Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sun-dried Tomato Crostini with Goat Cheese

The holiday season is almost over, but we've got one more night to celebrate - New Year's Eve! I've got a quick and simple little appetizer to share with you today. Fresh baguette, toasted, smeared with creamy goat cheese and a tangy sun-dried tomato jam. Sun-dried Tomato Crostini with Goat Cheese is a great appetizer, snack, or simple dinner alongside a bowl of soup.   IMG_5666   Start by making the jam. It's not quite as thick as regular jam; it's more of a chunky compote. Start by sauteing half an onion and a package of sun-dried tomatoes in a few tablespoons of olive oil.   IMG_5656   After the onions have browned, add the remaining liquid ingredients and seasonings - sugar, balsamic vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Cover the pan and let it simmer about 30 minutes.   IMG_5662   Remove the cover, increase the heat, and simmer 5-10 minutes more until thick. To assemble the crostini, toast some slices of baguette under the broiler until golden brown. Smear with a spoonful of goat cheese and top with the sun-dried tomato jam.   IMG_5664   These crostini are such an elegant appetizer, and they're actually quite simple to make. Enjoy! _____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sun-dried Tomato Crostini with Goat Cheese

Servings/Yield: 24-28 crostini
  • For the sun-dried tomato jam
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 package sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
    • ½ sweet onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
    • cups water
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • For the crostini
    • 1 baguette, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
    • 4-oz goat cheese
    • additional fresh thyme
Method For the sun-dried tomato jam, heat pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, tomatoes, and onion. Cook 5-7 minutes until onion begins to brown. Add garlic; cook 1 minute more. Add sugar, balsamic vinegar, water, salt, pepper, and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to simmer 5-10 more minutes (increasing the heat if necessary) until thick and chunky. The jam can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. To prepare crostini, place the sliced baguette onto a baking sheet. Broil 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven, spread with goat cheese, and top with sun-dried tomato jam. Top with additional minced fresh thyme. Source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride 

Mary’s Memo – December 30th


Thanksgiving through Christmas most of us are on a fast track. Now it’s time to slow down and I can’t think of a better way to do it than with Cooking Slow by Andrew Schloss (Chronicle Books, October 2013, $35.00/hardback). In these pages, discover slow simmering (popularly known as braising), slow roasting, slow grilling and slow steaming and use your slow cooker to their best advantage with many leaveit-and-love it recipes! Andrew Schloss is a cooking teacher, food writer, and food industry consultant and cookbook author. He lives with his family in eastern Pennsylvania. Color photographs by Alan Benson, a food and lifestyle photographer based in Australia is the “icing on the cake.” Order on line from


When I eliminated Lipton Soup Mix from my shopping list because of MSG (monosodium glutamate) I had to improvise but was never completely satisfied with my replacement .... Better than Bouillon and dry minced onion. The Busy Woman’s Roast and Rice Consommé in my cookbook call for it as well as several dips. I don’t know what possessed me today to look at Spartan Onion Soup Mix for Recipes & Dips but I did and it is MSG-free! Some of you might not care whether this flavor enhancer is in so many products but I am and have already stocked up on Spartan’s product to make some of my favorite dips, entrees and side dishes that call for onion soup mix. The easiest dip to make to welcome 2014 is on the box: Mix I envelope of mix with 2 cups of Spartan Sour Cream. Serve with another new product a friend recommended in the beverage area: Xochitl, pronounced SO cheel. It’s a thin tortilla chip that got rave reviews from my girls at Thanksgiving. Xochitl are all natural with no preservatives, no cholesterol, no Trans fats, no gluten and no MSG! It’s my tortilla chip of choice from now on!


Some of you are reluctant to use white wine in recipes because you don’t normally drink it and it isn’t a good keeper once bottle is opened. An excellent replacement for white wine is vermouth and it keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator.


Once again I’m making one because I continue to buy more food than I can use at a given time. What’s the good of a bargain if half or all of it goes to waste before I can eat it? It’s not as much of a problem for families but for one and two people households it is. If I kept track of the cost of food I discard, the amount would be on the staggering side! So I resolve in 2014 to make a list and stick to it instead of adding impulse purchases to my grocery cart. How about you?


