Some ways I’m spending my off hours #shelteringinplace

From creative cooking challenges

While not everything I want is available at the stores- I am finding some fun in coming up with ideas using what I have. Vanilla Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip “Pop Tart” wedges, was one that rose to the top. Then just because Paul is lamenting the Walking Dead “COVID-interuptus” episode last week, his got topped with ice cream and a dollop of whip cream.

And a rainy Sunday seemed like a good day for banana choc chop & peanut butter bread

Shelter games

While we settled in after already being on lockdown for several weeks. The May 1 extension for #ShelterInPlace got my crazies in play too.

I adjusted the “kitchen” with labels and containers as the new “employee lounge”. With three adults all teleworking from home, often from 7am -7pm, this is where we meet during office hours‬. The boys appreciated my humor…

Order up!

I even joined in the scavenger hunt and put one of the only bears I have in the window. With a little light swing to brighten him up at night.

Of course Paul managed to make Dino part of the madness. Poor Dino but he is taking it in stride and loves us home so much.

Then I discovered Tiktok!

As a fun distraction, way to connect and meet new people and mostly for general silly fun.


♬ original sound – Jana Detrick



#duet with @jamusic4 Taking a #StellaDora break from #Covid19 today.

♬ original sound – jamusic4 (Jeff)


♬ original sound – Hunter Harden

Another Bookclub Saturday; The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel with a side of Meat Pie!

Another Bookclub Saturday, the book that was chosen was supposed be to be an “action” theme – so we selected  The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. I can’t say its the best read. But the historical information was interesting. The constant list of “who’s who” got tiring  after the first chapter, yet the discussion bid yield some interesting insight on the book.

That aside – it provided a great day for a food theme. I opted to bring an Isreali Meat Pie recipe I found on the NYT Cooking site. Which is in itself an adaption.

For my version, I omitted the dill (a few folks around here don’t like it) and added more cinnamon but thats to taste I think.  This version was super simple and can be prepped the night before or over the course of an afternoon. Depending on your time. My edits to this variation are in red. Now having made and eaten it – it was a win – great taste, simple and clean flavor. I definitely could serve as a base for adapting; by adding ginger, garlic, cheese etc. It traveled well – but seems to taste best while still warm and crisp.

According to NYT’s Melissa Clark ; this was featured in: In ‘Zahav,’ Michael Solomonov Explores Israeli Food.

Full Recipe Here

Continue reading

“Harvest Chili” for that t-day feeling in a one pot meal 

Worth reposting from a 2014 entry,  as I was talking about it with a pal recently and think I will be remaking it myself soon. A

Every so often I want a hearty meal reminiscent of all the traditional flavors of thanksgiving — but a) don’t want to make all the parts or b) its the middle of the summer. So what to do? Figure out how to get all the flavors in a simpler delivery process.  After thinking on this for a few days – I came up with this simple recipe for a “Harvest” chili. Its easy to swap out flavors that suit your tastes was well. This is a “working” recipe. Which means it is in progress-so open to hearing suggestions from folks as well. I’m working on a slow cooker varation as well.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of real butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped, small dice
  • 3-4 Ribs of celery, chopped, small dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2  lb of ground sausage (maple or Italian will work too) bulk style Jimmie Dean style breakfast sausage is my preference here. (You can use the precooked as well – just add in later)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons commercial poultry seasoning
  • 1 – 1-1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley (or ½ cup fresh chopped)
  • 2-3 tablespoons corn starch (or flour)
  • 2 cans, rinsed  and drained red kidney beans
  • 1 -2 pealed & cubed sweet potatoes (raw with skin on- cube them around the same size as the beans)
  • 1 bunch (about 1 pound) Swiss chard, (or spinach or other greens) stems removed, leaves chopped rough
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed (worked with frozen ok – and I used the whole bag  large kernels)
  • Chicken base to equal 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (even better if you have turkey stock)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  •  Freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
  •  1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (as garnish)
  • Cranberry sauce or chutney (as garnish)
  • Breadcrumbs or crutons (as garnish)

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven, add oil and butter.
Turn on and heat the oil/butter over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add chopped celery stir until soft.
Stir in  fennel seeds, stir well to allow the fennel seeds to get warm and mix with vegetables.
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add poultry seasoning, salt, dried parsley, and red pepper flakes.
Cook until its well incorporated and hot (2- 5 minutes).

Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add oil to the same pan, heat and add the ground turkey and sausage to the pan, cook, stirring frequently, until the turkey is cooked through, about 8 minutes. You want a but if a brown sear. (You can also cook these in two steps)

Drain the oil and return the turkey and sausage to the pot. 

Hint: Add some additonal fennel seeds to the meat while its cooking.

