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Mary’s Memo – December 22nd


There isn’t time to order Ina Garten’s latest cookbook, Make It Ahead, but you should be able to get it at a book store before the 25th. Ina, also known as the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network, is my favorite. The concept of being able to make something ahead to serve should appeal to every cook! Thanks to 20 years of running a specialty food store and fifteen years writing cookbooks, the #1 New York Times bestselling author has learned exactly which dishes you can prep, assemble or cook ahead of time. Whether you’re hosting a party, or simply making dinner on a hectic weekday, Ina gives you lots of amazing recipes that taste just as good or even better when made in advance. With beautiful photographs and hundreds of invaluable make-ahead tips, this is your new go-to guide for preparing stress-free yet fabulous meals.

Kale has emerged as one of the most nutritious vegetables of the 21st century. Ina shows us how to use it as a snack food with her recipe for Parmesan Kale Chips. Also an advantage, kale chips can be made ahead, wrapped tightly and stored at room temperature for 4 days.


• 1 large bunch flat-leaf kale
• Good olive oil
• Kosher salt
• Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, remove and discard the hard rib from the center of each leaf, leaving the leaves as intact as possible. Place them on sheet pans, drizzle or brush them with olive oil, and toss to coat lightly. Sprinkle generously with salt and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese and bake another 5 minutes. Cool and serve. Recipe makes 6 servings. Source: Ina Garten Make It Ahead cookbook (Clarkson Potter October 2014, $35.00 hardback), available at bookstores and


For your information, there are only two Thank You, I am Glad You Liked It cookbooks left and they can be purchased at the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce office on Lynn Street on the west side of the square in downtown Bryan. Many of you have asked if there will be another cookbook and at my age, the answer is no. However, I haven’t ruled out a supplement. Stay tuned.


A recent, seven-year follow-up study of almost a half-million people in China revealed good news for fruit lovers: Daily consumption of fresh fruit cut the risk of heart disease by 15 percent and for strokes caused by clots (the most common type) by 24 percent. In a separate analysis the researchers found that compared with those who never ate fruit, people who consumed about 1-1/2 servings-per-day lowered their risk for fatal coronary heart disease by 17 percent and for fatal strokes by 40 percent. One possible reason: Fruit eaters had significantly lower blood pressure.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, December 2014.


The Smith meat-of-choice for major family events, Christmas included, was turkey, even in the middle of the summer. A Christmas Eve tradition was serving baked ham with a macaroni and cheese casserole. One of the grandchildren wanted the recipe for Mother’s mac and cheese but we’ve determined that she didn’t have one and I’ve checked through her old cookbooks to verify. This surprises me because she did follow recipes and wasn’t a bit-of-this-and-that kind of cook. She adapted to new techniques as well. When pressure cookers came on the scene, Mother immediately bought one to do non-acid vegetables. She also used a pastry cloth and cover for her rolling pin when they became available. But getting back to her macaroni and cheese, I wonder what she’d think about its popularity now. I can recall tomatoes in it although my siblings do not and it wasn’t in her Christmas Eve version. So where am I going with this: I’m recommending that you establish traditions of your own that your children will remember when you’re no longer here. Unlike Mother’s mac and cheese on Christmas Eve, the Thaman’s prefer soup and it isn’t always the same one: It may be Scallop Chowder, Shrimp Gumbo or another one we made for the first time like a 2014 five-ingredient soup (6 if you count the cilantro) that Bryan Chief tasters gave rave reviews!


• 1 pound reduced-fat Velveeta Cheese, cut in cubes
• 1 (15.25-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
• 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (I prefer Bush brand)
• 1 (10-ounce) container Rotel brand diced tomatoes
• 1 cup milk
• Fresh sprigs cilantro for garnish (or dried flakes)

In Dutch oven, mix all ingredients except cilantro. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted and soup is hot. Garnish with cilantro. Recipe makes 4 servings. Source: Adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe.


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Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites

Holiday parties... aren't they the best? Great conversation with friends, along with lots of tasty bites and nibbles and drinks. I have to admit, I LOVE eating appetizers for dinner. My husband and I joke around and call it a 'snack supper.' Sometimes, I'll just prepare 3-4 appetizers for us to enjoy for a meal.

Today's appetizer recipe is just perfect for the holiday season - Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites. Sugared cranberries are layered with mellow Brie cheese on top of a crispy cracker. Not only are they festive, but this appetizer is super simple & quick to put together. The hardest part is making the sugared cranberries!


To make the sugared cranberries, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir and cook until the sugar dissolves. This is called a simple syrup. Place your cranberries in the syrup; let them soak just a few minutes.


