Lasagna Stuffed Portabellos

Lent is upon us, and for a lot of people, that means meatless meals on Friday. Fish fries are great, but sometimes it's nice to have another option. Lasagna Stuffed Portabellos are a unique twist on stuffed mushrooms. When I think stuffed mushrooms, I think of the typical appetizer-portioned mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of sausage, cheese, and garlic. Lasagna Stuffed Portabellos are similar, but on a much larger scale. Oversize portabello mushroom caps are stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixture that is very similar to lasagna filling. They're topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and roasted until tender and the cheese is melted. Surprisingly, they were quite filling as an entree! They reminded me a lot of lasagna, just without the noodles. (Which also makes them a great low-carb or gluten-free entree as well.) Start by prepping the mushroom caps. Remove the stems and scrape out all the gills, and place the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of garlic oil and roast at 425*F for 10 minutes to release some of the moisture. If any excess water has pooled around or inside the mushrooms, blot it dry with a paper towel. IMG_9648 While the mushrooms are roasting, prepare the cheesy filling. It's just a mix of ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella cheese, egg, spinach, and some Italian spices (basil, oregano, and parsley.) Spoon a portion of the cheese mixture into each mushroom cap; then, top with tomato sauce and more mozzarella cheese. IMG_9649 IMG_9650 Return the mushrooms to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts. Delish! IMG_9652 Serve the mushrooms alongside cooked noodles with a salad and garlic bread. Searching for other great meatless meals? Look no further!

Lasagna Stuffed Portabellos

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 6 large portabello mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & fresh ground pepper pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ¾ cup finely chopped spinach
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 cup tomato sauce


1. Preheat oven to 425*F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, and scrape the gills from the cap and discard. Place the mushrooms stem-side up on the baking sheet. Combine olive oil with minced garlic; drizzle over mushroom caps. Season with salt & pepper. Roast 10 minutes and remove from oven. Use a paper towel to blot away any moisture that has collected inside or underneath the mushroom.

2. While the mushroom caps roast, make the filling. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg, Parmesan, 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, basil, oregano, and parsley. Spoon mixture evenly into the mushroom caps. Top each mushroom with a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

3. Bake 10-15 minutes longer until cheese is golden and the filling is warmed through.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

Mary’s Memo – March 2nd


Rice consumption is not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, concludes a recent Harvard study of more than 200,000 health professionals whose diets and health were tracked for two decades. There have been concerns about rice because it contains arsenic and because it has a relatively high glycemic (a measure of the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar). The study found no link between consumption of rice, white or brown, and cardiovascular disease, even at the highest intakes (5 or more servings per week) and regardless of ethnic background (Asian or non-Asian). Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2015.

Consumer Reports on Health food-safety experts think that it’s important to eat less of it. Exposure to one type, inorganic arsenic, can raise the risk of some cancers, heart disease and type 2 Diabetes. There is some good news, though: Their latest tests found that white basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan and sushi rice from the U.S. had half the amount, on average, of most other types. Brown rice had more than white, but brown basmati from those areas had about a third less than other brown rice’s. Tests also showed that amaranth, barley, buckwheat, bulgur, farro and polenta (grits) had tiny amounts of inorganic arsenic, on average. Some samples of quinoa had elevated levels, but still far less than the lowest amount in rice. Consumer Reports has been urging the Food and Drug Administration to quickly complete its assessment of arsenic in rice and set a limit. It should also address the risk to children who eat rice-based foods such as cereals, pastas and beverages by setting a standard for those foods. It also suggests that parents consider not using rice cereal as a child’s first solid food. Based on a review of the science, their experts think that the inorganic arsenic be 120 parts per billion. To reduce the arsenic in our soil and water, the FDA should withdraw approval for the animal drug nitarsone, which has arsenic and is used in poultry feed. Pesticides containing arsenic are still being used on golf courses, highway medians and sod farms. That use was supposed to be phased out in 2013 , but it still occurs. Source: Consumer Reports on Health, February 2015.

PS: Consumer Reports in 2014 recommended washing raw ice, then cooking 1 part rice in 6 parts water and draining excess water when rice is cooked. It removes part of the nutrients but 30 percent of the inorganic arsenic content.


