Monthly Archives: November 2018

Let the Good Times Swirl

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving whether you are hosting or traveling to places near or far. Not only do they taste divine, but with the festive frosting approach, they’re sure to impress too. And the recipe makes two dozen, so you can even hold some back for yourself 😉

My incentive here was to find a seasonal cupcake for an upcoming art show/fundraiser for Artists of Yardley where I am a current member. Since joining, I have been donating something sweet for the Bake Sale portion of the November event; last year it was my decorated Santa Hat Sugar Cookies, shown below.


This year my creative juices flowed in another direction with cupcakes on my brain. I found this tempting recipe on that possessed those warm, comforting flavors of Fall with cinnamon and pumpkin. And who the heck doesn’t salivate over cream cheese frosting?


Of course I had to put my own spin on them—literally—by frosting with a tandum-hued swirl. The technique is pretty simple, and you could even take it a bit further by using three, or even four colors at once. But I was going for understated, not over the top. OK, maybe not totally understated as I had to sprinkle on a bit of white edible glitter for that finishing touch; and add maple extract instead of vanilla.


I was always under the impression that any dairy product needed to be refrigerated, and cream cheese is dairy right? But according to one website, if you’re going to eat the cupcakes in the next day or two and your house stays around 70 degrees or cooler, they should be fine to sit on the counter—even if it is cream cheese frosting, which of course this is. So if you plan to make the cupcakes the day before you plan to share them, it’s okay to go ahead and frost them. In fact, you should, because the icing helps to keep them moist.

But just to be safe, I did store mine in the fridge inside of their decorative boxes before I transported them to the bake sale. I figure they’ll come to room temp when on display. Since I’m not into eating sweets for the most part, The Mr. was my taste tester… a drum roll please… he LOVED them!!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Servings: 2 Dozen
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
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  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or maple) extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add pumpkin.
  3. Combine flour, pie spice, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and ginger, whisk together until well blended; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.
  4. Fill 24 paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake 25* minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (*Mine actually took 27-30 minutes.)
  5. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  6. For frosting, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and cinnamon; beat until smooth.

  7. If you want a multicolored effect, divide the icing into equal portions and add coloring to each, mix well. Put each color into a separate 6-8″ throw-away piping bag, then insert both (or all) of them into one large 12-16″ piping bag with a large star tip. You may have to do this a couple of times, depending on bag sizes.
  8. Starting in the center, squeeze the large piping bag to make a star on the top of the cooled cupcake, then move out to the edge while continuing to squeeze the bag. Circle around the outer edge first then continue to move inward until you reach the center and pull up. Repeat with each cupcake.
  9. Refrigerate leftovers (if you have any).


Test Kitchen Tips

  1. For tender baked goods like muffins and cakes, the key is to mix gently. It also helps to whisk your dry ingredients well first, before combining them with any wet ingredients.
  2. These are bursting with autumn flavor, but if you want to take it over the top, try adding a little maple syrup to your frosting or a touch of maple extract to the cupcakes.
  3. It’s very easy to adjust the frosting consistency to your preference. Too stiff? Add milk a teaspoon at a time until the frosting is perfectly spreadable. Too thin? Beat in confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time until thickened.

Adapted from a recipe found on


Autumn Awesomeness

Knock me naked, this astounding company-worthy Cider-Sage Pork Loin with Potatoes and Apples dinner screams Autumn, where apple cider in a brine for pork loin imparts nuance and sweetness. Here, the cider does double duty, also starring in a flavorful pan sauce that gets drizzled on the finished dish. It is sooo good, you may want to double the amount…


Several reviewers complained that the apple wedges got too mushy. Well yes, they did, but in a positive way. Once cooked into submission, they enveloped the other ingredients with an amazing blanket of tart sweetness, if you will. After all, Granny Smith’s are baking apples.

We had a small pork loin on hand that weighed just over half the size the recipe called for, but because we wanted all of that luscious sauce and veggies, we didn’t reduce the amount of the other ingredients. In fact, I added an additional red onion. And I included the sage stems with smaller leaves into the pan of roasting potatoes, apples and onions to impart even more sagey goodness—an herb that we just adore, especially in cool weather meals.

Because our pork loin was much smaller, it reached temperature in only 40 minutes. If at all possible, use a digital probe (such as a Thermoprobe ChefAlarm) that’s stays in the meat while it roasts. This way an alarm goes off exactly when it reaches 145° and alleviates any guesswork.

After it rests, and you slice it down, make sure to add any meat juices from the cutting board into that scrumptious sauce.

