Sugar Cookies
Sugar Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen rolled and cut sugar cookies (depends on the size of the cutter)

Big Note: This dough needs about 2 hours in the refrigerator to chill, so plan accordingly

I give my brother-in-law Bob all the credit for introducing me to this recipe. The cookies made with this dough are crisp, buttery, and sweet. I find the dough easy to roll and re-roll. We always use confectioners’ sugar for dusting the countertop before rolling, and then cut the dough with our favorite shaped cutters.  The confectioners’ sugar works beautifully to prevent the dough from sticking to the countertop, prevents adding more flour to the dough which can make the dough tough, and of course the sugar adds a rich, sweetness to the outer surface of the cookies.

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting the coutertop

Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir together several times with a whisk to thoroughly blend. Set aside. With a mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar together until light in color and fluffy in texture.  Add the egg and milk and contine beating to combine well. On low speed, or using a strong wooden spoon, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter. Remove the dough from the bowl in 3 parts and wrap each 1/3 of dough in plastic wrap and shape into a flat disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick foil, release side up.Generously rub the countertop or area where you will roll the dough with confectioners’ sugar.  Take 1 disc of dough out of the refrigerator.  Roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Move the dough around and check underneath to be sure it isn’t sticking.  Cut into desired shapes and sprinkle with colored sugar or other sprinkly decorations if desired.  Place at least 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 7 to 9  minutes or until cookies just start to turn brown around the edges. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.  Serve as is or frost as desired.  If there are any left, store in an airtight container for up to one week.…

School's Out
School's Out

It’s official – school is out for 2 full weeks due to the upcoming Christmas holiday. We’re headed into a time where everyone wants to stay up later, wear their pajamas longer, leave their rooms a littler messier, and eat a few more cookies – maybe even for breakfast. I’ve been cooking my normal meals, but today had hoped to make the dough for our gingerbread house and make the ever famous Chex Mix. Well.. instead I prepared food for the North American feast at my kids school, and took some time to vacuum, and mop the kitchen floor. Believe it or not, the vacuuming and mopping alone makes me feel more peaceful as we head into two glorious weeks of vacation from school, routine, and homework.  These are the days I long for. Now we just need some snow.…

20 Food Trends for 2009

I thought you’d like to see what’s hot, and what’s not, in the world of food for 2009 as reported by the National Restaurant Association in their Chef Survey: What’s hot in 2009.  I find #5 fascinating – fabricating new cuts of meat. Taking the same ol’ cow or pig and with different butchering techniques new, and many times better, cuts of meat are identified and often become quite popular, like this more popular Flat Iron Steak.

1. Locally grown produce

2. Bite-size/mini desserts

3. Organic produce

4. Nutritionally balanced children’s dishes

5. New/fabricated cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, bone-in Tuscan veal chop)

6. Fruit/vegetable children’s side items

7. Superfruits (e.g. acai, goji berry, mangosteen)

8. Small plates/tapas/mezze/dim sum

9. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor

10. Sustainable seafood

11. Nutrition/health (e.g. low-fat, reduced sodium, antioxidants, high-fiber)

12. Gluten-free/food allergy conscious

13. Non-traditional fish (e.g. branzino, Arctic char, barramundi)

14. Artisanal cheeses

15. Exotic fruit (e.g. durian, passion fruit, dragon fruit, guava)

16. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, customized to specific dishes)

17. Micro-vegetables/micro-greens

18. Organic wine

19. Dessert flights/combos/platters

20. Free-range poultry/pork…

Surimi Salad

12 ounces surimi pieces
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning
Black pepper to taste

Chop surimi into small chunks and place in a bowl. Mix in the celery, shallots, capers, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and creole seasoning. Add black pepper to taste. Serve chilled.…

Smoky Spiced Nuts

Yield 1  1/2 pounds

I like adding smoky flavor with smoked paprika not liquid smoke. For a spicer nut increase the cayenne pepper to 1/4 teaspoon. This recipe doubles well, but be sure to bake on two baking sheets in order to acheive the proper crunchiness.