The Young at Heart group at St Patrick’s Church in Bryan asked me to speak at their February meeting about cooking for one or two households. At the “git go” I said I wasn’t sure that I was the one to give them advice because I am still struggling with doing this myself. Some things I have learned by my mistakes is that a bargain isn’t a bargain if I can’t use it within a reasonable length of time, especially if it’s fresh fruits and vegetables. After sorting through my spices, I had duplicates because I didn’t take inventory before shopping. Many had long passed their “best used by” date (like 2009). Regarding canned goods, I also had too many of one kind indicating that I took advantage of too many ten for ten sales! The problem is that when I shop I still have the mentality of a mom shopping for a family of 6, a situation that’s been over for a very long time!

When everyone was living at home, I did plan menus ahead and it’s just as important to do it now. Improving with this, I do have a meatless day per week and include fish or seafood in one meal or more. Weekends give me time to make foods ahead for the following week. Early on I either served them to Bryan Chief shoppers or ate them for three days in a row. Now after eating an entrée for a day or two, the rest of the servings are frozen in one or two serving freezer containers and dated (date is mandatory) so they’ll be eaten within a reasonable length of time! Doing these things, there isn’t any reason you can’t have meals you loved as a family, soup included.

In summary, do take inventory of what you have, then plan menus and make your shopping list accordingly and stick to it! Avoid impulse purchases unless you want to allow yourself $5.00 or $10.00 to do this occasionally. If you find yourself with too much of anything in the cupboard or freezer work it into a meal ASAP! Doing just that, I recently made what I labeled “This and That Chili.” Finally, if you have gone overboard, share with a friend or invite them to lunch or dinner.

The soup served to the Young at Heart group was Southwest Cheese Soup made with only 5 ingredients plus dried cilantro flakes for garnish. Meatless, it’s a good Lenten soup.


• 1 lb. reduced-fat Velveeta cheese, cut in small cubes)
• 15.25-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
• 15-ounce can Bush black beans, rinsed and well drained
• 10-ounce can Rotel Tomatoes
• 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
• Dried cilantro flakes for garnish

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

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White Chicken Chili

Back in high school, one of my favorite restaurants used to be Ruby Tuesday. (I still like it, it's just not my favorite.) They have an 'endless garden bar' that is quite tasty, and my mom and I would go for their soup & salad meal deal for just $5.99. What a steal! We would take as many trips to the salad bar as we wanted, and we would both get a steaming hot bowl of their White Chicken Chili. Full of meaty chicken pieces, white beans, and spicy green chiles, it was definitely a favorite. IMG_9618 Unfortunately, Ruby Tuesday has since replaced the White Chicken Chili with a much inferior Chicken Tortilla soup... sad day for us. (Also - the garden bar + soup deal is now $8.99! Not such a great deal anymore!) Luckily, I've discovered a pretty close copy cat recipe, and now I can enjoy it anytime at home. It's just a bit spicy, so if you're not a fan of the spice, dial back the cayenne pepper. Bonus? This recipe makes a LARGE pot of soup, so if you're like me, you'll love eating the leftovers all week. It's one of those recipes that gets better the day or two after you make it. Make it a complete meal by serving with cheese quesadilla wedges, cornbread, or tortilla chips. Start by cooking about 2-lbs of cubed chicken breast until tender. Set aside. IMG_9612 Saute a diced onion in the same saucepan until softened. Then, add a whole slew of spices - garlic, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, and black pepper. Saute about 30 seconds to bring out the flavor; then, add chicken stock, white beans, the cooked chicken pieces, and chopped green chiles. IMG_9614 IMG_9615 At this point, let it simmer about 20-30 minutes. It will look like sludge, but trust me, it gets better! After it's simmered for awhile, add in the sour cream and heavy cream and stir to combine. Now it becomes a creamy, delicious chili! Serve with additional sour cream, green onions, and shredded cheese.


