The Bruce Family Fruit Salad Recipe

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHoliday traditions can involve a lot of things, but in our family, many of them center around special food dishes. I can count on being asked to make enchilada casserole any time Kira comes to visit, and Derek is a sucker for our special pigs in a blanket recipe. One of our favorite recipes that we serve at Thanksgiving is fruit salad, but when our older kids couldn’t make it home for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, we realized we’d need to make sure it hit the table at Christmas when they’d both be home.

Kira hadn’t even been off the plane for 24 hours when she asked if we’d be making her fruit salad since she missed it at Thanksgiving.

Since we all love it so much, here’s the recipe (eating fruit around the holidays will help you feel less guilty about all of your other indulgences, right?)

Bruce Family Fruit Salad

3 apples
2 bananas
seedless red grapes
one can of chunk pineapple – save the juice for the dressing
small can mandarin oranges, drained
bag of mini marshmallows
for dressing:
1 tbsp. flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 c butter or margarine, softened
2 egg yolks, beaten
juice from the pineapple

Heat pineapple juice in a double boiler. Blend flour and sugar and add to juice. Add margarine and egg yolks. Cool in fridge. While the dressing is cooling in the fridge, cut apples into bite-size chunks, slice bananas, and cut grapes in half. Mix the fruit in a large bowl, adding the well-drained oranges and pineapples. When the dressing is thoroughly cooled, gently stir into the fruit. Add two cups of mini marshmallows, mixing them in gently.


What’s your favorite holiday recipe?


How to Prepare a Holiday Meal for Guests With Dietary Restrictions

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

It’s that time of year again: time to deck the halls, trim the tree and attempt to make a holiday dinner that everyone can eat. This gets tricky if you have guests with special diet restrictions. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, food allergies are a serious medical condition that affect around 15 million people in the U.S. Of course, millions of additional Americans choose not to eat certain foods for moral, health or religious reasons. With the myriad dietary restrictions folks have today, it’s a wonder we can enjoy a holiday meal together at all.

Family GatheringSo what is a good host to do when Uncle Richard wants a traditional Christmas feast while Cousin Alex needs a nut-free meal and Aunt Rachel’s gone vegetarian? To help you prepare, be aware of a few of the most common culprits. Common food allergies include eggs, peanuts and other nuts, seafood/shellfish, milk and lactose, and wheat/gluten. If you’re going to take care to choose recipes that cater to dietary restrictions, here’s a few you may not be as familiar with:

  • Pescatarian – Eats fish only
  • Pollotarian – Eats poultry only
  • Ovo-Vegetarian – Eats eggs but does not eat dairy or meat
  • Lacto-Vegetarian – Eats dairy but does not eat eggs or meat
  • Paleo – Consists mainly of fish, eggs, vegetables, grass-fed pasture raised meats, fruit, and nuts
  • Kosher – Eats foods that follows a set of Jewish dietary laws

Here are a few more tips to make the holiday meal and good experience for all:

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than spending all day in the kitchen only to find that many of your guests either can’t or won’t eat it. Reach out to guests in advance and ask about any diet restrictions they may have and plan accordingly.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Dish)

Ask those with special restrictions or preferences to bring their own dish to share. This way, you can be sure they have something they will enjoy and others can learn more about their lifestyle’s food choices.

Do Your Research

Many foods are naturally gluten-free, vegan, kosher, etc., and usually everyone can share and enjoy vegetable platters and fresh fruit salads. Do your research and be sure to focus on those dishes. Visit for a list of the 19 best allergy blogs to get great ideas for what to serve your guests.

Offer a Little of Everything

A simple solution: Hold a buffet and let your guests choose what they want to eat. This works especially well if you want to try out some recipes for Christmas appetizers for those with no restrictions and ask everybody to bring their favorite dish to share as well.

Label Your Dishes

Be sure to label your offerings so everyone will know exactly what they are eating. Include the name of the dish and what it’s free of. It may take a little extra effort, but you will find that it is so much better than explaining every dish over and over again to guests.

