6 grams). Vegetables are broccoli (1 cup 5.1 grams), spinach (1 cup 2.4 grams), spring mix salad (1 cup 1.1 grams), green beans (1 cup cooked 4 grams), zucchini/ yellow squash (1 cup 1.4 grams), cauliflower (1 cup 2.5 grams). Nuts are walnuts (1/4 cup 1.7 grams), pecans (1/4 cup 2.9), pistachios (1.5 oz bag 2 grams).

I rarely eat cereal anymore, but while listening to this book I developed a taste for bran muffins. Surely, a good source of dietary fiber; in fact, 3.5 grams per muffin.


1 1/2 cups wheat bran

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup raisins (I omitted these)


In a bowl, mix together wheat bran & buttermilk; let stand for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees & line muffin tin with 12 liners.

In a liquid measuring cup whisk together the oil, egg, & vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, & salt.

Once the bran/ buttermilk combination has softened, add to the flour mixture, & add the oil, egg, & vanilla extract mixture. Beat together until we’ll blended.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes (mine were complete at 17 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.



Posted in Bread/ Muffins, Breakfast | 1 Comment