We have a Chocolate Festival – again?


f66585_788a9f4976f447c586ca333a5febcf3c.png_srz_p_672_225_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzCame across this the other day and at first I was flummoxed. We have a chocolate festival? Why have I not been to it before? It’s like going to Paris and not taking the scary, glass-walled elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s like seeing a sign that says wet paint and not touching it to be sure the paint has dried. Some things you just have to do.

If there’s a chocolate festival, well, this is an important thing to know about.

Then I did some research. We apparently did have a festival in conjunction with the Virginia Arts Festival in years past. We did not have one last year. That begged the question – why not?

I checked some Yelp reviews and, as I suspected, the festival was decent but not spectacular. Prices were high, vendors (some at least) were snooty. Attendance dropped. Money was not made. Thusly, last year there was no festival.

How can you mess up a chocolate festival, people? Apparently it happened. We suck.

But we can do better!

Looking at the current list of sponsors, I see some potential. Flour Child Bakery is a family-run business and it is one of the best in town. The Royal Chocolate has been a Beach favorite at the Virginia Beach Town Center since the beginning. Duck Donuts, while not my number one pick for locally-owned and freshly made donuts, is a big hit with everyone at work.

However, Fudge Brother’s Fudge? I went to their website and found it has been “suspended.” It didn’t even rate a 404 Not Found. This does not bode well.

But, I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. I would give you a first hand account of the festival, but I will be spending the same week secluded up in the Shenandoah Mountains sampling fine beverages brewed by the Old Hill Cidery and Cross Keys Vineyard. But I digress. Back to the chocolate!

I’ve done my civic duty. I have passed on the information about the chocolate festival. Now it’s up to you to go! In fact, as Monty Hall would say – let’s make a deal.

If you go to the Virginia Beach Chocolate Festival – let me know how it went. You could end up as a guest blogger on Exploding Potatoes!

Think about it. A new culinary critic’s career could be launched.

Apparently not at Fudge Brother’s Fudge, though. Come on guys – let’s see what you got! Now I’m curious.

Send samples!

Dr. Lucy and the Cookies

Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Snaps

Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Snaps

Have food allergies? Need to be gluten free? [Gasp] Vegan, even?

A tough road to live on, but it can be done. That said, there is one problem remaining:

Where are the cookies, right?

Of course. Who doesn’t like cookies? Everyone like cookies. Those in the UK even have a different word for them: biscuits. And I’m sure the Brits love their biscuits just as much as we love to snarf down our cookies here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Since changing my eating habits last month, I’ve lost over 20 pounds and three inches off my waist line. But nary a dessert has made it onto my plate. Alas, no cookies for this guy.

Until a few days ago.

That’s when I came across Lucy’s Cookies.”  The cookie’s namesake, Norfolk Virginia medical doctor turned cookie entrepreneur Dr. Lucy Gibney and (I presume) her daughter were at my place of business the other day, handing out samples. When I introduced myself as a gluten free/vegan person they let me know that all of their products would work for me. Wow!  All means more than one – and I don’t even have to check the label. Although I did for fun. You should, too.

The package spells it out for you: all natural; non-GMO; no peanuts, tree nuts, milk, or eggs; gluten free; zero cholesterol; and zero trans fat. But what about taste?

I have had the chocolate chip cookies, the chocolate cookies, and the ginger snap cookies so far. And the have all been great. The ginger snaps even have a tiny bit of Tabasco in them to bring out a nifty bite at the end of the crunch. Who knew? Good choice, ladies.

Full of flavor, a great crunch, wonderful aftertaste. These cookies have it all. And with 3 – 4 cookies per package, you get enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, but not too many calories – in case you are counting them.

Check the website; order some cookies! And, they are available in over 7,000 stores and specialty shops through the US and Canada. You are probably near a package right now and don’t even know it!

* Legal disclaimer: I have not received any remuneration (of any kind) from Dr. Lucy or her cookie company. The review above is based simply on my desire to have cookies that meet my dietary restriction and Lucy’s Cookies satisfying that want.

** If, by chance, Dr. Lucy would like to send me some cookies for a more comprehensive evaluation, I would be more than happy to entertain the idea.

DrLucys dot com – check it out, people. Good health and nutrition doesn’t have to be bland!

Here's the package!

Here’s the package!

Bananas Foster – Eastern Shore Virginia Style!


