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

KIND Bar Brownies

Kind Bar Brownies on a plate.

Different, decadent and decidedly delicious, these KIND Bar brownies will not disappoint.

The next item to reveal from the fall MARY’s secret ingredients box is this brand new flavor of KIND bars – Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond. We all LOVE KIND bars, and they’ve been around for a while but this new flavor is truly decadent.Three Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond Kind Bars.

Eating them just as they are is obviously a no brainer. I am recommending three bars to make this recipe so just go ahead and eat the one in the box and then go out and buy three more to make these brownies. I served these as dessert for a small dinner party I had for our friends Wayne and Margaret and honestly each one of us had at least two. The extra burst of chocolate, coffee and almonds makes this brownie a winner! I think ten brownies in total, were eaten by four people. Yikes! And with some ice cream. Double yikes! I just rode my bike for 15 miles the next day to take it all off.


4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I use Scharffen Berger), cut into chunks
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus a little more for greasing pan, cut into tablespoons
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt (French grey salt is the best)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond Kind Bars, cut into chunks

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate and butter in a medium bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir and decide whether to microwave for another 30 seconds or keep stirring until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is silky smooth. Meanwhile, butter an 8 1/2-inch-square baking pan.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add your pinch of salt and beat until shiny and smooth. Add flour and vanilla and stir to incorporate – no traces of flour should remain, but do not over stir. Add Kind Bar pieces and stir gently just to distribute them.Kind bar brownie batter in a white bowl.

Pour batter mixture into pan, and smooth out evenly. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until set and barely firm in the middle. Cool on a rack completely before cutting into 16 squares and serve. You will be in heaven!

Get Bolder with Smoulder! Shrimp and Tomato Appetizer

Smouder on fresh tomatoes with olive oil

Smoulder on fresh tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil

Smoulder on fresh salmon.

On uncooked salmon – so you can see how much I put on.

Smoulder seasoning.

Smoulder seasoning.

Well this stuff is so good, I don’t know what you can’t put it on! You WILL want to put it on everything. In fact, the only thing that has stopped me from putting it on everything is that I didn’t want all the things in my meal to taste the same! Everything really can get bolder with Smoulder! It is a wonderful spice blend from South Africa that has smoked peppers, garlic, some salt and pepper. It comes in it’s own grinder so everything comes out fresher. 

And here’s the thing, my husband hates smoked things, so at first I was sneaking this stuff on. I mean after all, it’s my duty to be able to tell you the best way to use it, so I had to use it. But he’s loved everything with this! The smokiness is real flavor – real flavor of the peppers, not just smokiness for smokiness sake. And the salt content is light so you can grind away to get more pepper flavor and not worry. You can put it on before you cook or use it as a finishing flavor for more intensity, right before serving, as I did here with the tomatoes.

Smoulder on roasted salmon.

The finished roasted salmon – use the cooking method in this link.

So let me go through all the things I’ve been putting it on lately:

Any vegetable – grilled eggplant, roasted okra, roasted zucchini, cauliflower, green beans, yellow flat beans, bok choy and Brussels sprouts
Fillet of Sole
Turkey Burgers
Pork chops
Even eggs

And you can go on. Probably even popcorn!

Just go ahead and grind and smile like you’ve worked hard in the kitchen! Enjoy!!

Chelsea Market Baskets, where you can buy Smoulder, has so many interesting products, just like this one. Check out their site and order away!! Remember the holidays are coming and they make the best gift baskets.

Smoulder on shrimp and tomatoes topped with sorrel sauce.

Smoulder on shrimp and tomatoes topped with sorrel sauce

Here is a super easy, terrific recipe:


6 – 7 large shrimp 
Several grindings of Smoulder
1 plum tomato, sliced into 6 or 7 slices
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. dry vermouth
Sea salt – optional
Sorrel sauce – optionalSmoulder on shrimp and tomatoes in a skillet .

Wash and dry shrimp and season liberally with grindings of Smoulder on one side. Season the sliced tomatoes with grindings of Smoulder as well.

Warm the olive oil in a small skillet. Turn heat to medium high and add the unsalted butter. When the sizzling ceases, add the shrimp and tomatoes, seasoned side down. Cook for 2 minutes. Lightly salt the top side, while the seasoned side is cooking. Turn the shrimp and tomatoes over and add the vermouth. Cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp, when just no longer pink and divide on two plates. Remove the tomatoes and add to your shrimp. Let the sauce simmer a minutes longer, then pour over the shrimp and tomatoes.

Optional: Top with a little sorrel sauce and serve or garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley.

We hope you enjoy this amazing product that was in our fall MARY’s secret ingredients box.

Provençal Lamb Daube

Lamb daube in a bowl, garnished with chopped parsley.So what is a daube? It is a stew of meat, the dictionary says, typically beef, but this recipe of lamb, adapted from a Daniel Boulud recipe is…. quite simply…to die for! I made this recipe once before, for a dinner party that really was the dinner party from hell…but that’s another story. But because of that, it has taken me about five years to make this again. Serving it with LOVE, to people you love, is a whole other story. This Provençal Lamb Daube is not to be missed. With the chilly weather coming on board, it is just the sort of dish you want to sink right into, right now.

