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

Super Quick Chicken and Summer Vegetables Stir-fry


Super quick chicken and summer vegetable stir-fry  in a white bowl.

This was my husband’s portion.

Deep into summer, the vegetables are overflowing at all local farmer’s markets and if you belong to a CSA, you can be sure you’re getting cabbage nearly every week now, right? And so how many coleslaw recipes can you possibly make? And St. Patrick’s Day is a way off.

Luckily, most of the local cabbages are small heads. They’re actually cute right? I think everything small is super cute.

So we had some friends over for dinner a couple of weeks ago and along with wines and dessert, they brought me a beautiful basket of veggies from their CSA and bingo, cabbage was in it and wouldn’t you know it, I had made coleslaw to serve that night at dinner, so I was definitely not going to make another coleslaw.

During the week, we seem to be coming home later and later from the office. I am not complaining as we have lots of exciting things cooking BUT, I do get home starving and I am not a particularly nice person when hungry. My blood sugar levels must go bonkers and I have got to eat quick or I am very crabby. My one son is also like me whereas our youngest is like my husband in that he can contain himself when hungry.

This dinner, this Super Quick Chicken and Summer Vegetables Stir-fry, I literally threw together in 25 minutes!!


No joke.

One thing I will point out though, is that my husband did shell the peanuts for me. But you could buy peanuts already shelled, we just always have a bowl of peanuts in the shell on our counter – to keep me from going crazy when I’m starving.

I have given you the specific vegetables I used, but you can use any combination of what you have on hand. Have fun and experiment with your mixture. Just make sure it’s colorful!

Chicken thighs are called for here because I love dark meat and thighs are very forgiving if you should cook them a tad too much. Just be sure to remove all fat before slicing into strips. Breasts would work as well, you’ll just be more careful about the cooking time.

Adding the V-8 juice at the end was a last minute idea of mine as a genius way to just get more flavors going on – and it worked! Is it necessary? – No.

Follow your own instincts and just remember, always cook with LOVE and happy thoughts. Your food will taste better! And this was DELISH!


3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
11/2 Tbs. sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup dry vermouth
2 handfuls of sugar snap peas, strings removed
¾ of a large red pepper, cut into ¼” strips
½ of a small head of cabbage, cut into ¼” strips
2 Tbs. low sodium soy sauce
11/2 Tbs. of V-8 juice
Hot sesame oil for drizzling
¼ cup roasted peanuts, skins removed, roughly chopped
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Steamed Basmati white rice

Prepare your rice according to the package directions. I cooked ½ cup of dry rice in 1 cup of water with a little salt. Start this cooking first as it must simmer for 15 – 20 minutes and sit for 5 minutes afterwards.

Wash and dry the chicken thighs. Remove all fat and cut into ½” strips. Warm the sesame oil on medium heat. Add the chicken and let that brown and cook stirring often while you prepare the other vegetables. After about 10 minutes, add the garlic and wine and raise the heat to let the wine flavor your meat and reduce to 2 Tbs. Super quick chicken and summer vegetable stir-fry in a skillet.

Then add all the vegetables and the soy sauce and stir until the veggies are crisp tender and the chicken is done.

Drizzle on the V-8 juice and toss all to combine. Taste and see if it needs any salt and pepper. Mine did not.

Remove from heat. Portion out the steamed rice into shallow bowls and place the chicken vegetable stir-fry on top. Drizzle on a tiny bit of  hot sesame oil, garnish with peanuts and scallions and serve with LOVE and chopsticks.Super quick chicken and summer vegetables stir-fry in a white bowl with chopsticks.

Shirataki Harvest Noodles Marinara with Grilled Chicken

Shirataki Harvest Noodles  with grilled oregano chicken.
I love pasta. Doesn’t everyone? But you know, it is fattening. Well what if there was a “pasta” that was actually low in carbohydrates and calories? That is exactly what this Shirataki Harvest Noodles Marinara with Grilled Chicken dish is all about! I created this entree with the last product from our spring box. Adding grilled chicken to these saucy noodles makes a fully satisfying, delicious meal that is actually low in calories!