Wine on a Budget

One of the myths about wine tasting is that it takes a lot of money to buy any wine worth drinking. If your pocketbook is light, you may feel like you can’t afford to add wine to your meals on a regular, or even semi-regular, basis. Fortunately, it is not true that good wine is only for the wealthy. Although you may not be able to afford rare vintages, there are worthwhile wines out there for every budget, and a great wine does not need a fancy label—or price—to impress your taste buds or complement your meal.

Impression on Perception

wineIt is tempting to dash in, grab the first bottle with an interesting/attractive label, cross your fingers and hope it is a good wine. (Random fact: even professional wine tasters will claim to prefer the flavor of a wine in a classy looking label over the same wine bottled in a ‘cheap’ looking label. Perception matters.) If you educate your palate, however, you will be able to learn what characteristics you’ve enjoyed in the past, and that increases your chance of finding an inexpensive alternative for the future. This can take a while to figure out, but you can help yourself by paying close attention whenever you are given the chance to taste a new wine. Imitate a wine taster and sniff, sip, swish and swallow, really paying attention to what you taste and how it hits your palate. This way, when you find a wine you like, you have a fair chance of being able to identify why you like it.

Once you know what you like, you can go off the beaten track a little bit. Use the internet to find helpful tables of some of the best, affordable wines, and watch for descriptors that match your tastes. It doesn’t do you any good to find a six dollar red wine that someone online has been raving about, if your tastes run more to dry white wines. Paying attention to characteristics can help you find wines that are cheaper because they are from new wine-producing regions, or use unfamiliar varietals.

Tips to maximize Your Budget

Once you identify a few inexpensive wines or labels that you enjoy, you can maximize your budget by watching for sales and by taking advantage of chances to buy in bulk. Wine warehouses will sometimes sell to consumers as well as to stores, and there are various online merchants who are able to pass the savings of not maintaining a physical storefront on to you. Sometimes there are seasonal sales during the holiday season, which offers a good chance to stock up for the coming year. Because they are an emerging wine exporter look for bargains on Australian wines.

Last but not least, it never hurts to contact a label directly to find out whether they do any direct to consumer sales, or whether they can recommend a distributor in your area. Although the bill might sting the first time you buy wine by the case, it can be worth it if you consider the savings over buying the same amount of wine from your local retailer a bottle at a time.

Clara Smith is an author of numerous works on food and wine. Clara also loves to visit vineyard and wine festivals in France. Her hobby is unique, making cheese, which of course is a tasty snack with wine, some bread and her certain thou.

5 iPhone Apps to Help you Find Recipes that Kids Love


For just about everything in life, as the slogan goes, there’s an app for that.  Whether you’re reading books, hailing a cab or planning a meal, there’s any number of iPhone apps that can make your life a whole lot easier.  When it comes to the latter—planning meals—this can be even tougher when you’re not only trying to please your own palate, but that of a picky or finicky young eater as well.

The 5 Best iPhone Apps for Finding Kid-Friendly Recipes

With that said, here are five great iPhone apps that will help you find recipes that your kids will love.

1. Coleman Classic Camping Cookbook & Meal Planner iPhone App


The first app comes from the number one name in camping, Coleman.  Now, you may be wondering why this app, but think about it—kids love camping food.  Whether you’re roasting it over an open fire out back or firing it up on the grill, the Coleman Classic Camping Cookbook & Meal Planner will help you create meals based on the type of food, the category and the ingredients you have on hand.

Plus, this app is free, making it even better.  Simply find the best meals from other people or let the app help you create your own.  The Coleman app will not only serve you well at home, but will increase in value if you actually do go camping thanks to its handy meal planning capabilities.

2.  Martha’s Everyday Food: Fresh & Easy Recipes iPhone App

Next up is a must-have iPhone app from perennial household name, Martha Stewart.  Martha’s Everyday Food app gives you thousands of fresh and easy recipes that are family friendly.  Stocked from Everyday Food Magazine’s plethora of delicious food recipes, you can get a quick and simple dinner recipe every day, delivered right along with professional cooking tips directly from Martha’s hand-picked team.

