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

MSI Shares the Love – Giveaway and Fantastic Crispy Potatoes!!

A handful of our wonderful investors in MARY’s secret ingredients crowdfunding campaign were also avid subscribers so they said they didn’t need their boxes (duplicates) from the campaign. So we would like to share the LOVE and give away their 5 spring boxes!! All you have to do for this giveaway is tweet the name of your favorite potato recipe, that you like to share with your family and friends, with the hashtag #MSIsharesTheLove. For those of you who don’t normally tweet, here’s your chance to learn how! Please make sure you use the hashtag handle (#MSIsharesTheLove) so we can group you all together. Tweet between now and April 25th (this Saturday) and then we will randomly pick the 5 winners to receive a FREE spring subscription box*! So tweet away and good luck to win!!

My husband LOVES crispy potatoes and is always asking for them. I have one surefire recipe but it uses tons of butter and olive oil to get them that way, which is just way too fattening.

So this past Sunday, for my son’s birthday dinner party, I made these.

My naysayers said these potatoes would dry out, not be good, most likely be dehydrated. How can they possibly be baked that long?

Ha!!
Crispy baked Yukon Gold potatoes on a platter.

CRISPY BAKED YUKON GOLD POTATOES – serves 4 – 5

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, 2” in diameter, scrubbed
Olive oil
Maldon Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and scrub potatoes, dry and prick all over with a fork.

Place potatoes on the oven rack and bake for 1.75 hours, until skins are hard and crispy.

Remove from oven and using a serrated knife, cut in half, but not all the way through. Drizzle with your best olive oil and sprinkle on the Maldon Salt. Enjoy!!

So now don’t forget to tweet us your favorite potato recipe. Is it crispy or soft?

Please remember to use the hashtag handle #MSIsharesTheLove to win your free box. Buy an extra one as a gift – Mother’s Day is coming! As Joan, one of our subscribers recently said, “Love these boxes. Have found new things I wouldn’t have tried by seeing them on a shelf in the store.”

This is our reason for being! – to inspire your cooking with new flavors, cuisines, ideas. To put excitement back into YOUR kitchen!

Thank you Joan for being a subscriber!! We LOVE hearing this feedback!

* Free box includes shipping in the Continental USA only.

Easter 2015, New Beginnings and Bacon Wrapped Walnut Dates

Toasting white wine at Easter dinner 2015.Isn’t this what Easter is all about – new beginnings?

So I‘ve been slightly slammed lately, trying to get MSI off the ground, keeping PM+CO going, (cause that’s where we make money to pay the mortgage, rent and salaries) and just trying to balance it all to be able to sleep at night – which hasn’t been easy. So this past weekend, we got to go up to the country for the first time in four weeks! I cannot tell you how blessed we are to have this very simple place that is so very different from the city. I have my little painting studio there and I was working on a very abstracted landscape and got to go back to its simplicity and wow – that felt SO good! Even when we could drive up there, I had been away from the studio for so long because the snow was so deep, I wouldn’t have been able to open the doors. So I walked in last Saturday and really had to take a step back to try to remember what it was I was trying to achieve in my work.

I put it together and happily continued on for hours – and it felt SO good!! New beginnings – springtime – eh?!

Here is a snippet of our Peaster celebration! (Passover and Easter). We started with my husband’s delicious matzo bowl soup with one son’s homemade sourdough bread, followed by Barbecued Fresh Ham with an Ancho Fig Compote – both recipes from an April, 2001 issue of Food and Wine magazine – served with Parsley Buttered Egg Noodles, and Sesame Soy Sauteed Asparagus. Dessert was two gorgeous pies with whipped cream and of course, some chocolate eggs and jelly beans too!
Easter Sunday with antique toys on the dining room table.

We were privileged to have one girlfriend with her Mom and stepdad, one nephew, and one close friend of one son with his mom visiting from Turkey and the four of us. We made ten in total. It was wonderful and really, my boys take over. One makes drinks and one dotes on me to not get too stressed. They both help serve (because they just think I’m not capable?) One made the fantastic loaf of sourdough bread that we served with the matzo ball soup and the other acted as my sous chef earlier in the day. Honestly, I AM amazed. They know so much. I only wish my own mother was still alive to see this. My mother loved to bake breads. She unfortunately rarely had enough time when we were all home (6 kids) and then when she did have time, no one was home to eat it all! And here I have a son who has a sourdough starter (my Mom’s dream) and makes bread all the time!! He was making another loaf just yesterday morning. And this is a time consuming thing, particularly if you don’t have a big six hour dedicated time block. But he makes it work with his schedule. He’s figured out how to do it in stages, interrupted by all of his activities and it works!

