All posts by LynnHoll

About LynnHoll

I have been an artist and designer all my life incorporating graphic design for websites, gardens, publications, fabrics, interior design and cooking. I am now retired from my professional job, but still create artistic visions in all forms on a daily basis.

Calling this Decadent is an Understatement

Chocolate Cappuccino Cheesecake. Sinfully rich and velvety smooth—no, that’s not describing me by any stretch—but it sure is the correct moniker for this cheesecake! When you want to impress, this dessert kicks it up a notch and scales a mountainside…

To set the stage, we were invited to the home of friends, Pat and Charlie, who we generally only see in the summertime at the community pool. But we had them over to our humble abode after the pool closed for the season; and a few months later, we received a reciprocal invitation to visit them at their house.

They are well aware we are foodies, because it was often the topic of conversation during our pool get-togethers. For this gathering, Pat designated me as the dessert chef and gave me free reign on what to make, so I channeled something chocolatey, and impressive—it was the holiday season after all.


I hadn’t made cheesecake in a few years and I was debating about the wisdom of baking it in a water bath; in the end I opted not to. A word to the wise, if you do, make sure to wrap the springform pan in tinfoil first so that no water leaks into the crust. Speaking of the crust, after looking at the ingredients, I felt there wasn’t enough substance to entirely line the pan bottom and sides, so I doubled the crust, and was glad I did (the ingredients listed below are for double the original amounts).


When prepping, the key is room temperature for dairy ingredients and eggs. Even though I left the stick of butter on the counter overnight, it still was too firm to mix easily with the cookie crumbs. Therefore I plopped the butter in the crumb bowl and zapped it all in the microwave for 30 seconds, perfect!

Don’t start wailing and gnashing your teeth when you pull the cheesecake out of the oven and the center is still jiggly and starting to deflate some. It will firm up after its long rest in the fridge. Leave it in the springform pan covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, at least 12 hours. When ready to remove the pan, always dip the knife in HOT water and wipe it off before make another attempt at loosening the cake.

It was around 24 hours later that I removed the cheesecake from the fridge and freed it from the metal collar. Unfortunately it had developed a few cracks, but I was undeterred because it was going to be topped with whipped cream swirls, dusted with cocoa powder and enhanced with the chocolate leaves. Then into a cake saver it went and we transported it to Pat and Charlie’s.

After we toured their lovely house, we retreated to their comfortably finished basement (all Charlie’s doing) for some wine, conversation and a charcuterie platter. And before long, more food, in the form of stuffed mushrooms and loaded nachos appeared. We scarfed those down in no time! Then, of course, dessert is the natural follow up, so out came the cheesecake… “One of THE BEST cheesecakes I’ve ever had!” was one comment…


I brought along one of my favorite cake servers, the high heel with the removable magnetic heel for easy serving.

Chocolate Cappuccino Cheesecake

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print



  • 1 9-oz. package Famous chocolate wafers, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon


  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp. whipping cream
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso granules dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup coffee flavored liqueur
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. coffee-flavored liqueur
  • Optional—1 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (to create leaves)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter one 9 or 10 inch springform pan.
  2. Using a small food processor, grind the cookie wafers into crumbs.
  3. Combine the chocolate wafer crumbs, softened butter, 4 tablespoons white sugar, and the cinnamon. Mix well and press mixture into the buttered springform pan along the bottom and partially up the sides, set aside.
  4. In a medium sized bowl beat the softened cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup white sugar mixing until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat at low speed until very smooth.
  5. Melt the 8 ounces semisweet chocolate with 2 tablespoons whipping cream in a pan or bowl set over boiling water, stir until smooth.
  6. Add chocolate mixture to cream cheese mixture and blend well. Stir in sour cream, salt, coffee, 1/4 cup coffee liqueur, and vanilla; beat until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

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  7. Bake in the center of oven at 350°F for 50 minutes. Center will be soft but will firm up when chilled. Do not over bake.
  8. Leave cake in oven with the heat turned off and the door ajar for 45 minutes. Remove cake from oven.
  9. Refrigerate in the springform pan covered with plastic wrap overnight, at a minimum of 12 hours. (Mine was in for 24 hours.)
  10. Use a knife to loosen the cheesecake from the edges of the pan, dipping in hot water with each stroke. Do the same for the bottom after removing the outer rim (or leave the bottom on like I did). Move to a serving platter.
  11. Using a pastry bag, top cake with swirls of flavored whipped cream and garnish with chocolate leaves.

To Make Flavored Whipped Cream: Beat whipping cream until soft peaks form, then beat in 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar and 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur.

To Make Chocolate Leaves: Melt 1 ounce semisweet chocolate in a pan or bowl set over boiling water, (or microwave in short 30-second spurts) stir until smooth. Brush real non-toxic plant leaves (such as orange or kaffir lime leaves) on one side with melted chocolate. Freeze until firm and then peel off leaves. Freeze chocolate leaves until needed.


Cigdem Buke Ugur

Comfort(food) and Joy

Milk-Braised Pork with Lemon and Sage—A genius technique from a favored chef, Molly Stevens, resulting in tender meat from whole milk which also transforms into a uniquely concentrated sauce. This variation is an alternative to her garlic-studded pork.


A perfect foil for a cold, rainy/snowy Sunday afternoon. Turkey Day was over, the house was fully decorated for the upcoming Christmas Holidays, so we hunkered down and spent a lazy afternoon making homemade Turkey and Vegetable Soup, followed by this wonderful meal.

To be honest, most of our sides were leftovers from Thanksgiving and paired just fine with the pork; although we did steam up some broccoli for a veg boost. I thought the original herb bundle that gets tossed in with the milk was a bit paltry so I upped the amount of lemon peel and sage for a more pronounced depth of flavor (which I indicated in the ingredients list below).

As delicious as the sauce is, you may be put off by its curdled appearance and wish for a creamy-smooth version (we did). If that’s the case, put the finished sauce in a blender with a teaspoon of heavy cream, and whir until completely smooth and a lovely fawn color.

‘Tis the holiday season, so why not whip up this COMFORT food AND bring JOY to your guests!