The recipes here are seasonal and simple to prepare, but most importantly of all, focused on the family.  Making everyday food is all about pleasing all of your eaters—even the most picky little ones.  Plus, with Martha Stewart’s cooking app, you’ll get daily articles, technique videos, daily suggestions and the ability to browse through recipes by main ingredient, course and prep time.  For added variety, there’s a “Recipe Shuffle” feature that lets you shake your phone to bring up four random recipes!

3. Rachel Allen iPhone App

Rachel Allen is one of the top names in cooking, and now you can get her home cooking recipes right on your iPhone.  Allen personally handpicked 66 recipes that are family-friendly, meaning that your kids are going to love them.  You can sort the recipes out and place them in the interactive shopping list feature, viewing them item by item, recipe by recipe or aisle by aisle.  This is perfect for the busy mom or dad that is also lugging around a child in the grocery store who is trying to grab every cookie and candy in sight!

You’ll get video tips on preparing the recipes as well as a function that has Rachel Allen actually read you the recipes herself, out loud.  The recipes are all simple to follow, laid in in quick and easy steps that you can move on from simply by clapping your hands.  You can choose from recipe categories such as:

  • Quick and Easy
  • Bake
  • Family
  • Children
  • Desserts
  • Entertaining

The children’s recipes are all classics, many of which have healthy twists that will leave both you and your kids smiling.

4.  RecipePal

George Duran is one of the hipper new chefs around and his new cookbook, Take This Dish and Twist It, is right here in the iPhone with the RecipePal app.  This gives you all the recipes that kids love with little twists on them to make them even more fun to eat.

Duran’s takes on Pepperoni Pizza soup, PB&J Bread Pudding and Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake will be instant favorites with your kids—plus, you’ll have tons of fun preparing and eating them yourself!  You get instant access to all the ingredients for every recipe in Take This Dish and Twist It as well as helpful color photos that speed along the process.

5. Real Simple Recipes: No Time to Cook?

Finally, we have a perfect iPhone app for those working parents who are still trying to make time to provide the homemade cooking experience for their children.  Real Simple Recipes: No Time to Cook? is an iPhone app that will pull up over 850 quick and easy recipes that will leave you and your children feeling satisfied.  All of the recipes in this app take under 40 minutes to make, from start to finish.

Whether you’re looking to make your food ahead of time or want to reduce your caloric intake, this app gives parents on the go a chance to maximize the time they have.  You want to provide the best food and family experience for your family—that means spending more time with them at the dinner table and after, while spending less time cooking.  This app puts all of that power, right in the palm of your hand.

You’ll get a grocery list that you can e-mail to yourself or your partner, kitchen timers to help keep you on the right pace, how-to videos that are quick and easy to follow (made by Real Simple food editors) and easy to follow, step by step instructions.


Kirt Harrison is an appliance repair technician at Harrison Appliance, an appliance repair company based in Wayne, Michigan.

3 Drop Dead Delicious Halloween Cupcakes

MomsGetReal Contributor Jennifer Williams

Ah, Halloween… the only night of the year when kids aren’t just allowed but actually encouraged to beg and whine for sugary food!

As if getting free candy isn’t awesome enough, combine that with glowing jack-o-lanterns creating a pleasantly spooky ambiance on every porch, the chance to dress up like a super hero, and the fun parties – it’s no wonder that Halloween pretty much tops every kid’s list of the coolest holidays. Want to make this Halloween even more awesome? Just add Halloween cupcakes to the mix.

Speaking of parties, whether it’s a school function, a neighborhood block party, or a haunted get-together in your own back yard, the Halloween season is full of celebrations. Be prepared: You’re probably gonna get asked to provide snacks at least once or twice. But never fear — this scariest of all nights is the perfect time to whip up the most fun-loving snack in the known universe: Cupcakes!

After all, what other snack is so versatile? These playful treats come in almost any color imaginable, they’re so easy to decorate that the whole family can do it, they’re completely portable, and everyone loves to eat them!

