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

Calphalon Skillet Giveaway!

Calphalon non stick dishwasher safe skillet.Calphalon was the cookware I chose for my bridal registry — some 33 years ago!!! (yikes!) I still have and use every single pan I received as a gift – about eight different ones. So, when the Calphalon people asked me to review their new, non-stick, 13” deep skillet with a beautiful glass lid (I love glass lids – so you can see what the heck is going on in there – besides, they’re pretty), I said, “Sure!”. I also added in that I could do a Calphalon Skillet Giveaway so that one of you, lucky readers, would be able to share in my joy of cooking! A major selling point with this skillet is that it is dishwasher safe, something my husband loves, since that’s his job. That’s our agreement. I cook, he cleans. (Thank the good Lord!)

Calphalon skillet browning chicken breasts.

I wanted to put the skillet through its paces. First – basic – browning chicken skin. Last Friday night, I made this chicken breast recipe that Steve picked out from a food magazine. Of course I had to make it my own. I just can’t help myself. I know interior designers who have to rearrange hotel rooms or who just can’t help but to fluff and rearrange pillows. I am like that with recipes. This recipe didn’t call for any browning, but how can you not do that with chicken breasts that have skin on? Besides, I wanted to render that fat out and get some crispness going. You can see the beautiful job the skillet did in just 5 minutes. The recipe, eh – was just okay. It wasn’t worthy enough to share with you as it used too much butter and was too sweet from the maple syrup.

Calphalon skillet browning garlic.

Next was making my garlic soft and golden to sauté with kale from my garden. It was beautiful and my kale with just garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper turned out amazingly delicious! This skillet is so non-stick that rather than using my customary 2 tablespoons of olive oil, I only used one!

Calphalon skillet with kale.

Here, with the kale in it, you can see just how large the skillet is. This amount of kale fed five people and there’s ample room for more.Calphalon skillet with catfish frying.

My final test was last night. I fried catfish (again – second time this summer!) with a simple breading of only Old Bay and flour, no egg or cornmeal this time. (I am on this Old Bay kick – it’s so good and makes it so easy to add a lot of flavor.) To me, frying is the ultimate test of a skillet.

The catfish turned out beautiful and delicious! It was crisp, nicely browned, with moist fish inside, and it took no time for the oil to heat up.

This skillet is great for everything so it will be great for fast, one-skillet meals with an easy clean-up to boot!

What is your favorite one-dish meal to cook in a skillet? Comment and answer below  to be entered into a random drawing to win one of these beautiful, 13 inch, non-stick, dishwasher safe, Calphalon skillets! Good luck!!!

One entry per person, please.

Shout out your favorite one-skillet meal.

Winners will be announced next Thursday.

Calphalon will mail the skillet directly to you.

Giveaway sponsored by LOVE – the secret ingredient.

Chef’s Planet Nonstick Toaster Ovenliner

THIS is a really handy, dandy thing, this Chef’s Planet Nonstick Toaster Ovenliner, which was included in our MARY’s secret ingredients summer box. You know when your husband or kids just make total messes in your toaster oven? Or when you decide to get clever and not use your big oven because you don’t want to heat up the whole house in the summertime, and you roast a chicken or bake a blueberry or peach pie and you know the mess it’s going to make but you do it anyway?

Well Chef’s Planet is this nifty company and is here to save the day. Their whole mission in life, their entire reason for existence, is to make your life easier in the kitchen. We like them. We really like them!

Toaster oven tray pulled out.

Here’s my toaster oven tray from just toasting some bread.

Toaster oven tray with an ovenliner.

And look at it now with my new ovenliner. And I can just take that baby out and wipe it clean (it’s nonstick, remember) or even throw it in the dishwasher, woo hoo!!! Thank you Chef’s Planet!

Visit their site and take a look at their other great products. They even make a full size ovenliner, which is next on my list. Be liberated and throw away that tinfoil I know you have down there now. The good folks at Chef’s Planet actually wanted to include a full oven-sized liner, but it wouldn’t fit in our box. :( Maybe next year we’ll grow bigger boxes!