That said, is your household throwing away hundreds of dollars’ worth of usable food every year? That’s a conclusion of a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, which warns that $165 billion of edible food is tossed in the trash annually and 40 percent of US food production never gets eaten. “All those dates on food products …. sell by, use by, best before …. almost none of those dates indicate the safety of the food, and generally speaking, they’re not regulated in the way people believe,” the report states. The main criteria people should use to evaluate food safety, according to the report, is the amount of time food spends in the temperature “danger zone” of 40 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, when bacterial contamination thrives.
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, December 2013.


It will be rare if anyone avoids snacking New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and our recipe for Curried Shrimp or Chicken Tarts is so easy to have ready for the family and/or guests. You’ll find the ready-to-fill mini-phyllo pastry shells in Chief’s frozen food department.


• 1 cup chopped cooked shrimp or rotisserie chicken
• 1/2 (8-ounce) package of reduced fat cream cheese, softened
• 3 tablespoons chopped scallions
• 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
• 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
• 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
• 15 mini-phyllo pastry shells
• 2.5 tablespoons jarred mango chutney

Stir together first 6 ingredients. Spoon mixture into pastry shells. Put 1/2 teaspoon mango chutney over each tart. Recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.
Source: Adapted from Southern Living recipe.


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Braised Short Ribs with Cheesy Grits

Short Ribs. They sound intimidating, don't they? I'll admit, even though I love to cook, I am still intimidated by cuts of meat that are out of my range of 'comfortable'. (And 'comfortable' to me is pretty much ground beef, chicken breast, and pork chops.)   IMG_5581   Well, I had nothing to be scared of, because they were super easy! Braised Short Ribs are a stand-out entree perfect for serving at a holiday meal or to dinner guests. Short ribs are a very economical cut of meat, if you want something a bit fancier than your typical pot roast. In order to achieve the  tender, fall-apart-with-a-fork quality, the short ribs are braised in a bath of red wine, stock, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and fresh rosemary. I served the short ribs alongside  Cheesy Grits, and it was a big hit with the family. Start by browning your short ribs in an oven-safe stock pot (or Dutch oven) until all sides are golden brown. Remove the short ribs to a plate, and add your carrots, onions, and mushrooms. Saute until soft, and then add your liquids and seasonings. Bring the mixture to a boil, and nestle the short ribs back into the sauce. Pop the lid on and place it in a 325*F oven and let it cook for 2 hours.  


  This is a great meal for a lazy weekend afternoon... do all the prep in the early afternoon, and let it simmer a few hours until it's ready. Your house will smell fantastic! When you're ready to serve the meal, remove the pot from the oven, and remove the short ribs from the pot to a platter. Place the pot back on the burner over medium-high heat; boil about 10 minutes until reduced and thickened.   IMG_5578   While the sauce is thickening, prepare the grits. (I had never made grits before either, and they were super easy, too!) Bring 3 cups of milk to a boil with some salt; then, stir in 1 cup instant grits. Cook 5-6 minutes until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in some freshly grated Asiago cheese until it melts.   [caption id="attachment_3412" align="aligncenter" width="323"]IMG_5579 Hello, steam![/caption]   To plate the dish, nestle a short rib or two on top of a scoop of the grits, and top it all off with the sauce and vegetables.   IMG_5581   My hubby and I "mmmm'd" all the way through this meal. Comfort food at its finest! Enjoy! _______________________________________________________________________________________________

Braised Short Ribs with Cheesy Grits

Servings/Yield: 4 servings
  • 2 lbs boneless beef short ribs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 8-oz fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 6 cloves garlic , chopped
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary
  • For the grits
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup instant grits
  • 1 cup freshly grated asiago cheese
Method Preheat oven to 325*F. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons olive oil into an oven-safe pot. Heat on stove over medium-high heat. Season short ribs with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Brown on all sides, about 5-6 minutes total. Remove to a plate. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pot, and add the onion, carrots, and mushrooms. Cook 5-6 minutes until onion begins to soften. Add chopped garlic; cook 1 minute more until fragrant. Stir in flour, mixing well to coat. Stir in red wine, beef stock, tomato paste, and rosemary; bring to a boil. Add short ribs back to the pot. They should be just barely covered with liquid; if needed, add some additional water. Place into 325*F and cook about 2 hours until tender. Remove short ribs from pot; transfer to a platter. Cover with foil to keep warm. Return pot to the stove over medium-high heat; boil until reduced and thick (about 10 minutes). For the grits, bring the milk to a simmer along with the salt. Whisk in instant grits; cook 5-6 minutes until thickened, whisking frequently. Stir in grated cheese until it melts. Serve short ribs with sauce alongside grits. Source: short ribs from Williams Sonoma, grits from Food Network