This year, make a batch or two of spooky Halloween cupcakes and make October 31st even more deliciously fun!

Gooey Zombie Brain Cupcakes

I want to eat your brains…. on a luscious cupcake, that is! Sit back and watch your party guests go all zombie on these brainy treats.


  • 1 pkg. (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
  • 14 chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) vanilla instant pudding
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups thawed whipped topping
  • 1 to 2 drops red food coloring

Make It:

Heat oven to 350°F.

Prepare cake batter as directed on package; stir in cookies. Spoon into 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pans 10 min.; remove to wire racks. Cool completely.

Beat pudding mix, milk and sugar in large bowl with whisk 2 min. Stir in whipped topping and food coloring; spoon into pastry bag fitted with round tip.

Pipe pudding mixture in zigzag pattern on tops of cupcakes to resemble brains, starting in center of each cupcake before filling in sides. Keep refrigerated.

Spooky Green Monster Cupcakes

Halloween  is all about the monsters, and these cupcakes bring them to life in a cute – and very tasty – way! Best of all, even the smallest members of the family can help by decorating the not-so-terrifying ghouls on top.


  • 1 pkg. (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
  • 1 tub (8 oz.) whipped topping, thawed, divided
  • 24 large marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup green decorating sugar
  • 1 tube (1.5 oz.) black decorating gel
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 pkg.(4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 or 3 drops green food coloring

Make It:

Prepare cake batter and bake as directed on package for cupcakes. Cool. Place 1/3 cup of the whipped topping in large resealable plastic bag. Add marshmallows; seal bag. Shake until evenly coated. Place decorating sugar in shallow pan. Add marshmallows; toss lightly until marshmallows are evenly coated. Place in single layer on tray; decorate as desired using decorating gel.

Pour milk into medium bowl. Add dry pudding mix. Beat 2 min. Gently stir in remaining whipped topping until well blended. Spoon 1-1/2 cups of the pudding mixture into small bowl. Add food coloring; stir until blended. Spoon into small resealable plastic bag. Snip off 1 corner from bottom of bag; set aside.

Cut 1-inch chunk from top of each cupcake with small knife; remove and reserve for snacking or other use. Pipe pudding mixture from bag into holes in cupcakes. Spread tops with remaining pudding mixture. Top with the marshmallows. Store in refrigerator.

Slimy Eyeball Cupcakes

Freak out your party guests with these sinister Halloween cupcakes, each topped with a spooky, glaring candy eyeball. Personalize by experimenting with different colors of candy.


  • 1 pkg. (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
  • 1 pkg. (3.9 oz.) chocolate instant pudding
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 pkg. (16 oz.) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 24 ring-shaped chewy fruit snacks
  • 24 miniature candy-coated chocolate pieces
  • 1 tube (19.28 g) red decorating gel

Make It:

Prepare cake batter as directed on package. Add dry pudding mix; mix well. Spoon into 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake as directed on package for cupcakes; cool completely.

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in medium bowl with mixer until well blended. Gradually beat in sugar. Spread onto cupcakes.

Decorate with remaining ingredients to resemble photo.

Make your Halloween recipes even more fun by baking them in orange and black cupcake papers, and mix it up a bit by using your favorite cake mix flavors. Complement these sweet treats with a few skeleton decorations and spider webs and bring this spookiest of seasons to life.

While not working part-time as a bank teller, Jennifer fills her time with hiking, tennis, pottery, and – of course – cooking. Jennifer has been on a quest to prepare the perfect croissant for years…she is happy to say that she is getting very close.


Favorite Fall Recipes

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

We’ve spent much of the summer enjoying summer food – corn on the cob, grilled burgers, foot long hot dogs (our daughter’s favorite), steak, and many different salads. I love summer foods, but when the weather starts turning cold enough to have the oven on, there are a few foods I begin to look forward to enjoying. While it’s hard to believe Fall is just around the corner, here are three of my favorite cold-weather recipes. What’s yours?