Sourdough bread with an amazing crust.

Here is the sourdough with an amazing crust!!

To you younger moms out there, this is proof that it really does pay off to cook and serve healthy meals at home. The one girlfriend said at Easter, “Oh well god forbid, if I even TRY to throw out the chicken bones, I get yelled at – gotta make broth!”

And I’m sitting there thinking, I don’t make broth with every chicken…. 

I hope you all had a great holiday celebration – whatever you celebrate – it’s just important you get together and CELEBRATE!! EVERYTHING!!

Serving bacon wrapped walnut stuffed dates.Take a look at this fantastic, simple appetizer that everyone loved. I’m sorry that this photograph is not great but here I am holding a plate of these Bacon Wrapped Walnut Stuffed Dates, and talking to one of our guests, while licking my fingers!j

Carving a barbecued fresh ham.

My big beautiful barbecued fresh ham!

Big bowl of parsley buttered egg noodles.

A big bowl of comforting, parsley buttered egg noodles. Who doesn’t love that?

Beautiful pecan and blueberry pies for Easter dessert.

Kate’s beautiful pecan and blueberry pies.

These are amazing – make them and you’ll see! 

BACON WRAPPED WALNUT DATES – serves 10

20 large Medjool dates, slit the long way but not cut all the way through, and pitted
20 walnut halves
10 slices of thin sliced bacon, cut in half

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Stuff a walnut in the middle of each date, close and wrap with 1/2 of a slice of bacon, having the ends meet underneath the date. Arrange on a small broiler pan with a rack so grease can drip down. 

Roast for 12 – 17 minutes, until the bacon is done. Let cool 5  – 10 minutes as they are much too hot straight out of the oven. Serve with LOVE and a toothpick inserted in each one, plus plenty of napkins. Delish!!

Shrimp Stir-fry with Asparagus

Shrimp and asparagus stir fry in a skillet.

Before I tell you about this terrific Shrimp Stir-fry with Asparagus recipe I wanted to give you an update on our crowdfunding. Our effort hit its deadline last Friday and we’re very very pleased to have raised $11,710.00, thanks to all of your support!! You are AMAZING!! The money raised will help us move forward in our mission. We are all very excited and grateful here in our offices – yay!!

I dream of a world where no one is hungry and everyone has clean water. I’m not asking for much – but so many don’t have this basic human right. I dream of MARY’s secret ingredients making this happen!! If we all band together, buy some boxes, (Spring box deadline is April 25th), we CAN make this happen. And then the whole world would be a happy productive place, in all four corners. It would be truly AWESOME!!!

My husband LOVES shrimp!! We don’t eat it often because I only like to get this fresh Florida shrimp from this one fish store in NYC, that used to be right near our old office location but now since we’ve moved to the Tribeca area, we don’t get to go there often. Only if we stay in the city and drive there on a Saturday. With (what I hear) spring coming soon, (it snowed again on Tuesday) asparagus will be plentiful, so I recommend you make this very easy and delicious, slightly spicy Shrimp Stir Fry with Asparagus. Fresh, clean-tasting, healthy and good for you – all good things!!

So make this shrimp dish for your family and serve with LOVE . The pancetta adds big flavor, along with the garlic, asparagus is so tasty this time of year, the chili flakes add a touch of spice and the cashews give you some buttery crunch. It’s a win-win and super quick to throw together.
Shrimp and asparagus in a white bowl.

SHRIMP STIR-FRY WITH ASPARAGUS – serves 3 – 4

1 Tbs. olive oil (you don’t need much oil as the pancetta will render some fat)
1 – ¼” thick slice of pancetta, minced into ¼” pieces
1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 11/4” lengths
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled with tails left on, washed and patted dry
Salt
Pepper
¼ – ½ tsp. hot chili pepper flakes
2 Tbs. dry white wine or dry vermouth
Handful of roasted cashews  (I even used lightly salted ones)
Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Warm the olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add the minced pancetta and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the asparagus and toss and cook for 2 -4 minutes more. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, make sure your shrimp are washed and patted dry, Season one side with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and cook for about 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and add the white wine and sprinkle on the chili flakes. Continue cooking until the shrimp are pink and done, about 2-3 minutes total, on this other side. Throw in the handful of cashews and toss all to distribute evenly.

Serve over steamed Jasmine rice and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

ENJOY!!

We’re getting ready for an Easter/Passover (Peaster!) combo dinner on Saturday night and I’m so excited to see all of our guests. We will be 10 around the table and we’re going to start with a homemade Matzo ball soup that my husband will make and the main will be a barbecued fresh ham with an ancho fig chutney. I haven’t figured out the rest of the dishes yet. Any suggestions???

Happy Peaster to everyone!! (or should it be Eastover?)

Spicy Beef Ragout

I LOVE entertaining! I love bringing different groups of people together. I love feeding a whole big bunch of people and making them happy. (Think that has anything to do with being the youngest of six kids with five older brothers?) The week before last, we had only five other people over for dinner, yet the appetizer hour sounded like 20, the conversation was so loud. After dinner while still at the table, the discussion got political with both sides being heated. Us girls all got up and busied ourselves in the kitchen, cleaning up, worried that the temperature was getting too hot and wondering how we could change the course of the conversation. But no, this was all friendly sparring and intellectual discourse.

Everyone left on a very happy note (with full bellies I might add – everyone had seconds on both the entrée and dessert!) and while washing wine glasses, my husband remarked on how much he LOVED the discussion. The next day, each thank-you note from the guys mentioned how much they enjoyed the spirited political discussion. Go figure. Anyway, for the main course I made this amazing Spicy Beef Ragout.

Even though it is now March and daylight savings time starts tonight, it is still cold and this is the perfect dish to warm the soul. Hearty and so very good, make it now. You will be delighted. I bought nearly 3.4 pounds of meat and trimmed most of the fat, to end up with at least 3 pounds. This makes for a really healthy dish as even after refrigeration, there was no fat to skim off. Spicy Beef Ragout on platter. Here it is.

As I said, EVERYONE had seconds. After I had served the first helping, they all made fun of me as to how much I had made. Ahem. There wasn’t a real single serving left – only one piece of meat and a handful of noodles. I made this on a Sunday to serve on Thursday. Letting it sit in the fridge to “mature” is the very best thing to do. Plus it makes for an easy dinner the night you are serving it!

SPICY BEEF RAGOUT – serves 6 – 8

13 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling on noodles
Salt 
Fresh ground black pepper
7 sprigs fresh thyme
3 lbs. trimmed beef chuck cut in 2” chunks
½ of a large fennel bulb, chopped
1 cup finely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
2 shallots, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. flour
15 large Sicilian green olives, pitted and chopped
3/4 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
2 cups robust red wine
½ cup beef stock
3 branches fresh rosemary, each about 7” long
2 small fresh bay leaves
1 lb. egg noodles
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Spicy Beef Ragout - tomatoes on the pan.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pile tomatoes on top, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss. Add leaves from 4 branches of the thyme, toss again, then spread the tomatoes in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet, skin side down. Set aside. 
Spicy Beef Ragout - browned meat.

Heat remaining oil in an ovenproof casserole on medium high. Dry meat, season with salt and pepper and sear in several batches to avoid crowding until lightly browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl. Lower heat to medium low. Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Add fennel, leeks, shallot and garlic to casserole, stir, season with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the flour, cook for a moment or two, than add olives, chile flakes and wine. Stir, scraping pan, and bring to a simmer. Add stock. Return meat and its juices to the casserole.
Spicy Beef Ragout cooking in the pot.

Stir in the branches of rosemary, bay leaves and remaining thyme, making sure they are immersed into the meat and liquid. Cover and place in the oven. Place the pan of tomatoes in the oven. Cook both for 2 hours. Remove the pans from the oven. Check seasoning of meat. Cool and then refrigerate for 1 – 5 days.

Remove from refrigerator for one hour before putting in the oven. Reheat, covered, in a 250 – 300 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Boil 1 lb. of egg noodles in salted water. (I cooked them 3 minutes less than the package directions stated.) Drain and spread out on a large platter. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Transfer meat and sauce atop the noodles.

Warm the tomatoes in the microwave for a minute or two, arrange tomatoes on top and sprinkle on chopped parsley. Serve with LOVE and enjoy thoroughly!!!

Catfish Roasted with Tomatoes and Horseradish  

Catfish with tomatoes and horseradish - done on a pan.

Did you know that horseradish is considered a power food? Full of antioxidants and great for your immune system, especially during this cold and flu season, I decided to put it to use the other night. In my unending quest for something simple, quick and different for dinner, I made up this Catfish Roasted with Tomatoes and Horseradish recipe. It was delicious! My husband loved it! And it’s so simple it’s stupid, but it tastes like so much more – just my kind of food for a busy weeknight.

Polish horseradish.Now I’m sure you can use any store bought horseradish, but if you can find this Polish brand, I highly recommend it. Our son Zachary finds this in stores in the large Polish section of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY. In Eastern Europe, horseradish grows like a weed, so the Poles really know their stuff and it is always on their tables with roasted meats. This brand is creamy white in color, unlike some other American brands. And believe me, no one has asked me to promote this, but it is so superior to other horseradish brands.