Daniel says to serve it with roasted garlic grits, which I did the first time around, but my husband is not a grits fan. Polenta is the traditional choice, which I think would be grand. My husband asked for egg noodles, which seemed to work out just fine. (I passed on them altogether as we have a big family wedding to go to in Boston this coming weekend and I want to look best in my new black dress! Thank goodness for weddings to get us all in shape – right?!)

Lamb daube recipe ingredients on a white platter.

Back to the recipe. This is delightful to make – the vegetables are all beautiful and colorful and the addition of the orange and fennel really set this dish apart. Lamb daube ingredients on a cutting board.

You don’t brown the meat or caramelize the onions, you just prepare the vegetables (takes about an hour) and layer everything in a big pot (I used my Le Creuset) and throw it in the oven at two different temperatures and voilá, you have one amazing stew to serve that will keep the compliments coming! (I’m thinking this might be the way to go with Boeuf Bourguignonne in the future.) Lamb daube in Le Creuset ready to cook.I made this on Saturday while making our dinner for that night and served it tonight – Monday. It was perfect and definitely better to serve it a day or two later. So this makes it ideal for a weeknight dinner party! Whip up a salad and you’re all set. Daniel says that French women would take their pot to the local baker and have it sealed with some bread dough on top and bake the whole thing. Can you imagine how good that was?!

Serve this with a soul-soothing wine. Daniel Johnnes, wine director of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants, suggests a rich, full-bodied wine from the southern French appellation of Bandol. “This Mediterranean region produces lush, earthy wines that pair beautifully with roasts, stews, and grilled meats, especially lamb,” he says. His first choice is the Domaine du Gros’Noré 2005 ($30). “This full-bodied red is made predominantly with the Mourvèdre grape and has a warm, seductive nose of black fruits, spice, and saddle leather,” he explains. “On the palate it is smooth and powerful and has a long creamy finish.” Other Bandols he recommends are Château Pradeaux, Domaine Tempier, and Domaine de la Tour du Bon. We were able to find a 2007 Château Pradeaux Bandol and let me tell you, it was totally delicious and perfect!!

I hope you get a chance to make this with the cold weather coming. I know you will LOVE it!

PROVENÇAL LAMB DAUBE – serves 6 – adapted from Daniel Boulud

2.5 lb. lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbs. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 lb. slab bacon, cut into ½-inch dice, nitrate-free
1 small head of fennel, cut into 8 wedges
3 roma tomatoes, quartered and seeded
½ of an orange, peel on, cut into thin slices
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
7 small Yukon potatoes, peeled and cut in half
3 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, halved and cut into thick slices
2 celery stalks, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup taggiasche or other small black olives, pitted
1½ cups Burgandy or similar red wine
1 cup beef stock, or low-sodium stock
1 sachet (1 tsp. each fennel seeds, black peppercorns, and coriander seeds wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with butcher’s twine)
1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs basil, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, and 2 sprigs rosemary, tied with butcher’s twine)
Italian parsley, chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 380°F and place a rack in the center. Season lamb with salt and cayenne pepper. Place one-half  of the lamb and the bacon on the bottom of a 5½-quart Dutch oven and top with one-half of the vegetables. Repeat, finishing with vegetables.

Fennel, coriander and peppercorns on cheesecloth ready to be bundled and tied.

Fennel, coriander and peppercorns on cheesecloth ready to be bundled and tied.

Add wine and stock followed by sachet and bouquet garni, being sure to submerge them.

Everything ready for the lamb daube before submerging the herbs and sachet bundle.

Everything ready, before submerging the herbs and sachet bundle.

Cover and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 280°F and bake for another 2½ hours. Remove from the oven to rest at least 30 minutes before serving, or cool, refrigerate and serve 2 – 3 days later. Warm gently. Serves 6.

Food Memories

Cookies in a napkin at the foot of the bed.

With the end of summer here, I’d like to share this story with you:

Some time ago my brother, Steve and his wife, Trish visited us in the country and at dinner that weekend, Steve told us a story I had never heard before.

He talked about wanting to spend time in the summer with our Uncle Tony (my mother’s older brother) and Auntie Casmira when he was probably five or six, young enough to still take a nap. He likely requested to spend time there to get away from the chaos of our large family – his little “vacation”. Uncle Tony owned a grocery store and meat market. He was a butcher and followed in my grandfather’s footsteps. So Steve wanted to work in the store.

Uncle Tony was the nicest man. Whenever we visited them for family parties, they would let all of us (6 kids) into the closed store and allow us to choose any candy or soda we wanted – both forbidden in our house.

Their three daughters (all older than Steve) pitched in and helped out at the store. So he remembers Julie’s fiancé, Bob, delivering groceries for Uncle Tony on steamy, hot St. Louis summer nights in a big ole’ station wagon with the rear panel down, letting Steve sit on that, dangling his feet (my mother would have died had she known), while he drove slowly around the neighborhood making his drops.

