2 Jul

Lessons in Food


As I sit down to write these recipes tonight, I’m absorbing all the smells, sounds and sights of this time of year. I can hear and feel a slight rumble of pre-4th of July fireworks in the background, followed by car alarms. Fireflies flicker outside my window and I can see the neighbors kids playing man hunt on the lawn. My skin still has the sweet smell of suntan lotion and sand and as I climbed the stairs to the second floor, I can’t help notice that even in this new house, the upstairs “summer smell” is the same as my childhood home. It’s a smell that flashes me back to summer sleepovers, when my cousins and I ran up the stairs to grab sheets and pillows to bring downstairs to build forts in the air conditioned living room. Then there is taste. What does summer taste like? Salty beach lips… grilled corn in your teeth… burnt marshmallows… ice cream and the…

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Lemonade and a Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer Review

25 Jun

With all the many things you can do with a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, choosing a recipe as simple as lemonade to show off its capabilities may seem like an odd choice.  My Kitchen-Aid and all its attachments get used for pasta making, meat grinding, dough kneading and cake mixing all the time. Since these items are not necessarily the types of things most busy cooks do everyday, some people have a hard time justifying buying a Kitchen-Aid mixer for themselves. The thing is, when you do purchase one, it makes such an easy job of everything that you will start making more complicated items without hesitation. What used to be special occasion becomes simple everyday stuff. My students were lucky enough to have them this year for the first time and it has completely transformed the curriculum because of the things it can do and also the time it allows us to do things in. The important thing is keeping it out on your counter in an accessible spot so you will be able to use it for all types of tasks. Which brings me to today’s simple task, lemonade. Lemonade is as simple as hand squeezing lemons and whisking in sugar, right? Seems like it, but just like a ridiculous infomercial can prove, something as simple as lemonade can turn out to be a time-consuming sticky mess. If your Kitchen-Aid is out and ready to go, it’s as easy as screwing on the juicer attachment and juicing straight into the mixing bowl for easy and efficient whisking in of the sugar.  I’m not suggesting anyone purchase a Kitchen-Aid mixer just to make lemonade, if that were the only thing you were to use it for, it would be a sin. Once this kitchen must have item is in your possession you’ll find whipping up a batch of cookies on a Tuesday night is no big deal. Homemade fettuccine doesn’t need to be an all day Sunday affair and can be completed in less than a half hour. Pizza and bread dough will become a weekly occurrence . It can also save you some time mixing up something as simple as a quick summer drink.

Kitchen-Aid Lemonade

Mixing the sugar into the lemon juice with the whisk attachment eliminates the need for boiling sugar and water together to make a simple syrup on the stove top.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup lemon juice – about 10 large lemons
  • 5 -7 cups water

 Attach the juicer to the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer and place the mixing bowl underneath the juicer’s spout.  Turn the mixer on medium speed and extract the juice from the lemons into the bowl.

Detach the juicer and place the mixing bowl back into the base. Attach the whisk and begin beating on low-speed. Slowly add in the sugar. Raise the speed and add in 5 cups of water. Whisk for 3 minutes. Taste, and add water if too sweet or tart.

Pour lemonade into a pitcher and add the juiced lemon shells. Serve with ice and lemon wedges.

Sam’s Amazing Salmon

16 May

People always ask me what my favorite meals are and where I like to eat. Although there are a few places I like to go out to, most of my favorite dishes are ones made by friends and family. One of the most memorable things I have had in a long time is this recipe from my Aunt’s friend Sam, that he brought to her 4th of July party. Like an episode of the Food Network’s “The best thing I ever ate”, I couldn’t stop talking and thinking about this salmon for weeks after I had it. It was a beautiful whole salmon, steamed over a flavorful liquid and accompanied by a fresh, bright mango salsa. It was plated with a trio of different dipping sauce options and served cool. I ate my weight in salmon that day and even at night, when everyone else had switched to dessert before the fireworks, I was stealing more from the fridge instead of ice cream.