I know this recipe sounds so unusual, but it was so good and super healthy to boot! Horseradish has had a long history as a versatile herbal remedy, however due to recent studies, it is also becoming known to have anticancer benefits. Horseradish contains significant amounts of cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates, which increase the liver’s ability to detoxify carcinogens and may suppress the growth of tumors. Although broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other cruciferous vegetables also contain these compounds, horseradish has up to 10 times more glucosinolates than broccoli. So now you know! This is from the Life Extension website.

CATFISH ROASTED WITH TOMATOES AND HORSERADISH – serves 2

2 catfish fillets – about 1 lb. total
2 – 3 tomatoes, sliced ¼” thick
Olive oil
Horseradish – about 13 teaspoons
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse catfish fillets well and pat dry with paper towels.

 Tomatoes with horseradish on a pan. Slick a baking sheet with a thin film of olive oil. Arrange sliced tomatoes roughly in the shape of your fish fillets. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over all. Put a dab of horseradish on each tomato slice – about a teaspoon – then salt and fresh ground pepper over all. Catfish with tomatoes and horseradish  ready to be cooked.Lay your fish fillets on top. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the fillets and spread around with your fingertips. Salt and pepper to taste on top.

Roast in the oven 12 – 17 minutes, until the fish flakes. Serve with LOVE immediately. Enjoy!

Catfish with tomatoes and horseradish on a plate with sauteed escarole.I served this with some escarole sautéed in olive oil with garlic. Super delish!!!

Chocolate Soufflé

Chocolate souffle on a candlelit dining table
There’s nothing like chocolate to end a meal and nothing (well almost nothing – a little romp in the sack can go a long way here) more magnificent than to pull a soufflé out of the oven and present it at the table. And then my French friend, Alain, speaks about the crisp, and then the hiss – the sound that’s made when spooning out the first serving. It’s beautiful, exciting and delicious! Just like I hope your Valentine’s Day turns out to be! Make this chocolate soufflé for dessert, with LOVE and it will be the perfect way to end a Valentine’s Day dinner.

This recipe is from Mark Bittman, originally printed in the NY Times, and it is super easy and the very best part is that you can make this in the morning, keep it refrigerated and bake it while you’re eating your main course and it will be ready in about 25 minutes! Now the soufflé won’t rise quite as much this way, but who cares? The trade off of not having to jump up and make the whole thing after dinner is well worth it. And it’s even gluten-free as there’s not a speck of flour in it.

Now Mark says this recipe serves two, but I say it really serves four. You can’t make it smaller as you can’t have one and a half eggs, right? So make this for the two of you but know that you can also use this recipe to serve four. I don’t have a picture of the serving, but I want to tell you that I garnished it with a whole strawberry to add a little color. It was beautiful. Raspberries are also nice.

MARY's secret ingredients winter 2014 box.If you haven’t gotten your V-day gifts in order, may I suggest a MARY’s secret ingredients full year subscription? Or at least a Spring box? This was our winter box over here on the left.

If it’s a year-long subscription, it’s the Valentine’s Day gift that keeps on giving all year! And while our spring box mails on April 25th, we have this adorable certificate that you can present now.

Use the promo code LOVEVDAY2015 for 25% off a year long subscription or 4LOVE2015 for $4.00 off on a single box. Download the certificate here: 

                                         2015-Vday-gift-card

MARY's secret ingredients Valentine's Day certificate.CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE  – serves 2 – 4  – Recipe by Mark Bittman

About 1 Tbs. butter for dish
1/3 cup sugar, plus some for dish
3 eggs, separated
2 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter one 4-cup soufflé or other deep baking dish. Sprinkle with sugar, invert it and tap to remove excess sugar.

Chocolate souffle prepared bowl with butter and sugar.Chocolate souffle - beaten egg yolks.

Beat egg yolks with all but 1 tablespoon sugar until very light and very thick; mixture will fall in a ribbon from beaters when it is ready. Mix in the melted chocolate until well combined; set aside.

Wash beaters well, or use a different set, then beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until whites hold soft peaks; continue to beat, gradually adding remaining tablespoon of sugar, until they are very stiff and glossy.

Chocolate souffle - folding in egg whites.Chocolate souffle ready to bake.

Stir a good spoonful of whites thoroughly into egg yolk mixture to lighten it; (egg yolk mixture will have become very stiff so this step is very important) then carefully fold in remaining whites, using a rubber spatula. Transfer to prepared soufflé dish. At this point you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

Bake until center is nearly set, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve immediately.