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

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.

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.

Harmonian Orange Glazed Olive Oil Cake

Harmonian Olive Oil.
Harmonian is a wonderful company, based in Athens, Greece. Georgios, the owner, established it to promote harmonious ingredients – harmonious to the earth and for your body – all the things that MARY’s secret ingredients stands for. They say on their site, “taste approved; health improved.” This Harmonian Olive Oil is the fourth item in our fall box and we absolutely love it! It is light, flavorful and made with Kalamata Olives.

Of course you can use this to cook with or as a finishing oil. I think it’s so special that it should only be used as a finishing oil – or used in this fantastic olive oil cake recipe. As the oil is super high quality, extra virgin and silky in texture, you guessed it, this cake is too! It is light, fluffy and super delicious.

Here’s the recipe:Orange glazed olive oil cake.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1¾ cups sugar
1½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
11/3 cups Harmonian extra-virgin olive oil
1¼ cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1½ Tbs. grated orange zest
¼ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup Triple Sec or Grand Marnier

Flour mixture in olive oil cake batter.Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper too.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the olive oil, milk, orange zest and juice and Triple Sec or Grand Marnier. Add the dry ingredients in three batches and whisk until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely, 2 hours.Olive oil cake cooling in a pan.


4 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Melt butter in a small saucepan or microwave.

Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into a medium size bowl. Add the melted butter to the powdered sugar. Add orange juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy, adding a little more orange juice if necessary.Olive oil cake with orange glaze dripping.

Frost the cooled cake between layers and the top (let drips down the side happen) with this glaze.

Bet you can’t eat just one piece.

Of course, use this wonderful olive oil on any vegetable, raw or cooked. Here is my favorite asparagus recipe. Roasted with the olive oil and then topped with a fresh drizzle compounds the flavor and just makes this so delicious. I bet this will become your go-to recipe for asparagus from now on. It certainly is mine!Olive oil and lemon roasted asparagus.


1 1/2 lbs. medium asparagus, washed, air dried and broken at the point of tenderness and lower portions discarded
3 Tbs. extra-virgin Harmonian olive oil
Pepper, freshly ground
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a baking dish, drizzle the asparagus with half of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coast evenly. Roast for about 8 – 10 minutes, or until just tender when pierced with a fork. Drizzle the asparagus with the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice, and zest. Toss again. Serve hot, with LOVE. Enjoy!!


Eggplant Tomato Layered YUM! with Greek Oregano

There is oregano and then there’s Greek OREGANO!  The oregano in our spring box from Harmonian, straight from Greece, is so fragrant, so flavorful and unlike any store bought oregano you’ll find in grocery stores here. Now of course you can use this just like you would use oregano in any recipe, but I have 2 suggestions for it here, one with a nod to Greece using lemon, as my memories of Greece and Greek food always include lemon. The main recipe, Eggplant Tomato Layered Yum! is a go-to meal for us on our meatless nights. I have another version posted before, but since I have noticed that this is an often searched-for recipe, I thought I’d spice up your repertoire and add this version as well!Eggplant tomato layered yum ingredients


4 small Italian eggplants, trimmed and cut into 1/4” slices
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of scallions (with large bulbs if you can find) or 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 tsp. Harmonium Greek oregano
1/2 of a ball of mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
8 slices of provolone cheese, torn to fit
6 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4”slices
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tbs. chopped chives

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slick a 15” x10” glass Pyrex pan with olive oil. Lay eggplant slices to cover the bottom. Eggplant tomato layered yum with eggplant and scallionsSprinkle on sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Spread out garlic and sliced scallions or shallots to cover. Eggplant tomato layered yum with Greek oregano onThen sprinkle on the Greek oregano and take a moment to breathe in the wonderful aroma. Lay on top any leftover extra eggplant slices. Swirl a little bit of olive oil all over the top. Eggplant tomato layered yum with mozzarella cheese layered on

Lay on the mozzarella, Eggplant tomato layered yum with provolone

then cover with the Provolone, tearing slices to make a nice even covering. Spread out tomatoes on the top. Lightly salt and pepper the tomatoes.

