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

Clean Lean and Sexy

Summer_box_Products__0003_CleanLeanSexyClean Lean and Sexy – wouldn’t we all like to be that way? Well their coconut cashew bar and whole line of snack items is just that. This is the last item in our MARY’s secret ingredients summer box. Suzie Carpenter was a mom on a mission to help her daughter conquer all kinds of problems including a gluten, soy, corn and dairy intolerance. Plus, she was tired of reading ingredients on foods that you couldn’t pronounce nor know what they really are, so she created this line of all natural, healthy-for-you snack foods. This is an energy bar and it really does the trick as a quick pick me up with the power of coconut and cashews.

I made this delightful breakfast this morning with yogurt, fresh blueberries and honey, and I was raring to go all day long. A great, delicious morning starter, use good unflavored 2% or 0% Greek yogurt for optimum taste and health. (I like Fage) If you can, use a great farmer’s market honey, (Ethel’s in Milan, NY is the best!) and blueberries are at their height now, so enjoy this wonderful concoction. I also think this bar would be great broken up as a topping on Irish oatmeal as another breakfast. Eat it plain, eat it broken up as a topping – enjoy it any way you please – it’s good for you!

Plain Greek yogurt with coconut cashew bar bits blueberries and honey.


1 Clean Lean and Sexy Coconut Cashew bar, broken into pieces
1 cup 2% or 0% plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1 tbs. honey

Spoon the yogurt into a bowl, top with the coconut cashew bar bits and blueberries. Drizzle with honey and LOVE. Enjoy!!

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Spice Cake

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale is, in one word, amazing! It is made with real fresh ginger and pure cane sugar, and this, my friends, is the complete real deal. As they say in their ads, you don’t have to imagine the ginger. Now as you know, real ginger is spicy wonderfulness – I LOVE it!!! But if you’re not familiar with the real thing, you might think this a bit strong. You can drink it straight and iced or mix a cocktail, as the brochure indicates, that we included in the MARY’s secret ingredients summer box. Or you can use one cup of it as an ingredient to make this Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Spice Cake recipe.  Use the rest for your cocktail and you’ll really enjoy making this cake!
Bruce cost ginger ale spice cake on a crystal platter.

I made this for a big family Sunday night dinner that was so much fun. You know, the loud noisy wonderful family parties where everyone is talking at once? My oldest niece, Lisa, was in town from St. Louis visiting with her husband and two kids, as well as our oldest son with his girlfriend and his former roommate Bert, all joined us a couple of weeks ago when I made this cake. I also used my mother’s bundt pan (doesn’t everyone think of that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when they hear those words?), for the very first time! My mother passed away in 1995 and I’ve had it since 1998 and never used it until now. I could feel her. It was a nice connection to have while making this from scratch, super delicious cake for a Sunday family dinner party.Bruce cost ginger ale spice cake in a bundt pan.

I served it with a dab of good vanilla ice cream and a fresh strawberry garnish. Two guests took some home and told me later they ate it all for breakfast! It was very, very good!!!


1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 scant cup of white sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 cup Bruce Cost Ginger Ale
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbs. rum
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbs. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
3 cups of all purpose flour
Sifted confectioner’s sugar for dusting on the top

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a (9×13 inch) pan or a (10 inch) tube or Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Blend in eggs, vanilla extract and rum. Add Bruce Cost Ginger Ale.

In another large bowl toss together the dry ingredients. Add to the creamed mixture and mix well.

Spoon into prepared pan. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed (45 minutes for sheet pan and 55 – 60 minutes for the tube or Bundt pan). 

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Cool thoroughly on a rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with LOVE! Enjoy!

Jaxn’s Twice-Baked Potato Stix

Jaxns twice baked potato stix.

Jaxn’s Twice-Baked Potato Stix arrived on this planet due to a little boy in Jasper, Georgia, named Jaxn, who LOVED French fries and was getting just plain fat from eating them. So his mother came up with this delicious crunchy, twice-baked version. True love! Made with all natural ingredients, Jaxn’s Twice-Baked Potato Stix are gluten-free, delicious and the perfect salty crunch to go with a cocktail or cool summer drink. The Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper flavor was included in our MARY’s secret ingredients summer boxJaxns twice baked potato sticks with cheese and tomatoes.

I prepared this appetizer to work with cocktails when our friends Margaret and Wayne came over for dinner on the 4th of July. I speared small cherry tomatoes and mini mozzarella cheese balls on these little sticks and made this tasty snack even tastier! Both versions were super delicious, although I preferred the tomatoes.

The potato stix themselves cannot punch the hole in the cheese or tomatoes. Don’t try it – they will break. Take a pair of pointed ended scissors and keep them closed and punch a hole in the cheese balls and the cocktail tomatoes. Stick the potato stick inside and voila! You have a pretty, and tasty appetizer in no time flat!

Next time, I might drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top and throw on a few fresh basil leaves too, but it was raining really, really hard and I just couldn’t convince myself to go out in it to the garden to get some.  Even if you have some leftover mini meatballs hanging about, they would be great stuck with a Jaxn’s stix! Go crazy and have fun!