Then, remove your cranberries to a plate and let them sit a few hours. (This allows the simple syrup to dry, and the cranberries become sticky.)


Once the cranberries are sticky and not wet, coat them with granulated sugar on all sides.


Now it's time for the appetizers! You can find Brie cheese in the deli section of your local Chief. If you're not a fan of Brie, you could definitely sub another mild cheese. For each appetizer, place a thin slice of cheese on top of a cracker; then, top with a few sugared cranberries.



So festive and fun! (And tasty, too!)

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites

Yield: 32 appetizers

  • cups cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • ½ cup water
  • 32 wheat crackers
  • 4-oz brie cheese


1. To make the sugared cranberries, combine 1/2 cup sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat to make a simple syrup. Cook a few minutes until sugar is dissolved; let cool slightly. Add cranberries to simple syrup and stir to coat. Lay out on a plate in a single layer. Let cool 30-60 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and coat on all sides.

2. To assemble appetizers, thinly slice brie. Top each cracker with a slice of brie, and 2-3 sugared cranberries. Serve.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats 

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Mary’s Memo – December 15th


As you know, I haven’t met a tomato that I didn’t like and have one in some form every day of my life! That said I’m calling your attention to Savor the South cookbook “Tomatoes” by Miriam Rubin. Rubin gives this staple of southern gardens the attention it deserves, exploring the tomato’s rich history in southern culture and inspiring home cooks to fully enjoy them in ways you never thought possible. “Tomatoes” includes fifty kitchen-tested recipes as well as wisdom about how to choose tomatoes and which tomato is right for which dish. Commercially canned tomatoes are also used in some of the recipes. Miriam Rubin is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and was the first woman to work in the kitchen of the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York. Author of Grains, she writes the food and gardening column “Miriam’s Garden” for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Stand-over-the Sink Tomato Sandwiches” may be better in the summertime but also appealing with hydroponic tomatoes available now. On a visit to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Rubin and friends dined at Crook’s Corner where they were served a platter of tomato sandwiches, crusts intact, and paved with an inch of Chef Bill Smith’s mayo of choice, Hellmann’s! (There is a homemade mayo recipe in the cookbook.)


• 2 to 3 large ripe, juicy tomatoes such as Cherokee Purple, Brandywine or your favorite slicer (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled if you like
• Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• About 1/4 cup store-bought Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
• 4 slices white bread of your choice

Core tomatoes and cut into thick or medium-thick slices, discarding (okay eating) the ends. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Spread mayonnaise on the bread slices, as thick as you dare. Place tomato slices on 2 of the bread slices; place the other 2 slices on top. Cut the sandwiches into halves or quarters. Pick up one half or one quarter, lean over the sink and devour. Recipe makes 2 sandwiches.
Source: “Tomatoes” by Miriam Rubin, University of North Carolina Press, September 2014; $15.16/hardback.


Scary thought, isn’t it but don’t panic. Chief Supermarkets are ready to come to your rescue! Choose from gift cards in any denomination, fruit baskets in a variety of sizes or made-to-order ones. The bakery has fruitcakes, cookies and fudge. In the deli, choose from cheese and/or meat and cheese trays, cheese balls, dips etc. No matter what you want or need, your neighborhood Chief is ready and willing to accommodate you with name brand and store brand products!


Holiday snacks needn’t pile on the pounds, not when it’s popcorn. This fall, a friend told me that she was popping corn in a grocery sack in the microwave. The concept sounded worth trying except for using a grocery sack. Since the internet has answers for everything, that’s where I went for information about microwaving popcorn in a plain paper bag, actually a paper lunch bag. Chief carries lunch bags and I bought a package and shared them with my friend. To each lunch bag, add 1/4 cup of your favorite popcorn (I used Orville Redenbacher’s). Fold the top of the bag down three times, making sure to leave room inside the bag for the popped kernels. Microwave the bag on HIGH for 4 minutes but stay close by, depending on the power of your microwave, the popping may be done in as little as 2 minutes. Listen carefully and stop the microwave when the popping slows to about 2 seconds between pops. Pour the popcorn into a bowl and add salt and other seasonings. If you’re making more corn, use a new lunch bag. Like regular microwave corn, you will have some unpopped kernels. Spraying the popped corn with a little olive oil will help the salt or other seasonings such as Jolly Time White Cheddar Riffic stick to the kernels.
Source: Adapted from


If you’re responsible for bringing a side dish to a holiday potluck Creamy Loaded Mashed Potatoes will be a hit! All but the topping can be made the night before and stored in the refrigerator until time to bake. To cut fat calories, I replaced regular mayo with light and regular sour cream with reduced-fat kind.