PS—With our leftover pork from this dinner and some fennel-studded rice from another meal, we made Pork-Fried Rice and amazed ourselves at how good it was! In fact, we thought it was better than our regular version…

Milk-Braised Pork with Lemon and Sage

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 3 lbs. boned pork loin roast, tied
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced; 1 clove smashed
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves; + 1 sprig
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 2 large strips lemon peel
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. heavy cream (optional)


  1. At least 8 hours, or overnight, mix together in a small bowl the sage, lemon zest, minced garlic, 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. salt. Rub the mixture over the entire surface of the tied meat; cover loosely and refrigerate.
  2. When ready to start the braise, preheat oven to 275°.
  3. Gather the strips of lemon peel, sage sprig, and bay leaf and tie them into a neat bundle with kitchen string.
  4. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and scrape off as much of the seasoning as you can. Choose a heavy-duty Dutch oven that will hold the pork without too much extra space.
  5. Add the oil and butter over medium-high heat. When it stops foaming, add the pork and brown it, turning with tongs to brown all four sides, 12-16 minutes total. (Lower the heat if you start noticing black specks.) Transfer meat to a plate.
  6. If there is more than a tablespoon or 2 of fat in the pot, pour off any extra. Return the pot to medium-high heat and add a smashed garlic clove. Stir and heat until fragrant and just beginning to brown, about 40 seconds.
  7. Gradually pour in the milk being careful that it doesn’t foam up and spill over. Insert the herb bundle. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and stir once or twice with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits.
  8. Return the pork to the pot along with any of its juices. Cover with the lid and slide into the oven. 10-15 minutes into the braise, lift the lid to check that the liquid is not boiling too vigorously. If it is, lower the temperature by 10-15 degrees.
  9. After 45 minutes, turn the pork with the tongs. The milk will have separated and begun to take on an ivory color. Set the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape and the milk to begin reducing down.
  10. Continue braising at a gentle simmer with the lid ajar, basting the pork occasionally with a soup spoon, until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°, 35 to 45 minutes more.
  11. Transfer to a carving board with a channel that will catch the juices and cover loosely with foil. Remove and discard herb bundle and garlic if still whole.
  12. While the meat rests, tilt the pot and spoon off the clear fat that sits on the surface of the curdled milk sauce (this was pretty much impossible). Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce to reduce it and concentrate the flavor, around 10 minutes to a caramel color.
  13. If, after only a few minutes there’s very little liquid and mostly milk curds, stir in a few tablespoons of cold water and return to a simmer.
  14. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a few drops of lemon juice.
  15. Optional: Put the finished sauce in a blender with a teaspoon of heavy cream, and whir until completely smooth and a lovely fawn color.
  16. Remove strings from pork. Pour any juices into the sauce and stir in. Cut the meat into 1/4″ slices and serve with sauce spooned on top.

Adapted from a recipe by Molly Stevens

M&M Christmas Cookies

I’d say M&M Christmas Cookies are just about as popular as the much-loved chocolate chip cookie, in every age group. The fun advantage here is being able to alter the festive colors depending on the occasion, such as pastel M&Ms for Easter; red, white and blue for patriotic holidays; and of course the red and green ones for Christmas!

They are so simple to make, taste great, and sure to be a crowd pleaser—or even just a “you” pleaser. When baked and cooled, these treats have a slightly chewy center and crisp edges. To make them very soft, bake to the minimum amount of time.

Oh, and these might just be the ticket to leave for Santa as he delivers his packages on Christmas Eve…


M&M Christmas Cookies

  • Servings: Yields 4 dozen, 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 oz. red and green M&M’s


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a stand mixer, mix sugar and butter until smooth.
  3. Add in the eggs, and vanilla until thoroughly blended.
  4. Add flour, salt, and baking soda to creamed mixture. Blend well.
  5. Remove bowl from mixture and hand-stir in about 7-8 ounces of the M&Ms.
  6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  7. Drop dough by teaspoonful at least 2″ apart onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper (which I forgot to do, so the cookies stuck a bit to the pan). Slightly push a few candies on top of each with remaining 2-3 ounces of M&Ms.
  8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until a light golden brown.
  9. Remove sheets from oven and let cookies sit about one minute to stiffen some; then move them to a rack to cool completely.

  10. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

PB xtraganzas

And if you’re a peanut butter and chocolate fanatic, these festive Peanut Butter and Chocolate Extravaganzas with Ganache Filling cookies sporting Christmas colored M&Ms nestled in the ganache crown, are a must-try. You can find the recipe in my blog “How Sweet It is”, just scroll down toward the bottom of the post. I’ve been making them every holiday season because they are clearly a show-stopping favorite…

Stuff This (or That)

While stuffing is something we typically make at Thanksgiving, and rarely after that, this is one you might want to consider trying over the next couple of months. Instead of waiting until next year, think New Years… Or a special “chase-the-winter-blues-away” house party… Or pairing with a chicken dinner instead of turkey.

The key here is using ordinary sandwich bread “staled” in a low oven to soak up more liquid and make for a better-tasting bread stuffing recipe. It’s best to buy a freshly made whole loaf from your local supermarket bakery, then cut it down to about 11, 1/2-inch slices yourself, and cubed after that. (If in a pinch, yes you could use pre-sliced.)


In addition to replacing the aromatic onion with leeks, this Bread Stuffing with Fresh Herbs recipe includes plenty of herbs—and not of the dried persuasion. Perhaps you might want to even add a dose of fresh rosemary along with the thyme, sage and parsley. And you know that using homemade stock/broth makes all the difference too, generating a wonderful depth of flavor not found in boxed or canned varieties.


Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room—or in this case, the bird (turkey or chicken). To stuff or not to stuff? Using this method, you don’t have to stuff yet still benefit from all of those flavorful juices from the poultry. Breaking down the turkey before roasting allows every part to cook evenly in less than two hours. (Times would need to be adjusted if cooking a chicken.)

Start by deconstructing the bird—the Julia Child’s way “The Re-assembled Roast Turkey”—detaching the leg quarters, boning the upper part and then trussing the thighs. Next remove the backbone (use, along with neck and wingtips) to make homemade stock. Be sure to brine the breast for 6, and up to 12 hours, which keeps it nice and juicy while roasting. (Ours brined for 12 hours then sat, uncovered, in the fridge until ready to start cooking.)



