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Mary’s secret ingredients is here!!

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MARY's secret ingredients Logo

I’ve been so looking forward to this day. Mary’s secret ingredients, a limited edition subscription box bursting with culinary surprises, is here! The website is launched. We’ve lined up partners that can’t be beat. We’ve curated the product assortment in the box to be awesome. I’m so excited to have this media outlet to present all the great new small food manufacturers that are wholesome and gourmet.

Subscription box

Products pictured here are characteristic of the wonderful surprises that may be in your box.

This is such a great opportunity for them to get their product into your hands. And, this is such a great opportunity for you to be surprised with new, unique, artisanal and non–processed food items and ingredients arriving at your doorstep.

The world is truly full of great people who have awesome ideas for new products. This is a chance for you to be first in the know. I will provide additional support in blogs following your receipt of the surprise subscription box, to use those products in even more unique ways, with recipes and tips.

Unleash your creative inner self! Order a MARY’s secret ingredients box today and make some memorable days in your kitchen with your family and remember, always prepare and serve your food with LOVE and it will always taste better!

Thank you all for your support!

Sending love to you, Mary Frances

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In Southern Cali!!

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crystal cove beach in California

We are in California for a few days, on little Balboa Island, visiting my brother and sister-in-law, getting a little R & R and will do some business in Beverly Hills on Tuesday before heading back east. It is so darn pretty here, I have to pinch myself. We arrived last Thursday and every day is more gorgeous than the last. We reached 80 degrees yesterday, over 80 today. The lyric – “It never rains in Southern California…” keeps on going through my head. This warm sunshine is a very, very welcome relief, after the constant wearing of long underwear, rubber boots and two sweaters with at least one being a turtleneck every single day, back in NYC.

hiking in crystal cove state parkWe’ve gone for local walks visiting friends, long bike rides, and hiking in a state park.

man lounging on a park bench

Here’s my husband “hiking”

They’ve cooked fantastic meals and we had a wonderful dinner out last night. Just to share with you, here’s our lunch from yesterday. seared sesame crusted tuna on a bed of lettuce with raw beets and sugar snap peasSeared sesame crusted tuna on a salad with raw beets and sugar snap peas. sunny side up eggs on a bed of frisee with crispy bacon topped with a tomatillo sauceAnd our breakfast from this morning – sunny side up eggs on a bed of frisee with bacon, finished with a tomatillo sauce. But tonight I will cook. So we went to the farmers market yesterday morning. California lettuces at a farmers marketYou know you’re in California when you see the most gorgeous heads of lettuce all lined up, all perfect and Succulent plants at a farmers marketso green and fresh along with the largest array of succulents I’ve ever seen. Just look at how pretty they are! We got some great local corn chips and homemade tomatillo salsa to start our evening. I also bought some burrata and buffalo mozzarella from the nicest Italian man, to serve with beautiful tomatoes and basil.mini squash at the farmers market in California

Take a look at this squash. I’ve never seen anything like them before. I’m going to make a mustard coated chicken and I’m going to grill these little babies with some radishes tossed with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Aren’t they just too cute?!! Some fingerling potatoes will be roasted and we’re going to have a rockin’ good time tonight as my brother Steve has, as usual, picked out some stellar wines to serve with all. Stop in to his wine pairing blog to know what you should serve with your meals.

Newport beach

Newport Beach

May warm weather shine upon you soon, wherever you are!!

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Spread LOVE – MARY’s secret ingredients is COMING SOON!

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butter knife

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching, trying to figure out ways to spread more LOVE in this world of ours. Like many people, I constantly want to try new flavors, and to learn other countries’ traditions and favorites. What are those unusual vegetables or fruits at the Jamaican market? What do you do with all the different dried chilies you see in some stores? How can you fuse certain heritages’ flavors? There are so many new ingredients introduced every year – artisanal, unique, small batch – how can you find them and play with them in your repertoire while continuing to spread LOVE in your cooking?

Well, I’m out to solve that problem, as well as to do my part to help feed hungry children. Soon, we will be bringing you MARY’s secret ingredients, a limited edition, culinary surprise, subscription box service containing unique, gourmet and artisanal ingredients, along with small kitchen products to spice up your cooking. During each quarter in 2014, 100 themed seasonal boxes will be filled with lovely surprises to inspire you, delivered right to your door. The cost will be $25.95 per box (including shipping) and 10% of our annual profits will be donated to the wonderful non-profit organization Feed The Children. No one should go hungry. Not in this country. Not anywhere. Put double LOVE in your cooking!

