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

Sauteed Kale and Beet Greens with Maguey Sweet Sap

Villa de Patos Maguey Sweet Sap.Maguey Sweet Sap from Villa de Patos is the second item in our MARY’s secret ingredients summer box! This is the coolest product – a delicious sweetener low in fructose and glucose with a delightful “green” taste as it comes from the maguey (pronounced mah-gay) plant that is native to the arid highlands of Mexico. The plant needs to be at least 12 years old before you can get any syrup out of it!

Since ancient times, the maguey plant has served as a source of nourishment, shelter and textiles for the people of Mexico. The Aztecs worshipped the maguey as the goddess Mayahuel, naming it the Plant of the Gods because of its alleged medicinal properties. The plant also serves as a soil protector and regenerator, helping to prevent erosion and acting as a natural healing agent for the land.

The sap is rich in naturally occurring phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and prebiotic fiber. The prebiotic fiber found in Maguey Sweet Sap helps balance the ecosystem of your intestinal flora and serves as the “food” for probiotics.


It’s all that and more importantly, it’s super delicious!! Use it on anything and in anything that needs a little sweetener. It has a thinner consistency than honey but like honey, it is also a raw, unrefined and an unprocessed product. The color of the syrup will change over time, getting a little darker. It is super yummy drizzled over plain Greek yogurt, in tea or on pancakes. I chose to use it in this kale and beet greens recipe and it was divine! Because of its more “herbal” taste, I felt it went particularly well with these sautéed greens. I wanted to combine these two different greens because I think it just makes the dish more interesting. Kale is good and all the rage, but personally, I adore beet greens. To me, they’re even much more interesting than the beets (and I do love beets). Separate your stems from the leafy greens when cooking as the stems do need to cook longer and hmmmm (!), just delicious!! The pancetta with the Sweet Sap addition along with the acid from the vinegar – total YUM!!! Savory and sweet – my kind of thing!
Maguey Sweet Sap with sauteed kale and beet greens in a skillet.SAUTEED KALE AND BEET GREENS WITH MAGUEY SWEET SAP – serves 4

1 Tbs. olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 bunch of beet greens, washed, stems separated from the greens, all cut in 11/2” pieces
½ medium red onion, cut in 1/8” slices, and each slice cut in half
One ¼” thick slice of pancetta, cut in 1/4” cubes
1 bunch of Russian kale, washed, stems removed and cut into 11/2” ribbons
2 Tbs. ginger rice vinegar or plain rice vinegar
11/2 Tbs. Maguey Sweet Sap
Maldon sea salt flakes to taste, crushed
Black pepper, fresh ground, to taste

On low heat, in a medium sized skillet, warm the oil. Add the garlic, beet green stems, red onion and pancetta and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove cover and raise heat to medium. Add kale. Toss and cook for 3 minutes.

Add beet green leaves, toss and sauté for 3 – 5 minutes, until done.
Maguey Sweet Sap with sauteed kale & beet greens finished in skillet.Turn off heat and remove from hot burner. Sprinkle all over the 2 Tbs. ginger rice vinegar and 1.5 Tbs. of Maguey Sweet Sap Syrup. Stir to combine all. Top with crushed Maldon Sea Salt Flakes and fresh ground pepper. Serve with LOVE and enjoy!!
Maguey Sweet Sap with sauteed kale and beet greens as a bed to spice-rubbed roasted salmon.I served this as a delicious vegetable “bed” to some spice rubbed roasted salmon. Delish!!

I also used this Sweet Sap in place of the honey in my Sweet and Sour Coleslaw recipe and it was totally great!!

Our fall box ships on September 25th and it’s going to be great! The supply is limited so best to order now before we run out.

Maguey Sweet Sap on Sweet and Sour Coleslaw.

The Very Best Way to Cook Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob on a plate ready to eat.It’s the season!! And there are so many ways to cook corn on the cob. Boil it in regular water, water with a little sugar, water with a little milk, place it in boiling water, turn the heat off and let it sit, shuck it and steam it, shuck it and grill it and so on. However, this way, I guarantee will become your favorite. This produces the freshest cooked corn on the cob because you don’t remove it from its natural packaging until you’re ready to eat it. Never, ever water-logged, cooking corn this way turns out so wonderful, (assuming it’s good corn), and so sweet, you won’t even want butter!


It’s that good.

Plus, you won’t have all that sticky silk all over your kitchen floor because you had to shuck it beforehand. No siree!!

You’re gonna LOVE this!!

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Buy your corn by feeling the heft and weight. Do not peel back the husks and peek. Corn on a baking sheet.

Just remove any dried and damaged outer leaves, trim dark silk ends hanging out at the end with scissors and put all your ears on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, each ear with its full husk on. Corn on the cob out of the oven.When done, remove and peel husks off using hot pad mitts and serve. You don’t even need butter on this corn because what happens here is that the silk melts into the corn and makes it so sweet. Plus, it isn’t water logged so it’s crisp, and you don’t have the awful job of shucking them beforehand with all that silk making a mess. This is great, naked, fresh corn. (and low in calories with no butter needed) Enjoy!! Roast an extra ear or two, shuck and wrap in plastic wrap to store in the refrigerator and use another night. Cut the corn off the cob for a salad. Use a serrated knife for best results.

Now here’s the sad part, corn is one of those things, of all vegetables, that is most likely to be genetically modified, so try to buy your corn from a local organic farmer who knows his seeds were not GMO. Ask first. :)


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.