Alas, no flambé,  but given my track record for safety, this is probably a good thing.  Nonetheless – when in Cape Charles, Virginia, please visit the Brown Dog Ice Cream store. They are just opening up for the season and are offering a new menu item that has caused quite the stir in this peaceful beachfront village: the Bananas Foster Sundae.

No, not the dessert of the same name from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans – this one is similar, yet flame-less and named for the brown dog himself, Foster! Imagine a sundae with warm buttery brown sugar and rum sauce drizzled over a melee of sliced fresh banana, whipped cream and puff pastry – all atop three scoops of a vanilla-based, bananas foster-flavored ice cream. I had one last Sunday and I suddenly have a craving for another – just from typing the description. Caveat – you must be 21 years old to get the adult version. Those under 21 can receive the rum-less version, which is also mighty tasty from what others tell me!

E gads! And I am six hours away by fast car. The weekend cannot get here soon enough!

If you are visiting the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, it is worth the trip. Let me end with a photo so you can start salivating, too!

Bananas Foster Sundae at the Brown Dog in Cape Charles, Virginia

Bananas Foster Sundae at the Brown Dog in Cape Charles, Virginia

Key Lime Pie – for Breakfast?


The Best Key Lime Pie - Ever


I make key lime pie for special occasions such as my wife’s birthday, our anniversary, or anytime I need to get back on her good side. Okay, really I haven’t been in *that* pickle yet but it’s always good to have a back-up plan.

Regardless – if you want a delicious pie that isn’t too hard to make and will impress all of your friends and convert most of your enemies, try this one. Courtesy of Joe’s Stone Crab, I have yet to find a better, more user friendly recipe.

And yes, I made this for breakfast. There were no complaints.

Here we go: Preheat the oven to 350 degress F.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs

5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1/3 cup sugar


3 egg yolks

3 limes -zest from each. Save the limes!

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (use the limes, Luke…)


1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar


For the graham cracker crust, grease up a 9 inch pie pan. I have used glass ones and dark gray ones – this recipe works either way.

In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar. Then pour in the melted butter and combine thoroughly. Press the mixture into the pie pan. Remember, you don’t want a really thick crust, but try to make it even. Bake the crust for 10 minutes or until slightly brown. Set aside on a wire rack to cool.

Did you leave the oven on? I hope so. Go back and turn it back on. It will really help out soon.

For the filling: using an electric mixer set to high speed, whisk the egg yolks for 5 minutes so they get light and fluffy. Carefully add the sweetened condensed milk. Whisk for 4 more minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the lime juice. Mix for about 30 seconds, no more than a minute. Pour directly onto the baked pie crust and bake the pie for 10 minutes or until set. Every time I have made this recipe, 10 minutes has been perfect. Just sayin’. Don’t overcook the pie! When done, cool the pie on your wire cooling rack.

Time to start the topping!

Again, using the electric mixer set on high speed, whip the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar until nearly stiff. You are almost done. I know you want to eat right now, but wait – there’s more to do!

Put the pie and the bowl of topping in the refrigerator to cool even more. After 30 minutes or more, slice up the pie and dig in! Pairs well with ice cold sparkling water or champagne if you dare!

Happy eating!

The Best Blueberry Pie Ever!


The Best Blueberry Pie Ever!

So before I get slammed by the “pie” purists, the only reason I call this treat a pie is that it is cooked in a pie dish. It’s shaped like a pie, so I call it a pie. You can call it whatever you want, but once you have a slice, you’ll call it…

The Best Blueberry Pie ever!

Okay, really it’s a blueberry crumb cake. I thought I would make one this week in honor of the Chincoteague Blueberry Festival. If you remember the book “Misty of Chincoteague,” this is the same place. It is at the upper end of the Virginia Eastern Shore, right close to the Maryland state line. And this weekend is the big pony swim, where the wild ponies swim across the little channel to the little town of Chincoteague. There is a lot more to the story, as well as the Blueberry Festival, and you can learn all about it by going to ChincoteagueBlueberryFestival.com.

I would tell you all about it, but it happens that I will be out of town this weekend. Timing, people, it’s all about timing. Well, maybe next year. Until then, try this recipe I had clipped from some magazine years ago – it really is the best blueberry pie (cake) ever!

Streusel topping
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter (that’s half a stick for some of us…)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch o’ salt
2 drops of vanilla

1 pint blueberries, washed, stems removed
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups (plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (plus 2 tablespoons) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Making the streusel topping
– Mix the streusel ingredients in a small bowl. Blend until it resembles a fine, moist meal.
– Set aside. Don’t eat any. I know it tastes good. Just don’t do it…yet!

2. Preparing the pie plate
– line the bottom and sides of a standard (9 inch or so) GLASS pie dish with wax paper. I just took a big piece, placed it in the dish, and then trimmed it later once the pie filling had been added. By the way, the word GLASS is in all caps for a reason. A metal pie dish will be a disaster, and you will probably need a fire extinguisher later. Keep reading, you will understand…

3. Mixing the pie innards, sometimes referred to as batter for you cake enthusiasts.
– Put the berries in a bowl, add 1/4 cup of flour. Toss until the berries are coated. Remove the berries and place them on a paper towel. Set aside.
– In a large bowl, blend in the remaining dry ingredients. Once thoroughly mixed, make a little volcano – sometimes called “making a well” by people who know. I guess you now know which group I fall into…hee hee hee.
– In a different bowl (I know, I know, this is taking a lot of bowls) mix the non-dry ingredients. I whisked the wet stuff for about a minute. Perfect-o-men-tay.

4. Puttin’ it all together…
– Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff volcano. Make some sound effects, it helps. “Aye aye ayieeee, not the lava!!!!” Have some fun with it. People will leave you alone; it’ll be great.
– Using a wooden spoon, Chef Rudolf’s rule #2, mix up the erupting volcano until it is like a smooth batter.
– Gently fold in the blueberries.
– Pour the whole mess into the pie dish.

5. Cooking, or is it baking?
– Microwave (yes, that’s right) uncovered for 7 minutes in a 1000 – 1200 watt microwave. If your microwave oven does not automatically spin the dish, make sure you rotate the dish after 4 minutes.
– If you have a 600 – 700 watt microwave oven, cook the pie for 9 minutes.
– If your microwave has less power than the above models, go get a new one and come back and try again! Okay, cook the pie for 10 minutes and check to see if a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. You know the deal…if you don’t, ask someone who is over the age of 40.

6. Eating
– Wait a few minutes to eat this pie. The blueberries are like little balls of tasty fire when they come right out of the oven. It will be tough, but you can do it. I have faith!

This works well as an after dinner dessert, as well as a great breakfast treat!

Try it and let me know what you think!

Happy eating!

A slice of Blueberry Pie having an identity crisis...

There is Chocolate Pecan Pie in Heaven, and in the kitchen!


Chocolate Pecan (pah-cahn') Pie

So what do you get a guy who has everything? I mean, really. I have a nice house, a job, two little puppies and the best family ever. We are all in good health and my daughter has an A in physics (without my help. With it she would have a C…). I have been truly blessed. But there was this birthday see…

Chocolate Pecan Pie, you say? Why, yes! You would be absolutely correct. Putting aside her studies of trains leaving New York and Los Angeles at different speeds, number one daughter made a pecan pie for my birthday. It didn’t last long, so she just made another. Courtesy of Betty Crocker, this proves that if you can read and follow directions, the little red cookbook will not steer you wrong! Try it – you’ll love it!

First, either make your favorite pie crust or get one of those pre-made ones. The food police won’t get you; it’s alright. And… if you roll it out a little and then hand pinch the edges once it is in the pie dish, people won’t be able to tell the difference.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F)

Place prepared crust into a 9 inch pie pan. We use glass, but that’s just us.

Now for the good part:

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (don’t bother with the fake stuff. Live a little.)
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup light corn syrup (see? what’s the point of margarine?)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup pecan halves

Melt the chocolate with the butter.

Beat the sugar, chocolate/butter, corn syrup, salt and eggs with a hand beater. Stir in pecans. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate.

Bake until set, 40 – 50 minutes. Once the top looks “cooked”, remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack for about 20 minutes.

Once cool enough to put in the refrigerator without hurting the fridge, put it in the fridge to thoroughly cool down and set, at least two hours.

Now this last part is important. Have at least three friends over when you take the pie out of the cooler. If you don’t…you may end up eating the whole thing yourself, in one sitting. That would taste great for a few minutes, but this is just too rich. And besides, you may need those friends some day and you can always remind them about how you gave them the best pie they ever had – Chocolate Pecan Pie!