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

A very special day.

Yesterday was my birthday and as has become a tradition from my husband and sons, I am to stay out of the kitchen the whole day and only do what I want. Pretty special! So I slept late, went for long bike ride, chatted with an old friend (actually my second employee who never forgets my birthday after all these years) from San Francisco and then some of us went to the movies to see J. Edgar.

Zach and his Polish girlfriend, Agata, made breakfast and lunch, while my husband and my eldest son made dinner. Breakfast and lunch were surprises to me while the dinner menu was my request. All were amazing!!

Homemade Polish bread on a wooden cutting board.

Polish homemade bread

We have a bread recipe in our family from my grandmother that I usually make on each holiday. Since we were all spending Thanksgiving at my brother, Steve’s house in CT, Agata volunteered to make the bread. Yipee!! This is a yeast number with 2 risings and takes about 6 hours. So it was a treat to have someone else offer to make it! The most interesting thing is that her family has a really similar recipe to ours and she made a few modifications to match ours exactly, as she had tasted my bread last Christmas. Nowhere else have we ever run into this! Most people think of babka or some form of that when you say Polish bread but this is a slightly cakey, eggy version and she said we do it a little sweeter than her family.

Polish vegetable and cheese salad in a blue and white bowl.

Polish vegetable/cheese salad

She did a beautiful job!! See the photo – light, airy and just the right texture. So for breakfast she made us all a breakfast her grandmother used to make for her! Egg salad (with Tom and Ethel’s delicious farm fresh eggs) and another dish that is a mixture of fresh peeled cucumbers, Farmer’s cheese, creme fraiche, tomatoes, garlic and chives. For each bite, we put a spoonful of either one on a piece of toasted homemade bread, and it was yummy! Creamy, light, refreshing and different! All things I LOVE!

Creamy egg salad in a tan bowl.

Creamy egg salad

Right after breakfast, Agata got to work on lunch. From scratch, she made nearly 70 pierogis! They were delicious. They were stuffed with a mixture of sautéed onion, mashed potatoes and Farmers cheese and then topped with a light sauce of onions and bacon. Served with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc and we were all happy campers!! Just delicious!

Perogies on a brown plate.

A pierogi lunch!

So for dinner, our oldest son made me a terrific Rob Roy straight up. It is one of my favorite cocktails, right up there with a Tanqueray 10 straight up martini. A Rob Roy is essentially a slightly sweet Manhattan made with either Scotch or better yet, choose a single malt, like Oban. Add a lemon twist and I am set!

This drink, besides being delicious, always brings back fond memories of the first time I had it. It was at the Windows on the World restaurant at a special event for World Trade Club Members. This was the storied restaurant on top of the World Trade Center. We were doing marketing work for the private club, dealing with the legendary Joe Baum, and they were holding this single malt scotch tasting for club members and we were invited. It was like an accelerated wine tasting. You can get pretty loopy pretty fast and our host was from Scotland, enjoying every moment and Jules, our client, insisted I try this Rob Roy. It was a match for me! You should try it.

Zach, Agata and I played Bananagrams in front of the fire while dinner was being prepared. Because it was my birthday, they let me get away with “luvv” (I kept on getting those darn v’s) and “eazy”. It’s good to be the birthday girl!

I still didn’t win!

But I digress – on to dinner. We started with fresh shrimp sautéed in hot pepper, parsley, garlic, and olive oil, served with warm crusty French bread for dipping in and scooping up every last drop of the delicious olive oil, served with a ’97 San Marco from Tuscany – a beautiful Tuscan red.

Dinner was Chicken Scarpariello served with sides of spaghetti squash with a fresh tomato garlic sauce and oven roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with blue cheese. It was fantastic!! Wine was a Portuguese 2007 red from this wine store we recently found on the Upper East side. Check out Park East Wines and Spirits on York Avenue at 87th St. Tom Anderer is the Manager and very helpful. He is a certified sommelier.

Dessert was a lovely cheese plate complete with Medjool dates, Golden Delicious apple wedges and toasted walnuts.

Quite a feast! All so wonderful!

Tonight we’re having homemade tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches – a break from the richness of the past 3 days. I hope your holiday weekend was also filled with wonderful family times and scrumptious food!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I hope you all are enjoying the day!!

I wanted to share this with you – from Carol Meyer

May we open ourselves ever more fully to that Eternal Mystery which lures us onward toward life and creativity.

May we find the courage to live our faith, to speak our truth, and to strive together for a world where freedom abounds and justice truly does roll down like water.

May we know the fullness of love without fear, and the serenity of peace without turmoil.

May we hold one another in the deep and tender places with compassion, and may we grace one another by sharing our own vulnerabilities, being ever mindful of the divinity within that makes soulmates of us all.

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Truly Southern Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is my all-time favorite dessert! My father was a correspondent banker for a large bank in St. Louis, and his territory was the Southeast area. He traveled all over doing business with smaller banks in the region. And as he became close friends with many of these folks, we used to visit them on family vacations.

