Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious,
healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

Grilled Shrimp Appetizer


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I made several dishes last weekend. Some very good, some not so. It happens. Fortunately it was just my very close family that suffered. First off, on Friday night, I made this really delicious, really simple grilled shrimp appetizer. Here are all the ingredients. grilled shrimp appetizer ingredients

I didn’t measure and you won’t have to either. I know you all have good enough judgment to make this work. Just eye it and feel it and you’ll do a-ok. Eat this dish with friends as you’ll want to suck the shrimp shells of all the smokey spicy wonderfulness and you’ll get all messy peeling them – but they’re so good.grilled shrimp appetizer

You see, I went to buy salmon fillets to roast and serve with my already made rhubarb marmalade and then I saw the shrimp. My husband LOVES shrimp. Me? Ehh. It’s good, but I never crave it like I do oysters! (he hates oysters) But I know he loves shrimp yet I really wanted salmon for dinner and the marmalade was already made, so, I bought 9 shrimp – as an appetizer!! 5 for him, 4 for me. And then on the drive up to the country, I completely forgot about them. We arrived, unpacked and here I was surprised by the shrimp (duh – I bought them.) and had to figure out something quick to do with them as it was getting late. Here’s what I did – and they were scrumptious!!


9 – 10 large shrimp with shells on, rinsed several times and patted dry
1 star anise
1 red chili, crushed with seeds
Swirl of olive oil
Smoked paprika – heavy sprinkling

Combine and toss all ingredients together. Let marinate for 10 -15 minutes. Toss on the grill on high heat for about 2 minutes, just until pink and done. Serve immediately.

It’s finger lickin’ good!
Grilled shrimp with smoked paprika

homemade pizzas pesto anchovy truffle margharita

Then, last Saturday, I was determined to make pizzas from homemade pizza dough. The Times had a big article on pizza dough and pizzas the previous Wednesday and I was hyped. Our oldest son was coming to the country with his girlfriend for the weekend and I was making these pizzas with a big beautiful salad to greet them when they arrived for lunch. Well, the pizzas sucked. They looked good but the only one that was any good was the pesto. Before I tell you any more, I really need to work on this one. The Mario Batali recipe needs some refining. Actually he has about three different recipes online for the dough and I need to get the 00 flour – that I couldn’t find. So stay tuned and I’ll find that flour and try this one again – and then tell you about it. xoxo, Mary


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Order Your Surprise Spring Box Now!


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I’m SO excited, MARY’s secret ingredients, our new surprise box of awesome culinary products, will ship on April 25th. We are busy putting the finishing touches on it. We have amazing products that I LOVE. While we hand-picked and targeted artisanal, gourmet and organic producers in the US only, we were also contacted by international manufacturers with very fine products, wanting to be in our box. So now we have those too! The box is selling for $25.95 and while we promise the value will always be at least $30.00, this inaugural box has a value of just a little over $42.00! So order your spring box now so you won’t miss out. And, as a special offer to you, dear readers, use the promo code 4LOVE at checkout and get $4.00 off of each box.

We’ve had several orders requesting personalized notecards to enclose, as the box would make a great gift, and that option is available at checkout where you have the billing and shipping address information. We have customers who have ordered a full set (all seasons) and then placed a second order as a wedding gift for friends who are foodies. Nice gift!

I have been busy working on scrumptious recipes and usage suggestions with the box ingredients. Those will be posted here on LOVE, in the beginning of May, as I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you.surprise subscription boxes for foodies

Besides being able to showcase and present to you new great products that I love, I am very excited about having this venue be able to contribute to eradicating hunger in the world, as we will be donating 10% of our profits to FEED THE CHILDREN. This wonderful organization provides not only food, but water, health care and education to children in need all over the world. Did you know that lack of food contributes to 2.6 MILLION child deaths every year? Or that nearly 18 MILLION American families suffer from food insecurity? That means that they don’t always know where their next meal will come from. Isn’t that crazy, in our wealthy country?

So order a box and become part of the solution to eliminating hunger AND give yourself a surprise present. I know you’ll LOVE it, adding more variety to your cooking with LOVE for your friends and family!

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Cumin, Lamb and Eggplant Pasta


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Cumin lamb and eggplant pastaI think you all probably know how much I love cumin, love lamb and love eggplant but I never really thought of the three of them together until I read about this recipe in the April issue of Food & Wine magazine. Yep, this recipe is a winner, as are so many of their recipes! It’s not very pretty when it’s done but boy is it good! I made this dish the week before last when Bianca was in town and she was having a quiet night at home with just Steve and me. Or should I say, we got to have her to ourselves for one night, lucky us! And you know when Bianca says a pasta dish is great (being from Arezzo in Tuscany), you know you hit a winner and that’s what I did with this Cumin, Lamb and Eggplant Pasta dish! The recipe is actually from another blogger, Ashley Rodriguez, who is being featured in the publication. Way to go Ashley!

