Finding Thyme to Cook

Thyme is of the Essence


Caramel and chocolate!!  What can go wrong?  Nothing.   This is a quick easy and delicious combination of caramel, chocolate and of course . . . healthy oats.  I won’t mention the cream and butter if you don’t.  Since I have discovered these, melting caramel is a breeze.  No more painstaking task of unwrapping each caramel . . . and they melt so  quickly.   I found them at Target after an extensive search of the markets in Southern California.

You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry and can try this tonight.

  • 1 package of caramel bits
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup butter – melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar – packed
  • 1  cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6-8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a 8″ square pan by placing non-stick foil in it with the sides overlapping about three inches.  This will ease the removal after baking.

Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda.  Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8×8″ pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust.

 Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips.

Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.

Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

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caramel crunches

Caramel bits – my new favorite ingredient.  This was my second recipe (featured on the bag) in less than two weeks after receiving a shipment of 12 bags from Amazon, not to mention just snacking on them.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop and just keep making decadent desserts using the cute little BB sized caramel treasures.  They are the perfect size, taste delicious and melt  quickly and easily.  Now I know why many recipes require you to “unwrap 60 caramels”  – a good deterrent against making too many caramel desserts.  However, I really can’t resist the convenience and seem to always have them on hand for recipes like this,  which is easy and versatile.  You could probably use any type of nuts or chocolate; add coconut or dried fruit – I think the combinations are endless.  I apologize for the unfocused pictures – photography isn’t my strong suit.

•    4 ½ graham crackers
•    1 package (11 ounces) caramel bits
•    2 tablespoons milk
•    ½ cup roasted and salted peanuts
•    ½ cup mini marshmallows
•    ½ cup pretzels – coarsely chopped
•    1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line an 8 inch baking pan with foil, with the ends extending and grease the foil well.  Place graham crackers on bottom, cutting to fit.

Put caramel bits and milk into a small bowl and microwave for two minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted.  

Pour caramel over graham crackers and spread with an offset spatula to cover.

Top with marshmallows . . .

then peanuts. . .

then pretzels.

Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double boiler and drizzle on top. 

I think next time I will use semi-sweet chocolate (not chips) which will probably drizzle easier.

Refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Cut into squares

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maple mustard chicken

We eat a lot of chicken so I am always searching for new recipes, which would seem to be easy, but I find it daunting.   This may be your new go-to chicken recipe!!!  It’s hard to believe that with so few ingredients and so little effort,  it delivers big on flavor!!  I have seen a few different variations on this recipe, but this is by far the easiest and for us, the tastiest.  Try it tonight!!!

•    canola oil
•    4 chicken cutlets
•    ½ cup flour
•    ½ cup maple syrup
•    1/3 cup dijon and stone ground mustard
•    brown rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in skillet on medium high heat.  Dredge chicken in flour and brown on both sides – about -3 minutes. 

Place chicken in baking dish. 

In small bowl, combine syrup and mustards in a bowl . . .  you can use any mustard you like, but I found the dijon combined with stone ground was perfect. 

Pour over chicken.

Cover and cook for 30 minutes. 

Serve over rice and spoon sauce over.

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sausage pancake sticks

Sometimes our neighborhood seems like it is straight out of the 50s and we have great neighbors.  We often see kids playing in the yards, riding skateboards, bikes, and scooters down the street, with parents close by keeping a watchful eye on everyone – we even have Block Parties!!  On our frequent walks, many neighbors stop to chat, pet the dog and see what is going on with our lives.  The Los Angeles area isn’t known for “Leave it to Beaver” neighborhoods, and we know how fortunate we are to live in one.  Our next door neighbors are probably at the top of our list.  They are kind, generous and always make time for everyone, including us.  Whether it’s helping us unload a 53″ TV into the house, providing us with the best Gumbo around courtesy of dad who is from New Orleans, or visiting on Sunday evenings with the twin girls – the youngest of their six kids.   I don’t know how they always have time for anyone, since the children are home-schooled and seem to be involved in every activity under the sun, including choirs, plays, church, music camps, sports, science camps . . . it’s amazing to me how they keep up with everything!!  They often go to Lake Arrowhead for family trips, and on one visit, they brought us back a gift from The Belgian Waffle Works in Lake Arrowhead.  I don’t think they know how much my husband loves waffles – it was the perfect gift.   For this recipe, I used it in place of the pancake mix.  When I saw the Pioneer Woman make these on TV, I knew I had to try them that weekend . . . which I did!!