Mary’s Memo – December 23rd


I really like cookbooks that weave life experiences into the content. Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer (Agate Midway; November, 2013; $35.00/hardback) by Sanford “Sandy” D’Amato, one of America’s most respected chefs and restaurateurs, is the memoir of a life in cooking that includes more than 80 recipes and both personal and food photos in a beautiful and engaging way. D’Amato’s story is a great accounting of the way American culinary culture has evolved. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he studied at the fabled Culinary Institute of America in the 70s at a time when French chefs completely dominated the U.S. culinary scene. Through persistence, skill and the help of a mentor, D’Amato became one of the American upstart chefs leading the “New American” dining movement. Leaving New York and returning to his home city brought new challenges, all of which he overcame with his rise to national prominence. Sanford, the restaurant he opened in 1989 in a space that once housed his grandfather’s grocery store, has long been one of the highest rated restaurants in America. D’Amato has cooked for the Dalai Lama and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, and was one of 12 chefs to cook for Julia Child‘s 80th birthday celebration. Order from


Ham, turkey, duck, beef and pork are all a beloved part of many holiday meals but because some of these meats are only cooked a few times during the year, there is a higher risk of preparation and cooking goof-ups that can compromise taste at best and at worst make people sick (one in six get food poisoning each year).

How long one can keep a turkey before cooking it is one of the most common questions posed to the Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry hotline around holiday time. They’ll even be there Christmas Day if you have a question. Call 1-888-674-6854. For fresh turkey in the refrigerator, plan to use it within one day or two. A frozen bird can last up to a year in the freezer.

In a survey of 1,011 American adults by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 39 percent said they used a meat thermometer at some point during the last year. And only 8 percent said they always used one. Even if you’re an experienced cook and think you can tell by color and texture if something is done, experts consulted said the same thing. You can’t. Consumer Reports’ food safety authorities are testing meat thermometers in their labs now. Stay tuned.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, December 2013.


Choosing whole fruit rather than fruit juice might significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, “The whole is often better than the sum of its parts, and the evidence supports this here,” says Diane L. McKay, PhD, an assistant professor in Tufts’ Friedman School and a scientist in its HNRCA Antioxidant Laboratory. “The findings don’t mean you should eat nothing but blueberries and grapes,” McKay cautions. “Some fruits are higher in certain nutrients than others like vitamin C in strawberries or beta carotene in cantaloupe and the phytochemicals they contain will vary as well. Consuming a variety of different fruits will help insure you are getting adequate amounts of all the essential nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals provided by the important food group.”
Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, December 2013.


When I was growing up and even when we were adults coming home for the holiday, Mother served mac and cheese and baked ham. The Thaman choice on Christmas Eve is soup. Sometimes it’s one we have had before or it may be a new one such as Food and Wine’s lighter version French Onion Soup with Cheese Baguette Slice. Recipe called for dry white wine but I used vermouth because it doesn’t deteriorate like regular wine will do and can be stored in the refrigerator for an indefinite time. Recipe also included freshly grated Gruyere, but I used Swiss cheese because it’s cheaper (the choice is yours).


• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
• Kosher salt
• 1/4 cup vermouth
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 26-ounce carton of low sodium beef stock without MSG
• Four 1/2-inch artisan baguette slices (2 to a package where Chief’s Artisan breads are located)
• 1/4 cup Swiss cheese

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil until hot. Add onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are wilted and just starting to brown. Add a generous pinch of salt. And cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Add vermouth and soy sauce and continue cooking over moderate heat, scraping any browned bits from bottom, until evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add beef stock and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, until broth is well flavored and slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Season with additional salt, if necessary. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Arrange the bread on baking sheet and top each piece with 1 tablespoon Swiss cheese. Broil 6 inches from heat. Float a slice on top of each bowl of soup and serve immediately. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from Food & Wine website recipe.