Cider-Sage Pork Loin with Potatoes and Apples

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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For the brine

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-3/4 oz. kosher salt (about 1/3 cup Diamond Crystal)
  • 3 cloves garlic, cut in half
  • 3 lb. center-cut pork loin

For the pork

  • 16 leaves fresh sage, 4 torn into large pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples (about 3-3/4 lb.), peeled and cut into 2-inch wedges
  • 1-1/2 lb. small creamer potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, halved
  • 1 large red onion (about 1 lb.), cut into 1/2-inch wedges (I added 2 onions)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups apple cider


  1. BRINE: Put 2 cups of the cider in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, and whisk in the sugar, salt, and garlic, adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer.
  2. Once the sugar and salt dissolve, remove the pan from the heat, add the remaining 2 cups cider, and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Transfer the loin to a large bowl or zip-top bag, pour in the brine, cover with plastic wrap or seal the bag, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  4. PORK: Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 425°F. Remove the pork from the brine, and transfer to a large plate lined with paper towels. Discard the brine, and pat the loin dry.
  5. Using kitchen twine, tie the loin in three places at even intervals. Slip the 12 whole sage leaves between the twine and meat, and season with 1 tsp. pepper.
  6. In a large roasting pan, toss the apples, potatoes, and onion with 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil and 1 tsp. salt. Roast until mostly tender, about 25 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, set a large heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil, and heat until shimmering. Set the loin in the skillet fat side down. Sear, undisturbed, until the meat browns and easily releases from the pan when you lift an edge with tongs, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium, and sear the remaining sides, about 1 minute per side, or 6 minutes total. Set the skillet aside.
  9. Put the pork on top of the apples, potatoes, and onion in the roasting pan. Insert digital probe with alarm if you have one.
  10. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 145°F, about 80 minutes; start checking after about 60 minutes (or sooner if preparing a smaller roast). Remove from the oven, and let rest for 15 minutes.
  11. While the pork is resting, make a pan sauce. Pour off and discard any fat from the skillet, and set the pan over medium-high heat.
  12. Add the butter, flour, and torn sage leaves. Cook, stirring to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, until the flour is lightly browned, about 1-1/2 minutes.
  13. Add the cider, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  14. Remove the twine from the roast, and thinly slice the pork. Serve with the apples, potatoes, onion, and a generous drizzle of the sauce.

Recipe adapted from Tony Rosenfeld from Fine Cooking

Russ’ Seafood Soup

With ample homemade shellfish stock in the freezer, and blustery late-Autumn winds swirling outside, the Mr. figured it was a good day to make seafood soup. With its base of stock and tomatoes, rather than roux and cream, it’s a lighter and healthier soup than cream-based varieties. With bacon and potatoes you might even consider it a chowder.

IMG_8989Russ preps the veggies. Then while those are simmering, he starts chopping the seafood.

Personally I am not a clam fan, so Russ will often make this soup with small bay scallops in place of them, but the supermarket was only carrying the large sea scallops. As a substitution, I almost bought jumbo lump crab meat, but the price was so prohibitive that I succumbed and bought the baby clams.

The following day when we each enjoyed a small serving, it seems I hit the jackpot and got nearly 2 dozen clams in my portion while Russ barely got any. He was thrilled when I spooned them out and dropped them into his bowl. Yes, I’m a good wife… He even reciprocated with a few shrimp pieces into my bowl. Yes, he’s a good husband 😉

While the list of ingredients may seem a bit daunting, it’s actually quite easy to make, especially if you have the homemade seafood stock on hand. (Using a pressure cooker, you can make stock in a little over an hour.) In fact, not only did Russ make this soup, he also made homemade chicken stock and ham stock, all in one afternoon! Makes my heart ❀ proud—and my stomach happy 😉

Russ' Seafood Soup

  • Servings: 4 Quarts
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 strips bacon, finely diced (chill for 10 minutes in the freezer to make it easier to cut; about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 ribs celery, finely diced
  • 2 medium bell peppers, 1 red and 1 green, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 cups shellfish stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 8-oz. can clam juice
  • 1 10-oz. can baby clams in juice (or 1/2 lb. bay scallops)
  • 1/2-lb. uncooked shrimp, shelled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2-lb. cod, roughly chopped
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 dashes Tabasco sauce, or to taste
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce, or to taste


  1. Place a medium (6- to 8-quart), heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bacon. When it starts to brown in spots, lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until most of the fat has been rendered and the bacon is almost crisp, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable oil, onions, carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 10 to 15 minutes.