Our site will go live in the next few days. We have exciting and delicious ingredients to share with you. Terrific partners have signed up to participate with their delectable products. Additionally, I’ll be creating new recipes with these colorful ingredients, so you can refer back here to the blog for further inspiration in your cooking.

As mentioned, there will be only four box themes curated this year, with room for just 100 orders for each, so sign up just as soon as our site is launched which will be early next week. At the moment, we are only able to ship within the U.S. – we hope to be able to serve our international friends in the near future. You, my dear readers, are what makes all of this extra fun, and I want to thank you, near and far, for being part of this community and being here on my food adventure.

I’m so excited to share this with you all, and will let you know when the site has launched!butter knife

My good friend Marie gave this butter knife to me as a birthday present – the inspiration for this new adventure. Isn’t it great?

 

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Potatoes Mary

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Since our children are no longer home, and as we have gotten older, I try to prevent the weight gain that happens with the slower metabolism by just not making or serving carbs at dinnertime. I try with all my might to keep in shape, (except for the couple of chocolates after dinner on weekends) but you know, I don’t consider myself too successful. I never really lost all the weight from having my boys. And you’re now talking 25 years ago.

Did I tell you I hate to shop for clothes? Seriously, I hate it. I always have. I love it when my husband buys me outfits and he does the work and lately, I guess because I haven’t shopped in so long, he went out and bought me two! The first was one of my Christmas gifts. A pair of really skinny, hip hugger jeans (that’s what we used to call them) and a beautiful navy shirt with sheer sleeves. Honestly, I was afraid to try the jeans on. I waited a few weeks. But miraculously, they fit! And they’re even a size 8 – but I think they’re making all the sizes more generous now – and they really should be a 10. Whatever, I was just so happy they fit and I didn’t have to tell him I had to take them back for a larger size.

I was reminded of a lunch I had some months ago with my friend Sharon, who is just a couple of years younger than me. Sharon is in good shape – don’t get me wrong – but she said she was with another friend who was helping her clean out her closets and her friend told her to throw out all the clothes that were too small because she thought they would constantly depress her. So Sharon decided right then and there that she didn’t have to strive for still being in her twenties. She said she gave it up!

Me? I’d like to think that I’m still nineteen – hell – forget the twenties – I want to be nineteen again! And I’m not giving up – and still striving for the body – not that I’m there – but you know what I mean?

So recently I had lunch with my friend Marie who is a few years older than me and she said she understood me. She was in that frame of mind in the past, but she thought she had moved to Sharon’s camp now. I was wearing the new outfit at that lunch and the jeans are not all that comfortable – but I’ll suffer for fashion every once in a while.

Who’s camp are you in?

We have been entertaining a lot and when we entertain, we do always serve a carb. Lately I’ve been making these potatoes – similar to Potatoes Anna but not done in the oven and not nearly with the amount of butter James Beard would call for. So let’s call these Potatoes Mary. They’re easy to do as long as you have a hand mandoline. Cook them slowly while you’re having cocktails, flip carefully and you’ll turn out a delicious and impressive looking dish for your guests.Potato gallette or Potatoes Mary, browned and crispy.

POTATOES MARY – serves 6 – 8

6 – 7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thin on a mandoline (you can peel these but I don’t if they’re really fresh – my mother always said the skin was good for you – made your own skin pretty!)
1 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. unsalted butter, divided
1 tbs. chopped fresh thyme leaves
Salt
Pepper

Slice your potatoes right before using. Warm the olive oil with 1 tbs. of butter on medium heat in a non-stick skillet. When butter is melted, swirl together and start laying the potatoes in the skillet, overlapping them in a round fashion, making sure the overall thickness is even and using 1/2 – 2/3 of them. Then stop and salt and pepper over the top. Sprinkle the thyme leaves evenly over the surface and dot with the remaining tbs. of butter. Layer in evenly the rest of the potatoes, and salt and pepper the final top surface.

Cover the skillet for 15 – 20 minutes. The potatoes will sweat and cook. Check the bottom carefully with a spatula to make sure the bottom is not browning too much. Potatoes Mary in a skillet with a red spatula.Uncover the skillet after the 15 – 20 minutes to let some of the accumulated moisture dry up as you’re aiming for a crispy bottom, yet all the potatoes must be tender and creamy so check them with a fork in the center, cooking them for 10 – 15 minutes longer on this side, uncovered. Potatoes Mary halfway through cooking on a plate.When they’re pretty dry on top as the photo shows, slide them out of the skillet onto a plate. Then cover the plate with an unrimmed cookie sheet and flip them over. Now slide the whole potato gallette back into the skillet to brown the other side. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes more to slowly brown the other side. Keep checking with a fork. If they are not getting tender, cover them for a bit but you want to end up with your last 10 minutes or so uncovered to get them crispy. Carefully slide the whole shebang out of the skillet and onto a serving plate.