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Grasshopper Pie

One of my favorite pastimes during the holiday season is holiday baking. Whether it's a batch (or ten) of Christmas cookies, scratch-made cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, or a spectacular holiday dessert, I am ALL about it. Grasshopper Pie is a recipe I found when browsing through my latest cookbook obsession - Momofuku Milk Bar. The cookbook is written by the pastry chef of the Momofuku Milk Bar, a famous bakery in New York City. She's got tons of great (crazy!) recipe ideas... cereal milk ice cream, bagel bombs, cornflake cookies, and cinnamon bun pie to name a few.   IMG_5546 When I stumbled across the Grasshopper Pie, I knew it would be perfect for a holiday celebration. A buttery graham crust filled with minty cheesecake and a rich fudge brownie, topped with mini chocolate chips, marshmallows, and a minty glaze. The fudge brownie filling was my favorite part, and the cool mint and salty graham crust complement it nicely. Get started with your graham crust - graham cracker crumbs, milk powder, salt, sugar, butter, and heavy cream. You could use a store-bought graham cracker crust, but if you're making this pie from scratch, you might as well go for the real deal.   IMG_5519   Now it's time for the mint cheesecake. Melted white chocolate, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and peppermint extract are the key ingredients to this layer. Make sure to use a high-quality white chocolate; it really makes a difference. (Ghiradelli or Lindt are great choices.) Spread the  mint cheesecake filling over the bottom of the crust.   IMG_5532   Next up, the brownie layer. Melted bittersweet chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt. It's rich, fudgy, and has a little bit of texture from some reserved graham crust that is folded into the batter. Spread the brownie batter over the mint cheesecake filling.   IMG_5533   Now for the toppings - mini chocolate chips in the center and mini marshmallows around the edge. Bake at 350*F about 25-30 minutes until set and the marshmallows are toasty golden brown. Now the tricky part - letting it cool COMPLETELY before cutting into it! It needs to be cold to set up the filling. (I sped up the process by cooling in the freezer for about 3 hours.)   IMG_5534   Just before serving, mix up the glaze. Melted white chocolate with a bit of peppermint extract. Just drizzle all over the top, cut into wedges, and serve!   IMG_5537   ______________________________________________________________________________________________

Grasshopper Pie

Servings/Yield: 8 servings
  • Graham Crust
    • cups graham cracker crumbs
    • ¼ cup nonfat dry milk powder
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Mint Cheesecake Filling
    • 2 oz white chocolate
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon cream cheese
    • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
    • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
    • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1-2 drops green food coloring
  • Brownie Layer
    • oz 60-72% bittersweet chocolate
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2 eggs
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ cup heavy cream
    • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
    • ½ cup mini marshmallows
  • Minty Glaze
    • 1 oz white chocolate
    • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
    • teaspoon peppermint extract
    • 1 drop green food coloring
Method Preheat oven to 350*F. For the graham crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, milk powder, sugar, salt, melted butter, and heavy cream in a small bowl. Dump all but 1/4 cup crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie pan; pat evenly across the bottom and up the sides. Set aside. For the mint cheesecake filling, combine white chocolate and vegetable oil in small microwaveable bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring until smooth. In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar; beat until smooth. Beat in melted white chocolate, peppermint extract, salt, and green food coloring. Spread mint cheesecake filling over the bottom of the prepared crust. For the brownie layer, combine bittersweet chocolate and butter in small microwaveable bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring until smooth. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar and beat on high 3-4 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture; beat until smooth. Add flour, cocoa powder, and salt; beat on low speed until combined. Add heavy cream and beat on low speed until combined. Fold in the reserved graham crust mixture. Spread brownie mixture over mint cheesecake filling. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips in the center of pie. Scatter mini marshmallows around the edge of the pie. Bake at 350*F for 25-30 minutes until center is almost set. Let pie cool completely before topping with glaze and serving. (You can speed it along in the freezer.) To make the glaze, combine white chocolate and vegetable oil in small microwaveable bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring until smooth. Stir in peppermint extract and green food coloring; drizzle over pie. Store pie in refrigerator up to one week. Source: adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar

Mary’s Memo – December 16th


Thanks to the Food Network and all the food websites on the internet, home cooks have expanded their horizon. When I’m working at the Bryan Chief it isn’t unusual for customers armed with recipes in hand or on their iPhone to ask where they can find an unfamiliar ingredient. These cooks, especially, will be excited about Everyday Thai Cooking (Tuttle Publishing; 2013, $24.95/hardback) by Katie Chen, a chef hailed as the “Asian Rachel Ray” by her many fans. The daughter of award-winning restaurateur Leeann Chin, Katie grew up in the kitchen. Now a respected food writer and television personality in her own right, the author is also mom to toddler twins who understands that home cooks are crunched for time as well as money, and with her easy-to-follow, tried-and-true recipes, it will become one of your favorites as well. In addition to essential tips, tools and techniques, Everyday Thai Cooking is filled with nearly one hundred recipes and gorgeous color photography highlighting every dish, so that even beginning cooks can take everyday ingredients and transform them into a sweet, sour, spicy and delicious meal to remember. From appetizers to desserts, each step-by-step recipe lists prep times (most within 30 minutes) and alternates for hard-to-find ingredients.

