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…

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.

Holiday Prep: Christmas Eve Menu Set

Our annual Christmas Eve dinner has always been guests’ choice. And has become tradition, Spinach Lasagna is the requested main course.

We are really looking forward to getting together this year, especially with the newest addition.  We are still deciding between a movie or a board game, but I have both on hand, so we don’t have to decide until after dinner.

On the board:

  1. Spinach Lasagna
  2. Collard Greens with Bacon
  3. Garlic Cheese Bread
  4. Ice Cream Sundae Bar

This recipe takes about an hour to prepare and another hour to cook. It easily serves 6 – 8. I make this the day before and refrigerate. It will need additional cooking time to bring the center up to temperature.


Spinach Lasagna


  • 3-15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2-6 oz cans tomato paste
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp basil, crushed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled & finely grated
  • pinch of sugar (reduces acidity of the tomatoes)
  • Optional: ½ lb ground beef and ½ spicy Italian sausage, browned


Add all ingredients to saucepan on medium-high, stirring constantly until it begins to boil lightly. Turn to low and let simmer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.


  • 1 pkg lasagna noodles (16 oz), cooked and placed in cool water until layering
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz package frozen spinach, thawed or 8 oz fresh, washed and dried
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese

13×9 baking dish (I prefer glass), lightly oiled

To prepare: Mix ricotta, spinach and egg until well blended. Ladle a layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.

Cover in a single layer of noodles. Ladle sauce over noodles. Spoon ½ of the ricotta mixture evenly (if you place large dollops evenly like putting cookie dough on a baking sheet, fairly close together, it will spread as it cooks, no need to smooth it).

Layer 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta. Repeat: noodles, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, noodles. On top of the last layer of noodles, add remaining sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, uncovered – I like to place the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any spills as it bubbles. Place knife through the center, if it comes out heated through, remove and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. If it needs more cooking time, you can cover with foil to keep the cheese from burning and cook 10 more minutes. Let stand uncovered before serving.

Garlic Cheese Bread

I made my Crusty Slow-Rise Bread and then sliced it length-wise, slathered in garlic butter, mozzarella and Parmesan and broiled until golden brown.  Yum!

I prepare the bread earlier in the day, wrap in plastic and refrigerate so when my guests arrive I can spend most of my time with them instead of food prep.


Collard Greens with Bacon

  • 2 large bunches of collard greens
  • 4 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

I’m going to use the electric pressure cooker for this.

Cut and trim the collard greens, removing the tough stems. Roughly chop the trimmed greens into 1/2-inch ribbons.

Cook the bacon on the saute setting, add the onion to the bacon grease, and cook until translucent before adding the garlic.

Add the collard greens to the pot, stir until coated in bacon drippings. Stir until softened and then add the chicken broth, vinegar, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes.

Cover and cook on high pressure for 12 minutes. Release pressure and toss well. If there is too much liquid, use the saute setting to reduce enough to lightly coat the greens.

Toss with salt, pepper, and lemon juice just before serving.


Dessert is our annual Ice Cream Sundae Bar – lots of vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, peanuts, almonds, walnuts and pecans. I also put out any remaining Christmas cookies leftover from gift packs.