He remembers Auntie Casmira mopping the store floor and if there was a stain she couldn’t get out, she’d pour a little of Whistle Orange Soda on it, and that would take it out! Can you imagine what’s in that soda that we used to drink?

And he remembers being coaxed to take a nap (they lived in a lovely home in the same building, upstairs from the store), and if he did, when he woke up, there would be a cookie or two in a napkin at the foot of the bed.

Isn’t that the sweetest? Those cookies, while not necessarily homemade, were lovingly wrapped and waiting for him.

I hope that this blog is helping you to create your own food memories with your family, with some inspiring recipes.

Best Biscuit Recipe

Biscuits baked in a cast iron skillet.

Biscuits. What is more comforting in the morning? So homey. Makes you really feel loved, right? My mother used to tell me this story: When my father was at Officer Training School in Fort Benning, Georgia (WW II – he became a Major), they didn’t have room for everyone to live on the base, so residents of the town with extra room would take in officers and their wives. They lived with Mr. and Mrs. Olsen, in an upstairs portion of their house. And my mother would say, “Oh Mary, Mrs. Olsen made the BEST biscuits every Sunday morning!” Well if only my mother (and Mrs. Olsen too) were still living because I do believe this is the Best Biscuit Recipe around!

Usually my cooking is pretty clean, healthy, low fat, not much butter. Here is a major deviation. But every once in a while – maybe twice a year, it can’t hurt you. Actually, these biscuits are so good and have so much butter in them already, you don’t need to put anything on them so you can skip those calories. Try these tomorrow with your Sunday breakfast and you will not be disappointed. Fairly easy to make and well worth the extra effort as opposed to plain toast, this recipe is from Food & Wine magazine, the August issue. Make them with LOVE and you will be in a little bit of heaven.Homemade biscuit on a brown colored plate.

SKILLET BUTTERMILK BISCUITS adapted from Food & Wine Magazine – contributed by Coleen Cruze Bhatti

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for greasing
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk (I used Kate’s Buttermilk – the real thing)

Preheat the oven to 450° and butter a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. In a large bowl, whisk the 2 cups of flour with the baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add the cubed butter and, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, pinch the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles very coarse crumbs, with some of the butter the size of small peas. Gently stir in the buttermilk, just until a soft dough forms.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a 3/4-inch-thick round. Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Gently press the scraps together and stamp out more biscuits. Arrange the 
biscuits in the prepared skillet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

Homemade biscuit in a tiny pie pan.I had leftover dough and used this little pie pan my mother used to use to make us little birthday pies when we were toddlers. Isn’t it so cute?!

Freekeh Salad

Freekeh salad in a red bowl.

Did you know that September is National Whole Grains Month? Me neither. The good people at Freekehlicious asked me to try this young roasted green wheat, so I have been playing with it these past few weeks. The cracked freekeh is my favorite and I created this absolutely delicious Freekeh Salad loosely based on a farro salad recipe from the Zuni Café cookbook. 

Freekehlicious package.I love farro, another whole grain, so I wondered what was the difference between the two. In taste, farro is a bit more chewy. I liken the cracked freekeh a bit more to bulger, but a little larger in size. Freekeh is a whole grain that is very satisfying. I served this salad with a broiled steak and some blanched sugar snap peas and I literally stopped eating the steak after two bites and had seconds on this salad instead!

So what is freekeh? It is wheat that is harvested while still young and green, then parched, roasted and dried. I’m told that this process captures and retains the grains at the state of peak taste and nutrition. Full of health benefits and it does a good job of making you feel full, so it’s great for dieters.

They say you can also make this as a breakfast cereal. I once had a nanny for our kids, that when I asked her to make polenta for dinner, she added sugar, because she had only eaten it as a breakfast cereal! The sweet polenta did not go over well as a dinner side.

But this salad will, so try it and try freekeh. Although the name is funny, the taste is delicious! I also found it needed a few minutes longer in cooking than the package directions stated. Taste and tenderness should be your barometer.

 FREEKEH SALAD – serves 4

1 cup cracked freekeh
3 cups of water
6 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
Pepper, fresh ground
1 cup cherry or sunny gold tomatoes, halved
7 – 8 anchovies packed in oil, drained and patted dry, and minced
4 oz. cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and diced
Large handful of basil leaves, washed, dried and tornFreekeh salad ingredients.

Place freekeh and water in a small saucepan and lightly salt with coarse sea salt or kosher salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 25 – 30 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat and let sit in pot for 5 minutes longer. Drain and spread out on a sheet pan to cool.Cooked freekeh drying on a sheet pan.

Whisk together the sherry vinegar and olive oil. You should barely taste the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When freekeh is cool, transfer it to a bowl and fold in the tomatoes, anchovies and cucumber. Drizzle on the vinegar and olive oil dressing and scatter the basil leaves on top. Fold all to combine. Serve with LOVE immediately. (Do not let this sit around as the brightness of all the ingredients will fade.) Enjoy!Freekeh salad on a plate with steak and sugar snap peas.