Simple advice for a better life.

Dark Chocolate Ganache CakeMy daughter’s birthday was fast approaching, so I was researching many cake recipes with lots of dark chocolate (her favorite ingredient).

For the past three years I have been making her favorite Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel Caramel Filling, but this year I wanted to do something different.

She selected a Dark Chocolate Torte with Dark Chocolate Ganache, so I took her up on the idea, and baked the above pictured torte.

The original recipe was posted by Tarra Knight from Texas, in Taste of Home, however I tweaked it a little, and printed my version here.

It earned high marks from the birthday girl, and all the guests.

This cake freezes very well, but the fresh raspberries had to be removed before freezing, and replaced with fresh ones before serving ( we served the leftover cake  at Thanksgiving).

 Cake Ingredients:

  •  4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used Bakers chocolate for baking)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup hot coffee (I used Dunkin Donuts Caramel flavored)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used Gold Medal Unbleached)
  • 1 cup dark Cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup warm water ( for torte punch)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (for torte punch)

Ingredients for Ganache:

  • 14 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I use Baker’s chocolate for baking)
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 3 cups heavy cream for whipping (1 1/2 pint)
  • 7 tsp. light corn syrup

Cake Directions:

  1. Line the bottom of 3 – 8 inch round cake pans with parchment paper, and grease it generously (I also dab a little Crisco under the paper to keep it in place).
  2. Place the chopped  chocolate in a medium bowl, pour the hot coffee over it, and stir with a whisk until all chocolate melts, and smooth mixture forms.
  3. Cool to room temperature.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, adding sugar gradually, until creamy and light lemon color (the mixture resembles vanilla pudding).
  5. Mix in the oil and vanilla.
  6. Gradually add the chocolate mixture, continuously beating.
  7. Set aside.
  8. In another bowl mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  9. Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, alternating it with gradual addition of the buttermilk.
  10. Divide the batter equally between the three cake pans.
  11. Preheat the oven to 325 degree F.
  12. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the toothpick test is clean.
  13. Remove from the oven, and cool in pans for 10 minutes.
  14. Remove from pans unto wire cooling racks, to cool completely.

Ganache directions:

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
  2. Place a medium saucepan on the stove, pour in the heavy cream and corn syrup, and bring to boil.
  3. Pour the boiling cream over chopped  chocolate, and stir with a whisk until smooth and creamy.
  4. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, to cool it off slightly, stirring occasionally.

Assembling the torte:

  1. Slice off the “hump” from each cake top, to create even and flat top cake rounds.
  2. Cut two rectangular pieces of waxed or parchment paper, about 6 inches wide.
  3. Place these two pieces slightly overlapping, on a cake platter.
  4. Place the first cake round on top of the waxed paper.
  5. Prepare the torte punch by mixing the warm water with the vanilla extract.
  6. Dip a pastry brush into the torte punch, and brush the  cake top with it to moisten it.  Use 1/3 of the torte punch on each layer.
  7. Spread 1/2 cup of ganache on top of the cake.
  8. Place the second cake layer on top of the ganache.
  9. Sprinkle the cake top with the torte punch, as previously.
  10. Spread 1/2 cup of ganache over this cake layer as well.
  11. Place the third cake layer on top of the ganache, with the trimmed off top down.
  12. Spread the rest of the ganache over the top and sides of the cake.
  13. Decorate the top with candy, or fruit.
  14. Keep it refrigerated for couple of hours, or overnight, to firm up the ganache.

Enjoy this yummy torte, which is very “chocolaty” rich, yet semi-sweet at the same time.


Colorful flower - close-up viewmaking dessert   Experimenting with Celery root

We all have our own way of measuring our success, and counting our blessings.

As for me, I feel very fortunate to have wonderful children, and now adorable grandchildren.

I love spending my free time with them, listen to their stories, admire their imagination, and often time act as their student.  You will be surprised how much you learn about them, by letting them be the teacher.

Today I will share some of the fun stuff my granddaughter and I got into, while spending a weekend together at my house.

We started our day with making breakfast together.  She loves helping out in the kitchen.

We made her favorite Pan Apple Fritter (this link will take you to the recipe).


Children really enjoy eating the food they help to prepare.

We went for a walk, and stopped at a nearby playground, since she loves the jungle gym, and the slides.

Beautiful ButterflyColorful flower

the fun of braiding

She created a beautiful butterfly out of construction paper, pipe cleaners and pom poms.  We also made a beautiful flower out of cut up toilet paper roll, cardboard, paper plate, water paints, and pom poms.

We practiced braiding with strands of yarn, and ribbon.