2 egg whites
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
8 ounces whole almonds
8 ounces pecan halves
8 ounces walnut halves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until very foamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted from the egg foam. Fold in the Worcestershire Sauce, paprika, and cayenne. Stir in the nuts and butter, coating the nuts well. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Immediately scrape the nuts from the pan while hot and spread on a sheet of foil until cool. Break into clusters or into individual nuts. Store tightly covered for up to 2 weeks.…

The Baking Begins

My holiday kitchen is officially open. Our Fraser Fur, fresh from Fries Brothers, stands bare waiting for its decorations. Behind me, the pantry overflows with nuts, spices, chocolate, flour, sugar, and sprinkles. Then there’s our refrigerator giving its all to keep the butter, eggs, and nog chilled. As we make our way through the next few weeks I’ll share favorite holiday recipes, many like these Smoky Spiced Nuts I make only once a year. That once a year is now.…

Winter Wheat Berry Salad

Serves 8 to 12

This recipe calls for 6 cups of cooked wheat berries, although 6 cups of another cooked grain such as brown rice, quinoa, pearl barley, or bulgur can be substituted for the wheat berries. Be aware that the cooking times for whole grains vary. The procedures and cooking times for other whole grains can be found at the Whole Grains Council .

Place the wheat berries in a large saucepan and with enough water to cover the berries by a few inches. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes. Taste and see if the wheat berry is cooked. You want a soft, but still chewy texture. If desired, cover and cook for 15 to 30 more minutes until the desired texture is reached. Drain off the water and allow the wheat berries to cool to room temperature.

2 cups wheat berries
1/2 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 medium apple, unpeeled, cored and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Meanwhile, combine dried fruit, carrot, celery, apple, parsley, scallion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and soy sauce, tossing thoroughly to mix. Stir in the cooled wheat berries and add salt and black pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature or store in the refrigerator until served.…

Deck The Halls With Whole Grains

If you’re like me you’ve seen, and perhaps even eaten, way too much sugar over the past few months. From Halloween treats, to Pumpkin and Mincemeat pies, I can safely say that fall surrounds us with a multitude of sweets. We’re all fully aware that Christmas lurks around the corner, as do more sugar-laden- cookie tins, dessert buffets, and Christmas stockings. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll bake my share of cookies, but right now I’m craving something to eat that’s savory, wholesome, crunchy and colorful. Is that too much to ask?

In case you haven’t heard, whole grains are a darling of the nutrition world. Now for the fine print. Imagine that I’m reading this real fast, and you can barely understand me:

1. Whole grains (the seed of a grass) contain no added chemicals, preservatives, salt or sugar.

2, Whole grains contain all of the nutrients nature intended for them to contain plus a multitude of B-vitamins, minerals, beneficial enzymes, insoluable and soluable fiber, a low-glycemic index and many phytochemicals.

3. Whole grains are subject to little if any processing so they have all three parts of the grain kernel intact, thus the name “whole grain” – nothing’s missing. These three parts are the oily-rich germ, the starch filled endosperm and the outer or bran coating.

That’s a mouth full, but trust me and the world of nutrition science on this one; we can all benefit by sinking our teeth into more whole grains, not only for the nutritional properties, but for their unique, nutty flavor, and appealing toothsome bite.

The natural food section of supermarkets, specialty markets, and health food stores boast a fascinating assortment of whole grains. Brown rice, wheat berries, quinoa (keen-wa), barley, buckwheat (or Kasha), and my beloved steel-cut oats, are generally more readily available. Consider also more unusual grains, such as amaranth, millet, spelt, teff, or rye. Each one is unique in color, texture and flavor. Whole grains contain the oily germ component of the grain therefore they have an increased potential to spoil or become rancid compared to a refined grain, such as white rice. For that reason, purchase whole grains in small quantities and store in an airtight bag, container, or jar, in the refrigerator or freezer. To learn more about cooking whole grains visit the Whole Grains Council.

Cooked whole grains are quite versatile. They make a tasty pilaf or stuffing, and instead of traditional potatoes or pasta, cooked whole grains create a fine side dish served with a saucy curry or stew. They also make a delicious ingredient for a cold salad. Add a variety of chopped fresh ingredients, toss with complementary vinaigrette, and you’ve created a salad that adds a welcome dose of crunch, and a splash of seasonal color to any winter meal. Consider making this salad as a wholesome addition to any meal. And at Christmas, who knows, someone might even  thank you on their way to the cookie platter.…

Preparing A Weekly Menu

Grocery shopping is a necessary activity whether you cook or not. Unless you eat out all the time (expensive), or retain your own private chef (lucky), grocery shopping is something we all have to face. I thought I’d share what I do in preparation for my weekly trip to the grocery. It works for me, maybe it will work for you too?

