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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Easter, Passover and desserts with Chef Donna Marie Desfor

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Apr 2, 2015 8:10 AM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, April 2, 2015:

With Easter and Passover coming up later this week, families will gather for dinner and lots of food that traditionally go along with those holidays.

Desserts will be a big part of the feasts too.

Chef Donna Marie Desfor, who hosts the WITF Cooks TV shows, and owner of There's a Chef in My Kitchen, makes a pre-holiday appearance on Thursday's Smart Talk to share ideas and recipes.  As always, we'd like to hear from you too.  If you have a recipe to share, call 1-800-729-7532 during the show or describe it in the comments section below.

Chef Desfor will pay special attention to the sweets associated with the holiday.  In fact, she'll have some ideas for what all the candy in the Easter baskets can be used for.  So think chocolate, jelly beans, marshmallow chicks -- anything that is a treat on its own but could be used as an ingredient too.

Whenever we host Chef Desfor before a holiday, we always like to hear about your family traditions so that will be part of the program too.

Holiday Desserts 4.2.2015.jpg

Marie Desfor

Published in News, Smart Talk

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  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-01 13:45

    Paula Barton of WITF's Top Flight Media...
    Coconut Cheesecake Bars
    We can’t wait for you to try these spectacular Coconut Cheesecake Bars. The layers of flavor start with a crisp chocolate cookie crust, creamy coconut cheesecake, thanks to Coco GOYA® Cream of Coconut, and chewy toasted coconut. Easy and delicious, these cheesecake bars are a definite crowd pleaser!
    Serves 12
    Prep time: 10 min.
    Total time: 1 hr., 10 min. + chilling time
    For the Crust:
    ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for buttering pan.
    1 pkg. (6.3 oz.) GOYA® Chocolate Maria Cookies
    ½ cup sugar

    For the Cheesecake:
    2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
    1 can (15 oz.) Coco GOYA® Cream of Coconut, stirred
    1/8 tsp. salt
    2 large eggs
    ½ tsp. GOYA® Vanilla Extract
    3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
    1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 9”x13” cake pan with foil so that 2” foil hangs over each side. Butter pan; set aside. In bowl of food processor, add Maria cookies and sugar; pulse until fine crumbs form, about 30 seconds. Add melted butter; pulse to evenly moisten crumbs. Transfer crumbs to prepared pan; using spatula or bottom of glass, press crumbs into even layer. Bake crust until lightly puffed and fragrant, 12-15 minutes; set aside to cool.
    2. Meanwhile, in medium mixing bowl, using electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, cream of coconut and salt on medium-high speed until well combined, 3-4 minutes. Reduce speed to low; beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla extract until well combined.
    3. Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared pan. Evenly sprinkle coconut over top. Bake until edges of cheesecake is puffed but middle is barely set, 45 minutes. Cool cheesecake on cooling rack until room temperature. Chill in refrigerator, uncovered, until cold, at least 4 hours, or overnight.
    4. To remove cheesecake from pan, lifting up foil handles; transfer to cutting board. Cut cheesecake into squares. Serve.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-01 14:05

    WITF's Sharon Greelish Cody adds...
    Pineapple Bread Pudding

    6 cups of day old French bread, cubed
    2 cups whole milk
    ½ cup of white sugar
    ¼ cup brown sugar
    4 eggs
    ¼ cup salted butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
    8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

    1-Preheat oven to 325 degrees
    2-Butter a 13” x 9” baking dish
    3-In a large bowl, mix 3 Tablespoons of white sugar into milk and pour sweetened milk over bread to soak
    4-In a second large bowl, mix melted butter, brown and white sugar using a hand mixer on medium speed
    5-Add eggs, melted butter, cinnamon and vanilla to butter-sugar mixture and mix with hand mixer on low to combine thoroughly
    6-Add drained pineapple and egg-sugar-butter mixture to milk soaked bread and stir well
    7-Pour pudding into buttered casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil
    8-Bake for 40-45 minutes
    8-Remove foil, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until bread pudding is golden brown

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-01 14:20

    WITF's Joanne Cassaro dishes...
    Sauteed Pineapple with Honey and Pine Nuts


    1 cup cubed fresh pineapple (or canned)
    1 tablespoon butter
    2 tablespoons honey
    2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
    1 teaspoon rum
    2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese


    Drain the pineapple cubes in a strainer. Lay the pineapple cubes on a paper towel and pat dry. Put the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Make brown butter by heating the butter until melted and just starting to brown around the edges. Add the pineapple and toss to coat in the butter. Add the honey and toss to coat the pineapple with the honey. Cook until the pineapple is golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the pine nuts.

    In a small bowl mix together the rum and the mascarpone. Place the pineapple mixture in a serving dish and top it with a dollop of the cheese mixture. Serve immediately.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-02 06:44

    Lori LaMar with flat-bottomed or farm cupcakes...