Cut like a pie into wedges. Serve with LOVE.

 

 

 

 

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Kale with Ginger and Carrots

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Kale with ginger and carrots and steam in a skillet.I love coming up with unique combinations of vegetables. Not that this is so mind blowing but it’s a new combination for me. And I love being able to put dinner on the table in 40 minutes. I think the 30 minute claim is BS. Unless you’re using processed food. This meal, I put on the table in 40 minutes, even with the time it takes to cut the kale leaves off of the stem. But what pleased me most, was this vegetable combination of kale with ginger and carrots.

Kale with ginger and carrots and roasted cod on a white Wedgewood plate.

Roasted cod seasoned with Old Bay and the sauteed kale with ginger and carrots

The addition of the chicken broth, which was a second thought, only because I had some brewing on the stove, was a great flavor booster. I think I’ve told you before, my husband is not a kale fan. At all. But, he loves my kale salad. I do too, but that’s more time consuming as you have to chiffonade the kale, heat and watch the olive oil, grate the cheese, and toast the pine nuts.  And that’s not exactly a low calorie dish with the oil and cheese. This dish of sautéed kale was easy, peasy, really pretty (pretty is important to me), low calorie and Steve liked it! He really liked it. It was delicious!

Here you go – you might call this More Easy Vegetables for Joan, 2.0!Kale with ginger and carrots in skillet.

KALE WITH GINGER AND CARROTS – serves 4

1 tbs. olive oil
1 bunch of kale, washed, stemmed and cut into 1” strips
3 carrots, peeled and cut on a diagonal into 1/8” thick slices
2 tbs. of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade, or vegetable broth or dry white wine
Salt
Pepper

Warm olive oil on low in a large skillet. Add ginger and carrots and cover for 10 minutes to soften. Add all the kale and the chicken broth and cover for 5 minutes. Toss and turn up heat to medium and toss and cover alternately until kale and carrots are tender to your liking, 10 – 12 minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with love.

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Healthy breakfasts

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On Sunday mornings, we like to have a big breakfast/brunch type of deal – eggs, turkey or chicken sausage, toast (with maybe a little of Ethel’s delicious honey on that), fruit salad and tea.

Yesterday, I made an omelet. I used to make them all the time when the kids were home – a big one with, like, 8 eggs. They loved it – with all kinds of fillings – and making them a lot keeps you in practice. Flipping practice. Well, it appears I am seriously out of practice. Omelette with two cheese, red pepper, tomatoes and basil.Just check out this photo – not a pretty sight. But, it tasted good! I filled it with provolone and cheddar cheeses, some finely chopped raw red pepper, fresh grape tomatoes and a chiffonade of basil. It was tasty, but time consuming. And, it makes a mess! (Although pictured here, the garlic was NOT in our omelet.)Broken eggshells, cheddar cheese and grater mess.

Now if you want a healthy breakfast in a flash, check out these good folks at Mix My Own Healthy Breakfast. It’s a husband and wife team with a neat concept. You literally choose what you want to go into your custom mix of cereal, with tons of healthy, organic options to choose from. They asked me to mix my own cereal and review their product. I chose oats, goji berries, raw almonds, walnuts, wheat germ, bran, spelt and barley flour flakes along with quinoa, acai powder, blueberries and a whole host of healthy things. I don’t really eat cereal with milk anymore, mainly because the kids are gone and we don’t have milk around. But, I do love to put cereal on my plain low fat Greek yogurt and then drizzle a little honey on top. That’s a real energizer in the morning!Mix My Own custom cereal mixes.

Mix My Own has tons of things to choose from (it can be dizzying) and they keep track of your combination so you can easily order it again, because who could remember? Fortunately, if you are overwhelmed and find making decisions tough, you can also order pre-mixed versions such as gluten-free or antioxidant varieties. The end resulting product is delicious, although depending on your ingredient choices, it can be pricey. They ship nationwide and my one-pound bag, with shipping, was just under $20. If you love cereal or granola-type things, visit their website and create your own combo. It’s a good thing!

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