I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

A Slice of Life

There are times my mind gets so off-kilter with thoughts and worry for friends and family that nothing sets it right like immersing myself in a kitchen project. I decided on this particular worrisome day that a cheesecake was in order and before long I began to realize how much like a cheesecake that life really is.

There are plain cheesecakes and plain lives. Even though neither are embellished with extra goodness, they are still rich with quality ingredients and aren't nearly as simplistic as they appear at first glance.

There are those whose lives are likened to a rich, decadent, exotically flavored cheesecake. The same quality ingredients as the plain, but the extra frills make each bite of life sickeningly sweet.

And no matter how much patience, time and attention you dedicate to any flavor of cheesecake, there are times when, due to some cosmic kitchen disaster or outside life interference, it's going to have a momentary lapse of reason and crack wide open.

What if my life were compared to a cheesecake? It would be just like this Black Raspberry jewel with Chambord Glaze. Plain in appearance, but once you delve in, you'll find it slightly sweet and a bit fruity. Rich in things that matter, but not obnoxiously so. A hint of intoxication and only a slight few surface cracks but nothing that needs major repair.

If you find yourself pondering the meaning of life as compared to a cheesecake, try this one on for size and see how it suits you!

Black Raspberry Cheesecake with Chambord Glaze

1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1-1/4 cup chocolate wafer cookies, crumbled (I used chocolate Teddy Grahams)
2-1/2 pounds of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
6 eggs
17 ounces seedless black raspberry preserves
1/2 cup sour cream
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons Chambord

Crust: combine melted chocolate and butter. Cool slightly. Stir in crumbs. Pat in bottom of a greased 10" spring form pan. Chill 1 hour.

Filling: Cream together cheese and sugar. Add flour and continue creaming, scraping down sides of bowl. Add eggs, 2 at a time, beating on low speed until blended. Blend in blackberry preserves. Pour into prepared crust and bake 325 degrees for about 60 minutes or until edge of cake is dry and rounded and begins to pull away from sides of pan. Remove from oven, cool and refrigerate.

Topping. After cake has cooled and has been removed from pan, combine topping ingredients until well blended. Gently pour over cake (tip: you may want to heat the combined ingredients in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make it easier to pour).

Cheesecake is best if made the day before serving.

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And you thought Rosemary was just for chickens!

Will you please allow me one more summer-inspired rambling post before you tell me to move on to more seasonally appropriate topics?

I realize mid-September should be all about Fall, football, pumpkins and hoodies, but my land of goodness our temps are still in the 90s! I can't even think about snow boots and parkas without breaking out in a sweat! I promise you won't be sorry that I managed to squeeze this little goodie in just before things cool off.....

My friends and I hosted a cocktail and food pairing social for Goodeats and Meets! Charlotte earlier in the summer and during the menu planning stage we decided to make double duty of one of the cocktails by turning it into a palate cleanser.

Palate cleansers are commonly found in French cuisine and used to cleanse the mouth from lingering tastes and flavors of previous courses so that the next may be enjoyed with a fresh perspective. You'll find lemon, lime or mint sorbets on the list of traditional cleansers but since there are no hard and fast rules as to what should be used, sparkling water with citrus, a spring of fresh parsley or lightly brewed green, mint or black tea may also be served.

By the time I monkeyed around with the standard lime sorbet recipe that I had, I wound up with a lovely combination of rosemary infused lime sorbet with Cruzan Coconut Rum. It's not very often that I'm totally bowled over by one of my wingnut creations but this was THE. BOMB. We almost didn't have enough to serve to the 25 party guests because I kept sneaking off to the freezer for another quality control sample.

The end result was fresh, crisp, tropical and refreshing. In retrospect, I should have garnished it with toasted coconut and a fresh rosemary sprig but when you have hungry guests waiting, you do the best that you can. Keep in mind that alcohol will not freeze solid so don't feel compelled to add more as your sorbet will not freeze to proper consistency. Chilly temperatures or not, this goodness will be coming out of my ice cream maker again very, very soon.

Rosemary-Lime Sorbet with Cruzan Coconut Rum


3/4 cup sugar
3 cups half-and-half
4 fresh rosemary spears, about 3" long
1/4 cup light corn syrup
Juice of 3 limes
1/3 cup Cruzan Coconut Rum
toasted coconut, for garnish


1. Between two pieces of wax paper, lightly crush rosemary with a meat mallet (if you don't have a mallet, use a small saucepan, or the bottom of a glass. This will release the fragrant oils of the herb.

2.In a large saucepan, combine sugar, half-and-half, rosemary spears and corn syrup. Whisk lightly and bring to a boil, making sure mixture does not boil over, then strain into a bowl. Let cool, then chill in refrigerator. (If you want a more intense rosemary flavor, strain AFTER it is cool.) Remove from refrigerator and slowly whisk in lime juice and rum. If mixture shows signs of curdling, whisk harder or transfer to a blender.