• 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
• 1-1/2 cups reduced-fat Spartan shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided (6 ounces)
• 1 cup Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise
• 1 cup reduced-fat Daisy Sour Cream
• 3 green onions, finely chopped
• 6 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled, divided

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter a 2-1/2-quart baking dish. Cover potatoes with water in a 4-quart saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until tender; drain and mash with a portable electric mixer. Stir in 1 cup cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, green onions and 4 strips of crumbled bacon. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish and bake 30 minutes or until bubbling. Top with reserved cheese and bacon. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish if desired with additional chopped green onion.
Source: Adapted from Hellmann’s website via

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Chicken Cacciatore

Last week, my parents were in town for 5 days for Thanksgiving, and to get their fair share of baby James cuddles. While they were here, we were most definitely spoiled with some extra help around the house. Laundry, dishes, painting, you name it! My mom even treated us to dinner, and prepared one of her mom's most loved recipes... Chicken Cacciatore. Chicken pieces are breaded and fried, then simmered low & slow in a flavorful tomato sauce with green peppers, onion, and mushrooms. The meat is so tender, it falls right off the bone. We always enjoy it served with hot cooked rice and extra bread to soak up the sauce. It's not a dish that we get to enjoy very often, because it's a little bit time involved, taking about 1.5 hours from start to finish. It also requires frying chicken pieces, which is an extra step that usually seems "too much work". We would often enjoy this meal for special occasions and holidays when I was growing up. (It would be great for Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner!) Since I moved out out of the house 8 years ago, I think I have only had it once! It was such a treat to enjoy it last weekend. IMG_8460 I didn't get a lot of pictures of the preparation, since I was actually in the other room tending to the baby, but I did happen to pop in a few times to see what was going on. I am hoping that I will now be capable of re-creating it on my own! Here's the basic gist of the recipe (which is posted below in its entirety):
  1. Saute the veggies; set aside.
  2. Dredge chicken pieces in egg and flour; then pan-fry until all sides are browned.
  3. Combine veggies with spaghetti sauce, red wine, and diced tomatoes; add sauce mixture to skillet along with chicken.
  4. Let simmer 30-40 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Serve with hot cooked rice or noodles.
It doesn't seem so bad when you look at it like that! All I can say is, this took me right back to my childhood. I cannot wait to make this again! I hope to make it a tradition with my little family in the years to come. Another bonus to having my parents in town? We were able to get all our Christmas decorations up! IMG_8459

Chicken Cacciatore

Servings: 6-8 servings

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8-oz package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • ¼-⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1-2 cups all-purpose flour
  • salt & fresh ground pepper pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce, (your favorite variety)
  • 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • ½-1 cup dry red wine
  • Italian seasoning, to taste
  • fresh hot cooked rice or pasta, for serving


1. In a large electric skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and cook until some of the juices have been released, about 2-3 minutes. Add green pepper and onion; sauté another 5 minutes until partially cooked. Remove from skillet.

2. Add additional oil to coat the skillet; increase heat to medium. In a small shallow bowl, combine flour with salt & pepper. In another small shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Dip chicken pieces in egg; then dredge in flour.

3. Add chicken pieces to skillet, beginning with the largest pieces. Turn pieces to evenly brown on all sides, adding more olive oil as needed. Add smaller pieces, turning to brown evenly.

4. While chicken is browning, combine spaghetti sauces with drained tomatoes, wine, and cooked mushroom/pepper/onion mixture. Season to taste with Italian seasoning. Once chicken is browned, reduce heat to simmer. Add sauce mixture to skillet, nestling chicken into the sauce. (The sauce should be at the bottom of the pan.) Simmer until chicken juices run clear or temperature reaches 165*F, about 30-40 minutes. Serve with hot cooked rice or pasta noodles.

Source: family favorite

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Mary’s Memo – Homemade for the Holidays!

Thank you to family and friends who provided recipes and taster-testers at the Bryan Chief. I couldn’t have done this without you!


• 5 to 6 ounces whipped cream cheese
• 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
• 1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon
• 1 tablespoon Major Grey Chutney
• 15 to 16 large medjool dates, pitted and halved lengthwise
• Additional crumbled blue cheese and bacon, optional

Combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup blue cheese, 1/4 cup bacon and chutney in a small bowl; mix well. Stuff each date half with heaping spoonful of cheese mixture. Arrange on serving plate. Sprinkle with additional blue cheese and bacon if desired. Refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.
Sourc e: Annie Watts Food Marketing Services LLC, Roachdale, IN.