Shirataki Harvest noodles ready to  go in the microwave.This “pasta” noodle is made from konjac yam root flour. Full of fiber, it is a secret weight loss food popular in Asia. This ready-to-eat version from Harvest Foods, is in a delicious, light marinara sauce that is just perfect to pair with the skinless, boneless grilled chicken breasts. Plus, this is super easy to make and ready in a jiffy. For the shirataki noodles, just a couple of minutes in the microwave and you’re ready to go. Additionally, the noodles by themselves are vegan. If you would like to keep it an overall vegan dish, adding some grilled eggplant would be a good substitute for the grilled chicken.

Here’s how I prepared the dish:


2 packages of Shirataki Harvest Noodles Marinara
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Olive oil spray
Italian parsley or basil for garnish
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Chicken breasts seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano.Wash and pat dry the chicken breasts. Season both sides with salt, pepper and a little dried oregano as shown in the picture. Let sit for 30 – 45 minutes on the countertop.

Light a grill or heat up a grill pan on the stovetop. Spray the grill or grill pan with olive oil spray to prevent sticking. Grill the breast, turning once, until it reaches an internal temperature of 155 – 160 degrees. Remove to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.

Heat up the Shirataki noodles for 2 minutes in the microwave, following the package instructions. Be sure to puncture the top cover to let air escape. Pour noodles and sauce into a flat pasta bowl.

Slice the chicken breast on an angle and place in a layer on top of the Shirataki noodles. Grate Parmesan cheese on top, garnish with parsley or basil and serve with LOVE.

Skinny, healthy and easy never tasted so good!

The Shirataki Harvest Noodles Marinara is the last item from our MARY’s secret ingredients spring box. Don’t miss out on the summer box that mails June 25th. You can order that here.

Broth Bowls at Panera Bread

Panera Broth Bowls invitation.
Right before the holidays, I received an email invitation from a sweet Emma at Panera Bread to a Broth Bowl tasting. Hmm, broth bowls… sounded interesting. And now with this frigid weather we’ve been having, what could be better?  The formal invitation arrived, positioning the event as “An Evening of Umami.” A small group of folks interested in food, nutrition and cooking gathered in this lovely loft in Chinatown. We were treated to a terrific presentation from their Culinary Institute-trained and former teacher, Dan Kish. Dan and his colleague, Mark McDonough, (Director of Product Development) traveled the world (wouldn’t I love to be them!) to research and pull together umami tastes, spices and fresh ingredients to create the newest four dishes, these broth bowls at Panera Bread. Then they served us our choice of broth bowl(s) for dinner, along with some lovely wine.

Panera broth bowl chefs.Here’s what I knew about Panera Bread. They started in St. Louis as the St. Louis Bread Company! I am originally from St. Louis, so you know, they have to be good.

Here’s what I learned. They’re now huge (1,845 cafes) and an incredible company! I mean, having Culinary Institute trained chefs create their dishes and also be concerned about their green footprint, is BIG. For instance, they’ve considered the repercussions of transporting the broth (water is heavy) to all locations or deliberated if it should it be concentrated and then concerned if it can it retain the taste, as well as, considered how to efficiently make the bowls out of components and achieve the desired consistency, using the least amount of energy through all of the processes. Their ingredients are nearly all organic – no antibiotics in the chicken and nearly all cage-free eggs. That’s huge! This “fast casual” food has been designed to be genuinely healthy, even low calorie and totally delicious! I mean this company is really doing amazing things to feed our bodies and take care of our planet. It is not easy to create healthy food available in about 5 minutes after you order at their counter. But boy if they can change our fast food culture into something this great, wouldn’t that be way cool? Really!!! Having healthy energetic people walk the planet exuding wonderful positive energy is just what we all need.

The problem is, is that I never knew any of these things about Panera. (I think they need us to do their marketing and to spread the word, don’t you think?)

Panera Broth bowls veggies.Panera Broth bowls veggies.

So what exactly is Umami? I wanted a succinct answer. Here’s what the Umami Information Center says. (Yes, it’s true, there is one. Just Google it.) Taking its name from Japanese, umami is a pleasant savoury taste imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products. As the taste of umami itself is subtle and blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavors, most people don’t recognize umami when they encounter it, but it plays an important role making food taste delicious.

Could it be that fake Umami is monosodium glutamate – MSG? Well there’s none of that here.

