lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

creme brulee

I’ve loved creme brulee from the moment I first tried it many moons ago. It’s still a classic dessert, even though it’s been around for ages. I  just made a batch last weekend and it gave us a treat to enjoy throughout the week. Always try and buy the freshest and best vanilla beans that you can – don’t skimp on this ingredient; it’s what really brings this dessert home in a big way.

lola rugula easy classic creme brulee recipe

classic creme brulee recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, seeds and pulp scraped out but reserve all of it, including the pod
  • Pinch of salt
  • 15 tablespoons pure cane sugar, divided into thirds
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • Hot water

Preheat oven to 325

Have a fine mesh sieve over a bowl ready, to strain your cream mixture after you’ve cooked it.

Also, have a roasting pan ready – you’re going to add the hot water to the roasting pan, in which you’ll place your ramekins of creme brulee.

Fill a 2-quart saucepan with water and bring to boil. (this is for the hot water bath you’re going to create)

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, vanilla seeds, pulp and pod, pinch os salt and 5 tablespoons sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the salt and sugar.

While the cream is coming to a boil, combine egg yolks and 5 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk well.

When cream has reached a boil, remove from heat. Using a ladle or large spoon, scoop a bit of the cream mixture and add it to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Repeat with another ladle-full. Repeat. Add the remaining cream mixture and whisk to blend. Doing this slowly keeps the hot cream from actually cooking (aka scrambling) the eggs. Always err on the cautious side when adding the hot cream – slower is better than faster.

Carefully fill your ramekins with the mixture.

Add your boiling 2 quarts of water to the roasting pan. Gently place your ramekins in the water. Place the prepared pan full of filled ramekins in the oven.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the edges are well set but the centers are still jiggly.

Remove from oven and remove ramekins from the water bath. Let cool to room temperature for 30 minutes and then chill at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Immediately before serving, sprinkle the top of each dessert with a thin, even layer with about a tablespoon of sugar. Using a small kitchen blowtorch (or placing under the broiler) caramelize the sugar.

lola rugula how to make creme brulee recipe

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

I use 5-6 oz. ramekins, so if you’re using smaller ones, the cooking time will be less, as will the amount of sugar you sprinkle on each of them. If you want, feel free to add a few sliced strawberries on top, or some raspberries, blueberries or blackberries. You can also replace the vanilla bean with a couple of teaspoons of ground dark coffee, preferably espresso, for coffee creme brulee. Of course, there are hundreds of variations of this classic…don’t be afraid to play with your food!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

easy apple pie tarts

Have you recovered from your Thanksgiving food overload yet? I hope you all had a great day. I’m blessed to be able to be the host for our families each year and this year was one of my best turkeys ever. I’ve played around with different recipes throughout the years and have finally settled on fresh Amish turkey with a dry salt brine being the best way to go for flavor and juiciness. I splayed my turkey this year, which is the “new” part and it definitely helped the turkey cook more quickly and evenly.

If you’re not familiar with splaying a whole turkey or chicken, it’s cutting the skin between the leg/thigh and breast and then pushing down on the thighs until they pop and lay flat in the pan. My dry salt brine is a tablespoon each of chopped rosemary, parsley and sage, a tablespoon of minced garlic, 3 tablespoons kosher salt (use 1 tablespoon for every 5 lbs. of turkey), and about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. On Tuesday, 2 days before the holiday, I pat the turkey dry, rub it all over with the salt mixture, getting under the skin where I can and also in the cavity. Place in a bag (I use turkey roasting bags) and refrigerate. Wednesday morning, flip the bird over and leave refrigerated. Remove the turkey from the fridge and bag, pat dry and let it come to room temperature 40 minutes before roasting. Place bird directly in the pan (no rack), put into a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350. Add 2 cups of broth (your choice) and 1 cup of wine to bottom of roasting pan and roast until the thigh temperature reaches 165. Remove from oven and let sit for at least 30 minutes before carving. Delicious!

Anyway, I’m not really here to talk best turkey recipe ever, so, let’s talk dessert.


I’m not much of a dessert eater, so my mom typically brings dessert for Thanksgiving. This year, however, I already had some apple pie filling that I made and froze just a month or two ago. I also have these adorable mini-tart pans, so I knew they’d be perfect for some individual apple pies. Since I needed something easy for a crust, I picked up some frozen puff pastry. Now, I didn’t write down exactly how I made these, but this will give you the general idea. These photos are actually from the test run I did of my tarts, the weekend before Thanksgiving. These are a little more rustic looking than the final tarts, on which I did a little fancier lattice work top.


Let the puff pastry come to room temperature but not completely warm – about 30 to 40 minutes. Carefully unfold each sheet. Divide each sheet into thirds, cutting at the fold line. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each section a bit, until more than wide enough to cover the tart pan. Cut sheet in half, so that you basically have 2 squares of pastry. Each square will fit one mini tart pan. Repeat with remaining sections, leaving at least one section forslicing up for decorative lattice work, if desired.

