Strawberry whoopie pies with a secret ingredient

It’s almost strawberry season in New Hampshire. While we await their arrival, let’s make something full of strawberry flavor that doesn’t need fresh produce!

The key to the flavor in these whoopie pies is the freeze-dried strawberries and strawberry Jell-o powder. Freeze-dried berries are a go-to ingredient for me, but Jell-o is something I almost never use (a.k.a. my secret ingredient). However, as I tested (and retested) this recipe, I found that the Jell-o was the key to this strawberry-centric treat.

There are two ingredient notes for this recipe. First, be sure to use regular Jell-o. I did not test this recipe with the sugar-free version, so I’m not sure how it would impact the final product. Second, you can use any milk you have on hand. Whether you use almond, soy, full-fat, low-fat, etc., the recipe will be just fine.
Now enjoy a batch of these as we await the arrival of strawberries and the start of summer!

Strawberry whoopie pies with a secret ingredient
Makes 10 pies

½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons strawberry Jell-o powder
1¼ cup freeze-dried strawberries, ½ cup ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
red food coloring, optional

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1¼ cup freeze-dried strawberries, ½ cup ground
2 Tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place melted butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with paddle attachment on speed 2 until smooth.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated on speed 2.
Add extract, Jell-o powder, strawberries, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing well on speed 2.
Use a spatula to scrape down the sides, and add 1½ cups of flour.
Mix on low; scrape sides with spatula, add milk, and mix until fully blended.
Add remaining cup of flour, and mix.
Add food coloring, and mix until fully combined.
Scoop approximately 1½ tablespoons batter, and place spaced evenly, onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (Will take two batches to bake all of the batter.)
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cakes spring back when touched.
Allow to cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet.
Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.
In a stand mixer combine butter, powdered sugar, strawberries, milk and vanilla extract; mix on low speed until combined.
Spread the flat side of 10 cakes with the frosting.
Top each with another cake.
Serve or store in a sealed container.

Featured photo: Strawberry whoopie pie. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Adam & Laura Rexford

Husband-and-wife team Adam and Laura Rexford of Manchester are the in-house bakers at Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop (815 Chestnut St., Manchester, 625-9544,, regularly experimenting with different seasonally inspired flavors of baked goods and treats like scones, cookies and whoopie pies. A baker at Angela’s since 1998, Laura Rexford met her husband while completing an internship as a culinary student in the bakery of the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods. Adam Rexford, who received a baking degree from Johnson & Wales University, would join the Angela’s team a couple of years later.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Laura: Mine is a rubber spatula, for savory [items] and for baking.

Adam: Mine is a bowl scraper.

What would you have for your last meal?

Laura: Definitely a turkey club, with rice with peas in it. And a Painkiller.

Adam: A rare burger … and an Old-Fashioned.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Adam: River Road Tavern [in Bedford]. … When I order a burger there I order it rare and 98 percent of the time it comes out perfect.

Laura: My favorite local spot is Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse. We go there every week after our bake! They have the best bartenders and the menu is easily adapted for my dairy allergy.

What celebrity would you like to see trying something that you’ve baked?

Adam: That’s such a hard question because I’m kind of cynical toward the whole celebrity life anyway. I don’t know.

Laura: Yeah, I would say, just like a regular everyday person. We want everyone to enjoy our stuff.

What is your favorite thing that you offer at the shop?

Laura: I’m not a breakfast kind of person — like, I’d rather have a sandwich. … My favorite thing to eat, though, would be one of Adam’s quick breads. Right now we have a lemon glazed poppy seed bread that’s delicious.

Adam: Probably just new flavor ideas for ricotta cookies and whoopie pies. … The mini whoopie pies have been going like crazy.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

Adam: Laura and I have kind of talked about this, and I think it’s just small bites.

Laura: Yeah, like, with the whoopie pies, it seems like that’s something that someone would buy to maybe share, whereas [with] the 12-pack you can have one with lunch and then save the rest of the pack for another time, and you’re not feeling guilty about it because it’s so tiny.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Laura: I really don’t care to bake or cook at home, so Adam does it all.

Adam: Yeah, I literally do almost 95 percent of the cooking at home. Probably one of my favorite things is doing beer can chicken on the grill.