  3. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and potatoes.
  5. Add the stock and clam juice to the pot. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
  6. Add the cod, shrimp and clams with their juice and season with the kosher salt, celery salt and pepper.
  7. Add the Tabasco and Worcestershire. Bring back to a simmer for several minutes until the seafood is opaque.
  8. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.

Identity Crisis? Not in Flavor!

Is it chili… meatballs… stew? This mash-up implies an identity crisis, but no way JosĂ©, Chili Meatballs in Black Bean and Tomato Sauce is jam-packed with flavor and melds together seamlessly. It’s a rich and warming Mexican take on meatballs and is perfect fare for cool weather dining—which is exactly what Mother Nature was dishing out on the raw and nasty day(s) I concocted this meal.

IMG_8929Instead of topping with sour cream (which I didn’t have on hand), I added shredded sharp cheddar.

Like other legumes, such as peanuts, peas, and lentils, black beans are prized for their high protein and fiber content. They are a real powerhouse and in addition to this meal tasting fantastic, the beans add some health benefits which include the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and a reduced risk of certain types of cancer.

Consuming black beans can also aid in digestion and the regulation of the body’s blood sugar levels. They can be beneficial for various nervous system functions, can reduce the chances of birth defects, neutralize the negative effects of sulfites, and even prevent impotence in men—hey, just sayin’.

Based on a few reviewers comments about the flavor profile of the meatballs themselves, I included a teaspoon of ground cumin to the mix (noted below). And even though we own multiple types of vinegars, malt wasn’t one of them so I substituted red wine vinegar. Then for garnish, instead of sour cream, I added shredded sharp cheddar, why not, it’s part chili, right? We also have at least a half dozen types of rice in the pantry so hubby suggested we appropriately use the Valencian Spanish short grain variety.

Since it is a bit time consuming, go ahead and prep the meatballs the day before if possible. Once rolled into balls, refrigerate until ready to cook. On meal day, I found it simpler to brown the meatballs in a skillet, and once removed, you can use the same skillet (do not wipe clean) to crisp the ground chorizo. Sauté the onion and garlic and remaining ingredients in a separate large, oven-proof, heavy pot that will go into the oven in Step 8.

All-in-all, definitely worth the effort. And just like most chilis and stews which tend to be even better when reheated, we were thrilled to have leftovers!


Chili Meatballs in Black Bean and Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 1 ounce dried ancho or other large dried red chiles
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar (substitute red wine or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 28-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 2, 14-ounce cans)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 7-ounces dried chorizo, skin removed and roughly chopped
  • Steamed rice and sour cream, to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the ancho chiles and boiling water in a bowl and allow to stand for 10–15 minutes or until soft. Cool slightly, drain, remove seeds and roughly chop the chiles, reserving the liquid. Set aside.
  3. Place the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes or until the milk is absorbed.
  4. Add the beef, egg, half the garlic, cilantro, coriander seeds, cumin, salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Using wet hands, roll tablespoon-portions of the mixture into balls. Makes about 36 meatballs. (Can do Steps 1-4 up to a day beforehand.)
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, shallow, heavy-based ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Cook the meatballs in batches, turning frequently, for 5–7 minutes or until browned.
  6. Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, onion and remaining garlic to the pan and cook for 5–7 minutes or until lightly golden.
  7. Add the tomato paste, sugar and vinegar and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Add the beef stock, tomatoes, beans, reserved chopped chile, reserved soaking liquid, paprika, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, return the meatballs to the pan and transfer to the oven.
  9. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and the meatballs are cooked through.
  10. Meanwhile, place the chorizo in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  11. Heat the remaining oil in a medium non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring frequently, for 5–6 minutes or until crispy.
  12. Serve the meatballs over steamed rice and top with the crispy chorizo and sour cream. Or, as in our case, some shredded sharp cheddar.

Recipe adapted from one on by Donna Hay


A Healthier Pad Thai

No need to feel guilty when eating Pad Thai. By making a few simple changes, you’ll enjoy a tasty and healthier version with the recipe below. Part of the plan is to bulk up the serving size of Pad Thai by adding in lots of healthy veggies like matchstick carrots, snap peas and scallions. And swap out ground chicken for the typical beef; then look for whole-grain brown rice pad Thai noodles to add an additional 3 grams of fiber to each serving.


You have a choice of using store-bought Pad Thai sauce or making it yourself, which you can adjust to your own preferences. It might be a bit difficult to find at your regular grocer store, but check out an Asian Mart or order online ahead of time. With just a few clicks on the computer I was able to order a jar of Tamarind paste and it was delivered to my doorstep 2 days later. I liked the fact that I could make it to my own liking—and it didn’t disappoint!


Healthier Chicken Pad Thai

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 8 ounces pad Thai rice noodles, preferably brown rice noodles
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 pound lean ground chicken, preferably organic
  • 2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 2 cups stringless snap peas
  • Âœ cup chopped scallions
  • Âœ cup pad Thai sauce, store bought or home-made*
  • Chopped peanuts and lime wedges for serving


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles in boiling water according to package instructions until al dente.
  2. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid and drain the noodles.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground chicken, and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon until browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add snap peas, carrots and scallions, and cook, stirring often, until the peas are bright green, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add sauce, the noodles and about half of the reserved cooking liquid; stir with tongs to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, adding more of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten if necessary.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Serve hot with chopped peanuts and lime wedges.

*Making your own Pad Thai sauce:


Ingredients (makes 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 cup Tamarind paste
  • ÂŒ cup water
  • ÂŒ cup fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • Lime zest, optional


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the brown sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. (Do not let it reduce any further once the sugar is dissolved or it won’t be the right consistency for making Pad Thai.)
  2. IMPORTANT: At this point, you need to taste the sauce and adjust it to fit your taste. Some people like their sauce a bit more sweet, so if that’s you, add a bit more sugar and simmer for another minute. If you prefer a bit more salty/umami flavor, add a bit more soy or fish sauce. You can also add a bit of lime zest if you like a more pronounced citrus flavor.
  3. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.

Flip the Script

Creamy cannellinis studded with olives and chile flip the script on baked beans (though you can use chickpeas or butter beans instead of cannellini). Roast Cod with Cannellini Beans and Green Olives is one of those throw-together dinner recipes that relies on staples like canned beans and lemons; all you have to do is purchase some fish. You could cook said fish in less time on higher heat, but slow-roasting provides the best insurance against overcooking.


That being said, the original recipe indicated you should cook the fish for 25-35 minutes at only 300°, but after reading several Bon Appétit reviews, many cooks said the temp was too low and the time not nearly long enough. So I took heed of their comments and cooked the cod at 325° for about 45 minutes. It was perfect! (My changes are indicated in the recipe below.)

But I think one of the main flavor boosts came from using homemade fish stock in place of the half cup of water. If you don’t have any, use chicken or vegetable broth, either of which will provide more depth of flavor than just water. And don’t omit those chiles. They add just enough heat and a pop of color to complete the dish.

Using a mandoline (which I should have used) will assist in getting those razor thin slices for the shallot, lemon and chiles. I had to slice down two lemons to cover—with an overlapping pattern—the entire length of the cod; plus my shallots were slightly too thick.


When you go to plate individual servings, drizzle some very good extra-virgin olive oil over everything to bring it all together, lending a creamy silkiness to the dish. To complete the meal we paired ours with sautéed baby spinach with roasted garlic.


Roast Cod with Cannellini Beans and Green Olives

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 4 sprigs oregano
  • 2 15.5-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed
  • Âœ cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted, torn
  • Kosher salt
  • 1Âœ lb. whole skinless cod fillet (substitute haddock, or halibut)
  • 1/2 cup homemade fish stock (substitute vegetable or chicken broth)
  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced into rings
  • 1 Fresno chile, seeded, very thinly sliced into rings
  • 2 lemons, divided
  • 5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Combine oregano, beans, olives, and œ cup fish stock in a shallow 3-qt. baking dish; season lightly with salt.
  3. Place fish on top and nestle into beans; season fish generously with salt. Scatter shallots and chile slices over cod and beans.
  4. Very thinly slice 1 lemon and wriggle out seeds. Arrange slices, slightly overlapping, over surface of fish.
  5. Drizzle everything with oil and roast until fish is opaque throughout and flesh in the center flakes when gently pressed, 35-45 minutes, depending on the type and thickness of the fish. (Start checking at 35 minutes just to be sure.)


  6. Let rest, occasionally pressing beans down into the liquid so they don’t dry out, 5–10 minutes.
  7. Cut remaining lemon into wedges and serve alongside fish and beans for squeezing over.

Adapted from a recipe by Claire Saffitz from Bon Appétit

Mushroom RagoĂ»t with Cheese Ravioli

Great as a side dish or the main course, Mushroom Ragoût with Cheese Ravioli is sure to win over fungi lovers, like us. Though delicious made with cremini mushrooms alone, this one-pan sauce is even more spectacular if you use a mix of mushrooms (wish I would have thought of that before I food shopped.) FYI: All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms.


Our package of frozen ravioli totaled 15 ounces, 50% more than the 10 ounces the recipe called for! It came with 12 large round raviolis, and with four per person, I don’t see how only ten ounces could provide dinner for four diners! Anyway something to keep in mind when making it for your family.

IMG_8559A plate of four large ravioli with mushroom ragoût constituted one serving.

And while the taste was fabulous with an earthy depth of flavor, we wished there had been more mushroom ragoĂ»t. In the future, I will definitely double all of the other ingredients to produce more balance between pasta and sauce—but the recipe below is the original.


Mushroom Ragoût with Cheese Ravioli

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • Kosher salt
  • 2-1/2 to 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
  • 12 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1-1/2 tsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup lower-salt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 10 oz. fresh or frozen cheese ravioli or other cheese-stuffed pasta
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano


  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir to combine, then spread the mushrooms out in the pan and cook, undisturbed, until well browned on one side, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir and continue to cook until well browned all over and any liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. (If the mushrooms are dry and the pan begins to scorch, add a drizzle of oil.) Transfer the mushrooms to a plate.
  4. Add 1 Tbs. of the remaining oil in the same pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  6. Return the mushrooms and any liquid to the pan. Add the flour, thyme, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the wine, and stir until thickened.
  8. Add the broth, and simmer until the liquid reduces to a light sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente, drain, and add to the skillet with the mushrooms. Stir to coat over low heat. Serve topped with the parsley and cheese.


Original recipe by Lynne Curry from Fine Cooking

Cashew Chicken

Who doesn’t LOVE ❀ cashews? I pretty much love all nuts (even some of the human kind), but cashews have a special place in my heart. When I was quite young and my maternal grandfather was still alive, he owned and operated Eddie’s Bar. And in that bar he had this hotbox containing a treasure trove of warm roasted cashews. He knew I harbored a passion for them, so he would sneak me a large serving, along with an ice cold orange soda pop, whenever I’d stop in from playing outdoors. Yes, in those days it was OK for a young child to walk into a bar!

Now, many decades later, I still drool for salty roasted cashews, although I don’t traipse into a bar to get them (however I wouldn’t put it past me.) But I am tickled pink when I come across a recipe that calls for the luscious little fellows. This one however uses the unsalted variety, but because I could and I did, I incorporated the salty ones, and probably more than the half cup listed below 😉


Likely one of the most beloved Chinese recipes in America, Cashew Chicken classically consists of dark meat chicken, sugar snap peas, carrots, and cashews in a light, silky sauce that barely clings to the chicken and that’s fragrant with ginger. Sadly, Cashew Chicken found at your local Chinese take-out is often nothing at all like it was intended to be, consisting rather of greasy, deep-fried chicken in a goopy gravy. Sound familiar? This simple stir-fry takes you squarely back to tradition, thanks to Grace Young.

Keep in mind, as with most stir-fries, make sure to have all of your ingredients prepped ahead of time, because when doing the actual stir-frying, there is no downtime and it goes crazy fast—about 5 minutes total. To add even more flavor, cook your rice with homemade chicken stock instead of water.

Overall, the quantity of veggies seemed a bit sparse so I increased the carrots, snap peas and celery all by about 50%. Being a cashew lover, this was a great week for me because just a few days prior we dined on Baingan Bharta, which also incorporated the delicious nuts!
Did You Know? The cashew fruit consists of two distinct parts: a fleshy stalk in the form of a pear—also called the cashew apple—with a brilliant yellow or red skin’ and a gray-brown colored nut (the cashew) in the shape of a kidney, which hangs from the lower end of the stalk or “apple.”


Cashew Chicken

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
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  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce (for a richer tasting sauce, use dark soy sauce) 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil 
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar snap peas (2 1/2 oz), strings removed
  • 1/2 cup carrots sliced 1/4 inch thick (or matchsticks)
  • 1/2 cup celery sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted cashews 


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and sugar. Stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl combine the broth, the remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine, and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water added vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, tilting the wok to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the ginger and, using a metal spatula, stir-fry until the ginger is fragrant, about 10 seconds. Push the ginger to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken mixture, and spread it evenly in a single layer. Cook the chicken, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Then stir-fry until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through, about 1 minute.
  5. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon oil into the wok, add the sugar snaps, carrots, celery, and cashews, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir-fry just until the sugar snaps are bright green, about 1 minute.
  6. Restir the broth mixture and swirl it into the wok, adding it along the sides rather than into the middle. Stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately over steamed rice, if using.


Recipe adapted from Grace Young