In One Souffle at a Time by Ann Willan with Amy Friedman (St. Martin’s Press; September 2013, $27.99/hardback) Willan writes about how a sturdy English girl from Yorkshire made it not only to the stove, but to France, and how she overcame her exceptionally closed male world of French cuisine to found and run her own school. Her story is warm and rich, funny and fragrant with smells of the country cooking of France. It’s full of creative culinary ferment of the 1970s, a decade when herbs came back to life and freshness took over, when the seeds of our modern day obsession with food and ingredients were sown. She also tells about food world greats including Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, Craig Claiborne, Richard Olney and others who changed how the world eats and who made cooking fun. Tens of thousands of students have learned from Willan, not just at La Varenne, but through her large, ambitious Look & Cook book series and twenty-six PBS programs. One Souffle at a Time also includes fifty of her favorite recipes. On May 4, 2013, Anne Willan was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame for “body of work,” honoring her celebrated lifelong career as a chef, cooking teacher and author.
Everyday Thai Cooking and One Souflle at a Time are available at


If you need proof that washing your hands can help prevent the flu, here it is: The influenza virus can live on a person’s fingers for up to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the flu droplet, says a Swiss study. Although most person-to-person flu transmission tends to be airborne via respiratory droplets when people sneeze, cough or talk, you can also get the flu if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with contaminated fingers. The study illustrates the importance of good hand hygiene. Wash often with soap and water or a hand sanitizer.
Source: Duke Medicine HealthNews, December 2013.


Enjoy one savory and one sweet one. Bryan Chief shoppers gave a “thumbs up” to Glazed Carrots. Original recipe was made with 2 pounds of baby carrots but we replaced them with regular carrots cut in half inch pieces. Baby carrots are convenient but not as good tasting as the “real McCoy.”


• 2 pounds carrots, cut in half-inch pieces
• 2/3 cup water
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon butter
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/8 teaspoon pepper
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Combine carrots, water, honey, butter and salt in a large skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until tender. Uncover and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is a syrupy glaze. Stir in lemon juice. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. Recipe makes 8.5 cup servings.
Source: Adapted from recipe.

I replaced almond extract with pure orange extract in Crustless Cranberry Pie


• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 2 cups cranberries, washed and drained well
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/2 cup butter, melted
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 teaspoon pure orange extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-inch pie plate. Combine flour, sugar and salt. Stir in cranberries and walnuts and toss to coat. Stir in butter, eggs and orange extract. Bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with a small scoop of ice cream. Recipe makes 8 servings.
Source: Adapted from recipe.

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Bacon-wrapped Puff Pastry Twists

Can I make a confession? I absolutely love ready-to-bake puff pastry sheets. They're so easy to work with, and seem so fancy! (Plus, puff pastry from scratch is just a bit challenging. Trust me, I've tried... it ended up in the trash.)   IMG_5478   Bacon-wrapped Puff Pastry Twists are a showstopper appetizer, perfect for the holiday season. Flaky puff pastry breadsticks, filled with cheese and wrapped with bacon. They've got a sweet and smoky brown sugar rub that makes for the perfect combination of flavors. They're a bit labor intensive, but made easier with the help of packaged puff pastry. Start with your puff pastry. (Just a note - it helps to make sure you thaw it out first... doh! It only takes about 40 minutes at room temperature to thaw.) Each package comes with two pieces; unfold one of them and place it on a cutting board. Brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. I added a generous sprinkling, because I like the heat. You could certainly add less or even leave it out completely. Then, add about 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Colby or cheddar would work great. Next, taking a rolling pin, lightly press the cheese into the puff pastry to make sure it stays in place when you cut the strips. Then, cut the pastry into 10 strips.  

pastry twists

  Fold each strip in half, pinching the ends together. Twist it several times; repeat with remaining twists. Take a half slice of bacon and wrap it around each pastry twist. (Just a note: As much as I love the thick-cut Chief smokehouse bacon, it isn't the best choice for this recipe. The thick bacon will take a very long time to cook, so choose something that's cut much thinner.)  


  Now for the brown sugar rub. Combine some brown sugar, fresh minced rosemary, salt, and pepper on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Gently press each bacon-wrapped pastry twist into the brown sugar mixture, to coat the bacon. Place the twists on a greased wire rack sitting inside a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pastry twists. (And, repeat with the other sheet of puff pastry.)  



