Holiday Desserts: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake


The recipe can be found here. 

I wasn’t in the mood to chop cranberries or drag the food processor out, so I left them whole. I think I prefer it that way.

Also, I bought a bag of White Lily Unbleached Self Rising Flour, 5-lb bag a while ago to use in biscuits (reasons why and recipe here) and decided since this is basically a biscuit cake, I’d try it this time around for this recipe. It was a game changer. Especially at altitude, it’s so difficult not to end up having a heavy (yet yummy) cake like this.

It’s probably not a necessity at sea level, but up here, it was worth the expense (and yes, it is expensive to order a bag of flour, LOL).  The flour makes authentic southern biscuits that I can’t replicate with regular unbleached flours (even King Arthur).  I should probably do a post on how using the White Lily flour came to my attention. That’s for another day when my kitchen doesn’t look like it qualifies for FEMA assistance and the dogs need walks.

This recipe is for sure going to end up in either the Halloween or Christmas Duxbridge Mysteries Novellas.

until then…

It’s Snowing So Time For Soup

This year for my Dad’s Christmas present, I’m including a dozen+ frozen dinners. Chili, beef stew, pot roast, and tonight’s installment:

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef*
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp thyme
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 8 oz carrots, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2-14 oz cans diced tomatoes or tomato puree
  • 15 oz can red kidney beans
  • 15 oz can white northern beans
  • 16 oz chicken broth*
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • ¼ to ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 small bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 8 oz ditali or small shell pasta

large saucepan or dutch oven

In saucepan, brown beef, add spices and mix in well with meat, add onion, carrots, celery and garlic, and sauté 3-5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients (except pasta) and let simmer 30 minutes on a medium, stirring frequently.  Add pasta to soup, simmer on low for additional 10 minutes, until pasta is al dente.

*if you want to keep it vegetarian, substitute a meaty mushroom for the ground beef (saute with broth or butter) and vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

If you think this is similar to one of the Olive Garden’s soups, it is. It’s also fairly easy to put together and hearty on a cold November night.

Duxbridge Update and an Apple Cider Donut Hole Recipe

Duxbridge Mysteries, book 1 is with the editor after the first round of rewrites. I think there will be a little more tweaking and then a final edit and it should be off to the publisher.

Meanwhile, I’m working on another series that takes place in Colorado, the first in the series is in the fall, so this seemed appropriate, although this recipe may also show up in the third of the Duxbridge series (yes, we have planned and outlined THREE so far. The third in the series will be a Holiday Special and since it Duxbridge is in Massachusetts, it seemed appropriate our first holiday edition would be Halloween! Boo!

From the cooking blog:

It’s the time of year when folks go out to orchards; spend the day filling bags with apples, going on hay rides, running through corn and bale mazes, before finishing up with cider and cider donuts. In honor of that, I decided to try and make my own. Baked, not fried.

I haven’t purchased cider in a while and was a little shocked at the cost – but I bought from a local orchard, so it was worth it. Excellent flavor.

These turned out pretty good – unless you’ve got donut tins, these are going to be a little lopsided, not perfectly round as the dough is more like muffin dough. They are much lighter than muffins, more like a good cake donut, and once you coat them in cinnamon and sugar, no one will notice their little flat bottoms.

This recipe made about 3 ½ dozen holes or 2 ½ dozen mini muffins.

Apple Cider Donut Holes

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed

Wet ingredients:

  • 2 cups of apple cider (reduced to ½ cup)
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or 2 tbsp buttermilk powder and ½ cup water)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 small apple, shredded or 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce


  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • ½ granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Saucepan, large mixing bowl, Mini-muffin pan or donut pan (these usually make mini-donuts), two small bowls

Instant Pot: Revisiting Pot Roast

Sunday Pot Roast

Revisiting this recipe because it’s been ridiculously cold this week and I’ve about had it with ducks being inside and puppies crazed because they aren’t getting enough outdoor time. So this and French Bread are all that’s holding me together.

From 2020:

In my quest to update some of my older recipes for Instant Pot style cooking, here is one of my favorites. I love being able to set this up and an hour and a half later have a perfectly cooked pot roast – tender and flavorful – along with all the sides.

Sunday Pot Roast On A Weeknight 

  • 4 lbs Pot Roast (chuck roast)
  • ¼  cup good whiskey (or red wine)
  • ¼ cup beef broth or water (more if needed)
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp salt & pepper
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 6 medium potatoes, quartered
  • 1 lb bag baby carrots

slow-cooker or Instant Pot

French Butter Cookies From Scratch

I recently had to get a Costco membership – long, boring story – but it’s already paying off.  When I came home from Paris four years ago, my suitcase contained 10 packages of St. Michel Butter Cookies (Galettes). I was besotted.  Super buttery, flakey, not terribly sweet with just a touch of salt. Costco sells them by the very large tin.

I’ve been trying to recreate them ever since, but it’s difficult from memory. Now I have a tin of them, I stand a better chance. These come very, very close.

French Butter Cookies

  • 1/2 cup French Butter**
  • 1/4 cup +1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/4 cup skim milk POWDER
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • dash of lemon zest


  • 1 egg yolk, dash of water
  • Mix together 2:1 sugar and salt

These need a mixer to create the flaky texture. Whip butter until fluffy, add sugar and salt. Mix again until fluffy. Add egg yolk and mix well. Finally, add flour and skim milk 1/4 cup at a time, combining before adding more.  Finish with lemon zest.

**If you can’t find French butter add 1/2 tsp salt to the batter. French butter contains more salt per serving than regular butter. It also has a very distinct flavor that I’ve never been able to recreate, so without it, cookies are delicious, but they aren’t quite St. Michel’s.

Remove to a floured surface and roll out to less than 1/4 inch thickness. The thinner, the crisper the cookie. The dough is super crumbly, so it’s easiest between two silpats or on a marble surface with plastic wrap covering the top. It’s very dry here now, so brushed a tiny bit of water over the dough before rolling thin.

Cut with a cookie cutter. Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle lightly with sugar/salt mixture.

Bake at 350 degree F for about 8 minutes. I set my timer for 4 minutes and then added 2 minutes until they were done.

I decided to up my game with some raspberry jam added before baking

If you want the traditional criss/cross pattern, it’s a bit more complicated. The dough is too delicate to use the fork method for each cookie. Instead, you’ll need to roll them out completely, refrigerate or freeze until firm. Then run a fork diagonally across the sheet of dough in one direction, and then again in the other direction. Only after the marks are made can you cut with a cookie cutter.

I used leftover dough for makeshift tarts filled with strawberry jam

You gotta know, unless I was baking for a super special crowd, that’s a bit too much work for a cookie that tastes just as good without those marks. Like, are Prince Harry and Meghan coming over? VP Harris?  Then, nope.  😉

Besides, I made such pretty heart shapes.