House of Tricks Restaurant

House of Tricks  — an Oasis in the Desert

House of Tricks RestaurantThis charming restaurant is nestled inside a fenced garden under a canopy of trees which provide a relaxing and peaceful environment for enjoying ‘mouth-watering cuisine’!   Just off the beaten path in downtown Tempe, Arizona, this delightful treasure is a favorite of locals and those visitors lucky enough to discover it.

House of Tricks RestaurantSitting on the ‘sun dappled’ patio under shady trees, umbrellas and enjoying the cool misting system, we lingered over an exquisite late afternoon lunch. The contemporary American menu offers a variety of seasonally inspired options that also reflect an “eclectic blend of cultures and flavors” and feature fresh produce when availableHouse of Tricks Restaurant

House of Tricks Restaurant House of Tricks RestaurantWe  chose  the Albacore Tuna Melt Sandwich with Tomato, Bacon and Havarti Cheese on Sourdough with Spring Mix Salad. And the Grilled Salmon entree which was served over Baby Lettuce with Sweet Roasted Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Avocado, Chive Risotto Cake, Tortilla Strips and Chipotle-Grapefruit Vinaigrette

House of Tricks Restaurant.

Following these amazing meals, there was no ignoring dessert! We opted for the daily special : a Blueberry Tea Cheesecake Mousse over chocolate cookie crumbs and served in a brandy snifter – oh my! House of Tricks RestaurantIt was all at once light and rich and decadent and delicious! And a perfect ending to our delightful al fresco lunch!


See the full menu and learn about the ‘Tricks’



Glorified Red Velvet Cake

Let’s Eat Cake!

Glorious Red, White, and Blue Cake

Cake of the Week!Cake of the Week!This one gets a thumbs up!

It’s pretty tasty, and went together easily.

This is one of the best red velvet cake flavors I’ve ever tasted, and I really like the hint of lemon in the white layer.

 The batter for both the red velvet layers and the white layer were both good (!) so I hoped, anyway, that the baked cake would be just as good and it was.

I don’t think any frosting needs to have 2 1/2 sticks of butter and 2 1/2 packages of cream cheese, but this is the caliber of cake recipes we’re doing, so I’ll let that slide. (!)

I really like the fresh fruit with the cake – pops all of the flavors.

I shared this cake with two different neighborhood families.  (First time getting to do that!) Recipe:  Glorious Red White and Blue Cake



Let’s Eat Cake! – Watermelon Cake?

Let’s Eat Cake!

Watermelon Cake! 

Let's Eat Cake! - Watermelon Cake?

 Funny thing is. . . during our first conversations about this cake ‘challenge’ we had some discussion about who might want which cakes… pick and choose? or random drawings?

The conversation went something like this:

ap: “I haven’t looked at the list – I’ll wait until you divide them up.  You can just do it randomly, or all you others can chose the ones you want and I’ll take what’s left.   And what I get makes no difference to me (as long as they don’t have watermelon or licorice in them!)”

hj: ”I” get any with watermelon and licorice!!!  Dibs!  hahaha!   (ewwwww….)

 jm: “watermelon and licorice cakes – ewww – I agree = no thanks on my end !! UNLESS it is a watermelon shape/decorated cake! but no licorice”

And then. . . there it was!

ap: “Speaking of cakes…!!  — “No Bake Watermelon Cake Recipe”

The next ‘round’ of recipes went out with the ‘extra’ recipe for watermelon cake!

 jmThe Watermelon Cake * is up for grabs and would be a good ‘summer’ cake. If anyone decides to make it, please share your experience with us all!!

 hj: “I’ll volunteer to make the watermelon cake “sometime” this summer!”

And now. . . HERE IT IS!!

 “No Bake Watermelon Cake” Let's Eat Cake! - Watermelon Cake?

Simple ingredients:  1 Large Watermelon, Blueberries, Raspberries, Almonds, Whipped cream or Coconut Whipped cream.

Simple instructions:  Cut watermelon in a circle like a cake, ‘frost’ with whipped cream, add almonds to sides, decorate the top with berries.

