Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup (Surprise: There's no cream and it's all about the onion).

I love soups made with root vegetables. In this soup, potatoes are the star. But to really develop nice flavor, I give credit to the onion. Onion is thinly sliced, pole-to-pole, into long strips, and then cooked in olive oil over very low heat for 30 minutes, slowly turning soft and golden. This method really brings forth excellent flavor, in my opinion. The remaining diced aromatics are then added to the onions and softened, with the heat brought up a bit and with more stirring on the chef's part. Later, to obtain a creamy soup without adding cream, an immersion blender is used to emulsify the soup a bit, but still leaving plenty of chunky veggies. Delicious!


1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced, pole-to-pole, into strips
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Bay Leaf
2-3 sprigs of Thyme
6 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cup diced, cooked ham
Salt and Pepper


In a soup pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbs olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and immediately lower the burner heat to its lowest setting. Sprinkle the onions with a pinch or two of salt. Stirring occasionally, slowly cook the onions until very soft and golden - but not burnt; about 30 minutes. Add the carrot and celery, increasing the heat slightly. Stir a bit more frequently to avoid burning the onions and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

Add the potatoes and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. The potatoes should have softened. Remove several cups of the soup from the pot and place into a mixing bowl: be careful to not scoop up any Bay Leaf or Thyme sprigs. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup in the mixing bowl until it is creamy. Return the blended soup to the soup pot. Add the ham and continue to cook until ham is heated through. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Yellow Cake

Here is a recipe for an easy yellow cake. I made this as a birthday cake using a 9-inch round cake pan. Decorate it with your favorite frosting.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment.


1-1/2 cup AP four
1-3/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs (room temperature)


In a small bowl, combine the AP flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt. Measure the milk into a Pyrex cup and stir the vanilla into the milk.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, beating the mixture on medium high for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time. Using a spoon or whisk, starting with the flour, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the sugar, ending with the flour mixture.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The cake is done with it springs back when touched on top and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with only a few crumbs.

Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and allow it to finish cooling on the rack.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Easy Tomato Sauce

The amount of salt in prepared, store bought pasta sauce can be shocking. Yes, shocking! This recipe provides an delicious, easy alternative that can quickly be made at home.


3 - 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Two 28-ounce cans of whole, plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 - 3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a roasting pan large enough to hold the tomatoes, add the garlic to the pan and then cover with the tomatoes. Top with salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil, and then the balsamic vinegar, over the tomatoes. Add the bay leaf. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Either in the roasting pan, if it is large enough, or by transferring to an appropriate bowl, use an immersion blender to blend the tomatoes to desired texture.


Adapted from The New York Times.

Cranberry Relish

Fresh cranberry relish is simple to make and essential to the Thanksgiving table. Its color and zippy flavor add a needed spark to a plate of turkey, stuffing and potatoes. Here is an easy recipe which can be made a day ahead.


1 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tsp orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice


Rinse the cranberries in cold water. Then combine the cranberries and the remaining ingredients in a large sauce pan. A large pan is needed because as you cook, the hot berries and sugar will rise up in the pan.

Over medium heat, bring the ingredients to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the cranberries pop and the relish is somewhat thickened, about 7 to 10 minutes. Skim off any white froth and cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tip: Before serving, give the relish a little bit of a stir.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cornmeal Biscotti

These are my current biscotti obsession: flavorful and crunchy but not jaw breaking because butter is included as an ingredient. Perfect cookies for an afternoon snack.

Cornmeal Biscotti with Walnuts and Dried Fruit

1 cup plus 2 Tbs. AP flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup dried fruit (I've used cranberries and chopped figs)
1 cup walnut pieces


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the nuts and dried fruit.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.  Stir one tablespoon of this mixture into the bowl containing the nuts and fruit. This will help prevent these ingredients from sticking together.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, vanilla and lemon zest and beat until light. Stir the flour mixture into the sugar and butter mixture, then add the fruit and nuts.

The dough will be sticky. You are going to shape the dough into a log measuring around 12" by 3". Begin by using a large spoon and scooping out portions of the dough to create the 12" length. Then with wet hands, pat the dough into its final rectangular shape.

Bake the dough for 35 to 40 minutes, until light brown and slightly cracked on top. Cool the baked dough for at least 20 minutes. Then transfer the dough to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut it into slices about 1/2" wide. Stand the slices on the cookie sheet making sure there is some space between each piece.