  Bake the twists at 375*F for 40-50 minutes, until the pastry is golden and crisp, and the bacon is cooked through. I like my bacon super crispy, so I let mine go for the full 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.  


These were a HIT at a small holiday party we had last night... so fancy, but definitely do-able by the average home cook. Let me know if you give them a try!  

Bacon-wrapped Puff Pastry Twists

Servings/Yield: 20 servings
  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup colby cheese, shredded
  • 10 slices bacon, cut in half
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
Method Preheat oven to 375*F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray with cooking spray. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry onto a cutting board and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper to taste, and then sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over pastry. Gently press in the cheese with a rolling pin. (This helps secure it in place.) Cut into 10 strips. Carefully, fold each strip in half and pinch the ends together. Twist the strip several times; repeat with remaining strips. Wrap half a slice of bacon around each pastry twist. For the brown sugar rub, combine brown sugar, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish or on a plate. Dredge each bacon-wrapped pastry twist in the brown sugar mixture; then, place on the prepared wire rack. Bake in preheated oven 40-50 minutes, until pastry is crisp and bacon is cooked. Allow to cool a few minutes before using a spatula to lift the twists off the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Source: adapted from Half-Baked Harvest  

Mary’s Memo – December 9th


For those of you who are lactose intolerant, Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan (Running Press, November 2013, $30.00/hardcover) should be on your Christmas list. In Vegan Chocolate, you’ll find better-for-you interpretations of 120 favorite chocolate desserts such as flavored chocolate truffles, Brooklyn Blackout Layer Cake, White and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, Black Bottom Cupcakes and Chocolate Pecan Pie. All the recipes are plant-based, some are gluten-free and every single one is absolutely chocolate and made with quality, easily sourced ingredients without dairy, eggs and white sugar.

Fran Costigan is an internationally recognized culinary instructor, recipe developer, innovative vegan pastry chef and author of three cookbooks. A graduate of the New York Restaurant School and Natural Gourmet Institute, Fran has worked in both traditional and vegan restaurant kitchens. Visit her at


Older adults with a weight problem can relieve knee pain from osteoarthritis (OA) if they lose just 10% of their body weight through diet and exercise, according to a study published September 25, 2013, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Obese and overweight study participants who combined a thrice-weekly exercise program with a reduced dietary intake (1,100 to 1,200 calories per day) lost more weight than participants who either dieted or exercised, and they also had less knee pain, better function, faster walking speed and better quality of life related to physical health than exercise-only group. If you have OA, ask your doctor for help creating an appropriate diet and exercise program.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, December 2013.


We were cheated out of about 6 additional days to prepare for Christmas so if you haven’t already started, it is time! Begin by setting priorities. Assuming your home is already decorated and hopefully Christmas gifts purchased, decide what “goodies” you are making for family and friends. When that’s done, take your list to Chief for supplies.

If you don’t have time for “from scratch” baking, I have never seen so many holiday mixes to lift that burden from your shoulders! There are even Christmas baking chips along with traditional ones. If you don’t want to bake at all, look to Chief’s bakery department for an impressive selection of cookies, nut breads, Chief's Darn Good Fruitcake and even fudge!

If you’re having an open house, let the Chief deli assist with a variety of meat and/or cheese platters and relish trays. If you haven’t finished gift shopping look no further than Chief’s housewares department. I have personally found some tools I didn’t have or purchased as stocking stuffers. If you’re still stumped, a Chief gift card is always appreciated.


Betty Crocker comes to the rescue with Chex Pumpkin Pie Crunch, winner of the 2009 Chex Mix Contest. Butter, brown sugar and spice make a not-too-sweet and crunchy cereal mix. Pretzels have their place but I was attracted to this recipe because of their absence. How can anything with whole grain cereals be bad for us (lol)!


• 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
• 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 2 cups Cinnamon Chex cereal
• 2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
• 2 cups Honey Nut Chex cereal
• 8-ounce bag of pecan halves

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice; set aside. In small microwave-safe dish, microwave butter on high about 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in vanilla. In large 3-quart capacity microwavable bowl, mix all the cereals and pecans. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Add sugar and spice mixture and stir until coated. Microwave on high 5 minutes or until mixture begins to brown, stirring every minute. Spread on parchment paper or cookie sheet to cool. Store in an airtight container. Recipe makes 16 half cup servings. One serving has 180 calories, 80 from fat. Mix can be made a couple weeks ahead and still be fresh-tasting.
Source: Betty Crocker recipe.