Our Gluten-Free summer MARY’s secret ingredients Box!

Our summer MARY’s secret ingredients box was mailed last Wednesday, so all of you who ordered should have received it by now. We love these products and as it turns out, they are ALL gluten-free, even the toaster oven liner! And a big thank you to all of you for supporting our mission to eradicate worldwide hunger, as your purchase helps to support Feed The Children.

We have great items to eat and drink, just as they are, at any of your upcoming picnics or BBQ’s, and as I did with the spring box, I will provide inspiration and recipes using all of the ingredients here on this blog over the next two weeks, so please stay tuned.  

Check out the video below of our lovely Marie opening a box to the Frank Sinatra tune of HOW ABOUT YOU.

LOVE, Mary  

Or you can check it out on youtube here.



ZUKALI MEXICAN GOURMET  Big taste, small beginnings. Zukali Mexican Gourmet was born out of a passion for making food and salsas at cookouts with friends and family in their hometown of McKinney, Texas. At Zukali, flavor is foremost.

Cilantro Pineapple Salsa: Inspired by tacos al pastor, this tangy love story of cilantro & pineapple is sure to arouse your tastebuds. We roast fresh peppers over an open flame, we toss in pineapple, and steep it all in a special blend of spices to bathe your mouth in salsa bliss.  


Community Spice Company was founded by nurse Janis Callon in 2010. She comes from a family of foodies. Her father, Stanley, was an executive with Del Monte and her mother, Donna, was a registered dietician. Distressed by the poor quality and the outrageously salty spice blends typically found in the stores, she became adamant to make a healthy low sodium flavored spice blend line that used premium ingredients with realistic labeling for serving sizes.

Community Spices

barbi Q: A perky spice blend that is Community Spice Company’s signature flavor! It is fun, friendly, and the life of the party. Perfect on steak, salmon, ribs, burgers, chicken and home fries.

ka Bobbii: Light and luscious. Lemony with a stimulating twist. 
Perfect pick up to fish, chicken, couscous, lentils, & quinoa.

SNP 400: Flexible blend with national appeal. Fantastic with roast chicken, burgers, soups & chili.

mz. Curri: Exotic and confident. This blend takes no prisoners nor will you! Great on veggies, chicken, pork, prawns, fish and onions!



SIMPLY7  The idea behind Simply7 was born because most of the food you are eating everyday is made with ingredients that most people don’t recognize and can’t even pronounce. Simply7 decided to make sure that every ingredient in their products is not only natural but is SIMPLE. Everyone should be able to identify the raw vegetable, fruit, grain, or legume used as ingredients in their products.

Sea Salt Quinoa Chips: All of Simply7 Quinoa Chip flavors are designed to deliver all the flavor and nutrients of the ancient super grain, quinoa. Sea salt is our “original” flavor and truly brings out the slightly nutty flavor of quinoa. You might expect sea salt to be similar to the flavors of other basic salted snacks but it is so much more. The unique flavor of quinoa and the light dusting of sea salt makes for a snacking experience that will keep you reaching for more.




CHEF’S PLANET  Chef’s Planet makes life in the kitchen easier. It also offers other innovative, problem-solving kitchenware. They believe you can balance cooking with a busy life, so they are constantly thinking of new ways to make cooking simpler and more enjoyable!

What exactly is an ovenliner? Well, it’s a time saver. A drip and crumb catcher. No need to use chemical cleaners. Chef’s Planet toaster-ovenliner can be easily trimmed to fit on the rack. And, best yet, it’s MADE IN THE USA!  


JAXN’S TWICE-BAKED POTATO STIX®  The Bodacious Food Company, committed to providing fresh, great tasting premium baked products, created Jaxn’s Twice-Baked Potato Stix® in 2009 as their gluten free and all natural baked snack. Jaxn’s introduces a new, unique concept in better-for-you snacking.

Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper: Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper is a perfect duo of century-old flavors. Experience our snack’s robust blend of cracked pepper and natural sea salt. We sprinkle our flavorsome spice recipe on each twice-baked stix, providing “ingredient conscious” snacks bite-after-bite. Bye bye fries!  


  Bruce Cost Ginger Ale was founded in 2010 by Bruce Cost, author of an award-winning cookbook, a chef and a ginger lover. The original recipe was first created as part of a medicinal dinner. Several years later, after amassing a cult following for the beverage, Cost began bottling it with his partners, entrepreneurs Joseph and Terry Tang. In 2014, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale opened its very own factory, bringing the brewing process to Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Ginger Ale Original: Proud descendent of the first soft drink, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale is delicious, sparking and rich with whole ginger. Made with only fresh ginger (no extracts or oils) and pure cane sugar, this is a fundamentally simple, delicious and spicy beverage. Unfiltered with rich ginger particles, it provides iron and a little vitamin C as well as refreshment. MADE IN BROOKLYN

CLEAN, LEAN AND SEXY Summer_box_Products__0003_CleanLeanSexy
Clean, Lean and Sexy was inspired by a mother’s mission to transform her daughter’s health. Suzie Carpenter, a Certified Nutrition and Peak Health Coach founded Clean, Lean and Sexy to provide great-tasting whole food energy products in the form of simple, gluten-free healthy snacks.

Coconut Cashew All Natural Whole Food Energy Bar: Healthy snacks without hidden ingredients are hard to find. Clean, Lean and Sexy Whole Food Energy Bars are made with only pure, all natural, recognizable ingredients; and they taste great! They are made with real coconut and without gluten, corn, soy or dairy ingredients. There are also no processed sugars or artificial sweeteners. Indulge, enjoy and be free (now that’s sexy)! It’s a No Grainer! 




 Please note: Mortar and pestle are a part of MARY’s secret ingredients trademark and are not items included in the box.

Best Pancakes on a Great Griddle!

Pancakes cooking on a griddle. Well they say that summer is here – heh heh – I wore a silk shawl and a raincoat on Thursday. Did you hear that – a COAT – in mid-June. Who ever heard of such a thing! But truly, it is the grilling season and the good folks at Wilton Armetale wanted to send me a griddle to try out. I said, “SURE, I know that brand well!” When my husband and I got married some 33 years ago (eee gads!), we received so many Wilton Armetale pieces – several different sizes of platters, bowls, and other serving dishes. At the time, we had never heard of them. (what did we know?) They must have had a marketing initiative and became all the rage. They were pretty – looked like pewter but no need to polish. We still use those same pieces today. Pancakes cooking on a griddle.

So now, I guess they figured out that the material is a great conductor of heat and are positioning this griddle as a “cook and serve” piece. For cooking it is terrific, but I personally don’t see the need to bring a hot grill pan to the table. No matter, this is an excellent griddle. I love the size – it spans two burners so you can cook six big pancakes at a time! Which is exactly what I did the first time out. You can also use this on your outdoor grill for things like asparagus and other vegetables. The smooth surface is a nice alternative rather than having grill marks, when you don’t want them.

I’d like to share with you this pancake recipe from AllRecipes.com. I looked for an easy one as I’m not about to be whipping egg whites and folding them in on a Sunday morning, as my brother Steve does. He LOVES making breakfast, and we get to be the lucky receivers/eaters when we are all together. I love to eat a great breakfast without spending too much time making it and then get on with the day filled with an already too big list of things I need to do on a weekend, if you know what I mean. This recipe produced super light and fluffy cakes – give it a go tomorrow morning and let me know how it works for you!

My mother always served us our pancakes with melted butter and warmed maple syrup. She would say, “Well how can you put a cold pat of butter on your pancakes – it’ll take some time to melt and then everything will get cold. You need warm melted butter and warm syrup – not cold syrup from the refrigerator.”

I know, we were spoiled, and I have kept up that tradition. :)
Pancakes on a plate.

GOOD OLD FASHIONED PANCAKES – serves 4 – adapted from AllRecipes.com (they say this serves 8, but I think not)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg, lightly beaten 
3 tbs. butter, melted

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg and combine with the milk and melted butter. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the liquid mixture; mix until smooth. Let rest for 5 minutes to let the baking powder activate.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.    

Rachael Ray

I saw Rachael Ray at a Hudson Union Society event at the Cornell Club last night. She seems like a nice person, bubbling and drinking red wine throughout her interview with Joe Pascal. She has this new book out, Week in a Day – Five Dishes, One Day.

I would say though that she doesn’t look quite so… svelte as she does on the cover. Rachael Ray cookbook - Week in a Day.

My concern with Rachael’s food is that many of her recipes are very high in calories and fat — one stick of butter or one cup of feta cheese in a recipe for a dish to serve four people! That’s just way too much. This is on the road to the Paula Deen lifestyle.

Rachel’s idea with the book is to use one day to make five meals for the week. That is certainly one way to tackle making your meals. I, however, look forward to the unwind time of making a meal at night.

I wasn’t always like that though. Truth be told, when my kids were young, I was fortunate enough to have full time, live-in help in NJ and our wonderful Jennifer had dinner made on the stove, waiting for us every night when we came home from work. So when Zach went off to college and we moved back into the city, cooking dinner every single night was new to me and a harsh reality at first. But once you get the hang of it, it’s good! In fact, if we have to go out too many nights in a row with business functions, I miss cooking. As I said, it’s a time to unwind, have a sip of wine and create something delicious with beautiful vegetables and herbs. I like to imagine what I want to eat and then see if I can achieve the flavor profile I’m looking for. It’s a design game with food!

Rachel’s idea is to encourage more people to feel empowered to cook a meal at home. That is my goal too — but not with unhealthy ingredients and portions. Because then you will not feel good, look good or have the pure energy to truly LOVE and enjoy life — because that is what it’s all about! Your body is an incredibly strong yet delicately balanced machine and you need to feed it with respect.

At this event, after the interview, the floor was opened to questions from the audience and the first question was about her use of fat and rich ingredients in her recipes. She responded that she eats pasta and macaroni and cheese and LOVES cheese and all those things. That’s ok of course — and it’s important to enjoy yourself — but all things in moderation.

I will never forget when my youngest son, Zach (who gave me the inspiration to write this blog and share my recipes) was eating a pasta dish one of our friends so nicely made for us when we moved. It was ziti with loads and loads of mozzarella and parmigiano cheese, butter, sausage, tomatoes, etc. He loved it! He was eating it slowly and said, “This is soooo good. You would never make something like this.”

And he was so right.

Get it Right spatulas

Get It Right spatula in hot pin with packaging.Some time ago, the good folks at GIR sent me one of their spatulas to try out. I have so enjoyed using it but haven’t had time to write about it until now. This Get It Right spatula is totally made of one piece of seamless silicone, which makes it super easy to handle, plus they come in super bright nifty colors. They sent me a hot pink one.

I have this awful habit of leaving spatulas or other stirring equipment in the pot or skillet that I’m using them in. In the one cooking class I ever took at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), the teacher yelled at me for doing this, and rightfully so. I know it’s not right! I think I do this because I am always rushing around, usually hungry and it’s late, trying to be a short order cook, plus I want to keep the stirring utensils separate from one another. Then, usually the handle will get hot while sitting in there and I’ll pick it up and low and behold, burn myself again!! I have many scars on my hands and lower arms from dumb moves such as this.
Get It Right spatula in a pan of red stemmed, organic dandelion greens with garlic.This spatula is great as a stirring and sauteing vegetables tool and, you’ll never get burnt even if you leave it in the pot. Here you can see me using it to make some sautéed organic red stemmed dandelion greens with garlic in olive oil. It looks great, right? This was the worst freaking vegetable dish I have made in a very long time. (You couldn’t chew them! I guess you have to braise them?) But, the stirring instrument was wonderful!

I have one caution about it. It is not flexible enough to really scrape a bowl of a luscious sauce. But as a cooking instrument, it works! And, I love the colors. A red one would be nice for LOVE, don’t you think?