I unpacked all my Christmas decorations for this shoot for the Feliz Navidad Magazine in October and then packed them back into their boxes.  Now I'm left feeling late to the party as I've only now set them all out again
The house is once again all glitter and sparkle and I'm gearing up for the festivities - not to mention all the baking/cooking that is yet to be done for Christmas Eve and Christmas Brunch.  Pardon the slight blur to these images.  I moved them over from a PDF and it didn't work as well as I thought it might.

Empanaditas are a favorite to serve during the holidays in the southwest.  I'll be making these pork and apple ones again along with a chicken/apple/cheese recipe:

Chicken & Apple Empanaditas


1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
2 granny smith apples
   peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 red onion - chopped
1 garlic clove - minced
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

your favorite pie dough

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

Fry apple, garlic and onion in the butter until soft.  Add thyme, salt and pepper and chicken.  Allow
to cool slightly and mix in the cheddar.

Roll out the pie dough and cut circles with a biscuit cutter or glass.

Place about a tablespoon of filling on each circle and seal the edges with egg wash.  Use a fork to
press down the seal.

Brush with egg wash and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

About 15 empanaditas

Wishing everyone joyous holidays!



A beautiful and easy cake to prepare, its colors and flavors are reminiscent of Arab influence in Sicily.  I like to serve it on my hand painted Franco Mari plates.  I lugged them back in my carry on from Siena, Italy.

Raisin Pistachio Cake

2/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup Marsala
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2 cups unbleached flour, plus more to coat the baking pan
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup finely ground unsalted pistachios
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, beaten well
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F

In a small bowl, plump the raisins in the Marsala for at least 10 minutes.  Generously butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan; dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, the sugar, ground pistachios, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Melt 5 tablespoons butter over low heat.  combine it in a small bowl with the milk and eggs.  Drain the raisins, combining the remaining Marsala with the liquid ingredients.  Mix the raisins with a little of the flour mixture.

Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture, and mix briefly but thoroughly with a plastic spatula.  Add the raisins and mix just until well distributed.  Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack and, while the cake is still warm dust it with confectioners' sugar.

Serve with zabaglione or whipped sweetened cream.  The cake can also stand on it's own and is especially good with a cup of cardamom coffee.

A friend of mine recently moved to Sicily.
I should have made this cake for her
she left.  She was here for a few months - stayed with me 
off and on.
I'll make it again the next time she comes to visit - see how it stacks up.
Everything tastes better 
in Italy.

It has been too hot to do much of anything except hang out at the 
water park with my little sugar boy.

We have such fun

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Recipes: The Zenchilada


Bibb Lettuce Salad with Okra Croutons & Qamar el-Din

Weeks and weeks of torrential rainfall in May and June turned everything green and lush in the Texas Hill Country.  Now, in July, hardly a drop, with temperatures in the high 90's.  Time for light meals and plenty of salads.  Austin has great resources for "Farm to Market" and "Pick Your Own" gardens.  Great to have, since I didn't plant a vegetable garden this year.

Refreshing drinks are also a must this time of the year.   This Qamar el-Din is a Mediterranean beverage that I like to make now and then.

Qamar el-Din

One 12 oz sheet of apricot leather
3-4 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon orange flower water
1-2 tablespoons rose water

Cut the apricot leather into small pieces, place in a pitcher or bowl, and soak overnight in the water.  Next morning, transfer the contents to a blender and process until smooth.  Strain it into a pitcher, add the remaining ingredients, and stir.  Adjust the flavorings if needed to your taste, and chill or server over ice.


Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Recipes courtesy of: The Zenchilada