White Chicken Chili

Yield: 8-10 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 (16-oz) cans Great Northern beans, drained & rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 (8-oz) cans diced green chiles
  • cups sour cream
  • ½-1 cup heavy cream
  • chopped green onions, for garnish
  • shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
  • additional sour cream, for garnish


1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it is no longer pink. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil (if necessary) to the pan along with the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, salt, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and cayenne and sauté 30-60 seconds more, just until fragrant.

2. Return the chicken to the pan along with the beans, chicken stock, and green chiles. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.

3. When the chili is finished simmering, remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream and heavy cream.Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve warm, garnished with chopped green onions, cheddar cheese, and additional sour cream.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

Mary’s Memo – February 23rd

Customers may not be aware of it but I keep track of questions I’m asked when working and if it about something new in the produce department or the store in general, I make a note to use it as a topic in an upcoming memo. A new item is fresh organic kale pesto. Usually made with basil, pesto is Italian for pounded and originated in Genoa, Italy. Other ingredients in pesto include garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and olive oil. Today pesto’s are made with many other ingredients from cilantro to kale and mint. As for using the kale pesto in Chief’s produce department, I tossed it with angel hair pasta. I was also asked about the pomelo (pronounced pom-EH-loh) that was in Chief produce departments in late January. Often called the Chinese grapefruit, the large citrus fruit is native to Malaysia where it still grows abundantly. It’s also called shaddock after an English sea captain who introduced the seed in the West Indies. Pomelos may be used any way suitable for grapefruit.

Source of pesto and pomelo information is from Food Lover’s Companion, Fourth Edition, by Herbst and Herbst and published by Barron.


Vegetarian dietary patterns are associated with lower body mass, lower prevalence and incidence of diabetes mellitus, lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its components (abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure and fasting blood sugar, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol levels), lower hypertension, lower all-cause mortality and in some cases, lower risk of cancer.

Between 1974 and 1988 by researchers from Loma Linda University of School of Public Health in California conducted the first Adventist Health Study (AHS-1) comprising 34,000 Seventh-day Adventists from California. AHS-2 followed from 2002 to the present, comprising a 96,000-member cohort drawn from all over the U.S. and Canada. Members were categorized according to their intake of key food items of animal origin. Self- reported results showed a 7.7 percent were vegan (exclude all animal products) 29.2 percent were lacto-ovo-vegetarian (include dairy products and eggs), 9.9 percent pesco-vegetarian (include seafood), 5.4 percent semi-vegetarian (eat animal products/seafood one or fewer times per week) and 47.7 percent non-vegetarian (eat animal products/seafood more than once a week). Notable across the spectrum was the moderate-to-large increase in consumption of a broad variety of plant foods, including legumes, soy foods and meat analogues, nuts, seeds, grains, potatoes, avocados and fruits, rather than concentrated increases in only a few groups. Overall, researchers noted, the study demonstrated that food consumption patterns among vegetarians go well beyond mere avoidance of meats and other animal foods. Specifically, the food consumption patterns are consistent with what are currently considered healthful food choices, as recommended in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Dietary Guidelines are published every five years), such as increased emphasis on fruits and vegetable consumption, decreased consumption of added sugars and solid fats and consumption of whole grains over refined grains. These choices are thought to protect against obesity and some cardio-metabolic diseases and offer overall beneficial outcomes.
Source: Duke Medicine Health News, February 2014.


Daughter Mary Ann says this vegetarian chili has an excellent flavor. It has more ingredients than most of you prefer but chances are a lot of them are ones you have on hand.


1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinse
2 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (like canola)
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 bottle of beer
1 1/2 cups tomato juice or V-8 juice
1 19-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes; set aside. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in onion and cook until onion softens and turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook and stir 1 minute to release the flavors. Stir in tomatoes, juice, beer, black beans, bell peppers, zucchini, jalapeño pepper, chipotle and pepper and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce to medium-low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, stir in reserved quinoa and corn. Cook to reheat corn for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro. Makes 10 servings.