Roast the breast first at 450°F, placed skin side down in an oven-safe skillet, a 30-minute head start and to brown the skin. Mound the stuffing in a roasting pan, placing the partially cooked breast and leg quarters on the stuffing. Reduce the heat down to 350°F after 30 minutes, until turkey (or chicken) is done—about 40 minutes longer for a 14-lb. bird. This method cooks the turkey in about half the time compared to a whole bird.

Just a quick mention about the Homemade Turkey Stock. Use all of the innards (except the liver), the wingtips, neck and back bones from the deconstructed turkey, along with additional parts bought from a Farmer’s or Asian Market. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet with some carrots and onion, and roast in a hot oven until nicely browned.




Finish in a pressure cooker with 4 quarts of water, garlic cloves and celery stalks and leaves. The BEST stock ever! It comes out pretty concentrated so you can dilute it with more water and set aside for Turkey and Vegetable Soup.

Bread Stuffing with Fresh Herbs

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 loaves (2 lbs.) unsliced hearty white bread, cut down to 22 slices total, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for baking dish
  • 2 large leeks, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
  • 4 celery ribs plus some of the leaves, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ cups homemade turkey/chicken broth
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves


  1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 250°F. Spread bread cubes in even layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Bake until edges have dried but centers are slightly moist (cubes should yield to pressure), 45 to 60 minutes, stirring several times during baking. (Bread can be toasted up to 1 day in advance.) Transfer to large bowl.
  3. Heat butter in skillet over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onion, celery, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened but not browned, 7 to 9 minutes.
  4. Add thyme, sage, and pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add 1 cup broth and bring to simmer, using wooden spoon to scrape browned bits from bottom of pan.
  6. Add vegetable mixture to bowl with dried bread and toss to combine.
  7. In medium bowl, whisk eggs, remaining 1½ cups broth, and remaining 1½ teaspoons salt.
  8. Add egg/broth mixture and parsley to bread mixture and gently toss to combine.
  9. Roast the turkey breast first at 450°F, placed skin side down in an oven-safe skillet, a 30-minute head start and to brown the skin.
  10. Meanwhile, mound the stuffing in a roasting pan, placing the partially cooked breast and leg quarters on the stuffing. Reduce the heat down to 350°F after 30 minutes, until turkey (or chicken) is done—about 40 minutes longer for a 14-lb. bird.
  11. Remove bird off of stuffing, and with a spatula, stir stuffing well, scraping up any browned bits.
  12. Let rest on a cutting board for 30 minutes.
  13. Redistribute stuffing over bottom of roasting pan, return to oven, and turn off the oven while the turkey rests.
  14. Carve the bird as desired, garnish the platter with more fresh herbs. Spoon the stuffing into a covered bowl and serve immediately with other side dishes.

Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated


Broiled Salmon with a White Bean, Kale & Bacon Ragoût

Remember the “vegetarian week” I mentioned a few blogs back? Well technically, I was not completely truthful because anything with bacon is NOT vegetarian. Broiled Salmon with a White Bean, Kale & Bacon Ragoût can easily be made without bacon, which is a better option for me since my digestive system goes into battle every time I consume it.

But The Hubs LOVES his bacon, so therefore I went with it—and it adds that much-loved sweet/salty component. It basically comes down to one slab per person that is divvied up into little bits nestled into the ragoût. We purchase double-smoked organic from the local Amish Farmer’s Market sans nitrates, so it doesn’t wreak as much havoc on my innards.

High heat adds flavor fast to the this salmon, which is drizzled with the bacon fat, then seasoned. The hearty ragoût rounds out the dish and adds substance to the overall meal. I’ve posted recipes recently for both ragù and ragoût. Are they the same thing??


Ragù vs. Ragoût:

Let’s get to the bottom of this. Both come from the same French verb, ragouter, which means to stimulate the appetite. Even though they’re both saucy, both hearty and both pronounced the same way (“ragoo”), ragù and ragoût are not the same thing. Here’s the difference.

Ragù is a class of Italian pasta sauces made with ground or minced meat, vegetables and, occasionally, tomatoes. Bolognese, for example, falls under the ragù umbrella. Ragoût, on the other hand, is a slow-cooked French-style stew that can be made with meat or fish and vegetables—or even just vegetables. You can eat it on its own, or with a starch like polenta or couscous or pasta. These very different dishes have one additional, great thing in common: Both are incredibly delicious and satisfying on a cold winter night, so that works for me.

Since I knew the kale would release liquid of it’s own, I reduced the amount of broth to one cup, which was plenty and didn’t leave the ragoût watery. In the end, the meal turned out wonderful with perfectly cooked salmon (although in our broiler it takes almost twice as long to reach a medium doneness); and the bed of kale and beans made a pleasant companion.

And how about that kale? It seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of green (although I’m sort of middle-of-the-road with it). Kale is a proud member of the cabbage family, which accounts for its rather strong, forward flavor that borders (and sometimes tips over into) bitterness. The most common type seems to be curly kale whose bright-green leaves are sometimes curled so tightly it can be hard to chop them. This kind of kale tends to have a bright, peppery flavor that can become quite bitter.


Our fave however, happens to be the Lacinato kale, which goes by many names, among them are Tuscan, dinosaur, cavolo nero, and black kale. Lacinato kale (shown above) has longer spear-like leaves with a pebbled appearance and a dark, mottled green color. Its flavor is deep and earthy—it’s less bitter than curly leafed, with an almost-nutty sweetness.

TIP: Most salmon filets will have a thick and thin end. So that the thin end doesn’t get overcooked, fold it under the thicker portion before broiling.