    Cook Time
    Prep time: 30 min
    Cook time: 35 min
    Ready in: 1 hour 5 min
    Yields: serves 18 approx
    • 1 egg
    • 8 oz cream cheese softened
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • 1 6 oz pkg chocolate chips
    • 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 cup cocoa
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/3 cp oil
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    1. Mix: The first four ingredients together (cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt) until well blended.Then stir in chocolate chips and set aside.
    2. Then Mix: All the other dry ingredients together ( all-purpose flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, salt). Then proceed to mix all the liquids together ( water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla). Then mix together those two together.
    3. Line muffin pans, fill liners 1/3 full of chocolate batter. Then add a heaping top of cream cheese filling into each. Bake at 350' degrees for approx. 35 minutes. (Cakes should be slightly brown on top)
    4. Let cool and enjoy!

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-02 07:05

    Kimberly LaMar adds Cracker pudding...
    2 eggs (separated)
    1 quart milk
    1 sleeve of Saltine Crackers
    3/4 cup sugar
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Separate eggs. Bring 3 cups of milk to a boil. While milk heats, beat egg yokes, add 1 cup of milk (cold) and continue to beat. Break cracker and roll with rolling pin. Pour crackers into cold milk and egg mixture, add sugar and a pinch of salt and mix. Fluff egg whites with an electric mixer and set aside. When milk comes to a boil, pour in cold milk, egg, & sugar mixture, then stir until it boils. Remove mixture from the heat, and pour into large bowl. Add egg whites and vanilla to mixture, use a whip to blend. Cool, stirring occasionally, and place on cooling rack.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-02 07:30

    Hazelnut Macaroons
    This recipe is from Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations (available in print and as an e-book) by Jayne Cohen

    Yield: 25 to 30 macaroons

    These simply made macaroons are imbued with the vivid taste of hazelnuts--the toasty flavor of that transcendent Italian gelato, nocciola.
    Nuts can turn rancid easily if not properly stored, so make sure yours are fresh and sweet-tasting.

    2 1/3 cups shelled hazelnuts (also called filberts; about 12 ounces)
    1 cup plus 2 tablespoons white or granulated light brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract, or 1 teaspoon hazelnut-flavored liqueur, such as Frangelico, or another nut-flavored liqueur like amaretto (optional)

    3 large egg whites

    Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Toast the nuts: spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven, shaking occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until they are fragrant and most of the skins have popped. Wrap the nuts in a dish towel and let them cool slightly. Rub them vigorously against each other in the towel to remove most of the loose skins. Don’t bother about the remaining skins--they’ll just add to the flavor. You can turn the oven off for now.
    When the nuts are completely cool, grind them with the sugar in the food processor, using the pulse motion, until chopped fine. They won’t be perfectly ground, and they shouldn’t be. With the machine on, add the extract or liqueur if you are using it, and the egg whites, a little at a time. Process just enough to combine the ingredients into a smooth paste. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.
    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (You will probably need either to use two cookie sheets or work in batches.) Drop heaping tablespoons of batter on the cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Smooth and flatten the tops slightly with the back of a spoon or your fingertips (the batter will be quite sticky, so you may have to dip you finger occasionally in cold water). Bake for about 15 minutes, until just dry to the touch, puffed, and beginning to color. Remove from the oven and transfer the sheet to a rack to cool or slide the parchment paper off. The macaroons will be very soft but will harden as they cool.
    Don’t remove the macaroons until they have cooled completely, then carefully separate them from the parchment. They store well in airtight containers for at least 5 days.

  • Scott LaMar img 2015-04-02 07:42

    Tangy Haroset Bites
    From Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Treasury of Classics and Improvisations
    by Jayne Cohen (Wiley 2008)

    Yield: About 8 servings
    1 cup walnuts
    30 to 35 almonds
    1/2 cup black raisins
    1/2 cup dried, pitted dates (choose a soft variety like Medjool ), coarsely chopped
    1 1/2 heaping tablespoons dried tart cherries or cranberries
    1/4 cup unsweetened purple grape juice or kosher sweet Concord wine
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    30 to 35 tart dried apricots, plumped in very hot water until softened, and patted dry with paper towels

    Toast the nuts: preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts out in a single layer in a baking pan and toast them, shaking the pan occasionally, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
    Put the raisins, dates, and cherries or cranberries in a bowl. Stir in the grape juice or wine, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Let the fruit macerate for at least 15 minutes.
    When the nuts are cool, set the almonds aside and place the walnuts in a food processor. Using the steel blade, pulse on and off until the walnuts are coarsely chopped.
    Add the macerated fruit and any liquid remaining in the bowl to the food processor. Pulse on and off, until the mixture is a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl and chill so that mixture will be easier to roll. (The haroset tastes best if flavors are allowed to mingle for several hours.)
    Form heaping teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place each on a softened apricot half. Press an almond into each ball at a jaunty angle.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-02 08:23

    Fran from Lancaseter emails:

    I got a recipe on Facebook for scalloped potatoes layered over caramelized onions with Gruyere and Parmesan. My problem is that I won't have time to start from scratch after church. Would it work to bake it the night before and reheat it before dinner? Do you have any tips?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-02 08:34

    Carol from Lancaster emails:

    Hi, Scott – Baking country ham is a four day process. Pennsylvania-grown, I lived in North Carolina for many years before moving back. One year the Wilmington NC Public Radio station had a show of Aunt Ruby’s Country Christmas, featuring country ham among other things, (red snapper with champagne sauce was another) and they would send the recipes to you, so I sent for a copy – still have it somewhere.