Although I was able to get the recipe from Sam awhile ago, life has been busy and I have yet to share it with you. I decided to share it with you tonight, because unfortunately, I found out that Sam has been sick in the hospital and needs to have surgery tomorrow. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and that you say a prayer that he has a quick recovery and can share more great recipes with us as soon as possible.

Salmon and Mango Salsa – served with Dill, Chipotle Pepper and Honey Mustard dipping sauces

In Sam’s Words exactly:

Select a salmon fillet to suit your taste and of a size to fit your need. If you don’t have a poaching pan ( an asparagus cooker works very well too), you can use a deep frying pan as long as you use a wire rack so the salmon does not rest in the liquid. In the bottom of the pan, place a mix of 1 cup of water to 2 cups of white wine. I prefer Sauvignon Blanc or a similar white wine of full body and taste.

Rub the salmon with salt, white pepper and bit of finely minced tarragon and place on a rack in the pan so the salmon is not resting in the liquid. Over medium heat, cover the pan and steam/poach the salmon fillet.

Once the liquid begins to boil, continue cooking for about 10 minutes, depending on the size and thickness. When cooked through, turn off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature with the cover on. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or up to a day to cool completely.

Remove from rack and surround it with mango salsa.

Mango Salsa

2-3 ripe mangoes, diced small

1/2 red onion, finely diced

2-3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

the juice of 2-3 limes, freshly squeezed

2 tablespoons orange juice, freshly squeezed

freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to stand at least one hour or up to a day to allow the flavors to blend.

Note- this also works out very well with using ripe papaya, pineapple or guava.

Dill Sauce

In a bowl, combine 6 oz sour cream with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Finely chop a handful of fresh dill and add to sour cream.  Mix in 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Mix by hand rather than in a food processor otherwise it becomes runny. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Chipotle Sauce

In a bowl, combine 6 oz sour cream with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. In a food processor finely chop a chipotle pepper ( canned in adobo sauce ) with 2-3 tablespoons of the sauce from the can. Add to sour cream mixture. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Honey mustard sauce

In a bowl, combine 6 oz sour cream with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Add 5-6 tablespoons Dijon mustard ( smooth, not with mustard seeds) and 3-4 tablespoons honey. Mix in 4 tablespoons freshly squeeze lime juice. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Thank you Sam and get better soon!

Homemade Pierogi

1 Mar

Why Pierogi are awesome:

1. Pierogi is both the singular AND plural form of these delicious Polish dumplings. I know, you were calling them pierogies…me too.

2. They have aliases – They’re also known as varenyky in the Ukraine, taskice in Croatia, koldunai in Russia, pelmeni in Romania, gombac in Hungary and knedle in Czechoslovakia. Basically, they are sooo awesome, everybody has their own version.

3. They float to the top when they are done – Built in timer!

4. They are dumplings made of pasta-like dough, stuffed to the brim with mashed potatoes, enriched with sour cream, laced with creamy cheeses and often FRIED or BATHED in butter! I think we’ve said enough.

You buy your pierogi? From a lovely woman named Mrs. T? Those are great, don’t get me wrong, but these…these are a labor of love…and they are worth it. During my cultural foods class’s Eastern European unit we ( 20 teenagers and one crazed teacher ) make these in two 40 minute periods, you can TOTALLY do this. The first time I taught this, I tried a recipe from a student’s Polish grandma. Unfortunately Grandma recipes are rarely written down in specifics and are hard to replicate. The second year I did it, I found out that Martha Stewart’s mom was quite the perogi expert and Martha’s website features an adorable video of them making them together. Martha’s mom, Mrs. Kostyra, just seems like the type of grandma you can trust and you can, this recipe is pretty straight forward and my students and I were able to pull it off. The original recipe left us with a lot of filling leftover, leaving me to believe that we were probably not skilled enough to stuff them as much as Martha’s mom did. If you find yourself with leftover filling DO NOT DESPAIR! They make AMAZING potato croquettes. Refrigerate, roll into balls or cylinders and bread with flour, egg and then breadcrumbs. Fry or bake until golden brown. Two treats in one. Good deal.