Broiled Salmon with a White Bean, Kale & Bacon Ragoût

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1/4 lb. thick-cut bacon (about 4 thick slices), cut crosswise into thin strips
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch thinly sliced lacinato kale leaves (stems removed)
  • 1 cup homemade chicken (or veggie) broth
  • 15-1/2 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed well and drained
  • 1-1/2 to 2 lbs. skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 uniform pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon, quartered


  1. Set an oven rack 6 inches from the top element and heat the broiler to high.
  2. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon in the olive oil, stirring occasionally, until the bacon renders much of its fat and starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Use a spoon to remove 2 Tbs. of the bacon fat from the skillet and reserve in a small bowl.
  3. Add the garlic to the bacon in the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the garlic starts to sizzle, about 30 seconds.
  4. Raise the heat to high, add the kale, and sauté, stirring, until it starts to wilt, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the chicken broth and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the skillet, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  6. While the beans are cooking, line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange the salmon, skin side down, on it. Drizzle the reserved bacon fat over the salmon and season with 1/2 tsp. salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper.
    Tuck the thin tails under the thicker portion of the fish for more even cooking.
  7. Broil until slightly firm to the touch, 7 to 10 minutes for medium (the salmon will be dark pink in the middle).
  8. Sprinkle half of the thyme over the salmon. Stir the remaining thyme into the beans and kale and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. To serve, spoon equal portions of the beans and kale onto dinner plates and top each with a piece of salmon. Squeeze the lemon quarter over the fish and serve immediately.

Adapted from a recipe by Tony Rosenfeld found on

Pfeffernüsse? What the Whosy?

Pfeffernüsse—literal translation is “pepper nuts”—not exactly the most appetizing name for a cookie. But if spice is your thing, one bite and you’re hooked. My introduction to these gems was at a recent Craft Fair held by Artist’s of Yardley where I am a member. Guess who volunteered to head up the Bake Sale portion of the event? Yep, it was me. And I don’t even eat desserts or sweets as a general rule.

While I was manning the station, the organization’s coordinator, Bette Sovinee (fellow artist and baker of this cookie) broke up a few leftover spice cookies and put them on the table for guests to taste-test. Folks were gushing about the taste (and smell) and the tactic paid off in immediate sales.

It also got me interested in a nibble. So when The Hubster and daughter Julia came by to bring me another cup of hot tea and check out the artist’s wares, I told them to try a bite. Well, my man could barely contain himself, proclaiming “these are the best spice cookies I’ve ever eaten. You must get the recipe.”  Which, by the way, I had already asked Bette to email to me.


It wasn’t long before we got the necessary ingredients and made the delectables ourselves. Two items we didn’t have on hand were shortening and anise extract, so Russ make a quick dash to the local supermarket. (If you can’t find anise extract, a couple of substitutes are licorice extract or Pernod liqueur.)

While researching a bit about Pfeffernüsse, we found out that the cookies are actually better weeks after you bake them! The flavor of Pfeffernüsse deepens and sharpens with age, so although delicious when first baked, they are incomparably better after a couple of weeks… And supposedly, still better a few weeks after that. So if that theory holds, it’s a great idea to bake them around Thanksgiving to enjoy through the Christmas holidays!

They’re most commonly compared to ginger cookies, but have a deeper flavor profile than most traditional gingerbread cookies. Spice quantities in this recipe are somewhat elastic. Alter measurements to suit your own personal preferences, although I followed it to a “T” the first time out of the gate, with the addition of dunking them into confectioners sugar at the end of baking.

I made the dough on one afternoon but it was too close to preparing dinner to start baking them, so I did that early the following morning. As I was in the midst of taking them off of the baking sheets, Julia came down from upstairs exclaiming “Oh my God, it smells so gooood in here, I thought I was dreaming!” And she’s not necessarily a “spice” girl.

Keep in mind that when Pfeffernüsse are in their “hard” stage, they make a particularly good dunking cookie. They go great with hot tea, coffee or milk—and the dunking helps soften them.

Pfeffernüsse (German Spice Cookie)

  • Servings: Yields about 7 1/2 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


Wet mixture:

  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • ¼ cup margarine/butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. anise extract

Dry mixture:

  • 4 cups flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup confectioners powdered sugar, for dusting


  1. In a heavy bottomed, nonreactive, 1 to 1-1/2 quart pot, combine the molasses, honey, shortening and butter.  Place the pot over low heat, stirring often until the butter has melted, all the ingredients are completely combined, and the mixture is creamy. Do not boil. Remove the pot from the heat, pour the mixture into a large bowl, and set aside and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  2. Stir in the beaten eggs and the anise extract. (As you can see, I forgot to beat the eggs first, mea culpa.)
  3. While the mixture is cooling, sift together the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, black pepper, and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the sifted dry ingredients until everything is thoroughly combined (the dough will be a stiff dough by this point).
  5. Wrap and chill the dough in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.
  6. After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350°. Roll the dough into small balls (about 1-inch in diameter, a melon baller is a good help here). Place the balls on the baking sheets, spacing them at least 1-inch apart, as they will spread slightly.
  7. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 14 to 15 minutes, until the cookies have lost their shiny look and are slightly firm to the touch (but still soft). The cookies may have some small cracks as well.
  8. While still warm, dunk each cookie top down into confectioners’ sugar to coat the heads. Or for a lighter sugar touch, just dust them with the sugar.
  9. Once cooled, store in an airtight container with wax paper between the layers at room temperature. Allow the cookies to “age” at least 24 hours before serving (a few days to a week is even better).

Slightly expanded recipe of that from Bette Sovinee

Casarecce with Wild Mushroom Ragù

It turned out to be “vegetarian week” at our house, and it was quite by chance. When I started culling together the week’s menus, all of the recipes that appealed to me contained no meat, so I thought, let’s go with it.

For starters, I whipped up this very easy Casarecce with Wild Mushroom Ragù. A simple satisfying pasta, this dish hits all the right notes on a cold dark evening. Serve with crusty bread and/or a side salad to round out the meal.


Casarecce with Wild Mushroom Ragù

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 lb. mixed wild mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 11/4 cups good-quality jarred marinara sauce
  • 12 oz. casarecce (other short pasta)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano; more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic,  reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the rosemary, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the mushrooms, and then increase the heat to medium. Cook until the mushrooms begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add 3/4 cup water, and cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 8 minutes.
  6. Add the marinara and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook until the sauce is hot and the flavors have melded, 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot off the heat. Add the sauce and cheese, and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve immediately, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with the parsley, more cheese, and pepper.