Anise ricotta cookies
From the kitchen of Adam and Laura Rexford of Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 Tablespoons light cream
2 teaspoons anise extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
For the glaze (stir until combined):
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons water (more for a thinner glaze, less for a thicker glaze)

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add and beat in the eggs, ricotta cheese, light cream and anise extract until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the wet mixture and mix until smooth. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scoop the dough (about 2 tablespoons each) onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between scoops. Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden. Let the cookies cool completely. Dip cookie top into the glaze and sprinkle with nonpareils.

Featured photo: Adam and Laura Rexford, in-house bakers at Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop in Manchester. Courtesy photo.

Greek eats return

Nashua’s St. Philip Church to bring back food festival during 50th year

It has been more than 1,400 days since St. Philip Greek Orthodox Church in Nashua was last able to hold its annual food festival in its traditional format. On Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, the church will bring back its longstanding two-day tradition of Greek eats, live music, dancing and more. This year’s event, the first in-person festival since 2019, happens to coincide with the church’s 50th anniversary.

“We tried to bring it back as best we could to the original format,” festival co-chair Jamie Pappas said. “I think everybody will be pleased. I know that there’s a big buzz going on in the city, that people are excited that we’re back. And to be honest, we’re excited to be back, too.”

Since January, church parishioners and volunteers have been hard at work preparing all the food to be presented at the festival. Covid, Pappas pointed out, came along right in the middle of preparations for the 2020 festival. She said that, while church members have pulled off several successful takeout-only pop-up food events over the last few years, they have not planned a traditional festival post-pandemic until now.

A variety of homemade Greek meals will be available to walk-in attendees, including marinated lamb and chicken slow-cooked over an open fire, as well as dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach pie) and pastichio, a Greek pasta dish with ground beef and a béchamel sauce. The made-to-order gyro booth is making its return, Pappas said, as is the pastry table, featuring traditional sweet treats sold a la carte like baklava, loukoumades (fried dough balls) and all kinds of homemade cookies. Greek coffee will also be available to try.

“We’ve always had some sort of a Greek import table or booth, but we’re expanding it a little bit to make it almost like a marketplace, where you’ll be able to find things like ingredients used in the Greek cookies,” Pappas said.

On both days, local Greek-American dance band Ta Pethia Orchestra will provide live music. At 6 p.m. on Saturday there will be a special performance by Sons & Daughters of Alexander the Great, a professional dance troupe.

“We had them a long time ago and they are coming back again, so that’s exciting,” Pappas said.

As in years past, there will be plenty of tented seating to enjoy your food just outside the church, or you can take your meal to go. Rev. Paul Bebis, Pappas said, will be on hand to give tours and answer questions about the church.

Pappas said the festival’s return signifies the beginning of the church’s 50th anniversary celebration. A special gala is planned for Nov. 4 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Nashua.

“We are eternally grateful that people continued to support us through the pop-ups … and we can’t wait to open the doors and have people come in and visit us again,” she said.

St. Philip Greek Orthodox Church food festival
When: Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day
Where: 500 W. Hollis St., Nashua
Cost: Free admission and parking; all foods and drinks are priced per item.
Event is rain or shine. Overflow parking and free shuttle services will be available from Stellos Stadium (7 Stadium Drive, Nashua) throughout both days.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Fill your cup

New England Coffee Festival returns

Last year’s inaugural New England Coffee Festival brought more than 5,000 attendees to downtown Laconia over two days to enjoy workshops, vendors, samples and even a competitive “latte art throwdown.” Now the two-day celebration of specialty coffee culture is back for a second year with new features — the event returns to the city with a kickoff panel discussion and outdoor block party on Friday, May 19, followed by a full day’s worth of coffee-related activities scheduled for Saturday, May 20.

“Last year was awesome. It definitely exceeded our expectations,” said festival organizer Karen Bassett, who also co-owns Wayfarer Coffee Roasters in Laconia. “Everyone kept saying that it didn’t feel like a first-year event, and we felt like that was one of the highest compliments we could have received about Year 1, especially where we were just kind of learning the ropes and figuring this out. … This year, we’ve consolidated it to [having] just the Colonial Theatre as the coffee education center, and then the Belknap Mill for basically like the full festival experience over there.”