Potato Pierogi – adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Recipes


For the dough:

  • 1/2 large egg ( scramble and divide)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

For the filling:

  • 5 medium baking potatoes, peeled and diced small
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted – Plus 3 tablespoons for frying
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese grated
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • cornmeal


Make the dough:

In a medium bowl, whisk egg. Add sour cream, and whisk until smooth. Add milk and water, and whisk until combined. Slowly add 2 ½ cups flour and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

Turn dough out onto a clean work surface and work in remaining 1/4 cup flour as you knead. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, the dough should be elastic in texture and no longer sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest while you prepare filling.

Make the filling:

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Season with salt. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook until fork-tender. Drain and mash with a potato masher. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter and the cheeses and continue to mash until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Lay a clean linen towel on your counter, and evenly distribute cornmeal on it to prevent sticking.

To roll, cut and fill dough:

On a floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a glass or cookie cutter measuring 2 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out about 30 circles. Gather dough scraps together, rolling them out again, and continue cutting.

Form filling into 1- 1/2-inch balls, and place a ball in the center of each dough circle. Holding a circle in your hand, fold dough over filling, and pinch the edges, forming a well-sealed crescent. Transfer to linen towel. Continue this process until all dough circles are filled.

To cook pierogi:

Place a large pot of salted water over high heat, and bring to a boil. Place pierogi in boiling water in batches. They will sink to the bottom of the pot and then rise to the top. Once they rise, let them cook for about a minute more. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with 3 tablespoons of butter. Sauté boiled pierogi until golden brown and crisp on the edges. Serve immediately.

Home Canning – Fruit Preserves and Scones

24 Feb

At some point during the day, no matter how crazy the day is, I realize how lucky I am to be able to teach what I love.  Not only am I lucky enough to teach cooking at a school with a wonderfully supported program, I am also surrounded by equally food obsessed colleagues that are talented chefs in their own right. Besides the several food competitions for charity and amazing luncheons with homemade items that co-workers run, there are people who bake and cook for no reason, often for the whole staff. Last week, two very talented cooks provided scones and homemade jams for the staff to sample.  It was such a beautiful spread of colorful fruits, it was hard to pick just one. I ate mine like a tasting flight, a little of each on a plate with a bite of scone.

The scones were provided by Patti, one of the most amazing bakers I have ever met. Every pay day, in addition to every holiday or teacher appreciation day, the 100 plus mailboxes are filled with some sort of amazing treat, everything from homemade caramel corn to giant cookies. I’ve heard she’s got a double oven and a pretty nice counter set-up at home but I cannot understand how she pulls it off. I do this professionally and I still can’t understand how she whips up hundreds of biscotti, muffins, cupcakes or brownies every other week in a home kitchen, by herself. Not to mention the time, money and care that goes into it. Ellen, another talented co-worker, was responsible for the preserves. Since the second I saw them I’ve had extreme jam envy! This stuff is seriously delicious and the way she packages them is so adorable and clever, they were just screaming out for a photo shoot. 


Of the strawberry, raspberry, plum, peach, blueberry and orange marmalade varieties I tried, I couldn’t tell you which was my favorite. They were all equally delicious with different textures and tartness. I got to take home a special jar of pear, which I can’t wait to try. Although I’ve had all the jars and supplies for canning for years now, I use them all to freeze my garden goodies instead of really canning them. Seeing Ellen’s gorgeous jams has given me the caning bug again and this summer, I think I’m going to give it a try. Between my u-pick obsession and my backyard container garden, it’s going to be a busy Spring. Here’s a recipe from Ellen to get you started, I will be posting Patti’s scones next week. The preserves are the perfect excuse to eat 3-4 scones in one sitting!

Ellen recommends following any canning recipe exactly and to be very careful to keep your cooking equipment and area sterile to ensure safety.

SURE.JELL Peach Jam – Kraft Foods


4 cups prepared fruit (about 3 lb. fully ripe peaches)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. EVER-FRESH Fruit Protector (optional)
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
5-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl (See tip below.)
BRING boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

PEEL and pit peaches. Finely chop fruit. Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Add lemon juice and fruit protector; stir until well blended. Stir in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.