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Bananas Foster Pancakes

Mardi Gras is in full swing down in New Orleans, so we're doing a little Fat Tuesday celebrating in our household! I love any excuse to cook a themed meal - because cooking should be fun! Bananas Foster is a dessert that originated in New Orleans in the 1950s. Bananas are caramelized in a sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes dark rum. They're usually served over vanilla ice cream, but I decided to turn it into a breakfast treat! IMG_9515 My father-in-law makes the best buttermilk pancakes, and I knew they would taste even better with a bananas foster topping. Definitely kicked it up a notch! This fancy breakfast came together really fast - less than 20 minutes start to finish. First, start the bananas foster by melting a stick of butter in a medium saucepan. Then, add some brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Let it simmer until it thickens slightly. IMG_9507 While the sauce is simmering, mix up your favorite pancake batter. (My father-in-law's best pancake recipe is below.) Go ahead and cook your pancakes while you finish the sauce. This would also be good on top of French toast or waffles, if that's more your style. IMG_9509 After the sauce has thickened slightly, slice up 4 bananas and add to the pan. Let them cook another 3-5 minutes on low, until coated with the sauce and caramelized. Add a few chopped pecans if nuts are your thing! IMG_9514 To serve, simply top the pancakes with the bananas foster, and enjoy! A sweet, indulgent treat to start your day. (They call it Fat Tuesday for a reason! ;) )

Bananas Foster Topping 

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 medium bananas, sliced
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, optional


Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook 3-5 minutes until golden and bubbly. Add banana slices and pecans, if using. Cook another 3-5 minutes until bananas are caramelized. Serve on top of pancakes, waffles, or French toast.

Buttermilk Pancakes

Yield: 14-16 pancakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl combine eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Add to flour mixture all at once. Stir mixture just till blended but still slightly lumpy.

2. Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each standard size pancake onto a hot (350 degrees if using an electric skillet or medium heat on the stove), lightly greased electric skillet or heavy skillet.

3. Cook until pancakes are golden brown, turning to cook second sides when pancakes have bubbly surfaces and slightly dry edges.

Source: family favorite

Mary’s Memo – February 16th


There’s a lot of false food information but not so when it comes to chicken soup! It definitely has a therapeutic effect on what ails us this time of year, namely colds and flu. Although I am big on rotisserie chickens, cooking a range-fed stewing chicken, the kind that Miller’s in northeast Indiana raise and available at Chief, is your best bet for stewing. Broth made from fresh meat and bones is loaded with gelatin that gives it a full-bodied consistency. Believe me, there is nothing better or more nutritious than homemade chicken noodle soup!


Humans, like animals, are affected by sunlight or the lack of it, both physically and emotionally. But some people are affected much more than others. During the shorter, darker days of late autumn and winter, especially in more northern regions, they may experience a type of clinical depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can be likened to the general winter malaise and lethargy that many of us experience but is more severe and debilitating. People with SAD feel hopeless for no evident reason, lose interest in people or things they normally enjoy, are fatigued and unproductive, have difficulty concentrating, sleep too much and find it hard to get out of bed.

How many people have SAD? The most commonly cited figure is 5 percent of Americans, on average, though the estimates range from 1 to 10 percent, depending on the populations surveyed and criteria used. At least two-thirds of sufferers are women, who are also prone to non-seasonal depression. In addition, many more people have a milder, shorter lasting form of SAD often called “winter blues.” The symptoms of SAD usually start during early adulthood and tend to decline in older age. Its incidence rises at higher altitudes, that is, with increasing distance from the equator; north and south. Thus only 1 percent of Floridians may suffer from SAD, versus 10 percent of Alaskans. SAD often runs in families, and several genetic factors have been proposed to help explain this. It also occurs more frequently in certain ethnic groups. For instance, while SAD rates are high in Scandinavia, they are low in Iceland, which is also far north. And a 2013 study focusing on the largest immigrant groups in Norway found that those from Iran had a much higher rate of wintertime SAD than those in Sri Lanka. According to the standard definition, people have SAD if they’ve had a seasonal pattern of depressive episodes for least two years, with no explanation for the mood changes and no non-seasonal episodes, and they’ve had this general pattern of depression in some previous years as well. The recommendation: Try to maximize your daylight exposure by getting up and out early, exercising outdoors, making your house brighter, sitting near windows on bright days and taking a winter vacation in a sunny locale, if possible.
Source: University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2015.