Admission options include either one-day or two-day passes. The festivities kick off with a panel discussion inside the Colonial Theatre on Friday at 6 p.m., moderated by Alex Stoyle of Revelstoke Coffee in Concord and featuring five area coffee professionals.

“The discussion is called ‘How Did You Get Here?’ and it’s just going to be a super approachable conversation for anyone,” Bassett said. “I think it’s super fun to hear about different career paths in the coffee industry that you may not realize, and just to hear from a lot of these people that maybe started out as baristas and then maybe got a management position in that cafe, or maybe they got interested in the roasting side.”

That will be followed by an outdoor block party on nearby Canal Street, where there will be samples provided by six local breweries in addition to live music and a wood-fired pizza truck.

“Last year we had a welcome mixer at one restaurant and it was really jam packed,” Bassett said, “so this year, we wanted to expand that opportunity to more people to kind of add to that community feel of the event.”

Coffee Festival happenings on Saturday will then include a full schedule of panel discussions, Q&A sessions and workshops, led by local industry professionals and covering a wide variety of coffee-related topics. There will be a total of five workshop locations, all in and around the Colonial Theatre, operating in what Bassett called a “choose your own adventure” format.

“We’re hosting a lot more coffee cuppings, which are kind of like a professional coffee tasting experience, and you’ll be walked through what that all looks like,” she said.

Other workshop topics will include loose leaf teas, elevating your home coffee brewing experience, infusing coffee and spirits and the importance of water filtration. Each will welcome passholders on a first-come, first-served basis.

The last big change for this year’s festival, Bassett said, involves the “latte art throwdown” — that will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday on the main stage of the Colonial Theatre, and it’s open to the public, although passholders will have access to front-row VIP seating.

A total of 32 New England area baristas will face off in a bracketed challenge testing their latte art skills, with all kinds of prizes awarded to finalists.

“Each round will be different. There may either be a design that they need to pour, or it could be a freestyle round,” Bassett said. “You should be seeing a lot of different types of designs, and there will be a panel of judges who get to pick their favorite. It’s going to be projected up on a screen too so everybody can see. … It was a lot of fun last year. It’s a friendly and fun competition, and it’s pretty fascinating to see what these baristas can do.”

Coffee Festival tickets can be purchased online, or you can get them inside the Colonial Theatre box office on the day of the event. A vendor expo will take place on the third floor of the Belknap Mill on Saturday, and several food trucks will be set up in its parking lot.

“Now that we have one [event] under our belt and are just about ready to have two, the concept behind the coffee and community hybrid-style event is one we don’t have to explain as much anymore,” Bassett said. “It gives people a very different coffee event than a typical industry expo where you go and get inundated with products and services. … It’s being able to both interact with coffee professionals and be able to share that passion with the people who are drinking your product.”

New England Coffee Festival
When: Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20
Where: Various locations across downtown Laconia, including the Colonial Theatre (617 Main St.) and the Belknap Mill (25 Beacon St. East), as well as on Canal Street, which will be closed to vehicular traffic between Main and Beacon streets during both days.
Cost: $50 for a one-day pass or $75 for a two-day pass; tickets can be purchased online or inside the box office of the Colonial Theatre the days of the event.

Featured photo: Scene from last year’s New England Coffee Festival. Photos by Raya Al-Hashmi, on Instagram @rayaonassignment.

The Weekly Dish 23/05/18

News from the local food scene

Taco Tour winners announced:The Greater Manchester Chamber recently declared the winners of this year’s Taco Tour, which took place in downtown Manchester on May 4. For the second consecutive year, Firefly American Bistro & Bar was crowned the winner for “Best Taco,” this time for its “Chewbacca chicken and cheese” tacos, while BluAqua Restrobar received the “Most Creative Taco” award for its alligator tacos. According to the announcement, Firefly received $1,000 to donate to Granite United Way, their local charity organization of choice. Through its VIP ticket sales, the Greater Manchester Chamber was also able to raise $500 to be donated to the New Hampshire Food Bank. Read the full announcement on the Chamber’s Facebook page @grtrmanchester.