1. Every week hang a preprinted grocery list on the front of your refrigerator. When you run out of a staple, circle that item on the grocery list so your brain doesn’t forget. Use this same list when you make your weekly menu. (Note about my preprinted grocery list: The order of the ingredients matches the aisles of the grocery store where I shop. The food isn’t organized in specific categories. In my grocery store the toilet paper and paper towels are not in the same aisle as the napkins, so on my list they are in different aisles, rather than in a section headed “Paper Goods”. My list also contains mostly ingredients, not many processed or ready-to-eat foods. For these reasons you may need to customize the list. Let me know if you see anything I need to add to the list.)

2. One the day before you head to the supermarket gather the following tools: the preprinted grocery list that’s hanging on your refrigerator, weekly bones of our menu guide, weekly ads for your supermarket, a copy of your calendar, and your favorite writing instrument.

3. Using my suggested “bones of our menu” (or write your own), make and take the time to create a complete menu that includes all the food you’ll need during the upcoming week: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and if necessary, party food, special occasion meals, or food for a potluck at work. (Yes, you might have to make time. Even if you have to get up from reading this blog – go make some time to write your menu.) Make the menu as complete as possible. Having on hand all the food you’ll need for the upcoming week depends on the thoroughness of this menu. If you’re preparing a new recipe (and I limit myself to one, at the most two, new recipes a week), include all ingredients you need to buy. Try to remember to ask the others who live with you if there’s anything they know you need. It’s quite possible someone has emptied the peanut butter jar and you haven’t noticed.

4. Glance through the weekly ad for your supermarket and if pork tenderloin or chicken breasts are on sale, work those into the menu. Take advantage of 10/$10 specials, but only buy 1 or 2 at $1.00/each. Saving money at the grocery is a lot like painting – it’s 3/5 preparation. Prepare a thorough list and know what you’re going to buy, and by all means, know what’s on sale. Use coupons for items you normally purchase. Try not to let coupons lure you …

Quick Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

Serves 8


Chock full of cold- and flu-fighting spices, this soup is perfect for a quick meal, anytime.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 ribs celery, thinly sliced

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (about 4 cups)

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

4 large cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper – optional

6 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or stock

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups cooked chick peas (or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)



In a large Dutch oven heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened about 5 minutes. Stir in sweet potato, ginger, garlic, paprika, turmeric, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and if desired cayenne pepper. Stir and cook for about 1 minute to blend ingredients and start to soften the garlic. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, and chick peas. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes. Season more to taste with salt if desired.


My Kitchen Never Closes
My Kitchen Never Closes

I spend a lot of time in my kitchen for my paid work and of course for my family. I always told myself I could never cook for others if I didn’t cook for my family as well. Just like most of you, we’re recovering from our days of Thanksgiving feasting. At the same time I’m in the middle of a recipe testing job. For the past four days traditional fall foods have collided with barbeque shrimp and codfish cakes.


Our Thanksgiving meal was tasty, plentiful and served buffet-style for the very first time. We gathered at my mom’s home and everyone brought a dish or two. Because the number of able-bodied food passers were out numbered by the very young and very old (who are unable to as nimbly pass hot bowls and platters of food) we made the decision to rely on a buffet set up for serving the meal. Early on, Mom accused us of trying to ruin her Thanksgiving. To her a buffet just didn’t seem genteel, proper, traditional. Nonetheless, we parted with tradition and served the food differently. Despite this, our menu was anything but non-traditional. In fact if was stuffed with all the favorite food that makes our Thanksgivings tick:

Mom did most of the heavy lifting. She prepared the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, mincemeat pie and my personal favorite, sage dressing. Barbara assembled the scalloped oysters with a little help from a friend. Frances made fresh cranberry relish and a green bean saute. Anne always bakes a soft, custardy dish of corn pudding and several pumpkin pies. Eileen brought “goopy” salad (also known as Watergate Salad.) I brought the sweet potato casserole and homemade dinner rolls.


As I write, I smell bacon cooking and hear the best male cook I know whisking together flour and baking soda for pancakes. (I think I just heard him shake the buttermilk too.) Kitchens that feed families never really close, and in fact they never really get clean. In my kitchen there’s always a dab of flour on the floor, a fingerprint on the refrigerator, and a smear of something on the front of the stove. So why and I’m telling you this? If you feel like your kitchen has a revolving door and that the refrigerator door is only truly closed when the house is asleep, don’t despair. An active kitchen means people are being fed, nourished, and cared for. How bad can that be?