Chicken Parmesan


chicken breasts
Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
vegetable oil (olive or grapeseed)
tomato sauce
mozzarella cheese

Pound chicken breasts very thin and dip in Italian seasoned bread crumbs.  Heat 4-6 tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil in fry pan and drop meat into hot pan.  Brown both sides and then cook chicken through.  Pour your favorite seasoned tomato sauce over the meat and then melt mozzarella on top.  Serve immediately.

Suggestion:  cook spaghetti on the side to serve with the extra sauce

Crock Pot Roast

1 roast, approx. 4 lbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ c water
4 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
4-6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” chunks
2-4 carrots (optional) halved and quartered

Brown both sides of roast in hot fry pan (drizzle a little olive or grapeseed oil in the bottom of the pan and heat first).  Make a paste of flour, salt, and pepper and mix with cold water; stir in Kitchen Bouquet and spread over roast.  Place roast in crock pot.  Add remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours.

Pepper Shrimp

3 pounds fresh shrimp
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
4 tablespoons coarse ground pepper

Wash and drain shrimp. While shrimp are draining, heat butter in fry pan and add garlic. Saute garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Add shrimp and coat with coarse-ground pepper. Cook 5-6 minutes. Serve alone or in a salad.



Sizzling BBQ Recipes for a Smokin Hot Summer

Check out these great recipes that let you welcome in summer in style -without completely blowing your healthy eating habits!

Vacations, holiday cookouts and fun in the sun are all great ways to celebrate the dog days of summer. As we remember those that fought for our freedom and celebrate our nation’s birthday, we find ourselves indulging in festive fare as if it’s Christmas in July. Remember folks: the freedom bell is not the free-to- eat-whatever-you-want dinner bell. Keep your summer fare simple and wholesome, so you can sport that bikini all summer long.

These recipes are made with five ingredients or less for a healthy twist on the customary cookout:

Sizzling BBQ Chicken Salad

Invite some friends over (this recipe serves 6) and fire-up the grill.

You’ll need:

–          4 cups organic BBQ sauce
–          10-12 chicken thighs
–          2 (11 oz) packages organic spinach or other mixed greens
–          1 onion, diced
–          2 cups fresh pineapple chunks

Directions: Reserve about ¼ cup BBQ sauce in a bowl, set aside. Marinate the chicken thighs in the remaining sauce for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Remove chicken from the sauce and grill thighs for 6 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Brush each thigh with the reserved sauce. Toss spinach (or mixed greens) with diced onion and pineapple chunks. Divide the salad among six plates and top each with one or two chicken thighs.

*Note: For a more integrated salad, cut up chicken meat after grilling; then mix shredded chicken with reserved BBQ sauce and toss with salad.

Sweet Potato Pseudo Fries

Baked sweet potato “fries” are a nutritious alternative to the yellow, crinkle-cut frozen kind. With a little extra effort, you can serve up a sweet and spicy side.

You’ll need:

–          5 sweet potatoes, washed and sliced lengthwise into “fries” or wedges
–          3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
–          2 tablespoons chili powder (or amount needed for desired level of spiciness)
–          Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 400˚F. Toss sliced sweet potatoes with olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle on chili powder, salt and pepper, and stir until fries are evenly coated with spice. Spread fries onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes. Cooking times may vary depending on your oven, so keep a close eye on the fries.

*Note: For crispier fries, boil unseasoned potatoes in water until soft (not fully cooked). Drain carefully and mix in oil, chili powder, salt and pepper before baking. You’ll bake these for no more than 20 minutes – just until crispy enough to crunch your teeth into.

“You Butter Nut Tell” Cookies

This is a gluten-free dessert, made with almond butter for a twist on classic peanut butter cookies. They’re so simple and scrumptious that you may not want to share. (This recipe makes about 20 cookies.)