I really have to thank Food & Wine for initially turning me on to cooking with a vengeance. You see, when we moved to New Jersey when our boys were 6 and 3, the restaurant food out there just wasn’t NYC and I really got tired of paying large restaurant bills for the four of us for mediocre food. So I promptly subscribed to Food & Wine, adopted the “I’ll show you” attitude, and started cooking away. In those days, my favorite was Lee Bailey. He used to do a column, “Dinner for a Busy Weeknight.” I still have many of those torn pages, soiled with olive oil drips and whatnot. I’ll never forget, one of my very first “gourmet meals” was his Pasta with Shrimp and Arugula recipe from that feature. It’s still a good recipe! (More on that later) He even accompanied it with dessert – sliced oranges with crushed amaretto cookies – simple and delish!

I have tweaked Ashley’s recipe a bit – cut down on the oil and pumped up the garlic, cumin and oregano. Here you go – not quite pretty but oh so tasty! And home-grown Italian approved, thanks to Bianca!
Cumin lamb and eggplant pasta

Adapted from ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ and Food & Wine magazine

2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 medium eggplant (1 pound), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tsp. dried Greek oregano
1 heaping tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika, preferably hot (Pimenton Ahumado)
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
1 lb. ground lamb
1/4 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup chicken stock
12 ounces gemelli
1/2 cup zero fat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup chopped mint

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over low-moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 – 12 minutes. Increase heat to moderate. Add the eggplant, garlic, oregano, cumin, paprika and crushed red pepper and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the lamb and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Increase the heat a bit and add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for at least 2 minutes to get the flavor to “bloom”. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the sauce is thickened, about 12 minutes.

Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Stir the pasta into the sauce; add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water if necessary; (I didn’t) add more water if a thinner sauce is desired. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the yogurt and mint. Taste and season with salt if necessary (I didn’t) and serve hot.



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Waffles for a Sunday Brunch


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Sunday brunch table

To have a real brunch party is great fun – a different time of day to entertain! Last Sunday was our last day with Bianca and Cesare visiting from Italy by way of South Carolina, as Cesare is learning the American way in South Carolina for the Italian company he is working for. Bianca is the daughter of the family our eldest son lived with in Arezzo, when he was doing his semester abroad in college some 8 years ago. Our two families became instant friends with visits going back and forth from the day of our meeting. This stay Bianca was with us for 10 days, Cesare came on Thursday for the weekend. They both love food and fortunately are fans of my cooking so they are a joy to cook for. For her goodbye meal, Bianca wanted pancakes or waffles. I opted for waffles for Sunday brunch,

sausages on a plate

A variety of chicken and lamb sausages.

along with some sausages and a big beautiful fruit salad. Of course, since this was a party, some of us started with mimosas (made with Prosecco) or Bloody Marys.

fruit salad garnished with mint leaves

Luscious fruit salad garnished with torn mint leaves.

waffles on a plate

I have not made waffles in a very long time, since the boys have grown up and we are not together on Sunday mornings very often. And I am not the type to be whipping egg whites to fold into the batter, if you know what I mean. I wanted something simple and quick, knowing I’d have to make a double batch for the eight of us. I found this wonderful recipe online from In Jennie’s Kitchen blog, similar to the one in the recipe book that came with the waffle iron eons ago that I could no longer find. It was great – perfect – easy – delicious! Bianca says she wants to get married, only so she can get a waffle iron as a shower or wedding present! (I think I’ll get her one soon!)

Now the thing I was fretting about late into Saturday night, was how was I going to keep the first cooked waffles warm while continuing to make them and have the full batch ready for everyone. A little research online came up with a very low temperature in your oven and put them straight on the racks, not on a plate or cookie sheet as that would cause moisture to form and sogginess to beset them. So I did this, but the lowest my oven would go was 175 degrees and they were recommending 150. So I turned the oven off and on, afraid they would dry out. In hindsight, I should have just left it on at 175 the whole time, as they could have been a bit hotter.

Here’s the recipe with thanks to In Jennie’s Kitchen:

QUICK & EASY HOMEMADE WAFFLES – makes 5 to 6 Belgian-style waffles

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tbs.baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla extract. Pour the milk mixture over the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Let sit five minutes to “develop” (just a fancy word for letting the baking powder activate).