Adapted from a recipe by Mindy Fox from Fine Cooking



Non-breaded Eggplant Parmesan, because who needs extra carbs?? There’s not an ounce of Italian in either of us, but for many Italian-American families, Eggplant Parmesan is that heirloom recipe that tends to put in an appearance at most important family gatherings. This simple yet special casserole, rich with silken eggplant, tangy marinara, and gooey mozzarella, pleases meat eaters and vegetarians alike.


Even if your family lineage doesn’t trace back to the Italian Motherland, this comfort food classic is perfect for group entertaining. In its original state, this recipe serves 8 (maybe 10), and is party friendly, but way too much for the two of us, so I cut the eggplant back by half. As it so happened, daughter Julia was an unexpected house guest and then there were three for dinner, but the reduced recipe still made enough for four servings. Julia (who was maintaining a low-carb diet), admitted she had never eaten eggplant before, so she was a bit skeptical in trying it. In the end, we all LOVED the Eggplant Parm!

Oh, and about that cutting the recipe in half, I still used a large 13″ x 9″ casserole dish. This option only produced two layers of eggplant. If you wish to have a thicker stack, use a square 8″ x 8″ or 9″ x 9″ dish instead, which will force you to go vertical with the tiers. It still took the entire 45 minutes in the oven to achieve the lightly golden cheese topping.


  • You can fry the eggplant ahead of time and store it overnight in the refrigerator. Line a rimmed baking sheet with an old clean kitchen towel. Line the towel with paper towels. Put the eggplant in a single layer on the paper towel. Continue stacking the remaining eggplant in layers on top of each other and separated by paper towels. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight. This can be done up to three days ahead.
  • You can assemble the dish, bake it, cool it, and store it in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic up to three days ahead. Rewarm gently in a 250°F oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.

Eggplant Parmesan

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 5 lb. medium eggplant, trimmed and peeled
  • 2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups peanut oil; more as needed
  • 1 32-oz. jar good-quality marinara sauce, or your favorite homemade sauce
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3-1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1-1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese, (about 5 oz.)
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put the slices in single layers between paper towels on rimmed baking sheets, sprinkling each layer lightly with the salt. Set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Put 1/2 cup of the oil in a large skillet, and heat on medium until the oil shimmers. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels.
  3. Fry the eggplant in single layers in batches until light golden and soft in the center when pierced with a fork, 2 to 2-1/2 minutes per side. When the eggplant is tender, transfer to rimmed baking sheets lined with paper towels, replenishing the oil in the skillet as necessary.
  4. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F.
  5. To assemble, spread about 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce evenly on the bottom of a 3-qt. 9×13-inch baking dish.
  6. Pat the eggplant with paper towels, and lay enough slices to cover the bottom of the baking dish in a single layer.
  7. Sparingly dollop 2 to 3 Tbs. of sauce on top of some of the eggplant slices, scatter a generous handful (about 3/4 cup) of the mozzarella over the eggplant, top evenly with some of the basil (about 1/4 cup), and then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the grated cheese and a few grinds of pepper.
  8. Continue layering in this way until the final layer of eggplant is used. Finish with the remaining tomato sauce, grated cheese, and a few grinds of pepper.
  9. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 35 to 40 minutes before slicing and serving.

    Top with additional sauce and grated cheese. We served ours with a side of broccolini.

Adapted from a recipe by Patrizia Auricchio from Fine Cooking

A Wreath Awry

This blog was written nearly two years ago, but with the holiday season coming up, I thought it was appropriate for posting. The idea of it was brilliant, the execution, not so much…

Even though the Christmas season was officially over on January 6 with the Epiphany-Feast of the Three Kings, that didn’t stop us from including a nod to the holiday at our house party a few days later.

I found this Cranberry and Brie Puff Pastry Wreath recipe online at Simply Delicious and thought what an impressive appetizer it would make. Golden puff pastry is filled with sweet cranberry sauce, oozy brie cheese and pistachios that screams “eat me!”

Although a bit lack-luster in appearance, the first piece is sliced off the wreath.

An hour before guests were due to arrive I pulled out the dough that had been thawing in the fridge for the past day. And when I opened the package, my heart sank—it was phyllo dough NOT puff pastry, yikes! Russ said I might as well just throw it in the garbage because I couldn’t refreeze it—and off to the store he went…

Once he got home with the prized package, I only had 30 minutes before company was expected, and the pastry needed to thaw before I could work with it—about 40 minutes according to the directions. Well that wasn’t an option, so to expedite the process, I put it in a ziploc bag that was then emerged into a bowl of warm water. That did the trick for the most part, but because it was rolled into itself, the center panel was still frozen.

With just minutes to spare before the doorbell rang, I was able to whip it together and clean up my mess. After 15 minutes in the oven I pulled it out and found that most of the brie had oozed out into the center circle (known for erring on the side of more rather than less, I likely put too much cheese in the wreath.) Not to be deterred, I suggested spooning the cheese back into the open crevices of the wreath, and my friend Maria Odilia offered her services.



Next we had to slide it onto a serving plate. Without going into too many details, Maria suggested I use a different plate than the one I had pulled out—which actually was the second choice (the first being too big). Once all the drama was done, and the rest of the party arrived, no one was the wiser on the back story, and the wreath got rave reviews from all who tried it… Now if I can only get the presentation down…


  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 2-3 Tbsp. cranberry sauce
  • 8 oz. Brie cheese, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Sea salt


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or pizza stone).
  2. Roll the pastry out to around 1/4″ thick and cut a large circle out of the pastry.
  3. Lay the pastry on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Mark a circle with a medium-sized ball and with a sharp knife, cut 4 cuts into the center circle. (As demonstrated in the video.)
  5. Spread the cranberry sauce around the center “star” then top with the Brie and pistachios.
  6. Bring one point of the center star over the filling as well as bringing the outer edge of pastry inwards. Press the two together and continue until you have a wreath.
  7. Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, then place in the oven and allow to bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
  8. Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 5 minutes then slice and serve.

Adapted from a recipe found online at Simply Delicious by Alida Ryder

A Step-By-Step Pictorial:

Roll out the dough large enough to accommodate a large round plate. With a sharp knife, cut out the circle.