Here is the recipe . . . it makes a lot (best suited for our next door neighbors), so I cut in half and still had leftovers!!

•    16 breakfast sausage links – cooked

•    3 cups pancake mix
•    1 cup yellow cornmeal
•    sprinkle of cinnamon
•    ½ teaspoon vanilla
•    1 large egg – slightly beaten
•    3 cups water
•    canola oil for frying
•    maple syrup – warmed
•    wooden chopsticks

Cook the sausages. . .

Waffle and Pancake Mix!!!

In a large bowl, combine pancake mix, cornmeal and cinnamon. 

Stir to combine.

Add eggs, vanilla and water (½ cup at a time), stirring as you go.  Batter should be thick but manageable to dip.

Heat some canola oil in a large pot over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.

Insert chopsticks into cooked sausage links about 2/3 way through.

Dip the sausages into the batter and allow excess to drip off.

Carefully drop into oil (stick and all) and make sure they stay submerged.

You may have to hold them down carefully or use tongs.

When they are golden brown – about 3 minutes, remove and drain on paper towel.

Serve with warm maple syrup.

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chicken pot pie

As you may or may not know, my husband loves pies . . . he loves cherry pie, lemon cream pie, blueberry pie,  banana cream pie, hostess pies, and of course, chicken pot pie!!!  After I learned how to make a decent crust (looks aren’t everything), I make pies more often, which he appreciates.  It was an unusual rainy weekend in Southern California, so we stayed home and watched a lot of March Madness and cooked a lot of good things . . . like chicken pot pie.

•    Pie Crust – (Penny’s Pie Crust)

•    5 tablespoons butter
•    1 onion – diced
•    3 medium carrots – diced
•    2 garlic cloves – minced
•    ½ cup all purpose flour
•    4 cups chicken broth
•    1 bag of frozen pearl onions
•    1 bag of frozen peas
•    3 cups cooked chicken – bite size cubes
•    1/4 cup fresh parsley – chopped

Make any crust you wish (I use Penny’s Pie Crust).  Recipe posted separately.  However, you should prepare the filling before the pie crust.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.

Add onion and carrots and cook until softened – about 7-9 minutes.

Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.

Add flour and stir to coat vegetables.

Slowly add broth, whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth.

Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until thickened.

Stir in peas and pearl onions.

Season with salt and pepper and add chicken and parsley.

Pour filling in either a two quart baking dish or small individual baking dishes.  Set aside and make dough.

Place prepared dough over the filling and crimp edges.  Cut vents in dough.

Place baking dish(es) on baking sheet and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until crust is golden.  Let stand about 15 minutes before serving.

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pie crust for dummies. . . cindi!!!

Pie Crust has always been a challenge for me!!!  Just too much is involved and too much can go wrong!!!

Here is an excerpt from some a pie crust recipe:

Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready.

If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again. Note that too much water will make the crust tough.

Who wants tough dough?

and another…

If you want an extra flaky crust, shmoosh the dough mixture into the table top with the heel of the palm of your hand a few times.

This will help flatten the butter into layers between the flour which will help the resulting crust be flaky.

You can easily skip this step if you want.

So does that mean if you skip the step, you won’t have flaky crust?

and another…

How do you keep those butter pieces visible? You keep them cold.

If they get warm — even a little warm — they get soft, and if they get soft before they hit the oven, they have less of an ability to make the dough flaky.

Do everything in your power to keep them cold.

Cube the butter and re-refrigerate it, mix your flour and sugar and salt and refrigerate that bowl too.

If you’re rolling that dough out and it tears and sticks and you must start again?

Really?  “start again” – no thank you!!!

It’s just too daunting and intimidating.