• 1 box Crispix cereal
• 1 box Sunshine Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers
• 3 cups dry roasted peanuts
• 3 cups Pepperidge Farm Cheese Goldfish Crackers
• 3 cups thin pretzel sticks
• 1 tablespoon Penzeys Ranch Dressing Mix (to order MSGfree dressing mix, call toll free 1-800-741-7787)
• 1/2 bottle O rville Redenbacher’s popcorn oil
• 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Put Crispix, crackers, peanuts, Goldfish Crackers and pretzel sticks in large enough bowl to mix thoroughly. Add ranch dressing mix, then oil and stir until ingredients are well coated. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toss again until mixture is coated with cheese.
Source: Ann Trentadue, Upper St. Clair, PA.


• 1 pound sliced bacon
• 1 (16-ounce) package miniature smoked sausage links
• 1 cup packed brown sugar

Cut each bacon strip in half widthwise. Wrap one piece of bacon around each sausage. Place in foil-lined 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake, uncovered, at 400ºF for 30 to 40 minutes or until bacon is crispy and sausage heated through. Recipe makes about 3-1/2 dozen.
Source: Teresa Appel, E dgerton, O H.


• 2 tablespoons seasoned dry bread crumbs
• 1 (8-ounce) container baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced (I use an egg slicer to cut)
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
• 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
• 1 cup 2% milk
• 5 whole eggs
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 1-1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend, divided
• 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle bottom and sides with bread crumbs; shake out the excess. Set pie plate aside. In nonstick skillet, sauté mushrooms and onion in oil for 12 to 14 minutes or until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in spinach. In bowl whisk together milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach mixture, 1 cup Mexican cheese blend and Parmesan cheese. Pour into prepared pie plate. Bake in preheated 350ºF oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean (check at 35 minutes). Sprinkle remaining cheese around edge of tart. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from recipe.


• 2 cups frozen shelled edamame
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled
• 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
• 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
• 2 tablespoons plain 2% reduced fat Greek yogurt
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine edamame and garlic in a small saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above edamame. Bring to a boil; cook until edamame is tender. Remove from heat; drain well. Combine edamame, garlic, basil, pine nuts and yogurt in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarsely ground. Add 1/4 cup water and remaining ingredients; process until smooth. Recipe makes 8 servings. Can be served with chips or crudités’ but raw seasonal vegetables are a healthier choice!
Sourc e: April 2014 Cooking Light recipe via Mary Ann Thaman.


• 12 cups dry bread cubes
• 1 stick butter
• 2 cups chopped celery
• 2 cups chopped onion
• 1 tablespoon beef-flavored Better Than Bouillon
• 3 cups water
• 2 teaspoons sage (or to taste)
• 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning (or to taste)
• Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook on HIGH butter, celery and onions in round 2-1/2-quart microwave-safe dish for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Whisk together Better Than Bouillon and water until well blended. Stir in sage and poultry seasoning. Add to dry bread cubes. Transfer to 5 to 6-1/2-quart slow cooker covered with nonstick spray or for fast, easy cleanup, lined with a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner. Cook on High for 1-1/2 hours; reduce heat to Low and continue cooking for 7 additional hours. Keep hot on Warm setting. Just before serving, garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley. Dressing stays moist for hours in slow cooker!
Sourc e: My personal stuffing recipe adapted for slow cooker.


• 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
• 2 chicken breasts (about 1-pound), skinned
• 2 chicken drumsticks (about 1/2 pound), skinned
• 2 chicken thighs (about 1/2 pound), skinned
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
• 1/4 cup ground cumin
• Cooking spray

Combine 1st four ingredients in a large Ziploc bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Combine flour, salt, peppers and cumin in a second large Ziploc bag. Remove chicken from first bag, discarding marinade. Add chicken, one piece at a time, to flour mixture, shaking bag to coat chicken. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour; lightly coat each piece with cooking spray. Return chicken, one piece at a time to flour mixture, shaking bag to coat chicken. Remove from bag, shaking off excess flour. Place chicken on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly coat chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 450ºF for 35 minutes or until done, turning after 20 minutes.
Source: My via Mary Ann Thaman


• 8 boneless, skinless thighs
• Cooking spray
• Garlic clove, minced
• 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 cup medium-hot salsa
• 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Mix garlic, salt, pepper and ground cumin together. Rub on each thigh. Cook chicken until brown on both sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to oblong 9x13-inch glass baking dish. Top with salsa and cheese. Bake until cheese starts to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Sourc e: Recipe adapted from, the world’s favorite recipe web site.