Place the round puff pastry on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Place a small round bowl approximately 4-5″ wide in the center of the dough. Trace around the bowl, making sure not to cut through.

With a sharp knife, slice 4 X’s through the center circle so that you end up with 8 triangles.

With a tablespoon, spread the cranberry sauce in the center all the way around.

Place brie slices on top of the cranberry sauce.

Chopped pistachios are scattered on top of the brie.

Bring one point of the center star over the filling as well as bringing the outer edge of pastry inwards.

Brush on an egg wash over the entire puff pastry.

The wreath is assembled and ready for the oven.

Since the brie oozed into the center opening, it was spooned back into the open pockets before moving to the serving plate. 

Sheet-Pan Sausage Parmesan with Garlicky Broccoli

This dish is reminiscent of a hefty pizza topping minus the crust. Typically in most instances, I would opt for hot Italian sausage over sweet but this one seemed to call out for the latter. And as usual, I made a few tweaks, in this case being the package of sausage was two pounds instead of one-and-a-half, so I used it all. We like leftovers…

Employing quarter sheets about 12″ x 9″, allows you to cook your main course and side dish at the same time in the same oven. Yet there’s no mixing of flavors that would happen if you combined everything on one large sheet pan—albeit, sometimes that is the effect you want, but not here. (That being said, if all you have is a larger sheet pan, go ahead and make the recipe, you won’t be sorry.)


In Step 3, simmering the tomato mixture was supposed to take 15-20 minutes, but mine was thick and ready after only eight minutes, so keep an eyeball on yours. At Step 10, I was concerned about the toppings on the cooked links falling through the open spaces, so I cut them down into approximate 5″ lengths and lined them up in a tight soldiers row.

In the end, the sausage juices will mingle with the tomato sauce and melted cheese, without compromising the roasted garlicky broccoli to serve alongside. A definite keeper!


Sheet-Pan Sausage Parmesan with Garlicky Broccoli

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove large garlic, thinly sliced
  • Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large sprig basil
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For the Sausage and Broccoli

  • 1 small bunch broccoli, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 lbs. hot or sweet Italian sausage, pricked all over with a fork
  • 5 oz. fresh ricotta
  • 3 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced, 1 finely minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped basil or parsley for serving


  1. Heat oven to 450°.
  2. Prepare sauce: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil until shimmering. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, basil sprig, salt and pepper, and bring to a brisk simmer. Simmer until sauce is very thick and most of the moisture is evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes (or less, as in our case). It should be thicker than the usual marinara sauce. Remove and discard basil.
  4. While sauce is cooking, toss broccoli with oil, red pepper flakes and salt on a quarter-size rimmed baking sheet, and place in oven.
  5. Arrange sausage in a single layer on another quarter-size rimmed baking sheet, and roast along with pan of broccoli until golden brown on bottom, about 15 minutes. Flip sausages over so browned sides are on top.
  6. When you flip the meat, remove broccoli pan from oven and toss with sliced garlic. (Reserve grated garlic for ricotta.) Drizzle broccoli with a little more oil.
  7. Return pan to oven and continue to roast broccoli and sausages until the meat is cooked through and broccoli is tender and browned, about 5 minutes longer.
  8. Meanwhile, mix ricotta and grated garlic.
  9. When broccoli is done, remove from oven and tent with foil to keep warm.
  10. Move sausage to cutting board and slice into 5″ lengths. Line the links into a tight soldiers row back on sheet pan. Top sausages with tomato sauce and dollops of ricotta. Drizzle with olive oil and grind pepper generously over the top. Sprinkle on mozzarella and Parmesan.
  11. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, and the garlic is opaque, 3 to 5 minutes. If you prefer, you can broil the cheese to melt it, 1 to 3 minutes.
  12. Serve the sausage, sauce and cheeses with broccoli on the side. If desired, serve crusty bread for sopping up the tomato sauce (although in our case, there was no extra sauce to mop up).

Adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark of NYTimes Cooking

Alpine Linguine

Inspired by the cuisine of Northern Italy, this Alpine Linguine pasta dish features thin slices of caramelized Brussels sprouts and crispy bites of prosciutto, a smoky salty meat. It’s a crafty way of getting someone who thinks they dislike Brussels sprouts to eat them.

Prosciutto is the Italian word for ham. In the U.S., the word prosciutto is used to describe an uncooked, dry-cured ham, which is called prosciutto crudo in Italian. When sliced thinly, it has a buttery texture and will melt in the mouth, and get crunchy when pan-fried, as in this recipe. 

The entire prosciutto making process can take anywhere from nine months to two years. When buying, order it presliced because it is extremely delicate and can be quite sticky. It is often packaged with deli paper between the slices to make it easier to handle the slices without tearing them.

Eight ounces of pasta may not seem like much for four servings, but with the extra ounce of prosciutto and additional cheese that I added (noted in recipe below), it was very rich and very filling. Served with a simple side salad, it made a satisfying meal.

Some acceptable substitutions are: Meat = Speck; Pasta = fettuccine; Cheese = Emmentaler.


Alpine Linguine

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Kosher salt
  • 8 oz. linguine
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups grated aged Gruyère
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto in a single layer in batches, and cook until crisp and lightly browned in places, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cutting board, roughly chop, and then set aside.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the remaining 2-1/2 Tbs. oil. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the Brussels sprouts, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook until browned in places, 3 minutes. (This step was more like 7-8 minutes.)
  5. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  6. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the wine is reduced by half, 1 minute.
  7. Turn off the heat and add the pasta, prosciutto, and reserved cooking liquid. Toss with tongs, adding the Gruyère gradually in small amounts until all the cheese is incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Adapted from a recipe by Ivy Manning  from Fine Cooking

Citrusy-Glazed Pork Chop Heaven

In this Citrus-Glazed Pork Chops with Gingery Bok Choy tasty meal, rich pork makes makes a perfect companion to tart oranges. The bold, bright citrusy sauce demands a robust cut of meat, therefore a well-marbled, thick-cut pork chop with a good fat cap, fills the bill. While the original recipe calls for three chops weighing in at 2 1/2 pounds, I only cooked two with a weight of 1 2/3 pounds, more than enough for the two of us.