I sat down this morning and planned out how and when we’re going to bake our gingerbread house. I planned when I’m going to bake cookies and when I’m going to make my children’s teachers gifts. So you see, my kitchen never closes either, and if for some strange reason it is closed, I’m probably thinking about the next time I’ll be in there and what I’ll be cooking.…

Thanksgiving Food Helplines

My countertops are covered with sweet potatoes, oranges, Yukon Gold potatoes, apples, and there’s a bag of cranberries in the refrigerator. This year we’re going to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving this year. (Read about our Thanksgiving last year on the Joy Kitchen blog.) This year I plan to bake a batch of my grandmother’s soft yeast rolls and a pan of pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole. What are your Thanksgiving specialities?

If you run into trouble in your kitchen this week, some of these phone numbers and websites might help. If I may give you my two cents: Thanksgiving is not a consumer-driven, gift-filled day, it’s about sharing a meal, plain and simple. Fill the day with some good food, good drink, and have a good time.

Butterball Turkey Talk: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (288-8372)

Empire Kosher : Poultry Customer Hotline: 717-436-7055

Fleischmann’s Yeast Baker’s Hotline: 1-800-777-4959

General Mills: 1-800-248-7310

King Arthur Flour Baker’s Hotline: 802-649-3717

Nestle Toll House Baking Information Line: 1-800-637-8537

Ocean Spray Consumer Helpline: 1-800-662-3263

Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline: 1-800-745-4000

U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: 888-MPHotline (674-6854)

Smoky Chili Non Carne

Serves 8 hungry adults

Since the mid-eighties I have always been faithful to a vegetarian chili recipe from an old Jane Brody cookbook. The list of spices in her recipe initially seemed daunting, but the resulting chili was always full of complex flavor. This chili recipe is my adaptation of her recipe. Don’t let the long list of spices be a deterrent. This chili contains no meat, thus the name non carne. Smoked paprika (even McCormick brand sells this spice) adds a beautiful red color and sweet smoky flavor. This is a “spicy” chili, with a deep, rich flavor, not a “hot” chile pepper-type of chili. I prefer to build the flavor, and then if anyone wants their chili “hot”, all they have to do is shake their favorite red pepper sauce over the top of their serving.

1/2 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced thin

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons mild chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons thyme

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Generous pinch ground cloves

Generous pinch ground allspice

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey

One (6-ounce can) vegetable juice (3/4 cup)

One (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juice

One (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed

One (15-ounce) can red beans, drained and rinsed

One (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

3 cups cooked brown rice

Chopped avocado for garnish

Sliced green onions for garnish

In a Dutch oven or shallow soup pot, cook the onion and carrot in the olive oil until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, measure out the spices and mix together the garlic, chili powder, cumin, thyme, smoked paprika, salt, coriander, cloves, and allspice. Add the spice mixture to the onions and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the maple syrup or honey, vegetable juice, tomatoes, chick peas, red beans, black beans, and the broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and for 30 minutes. Serve in a bowl over a portion of cooked brown rice. Garnish with chopped avocado and sliced green onions.…

Superfoods in A Super Diet
Superfoods in A Super Diet


According to the American Dietetic Association ,”superfoods are purported to have more significant health benefits than other types of food because they provide high amounts of one or more beneficial components”.

The concept of “superfoods” has captured much interest in the press. I think we all know we can’t live on one food alone, but a diet filled with wholesome foods serves us best nutritionally and forms the foundation for good health.

For healthy adults and children the goal is to promote health and reduce overall risk for some chronic diseases. Health and prevention is a two part process. First, eat a “super diet”. Include many of the foods below on a regular basis. (There are many, many “superfoods”. This is only a small representation.) Second, get up off your can (rather than reading blogs?) and move. Physical activity is key to healthy muscles, bones, and bodies. Now for a short list of some of my favorite superfoods. Note: phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals found in plants and antioxidants are a compound that prevents free radical damage to cells in the body. You’ll see these terms sprinkled liberally throughout the list.

Avocados may have a bad reputation for high calories and fat, but most of the fat in this fruit (yes, fruit) is monounsaturated, and avocados are packed with nutrients. Avocados contain about 60 percent more potassium than bananas and contain more vitamin E (which helps prevent muscle damage and reduces inflammation) than most other commonly eaten fruits. Make guacamole, chop it up and put it on top of a bowl of chili, or slice is and serve on a sandwich.