I have tried over the years to make a good pie, especially since my husband loves pie, but never could.  Then my best friend came to the rescue.  She is a phenomenal baker and she knows my limitations with baking.  One year she gave me one of the best birthday presents ever.   A one on one class at my home with Penny from Penny’s Pies –  a life changing experience.  At first I thought it would be weird having someone come over to your house to teach you to make a pie, but whatever.  So one evening, while my husband and son were at the MLB All Star Game and I knew they would be gone for a very long time, I reluctantly scheduled Penny to came over to teach me how to make crust.   So very glad I did – it was incredible — she actually had a non-intimidating way to make a perfect crust every time, without using cold butter!!!  Now, crimping is a different story, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of that with practice.  We had such a fun evening.  We made a quiche (which we ate), a blueberry pie (which my husband and I ate the next day) and a blind pie shell (which I used to make a cream pie).  I now can make pie crust whenever I want with no problem.  When you peruse the ingredients, you will get to peanut oil and shudder.  Don’t!!!  It works!!!  I don’t know how or why, but it makes an incredibly easy pie crust that is incredibly tender and flaky WITHOUT having to keep the butter cold!!!  It is a miracle!!!

This is for a nine inch deep dish pie plate (Emile Henry)
•    2 ½ (11 ½ oz) unbleached All-Purpose flour
•    2 tablespoons (½ oz) cake flour
•    pinch of salt

completely whisk the above ingredients together before adding liquids

•    2/3 cup peanut oil
•    1/3 cup whole milk

•    2 -3 tablespoons heaving cream – to brush on dough for glaze

Use a small stainless steel mixing bowl (1.5 quarts with tall sides).

Measure out the flours and salt into the bowl (best way is to weigh the dry ingredients).

Whisk the dry ingredients. Pour on the oil and the milk in that order.

Cut the ingredients together with an ordinary dinner knife, making “X’s” across the center and

turning the flour up from underneath by scraping the sides of the bowl as you turn.

This may take about 10 strokes.  DO NOT OVER MIX.  Dough should resemble coarse oatmeal.

Place one piece of wax paper, about 14 inches long, on working surface.

Turn the dough out onto the center of the wax paper and scrape the bowl clean.

Using your fingers, gently roll the dough around so that the liquid absorbs any pockets of dry flour.

Do not knead or over-work the dough, the dough should just hold its form.

Push the dough into a loaf-shaped mound.

Turn loaf over on wax paper. If there is dry flour remaining, simply fold it in.

Using the knife, divide the dough in half and shape two balls.

Place one ball, wrapped in wax paper back in bowl (or wrap and freeze for later use if you don’t need it).

Place the other ball in the center of the wax paper, flatten the dough slightly so you have a level top surface and cover with another piece of was paper.

Roll out the dough into a circle, about 2 inches beyond the edge of the pie dish – approximately 13″.

Always roll dough out with a rolling pin starting from the center of the circle, changing direction as needed – not back and forth.

Peel off the top layer of paper.

Grasp the edge of the wax paper with both hands and left it straight up and place evenly, dough side down, either in your pie dish (if you are making a pie) or over your filling.


 Carefully peel off the wax paper Cover filling with top crust using the same method as above.

Trim the edges about ½ inch from the edge of the pie dish.

Cut vent slots and brush on heavy cream to glaze, but do not brush the cream on the fluted edges.

Bake according to directions of your pie.  Check to see if edges are too well done and wrap the edges so they don’t burn.

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lemon rosemary chicken

Not much to say on this one!!!  It took me less than ten minutes to get into the oven, and clean up was a breeze. The flavors are light and fresh and delicious with any side dishes.

•    2 chicken breasts – bone in
•    1 medium or two small lemons – sliced
•    5-6 garlic cloves – peeled and slightly smashed
•    3 sprigs of rosemary
•    olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. 

Place in small baking dish and add lemons slices, garlic cloves and rosemary. 

Drizzle olive oil over all ingredients and spread all over.

Bake for 40 minutes.  Turn on broiler and broil for five minutes.

 Make sure you eat the roasted garlic!!!