It was really very easy and makes an attractive and impressive presentation.

One suggestion I have is to take courage and just CUT the circle out. I thought I needed to use as much of the watermelon as possible, so I more or less ‘peeled’ it and ended up with a ‘top hat’ shaped cake. It also didn’t need to be as big of a watermelon as I used (about 8 pounds – wish I had taken a photo of the un-cut melon).

Let's Eat Cake! - Watermelon Cake?

I also experimented with whipped coconut cream to avoid dairy and was pleased.  Use coconut cream (not milk), well chilled with any liquid drained off, sweeten with sugar like whipping cream.

Let's Eat Cake! - Watermelon Cake?

It was really juicy at first. The recipe suggests ‘patting it down” with a paper towel before frosting which I did. It was still juicy when cut, but the left-over stayed almost a week in the refrigerator… and was still very good – maybe even better than the first day!

Should this be categorized as Edible Food Art? Healthy Cake? Gluten Free? Vegan? No-bake or just ‘Cake’ ? It is definitely fun and delicious!

The perfect healthy “No Bake Watermelon Cake Recipe” is from Jennifer Garza. Visit Jennifer’s blog for more exciting information and recipes.



Let’s Eat Cake! – Heavenly Lemon!

Let’s Eat Cake!

 Heavenly Lemon!


Let's Eat Cake! - Heavenly Lemon!

Meyer Lemon Cake

with Lavender Cream

“The floral notes of Meyer lemons meld with lavender in the most heavenly way in this light, golden cake. The secret to the moistness of the tender layers is olive oil—a common ingredient in Provençal cakes—and they take well to the bright lemon curd and loose billows of lavender-honey cream”

  This perfectly poetic description from the introduction in the recipe says it all!!

One might expect this cake to be a bit heavy and dense with the olive oil but is delightfully tender and light and moist.

I really liked the cake –  made with whipped egg whites and lemon juice and will use this cake recipe as a base for other cakes.

This cake was easy to make and everyone who tasted it enjoyed it.

Each taster’s sweet/sour preference varied. Some people thought it was perfect because they like tart. Others thought it needed a sweeter topping to balance the tart. Personally, I thought the curd was too tart. But that can vary with each lemon, too.

The lavender cream had mixed reviews too. It added a nice balance to the curd but the floral taste was a bit different.

Let's Eat Cake! - Heavenly Lemon!!

Let's Eat Cake! - Heavenly Lemon!







Let's Eat Cake! - Heavenly Lemon!




Let’s Eat Cake! — Take 2

Let’s Eat Cake!

Take 2 —

Let’s try this again!   The first cake of the challenge was a bit of a flop — a funny but frustrating  “Epic Failure“.  Some of us are a bit cautious about our assignments, but we plan to just “plow through and see what happens!”  So here goes . . . “Let’s Eat Cake! — Take 2”

 The Pink Cake

Let's Eat Cake -- Take 2

With some extra time this morning,  I went ahead and made the cake and got it frosted, instead of baking one day and frosting the next. And just to let you know – all this fancy “mix with the paddle attachment, mix with the whisk attachment ” isn’t happening in my house. One little hand mixer is all I have, and it’ll have to do.

I was intrigued with the part of the recipe where the chocolate is incorporated into the sour cream.  That all worked pretty well.

The cake itself is very moist, and has a nice chocolate flavor.

The Frosting is another issue! 

First of all – an entire pound of butter???  Yikes! I love butter, but this is way over the top for me.

Secondly, my little hand-beater had a tough time toward the end of the butter incorporation – it got a bit thick for the small beater to handle.

I transferred it all to a larger bowl before adding the raspberries.  I used frozen.  At the price of fresh raspberries in this little town it was cost prohibitive to use fresh with the required 4 cups.  (A lovely raspberry patch would be so nice!)

The  buttercream frosting directions do say that the mixture will appear “curdled” somewhere along the line when beating in the butter, but not to worry as it will smooth out as it all gets mixed in.