Bring all the meat to heat, add the set aside vegatable mixture together in the larger of the pans. Stir the cornstarch (or flour) into the vegetable/meat mixture (I just add the flour and coat the mixture – but you can also make a slurry with the flour and warm water – then add it with the stock.)

Add chicken stock, kidney beans, chopped sweet potatoes, mix to incorporate – you may need to add more water so it just covers the mixture by an inch.

Bring it up to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the bottom & sides of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 35 minutes and while you still have some moisture add the greens and corn. Cook another 10 – 15 minutes until the chili has thickens.

Turn off the heat or turn down to low,  toss in ¼ – ½ cup of cut (in half) sweet grape or cherry tomatoes, and fresh chopped parsley. I find that adding it at the end and letting the heat of the chili itself “cooks” the tomato and parsley just enough and the seetness of the tomatoes balance the cooked flavors. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste

Note – At this point it’s a personal preference how loose or thick you want the chili – you can add more broth or water – or to add a another layer – pour in a good quality low sodium  turkey gravy .

Alternatives to the recipe included adding Worchester sauce (about 2 tspn) when adding the stock and it gave a nice undertone – worked well with the all turkey version.

You can go for a more traditional touch, chopped Granny Smith apples or peeled chestnuts, raisins or currents and heating  them in it just long enough to get them warm – but still pop when you bite them.  

You can also add cooked rice or fresh tortellini or mini raviolis (cooked) if you want to make it more hardy. 

To serve, place in a bowl, top with croutons and a spoonfull of cranberry sauce or chutney or smoked nuts.

Note: Alternatively, you can toss in some dried “bread cubes” or cubed italian style bread crumbs to give you that “stuffing” feel earlier when you add the tomatoes as well. .

Ginger crunch; bday style

Hmm; it was my birthday yet somehow last night I ended up baking last week.
Tried making the Ginger Biscotti again but this time using old metal ice trays as the form instead of the free-form style on the pan because of the sticky loose batter.
While at it I used an old “Martha” trick of using clips to hold the parchment paper and place. All in all these vintage worked great and gave me a more uniform size an bake.

I used a pretty easy recipe for it that I found on the King Arthur Flour website

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
2/3 cup (5 ounces) brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs ( I used XL eggs and also tried Jumbo ones – the difference is the firmness was not as brittle)
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces)  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (6 1/2 ounces) finely diced crystallized ginger


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) one large (about 18 x 13-inch) baking sheet. For the variation I did – one batch filled two ice trays.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt, spices, vanilla, and baking powder until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs; the batter may look slightly curdled. At low speed of your mixer, add the flour and crystallIized ginger, stirring until smooth; the dough will be quite soft and sticky, but should hold its shape when you drop it from a spoon.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, and shape it into a rough log about 14″ long. It will be about 2 ½” wide, and about ¾” thick. Using your wet fingers, smooth the top and sides of the log.

Bake the dough for 25 minutes (my oven 20 min was perfect – the extra 5 gave me a more brown bottom). Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool on the pan anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes; just work it into the schedule of whatever else you’re doing in the kitchen.

(Note – they suggest using a spray bottle filled with room-temperature water, lightly but thoroughly spritz the log, making sure to cover the sides as well as the top. Softening the crust just this little bit will make slicing the biscotti much easier. But I don’t find that easier.)

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Wait another 5 minutes, then use a serrated knife to cut the log into ½” to ¾” slices. Cut at a 45° angle, for long biscotti; cut crosswise slices, for shorter biscotti. As you’re slicing, be sure to cut straight up and down, perpendicular to the pan; if you cut unevenly, biscotti may be thicker at the top than the bottom, and they’ll topple over during their second bake.

Set the biscotti on edge on the prepared baking sheet. Return the biscotti to the oven, and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, till they feel very dry. They’ll still feel a tiny bit moist in the very center, if you break off a piece; but they’ll continue to dry out as they cool.

Remove the biscotti from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool. Once they’re cool, store airtight, to preserve their texture. If biscotti aren’t as crunchy as you’d like (and the weather is dry), store them uncovered, overnight, to continue drying. Biscotti can be stored at room temperature for one week; for longer storage, wrap airtight and freeze. Make sure they are well cooled.

Yield: about 16 large (about 5 ½” long) biscotti.Variation: For smaller biscotti, shape the dough into two 12″ logs, about 2″ wide. Bake as directed above.

Yield: about 3 dozen mini-biscotti.


Spicy Citrus Jicama & Mango Fruit Salad with Blueberries and Mint

I tried this for Pauls office picnic and have done it several times since with both a vegan version and a regular one.

Several versions exist online but I found them too plain for me – so I adapted it some with adding the blueberries and more citrus.IMG_2995 The big part of this is not to add herbs like basil unless you want it to become more of a “salsa”.