STIR in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Kraft Kitchens Tips

How to Measure Precisely
To get exact level cup measures of sugar, spoon sugar into dry metal or plastic measuring cups, then level by scraping excess sugar from top of cup with a straight-edged knife.
Altitude Chart
At altitudes above 1,000 feet, increase processing time as indicated: 1,001 to 3,000 feet – increase processing time by 5 minutes; 3,001 to 6,000 feet –

Real Bagels

25 Nov

As a New Yorker, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the best bagels in the world, anytime I want. (Is it wrong to say “in the world” even though I can’t back that up?) I guess if you have never had the real thing, you probably don’t mind a frozen supermarket bagel, but once you’ve have a New York bagel, I’m pretty sure you’ll be disappointed by everything else forever. With a bagel store available 5 minutes in every direction of any town here on Long Island, there has never been a need or desire to make my own bagels. But when I saw the recipe for “Real Bagels” in last month’s Cooking Light magazine, I saw it as a challenge. Real bagels? That’s quite a claim…what do the people at Cooking Light consider a “real bagel”? Could this super simple, one page recipe even come close to being anything like a good bagel? But just like any true Southerner knows how  to make their own fried chicken or how every Maryland chef  has their own secret crab cake recipe, shouldn’t I, a proud Long Islander, have a recipe for true New York bagels in my repertoire?

I made them immediately, even though it was 9:30 at night. The folks over at Cooking Light don’t lie. This wasn’t a roll masquerading itself as a bagel, it was truly the real thing… chewy, dense, crusty on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. I don’t think I have ever been so amazed at the authenticity of something I made. I really expected the recipe to fail on some level…. how could it be that easy? If it was that easy, why, when I take a road trip to another state, are the bagels so bad different? Maybe it’s the water. Maybe you have to be born here to be able to do it. I don’t how it happened, but once it did, I made sure everyone I could get my hands on tried one. I challenged them, “Eat this bagel, I MADE it. It tastes like a bagel. Really.” They were equally amazed. “You MADE a bagel…? ( Bite ) This is a real bagel…it tastes just like a really good bagel.”  This went on, pretty much word for word, with each of the 11 people I gave them to. As the recipe describes, “these are a revelation”. As a teacher, my favorite thing is seeing the excitement of my students when they create something amazing that they never thought they could make at home. I knew I had to make them with my classes but I had to find a shorter way to break the time up, so the second time I made them, I made the dough and popped it in the refrigerator overnight. I am glad to say it was a success. This dough is perfect for making Saturday night and then rolling, boiling and baking fresh on Sunday morning. My fellow New Yorkers, I challenge you, for the sake of your heritage, to make these immediately. For those of you who live elsewhere, you now have a way to enjoy something wonderfully authentic and awesome.

No 1 rule to follow with this recipe: Weigh your flour, don’t measure it. When I weighed it, it came out to about 4 cups rather than the 6 1/4 stated. I did not have barley malt syrup, which the recipe said could easily be omitted, so I left it out. The bagels were perfect, but I ordered the stuff on Amazon just to see if they could become any more perfect, just in case.

Real Bagels – adapted from Cooking Light Magazine – November 2011 issue

For the bagel dough:

2 cups warm water- 100- 110F

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

28.5 ounces bread flour – divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 Tablespoon barley malt syrup ( can be omitted )

To Boil in:

12 cups water

3/4 cup sugar

To Sprinkle on top: ( Optional )

Sesame seeds, dehydrated onion, garlic salt, sea salt, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, oatmeal etc.


Combine the warm water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Proof the yeast by stirring it together and waiting for bubbles to form to see if the yeast is alive. ( Both times I didn’t get bubbles but the yeast was alive. My kitchen was cold and with no sugar to feed the small amount of yeast I didn’t see much bubble action)

Weigh 28.13 ounces of bread flour into a separate bowl and stir in salt. Add flour mixture and malt syrup ( if using) into yeast mixture.