Well, before adding the raspberries the mixture was nice and smooth and fluffy.  When I mixed in the raspberries, that’s when it “curdled.” I beat the heck out of it, and it never did go back to smooth and fluffy, so I gave up and just put what I had on the cake.


I would  have liked to have added some chocolate curls, but I didn’t have any chocolate for that.

The frosted cake tastes okay, but that “frosting” has just way too much butter in it.  (It actually tasted quite bland before I added the raspberries.)  When I ate my piece of cake I ended up scraping off most of the frosting.

The chocolate cake itself is also kind of bland, but works well with the raspberry flavor of the frosting. I think the cake batter does need a rich frosting of some kind to make it work.

My take on The Pink Cake:

– it’s good, but not good enough for all of the work.

There you have it!

Top photo by Erin Kunkel


Let’s Eat CAKE!

It’s CAKE TIME!  Let’s Eat CAKE!

…at least once a week

….isn’t that what Betty Crocker, (or was it Duncan Hines or Pillsbury?) led us to believe? 

Works for me!

Somewhere along my journey from childhood, it may have been programmed into me, but I have become convinced that the proper homemaker provides the family with a luscious layer cake every week. Let's Eat Cake!

It hasn’t happened for me….yet.  It remains a standard for me to live up to and now…. we are going to eat cake!

I’ve always been attracted to pictures (& recipes) of pretty cakes. As a child, I would linger over the lovely pictures in the cake section of my mother’s Betty Crocker Cook Book… drooling, dreaming, and wishing I could taste them;

Cake Time! wishing even more, I could actually MAKE one of them – so pretty, they had to taste good too! I never actually made any of the fancy ones (Sunburst cake, or Pink Cake or Queen Elizabeth Cake, or….)

We always made a tried & true ‘safe’ cake  – usually the ‘quick cake’ which was quick – and easy – sort of a ‘dump cake’  – and eaten fresh and hot out of the oven with chocolate syrup drizzled over it….. mmmm…that was actually really good! Still… not the same as I imagined the fancy frosted layer ‘party’ cake would be. Not that I didn’t try once in awhile. Determined to make the ‘perfect’ chocolate layer cake, I would end up with a lopsided, drooping, sagging sorry excuse for a layer cake.

So – when I came across a collection of recipes on the internet for lovely layer cakes (with pretty pictures!) I wanted to make them ALL – so luscious and so enticing! (don’t you just luv the internet? -all those delightful recipes!!)

Let's Eat Cake!

Knowing it would take me a LONG time to make them all, I challenged a few fans (& relatives) to join me in raising the bar and striving to be the proper homemaker with a weekly cake. Realizing that one a week for each of us still might be a bit much in our busy lives (and healthy lifestyles), we decided a one-a-month each would work.

And so it starts – a random drawing of a recipe each month for each of us and we have: One Cake A Week! (Maybe even a Betty Crocker Cake!)

Let the baking begin and . . .

Let’s Eat Cake!

Let's Eat Cake!




Image Credits: General Mills, Betty,, My

Classic Italian PIZZA


Eat Classic Italian PIZZA

Classic PIZZA

 “Life is too short to eat bad pizza”

This motto of Began’s Classic Italian Pizza in Tempe, Arizona —  is my motto for ALL food! Eating really good food is so much more satisfying than eating poor or even mediocre food. 

Began’s Classic Italian Pizza is a quaint little place tucked into a strip center between two (actually three) of my favorite places: Trader Joe’s and Wildflower Bread Co. (and Changing Hands -a delightful bookstore).

Living in our neighborhood is like living in a ‘story book’ neighborhood — friendly neighbors waving hello, walking their dogs, watering their yards…we see them at the grocery store and in the neighborhood restaurants….

Shortly after moving into our classic neighborhood, we discovered the local pizza place. . . small, tucked into the back corner of an almost empty strip shopping center.  A delightfully intimate little Italian place, offering  hand tossed pizzas and calzones from a wood fired oven.  Also on the menu – my favorite: Tiramisu! Oh Yum!! (Buon Appetito in San Diego’s Little Italy is still #1 but this is the best local option!) I was delighted.

