Forbidden Cookbook: Non-Herculean Lamb Chops

So our Spring Break was earlier this month, right at the start of the time when schools in Houston were closing down. (Technically, classes ended a day early.) Many people who had planned to go on trips cancelled them, us included. To try and make up for not going on vacation, I planned some special dinners for the family as a treat. Between that and our grocery store running very low on usual meats (chicken, beef, pork) and rationing what was left, Continue reading “Forbidden Cookbook: Non-Herculean Lamb Chops”

Forbidden Cookbook: Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix for Grown-Ups

So if you’re in need of a simple but delightful gift for anyone who might drop by unexpectedly on Christmas, or that cousin who has everything and is difficult to shop for but not difficult to love, or maybe your kids’ teachers — and if you have half an hour to put this all together — you might like this hot cocoa recipe I just developed tonight.

I started by researching other homemade hot cocoa recipes all over the Internet and found maybe a gazillion. I read as many as I could until my eyes glazed over to glean the basic mechanics and to figure out the common denominators that make homemade hot cocoa mix successful. Interestingly, every recipe I read had a relatively different ingredients list. They were all unique from each other in unexpected ways. So I came to an understanding of the baseline necessities, and then I put an ingredients list of my own together. I tested it and tasted it and added a few more things and tweaked the measurements, et voilà! Here’s what I finally landed on.

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix for Grown-Ups

This recipe isn’t “for Grown-Ups” because it contains anything that kids can’t drink. Rather, this cup of hot chocolate has a less cloyingly sweet taste than store-bought mixes and a teensy bit of a festive kick to it, so you won’t feel pre-diabetic by the time you reach the end of your mug.

And since I was, in fact, making this batch to put into little jars to give to my kids’ teachers, the recipe is generous and yields probably at least 40 servings. Store it in an airtight jar.

*  3 c. nonfat dry milk powder
*  3 c. powdered sugar
*  1-1/2 c. Dutch-process red cocoa powder
*  1 (11-oz.) bag white chocolate chips
*  1/2 tsp. fine-grain salt
*  2 tsp. cornstarch
*  1 (11-oz.) bag vanilla baking chips
*  3 tsp. cinnamon

Whisk all the ingredients together in a very large bowl. Then pulse small batches of it in a food processor until the chocolate and vanilla chips are finely ground. Add 2 generous tablespoons to 6 oz. of hot water, stir, and enjoy!

A few notes:

I recommend mixing it with hot water rather than milk — although you certainly can use milk if you want a really mild, help-you-off-to-sleep kind of taste — only because water won’t dilute the flavor.

Prepare for your kitchen and you to get really dusty with cocoa powder. It’s gonna happen.

Spoon out a few servings into a decorative glass jar and put a ribbon on it to make a charming and delicious gift for pretty much any fall or winter occasion!

Forbidden Cookbook: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

I cannot take credit for this recipe, which is a Starbucks hack from somewhere on the internet. I don’t even know where I found it originally, several years ago, but it’s a delicious one.

Starbucks has been selling pumpkin cream cheese muffins for a few years now — although I haven’t seen them yet this year, so maybe they aren’t anymore — and it was always so difficult to get them before they sold out that I went looking for the recipe online. I found it and now I don’t know where, although perhaps you might find one similar if you went looking.

Either way, here is the recipe I found, lo these many pumpkin spice seasons ago. So I’m not taking credit for coming up with this. But I have *made* this recipe a few times, and it’s quite yummy.

Just a warning: this one takes a couple of hours, and that’s if you’re organized and maybe have a helper. So read through the whole thing before starting and make sure you aren’t trying to whip these up an hour before you need them. No need to make things stressful on yourself! These muffins are for enjoying.  🙂

Just so you know, I tend to be a bit more generous with the vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg when I make these. Also, if I were going to modify this recipe further, I would probably double the cream cheese mixture because, wow, that’s, for real, my favorite part. And if you have extra candied pepitas, they make a delightful snack and would probably go well mixed with some popcorn.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (Starbucks Copycat Recipe)

Cream Cheese:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Candied Pumpkin Seeds:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pepitas (raw shelled pumpkin seeds)

Muffin Batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
3/4 cup vegetable oil
12 cup muffin pan
paper muffin cups


Cream Cheese: Using an electric mixer combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. Cover and chill until firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper muffin cups.

Candied Pumpkin Seeds: Spray large baking sheet with cooking spray. Heat seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, 5 minutes or until the seeds begin to pop. Add sugar, and stir constantly about 1 minute or until sugar begins to liquefy and caramelize; add cinnamon and salt. Spread seeds on prepared baking sheet, and cool. Break apart the seeds that are stuck together, once they have cooled.