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chicken baked in cream

I found this recipe in my new Bed and Breakfast recipe book and it was delicious.  I know – I know – it’s not very colorful and pretty bland looking, but don’t let that fool you.  We have been trying to eat less red meat, and I’ve decided to try unusual recipes. . . “unusual” being relative when it comes to what my husband will eat. It was very easy, although it takes some cooking time. It makes a really thick yummy sauce while baking and was perfect with some brown rice – the secret is cooking it in a over low heat for almost two hours.  Maybe next time I’ll serve it on a red plate!!!

•    4 chicken breasts – skinless and boneless
•    ½ cup flour
•    1 teaspoon paprika
•    1 teaspoon seasoned salt
•    pepper
•    butter
•    1 ½ cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Mix flour, paprika, season salt and pepper in a paper bag.  Add chicken breasts and shake.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium- high heat.

Add chicken breasts and brown on both sides – about 10 minutes total.

Remove and place in baking dish.

Pour cream over chicken breasts.

Cover tightly and place in oven for 1 ½ – 2 hours or until tender.

Serve over rice and spoon sauce over chicken.

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knock you naked brownies

Chocolate and Caramel – doesn’t get much better than that.  When I saw the Pioneer Woman make these brownies on her show, I had to try them.  Since I’m not much a baker, the boxed cake mix drew me in . . . along with the caramels and chocolate chips!!!  These caramel bits are about the greatest invention known to mankind.  I used to shy away from recipes involving caramel melting, because no one I know enjoys unwrapping 60 caramels (the original recipe), so I had to find a better way and I did – Caramel Bits!!!  I ordered a box of 12 on Amazon and gave a few away to friends at work, and am storing the rest for more concoctions using melted caramel.  In fact, one the recipes on the bag will be my next indulgence!!!

•    1 box German Chocolate cake mix
•    1 cup pecans – finely chopped
•    1/3 cup evaporated milk
•    ½ cup melted butter
•    1/3 cup evaporated milk
•    1 ½ packages of Caramel Bits or 60 caramels – unwrapped
•    ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
•    powdered sugar to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix cake mix, pecans and 1/3 cup evaporated milk in large bowl and add melted butter.  Stir until totally combined – mixture will be very thick.

Press half the mixture into a well-greased 8×8 inch square baking pan.

Bake for 9 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

No more unwrapping!!!!  Aren’t these the greatest?

In a double boiler (or heatproof bowl over simmering water), melt caramels with 1/3 cup evaporated milk. 

When melted and smooth, pour over brownie layer. 

Sprinkle chocolate chips over caramel.

On a piece of parchment paper, shape remaining brownie mix into the shape of baking pan. 

Using a spatula, lift off and place on top of caramel/chocolate chips as best as possible.  If pieces come off, you can patch up whatever holes there are.

Bake an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. 

Cover and refrigerate at least 3-4 hours.  Cut into 16 squares and carefully remove from pan. 

Just before serving, sprinkle powdered sugar over them.

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roasted cauliflower soup

I am on a roasting kick lately, pretty much roasting everything with just olive oil, salt and pepper.  I came across this soup on Epicurious last month and have made it at least four times.  It’s a soup you can make anytime because it really doesn’t take a lot of preparation or cooking time, as long as you have this immersion blender .  I know it’s a bit pricey, but you do really get what you pay for.  This is my THIRD immersion blender, and although my first two were not inexpensive, they did not do the job this one does, and were not worth the time using them.  With this one, it actually took less than three minutes to puree the soup into a perfectly smooth somewhat chunky consistency, which I prefer, although you can spend another minute to make it even smoother.  One of the four times I made it in the last month, I used only one cup of half and half, and it wasn’t quite as creamy and rich as it was using cream, but it was still delicious.  This may not be the prettiest soup you will ever serve, but it sure may be the most delicious – the roasted garlic and shallots compliment the cauliflower with every bite.

  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon thyme – chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Cut cauliflower into florets. In a large baking pan, toss cauliflower, garlic and shallots with oil to coat

Roast for about 30 minutes until golden.

In a large Dutch oven, simmer broth, water, roasted cauliflower mixture and herbs for about 30 minutes until cauliflower is tender.

Discard bay leaf.  With immersion blender, puree the soup. 

Stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste and heat through.


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