A bite of the apple: Get your tickets now to Concord Hospital Trust’s inaugural Apple Blossom Social, featuring an upscale farm-to-fork dinner that’s scheduled to be served on Sunday, May 21, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Smith Orchard (184 Leavitt Road, Belmont). The four-course meal will include an appetizer tasting plate and apple-paired offerings from the team at Laconia Local Eatery, which sources its products locally throughout New Hampshire and other New England states. Tickets start at $125 per person and are available online — according to a press release, all proceeds will support the replacement of a new echocardiogram machine at Concord Hospital’s Laconia facility. Visit or call 227-7162 to purchase tickets.

Whiskey business: The New Hampshire Liquor Commission is giving away some of the world’s rarest Scotch whiskies to one lucky prize-winner. According to a press release, the NHLC’s “Allies for Animals” raffle features a prize package of nearly three dozen Scotch whiskey bottles, including The Macallan 25-Year-Old, Balvenie 25-Year-Old Single Barrel, Johnnie Walker King George V and Orphan Barrel Muckety Muck 26-Year-Old. Tickets can be purchased for $100 each through June 30, or until 1,500 of them are sold. Proceeds will support the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire, the Friends of Manchester Animal Shelter and Back In the Saddle Equine Therapy Center. See

• “Lost” episodes: Early episodes of the long-running PBS cooking series Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito are now available to view online via the membership-driven content platform Patreon. Ciao Italia: The Lost Recipes launched earlier this month on the platform, giving members full access to view more than 500 episodes of the popular cooking show featuring chef and University of New Hampshire graduate Mary Ann Esposito, which made its debut back in 1989 and recently broadcast its 30th season. Many of the featured episodes, according to information at, have not previously been available to view since their first airing. Visit to view the content for $3.99 per month and also receive on demand recipes, cookbook discounts and more.

On The Job – Daniel Horan


Daniel Horan is an auctioneer and appraiser and owner of Schmitt Horan & Co., an auction house in Candia.

Explain your job and what it entails.

We are auctioneers and appraisers specializing in selling antiques at auction. We travel the country and the world collecting consignments for sale at several of our auctions throughout the year, hosted at our gallery in Candia. Every lot is assessed and photographed by experts and then presented to a live audience in attendance at our gallery and across four different online auction sites that span a global audience. We are truly an international operation.

How long have you had this job?

I have been in the auction business for almost 25 years. In 1999 I started work for a small auction firm owned by a family member while I was attending UNH and studying chemical engineering. In 2009, I assumed a role as partner in R.O. Schmitt Fine Arts in cooperation with its founder, Bob Schmitt. In 2017, when I assumed full control of the company, we became Schmitt Horan & Co.

What led you to this career field and your current job?

While working at my first auction firm, I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug and forsook refining petroleum in Houston or fracking the oil fields of North Dakota for the thrill of running a small business. I have never looked back and went straight into auctioneering full-time after college.

What kind of education or training did you need?

Auctioneers in New Hampshire must be licensed by the Secretary of State. My license number is 5060. To be granted a license, auctioneers must either attend auctioneer’s school or apprentice and have two licensed auctioneers attest to their competency, and also pass a written test. In addition, I have specialized knowledge about the history and value of antiques, specifically watches and clocks, which is our specialty.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

Overalls and comfortable shoes, except on auction weekends, when I wear a three-piece suit and a pocket watch with chain.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?

Being on the road picking up consignments is very challenging. Being away from the home, family and the office, potentially for weeks at a time, can be grueling. Oftentimes, I will try to do a little sightseeing to break up the monotony. I have been to over 35 U.S. and Canadian national parks, many of them while enroute for consignments.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

How valuable a resource the Small Business Administration can be for companies like ours.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

How fulfilling running a small business can be. It is oftentimes more work and responsibility, but I believe more reward is the result. We also hope more young people get involved in learning about antiques.

What was the first job you ever had?

I was a clerk running a register at Best Drug on Elm Street in the early 1990s as a teenager. Like many independent pharmacies, Best Drug has been closed for many years now.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

Your ultimate success is a long-term commitment.

Five favorites

Favorite book:
Don Quixote
Favorite movie: Braveheart
Favorite music: Pink Floyd
Favorite food: Aged cheese
Favorite thing about NH: Proximity of natural beauty and culture

Featured photo: Daniel Horan. Courtesy photo.

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