I learned to water ski on Lake Norfork in Mountain Home, Arkansas at Powers and Louise Fowler’s weekend lake house. They had a really fast powerboat (Powers liked speed) as well as a pontoon party barge, (Louise loved a party). One time, when I was about 12 years old, for some reason, I was with my parents alone. None of my other 5 brothers were with us and we visited the Fowlers.

So my mom says, “Louise, you make the best pecan pie and it’s Mary’s favorite. I wondered if we could have your recipe.”

Mrs. Fowler said in her lovely Southern drawl, “Well honey, why don’t we just go and make Mary one right now, and of course you can have the recipe!”

Cocktail in hand, she got up, went straight into the kitchen and made me a pecan pie right then and there.

And I have been making them for years. These days I use less sugar and Karo syrup as I like things less sweet. If you like it really sweet, go with the full cup measurements.

MRS. FOWLER’S PECAN PIE
3 eggs beaten (take out early to be at room temperature)
1 scant cup of packed light brown sugar
1 scant cup of Karo light syrup (I know it’s not good for you – just close your eyes, just this once OR you can substitute 7/8′s of a cup of raw agave syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs with a whisk, add in all remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a 9” pie crust, which has not been pricked, but has been baked for 5 – 10 minutes, weighted with beans or rice in parchment paper.

Bake for 40 – 50 minutes. Test with a knife or toothpick in the middle – should come out clean and the center slightly set. Cool completely before cutting and serving. Bake this in the morning before your feast.

Serve with whipped cream sweetened with a touch of powdered sugar and some vanilla. I use 1/2 pint of heavy cream, 1 tbs. powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla and beat until soft peaks form.

For me, this is the perfect ending to a Thanksgiving meal!

Pecan pie.

Best turkey & giblet gravy ever!

For buttery, melt-in-your mouth white meat and even no need for gravy, follow these instructions. This is the best turkey and giblet gravy recipe, I think, you will ever find. It is a combination of recipes, from Julia Child, Sheila Lukins and my own ideas. I first put this together in 2005 and fortunately, wrote it all down. But first, you must have a great quality, fresh bird – never frozen and never from a big producer. Now some local farm bred turkeys I have found are not so great. Sometimes their dark meat is tough (they walk a lot!) and the breasts are small. My butcher, Bob, from Espisitos Pork Store in Manhattan, gets his from a farm in PA. And then upstate, Mike and Cindy of Thunderhill Farms, produce an excellent bird. Mike is really proud of his turkeys and he sells out every year.

Now I know, there’s a lot of butter here and usually I don’t make recipes that have this much, but fear not. You will not be eating most of it as you degrease the pan juices and only use 4 tbs. to make a lot of gravy.

BEST ROAST TURKEY & GIBLET GRAVY EVER!
One 14.5 – 17 lb. fresh turkey
Sea salt – fine grind
Pepper – fine grind, preferably TexJoy brand
Paprika – sweet
Cornbread sausage stuffing with apples and pecans
2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, divided into 3 uses ( 20 Tbs.), 1 1/2 sticks should be thoroughly softened at room temperature
2 stalks celery, washed and cut into 3” long pieces
2 fat carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise and into 3” long pieces
3 small onions, cut in half or 3/4″ thick slices
4 tbs. canola oil
Cheesecloth – enough to be 3 layers thick and cover the entire breast area
Giblets and neck
1/3 cup tawny port
1 – 2 cups or more of homemade or low sodium chicken broth
4 tbs. flour
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbs. chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Turkey vegetable rack.

Place the flat sides down of the carrots, celery and onions and arrange in a rectangle to create a vegetable rack in your roasting pan for the turkey to sit on.

Thoroughly wash and dry your turkey, inside and out. Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika inside both cavities. Fill each with the cooled stuffing and seal closed with skin and metal skewers. Do not stuff too tight as the stuffing will expand while cooking.

Remove the wing tips from the bird and reserve. Skewer the remaining wings to the body with small metal skewers.

Take 1 1/2 sticks of the softened butter and smear all over your bird. Then sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika all over. Place the bird on the vegetable rack in your roasting pan. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Melt 4 tbs. butter in a small saucepan and add 4 tbs. canola oil. Place your cheesecloth in this mixture to soak up all the liquid and arrange the soaked cheesecloth on top of the whole breast area. Save any leftover liquid.

Place in your oven to roast at 325 degrees.

Baste every 30 minutes, without fail, to keep your breast meat juicy and moist. Baste under and over the cheesecloth and use any remaining butter and oil left from soaking the cheesecloth originally. When basting, take the pan out of the oven, close the oven door and baste quickly on top of the stove so your heat stays constant in the oven.

Meanwhile, take your giblets, neck and wing tips and place in a small saucepan and cover with cold fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer slowly for one hour.

Remove all giblets and neck from the liquid. Remove meat from neck and chop all finely and reserve for your gravy. Discard this liquid.

Roast the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees and the thickest part of your breast registers 160 degrees.

During the last 30 – 40 minutes of roasting your turkey, remove the cheesecloth and discard and brush on the 1/3 cup tawny port.