  • 3 tablespoons sugar (for vegan use Agave Nectar)
  • Grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons juice (2 limes)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes ( too taste – I usually add more as the Jicama can take it)
  • Pinch salt
  • 12 ounces jicama  – diced
  • 2 mangos chopped
  • 2 oranges and the zest of both of them
  • 1 lemon
  • fresh mint leaves
  • a pint of blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon of honey (or early season maple syrup)(optional)
  1. Prepare the JicamaIMG_2996
    1. Peel the jícama, and cut into 1/4″ dice (should yield 1-1/2 cups).
    2. In small saucepan, add the sugar, 1/2 the lime zest and juice, 1/2 the orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, a pinch salt. (note adding some fresh ginger root also has a nice flavor)
    3. Put over medium burner and cook for 3 minutes until the sugar dissolves; stirring constantly.
    4. Remove pan from burner, stir in jícama to coat, and allow the syrup to cool for 20 minutes.
  2. Rest of the fruit
    1. Meanwhile, peel the mangos, removing pit, and cut into 1/2″ dice (should yield about 4 cups).
    2. Add to a large serving bowl.
    3. Peel your oranges and cut away the pith. Slice into 1/2″ thick rounds and then into 1/2″ dice.
    4. Add to bowl with diced mango.
    5. Add the rest of the lime and orange zest, honey and toss.
  3. After the syrup has cooled for 20 minutes, pour over fruit in serving bowl and toss until well combined.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes prior to serving.
    1. I think this is better after it has sit for a few hours or overnight.
    2. Add the chopped mint before serving.img_3307

You can add more lemon if you need it brighter. the amounts are really a tarting place – depending on if you buy your mango already cut up, how sweet it is, and how large your jicama is – you can play it by taste. This feeds a lot – figure 5 -8 people, so is great for a picnic or potluck


Other versions include:

Mango, Orange, and Jícama Salad


Celebration Dinner (part 2)

For part two of Pauls dinner, I decided to try Ree Drummond’s version of pot roast. When I have made them before – I tend to use the crockpot – but the need to use an extra pan to crust the meat seems counter intuitive when I know I am going to be home and have a dutch oven to cook it in.IMG_2967

Over all I think her recipe came to well – but I will notate placed I would change for the future (and one significant change I did make).


Salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 3 to 5-pound chuck roast [For the one here – it was just over 5 lbs – but I made the butcher give me one that was somewhat even thickness]IMG_2955
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole onions, peeled and halvedIMG_2953 IMG_2954
6 to 8 whole carrots, unpeeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup red wine, optional [So I didn’t want to crack open a bottle for this one recipe – so used Pomegranate soda instead.. yes Pomegranate. As a fruit it is a natural pairing with beef and they make the carrots even sweeter tasting]
3 cups beef broth
2 or 3 sprigs fresh rosemary [in future I will use 4 or 5 – this was way to subtle for me]
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme [in future I will use 4 or 5 – this was way to subtle for me]


Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast. [I do mean generously – its a think cut of meat]
Heat the olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the halved onions to the pot, browning them on both sides. Remove the onions to a plate.
Throw the carrots into the same very hot pot and toss them aIMG_2956round a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so. Reserve the carrots with the onions.
If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pot. Place the meat in the pot and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine [Remember I used Pomegranate soda] or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pot, scraping the bottom with a whisk. Place the roast back into the pot and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway.IMG_2960 IMG_2958IMG_2961
Add in the onions and the carrots, along with the fresh herbs.
Put the lid on, then roast for 3 hours for a 3-pound roast. For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours. The roast is ready when it’s fall-apart tender. [Mine was ready at the 4 hour mark!] Fall apart goodness.IMG_2964 IMG_2966

Note: During the last 40 minutes, I cut some wedges of potatoes and tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne and tossed them in the oven to cook as well. I wanted the crisp texture to contrast with the soft and chewy one of the pot roast.

Some Home Cooking to get me back in practice (Part 1)

IMG_2946 IMG_2951 IMG_2952After several weeks of vacation and a lot of work travel I haven’t been able to cook as much as I tend too. So when Paul got word about his promotion, it was a good reason to try out a few new recipes I have been waiting on.

First off was the Pineapple Upside-down cake; for some reason I had a craving for its sweet and gooey texture when I got back from Provincetown. I cheated some and used a Duncan Hines box as the starter (and they were recently on sale) along with canned Pineapple. The recipe I started with is below and my changes are in red.

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar [I prefer dark but light will do]
  • 1 can (20 oz.) pineapple slices, drained and lightly patted dry
  • 4 Maraschino cherries, halved [I forgot to buy them..]
  • 1 package Duncan Hines®  Signature Pineapple Cake Mix
  • 1 package (3.4 oz.) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling [I actually use coconut instant pudding – it adds a different yet subtle taste.]
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • pitch of salt


Now the cast Iron pan I use is larger than the one they recommend by an inch or two.. but that just means it won’t be a high

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Melt butter in 12-inch skillet with oven-proof handle or cast iron skillet. [Because I use a cast iron skillet, I actually put the pan in the oven while it heat up, then once hot, put in on the burner while I add the butter to melt]
  • Remove from heat. Evenly sprinkle with brown sugar.
  • Arrange pineapple slices on top of mixture and place cherries in center of each pineapple; set aside.
  • Combine cake mix, eggs, water, oil, salt, vanilla and instant pudding in large bowl.
  • Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. [Mixing by hand works perfectly fine as well]
  • Pour batter evenly over fruit in skillet.
  • Bake 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. [My oven had the cake perfect at 42 minutes – but had I wanted a more well cooked top, I could have left it in longer.]
  • Cool cake completely on wire rack in the pan. While it cools the dome in the middle will sink down and flatten out.
  • Invert onto serving plate.

Now to kick this up a few notches – you could drizzle in rum over the cake while it is still warm.. I am just saying..


Tired of Regular Hummus? Try a Roasted Carrot Version!

Yes – really.. carrots.. ok so it’s not really “hummus” (unless you actually add the Garbanzo beans) but the creamy, grainy texture that the roasted carrots and sesame paste creates with this recipe gives you great mouth feel and flavor. I found the recipe initially on the Joanne Weir website for CreateTV and adapted it some for my taste (and the fact I had forgotten that I ran out of cumin).

Here is my version of the adapted recipe;

This version makes about 1 -1/4 cups of dip  – but its pretty forgiving and I  say double there recipe, it’s that good.
  • 3 large carrots, (about 12 ounces) roughly cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste in a pinch peanut butter or almond butter will work too I bet), well stirred (I might use up to 2 teaspoons more next time)
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika (original recipe used 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • Pinch crushed red chili pepper, or cayenne  (or to taste)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons water
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste
* I am thinking good quality using flavored oils like Lemon, Blood Orange or Chili might rock this dish too
Heat up the oven to 375°F.
  • Place the carrots, salt, and olive oil on a large piece of foil or parchment paper. Toss together. Wrap them up and seal the edges so the steam doesn’t escape.IMG_0458 (1)
  • Bake in the oven until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Open the paper and continue to roast for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely.
  • Pour the entire packet of carrots and oil into to the food processor with the remaining ingredients (except for the water and lemon juice).
  • Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add water if needed to make a thick dip the consistency of hummus.
  • Season with salt and lemon juice to taste. This is also when you can add more honey, spices etc.
Joanne Weir’s recipes calls for serving the dip with thin sliced root vegetable “chips” but for me I used Terra Brand chips. Anything that can scoop will work. To check out the original inspiration for this version, visit Joanne Weir’s recipe here
This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days but I take it out about 20 min before serving.


Adapted Chicken Ribollita Chili style soup

This is a recipe adapted from Giada’s Italian cooking show on food network, that has become a household favorite. I found a repost here on a variation of the recipe: Here


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil ( I find I can do this with less and add if I need to later on)
  •  1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds ground chicken (turkey works well or any non-meat type protein)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin (I use about 1/2 this)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (I use about 1/2 this and toast it in the pan first)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (I use about 1/2 this unless you like smokey flavor)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 (15-ounce cans) cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bunch (about 1 pound) Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces ( I use 2 bunches)
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed (worked with frozen ok – and I used the whole bag large kernels)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Hint: Want to kick this up a notch – stop by the cheese store and ask for a parmesan rind, about 2 inch piece will do – toss it in the soup early on and let it slowly melt. If you try this – don’t salt until you taste – the cheese has a salty flavor – so you want to taste as you go. Remove whats left of the rind before serving.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, fennel seeds, oregano, and chili powder and cook until you can smell
the cumin and fennel, add the ground chicken (The original  recipe had you adding chicken first then adding seasonings but on the broadcast she did it this way and it makes for a better seasoned dish i think).

Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Stir the  flour into the chicken mixture. Add the beans, Swiss chard, corn, and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Simmer for 55-60 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half and the chili has thickened. Add the red pepper flakes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add pepper flakes earlier in dish if you want more heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle the chili into serving bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley*

* I found that I needed something to brighten the dish – so a few minutes before I served it I tossed in sweet grape tomatoes and heated them in it just long enough to get the warm – but still pop when you bite them.  But I bet a side dish of chopped tomatoes on top like a traditional chili garnish would work too as would a sharp chedder cheese