• 2-1/2 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into squares and chilled
• 4 to 8 tablespoons ice water (I used 6)


• 1 cup Gold Medal all-purpose flour
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
• 1/2 cup butter, softened

Pumpkin Filling

• 2 large eggs
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
• 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
• 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In medium bowl, mix first 3 crust ingredients together with whisk. Add cold butter and toss to coat. U sing a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut in the butter, working until mixture looks like a coarse meal (I did in food processor, pulsing on and off). Add 4 tablespoons of the ice water. Stir with a wooden spoon. If it is still too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until dough comes together. Pat into a flat round. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile heat oven to 350ºF. In a small bowl, make Streusel by stirring together first 4 ingredients, then rubbing butter into the mixture until it clumps together. Place in freezer. Roll crust dough into large rectangle. Place on foil-lined 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl beat pumpkin filling ingredients with a whisk. Spread over crust. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until set (I baked for 45 minutes). Cut into 16 servings.
Source: Adapted from Betty Crocker recipe.


• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon corn syrup
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 3 large, slightly firm peeled peaches, chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes or until peaches are very tender, stirring frequently. Place peach mixture and lemon juice in food processor; process until smooth. Refrigerate 1 hour. Stir in cream. Divide peach mixture among 8 (4-ounce) popsicle molds. Top with lid and insert a craft stick into center of each mold; freeze 6 hours or until thoroughly frozen. Note: I bought online Tovolo BPA-free popsicle molds, set of 6, for $12.99. E ach holds 6-ounces of mixture so my pops were bigger. If you don’t have popsicle molds of any kind, freeze mixture in paper cups and when mixture is slightly frozen, insert craft stick.
Source: August 2014 Cooking Light magazine.


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Mary’s Memo – December 8th


Trust me, anyone who likes to cook will appreciate a cookbook and I have several new ones for you to order from Amazon. com. You can also have them shipped directly to the recipient. The first one is Flourless, Recipes for Naturally Gluten-Free Desserts by Nicole Spiridakis (Chronicle Books, September 2014; Hardback/$27.95). Flourless is filled with more than 75 naturally gluten-free, decadent desserts. Nicole Spiridakis is a writer, recipe developer and wedding cake baker. She contributes regularly to NPR’s online column, Kitchen Window, and has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Washington Post and Backpacker magazine.

In Pork by Cree LeFavour (Chronicle Books, October 2014; Hardback/$27.50), more than 145 recipes demonstrate pork’s versatile character. These recipes feature all parts of the pig, from belly, chops, ribs and neck to larger cuts such as shanks, steaks and hams. Cree LeFavour grew up on a ranch in Idaho. She is a cookbook author of three books including Poulet and Fish (also published by Chronicle Books).

Greens + Grains, Recipes for Deliciously Healthful Meals (Chronicle Books, December 2014; Softback/$19.95) by Molly Watson features creative meals for all occasions that pair a green with a grain such as beets + barley, kale + faro and arugula + quinoa. If you aim to eat healthier and at the same time love a dinner that tastes amazing, looks sophisticated and comes together in an hour, this book is for you! And you don’t need to know how to cook greens or grains already; this book will teach you the best methods to use for each type. Molly Watson is a food editor and writer whose pieces regularly appear on the Local Foods site for, in Edible San Francisco, as well as Elle, The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She honed her serious recipe development at Sunset magazine. Greens + Grains is her first book.

To Cook is To Love as told to John Verlinden by Mami Aida (Langdon Street Press May 1, 2014; Softcover/$21.99) is about modern Cuban cuisine, interweaving healthier meals with Cuban history and culture. Traditional dishes like Arroz con Pollo are reinterpreted with attention to nutrition without sacrificing flavor. To Cook is To Love makes Latin food accessible to chefs of all levels, with 200 easy-to-follow recipes that are accompanied by information boxes about the ingredients, cooking methods and presentation. Readers will not want to leave Mami Aida’s table until they’ve heard her inspiring story and tasted every delicious dish!

The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary (, November 2014; Softback/$24.95) is a delicious cookbook of over 200 recipes from plain to intensely rich that can easily be made in your kitchen. Geary teaches baking and cooking classes at more than 100 schools across North America every year. He is a food journalist and the author of 5 cookbooks.



• 2-1/2 cups peanut butter sandwich cookie crumbs
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted


• 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
• 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
• 4 eggs
• 8-ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
• 1 cup creamy peanut butter
• 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks


• 1 cup sour cream
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
• 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks

Crust: In bowl, combine cookie crumbs, flour and butter. Press into 13x9-inch baking pan lined with foil; freeze. Filling: In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until very smooth, for 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. With the mixer running, pour in melted chocolate in a steady stream. Mix in peanut butter, lemon juice and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chunks by hand. Pour over frozen crust, smoothing out to sides of pan. Bake in preheated oven until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on counter for 10 minutes (do not turn oven off). The cake will sink slightly.