A medium-sized banana contains a whopping dose of potassium and, in case you haven’t heard, potassium is one of the body’s most significant minerals, critical for proper cellular and electrical functions. As an electrolyte, potassium actually carries a tiny electrical charge with it throughout the body. It regulates the water and acid balance in blood and tissues and is one of the most important nutrients for normal growth and building muscle. Use in a smoothie, slice and put on a bowl of hot oatmeal, or eat out of hand for a quick snack on the go.

Rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins (the blue color pigment), blueberries promote a healthy urinary tract and enhance night vision. Not to mention the phytochemical lutein and the natural sources of dietary fiber that may reduce the risk of diabetes, circulatory problems, and memory loss. Use frozen blueberries during the winter time when fresh aren’t available. Sprinkle fresh blueberries on spinach salad or make a yogurt parfait.

A readily available vegetable, broccoli boasts high amounts of vitamin C . Part of it’s powerhouse protection is derived from phytochemicals that give your immune system a boost. Use fresh in salads, or cooked in soups, pasta dishes, or cut into spears, sprinkled with a pinch of kosher salt and fresh lemon zest.

Dark Chocolate
Now we’re talking. Who knew chocolate was …

Stay Healthy - Cold and Flu Prevention

Cold and flu season is just around the corner. I tend to think positive. I’m not going to get sick this year. Children are the primary carriers of cold and flu viruses and because I spent a lot of time with my three crumb-snatchers I plan to be proactive in prevention. Here are some helpful food, nutrition and cooking ideas to help you stay healthy:

Eat Healthy

For this to happen planning is the key. Pick a day (I like Thursdays) to go grocery shopping. Visit a farmers market if you can sometime during the week or weekend. Plan meals in advance and make extra to take for lunch, or for your kids to take for lunch. I always think it’s just as easy to make soups, stews, and chilis in a double portion and freeze or eat the leftovers. Stick to a menu created around vegetables, fish, grains, poultry, fruit, and smaller quantities of meat – and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. I find this even hard to do, but I try to use as many ingredients in my cooking as I can, not just heat and serve foods.

Eat Immune-boosting Foods

Garlic is antibacterial and antiviral. Turmeric has curcumin, a polyphenol with strong cold and flu-fighting properties. Oregano’s antioxidant activity is due to its high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. Ginger is spicy and sweats out colds and flu, among many other healing properties. This is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak about the health benefits of food. When used in cooking garlic, turmeric, oregano, and ginger are delicious, not to mention the health benefits from the good foods cooked with these ingredients.


A reasonable amount of sleep every night is a must and if at all possible go to bed at about the same time and wake up at the same time. I personally prefer the 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. routine.


A very important key to keep your body strong. Strong people are fit and energetic. Make a plan to put on your walking shoes and get outside everyday. When I do that I am successful at walking at least 5 times a week.

Drink Tea

Green, white, or black. So soothing during the chilly days of fall and full of plant-based phytochemicals that enhance health and maybe are even protective against heart disease, bad breath, and osteoporosis.

Take Care of Yourself

Eat well and be well. You deserve to be in peak condition when the cold and flu season hits. The kitchen, and all the wondrous ingredients we have access to, used for creating a delicious meal is the best place to start.…

Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives

Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives is an exciting partnership between Harvard Medical School Osher Institute and the Culinary Institute of America. These prestigious institutions sponsor hands-on workshops bridging nutrition science, health care, and culinary arts. In a nutshell, these folks work tirelessly to promote the kitchen as the center of a medical system for improving the health of society. They believe if they teach people how to cook, and enjoy food in a way that doesn’t leave feelings of deprivation, physically or socially, our medical system and the health of Americans can change for the better. I don’t know about you, but I’m all for the concept of cooking and sharing food as the cornerstone of health care.…

Chestnut Soup

Serves 6

The earthy aroma of chestnuts are synonymous with fall. If fresh chestnuts are not available, and even if they are but you don’t want to fuss with peeling the fresh ones, vacuum-packed chestnuts work perfectly.

1 1/2 pounds fresh chestnuts or 14 ounces vacuum-packed, peeled chestnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 small rib celery, diced
1 leek, white and light green stem only, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
5 cups chicken broth or stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup half and half
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
Pinch ground nutmeg

1. If using vacuum-packed chestnuts, skip to step #2. For fresh chestnuts: Preheat the oven to 400°F, or bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, slice an X on the flat side of each chestnut. Place them on a baking sheet and roast in the pre-heated oven, or boil them until the outer skin begins to curl, 10 to 12 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the outer and inner layers of skin from the chestnuts and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, leek, and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, thyme, bay leaf, and peeled chestnuts. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes until the chestnuts are soft and can be poked with the tip of a knife or with a fork.