Meanwhile, heat your waffle iron. Pour, or ladle, enough batter to cover about 2/3 of the surface (the rest will spread once you close the top). Most waffle irons have a handy light that goes on or off, signaling the waffles are ready. A sure sign of doneness is once you see all the steam has stopped shooting out.

Have a LOVEly brunch wherever you are!


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Thomas Keller’s Beef Stroganoff


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Beef stroganoff Thomas Keller recipeI did it! I actually did it – made a double recipe of Thomas Keller’s Beef Stroganoff recipe. Lord, I hope I never have to do it again. This was our birthday boy’s request for last weekend. My husband thinks he’s going to ask for it again. (Please, please no.)

It’s a two-day affair. For the complete recipe, please check out these links on another blog that has the whole recipe from Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook. Basically you make a braise by reducing wine with a ton of vegetables until syrupy. Beef stroganoff braising liquid Then add more of the same fresh vegetables, cover it with cheesecloth to make a “nest” to hold your browned pieces of meat, add beef broth and then top with a parchment paper hat (cover) and braise for 2 hours. Beef stroganoff - parchment lid You separate the meat from the vegetable wine broth in this cheesecloth nest because Keller doesn’t want any little bits of onion, leeks or carrots soiling his meat. Ha!!

So that was done on Saturday. Then on Sunday, the day of serving, you make the mushroom cream sauce (6 cups of heavy cream, butter and crème fraiche!), sauté the mushrooms (4.5 lbs. total), cook the fresh pappardella, cut the meat into cubes, warm and caramelize the presentation side of the meat, toss the noodles with the sauce, add more butter, fold in the sliced mushrooms, put it all together and top with chopped parsley. Whew!!

Beef Stroganoff - Bianca and mushrooms

Bianca helping me – sliced 2 lbs. of cremini mushrooms

With help on both days, you’re talking about 9 hours worth of work.Beef stroganoff side view platter

There had to be a lot of LOVE here to get through all of this.

How was it?

It was good – but way too rich for me. Since the recipe doesn’t state how many it serves and we had 7 people, I doubled it. We served 7 plus 1 second serving and then leftovers to feed 5 more people. But you know, if you’re going to go through that much work, you might as well make extra for leftovers.

The birthday boy was happy. He called the next day to comment on how deeply flavored each cube of meat was. (It damn well better have been.) Perhaps the parchment lid is a great idea because if you use the Le Creuset lid, that causes moisture to form therefore dropping water onto your meat. Not good.

Making one boy happy was my aim!



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Grilled eggplant, prosciutto, mozzarella, basil and tomato sandwich


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Grilled eggplant sandwich cut in half

While in the midst of a cooking frenzy yesterday, I had an eggplant who’s calling had come and the other ingredients needed to be used, so I quickly put together this grilled eggplant, prosciutto, mozzarella, basil and tomato sandwich. It was divine!!

Yesterday was our oldest son’s birthday. Our family celebration is today. It is a rule in our house that the birthday boy gets to request whatever he wants for dinner. I’m thinking of changing that rule. He requested Thomas Keller’s Beef Stroganoff. I responded with, “All that cream!! Are you crazy?” He insisted. My husband and I cooked all day yesterday and will start again today at 3:00 for dinner tonight. I sure hope this is good and worth it.

Keller must have been an engineer in another life. His precision and aim for perfection is daunting. What I’m really making is a homemade, made from scratch version of the beef stroganoff we all had as kids made with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. Do you think we’ll be able to taste the difference? I’ll let you know later this week, after I recover from all of this.

As I chop and cook away, I’m reminding myself to make this with a smile on my face and love in my heart.
Grilled eggplant sandwich with mozzarella tomato basil and proscuitto

Meanwhile, make this sandwich sometime. This you won’t regret and it can be ready in a jiffy.


1 baguette
1 medium-small eggplant, washed, trimmed, and sliced lengthwise into 5 or 6 slices
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbs. olive oil plus more for drizzling
3 thin slices of prosciutto
1/2 of a ball of mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 small tomatoes, sliced
8 – 10 large fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

Light a grill or heat a grill pan. Salt and pepper the eggplant slices. Mix the minced garlic with the 2 tbs. of olive oil. Brush that on one side of all the eggplant slices. Grill both sides on a fairly high heat until nicely charred and tender.Grilled eggplant on a baguette

Cut two 6-inch pieces off of the baguette and slice those in half lengthwise. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on the cut sides. Assemble the sandwiches with grilled eggplant, the cheese, tomato, salt the tomato lightly, the basil, then finish with 11/2 slices of prosciutto and the other half of the bread. Slice the whole sandwich into 2 halves. Enjoy!!

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