Take a second helping …. really! Just keep both helpings small, suggests Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, NY, and author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life. Wansink’s research has found that hosts remember which guests took second (or even third) helpings, but not the normal amount of food they took or ate. So you can flatter your host without overeating.

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Annual Christmas Mary’s Memo – Seasons Treatings!


• 2 cups vanilla ice cream
• 1 cup milk (whatever kind you drink)
• 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
• 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
• Vanilla Ready Whip
• Pumpkin Pie Spice for garnish (optional)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. Pour 3/4 cup ice cream mixture into each of 4 glasses. Top each with Ready Whip. Sprinkle additional pumpkin pie spice on top. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Sourc e: Adapted from Cooking Light recipe.


• 18 (1"x1/4") sticks of Parmesan cheese (cut from solid block)
• 18 dates (preferably Medjool), pitted
• 6 bacon slices, cut crosswise into thirds

Put rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450ºF. Stuff 1 piece cheese into each date, securing with a toothpick. Arrange dates 1-inch apart in shallow baking pan. Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates over with tongs and bake until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain on parchment paper. Serve immediately. Two per serving is adequate although original recipe said 3 per serving. Labor-intensive but worth the effort.
Sourc e: Adapted from Gourmet recipe via Mary Ann Thaman.


• 1 tablespoon canola oil
• 2 onions, chopped
• 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1-1/2 pounds ground turkey
• 1/4 cup chili powder
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 tablespoons baking cocoa
• 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
• 1 (26-ounce) carton Swanson brand beef stock
• 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
• 3 (15-ounce) cans navy beans (I prefer Bush brand), drained and rinsed
• Chopped red onion for garnish
• Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in large stock pot over medium heat. Sauté onions in hot oil for 10 minutes or until light brown and tender. Add oregano and cumin and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Increase the heat to medium high and add ground turkey. Cook until turkey is brown and crumbly, stirring frequently. Stir in the beef stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and cook 10 minutes longer to blend flavors. Discard bay leaves. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with red onion and cilantro. Recipe makes 8 servings.


• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 1 cup chopped celery
• 1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
• 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
• 3 cups chicken broth
• 1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin
• 1/4 teaspoon salt plus more for taste
• 1 whole bay leaf
• 1/3 cup evaporated milk
• 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
• Sour cream and chopped fresh chives for garnish

Melt butter in medium-size soup pot. Stir in onion, celery and apple. Partially cover pot and sauté the ingredients over medium-high heat until the onion is clear, about 8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup broth and cook 1 minute more. Pour contents into a blender or food processor; add pumpkin and puree the soup until it is smooth. Pour it all into the soup pot and stir in remaining chicken broth, salt and the bay leaf. Set soup over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add evaporated milk and 2 tablespoons honey. Taste the soup, adding more salt and honey if necessary to get the right balance of sweet and savory. Simmer 2 minutes more, remove from the heat and serve. If desired, top with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives. Recipe makes 6 servings.
Sourc e: adapted from recipe.


• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
• 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1/2 cup whipping cream
• 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

Season chicken pieces with lemon pepper, salt, dill weed and garlic powder. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place breasts or thighs in skillet and increase heat to medium high. Turn chicken frequently, until brown about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 to 7 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Remove to a warm serving platter and cover with foil. Return skillet to stove and increase heat to high.

Whisk in cream, whisking continuously until reduced to sauce consistency, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in capers. Pour sauce over chicken and serve. Recipe makes 4 servings.
Source: Adapted from

The next recipes are from my friend, Sally Kerr-Dineen, Hilton Head, SC. The Curried Shrimp Salad is so good; I ate the leftover salad for breakfast the next morning! Fried Green Tomatoes the first week in March were also a treat for me. Southerners serve them with a remoulade sauce.


• 1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1/4 cup chopped parsley
• 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons curry powder
• 3 tablespoons Major Grey’s mango chutney
• 1 cup light mayonnaise
• Juice of half lemon

Cut shrimp in quarters, you want nice size pieces, not too small. In medium sized bowl mix shrimp with mayonnaise, curry powder and chutney. Stir to combine flavors. Add lemon juice. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it.


