I'm not sure anything tickles us more than a happy accident in the kitchen.

Of course, for some of us, kitchen accidents are no laughing matter. Over one of the recent holiday breaks, I decided it was past time for everyone to return to work and school after first my beloved pizza stone, then a refrigerator shelf, were shattered. (If you've ever seen footage of some hulking basketball player shattering a backboard, with the resulting shower of tiny glass fragments, then you've got a good idea of what happened inside my fridge.)

But our happy accidents usually involve the creative use of ingredients on hand, rather than hours spent scouring nooks and crannies for glass shards. Sometimes, just a spur of the moment decision leads to a recipe that becomes a family fave.

"A few years ago, relatives from out of state called to let me know they would be at our house in a half-hour," says Marlene Bernardo of Redwood City. "I ran to get my Betty Crocker Cookbook to find a quick coffee cake recipe. As I was making the cake, I noticed a cup of hot chocolate my daughter left on the sink, untouched. Half of the chocolate cup went into the cake and made the best coffee cake ever!"

Bernardo's version of the coffee cake accompanies this column. You can simply add a half cup of chocolate milk to get that chocolaty goodness. Her recipe suggests adding a cinnamon-sugar topping option, so I included a simple recipe for a cinnamon-sugar crumb topping.

Some like it hot

In response to a reader request for European-style hot chocolate, Faith Simon, of Concord, shared a French hot chocolate recipe. Melt together semisweet chocolate squares, corn syrup and vanilla, then cool before whipping together with cream. The resulting "chocolate cloud" is spooned onto warm milk. The chocolate cloud drifts into the milk, providing a "delicious change of flavors from a delicate chocolate to a deep rich chocolate," according to Simon's recipe.

Second helpings

The column on slow cooking for smaller households reminded Liz Mabey of a tip. "Folks who own a large slow cooker but want to cook smaller batches can place their small batch into a ceramic dish that fits inside the large slow cooker container and cook as usual," says Mabey, of Mountain View. "You may have to adjust the cooking time according to the thickness of the secondary container and smaller amount of ingredients."

Mabey has had success with this technique but says, "I usually just make a big batch and either freeze portions to save work on some future evening, or share with a busy friend."

Request line

  • "I'm a native of Santa Clara and grew up on the brownies from Wilson's [Jewel] Bakery," says Linda H. "I have never found any better! Now that they have closed for good, I would love it if anyone out there has a recipe that is even remotely similar. I know a lot of other people -- not just us natives -- who feel the same way. Dying for some Wilson's brownies."

  • Plates regular Debbie Westhafer Schoonmaker was reminiscing about time spent in the kitchen with her late mother and a casserole she used to make when one line gave me pause. "It was made with whole canned chicken," she said. I couldn't quite envision such a product, but Westhafer Schoonmaker points out that you can indeed still buy a whole chicken in a can. Amazon sells four cans of Sweet Sue whole chicken for $49.95. Well, the giblets are excluded, but you get the picture.

    Westhafer Schoonmaker remembers a layered casserole using the chicken. "I think she got the recipe from someone in our Trailer Club, The Restless Wheels. Trailer Club potlucks were a great way of adding different food to our table, great casseroles and salads. Oh, the desserts table was so good."

    Westhafer Schoonmaker would enjoy chicken casserole recipes -- "the kind just like Mother would make" for either the oven or slow cooker. She doesn't need Mexican or lasagna-style casserole recipes.

    Send recipes and requests to Kim Boatman at HomePlates@bayareanewsgroup.com. Find recent Home Plates recipes online at www.mercurynews.com/home-plates.