A dry rub of brown sugar creates a caramelized layer and lends depth to the pan sauce, and the gingery bok choy adds a delightful bit of freshness. And because we are garlic fiends, I increased the number of cloves by 50%, from four to six large. To round out the meal, you can add a starch such as mashed potatoes, silky polenta, tri-colored couscous, or egg noodles—our choice.

If a recipe calls for more than a few tablespoons of citrus juice, I bring out the electronic juicer, which makes quick work of the task. With this one calling for 3/4 cup, it was a no brainer.


Citrus-Glazed Pork Chops with Gingery Bok Choy

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1, 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 lb. baby bok choy, halved, or quartered if large
  • 2 Tbsp. neutral oil, plus more as needed
  • 3, 1 1/2″ bone-in pork loin chops (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 whole orange cut in 1/2 crosswise, seeds removed, plus 3/4 fresh orange juice (about 3 large oranges total)
  • 4 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. In a medium bowl combine the ginger and rice vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
  2. Trim the bok choy and cut down the middle lengthwise. If large, cut into quarters.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12″ skillet over med-high heat. Working in batches, add the bok choy to the pan, cut side down, and sear on one side until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add additional oil if necessary, and flip to cook the other side until just tender, another minute or three. Transfer to ginger marinade, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover bowl with foil to keep warm.
  5. Rub both sides of the pork chops with the brown sugar and season generously with salt.
  6. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over medium heat. Arrange chops and orange halves in skillet, cut-side down.
  7. Sear, without moving, one side of meat until deep brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the pork but leave the orange undisturbed. Cook on med-low until chops are browned on both sides and orange halves are charred, 4 to 5 minutes more.
    Although the instructions don’t indicate, you should also brown the fat caps. Use tongs to sear the ends for several seconds.
  8. Move orange halves to a serving platter and pork to a plate.

  9. Add shallots and garlic to skillet and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 3 minutes.
  10. Add all of the pork chops and accumulated juices back to the pan, overlapping if necessary.
  11. Add the orange juice and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer, swirling the pan to release any bits stuck to the bottom.
  12. Cover and cook for 3 minutes, then uncover and cook until the pork is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes.
  13. Transfer the chops to a cutting board and allow the sauce to continue cooking until reduced and sticky, 3 minutes more. (The sauce will be ready when you drag a spatula through the sauce and it leaves an open trail, as shown below.) Remove from heat.
  14. Transfer the bok choy to the serving platter. Slice the pork and transfer to the platter along with any accumulated juices from the meat. Spoon the sauce with shallots and garlic, and squeeze the caramelized oranges over the top. Serve with starch of choice.


Adapted from a recipe by Yewande Komolafe of NYTimes Cooking

Spicy Red Lentil and Chickpea Stew

Here’s a vegetarian stew that is so simple to make and takes only a half hour or less to complete before you eat! The humble look of this stew belies its complex flavor: a mix of spicy heat and earthy legumes, topped with a cooling, creamy lemon-flecked yogurt.

If you’re not concerned with the dish being vegetarian, as we weren’t, I highly suggest using a homemade chicken stock instead of a commercial veggie broth—it adds a whole new dimension to the flavor profile. And don’t omit the topping because that zing of lemon adds a welcome bright note.

Whenever recipes call for a 15-ounce can of chickpeas, we inevitably buy the 19-ounce can. Also known as garbanzo beans, they have a buttery, nutty flavor and creamy texture, and are a great source of healthy fiber in addition to being rich in protein, folate and iron.

Now let’s talk about those lentils. Of all the colors of lentils—orange, green, yellow, black and brown—the red lentil proves sweeter and nuttier than its brethren. That’s saying a lot, given that there are hundreds of lentil varieties. Be aware that they tend to become slightly mushy when cooked down, so this variety is often used for thickening soups, purees, and stews. Bingo, that’s what gives this stew its thick base!

It doesn’t make a large amount, so if you intend to stretch it to four servings, serve over steamed rice accompanied by warm naan.


Spicy Red Lentil and Chickpea Stew

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15.5-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, cilantro or sliced chives, for garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  2. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chickpeas and lentils, and stir to coat.
  4. Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are tender and falling apart, 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the yogurt and lemon zest and juice in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve the stew topped with a dollop of the yogurt and garnished with the parsley, cilantro or chives.

Recipe by Erica Clark from Fine Cooking

Try a Traybake (Plus a Bonus Side)

For the main entrée—Chicken and Cremini Mushroom Traybake with Red Pepper Sauce—savory roasted mushrooms and a subtly sweet scallion-accented pan sauce are delicious accompaniments to crisp-skinned chicken seasoned with ground fennel, granulated garlic and dried oregano. Doesn’t that description just make your mouth water already?

If you can’t find ground fennel seed at the supermarket, grind your own by processing a generous 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds in a spice grinder until fine and powdery. And don’t feel that you need to roast your own peppers for this recipe. Just use jarred roasted peppers, they’ll work perfectly well. (A 7.75-ounce jar contained exactly 2 whole roasted bell peppers.)


The chicken, including the breast meat, was soooo juicy and tender, and the combination of flavors was wonderful. And to complete the meal, I promised you a bonus side. This Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Aleppo Pepper hails from Fine Cooking. We just adored the touch of orange zest!

Both of these recipes take approximately a total of 50 minutes and get cooked on rimmed baking sheets at about the same oven temperature—can’t get much easier than that! If you don’t have two ovens, just cook both sheet pans at 450° and adjust the time a little less for the spuds (cover with foil if they start to get too brown).