Check out these broth bowls – they’re delish!!!Lentil-Quinoa_Chicken_Table1-2

I particularly liked the quinoa lentil one with the hard boiled egg on top!Panera Bread lentil quinoa egg broth bowl.

Duck Braised with Red Wine and Prunes

Duck braised with red wine and prunes on a plate.

I took Judy’s advice and served it with sauteed polenta, along with some green beans tossed with olive oil and toasted walnuts.

I have been wanting to tell you about this dish. It is so delicious, silky in texture, totally yummy and best yet, it’s super easy. You just need time, so a weekend is good. This Duck Braised with Red Wine and Prunes is a recipe from the famed Judy Rodgers, the chef and owner at Zuni Café in San Francisco. She left us way too soon, just a little over a year ago when she was only 57. (cancer) I feel a kindred spirit with Judy. She was also from St. Louis and she loved great basic food perfected. She was known for refined simplicity.

Her Zuni Café cookbook is different. Her recipes read like she is standing next to you, telling you what to expect, variations that may come up and what to do. Therefore, all recipes are very copy heavy, which is a little intimidating and time consuming to get through it all. But the upside is, she is teaching you HOW to cook, with tips all the way through on every possibility that may come up, and why, not just how to cook that particular recipe.

She has a definite fondness for salting the proteins early, even days before. If you think about it and can do it, it really does work. It tenderizes, promotes juiciness, improves texture, and flavors the meat or poultry all the way through.  It’s interesting, that by seasoning judiciously early, you will use less salt overall. As Judy says, “you will eliminate the habit of repeated doses, and accidental overdoses, of “surface salt” at the table.”  

One of my all-time favorite dishes of hers to make, and it is the most popular dish at the restaurant, is her Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad. It takes an hour to order at the café, but that hasn’t put a damper on its demand. I’ll have to share that at another time.

Because I love her roast chicken so much, I thought she couldn’t go wrong with duck, right? She did not disappoint. Here is her recipe. I made it with LOVE for our friends Margaret and Wayne during the holidays, using 6 duck legs and increasing the recipe proportionately, and then we got to have another dinner out of it later that week.

Duck braised with red wine and prunes on a white platter.

I decided it needed a little color so I garnished it with some chopped Italian parsley.

DUCK BRAISED WITH RED WINE & PRUNES – serves 4 – a Judy Rodgers recipe

A rich old French dish. If you use the orange zest or the clove, it will have a dramatic impact on the flavor and character of the dish, making it sneakily festive. I like it both ways. (I used both the orange and cloves)

Muscovy, or Barbiere (Barbary), duck has firm, almost beefy, dark red flesh that supports long cooking and generous old-fashioned flavors. Very good with toasted polenta.

Wine: Cabors, Chateau du Cayrou, 1996

For 4 Servings:

4 Muscovy duck legs (10 to 12 ounces each)
4 cups medium-bodied or hearty red wine, such as Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah, or Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cups Duck Stock or other bird stock or Chicken Stock
2 medium yellow onions (about 8 oz. each), root end trimmed flat, peeled, and cut into 1 ½ inch wedges
2 ounces garlic cloves (about ½ cup), unpeeled
1 bay leaf
2 wide strips of orange zest about 2 ½ inches long, removed with a vegetable peeler, and/or a whole clove (optional)
12 prunes, preferably with pits

Trimming and seasoning the duck legs (for the best flavor and succulence, do this step 2-3 days in advance):
Trim lumps of fat, ragged edges or meatless flaps of skin (it’s worth saving and rendering these: even a few scraps can be enough to flavor a soup). Rinse the duck legs, lay between dry towels, and press to absorb surface moisture. Season evenly all over with salt (we use a scant ¼ teaspoon sea salt per pound of duck). Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Cooking the Duck:
Preheat the oven to 300°.

Reduce the red wine and the stock separately to about 1 cup each. The stock should have body and will be slightly salty. Set aside.

Press the duck between towels to wick off excess moisture. Place a dry 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot enough that the duck hisses on contact, add the legs, skin side down, and leave to set a golden crust, about 10 minutes. The duck will begin to render fat within a few minutes; reduce the heat if the fat starts to smoke. Turn the legs over and brown for just a few minutes on the flesh side, then arrange skin side up in an ovenproof 3-quart sauté pan. Pour off the rendered fat from the skillet; if any appetizing golden bits remain in the skillet, add the reduced red wine to the pan and simmer briefly, stirring to dissolve them. Set aside.