Bake the slices for an addition 15 to 20 minutes, until the pieces are beginning to turn brown. The cookies will get crunchy as they cool.


Adapted from Alice Medrich, “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies,”

Monday, September 26, 2016

Simple Chicken and Rice for Two

This simple yet flavorful dish is a comforting Sunday night supper.


4 chicken pieces, bone-in, skin-on. I use thighs and legs.
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tbs chopped, fresh rosemary
2 tsps. chopped, fresh thyme
1/4 cup water
1/2 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
6-8 black olives, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 tsp capers
1 cup rice
A generous 2 cups of chicken stock


At least four hours before you wish to eat, toss the chicken pieces in olive oil, some salt and pepper, and the rosemary and thyme. Refrigerate.

One hour before you will begin cooking (or, at a minimum, 15 minutes), remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Getting the chill of the chicken improves the color and sear you will obtain in the next step, which is browning the bird. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add a bit of olive oil to a fry pan and, over medium high heat, brown the chicken for about 4 to 6 minutes a side. Remove the pan from heat and add the 1/4 of water - be very careful to watch out for hot steam that may suddenly arise. Allow the chicken to sit in the pan and proceed to the next step.

In a Dutch Oven, heat olive oil over medium. Add the onion and celery, then salt and pepper the vegetables. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the olives, garlic and capers and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the raw rice, being sure to coat the rice in the onion mixture. Add the chicken pieces including the accumulated juices from the fry pan. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Cover and place in the oven for about 40 minutes.

Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Peanut Butter Cookies

The idea of baking some peanut butter cookies popped into my head, and wouldn't leave! So I dug out Alice Medrich's book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies, and baked a batch. Yum!


6.75 ounces unbleached AP flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
8 Tbs. softened, unsalted butter 
1.75 ounces dark brown sugar
5.25 ounces granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
11.25 ounces peanut butter


Mixing the Dough Day

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Using your stand mixer, combine the butter and sugars until smooth, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, gently stir together the egg and vanilla, then add it to the butter/sugar mixture along with the peanut butter. Mix until blended. Remove the bowl from the stand. Add the flour and stir until combined - make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Bake Day

Position the racks of the oven to the top and bottom thirds. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment. Fill a tablespoon with dough, then roll it into a ball. It should measure about 1 to 1-1/4 inch. Measure the weight of that ball on your kitchen scale. My dough balls weighed .7 gram. Proceed to form the rest of the dough into .7 gram balls (or whatever weight you've selected). Place balls on the baking pan about 2 inches apart. With the back of a fork, press a cross hatch into each ball. These cookies do not spread very much, so it's okay to flatten them down a bit. Top with a small sprinkle of sea salt if you like. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pans midway through, until cookies are golden brown on the bottom. 

Cool on a rack.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Cake Everyday: Lemon Ricotta

I found this recipe at Food 52; it's fabulous! A perfect cake to enjoy in the summer.


1-1/4 unbleached AP flour
Pinch of salt
1 Tbs. aluminum-free baking powder
9 Tbs. unsalted, best quality butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 Tbs sugar
3 eggs (I prefer organic)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup ricotta cheese. I used part-skim ricotta.
1 to 2 apples, peeled and grated; enough to make about 1 cup. I used Pink Lady.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter and flour a 9" springform pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the AP flour, pinch of salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. (King Arthur Flour has a good article on softening butter and creaming it with sugar). With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Then add the lemon zest, ricotta, and grated apple.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top of the batter with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake on top of a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove the cake from the circular form and finish cooling on the rack.

Finish the cake with a dusting of confectioners sugar.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fro-Yo and Lemon-Cream Custard Torte

This frozen treat is a yummy trio of flavors: A graham cracker crust, topped with a layer of frozen vanilla yogurt, and then a rich, lemony custard. The key to getting the best flavor from this dessert is to take it out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving (it can even sit a few more minutes on the counter).


1.5 cup finely crushed graham crackers
6 Tbs. butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

1 pint of frozen vanilla yogurt (you can add another 1/2 pint for a thicker layer)
3 eggs (1 whole egg, 2 yolks, 2 whites)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream


Make the Graham Cracker Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the crushed crackers, melted butter and sugar. Press the crumbs into an 8-inch square pan; push the crumbs up the side of the pan a bit to help contain the next layers of torte. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly brown. Let cool.