Mix on low speed for 6 minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic. Add remaining ( .37 ounces)  of flour if mixture is too sticky. ( I didn’t measure that part out, I just sprinkled a little down on work surface and my hands as needed.)

Place in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm ( 85 F) spot for 30 minutes. ( Or overnight in the refrigerator) Test to see if two fingers inserted in the center leave an imprint. If it springs back, let it continue to rise.

If dough was refrigerated overnight, let it come to room temperature. Turn out onto a floured work surface and and divide dough into 12 equal portions.They make smaller bagels than compared to the over sized ones seen more often. For larger bagels make 10 instead of 12.

Pinch dough together at the bottom and roll each section into a smooth ball. Cover with a towel to prevent drying.

Using both hands, gently stretch a 1 1/2 inch hole in the center of  each ball of dough to form the bagel shape. If hole is too small it will close up completely when cooked.

Set bagels on a lightly greased sheet pan and cover with plastic. Let rise in a warm place for 10 -15 minutes. Bagels will only rise slightly.

While the bagels rise, pre-heat oven to 45oF. Prepare two greased cooling racks set over a sheet pans to place the bagels on after boiling. gather any toppings for the bagels and prepare another two sheet pans with parchment paper for baking the bagels.

Bring 12 cups of water and sugar  to a boil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot.

Gently lower 3 risen bagels at a time into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, gently bobbing them under the water occasionally.

Remove and place on greased cooling racks. Sprinkle with any toppings at this point.

Transfer boiled bagels to lined sheet pans and bake for 7 minutes. Rotate pans and bake another 7 minutes.

Make sure you are out of your pajamas by now because once you are finished you will be so proud and excited that you will knock on your neighbors doors and get in the car to deliver them to people. They are amazing right out of the oven but if that’s not possible make sure to heat them in the oven before sharing. DON’T MICROWAVE a bagel, that’s a sin, and remember to check your teeth before you head out…

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

20 Nov

Back on the Fourth of July, after I posted a recipe for strawberry mousse pie. In that post I promised you this, ” I also tried it with pumpkin and added some spices but I’ll save that one for you until October.” October came and went. I apologize. I know you have all been waiting by the computer counting down the days. I may have missed Halloween but I am in time for Thanksgiving.

Barely Adapted from: http://www.marthastewart.com/352652/raspberry-mousse-pie


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 7 graham crackers, plus 2 or 3 for crumbling garnish
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin (from one 1/4-ounce packet)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups cold heavy cream


  1.  Coat a 9-inch square metal baking pan ( alternately an 18 inch for a double batch which is pictured below) with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
  2. Arrange graham crackers in 1 layer in pan, breaking them to fit if necessary.

3. Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin on top. Let  gelatin to soften for 3 minutes.

4. In a saucepan, simmer pumpkin puree, spice mixture and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat until bubbles form at edge. Add gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin dissolves, about 1 minute.  Let cool to room temperature completely otherwise it with melt the whip cream.

5. Beat cream and 2 tablespoons sugar until firm stiff peaks form.

6. With a rubber spatula, gently fold whipped cream into cooled pumpkin mixture.

Do you know how to fold?  Folding is the process of gently incorporating something light and airy, like whipped egg whites or cream, into something heavier without deflating it. Start by placing about a 1/3 of the lighter product on top of the heavier product.
Mix that in to lighten it before folding the rest in.
Then place the rest of the lighter product on top. With a rubber spatula, cut down the center of the bowl and come around the side, turning the bowl one half turn.
Bring the heavier product from the bottom and side on top of the lighter product in the middle as you come around with the spatula. Place it on top.
Repeat the process by cutting down the center, coming around the side and down the center again, while turning the bowl  until only a few streaks of the lighter product can be seen.
  The finished mixture should be fairly homogenous.
7. Pour over graham crackers. Smooth top, cover and  refrigerate until set, about 2 hours (or up to overnight).
8. Using parchment, gently lift pie out of pan and cut into pieces with a sharp knife, cleaning it in between cuts. Top each piece with crumbled graham crackers, transfer to a serving platter.