A single 20-minute strength-training routine might boost memory, according to a study of 46 young adults conducted at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The participants viewed a series of photos, then half of them did leg-extension exercises. The rest had their legs moved up and down for them by researchers. Two days later, the active group remembered 10 percent more of the photos than the other group. Researchers think exercise might help the brain store memories. Other research suggests that strength training boosts memory in older adults, too.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, February 2015.


Twice baked potatoes are a favorite food and an egg baked on top makes it a meatless entrée!


• 2 medium russet potatoes
• 1 tablespoons olive oil or 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 medium yellow onion, diced
• 3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine (I prefer just 2 cloves)
• 1 cup low-fat shredded Cheddar cheese
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Freshly ground pepper
• Fresh chives (in Chief’s produce department)
• 4 small eggs

Preheat oven to 4000F. Scrub potatoes, pierce them with a fork and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until soft. In large frying pan heat oil or butter over medium-high heat. Sauté onion with garlic for about 5 minutes until soft. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in half lengthwise, scoop out potato flesh of each leaving about ¼ inch shell of potato flesh and skin. Add the scooped out potato flesh, shredded cheese, salt and pepper into the pan and stir to combine well. Place potato shells on baking sheet and fill them with the mixture. Press the mixture with a spoon to make space for the eggs. Sprinkle chives on top and crack an egg on top of each half potato. Bake 10 to 15 minutes until egg is set (whites should be set while yolks are a bit runny.
Source: Adapted from U.S. Potato Board Recipe.

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Baked Alaska

Last week, I shared a perfect "Date Night In" dinner recipe for Valentine's Day - Drunken Chicken Marsala. This week, I've got the perfect dessert to follow it with... Baked Alaska! Flourless chocolate cake is topped with your favorite ice cream, and the whole thing is covered in meringue and toasted until it's a beautiful golden brown. Rich chocolatey cake, creamy ice cream, and marshmallow-y meringue? Who wouldn't fall in love with this dessert? IMG_9384 I will admit, there are several steps, mostly to the cake. Flourless chocolate cake is quite a fancy-pants dessert, often seen in high end restaurants. It's rich and decadently fudgy, plus it's gluten-free. (If you don't want to mess with the flourless chocolate cake, a boxed brownie mix would probably taste good as well.) Here we go! For the cake, begin by melting 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate, in the microwave or over a double boiler. My favorite is Ghirardelli. (Use a big bowl, because this will be the bowl that everything eventually goes into.) Set aside to cool. IMG_9363 In small bowl, add 15 tablespoons of softened butter. Stir it up with a wooden spoon or spatula until it's smooth and creamy, almost the consistency of mayonnaise. (You might get a workout!) Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and mix until smooth. Set this aside. IMG_9364 In another small bowl, combine 3 egg yolks (save the whites!) with 1 egg and 1/3 cup sugar. Whisk until smooth. IMG_9365 In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, place the egg whites you saved from earlier. Whip them until soft peaks form; then add 1/4 cup sugar. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form. IMG_9368 Now you've got your four bowls of different batters ready to go. Here's how they get all mixed together. IMG_9369 1.) Mix the butter into the melted chocolate until smooth. 2.) Mix the egg yolks/sugar mixture into the chocolate/butter mixture until smooth. 3.) Fold a small portion of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it; then fold in the remaining egg whites until thoroughly combined. Whew! The batter is finally done. Spread it into a greased 9-inch springform pan, and bake at 325*F for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Set aside to cool, then place in the refrigerator or freezer. (I made the cake a day ahead and stored it in the refrigerator so it was easier to handle.) Once the cake cools, it forms almost a bowl - perfect for the ice cream! IMG_9373 Next step - the ice cream. Remove the flourless chocolate cake from the refrigerator or freezer and remove it from the baking pan. Soften up 2 pints of your favorite ice cream, and spoon the softened ice cream into the center of the cake, doming it up toward the middle. (I used 'Cherry Garcia' to go with the Valentine's Day theme. Though I thought the ice cream would be more pink!) Return the cake and ice cream to the freezer to firm up again, at least 1 hour. IMG_9376 IMG_9380 When you're ready to serve, whip up the meringue. Place 3 more egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip until soft peaks form. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, whipping until stiff and glossy. Spread over the ice cream and down to the edge of the cake, making sure to seal the edges. Then, using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the meringue until toasty. Alternately, if you don't have a torch, place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Cut into wedges to serve. IMG_9392 Mmmmm, what a showstopper dessert. My husband and I loved this... what a great dessert for Valentine's Day!

Baked Alaska

  • For the cake:
    • 4 large eggs
    • 8-oz bittersweet chocolate , coarsely chopped
    • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • cup, plus 1/4 cup sugar
    • pinch salt
  • For the ice cream filling:
    • 2 pints your favorite flavor premium ice cream, softened until spreadable
  • For the meringue:
    • 3 egg whites
    • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
    • ¾ cup sugar


1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325*F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment, and spray with cooking spray.

2. Separate 3 of the eggs. Place the 3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg in a small bowl. Set aside. Place the 3 egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.

3. Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside and let cool 5 minutes.

4. Place the butter into a medium bowl and work it with a spatula until it is soft and smooth as mayonnaise. Add the cocoa powder and mix until it is thoroughly blended.

5. Add 1/3 cup sugar to the bowl with the egg and 3 yolks; whisk until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

6. Whip the egg whites and salt, using the whisk attachment or hand mixer until opaque. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue to whip at high speed until the whites form shiny peaks.

7. Now it’s time to mix everything together. Add the butter mixture to the bowl of still-warm chocolate. With a spatula, gently stir and blend until you have a thick, shiny, smooth mixture. Blend in the egg yolk/sugar mixture, stirring until they are completely incorporated and the mixture looks like brownie batter. Finally, fold in a small amount of the whipped egg whites to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Scrap the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8. Bake at 325*F for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs sticking to it. Cool the cake completely to room temperature. Remove the cake from the springform pan and refrigerate or freeze at least 2 hours.

9. When you are ready to fill the cake, remove it from the refrigerator or freezer. Spread the softened ice cream into the cake and dome it up in the center. Return to freezer for at least 1 hour.

10. To make the meringue, combine the 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high until foamy. Gradually add sugar, continuing to whip on ugh until the egg whites have formed stiff and glossy peaks.

11. Remove the cake from the freezer, and spread the meringue over the ice cream layer, taking care to seal off the edges.

12. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue, or place in a 500*F oven for 3-5 minutes until the meringue is browned.

Source: adapted from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

Mary’s Memo – February 9th


Ignorance may not be bliss, at least when it comes to calories, so the US Food and Drug Administration will soon require calorie counts for everything from chain restaurants to movie-theater popcorn to vending machines. The rules stemmed from the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, and were initially proposed for 2011, but the FDA delayed the final rules for three years in the face of industry opposition. Compliance will now be required by late this year, with vending machine companies getting an extra year. When the regulations were finally released, they proved much tougher than many analysts had expected. In addition to chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets, calorie counts will be required for cinema concessions, vending machines, amusement parks and prepared foods sold in supermarkets such as sandwiches and salads. Alcoholic beverages on restaurant menus, but not mixed drinks at bars, must also disclose calories.
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, February 2015.


China is the largest producer of garlic in the world and floods the US market with it. Gilroy, California, is the second largest grower and processor. Fortunately, Chief sells USA grown garlic bulbs. But what about dried garlic products? If it doesn’t say California, you can’t be sure it is made with US-grown garlic. McCormick labels say California grown on their garlic products. I checked with Penzeys, a large mail order herb and spice company with retail stores throughout the country, and a representative told me they contract with “selected” Chinese growers for what they sell. It may not make any difference to you but the origin of the garlic I buy is important to me.


Although many of us had flu shots this fall, the one making the rounds was not in that shot. That means additional precautions need to be taken. My list includes drinking plenty of water, eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, exchanging hand towels and kitchen towels daily and having plenty of Purell available for quick hand-sanitizing. Each person in a family should have his own tube of toothpaste and speaking of brushes, I clean mine in the dishwasher when it’s running. My hot water is almost scalding hot so I’m confident that what we refer to as “linens” are sterilized when they’re laundered. It might be a good idea to check the temperature of your water heater.


The “incredible, edible egg” is back ruling the roost with US consumption expected to hit an eight-year high, almost back to the level of 2006, before concerns over cholesterol caused a slump. The American Egg Board reports that consumers have added 10 eggs per capita since 2011, cracking an estimated 257.9 eggs per person per year in 2014. Overall egg production was up 3 percent over 2013. An industry spokesperson credited the “protein craze” for rising consumption. One large egg contains more than six grams of protein and noted that eggs have taken the place at breakfast left by the decline in ready-to-eat cereal purchases. Health-conscious consumers have also become aware that the dietary cholesterol in eggs, 186 milligrams in one large egg, is not the key contributor to unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. A 2013 meta-analysis found no association between greater egg consumption and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, February 2015.


Many older Bryan Chief tasters tell me their cooking days are over or minimal. Because of Mary’s Memo, I do cook more than most people my age or younger. However, because I’m not a fan of convenience foods (except the rotisserie chicken), I believe that as long as I’m physically able to do it I’ll prepare meals for myself. That’s when a 5-quart slow cooker and freezer are my friends. I don’t hesitate making recipes that serve 4 or 6 because after I’ve eaten a portion or two I freeze the rest and they come in handy when I’m too busy or too tired to cook! Having a freezer also makes it possible for me to enjoy favorite foods when we were a family of 6. Regarding this week’s recipe, the sauce is elegant!


• ¼ cup melted butter
• ½ cup fat-free chicken broth
• 8-ounce container Kraft chive & onion cream cheese
• 1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Mushroom Soup
• 1 package Italian Dressing Mix (in the condiment aisle)
• 8 boneless, skinless thighs

Whisk together until smooth all ingredients except chicken. Arrange thighs in the bottom of a 5-quart slow cooker. Pour sauce over all. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour; cook on low for an additional 6 hours. Serve on cooked angel hair pasta or noodles. Garnish with parsley if you like.

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Drunken Chicken Marsala

Anyone else NOT looking forward to going out on Valentine's Day this year? It always seems so overrated. Get all dressed up, wait forever to eat, be rushed through a meal, and then pay probably twice as much as what the meal normally costs, just to say you went out on Valentine's Day? As much as I do like going out to eat, I will always pass on dining out on February 14. (Unless it's getting a heart-shaped pizza, to go of course, from our favorite pizza place.) Instead, might I suggest a fun date night in? Cook a fun meal with your partner, pop open a bottle of wine, and enjoy the entire process. This is typically how my hubby & I celebrate, and will probably be the same this year! (Especially with a 2-month-old, haha.) Drunken Chicken Marsala is a great date night meal - it's a little fancy, but not too over-the-top to intimidate at-home cooks. Juicy chicken breasts are sautéed until golden brown and coated with a creamy Marsala-spiked mushroom sauce. Tender grape tomatoes are added just at the end, and the whole dish is topped with fresh parsley. Served up with mashed potatoes and fresh crusty bread, you've got the perfect meal for lovers! Start by caramelizing two 8-oz packages of baby bella mushrooms in a bit of butter. Cook over medium heat until sautéed and caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Add a bit of garlic and Marsala wine; reduce and let simmer until thick, adding some cornstarch, cream, and salt along the way. IMG_9192   IMG_9193 Meanwhile, prepare the chicken by pounding it to an even thickness, then coating with a seasoned flour. Pan fry until golden brown and just tender; then nestle into the mushroom sauce. IMG_9198 Add some fresh grape tomatoes and let the whole thing simmer a few minutes more until the tomatoes burst and become tender. Top with fresh parsley and serve with mashed potatoes or crusty bread. (Or both! We are carb lover's in this household.)  


Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 16-oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-2 cups dry Marsala wine
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 pints grape tomatoes
  • fresh parsley, chopped


1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.

2. Add the minced garlic and 1 cup wine; reduce heat and let simmer gently to reduce the wine, stirring occasionally. After 15-20 minutes, add the cornstarch/water mixture, cream, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the wine mixture. It should start to thicken slightly.