Make the Frozen Yogurt Layer: Carefully cut away the container from the frozen yogurt. Cut the yogurt into slices and lay on the bottom of the graham cracker crust. Arrange the slices around the pan as needed to cover the surface. Use the back of a spoon to smooth the layer. Freeze.  

Make the Lemon-Cream Custard: In a sauce pan, beat together 1 whole egg and 2 yolks. Add sugar, salt and lemon juice. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly until thick. This could take 20 minutes, so get comfortable before starting to make this custard.

When the custard is thick, pour it into a large bowl and allow it to cool.

Two more bowls are needed for the next steps. In one bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. In another bowl, whip the cream.

Fold the cream into the lemon mixture. Next, fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour everything into the pan with the crumb crust and yogurt. Smooth the top and freeze.


Sassy, Flavorful Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

This roasted chicken dish is great all year long, but the flavorful marinade combined with crisp potato slices, crunchy arugula and cool yogurt sauce makes this dish perfect for a hot day in July or August.

Recipe Adapted from the New York Times

Ingredients for 4 Servings

1.5 pounds chicken drumsticks and chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
1.25 pounds small, round potatoes cut into 1/2" slices or coins
2 tsps. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbs. Sambal Oelek Ground Fresh Chili Paste (a thick hot sauce)

1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Olive oil
2 leeks
1/2 cup plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
1 small garlic clove


Marinate the chicken and potatoes for 6 to 8 hours before you plan to cook. Place chicken and sliced potatoes in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the 2 Tbs. Sambal Oelek Ground Fresh Chili Paste with 3 Tbs. olive oil and 1/2 tsp ground cumin. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the chicken and potatoes and stir/toss to distribute it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Prepare the leeks. Using only the white and light green part of the leeks, cut the leeks lengthwise in half, and then cut each half into thin "sticks". You want long, thin pieces of leek, not round coins or half-moons. Set aside in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook

Cook the dinner! Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating, remove the chicken and potatoes from the refrigerator. Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil (this helps with cleanup). Place the chicken on the foil-lined pan. Scatter the potatoes around the chicken. When the oven is hot, bake the chicken for about 15 minutes. Pull the pan out of the oven and flip the potatoes around a bit to prevent sticking. Continue baking another 10 minutes. Now add the leek strips by scattering them over the pan. Continue roasting another 20 minutes or until chicken and potatoes are well-browned and the chicken has an internal temperature is at least 165 degrees.

Note: I've had to experiment a bit on deciding when to add the leek strips. A little charring is fine, but if they are added too soon, the leeks burn completely. So just be aware of this as your oven may perform differently than mine.

While the chicken is cooking, grate the garlic clove over the yogurt, add a pinch of salt and a little pepper, and stir to combine.

Plate and serve. Scatter a layer of arugula over each dinner plate.  Place chicken pieces and potatoes on top of the arugula, then drizzle the garlic yogurt sauce over everything. Serve with a cold glass of wine.



Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Taco Tuesday: Easy Chicken Tacos

We love tacos. Here is an easy and flavorful method to make chicken for tacos, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.


1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
6 ounces of salsa
4 ounces water
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 to 2 Tbs. sauce from a can of chipotle in adobo sauce


Combine all the ingredients in an oven-safe pan large enough to allow the chicken pieces to lay flat. I like to use a stoneware baker.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator to marinate for 6 to 8 hours.

When you are ready to bake the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap. Bake 20 minutes or until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

You're going to shred the chicken right in the pan in which it was baked. The chicken will shred easily; but nonetheless, work carefully around the hot pan! Use two forks to shred all the chicken. Now you have shredded taco filling with a delicious sauce.

Serve the shredded chicken with crispy taco shells and all the toppings you love: lime juice, shredded cheese, salsa, avocado, sour cream . . . the works!


Monday, May 30, 2016

Jam on Waffles: It's what's for breakfast.

This morning I crisped-up a Trader Joe's whole wheat toaster waffle and topped it with a drizzle of olive oil and the last of 2015's strawberry preserves. 

Thank goodness it is almost June and strawberry season again. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Make this, then sit back and enjoy the applause: Baklava

Baklava! It's delicious. It looks amazing. And it is easy to do. Just remember to start two days before you want to serve the dessert.

So, let's go!