3.Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.

Serve garnished with toasted coconut.

Yields about 1 quart

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Happily Dying of Chocolate

I was going to start this post out by saying how divine it would be to plunge to my death into a vat of melted chocolate, but a quick internet search of the phrase "death by chocolate" shows that it has, in fact, happened that way for someone and it wasn't a pleasant experience at all.

So instead, I'll just stick to talking about this uber-decadent flourless chocolate cake that my friends and I served as the grand finale at our cocktail and dinner pairing. We served it with the equally indulgent Coffee Margarita and all of our guests needed to be wheeled out to their car because we had rendered them unable to walk for themselves with the awesome menu. It was probably as close as they could come to dying by chocolate without actually, well, dying.

After the initial test run, it was determined that the cake held up and tasted much better when served chilled. And don't say that I didn't warn you to cut it into very small pieces ~ one 10" cake served over 20 people. If you don't heed my warning, make sure you have emergency personnel on stand-by and I'll be the first person to say, "I told you so!" because that's just what kind of person I am.


12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups butter, melted
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup water
7 eggs

Fudge topping:

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate (again, I used Ghiradelli or Godiva works well too)
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup of Kayro syrup
3 tlb of water

Note: Using good chocolate such as Ghiradelli or Godiva and real butter (not margarine) makes a HUGE difference in taste. Don’t scrimp on the ingredients, you will be disappointed.

Directions for cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 10 inch round cheesecake pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

2. Chop chocolate squares and place in a large bowl with 12 ounces chocolate chips. Add melted butter. Heat water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a saucepan until boiling, and then pour over chocolate. Stir until smooth.

3. In separate bowls, separate the egg whites and yokes and whip separately until both bowls have become thick and creamy. Take the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and evenly distribute between the two bowls as you are mixing. Once the yolks are thick and creamy and the whites are at soft peaks, combine both of them and then add to the chocolate mixture.

4. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour batter into 10 inch pan.

5. Place 10 inch pan in a “water bath” like you would for a cheesecake.

6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool for 1 hour; then refrigerate for several hours.

7. After cake has been refrigerated for 3 to 4 hours, you can add fudge topping. First take the side of the cake pan off, then put a plate on top of cake and flip; then remove parchment paper. Then add your fudge topping allowing fudge to drip off the top onto the sides. Clean up the bottom of your plate as you go along to keep it looking good! (You must do this before it cools, as it gets hard & thick like fudge)

Directions for topping:

1. Melt butter, Kayro syrup and water in saucepan. Bring to soft boil.
2. Add chocolate chips after butter has melted.

Do not let it burn, turn to low heat while mixing in chocolate chips.
Once you take it off heat, keep stirring so it won’t harden, then pour onto cake.

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End of Season Sale

We may still be speeding toward a few record high temperatures here in the South, but summer is now officially visible in the rear view mirror. It's over, people. Move along. There's nothing left to see here.

I struggle during the time it takes my appetite to make the transition from one season to the next, running the gamut between noshing on fruits and vegetables and gorging myself on stick-to-your-ribs hearty, heavy meals. I'm well aware that typical summer fruits and vegetable are available year round thanks to the modern means of transportation, but there's just something unnatural about eating a watermelon when the air is just as chilled as the melon.

I make no secret of liking my watermelon straight up with a pinch of salt and nothing else. No frills, no fluff, no stuff. There's no sense in messing up a naturally good thing so I'm not sure why I felt compelled to combine my most favorite summertime treat with the savoriness of Gorgonzola cheese and red onion in the Watermelon Salad featured in the August 2008 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. A reader had written in to request the recipe that she had tried at The Beach House Restaurant in Kauai, Hawaii. According to their menu, the restaurant's version of the salad includes carrots whereas BA's rendition does not. It also appears that it is such a requested recipe that it has been added to their website, probably since the BA article was published. No matter which version you try, I think you'll enjoy the combination of sweet, savory, and fresh.

Farewell Summer 2010!

Watermelon Salad
Bon Appetit, August 2008
Serves 6-8

Raspberry Vinaigrette
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail
2 tbls. balsamic vinegar
2 tbls. white balsamic vinegar
6 tbls. vegetable oil

Caramelized Macadamia Nuts
1 tbls. butter
2 tbls. packed brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

2-1/2 to 3 lbs. watermelon, cut into 1/2" thick triangles, rind removed
5 to 6 ounces bag or container mixed baby greens or arugula
3/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

For dressing, puree first 4 ingredients in blender until smooth. With machine running, gradually add oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

For nuts, melt butter in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sugar and stir to blend. Add nuts and stir to coat. Transfer to plate and cool. Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For salad, arrange watermelon slices around edges of plates and toss greens in large bowl with dressing to coat. Divide salad among plates. Sprinkle with cheese, red onion, and caramelized nuts over.

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