3. Meanwhile, pound the chicken breasts until they are all an even thickness, about 1-inch thick. Cut into smaller single-serving pieces if necessary. Combine the flour, seasoned salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl; toss chicken pieces in flour until coated.

4. In another large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the chicken pieces for a few minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through.

5. Add sauce and mushrooms to the skillet with the chicken. If it becomes too thick, add additional wine to thin it down. Add tomatoes and simmer 5-10 minutes until tomatoes have softened and burst. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Source: adapted from Pinch of Yum

Mary’s Memo – February 2nd


I know from experience that no one wants recipes that cost “an arm and a leg” to make. The shorter the list of ingredients, the better, whether cooking for a family or one or two people. That said, Martha Stewart’s “One Pot: 120 East Meals for Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stock Pot and More,” published in September 2014 and now available in paperback as well as Kindle, is a must read. One of the most economical places to buy cookbooks is at where there’s a plethora of titles with minimum ingredients including ones focused on health problems like diabetes.

Here’s an example of a few-ingredient-recipe found on a web site that takes only 30 minutes to make, excellent for a weeknight meal!


• 1 box macaroni and cheese mix
• 1 pound hamburger (or ground chuck, if you prefer)
• 1 can chili, hot (I prefer Bush brand)

Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package directions, except melt the butter in the pan. Then mix in the cheese, followed by the milk. Stir until smooth, then add the macaroni and mix thoroughly. This will make creamier mac and cheese, and the cheese will be more evenly distributed. While preparing mac and cheese, brown hamburger in skillet and heat chili in saucepan. When all ingredients are prepared, mix the hamburger and chili into the mac and cheese. Serve hot. Recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.
Source: Adapted from
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, January 2015.


Go for watercress. This cruciferous vegetable scored a perfect 100 in a CDC (Center for Disease Control) study that ranked 47 fruits and vegetables for their nutrient density, based on 16 key nutrients and fiber. With its small, crisp, dark leaves and pungent, slightly bitter, peppery flavor, watercress is a highly underrated vegetable that can add zest to salads, sandwiches, soups and sauces. Other top rankers were Chinese cabbage, chard, beet greens, spinach, chicory, leaf lettuce, parsley, romaine lettuce, collards and turnip greens. The study didn’t factor in other potentially beneficial plant compounds, however, which are abundant in many of the fruits and vegetables that scored lower, including berries and sweet potatoes.

Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, January 2015


Research has revealed one more good reason to eat fruits and vegetables, Study results suggest that eating plenty of potassium-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables, reduces the risk of stroke and early death among postmenopausal women. According to an 11-year study published on line September 4, 2014, in the American Heart Association’s journal, Stroke, women who consumed the most potassium (an average of 3,194 milligrams or more per day) were 12 percent less likely to suffer a stroke and 10 percent less likely to die than women whose diets contained the least amount of potassium (1,925 mg per day). The study involved more than 90,000 women aged 50 to 79. The association between higher potassium levels and lower stroke risk is likely due to the interplay between potassium and sodium. Potassium also helps regulate water and mineral balances in your body. Good sources of potassium are sweet potatoes, acorn squash, spinach, russet potato, tomato puree, salmon, lima beans, broccoli, tuna, cantaloupe, banana, black beans, dried apricots, milk, kidney beans, chicken breast and raisins.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, January 2015.


I don’t know about you, but I love this no-bake cookie and since the emphasis this memo is quick recipes to make, Nestle Scotcheroos come to mind.


• Nonstick cooking spray
• 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 cup light corn syrup
• 6 cups toasted rice cereal
• 11-ounce package Nestle Toll House Butterscotch Flavored Morsels
• 1 cup (6-ounces) Nestle Semi-Sweet Morsels

Coat a 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. In a large saucepan combine peanut butter, sugar and corn syrup. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until melted. Remove from heat. Add toasted rice cereal; stir until thoroughly coated. Press on bottom of prepared pan. Microwave butterscotch morsels and semi-sweet morsels in large micro-safe bowl on High for 1 minute; stir. Morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10-15 second intervals, stirring just until smooth. Spread over cereal mixture. Refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes or until topping is firm. Cut into bars. Recipe makes 2½ dozen bars. Source: Nestle recipe.

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