Parmesan and Simply7 Quinoa Chip Crusted Catfish

Woah! – that’s a title – but it’s worth it, particularly if you follow a gluten-free diet. The Simply7 Sea Salt Quinoa Chips in the MSI summer box are, of course, delicious on their own. They are super light, tasty and not bad for you, as so many other snack products are. Serve them with the Zukali Cilantro Pineapple Salsa, and pour up your favorite cocktail or glass of wine (I think a Sauvignon Blanc with this) and you are set! But to really make use of the ancient grain in these chips as an ingredient, you have to try this Parmesan and Simply7 Quinoa Chip Crusted Catfish recipe.

Simply7 quinoa chip crusted catfish on a plate with sauteed kale and baguette piece.

To be honest, this is really healthy because it’s baked. But to be honest, it doesn’t really get crusty and crisp, but it is full of flavor. Now I know, with the Italians, cheese on fish is a HUGE no no. But try this, you won’t be sorry. You can buy these chips at most Whole Foods and natural food stores.Simple7 quinoa chips crust coating


1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 small packages (.8 oz.) of Simply7 Sea Salt Quinoa Chips, finely crushed
1/2 tsp. smoked, sweet Spanish paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 egg
2 tbs. real buttermilk or milk
3 catfish fillets (about 5 oz. each)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a 13” x 9” baking pan or rimmed roasting sheet pan with olive oil and set aside.

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, combine the Parmesan, finely crushed quinoa chips, paprika, and pepper. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and buttermilk or milk together.

Wash and dry the catfish fillets. Dip them into the egg mixture and dredge in the Parmesan and crushed quinoa chip mixture. Place on the prepared pan and bake uncovered for 10 – 14 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve immediately, with LOVE!

Community Spice Co. Scallops and Roast Chicken Recipes

Janis Callon, Founder and CEO of the Community Spice Company, is out to save the world with flavor using heart healthy, low sodium, gluten free spices. Her goal is to get people to make slow food fast, using her spice combinations and in my opinion, she accomplishes this beautifully. A friend of hers who had a long tenure at Chez Panisse helped her develop the amazing flavors in her line. As a MARY’s secret ingredients box purchaser, you would have received one of these four blends: SNP 400, Mz. Curri, barbi Q, or ka Bobbii. (cute names, right?) I made scallops and roast chicken with two of her blends. Specifically I used Mz. Curri to make a roast chicken with a sauce that my husband said tasted like a complex, fine French sauce! It was so good! You can use any one of these spice rubs on a huge variety of meats, poultry, fish and even vegetables. Anything goes and it will taste great with CSC creations!

With Janis’s Save the World philosophy, when you make an online purchase, you get to decide which charity to support from a list of about 35 different ones they give assistance to. The charities range from food banks to national parks to Doctors Without Borders to Habitat for Humanity to the 911 Foundation. Visit their site for more info and even ways you can use her spices to raise funds for your kid’s school or club, which is a very nice idea.

On to my recipes!Scallops and pancetta with a spice rub white wine sauce.

SNP 400 SCALLOPS AND PANCETTA – serves 2 as a first course 

4 scallops
2 – 3 tsp. SNP 400 rub from Community Spice Company
1/2 of a 1/4” thick slice of pancetta
3 tbs. dry white wine
1 tsp. unsalted butter
Thyme leaves

Wash and dry the scallops. Sprinkle and rub one side with the SNP 400 and pat down on the top of the scallops. Dice the pancetta into 1/4” pieces and sauté in a small skillet on medium-high heat. Push the pancetta off to the side in the skillet and saute the scallops, rub side down first, about 3 minutes. Turn the scallops over and sauté for one minute, then add the white wine and finish cooking for 2 more minutes or until scallops are just a bit firm and done. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in the butter. Pour sauce over scallops and garnish with the fresh thyme leaves. Serve with a slice of a good baguette so you can mop up the wonderful flavorful sauce, and be in heaven!

Roast chicken with a spice infused sauce with some asparagus risotto.

Mz. Curri roast chicken with some leftover asparagus risotto

MZ. CURRI ROAST CHICKEN – serves 4 – 5

1 3.75 lb. organic chicken 
Fine grind sea salt
½ package Mz. Curri spice mix from Community Spice Company
1 – 2 parmesan cheese rinds
1/2 cup dry white wine
1.5 tsp. unsalted butter
2 tbs. chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with a cast iron skillet or heavy ovenproof skillet in the center of the oven. Thoroughly wash and dry your bird, inside and out. Salt the bird all over the outside and inside the cavity. Place the Mz. Curri mix in a bowl and sprinkle it generously all over the outside of the bird and sprinkle some on the inside as well. Place the parmesan cheese rinds inside the cavity.

When the pan and oven have preheated, take the pan out of the oven and leave a hot pad on the handle immediately so you don’t forget and grab it. Quickly put the bird in the pan, breast side up (it will not stick). Remember this pan is blazing hot so be careful.

Shove the hot pan with the chicken back into the oven and roast for 35 – 40 minutes, undisturbed. Test with a meat thermometer – it should reach 155 degrees. Remove the chicken immediately from the hot pan by grabbing the cavity with long tongs and let it rest on a platter, for at least 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile, deglaze the pan juices with ½ cup of dry white wine. Simmer briskly for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in the butter and chopped parsley. Top the cut chicken pieces with the sauce.

Serve with LOVE and enjoy!

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.