You‘ll need:

–          1 cup creamy almond butter (you can use crunchy, but a creamy variety is easier to work with)
–          1 cup sugar
–          1 large egg, slightly beaten
–          1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until smooth. Use a melon scoop or your hands to shape the dough into balls or discs. Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing about one inch apart. Press a fork in a crisscross pattern on the tops of each cookie. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy.

Min-tea Quencher

The refreshing mint flavor may trick your taste buds into thinking you’ve got a mojito in hand. Alcohol or not, this mint-flavored iced tea will serve as a spiri-min-ted cooler on hot summer days.

You’ll need:

–          4 herbal mint tea bags
–          2 cups water
–          Ice cubes
–          Mint sprigs as garnish (optional)

Directions: Place tea bags (paper tags removed and strings tied together) in a 2-quart glass pitcher. Bring water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour water over the tea bags. Let steep for 15 minutes. When removing tea bags, squeeze out any excess liquid. Pour in ice cubes, then add water to fill pitcher to the top. Pour tea into glasses and top with mint sprigs for garnish. Drink up!

*Note: For a sweet Min-tea Quencher, add desired amount of sugar or sweetener to the tea concentrate, just before adding the ice. Be sure to stir the sugar until it completely dissolves.


MomsGetReal Recipe Corner – Holiday Recipes with Love

Buy 2 cans of Lucky Leaf® Pie Filling, Save 75¢

“Lucky” Cherry Tea Cake

My sisters and I grew up surrounded by extended family that included aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, numerous cousins and second cousins, and grandparents. Holidays and special occasions were marked by the food we shared. Our mom, grandma, and great-grandma have all passed away, and since I don’t bake, I thought perhaps the family recipes we cherished would perish as well, but Dave has made a special effort to learn how to bake many of our favorites.

One of our favorite recipes that always make the holidays special (we make it every Thanksgiving and Kira requests it for every birthday) comes from our dear aunt Darla:

Lucky Cherry Tea Cake

3/4 c vegetable oil (you can exchange the oil for applesauce but it will make the cake more dense)
1.5 c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
juice of one medium orange (1/3 c)
3 eggs
3 c flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp almond flavoring
1 can cherry pie filling
For topping: 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 c sugar
Blend together oil and granulated sugar. Add the vanilla and orange juice. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Fold in flour and baking powder. Add almond flavoring to pie filling. Grease a 13 x 9 pan. Spread about 1/2 the batter into the pan. Spoon cherry pie filling over the batter. Cover with remaining batter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, turn oven to 325 and continue baking for 35 minutes.

Great-grandma Terry was a beautiful white-haired woman with blue eyes. Diabetes did not keep her from being the best dessert maker on earth (it also didn’t keep her from eating her fair share). To this day, we can still remember the smell of her warm cinnamon rolls coming out of the oven… but these potato chip cookies are a real delight.

Potato Chip Cookies

1 c shortening or margarine
1 c white sugar
2 c flour
2 c crushed potato chips
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c chopped nuts
Cream shortening/margarine and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together and add to batter. Add chips and nuts. Drop small amounts on buttered cookie sheets. Bake at 325 til browned.


Sometimes a Pie is more than a Pie

Getting Real With Belinda Hulin

My husband and I have widely divergent tastes when it comes to sweets.  His idea of heaven on earth is a chocolate layer cake made from a mix (with an extra egg added to the batter), filled with vanilla or coconut filling from a can and thickly frosted with one or two cans of prepared chocolate frosting.  I, on the other hand, long for my mother’s scratch cakes, made by beating a rich batter until thick and fluffy and baking it into four thin layers that can be filled with a homemade fruit filling and frosted with deftly-beaten buttercream.  Lacking a homemade layer cake, then I’m fine with homemade ice cream or sorbet, a nice dense poundcake, sweet-tart lemon squares or good pralines.

Now, I’m not a snob when it comes to cake mixes.  (I’m a mother, and that means I’ve turned to the relatively cheap, quick deus ex machina of cake mix cupcakes more often than I care to admit).  But it isn’t what I crave.  So, I’ve done what many other women do in the kitchen.  I make what everybody else likes—and the kids are more than happy to eat mix cakes—am grateful that they’re happy and call it a day.  After all, I don’t need to be eating sweets and I really don’t have the time or money to make food that only I will eat.  The homemade tiramisu topped with billowing coffee-scented whipped cream, for which I was once renowned, will have to wait.