3. Carefully ladle the soup into a blender, in batches if necessary and puree the soup. Add back to the saucepan and stir in the half and half, brandy, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Serve immediately. Can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat just before serving, being careful not to boil.…

See The Bread Masthead...

In August we had the good fortune of vacationing in Northern Michigan – Northport to be exact. This was our second summer vacationing there. We love the fresh water, cool summer air, and the local food and wine scene. We don’t need, nor did we rent, a fancy place to stay, although next time I will look for a cabin/cottage with softer water. Not sure if rustic and soft water are used in the same sentence when it comes to Michigan cabin/cottage rentals, but it’ll sure be worth a look.

My dining companions minus the best male cook I know
Bread from The Stonehouse Bakery
Smoked Trout from Carlson’s
Assorted Fresh Beans
Local Sweet Cherries
Pesto Hummus and Cracked Pepper Cheese
The Spread

Anyway, see the masthead (the photo at the top of the blog) with bread and fork. That’s a loaf of bread from a bakery in Leland, Michigan. I loved that bread, and that fork fed me one of the best local food meals I’ve ever consumed. We sat on the deck of our little green cabin, sipping a chilled bottle of local white wine, eating sweet, drippy cherries and just-blanched green beans, smoked trout from Carlson’s in Leland, Pesto Hummus from Two Redheads in downstate Michigan, and Cracked Black Pepper “Fresh” Cheese from Black Star Farms. It was a stellar ending to a relaxing week. So why am I telling you this at the beginning of November when the beans are gone, the cherries all picked, and we’re home from Michigan? Well for two reasons: I haven’t posted the pictures or told the story before, and I wanted you to know where the photo of the loaf of bread at the top of this blog originated. And I wanted you to know that sometimes the best meals are the simplest, and often only a short drive, or bicycle ride, away. (OK, maybe that’s more than two reasons.)…

Halloween Supper Tips

Forget the hotdogs cut to look like squid or wrapped in crescent roll dough to look like mummys. Make dinner tonight with lots of nutritious bang for the buck and then you might not feel so bad when they fall into bed with a belly full of Snickers and without brushing their teeth.

What my kids need tonight is more nutrition than hotdogs can offer. Here are my trick-or-treat dinner solutions:

1. Have dinner ready earlier than usual. I plan to eat around 5:00 pm. Trick or treat starts at 6:00 in our world and there is always a little pre-trick or treat costume comparison with the neighborhood kids. Maybe I’ll feed them at 4:30.

2. Plan a good source of lean protein – chicken, fish, legumes, turkey breast – and make the kids eat a lot of it. We’re having leftover lentil soup from Tuesday night.

3. Hydrate the kids with about 8 – 10 ounces of low-fat milk or water. Make them use the bathroom before you head out. Don’t let them say, “I don’t have to go”, or else you might be saying “trick-or-treat and can Johnny use your bathroom”?

4. Offer some good sources of fiber, preferably vegetable oriented. I’m making some dip with fresh veggies – carrots, cucumber, and cauliflower pieces. Whole-wheat bread with butter would work well too.

5. Avoid a high-salt, overly processed meal. If you’re night is going to be anything like mine, there will be plently of salt and sugar over the next 24 hours. Candy, chips, and sodas are sure to appear at our neighborhood get together, especially since it’s Friday.…

Bones of Our Supper Menus

Creating a basic weekly outline for supper helps me with my grocery shopping, because my secret to being an active cook, and not a food assembler, is having ingredients in the house. When I think of our upcoming week in terms of these “bones”, I end up cooking meals with more variety. I particularly enjoy Sundays, making an extended amount of time in my kitchen to try or develop a new recipe and perhaps even bake a seasonal dessert. I love the word supper. It’s super! To me, dinner is that meal served on Sunday afternoon.

Monday – Pasta Feast

Tuesday – Legume Creation

Wednesday – Meat/Poultry Night

Thursday – Soup or Fish Extravaganza

Friday – Pizza (mostly homemade, sometimes delivery)

Saturday – Market and evening activities dictate (have I been to a farm market or our city fresh market? Is a babysitter coming? Can we grill out? )

Sunday – New Recipe and Dessert …