Muffin Batter: Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla; mix on low speed just to combine ingredients. Add pumpkin and oil, and continue to mix about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until batter is smoother, about 30-60 seconds.

Baking Muffins: Spoon batter into paper muffin cups, making batter level with top of the muffin cup. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of cream cheese mixture to the top of each muffin and press cream cheese down into the middle of each muffin cup of batter. Sprinkle muffins with candied pumpkin seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until slightly browned on top. To test for doneness insert a toothpick into center of muffin (not cream cheese); it will come out clean when the muffins are done.

Forbidden Cookbook: Can’t Complain Beef Stew

This rich stew goes well with baguettes or another crusty bread and a nice cabernet sauvignon. To lighten the meal with a refreshing side dish, add your favorite green salad.

2 lbs. stew beef
salt pepper
olive oil
2 envelopes dry onion mushroom soup mix
1 envelope dry Ranch dip mix
1 16 oz. bag frozen peas and carrots
2 15 oz. cans whole potatoes (drained)
3 cloves garlic, minced
pearl onions (peeled) — cipollines have a rich taste
2 envelopes dry brown mushroom gravy mix

Combine flour with salt and pepper (to taste) in mixing bowl. Coat chunks of beef in this mixture while heating large skillet with thin coat of olive oil on the bottom.

In skillet, brown the beef in olive oil. Transfer the beef to a pressure cooker. Empty two envelopes of dry onion mushroom soup mix and one envelope of Ranch dip mix over the beef.

Deglaze the skillet with water and then empty water onto the beef. Add more water until beef is covered and stir until everything is well mixed. Bring to boil, stirring now and then to prevent burning on the bottom of the pot.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir now and then to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pot. Then cover pot with pressurizing lid and simmer for another 20 minutes. (The pressure cooker helps make the stew beef, an inexpensive cut of meat, more tender.)

Remove pressure cooker from heat and release pressure with cool running water before opening it.

Add peas and carrots, potatoes, garlic, pearl onions, and brown mushroom gravy mix to pot and stir. If you’ve lost a lot of steam, you’ll want to add another couple of cups of water.

Pressurize pot again and cook on medium high heat until steam begins to escape the valve, and then reduce heat to low and cook for another 10 minutes. Remember to depressurize with cool running water before opening lid. Stir and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Can't Complain Beef Stew with whole wheat French roll
Can’t Complain Beef Stew with whole wheat French roll

You can increase the recipe for larger groups: for 8 people (for example), add another pound of stew beef and another can of potatoes.

Forbidden Cookbook: Chocolate Chip Cookies That Maybe Shouldn’t Taste As Good As They Do

We found out a few weeks ago that my husband may be allergic to wheat. Seeing as his diet revolves around the enjoyment of gluten, this has ruined his world a little bit. In that first week after getting the news, he would randomly and with great regret announce things, a propos of nothing, that he could now no longer consume. One evening when he was loading the dishwasher, I heard from the next room the sudden outburst: “Cinnamon rolls!” Then a grumble and maybe an expletive. He’s taken to craving sourdough bread.

The Fairy Princess Badass and I decided we would try to find a way to make wheat-free cookies for him. The best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever eaten were made with rice flour, so I thought, Sure, I can do this. Of course, when I’d learned of this and tried to make those cookies, substituting rice flour instead of all-purpose and making no other changes, the result was a textural mess. This time I went to the Internet (or internet now, if you pay attention to the AP). I read a bunch of different kinds of wheat-free chocolate chip cookie recipes and people’s comments about how they’d modified said recipes. Then I cobbled together something that was like them that sounded like fun. Then I went to my pantry and figured out what ingredients I actually had and modified it a little more. I suspect I will continue playing with this one.

The cookies turned out beautifully and were quite tasty. The FPB wanted to use some cute cookie molds she’d gotten for her birthday, but I don’t recommend it with chocolate chip cookie batter because it’s lumpy and doesn’t really conform to shapes well. (The batter does, however, taste delicious.) This batch yields about 3-4 dozen medium-sized cookies.

If you use this recipe, post in the comments here and tell me about it. I’m also interested to know what variations you might experiment with, so do tell!


Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes That Taste As Good As Their Glutinous Brethren



1 ¾ c. rice flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ stick (real) butter (softened)
¼ c. refined organic coconut oil
½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs (almost room temperature)
1 package chocolate morsels
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg



Combine the rice flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.

In a mixer, combine the butter, coconut oil, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla till just kind of gooey.

Add the flour mixture one giant spoonful at a time while the mixer is going on a slowish speed.

Add the chocolate chips while the mixer is still going.

Add in the cinnamon and nutmeg while the mixer is still going.

Turn off the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure no part of the batter is left out of the mixing, and give it another spin if needed. Cover the mixture and put it in the refrigerator for two hours. (This is an important step that will prevent your finished product from having a grainy, crumbly, disappointing texture.)

When it’s time to bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. (I use a convection oven so I can put three cookie sheets in at once, but this means the oven will burn hot and things will cook faster. Moderate your cooking time, if need be, based on the kind of oven you’re using.)

Put roundish clumps of this glorious batter onto parchment paper on your cookie sheet. (Parchment paper is the best! The cookies will slide off it when they come out of the oven without fighting you and turning into a crumbly, disappointing mess. You won’t even need a spatula. It also makes the cookie sheet clean-up effortless.) Make sure you put the raw cookie blobs at least an inch apart, since they will spread and flatten out a bit in the oven.

Bake the cookies for 8 minutes or until golden brown.


wheat-free chocolate chip cookie


When you take them from the oven, you can lift the whole sheet of parchment with the cookies on it and set that on a cooling rack. They should be ready to eat in just a very few minutes.



Forbidden Cookbook: Pot Roast

This is a great dinner for a chilly evening. It’s very basic, and though it takes about an hour to prepare, most of that is stove time with the pressure cooker that you can use to do something else. I like to make the pot roast and use the au jus from the pot as a gravy over mashed potatoes and peas. (And to be really easy about it, use mashed potatoes from a mix and frozen peas.) Add a salad if you want and some ciabatta rolls, and yum.

I found a version of this recipe online, though I don’t remember where and can’t find it now (sorry). But as with all recipes, I tweaked it to exclude items I didn’t like or am allergic to and added things I do like. Then I played with measurements. (All the ones here are to taste unless otherwise indicated, but if you prefer having something concrete to go by, try it with 1 tsp. each of the herbs and go from there according to what you like.)

There’s no picture for this one because it’s just too boring to look at, despite how delicious and fall-apart tender it is.



beef roast (2-3 lbs.)
olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pressure cooker)
1 envelope Ranch dip mix
1 envelope brown mushroom gravy mix
garlic salt
black pepper
minced dried onion
dried thyme
dried oregano
dried parsley
24 oz. beef broth
1 white or yellow onion, thinly sliced

If you have the time and want to get fancy, add sliced baby bella mushrooms when you put in the sliced onion.

Heat olive oil in pressure cooker and brown roast on all sides in it. Be careful not to splash or burn yourself; the oil will heat very quickly.

In a small bowl, mix Ranch dip mix, mushroom gravy mix, and other herbs and spices together. Sprinkle them evenly over roast. Add beef broth and diced onion. Stir broth around so that herb mixture covering roast is moistened and diced onion pieces are in the broth. Seal the lid on the pressure cooker and cook on high heat until the pressure indicator sounds.

Turn heat down to medium and cook for 45 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Run under cold water to help release pressure before unsealing the lid.



Forbidden Cookbook: Three-Bean Pasta Salad

I love bacon and Ranch dressing, but I’m sort of tired of those being the driving factors in my pasta salad, so here’s something a little different with a little bit of a Mediterranean flair. It’s quite light, especially if you go easy on the homemade dressing (and if you want to swap it out for a different dressing you like better, you can). This recipe makes enough for a party, so if you aren’t throwing one, cut the recipe in half or plan to have leftovers.

pasta salad

ingredients for pasta salad:

  • 1 package tri-color pasta of your choice––I like the corkscrew kind.
  • 1 package edamame, shelled––Follow the cooking instructions on the bag.
  • 1 can baby corn
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans (low sodium preferred), drained
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained––You can substitute garbanzo beans (chick peas) if you like.
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 small jar kalamata olives, drained
  • 1 small package crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 or 4 stalks of heart of palm, sliced into discs

ingredients for homemade dressing:

  • garlic salt
  • lemon pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil––Make sure you go with a brand that tastes good!
  • lemon juice

Boil the water for the pasta for a dollop of olive oil instead of salt. Follow the instructions on the pasta.

Follow the instructions on the edamame to steam them.

Drain and rinse the canned/jarred ingredients.

Mix all the yummies together in a large bowl.

Now for the dressing, which is a Lebanese dressing my grandmother and mom taught me, and which I use for many kinds of salad. Add the garlic salt and lemon pepper to taste. I usually cover the entire bowl with each spice because it will be mixed in with a lot of pasta salad. (You can be more generous with the lemon pepper; if you add too much salt the flavor won’t feel light or refreshing.) Add enough olive oil to coat everything slightly but not enough for the oil to collect at the bottom of the bowl. Add a generous dollop of lemon juice. Mix everything together.

Serve cold. Enjoy!