Chicken and Cremini Mushroom Traybake with Red Pepper Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Tbsp. ground fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated garlic
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1½ lbs. cremini mushrooms, trimmed, kept whole
  • 2 roasted red peppers, kept whole
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, trimmed and patted dry
  • 1 Tbsp. firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 10 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced


  1. Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle position.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the fennel, granulated garlic and 2 teaspoons salt. In a medium bowl, toss the mushrooms and red peppers with 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture and the oil; set aside.
  3. Into the remaining spice mixture, stir the brown sugar, oregano, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
  4. On a rimmed baking sheet, evenly season both sides of the chicken parts with the spice mixture. Place the garlic cloves in the center of the baking sheet, then arrange the chicken parts, skin up, around the garlic; this prevents the garlic from scorching during roasting. Place the roasted peppers around the chicken, then scatter the mushrooms in an even layer on top the peppers.
  5. Roast until the thickest part of the breast (if using) reaches about 160°F and the thickest part of the largest thigh/leg (if using) reaches about 175°F, 30 to 40 minutes. (If some pieces are done before others, remove them to the platter and cover with foil until the others are cooked to temperature.)
  6. Using tongs, transfer the chicken and mushrooms to a platter and transfer the roasted peppers to a cutting board; leave the garlic on the baking sheet.
  7. Carefully pour ¼ cup water onto the baking sheet, then use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Pour the liquid, along with the garlic cloves, into a medium bowl.
  8. Roughly chop the roasted peppers and add to the bowl, then use a fork or potato masher to mash the mixture until almost smooth. (We left ours on the chunkier side.)

  9. Stir in the vinegar and half the scallions, then spoon the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions.

Recipe from 177 Milk Street

Bonus Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Aleppo Pepper


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4 large sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs.), peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grated orange zest


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
  3. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes chunks, olive oil, Aleppo pepper and kosher salt and toss to coat well.
  4. Reserving the bowl, transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Roast, turning occasionally, until the edges of the spuds are slightly caramelized, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Return the potatoes to the reserved bowl and add cilantro and orange zest, tossing gently to combine.
  6. Season to taste with salt and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Emily Peterson from Fine Cooking

Those Who Garlic Together, Stay Together

Garlic lovers take heed, between these two dishes, you’ll use 18 cloves—or more if you’d like…

From the freezer, we pulled the last of our leg-of-lamb purchased from Costco months ago and divvied up into different portions, this one being a 2-pound roast. On what to do with it, The Hubster flipped through our well-thumbed and dog-eared copy of Penelope Casa’s cookbook “La Cocina de Mama” and spotted Digna’s Roast Lamb and Potatoes thinking it would make the perfect Sunday evening braise. After all, having recently returned from a vacay in the Andalusian region, we were in a Spanish frame of mind…

As he read the ingredients, there was a little niggling in my brain that told me we made this dish a while back. Sure enough, I did a search on my blog and found that I had posted the very same recipe exactly 5 years ago to the day, on November 3, 2014. Now that was serendipitous indeed.

In this fabulous recipe, the lamb is first marinated, then roasted with potatoes. Prepared in an earthenware casserole—a cazuela—the lamb dish was once made on festive occasions in village wood-burning bakery ovens in Galicia Spain. Our cazuela was now a seasoned vessel compared to its maiden voyage the first time we made this recipe.

Keep in mind, you do need to prepare the lamb with marinade and refrigerate overnight, so plan accordingly. Then an hour-and-a-half before you start to cook, take the marinated meat out of the fridge so that the oil comes to room temperature. Even though we did it again, we think the next time we will forego browning the cubed meat before putting the casserole in the oven, where it should brown on its own. Eliminating this step could help ensure that the meat doesn’t get overcooked and/or dried out.




In the original directions it does not indicate to turn the meat and potatoes a time or two while in the oven. If you don’t, the spuds might not get completely cooked on the top layer, and become mushy at the bottom. You want to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly cooked and getting happy in the flavorful juices. So I mention to do this in the steps below.


Our side, (yes, another green bean dish), “Green Beans with Garlic and Vinegar” was also from Penelope’s book. She explains vegetables in Spain are typically served on their own as a first course. (We have experienced this first-hand in our travels throughout Spain.) Ingredients such as garlic, chopped hard-boiled eggs, and fried or toasted bread are common additions. They transform plain vegetables into dishes that can become light meals. (Here however, we omitted the eggs.) WOW, so simple yet so delicious!!

Digna's Roast Lamb and Potatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 14 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 8 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp. dry white wine (we used dry sherry)
  • 2 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 lb. baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes


  1. FIRST DAY: In a mortar, mash to a paste one-quarter of the minced garlic cloves with the bay leaves, parsley and a 1/4 tsp. salt.
  2. Stir in 4 Tbsp. of the oil and 2 Tbsp. of the wine.
  3. Transfer to a large bowl, add the meat and stir to coat well. (Or put in a ziploc bag)
  4. Marinate overnight or longer in the refrigerator. (Ours marinated about 30 hours.)
  5. NEXT DAY: An hour-and-a-half before you start to cook, take the bag of marinating meat out of the refrigerator, allowing the oil to return to a liquid state.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large shallow casserole, preferably earthenware (like our cazuela.)
  8. Add the meat with marinade and brown over high heat.
  9. Remove casserole from heat and add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil, 4 Tbsp. wine, the broth, rest of garlic, the cloves, and salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes, uncovered.

    Russ toasted the saffron in foil over an open flame for several seconds then pulverized it with some finishing salt in a mortar and pestle.

  11. Add the potatoes, sprinkle them with salt and saffron (see above comment), and continue cooking another 30 minutes more, turning once or twice until potatoes are tender.

Green Beans with Garlic and Vinegar


Green Beans with Garlic and Vinegar

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 small onion, cut in half
  • 2 fresh parsley sprigs
  • 2 whole peeled garlic cloves + 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and rinsed
  • 2 half-inch slices bread, cut from a French-style loaf, cubed
  • 2 tsp. red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 large hard-boiled egg, finely chopped (optional)


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil with the onion, parsley, whole garlic and 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil. Add the beans and cook at a high simmer for about 20 minutes, until cooked to taste.
    We used shallots and leek greens in place of the onion, plus included parsley stems.
  2. Meanwhile, to fry the bread, heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a small skillet, add the bread and fry until golden brown, turning several times. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Add the remaining Tbsp. oil and the sliced garlic to the skillet and sauté until the garlic is golden, reserve.
  4. When the green beans are done to taste, drain them, discarding the parsley, garlic and onion and place beans on a warm serving platter.
  5. Pour on the sliced garlic with its oil, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with vinegar. Scatter the bread cubes (and eggs if using) over the beans and serve.