Topping: In a bowl, combine sour cream, sugar, peanut butter, lemon juice and vanilla. Pour into center of cooled cake and spread out to edges. Sprinkle with chocolate chunks. Bake 5 minutes more. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours before cutting into bars. Recipe makes 10 to 12 bars.
Source: The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary (, November 2014; Softback/$24.95.

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Sugar Cookie Party Mix

It's December 1... time to get in the holiday baking spirit! I love to bake, especially at Christmas-time. Each year, I like to gift my friends and family with homemade treats. Usually, I do a big spread of cookies and divide them up into tins, but this year I might keep it more simple. (In the past 12 days with a newborn, I have learned that simple is key. Haha.)

This Sugar Cookie Party Mix would make a great easy gift for anyone on your Christmas list. Crunchy Chex cereal is flavored with the classic flavors of sugar cookies - vanilla extract, almond extract, and of course, you can't forget the red & green sprinkles! It's also got a layer of white chocolate to add an extra pop of sweetness.


A few bonuses about this recipe - it's gluten-free and can be made in the microwave! Start by measuring your Chex cereal into a bowl. I used a mixture of Corn and Rice Chex to keep it gluten-free. (If you use Wheat Chex, just be aware that it won't be gluten-free.)


In a microwaveable bowl, combine some butter, sugar, and corn syrup; microwave at 30-second intervals until bubbly and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla extract and almond extract; then toss with the cereals to coat. Microwave the big bowl of coated cereal for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through; then toss with a bit of powdered sugar, and spread out onto a large baking sheet.


Now it's time for the white chocolate. Ghirardelli is my favorite, but you can also use white almond bark. Melt it in a pastry bag or ziploc bag on medium power at 30-second intervals until melted. Then, drizzle all over the cereal mixture on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with red & green sprinkles, and give them a little bit of a toss to coat. IMG_8153



Let the cereal sit for 20-30 minutes for the white chocolate to harden; then break up into little chunks and snack away!


Tastes just like a sugar cookie... so good!


Sugar Cookie Party Mix

Yield: 12 cups

  • 6 cups Chex cereal (Rice or Corn)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • cups white melting chips
  • ¼ cup holiday sprinkles


1. Add cereal to a large microwaveable bowl. Prepare a large baking sheet by lining with parchment paper or foil.

2. Place the butter in a 2-cup microwaveable measuring cup. Heat in microwave until melted. Add sugar and corn syrup; microwave uncovered at 30 second intervals until slightly bubbly and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Pour over cereal in large bowl; mix to coat evenly.

3. Microwave cereal mixture for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through to mix. Sprinkle with powdered sugar; mix well. Spread onto prepared baking sheet to cool.

4. Melt white melting chips on medium power in microwave at 30 second intervals until smooth. Drizzle over cereal mixture; top with holiday sprinkles. Stir cereal mixture around on pan to evenly coat the white chocolate on all the cereal pieces. Let set to harden. Store in airtight container.

Source: adapted from Chex

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Mary’s Memo – December 1st


A gift that always pleases a cook, man or woman, is a cookbook and this week Food, Family and Traditions, Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances by Lynn Kirsche Shapiro celebrates the resilience and courage of holocaust survivors through food and stories. This book chronicles the story of one Hungarian-Czech Jewish family who survived the holocaust, then emigrated from Eastern Europe to the US, weaving new family traditions and stories, and celebrating the spirit of Eastern European Jewish traditions. Through telling the story of her father and mother, Sandor and Margot Kirsche (founders of Hungarian Kosher Foods, the largest all-kosher supermarket in the Midwest), and presenting their never-before-published family recipes, the voice of one family becomes the voice of many who lived in that time. In addition, this book also attempts to give a picture of the richness of Jewish life prior to the holocaust. Author Lynn Kirsche Shapiro loves to cook. She learned the art from her parents, passing that love on to her children and now grandchildren as well as sharing her family story for years at Jewish organizations. She has also played an integral role in her parent’s business in Skokie, IL.