Duck braised with Red wine and Prunes ready for the oven in a Le Creuset pot.Nestle the onion wedges in between the duck legs. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and optional orange zest and/or clove. Add enough of the reduced wine and stock, in about equal doses, to come to a depth of ½ inch; save any extra wine and stock for extending the sauce. Swirl the pan as you bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover tightly, place in the oven, and cook for about 1 hour.

Turn the duck legs over and add the unpitted prunes, making sure they are submerged in the braising liquid; work quickly, so you don’t lose too much heat. (If you are using pitted prunes, add them after 10 minutes more.) Cover the pan tightly and return to the oven.

After another hour (or about 40 minutes if the duck legs are on the small end of the range listed), turn the legs over, turn the heat up to 375° and return the pan to the oven uncovered. When the legs feel just tender and are slightly browned, usually within another 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Turn off the oven and place a serving platter to warm in the oven for a minute or two. Leave the duck legs to rest for about 5 minutes, then carefully lift from the sauce to the warm serving platter.

Skim the abundant fat from the surface of the braising liquid, and taste the liquid. If it seems thin in flavor or texture, set the pan over medium heat and, skimming attentively, reduce to the texture of warm maple syrup. If the sauce tastes too rich, dilute it with a trickle of water. If you seem shy on sauce and you have extra wine and reduced stock, add a little of each, then simmer to bring the sauce to a slightly syrupy consistency.

Serve each duck leg with 3 prunes and a few silky onion wedges and slippery garlic cloves. There should be a few tablespoons of sauce for each leg.

Gran Luchito & Buttermilk Marinated Roast Chicken

Gran Luchito Smoked Chili Paste.The next item from our winter box is the Gran Luchito Smoked Pepper Paste from Chelsea Market Baskets. (They also make the best holiday gift baskets!) The owner, David Porat, sent this to me months ago to try out. I immediately loved it and wanted it in a box, but it wasn’t available until just now. This little jar is packed with potent taste and should be invited in to everyone’s kitchen! It truly is an ingredient, not to be eaten right out of the jar as it is super strong. Mixing it with other things allows you to appreciate the full flavor of these rare smoked Mexican chillies that have all been ethically sourced – nice! I made this Gran Luchito & Buttermilk Marinated Roast Chicken recipe and it is so good!! (There are other recipes here as well.)

You may remember that my husband is not a fan of smoked things, but he LOVES this chicken. The paste also has a bit of agave and some garlic. This recipe is so easy with only four ingredients and again, it’s because the chilli paste is packed with flavor. Just plan ahead to marinate it for 2 days. This way, the chilli flavors really permeate the meat and the buttermilk makes it creamy and silky all at the same time. Do it on a Saturday and you’ve got yourself an easy dinner for a Monday evening. Make it with LOVE and it will overflow with extra deliciousness! 


One 3.5 lb. whole chicken
1.5 cups of whole buttermilk – preferably Kate’s
1.5 Tbs. of Gran Luchito Smoked Chilli Paste
1 tsp. crushed Juniper berries

Two days before serving, wash and paper towel dry your chicken. Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the chicken backbone and remove it. Turn the chicken breast side up and press on the breastbone to flatten the chicken. Using a sharp knife, cut partway through both sides of the joint between the thighs and the drumsticks as well as cut partway through the joint between the wings and the breast. This will allow the chicken to cook much faster.
Gran Luchito Buttermilk Marinated Roast Chicken ingredients.
Combine the buttermilk, Gran Luchito and crushed juniper berries in a small bowl and whisk together. Gran Luchito Buttermilk Marinated Chicken in a bag.Pour this mixture in a ziplock bag and put your chicken in. Close the bag and distribute the marinade all over. Store in the refrigerator for two days, turning the bag over and rubbing the marinade in periodically.

Gran Luchito Buttermilk Roasted Chicken in a pan.On the day you’re serving the chicken, preheat the oven to 450°. Place the chicken with the marinade in a non-stick, ovenproof skillet. (I did this or you can drain it from the marinade as essentially it does make a mess in your skillet but it probably imparts more flavor this way. With the skillet being non-stick, it fortunately cleans up easily.)