Grease your tart pans with cold butter. Line each pan with a square of puffed pastry. Add a couple of big heaping tablespoons of apple pie filling. Fold overhanging edges in, adding some lattice work from a strip of pastry, if desired. Top with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.

When all of the tarts are made, place the tart pans on a baking sheet and bake immediately or refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.


Now, obviously you can make these with canned pie filling and any fruit should work here. I served these with vanilla bean ice cream and everyone really loved them. I threw them in the oven while we were all enjoying our dinner, so our house smelled super delicious and they were still warm to enjoy for dessert.

So, if you need an easy fruit and puff pastry dessert recipe, hopefully this helps you out. We’re all ready for the next round of holidays, right? Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

apple pie filling for the freezer

Apple overload? If you live just about anywhere in the U.S. right now, you’re well aware that it’s apple season. We’ve been very blessed because, for the 2nd year in a row, a friend has gifted us with a huge bag of great, big, beautiful homegrown apples; no trip to the local orchard needed.

I honestly don’t even know what kind of apples they are (help me out here, friends) but I DO know they’re apples and I DO know they’re very delicious. Behold, a few of my apples:


Beautiful, right?

I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me and I’m sure you can do without me waxing poetic about apples, so I’ll make this short and sweet. Last year I made apple butter with this gift o’ apples, but since we really don’t eat a lot of toast, no more apple butter. This year I decided, “You know what would be great? It’d be great to make a big batch of homemade apple pie filling and have it for the holidays”.

Boom. Done.


apple pie filling for the freezer

  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • 6.5 – 7 lbs. apples (approximately 7 large apples)
  • 2 cups pure cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon (preferably Ceylon)

Squeeze lemon juice into a large stockpot, Wash, peel, core and slice apples and place in stockpot, tossing with lemon juice as you go; this helps prevent the apples from discoloring.

Sprinkle apples with sugar, salt, flour and nutmeg and mix well. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes or so, until the apples start to sweat their juice out.

Place on medium heat, stirring often, just until mixture starts to thicken and apples start to soften slightly, about 8-10 minutes. You don’t need or want the apples to cook all the way – if they do, they’ll be mush by the time they make it to the “cooked apple pie” stage.

Remove from heat, stir in cinnamon (the best part!) and let cool. Divide into 2 1/2 cup portions and pack into freezer-safe containers or bags and freeze. This recipe makes about 4 portions.

This recipe makes about 4 portions.

You now have something delicious to do with a whole bunch of apples and you’re also one step closer to being a rock star at the holidays. Go you.

Of course, if you’re not an apple pie lover, this mixture also works great for apple crisp, apple crumble, apple tart… you get the idea.

Happy autumn, everyone!


lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

no-churn salted dulce de leche ice cream

July is National Ice Cream Month, so I want to share my latest ice cream concoction with you – No Churn Salted Dulce de Leche Ice Cream. Yeah, it’s as good as it sounds, though I will say right off the bat that this first go-round was a little sweet for me. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, though I do have my moments, but next time I make this it will have a little more salt or some salted nuts mixed in. I put some salted cashews on a serving of this and they put this into one of my favorite ice creams ever. My favorite is still my no-churn coffee ice cream, but I’m a bit of a coffee fiend, sooooo….there’s that.

Now, classic dulce de leche is made with milk and sugar, with vanilla often mixed in. The lazy way to do it is to caramelize a can of sweetened condensed milk. I went the lazy way, though it still requires some babysitting. Now, if you do an internet search of dulce de leche made from sweetened condensed milk, you’ll find most people put a sealed can right into a pan of water and simmer it. I, being the clumsy, accident-prone person I am, was not willing to risk life or limb or sweetened milk all over my kitchen, so I opted for the safe double boiler method. And, since I knew this was going to be an hours-long process, I cooked up two cans because it stores well in the fridge.

This is a pretty involved process (sarcasm), so try and follow along.

Pour a can or two of sweetened condensed milk into the top pan of a double boiler. Fill the bottom pan with water. Cover. Bring water to a boil and then reduce to a steady simmer. Simmer until the condensed milk thickens and darkens. 2 cans took me about 4 hours and required little effort except for an occasional water check and milk stir, to make sure it was staying creamy and condensing down.

Ta da! Behold, my dulce de leche.


Now, you can reduce this so that’s it’s lighter or darker, depending on your preference. But you definitely want it to darken and caramelize. If it gets too thick, it will then become impossible to do much with. I was afraid mine was too thick but it ended up mixing in nicely with the can of sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream that I made the ice cream with. If you make this ahead of time and refrigerate it, you’ll want to bring it to room temperature before making the ice cream, otherwise it may be too stiff to work with.

On to my recipe.


no-churn salted dulce de leche ice cream

  • 1 cup dulce de leche
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 pint heavy (whipping) cream

In a large bowl, stir the dulce de leche, condensed milk and salt together until completely blended and creamy. In another bowl or stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Take a couple of big dollops of the whipped cream and stir it into the dulce de leche mixture, until well blended. Then, gently fold in the remaining whipped cream – you want to keep the fluffiness of the whipped cream here, so be gentle.

Pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze for at least 6 hours.

The real beauty of ice creams made with sweetened condensed milk is they’re typically no-churn, meaning you don’t need an ice cream maker to make and enjoy them. Bonus, yes?



lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

no churn coffee ice cream revisited

It’s been pretty warm and steamy in my neck of the woods recently, so what better way to cool off than my easy, no-churn coffee ice cream? Coffee ice cream is a favorite of ours but all you really need as a base for no-churn ice cream is heavy cream (I’ve used half and half on numerous occasions and it works great, too) and sweetened condensed milk. From there, the possibilities are endless.

how to make homemade ice cream dunkin donuts

In case you missed it above, here’s the link to my recipe:

Stay cool and enjoy!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

homemade chocolate truffles

Merry (okay, belated) Christmas everyone! I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas enjoyed your holiday. I was blessed to spend a day with my extended family, an evening with just my husband and parents, and also a few hours with my husband’s family.  It’s been a whirlwind of activity, as I’m sure many of you can relate to, but it’s been a lot of fun, too.

I decided to make chocolate truffles this year, after taking a year off from making them. If you have touch of OCD, these are not a project that you should go into lightly. It’s very messy and can be quite time-consuming, but I will tell you that the end result – and raves – are entirely worth it.

The truffles that I make are enrobed, meaning i dip my ganache in a hard chocolate coating, before sprinkling them with toppings. I see many recipes for just the ganache rolled with toppings, so feel free to stop at the ganache part, if you’re so inclined. I’m going to give you the “master” ganache recipe, but then I’ll tell you how I customized it in different ways. Feel free to customize these your own way; remember – do NOT be afraid to play with your food.

It’s a good idea to have toothpicks on hand, to help with the enrobing process.

how-to-make-homemade-chocolate-truffleshomemade chocolate truffle recipe


  • 8 ounces good-quality bittersweet (60%) chocolate (I use Ghiradelli – very easy to find and delicious)
  • 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 2 tablespoons flavored liqueur, such as raspberry or orange

In a glass bowl, break the chocolate up into small pieces. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until bubbles form around the edge. Remove from heat and let sit about 1 minute. Pour half of the cream over the chocolate and let stand about 4-5 minutes. You don’t want to add all of the hot cream at once or your chocolate with break and separate.

Slowly begin stirring. At first, this will look like a gloppy mess, but just keep stirring. After a couple of minutes, the chocolate and cream will come together beautifully. Make sure you’ve stirred until everything is completely blended. Slowly add the rest of the hot cream while continuing to stir. Your ganache should be creamy and smooth. Add your flavoring. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove ganache from refrigerator. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Using a small spoon, scoop a bit of the ganache into your hands and roll into a small ball.  Place ball of ganache on baking sheet and repeat making balls with the remainder of the ganache. Tip: having a bowl of ice water handy to dip your hands into will keep your hands chilled and prevent the chocolate from melting. You’re still going to end up covered in chocolate, but this helps. Some people recommend wearing food-safe gloves, but I find them hard to work with. Try whatever you think works best for you.

Place tray of ganache balls in freezer for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, place your dark and white chocolates, below, in separate glass dishes, breaking them into squares.

Assemble your toppings, below, and have them ready to go.

Chocolate for Enrobing:

  • 16 ounces dark chocolate
  • 16 ounces white chocolate

Assorted Truffle Toppings:

  • Finely chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.)
  • Shredded coconut
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Cocoa powder
  • Colored or metallic sprinkles

Microwave chocolates on low, at 30 second intervals, stirring each time after the first minute. Do NOT overheat your chocolate and do NOT get any water at all into it. It usually takes me about 2 minutes total to melt each flavor. The final round there should still be tiny bits of chocolate in the bowl, that melt as you’re stirring.

Let melted chocolate stand and cool for a few minutes before beginning the enrobing process. (otherwise, the minute you dip your ganache balls into the chocolate, the balls will begin to melt)

Remove ganache balls from freezer and, stabbing one with a toothpick, dip and roll the ball completely in the melted chocolate.  Holding the ball above the chocolate, let excess chocolate drip from ball.

Slide a fork under the ball and hold it, while removing the toothpick. Using the fork and toothpick, gently place the ball back onto the baking sheet.

Sprinkle immediately with your choice of topping.

Repeat with remainder of balls.

That’s it! It’s quite a process but they’re beautiful and delicious!

Some ways that I customize them are in the flavorings that go into the ganache:

  • Pure vanilla extract (2 teaspoons)
  • Pure almond extract (1 teaspoon)
  • Kahlua (3 tablespoons)
  • Espresso or very strong coffee (3 tablespoons)

And, of course, if you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, play around with milk chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate.

Use your imagination and your own taste to customize them however you like.


As you can see, mine are far from perfect – a little oddball in size and such – but no one ever seems to care….trust me.


Happy Holidays to all of you and enjoy the season!