Candied Carrots is traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The recipe follows:


• 1 tablespoon oil
• 1 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced horizontally
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons flour
• 1 cup water
• Pinch of salt

Place oil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add carrots and sugar. Cover and cook slowly on very low heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid reduces, approximately 1 hour. Meanwhile, in a small separate bowl, stir flour into 1/4 cup water, mixing until smooth. Add the remaining water, stirring to mix. Add flour-water mixture slowly to cooked carrots, stirring; add the salt. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Decrease heat to low, stirring gently so as not to break carrots, and stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Serve warm or at room temperature. Recipe makes 4 to 6 servings. Source: Recipe from Food, Family and Tradition, Hungarian Kosher Recipes and Remembrances by Lynn Kirsche Shapiro (Cherry Press/August 2014; hardcover/$35.00).

Someone who formerly lived in Bryan referred to me as the “casserole queen” because I shared so many casserole recipes in Mary’s Memo. I’m guilty as charged and so excited about Sunday Casseroles, Complete Comfort in One Dish by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books, fall, 2014; softback/$24.95). Casseroles conjure up images of hearty, comforting meals shared with family or friends. Every dish in this cookbook is designed to look as enticing as it tastes such as Baked Risotto with colorful chunks of butternut squash and prosciutto. Cooked in the oven, rice is as tender as classic risotto.


• 3 cups peeled diced butternut squash
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground pepper
• 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
• 3-3/4 reduced sodium chicken broth
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1-1/2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips about 1/4 inch by 3 inches
• 1 cup Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
• 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage plus 3 or 4 springs for garnish

Arrange racks in the center and lower third of oven and preheat to 375ºF. Generously butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish and have 2 rimmed baking sheets ready. Spread squash in one of the baking sheets and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Spread the rice in the prepared baking dish and place the dish on the other baking sheet. Heat the chicken broth and butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat until the broth comes to a boil. Carefully pour the hot broth over the rice. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil. Place baking sheet with the rice on the middle oven rack and the one with the squash on the lower rack. Roast the squash, stirring every 10 minutes, until soft when pierced with a sharp knife and golden brown around the edge, about 35 minutes. At the same time, cook the rice until the liquid has been absorbed, about 40 minutes. While squash and rice are in the oven, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat and sauté the prosciutto, stirring often, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. When done, remove the squash and the risotto from the oven. Carefully remove foil from baking dish and stir in a 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and chopped sage. Gently stir in roasted butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Garnish the center of the risotto with the  sage sprigs and sprinkle with sautéed prosciutto. Serve with the remaining Parmesan cheese for sprinkling. Recipe serves 6 as a side dish and 4 as a main dish.

Betty Rosbottom has been a cooking teacher, syndicated columnist, and PBS host and cookbook author for two decades. She is the author of Sunday Brunch, Sunday Roasts, Sunday Soups, The Big Book of Backyard Cooking and Coffee (all published by Chronicle Books). She blogs at

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Turkey Tetrazzini

Lots of excitement in the Anderson household this week... our sweet baby boy was born on Tuesday morning! Let me introduce you to James Benjamin Anderson. He has captured our hearts and we are completely smitten!


Needless to say, I haven't really been concerned with cooking much this week... I'm spending all my time cuddling my little guy. Thankfully, I stored up this Turkey Tetrazzini in the freezer a few weeks ago. It's a great way to use up leftover Thanksgiving turkey, and a tasty all-in-one meal.

A creamy mushroom sauce (similar to cream of mushroom soup, but better because it's homemade) is combined with shredded turkey, peas, spaghetti noodles, and lots of cheese. The whole casserole is then baked with a crispy panko topping.

Start with the sauce - saute mushrooms in some butter until tender; then add some wine, and simmer a bit to reduce the wine. Whisk in some flour to thicken the sauce; then gradually whisk in some chicken stock. Stir in some cream cheese, and stir until smooth.

Stir in leftover shredded turkey (rotisserie chicken works well, too!), peas, bacon, monterey jack, and Parmesan cheese.


Add in your cooked spaghetti noodles, and stir everything to combine, adding additional chicken stock as needed. (I think I used about 1-2 cups. It should be the consistency of cream of mushroom soup.)


Spread it into a 9x13-inch baking dish, and top with panko bread crumbs. Bake at 350*F for 20 minutes until warmed through, and panko crumbs are golden.


I somehow missed snapping a pic of the finished product, but it was delicious! A great hearty meal on a too cold day.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Yield: One 9x13-inch pan

  • 1-lb thin spaghetti noodles, broken in half
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-lb sliced mushrooms
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 8-oz package cream cheese
  • 3 cups leftover cooked turkey, shredded
  • cups frozen peas
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • additional chicken stock, for thinning the sauce
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs


1. Cook pasta until al dente. (Not quite all the way because it will continue cooking in the oven.) Drain, rinse, and set aside.

2. In a large pot or saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add mushrooms and salt; cook about 5 minutes until golden brown. Add wine and simmer until wine reduces by half.