A stuffed 17 lb. bird took 4 hours and 45 minutes. A stuffed 14.5 lb. bird took 3 hrs and 54 minutes. Your oven may vary, but figure on 15 – 16 minutes per pound.

Let the bird rest for one hour and let all those juices re-circulate back into the meat. Serve your soup or first course.

Meanwhile, back to the gravy. Smash the vegetables from the roasting pan through a strainer into a bowl. Degrease the pan juices and add enough broth to make 2 cups.

Melt 4 tbs. butter in a saucepan. Add 4 tbs. flour and whisk together on medium heat, letting it brown slightly for 2-3 minutes. (You are making a roux here!) Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the 2 cups of reserved juices and broth. Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the smashed vegetables, 1 tsp. thyme, salt and pepper to taste (gravy may need more salt than you think – taste it), 1 tbs. chopped parsley and reserved chopped giblets and neck meat. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add more chicken broth if you think it’s too thick or you know you have a lot of gravy lovers and need to stretch it.

Enjoy!!

The cranberries!

Raw cranberries washed and in a white bowl.

Once again, over the years I have tried many different cranberry sauces and relishes. One year, I even did a Martha Stewart version of putting her cranberry sauce recipe mounded on top of halves of poached pears. It looked gorgeous but the taste was mediocre.

This gingered version, from Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate fame, is the best. If made properly, the little cranberries look jewel-like and glisten! People who don’t even like cranberries like this. This is also delicious as a sauce for sautéed or grilled duck breasts. It is easy to make and it will keep for a long time, if sealed in a tight container and refrigerated. You probably could even freeze it.

I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients for a ginger orange cranberry sauce.CRANBERRY GINGER SAUCE
Serves 10

12 oz. fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice – yes, please squeeze some juice oranges. It makes a difference!
1 tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger
Finely grated zest from one orange

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries pop open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Skim foam off the with a metal spoon and discard. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 months.

Cranberry sauce in a white bowl.

 

My favorite Thanksgiving stuffing

Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite holiday. I love the weather, fires in the fireplace, the family is all together and no pressure with gifts. In full disclosure, it is also around my birthday – Nov. 26th – but these days I could do without remembering that!

I have been making this stuffing for more than 20 years now, tweaking it until I think it’s just right. Every once in a while I have veered off and done a chorizo dressing or something with chestnuts and this one is the one we always go back to and is requested by everyone in my family. I forgot that I shared this with some of my friends years ago, only to discover recently that yes, they are still using it too. The basis of it comes from the very first Silver Palate cookbook. I used that cookbook so much in the 80’s, that my cover fell off. I think my good friend, Deb, cooked every recipe in there. We used to tease each other, we were both making our way through it! Good stuff!

Now some people and the government think you shouldn’t stuff the bird. I say nonsense! If your bird is really fresh, you’ve washed and dried it very well, let the dressing cool completely before stuffing, you will be fine. At the table, remove the dressing into a covered casserole before you carve the bird and start passing it. Then when the feast is over, totally clean out the cavity of all the stuffing and carve all of the meat off of the bird (makes it easier for leftovers the next day) and make stock with the carcass or throw it away. This way, you will have no problems and everything will be tastier.

I hope this will become your go-to favorite stuffing recipe as well!

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CORNBREAD SAUSAGE STUFFING WITH APPLES & PECANS
Serves 12-14 people or more than enough stuffing for a 20 lb. bird

1 ½ sticks of sweet butter (12 tbs.)
2 3/4 cups of finely chopped yellow onions (use your food processor for this)
3 tart apples, cored and chunked, not peeled (Jonathan are good)
1 lb. lightly seasoned bulk sausage (I use breakfast sausage with sage)
3 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread (bake a Jiffy cornbread mix for this)
3 heaping cups of crustless, cubed, day old whole-wheat bread
3 heaping cups of crustless, cubed, day-old white bread (I prepare and cut my breads the night before so they can dry out a little.)
2 rounded tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup chopped Italian parsley
1 ½ cups shelled pecan halves
1 raw egg
Chicken broth to moisten

Melt half of the butter in a skillet. Add chopped onions and cook over medium – medium/low heat, partially covered, until tender and lightly colored, about 25 minutes. Scrape onions and butter into a very large bowl. The biggest you’ve got!

Melt remaining butter in the same skillet. Add apple chunks and sauté over high heat until lightly colored but not mushy. Transfer the apples and all of the butter to the same mixing bowl with the onions.

Squeeze the sausage out of the casing if necessary. Crumble it into the skillet and sauté over medium heat, continuing to break up the sausage into small pieces, stirring until no pink remains and it’s lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the mixing bowl and throw away the fat.

Add all remaining ingredients to your large bowl and fold together with a large spatula, gently combining everything. Beat an egg in a separate small bowl and fold that in as well. Moisten with homemade or low sodium chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Cool completely before stuffing the bird.

With leftover stuffing, or if you choose not to stuff your bird, spoon stuffing into a casserole, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and set in a large, deeper pan. Pour hot water around the casserole to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes at 325 degrees. You will LOVE it!