Eggplant tomato layered yum breadcrumbs in bowl

In a small bowl, mix together with a fork, the panko, olive oil, Pecorino Romano, chives and salt and pepper to taste. Eggplant tomato layered yum  ready for oven

Spread crumb mixture on top. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 35 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting up to serve.

Eggplant tomato layered yum plated on ww pasta

Cut into 6 rectangles and serve on top of whole wheat pasta for a delicious vegetarian meal!!oregano lemon chicken on pasta w broccolli rabe

For this delicious LEMON OREGANO ROAST CHICKEN, refer to this recipe, but instead of shoving garlic and thyme sprigs under the skin, cover lemon slices with oregano and slide underneath the skin, oregano side down.lemon slices covered with Greek oregano

Use 2 slices for each breast and one slice for each back side of the thighs. Also use the parmesan cheese rinds in the cavity and you’ll have a delicious roast chicken!

I served this on top of fusilli with sautéed broccoli rabe.


Snow Peas with Ginger, Garlic, Shallots, Lemon and Mint  

snow peas, ginger, garlic, shallots Photo from Apr 12, 2014

For a vegetable dish bursting with flavors, and a perfect springtime meal accompaniment, try this Snow Peas with Ginger, Garlic, Shallots, Lemon and Mint recipe.  Our oldest son’s girlfriend made this for dinner a couple of weeks ago and it was delicious! They paired this with braised short ribs and some good French bread. It was a fresh, crisp antithesis to the tender, melty short ribs.
Snow peas with ginger, garlic, shallots, lemon and mint with short ribs Photo from Apr 12, 2014
Here’s what she did:


2 tbs. olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 tbs. minced ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. of snow peas, strings removed
Pinch of sugar
1/2 of a lemon, juiced
Grated zest of a whole lemon
3 tbs. chopped mint

Heat a large sauté pan on high heat for 1 minute. Add the olive oil, shallots and ginger to the hot pan and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the snow peas to the pan, the pinch of sugar, salt and pepper and toss and cook for another 1.5 – 2 minutes. Then add the lemon juice and zest and cook for 30 seconds more. Off heat, fold in the mint and serve.


We have had so much going on here at LOVE. As perhaps you’ve noticed, we’ve redesigned this site so that you can see more posts at a glance on the home page. This makes more recipes immediately accessible and hopefully will provide additional inspiration for you to cook clean, healthy, delicious food, with LOVE.

MARYs secret ingredients boxesOur MARY’s secret ingredients boxes were all mailed on the 25th of April, as scheduled! They should be in everyone’s hands, including those of you on the west coast, by tomorrow. There has been so much excitement surrounding them! Many of you have already posted your very enthusiastic comments and shared photos on Twitter and Pinterest. I will reveal everything here tomorrow and post recipes and serving suggestions for all of the ingredients in the coming two weeks. I’m very excited about that!

We’ve also had a rush of people coming back and ordering more boxes after receiving this spring box. So if you are interested, I urge you to place your order now for the other seasons as they are selling fast and we will only have 100 boxes each season.

So stayed tuned and visit often or sign up for an email notification (on the right rail here) when I post a new recipe, and remember to cook with LOVE. Your food will always taste better!

Pasta with Flounder in a Red Sauce and Roasted Broccoli with Radishes

Feed the Children logoI’m so embarrassed, I forgot to mention in my last post that 10% of Mary’s secret ingredients’ annual profits will be donated to Feed the Children, a wonderful, worldwide organization that provides nourishing food, hygiene items, educational books and supplies for boys and girls in need.