    • First, you must soak the ham for three days, changing the water every day.
    • Then, the day of the dinner, you boil it in a large pot for an hour or so, depending on size.
    • THEN, you put it in the pan, score the fat, stud it with cloves and cover to bake, brushing on glaze several times.

    So, wanting to impress my North Carolina beau, I did all this. He thought it was wonderful!

    I didn’t – it was still way to salty and firm for me.

    So, he got all of the leftover ham to take home, froze a lot, and had a lot of mornings of biscuits with ham and red-eye gravy!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-02 08:36

    Jack from Lancaster emails:

    Our family is not fond of ham so we are always trying to figure out a good alternative dish or meal for Easter that does not involve ham. Any suggestions?

  • mdquilter img 2015-04-02 08:45

    I like to use a Wilton silicon egg mold to make Easter egg cupcakes ( Easy to make, and fun to decorate!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-02 08:47

    Noel emails:

    Boiled yucca root, dipped in a mix of shredded coconut meat and sugar. Also ‘Saba’ (a kind of thick) banana mashed, sprinkled with shredded coconut meat and sugar.

  • Rachel img 2015-04-02 08:50

    Here's a great and easy Passover dessert:

    Chocolate Caramel Matzah Crunch (Kosher for Passover or any other time of year)

    4-6 unsalted matzah boards/sheets
    1 C unsalted butter or margarine - (room temperature) – (if using margarine, make sure it is K for P!
    1 C brown sugar, packed firm
    ¾ C chocolate chips (Kosher for Passover)

    Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Line a cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover bottom of pan with baking parchment on top of foil. This is a very important step as mixture becomes very sticky during baking.
    Line bottom of pan evenly with matzah, cutting pieces of matzah, as required to fit any spaces on the cookie sheet as evenly as possible.

    Combine butter or margarine and brown sugar in a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed, saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking 3 more minutes, STIRRING CONSTANTLY. Remove from heat and pour over matzah immediately. Spread evenly over matzah.

    Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 350 F degrees. Bake 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure mixture is not burning. (If it seems to be browning too quickly, remove from oven and lower heat to 325 F degrees and replace.) Make sure to watch closely as it is very easy to burn the sugar!

    Remove from oven and sprinkle matzah immediately with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes and then spread melted chocolate over matzah. While still warm, cut into squares or odd shapes. Chill in fridge until set. (You can also chill in fridge before cutting into pieces.)

    You can also use white chocolate, toasted almonds, hazelnuts or any other items that are Kosher for Passover. Enjoy!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-02 08:54

    Noel emails:

    In the Philippines we’re not so much into meats for Easter—fish wrapped in banana leaf, stuffed with onions, garlic, peppers, ginger, then cooked in coconut milk. Served with coconut milk poured on top, over boiled rice.

    Served with guinoumis, a drink filled with toasted rice, coconut milk, shaved ice, sweetened with muscovado sugar.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-04-02 08:59

    Dave from New Holland emails:
    You were talking about not many fish recipes for Easter, my family has always made baked Shad over bread filling/stuffing. The bread absorbs the stronger fish oils and mixes great with the seasoning of the stuffing.

  • Bobbie Lazarchic Laughman img 2015-04-02 09:50

    My husband called in to your show today (David from Gettysburg) and described the Green Olive Pasta that we have loved since 1986. Back in the day I would make a huge pot of it, and that was our entire meal. Nowadays I serve it as a side with chicken or pork, either of which it complements nicely. David asked me to share the recipe here in case anyone was interested. I posted a detailed description and step-by-step recipe on a cooking website about 14 years ago. DO NOT let the length of the recipe daunt you -- I just describe everything to death. It's a VERY simple recipe.

    I hope someone tries it --- your tastebuds will love you.

  • katiecibort img 2015-04-02 09:55

    While Easter may come and go, the craving for PB eggs in our house never stops. This is an easy, great way to satisfy that hunger!

    Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars
    (from Let’s Dish)
    1 cup butter melted
    2 cups graham cracker crumbs (use the boxed kind, or grind them in a food processor. Tiny granules.)
    2 cups confectioners’ sugar
    1 cup + 4 tablespoons peanut butter
    1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
    In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners’ sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 inch pan. In a metal bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the peanut butter layer. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.

    Recipe found on