We enjoyed it only a few times before it, too, closed up and left the strip center . We heard rumors this wonderful little place was going to re-open in a new location but months went by…..

Then I saw it:

Classic Italian PizzaAnd waited in eager anticipation for the opening…past April into June (must have been a few delays?)

 Finally it has happened – Hooray!! And the wait was worth it.

Classic Italian Pizza

Still hand-tossed pizzas







Classic Italian Pizza

Still wood-fired:





Classic Italian Pizza

Still Delicious!













And still serving Tiramisu …. but that will have to wait for the next time!

Mmmm. . . . CHOCOLATE


Chocolate Lovers – Rejoice!

Time to celebrate and have a BIG SALAD!!


Craving a Cookie or TWO?

Craving a Cookie or TWO? Chocolate Chip CookiesHow about TWO chewy,

gooey chocolate chip cookies?


This is great! – A recipe for just TWO chocolate chip cookies.

It is usually a grey rainy day that triggers  my craving for  chocolate chip cookies (see Rainy Day Comfort Food). At times, I’ve ventured out to find a cookie to satisfy my craving, but it is more in the baking than the actual eating of it that is most satisfying to me, especially on a rainy day!

To be able to bake just TWO cookies instead of an entire batch is worth a try. I’ve done the freezer thing with the balls of cookie dough ready for a fresh baked cookie or two. Those don’t seem to last very long…that raw cookie dough, even frozen, constantly beckons me. (why bother heating the oven?!)

Shared by theKitchn, “this recipe for just TWO chewy, gooey chocolate chip cookies is totally brilliant”

Spring is actually bursting out all over here in the southwest (the sun is shining, birds are singing, Palo Verde trees are blooming into bright yellow clouds of color, and the air is sweet with fragrance) – the days are heavenly  . . . with NO RAIN in the forecast. This is normal for us and probably a good thing or I’d be baking a lot of cookies – which is why this recipe for just TWO chocolate chip cookies is so great!

oh . . . . I love a rainy day,    I love a rainy day,   I love a rainy day. . .

I love to hear the thunder,

watch the lightening when it lights up the sky. . .

Oh, I love a rainy day,  I love . . . to bake cookies. . . . on a rainy day. . .

  You know it makes me feel good. . . .

I just might have to use a sunny-day excuse . . . why wait for a rainy day to make chewy, gooey chocolate chip cookies?!


Oscar Night: Fun & Festive Menus & Recipes

It’s Oscar Time!

And has done it again with cleverly created menus for Oscar Night celebrations featuring recipes inspired by food themes and food ‘moments’ in each of this year’s Best Picture nominees:

13 Sophisticated Ways to Dress up PopcornSpicy clams and “piccata of the gods” for American Hustle

A pizza-night menu is drawn from Theodore and Samantha’s carnival date in Her  

Outer space-themed dishes such as potato ‘meteors’ and star-shaped Linzer cookies to celebrate the celestial setting of Gravity.

Fruitcake and tea for Philomena whose enthusiasm for and love of food is evident through out the movie.

An over-the-top menu that includes sushi, steak, lobster, and Champagne reflect the lifestyle in The Wolf of Wall Street. With so many extravagant dishes, You may want to scale back this extensive menu or risk ‘incuring the wrath of your CFO and father for spending $26,000 on dinner”.

To see all nine movie-themed menus, read more.

 Plan your Oscar night around your favorite movie or the menu you can’t resist. Or pick one or more recipes from each and create your own one-of-a-kind Oscars feast.

Oscar Night: Fun & Festive Menus

Make more Oscar Night magic at home with:


Easy Appetizers

Oscar Night: Fun & Festive Menus

12 Sweet and Savory Puff Pastry Recipes

Theater-Style Snacks                                                                                                    Popcorn with a Twist

Oscar Night: Fun & Festive Menus

Microwave Popcorn Tase Test


13 Sophisticated Ways to Dress up Popcorn

13 Sophisticated Ways to Dress up Popcorn








Adapted from Best Oscar Party Recipes

Image Credits: