Category Archives: How to

Donya Marie’s Kitchen Tips Now Available!

Donya Marie's Kitchen Tips

Donya Marie’s Kitchen Tips

Whether you cook a little or a lot, plain or fancy, healthy or hearty, for your family, just for fun or for a business, this is the one book you’ll use often. Organized in an easy-to-find format, Donya Marie’s Cooking Tips includes aclickable table of contents organized by category for quick reference to allow you to quickly jump to the help you need.Find out how to follow the example of this professional chef as you discover:

• How to get more juice from a lime or lemon
• How to soften butter quickly
• How to keep produce and other foods safe from spoilage
• How to blend spices for the optimal taste treat
• How to enhance beaten egg whites or pie crust with the addition of vinegar
• How to consistently make cakes more moist
• How to make your own cake flour or Bisquick® substitutes
• How to store and use stale breads
• How to prevent soggy or hard waffles
• How to substitute ingredients instead of running to the store
• How to use chocolate in ways you’ve never dreamed of
• How to save time using Donya Marie’s shortcuts and restaurant tricks
And so much more!

With this book, you can cook with skill, confidence, and pleasure knowing your cooking solutions are by your side whenever you cook. It’s the book you’ll reach for when you have a question or run across a new challenge in your kitchen.

Or just sit and read through it at your leisure to see what useful tips you can discover and try. Donya Marie’s Cooking Tips is a book you can simply pick up for fun when relaxing on the sofa. You can open it to any page in the book and just start reading. It will become your go-to kitchen tool.

Whether you’re just browsing or desperately trying to solve a vexing cooking emergency, every cook will appreciate this book.


Irish Cream

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In the ‘spirit’ of the holidays, I toast you all with a glass of my special chocolate Irish Cream; ‘ May your Christmas and your New Year be healthy, safe, and full of chocolate!  Salud!’ One can spend a fortune … Continue reading


Chocolate Carne Colorada (gluten free) & Kitchen Tips

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Carne Colorada receives its name from the reddish / orange color the meat absorbs from ground achiote or annatto seed. Carne Colorada is a typical dish from the provinces of Carchi and Imbabura in the northern highland region in Ecuador; it is … Continue reading



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Cornbread recipes differ, depending on the region you are in. In the South it is a skillet bread; in the North it is like cake and a good amount of ‘sweet’.  I grew up with a ‘skillet’ corn bread and … Continue reading

Crunchy French Toast with Dark Chocolate Maple or Huckleberry Syrup

French toastAn all time favorite meal for me has always been breakfast.  But out of all the breakfast choices, French Toast is my very “mostest” favorite (yes ‘mostest’ is now a word!).  Most of us are familiar with French Toast being bread dipped in egg, and often with milk and sugar added, and then fried in butter or oil. 

Depending on what part of the world you are from it could have an all together different recipe. 

In Hungary, it is “Bundáskenyér” (Coated bread) and is made with salt and pepper, and usually served with onions and tomatoes, mayonnaise, or ketchup.  In India, the version is salted rather than sweet. The egg is beaten with milk, salt, green chili and chopped onion.  Bread is dunked into this mixture and is deep fried in butter or cooking oil. It is served with ketchup.  

In France, Belgium, New Orleans, Acadiana, Newfoundland and the Congo a similar but distinctive food is called pain perdu, or “lost bread”, since it is a way to reclaim stale, “lost”, bread: hard bread is softened by dipping in a mixture of milk and eggs, then fried. The bread is sliced on a bias and dipped into a mixture of egg, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. The slices are pan-fried in butter and traditionally served dusted with powdered sugar and with jam on the side. Alternatively it may be served with syrup.

The following recipe is my own, inspired by a friend who is an awesome cook and known for her wonderful scones (which I’ve been craving).

Crunchy French Toast (makes 4 pieces)

4 large slices Sour Dough Bread

1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)

1/4 cup Grapenut cereal

1/4 cup almonds

1 Tblsp vanillia extract

1/8 tsp almond extract

2 tsp sugar

3 eggs

3 Tblsp cup milk

1/4 cup oil

Donya Marie’s Maple or Huckleberry Pancake Syrup

In a food processor or electric chopper, combine coconut, Grapenuts, almonds and chop/grind finely.  Place into 9″ pie plate.  In second pie plate combine eggs, vanilla & almond extracts, and milk, whisking until throughly mixed.

Heat skillet with oil over medium heat.  Dip bread into egg mixture, making sure to coat both sides, then dip bread into Grapenut mixture, making sure to coat both sides.  Place bread into skillet.  Turn once, browning both sides well.

Top with Donya Marie’s Dark Chocolate Maple or Huckleberry Pancake Syrup.


carne platedCarne Asada is a roasted beef dish, simply meaning “roasted meat”.  The dish mainly consists of pieces or thin cuts of beef, usually flank steak or skirt steak.  Sometimes marinated, sometimes lightly salted or rubbed  with pepper and/or spices, and then grilled. It can be eaten alone, with side dishes, chopped and eaten as tacos, or chopped and used as a filler for tortas, burritos, etc. It is usually accompanied with guacamole, salsa, beans, cilantro, onions, salsa and tortillas (corn or flour).

 The dish is commonly prepared in the northern parts of Mexico (in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Coahuila, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Texas.  It is sold at Mexican meat markets called “carnicerias” in the American Southwest; especially those states with Mexican/Mexican-American enclaves.

When purchasing Carne Asada from meat markets you can purchase meat that has already been marinated and seasoned or you purchase it un-prepared.  Buying the prepared meat takes all the fun out it, but does save you some time.  I like to have my own fun with it and put my own mark on it!

In Mexico and the American Southwest you will find that Carne Asada is the Mexican equivalent of Barbecue.  Traditionally a large fire pit is used to prepare this dish but you can use whatever you have.  Since everything is prepared over direct heat you don’t need a lid or a fancy grill.  If you are planning on a big party and want to have plenty of meat for everyone plan on about 1 pound of meat per person.  If you plan a lot of side dishes then you can cut back on the amount of meat you prepare.

A popular and good marinade for Carne Asada will have a lot of lime juice, garlic, onion and black pepper. Of course other fruit juices work great as well, like papaya, which makes the meat tender because papaya is a natural tenderizer.  You can add hot peppers to the marinade if you want but be careful you don’t over power the meat and make it too hot to appreciate.  Don’t add salt to your marinade.  Save this for the cooking stage.

Ideally the meat should be cooked over a charcoal fire.  Traditionally mesquite is used.  If all you have is a gas grill, not to worry – this will work fine.  When you get ready to grill you will want to have a course salt on hand (I use celtic sea salt).  You want to grill over a good, hot fire.  This dish cooks pretty quickly so have everything else to be served with your meal prepared before you start the meat on the grill.

Traditionally Carne Asada is grilled to well done.  In my opinion you get the best flavor when it’s grilled to well done (this is the only read meat dish I like well done).  Once you have the meat grilled to perfection you will want to take it straight to a carving board.  Cut the meat across the grain with a good sharp knife.  The pieces should be thin strips. Keep the meat warm in a heavy pot with a lid.  You don’t need to add heat but you want to hold in the heat you have.

Carne tortillaServe with warm tortillas and whatever fixings you prefer. A good Carne Asada taco would be in a homemade flour tortilla with homemade salsa, topped with guacamole.  If you have leftovers, make enchiladas the next day (I’ll save that for another blog!).

Now, I have tasted a lot of Carne Asada – being raised in Southern New Mexico/Arizona, so it’s not like I don’t have a corner on what it should taste like.  I have to say, hands down, the best Carne Asada I’ve ever tasted was using the recipe below.  The chocolate seriously added depth to the taste factor in the Carne Asada!  OH MY GAWD!  I’mHARDTRIGGER hooked!  All of that being said, let us not forget the important role that the meat played in this particular recipe.  I used Carne Asada (un-prepared) from Hardtrigger Canyon, a local 900 acre ranch.  Hardtrigger cattle are grain fed; the meat is dry aged for 15 to 21 days; the owners raise all of the corn, hay, and barley that is fed to their cattle (using ‘no till’ farming), with the end result being, beef that is leaner, has increased tenderness, and is more flavorful.  Certainly a plus for this delectable dish.


This recipe is for 1 lb of Carne Asada


2 cups Lime juice

3 cloves of fresh Garlic (Mashed with the flat of your knife – do not chop, as you don’t want the garlice to get stuck to your meat and remain there while you are grilling – it will impart a bitter taste to your meat)


3 Tblsp Donya Marie’s Dark Chocolate Meat Rub (your choice of flavor)

1/4 tsp cayenne

2.5 Tblsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 Tblsp Pepper

1 Tblsp Cocoa

1 Tblsp Onion powder

(note do not add salt to this mixture)

(For the Double Meat Rub – leave out the cayenne; use only 1 Tblsp of chili powder)

Mix together the cayenne, cumin and chili powder with the meat rub.  Mix the seasoning in with the marinade.  Place your meat in a zip lock back.  Pour the combination of marinade/seasoning into the bag.  Removing as much air as possible, seal and place the bag in the freezer for 8 hours or overnight (overnight is best).

Place the meat on the grill and when the juices start to rise on the surface, sprinkle with salt. When the salt liquefies on the surface flip the meat over and repeat. This seasons the meat as it cooks. Carne Asada is supposed to be on the salty side but this doesn’t mean that you need to drown the meat in salt.

Roux / Dark Chocolate Shrimp Etouffee


Roux (roo) is basically a thickening agent made from flour and oil.  It is used to thicken sauces, soups, stews.  It can also be used as a flavor enhancer depending on the color level the roux is cooked to.  Roux dates back over 300 years to French cuisine.

If you want to really make an award winning sauce, soup, or stew learn to make a roux.  It’s an extremely easy process that every home cook should know about and use.

The difference in a roux and other thickening agents is that the flour is cooked before use in other dishes.  Cooking the flour removes its raw taste.  The result is a smooth and delicate thickener.

Vegetable oil is generally used as the oil for a roux, but animal fats are also used.  When making a Roux it is best to make it in quantity, as this is easier to obtain the desired consistency and color.  If made in a small amount you run the risk of burning and not having a silky smooth roux.

The measurements for making a roux are 1 part flour and 1 part oil or animal fat in weight.  If you don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh this out then plan on 1 part oil/fat and 1 ¾ part flour (use all-purpose flour).

Wine Yourself!I usually make 1 cup oil/fat to 1 3/4 cup flour, as I like to make a bigger quantity so I don’t run the risk of burning.  You can store the roux in the fridge for up to 3 months and use as you need it.  If you don’t think you’ll use it within 3 months, share with your friend and give them your favorite recipe that you use the roux in.  Heat your oil/fat over medium heat until a sprinkle of the flour in the oil just begins to bubble.  Stir in 1-3/4 cups of flour to form a thick paste the consistency of cake frosting. Once you start the roux, DON’T leave it.  Get a glass of wine and stay put, hovering and stirring!

Continue stirring as the roux gently bubbles/foams and cooks to the color you desire (see below for colors and cooking times).  Do not allow the roux to bubble/foam too strongly, or it will burn rather than brown. 

Roux begins to thicken soon after it is combined with a liquid, but it must be simmered for 10 to 20 minutes for it to reach its full flavor and thickening potential.  This additional cooking time permits the flour to soften and absorb the liquid, resulting in a silky smooth soup or sauce.  If the simmering time is too short the flour in the roux will remain grainy.

To guarantee thickening without the lumps remember this general rule:  cold ingredients should always be added to hot.  When making roux as part of a recipe, the liquid ingredient must be cold or room temperature, and slowly whisked into the hot roux. Do this by adding the liquid a little at a time, stirring until smooth between each addition, until the roux forms a thin paste, then whisk in the remaining liquid and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cold or room temperature roux is stirred into a simmering soup or sauce until it dissolves. These methods make certain the roux is integrated slowly and the mixture will not form lumps.

When the roux has finished cooking, pour it into a metal or heatproof container and allow it to cool.  As it rests, the flour will begin to settle to the bottom, and the oil will rise to the surface.  Stir the oil back into the flour before using as this will make the roux dissolve smoothly.  If you decide to pour off the oil, the roux will still work, but it will require more stirring into a sauce in order to fully dissolve.

The amount of time the roux cooks determines the color of the roux.  There are four color levels a Roux can reach (your recipe will usually specify the color level to reach for):white roux

White – used in light sauces/soups such as clam chowders, milk-based sauces, macaroni and cheese, classic white sauce.  Cooked around 5 minutes, just long enough to take away the raw taste of the flour.

Blonde RouxBlonde – used for stock based stews, sauces, and soups.  Cooked around 20 minutes.  The color is most like lightly toasted bread.  This color level is the most commonly used because of it’s rich flavor (nutty), and the thickening power.brown roux

Brown – Used in Cajun and Creole dishes, hearty stews or chowders.  Cooked around 35 minutes, to obtain a peanut butter color.  The aroma of this colored roux is much nuttier than the blonde color.  Cooked for this amount of time the roux will lose some of it’s thickening power but give off a richer dark brown rouxflavor, therefore more of the roux will need to be used to obtain the thickening power desired.

Dark brown – Used in Cajun and Creole dishes, and hearty stews and soups. Cooked around 45 minutes to the color of ‘dark brown’.  The end result is a faint chocolaty aroma!  This of course is one of my favorites!   The color of roux has less thickening power due to the length of time cooked but the flavor factor is intense.  This color level will give you a flavor enhancer first and thickening agent second.

Remember that the secret to a good roux is ‘patience’, as in slow and easy.  Cook it too fast and you burn it.  Set aside some time to make the roux.  This is why it is best to make it in quantity, then when you need it, it’s made and you can spend your precious time on the dish at hand.  I have tried cooking roux in aluminum, cast iron, stainless steel and Teflon pans and I have found that cast iron and stainless steel work best.  But then I don’t claim to be an expert either!

Dark Chocolate Shrimp EtouffeeMy favorite recipe that I make which uses a roux is my     


6 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

4 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped green bell peppers

2 cups chopped celery

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons Donya Marie’s Dark Chocolate Spicy Meat Rub

1 quart chicken stock

3 pounds medium shrimp (21 to 25 count per pound), peeled and de-veined

1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

Steamed white rice, for serving

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion tops, for garnish

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. 

Add the flour and stir continuously to make a roux.  Stir the roux over medium heat until it is the color of peanut butter, 35 minutes.

Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic to the roux, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the pot and season with the bay leaves, salt, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of Donya Marie’s Dark Chocolate Spicy Meat Rub.  Cook the tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes and then whisk in the chicken stock.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. 

Cook the etouffee, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.

Season the shrimp with the remaining tablespoon of Meat Rub and add them to the pot, stirring to evenly distribute. Cook the shrimp for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked through.

Add the chopped parsley to the pot and stir to combine.

Serve immediately over steamed white rice and garnish with sliced green onion tops.