3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until the mixture turns golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and stir until the sauce thickens, another few minutes.

4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add cream cheese to the pot and stir to melt. (It might take a little bit, no worries!) Add the turkey, peas, bacon, and cheeses; stir to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the cooked spaghetti noodles and stir to combine, adding additional chicken broth as needed. (The sauce should be the consistency of canned cream soup.)

5. Transfer the mixture to a greased 9x13-inch pan or large casserole dish. Sprinkle with panko crumbs. Bake at 350*F for 20 minutes until the casserole is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown.

Source: adapted from the Pioneer Woman

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Mary’s Memo – November 24th


Just in time for the holiday season, Best of Bridge Holiday Classics, 225 Recipes for Special Occasions comes to the rescue! In 1975, at a weekend getaway, eight Calgary women friends had an idea: Since a consistent highlight of their decade-old bridge group was the food they prepared and enjoyed together, perhaps they should think about writing a cookbook. This spur-of-the-moment notion was the impetus for The Best of Bridge, which went on to become one of the most successful cookbooks in Canadian publishing. Due to overwhelming interest, the Bridge ladies have a new collection of holiday classics from best roasts and other special entrees to fabulous recipes for holiday buffets and potlucks. As always, the ladies promise you simple recipes with gourmet results. What makes this collection extra special is a chapter on Leftovers devoted to transforming unused food into a second delicious meal and another one on Food Gifts because nothing says “happy holidays” more than a gift from scratch!

One of the entrees is Christmas Morning Wife-Saver, a brunch dish that can be made the night before so you can enjoy the holiday morning as well.


• 16 slices white bread, crusts removed
• Slices of Canadian bacon or ham
• Slices of sharp (old) Cheddar cheese
• 6 eggs
• 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1/4 cup minced onion
• 1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
• 1 to 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 3 cup milk
• Dash Tabasco
• 1/2 cup butter
• Crushed corn flake crumbs

Put 8 pieces of bread in a buttered 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Add pieces to cover dish entirely. Cover bread with thinly sliced bacon. Top with slices of Cheddar cheese. Cover with slices of bread. In a bowl, beat eggs and pepper, Worcestershire, milk and Tabasco. Pour over bread, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, melt butter and pour over top. Cover with cereal. Bake at 350ºF, uncovered, 1 hour. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh fruit. Serves 8.
Source: Best of Bridge Holiday Classics, October 15, 2014 (, $29.95/spiral bound hardback).


Every month there seems to be a new “superfood” that is promoted heavily on the Internet and TV talk shows and endorsed by semi-celebrities. Coconut oil is extracted from the “meat” inside the hard-shelled fruit of the coconut palm. Like lard, it is solid at room temperature and has a long shelf life which makes it attractive for many kinds of food processing and baking. In fact coconut oil is the most concentrated food source of saturated fat, even more so than butter. In the 1980s a media campaign demonized coconut and other tropical oils and blamed them for heart attacks because of their saturated fat. Now the tide has turned so much that proponent’s claim coconut oil is actually downright medicinal. It is said to promote weight loss; prevent heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other chronic diseases. Such grand claims about a food supplement should always provoke a skeptical reaction.
While coconut oil didn’t deserve its bad reputation, it also doesn’t deserve its new stardom as a health food. Don’t buy the hype that it will keep you healthy and slim or that it can treat or prevent chronic diseases. It’s fine to cook with it, though we recommend olive, canola and other non-tropical oils for regular use. It’s also okay to buy foods that contain coconut oil, but don’t think that makes them healthy choices.
Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, November 2014.


Many people think sandwiches are the best way to eat the leftover turkey (Daddy used to say it was cheaper than bologna) but in Smith and Thaman households today, making turkey soup has become a ritual following the meal. Before the dishes are tackled, remaining meat is cut away from the carcass and refrigerated, reserving some for the soup. The rest is put in a 5 to 6-quart slow cooker, adding water (I usually add 8 cups but the amount depends on the size of the carcass), cover and cook on low heat until meat clinging to the bones falls away. This will take several hours or overnight, depending on when your meal is served. Then broth is strained and what remains discarded. Strained broth is chilled in the refrigerator and solidified fat removed. At this point soup can be made or broth frozen to use later. In a large stock pot heat broth with chopped carrots, celery and onions. Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are almost tender. Then add poultry seasoning, sage, salt and pepper to taste, rice or noodles and cook until rice or pasta is done. Just before soup is ready to eat, add cubed turkey meat and chopped fresh parsley (or dry). For a more decadent soup, add some of the giblet gravy to the broth. Bon Appetit!

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