• 3 to 4 medium, firm green tomatoes
• 1 cup flour
• 1 tablespoon O ld Bay Seasoning
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
• 1 cup plain bread crumbs
• Canola oil for frying

Cut tomatoes in 1/2 inch slices. Heat about an inch of oil in a large skillet and fry tomato slices. Season the flour generously with O ld Bay Seasoning. Season buttermilk generously with Tabasco sauce. U sing the dry/wet/dry method of breading, first dip tomato slices in flour, then buttermilk, then in bread crumbs. Fry tomatoes in oil until golden, but not mushy, and drain on paper towels. As a rule, it’s better to undercook the tomatoes, especially if you will be reheating them in a low oven. Serve with Remoulade Sauce.


• 1-1/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
• 1 to 2 teaspoons O ld Bay Seasoning
• 2 teaspoons horseradish
• 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
• 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish plus a little more juice
• 1 to 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Source: Sally Kerr-Dineen, Hilton Head SC.

For those of you who have asked for one-or-two serving recipes:


• 2 tablespoons Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise
• 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped dill or to taste
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1/2 teaspoon packed brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
• 1 (6-ounce) salmon fillet, skin on

Preheat grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate. Mix mayonnaise, dill, mustard and brown sugar in a bowl. Spread oil over salmon skin. Grill salmon skin-side down on preheated grill. Spread mayonnaise mixture over top of salmon and cook until salmon is easily flaked with a fork, 6 to 8 minutes.

I was first introduced to Snickerdoodles when I attended my first 4-H meeting in Jasper County, IN many years ago. Now along comes the classic cookie made with pumpkin.


• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
• 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
• 1 large egg
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 3-3/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Rolling Sugar:

• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter until fluffy. Add sugars and pumpkin and beat well. Mix in egg and vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into creamed mixture a little at a time just until incorporated. Chill dough at least 1 hour or until dough becomes slightly firm. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350ºF. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Mix rolling sugar mixture together. U sing a small scoop (size the Pampered Chef sells) make balls of dough and cover with rolling sugar mixture. Place 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten with a small glass dipped in sugar. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Source: Adapted from recipe.

Bryan Chief shoppers gave this cookie a “thumbs up!”


• 1 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
• 1 teaspoon California navel orange zest
• 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
• 1 egg
• 2-1/2 cups unsifted, all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries

Orange Frosting:

• 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
• 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice to make a spreading consistency

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In large bowl, beat sugars, butter, orange zest, orange juice and egg with an electric mixer on medium speed. Drop dough onto prepared cookie sheet about 2-inches apart (I used small Pampered Chef small scoop). Bake about 14 minutes or until edges and bottom of cookies are light brown. Remove to cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. Recipe makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies.

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Tortellini Soup

How can it be December already? I swear, the holidays sneak up on me quicker and quicker every year. I love the month of December, due to all the extra festivities, but sometimes it can get a little overwhelming! Quick and easy dinners are my go-to during this time of year. IMG_5422 Tortellini Soup is a great meal for a busy night. It's a tomato & vegetable based soup, full of Italian seasonings and cheese tortellini. It's warm, hearty, and soothing, and it comes together in about 30 minutes. It makes a pretty large portion, too. (Leftovers for the win!) Just add a loaf of crusty bread and you've got a complete meal. Start with your veggies - onion, green pepper, and a little garlic. Saute them until tender.


  Then add the beef stock, tomatoes, picante sauce, and seasonings. We've got a little oregano, basil, and Italian seasoning. Let it simmer about 15-20 minutes, and then add the tortellini.  


  You could use any tortellini (beef, chicken, cheese), but I think cheese is the best. I found this tortellini in the refrigerated dairy section, but frozen tortellini would work as well. Drop your tortellinis into the boiling broth, and cook until al dente.  


  [caption id="attachment_3348" align="aligncenter" width="372"]IMG_5392 You can add a little extra water at this step if it seems like your tortellini has overtaken the pot![/caption]


Serve the soup topped with a bit of Parmesan cheese, alongside a crusty loaf of garlic bread.  



Tortellini Soup

Servings/Yield: 8 servings
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 6-8 cups cans beef stock
  • 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup picante sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground oregano
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 16-oz. package frozen or refrigerated tortellini
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving
Method Saute onion, garlic, and green pepper in olive oil until tender. Add broth, tomatoes, picante sauce, and seasonings. Let simmer 15-20 minutes. Increase heat, and add tortellini. Cook according to package directions until tender. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese. Notes *Perfect with some breadsticks or crusty bread. Source: my mom's good friend Carol