Set the skillet over high heat and cook the chicken until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the chicken for 30 minutes, until the skin is browned and the chicken is cooked through. Carefully remove the chicken from the skillet (remember the handle is piping hot so do not grab it unless you have a hotpad on!) and place on a platter. Let the chicken rest for 5 – 10 minutes. Cut it into 8 pieces and serve with LOVE.Gran Luchito Buttermilk Roasted Chicken on a platter from Nov 17, 2014

Cumin and Mustard Roasted Chicken with Fruit

We had some friends over for dinner on Tuesday night. They were coming at 7 pm. I got home at 6:15. I thought that getting home so late might happen so I had set the table the night before and had planned an easy dinner of grilled Cauliflower Steaks with an herb salsa verde as a first course (divine), followed by roasted sumac chicken stuffed with fennel stalks and Parmesan cheese rinds, roasted baby Yukon Gold potatoes and roasted tomatoes with olive oil and Greek oregano. Simple, yet if done right, perfectly delicious and comforting after a full days work on an early fall evening. Paired with a Petit Syrah and we were set!

Grilled cauliflower steaks with an herb salsa verde.

Grilled cauliflower steaks with an herb salsa verde – a great Food and Wine recipe

Now you all have seen my kitchen in our videos. It is a galley that is completely open to the living room. With a small gathering, our guests sit right across the counter from me while I’m cooking, and literally see everything. So all is going well until I start to open the organic chicken package only to discover that it’s not a whole chicken! It is chicken parts, and badly cut at that, yet they had put it together in the package to appear as a whole bird!! Well I was surprised, flustered, and of course, a little ticked off at my husband, as he picked out the meat that shopping trip. (I had to blame it on someone!) So now, in my head, I was scrambling, what was I to do? I was searching for something with great flavor to work with, quick, at that late hour. What did I have? No pancetta, which is a great way to add some big flavor in no time. There was no time to make a tomato sauce, no nice savory jams in the fridge. No mushrooms on hand and no time to caramelize onions. Really, my mind was racing while making small talk to my guests sitting right in front of me!

So I thought to start with a little butter and olive oil, instead of just the oil. Salt and pepper on the skin side, added a sprinkling of cumin on the other side. White wine is always good and then I smeared some Dijon mustard on top. Then I saw this box of dried fruit on the counter to the left of my stove. I had just bought it last week to serve with some lovely cheeses, but that never happened. So I thought, what the heck, let’s try this. I topped each chicken piece with slices of fruit – apricots, apples, peaches, pears and prunes, and then threw the whole thing in the oven for about 17 minutes and voila, it was divine! And the oven was hot – 450 degrees for that roast chicken that wasn’t to be – so the fruit got golden and beautiful and dinner was saved. This new recipe is good enough to share, good enough to repeat, and different too! The only thing was that the roasted tomatoes with oregano sort of no longer went with the other food – but they tasted good with the potatoes!

Has this sort of thing ever happened to you? Please share.Cumin and mustard roasted chicken with fruit.


One whole organic chicken, backbone removed, cut into 8 pieces, extra skin and fat trimmed
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
Pepper, fresh ground
11/2 tsp. ground cumin
½ cup dry white wine
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
16 – 18 slices of mixed dried fruit – apricots, peaches, pears, apples and prunes
1 – 2 Tbs. Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Wash and dry the chicken pieces, all fat and extra skin trimmed off. Salt and pepper skin side.

Warm olive oil and butter on medium high heat. Swirl to combine and when butter stops sizzling, place the chicken in the skillet, seasoned side down to brown and crisp skin for 3 – 4 minutes. While that side is browning, season the top side with salt, pepper and cumin. After the first side is nicely browned, turn chicken pieces over and brown the other side for two minutes, then add the white wine and spread the mustard on top of each piece. Then place 2 pieces of dried fruit on top of each lightly mustard coated piece. Put 2 – 3 pieces of fruit on each of the breasts, depending on the size of the fruit. You want to essentially cover the top of the chicken.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast for 15 – 18 minutes. Check doneness with a thermometer – should be 160 – 165 degrees. Remove chicken pieces to a platter, keeping the fruit on top. Pour any juices left in the skillet on top of the chicken. Let rest for 10 minutes and sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve with LOVE.