I have always said that there is plenty of food in this world. It just needs to be redistributed and to not go to waste. Please take a look at these links and articles. No one should go hungry. I’m very excited to be able to give this non-profit a helping hand with MARY’s secret ingredients. Man, I would love to play a part in eradicating hunger in this world – it’s on my bucket list. You can help. All the more reason to order a box! Feed yourself and your family while feeding the needy children of the world.

This past week, the day after we arrived home from California, at around 5 pm, our youngest son informed me that he and his girlfriend would be home for dinner. That morning, I had taken two flounder fillets out of the freezer and had planned to roast them for Steve and me and make a simple vegetable for dinner. So now I only had a little over 1 lb. of fish for four people. I was tired and crabby from the travel and time change and had no desire to go to the fish store uptown to buy more fish and a decent vegetable. What to do?

Walking to the subway on the way home, while talking out loud to my husband, I decided to make it stretch. I called my son, Zach, and asked him to mince 5 cloves of garlic, pit and chop 15 olives, take the anchovies out of the fridge and make sure the flounder fillets had thawed. (They hadn’t.) I thought, let’s make a pasta dish with the flounder in a red sauce! Add some anchovies and olives for an extra boost of flavor! I stopped in the grocery store downstairs in my building and bought some broccoli and a beautiful bunch of large radishes. I tossed those with some olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted them at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes, along with the recipe below and we had a super delicious, satisfying dinner for everyone; quick to boot, with everything ready in about 40 minutes. Suddenly I wasn’t crabby anymore! (A little food does wonders – think of what it could do for the world!)Red sauce with flounder

Now, because I only had buccatini in the apartment, which is a big noodle, I did not toss the sauce with the pasta, but served the pasta in a bowl, drizzled a tiny bit of olive oil on top and then ladled the red fish sauce on top. If I would have tossed it all together before serving, I would have broken up all those beautiful little pieces of flounder and made mush out of them. Not a good thing, nor pretty to serve. Now I know the true Italians would disagree with me here but that’s what I did, allowing each individual to mix it up in their own bowl.Pasta with a red sauce with flounder


2 tbs. olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 of bunch of parsley leaves, washed, dried and chopped
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 – 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed, with the sauce
5 flat anchovy fillets, patted dry with a paper towel, chopped
2 fillets of flounder, about 1.3 lbs., washed, dried, cut down the middle and then cut into 1/2” chunks
15 olives, black and green in oil, pitted and minced
1 lb. pasta – bucatini or fettuccine

Put a large pot on water on to boil for the pasta.

Warm olive oil in a large skillet. Add minced garlic on low heat and stir for 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium – medium high and add the chopped parsley and cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and stir for 1 – 2 minutes. You must always try to brown the tomato paste in order to get the most flavor out of it  – this is key!

Then add the hand crushed can of tomatoes with the juice along with the anchovies and let the whole thing vigorously simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile your pasta water has probably boiled. Salt with course sea salt to taste like ocean water (you know what that means, do not taste it and burn your tongue) and add your pasta. Stir and cook until al dente.

Salt and pepper the sauce to taste and add the cut up flounder fillets. Lower the heat a bit and stir gently, often. Fold over with a rubber spatula to stir so you don’t break up the pieces of fish. This will take about 7 minutes to cook the fish. Then taste the sauce to adjust salt and pepper and at the very end, add the chopped olives. Remember the olives will add more salt so take that into consideration. Turn your heat off.

Drain the pasta when done. Place pasta in bowls and drizzle a little olive oil on top so the noodles don’t stick together. Then ladle some beautiful sauce on top in the center. Serve immediately, with LOVE.Roasted broccoli and radishes on a glass plate


1 head of broccoli, washed, stems trimmed and peeled, each stalk quartered or even cut more
5 large radishes, scrubbed, dried and quartered
2 tbs. olive oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss broccoli and radishes with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 15 – 17 minutes until broccoli stems are fork tender to your liking. The broccoli heads will become a little charred, but I like them that way. They are so tasty. Serve immediately, very hot, on a side plate, with LOVE.