Experimenting with Celery rootExperimenting with Celery root 2


We are experimenting with growing our own celery, by placing a cut off end of a celery root in a shallow water bath.  Only a week later, it already looked promising, so we transplanted it into a pot.

Ukrainian Alphabet

We always set aside few minutes to continue our Ukrainian culture, by learning the Ukrainian Alphabet (Cyrillic Alphabet shown above), so very soon she will be able to start reading and writing in Ukrainian.

She is doing an excellent job with writing her name in Ukrainian, and her vocabulary list is growing at a steady pace.

We sing, play games, do puzzles, read books, and watch movies.

Making Palushky

Having fun making a Palushky flower





Batch of Palushky ready to boil

We also made dinner together….her favorite dumplings -Palushky- (click here for a link to the recipe).

She not only enjoyed making them…..

Enjoying the fruits of the laborYummm....those Palushky were delicious

but also eating her own homemade dinner….yumm!

She was very proud to take some home to share with her family.  Her little brother loves them as well!

Jello Lemon Puddingmaking dessertDessert time - Lemon Pudding 2

We needed a quick dessert, to top off this wonderful experience, so Jello Instant Pudding came to the rescue.

She worked very diligently, whipping it all up to a perfect consistency, and finished the job with a smile.  How sweet is that.

We had a wonderful time.  It was a learning experience, and an unforgettable quality time together.

It is a blessing to be a parent, but words can not describe the joy of being a grandparent.






Exotic Banana Bread Bananas are such a staple food in our house (great source of Potassium to prevent muscle cramps), so we hardly ever run out of them, but at times there are few very ripe ones left over, hence perfect time to whip up some banana bread.

This week was one of those times with several very ripe bananas, which contributed to this newly concocted recipe for an Exotic Banana Bread.

It is a light recipe, since it has less sugar and fat, than my other recipe for Decadent Chocolate Banana Bread, posted earlier.

This banana bread is very light and airy.  The coconut and cinnamon flavors add to its exotic aroma.


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use Gold Medal all-purpose unbleached flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (I use kosher salt)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 2 large bananas, mashed (nicely ripe…even if they begin to get little brown spots all over its peel)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (you also may use coconut oil, I did not have any on hand)
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate morsels (or you use raisins, craisins, nuts, or other dry fruits)


  1. In a medium bowl add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Incorporate all ingredients with a whisk, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with brown sugar and white sugar, until very light and creamy, resembling cake batter.
  3. Mix in coconut extract, oil and bananas.
  4. Gradually add in flour, and mix well to incorporate.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Generously grease and flour a loaf pan.
  8. Pour the batter into the greased pan, and bake 60-70 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven, and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Then remove onto a cooling rack to cool completely, before slicing into serving pieces.

Exotic Banana  Bread


Chocolate Varenyky (Perogy)Chocolate Varenyky with hot chocolate fudge

If you like varenyky (dumplings, perogy, pierogi, or however you know them as) as much as you love chocolate, this is a dream come true recipe for you.

I have tasted many different varenyky fillings before, but this is my first time to make chocolate dough dumplings filled with farmer cheese and dark chocolate.

These type of varenyky are more suitable as a unique dessert, rather than a traditional meal.

You can use Dark Chocolate Hershey Kisses, dark chocolate chunks, or chocolate morsels,  mixed  with the cheese filling.  For this recipe, I chose the chocolate kisses.

I tested several different ways of serving these Chocolate Varenyky:

  • Drizzled with hot Dark Chocolate Fudge
  • Hot Chocolate Fudge and whipped cream
  • Hot Caramel Ice Cream Topping and a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream (my favorite)
  • Plain as they are, sprinkled with powdered sugar, just before serving

As you can see, these Varenyky are shaped differently (resembling little purses), unlike the traditional ones (half-circles).

The dough was very thin, so I used a pizza cutter to cut 2.5 x 2.5 squares to accommodate the cheese and chocolate kisses filling, for easier handling.

Chocolate dough squares and cheese and chocolate kiss fillingChocolate Varenyky - ready to cookChocolate Varenyky (Perogy) - sealing edges


I also, tried the same cheese filling, however I mixed it with 1/4 cup of  Nestle dark chocolate chips.  I used the traditional varenyky shape to enclose the filling, and they were just as delicious.

Farmer Cheese and chocolate chips filling

Farmer Cheese and chocolate chips filling

Dough Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached flour)
  • 2 Tbs. butter, melted
  • 1 cup warm water (or a little more if needed, to make soft, pliable dough)
  • 6 Tbs. unsweetened Cocoa
  • 2 Tbs. sour cream
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Filling Ingredients:

  • 8 oz Farmer Cheese (I used Friendship brand)
  • 2 Tbs. powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbs. Corn Starch (or 1 Tbs. corn starch, plus 1Tbs. Wondra flour)
  • 32 Hershey Dark Chocolate Kisses, or 1/4 cup of Nestle Dark Chocolate Morsels

Filling Directions:

  1. Place cheese, sugar, egg and salt, in a medium bowl.
  2. Mix gently with a fork, to incorporate all ingredients.
  3. Fold in corn starch. (If using chocolate chips, gently fold them in as well)
  4. Keep in the fridge, until ready to use.

Dough Directions:

  1. Mix together the flour and cocoa.
  2. Make a well in the middle.
  3. Add the water and butter, and make a soft dough.
  4. Place in a plastic bag, cover with a tea towel, and let it rest at least 15 minutes at room temperature.
  5. Flour a work area, and roll out the dough very thinly (2-3 millimeters).
  6. Use a pizza cutter and cut into long strips, 2.5 inches wide.
  7. Cut each strip into 2.5 inch square pieces.
  8. Place a tsp of cheese filling on each piece and place the chocolate kiss in the middle (as pictured above).
  9. Bring all four corners of the dough together, pinch the top and sides, to fully seal in the filling.
  10. Bring pot of water to boil.
  11. Place at least 10 dumplings into boiling water, stir gently with a wooden spoon, and bring to boil again.
  12. Cook for 4 minutes, once they float to the top.
  13. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a colander, to drain off.
  14. Serve warm as suggested above.
  15. These are also delicious preheated in a microwave, and served as suggested above.



Jello CheesecakeMy sister, who lives in Krakow, shared several Eastern European recipes with me, which I will prepare, and post for your enjoyment.

Today I will share a No Bake recipe for a Low Fat Jello Cheesecake, which is very simple to prepare, presents itself very nicely, and it is refreshingly delicious.

Jello Cheesecake is much lighter than a traditional cheesecake, and to make it even lighter, you may use 1/3 less fat cream cheese, which I tested on one of the layers, and it held up as well as the regular cheese.

I used regular jello, since I do not like the taste of sugar free jello, but you might want to try the sugar free if you wish.  My selection of jello leaned towards citrusy flavor, but you may choose a more fruity one.

I decorated my cheesecake with blueberries and grapes, but any fruits may be used, or left out all together.

Jello Cheesecake - serving


  • 3 – 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese (regular or light)
  • 4 cups of water, separated
  • 1 – 3 oz package of Orange Jello
  • 1 -3 oz package of Lime Jello
  • 1 – 3 oz package of Lemon Jello
  • 1 – 3 0z package of Strawberry Jello
  • 1/8 tsp. Orange Extract (to add to Orange Jello)
  • 1/8 tsp. Lemon Extract (to add to Lemon Jello)
  • Fruit of choice for garnish (I also used few fresh mint leaves)


  1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch spring-form cake pan, and set side.
  2. Pour 1 cup of water into three different saucepans, and bring to boil
  3. Pour the Orange Jello into  one of the pots, the Lime into another, and the Lemon into the last one.
  4. Turn off heat, stir until the sugar is dissolved, add extract, and set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix one 8 oz package of cream cheese, until creamy.
  6. Add the first jello, once it is partly set, but still has the consistency of yogurt.
  7. Beat in with the cheese until a smooth mixture is formed.
  8. Pour this jello/cheese mixture into the spring-form pan, and smooth it evenly with  a spatula, or a spoon.
  9. Place it in the fridge to set.
  10. Meanwhile work on the second package of cheese and next color jello, and set aside, and do the same with the third cheese and jello.
  11. Remove the cake pan with jello from the fridge and spread the second cheese/jello mixture over the first one, and place it back in the fridge to cool.
  12. Then do the same with the third cheese/jello mixture, and place it in the fridge.
  13. Boil 1 cup of water in a sauce pan, and prepare the Strawberry Jello, same way as the ones above.
  14. Set aside to cool off to room temperature.
  15. Now it is time to decorate the top of the Jello Cheesecake with fruits, if you wish.
  16. Gently pour the cooled Strawberry Jello over the fruits, and return to the fridge for couple of hours to fully set before serving.
  17. Before serving, remove it from the fridge, run a knife around the edges of the cake close to the side of the pan, to loosen it up.
  18. Remove the sides of the spring-form cake pan, but leave the cake on the pan bottom, and place it on a serving platter.
  19. For easier and cleaner cuts, dip your knife in a warm water, before slicing the cake.

It is a wonderfully refreshing dessert on a hot summer day, or anytime of the year, and for any occasion.



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