That said, the other day I was pulled up short.  My husband and 11-year-old daughter went to the grocery.  They assured me that not only would they snag everything on the grocery list, but they also would bring home dessert.  And so, they walked into the house with groceries including, yes, a store-made chocolate cream pie.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a commercially-prepared chocolate cream pie, but the thing that caught me off guard was my daughter’s reaction to it.  Not only was she enchanted that such a thing existed, but once served a slice, she was totally crazy about it.

It was a mediocre chocolate pie.  Absolutely nothing special about it.  I make a much better chocolate cream pie, I thought.

And then it occurred to me that I’d never made one for my daughter.  I tested my standard recipe for a cookbook a few years ago, but took the end result to an office party.  How was Sophie going to learn the family chocolate cream pie recipe if I didn’t make it?  At that moment, I was horrified to think that my child would grow up with cravings for mediocre, supermarket chocolate cream pie because that’s what she “always ate” as a child.  I was allowing the culinary bond between generations to fray!

Needless to say, I quickly gathered together the ingredients for chocolate cream pie and I’ll be preparing one, from scratch, shortly.   Sophie is looking forward to helping me whip the cream.

If you don’t have a favorite chocolate cream pie recipe of your own, I’ve included mine.  Enjoy.

Chocolate Cream Pie

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 one-ounce squares unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 9-inch baked pie crust or prepared chocolate cookie or graham cracker crust
4 cups lightly sweetened whipped cream
Sweet chocolate shavings or mini chocolate chips for garnish

Place sugar, cornstarch, chocolate and salt in the top insert of a double boiler. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water to reach just below the insert.  Secure the insert and place over medium-high heat.  Stir in the half and half.  Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken.  Keep cooking for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a heat-safe bowl, beat the egg yolks until fluffy.  Continue beating while slowly adding two ladles full of the hot chocolate mixture.  When blended, pour the tempered egg mixture into the double boiler.  Continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat. Add the butter and the vanilla and stir until butter is blended.  Pour chocolate mixture into the prepared pie crust.

Refrigerate until completely chilled—at least 5 hours.  Before serving, pile high with whipped cream and garnish with chocolate shavings or chocolate chips.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


Belinda’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Getting Real With Belinda Hulin

Belinda’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

1 whole chicken and 4 chicken breast halves
10 cups water
4 bay leaves
6 cups strong chicken broth
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1⁄2 cups granulated flour
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1⁄2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 pound andouille or smoked sausage, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons file powder
1⁄2 cup sliced green onions
Tabasco sauce to taste

1.         In a large pot, combine chicken, chicken breasts, water, and 2 of the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer until chicken is done, about 35 minutes. Remove the chicken and chicken breasts and set aside to cool. Strain cooking liquid into a large soup pot or Dutch oven and add 4 cups chicken broth. Bring liquid to a boil.

2.         In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine oil and flour. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture turns a dark reddish brown. Remove from heat and add half the onions. Stir until onions begin to brown around the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add the roux to the boiling broth. Stir to blend and reduce heat to medium. Simmer 11⁄2 hours.

3.         Add salt, black pepper, cayenne, white pepper, thyme, and sage. Add sliced sausage and continue to simmer 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let the pot stand 10 minutes, untouched. Skim off the sausage fat that rises to the top of the gumbo.

4.         Turn the heat back to medium and stir in remaining onions, celery, green pepper, garlic, and half the parsley. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove chicken from the bones. Cut chicken meat into bite-size pieces and stir into the gumbo. Simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in file powder, remaining parsley, and green onions. Serve in bowls with steamed rice, and pass the Tabasco.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Source: Roux Memories: A Cajun-Creole Love Story with Recipes (Lyons Press, 2010) by Belinda Hulin