1 packet Phyllo dough. The box from the grocery store freezer section contains two packages. You'll need just one.

1 stick of butter, plus more to grease a 9 x 13 pan

16 ounces of toasted walnuts, chopped into pieces in the food processor.
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of cardamon
pinch of nutmeg

2 cups honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla

I. The day before you bake.

The day before you want to make the baklava, put a packet of phyllo dough into the refrigerator to defrost.

Isn't this easy!?

II. Bake day!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Get the packet of phyllo dough out of the refrigerator; let it rest on the counter for about an hour. While it's resting, proceed with the steps below.

1. Make the sauce.

Combine 2 cups of honey, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and lemon zest in a sauce pan. Stirring continuously, bring to a simmer over medium heat; gently simmer 10 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and simmer 5 minutes more.

Set aside and allow to cool.

2. Prepare the nuts.

Toast 16 ounces of nuts for about 8 minutes in the oven. Coarsely chop the in the food processor
In a large bowl, combine the nuts with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar and a pinch of nutmeg and cardamon.

3. Assemble and Bake.

Butter the 9 x 13 pan. Melt the stick of butter in a sauce pan.

Unfold the phyllo dough. Brush melted butter on one sheet, and place that sheet in the pan, buttered side down. Cover with an unbuttered sheet. Repeat this twice more (buttered, unbuttered; buttered, unbuttered). Six sheet are now in the pan. (6)

Sprinkle some of the nut mixture over the dough; about a 1/4 cup should do it.

Add three more sheets of phyllo dough: buttered, unbuttered, buttered. (3) Then, sprinkle nut mixture over the dough.

Repeat using two sheets of phyllo dough: buttered, unbuttered. (2) Then top with nut mixture.

Repeat the layering again with two sheet of dough followed by nut mixture, as above. Continue until you have only 3 sheet of phyllo dough remaining.

Butter each of the remaining sheets of dough and add them to the pan. The final sheet should have its buttered side facing out.

Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the dough into diamonds or squares.

Bake for 40 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour the honey mixture on to the bars. Allow the baklava to sit on the counter, uncovered.

III. Day Three: Serve the fabulous treats!


A pan of baklava - heaven!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Flavorful Basmati Rice

It is worth taking the time to do a few extra steps when preparing a savory rice side dish. First, rinse the rice until it no longer turns the water a milky color. See how here. Second, soak the rinsed rice in a bowl of water for 20 minutes before cooking. These two steps alone will kick-up your rice game!

Flavorful Basmati Rice

2 cups of rice
4 cups of chicken stock (the type with the lower sodium content)
2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
4-5 green cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 small onion, cut into thin half moons

Rinse the rice. Soak the rinsed rice in a bowl of water for 20 minutes.

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable over medium heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and cumin to the hot oil. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly; add the onion and cook until soft, about 8 minutes.

Strain away the soaking water from the rice. Add the rice to the pot. Saute the rice for a minute or two, and then add the chicken broth and salt. Bring the rice to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and let the rice sit for 5 minutes.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

There's some choppin' to do for this soup, and a number of steps to follow. But it is delicious. The "cream" here is from pureed potatoes and cauliflower.


3 medium round, white potatoes (the type with the thin yellow skin)
1 large bag (12 or 16 oz) of frozen cauliflower florets
4 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
3 leeks (white part only) finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped (or 2 Tbs dried)
Salt and pepper
1 Bay leaf
6 cups chicken stock, divided into 2 C and 4 C


Peel and finely dice the potatoes. In a large sauce pan, heat about 1 inch of water to boiling. Place the potatoes in a vegetables steamer. Add the steamer to the pan of water. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook the potatoes for about 20 minutes or until tender.

In a large soup pot, bring 2 cups of chicken stock to boil. Add the frozen cauliflower. Return to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer the cauliflower for 8 minutes. Add the potatoes to the cauliflower, along with 4 cups of chicken stock and 1 Bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the Bay leaf, and allow vegetables and broth to cool. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the vegetables until creamy (the liquid may still be hot; be careful). Some pieces/small chunks of vegetables are fine.

Meanwhile, in a nonstick pan warm 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and leeks; cook for 3 minutes. Add the carrot and celery; cook for 3 minute. Add the parsley and stir to incorporate. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the onion mixture to the pureed cauliflower and potatoes. Simmer together for 20 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot!