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

Chicken & Pepper Kababs with Zukali Cilantro Pineapple Salsa

Zukali Cilantro Pineapple Salsa.Zukali cilantro pineapple salsa with simply7 quinoa chips.Happy July 4th! May you all enjoy a wonderful holiday. The dish below makes for an easy BBQ so you can enjoy the fireworks!

The Zukali Cilantro Pineapple Salsa is so tasty and versatile. It is not too spicy, just a great flavor of roasted peppers and cilantro with a hint of pineapple! As the owner Cesar told me, he loves entertaining and always made these great, different salsas. He was encouraged to go retail with them by his friends. Luckily, he owns a graphic design firm in real life, enabling him to create beautiful packaging. But the goods inside are lovely!

In one of the first uses, I served it plain with the Simply7 Sea Salt Quinoa Chips – a delicious, no-brainer combo from the box!

Zukali Cilantro Pineapple salsa marinating chicken.


Then I marinated boneless, skinless chicken breast chunks in it for 30 – 60 minutes, (3/4 cup of salsa worked for 5 chicken breasts), skewered those babies with some red and yellow pepper chunks (peppers in the salsa and fresh peppers – nice!) and Steve, my husband, grilled them perfectly, about 3 – 4 minutes per side on high heat on a preheated grill pan.

Zukali Cilantro Pineapple kababs hot off the grill.

See how pretty they look!!!

Cilantro pineapple chicken on a plate with potatoes and sauteed baby bok choy. Serve them topped with a bit more of fresh from the jar salsa (not the stuff you marinated in), add grilled Yukon Gold potatoes and a nice veggie (sauteed baby bok choy here) and you have a company meal. Delicious, juicy and flavorful! Thank you Cesar!

I also used it to top some simple roasted salmon to make a not so simple entrée. I imagine this would be great on eggs too!

And for those of you who have mates who don’t like fruits with meats or mains (I’m talking you, Margaret), this is not fruity or sweet at all. There is a tiny hint of pineapple but it’s mostly slightly smoky peppers and cilantro and just all goodness. Cesar makes many flavors. You can check out his website. He’s the real deal.

Sweet and Sour Coleslaw

This recipe is SWEET! It’s both super easy and super delicious! You will LOVE it and get compliments to boot!

Coleslaw with ribs and grilled potato salad on a brown plate.

The day after I served it, requests for the recipe came rolling in. This Sweet and Sour Coleslaw is a terrific accompaniment to the Amazing BBQ Ribs and Grilled Potato Salad with Scallions recipes that I just published in the June newsletter. If you are not signed up for that, you can do so now by clicking on the blue box on the right hand side here. That will take you to a page to sign up, and I’ll make sure you get one.

This recipe is from a cookbook that was a gift to me from our lovely Bianca, who was visiting from Italy by way of South Carolina, it is a find! Her Italian boyfriend is working for a company based down there and she was visiting him before coming to visit us in NYC. She said she wanted to bring me a little bit of the South so she picked out this Farm Fresh Southern Cooking cookbook, by Tammy Algood. I had never heard of Tammy, but so far I’ve made about eight recipes from this book and they’ve all been terrific! All of them are relatively quick, easy and super delicious! And yes, of course I’ve made changes – just a little though.

I figure that people from the South know coleslaw and from this recipe, they really do. It is perfect for your upcoming July 4th celebrations. And don’t forget to let me know if you want to receive the newsletter for the best ribs and a really different potato salad recipe.

(adapted from Tammy Algood and her Farm Fresh Southern Cooking cookbook)

1 medium head of cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 rounded tsp. dry mustard
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. celery seeds

Remove the 2 -3 outer leaves from the cabbage, wash and dry with a paper towel. Cut into quarters, and shred on a mandoline, avoiding the core. (I love to munch of the core while making this – something my mother used to do, giving me a piece, while I watched her shred.)

Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and drizzle with honey. Do not stir.

In a small saucepan, over medium–high heat, combine the brown sugar, salt, dry mustard, oil, vinegar and seeds. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let cool for 15 minutes. Pour over coleslaw, tossing and mixing well. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.


Fried Catfish atop a Baby Kale Salad with Sautéed Radishes and Japanese Turnips  

Fried Catfish atop a Baby Kale Salad with Sauteed Radishes and Japanese Turnips

I am not a fried food fan. First of all, it’s fattening, (I am always wanting to lose 5 lbs.) and of course too much of it is not good for you. However, usually once a year I make fried chicken for a dinner picnic and I also adore fried catfish. Must be the Missouri in me.

Actually one of my most memorable meals was a just-caught fried catfish in Missouri at Pere Marquette Lodge. My parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and flew everyone home and treated us all to a weekend at the resort. We used to go there for a quick vacation when we were kids so a reunion back there was memorable. And we did all the same things, except with our own kids – horseback riding, shuffleboard, playing the giant chess game, and swimming – and the best fried catfish dinner that tasted so good after all that outdoor activity. So last Friday night, I almost replicated the catfish, but served it as a dinner salad as Fried Catfish atop a Baby Kale Salad with Sautéed Radishes and Japanese Turnips. It was so good!!! The only thing it lacked was the just-caught freshness of the fish. It was very fresh, and it was very good, but not just-caught, if you know what I mean. That’s different and unless you’ve had it, you just don’t know. Everyone should have a just-caught cooked fish on their bucket list, because it can’t be beat!

This is not a particularly quick dinner. I made this on a Friday night when there’s more time. Make sure your oil is hot enough – a bit of flour as a test should really sizzle. This insures that your fish doesn’t absorb any or very little of the oil. Use canola oil as opposed to olive oil as you can get it hotter without smoking. Intellectually, I tried to balance the fried aspect with the healthy raw baby kale and you can opt to use the radishes and turnips raw but I like a little bit of warmth to mix in with the cool greens. And my radishes had been around for a week so I needed to liven them up. Feel free to work with any combination of vegetables to suit your taste, but this was a good one.

Now I understand and hear from other sources that a lot of you have been making my recipes and I want to hear from you! I know a lot of people read food blogs to be inspired but never actually make the recipes. So if you’re making them and have success, please let me know. If you have problems, please let me know, because that means I’m not doing my job. And I want to do my job, which is to help you cook healthier food easier, with LOVE, in order to live a life with boundless energy. Breaded catfish fillets frying in the pan.


4 oz. baby kale, washed, air dried and chilled
1 bunch of Japanese white turnips, scrubbed, sliced and chopped
8 breakfast radishes, scrubbed and sliced (or regular radishes)
1 tbs. unsalted butter
3 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced
16 cherry and sunny gold tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
2 catfish fillets
½ cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs – throw day-old or even older slices of a baguette or other bread in your food processor and process to make crumbs
Canola oil – enough to cover the bottom of your skillet about 1/8 inch deep
Sherry vinaigrette 

Have all your vegetables ready for the salad. Make your dressing.

Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the radishes and the turnips and sauté until golden brown as shown here.Japanese turnips and breakfast radishes sautéing in a pan.

Set out three shallow pans right near your stove-top. Left to right, with your stove on the right should be your flour, the beaten eggs and the breadcrumbs.

Wash and dry the catfish fillets. Salt and pepper one side with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Heat the canola oil until shimmering. It should be enough to cover the bottom of your skillet by about 1/8” deep. Cover the fish fillets lightly in flour and shake off. Dip in the beaten eggs and let drain and then cover in breadcrumbs and fry for 3 – 4 minutes on each side until fish flakes and you have a nice golden brown crust.

Assemble your salad arranging baby kale leaves on the bottom, distribute the scallions, warm radishes and turnips along with the tomatoes, and drizzle salad dressing over all.

When the fish is done, remove to a platter covered with paper towels and let it rest there for a minute. Then place the fish fillet on top and dig in! Serve with LOVE and enjoy!

Mother’s Day Dinner with Cornish Hens and Sauerkraut  

We have had a consistent thread running through our celebrations lately, and that is not celebrating on the exact day – but boy do we celebrate! We’ve got our own calendar going! We celebrated Easter Sunday on the Saturday before, Zach’s birthday (which is July 10th – but he’ll be in Europe for the summer) on May 10th and Mother’s Day for us was a week later as we had to travel to Boston for business on the actual holiday. My boys, with the help of one girlfriend, once again made a spectacular meal using recipes from Jamie Oliver, Mark Bittman, and the Chocolate Covered Katie blog. Not too shabby, right?! The standout main dish, unusual but terrific, was Bittman’s Cornish Hens and Sauerkraut recipe.

My boys always ask what I want and I promptly say, “Surprise me!” I like/love nearly everything except processed food and of course they’re not going to go there because after all, they were raised by me. When the older one texted me to ask if I had juniper berries at the apartment, I knew I was in for something great. I LOVE juniper berries – as I love my gin martinis on a Friday night!roasted tomato bread soup

They started with a Jaime Oliver roasted tomato bread soup. It was different (I can always count on that from them) and delicious but was supposed to have used day-old bread which may have been better to add a bit more substance instead of the bread being so fresh as to soak everything up. No matter – that was a texture issue – the taste was fabulous! And since I was really hungry, it was substantial and great! Here’s the recipe – cute name! http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/bread-and-tomato-soup-pappa-al-pomodoro

The next course (yes, we have courses!) was this amazing salad of really unusual ingredients – fennel, red onion, cucumber, radishes and oranges. Yes oranges! They provided a wonderful refreshing burst of flavor!Fennel cucumber red onion and orange salad

Here’s the complete recipe – they did not use the ice cubes.

 INSALATA AMALFITANA Amalfi Salad - Adapted from Jamie’s Italy.

1 bulb of fennel, washed
1 red onion, peeled
1 cucumber
a large handful of radishes, washed
2 tablespoons good-quality herb or red wine vinegar
good-quality extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black peper
4 oranges, peeled, segmented, and seeds removed

Optional: a small handful of ice cubes

Remove the herb-like tops from the fennel and set them aside. Then trim the fennel at both ends and take off the outer layer. Split the fennel in half and slice lengthwise as finely as possible. Put into a large bowl. Remove both ends of the onion, then halve it and slice it as finely as possible. Slice the cucumber finely into disk shapes. Leave the stems on the radishes as a grip. Then slice a little bit out of the side of the radish so it will be stable on the counter. Slice as finely as possible into disks.

Throw a few ice cubes in the bowl and toss the salad with them for a few minutes. Jamie says that this makes the vegetables get crunchier. I’m not sure why it works, but it really does.

Remove the ice cubes. In a bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of good herb or red wine vinegar and about 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Mix well, and taste. If your oranges are super sweet, you may want some extra vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad with the dressing, then add the orange segments with their juices. Sprinkle the reserved fennel tops over the salad right before serving.

And then we had the amazing main course of the Cornish hens with sauerkraut served with some sliced, crispy roasted Yukon gold potatoes.Roasted Cornish hens with sauerkraut and sliced roasted potatoes

From the How to Cook Everything Essentials® app

An elegant but straightforward dish and an excellent introduction to sauerkraut. But steer clear of the canned stuff; instead, look for a bottled brand that contains no more than cabbage, salt, and water. This preparation also works well with pheasant, chicken, and duck.

4 Cornish hens, about 1 pound each
4 slices bacon, diced, or 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds sauerkraut
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed with the side of a knife
1 sprig fresh thyme or a pinch dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine
Stock or water as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the backbone of the hens by cutting along their length on each side. Separate breast and leg quarters. Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large, deep ovenproof skillet until crisp, about 10 minutes, or heat the oil until it shimmers. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the hen pieces to the bacon fat or olive oil and brown them on all sides. Meanwhile, rinse the sauerkraut in a colander and heat the oven to 300°F.

When the bird is nicely browned, add the sauerkraut, cloves, juniper berries, thyme, bay leaf, and white wine to the skillet. Cook over medium heat until about half of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes; move the skillet into the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding liquid as needed to keep the sauerkraut just moist, until the legs are tender and the sauerkraut is slightly browned. Remove the skillet from the oven, then remove the cloves and bay leaf. Taste the sauce, adjust the seasoning, garnish with the bacon pieces (oops – they forgot that) and serve hot or warm.Chocolate mousse garnished with raspberries and strawberries

And for dessert, they made this amazingly rich, decadent chocolate mousse topped with fresh raspberries and strawberries, that had this secret surprise ingredient that not one of us could guess – it was tofu!!! Yes tofu was used instead of cream. Can you imagine?

It was delicious – and no doubt a whole lot healthier for you!

Here it is from the Chocolate Covered Katie blog. She apparently specializes in healthy chocolate desserts. How cool is that?!


Chocolate mousse with raspberries and strawberries half eaten

I couldn’t eat the whole thing!

 I know I’m lucky. Hope all you moms out there enjoyed a fantastic Mother’s Day, filled with LOVE too!

Spicy Brined Chicken and Pork

The wonderful bottle of brine from Sweetwater Spice Company, included in the MARY’s secret ingredients spring box, makes for a super easy way to tenderize and flavor meats. You would have either received the Tres Chilies Fajita Bath or the Pineapple Habanero Jerk BBQ Bath Brine. Both of these flavors are great to make spicy brined chicken and pork or even seafood. If you didn’t order a spring box, you can click on their ad on the right rail here and go directly to their website and order some bottles.

We have received amazing positive and enthusiastic comments and reviews on the box. Such excitement! You can see those reviews here:


Best of all, sales of boxes help to feed hungry children worldwide as 10% of our annual profits will be donated to Feed The Children. Because of these great reviews, the summer box is selling fast, as well as the other seasons too, so if you want to get in on the fun, place your order now. Use the promo code 4LOVE when checking out for $4.00 off for a total cost of $21.95.

Spicy brined chicken salad on a plate

Using the Austin, Texas, Sweetwater Spice Company brines, I created this wonderful dinner salad by marinating skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the Pineapple Habanero Jerk Brine and then grilling them. The beauty of this product is that the brining time (30 minutes) is quick and the results produce really juicy flavorful meat. This is not a sweet dish, don’t let the pineapple in the name fool you. It is spicy with just a hint of pineapple on the back end. Here’s the recipe, super easy – use any leftover vegetables you have or grill some fresh.


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried and trimmed of all fat
Sweetwater Spice Company Pineapple Habanero Jerk BBQ Bath Brine - follow instructions on the bottle to dilute the brine and marinate for 30 minutes or more. Do not strain the spices and add on unless you like things super firey hot!
Boston lettuce, washed and air dried
Radicchio leaves, washed and air dried
2 vine ripened tomatoes, cored and washed
16 asparagus spears, washed and trimmed of woody stem parts
1/2 lb. okra, washed and tops trimmed
2 tbs. olive oil
Vidalia or other sweet onion, very thinly sliced
Croutons – homemade preferably
Sherry vinaigrette salad dressing

Marinate chicken in the brine for 30 minutes or more – up to 2 hours.

Wash and dry the lettuce and radicchio. Toss asparagus and okra in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cut the tomatoes into wedges. Make the salad dressing. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Discard brine. Grill the chicken until just done. Let rest for 5 -10 minutes before slicing on an angle. While the chicken is resting, grill the vegetables until nicely done.

Arrange the lettuce and radicchio on the plates. Place the grilled vegetables, tomatoes and the sliced onions on the sides, leaving the center area clear for the chicken. Slice the chicken breasts and place in the middle. Scatter croutons on top. Drizzle dressing overall to taste. Serve with LOVE.

Enjoy! close up of spicy brined chicken

Just look at how juicy that chicken is!spicy brined thick pork chops

I also used the Tres Chilies Fajita Bath to brine big thick pork chops and they turned out divine! I brined them for 3 hours and grilled them – really wonderful! 

Tea and Honey Marinated Chicken Breasts

Tea and honey marinated chicken on a plate

The Calmer Sutra Peppermyntle Tea and Ginger Infused Honey from Australia, which were in the spring box of MARY’s secret ingredients are, of course, divine as a cup of tea with honey. Lovely before going to bed at night, the peppermint is a digestive aid as is the ginger in their ginger infused honey. Add the lemon kick from the myrtle and you’ve got a flavor explosion in your cup. I LOVE the ginger honey! The ginger adds a kick of heat perfectly combined with the sweet honey, the combo is quite nice! (Please remember to refrigerate your honey after you’ve opened it.) With the myrtle being indigenous to Australia, a little research came up with a lot of dessert recipes for this herb. So of course I could have followed in that direction which would also work well with the honey, but I chose to go the savory way instead with this Tea and Honey Marinated Chicken Breasts recipe.

This is my first time marinating with tea and this resulting dish was just delicious! Besides the chicken being juicy, tender and subtly flavored, the browning was beautiful and I do believe that was because of the tea and honey!

Here’s the recipe:


3/4 cup of water
1 tbs. Calmer Sutra Peppermyntle Tea
4 scallions, white and pale green only, chopped
3 tbs. canola oil, divided
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbs. low salt soy sauce
1 tbs. Calmer Sutra Ginger Infused Honey
1 tbs. chopped fresh ginger root
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Heat the water over high heat to a simmer. Pour over the tea leaves and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the tea mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, and discard the tea leaves. Add the scallions, 2 tbs. canola oil, lemon zest and juice, soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic. Stir to combine and place over a bowl of ice water to cool. Make 4 to 5 diagonal cuts 1/4” deep across each chicken breast half. Pour marinade into a zip lock bag, add chicken and massage the chicken with the sauce, turning occasionally and refrigerate overnight.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Tea and honey marinated chicken breasts in a raw  state

Remove the breasts from the marinade and pat dry. Place the marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer. Add the chicken to the skillet without crowding and cook until browned, 3 – 4 minutes. Tea and honey marinated chicken breasts browning in the pan

Turn the breast and continue cooking until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside on a platter to rest for 5 minutes. Serve the chicken topped with the sauce.Tea and honey marinated chicken breasts plated

I served this with fluffy Jasmine rice, topped with the sauce and a side of the Eggplant Tomato Yum.